Herodotus Book 1 reading questions

Greetings Fellow Herodotus Readers!

I am so sorry I had to miss the first call introducing Herodotus.    Phil did a great job bringing us together and getting us started on   this reading journey.  I am Andre Stipanovic and I have worked with   Phil on the Reading Odyssey for a few years now.

From the bios and the emails I have seen so far and the response to   the first conference call, I can tell that there is a lot of   enthusiasm for reading Herodotus in this new Robert Strassler   edition.  For visual learners like me, the maps are truly a gift.

Enjoy the great stories in Book I and we will discuss our   observations and thoughts on the next conference call Monday April   7.  In the meantime, please think about the questions below as you   read Book 1.

Separately, I encourage you to e-mail your thoughts to the whole   reading group as you work your way through Book 1. The more comments,   musings and ancedotes we have to chew on in between calls, the   further we can get to know each other better and probe into the   intricacy and power of Herodotus’ writing.

I’ll speak to you April 7 – e-mail me or the group as a whole   (mailto: Herodotus2008@creativegood.com) if you have any questions   about the text or the format!

Thanks!

Andre

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Book 1 reading questions

Question 1
Herodotus famously says in his introduction that he will talk about   not just great cities but small – How do Croesus and Cyrus serve as examples for this important part of Herodotus’ philosophy?

Question 2
Oracles play a key role in the first half of Book 1. Be prepared to talk about the Oracles – what was prophesied, the impact the oracles had and the role of fate in ancient Greece/Herodotus. Also think about “asking for help” – it comes up throughout Herodotus.

Question 3
Book 1 is full of stories – some of these may be familair to you because many writers have read Herodotus and been influenced by or borrowed from him. What are some of your favorite stories from this first book?

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1 Response to Herodotus Book 1 reading questions

  1. March 31, 2008 at 10:24 AM says:

    <p>Gang,<br>This is an awesome, thought-provoking discussion. I have been traveling and just read through everything this morning. Couple of thoughts started by Josh’s original note, replies, et cetera.<br><br>1. On how the Hellenic dialects and divisions came into being:<br>Let’s talk about this on our April call. I can give a quick, five-minute overview of the development (and then I’ll let Andre correct me). 🙂 There are a couple of key things to think about in my opinion:<br>a) our somewhat murky understanding of the origin of dialects and what it meant to be "Hellenic" or "Greek". For example, scholars are still debating the "greekness" of the Macedonians and their language.<br>b) writing with an alphabet. Since we are also dealing with a written history in a time of low literacy (15% at the highest?), we should think about this and its impact on spoken language and identity. <br><br>2. On distance, closeness, and perspectives of size, community, et cetera.<br>This is a really interesting string. I was struck by this same issue, but from a slightly different angle. I agree that distances were certainly perceived differently and that each of these very small polities (?) saw themselves as distinct from their neighbor twenty miles or two hundred miles away. But they did know each other or at least knew stories about each other. They were close and shared in some ways. Herodotus gets all kinds of his details as stories told about another group. Wives were borrowed, stolen, and sold, so were slaves. On the coast and elsewhere there was significant trade contact. My point is that the brutality between these small groups and the way they come to view a closely related group as "other" enough to fight was disturbing. It really does feel like: I fight the enemy of my family, my family fights the enemy of my brother’s family, my brother’s family and mine fight the enemy of my cousin, we all fight the enemy of our "clan" and so on. Probably not too far off to compare this to modern Bosnia or the neighborhoods of Baghdad.<br><br>The Persians are in fact a pretty different culture. As we move toward that, I hope we can consider just how different and what that means for conflict.<br><br>3. On the war as time markers.<br>I think this is right and I hadn’t really thought of it before. We have the Greatest Generation as an example. Also, to Frank’s point, this can be used proactively. Many have noted that the congressional vote on the Iraq war was held in October, not coincidentally a month prior to a mid-term election. Presumably, the strategy was that no one would want to be called weak four weeks later. In short, war, history, timing, and politics (big and small) are still intertwined.<br><br>Please keep the thoughts coming.<br><br>Tim</p>

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