Herodotus Books 2 & 3 Audio Recording October 14, 2012

Here is the audio recording for the Herodotus reading group.  Listen online or download the mp3 file and listen to it as a podcast on your mp3 player.
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The American Conservative Blogs The Odyssey–And Likes It

Odysseus

Rod Dreher, a former columnist for the Dallas Morning News and author of one of the longest-titled books in publishing history, has been blogging his journey reading Robert Fagles’ translation of The Odyssey with his older son. We here at the Reading Odyssey are partial, of course, to Stanley Lombardo’s translation, but no matter; any curious adult who picks up and reads The Odyssey is okay with us.

In a post published today, Dreher explains how, the deeper he gets into the book, the more he comes to share the goddess Circe’s affection for Odysseus and his crew. They’re reckless like us. “Their follies are our follies,” he writes. Odysseus leads his men through a crafty plan to gouge the one eye of Cyclops but can’t help shouting from his escaping ship that it was he, Odysseus, who pulled off the feat. His need to bask in his glorious victory dooms him. Cyclops turns around and tells his father Poseidon, who promptly curses Odysseus to years of exile from his beloved Penelope. Dreher puts his finger on one of the central flaws of Homer’s hero (and a flaw certainly shared by the poet’s other great hero, Achilles).

The flaws of glory-worship come up again later when Odysseus is sent down to Hades by the sorceress Circe to consult with Tiresias. 

There Odysseus meets the ghost of his mother, and learns that she died while he was at war — of a broken heart. That is to say, his pursuit of personal glory in the Trojan War, and his long absence from home, led to his mother’s death, and to his father, though still alive, tortured by grief over his son’s absence.

Later on his trip down to the underworld, Odysseus meets Achilles, who in death has come to realize the trap of glory-seeking, saying “By god, I’d rather slave on earth for another man—some dirt-poor tenant farmer who scrapes to keep alive—than rule down here over all the breathless dead.” Dreher writes:

glory means nothing when you’re dead. That a man who lives in the lowest estate in life is greater than a hero in Hades. In the Greek world, achieving everlasting glory — kleos — through great swashbuckling deeds was the great goal of the hero’s life. But here, in the afterworld, the great Achilles, who should be fulfilled by the glory he won in battle, dismisses it as worthless. Better to slave as a mortal than rule in the kingdom of death.

Check out Dreher’s series of posts at the American Conservative:
How To Read Signs (Sept 2)
Place, Person & The Odyssey (Sept 12)
Ah, My Darling Reckless Friends (Sept 24)

Here’s a response at the same site by another writer Alan Jacobs.

–Bruce Upbin

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Herodotus Book 1 audio recording September 12, 2012

Here is the audio recording for the Herodotus reading group.  Listen online or download the mp3 file and listen to it as a podcast on your mp3 player.
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Look for the ‘history’

Dear fellow Herodotus readers,
Herodotus was not the first person to write about past events; he was not even the first Greek to write about past events.  However, he seems to be the first to write “historia” (i.e. “researches”) that went beyond a particular Greek city-state and even incorporated events outside of the Greek world.  My latest reading alongside our Herodotus book is called Persia and the Greeks written by A. R. Burn, in which he assesses Herodotus with the other written evidence we have from the 1st millenium B.C. period (i.e. Babylonian tablets, Old Testament etc.).  Herodotus’ work still stands as a primary source.
As you read through Book I, note how Herodotus sifts through legend and myth and presents what we define now as history.  His digressions are interesting and show that his audience still preferred traditional storytelling, while he also inserts a new historical narrative.  We’ll talk more about this and Book I in general on Monday September 10 on our conference call.  This week I will ask a few of you to take on a question (see below) to introduce to our discussion.  It is just your observations and comments, no research needed.
In the meantime, send out your questions to the group.  You might also want to start reading ahead in Book II (Egypt), just to take a bite out of our next reading for next month, since it is a sizable chunk.
Sincerely,
Andre Stipanovic
Book I
The role of prophecy is very prominent in these chapters.
1.  What part does an oracle play in the story of Candaules and Gyges?  How is a curse associated with it?
2. How does Croesus’ dream about his son Atys become prophetic?  Why does Croesus accept Adrastus so warmly?
3. How does Croesus read the Delphic oracles?  What is he not understanding and why?  When does he understand Solon’s earlier words of advice to him?
4.  In chapters I.95-106, how does the story of the first Median ruler set the example for Median rulers to follow?  According to Herodotus, what common theme seems to characterize the line of Median kings up to and including Astyages?
(Kings of the Medes:  Deiokes, Phraortes, Cyaxares, [Scythian occupation], Cyaxares regains authority, Astyages)
5.  In chapters I. 107-130, how does Cyrus’ origin and upbringing compare to the line of Median kings before him?  Why do you suppose Cyrus seems destined to attain supreme control over the Medes with his Persians?  What main factors, according to Herodotus, contribute to this outcome?
6.  As Persian armies under Cyrus’ command spread out through Asia Minor, they come into contact with various peoples, cities, and nations.  How do negotiations with Ionia result?  Why are the Ionian cities so vulnerable to Persian attack?  What is so significant about the Sardis revolt and suppression?  Why is it placed in the middle of the stories and events connected with Herodotus’ description of Ionia?
7.  According to Herodotus in I. 177-200, what impresses him the most about Babylon?  Why?
8.  In the final chapters of Book I, Cyrus meets his match in Queen Tomyris.  In this conflict, Croesus’ advice, a prophetic dream, and revenge all coincide in a decisive defeat for the Persians.  How might the end of Cyrus relate to patterns of Mede and Persian rule evident throughout Book I?
9.  What is your favorite story of Book I?
After Book I, here is a basic outline of The Histories, book by book.  The first half of the Histories are very ethnographical and set the background for the second half, which focuses  on the Greek – Persian conflicts that have become part of our culture.
Basic outline, book by book:
{Books I – IV are the background for the Greek-Persian conflict}
Book I – Croesus, Cyrus
Book II – Egypt
Book III – Cambyses, Darius
Book IV – Scythia, Cyrene

 

{Books V – IX are the details of the Greek-Persian conflict}
Book V – Ionian Revolt
Book VI – Marathon
Book VII – Thermopylae
Book VIII – Salamis
Book IX – Plataea
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Homer’s Odyssey Books 17-24 audio recording July 16, 2012

Here’s the audio recording for Andre’s Odyssey group.  Listen online or download the mp3 file and listen to it as a podcast on your mp3 player.
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