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BALANCE IN HERODOTUS' HISTORIES BY ANA MCGRATH A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Carl Shaw Sarasota, Florida May, 2009
ii Table of Contents Table of Contents..ii List of Illustrations...iii Abstract.iv Introduction...1 Chapter One: Balan ce in the Natural World .7 Chapter Two: Balance on the Individual Level..23 Chapter Three: Balance on t he Societal Level.39 Conclusion.................................................................................... .......................48 Bibliography.......................................................................... ..............................49
iii List of Illustrations Herodotus' World Map......................................... ............... ..............................16
iv BALANCE IN HERODOTUS' HISTORIES Ana McGrath New College of Florida, 2009 ABSTRACT Balance is an important concept in Herodotus' Histories. I use it in my thesis as a broad umbrella term, which covers changes of fortune, mirroring, opposition and retribu tion. Balance is a cosmic law within the Histories where every action has a karma like reaction in order to maintain this balance. Herodotus sets up this theme in his preface to the Histories when referring to cities, "For most of those which were great once are small today; and those which used to be small were great in my own time. Knowing, therefore, that human prosperity never abides long in the same place, I shall pay attention to both alike." With this in mind I examine how this theme of balance i nfluences the natural world of the Histories : the animal kingdom, geography, and ethnography. From here I narrow my focus to how balance plays out on the individual level by examining Croesus and Cyrus in Book One. Examining how balance played out in the events of their lives, I show that each of their lives reflects the experience of the other. Then I broaden my scope to see how balance works in the societal level by examining how the Athenian and Persian empire reflect each other, much like Croesus and Cyrus. My final conclusion is that there are many examples of balance throughout the work and my analysis of the Histories shows that this balance
v has a broader function of providing examples to the Athenian audience, so that they do not meet the same fat e that the Persians did. Carl Shaw Classics
1 Introduction Cicero gave Herodotus the title "Father of History," 1 and he is considered to be the first historian in the Western tradition. 2 Herodotus was born in Halicarnassus, a Greek city under Persian rule, and lived from around 480 to 420 B.C.E. H alicarnassus was on the eastern border of Greek territories and, thus, took part in both Greek and Persian cultures. It was a Doric city, in Caria, where Ionic scientific thought was fertile, 3 and where Herodotus took part in the discussion. Intermarri age with the non Greek Carians was common, and Herodotus was the cousin of the poet Panyassis, which since it is a Carian name may imply a biracial background for Herodotus. 4 Herodotus is said to have taken part in political struggles against the Persi an nominated tyrant Lygdamis, with his cousin Panyassis, which led both to Herodotus' exile from Halicarnassus and Panyassis' execution. 5 Herodotus spent most of his life as a traveler because of his exile and is believed to have finished his life in the Greek colony of Thurii. Aristotle quotes an edition of the Histories that states "Herodotus of Thurii" instead of "Herodotus of Halicarnassus," 6 and the medieval Suda also supports this. 7 Thus, he began his life in the east and ended it in the west. 1 Romm, Herodotus 9. 2 Dewald, "Wanton Kings, Pickled Heroes, and Gnomic Founding Fathers: Strategies of Meaning at the End of Herodotus' s Histories," 62. Raaflaub, "Philosophy, Science, Politics: Herodotus and the Intellectual Trends of His Time," 152. 4 OCD 696. 5 OCD, 696. 6 Romm, 49. 7 Romm, 49.
2 In his travels, according to his Histories Herodotus visited Egypt, the Black Sea, the Levantine coast, northern Africa, southern Italy, and Babylon. Whether he actually made the trip or trips is disputed, since there are no comments about the journeys he m ade in the Histories only the places he supposedly visited. If he did make these trips, Herodotus must have been from an upper class family to afford travel expenses. Not much is known about his personal life. Herodotus apparently did not speak any l anguage other than Greek, 8 since he makes reference in the Histories for translators in Egypt and at the Persian court, where there were Greek officials. 9 Herodotus' Histories is a collection of his inquiries and researches instead of "history" as most modern readers would define it. It spans from the fall of the Lydian Empire in 545 B.C.E. to events in the early 420s. The Histories is Herodotus' only known work. It was longer than anything written in the Western world at the time, nearly twice the le ngth of the longest Greek text before it, Homer's Iliad 10 Composed of nine books, the work includes political and military events, ethnography and local history, as well as geography. 11 It reads like an encyclopedia at times; the whole of the known worl d -Africa, Asia, and Europe -is included. The first four books focus on "barbarian," that is, non Greek, cultures and places. The last five books focus on the history of the Persian War. 8 OCD, 697. 9 OCD, 697. 10 Romm, 13. 11 Boedeker, "Herodotus' Genre(s)," 98.
3 In fact, Herodotus may have organized material as several sepa rate works. 12 The Greek speaking world was the cultural and geographical center of his perceptions, 13 and throughout the work, he often relates his comments back to Greece. Herodotus probably wrote the Histories over a long period of time, from 450 onw ards, and the final publication was probably around the 420s B.C.E., because of the references made about the beginning of the Peloponnesian War. 14 Herodotus was alive during the Greek victory over Persia, and although he was very young, it still obviousl y had a huge effect on his work. Although he makes first person comments, little is known about his own thoughts or feelings. 15 Herodotus bases his work on his own observation, inquiry, conjecture, and rational analysis. He shows an appreciation for fore ign culture that was exceptional for his time. The lack of a pro Hellenic bias earned him the title of philobarbaros (barbarian lover) and inspired a treatise, "On the Malice of Herodotus." The Histories has many connections to its contemporaries. The work was already familiar to Athenians by 425 B.C.E. when Aristophanes parodied it in his Acharnians 16 Herodotus shares some ideas with Hippocrates' Airs, Waters, Places, which argues that human health is linked to climate and geography. 17 This is simila r to Herodotus' theory that strong people come from places with a 12 Romm, 55. 13 OCD, 697 14 Thomas, "The Intellectual Milieu of Herodotus," 61. 15 Romm, 48. 16 OCD, 696. 17 Thomas, 65.
4 harsh climate, while weak people are those whose climate produces more fertile lands. It is possible that he was friends with Sophocles, and his work also shares many themes and motifs with fifth century Athenian tragedy in general. 18 A theme of balance pervades Herodotus' Histories The author establishes a sort of cosmic scale where everything in existence mirrors itself in a counter form, and every action results in a counteraction. Her odotus' world follows a particular order based on balance, under which fall the important sub concepts of mirroring, opposition, and retribution. Everything has a mirror form elsewhere in the world, even if that mirror form is its polar opposite. Similarl y, every action has a karma like reaction so that the world maintains its balance. Within this balance there is also what I would call, "hyper balance," which is an exact reflection of actions, places or things. Herodotus sets up the theme of balance in his preface to Book One. Referring to cities, he says: "Most of those which were great once are small today; and those which used to be small were great in my own time. Knowing, therefore, that human prosperity never abides long in the same place, I sha ll pay attention to both alike." 19 Herodotus' comments on the fluctuating nature of prosperity serve as a paradigm for his work as a whole. In my first chapter, I examine how this balance influences nature, ethnography, and geography throughout the Histo ries For example, lions are the best predators in the world, but can only give birth once, due to the fact that their young rip their wombs; 18 For more on this, see Suzanne Said's "Herodotus and Tragedy." 19 1.5.
5 and rabbits, who are the best prey, can conceive while being pregnant in order to balance out the fact that they are weak. 20 So, by their birthing habits, these two creatures balance each other out. Similarly, Herodotus reports that the Indians, who have skin similar in color to the Ethiopians, have black semen, as opposed to lighter skinned people. The Egyptians i n general do the opposite of the Greeks, and Egypt is a broader reflection of Greece, with the Nile acting contrary to other rivers. 21 In my second chapter, I show that this theme of balance can also be seen on an individual level. Croesus is an excelle nt example of this "reciprocity;" 22 his downfall occurred because of his ancestor's crime. Before his downfall, Croesus had what could be considered a fortunate life; he conquered many lands, acquired vast riches, and had two sons. In the conversation bet ween Croesus and Solon, an Athenian wise man, Herodotus restates his views on balance, using Solon metanarratively, because Solon was alive about one hundred years prior to Croesus' kingship. Croesus begins his life as a king and ends it as a slave. His fate was inescapable, and because of the crime his ancestor committed, he was doomed to lose his kingdom. I also deal with Cyrus, the first Persian king, who can be considered Croesus' reflection. The events in his life are practically the inverse of Cro esus'. Cyrus was at his peak when he defeated Croesus and had him become his slave advisor. 20 3.108. 21 2.35. 22 OCD, 697.
6 I expand my exploration of this theme from an individual level to the societal level in the third chapter, where I show how Persia and Athens balance each othe r out, much as Croesus and Cyrus do. Herodotus uses a recurring parable, saying that people who live in a harsh environment are "hard" and people who do not are "soft." "Soft" people get conquered by "hard" people. The Persians once were "hard" people a nd were slaves of the Medes. They overthrew their Mede oppressors under Cyrus. The Persians conquered most of the known world, but in doing so, they went from being a "hard" people to "soft" and overconfident people and, thus, the Greeks were able to ove rcome them. I suggest that this hard/soft compa rison is a warning to the fifth century Athenians, who were at the height of their power and in danger of becoming "soft" and therefore conquerable by the Spartans. Although Athens, and Greece in general, were previously not a super power in the known world, this tiny collection of poleis was able to defeat the vast and undefeated empire of Persia. Herodotus seems to suggest that the Athenians are following the same pattern as the Persians. They were a h ard nation, but now they are overconfident. After Persia's defeat, Greece became a rising power, Athens in particular. Herodotus uses this theme of balance as a moral to the Athenians, so that they do not get too prideful, like Croesus, Cyrus, and the Pe rsians before them.
7 Chapter One: Balance in the Natural World In his prologue to the Histories Herodotus states that he will discuss cities both great and small, because those that were once small now are great, and those that are n ow great were once small. He reasons that prosperity never stays for long in the same place, so this is part of his reasoning for talking about great and small cities. Herodotus' observations in the prologue on the reversal of fate and the instability of fortune can be applied to the natural world as well. In the Histories this theme of balance functions like a cosmic law. If there is an imbalance of some sort, like someone experiencing an excess of good fortune, a reaction happens so balance is mainta ined. This law applies to his comments on nature, ethnography, and geography. As James Romm states, "These related ideas of divine balance and moral retribution pervade Herodotus' understanding of the cosmos. ." 23 Herodotus demonstrates this "ethica l framework" 24 in his discussion of the animal kingdom, in his observations on geography, in his reports on cultural practices (for which he uses Greece as the standard), as well as in his presentation of the complex relationships between humans and divine beings. This law of balance can be seen in Herodotus' observations and comments about the animal kingdom. For example, he reports that the flying snakes in Arabia would overrun the world except for the fact that when they mate, the female bites through the neck of the male at the exact second when his sperm is 23 Romm, 67. 24 Romm, 63.
8 released; "the female seizes the male by the neck at the very moment of the release of sperm, and hangs on until she has bitten through." 25 For this crime, when the females give birth, the baby sn ake gnaws its way out through the mother's stomach. This act functions as retribution for the murder of the male snake; therefore, it restores the balance. 26 It also has an even broader function, in that it controls the population of the snakes, so that t he world does not experience an imbalance in flying snakes. Herodotus also gives another example of this sort, with the subject of the birthing habits of hares and lions, which also works to explain the "disproportion in populations of predators and the ir prey" 27 : [It] is hard to avoid the belief that divine providence, in the wisdom that one would expect of it, has made prolific every kind of creature which is timid and preyed upon by others, in order to ensure its continuance, while savage and noxious s pecies are comparatively unproductive. 28 Hares are the ultimate prey; they are hunted by both animals and men. So that their species can survive, despite the fact that they are constantly hunted, hares have the ability, according to Herodotus, to concei ve while pregnant: "you will find in a hare's womb young in all stages of development. Some with fur on, others with none, others just beginning to form, and others, again, barely 25 3.109. 26 3.109. 27 Romm, "Herodotus and the Natural World," 182. 28 3.108.
9 conceived." 29 The hare's ability to reproduce at such a rapid rate balances out the fact that it is at the bottom of the food chain. On the opposite end of the predator prey spectrum are lions, which not only have no predators, but are "the most bold and powerful of beasts." 30 Because of this, Herodotus suggests, a lioness can o nly give birth once in her lifetime. In fact, Herodotus argues that the cub actually shreds its mother's womb while it is gestating so that the lioness cannot become impregnated again. This is also an example of the lion's best weapon being used against it; the razor sharp claws that make them the best predators also keep them from overpopulating, thus keeping the balance in nature. So by their birthing habits, these two creatures balance each other out. Romm also notes Herodotus' method of balance, b ut he offers a critique of the historian's philosophy: [Herodotus] allows his larger notions about the natural world, and its governance by the forethought of the divine,' to guide his selection and presentation of material, drawn in this case from the w orld of hearsay and legend rather than from observation of nature itself. 31 Romm is correct to note Herodotus' occasional, apparent lack of logic, but I would argue that maintaining his "universal moral framework" 32 was one of the most important aspects of Herodotus' overall goal, and that the theme of balance is worth more than actual scientific proof. Romm emphasizes the fact that 29 3.108. 30 3.108. 31 Romm, 182. 32 Romm, 183.
10 Herodotus did not work out the "logical implications of his claim," 33 but I think he is ignoring Herodotus' greater purpose wit h these examples; they work as a parable in order to present the theme of balance to his audience. Herodotus' conclusions about the animal world, though erroneous, relate to his broader assumptions about balance in the greater natural world. According to Herodotus, locations on the edge of the known world have the worst climates and the best resources while Greece has the best climate and no resources. 34 Rood observes that this example "suggests that there is a sort of cosmic balance" 35 in regard to Greece 's climate being equal to the resources found at the edges of the world. Rood also notes that the balance that affects the geographical world also "operates in the animal world." 36 For the Greeks, the center of the universe was at Apollo's temple at Delph i, and Herodotus also touches on his audience's Hellenocentric perspective when he says: "In any case it does seem to be true that countries which lie on the circumference of the inhabited world produce things which we believe to be most rare and beautiful ." 37 Preceding this statement in Book Three, he begins a long discussion about India, which he describes as the "most easterly country in the inhabited world" 38 and Arabia, "the most southerly country." 39 In India, the animals are much larger, gold is found in large quantities, and there are trees that produce 33 Romm, 182. 34 3.106. 35 Rood, "Herodotus and Foreign Lands" 297. 36 Rood 297. 37 3.116. 38 3.106. 39 3.107.
11 wool better than sheep's wool. 40 Arabia is the only place that produces frankincense, myrrh, cassia, cinnamon, and ledanon. 41 Ethiopia, "the furthest inhabited country towards the south west," 42 is rich in gold, elephants, ebony, and the men are "the tallest in the world, the best looking, and longest lived." 43 Herodotus explains that even though the Ethiopians are rich in gold, they value bronze as much as the Greeks value gold, because of its rarity to them. Herodotus has no conclusive information about the far west of Europe, but he does say that tin and amber do come to Greece from there, and that the northern parts of Europe also have gold. 44 With these examples, Herodotus reveals his belief that Gr eece is in the center of the known world, as well as the touchstone for all of his comparisons. Herodotus' statements about the natural world can be applied to his comments about physiology and human behavior as well. In addition to animals and geogr aphy, the peoples of the world also naturally balance each other out by means of opposition. The Indians, whose skin is similar in color to that of the Ethiopians, have black semen similar to their skin color, while paler skinned peoples have white semen. 45 In Egypt, Herodotus makes similar observations about skulls of the Persians and Egyptians left from an earlier battle. The skulls of the Egyptians were harder than the skulls of the Persians, and Herodotus was 40 3.106. 41 3.107. 42 3.114. 43 3.114. 44 3.115. 45 3.101.
12 told, "very credibly," 46 that the reason th e Egyptians have tougher skulls is because they shave their heads from youth, so that the skull is then hardened by the sun's rays. 47 The Persians, on the other hand, wore felt caps to protect their heads from the sun, and by doing so their skulls were thi nner. 48 In addition, there is the Babylonians' marriage practice, which Herodotus found to be an "admirable practice." 49 In every village, they round up all the women of marriageable age once a year. An auctioneer then has each one stand up in turn, beg inning with the best looking one first and proceeds with each girl after that. The men then place bids for her and the one willing to pay the most wins her. After all the pretty girls are auctioned off, the auctioneer then moves on to the girls who are u gly or crippled. The money spent on the attractive girls is then used to provide a dowry for the less desirable ones, so that the man willing to take the least amount of money for the girl wins her. This practice provides a sense of balance in that the p rettiest girls are able to provide the uglier or crippled girls with a dowry so that in the end all the girls get married and their husbands are equally rewarded, some with a beautiful wife and the others with money. Continuing with his observations on c ulture, Herodotus reports that the Persians have opposite eating practices to the Greeks. They have several courses while the Greeks only have a first course. The Persians, then, feel that the Greeks 46 3.12. 47 3.12. 48 3.12. 49 1.196.
13 must leave the dinner table still hungry, because they never have anything good after the first course, and if they did, they would keep on eating. 50 Herodotus also discusses the race of the Hyperboreans; they are supposed to live in the far north, but there is no information about them from "the Scythians or anyone else in that part of the world." 51 Herodotus is in doubt of their existence, but if they do indeed exist "'beyond the north wind' there must also be Hypernotians beyond the south.'" 52 So even in the case of a race that may not exist, according to Herodotus' world view as it is presented, there must be a reflection of them, in order to create balance. All of these examples of human physiology and behavior demonstrate how balance works on a number of different levels. One of Herodotus' most striki ng examples of balance concerns the geography and cultural practices of Egypt which he sees as the reflection of Greece. 53 In the same way that the Nile mirrors the Ister, Egypt itself is almost completely opposite to Greece: "The Egyptians themselves i n their manners and customs seem to have reversed the ordinary practices of mankind." 54 Being on opposite sides of the Mediterranean, they mirror each other and balance each other out. Herodotus lists the things that the Egyptians do that are opposite fr om how they are done by the Greeks. On the cultural level, for example, Herodotus states that women attend the market and work in trade while the men 50 1.133. 51 4.32. 52 4.36. 53 See Figure 1.
14 stay home weaving. And the Egyptians even work the weave in the opposite direction of the Greeks; instea d of working the thread upwards, they work it downwards. 55 Egyptian women urinate standing, while men sit. Sons do not have to support their parents in Egypt, but daughters have to. "They live with their animals unlike the rest of the world, who live a part from them." 56 They knead dough with their feet and clay with their hands. They practice circumcision, which no other culture does with the exception of those who follow the Egyptian custom. In writing, instead of going from left to right, like the G reeks, they go from right to left. 57 They are forbidden to touch fish. 58 No woman holds priestly office in the temples, only men, while in Greece it is common to have a woman as a priestess. All of these examples show that Greece and Egypt correspond to e ach other by means of their opposing natures, and Herodotus devotes almost a whole book to discussing Egypt because of these differences. 54 2.35. 55 2.36. 56 2.36. 57 2.36. 58 2.37.
15 Figure 1. World Map of Herodotus ( http://www.livius.org/he hg/hecataeus/hecataeus.htm ) Tim Rood presents an interest ing idea in regard to Egypt's customs being the reverse of all cultures. Rood connects their "oppositeness" to that of the Scythians, and he states that there is an "Egypt Scythia polarity." 59 His evidence is that the Egyptians live in a hot southern land while the Scythians live in a cold northern land: "Egypt is dominated by the Nile, while Scythia has many rivers.;" 60 the Nile floods in summer while it rains in Scythia in summer; the Egyptians regard themselves as the oldest race, and the Scythians regar d themselves as the youngest. I think Rood is correct in his observations, but I would like to take his theory one step further and suggest that since Herodotus and, in fact, all Greeks, saw Greece as the center of the world, both Egypt and 59 Rood 302. 60 Rood 302.
16 Scythia are op posite of Greece and, therefore, create balance. I have already shown how Greece and Egypt are opposite in a number of ways; so naturally it must follow that Greece and Scythia are opposite as well, even though Egypt and Scythia have their own sets of opp ositions. With these observations of Egypt in mind, we can see how Herodotus also creates balance through his treatment of barbarian cultures in the Histories He humanizes the Persians, though his audience perhaps would expect him to demonize or feminiz e them. Herodotus' comments are remarkably unbiased overall. In the prologue he states that he is writing his Histories "so that human achievements may not become forgotten in time, and great and marvelous deeds some displayed by Greeks, some by barbar ians may not be without their glory." 61 While this idea of praising and recording the great deeds of the world may be considered a basic impulse, its overt internationalism is noteworthy. Herodotus, though he is writing about the history of his own coun try and ultimately the Persian War, is not limited by nationalism or propaganda. Obviously some of his efforts are more successful than others; but the fact that he praises other cultures, countries, and peoples demonstrates his intention to convey the fa cts, even if they are based on his broader sense of balance, as well as on his understanding of Greece as the center of the world and universe. Throughout his work when he makes comments about foreign places, he uses Greece as both the physical center as well as a more symbolic center, as a cultural touchstone. He compares other peoples and their practices to the
17 Greeks, stating that some are better and that some are worse. As Rood notes, he "explicitly measures foreign customs by Greek standards." 62 He rodotus does this with the religion of foreign places, translating it so that the Scythians, who had their own pantheon, worship Greek gods such as Zeus and Hestia. He associates foreign divinities with his own Greek gods and goddesses. He similarly asso ciates the Greek pantheon with Egyptian gods, explaining how they came to have animal heads in Egypt. Herodotus also notes that the man known as Heracles appears in both Egypt and in Scythia as well. So, in his discussion and perception of foreign gods, he uses the Greeks as a reference, relating the two distinct groups in a way that balances the foreign with the d omestic and familiarizes them for his audience. Herodotus also reports on balance in the metaphysical or divine level, particularly in the form of retribution, which corrects the imbalance brought on by unjust acts. For example, after one battle, the victorious Tyrrhenians unjustly took all of their prisoners ashore and stoned them to death. The result of this outrage was that when any livi ng thing, sheep, ox, or man, passed over the spot where the Phocaean prisoners were killed, they suffered from a stroke and became crippled. 63 Because of the excessive treatment of the prisoners, the gods enacted retribution for this crime and made the loc ation unholy and unsafe for all. Similarly, when a small group of Scythians robbed the temple of Aphrodite 61 1.1. 62 Rood 292. 63 1.167.
18 Urania, they were inflicted with the "female disease" 64 for this outrage against the goddess. In another instance, a shepherd, Euenius, fell asleep while guarding the sacred sheep and therefore let wolves eat them. When the townspeople found out about this, they put out his eyes in punishment. Because of the townspeople's actions towards Euenius, the gods made the sheep stop giving birth and the lan d produced no more harvests. The gods intended that the wolves would eat the sheep, and they would continue punishing the townspeople in this way, until reparations were made for the crime. 65 All of these examples demonstrate the way in which a divine f orce punishes humans for their crimes. The retribution that humans suffer for their unjust actions balances them out and demonstrates how there is a cosmic, karmic law to which everyone is subject. An even more striking example is the story Herodotus tel ls of Cambyses' death. While in Egypt, Cambyses, the son of Cyrus and second king of the Persians mocked the sacred bull, Apis, and then speared it in the thigh, killing it. He later received a wound in the same spot on his thigh, which eventually resul ted in his death. Cambyses, suffers the exact injury that he inflicted on Apis. This is an example of the "extreme or "hyper balance" that I discussed in my introduction. The action results in the exact opposite reaction. In fact, Herodotus makes a p oint of mentioning this 66 to show that this is an example of divine will: "the cap fell off the sheath of his sword, exposing the 64 1.105. John Marincola interprets this as impotence. 65 9.93. 66 3.64.
1 9 blade, which pierced his thigh just in the spot where he had previously struck Apis the sacred Egyptian bull." 67 In "Herodotu s and the Natural World," 68 Romm states that the divine is the cause of the balance, but he does not go one step further and note that the divine is also under balance's rule. I would argue that this idea of balance is so strong that the gods themselves ar e subject to it. As Herodotus himself notes: "not [even] God himself could escape destiny." 69 This law of balance is strong enough that the gods cannot act to change it, as is seen when Croesus, after he has been captured by Cyrus, sends a reproachful mes sage to the oracle at Delphi for Apollo's mistreatment of him. I treat this in greater detail in the next chapter, but the important thing to note now is how even the god Apollo could not prevent Croesus' downfall. When the temple priestess replied to Cr oesus' rebuke, she said that that king was destined to fall by the crime of his ancestor and that Apollo "had been unable to divert the course of destiny," 70 but he did manage to postpone Croesus' ruin by three years. One of the best examples of the cosmic force of balance upon a human can be found when Herodotus relates the story of Polycrates, an incredibly fortunate king whom Herodotus spends a fair amount of time discussing. He was so fortunate, in fact, that his friend advised him to toss his most pri zed possession 67 3.64. 68 Romm, 182 86. 69 1.91. 70 1.91
20 into the sea, because the gods are jealous of men who are too lucky. 71 This action would allow Polycrates to balance out his incredible fortune with some misfortune, thereby living a life at neither extreme. Polycrates followed his friend's advice, throwing his most treasured possession, an emerald ring, into the sea. His ring came back to him, though, by a chance of fate; a fisherman caught an enormous fish and decided to present it to the king, who had his chefs prepare the fish for dinne r. When they cut into it, they found his emerald ring in its belly. Polycrates reported his wondrous luck to his friend, Amasis, who, when he heard this, "at once replied how impossible it is for one man to save another from his destiny, and how certain it was that Polycrates, whose luck held even to the point of finding again what he deliberately threw away, would not end well." 72 Amasis broke off his ties of friendship with Polycrates, because he did not want to feel heartache when the king's downfall occurred. Some time after this, Polycrates' daughter had a fearsome dream, and she tried to warn her father from meeting with the Oroetes, a governor, begging him to stay home. He disregarded her warnings, as well as those of his friends, and decided to meet with the governor to form an alliance. Oroetes, though, wanted to kill the king and was using his promise of allegiance as a means to get close to him. When Polycrates arrived, Oroetes murdered him in "a manner not worthy to be recorded." 73 Obvio usly, the king's good fortune came to an abrupt and awful end. However, the governor's own unjust actions also led to a bad end, 71 3.40. 72 3.43.
21 and "it was not long before Polycrates had his revenge." 74 Oroetes was soon murdered on the orders of Darius, the third ruler of the Persians and successor of Cambyses. He was punished for his many crimes, up to and including: not aiding his fellow countrymen, the Persians, in overthrowing the Medes for a second time; the murder of a Persian of high esteem, Mitrobates; and the m urder of one of Darius' couriers. 75 Polycrates was brought down because he was too fortunate, and even though Oroetes was an instrument in Polycrates' downfall, Oroetes himself in turn received retribution for his crimes. The interweaving of Polycrates an d Oroetes' fates again illustrates the concept of balance. Even though Oroetes is used as a tool for the cosmic law of balance, he himself still receives punishment for the grievous wrongs he had done. As we have seen, the theme of balance pervades the w orld of the Histories as a whole, affecting the animal kingdom, geography, cultural practices, and the relationship between humans and the divine. In the last example, I examined particularly how balance and retribution function on the personal level. Th e next chapter will continue with this exploration, looking particularly at the rise and fall of Croesus and Cyrus, two important figures who play important roles in Book One of Herodotus' Histories 73 3.125. 74 3.126.
22 75 3.127.
23 Chapter Two: Balance on an Indivi dual Level At the end of the last chapter, I discussed Polycrates and Oroetes, showing that Herodotus' theme of balance functions on the individual level. In this chapter I will consider how this theme pervades Book One and its plot, particularly in relat ion to two kings, Croesus and Cyrus. To understand how Herodotus built his composition around this theme, we need to take a close look at the events as he describes them at the beginning of his work. The fac t that he sets up this balance -not only with in the first book of the Histories but even in the first major story -shows its importance to Herodotus' work as a whole. He almost certainly considered it to be of great importance and meant for his readers and listeners to keep it in mind while readin g it. In fact, as Kurt A. Raaflaub states: That the first book has a programmatic' or paradigmatic' function has long been recognized. Within this book, I suggest, the Croesus logos (1.5 1.91) serves the same function in a more condensed way: it announc es programmatically many important themes that resonate throughout the Histories . 76 Herodotus extends the paradigm of balance beyond the natural world, providing a case study of it on a personal level, giving examples of this balance throughout Croesu s and Cyrus' lifetimes. Croesus, a Lydian king, experiences a downward turn of fate, which can be traced back to his ancestor, Gyges. As the bodyguard to King Candaules,
24 Gyges enjoyed his company, often discussing professional and personal affairs with him. As Herodotus describes it, Candaules frequently showed in these discussions that he was very much in love with his wife and hoped to prove her beauty to his guard. Candaules constructed a plot to show her naked body to Gyges as proof. The guard obj ected, as this was "contrary to custom," 77 and it was even considered distasteful for a man to be seen naked, 78 let alone a woman; but eventually Candaules convinced him, reassuring him that his wife would not see him. That night, while Candaules enacted hi s plan, the queen caught sight of Gyges as he left from his hiding place in the bedroom, after she had undressed for bed. She immediately realized what her husband had done, but remained silent and began plotting her revenge for this trespass. 79 The next day she called on Gyges and gave him an ultimatum: either he must die or kill her husband and take the throne with her as his wife 80 to make up for the crime he committed against her. Gyges chose to live, following the queen's plot to kill Candaules in t he bedroom, where the original crime was committed. The queen even hid him behind the same door where he had previously hid to see her naked. 81 Gyges is forced to commit both of these crimes in the same way in the same place, which is an example of what I have termed "hyper balance." There is a perfect 76 Raaflaub, 167 8. 77 1.8. 78 1.10. 79 1.10. 80 1.11. 81 1.12.
25 symmetry between these two crimes, since Candaules suffers retribution from the same person in the same place that he committed the original crime. Although Gyges' rule was validated by Candaules' action s and he was not punished within his own life, the oracle of Apollo at Delphi warned that Gyges' line would no longer rule in the fifth generation. This figures into the concept of miasma, where once a house or family does something wrong, either the puni shment will be passed on to later generations, or the terrible deeds will continue until the retribution finally counter balances the transgression. Because of the oracles' response, Gyges' reign over Lydia was seen to be validated by the gods. The Herac lids, whose line Candaules was part of, used to rule Lydia, but their reign en ded with Candaules' death. Yet they would be avenged for this by Gyges' line losing Lydia after five generations, which was when Croesus, Gyges' descendant, was ruling. Candaul es committed a crime by revealing his wife's naked bo dy to another man and wa s killed in the same spot where the transgression took p lace. Even though Gyges' rule was validated, he wa s still punished for the crime of murdering the king with his family lin e's loss of rule. Thus, we can see several instances of reversals and balance in Gyges' story. All of these actions, as they are depicted by Herodotus, have a mirrored reaction. The same can be noted in the scene between Croesus and Solon. In the Histo ries Herodotus depicts Solon traveling while Croesus rules over Lydia. Even though Herodotus presents Solon as active at this time in the Histories Solon is generally considered to have died before Croesus began his
26 reign. 82 Solon was reputed to be an incredibly wise man, so Croesus called on him to visit while he was traveling through Lydia. After having a servant take Solon on a tour of the royal treasuries, Croesus asked him who the happiest man in the world was, expecting it to be him. Solon, refu sing to flatter, "answered in strict accordance with his view of the truth." 83 He told Croesus about an Athenian by the name of Tellus who, first, had a prosperous city, fine sons, and lived to see children born to each, with all of the family surviving; second, he was wealthy and had a glorious death fighting for his home. 84 Disregarding the moral lesson within Solon's first answer, Croesus asks whom the second happiest man is, expecting it to be him. Solon then tells him about the two Argives Cleobis an d Biton, two sons so devoted to their mother that they harnessed themselves to her cart when no oxen were available and dragged her all the way to the temple where the Festival of Hera was taking place, six miles away. In pleasure at her sons' devotion, t heir mother asked Hera to grant her sons "the greatest blessing that can fall to mortal man." 85 And so, her sons fell into a gentle sleep at the temple, and quietly died. They were considered the best of men by the Argives, 86 for living an honorable life and dying an enviable death. Angered by Solon's responses, Croesus asked him if his wealth meant nothing compared with the commoners that Solon had mentioned. Solon replied 82 Romm, Herodotus 2. 83 1.30. 84 1.30. 85 1.31. 86 1.31.
27 to him that "God is envious of human prosperity" 87 and that "man is entirely a cr eature of chance," 88 so no man can truly be called happy until he dies, since human prosperity changes. Until that point, he can only be called lucky. In Book One, Solon presents the foundation for the changes of fortune and the balance required for it, e choing Herodotus' statements in the prologue. As Rachel Friedman notes ; "Solon, then, can be seen as a figure who performs a metanarrative function in his echoing of these crucial aspects of Herodotus' own authorial persona." 89 Because Herodotus uses a fi ctitious chronology (Solon traveled one hundred years prior to Croesus' rule), it seems likely that he is using Solon's famed reputation as a wise man to further his own moral. Herodotus repeatedly makes clear that nothing can stay the same because it nee ds to be balanced, which I interpret as his moral to the fifth century Athenians. As Fornara states, "The essential truth for Herodotus was ebb and flow," 90 but change is influenced by one's own actions and thus the Greeks needed to be aware of their choic es. Indeed, Herodotus has Solon in this narrative "echo several other passages in Solon's poems," which often address morals and changes of fortune. 91 In accordance with what Solon stated, bad fortune began to fall upon Croesus, "presumably because God was angry with him for supposing himself 87 1.32. 88 1.32. 89 Friedman, "Location and Dislocation in Herodotus," 167. 90 Fornara, Herodotus an Interpretive Essay 77. 91 Pelling, "Speech and Narrative in the Histories," 106.
28 the happiest of men." 92 It began after Solon's visit, when Croesus had a prophetic dream much like a central motif that occurred in Athenian tragedy during Herodotus' time that he w ould lose his son Atys by means of an iron weapon. As a result, he has all iron weapons in the men's quarters moved to the women's rooms, and quickly arranges a marriage so that Atys would be removed from his military duties for a time. Soon after, a supplicant arrived at Croesus' hous e asking to be cleansed from bloodguilt. Croesus washes away the bloodguilt accordingly and accepts the man, Adrastus, as a guest in his house. At that time, the Mysians were afflicted with a monstrous boar ravaging their town, so they asked Croesus for assistance, which would consist of a hunting party led by his son. Croesus offered to send armed men instead of his son, but Atys overheard this conversation and asked his father if he found him lacking in some way. When Croesus told him about his dream and his fears, Atys responded that he would be worried if he was facing armed men, but boars do not wield iron, nor are their tusks made from iron. Convinced by this argument, Croesus lets his son go on the hunt with Adrastus as his bodyguard. By fortune 's design, when Adrastus threw his spear at the boar, he hit Atys instead. Thus, Croesus' dream came true. 93 This ironic turn of events that the man whom Croesus had cleansed from bloodguilt accidentally kills his son caused Adrastus to kill himself out o f despair. Even Adrastus' name leads to the 92 1.34. 93 1.43.
29 inevitability of fate; it means "he who cannot be escaped." 94 The death of Croesus' son is necessary for Croesus' downfall; it is the first step in his change of fortune and creates a balance for Croesus' previo us good fortune. Continuing in the chain of events toward Croesus' downfall, two years after his son's death, Croesus learned that the Persians, under Cyrus, destroyed Astyages' empire and were steadily increasing their power. 95 Croesus, wondering about t he future of his own empire and whether he could stunt the growth of the Persian empire, sent a messenger to ask the oracle at Delphi if he should wage war against Cyrus and the Persians. Although Croesus had given the temple many offerings, when he asked Apollo's oracle whether he should make war upon the Persians, the oracle gave an ambiguous message: "that if Croesus attacked the Persians, he would destroy a great empire." 96 Croesus interpreted this as the Persian empire falling, so he began to make pre parations. The oracle also told him to find out which of the Greek states was the most powerful and then make an alliance with them. 97 He learned that the Lacedamonians were the strongest of the Dorians and the Athenians were the best of the Ionians. Cr oesus chose to court the Spartans as an ally, and they accepted because they knew about the oracle's response and were honored to be considered the most eminent of all of the Greeks. 98 94 Romm, 69. 95 1.46. 96 1.52. 97 1.53. 98 1.69.
30 Croesus then waged war against Persia and eventually lost. With this he fulfilled the prophecy that he would destroy a mighty empire, but rather than taking down Persia, his actions led to the destruction of his own "great empire." Considering this example, as well as the means of his son's death, it seems that irony is also a part of Herodotus' theme of balance. Cyrus had Croesus captured, put chains on him, and placed him on a pyre. As the former Lydian king stood on the pyre, he remembered the "divine truth" 99 that Solon had imparted to him, that no man can be called happy until he dies, and then he sighed Solon's name three times. When Cyrus heard this, he became intrigued and had his interpreters question him about the name. Solon, Croesus explained, is a man who should have talked with every king in the world, 100 a nd then Croesus went into detail about his conversation with Solon during his visit. Touched by the story, Cyrus realized that the man who stood before him was once as prosperous, successful, and happy as he himself was currently. That thought, "and the fear of retribution, and the realization of the instability of human things" 101 made him change his mind and have Croesus cut down from the pyre. From here until his death, because the gods saw fit to make him Cyrus' slave, 102 Croesus advised Cyrus in matters where he felt his counsel was needed. At this moment, Herodotus introduces a major turning point in the narrative. From here, Book One focuses on Cyrus and his fortune. Almost 99 1.86. 100 1.86. 101 1.86.
31 exactly half of the first book is about Croesus, and the other half about C yrus. When Cyrus is introduced, it is in the middle of his life, while he is an adult and conquering Lydia. His story, though, begins with his grandfather, King Astyages, who had a dream in which his daughter Mandane urinated so much that it "filled his city and swamped the whole of Asia." 103 He then had the Magi, a religious caste of the Medians, interpret it, and their interpretation scared him enough that when she became of age to marry, he married her off to a Persian, who was considered to be of a g ood family though much lower in social status than a Mede of middle rank. 104 Later, he had another dream where a vine grew out of his daughter and covered all of Asia. The Magi interpreted this as his daughter's son usurping his throne. 105 After this, Ast yages had Mandane brought to his home to be kept under watch, so that when she gave birth he could take the child away from her. When his daughter gave birth, he ordered his kinsman and steward Harpagus to kill the child. Harpagus, who did not want the b loodguilt and subsequent miasma on him or any of his own servants, ordered one of the king's herdsman, Mitradates, to expose the child. On that same day "fate had decreed" 106 that Mitradates' wife would be giving birth. When Mitradates arrived home, he tol d her what he had seen and heard while at Harpagus' house; he learned from one of the servants that the 102 1.89. 103 1.107. 104 The Medes ruled over the Persians at this time. 105 1.108. 106 1.111.
32 child who was to be exposed was the child of Mandane and Cambyses. Upon seeing the child, she burst into tears and begged him not to expose the baby. He replied that there was nothing he could do, since he would be executed if he did not finish this task. Seeing that her tears could not move him, she came up with a plan. Their child was stillborn, so if Harpagus needed a dead body as proof, they could switch the babies and raise Cyrus as their own, while their son received an honorable burial. 107 Her husband was pleased with this plan, and after exposing his son's body for two days, he called on Harpagus to examine it. Harpagus was satisfied with what he saw, reported to Astyages that the child was disposed of, and in this way, a farmer and his wife raised Cyrus. This is an interesting instance of Herodotus' Histories mirroring myth, although it is a historical work. The topic of exposing a child due to prophecy was a common theme in myth: Oedipus, for example, was exposed when an oracle prophesied that he would kill his father and marry his mother; Paris also was exposed because he was supposed to be the ruin of his family; and even Perseus was set a drift in sea with his mother because an oracle warned that he would kill his grandfather. Herodotus notes that there are multiple versions of Cyrus' youth, but he only tells the one he thinks to be the most probable. 108 The connection between Cyrus' childh ood and Greek myth suggests that history 107 1.112. 108 1.95.
33 reflects myth, in that his story echoes the formulaic turns of events in myth, and myth has elements of history. 109 As Cyrus grew up, his identity was revealed through his actions in a game of Kings when he was ten. 110 While playing, he was appointed King by his playmates and acted accordingly. When one child acted out and refused to obey him, Cyrus had him beaten for treason. The child, being of higher social status than Cyrus, complained to his father, who then bro ught this matter before king Astyages. Cyrus was brought before his grandfather, and the king noticed how similar his features were to his own family and realized that this child might be his grandson. He then had Mitradates tortured, and the truth was r evealed. Astyages then called on Harpagus to validate this story. Harpagus, when he saw Mitradates, admitted that he ordered the farmer to expose the child, and that he viewed the corpse of what he thought was the baby. Astyages tells him not to be dist ressed, that this had been on his conscience for a while and he is glad it did not work out as he originally planned. Astyages later consulted with the Magi over this, and they told him that he should no longer worry about being overthrown because the pro phecy was fulfilled when Cyrus was named king in the game. 111 In reality, Astyages was upset with Harpagus, so he asked him to send his eldest son to the castle, under the premise that he come to the celebration feast. When Harpagus' son arrived, Astyages had him "butchered, cut up into joints 109 For more on the interrelationship of myth and history, see p. 36 110 1.114.
34 and cooked, roasting some, boiling the rest, and having the whole properly prepared for the table." 112 At the feast, everyone dined on mutton, except for Harpagus, who dined on the meat of his own son. After he indic ated that he had eaten his fill, Astyages ordered him to lift the lid off a nearby dish. When he lifted the lid, he saw the head, hands, and feet of his son. Harpagus kept control of his emotions while Astyages asked him if he knew what sort of meat he ha d dined on, and Harpagus replied that he understood and that the king's will should be done. 113 After this, he gathered up his son's remains and took them home for burial. This is another instance where history mirrors myth. The topic of killing and feedi ng children to their parents or guests was a familiar one to Greek audiences. Tantalus cooked his son Pelops and tried to feed him to the gods, which then tainted the family bloodline, even though the gods punished Tantalus and brought his son back from t he dead. From Pelops came his sons Atreus and Thyestes who murdered their half brother Chrysippus. Atreus later learned that his wife was adulterous with his brother, so he killed and cooked Thyestes' sons. Thyestes later had another son, Aegisthus, who killed Atreus, but not before Atreus had two sons of his own, Agamemnon and Menelaus. Aegisthus cuckolded Agamemnon and then killed him, but then he was punished in turn by Agamemnon's son Orestes. 111 1.120. 112 1.119. 113 1.119.
35 These connections with myth show that these themes of balance miasma, and retribution were e mbedded in Greek thought. In fact, these themes are also present in Greek drama. Although Herodotus was writing "history," the genre at this early period was relatively undefined. Herodotus incorporates mythologica l themes into his work, but he makes a habit of rationalizing the myths, so that they seem more probable. 114 This is important because, when relating stories of historical figures, he employs this use of myth as a narrative technique to express his themes to his audience. In this way, his historical work both balances and mirrors Greek myth. As a result of Astyages' horrific crime, his empire is soon brought down by Cyrus and balance is maintained for the injustice. After the murder of his son was revea led, as well as the nature of his gruesome meal, Harpagus desired revenge, so he decided to make an alliance with Cyrus in order to overthrow the king, which would result in the release of the Persians from slavery, as well as enable him to have revenge ag ainst Astyages. Fighting commenced between the Medes and the Persians, and Astyages, who had apparently lost his wits by the sudden turn of events, gave Harpagus command of the Median forces, forgetting the wrong that he had done him. They conquered Asty ages, and Cyrus began the Persian empire. When he was conquered, Astyages cond emned Harpagus, saying that he wa s the wickedest and most stupid of men. It would have been better to pass off the throne to another Mede if he was not taking it for himself. 114 For example, early on in his work, Herodotus describes the early relationship between Persia and Greece as one of mutually seizing wome n, such as Io, Medea, and Helen. Herodotus takes these
36 Since he did not, all of the Medes will now be slaves to the Persians. 115 With this, the roles became reversed between the Medes and the Persians; therefore, balance is maintained. After he conquered Lydia and Babylon, Cyrus was eventually brought down whi le he began his conquest south and east. Traveling past Babylon, Cyrus came upon the tribe of the Massagetae. He wanted to attack them in order to conquer their land, which was then ruled by Queen Tomyris. At first, he offered her a marriage proposal, a s a means to take control of her land. She saw through the plot and said no, telling him that he can take all the land he likes, but he needed to get used to the fact that she is ruling her own people. 116 Displeased by her response, he decided to take her land by force. He attacked and managed to defeat her army by means of a trick. He left tents filled with wine and food guarded only by the weakest men in his army while he advanced the rest. The Massagetan army killed all the men that Cyrus left and then partook of the goods laid out. They ate and drank their fill and then fell asleep, pleased by their victory. After they fell for the trick, Cyrus and his troops came in and killed many, and captured the rest, one of whom was Queen Tomyris' son. After t his, the Queen asked Cyrus to return her child, saying "If you refuse, I swear by the sun our master to give you more blood than you can drink, for all your gluttony." 117 In this message, she also asked him to leave her lands and be stories that were probably familiar to his audience and makes them more historically reasonable. 115 1.129. 116 1.205. 117 1.212.
37 triumphant in his defeat of a third of the Massagetae. Cyrus did not listen to her, and her son, when he realized his predicament, killed himself. After Queen Tomyris heard this, she attacked and defeated Cyrus. She searched the field for his body, and when she found it, she p ushed his head into a wine skin which she had filled with blood and said, "See now I fulfill my threat: you have your fill of blood." 118 Within the story of Cyrus' death there are a couple examples of "hard" people overcoming "soft." After the Massagetae have slain the Persians left behind at the camp, they became too confident and indulged themselves with the food and wine left behind as a trap. The Persians were able to take advantage of their overconfidence and therefore defeated them. Emboldened by this victory, as well as past conquests, Cyrus then further attacked Queen Tomyris. However, the cycle continued; when Cyrus allowed his pride to overtake him, he became "soft," which then allowed the "hard" queen to be victorious over him. Previously, C roesus conquered many lands and then when Cyrus defeated him, he in turn began his conquest to expand the Persian empire. Cyrus' death is tragic, but we are given no details about Croesus' death. He most likely lived out the rest of his days as advisor t o the Persian kings. 119 As I have shown, the theme of balance is intertwined throughout the plot of book one in a way that establishes the importance of this concept and encourages the reader to view the following books in the same light. In a way, 118 1.214. 119 Romm, 75.
38 Book On e expands Herodotus' introductory comments about the cyclical nature of human events and serves as a paradigm for the work as a whole. The prominence of the stories concerning Croesus and Cyrus is a clear signal to keep these themes in mind as the reader progresses through the work. In the next chapter, I will suggest that Herodotus sets up a parallel between the events of Book One and the rise and fall of the Persian empire. This is key because, as we will see, Herodotus is using the rise and fall of th e Persian empire as an example of the cosmic law of balance, thereby, providing a moral to the Greeks, who had recently defeated the Persians.
39 Chapter Three: Balance in Society In the preceding chapter, I discussed Herodotus' theme of balance on the individual level, showing that accounts of Croesus and Cyrus serve to highlight this concept. Expanding on this investigation this chapter look s at this theme on the societal level. Similar to the manner in which Herodotus had Cyrus look upon Cr oesus while he was on the pyre and see him as a fellow man, I would argue that Herodotus wanted the Greeks to look upon the Persians in the Histories and see them in the same way. This chapter will discuss what it means to be "hard" or "soft," as well as the importance of the last lines of the Histories T hese terms relate to Herodotus' theme of cyclical balance and how he reinforces it at the end of his work. Also in this chapter is a discussion of Herodotus' sympathetic view of the Persians and how his sympathies extend towards Athens, and how the theme of balance in this context functions as a moral to Herodotus' Greek audience. What it means to be "hard" or "soft" is difficult to define. As Herodotus suggests, a "hard" people is one w hose land is not fruitful, but has strong soldiers. If a people is "soft," it is because they have become overconfident by their past victories and excessively indulge in what they have gained. This creates a cycle in which a "hard" nation ends up defeat ing a "soft" nation, but they then are susceptible to becoming "soft" in turn. For example, the Persians started out as a "hard" nation, with a small territory and rugged land, under Cyrus, and they were eventually were brought down under Xerxes, their fo urth
40 king, while their e mpire was at its largest. Herodotus presents the Persians as formidable enemies, who have made bad decisions because they were overconfident, and during the fifth century in general, the Persians were presented by the Greeks as ef feminate and too interested in luxury. 120 The Persians, though, were not always "soft," which Herodotus makes clear at the end of his work. In the final anecdote of the Histories last book, Herodotus relates a story from Persia's early history that sheds light on Herodotus' conception of "hard" and "soft." The Persian Artembares makes a proposal to his people, saying that since Cyrus had given the Persians "pre eminence in the world, let us leave this small and barren country of ours and take possession of a better." 121 Artembares brought forth the notion that this would be a good opportunity to become the "masters of many nations and all Asia," 122 since Persia was not a fertile land. On hearing this, "Cyrus did not think much of this suggestion." 123 He repl ied that if they were to do so they must prepare themselves to "rule no longer, but to be ruled by others." 124 He continued that "'soft countries breed soft men. It is not the property of any one soil to produce fine fruits and good soldiers too.'" 125 Herod otus gives a clear example of what he wants the Greeks to take away from his work in the last line of the Histories: "The Persians had to admit that this was true and that Cyrus was 120 Flower, 284. Cf. also Aeschylus' Persians 121 9.12 2. 122 9.122. 123 9.122. 124 9.122. 125 9.122.
41 wiser than they; so they left him, and chose rather to live in a rugged la nd and rule than to cultivate rich plains and be slaves." 126 Although the Persians do not heed Cyrus' advice for long, the quotation demonstrates how Persia could have remained powerful. I would suggest that it also functions as an example of balance and i s meant as a moral to the Greeks, since it hearkens back to his prologue: "For most of those which were great once are small today; and those which used to be small were great in my own time." 127 It is important to consider what it meant that Herodotu s ended such a large work with this story. It is not the end of the Persian Wars chronologically; in fact, it circles back to the beginning of the work, when Cyrus first came into power. I believe Herodotus did this so that his readers would be able to take what Cyrus said at the end of Book Nine and be able to hold it up against what eventually happened with the Persian empire. Herodotus bookends his work with the same theme of balance, thereby linking the conclusion with the introduction. This is a p owerful literary device that reinforces his message and seems to provide a moral to his audience. By mentioning Cyrus, he calls attention to the events of Book One, where the Persians overthrew their oppressors and gained their freedom. Herodotus juxtapo ses the defeat of the soft Persian empire with the success of the early, rugged Persians. This functions as a metaphor for the Greeks and Athens in particular, who recently defeated the ir Persian aggressors. Their success was on the rise and softness was a threat. 126 9.122. 127 1.5.
42 Herodotus' portrayal of the Persians is key to understanding how this metaphor and moral works. He portrays them in a sympathetic light as a clear example for the Greeks: "He chose to recount the conflict between Greece and Persia more as a tale of Persian defeat than of Greek victory." 128 The Persians and the Greeks both came from humble beginnings, from a land with rocky soil. The Persians were slaves under the Medes, and the Athenians also suffered under someone else's rule. When Persia d ecided to attack Greece, it did not consider the fact that it, itself, had become a "soft" country; in this way, Persia was defeated by Greece, which was a "hard" land of good soldiers. Persia also suffered defeat because of the poor decisions the leaders made in battle, while the Greeks made good ones. With these examples, Herodotus notices the pattern between hard and soft and how it is analogous to success and failure. He also indicates the strong effect that individual choices and actions relate to the balance between these oppositions. Herodotus' portrayal of the Persians in a tragic light is more than him being unbiased; he also wanted the Greeks to look at them similarly to the way Cyrus looked at Croesus when he was on the pyre. Croesus was a m an like him, and was once fortunate like him, so Cyrus understood that he himself was also susceptible to a drastic change of fate. Herodotus wanted the Greeks to see the Persians as fellow people and be able to sympathize with what they have gone through and take what Herodotus said about them to heart. As Flower states, "It may come as a surprise then that the Histories of Herodotus is as much about 128 Romm, 75.
43 Persia as about Greece, and that individual Persians are given just as much narrative space as individual Greeks." 129 The Persians served as a warning to the Greeks; they too were once powerful, but it was not so long ago that Greece, a tiny, rugged people defeated them. Herodotus portrayed the Persians as figures of sympathy so that the Greeks would see a r eflection of themselves, and take note of Herodotus' warning/moral. He did not want the Greeks to fall prey to the hubris that affected the Persians. Too much pride leads to a downfall: "It is always the great buildings and the tall trees which are stru ck by lightning. It is God's way to bring the lofty low For God tolerates pride in none but Himself." 130 The Persians were once "hard" people, and they overcame their "soft" Mede oppressors. The Medes had long ruled over the Persians, and it was not until Cyrus rebelled that they gained their freedom. Since Cyrus, each Persian king has tried to match and expand on his successes. Yet, the Persians, in turn, became "soft" and were then defeated by the "hard" Greeks. Greece, and more specifically Athens, was at the height of its power in the fifth century B.C.E. and was in danger, Herodotus suggests, of following in Persia's tragic cycle. Herodotus was finishing the Histories during the beginning of the Peloponnesian War, which started in 431 B.C. E., and seems to warn his Athenian audience that what they are doing, by becoming imperialistic, may result in being beaten by 129 Flower, "Herodotus and Persia," 274. 130 7.10e.
44 the "hard" Spartans since they are repeating Persia's mistakes in trying to remove freedom from the Greeks. With the defeat of X erxes, Athens came into its own power: "The empire of Xerxes was turned away but the empire of Athens was born." 131 Fornara brings up an interesting point that "As Herodotus viewed it [his Histories ], it was the pre history of the Peloponnesian War." 132 This firmly ties together the correlation between Athens and Persia, as both empires who attempt to take away Greece's freedom. Herodotus' lack of bias extends even further, in that he also presents Athens in a sympathetic light in his work: "And with this c ompassionate understanding he deplored that hatred of Athens which ignored completely the inherent tragedy of her position." 133 Herodotus' work was applicable to the beginning of the Peloponnesian War in 431 B.C.E.: "Herodotus' intention was to make his lis teners understand the crisis of the day in historical perspective. For this, like all the others, was a struggle against enslavement by an empire." 134 Herodotus has made use of the theme of balance in his work as a moral to the Greeks as a whole, but wit h a few words set aside as a direct advice to the Athenians, a warning to avoid this self fulfilling prophecy. Previously, the Spartans were the most well known of Greeks, and they were considered the strongest. After the events of the Persian war, due t o the role the Athenians 131 Fornara, 86. 132 Fornara, 87. 133 Fornara, 80. 134 Fornara, 80.
45 played, Athens became recognized as an equal to Sparta. Herodotus even expresses his opinion in this case, "though "[he] know[s] most people will object," 135 that Greece was saved by the Athenians: "It was the Athenians who held th e balance: whichever side they joined was sure to prevail." 136 It was their naval capabilities, as well as the fact that they encouraged the other free Greek states to fight against Persia that tipped the scales decidedly in Greece's favor. If the Persia ns had been content with what they had, they would not have fallen to the Greeks. They had no militaristic reason to want to control Greece; it was rocky and was not abundant with crops or riches. Also related is the idea that no one man can rule over bo th Asia and Europe, and those who try get punished for it. As Themistocles, an Athenian general, states, the gods are "jealous that one man in his godless pride should be king of Asia and of Europe too." 137 It defies the laws of balance for such an attempt to be made. At the time Herodotus was writing, Athens was at the height of its power. The Peloponnesian War was starting by the end of this work, which would be disastrous to the Greeks as a whole since they had just won their freedom and a war would mean nothing but civil strife for them and would weaken them for outside attack. He is like an advisor who notices the patterns of history and wants to prevent history from repeating itself with Athens' fall. 135 7.139. 136 7.139. 137 8.109.
46 In addition to this, there is Herodotus' sy mpathetic view towards the Athenians, who were unpopular at the time of his writing because they wanted to control Greece. 138 As Rachel Friedman states: Perhaps we should see Herodotus who wrote of a moment in which it was possible to imagine a panhelleni c identity but at a moment in which the possibility was proving to be an untenable one as placing himself in this position of longing and nostalgia so as to create for the Greeks a sense of what had been lost. 139 Herodotus' Histories do not explicitly ju dge the contemporary Athenian empire; the parallels between it and the Persian empire, though, give a sense of foreshadowing of what would occur if the Athenians become "soft." Herodotus furthers his point by another story in Book Nine. After the Greeks repelled the Persian attack and the Persians took flight, the Greeks went through the spoils of what the Persians left behind. Pausanias, the Spartan leader, came upon Xerxes' tent, which Xerxes left with Mardonius, who was in charge of the Persian force in Greece. After Pausanias saw the tent, which was decorated with silver and gold, he had Mardonius' bakers and cooks prepare the same meal they would for Mardonius. He then went inside the tent and took note of all the luxuries. After this, he had his own cooks prepare a Spartan dish and then asked all the Greek generals to come to the tent and compare the 138 Fornara, 80. 139 Friedman, 175.
47 dishes. The difference between them "was remarkable" 140 and then he laughed and said, "'Men of Greece, I asked you here in order to show you the folly of the Persians, who, living in this style, came to Greece to rob us of our poverty.'" 141 Here Herodotus is showing that Greece should be happy with what it has and not strive for something which it does not need. 140 9.82. 141 9.82.
48 Conclusion In the Histories Herodotus places a major theme of balance throughout the work. It pervades the world as a whole so effectively that even the gods are subject to its will. It can be seen in nature, as well as in the cycle of fortune that affects the lives of individual s He takes this paradigm and expands it so that it broadens to affect societies as a whole. These various examples of balance throughout the Histories function as a broader lesson about how balance can be affected by individual actions. In particular, he shows that Athens is potentially caught in a tragic cycle by making the Athenians analogous to the Persians. He portrays the Persians as tragic, and uses their fate as a metaphor for what will happen to the Athenians if they continue on a similar path as the Persians. Herodotus wanted the Athenians to look at the cycle of the Persian empire and see a reflection of themselves. In fact, Herodotus' warnings did come true. Sparta and Persia united against the Athenians and brought it down after Herodotu s' death. Looking at his work through the lens of balance adds a new angle to what its stated purpose is. Although he says he is showing the great deeds of barbarians and Greeks, he is, in fact, providing a moral lesson to his audience through an in dept h study of balance.
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