Greek Literature Journal 11

On April 8th around 4 pm, I began reading Herodotus The History on the metro.

Once I had read the first few pages it became evident to me that the “Most Savage Moment of Herodotus Award” should go to Hegesistratus! There were many great choices I could choose from: the Spartans, Mardonius’s horse or even Ameimnestus for killing Mardonius, but after careful consideration and contemplation, this award must be given to Hegesistratus. In chapter 37 of book 9, a seer by the name of Hegesistratus was captured by the very resourceful Spartans. Right off the back, this Hegesistratus was lucky (at least in my opinion), I am no Spartan expert but one thing I do know is that they are the most savage beings in all of ancient Greece! When Hegesistratus was captured he was sure that he would suffer “much grisly torture before his death” (629). So to avoid this unruly punishment not only did this Hegesistratus manage to remove part of his foot with a knife, but he also succeeded in digging a whole under a wall to freedom. Not only does this man Hegesistratus put himself in the savage category but he also qualifies for the trickster persona as well. This whole story reminds me of Cleomenes.

In book 7 of Herodotus The History, King Cleomenes went mad (just like Cambyses and just how I thought Xerxes would go mad). The part of Cleomenes story that reminds me of Hegesistratus’ story is how Cleomenes freed himself from prison. Of course, the word “free” might not be used to describe what happened to Cleomenes nonetheless after he turned his stomach into mincemeat, you could say he wasn’t in the jail cell anymore.

On April 9th around 1 pm I began reading again. In book 9 of Herodotus The History there is a war going on between the Greeks and Barbarians. Besides there being war, in general, there is another very interesting fact about this current conflict that interests me. In Chapter 40 Herodotus records that, “Marfonius’ horse, however, was continually attacking and inflicting damage on the Greeks.” I never thought that a horse would fight alone. I must also wonder how this horse stayed alive. The Persians are taught three things when they are young: how to tell the truth, ride a horse and shoot a bow and arrow. I would assume that at least two out of the three skills Persians are taught would’ve helped them against Mardonius’s horse.

After Mardonius’s horse goes into the savage mode, Mardonius himself becomes pretty prideful and foolish. In the Following chapter (chapter 41) Herodotus records that Mardonius was “chafing exceedingly at the inactivity” sense the Persian army was in a time of waiting. Mardonius felt this way because “For ten days nothing more happened,” referring to the war. Next, there is a conversation between Mardonius and Artabazus. Herodotus calls this conversation a debate. Artabazus thought that it would be smart to pack up the whole army and leave to within the walls of Thebes. While in Thebes he suggested that the whole army could eat the food stored there, use all the gold that was there “minted and otherwise.” Another reason that Artabazus wanted to go to Thebes was because there was “much silver and silver drinking services.” To be honest I am still not sure what a “silver drinking surface is,” I am assuming that silver drinking services are simply silver cups for wine. But back to Artabazus, he was of the opinion that all this gold and silver should be sent to the “Greeks who were in high places in the cities and who … would very soon deliver over their freedom.” This plan made perfect sense to. Artabazus philosophy aligned with a favorite phrase of mine “live to fight another day” (631).

Mardonius point of view was that the Persians should go imminently Into battle. No preparations, no provisions, just war. Herodotus records that Mardonius “was convinced that his army was much better than that of the Greeks.” Along with these irrational opinions, Mardonius wasn’t quite absorbed with the idea of sacrificing to a god for an answer. As I progressed in my reading of this part of book 9, I was reminded of two characters: Anakin Skywalker and Cambyses.

In Star Wars the Clone Wars: Attack of the Clones, there is a war that has begun, this war is between clone and droid. During the conflict Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker chase Count Dooku (a sith lord). Once Obi and Ani follow Dooku to a cave there is a confrontation that takes place. While both parties size each other up, Ani makes a foolish decision to charge Count Dooku without first consulting Obi-wan. This scene can be witnessed here:

Cambyses is included in my “bad choices” category because he went to war against three nations at once. A large part of Cambyses army was eaten by sand. Cambyses just like Mardonius and Anakin Skywalker all let pride control them. Anakin skywalker made a horrible choice to fight without advice, Mardonius is now following the same mode of thought. Herodotus literally refers to Mardonius opinions as “reckless” and “uncompromising”. Sadly Mardonius is not checked by anyone around, all his constituents were too afraid to do anything.

Monday morning April 10th around 7:59 am I began to read again. I had just made it to the point where Mardonius had sent a herald to the Spartiates. When this herald arrives at the Spartiates (or the Lacedaemonians as they are called) he gives the most outlandish claim ever! In essence, this herald makes the proclamation that the Spartans, of all nations, are cowards. This Persian herald not only calls the Spartans cowards, he also claims they ran away during the battle, “lo! we have seen you fleeing and leaving your position.”

As I continued to read and re-read this passage to fully understand what was happening I had deja-vu of something earlier I had read. Herodotus records that Mardonius would rather fight immediately then watch “more of his enemies collect than had already done so.” So it would appear that the Greeks outnumbered the Barbarians. This is why Xerxes sent this clever (and potentially dead) herald to the Spartans so he could fool them.

On Wednesday, April 12th around 3:30 pm I began reading again. Unfortunately, the day before I had lost my book, so I was reading from a pdf I found online. In chapter 83 I picked up where I left off. In chapter 83 Herodotus tells the story of when “Xerxes fled from Hellas.” Xerxes had left behind an institution for him. After the war (I’m assuming) Pausanias was going through Mardonius’s belongings inside his tent. Pausanias, seeing all the gold and silver, was astonished. Pausanias then decides to make a joke. Pausanias tell’s the available chef’s to make a meal that is usually prepared for Mardonias, after this command Pausanias noticed the gold and silver furniture that was in the tent and directed the cooks to make a Laconian meal. While in class on April 11th, Dr. Sandridge explained that a Laconian meal of that day was like a sloppy porridge. Herodotus explains that as Pausanias observed the two meals ”Pausanias burst out laughing and sent for the generals of the Greeks.” When the generals arrived Pausanias proclaimed, “Men of Hellas, I have brought you here…to show you the foolishness of the leader of the Medes who…came here to take away from us our possessions which are so pitiful.” Up until this point, I thought that the Greeks were more luxurious than the Persian, once I found out that the Persians were more prosperous than the Greeks, the victory of the Greeks seems even more glorious and epic.

As I delved deep into the subject matter a hero immersed from the pages, his name was Xenagoras. In the chapters that precluded chapter 108, the barbarians and the Greeks found themselves in another quarrel. Of course, the Greeks proved victorias. After this loss, Darius son, Masistes, scolded the Persian admiral Artayntes. Herodotus records that Masistes said that the Persian admiral Artyntes was worse than a woman. As it turns out, saying someone is worse than a woman is very disrespectful (I thought this was very sexist). The reason why I called Xenagoras a hero was because he saved Masistes life. After Masistes had insulted Artayntes, Artayntes had pulled his sword and was ready to strike Masistes down, thankfully Xenagoras stepped in and saved his Masistes life. For this Xenagoras was made the supreme ruler of all Cilicia.

I have always noticed hero’s that step in to save the day. Sadly their was no one to step in for Evenius. In a land called Apollonia Herodotus records that “a certain flock [is] sacred to the sun.” People took turns watching this special flock. One day it was Evenius turn. As this Evenius was watching the flock while in a cave, he decided to take a nap. Once Evenius was asleep wolves came and fatally wounded sixty of the flock.

Once the people of Apollonia found out what happened they decided to blind Evenius. Unbeknownst to the people of Apollonia the oracles “at Dodona and Delphi” had sent those wolves. Once they committed this crime against Evenius fruit ceased to grow in their land. The oracles at Dodon and Delphi then proclaimed that they would give Evenius a gift that would make him seem happy. In the end, Herodotus records that Evenius had much fame.