Weekly Journal 5
Thursday, February 9 8:10am-9:30am (1 hour 20 minutes), Locke Hall
Today’s class focused on trickster figures that could be found in Book Two of Herodotus. The first tricker story that we took a look at was the story of King Rhampsinitus and the thieves. This story was particularly fascinating to me because after escaping trouble several times, one of the thieves was greatly rewarded. I could only imagine just how witty someone would have to be in order to get away with something like that. Dr. Sandridge explained that characters like the thieves in this story are seen as culture warriors — someone who embodies and fights for their culture or beliefs. Another example of a trickster figure that we discussed was Amasis. In this story, when Amasis becomes king of Egypt, the people do not respect him because he was previously a commoner just like the rest of them; there was no royal blood that flowed through his veins. To resolve this, Amasis took his gold foot basin that was used to wash his feet and transformed it into the image of an Egyptian god. When the people would pass by this statue, they worshipped it and paid their respects. At the sight of this, Amasis revealed to the people that the god they so fervently worshiped was in fact just a foot basin. The lesson here was that people from humble beginnings can become people of power and deserve no less respect because of it. This reminded me of the idea of the “American Dream”. This dream entails the concept of people working hard and pulling themselves up by the boot straps in order to get to where they want to be in life. Of course, it is never this simple and never was, especially for people of color.
Dr. Sandridge went on to explain that the reason stories like those of the thieves and Amasis are so memorable is because they are saturated with irony. When the thieves are constantly outwitting the king and his men, the audience is expecting them to get caught. But when they never do, the last thing the readers would have thought was that the thief would be rewarded.
As the class progressed, we eventually came to the subject of how Egyptians could not live without a king. In chapter 147 of Book Two, Herodotus has this to say about Egypt’s desire to be ruled: “When the Egyptians were freed, after the kingship of the priest of Hephaestus, they could not live a day without a king.” This got me thinking of the state of America and how we too could not survive without someone ruling us. This is a bit ironic considering how this country was founded in the first place. The pilgrims first came to America because they could no longer tolerate the oppressive rule of the English king. When they settled here, they made it point to allow the people to have free reign, so to speak. It’s a bit mind blowing to think of how America went from wanting minimal government to electing an authoritarian like Donald Trump for president. And that’s all I will say about that.
Saturday, February 11 1:30pm-3:30pm; 7:00pm-9:30pm (4 hours 30 minutes), CHS dorm
Okay so I just have to say that I am very proud of how much I got accomplished today. I finally came up wth a study schedule and today was the first day that I actually implemented it. Although I accomplished four and a half hours of work today, it was broken up into shorter sessions so that in the end it only felt like two hours. And while I did get a lot of reading done, I am considering taking more comprehensive notes on what I read so that before the quizzes I can just look over my notes rather than try to recall everything from memory.
But anyways, in today’s session I read about Darius’ rise to the throne. I found this part especially interesting because I didn’t understand why the junta would chose a leader based on the neighing of a horse. I mean why would anyone place the future of an entire nation in the hands (well, hooves) of a horse? That just seems very ridiculous to me. As the story goes, Darius’ horse groomer devises a plan to ensure that Darius becomes king. I wonder if Darius still would have become king if his groomer had not interfered. Would the state of Persia changed drastically? Would Persia have still invaded Scythia? So many things could have turned out differently if another king had been chosen. Take Trump’s presidency for instance. Would he have still become president if Russia hadn’t hacked the elections? What would America look like if Hillary had won instead of Trump?
Honestly, I did not spend the entire four and a half hours just reading Herodotus. That is just completely ridiculous and way too much content for one day. However, I did dedicate some time searching for websites that took a deeper look into the stories to find underlying themes and lessons. I think that when I read, I don’t read to understand but rather just to get the assignment over with; and because of that, I feel like I am missing out on some of the best parts of Herodotus. I haven’t found a good one yet but I will definitely keep looking.
Sunday, February 12 5:30pm-7:30pm; 10:00pm-11:00pm (3 hours); CHS dorm
One of the most memorable stories I read today was the story of Polycrates’ brother, Syloson. Before Darius had even become king, Syloson had met him in the market while Darius was still a bodyguard for Cambyses. Darius had seen that Syloson was wearing a beautful read cloak and asked him how much he would have to pay in order to for Syloson to give him the cloak. Foolishly (or maybe not so foolishly), Syloson just gave him the cloak free of charge. Later on when Darius becomes king, Syloson makes his way to the palace to see the king, remembering that he was the one to whom he had given his cloak. Syloson comes before the king and Darius remembers him and wishes to give him endless gold and silver for the generosity that Syloson had shown him even for he had great power. Instead of accepting these riches, Syloson simply asks for his country of Samos back which had once belonged to his brother Polycrates. Seeing that Syloson had done a kind act for him, Darius granted him his wish.
Reading this, I couldn’t help but wonder if some of Polycrates’ luck had rubbed off on his brother. I mean just think about it, Polycrates was one of the luckiest men to have been written about in Herodotus. Even when he had thrown his most prized possession into the depths of the sea, it still found its way back to him. In Syloson’s case, what are the odds that he would give his cloak to some bodyguard that he didn’t even know in the middle of a marketplace? How could he have known that that one selfless act would lead to him regaining his home?
This story just served as a reminder for me to never regret any act of selflessness or kindness. You may not see an immediate reward for you acts but you never know how that kindness may be repaid to you. Better yet, kind acts should not be done with the expectation of getting something in return but rather because it is simply a kind thing to do.
Tuesday, February 14 8:10am-9:30am (1 hour 20 minutes), Locke Hall
For today, Dr. Sandridge led the class in a discussion on Book Three. I couldn’t participate as much in this discussion as I wanted to because I did not finish reading all of Book Three in time for class. The dialogue started in chapter 1 with Cambyses demanding Amasis’ daughter in marriage. Because Amasis did not want to send his own daughter away to Cambyses, he instead sent Apries’ daughter, whose father he had killed, in his daughter’s place. When Apries’ daughter, Nitetis, was presented to Cambyses, he called her the name of Amasis’ daughter, thinking it was her who was before him. When Nitetis told Cambyses that she was in fact Apries’ daughter and not Amasis’, he was furious. It is said that it was for this reason that Cambyses went to war with Egypt.
The question that I had while reading this story is why would you trust somebody whose father you murdered? Nitetis had no reason or motivation to follow Amasis’ orders given that he had killed her father. I don’t know whether it was pride or stupidity that persuaded Amasis to trust Nitetis but it ultimately led to Egypt engaging in war with Persia.
Another part of the class conversation that caught my interest was the story of Polycrates. Long story short, Polycrates was a very lucky man whose luck eventually led to his death. Despite his unusual fortune, I thought it was ironic how his luck could not save him from death. This goes to prove Herodotus’ recurring theme of fortune being very fickle. What really blew my mind was that the gods actually became jealous at Polycrates’ continuous fortune. I actually noticed this trend throughout Herodotus, this trend of gods involving themselves in human business. You would think that gods had more pressing matters to deal with other than the everyday activities of mortals. I would think that they were above the trivialness of human life but obviously I was sorely mistaken.