Weekly Mandated Report #5
Thursday (2/9/17)- We discussed the narrative of Rhampsinitus. It’s true that remembering narratives is so much easier than remembering facts, names, and places. I can’t remember 80% of the things I’ve read in history textbooks but I remember 90% of Les Miserables even though it’s a much longer read than anything I’ve had in a textbook. And it’s because of this that I disagree with the idea that we remember specific stories in Herodotus just because they’re ironic. Sure, it helps, but overall I think it’s because stories are just more interesting and captivating. They provide something for your mind to grab onto and then they go on to mold and reshape that thing into a whole new concept that you can’t see coming. And I don’t believe facts have that capability. Anyway, after discussing the story and its aspects for a while we ended the class by talking about cultural warriors. These are people who, through a story told about them, attempt to convey a learned lesson or something like that. Amasis and Odysseus are examples because their stories convey that being a clever person is a good trait to possess; they’re celebrated for it through the retelling of their stories. I personally relate this back to folk tales and fables and those type of stories kids get told all the time so that they don’t get up to mischief. Or so that the kids aspire to do good deeds and stuff like that. Like the tortoise and the hare, these cultural warriors are teaching people a lesson on what is valued in society.
Thursday (2/9/17)- I spent an hour between lunch and my representative thinkers class to begin reading book 3. This section, surprisingly, had a lot that went down. The Persians and Egyptians had it out and then Cambyses went on to try for Ethiopia. Offhandedly, it was cool hearing Herodotus call the Ethiopians the most beautiful people. And he described it as everyone having a general consensus about it too; you’ll never hear the general population say that today. On the other side of the spectrum though, it was completely uncool to hear about more gore-y stuff happening to children. I get that Phanes pretty much committed treason but why is their first instinct for retribution to come for the man’s kids? (Logically, I know it’s because that is what would hurt the man the most, obviously.) I don’t like how they treat children in ancient times, and the kids are almost always completely innocent too! Tragic. Moving on though, I think it’s really irritating how kings seem to love naming their children after their fathers, and it doesn’t help that Herodotus keeps jumping back and forth through time to tell us everything. I can’t keep track all the time — which Cambyses is this? I had trouble in the previous chapters too. Speaking of previous chapters, Cambyses had the same bad habit as his fellow kings: his temper. He acted on impulse when he got outraged and now he’s paying the price in the desert with his men. I stopped before I could read about the outcome but I already know it can’t be too good. He’ll get what’s coming to him, I’m sure. By the way, I still can’t believe there’s a place called Memphis in ancient Egypt; every time I see the name I’m expecting a comma and a “Tennessee” to come right after it.
Friday (2/10/17)- Today I spent an hour before turning in for bed to read more of book three. It turns out Cambyses did get what was coming to him but not in the way I was expecting. He didn’t lose a war and die; he just went crazy. He’s making a ton of terrible and inexplicable decisions in this section. Most memorable of which is probably when he stabbed the Egyptian’s revered cow/god in the thigh. Why he was so insanely jealous of it is further evidence of craziness and a bad temper. He’s really reminding me of his grandfather (I hope; that might not be the right ancestor) — the one who killed and force-fed a man’s son to him just because he wouldn’t kill a baby as he was told. And this was even further cemented into my brain when Cambyses did whatever was considered morally wrong to the cultures he was against. Then later, Herodotus describes events happening at the same time to Polycrates. Amasis dissolved the ties between their countries due to Polycrates being too fortunate. This was a decision I supported 100% because in this book, it’s almost too obvious that something terrible will happen to even out Polycrates’s good fortune. Anyway after this, Herodotus discusses how the feud between the Corinthians and Samos came to be though I don’t yet understand it. Periender is trying to get revenge and then Herodotus began talking about his son’s resentment toward him. I hope it’s more clear when I come back to read more.
Monday (2/13/17)- Did I read on Saturday and Sunday? No, but I did read today in both the morning before my first class and the evening before I went to bed. I spent an hour reading more of book three at each time so I could make up for the reading I didn’t do over the weekend. I understand now why Periender would want revenge but I don’t know for sure if the people who killed his son, the Corcyraeans, are the same people he sought vengeance from, Samos. And then it goes on to describe the battle and what I’m getting is that the Lacedaemmonians didn’t win (take Samos) but they did kill the Samians, but not all of them. It was hard to dissect. Those Samians that survived went on to take over another city and then were praised for their fine craftsmanship by Herodotus. Next came the Magi. Their trick was clever and it reminded me of the other tricksters we’ve talked about, like Odysseus. and of course Cambyses true downfall was due to a prophecy he desperately tried to avoid by killing Smerdis. Will this be the majority of the kings’ downfalls we talk about in this book? It’s getting repetitive, though each downfall has a different twist to it — just barely keeping it interesting. And another thing: how Smerdis the Magian kept his lack of ears a secret from people as close to him as his own wives for seven months is beyond me. Kudos to him. However, even more kudos goes to Phaedyme for having the courage to risk her life to find out he was lying to everyone. Another small score for women in Herodotus. But once he’s been found out by Otanes and his daughter, Otanes forms a group of trusted men — the most important of which seem to be Darius and Gybrus — and they attack the Magians. But this was only after Cambyses’s trusty sidekick, Prexaspes reveals the truth to everyone before commiting suicide. In other words, this section of the chapter was a wild ride and I actually really enjoyed it.
Tuesday (2/14/17)- During class, Professor Sandridge brought out his guitar and gave a quick crash course in the basics of music. It was fun, even when I already knew the stuff he was talking about. He might’ve seen me, but I recorded some of it and posted it on Snapchat. I think my friend’s will be pretty jealous of my first class of the day. And more importantly, it woke me up when I felt like I was dying after only getting 4 hours of sleep last night. Next we talked about Cambyses’s invasion of Egypt and Amasis’s trick. Croesus’s age was brought up for a second and I was also really wondering how he’s still alive; he must be super old now. Another briefly mentioned thing: Ethiopian means “burnt face” apparently and I know it’s not racist here but it irritates me how much the name lacked creativity. It’s obvious they didn’t spend much time coming up for a name for them, like come on. Put in at least a little effort. But no, they went “Hey, let’s just refer to them as the most obvious, differentiating thing about them.” Anyway we ended the class mostly talking about Polycrates amongst other things. We discussed how he was way too fortunate and how Amasis knew something terrible would happen to him eventually. Even though he tried to escape his fate by throwing his ring in the ocean — again the reoccurring theme of avoiding their fate — the ring came back and his misfortune is coming too. I think Amasis was definitely right in trying to keep that mess as far away from him as he could, as I’ve mentioned before. Herodotus’s style of writing really is becoming easier to read and understand as well as predict.
Wednesday (2/15/17)- I couldn’t get myself to read yesterday and today due to just having way too many other time commitments to other classes in the way. And I’ve already been limiting sleep to 4 hours a night. I tried to skim the rest of book three before bed tonight as well as Thursday morning before class, but I don’t think I really got too much out of that. Note to self for next week: please check how busy your week ends up being before not reading at all on the weekend.