Date: January 26, 2017
Location: Locke Hall
Today in class we discussed the Xenophon’s Hieron. The focus of the discussion was on was the dictator really better off than his subjects. The exchange between Hieron and Simoinide’s the poet/ wise man. This exchange between the ruler and thinker shows the ruler’s need to receive counsel in understanding not only the ruler’s own motives but also the motives of his subjects. Another topic that was raised in class was the question in ancient Greece of whether the tyrant or the wise man was better off. In order to help us understand ancient Greece conception of the Tyrant the professor introduced the phrase unconstitutional monarchy that is the ruler’s will is not subject to the law. Throughout Herodotus Histories, Herodotus documents the tension between the law and the ruler’s whim. This can be seen at the beginning of book I with Candualles whom gets his friend Gyges to get a peak at the queen’s nakedness even though it is against the law. The lack of a ruler’s ability to acknowledge the boundaries of the law has led to their undoing. Moreover a ruler that is governed by his appetite leads to his own and his subject’s undoing because the ruler is the symbol of order. In addition to governing his subjects that ruler must also govern/master his own appetite. Within nature oder is not a natural state. Rather when people live by their appetites ruler’s will becomes subject to his appetite. If the ruler is not constantly pursuing order among his subjects and within his own nature than he will default to chaos.
Date: January 30, 2017
Location: Cook Hall Lounge
In section 71 of Book 1 describes the advice Sandanis gave to Croesus concerning Croesus seeking to make war on the Persians. Sandanis advices Croesus that he has more to lose than to gain in fighting the Persians. In advising Croesus against fighting the Persians Sandanis says the Persians, “ eat not what they want but what they have,” meaning that the Persians warriors were more accustomed to harsh environments than were the Lydian soldiers. Yet Croesus still pursued war with the Persians because he believed he had the favor of the gods. Herodotus describes Croesus as having, “ missed the meaning of the oracle and so made the campaign into Cappadocia, being convinced that he would destroy Cyrus and the power of the Persians.” Croesus held confidence that he had a divine mandate from the oracle to conquer. Croesus belief in his divine mandate blinded to the stark differences between his Lydian soldiers and the Persians. Had he taken time to assess the experience of his troops he might have reached the same conclusions that Sandanis reached. The issues Croesus faced was one of the issues that modern militaries take into account when hardening new soldiers for battle.
When General Hughs, commander of cadet command, came to visit us at Bision Battalion, I posed the question to him about why camp had changed so drastically from previous summer. The general’s answer that he was seeking to equip millenials who had no exposure to the harsh environments that would be fighting in with the grit necessary to win battles. Whereas insurgent forces were used to the harsh elements and could continue to operate in desolate areas, cadets had to undergo training that was similar to these harsh conditions in order to be equipped to do well in battle.
After engaging the Persians in battle, Croesus in section 77 Croesus begins to realize his blunder when he observes that Cyrus has more man. While the first battle had ended in a stalemate, Croesus knew that he needed the help of his allies if he were to beat back the Persians. Another era that Croesus made was that he told his allies to come by the Spring instead of immediately. Assuming the Persians would winter before they continued fighting, Croesus did not account for a Persian advance on his army. Anther bad omen for Croesus was his armies horses eating snakes upon his arrival in Sardis. Here divine mandate that Croesus believed gave him the upper hand in war was beginning to fade away. Croesus decides to consult the Telmessian diviners to interpret the horses eating of the snakes.
Herodotus is documenting how time is beginning to work against Croesus in four ways:
- Cyrus decides to follow Croesus to Sardis during the winter rather than waiting for Spring
- Croesus does not account that his allies like the Lacedamonians may have conflicts of their own that might delay their support
- The interpretation that Croesus awaits from the Telmessian diviners does not come until after he is captured by Cyrus.
Herodotus shows how Croesus belief that the gods favored him to win had made Croesus complacent. After his army arrives in Sardis Croesus is now reacting to Cyrus rather than be proactive.
Date: January 31, 2017
Location: Locke Hall
Today in class we discussed Cyrus conquest of Lydia. Herodotus describes how Cyrus has decided to keep Croesus as an advisor. In Book I Section 89, we solve the evolution of Croesus from as defeated king into a wise man. A good life lesson to take from Croesus was that even in his downfall he still was able to grow as a person. Success in often equated to position and wealth. Moreover so much of one’s identity is tied into one’s status that people can lose a sense of self. However when success is stripped away and one undergoes adversity, one has to go through the process of rediscovering the self. The used to describe Croesus’s transformation was pate-mathon meaning suffering teaches or tragic wisdom. Having lost his kingdom and being sparred from death, Croesus had seen both side’s of the spectrum. One could consider Croesus the answer to the longstanding question among the Greeks of either the ruler or the wise man being better off. Rather than wasting his suffering and reminiscing over his lost kingdom, Croesus sees the opportunity in his suffering. The process by which Croesus came to see his suffering in a new light occurred first when he came to terms with his own vulnerability as a human. Croesus had sought to wage war against Cyrus because he believed he had a divine mandate to fight. When Cyrus ask Croesus why Croesus decided to make war instead of peace Croesus replies, “ the cause of it was the god of the Greeks who incited me to fight.” Croesus belief that the gods willed him to fight gave him a sense of invicibility. However when Croesus is captured and is being burned he realizes his blunder. Croesus once again call’s upon Apollo to rescue him and Apollo sends rain to quench the fire. Croesus moment of self realization occurs when he says that he did not understand the will of the gods as well as he thought he did. Croesus contextualizes his defeat by saying, “ I suppose however that it was the will of the gods that this should have happened so.” Herodotus shows how Croesus attitudes reverses from believing that the gods willed that he would defeat Cyrus, to Croesus saying that his defeat was a result of the will of the gods. Having once been deluded by his own sense of invincibility Croesus realizes that he is like any other man and is subject to the whim of the gods. Coming to terms with his volunarability is what enables Croesus to give Cyrus wise council as to the proper conquest of Lydia. Upon seeing the Persian soldiers sacking Lydia Croesus tells Cyrus, “ What they are sacking and pillaging is yours.” Croesus is able to council Cyrus because he is able to look at it both from the perspective of a king and the perspective of a man being conquered. Croesus advises Cyrus to preserve the city of Lydia in order because it is now his property. One lesson that can be derived from Cyrus and Croesus is the importance of learning from the mistakes of others. Cyrus takes on Croesus as his councilor because he realizes that power does not make a ruler immune from defeat. Rather in seeking the council of Croesus, Cyrus was able to delay his own downfall by learning from the downfall of a fallen king.