Week 5

Thursday February 9th

1.0 Hours

Today we had the slack video session on book two and after my group brainstormed about possible topics to cover in this week’s writing prompt.

Friday February 10th

2.5 Hours

Today I started reading book three.

I noticed from the first few chapters that Herodotus no longer seemed amazed by Egypt. Meaning that he was now looking more for facts than just a good story. The Egyptian stories no longer were true because they were Egyptian. The people no longer were amazing because they simply were Egyptian. He was evaluating the stories for their own worth again.

Cambyses disrespecting Gods:

Sending men to burn the oracle of Zeus

Sidenote: the men who were sent to burn the Oracle of Zeus and attack the people never made it to their destination. It is said that they were buried alive in the sand when a violent wind suddenly came. Just like how I noticed the presence of “wind” in the Odyssey is it possible that the wind was an agent of Zeus? I mean they were going to burn his oracle. If it makes sense for Apollo to attack the Greeks for his priest why would it not be possible for Zeus to do so?

“In Memphis he opened the ancient coffins and peered at the dead bodies.

He went into the temple of Hephaestus and made great mockery of the image there.

He went into the shrine of the Cabiri, where it is unlawful for any but the priest to enter. These images he even burned, with much mockery.”

Cambyses after returning to Egypt after his failed attempt to reach Ethiopia sees all the people happy and celebrating. He feels they are mocking his loss and when they tell the reason why they are celebrating he chooses not to believe them. He has the people killed and orders the death of anyone else celebrating this, Apis. He mocks their god by stabbing Apis and Apis later slowly dies and is secretly buried by the priests.

These actions of lead Herodotus to feel that Cambyses is simply mad.

Well the gods got their revenge.

When Cambyses realizes he unjustly had Smerdis killed he goes to mount his horse. He stabs his horse in the same place he stabbed Apis. Leading to his own mortal injury.

And the funny thing is that horse riding is one of the three things that are key to Persian customs.

Cambyses madness:

That is what lead Herodotus to feel that Cambyses was mad but what solidified it for me was when he spontaneously decides to attack Ethiopia. Ethiopia is far away on foot or camel or horseback. Even I know this and I live in a time where does things are not the primary mode of transportation. And wars last a long time. I mean the US war against terrorism dates back to 2001 and here we are in 2017 still a war. Cambyses, who is not new to this, makes no provisions before setting out with his troops. Even when they run out of food and many are dying he continues to move his men forward. It is not until his men have no choice but to engage in cannibalism that he decides to call his campaign off. Really!!! What kind of leader is that? I do not think he was even going to win a war.

Book 3 Parallels to other works:

  1. Cambyses has a dream about Smerdis and so he has Smerdis killed.

This is similar to Cyrus’s dream about Darius and Cyrus sending his father to go and check his son. Cambyses too misinterprets this dream vision. And has the same response to the potential threat. Which is to deal with it with force. Unfortunately for Smerdis, Cambyses is not on a battlefield hundreds of miles away so he is dealt with swiftly.

This event also reminded me of what Hiero said about a despot having to get rid of people who are righteous for fear that others will want them to rule.

2. Cambyses shots Prexaspes son with an arrow to prove that he is sane which is insane. Even Prexaspes notices that Cambyses was out of his mind. This event was a misuse of the archery skills that the Persians teach.

This reminds me of Astyages feeding Harpagus his own son. And then years later Astyages trusts Harpagus to run his army and defend him. Astyages thought nothing of what he had done to Harpagus. After killing Prexaspes’s son, Cambyses keeps the man around.

3. Croesus is tried to advise Cambyses. Cambyses snapped back about Croesus’s failure as a King and his failure in advising Cyrus to go into the land of the Massagetae.

What Cambyses is missing in what he is saying is that because Cyrus has made those mistakes he has learned from them. He therefore is sharing his knowledge that Cambyses can use to not make the same mistakes.

This is bringing back the theme of suffering teaching that we first noted in Croesus’s discussion with Cyrus after being saved from the fire by Apollo.

This is also relates to the theme of a wiseman vs a ruler. That we saw on occasion with Cyrus and Croesus. And with Solon as the wiseman and Croesus as the ruler. And with Simonides as the wiseman and Hiero as the ruler in Hieron.

4. Cambyses did not care for what Croesus had to say so he shoots an arrow at Croesus. Croesus escapes and Cambyses orders his servants to kill Croesus. Used to the whims of their ruler, the servants simply detain Croesus and wait for Cambyses to change his mind. When Cambyses does, they let him know that Croesus is still alive. Cambyses says it is a good thing but he kills the servants for not following his orders.

The parting from Persian values with the misuse of archery is seen again. As it was in the scene with Cyrus parting the river and lying in book one.

And Cambyses killing the servants for not carrying out his orders is the same as Astyages killing Harpagus’s son because Harpagus did not kill the infant Cyrus.

5. The inability to escape one’s fate is seen again in the case of Periander and his good friend Amasis. Periander has such great fortune and everything goes his way. His friend Amasis on noticing this, advices Periander that he needs failure in his life because the gods are jealous individuals and they will certainly make a strike against Periander because of all of his good fortune with no suffering. Following his advice Periander throws his most prized possession, his ring into the sea with the intention of losing it forever. However a few days later the ring returns to him through the gift of a fish. When Amasis receives this news he decides to distance himself from Periander because he knows that misfortune has to be coming Periander’s way. The interesting part was the way Amasis phrased his decision. That one can not interfere with fate

In class on Tuesday Mr. S. said that Periander’s action of throwing his ring was a form of sacrifice. So even sacrifice can not save you from fate.

This idea of an inescapable fate was seen in the Pythia’s response to Croesus in book one. When it was stated that no man not even a god can escape fate.

Saturday February 11th

3.0 Hours

Today I continued reading book three.

Sunday February 12th

2.5 Hours

Today I continued my Sunday routine of reviewing pass works covered in class to keep the stories fresh in my mind. This actually is useful as you could see on Friday’s entry where I could pinpoint where book three was similar to events that happened in other works.

I reviewed the Iliad, Odyssey, Hieron, book one, and book two.

Monday February 13th

1.0 Hours

Based on Thursday’s during our Slack discussion, my group leader came up with two options for a writing prompt in regards to book two. I chose the one on how Herodotus discusses gender roles, or just women’s roles in book two. I limited my response to the 350 word criteria but I wanted to write so much more. So the following it a rough sketch:

In Herodotus’s History the focus of discussions so far has been on memorable figures such as Candaules, Gyges, Croesus, Cambyses, Astyages, and, most notable, Cyrus. These characters together present a pool of interesting characteristics, but the one that is key for this conversation is that they are all men. In Herodotus’s report there are so few women mentioned that when a female is presented I take notice.

Io, Europa, and Helen: These women are merely mentioned in passing. Their life experiences all sum down to the roles they played as pawns in the game of men.

Candaules’s wife: This unnamed woman is praised by her husband for her external beauty but he fails to truly understand that cure trait is her pride. This wife is determined to keep her honor. And yet she is presented as simply a cunning and ruthless woman who orchestrated the murder of her HUSBAND (the man who literally defines her existence).

Mandane: Her father marries her off to a persian, for fear of what her existence might mean for his rule. Later she is held by her father and has her child taken from her.

The two Babylonian Queens: They are worthy of a mentioning in this work simply because they are women and for their contributions to Babylon.

Speaking of Babylon Herodotus took the time to extensively praise Babylon for their resolution to what is a serious matter. The distribution of women to the men of society.


Well, women are literally auctioned off to the highest bidder.

This practice Herodotus praises, and I suppose this is better than having women whore themselves to raise a dowry, as is the Lydian tradition. However it is still common for the destitute to prostitute their daughters in Babylon. All of this Herodotus has no issue with. He even praises. He notes one practice in regards to women that is the ugliest; that all Babylonian women must lay with a stranger once in her life.

Next up is Tomyris, the Queen of the Massagetae who defeats Cyrus. Tomyris was portrayed as wise, intelligent, nurturing, strong, and a fighter. She was perfect except for when she follows up to all of this greatness by “insulting the dead.”

Next up is all the women of Egypt. When the gender roles are all backwards according to Herodotus. Women in Egypt run the market and shops, carry burdens on their shoulders and piss standing upright. (I feel the latter was an exaggeration that was used as a means of depicting the extremes to which gender roles had been swapped.)

Sesostris’s wife: Wise in the eyes of Herodotus for thinking quickly and calmly of how to escape a burning structure when even her husband could not. Her solution is to sacrifice two of the sons to the flames to save the rest of the family. Interesting how I women orchestrating the burning of her sons to save her husband is not portrayed as ruthless at all.

Impure women of Egypt: Are all set on fire by Pheros because their piss did not cure his blindness, his wife included. He marries the virtuous woman.

Daughter of Cheops: Prostituted by her father. She has her own memorial built by having the men that she serviced gift her the stones.

Nitocris: Avenged the killing of her brother by drowning the Egyptians she held responsible. To avoid the threat of revenge being taken against herself she commits suicide.

What I noticed must from these women is that all of their stories are really told because of a man. Even in the case of the Babylonian Queens, who have no noted interactions with men in their lifetimes. Their story was only told to give context to the stories of Cyrus and Darius. The rest of the women are subject to the whims of the men in their lives specially fathers and husbands. When a woman displays strength it is comes off as being ruthless. An a virtuous woman such as Tomyris comes off as despicable when she insults the dead. The same things that men are praised for women are condemned for. Such as promiscuity, strength, cunningness, pride, honor, and loyalty.

After submitting our answers others in our group get to make comments. Someone left a comment on my work and let’s just say she did not care for my opinion. Her response was longer than my answer……….

Her point was that Herodotus does not go out of his way to paint these women as bad people just because they are women. Herodotus is just telling the facts of the story and that he did not single these women out. She points out specifically that the actions of even Candaules’s wife were not ruthless. I would say she is wrong because the act of demanding and plotting your husband’s murder is ruthless. It was not some stranger but her husband that she had killed. She said that there was nothing in the account of Tomyris that was deeming to women she even said that the part with Cyrus’s head was just Tomyris celebrating victory.

She was not wrong from a 21st century point of view. But I put in quotes “insulting the dead.” Because that is how the 5th century BCE text put it. That three word phrase would mean something entirely different to the audience in 5th century BCE. This assumption I have made is based on writings in Herodotus’s History. He talks about different groups treatment of the dead. They all respect their dead in different ways but there is always respect as that group sees it. In book 3 Herodotus talks about how these two different groups of people could not be made to switch their practices with their dead. Customs are really important for the audience this work was written for.

But anyway her point was that the men in these stories do ill deeds as well. Therefore Herodotus did not reserve all of the bad actions just for women to paint them badly.

How opinion actually coincided with my own that people, men and women, have it in them to have the same characteristics. But she took my prompt all wrong. So I am inclined to not feel that the problem was her, but it was instead with me and my ability to communicate and give examples in the limit of 350 words.

I wanted to talk about Herodotus’s stories of women regarding women and compare them to the role of women in Greek literature in general. For example:

Clytemnestra, wife of Agamemnon: When Agamemnon returns from the Trojan War, she murders him and she and her lover rule for seven years. Until Clytemnestra is later killed by her own son, Orestes. Orestes is getting revenge for the murder of his father. However one of the key reasons Clytemnestra kills Agamemnon is because he sacrifices their daughter, Iphigenia, so he can fight the Trojan War. So it is understandable for Orestes to want revenge but not Clytemnestra to want revenge. (I know about Orestes and the Furies in Euripides already.) She trusted her husband and sent their child to him and he betrayed not only her trust in him but he should have betrayed his children’s trust in him.

Odysseus’s wife, Penelope: Praised for remaining faithful, despite having men court her while Odysseus is off making the journey to wage war, fighting the Trojan War, and taking years to journey home. During this time Odysseus can not say that he is faithful. He even brags about being with Calypso and Circe. And yet he expects his wife to have remained faithful.

Hera: Is portrayed as this crazy lady for trying to stop her husband’s affairs and for calling her husband out when she feel that he is wrong.

Athena: Is honored for her wisdom and intelligence. But Greek literature likes to attribute these qualities of hers to the fact that she is the child of Zeus alone. (I know the other version where she is the child of Zeus and Metis.)

Aphrodite: Is a goddess and yet even she does not have the freedom to be with whom she wants or decide her own fate. She is given to Hephaestus by her father, Zeus.

Hephaestus: Is the child of Hera alone, in response to Zeus having Athena, and as a result he is deformed. (I know the other version where he is the child of Zeus and Hera.)

I wanted to point out how women are portrayed in general and not attack Herodotus. I was even trying to think of a way to bring in Adam and Eve. With Eve being made for Adam’s rib. And Eve being the one to get Adam to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. But alas 350 words was not enough for all of my thoughts.

The other prompt my leader suggested was about Herodotus was giving the tourist version of Egypt. Meaning it was the more fantastical account, rather than a truthful account. She wanted us to do this comparison on what was true and what was toursity.

I did not address this prompt and no one else in my group did either but I felt like it was interesting. I felt like Herodotus was so caught up in seeing Egypt for himself and all of its wonders that were still existing and meeting these peoples that not only look different from him but practice completely different customs. I felt that of course his way of recounting Egypt would be different than recounting the Greeks and the Persians because the Egyptian culture is something almost completely new to him. He had spent his entire life immersed in Greek culture and society. He had most likely from infancy heard the tales of his people. So he had plenty of time to absorb these stories and contemplate what was likely and what was unlikely. So in Egypt he was encountering the stories that the Egyptians tell of themselves for the first time. And he was using what he had already heard of the Egyptians from his own people as a way of bridging the gap in his understanding. I feel that Herodotus was understandably amazed at what he was encountering and what he was being told. But yeah in book 2 it seemed that he abandoned his inquiry for the truth and facts at times and just enjoyed the stories of what he was being told.

0.75 Hours

Later that day I reviewed my notes from class so far.

Tuesday February 14th

1.5 Hours

Today in class I found out it was Valentine’s day. I have been so preoccupied with completing assignments and studying for exams that I did not even realize what the date February 14th meant.

Mr. S. as a gift played the guitar for the class and as always I found the guitar to be amazing. But what was special about what Mr. S. did was he took some of the mystery out of the guitar for me. He took a simplistic route and explained how notes work together to create music. I am attempted to order a guitar off amazon and have it arrive before the end of the weekend. Except for that thing he said about my fingers. I might pick up the piano or flute instead. But I could really use a stress reliever in this midterm period. And I really need one for when I think about the future after I graduate this May.

Thanks Mr. S. for broadening my horizons.

In class today we spoke about a recurring theme of an excuse for war. Some examples are:

Periander against who killed his son

Cambyses against Egypt because Amasis did not send his daughter.

Cambyses against Ethiopia because of the kings taunts about the Persians not being able to use an Ethiopian bow. And are calling out the spies. And for being right. And for rejecting all of the gifts besides the wine.

We talked about Cyrus’s excuse to make war when Tomyris rejected his offer of marriage. Alleging that if Tomyris would not join with him then she was therefore against him. And if such is the case then he must make war against her.

We talked about Io, Europa, and Helen being used as reasons for the Greek and Persian war.

0.67 Hours

Tonight there was another Slack video session.

Wednesday February 15th

4.0 Hours

Tonight I worked on this medium journal.

2.0 Hours

I took the time to continue reading book 3 and I attempted to study for the quiz. But I was too tired after studying for exams in other classes. I will do better next week. I do not think this medium due on Thursday and quiz on Thursday thing is working for me. I will have to change my approach because my current method is no longer sustainable. It was one thing when I did not have other work but for the past two weeks my other six classes have all been giving me assignments. So next week look for an earlier journal and a quiz ready Tierra!