Herodotus and Greek Philosophy

Topics: Meaning of life, Croesus, Human Pages: 3 (940 words) Published: November 14, 2011
Herodotus wrote a history like no other. Through the pages of On the War for Greek Freedom we read a philosophy that is very similar to our own. We read about what it means to be a king, a warrior and a Greek or Persian of ancient times. Yet, more specifically, we read about what it meant to be simply a human being. There are philosophical ideas throughout the book that can be linked to our own ideas within modern day. The life of a human was hard to live then. They were shot down by the gods if they rose too high, their lives were troublesome and if they found some luck and managed to keep it, they were considered to die happy. These ideas, known facts to all characters within the book, can show us part of what it meant to be a human being during these ancient times.

Before King Xerxes sets the Persian army out to invade Greece, he stands before them to speak his intentions as their commander. Artabanus, his uncle and trusted advisor, speaks out to give his king advise: “Do you see how the god hurls lightening at the outsized beasts and stops their proud displays, while the smaller creatures bother him not at all? Do you see how his bolts fall without fail on the biggest houses and trees? ...For the god does not allow anyone but himself to think grand thoughts” (7.10). Artabanus is trying to talk Xerxes out of war, using a very simple and well-understood reason: stand up at the gods’ level and you will get what you deserve. If a mortal does grand things too often, the gods will strike down upon him because a mortal is just a mortal and should remain as such. If he ever stepped out of his place too much, the gods sent punishment. It was a rule ancient Greece had come to know all too well. We see this idea take place in the fate of King Croesus, whom ended up being a slave to another king. And even today, we experience this idea, calling it deja vu or irony, when we receive luck, we find just a little later that that luck disappears all too quick.

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