Herodotean Inquiries

Herodotean Inquiries

Seth Benardete

Language: English

Pages: 230

ISBN: 1587313626

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Herodotean Inquiries

Seth Benardete

Language: English

Pages: 230

ISBN: 1587313626

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Herodotus' Inquiries should be regarded as our best and most complete document for pre-Socratic philosophy. Without being a work of philosophy, its plan and intention cannot be understood apart from philosophy. Here an attempt is made to uncover Herodotus' plan and intention and to link them with their philosophic roots. This attempt requires that Herodotus' way of telling a story be examined, for Herodotus primarily reveals himself in the stories themselves and not in the moral he sometimes draws from them. Once one sees the importance Herodotus himself places in his own Inquiries, his account of Egypt, which has long been a stumbling block on any interpretation, can be appreciated; and Egypt in turn supplies the basis for understanding Book II on Persia and IV on Scythia and Libya. These three books prove to be the core of the Inquiries, for they establish the necessary conditions for both Greekness and the understanding of Greekness, and hence for the following five books on the Persian Wars.

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made him utter his denial. He made the mistake of confusing the customary with the natural; he did not see that nature does not follow the strict counting of custom, which turns what usually happens into a law without exceptions. Demaratus’ mother, in short, adjusts what ought to be to what is, while her reply to the accusation that she committed adultery with an ass-keeper, adjusts what is to what ought to be. She said that on the third night after her wedding “an apparition resembling Ariston”

and then in finding or inventing an example that, on the very same premises, compels him to revise or abandon those premises. Herodotus indicates that this is his own way as follows. Only six of the seven wise men are mentioned by name, and we might wonder why he omitted a seventh, no matter whether he would have been Cleobulus, Myson, or someone else, especially since he says all the wise men (aocpiatai) came to Croesus’ court. He does, however, mention someone who could qualify for the seventh.

Megabazuses as there are seeds in a pomegranate; but he did not imagine that a simile could be transformed into that of which it is a simile (143; cf. 111.32; 160.1). The Scythians, on the other hand, so often take the sign as sufficient in itself that they are easily deceived. Gobryas is able to spirit away Darius’ army by lighting fires at night and leaving asses tied to stakes, to which sight and sound the Scythians have become so accustomed that they believe the Persians are still in camp

it will also prevent great and admirable deeds (egyct jxeyaXa t£ xai flcojjiaatd), shown forth by Greeks and barbarians, from going without fame -they will become celebrated. Herodotus knew he had a unique chance to inquire into the whole range of human customs, a range that would not remain if ever a universal conqueror imposed the customs of his own nation everywhere else. Regarded simply as ta yevojxeva of human beings they could guide him to the discovery of a triple Aoyog; and the emendation

grain of truth in the playful Greek story about Anacharsis; who is supposed to have said that he found all the other Greeks busy at every kind of wisdom, but only the Spartans spoke and answered soberly (IV.77.1). Spartan acocpgoaxhrr) rest 20 In the Spartan section of this book, 50-86, Herodotus uses or has the Spartans use the word 97) ^1 23 times out of a total 38 in the whole book. N ote the frequency of poetic words: ay/) 61.1; XdcaOiq 67.2; el'So^ai 69.1 (cf. VII.56.2); Xitoci 69.2;

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