December 3, 2004

Herodotus - Reading 12-3-4

Finished The Histories by Herodotus. A nice overview of the events of the middle east and Persia from a Greek view circa 425 B.C. Herodotus writes mostly about the cultures of the middle east and the mediterannean. He give his theories, some of which are rather hilarious, about the origins of many different things. Such as the vicious Arabian flying snakes! The Histories deal alot with the Assyrian and Persian conquests, and the Greek battle of Thermopylae and Platea stand out strongly. It was interesting to read of the Athenians and the Lacedaemonians (Spartans), particularly from a Greek viewpoint of the timeperiod. Herodotus chronicles pretty much all the interesting or notable events up to the beginning of the Peloponnesian wars.

One of my favorite sections was this one:
[7.46] Then Artabanus, the king's uncle (the same who at the first so freely spake his mind to the king, and advised him not to lead his army against Greece), when he heard that Xerxes was in tears, went to him, and said:-

"How different, sire, is what thou art now doing, from what thou didst a little while ago! Then thou didst congratulate thyself; and now, behold! thou weepest."

"There came upon me," replied he, "a sudden pity, when I thought of the shortness of man's life, and considered that of all this host, so numerous as it is, not one will be alive when a hundred years are gone by."

"And yet there are sadder things in life than that," returned the other. "Short as our time is, there is no man, whether it be here among this multitude or elsewhere, who is so happy, as not to have felt the wish - I will not say once, but full many a time - that he were dead rather than alive. Calamities fall upon us; sicknesses vex and harass us, and make life, short though it be, to appear long. So death, through the wretchedness of our life, is a most sweet refuge to our race: and God, who gives us the tastes that we enjoy of pleasant times, is seen, in his very gift, to be envious."

[7.47] "True," said Xerxes; "human life is even such as thou hast painted it, O Artabanus! But for this very reason let us turn our thoughts from it, and not dwell on what is so sad, when pleasant things are in hand. Tell me rather, if the vision which we saw had not appeared so plainly to thyself, wouldst thou have been still of the same mind as formerly, and have continued to dissuade me from warring against Greece, or wouldst thou at this time think differently? Come now, tell me this honestly."

No comments: