Herodotus

Halicarnassus: A Greek city in Asia Minor, now Bodrum in Turkey – students may be surprised to find that Herodotus, though totally Greek, was born a subject of the Persian empire. Halicarnassus was under Persian rule until Alexander captured it. It was ruled at the time by a tyrant, whose behaviour forced Herodotus to leave - and thus go on his travels.

Herodotus' introduction

An interesting discussion could be had on Herodotus' views of the importance of the past. Is there more to history than just entertaining stories?

His picture is not a portrait, of course - merely what the sculptor thought a Greek historian ought to have looked like - this applies to most Greek sculptural "portraits" - although the Romans paid more attention to capturing a likeness.

Philobarbaros - so-called by the Greek writer Plutarch in his anti-Herodotus essay - "De Malignitate Herodoti" - On the nastiness of Herodotus. Barbaros was originally only used in reference to non-Greek speakers' lack of linguistic skill in Greek, because to the Greeks foreign languages sound like 'bar bar bar'. Arabs had a similar term for Persians in later times - meaning "the mumblers" who couldn't speak Arabic properly. Later of course it became the insulting term that we still know. This might be a time to bring up modern use of derogatory terms for other races – but certainly the concept of racism could be aired; note that the Persians were also in a sense 'racist' – see the Herodotus passage (page 16 paragraph 5). Discuss other abusive terms for other nations - mostly they reflect the ignorance of the English speaker (Frogs, Krauts - and compare derogatory terms for the English - Limeys, Poms, Rosbifs, Sassenachs, Honkeys.)

Tom Holland, in his book on Persia (Persian Fire) suggests a modern equivalent could be “bleeding-heart liberal”! (Maybe tells us more about Tom Holland?).

There are many English words which come from Greek containing  'phil-'. For example, Philip comes from Philippos (name of a Alexander's father) and means 'lover of horses'. What is an anglophile? a francophile? A philanthropist? (Collect other examples)

 

How the Rhampsinitus story ends:

When the King found out, he was furious.  Determined to outwit the man somehow, he devised a scheme which I find hard to believe. He sent his daughter to a brothel, but she wasn’t to sleep with anyone until he’d answered her question: what’s the wickedest and cleverest thing you’ve ever done. If anyone said anything resembling the thief’s activities, he’d be arrested. The brother could not resist the challenge.  He cut off his dead brother’s arm and took it with him to see the king’s daughter.  She asked him the question “What is the wickedest and cleverest thing you have ever done?”.  The brother said that the wickedest thing he had ever done was to cut off his own brother’s head as he was trapped in the king’s treasure chamber; and the cleverest was to get the guards of his body drunk before stealing it back.  The king’s daughter reached out to grab him; but the thief pushed his brother’s severed arm at her and escaped.
When this was reported, the king was amazed at the cleverness and the daring of the man, and made a proclamation granting a free pardon to the thief, and also promising a great reward if he would come into his presence. The thief trusted the proclamation and came; Rhampsinitus was so impressed, he gave him his daughter to marry, calling him the cleverest of all men.

It's an essentially anti-Egyptian story (no actual pharaoh call called Rhampsinitus existed) told only by Herodotus - but similar to other folk-tales where an ordinary Joe puts one over on the Man. It could be seen alongside Herodotus' belittling of Egyptians in the Cambyses story on page 24.

 

More on the website: http:// www.the-persians.co.uk/cyrus1.htm