Man Vs. Government Essay

1641 words - 7 pages

It can be said that the majority of the first six books of Herodotus' The Histories can be divided into two distinct categories: cultural history where Herodotus discusses customs, beliefs, and daily lives of the people of Greece, Egypt, Persia, and other foreign lands; and political history where Herodotus speaks about the governments, kings, leaders, and military actions of the aforementioned lands. However, while these two opposing histories can be separated, they are far from separate, and it is this crossover of peoples and government which makes for some of the most interesting segments of Herodotus' inquiries. Being inquiries as he states in the opening line of Book I, though, one can wonder why it is he chooses to continually write about these two opposing groups, and what point he is trying to imply by doing so. It would seem more than likely that his opinion on government would at least somewhat affect his writings, and through what he includes and the way he chooses to include itOne such implication which Herodotus seems to make throughout his work is that rulers who are not just are punished in the end, regardless of the abilities or position. One such example is Cambyses dying of a fatal wound in the same spot where he stabbed Apis, the sacred bull. Herodotus probably chose to include this so as to show Cambyses' own mortality and show that leaders are punished for their hubris. Herodotus seems to make a point of showing Cambyses as an unjust leader through his killing of Apis, dealings with the Egyptians, and his killing of his own servants for saving Croesus, so by telling of Cambyses' ironic death by his own sword, Herodotus makes a point of showing that rulers should not abuse their power. This is further reinforced when he tells the story of Oreotes death. After Oreotes has Polycrates murdered in such a way which Herodotus describes as "an end unworthy of his personal distinction and high ambition" (III, 125) Oreotes quickly meets his own end when the Persian king Darius turns Oreotes own men against him, and has Oreotes' own bodyguard murder him on the spot.This is emphasized by Herodotus' descriptions of Croesus who he makes seem like a somewhat ineffectual leader, narrowly escaping death several times and managing to advise Cyrus to his own death, but a just man, who lives a long life compared to the other kings. Croesus' incompetence is displayed by Herodotus through his stories of his misinterpretation of several Oracle foresights, his military failure to Cyrus, and his naivety in his own happiness when talking to Solon. However, Herodotus also makes a point to show Croesus as a fair leader, unlike many of the other kings he speaks about, through tales of his welcoming the exiled Adrastus into his home even after killing his son and his large donations to many temples and shrines. Herodotus writes about Croesus narrowly escaping death several times throughout his descriptions of other kings, such as Cyrus and Cambyses,...

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