Comparison Of Herodotus In The Greeks And Xerxes Of The Persians

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Herodotus, in his work, The Histories, describes the leaders of the two combatant coalitions in the Persian War, Themistocles of the Greeks and Xerxes of the Persians, in very different ways. Herodotus often points to how both men handle council and their own piety as a tool to depict what kind of men they are, and at times reinforces his own generalizations of the Greek and Persian people using these men as his proxy. Herodotus seems to accept the idea that men, as individuals, can shape great events, along with the gods. He lends this idea great weight through his explanation of both Xerxes’ and Themistocles’ actions and decisions. Generally, Xerxes is depicted as somewhat irrational and possessing poor-judgement and Themistocles, for the …show more content…
One example comes from book two, Herodotus states, “great offences come with great punishments from the gods.” It is not unreasonable to state that Herodotus might be stating or implying that Xerxes’ impiety caught up to him later. Regardless, putting these two statements together it is not hard to see how Herodotus is characterizing Xerxes. This kind of impiety, or at the very least an uncomfortably different kind of worship, is extended onto the Persians as a whole; as well as, in book one when Herodotus is describing Greek customs he states, “The customs which I know the Persians to observe are the following: they have no images of the gods, no temples nor altars, and consider the use of them a sign of folly.” While in this verse Herodotus ascribes no one term to negatively describe Persian religion, he is of course contrasting it with Greek religion. It may indeed be reaching to say that Herodotus believes only the Greeks to be pious, as only they worship correctly but it is something that seemingly lies in between the text. If this is the case, then Herodotus is ascribing a …show more content…
At the beginning of the Battle of Salamis Herodotus described an account of a woman appearing before the Greeks, “there is a popular belief that the phantom shape of a woman appeared and said ‘Strange men…how much further do you propose to go astern?” This is effectively divine legitimation for Themistocles cause, Herodotus writes that a phantom appeared and urged the Greeks to a battle many were reluctant to partake in, but that Themistocles had engineered through trickery. It is not hard to see Themistocles as reasonable when Herodotus gives us an account of him chopping one of his soldiers in half and marching his army between the halves . Themistocles’ support by the gods can be interpreted as a proxy for the Greek support by the gods, as indeed the apparition appeared to all Greek ships despite it perpetuating Themistocles’ argument. Themistocles wanted the Greeks to fight at Salamis and this turned out to be a strategic victory, if Herodotus sees the gods as urging them toward this victory, then he also sees the gods as supporting their

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