For the first discussion, we concentrated on the question of what makes a good history and talked about the ways in which Herodotus does and does not matches up to our expectations for a first class historian  In preparing your essay, you might discuss how Herodotus does/does not include any of the following ements that make for a good history (Fall 2017 ideas mixed with those from earlier semesters).

1.    Interesting/exciting
2.    Good story telling/handling of narrative
3.    Clear purpose
4.    Relevant
5.    Deals well with causality
6.    Dances
7.    Big picture
8.    Provides background
9.    Pays attention to biography/geneaology
10.  Takes into account cultural differences
11.  Takes into account language/linguistics
12.  Shows how past relates to present
13.  Uses primary sources
14.  Passion and enthusiasm  (Wow!  This is cool!)
15.  Brings an axe to class
16.  Is aware of audience
17.  Shows humanity/humility
18.  Lots of details
19.  Uses personal experiences/travel experiences
20.  Swears
21.  Evaluates sources well/uses verifiable sources
22.  Accurate (gets chronology, geography, other details right)
23.  Deals with cause/effect, change over time
24.    Well organized
25.    Distinguishes trivial from important
26.    Objective/unbiased/balanced
27.    Shows both sides of an issue/considers alternative explanations
28.    Uses personal experience
29.    Uses humor
30.    Truthful
31.    Distinguishes opinion from analysis
32.    Broad conception of historians task (cultural, social, political, etc. included)
33.    Deals well with cultural conflicts
34.    Deals well with biography (makes people real, has insights into character)
35.    Deals with great human themes
a.    Government (leadership, politics)
b.    Religion
c.    Male/female relationships
d.    Love
e.    Teleology
f.    War
36.    Good illustrations
37.    Maps—deals with geography
38.    Leads reader, but lets reader draw own conclusions
39.    Easy to understand
40.    Exciting

Remember that Herodotus is our main source for the Persian War and one of our only sources for the early history of Sparta and Athens--and even for some aspects of Persian history.  In addition to Marathon, Salamis, etc., Herodotus gives us most/much of what we know about Solon, Lycurgus, Croessus, Pisistratos, etc.


The second Herodotus discussion continued to concentrate on the ways Herodotus does/does not meet our expectations for a first-class Historian.  Some of  my questions:

·    A good history is reliable.  Is Herodotus reliable?  What parts most reliable?  What parts least (Cf.  Howe and Wells “A Commentary on Herodotus.”)

·    Sources: what are Herodotus sources?  Where is he getting his information? (Note first—travels.  Note also priests in Egypt/Delphi—Dolphin’s back story: and to prove it, we have at Delphi an image of a man on Dolphin!  Note also tripods, etc.—and oracles!!!)

·    Sources don’t always agree. How does Herodotus deal with multiple accounts of events? How good is his judgment? 

·    What are the problems with Herodotus’s sources?  Cf. Smerdis story. 

·    What about Book 3 speeches—Herodotus insists the speeches were really made.  Yes?

·    Good historian combines lots of skills.  What does Herodotus do in addition to history?  (Geography, political science, cultural anthropology, etc.—but also Theology and Philosophy)

·    Herodotus as cultural anthropologist.  How does he treat cultures different than his own?  What is natural way to treat such cultures?  (Note: this is good custom, this not so good.  Note also the sleeping with boys: says Persians learned it from the Greeks!  Todd’s joke.)

·    Note philosophy/theology here.  What is his philosophy of history?  What is history for?  What does he see as driving force in history?

·    What is Herodotus’ attitude toward the gods?  Similar to Homer? Different?  What about question of fate?  Is there a kind of karma in history?  What about in your life?

·    “All history is biography,” said Emerson.  How good is Herodotus at biography? At showing how individual human choices affect history?  Note Darius, Xerxes, Themistocles, Gelon of Syracuse.