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Herodotus and Solon

Herodotus and Solon

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Herodotus and Solon
Herodotus and Solon

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Published by: DesertNidi on Jan 17, 2013
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 Herodotus and Solon
       
 
Book 1 of Herodotus’
, Solon speaks to Croesus aboutthe jealousy of the gods and the ephemeral nature of human happiness (1.29–33).Since Solon’s speech is so prominently placed, and since it introduces themes thatrecur throughout the
, it has traditionally been seen as programmatic,i.e., as expressing Herodotus’ own views about the gods and human happinessand as providing a philosophical framework for the
as a whole.
Although the assumption that Solon speaks for Herodotus has long been thestandard view, it has recently been challenged on the grounds that Herodotushimself never directly a
rms his agreement with what Solon says.
As MabelLang points out, the claim that the gods are jealous occurs only
ve times inthe
, and each time it is made not by Herodotus himself, but by one of 
I gratefully acknowledge the generous help I have received from Michael Gagarin, Peter Green,A. P. D. Mourelatos, William H. Race, Carolyn Dewald, Lisa Kallet-Marx, and an anonymous readerfor the journal.1. Onlyafewofthemanyadherentstothisviewmaybecitedhere: HowandWells(1912)vol.1,49 n. 1, cf. 68; Jacoby (1913) cols. 487–88; Regenbogen (1930a) 84–85 Marg; Hellmann (1934)36 (but cp. 43); Lattimore (1939) 30–31; Nawratil (1942); de Sanctis (1951) 53–54; Immerwahr(1966) 313; Schwabl (1969) 267–68; Fornara (1971) 18–21; Lloyd-Jones (1971) 60–61; Red
eld(1985) 102.2. By “SolonI mean, of course, the Herodotean character, not the historical Solon. For acomparison of the views expressed by the Herodotean Solon with those of the historical
gure, seeNawratil (1942); Sage (1985) 47–56; and Chiasson (1986).
Herodotus and Solon
his characters (Solon, Amasis, Artabanus, and Themistocles). Since Herodotushimself never explicitly endorses the concept of divine jealousy, Lang argues,there is no reason to believe that he supports it.
Kenneth Waters argues similarlythat opinions cannot be assumed to be Herodotus’ own unless he expresses themin his own persona; statements made by Herodotean characters should be seen as“those he thought suitable to the occasion.” Thus, Waters concludes, “Herodotosmakes Solon say what is appropriate to Solon.”
Arguments such as those of Lang and Waters are important since they en-courage the critical examination of long-held assumptions. Since an explicit en-dorsement is lacking, is there any acceptable way todetermine whether Herodotusagrees withSolon’s views? LangandWaterssuggest that there isnot, andtheir po-sition has been accepted by some as a complete and
nal assessment of this issue.
Yet their conclusions are limited both by an incomplete survey of Herodotus’ textand by a lack of appreciation for Herodotus’ narrative style.
In my view, a fullconsideration of the evidence will show that Herodotus does in fact agree with theviews expressed by his character Solon.Ifwerestrict our consideration toHerodotus’ explicitstatements, weoverlook a great deal of important information. It is widely recognized that Herodotus doesnot always state his views directly: he often manipulates his narrative in subtleways to indicate his views.
Although scholars have used a variety of namesfor Herodotus’ indirect means of expression, among the devices most frequentlymentioned are analogy (in which individual events are understood as particularexamples of larger, unifying, concepts)
and repetition, especially the repetitionof key words and phrases in di
erent contexts which allows the listener or readerto consider the broader similarities that link those contexts together.
3. Lang(1984)61. PreviouscommentatorsonthisissuehadnotrequiredanexplicitHerodoteanstatement; cf. Pippidi (1960) and de Romilly (1971). Pippidi and de Romilly are concerned to limitthe extent of Herodotus’ reliance on divine jealousy as a historical cause; they do not dispute hisacceptance of it.4. Waters (1985) 104, 99; cf. 115 n. 4.5. Cf. Gould (1989) 80; Shimron (1989) 35 and n. 23.6. A few scholars have recently rea
rmed their support for the traditional view, e.g., Munson(1988) 105 n. 48; Lateiner (1989) 21 and 235 n. 32; Christ (1994) 167–68 and n. 3. Others haveadopted this view without acknowledging the challenges that have been raised, e.g., Hooker (1989)143–44 and Evans (1991) 46, 73. No one, to my knowledge, has systematically addressed thearguments that Lang and Waters present.7. Fornara (1971) notes that “Herodotus’ artistic method is to lead the hearer by what he doesnot say as much as by what he does” (61–62); cf. Immerwahr (1966) 323–26; Lachenaud (1978) 3–4;and Dewald (1987) 153.8. G. E. R. Lloyd (1966) discusses Herodotus’ use of analogy in analyzing geographical andgeological as well as historical data (341–45). Corcella (1984), following Wood (1972), discussesHerodotususeofanalogyasahistoricalprincipleinwhichindividualeventsareseenasexemplifyinglarger historical patterns (see especially Corcella 224–25 and Wood 14). Cf. Lateiner (1989) 192–96.9. See Bischo
(1932) 29–30; Wood (1972) 17; Chiasson (1983); Immerwahr (1966) 57;Lateiner (1982); and (with a di
erent focus) Long (1987).
 
Volume 15/No. 2/October 1996
techniques include the repetition of narrative patterns
and the juxtapositionof events in the narrative in order to suggest an intrinsic connection betweenthem.
Herodotus uses these literary devices toestablish the general concepts thatunderlie the particulars and thereby explain them, without providing an explicit,rational analysis. Whether or not analogical thinking is a general characteristic of archaic Greek thought,
Herodotus certainly expresses his views both implicitly,through analogical and literary devices, and explicitly, through direct, analyticalstatements. Thus, any serious attempt to understand Herodotus’ views must takeinto account both types of expression.In what follows, after a brief summary of Solon’s views, I will examine thedirect and indirect evidence for Herodotus’ acceptance of these views. I will limitmyself tothree types of indirect evidence: the repetition of key words and phrases,the repetition of narrative patterns, and the juxtaposition of events.
Solon makes three main points in his speech to Croesus (1.29–33).
First,he knows that the god is completely jealous and likes to make trouble for men:
betweencausalconnectionbetweenthejealoujgodjandtheinstabilityof   happinesspistXmennmetqeonpZnnfqonerntekataraxdej  
Second, because the gods are so jealous, human happiness is extremelyunstableandman’slifeisfullofmisfortune(
1.32.4).The causal connection between the jealous gods and the instability of humanhappiness is made clear:
pollosigrdpodcajlbonqejprorrzouj  Rntreye  
(for the god, having shown a glimpse of happiness to many, overturnsthem root and branch, 1.32.9). Human happiness is ephemeral because the jealousgods make it so.
10. Cf. Lateiner (1977) and (1984); Dewald (1985) 50; Red
eld (1985) 113; Boedeker (1987)201; and Flory (1987) 13–16.11. See Boedeker (1988) 42; Dewald (1993) 57; and Gera (1993) 36.12. See G. E. R. Lloyd (1966) 172–209 and Corcella (1984) 25–54 on analogy as a fun-damental aspect of archaic Greek thought. It has also been noted that such devices are partic-ularly characteristic of works originally designed for oral performance; see Masaracchia (1984)441.13. Among the many discussions of this passage, note especially Regenbogen (1930b); Hellman(1934); Nawratil (1942); Krischer (1964); Immerwahr (1966) 154–61; and more recently, Sage(1985). All translations from Herodotus are my own.14. I accept the arguments of P¨otscher (1958) 9–10 and Immerwahr (1966) 314 that Herodoteanterms such as
refer to a divine power that represents the concerted e
ortsof the gods as a group (despite individual di
erences) to maintain a boundary between the humanand divine spheres.15. According to Pohlenz (1937) 111–15, the concept of 
in Herodotus refers to adivine intervention in human a
airs in order to preserve the proper proportion between gods andmen. Recent studies have come to similar conclusions. E.g., Lloyd-Jones (1971) de
nes it as “the

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