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Notes and Reflections on Books and Media

by Hannah Leitheiser

i want handmadens.



440 bc



"'sire, you are a mighty ruler; why sit you idle, winning neither new dominions nor new power for your persians? if you would have them know that they have a man for their king, it is right and fitting for one of your youth and your wealth to let them see you achieving some great enterprise. thereby will you gain a double advantage: the persians will know that their king is truly a man; and in the stress of war they will have no leisure for conspiring against you. ...i pray you, march against hellas. i have heard of laconian and argive and attic and corinthian women, and would fain have them for handmaidens.'" - herodotus, book iii

so this is herodotus' explanation of the cause of the first greco-persian war: king darius' wife wants the greek women as slaves. plus, war will keep people busy and be awesome. the second war is king darius' son finishing the job.

and this gets into two ways of looking at history: what they call 'trends and forces' and 'the great man (or woman) theory'. herodotus links causes to individuals and so falls squarely into the great man camp. if king darius' wife had happened to fancy women of another race, the whole course of history would have been different. in truth, it's probably a combination. greatness requires a context, and you can't completely erase individuals into some kind of hive pushed forward by economic and social pressures.