Literature Study GuidesHistoriesBook 3 Affairs On Samos Summary

Histories | Study Guide

Herodotus

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Histories | Book 3, Affairs on Samos | Summary

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Summary

Herodotus returns to the conflict over Samos and the affairs of Polycrates, its ruler. After the campaigns of Cambyses and his defeat of the Spartans, Polycrates was lured into a trap and murdered by a Persian governor, Oroetes. Oroetes soon meets his own end at the hands of Darius, who wished to punish Oroetes for his "many crimes." Oroetes is so unpopular that many people wish to kill him. Darius makes them draw lots to stop arguing. After Oroetes is murdered, Darius hurts his foot while hunting and receives treatment from a Greek doctor. A revolt erupts in Babylon, but Darius crushes it. He is aided by a man who pretends to defect to the Babylonians but in fact secretly opens the city gates and lets Darius's forces in.

Analysis

The intertwined affairs of Sparta, Samos, Egypt, and Persia show how connected the Mediterranean world of the era was. The episode also serves to show how complicated (and deadly) ancient politics could be. Polycrates, the tyrant of Samos, is a valuable ally of the Egyptians. After the Persians conquer Egypt, he is done away with by Oroetes, an ambitious Persian. Oroetes is so disliked that other Persians are literally queuing up to kill him when Darius orders it so. Political murder is a recurring theme in Histories, and it probably speaks to a truth about the ancient world: humble and powerful alike were ever at risk of a violent death.

The Greek doctor is a device used primarily to pique Darius's interests about the lands of the Greeks, which he will eventually seek to conquer.

The Babylonian rebellion is another example of the problems of empire. Herodotus believes that people will always want to throw off the shackles of an empire and rule themselves. The recurring rebellions in the Persian Empire are factual, but they also serve to prove Herodotus's point about the instability of an empire.

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