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The Histories: Greek Identity Essay

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Updated: Feb 18th, 2019

The Histories is one of the most brilliant works by Herodotus that represents the grounds, the development, and the outcomes of the conflict that happened between the Greeks and the Persians, who also were regarded as non-Greeks or the barbarians. The author underlined that the Persians wanted to win the Greeks by means of a huge army; however the power of Athens saved Greece and proved that the Greeks characters were more successful and ready to fight and win.

With the help of such a deep analysis of the conflict, described in The Histories, and the events, which happened in real, the reader gets a wonderful opportunity to clear up the major elements of Greek identity, the challenges, the Greeks faced when organized a kind of alliance against the Persians, and the benefits, which the Greeks were eager to get from their alliance.

In the first book of The Histories, Herodotus presented the ideological reason behind the conflict between the Greeks and the Persians to his readers.

Through this account, Herodotus described the differences of identities, which were inherent to the Greeks and all those, who were considered as non-Greeks. Herodotus successfully created a Greek identity, which was dependent on their cultural traditions, including the language they spoke, their physical appearance, and their beliefs. These three issues are considered to be the major elements of Greek identity.

Such combinations like “a non-Greek language”, “the same language”, and “a new language” (Herodotus and Waterfield 24) proved that the conflict between the Persians and the Greeks started from the differences, which were inherent to the Greek identity. When the conflict developed with unbelievable speed, the Greeks realized that the appearance of their enemies was not the same to their own appearance. This is why their identity by the whole world was under a threat.

Herodotus’ account demonstrated that the Persians, in their description of the Greek-Persian conflict, blamed the Greeks to have started the conflict (Herodotus and Waterfield 3). He accounted for the misspelled stories that the Persians have woven to show that the conflict was a conduct of the Greeks and Phoenicians first committed offensive acts against the Persians to which they merely retaliated. However, Herodotus stated that this Persian account was not true, and he provided the real story.

He went on to present an account of how barbaric and uncivilized Persians were and, in their greed and immorality, they did all those barbaric acts, which were not forthcoming for a civilization (Herodotus and Waterfield 25). This account showed that the Greeks were more civilized than the barbaric Persians were. They had certain moral codes and were not warmongers.

Their participation in the Persian war stemmed out of their need to retaliate the Persian attack. This very point of view identified the civilized nature of the Greeks. When Herodotus described the Greek identity, he conferred that Greeks would do what the Persians had already done during the war because the gods, the Greeks believed in, and their temples were violated by the Persians.

He also underlined the fact that “the gods do not give the Persians the idea of attacking Lydia” (Herodotus and Waterfield 32). The account of the blood relations was one more strong point that demonstrated the Greeks. Pride in ones ancestry was what Herodotus wanted to preach. He gave a complete account of the four generations of Croesus.

The account shows that a non-Greek may inter-marry with someone below his or her blood, but a Greek would not do so (Herodotus and Waterfield 42). In a separate account, Herodotus related the story of Hercules and the woman, who was half snake (Herodotus and Waterfield Book IV, 8-10). Scythians were descendents of Hercules, and thus following the bloodline, were considered the Greeks. This aspect of the account demonstrated that bloodline hold a very important significance in retaining the Greeks.

The Histories described the alliance of the different Greek clans like the Smyrna and the Miletus, showing that it was through their political and economic need, they became the allies and signed a peace treaty (Herodotus and Waterfield 10).

The element of Greek arose in them through the worship of the same gods and goddesses. There are many references in the book of the kings and tyrants making tributes and sacrifices for the gods in order to appease the gods. Thus, the belief in gods made them one. One God signifies worshiping of the same god for similar kind of gratifications.

Thus, when all reek clans worshiped the same god, they felt a bondage that arose due to their patronage to the same god, said Athena. It also signified one belief. This unification of belief, fear, idolizing, identity, and unified worshiping made the Greeks a cohesive group that was ready to fight and helped to create the strong Greek identity that would be recognized by the other nations.

Moreover, this aspect of worshiping the same God helped to unite the different Greek tribes. Another reason for worshiping the same god was that the description of Thracians by Herodotus in Book V. Therefore, the Greeks believed that in order to create a unified identity, the same gods must be worshiped by the kings and ordinary people in one and the same way.

The effectiveness of the Greek alliances, the desire to win and prove their identity, and the readiness to argue and oppress – all this made the Greeks attempts more or less successful in comparison to the Persian achievements. The defensive victory of the Greeks is the most reliable evidence of the properly chosen Greek strategy.

The essence of alliances is always to create a power that will suppress another power. And the efforts of the Greeks to unite in order to win the Persians should be considered as the most successful alliance in the history.

The Histories by Herodotus is a reliable source that is based on personal experience of the author. Evaluation of the historical events and their literal description help to create more or less clear picture about the Greek and Persian conflict, its grounds, and results. Power will be always something many groups of people want to achieve.

The Persians chose an almost perfect plan, but they were mistaken when they did not evaluate the Greeks opportunities. With the help of this literary source under discussion, it is possible to comprehend that the conflict that took place between the Greeks and the barbarians was not the only one but still rather significant factor of Greek identity formulation. This conflict prompted the Greeks to use their elements of identity to win the enemy and to make their positions stronger and more stable.

Works Cited

Herodotus, The Histories. Trans. Robin Waterfield and Carolyn Dewald. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

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IvyPanda. "The Histories: Greek Identity." February 18, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-histories-greek-identity/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "The Histories: Greek Identity." February 18, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-histories-greek-identity/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'The Histories: Greek Identity'. 18 February.

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