The Madness of Cambyses: Herodotus and the Problem of Inquiry

The Madness of Cambyses: Herodotus and the Problem of Inquiry In his evaluation of the mad despot Cambyses, Herodotus proclaims that preference for one’s own culture persists after examination. This paper examines how Herodotus’ treatment of Cambyses reveals the insidious ways that thought is bounded by cultural attachments. Blindness to one’s attachments spurs the drive to empire by covering and justifying expansionist appetites. Herodotus’ treatment of Cambyses’ imperialist inquiries will thus not only implicate the Persians, but raise unsettling questions about the Hellenes’ own appetites. Herodotus offers his own methods of inquiry as an alternative. Rather than denying appetite and rendering it subterranean, Herodotus suggests that inquiry must be motivated by the quest for self-knowledge – understanding the diversity of the world helps reveal the fuller contours of human nature. Herodotus’ storytelling engages affect by provoking the intellectual curiosity of his audience. It promises that expansionist appetites can be rehabilitated into genuine curiosity and openness to difference. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek Political Thought Brill

The Madness of Cambyses: Herodotus and the Problem of Inquiry

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Publisher
Brill
Copyright
Copyright © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
ISSN
0142-257x
eISSN
2051-2996
DOI
10.1163/20512996-12340140
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

In his evaluation of the mad despot Cambyses, Herodotus proclaims that preference for one’s own culture persists after examination. This paper examines how Herodotus’ treatment of Cambyses reveals the insidious ways that thought is bounded by cultural attachments. Blindness to one’s attachments spurs the drive to empire by covering and justifying expansionist appetites. Herodotus’ treatment of Cambyses’ imperialist inquiries will thus not only implicate the Persians, but raise unsettling questions about the Hellenes’ own appetites. Herodotus offers his own methods of inquiry as an alternative. Rather than denying appetite and rendering it subterranean, Herodotus suggests that inquiry must be motivated by the quest for self-knowledge – understanding the diversity of the world helps reveal the fuller contours of human nature. Herodotus’ storytelling engages affect by provoking the intellectual curiosity of his audience. It promises that expansionist appetites can be rehabilitated into genuine curiosity and openness to difference.

Journal

Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek Political ThoughtBrill

Published: Apr 12, 2018

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