The Role of Oracles and Dreams in Herodotus' the History

1670 words 7 pages
usChristina Bramanti
October 5, 2012
CLAS 20105

The Role of Oracles, and Dreams in Herodotus’ The History

Throughout Herodotus’ The History, Oracles, and dreams play an important role. While the gods have almost no presence throughout the book, the Oracles and/or dreams are linked to many of the major events. We first encounter the Oracles in Book I, when Croesus asks the Oracles at Delphi if he should attack the Persians, the Oracle replies telling him (in a very ambiguous way) that if he fights, he will destroy a great empire (7.12). Unbeknownst to Croesus, the empire he will destroy will be his own. However, this answer from the Oracle is one of the things that convinces Croesus to attack Persia, in a manner jumpstarting the
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Harpagus, in turn, hands the child over to Mitradates, a slave herdsmen of Astyages. Harpagus also passes on the task of murdering the child. When Mitradates gets home with the child, he tells his wife, Cyno, the task with which he had been charged. Cyno, however, had given birth that day to a child who was stillborn, and she suggested that they place the dead child on the mountain to ‘die’ and raise Mandane’s child as their own. This way, they still get to raise a child, and the innocent boy is not killed.
By removing the child from his mother, and handing him over to his death, Astyages is creating the path for which the foreseen future can now happen. One day, the boy was playing with children in town and they named him their king, and he reprimanded one of the children, a son of a man of higher rank than his herdsman father. They were all brought before Astyages, and this is how he came to learn that the boy had not been killed. When the Astyages learned that the boy, who would be called Cyrus, but was not yet at this time called Cyrus, was still alive, at first he was angry with Harpagus, and he killed Harpagus’ son and fed his flesh to Harpagus. Then, after consulting with the Magi, he believed that the dream had already come true, since the boy was named king. “As it is,” the Magi told him, “the dream has issued in something trifling; we are ourselves quite confident and bid you be the same. So send the boy away from your sight to


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