Herodotus and the Use of Gods
This is a study of Herodotus’ use of the Gods, the importance he gives them, and the extent to which he uses them as a literary aid.
This essay examines Herodotus’ use of the gods in his “The Histories,” and questions the extent to which he believes in their influence. It weighs up the importance of the competing powers, fate and chance, and looks at whether Herodotus uses these themes as literary tools.
“Although frequently mentioned and certainly key figures in Herodotus’ text, the gods do not have the influence one might expect. They are neither all-powerful nor flawless, and are often susceptible to human emotions such as anger and jealousy. More importantly, they are not responsible for the actions of humans. Through oracles and dreams certain courses of action are recommended or advised against, and it is up to the human to interpret. However, humans bring misfortune upon themselves; the gods merely ensure that the rules are obeyed. Herodotus indicates the nature of these rules; his narrative is largely based on reciprocal action.”
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