Herodotus and Religion in the Persian Wars

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Herodotus and Religion in the Persian Wars. Encyclopedia of The Persian Gulf War.


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Each of them has several wives, and a still larger number of concubines. Next to prowess in arms, it is regarded as the greatest proof of manly excellence to be the father of many sons. Every year the king sends rich gifts to the man who can show the largest number: for they hold that number is strength. Their sons are carefully instructed from their fifth to their twentieth year, in three things aloneto ride, to draw the bow, and to speak the truth.

Until their fifth year they are not allowed to come into the sight of their father, but pass their lives with the women.

Herodotus and Religion in the Persian Wars

This is done that, if the child die young, the father may not be afflicted by its loss. They hold it unlawful to talk of anything which it is unlawful to do. The most disgraceful thing in the world, they think, is to tell a lie; the next worst, to owe a debt: because, among other reasons, the debtor is obliged to tell lies.

If a Persian has the leprosy he is not allowed to enter into a city , or to have any dealings with the other Persians; he must, they say, have sinned against the sun. Foreigners attacked by this disorder, are forced to leave the country: even white pigeons are often driven away, as guilty of the same offence. They never defile a river with the secretions of their bodies, nor even wash their hands in one; nor will they allow others to do so, as they have a great reverence for rivers. There is another peculiarity, which the Persians themselves have never noticed, but which has not escaped my observation.

Their names, which are expressive of some bodily or mental excellence, all end with the same letterthe letter which is called San by the Dorians, and Sigma by the Ionians. Any one who examines will find that the Persian names, one and all without exception, end with this letter. Thus much I can declare of the Persians with entire certainty, from my own actual knowledge. There is another custom which is spoken of with reserve, and not openly, concerning their dead.

It is said that the body of a male Persian is never buried, until it has been torn either by a dog or a bird of prey. That the Magi have this custom is beyond a doubt, for they practice it without any concealment. The dead bodies are covered with wax, and then buried in the ground. The Magi are a very peculiar race, different entirely from the Egyptian priests, and indeed from all other men whatsoever. The Egyptian priests make it a point of religion not to kill any live animals except those which they offer in sacrifice.

About Herodotus: Persian Wars

The Magi, on the contrary, kill animals of all kinds with their own hands, excepting dogs and men. They even seem to take a delight in the employment, and kill, as readily as they do other animals, ants and snakes, and such like flying or creeping things. However, since this has always been their custom, let them keep to it. Buying and selling in a marketplace is a custom unknown to the Persians, who never make purchases in open marts, and indeed have not in their whole country a single market-place.

Birth of History Herodotus' Persian War

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  8. Become a Member. Herodotus: On The Customs of the Persians. The two great Persian invasions of Greece, in and B. Using the Histories of Herodotus as well as other historical and archaeological sources, Jon Mikalson shows how the Greeks practiced their religion at this pivotal moment in their history. In the period of the invasions and the years immediately after, the Greeks--internationally, state by state, and sometimes individually--turned to their deities, using religious practices to influence, understand, and commemorate events that were threatening their very existence.