Aardy R. DeVarque (aardy) wrote,
Aardy R. DeVarque

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Blaming the victim

I recently picked up Herodotus' History (of the Persian wars) to read, figuring someone with a degree in history probably should at some point read something that covers the battle of the 300 at Thermopylae, the battle of Marathon, the battle of Salamis, etc. in what amounts to a single narrative.

And right off the bat, on the first two pages, I'm struck by a particularly egregious example of "it's the victim's own fault" tripe.

Book 1, Section 1. According to Persian historians, the Phoenicians come to Argos, sell their wares, then seize the king's daughter and some other women and sail off to Egypt.

Section 2. Later on, in part out of revenge for the above, some Greeks head to Tyre and carry off the king's daughter and claim that, since the Phoenicians didn't return the king's daughter in Section 1, they don't have to now.

Sections 3 & 4. A generation later, deciding that he wanted a wife and figuring that if the Greeks didn't return the king's daughter in Section 2, then they wouldn't mind if he used the same logic on them, Paris (here called Alexander) heads to Greece and sails off with Helen--causing the Greeks to massively overreact by sending an army into largely Persian-controlled Asia Minor to attack Troy, thus causing the Persians to hate the Greeks ever after, both for the invasion itself, and because it was all just over a woman, because...

Section 4. "Now as for the carrying off of women, it is the deed, they say, of a rogue: but to make a stir about such as are carried off, argues a man a fool. Men of sense care nothing for such women, since it is plain that without their own consent they would never be forced away." (Quote is from the George Rawlinson translation)

That's the point where I did a double-take. I'm somewhat used to having to account for different attitudes when reading old histories, but that particular pair of sentences is so like what modern "blame the victim" types say that it made me sit up and take notice and wonder what I was getting myself in for, since that was only page 2.

Section 5 then adds insult to injury, by providing the Phoenician historians' perspective on that original kidnapping from Section 1 as a counterpoint to the Persian's version: The Phoenicians say that they didn't kidnap anyone; instead the king's daughter got intimately friendly with the ship's captain, discovered she was pregnant, and of her own free will went back to Egypt with the ship so that her parents wouldn't find out. Even Herodotus seems to doubt that story, but he includes it anyway.

Herodotus wrote that more than 2,400 years ago--circa 450-445 B.C. "The more things change, the more they stay the same", indeed. Sheesh.

(After that, it has so far settled down into a much more standard, mundane rendition of an ancient history: Lots of men showing off, getting greedy, saving face, and otherwise generally making life miserable for everyone around them, and either getting killed for it or dying of old age. Rinse, lather, repeat. But, unlike Thucydides, so far Herodotus is managing to hold my interest.)

Fedualism: Serf & Turf
Tags: greek histories, history, sociology

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