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Herodotus on the Effects of War

In ancient history, few figures are as famous as the Greek writer Herodotus. His works have become famous summarizing the history of Greece and Persia and their eventual war. This has made him one of the go-to sources for people learning about this period.

However, in recent years his historical accuracy has come into question. As a Greek, Herodotus would be biased, and he also had a habit of exaggerating and embellishing details to make events more dramatic. He’s also been known to take real figures and mix them in with mythology and fables in an attempt to teach his readers important lessons.

But while his research might be questioned no one has doubted his wisdom as many of the lessons he tried to teach were quite good. These were lessons of wisdom, thinking critically, and perhaps the most relevant to his writing, the dangers of war.

While Herodotus had no problem writing about battles and heroes, he also understood the destruction and pain war can cause. Because of that, he used his writing to warn against the folly of war. This was done through the folly of King Croesus, the ruler of Lydia.

Though ruling a vastly wealthy and powerful kingdom, the arrogant Croesus was not satisfied with this and sought to war with the Persian Empire. To this end, he consulted the Oracle of Delphi who said that if he went to war a great kingdom would fall. Thinking this meant the Persian Empire, Croesus continued with his plans and attacked the Persians.

Unfortunately, the great kingdom that fell was his own as he was defeated and captured. When brought to the Persian King Cyrus the Great, the two spoke, with Croesus regretting his actions with the famous line.

“No one is so foolish as to prefer war to peace, in which, instead of sons burying their fathers, fathers bury their sons.”


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