Herodotus als Vader van het oriëntalisme? Het Perzische Koningshuis in de Historiën

Wijma, S., 4-Mar-2016, In : Lampas. Tijdschrift voor Nederlandse classici. 49, 1, p. 20-39 20 p., 2.

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In contrast to his nuanced ethnographical logoi, Herodotus’ depiction of Persian autocracy has often been labelled as highly biased. After the appearance of Edward Said’s Orientalism in 1978, Herodotus’ approach to Persian despotism has even been seen as an early example of orientalism, that is, the discourse by which colonial powers have deliberately constructed an image of “The East” as irrational, weak, effeminate, and despotic, to function as a mirror for the enlightened, brave, and autonomous “West”. In this article, I argue that to label Herodotus’ images of Persian despotism as orientalism and, thus, to define the goals of the Histories largely in terms of legitimising Greek supremacy is to ignore important nuances and critical reflections. Instead, I propose, not, as some have done, to discard orientalism all together, but rather to see the oriental colouring in the descriptions of Persian despotism as a narrative means, aimed to arrive at a better understanding of ‘why the Greeks and barbarians came into conflict with each other’, which, in Herodotus’ account, is connected with the “law”, so amply illustrated in the Histories, by which too much fortune ultimately leads to failure, crisis and even the downfall of an empire.
Original languageDutch
Article number2
Pages (from-to)20-39
Number of pages20
JournalLampas. Tijdschrift voor Nederlandse classici
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 4-Mar-2016


  • Herodotus (ca480-425 v. Chr), orientalism, Greek history, Greek historiography, othering

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