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Tricksters and Structure in Herodotus
1. Tricksters in Herodotus?
2. The Faithful Traitors
2.1 The Pretended Renegade: Zopyros (3.153–160):
- A city is besieged.
- One of the besiegers pretends to defect to the enemy.
- He pretends to have been abused by his own people by
- a. cutting off his nose and ears
- b. flagellating himself.
- A smaller group is killed before the final victory over the enemy.
- The besieged trust the pretender.
- The pretender opens up the gates for his own people.
- The story is cited as an example for exceptional courage.
2.2 The Pernicious Dream: Themistokles (8.70–83) and the Deceitful Dreams of Xerxes (7.8–19):
- A deceitful message is delivered to the enemy promising success if they attack immediately.
- The sender is convinced that the opposite of the promised will happen.
- The parties involved are quarreling.
- The recipient believes the message.
- A divine portent supports the party of the sender.
3. The ‘Suitors’
3.1 The Ruse of Darius (3.84–87):
It is unclear who violates the rules here—Intaphrenes thinks the guards (and therefore Darius) are lying; if that is not the case, it is Intaphrenes who breaks the rules. In any case, Darius, the former rule-breaker, destroys Intaphrenes, claiming he has broken the rules; the king therefore becomes the ultimate rule-keeper.
- Several candidates claim a position.
- Rules are set up to confirm the status of the elected and non-elected beforehand.
- Some form of deceit happens: a. in acquiring the position and/or b. in breaking the fixed rules.
He continues by mentioning Odysseus, who might or might not have been the one trying to win Helen by fraud; it is not clear if the verse quoted refers to him or the suitor mentioned before, in the non-extant part of the poem. In any case Odysseus is inextricably linked to the story: by eventually marrying Helen’s cousin Penelope, he has a prominent position among the suitors and is also mentioned as the oath’s initiator.  As the episode continues, the motif of fraud is clearly linked to Odysseus, who by cheating tries to escape from the consequences of the oath (3b), even more scandalously so as he had been the princeps iurisiurandi, as Roman tragedy has it (trag. inc. 55–60 Ribb.).
3.2 Hippokleides and the Alcmaeonids (6.126–131):
4. Tricksters in Herodotus