Herodotus uses the encounter between the Milesian tyrant Aristagoras and the Spartan king Cleomenes (5.49–51) to further his authorial self-presentation. He contrasts his own aims and methods as an inquirer with those of Aristagoras, who becomes a “rival” inquirer for Herodotus in this passage. Seeking military aid from Cleomenes for the Ionian Revolt, Aristagoras points to his bronze map of the world and gives an ethnographical and geographical account of the peoples and land of Asia, from Ionia to Susa. Aristagoras accordingly takes on many of the characteristics of Herodotus himself, including the use of shared ethnographical language. Aristagoras' ethnographical account is marred, however, by a rhetorical strategy that depicts the Asians as wealthy, but weak adversaries. While careful not to criticize Aristagoras' map itself, Herodotus is able to exploit Aristagoras' verbal description of his map to illustrate his own forthcoming account of the Persian Royal Road (5.52–54), which Herodotus assures readers is even more “accurate” than Aristagoras' account had been (5.54.1). Aristagoras is “deceiving” Cleomenes “well,” says Herodotus, until he tells the “truth” about the length of the journey to Susa (5.50.2). Telling the truth is a mistake for the deceiver Aristagoras, but an obligation for the inquirer Herodotus.
- © 2010 by The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.