I've been toying with the idea of 'featuring' an online article from FindArticles every now and then -- things which might have appeal to folks other than academics -- in the vain hope that it will help make more articles available to the public online (for free). In any event, here's the incipit of William Desmond, "Punishments and the Conclusion of Herodotus' Histories", Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies, Spring 2004:

ONE MUST CONSIDER the end of every affair, how it will turn out."1 Solon's advice to Croesus has often been applied to Herodotus' Histories themselves: Is the conclusion of Herodotus' work a fitting and satisfying one? Older interpretations tended to criticize the final stories about Artayctes and Artembares as anticlimactic or inappropriate: Did Herodotus forget himself here, or were the stories intended as interludes, preludes to further narrative?2 Entirely opposite is the praise accorded Herodotus in a recent commentary on Book 9: "The brilliance of Herodotus as a writer and thinker is manifest here, as the conclusion of the Histories both brings together those themes which have permeated the entire work and, at the same time, alludes to the new themes of the post-war world."3 More recent appreciation for Herodotus' "brilliance," then, is often inspired by the tightly-woven texture of Herodotus' narrative. Touching upon passion, revenge, noble primitivism, East-West relations, the concluding stories at 9.108-122 recall the Prologue and Lydian logos, reinforce many of the narrative motifs that thread through the work as a whole, and (perhaps) offer a warning to the Athenians that with the emergence of the Delian League, a new cycle of tragic history may be beginning.4

One Herodotean motif that has not been explored systematically-either with regard to the Histories as a whole, or with regard to the conclusion-is the theme of punishment.5 The final three stories, disparate as they are, share one commonality: all record punishments-of Masistes' wife, of Oeobazus, Artayctes and his son, and the threatened divine punishment of Artembares and his descendants. This is not an incidental or unimportant fact, for much of the difficulty in assessing the conclusion's literary merit is in placing it within its proper thematic context. This context, I will argue, is that of punishments. The Histories are rife with punishments, some minor, others monstrous. Punishment, with the related themes of crime and justice, plays several significant roles: as literary spectacle, as material for ethnographic and political insight, and as vehicle for an implicit philosophy of history. All this ensures that 9.108-122 is a multi-layered and suggestive ending, offering Herodotus' final meditation on the ongoing interplay between Greece and Asia, the ambivalence of human accomplishment, the injustice and excess that constitute so much of history, the simultaneous existence of human evil and divine justice. Before coming to the concluding punishments, however, we will first examine the various functions that punishments serve in the Histories, whether as "wonders," as characteristic products of particular cultures and political systems, or as means for conveying aspects of Herodotus' historical and religious vision.

... more