Divination in the Ancient World: Religious Options and the Individual 3515106294, 9783515106290

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Divination in the Ancient World: Religious Options and the Individual
 3515106294, 9783515106290

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Divination in the Ancient World Religious Options and the Individual Edited by Veit Rosenberger

Alte Geschichte Franz Steiner Verlag

Potsdamer Altertumswissenschaftliche Beiträge 46

Divination in the Ancient World Edited by Veit Rosenberger

POTSDAMER ALTERTUMSWISSENSCHAFTLICHE BEITRÄGE (PAWB) Herausgegeben von Pedro Barceló (Potsdam), Peter Riemer (Saarbrücken), Jörg Rüpke (Erfurt) und John Scheid (Paris) Band 46

Divination in the Ancient World Religious Options and the Individual Edited by Veit Rosenberger

Franz Steiner Verlag

Bibliografische Information der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek: Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek verzeichnet diese Publikation in der Deutschen Nationalbibliografie; detaillierte bibliografische Daten sind im Internet über abrufbar. Dieses Werk einschließlich aller seiner Teile ist urheberrechtlich geschützt. Jede Verwertung außerhalb der engen Grenzen des Urheberrechtsgesetzes ist unzulässig und strafbar. © Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart 2013 Druck: Offsetdruck Bokor, Bad Tölz Gedruckt auf säurefreiem, alterungsbeständigem Papier. Printed in Germany. ISBN 978-3-515-10629-0

TABLE OF CONTENTS Veit Rosenberger Introduction..............................................................................................................7 Jörg Rüpke New Perspectives on Ancient Divination.................................................................9 Esther Eidinow Oracular Consultation, Fate, and the Concept of the Individual ...........................21 Hugh Bowden Seeking Certainty and Claiming Authority: The Consultation of Greek Oracles from the Classical to the Roman Imperial Periods...................................41 Lisa Maurizio Interpretative Strategies for Delphic Oracles and Kledons: Prophecy Falsification and Individualism..............................................................................61 Susanne William Rasmussen Cicero and the Pythia – a deceptive Dilemma?.....................................................81 Richard Gordon “Will my child have a big nose?”: Uncertainty, authority and narrative in katarchic astrology .............................................................................93 Wolfgang Spickermann Lucian of Samosata on Oracles, Magic and Superstition....................................139 Veit Rosenberger Individuation through Divination: The Hieroi Logoi of Aelius Aristides............153 Index.....................................................................................................................175

INTRODUCTION Veit Rosenberger This book is the printed outcome of the conference “Oracles in the Ancient World: Religious Options and the Individual” held at Erfurt University in October 2011. The conference took place in the context of the Kolleg Research Group “Religious Individualization in Historical Perspective” (“Religiöse Individualisierung in historischer Perspektive”), located at the Max-Weber-Kolleg, Erfurt. The key question of the conference was: What are the interdependences between divination and processes of individualization or de-individualization? The working definitions were: Individualization is understood as a process of change on the societal level. In contrast, individuation is a development on the personal level. Discussions about the definition of these terms are continuing, also at Erfurt. Divination may always have some effects on processes of individuation and individualization. Divination may be a means – and this list does not claim to be exhaustive – of legitimising decisions, to decide competition or to achieve distinctiveness. Fortunately, at least from the editor´s point of view, the articles do not all argue along the same lines. Nothing highlights better the lively debate and the many open questions in the field of ancient divination. Jörg Rüpke argues that divination with its permanent necessity to adapt to specific situations demonstrates more clearly than many other types of rituals the flexibility of the interplay of tradition and appropriation, of institution and individual. Hugh Bowden stresses the difference between oracle-consultations in the classical period and such consultations in the Roman imperial time, when oracles were a part of a wider culture of individual self-display. Esther Eidinow examines the significance of the concept of the religious self for our understanding of the ritual practice of oracular consultations in ancient Greece. Oracle-consultations were a field of shared enquiry, negotiation and potential collaboration with supernatural forces. Lisa Maurizio asks why nearly all oracles attributed to Delphi in Herodotus were accurate: Delphic divinatory practices allowed and encouraged individuals to take the authority to interpret an oracle through the prism of their self-interests. Susanne William Rasmussen analyses the alleged consultation of the Delphic oracle by Cicero. It is a consequence of the traditional religious behaviour, functions as his legitimization of a decision in a personal political matter and illustrates the construction of social identity. Richard Gordon shows that individuals facing the need to make choices regarding specific alternatives in situations of marked uncertainty saw in astrology a means of managing uncertainty. It did not matter that most of these prognoses were disconfirmed – the point lay in the production of usable stories. Wolfgang Spickermann contends that



Lucian of Samosata, a prolific author in whose texts matters of religion played an important role, worshipped the gods of the Graeco-Roman religion, but rejected oracles, magic, superstitions and all-too-exotic deities. Veit Rosenberger claims that, in his almost endlessly prolonged process of divination in the Hieroi Logoi, Aelius Aristides constructed and displayed his self. To use a metaphor by Fernand Braudel, fireflies light up only a small section of the night, and they will never be able to illuminate the entire landscape. Conferences – and their printed versions – are necessarily collections of fireflies. But little light is better than no light at all. A conference, also a small one, requires the help of many people. The Fritz Thyssen Stiftung für Wissenschaftsförderung made it possible to bring people together and to edit the book. The arduous task of organising the conference was shouldered by Bettina Waechter. Many others helped with logistics, proof-reading, translating, and countless further aspects: Daniel Albrecht, Kai Brodersen, Johannes Eberhardt, Christian Karst, Robert McMurray, Leif Scheuermann. Karoline Koch and even more Fabian Germerodt took the lion’s share in editing the book. Erfurt, October 2013

NEW PERSPECTIVES ON ANCIENT DIVINATION Jörg Rüpke 1. Introduction In summing up the numerous research trends of past and present divination, 1 a definition of divination might sound as follows: Divination is a form of individual acting in situations of uncertainty which identifies and articulates consent and dissent by using certain social roles to interpret standardized signs and to ritually deal with them. In such a performance a specific appropriation of social roles and religious traditions is indicated.

Such a definition always stresses some points more than others. In this case, not institutions, but situations have been put to the fore. By these means, a reduction of uncertainty in face of important decisions was attempted: private decisions such as marriage or the building of a house; or in the public realm, the transfer of power or of offices to certain persons, the marking out of space for public buildings, or the ideal moment for the beginning of battle. Looking at the cognitive content of the methods employed, there are some discrepancies. Although some “theological oracles” characterize divinities and give clues as to the appropriate interaction with these, in most cases, we find an extreme reduction of decision possibility, in that the question is posed in such a way as to leave only “yes” or “no” as possible answers: to do or not to do, today or tomorrow, here or there, this one or that one, that was the question. In most cases, practical constraint or a previous elimination of other alternatives led to such a binary formulation of decision situations. My own definition grew out of more complex procedures. Concerning African divination rituals, Victor Turner was able to show that these usually involved a large number of participants and bystanders, as well as having manifold communicative functions and consequences on the social structure within the community.2 While looking at the form and function of late republican auspices, I realized that it was much less the contents than the participation in divinatory practices that signaled political options and thus played an important part in the complex processes of sounding out and negotiating political consent.3 In this article, I would like to continue along the methodological path mapped out by these considerations and concentrate on an element of the definition which 1

2 3

ANNUS 2010; BEARD 1986; BELAYCHE ET AL. 2005; BERCHMAN 1998; BURKERT 2005, 2011; CAQUOT/LEIBOVICI 1968a, b; CRYER 1994; DENYER 1985; ELM VON DER OSTEN 2006; GLADIGOW 1990; JAILLARD/WALDNER 2005; JOHNSTON/STRUCK 2005; KROSTENKO 2000; LLOYD 1999; NORTH 1990; SHAW 1996; SMITH 1991; VERNANT 1974. TURNER 1975; TURNER 1968; see also PEEK 1991. RÜPKE 2005.


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is easily overlooked in a cognitive and communicative context of divination, an element that is marked by terms such as “ritual generation” and “appropriation of religious traditions”.4 Therefore I focus on the interplay between institutions and individuals in specific situations beyond structuralist aspects. In doing so, I will turn to anthropological research concerning rituals. 2. Ritual The basic problem in employing anthropological ritual theory lies in its focus on complex action sequences that can be ethnologically observed and described. Such an approach focuses strongly on participants, context, and performance. As classicists, we, however, only deal with mediated fragments of such rituals, or with secondary representations of these. Bearing these restrictions in mind, I would like to quote a ritual definition by Roy Rappaport: I will argue that the performance of more or less invariant sequences of formal acts and utterances not entirely encoded by the performers logically entails the establishment of convention, the sealing of social contract, the construction of the integrated conventional orders we shall call Logoi (…), the investment of whatever it encodes with morality, the construction of time and eternity; the representation of a paradigm of creation, the generation of the concept of the sacred and the sanctification of conventional order, the generation of theories of the occult, the evocation of numinous experience, the awareness of the divine, the grasp of the holy, and the construction of orders of meaning transcending the semantic.5

This is, of course, only the beginning of a definition, to which the author appends the program of his study. His words are infinitely helpful to me, however, to shed light on the social and cognitive implications of rituals, and to pose the question of influence of these implications on divinatory rituals. I will therefore stress some – I would say: the major – elements of the just given definition of the late anthropologist Rappaport. 2.1 Standardization When looking with the mainstream of ritual anthropology for an answer to the question of what differentiates ritual from everyday action, stereotyping of action is regularly named as the central marker. That is, the awareness that an action in a certain form without regard to situation, persons, or ends, must take on a defined form that marks the action out as ‘ritual’. More recent ritual research goes beyond the classic definition. Walter Burkert speaks of ritual “in the sense of stable action programs which are marked out by repetition and hyperbole, and which are less of practical, but of communicative function.”6 Such a definition may as well – as has been Burkert’s aim – be applied to pre-human behavior. In employing the term 4 5 6

The term ”ppropriation“ is taken from CERTEAU 2007; see also FÜSSEL 2006. RAPPAPORT 1999, 27. BURKERT 1998, 35.

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“ritualization”, recent ritual research is rather focusing on the fact that agents are aware of the special status of their actions.7 Standardization, therefore, is less an objective circumstance of endlessly repeated actions, than a consciousness of the invariance of action sequences. Minimal changes in performance are not excluded. Furthermore, one-time acts can also legitimately be termed ‘ritual’. 2.2 Tradition While Rappaport is speaking of a limited availability in the constitution of rituals, I would like to add to this thought the notion of being traditional. For it is precisely the notion of unavailability which plays a major part in the legitimacy of religion, even though experts or smaller groups do make alterations to rituals, which is why “invented tradition” is much closer to the mark than “tradition”. In concentrating on the few flexible elements of the ritual – which may be the text of a prayer, the form in which a divine answer is supposedly given, or the choice of participants in a ritual – the agents submit to the legitimacy and efficiency of traditional forms. To this may be added the strategic aspect of ritualization, the central element of the term: “Ritualization is a way of acting that is designed and orchestrated to distinguish and privilege what is being done in comparison to other, usually more quotidian, activities.”8 2.3 Authority The following element, the “social contract”, allows us to deepen the implication of ritual action as defined so far. Again with Californian ritual specialist Catherine M. Bell, I take my point of departure from the dilemma into which the traditional character of ritual puts the agent. The desired efficiency achieved by standardization robs the ritual of a flexibility which might enable it to deal with specific problems in a precise and comprehensive way: “Often a looser style of speaking must be recognized in order to actually work out real problems, even though its authority is far less than that of the tighter code of formalized speech. Hence, as a strategy of social control, formalization promotes a fairly powerful but constrained voice of authority, one that must in turn delegate authority to lesser voices”.9 In other words: Only some, and only secondary, ritual elements or even agents and interpretations outside the ritual provide the necessary specification, e.g. the potter who forms the body part votive, the father who explains the prayer formula with respect to the gens and its traditions. Ritualization, then, is a strategy within a tight framework.

7 8 9

See BELL 1992, 7; HUMPHREY/LAIDLAW 1994. BELL 1992, 74. BELL 1992, 121.


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2.4 Morality The special quality of ritualized action, which is defined by its own traditions, is not restricted to itself. Any ritual communicates a normative element which goes beyond the instance in which it is performed: In participating in a ritual – this, at least, is a fundamental decision preceding any distinct performative variation 10 – the agent gives in to the ritual and accepts its results. Once the question is posed, I can no longer ignore the divinatory reply. The availability of ritual authority which asserts the normative character of the ritual is a model for social authority and the establishment of social norms which is to be made clear to every member of the community.11 2.5 Cosmology The concept of logoi, which Rappaport extensively explains to his readers, need not be spelled out within the context of Religious Studies.12 We are dealing with cognitive, intercultural implications and correlations of ritual action. It is best explained by employing once more Marcel Mauss’ theory of gift-giving: Any gift defines the person it is given to.13 The gendered construction of ancient divinities by gender-specific votives, or colour-coding – white for celestial, red for fire gods – are other good examples.14 Permanently addressing an entity that is not present during the ritual makes its attendance plausible to the audience, although answers may only be given intermediately. Such an assumption in its turn makes ritual action plausible; action and belief cannot be separated, they rather strengthen one another. Thomas Lawson, scholar of cognitive sciences, speaks of the plausibilization of “counter–intuitive agents” (CI agents), and differentiates the effects of different types of ritual. Specifically, he mentions repeatable rituals in which the CIA is directly addressed via instruments, and those in which the CIA is referred to a human patient – in initiations, for example – and which are therefore not repeatable.15 2.6 Time Of Rappaport’s numerous keywords, I would like to make mention of only more: time. Although any ritual action is always a passing thing and strictly defined with regard to time, due to the repetitive nature of the action and its supposed execution, it becomes fixed, is eternalized. The speed of the ritual is actually quite high, in that it co–ordinates different movements and social agents in a very brief space 10 11 12 13 14 15

RAPPAPORT 1999, 36. RAPPAPORT 1999, 132–138. Cf. RAPPAPORT 1999, 344 ff. MAUSS 1925. RÜPKE 2007, 149–150. LAWSON 2006, 314.

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of time, being thus clearly marked out from any other, “normal” action. Spatial identity of the repetition, for example oracle sites, as well as its medial representation in reliefs, paintings, or coins, underline the timelessness and externalization of the performed ritual action. In summing up my explanations and expansion of Rappaport’s program, one can say that ritual creates stereotypes despite unavoidable variations in specific performances. This statement is true even in view of the actual gestures and actions the ritual is made up of, and which themselves are taken from a stock repertoire of normal, changing everyday actions. What the ritual creates are paradigmatic “conventions”, thus not only providing foundation for itself, but also supplying social, even sub-cultural contexts.16 2.7 Ritual Variants The anthropologist Stanley J. Tambiah, who focuses his studies on South-East Asia, goes beyond Rappaport in one important aspect.17 Concerning contents, and not only the formal characteristics of rituals, he points to the communicative function of ritual action and its indexicality, their going beyond ritual and social circumstances. In such a perspective, deviations in performance add meaning to the ritual. First of all, one must accept that redundancy as much as inaccuracy – as is always the case in any kind of communication – were readily accepted. Rituals or separate ritual sequences were for the most part not performed by religious specialists. It is the intensity of the ritual communication which strengthened the community; it is the indexicality which bound the ritual to non–ritual communication and the social context. This, however, leads anew to the fact that rituals were part of strategic action.18 By creating rituals, by interrupting everyday life with ritual actions, the ritual agent can create authority and draw clear lines, spatial, temporal, and social. In this context, individuality in divinatory ritual and the ritual context that is particular to it, take on a new meaning. In a flexible reality in which facts are just as easily changed as social positions, ritual becomes much more flexible and thus much more adequate to social reality. Such a conclusion has, of course, farreaching consequences concerning the entire religious system. In going forward, I draw on the findings which Richard Gordon made in regard to ancient magic: … to create an appropriate spell for the purpose he [the practitioner] had to analyse the situation and choose 'proper' ingredients, that is, those which were already associated in one way or another with the task as he understood it. Part of the practitioner's expertise, and much of his scope for acquiring a reputation with which to attract clients, lay precisely in this freedom to innovate within the constraints of the tradition within which her worked … Constant slight innovation was one of the major means by which the arbitrariness of the magical system as a whole was veiled from its practitioners.19

16 Cf. RAPPAPORT 1999, 126. 17 TAMBIAH 1985; KREINATH 2006, 463. 18 Cf. Bell 1992, 43–44 on BELL’S criticism on TAMBIAH.


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These conclusions can easily be transferred to religious ritual and especially divination, even showing that there should really not be unbridgeable conceptual gaps between magic and religion.20 For ritual includes the possibility for, and the tolerance of, variation, which allows for repetitions, for finding and rectifying mistakes in the communication with the gods, and for experimenting. In this way, a strictly empirical access to religious practice is excluded, which would control divine effects in a rigorous system of trial and error, i.e. in strict reproduction. 3. Divination in Rome Let me briefly sketch divination at a particular place, in Rome, in order to demonstrate the perspectives opened up by the anthropological analysis of ritual. Taking the auspices (auspicia)21 was basically the prerogative and activity (auspicium) of magistrates, figures of authority. Private auspicy existed but did not concern the public, except when a limited number of standardized signs conferred a short-term immunity from the draft.22 Consuls and praetors had to ask Iuppiter for his consent before any major activity. The divinatory ritual was clearly related to a theological world view and the mighty cosmological figure of Iuppiter. The lack of his visible presence was compensated by conceptualizing birds as “messengers of Iuppiter”.23 Iuppiter’s consent was valid for that day only. If the activity could not be completed on the same day or consent was not given, the divinatory procedure would have to be repeated another day – time is one of the most important elements in Roman divination even before the ascent of astrology extolled the temporal dimension of divinatory practices. In Rome, the normal procedure was for the magistrate to rise before dawn, choose a place for the observation (spectio), and wait for a sign. The ritual definition of his field of observation, called a templum, while usual for auspication in daylight, was probably not performed for observations in the dark. Apart from traditional positive or negative signs, which permitted or forbade action, the magistrate himself could define signs that he would consider positive, probably auditive rather than visual signs. This possibility to make variations to the ritual underlined the authority of the individual actor without destroying the highly standardized procedure. Once the aural signs had been received (or lightning seen, which conveyed a strong prohibition), the spectio was finished, and the action the magistrate intended could be tackled.24 This divinatory system legitimized the use of power in a piecemeal fashion. Legitimacy was given on a daily basis only. A general, who had taken the auspices 19 20 21 22 23 24

GORDON 2007, 128. Cf. OTTO 2011. For all factual information see LINDERSKI 1986; VAAHTERA 2001; BELAYCHE et al. 2005. Gell. 16.4.4; RÜPKE 1990, 69. E.g. Cic. leg. 2.20. VAAHTERA 2001, 115–6 stresses the aural nature of these signs.

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(after his election as a magistrate) upon entering office, on the day of his departure from Rome, upon crossing rivers, and on many other occasions, also had to repeat the procedure on the morning he proposed to fight a battle. The procedure could be enormously simplified. Generals in the field did not get up after midnight to watch for signs, but had chickens carried around in cages. To take the auspices before battle, generals ordered the chicken keeper (pullarius) to feed them and observe how they ate and whether their eating was greedy, which was the best sign.25 The limitations of time and the necessity of renewed legitimation remained. Stories about generals’ neglect of the auspices resulting in military catastrophes – Flamininus’ defeat at the Lake Trasimene, for example26 – drove home the same point. Coins bearing augural symbols, in particular the augural crozier (lituus), also stressed the importance of augural procedure by representing the ritual far beyond the place of augury. The validity of the system was strengthened by an awkward form of individual appropriation. The obnuntiatio, the observation and announcement of adverse signs, was possible. Such augural protests were often debated and even neglected, but the system worked and even intensified into the very late republic.27 Claims easily conflicted. Because the rituals and their outcomes were not visible, utterances counted, not verifiable observations. Auspicy ritual thus offered the possibility to make mistakes which could be identified by others, especially augurs. Adverse signs could be announced by any magistrate until the comitia were convened (obnuntiare), leading directly to the adjourning of proceedings. Once the assembly was in progress, only augurs had a further right of interruption and adjournment (a point which is, however, debated in recent scholarship). From what we know, this circumstance applied in the late republic exclusively to elections; legislating assemblies were not interrupted, even if signs were announced to the magistrate. The frequent disregard of the announcement of adverse signs in processes of lawgiving might be interpreted within the framework of different types of negotiations, again drawing on models of international relationships. Thus, the quotation of prohibiting signs could be regarded as a form of opting out of decisional processes. By such procedures, consent and dissent among the relevant figures was measured and articulated in a very precise way. Religious legitimizing went further. Public votes involved the drawing of lots in certain stages, that is divine intervention by lot to determine the sequence of the voting units. Other public actions relied on the lot, for example the assignment of provinces to magistrates and promagistrates.28 It is obvious to us, and it was obvious to the Romans, that many procedures such as casting lots were open to manipulation, and accusations of manipulation were sure to spark controversy and 25 26 27 28

The tripudium solistimum, e.g. Liv. 10.40.4. Cic. div. 1.77. LINDERSKI 1995b; LIBERO 1992. STEWART 1998; cf. LINDERSKI 1995a, 467; contra ROSENSTEIN 1995.


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debate. Thus, their functioning could not be guaranteed by technical procedures but only by the undeniable involvement of the gods, who were even more aware of fictitious signs than contemporary humans. The gods alone were able to ensure effective legitimizing by such procedures. To be able to do so, they had to be intensely present, to be talked about, and represented by frequent ritual. Involving the gods in public matters was not restricted to magistrates. The gods could send signa (signs) to anybody. Private omina (omens) were taken seriously even by public institutions, for example in the context of military conscriptions as demonstrated before. A more difficult problem was presented by the private observation of signs that might be of public importance. Romans were taught how such a conflict ought to be resolved in the Roman way – not by a myth but by an episode from the republic’s early history preserved by Livy. 29 The gods warned of a ritual fault in the Roman games by sending a dream to an ordinary citizen, Titus Latinius. His reluctance to risk being held up to ridicule by telling the magistrate about his dream caused the gods to send a massive warning to do so, the death of his son within a few days. However, only after another dream and another warning in form of a sickness that befell Latinius himself did he venture to approach the consul. The moral dimension of the ritual communication was clearly driven home in such a narrative. Of course, Latinius’ message was taken seriously. The message to the senate was verified by a miracle, and the games were splendidly repeated (2.37.1). Such a repetition to expiate ritual faults was called instauratio. Again, rituals that were imagined as stereotyped, thus claiming to be fully traditional, were at the same time defined by situations, were validated by communication about rituals. The Romans dealt with the broad spectrum of obtrusive, oblative signs related to public life under the heading of prodigia (prodigies).30 These prodigies could be observed by anyone but had to be reported to a magistrate who would present them to the senate for discussion. The senate either made its decision directly or brought the priesthoods in for interpretation and recommendation concerning expiation. Private initiative, hence, caused senatorial reaction. Within the diffused religious authority of the Roman aristocracy the senate held a central place and a position of control. The procedure was frequent and routine. But again, variants, ensuring the situational appropriation of the ritual, were allowed. For very special or new cases, the Sibylline books, a collection of oracles written in Greek, were consulted. For that purpose a small commission of two men was set up, the duoviri sacris faciundis, who slowly evolved into a priesthood second only to augurs and pontiffs. The decemviri chose a fitting oracle and interpreted it in response to a prodigium. Their hallmark was the introduction of new cults, gods, and rituals from the Greek world. Thus, they formed an element of organized innovation 29 Livy 2.36.1–8. The story is retold in central position by Valerius Maximus (1.7.4). 30 Important observations have been made by BLOCH 1963; ENGELS 2005; GLADIGOW 1979; KAPPIUS 1772; LUTERBACHER 1967; MACBAIN 1982; ROSENBERGER 1998, 2005; RÜPKE 1993.

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within the senatorial system. Occasionally the senate called upon haruspices, Etruscan specialists in divination, particularly extispicy, the examination of the entrails of sacrificial victims. Thus when the senate ordered it, foreign wisdom, individual experts from outside, could confer legitimacy. * Divination with its permanent necessity to adapt to specific situations demonstrates more clearly than many other types of rituals the flexibility of the interplay of tradition and appropriation, of institution and individual.

Bibliography ANNUS, Amar, Divination and interpretation of signs in the ancient world, Oriental institute seminars 6, Chicago 2010. BEARD, Mary, “Cicero and Divination: The Formation of a Latin Discourse”, in: JRS 76 (1986) 33–46. BELAYCHE, Nicole et al., “Divination romaine”, in: ThesCRA 3 (2005) 79–104. BELL, Catherine, Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, New York 1992. BERCHMAN, Robert M., Mediators of the Divine: Horizons of Prophecy, Divination, Dreams and Theurgy in Mediterrtranean Antiquity, South Florida Studies in the History of Judaism 163, Atlanta 1998. BLOCH, Raymond, Les prodiges dans l'antiquité classique (Grèce, Étrurie et Rome), Paris 1963. BURKERT, Walter, Kulte des Altertums: Biologische Grundlagen der Religion, München 1998. BURKERT, Walter, "Signs, Commands, and Knowledge: Ancient Divination between Enigma and Epiphany", in: JOHNSTON, Sarah I./STRUCK, Peter T. (ed.), Mantikê: Studies in Ancient Divination, Leiden 2005, 29–49. BURKERT, Walter, Kleine Schriften 5 Mythica, Ritualia, Religiosa 2. Hypomnemata Supplement 2, Göttingen 2011. CAQUOT, André/LEIBOVICI, Marcel (ed.), La divination, Paris 1968a. CAQUOT, André/LEIBOVICI, Marcel (ed.), La divination. Paris 1968b. CERTEAU, Michel de, Arts de faire, Paris 2007. CRYER, Frederick H., Divination in Ancient Israel and its Near Eastern Environment: A SocioHistorical Investigation, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Suppl. 142, Sheffield 1994. DENYER, Nicholas, “The Case Against Divination: An Examination of Cicero's de divinatione”, in: Papers of the Cambridge Philological Association 31 (1985) 1–10. ELM VON DER OSTEN, Dorothee, “Die Inszenierung des Betruges und seiner Entlarvung: Divination und ihre Kritiker in Lukians Schrift 'Alexandros oder der Lügenprophet'“, in: ELM VON DER OSTEN, Dorothee/RÜPKE, Jörg/WALDNER, Katharina (ed.), Texte als Medium und Reflexion von Religion im römischen Reich, Stuttgart 2006, 141–157. ENGELS, David, “Eo anno multa prodigia facta sunt: Das Jahr 218 als Wendepunkt des römischen Vorzeichenwesens“, in: Hogrebe, Wolfram (ed.), Mantik: Profile prognostischen Wissens in Wissenschaft und Kultur, Würzburg 2005, 151–166. FÜSSEL, Marian, “Die Kunst der Schwachen: Zum Begriff der 'Aneignung' in der Geschichtswissenschaft“, in: Sozial.Geschichte 21 (3) (2006) 7–28.


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GLADIGOW, Burkhard, “Konkrete Angst und offene Furcht: Am Beispiel des Prodigienwesen in Rom“, in: Angst und Gewalt: Ihre Präsenz und ihre Bewältigung in den Religionen, Düsseldorf 1979, 61–77. GLADIGOW, Burkhard, "Divination", in: HrwG (1990) 226–228. GORDON, Richard, "The Coherence of Magical-Herbal an Analogous Recipes", in: MHNH 7 (2007) 115–146. HUMPHREY, Caroline/LAIDLAW, James, The Archetypal Actions of Ritual: A Theory of Ritual Illustrated by the Jain Rite of Worship, Oxford 1994. JAILLARD, Dominique/WALDNER, Katharina, “La divination dans l'antiquité: une enquête comparatiste”, in: Cahiers Glotz 16 (2005) 213–215. JOHNSTON, Sarah Iles/STRUCK, Peter T. (ed.), Mantikê: Studies in Ancient Divination. Religions in the Graeco-Roman World 155, Leiden 2005. KAPPIUS, Ioannes (ed.), Iulii Obsquentis quae supersunt ex libro de prodigiis Cum animadversionibus Ioannis Schefferi et Francisci Ovendorpii. Acc. supplementa Conradi Lycosthenis curante, Curia Reguitiana 1772. KREINATH, Jens, “Semiotics”, in: KREINATH, Jens/SNOECK, J.A.M./STAUSBERG, Michael (ed.), Theorizing Rituals: Issues, Topices, Approaches, Concepts. Numen book series 114,1, Leiden 2006, 429–470. KROSTENKO, Brian A., “Beyond (Dis)belief: Rhetorical Form and Religious Symbol in Cicero's de Divinatione”, in: Transactions and proceedings of the American Philological Association 130 (2000) 353–391. LAWSON, Thomas E., “Cognition”, in: KREINATH, Jens/SNOECK, J.A.M./STAUSBERG, Michael (ed.), Theorizing Rituals: Issues, Topices, Approaches, Concepts. Numen book series 114,1, Leiden 2006, 307–320. LIBERO, Loretana de, Obstruktion: Politische Praktiken im Senat und in der Volksversammlung der ausgehenden römischen Republik (70–49 v. Chr.). Hermes Einzelschriften 59, Stuttgart 1992. LINDERSKI, Jerzy, “The Augural Law“, in: ANRW II.16,3 (1986) 2146–2312. LINDERSKI, Jerzy, “Cicero and Roman Divination”, in: Linderski, Jerzy (ed.), Roman Questions, Stuttgart (1995a) 458–484. LINDERSKI, Jerzy, “Römischer Staat und Götterzeichen: Zum Problem der obnuntiatio“, in: Linderski, Jerzy (ed.), Roman Questions, Stuttgart 1995b: 309–322. LLOYD, Geoffrey, “Divination: traditions and controversies, Chinese and Greek", in: Divination et rationalite en Chine ancienne. Saint-Denis 1999, 155–165. LUTERBACHER, Franz, Der Prodigienglaube und Prodigienstil der Römer: Eine historischphilologische Abhandlung, Darmstadt 1967. MACBAIN, Bruce, Prodigy and Expiation: A Study in Religion and Politics in Republican Rome. Collection Latomus 177, Bruxelles 1982. MAUSS, Marcel, “Essai sur le don”, in: Année sociologique ns 1 (1925) 30–186. NORTH, John, “Diviners and Divination at Rome", in: BEARD, Mary/NORTH, John (ed.), Pagan Priests: Religion and Power in the Ancient World, London 1990, 51–71. OTTO, Bernd-Christian, Magie: Rezeptions- und diskursgeschichtliche Analysen von der Antike bis zur Neuzeit. Religionsgeschichtliche Versuche und Vorarbeiten 57, Berlin 2011. PEEK, Philip M., African Divination Systems: Ways of Knowing, African systems of thought Bloomington & Indianapolis 1991. RAPPAPORT, Roy A., Ritual and Religion in the Making of Humanity, Cambridge 1999. ROSENBERGER, Veit, Gezähmte Götter: Das Prodigienwesen der römischen Republik, HABES 27, Stuttgart 1998. ROSENBERGER, Veit, “Prodigien aus Italien: geograophische Verteilung und religiöse Kommunikation“, in: Cahiers Glotz 16 (2005) 235–257. ROSENSTEIN, Nathan, “'Allotment …'“, in: American Journal of Philology 116 (1995) 43–75. RÜPKE, Jörg, Domi militiae: Die religiöse Konstruktion des Krieges in Rom, Stuttgart 1990. RÜPKE, Jörg, “Livius, Priesternamen und die annales maximi“, in: Klio 74 (1993) 155–179.

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RÜPKE, Jörg, “Divination et décisions politiques dans la République romaine“, in: Cahiers Glotz 16 (2005) 217–233. RÜPKE, Jörg, Religion of the Romans, Cambridge 2007. SHAW, Rosalind, “The Politician and the Divinder: Divination and the Consumption of Power in Sierra Leone”, in: Journal of religion in Africa 26;1 (1996) 30–55. SMITH, Richard J., Fortune-tellers and Philosophers: Divination in Traditional Chinese Society, Boulder 1991. STEWART, Roberta, Public Office in Early Rome: Ritual Procedure and Political Practice, Ann Arbor 1998. TAMBIAH, Stanley J., Culture, Thought, and Social Action: An Anthropological Perspective, Cambridge, MA 1985. TURNER, Victor, The Drums of Affliction: A Study of Religious Processes Among the Ndembu of Zambia, Oxford 1968. TURNER, Victor, Revelation and Divination in Ndembu Ritual, Ithaca 1975. VAAHTERA, Jyri, Roman Augural Lore in Greek Historiography: A Study of the Theory and Terminology, Historia-Einzelschriften 156, Stuttgart 2001. VERNANT, Jean-Pierre, Divination et rationalité, Paris 1974.


‘... a bounded, unique, more or less integrated motivational and cognitive universe, a dynamic centre of awareness, emotion, judgment, and action organized into a distinctive whole and set contrastively both against other such wholes and against its social and natural background’1

‘Let’s face it. We’re undone by each other. And if we’re not, we’re missing something.’2

Introduction Anthropologists have observed that in the modern West, ‘the “self” is conceived of as more autonomous from other people and outside influences… than in other times and places.’3 The quotation from Clifford Geertz’s work, set at the beginning of this chapter, neatly summarises a number of characteristics of that understanding of the autonomous self, and the perception of each individual as being cognitively integrated and organised. As Geertz goes on to observe, ‘however incorrigible it may seem to us, [this is] a rather peculiar idea within the context of the world’s cultures’.4 This paper sets out to reflect on the usefulness, or otherwise, of that ‘peculiar idea’ in the context of the remit of this conference – the exploration of ‘religious individualisation within the medium of religion’.5 Specifically, it will examine the significance of this conception of the self, among others, for our understanding of the ritual practice of oracular consultation in ancient Greece, focusing primarily on the evidence of the question tablets from the sanctuary at Dodona, augmented by related literary material for oracular consultation. As I have argued elsewhere, the material from Dodona offers insights into the social construction of risk in ancient Greek culture.6 1 2 3 4 5


GEERTZ 1983, 59. BUTLER 2003, 13. STRAUSS/QUINN 1997, 28. GEERTZ 1983, 59. The conference flyer describes how the Erfurt working group examines the ‘presence and extent of individual scope for religious action, the resulting embodiment of religious traditions and religious reflections on individuality prior to and external to occidental modernity.’ EIDINOW 2007.


Esther Eidinow

This paper builds on that work to consider how those who consulted the Oracle conceptualised themselves as individuals. It argues, first, that it is important to be aware of the implicit model that we bring to this exploration, and then asks whether and how other models of the self, both modern and ancient, may offer useful challenges or nuances. Among these alternatives are relational models of the self, and this paper suggests that for an ancient Greek, a relational model of the self included a sense of interdependence not only with other mortals, but also with supernatural forces. This can be seen most clearly, and perhaps most puzzlingly, in the ancient Greek conception of an individual’s fate, luck and fortune, in which mortal and divine were inextricably linked. This, in turn, provides a crucial aspect of the conceptual context of oracular consultation – and for understanding the sense of self that the evidence for this activity suggests. The paper begins with a very brief overview of some of the ways in which conceptions of the self have developed in modern Western thought – and then introduces some alternatives to those conceptions, ancient and modern. 1. Constructions of the Individual 1.1 Modern Constructions: Risk and Reflexivity There is, of course, a multiplicity of theories about the self in modern sociological theory, and it is impossible to cover them all here: my intention is to stimulate debate and further work, rather than to be comprehensive. What follows is a necessarily partial sketch of a small selection of theorists that I hope will help to make explicit some of our current understandings of the nature of the self, and thus illustrate the argument of this paper most clearly. One of the most influential modern theories of the self has emerged from the work of Antony Giddens, whose work on the individual in a context of risk is particularly relevant to the considerations of this paper. Giddens himself picks out the key elements of the self by analysing a work of self-help: Self-Therapy: a guide to becoming your own therapist by Janette Rainwater.7 There he finds evidence for the conception of the self as a self-making project – dominated by the day-to-day plethora of choices that confront each person in the ‘post-traditional social universe’.8 Although in some ways this reinforces the ideas expressed in Geertz’s quotation above, it adds important nuances. Indeed, far from saying that the self is conceived of as more distant from outside influences, Giddens focuses on the relationship between the self and social structure: the integrated self emerges as a conscious response to the events and social forces with which people must constantly interact. Individuals construct a coherent self-identity, engaged in a 7 8

RAINWATER 1989; analysed in GIDDENS, 1991, ch. 3. GIDDENS 1991, 81.

Oracular Consultation, Fate, and the Concept of the Individual


constant process of monitoring and negotiating lifestyle choices, and this ‘reflexive project of the self’ is key to Giddens’s analysis.9 This dynamic, ongoing process emerges from our modern context, where the breakdown of tradition results in a ‘pluralisation of contexts of actions and the diversity of “authorities”’.10 Self-identity is not to be found in our body or our traits, our behaviour or the reactions of others.11 Rather it is ‘the self as reflexively understood by the person in terms of her or his biography’: identity is located in ‘the capacity to keep a particular narrative going.’12 This process of creating the self is one that encompasses a comprehensive chronology. It involves not only our particular actions in the present, but also our interpretation of past and future events. The idea of strategic life-planning becomes particularly important – and individuals must learn to ‘colonise the future’, that is, to exercise control over what is to come. They do this in a world that is leaving behind traditional ways of thought and action, and comprises instead a realm of (constantly) new possibilities – and new fears. As a result, people develop an increasing awareness of risks in every aspect of their lives – from local to global, from individual to institutional’. 13 As they seek opportunities for themselves, as they strive to achieve ‘self-actualisation’, they must learn to identify and assess these risks.14 Unsurprisingly, this emerging concept of the self, and the need for self-actualisation and self-fulfilment in a changing context also shapes the nature of relationships, which transform intimacy: ‘the formation of personal and erotic ties’ are ‘guided by the mutuality of self-disclosure.’15 Giddens draws attention to what 9 10 11 12 13

GIDDENS 1991, 5. GIDDENS 1991, 5&7. GIDDENS 1991, 53–54. GIDDENS 1991, 53, 54; italics in original. GIDDENS 1991, 85, and see p. 111 for a useful concise description of the colonization of the future. 14 BECK 1994a. Many of the ideas that GIDDENS proposes are close to the ‘individualisation theory’ of Ulrich Beck, whose work also places emphasis on risk. He argues (14) that ‘Individualisation is a compulsion… for the manufacture, self-design and self-staging of not just one’s own biography but also its commitments and networks as preferences and life phases change, but, of course, under the overall conditions and models of the welfare state, such as the educational system (acquiring certificates) the labour market, labour and social law, the housing market and so on.’ All of these choices bring risks–but they also encourage (20) ‘an emigration to new niches of activity and identity’. However, in a number of ways Beck’s approach to modernity and its risks is importantly different from that of Giddens: Beck’s ‘reflexivity’ is the ‘autonomous, undesired and unseen, transition from industrial to risk society’, and his risk society is one in which ‘the threats produced so far on the path of industrial society begin to predominate’ (see BECK 1994a, 6). Unlike Giddens, he argues that ‘it is not knowledge, but rather non-knowledge which is the medium of “reflexive” modernization’ (Beck 1994b, 175) and opens up the possibility that it may not result in ‘new and better possibilities for action’ (ibid., 177) but rather unconscious self-endangerment, and even self-dissolution. See also BRYANT/JARY 2001, 3–42, esp. 28. 15 GIDDENS 1990, 124.


Esther Eidinow

he calls the ‘pure relationship’, which focuses on intimacy, achieved through the development of mutual trust that cannot be taken for granted, must be worked at, needs to be won.16 Its acquisition turns on communication, equal emotional give and take, and the notion of ‘confluent love’, that is, a love that is contingent on reciprocal sexual pleasure, in a society in which most people have ‘the chance to become sexually accomplished.’17 This kind of relationship is sought only for what it brings those involved in it. Thus reflexive questioning lies at its core: those involved are looking for ‘the rewards the relationship delivers’ that will aid the reflexive project of the self.18 This notion of the coherent self has been criticised for its emphasis on individual self-mastery, and in particular for overlooking the part played by what we might call more personal aspects of the individual: for example, daily interactions with others, memory of past experiences, the sub-conscious shaping of our psyche.19 The conception of self that Giddens depicts is, for some, overrationalized and oversocialized.20 For example, the notion that intimate relationships are about self-actualisation and explicit communication has been criticised for ignoring the ‘sweaty, heaving and breathless bodies, animalistic urges and sexual fluids which might colonize the mind and interfere, however temporarily, with the reflexive and democratic processes of talk work central to “confluent love”’.21 Other attempts to analyse or describe the modern Western conception of the self draw attention to aspects not included in Giddens’s approach. For example, some theorists focus on the multiplicity of identities that, they argue, we create in different situations. Perhaps most famously, Erving Goffman depicted the self-ascharacter, or rather characters, ‘staged’ in different social situations. 22 Goffman’s theory alludes to a central self, behind the multiple identities, who makes the particular choices about self-presentation and who is, crucially, aware of the risks involved in these social performances: ‘given to having fantasies and dreams, some that pleasurably unfold a triumphant performance, others full of anxiety and dread that nervously deal with vital discreditings in a public front region’ 23 The concept of the self here is famously puzzling, with some arguing that the self is reduced simply to ‘role-playing performances’ and others that it either portrays the individual’s struggle against the forces of society, or, more recently, evokes the postmodern state.24 However, what Goffman’s approach does emphasise is a 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

GIDDENS 1991, 97. GIDDENS 1992, 61 and 63. GIDDENS 1991, 91. See ELLIOTT 2008, 50–52; CRAIB 2011, 124–125. SHILLING/MELLOR 2001, 130–146, formulation from 137, drawing on CRAIB 1992. SHILLING/MELLOR 2001, 138. GOFFMAN 1959, 252–255. GOFFMAN 1959, 253. Role-playing: e.g., MACINTYRE 1969. For discussion of views of Goffman, see BRANAMAN 2001, 100–101.

Oracular Consultation, Fate, and the Concept of the Individual


crucial interdependence between individuals, that is, between the self and those before whom it performs.25 A similar focus is found in Harrison White’s work, which also draws attention to the ways in which different social interactions forge individuals, which he describes as ‘bundles of identities’, constantly created as we move between contexts and relations.26 He distinguishes between ‘identity’, which he defines as ‘any source of action, any entity to which observers can attribute meaning not explicable from biophysical regularities’ and ‘our everyday notion of the self, which takes for granted consciousness and integration, and presupposes personality’.27 Whereas Goffman emphasises the ways in which role-players support each other in playing their particular role and maintaining their particular identity, White’s analysis turns on the struggle for control-both between people and within people – as we move between different social settings. 28 He describes four particular senses or dynamics of identity, which describe the different ways in which an individual relates to himself and others, and he argues that it is the role of narrative to weave these different senses of identity together.29 Both Goffman and White explore notions of interdependence in their approaches to the development and presentation of the self. This aspect is even more explicit in some approaches – and we turn to those next. 1. 2 Modern Constructions: Dividuality and Dispossession A very different conception of the self, which contrasts markedly with the more bounded ideas prevalent in modern Western societies can be found, for example, in societies in the Pacific Islands.30 Marilyn Strathern, drawing on her fieldwork in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, uses the idea of the ‘dividual’ rather than the ‘individual’ to describe the self-conception of Melanesians. She argues that the people she studied conceive of both their body and their self as comprising a ‘microcosm of relations’.31 Turning to Micronesia, Catherine Lutz has argued somewhat similarly for the idea that Ifaluk islanders conceive of themselves ‘only secondarily, and in a limited way’ as autonomous individuals. 32 This seems to provide a strong contrast with the Western ideology of personhood – or at least with the aspects that receive most emphasis in Western culture. As others have 25 26 27 28 29 30 31

See discussion SRINIVASAN 1990, 141–162. WHITE 2008, 2. WHITE 2008, 2–3. GOFFMAN 1959, 77 and WHITE 2008, 2–3. WHITE 2008, 10. LINDSTROM 1999, 195–207. STRATHERN 1988, 131. See LIPUMA 1998, on 58–59 he provides a clear set of contrasting characteristics of ‘Western and Melanesian Personhood’ – the contrast is between ‘the West’s own self-understanding, which exists both ideologically and normatively…and an account of the foregrounded elements of peronhood in traditional, nonencompassed Melanesia’. 32 LUTZ 1988, 81.


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argued, constructing a strong opposition between cultures overlooks the ways in which both individual and dividual characteristics of personhood exist and emerge in different cultures, so Edward LiPuma has suggested: ‘It would seem rather that persons emerge precisely from that tension between dividual and individual aspects/relations.’33 The Western person is also, in reality, interdependent, although these characteristics may not be recognised or valued. 34 As the quotation at the beginning of the chapter illustrates, Judith Butler has explored the notion of the dividuated self in her examination of ‘our vulnerability to loss and the task of mourning that follows’.35 Our current understanding of the bounded conception of self may be essential to ensure our legal status, but is insufficient if we want to describe ‘what we are about’.36 She argues instead that we are ‘constituted by our relations’ – and beyond this, that, in turn, our relationality with others creates a primary vulnerability, an exposure to others, which places us at risk of being ‘dispossessed’.37 She roots this vulnerability in our physical selves, arguing that it develops from ‘bodily life’ – not only the more obvious potential dangers of gaze, touch and violence that a body creates, but ways in which the body is forged in the ‘crucible of social life’.38 This process of formation means that the self includes ‘the enigmatic traces of others’, creating a foreignness that means an individual is never fully in control or even in full knowledge of her self. Butler’s work is a manifesto on the topic, arguing that recognizing this relational conception of self, arising from and in the practice of mourning, may lead to an ethics of nonviolence, and a new humanized approach to community and international relations, and politics. For the purposes of this paper, her argument turns our attention to a number of important themes about the nature and role of conceptions of the self, including their political and ethical significance. If we conceive of the individual as inherently interconnected with others, then this evokes an individual whose own constitution creates inescapable affiliations and vulnerabilities, because of the nature of the physical and social self. In this section I have tried to give a very brief overview of different conceptions of the self, drawing attention to the possibility of a conception that emphasises relationality and interdependence. In what follows, I will raise the possibility that an ancient Greek conception of the self as interdependent may be traced in the evidence for the behaviour of individuals generally in episodes of deliberation and decision making, and specifically in their approach to, and expectations of, oracular sanctuaries.

33 34 35 36 37 38

LIPUMA 1998, 56–61, and quotation 57 (his italics). LIPUMA 1998, 60–61. BUTLER 2003, 9. BUTLER 2003, 15. BUTLER 2003, 14. BUTLER 2003, 15.

Oracular Consultation, Fate, and the Concept of the Individual


1.3 Ancient Constructions: Divided Deliberations When we turn to evidence for the representation of the individual in ancient Greek literature, we find that the idea of the dividuated self appears explicitly with regard to processes of deliberation, and also implicitly with regard to beliefs about fate. First, the explicit: in descriptions of processes of individual deliberation we see not so much a relational self, at least at first sight, but rather a complex ‘inner’ self. Of the multitude of words used to describe the organs responsible for/the location of psychological processes, the thymos in particular appears to participate, almost as a separate entity, in the deliberations of an individual. In the Homeric epics it appears involved before, during and after processes of deliberation. For example, in the Odyssey, Athena, in disguise, debates with Telemachus about the future of Odysseus’ house, and says of Penelope (l.275–1.276) ‘if her thymos urges her to be married, let her return to the great hall of her mighty father’; Alcinous (8.27) begins a speech to the Phaeacians saying ‘what his thymos bids’; in the cave of the Cyclops Odysseus’ initial impulse to escape is checked by heteros thymos (9.302) – we might translate this as ‘a second thought’.39 We often find an individual debating kata thymon, and, when this process is elaborated, it appears to mean a debate with one’s thymos: for example, we find Odysseus, isolated in battle, speaking to his proud thymos about what is to become of him (Iliad 11.403), and at the end of his considerations, asking why his thymos is arguing with him in this way (Iliad 11.407); the process is described (l.411) as him debating kata phrena kai kata thymon. The same sequence is used to describe a number of deliberations, usually in the heat of battle. 40 This is not to argue that Homeric man was fragmented, but to observe how, in situations that involve making a decision, we see the complexity of the deliberative process depicted by means of these descriptions of the thymos, and its role in presenting convincing arguments and/or needing to be persuaded.41 In his analysis of the nature of the soul, Jan Bremmer suggests that the thymos may indicate the notion of an ancient Greek conception of the ‘ego soul’, that is, an aspect or version of the soul that refers to individual living consciousness – their inner life.42 It may be that this divided inner self has its roots in an 39 In contrast, in the underworld (Od. 11. 105) Tiresias instructs him to restrain his thymos and that of his companions. 40 Menelaos’ deliberations (Iiad 17.90, 97, 17.107); Agenor (Iiad 21.552, 562, without the final summary); Hector (Iiad 22.98, 22.122, again the summary of his thought process does not include mention of his thymos); and finally Achilles (Iiad 22.385). 41 See in particular WILLIAMS 1993, ch.2 especially his arguments against Bruno SNELL (1975) and the idea that Homeric man lacked a complete conception of the self. 42 BREMMER 1983. He draws the term ‘ego soul’ from the work of Ernst Arbman on Vedic soul belief in India. Arbman identified body souls (which give the body life and consciousness) and free souls (‘an unencumbered soul representing the individual personality’). The ego soul is a subdivision of the body soul, along with the life soul (usually identified with the breath) it represents an individual’s inner life; for this description, quotation and more detail, see


Esther Eidinow

external relationality: Christopher Gill notes the depiction in archaic and classical Greek thought of the inner person as divided – and he has explored how this fits into a larger conception of the person, which combines an objective psychological standpoint with a participant and objectivist ethical standpoint.43 Instead of our more modern conception of the person, which emphasises first-personal experience or subjective criteria as offering a privileged locus of knowledge or autonomous judgment, the ‘objective-participant’ conception highlights the idea of participation in relationships as ‘central to one’s selfhood or personality’, and emphasises a third-personal point of view.44 Gill has set out this approach in two key volumes: in the first, he shows how the objective-participant model can be illustrated with examples from Homeric epic and Attic tragedy, as well as fourth-century philosophical writing; the second follows the development of conceptions of selfhood and personality into Hellenistic philosophical thought. In both volumes, we see the essential role played by oral dialogue in Greek culture, as Gill himself emphasises. 45 Thus, in Homeric epic and Attic tragedy and philosophical writing of the fourth century we find characters working out what is right, what they should do, or what is knowledge, using shared enquiry and debate.’46 The fact that sometimes these characters are alone, and experiencing an internal debate between different parts of their psyche, shows that the process of deliberation and decision-making could be depicted as occurring as a dialogue or even a discussion – even when the process took place for a lone individual. Turning to more implicit expressions of personhood, we find an essential interconnection, even integration, between mortal and supernatural is a key part of the ancient Greek ‘folk model’ of fate, luck and fortune.47 Just as an individual’s mind and body were perceived as open to being shaped by supernatural forces, in the same way, their life course was understood as being a result of interwoven mortal and supernatural elements. We see this in the way in which fate and character are seemingly identified across a range of sources: implicitly, for example, in Herodotus’s account of the behaviour and bad ending of Polykrates – whose character drives him on towards his fated end; 48 to Thucydides’ descriptions, in his own voice and those of the fighting men he gives voice to, of BREMMER 1983, 9. 43 GILL 2006, 341. 44 GILL 2006, 340, and GILL 1996. A full overview of the characteristics of these two conceptions is provided in the latter volume, 11. In particular, he examines (405) how modern ideas of personhood have been fundamentally shaped by the Cartesian conception of the self as a fundamentally integrated subject – whether one takes that narrowly, as indicating a consciousness of oneself, or more broadly, as informing one’s larger understanding of, and ethical judgment about, the world. 45 GILL 1996, 16 and GILL 2006, 341. 46 GILL 2006, 403. 47 EIDINOW 2011. 48 Herodotus 3.142.3, with Eidinow 2011, 93–116.

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the nature of tyche;49 to the debate between Demosthenes and Aeschines about the nature of a single man’s tyche and the threat it may pose to the city.50 In these examples we see how one’s fate was perceived as being both in one’s own hands, and yet, at the same time, to be granted by supernatural powers. For the ancient Greeks, the problem of individual free will did not arise because each individual’s choices about how to act were fundamentally inseparable from supernatural influence: as Heraclitus observes ‘a man’s character is his daimon’.51 There is other evidence, too, that, at the divine level, there was further deliberation to be made. As numerous examples suggest, the supernatural hierarchy of fate was far from straightforward. We see this in the Homeric epics, in which the relationship between Zeus, the others gods, and Moira, is never conclusively delineated.52 Herodotus’s Histories provides examples that are explicitly related to oracular consultation. In Croesus’ discussion with Apollo, the god explains both how Croesus’ life-course was fixed before his birth, and how limited was his opportunity for intercession (with the Fates).53 In the second oracle given to the Athenians as they consult about the Persian invasion, the text appears to suggest that Athene had attempted to intercede (with Zeus) on their behalf.54 This literary conception of the self-in-deliberation, and the way in which it involved the divine and other supernatural forces, may in turn shed light on the process of oracular consultation. 2. Constructions of Oracular Consultation 2.1 Contests and Consensus In a recent volume exploring ancient divination, Walter Burkert has described the process of oracular consultation as evolving into ‘a contest of intelligence’ between Oracle and consultant(s). As the ambiguity of oracular responses increased, so the debates about their meaning became more ingenious.55 This provides a neat example of the way in which modern analysis of the role of Oracles in the ancient world has tended to depend, implicitly, on the ideological model of individual personhood found in modern Western culture. Based on that set of conceptions of the individual, modern academic approaches tend to view Oracle consultation as part of a project of self-realisation in which information is integrated into the decision-making processes of a fundamentally integrated and 49 For example Thucydides 6.17.1. Where Thucydides describes the fortunate character of Nicias’; for more examples, see discussion Eidinow 2011, 126 ff. 50 Aeschines (Against Ctesiphon) 3.157; Demosthenes (On the Crown) 18.252–75, with Eidinow 2011, 143 ff. 51 Heraclitus DK 22 B 119. 52 See discussion EIDINOW 2011, 32–35. 53 Herodotus 1.191.2. 54 Herodotus 7.141.3. 55 BURKERT 2005, 29–49; the quotation is from p. 39.


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autonomous individual. In Gill’s terms, we may describe this as being based on a subjective-individualist model of the self. In this conception, the individual and Oracle are set in opposition to each other: the Oracle has the information needed, which must be extracted and then processed by the person.56 Burkert gives as the best-known case of the evolving contest: he describes the oracle from Delphi to the Athenians concerning the ‘wooden walls’ to which I have already alluded. This particular example famously includes a debate about the meaning of an oracle. Burkert quotes Robert Parker ‘Apollo referred the problem back to [the Athenians]’ and the problem becomes the linguistic puzzle set by Apollo, ‘no longer a problem of tactics or politics, but of philology’.57 At first sight, this seems to emphasise a dialogic approach to oracular consultation, deliberation and decision-making. But in fact modern scholars have seen this episode in a very different light, as emphasising the role of the individual: notably, the Athenians as a group are unable to resolve the oracle; into the aporia steps Themistocles, who is shown ‘correctly interpreting the oracle, and confounding the chresmologues’.58 Indeed, this episode has been compared to the traditional competitions between diviners (e.g., Onomacritus and Lasus, or Trygaeus and Hierocles). However, the details of Herodotus’s account suggest that this is too stark a portrayal.59 As Evans has pointed out, scholars seldom draw attention to the limits of Themistocles’ correct interpretation: although he provides the insight 56 I have also argued with this model in mind, describing the oracle questions at Dodona as, to a certain extent, offering evidence for individuals seeking to further their personal goals – or at least to control the environment in which they are pursuing them, and the factors that might inhibit their achievement. My argument here does not deny that this is part of what an oracular consultation concerns, but seeks to explore the potential for nuancing our conception of the process taking place, the roles of those involved, and the model of personhood involved. 57 BURKERT 2005, 29–50, at p. 39, citing PARKER 2000, 80. 58 As BOWDEN 2005, 107 describes the scene. 59 As DILLERY 2005, who finds in this episode evidence for Themistocles in ‘the role of the clairvoyant religious expert who can see what other experts and authorities cannot.’ (212). But the argument he makes concerning the mantic character of Themistocles is confusing: for example, in support of his argument that Themistocles is portrayed as having mantic powers he cites Plutarch 10.1, and the description of Themistocles using ‘divine signs and oracles’. He omits to say that Plutarch’s description includes Themistocles arranging for a particular interpretation to be given by the priests of the sacred enclosure of the Acropolis. Rather than showing any mantic propensity, this seems to be another example of Themistocles’ manipulative, if not downright deceitful behaviour. Moreover, it conforms more to the description of a chresmologos than a mantis according to Dillery’s description (195) of how chresmologoi were being characterized in Aristophanic comedy: ‘When Trygaeus corrects his slave at the beginning of the scene and declares that Hierocles is no mantis but rather a chresmologos, I think we are meant to understand precisely an unscrupulous diviner who functions in ways that further the state’s interests, but who is in fact completely motivated by self-interest.’ It may be that there was a historiographical tradition that cast Themistocles as a diviner, as Dillery argues, but, equally, Plutarch’s anecdote (alongside Herodotus’ own stories of Themistocles’ later deceitful activities) suggests a competing tradition, in which Themistocles was, rather, characterized as both far-sighted and manipulative.

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that ‘divine Salamis’ foretells the defeat of the Persians, it is the chresmologues who come up with the idea that the ‘wooden wall’ is the fleet – although this leads them to the notion that the oracle foretells an Athenian defeat.60 Moreover, Herodotus does not state that Themistocles competed with the chresmologues and beat them: he uses a more circuitous phrase to argue that the Athenians perceived his interpretation as something literally ‘more to be chosen’: ταύτῃ Θεμιστοκλέος ἀποφαινομένου Ἀθηναῖοι ταῦτα σφίσι ἔγνωσαν αἱρετώτερα εἶναι μᾶλλον ἢ τὰ τῶν χρησμολόγων. So, in the end, their choice may not have been because they were convinced Themistocles was right, but based on other considerations – perhaps because it seemed a better political option to follow the politician than the chresmologues. There is a competitive element to this story, but the emphasis seems to be on the process of deliberation – and this includes the role of the Athenians, whose decision to accept Themistocles’ version appears to be as essential as the giving of it. This suggests that rather than seeing this as man vs. Oracle, another way to depict this episode would be in terms of a collective effort to work out the most appropriate action to be taken – and, importantly, this would encompass (not oppose) the role of the Pythia, who provides a second oracle. Such an approach to oracular consultation differs from that usually found in modern scholarship, which, as the quotation from Burkert’s description above vividly illustrates, tends to represent Oracles, especially Delphi, as knowing the answer, and yet (wilfully) concealing it.61 And yet, a growing understanding of the complex ways in which divination, in its diverse forms across different cultures, seems to function, suggests that the ambiguity of Delphic responses may have been neither a way of concealing the truth from consultants, nor simply a method by which oracular responses could be ‘controlled’.62 Rather, we need to find an explanation that encompasses the cognitive processes of deliberation involved in this engagement with the supernatural.63 In terms of the cognitive processes, 60 EVANS 1982, 24–29. 61 For example, PARKER 1985, 301–302. Although there is recognition of the need and opportunity for ‘semantic gaps’, which allow the client to insert his or her personal context into the answer provided in an oracular consultation (see JOHNSTON 2005, 14). 62 Controlling responses from Oracles: see PARKER 2000, 301–302 who discusses first how ‘forms of divination …can be controlled (unconsciously, of course) by the choice of questions so that a socially unacceptable verdict cannot emerge’. His comparison with Tiv divination suggests that divination is no more than ‘a distracting device’ (Parker quoting BOHANNON 1975, 166), but he then compares the riddling oracles of Delphi to Ifa divination, ‘forcing the client to construct by interpretation his own response.’ 63 For the idea that such discussion, sometimes with the Oracle, may have been a part of the process of divination (both the resolution of meaning, and emerging decision for action) see for example KLINGSHIRN 2005 and FRANKFURTER 2005. Both essays focus on the human side of this interaction, and emphasise this point with particular reference to written lot oracle books: KLINGSHIRN draws attention to the ways in which a diviner using the Sortes Sangallenses could not only offer advice, but also help to enact it, either making referrals to various other practitioners or providing spiritual support (110–11); Frankfurter’s essay explores the role of shrine professionals who interpreted dreams, and then draws particular attention to the role of the shrine attendants (at the shrine of St. Colluthus in late antique


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recent scholarship on ancient oracular consultation draws on research on divination in central and West African cultures that highlights the collaborative nature of the decision-making that takes place during an oracular consultation. It suggests that a process of discussion may be as important as (if not more important than), producing a right answer.64 Although this approach has largely focused on the use of lot oracles, it can be taken further. Following the model of divinatory processes in other cultures, both ancient and modern, it appears that the imagery and metaphor of, for example, Delphic pronouncements may have drawn on shared cultural ideas and associations of meaning, and been used to help consultants negotiate a greater understanding of their problematic situation. 65 In terms of the cognitive process taking place, the perception of a relationship was inseparable from the mechanics of deliberation: those who consulted Oracles perceived themselves to be engaged in working out their circumstances in communion with supernatural forces. 2.2 Divinity and Divination Building on this idea, can we suggest that the collective effort of deliberation that comprised an oracular consultation should also, crucially, be considered to include the Oracle itself, and the supernatural response – or responses? Serial consultations clearly suggest oracular involvement in an ongoing process of deliberation. One of the most well-known is Xenophon’s consultation of Delphi – or rather Socrates’s suggested amendment to that consultation – in the Anabasis (3.1.6). Burkert talks of this as a ‘well-known trick’, a description that fits the idea that if a consultant wants a particular answer from the Oracle, in order to further his own agenda, then it is important to limit the responses the Oracle might make to his question. However, it is also possible to view it in another light, that is, as offering some indication of the expected process of decision-making, as a collaborative process. The process that Socrates seems to suggest – of involving an Oracle in a series of questions and answers – would promote greater scrutiny of the decisions that the consultant was contemplating; it seems likely that this was not an unknown practice, as we will see.66 In fact, it appears that it was possible to involve more than one supernatural interlocutor in such a process of deliberation. So, for example, in 388 BCE, according to Xenophon (Hell. 4.7.2), the Spartan Egypt) who would have used a Sortes book in ‘helping people to negotiate misfortune and uncertainty through this captivating, textual form of divine speech’ (248). 64 See PEEK 2000, 26 (also cited by KLINGSHIRN 2005, 99). 65 For example: BASCOM 1969; SHAUGHNESSY 2010, 61–76; MUTIA/MECALY 2011, 37–57. 66 We might also bear this anecdote in mind when analysing the ‘Wooden Walls’ oracle, and the apparent problem (often cited by scholars concerned with demonstrating that the consultation process described here is unrealistic) of presenting the Pythia with several questions. In this particular context, where the oracular response is unwelcome, we might compare the practise of the serial consultation of the entrails of sacrificed animals, see discussion NAIDEN 2013, 175–181.

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king Agesipolis when leading a campaign against Argos was offered a truce. He consults first Zeus at Olympia and then Apollo. He phrases his second question as follows: if ‘on this question of the truce Apollo held the same opinion as his father …’ This trope appears again in Plutarch’s account of how Agesilaus, before setting out for Asia to free the Greeks from Persian rule (c. 396/5 BCE), consulted Dodona and then, on the instruction of the ephors, also consulted Delphi.67 Indeed, in this context, the story of Lysander’s attempts to bribe, in turn, Delphi, Dodona and Ammon, could be viewed as the negative version of a familiar theme of multiple oracular consultations.68 Finally, turning from literary to epigraphic evidence, we find indications of an oracular consultation that involved serial oracles in a question tablet from Dodona. It appears, the consultant, Archephon, had been to a sanctuary of Apollo, before visiting this Oracle of Zeus.69 Ώ Ζεῦ καὶ Θέμι καὶ Διώνα Νάϊοι | Άρχεφῶν τὰν νᾶ | ἅν ἐναυπαγησατο, κελομένο το Άπόλλωνος, ἔχω κατὰ χώραν ̇ καὶ σωτηρία μοι ἔσσεται καὶ ἐμὶν καὶ τᾱι ναΐ, αἰκα καὶ τὰ χρέα ἀποδ(ώ)σω (να = Dorian form of ναῦν) O Zeus, and Themis and Dione Naios, Archephon built his ship according to Apollo’s order. I have it in its place. Will there be security for me and my ship if I repay my debt?

Archephon’s consultations of the two gods do not concern the same question (as with the examples above), but they do suggest that he employed an ongoing process of deliberation, in which he perceived himself to be closely engaging with supernatural powers. His question offers a very specific example of the perception, by the consultant, of ongoing involvement by the divine in his life and daily decisions. But, in fact, even the less explicit oracle tablets from Dodona suggest something similar about an ancient Greek individual’s approach to oracular consultation and his or her relationship with the gods. This, in turn, suggests a particular conception of the self. 2.3 Phrasing and Posing Gill argues that the participant-objective conception of the person means not only that a shared deliberation is looked for, but that it is explored on the basis of thirdperson principles: ‘the normal approach (displayed in the Platonic dialogues, for instance) is that of seeking through shared enquiry and debate to establish what should be universally recognised as common standards of knowledge of truth’70 67 Plut. Mor. 191B and 209A. It is possible that it indicates some kind of Spartan policy. 68 Diod. 14.13.3–8; Plut. Lys. 25. There are other such examples of multiple Oracle consultations-both literary and historical. See further, Eidinow “A ‘Market’ in Futures: Oracles and Competition”, in Press. 69 EIDINOW 2007, 113; dated to the first half of the third century by Dakaris (PAE 1967) and to the first half of the fourth century by LHÔTE 2006, 94. 70 GILL 2006, 403.


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Turning to the questions from Dodona we can see that this is the principle that characterises their formulation. Approximately 1400 lead tablets, dating from the sixth century to around the end of the second century BCE have been found at Dodona – each tablet inscribed with at least one question to the god(s). A number have been published, but many more remain unseen: Professor Anastasios-Ph. Christidis of Thessaloniki University was editing this material for publication, but died before he completed the work. He kindly allowed me to include in my research some of these unpublished tablets – for which I am indebted to him. I also include here, where relevant, his observations about material from the unpublished texts. By far the majority of questions posed at Dodona begin with the phrase ‘is it better and/or more good’. The phrasing of these questions has been widely noted, and, in general, commentators observe how such a question allows for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response, of the kind that could be supplied by a lot Oracle.71 However, there is another aspect of this phrasing we can note, which reveals something about the kind of decision-making process it was perceived to involve. A question formulated in this way is asking its recipient to make an objective judgment about the future potential of his possible action, and the use of comparatives highlights this aspect. The god is not asked simply to provide information, but to make a judgment. (It is crucially important that the phrasing does not make explicit the basis for the judgment to be made, and so leaves some cognitive room to create an explanation when events proceed in a way that may seem less than ‘better and more good’ to the mortal consultant.) These inquiries were frequently phrased in the third-person. Numerous reasons for this formulation can be suggested: simple lack of grammatical knowledge among consultants is one explanation, but the least plausible; more probable is the suggestion that it reveals a procedure in which a third party wrote down the consultant’s question; this would fit with the claim that many of these oracle questions originated far away, and were being supplied by an intermediary. 72 But we should take seriously the possibility that the third-person phrasing of the question reflects the attitude of the consultant: that, although he or she was the person writing the question, for him- or herself, the inquiry was set up in the text as if it was being made objectively about a third party.73 This would align the 71 See for example, PARKE 1985, 62, observes that it was a conventional formula and constructed so that it could be answered using some ‘mechanical means’, and in PARKE 1988, 7, he argues that this ‘traditional formula’ was used by those posing questions to Apolline shrines, and comments that rather than foretelling the future, this response was intended to communicate divine approval or disapproval. 72 FRANKFURTER 2005, 240 notes how the Oracle of Bes at Abydos received ‘as it were, mail in quiries’, citing Ammianus 19.3–4. 73 GRAF 2005. Not only at Dodona: many of the answers found among the texts related to the dice Oracles in south-western Anatolia (dating to the second century CE) turn on the idea that an objective judgment has been made about the potential outcome of some possible activity. For example, from Graf (67) III 2: πρᾶξιν ἥν πράσσεις μὴ πρᾶσσε· οὐ γὰρ ἄμεινον, that is, Do not do the business that you are engaged in; it will not be better’. Graf translates as ‘it will

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approach of those who wrote questions for the Oracle at Dodona with Gill’s suggestion about the deliberative processes visible in other ancient evidence – and indicate something of their underlying conception of the self. 3. Conceptions of the Self The oracular question tablets from Dodona illuminate a number of aspects of the ancient Greek conception of the self. First of all, they reveal something of the mental processes of the people who wrote these texts: the consultants are exercising choice and demonstrating intentionality. Specifically, the questions suggest that the individuals concerned have what some psychologists have dubbed ‘a dialectical mental process’ or self-reflexive agency. Essentially, this is the capacity for some degree of self-consciousness with regard to action, and the appreciation of the possibility of there being alternative ways of engaging with the world.74 The questions asked at Dodona can add to this understanding of individuality, since they seem to indicate that the consultants possessed a sense of individuality where this is taken to mean ‘the self-awareness essential to each distinctive individual’, which offers the individual ‘the opportunity… to develop his or her own particular talents or character’.75 And this suggests, in turn, that we may be able to locate here some of the characteristics that Giddens ascribes to the modern Western self, and the process of self-actualization that he describes. It can be argued that these texts show individual Greek men and women perceived their potential activities to involve risks; their visits to the Oracle were attempts to maximise their opportunities within this context. And yet, what these tablets do not suggest is individuals that place selfassertion and individual rights above all else, or who think of themselves as selfcontained and indivisible. Quite the opposite, in fact: the very act of consulting an Oracle suggests individuals who have an interdependent sense of self. We can describe this from a number of different angles: there is the (admittedly implicit) need to find agreement among those whom the particular issue of consultation effects. This may include the members of a state, of a group, of a family or even, as suggested above, an individual. We see this perhaps most clearly in the material that relates to slaves: as I have argued elsewhere, these texts may suggest that these individuals are thinking about themselves, and their own hopes and fears for the future; but they are also thinking of their owners and their associated obligations.76 This suggests an interdependence that arises from the nexus of

not turn out well’ which removes the sense that an objective comparative judgment has been made. 74 See JENKINS 2011; GARDNER 2004; STREMMEL 1997. 75 FOWLER 2004, 9. 76 EIDINOW 2012, 244–278.


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relationships of a social context, so that one’s sense of self and behaviour is contingent on/organized by other human beings.77 But this nexus of relationships does not stop with one’s fellow mortals: the inquiries made at Dodona reveal a further level of interdependence. The questions reveal profound concern among consultants about divine reflection on and judgments about their behaviour, and this suggests that consultants also perceived themselves to have a crucial interdependence with the divine. This suggests, in turn, a conception of the self, and one’s own self-mastery, which was concerned not only with mortal networks, but extended to the immortal realm. 78 We might expect this to raise explicit problems of the ‘ambiguity of agency’ and free will. 79 Instead, as discussed above, a man’s character and his actions were perceived to be both his own and not his own, simultaneously supernatural and mortal: consultation of a god was not consultation of a disinterested bystander. It was perceived as the engagement in a process of deliberation of a force that was inherently involved in and affected by the outcome. 4. Conclusion This paper has sought to demonstrate some of the ways in which the implicit models of ‘the self’ that we bring to our analysis of ancient Greek evidence for oracular consultation necessarily affect our interpretations of the evidence. It has attempted, albeit briefly and partially, to make the implicit explicit, suggest some alternative models of the self, and explore how this may recast our analysis. It has drawn attention to evidence that ancient Greek men and women conceived of the self in relational terms, and that this relationality included interdependence with supernatural forces (and, in turn, their inter-relations) with regard to both individual character and life-course. This understanding of the complex production of an individual’s fate provides the conceptual context within which an oracular consultation took place. It suggests that the consultation of an Oracle was not, or not only, perceived to be a linear process of question and answer conducted by an individual who was attempting to extract a concealed answer about a potential action. It was also a field of shared enquiry, negotiation and potential collaboration with – and, importantly, among – myriad unseen supernatural forces. Such a conception both shaped and was shaped by an individual’s interdependent sense of self. This has, necessarily, been a brief examination of only some material relevant for re-understanding ancient Greek conceptions of the self, and it makes no claims to be comprehensive, or to present a decisive conclusion. More importantly, there 77 GARDNER 2001. 78 As numerous cognitive theories about the formulation of conceptions of gods suggest, they are usually based on natural-kind concepts of agents, see, for example MCCAULEY/LAWSON 2002. 79 SLONE 2005, 188–195.

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is no room here to discuss changes over time – changes which are undoubtedly crucial for such a discussion. However, I hope that it offers some useful and provocative ideas, at least about the assumptions that we as modern scholars bring to our study of ancient Greek culture and to the role, activities and conceptions/ perceptions of the nature of the individual and his fate.

Bibliography BASCOM, William Russell, Ifa Divination: Communication Between Gods and Men in West Africa, Bloomington 1969. BECK, Ulrich, “The Reinvention of Politics: Towards a Theory of Reflexive Modernization”, in: BECK, Ulrich/GIDDENS, Anthony/LASH, Scott (ed.), In Reflexive Modernization: Politics, Tradition and Aesthetics in the Modern Social Order, Palo Alto 1994a, 1–55. BECK, Ulrich, “Replies and Critiques: Self-Dissolution and Self-Endangerment of Industrial Society: What Does This Mean?”, in: BECK, Ulrich/GIDDENS, Anthony/LASH, Scott (ed.), In Reflexive Modernization: Politics, Tradition and Aesthetics in the Modern Social Order, Palo Alto 1994b, 174–183. BOHANNON, Paul, “Tiv Divination“: in BEATTIE, John H. M./ LIENHARDT, R.Godfrey (ed.) Essays in Social Anthropology in Memory of E. E. Evans-Pritchard, Oxford 1975, 149–66. BOWDEN, Hugh, Classical Ahens and the Delphic Oracle: Divination and Democracy, Cambridge 2005. BRANAMAN, Ann, “Erving Goffman”, in: ELLIOTT, Anthony/TURNER, Bryan S. (ed.) Profiles in Contemporary Social Theory, London 2001, 94–106. BREMMER, Jan, The Early Greek Concept of the Soul, Princeton 1983. BRYANT, Christopher G.A./JARY David, “Introduction: Anthony Giddens: A Global Social Theorist”, in: BRYANT, Christopher G. A./JARY David (ed.) The Contemporary Giddens: Social Theory in a Globalizing Age, London 2001, 1–7. BURKERT, Walter, “Signs, Commands, and Knowledge: Ancient Divination between Enigma and Epiphany”, in: JOHNSTON, Sarah Iles/STRUCK, Peter T. (ed.) Mantikê: Studies in Ancient Divination Leiden 2005, 29–49. BUTLER, Judith, “Violence Mourning Politics”, in: Studies in Gender and Sexuality 4: 1 (2003), 9– 37. CROSSLEY, Nick, The Social Body: Habit, Identity and Desire, London 2001, 9–37. DILLERY, John, “Chresmologues and Manteis: Independent Diviners and the Problem of Authority“, in: JOHNSTON, Sarah Iles/STRUCK, Peter T. (ed.) Mantikê : Studies in Ancient Divination, Leiden 2005, 167–213 x. EVANS, James Allen S., “The Oracle of the “Wooden Wall’“, in: The Classical Journal vol. 78: 1 (Oct–Nov 1982), 24–29. EIDINOW, Esther, Oracles, Curses and Risk Among the Ancient Greeks, Oxford 2007. EIDINOW, Esther, Fate Luck and Fortune: Antiquity and its Legacy, London 2011. EIDINOW, Esther, “’What Will Happen To Me If I Leave?’: Ancient Greek Oracles, Slaves and Slave Owners”, in: GEARY, Dick/HODKINSON, Stephen, (ed.), Slaves And Religions in GraecoRoman Antiquity and Modern Brazil, Cambridge 2012, 244–278. EIDINOW, Esther, “A ‘Market’ in Futures: Oracles and Competition”, in ENGELS, David/VAN NUFFELEN, Peter (ed.), Competition and Religion in Antiquity, Leiden (in press). ELLIOTT, Anthony, Concepts of the Self (2nd ed.), Cambridge 2008. FOWLER, Chris, The Archaeology Of Personhood: An Anthropological Approach, Abingdon, 2004.


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FRANKFURTER, David, “Voices, Books and Dreams: The Diversification of Divination Media in Late Antique Egypt”, in: JOHNSTON, Sarah Iles/STRUCK, Peter T. (ed.) Mantikê : Studies in Ancient Divination, Leiden 2005, 233–254. GARDNER, Andrew, “Introduction: Social Agency, Power and Being Human”, in: GARDNER, Andrew (ed.), Agency Uncovered: Archaeological Perspectives on Social Agency, Power, and Being Human, Abingdon 2004, 1–15. GEERTZ, Clifford, Local Knowledge: Further Essays in Interpretive Anthropology, New York 1983. GIDDENS, Anthony, The Consequences of Modernity, Palo Alto 1990. GIDDENS, Anthony, Modernity and Self-Identity. Cambridge 1991. GIDDENS, Anthony, The Transformation of Intimacy Sexuality, Love and Eroticism in Modern Societies, Palo Alto 1992. GILL, Christopher, Personality in Greek Epic, Tragedy and Philosophy: The Self in Dialogue Oxford 1996. GILL, Christopher, The Structured Self in Hellenistic and Roman Thought, Oxford 2006. GOFFMAN, Erving, The Presentation of the Self in Everyday Life, New York 1959. GRAF, Fritz, “Rolling the Dice for an Answer”, in: JOHNSTON, Sarah Iles/STRUCK, Peter T. (ed.) Mantikê: Studies in Ancient Divination, Leiden 2005, 51–98. JENKINS, Adelbert H., “Individuality in Cultural Context: The Case for Psychological Agency”, in: Theory Psychology 11 (2011), 347–362. JOHNSTON, Sarah Iles, “Introduction”, in: JOHNSTON, Sarah Iles/STRUCK, Peter T. (ed.) Mantikê : Studies in Ancient Divination Leiden 2005, 1–28. KLINGSHIRN, William E., “Christian Divination in Late Roman Gaul: The Sortes Sangallenses”, in: JOHNSTON, Sarah Iles/STRUCK, Peter T. (ed.) Mantikê : Studies in Ancient Divination, Leiden 2005, 99–125. LHÔTE, Éric, Les Lamelles Oraculaires de Dodone. Paris 2006. LINDSTROM, Lamont, “Social Relations”, in: RAPAPORT, Moshe (ed.) The Pacific Islands: Environment and Society, Honolulu 1999,195–207. LIPUMA, Edward, “Modernity and Forms of Personhood in Melanesia”, in: LAMBEK, Michael/STRATHERN, Andrew, Bodies and Persons: Comparative Perspectives from Africa and Melanesia, Cambridge 1998, 53–79. LUTZ, Catherine, Unnatural Emotions: Everyday Sentiments on a Micronesian Atoll and Their Challenge to Western Theory, Chicago 1988. MACINTYRE, Alasdair, “The Self as a Work of Art” (review of Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life and Where the Action Is), in: New Statesman, 28 March, 1969, 447– 448. MCCAULEY, Robert N./LAWSON, E. Thomas, Bringing Ritual to Mind: Psychological Foundations of Cultural Forms, Cambridge 2002. MUTIA, Babila/MECALY, Bejemiah, “Performance Aesthetics, Structure and Language of Bali Nyonga Divination Systems”, in: FOKWANG, Jude/LANGMIA, Kehbuma (ed.), Society and Change in Bali Nyonga: Critical Perspectives, Oxford, 2011, 37–57. NAIDEN, Fred S., Smoke Signals for the Gods: Ancient Greek Sacrifice from the Archaic Through Roman Periods, Oxford 2013. PARKE, Herbert W., The Oracles of Apollo in Asia Minor, Abingdon 1985. PARKE, Herbert W., Sibyls and Sibylline Prophecy in Classical Antiquity, Abingdon 1988. PARKER, Robert, “Greek States and Greek Oracles“, in: CARTLEDGE, Paul/HARVEY, F. D., Crux. Essays in Greek History Presented to G. E. M. de Ste Croix on his 75th Birthday, London 1985, 298–326. PARKER, Robert, “Greek States and Greek Oracles“, in: BUXTON, Richard (ed.), Oxford Readings in Greek Religion, Oxford 2000, 76–108. PEEK, Philip M., “Recasting Divination Research”, in: PEMBERTON III, John (ed.), Insight and Artistry in African Divination, Washington/London 2000, 25–33. RAINWATER, Janette, Self-Therapy: a guide to becoming your own therapist, London, 1989.

Oracular Consultation, Fate, and the Concept of the Individual


SHAUGHNESSY, Edward L., “Arousing Images: The Poetry of Divination and the Divination of Poetry”, in: ANNUS, Amas (ed.) Divination and Interpretation of Signs in the Ancient World, Chicago 2010, 61–75. SHILLING Chris/MELLOR, Philip A. “Embodiment, Structuration Theory and Modernity: Mind/Body Dualism and the Repression of Sensuality”, in: BRYANT, Christopher G. A./JARY, David (ed.) The Contemporary Giddens: Social Theory in a Globalizing Age, London 2001, 1–15. SLONE, Jason D., “Why Religions Develop Free-Will Problems”, in: WHITEHOUSE, Harvy/ MCCAULEY Robert (ed.), Mind and Religion: Psychological and Cognitive Foundations of Religion,Walnut Creek/Lanham/New York/Toronto/Oxford 2005, 187–206. SNELL, Bruno, Die Entdeckung des Geistes: Studien zur Entstehung des europäischen Denkens bei den Griechen, 4th ed. Göttingen 1975, translated into English by ROSENMEYER, Thomas G., The Discovery of the Mind, Oxford 1953. SRINIVASAN, Nirmala, “The cross-cultural relevant of Goffman’s concept of individual agency”, in: RIGGINS, Stephen H., Beyond Goffman: Studies on Communication, Institution, and Social Interaction, New York 1990, 141–161. STRATHERN, Marilyn, The Gender of the Gift: Problems with Women and Problems with Society in Melanesia, Berkeley/Los Angeles 1988. STRAUSS, Claudia/Quinn, Naomi, A Cognitive Theory of Cultural Meaning, Cambridge 1997. STREMMEL, Andrew J., “Diversity and the Multicultural Perspective”, in: HART, Craig H./BURTS, Diane C./CHARLESWORTH, Rosalind (ed.), Integrated Curriculum and Developmentally Appropriate Practice: Birth to Age Eight, New York 1997, 363–388. WHITE, Harrison, Identity and Control: How Social Formations Emerge, Princeton 2008. WILLIAMS, Bernard, Shame and Necessity, Berkeley/Los Angeles 1993.

SEEKING CERTAINTY AND CLAIMING AUTHORITY: The Consultation of Greek Oracles from the Classical to the Roman Imperial Periods Hugh Bowden In the middle of the fourth century BC the Attic deme of Acharnai consulted the Delphic oracle about the erection of altars to Ares and Athena Areia somewhere within a sanctuary for which the deme had responsibility. The god, speaking through his priestess, approved this plan.1 Some six hundred and fifty years later the prophetes at Didyma consulted the oracle there about the erection of an altar to the goddess Soteira Kore in the altar circle within the sanctuary of Apollo. Again, the god approved the plan, and in answer to a supplementary request, proposed that she be referred to as Soteira Meilichos, ‘the gentle saviour’. 2 The evidence for both these consultations is epigraphic, and roughly contemporary with the actual consultations, as far as can be judged. Their similarity in terms of subject matter may be taken as evidence for the longevity of oracles, despite the fears expressed by Plutarch and others that the oracles of his day were in decline, and of a remarkable continuity of practice in oracle-consultation. However this apparent consistency in the functioning of oracles may disguise far more significant changes. Some contrasting features of these two consultations, and of the evidence for them, indicates that they may be serving rather different purposes. The response from Delphi to the Acharnians is found in an inscription recording the decisions of the deme assembly of Acharnai about the altars. It is provided to give context for the debate about how to proceed: since the god declared that it was better and more profitable for the deme of the Acharnians and the people of Athens to construct the altars of Ares and Athena Areia, in order that the Acharnians and Athenians may act with piety towards the gods, the Acharnians had proposed…3

There is no particular stress on the process of consultation, or even any reference to why the advice of the oracle was sought. It is possible that when the altars were built, inscriptions on them mentioned that they had been erected in accordance with an oracle,4 but there seems no reason to believe that details of the consultation itself were recorded elsewhere. 1 2 3

SEG 21 519 = FONTENROSE H27. DI 504 = ΜcCabe IDid 581 = FONTENROSE D30–31. SEG 21 519.4–11: ἐπειδὴ ὁ θεὸς | ἀνεῖλεν λῶιον καὶ ἄμεινον εἶναι τῶι δ|ήμωι τῶι Ἀχαρνέων καὶ τῶι δήμωι τῶι Ἀ[θ]|ηναίων οἰκοδομήσασι τοὺς βωμοὺς το[ῦ] | Ἄρεως καὶ τῆς Ἀθηνᾶς τῆς Ἀρείας ὅπως [ἂ]|ν ἔχηι Ἀχαρνεῦσιν καὶ Ἀθ[η]ναίοις εὐσ[ε]|βῶς τὰ πρὸς τοὺς θεούς, δεδόχθαι Ἀχα[ρν]|εῦσιν.


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The response is given in prose, with the typical Delphic formula λῶιον καὶ ἄμεινον (‘it will be better and more profitable…’), indicating that the wording of the question provided the text for the answer. The consultation from Didyma is in contrast recorded in an inscription put up for that purpose by the prophetes Damianos, who makes it clear that he consulted the god on his own initiative, describing himself as φιλόθεος (‘god-loving’). He records the questions he asked, introduced each time by ὁ προφήτης σου Δαμιανὸς ἐρωτᾷ (‘your prophetes Damianos asks…’)5 and the responses he received, introduced with θεὸς ἔχρησεν (‘the god gave the oracle:’),6 which are in hexameter verse. The inscription provides no practical details about who paid for the altar, or for the inscription (presumably Damianos paid for both) and the overall effect is to focus as much on the piety of Damianos as on the organization of the sanctuary. In this respect it may be compared to other examples of inscriptions recording decisions about cult innovations advocated by individuals to which we will return later.7 The comparison between these two inscriptions illustrates the issues I wish to investigate. It is the argument of this paper that the role of oracle-consultations in the Roman imperial period was actually fundamentally different from their role in the fifth and fourth centuries BC. In classical Greece oracles were consulted on matters where there was genuine uncertainty as to how to proceed. In many cases these consultations concerned matters of cult, which might seem inconsequential when compared with matters of interstate relations and military policy, but still required a decision to be made.8 Records of consultations from the imperial period are often, it will be shown, more concerned with displaying the consulter, or someone else, in the best possible light: they are part of a wider culture of individual self-display. An argument that there was a significant change in the way oracles were consulted requires the identification of the point when the change happened, and what caused it. Here we will find that the key to this lies not so much in a change of intellectual attitude towards divination, but rather in external pressures, and in particular the impact of Rome on the Greek world. 1. Consulting Oracles in the Fifth and Fourth Centuries BC The classical period is the age of mainland Greek oracles. The most important oracular centre in Asia Minor, Didyma, was destroyed in the Persian sack of Miletos in 494 BCE and only started to function again after Alexander the Great passed through the area in 334.9 There is no evidence of responses from the other 4 5 6 7 8 9

Cf. e.g. SEG 12.263.3: κατὰ χρησμὸν. Use of this formula seems generally to start in the Hellenistic period. ll. 2–3, 17–18. ll. 14, 28. CHANIOTIS 2003. On these issues see BOWDEN 2005. FONTENROSE 1988 remains the standard work on the topic. See also GREAVES 2012.

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major oracular site in the region, Klaros, before the Hellenistic period. We know of a number of mainland Greek oracles, thanks to lists in Herodotus’ Histories,10 but it is only two, Delphi and Dodona, that have provided evidence of consultations in any number. It is in the works of Xenophon that we find the most detailed discussion of the significance of consulting oracles, and a consistent view of why they should be consulted. In his Memorabilia he describes Socrates’ advice to his followers: He advised them in matters which were determined to act in what they considered the best way things should be done; but in matters where it was unclear how things might turn out, he directed them to consult an oracle about whether it should be done.11

This view is also revealed by Socrates’ advice to Xenophon in Anabasis,12 and Xenophon himself shows disappointment that the Greek cities did not follow this policy when they met for a peace conference at Delphi in 368.13 In his Republic Plato has Socrates take the same view.14 The tendency of modern scholarship has been to take a different approach, presenting consultations of oracles as a mechanism ‘to sanction decisions that had already been made, and so to prevent indecision or conflict in a group.’ 15 This explanation puts much weight on the ambiguity that was represented as a fundamental feature of oracular responses, especially those from Delphi, despite the fact that such ambiguity is notably absent from the epigraphic record of consultations. It also focuses primarily on ‘political’ consultations, where the decision might be perceived to have an immediate impact on those consulting, rather than consultations about issues that were truly beyond human control, which included not only questions about, for example, the erection of altars, but also those concerning plague and other ‘natural’ disasters.16 The epigraphic evidence is more consistent with the ‘Socratic’ explanation than more recent ones. The case of the Athenian consultation of Delphi about cultivation of the Sacred Orgas of the Two Goddesses in 352/1 BC, demonstrates this point well. 17 The inscription which 10 Hdt. 1.46: Delphi, Abai, Dodona, Amphiaraos (Oropos), Trophonios (Lebadeia); 8.134–5 adds three Theban oracles: Apollo Ismenios, Amphiaraos and Apollo Ptoios. 11 Xen. Mem 1.1.6. 12 Xen. Anab. 3.1.7. 13 Xen. Hell. 7.1.27. 14 Pl. Resp. 427b–c. 15 EIDINOW 2007, 137. This approach, which EIDINOW does not necessarily endorse here, is typified by e.g. PRICE 1985, 301 and MORGAN 1990, 156–157. A more nuanced view is offered by JOHNSTON 2009, 56: ‘Divination, as played out at Delphi, was not so much a matter of solving a problem as it was of redirecting a problem out of a world that human enquirers could only imagine into a world in which their actions could have concrete effects… Consulting Apollo must have been a means of reducing stress as well as obtaining answers – if these two formations are not simply synonymous.’ 16 See e.g. BOWDEN 2005, 110–113. 17 I.Eleusis 144 = IG ii2 204 = RO 58 = FONTENROSE H21: see also LAMBERT 2005, 132–135. Discussions: RHODES/OSBORNE 2003, 272–281 (with earlier bibliography); BOWDEN 2005, 88–


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records the Athenians’ decisions about what to do with the Sacred Orgas addresses two distinct questions: where boundary markers should be placed to identify the edges of the sacred land, and whether part of the sacred land should be let out for cultivation to raise money for improvements to the fabric of the sanctuary of the Two Goddesses at Eleusis. At the time of the decree, the land was being cultivated.18 The first of these two issues, which concerned a pre-existing, but currently unmarked boundary – is something that could, in principle, be determined by human wisdom, and the Athenians establish a commission of fifteen citizens to discover the answer, by taking advice from the Eleusinian officials and any other Athenian citizen who has something to contribute. Presumably they were relying on the collective memory of those who knew the area. The second question, whether or not the Goddesses wished the land to be cultivated, was not something mortals could establish on the basis of reason: and therefore an oracle had to be consulted.19 The fact that the oracle responded negatively to the request to continue farming the land, thus leaving the Athenians in need of an alternative income stream to fund the works in the sanctuary, suggests that the consultation was entirely genuine.20 This same combination of applying practical wisdom to practical problems, and turning to oracles for those matters where practical wisdom cannot provide an answer, is advocated in a work more or less contemporary with the decree, Xenophon’s Poroi.21 The Sacred Orgas decree is unusual in the detail it provides about the circumstances of a consultation of Delphi. The distinction between what can be achieved by human wisdom and what needs to be put to the gods is not simply a distinction between secular and sacred matters. There are many aspects of cult activity that can be determined without specific consultation of an oracle, on the basis of existing practice – what is generally referred to as ‘ancestral custom’. But the introduction of new festivals, albeit organised in accordance with traditional practices, may result from a consultation of an oracle. We have a number of inscriptions recording details of the creation of new festivals, where we have reference to consultations of oracles, but not necessarily information about the circumstances of the consultation. Examples of this are the festival of the First Fruits in Athens in the mid-fifth century,22 and that of Artemis Leukophryene in Magnesia on the Maiander at the end of the third

95; CLINTON 2008, 138–143; PAPAZARKADAS 2011, 244–259. 18 There is no scholarly agreement about what precisely the land then under cultivation was: see previous footnote. 19 The theory of PAPAZARKADAS 2011, 249–250 that the Athenians were taking advantage of Phocian control of Delphi in 352 to get a response that suited their own political needs is rather far-fetched. 20 The response of the oracle is not recorded on the inscription, but known from fragments of Androtion (FGrH 324 F30) and Philochorus (FGrH 328 F155). 21 PAPAZARKADAS 2011, 248 points in particular to Xen. Vect. 4.19, 6.1–2. 22 IG i3 78 = I.Eleusis 28 = FONTENROSE H9. BOWDEN 2005, 125–129.

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century.23 These cases show another important role for oracles: granting authority. In the period before the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War the Athenians established (or perhaps re-established) a festival in honour of the Two Goddesses, and instructed Athenian citizens and their allies to bring a proportion of their wheat and barley harvest to Eleusis, and they also invited all other Greek cities to do the same, ‘in accordance with ancestral custom and the oracular response from Delphi’.24 It is not clear when or why the oracle was consulted on this issue, but for the Athenians in this case what was important was not recording why they consulted the oracle, but demonstrating that the action they proposed had the authority of Apollo behind it. This is reinforced by Isocrates’ reference to the same practice, which he justifies with a reference to Delphi: Indeed, about what ought we to trust more than about those things which the god ordains, and on which many Greeks agree, and words spoken long ago support current achievements, while what is happening now is in accordance with what was said by men of those times? 25

In the case of the festival of Artemis Leukophryene it seems clear from the inscriptions put up in the city that the Magnesians consulted Delphi after an epiphany of the goddess in their territory. Those cities which agree to support the athletic festival established at Magnesia indicate in their decrees (copies of which were inscribed in Magnesia), that they are doing so in accordance with this oracle.26 The case of Magnesia demonstrates continuity in the early Hellenistic period with the practices, and by implication the theological understanding, of the preceding period. As well as establishing its festival, the city of Magnesia also made a claim for territorial inviolability (asylia), a practice that started in the 260s BC, and continued until AD 22-3.27 In the third century other cities also cited oracles from Delphi and elsewhere in support of claims for asylia: Smyrna,28 Antiocheia of Chrysaoreis29 and Teos.30 It is however noticeable that the claim of oracular authority is not used in campaigns to gain asylia after 200 BC.31 Although there may be many reasons for this, it is worth noting that from the second century BC onwards any claim for asylia would have to be made in ways that they would 23 FONTENROSE H45. Cf. I.Magnesia 16–89. RIGSBY 1996, 179–279, PARKER 2004, SUMI 2004, SOSIN 2009. 24 IG i3 78.4–5, repeated at 25–6, 34: κατὰ τὰ πάτρια καὶ τὲν μαντείαν τὲν ἐγ Δελφοον. 25 Isoc. 4.31: καίτοι περὶ τίνων χρὴ μᾶλλον πιστεύειν ἢ περὶ ὧν ὅ τε θεὸς ἀναιρεῖ καὶ πολλοῖς τῶν Ἑλλήνων συνδοκεῖ, καὶ τά τε πάλαι ῥηθέντα τοῖς παροῦσιν ἔργοις συμμαρτυρεῖ, καὶ τὰ νῦν γιγνόμενα τοῖς ὑπ᾽ ἐκείνων εἰρημένοις ὁμολογεῖ; 26 E.g. I.Magnesia 61.39: κατὰ τὸν τοῦ θεοῦ χρησμόν. 27 RIGSBY 1996, 3. 28 FONTENROSE H42. 29 FONTENROSE H43. 30 FONTENROSE H46, Didyma 11. 31 But see Tac. Ann. 3.63, where the city of Smyrna refers to the oracle it had received to justify maintaining the asylia of the sanctuary of Aphrodite Stratonike: nam Zmyrnaeos oraculum Apollinis, cuius imperio Stratonicidi Veneri templum dicaverint.


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persuade the Romans, who by then were rapidly becoming the dominant power in the Greek world. As we will see, the authority of Greek oracles appears to have had limited influence on them. Socrates’ advice about consulting Delphi as described by Xenophon was aimed at individuals rather than cities. While there is no shortage of accounts of individuals consulting oracles on their own behalf in Greek literature, there is little good surviving documentary evidence for individual consultation at Delphi. On the other hand we do have a large number of enquiries from individuals recorded on lead tablets found at Dodona.32 The published examples from Dodona do include some examples of state consultations, and these include questions very similar to those put to Delphi in the period, for example: The Corcyreans and Oricians ask Zeus Naios and Dione to which of the gods or heroes they should sacrifice and pray in order that they may best and most securely govern the city, and have a rich and fruitful harvest and profit from all the good produce.33

Most however are from individuals, asking about travel, disease, having children and other personal concerns. It is difficult to establish much about the enquirers at Dodona, except that they come from a relatively wide geographical area in central Greece and Magna Graecia, and were mostly men. 34 But an analysis of the questions they ask supports the idea that they were seeking answers to questions which they could not establish by other means. As Eidinow puts it, ‘it is likely that any number of the inquiries made at Dodona were made by individuals who [had no other party to persuade and did not seek to build consensus, but] wanted to acquire a sense of certainty about particular situations for themselves alone.’35 It is the search for certainty in an uncertain world that explains the significance of oracles in the classical and early Hellenistic period, for both cities and individuals. Oracles can provide certainty because of their authority, which comes from the gods. What we will see in later periods is that enquirers are less concerned with uncertainty, but that the issue of authority gives oracles a role in the changed world of the Roman empire.

32 Catalogues of responses: EIDINOW 2007, 72–123, LHÔTE 2006, 29–325. 33 LHÔTE No 2: [θ]εός. ἐπικοινῶνται τοὶ Κορκυ– ραῖοι καὶ τοὶ Ὠρίκιοι τῶι Διὶ τῶι Ναί– ωι καὶ τᾶι Διώναι τίνι κα θεῶν ἢ ἡ– ρώων θύοντες καὶ εὐχόμενοι τὰ– ν̣ πόλιν κ̣άλλιστα οἰκεῦεγ καὶ ἀσφα– λέστατα καὶ εὐκαρπία σφιν καὶ πο– λυκαρπία τελέθοι καὶ κατόνασις παν– τὸς τὠγαθοῦ καρποῦ. 34 EIDINOW 2007, 128–131; LHÔTE 2006, 429–430, 449. 35 EIDINOW 2007, 137.

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2. Oracles: Decline and Renewal? ‘The decline of oracles’ has been a topic for debate since at least the time of Plutarch. The factors which determined how frequently, and for what purposes, the major Greek sanctuaries were consulted by cities or individuals in the Hellenistic and Roman periods are not simple to identify, and debate has swung in various directions. The tendency of earlier generations was to see the oracular sanctuaries as losing their importance from the fourth century BC, if not earlier, associating the ‘decline of oracles’ with the ‘decline of the city-state’. More recently this has been challenged by those who emphasize the on-going vitality of Greek religious practice, to the extent of suggesting that there was no ‘decline’ at all.36 It is not easy to quantify the evidence for consultations, but a very crude measure can be made by considering the number of inscriptions referring to consultations of the two most prominent oracles, at Delphi and Didyma.37 Didyma was destroyed in the sack of Miletos in 494 BC, and only started to operate again in the reign of Alexander the Great: there is no evidence for a break in the functioning of the Delphic oracle. The counting of inscriptions however suggests that there was a significant drop in activity at both sites in the first century BC, and then a recovery during the imperial period.

The continuing significance of oracles in the early Hellenistic period (i.e. the third centuries), and well into the late Hellenistic period fits with a view that Greek 36 e.g. BENDLIN 2011, 209: ‘The actual demand for divinatory specialists and mantic techniques was unbroken: the oracle at Delphi was visited by the same kinds of individuals and groups in late Hellenistic times as earlier, and the questions concerned the same topics, namely ailments of various kinds and personal or family problems. In this respect, they do not differ from the cases brought before the Delphic god in Plutarch’s day.’ 37 Data taken from FONTENROSE 1978, 244–267, FONTENROSE 1988, 179–208.


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civic religion was in fact still flourishing in the period, most recently demonstrated by Nadine Deshours. She sees the Mithridatic Wars as bringing to an end an ‘Indian Summer’ of Greek civic religion, noting: Évidemment la religion civique n’est pas morte avec les Guerres mithridatiques. Elle a, cependent, connu un hiver, voire une glaciation avec des abandons de sanctuaires dans plusiers regions. Elle fut à nouveau éclatante à Athènes sous Auguste, sous Hadrien et même au ive siècle.38

In the case of oracles, it was not simply the disruption of the wars that had an effect on the practices of those who consulted them. Strabo, in the course of his description of the oracle of Ammon in Libya, offers a more general comment about oracular shrines: Among the ancients both divination as a whole and oracles were held in greater honour, but now there is great neglect of them, since the Romans are satisfied with the Sibylline oracles, and with the Etruscan divination through the entrails of animals, flight of birds, and omens from the sky.39

In several places he remarks on the poverty of the oracular sanctuaries that do continue to function, and notes the abandonment of others.40 On the basis of this contemporary evidence it is difficult to deny a real decline in the position of oracles in the first century BC. But the inscriptions point to something of a recovery of interest in the imperial period, both at Delphi and at Didyma, and to these can be added the evidence for consultations of Apollo at Klaros, from which all the epigraphic examples belong to the Roman imperial period.41 The impression given by the inscriptions is supported by Plutarch’s indication that Delphi, ‘after earlier drought and solitude and poverty’ was in his own time experiencing ‘abundance and brilliance and honour’, thanks to the work of the current ‘leader’ (presumably the emperor Hadrian).42 In fact the epigraphic evidence suggests that Delphi was consulted at least as much in the century before Plutarch’s time as in the following century, although the figures are too low to tell us much. It is clear that imperial patronage brought benefits to Greek cities, even before Hadrian’s time, but it would be a mistake to assume that it did not also have an effect on the activities of their leading citizens, including their attitude to oracles. Plutarch also notes a contrast between the supposed ambiguity (λοξότης) and obscurity of the oracles of the past and the over-simple form of contemporary responses,43 although here he probably has in mind the verse oracles quoted by authors such as Herodotus,44 rather than any archival evidence. Nonetheless this 38 DESHOURS 2011, 15–16. Cf. BENDLIN 2011, 208–212. 39 Strab. 17.1.43. Cf. Plut. Mor 411e–f. 40 Poverty: 7.7.9–10 (Dodona), 9.3.8 (Delphi), 11.2.17 (Phrixos); closure: 5.4.5, 8.6.22, 9.2.34, 10.1.3. 41 STAUBER/MERKELBACH 1996. 42 Plut. Mor. 409b–c. 43 Plut. Mor. 409c. 44 Plut. Mor. 403e.

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suggests that he and his intellectual readers might not accept the idea of ‘business as usual’. Under these circumstances we should not assume that there was a straightforward continuity of use of oracular sanctuaries. They may have continued to function, but not necessarily to the same purpose as is earlier periods. There are some features of the way consultations are presented on stone that support this view. 3. Inscribed oracles and catalogues For any modern scholar studying the role of oracles in Greek society it would seem a natural thing to start by compiling a catalogue of responses. 45 Such catalogues generally combine literary and epigraphic evidence, albeit drawing attention to questions of reliability of the literary sources. Their presentation aims primarily at indicating as far as possible what question the enquirer asked, and what answer the god gave: often one of these things has to be guessed on the basis of the other. Thus Fontenrose’s Delphic catalogue lists the following: Consultant, Occasion, Question, Response, followed by some information about the way the information appears in the ancient source(s). In his Delphic catalogue question and answer are provided only in English, and no surrounding text is quoted. In his later Didyma catalogue, the additional information includes the original surrounding text from which the question and/or answer have been taken, in Greek with English translation. Nonetheless the focus remains on the moment of consultation. In their publication of the oracles from Klaros, Merkelbach and Stauber achieve something of the same effect by printing the text (and translation) of the responses themselves in larger type than the surrounding text, even when the opposite is true on the stone itself.46 The consultation of an oracle is however usually part of a larger process, and often needs to be understood in that broader context. We have already considered Fontenrose’s H21, ‘Question of letting lands within the Eleusinian orgas’.47 The inscription recording the decision to consult the oracle is mainly concerned with the establishment of a commission to identify the boundaries of the orgas, and the (re)placing of horoi to mark them. Furthermore, the instructions for how to organise the consultation of Delphi make it clear that the significant events will be played out in the Athenian assembly rather than at Delphi itself: public officials perform actions before the people, and gold and silver vessels are carried to and from the acropolis.48 The visit to Delphi is something of a sideshow. Some consultations are known only because an inscription referring to an activity notes that 45 For Delphi see PARKE/WORMELL 1956; FONTENROSE 1978; BOWDEN 2005; for Didyma: FONTENROSE 1978, 417–29; FONTENROSE 1988; for Klaros: STAUBER /MERKELBACH 1996. 46 e.g. STAUBER/MERKELBACH 1996, 17–19. 47 FONTENROSE 1978, 251. 48 BOWDEN 2005, 92–93.


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it was done ‘in accordance with an oracle’: again the moment of consultation is secondary to the actual proposal being made. When thinking about consultations of oracles, we should think about the whole context of the consultation, from the initial decision to seek the advice of the god to the final decision to publish (or not) the details of the enquiry. The decision to publish maybe as significant for us as the decision to consult. When examining literary accounts of consultations, it is natural to ask why the author is presenting the story to us in the way that he does. We should take the same approach to the accounts of consultations that come to us from inscriptions. Another example may help to put this in context. We have an inscription recording an honorific decree from Paros from c. 180 BC detailing the decisions of the boule and demos of the Parians in response to an embassy from their daughter city Pharos, off the Illyrian coast.49 After the main set of proposals there is a supplementary proposal to send an embassy to Delphi to determine to which gods the Parians should pray for the continuing prosperity of Paros. Below this is inscribed ‘The god delivered the oracle’ followed by a verse response of at least three lines (most of the text is lost). Fontenrose assumes that this is the start of the response of the god to the enquiry referred to in the preceding text.50 While this is possible,51 it is unusual to find a verse oracle quoted in this kind of context. The verse text starts with the words ‘The Parians to send Praxiepes … to the west’. This looks like the opening to a foundation oracle. And in this context the quotation of the supposed original oracle given to the Parians when they sent out a colonising party to the Adriatic would make sense: Diodorus records that the Parians founded Pharos in response to an oracle,52 and including the text of a foundation oracle in a later decree is certainly not unparalleled. 53 The missing text at the start of the decree may well have included instructions for the republication of the original oracle as part of the honours for the ambassadors (who might have included a descendent of Praxiepes). If this interpretation is correct, then it shows how references to oracles in inscriptions can serve a range of purposes. In this case we have one reference to a consultation of Delphi on a well-established question, ‘to which gods should we pray?’, with no response noted, but also the inscribing of an earlier response from Delphi, in verse, as a way of honouring visitors from another community. As I will show, in the Roman imperial period it is this use of oracles to show honour that becomes dominant. 49 IG xii supp. 200; FONTENROSE H56. 50 FONTENROSE 1978, 262 ‘R. They should send Praxiepes to the west … [the rest of the response, in which the deities to whom they should sacrifice are named, has disappeared.]’ 51 Cf. Dem. 21.52, which quotes a verse oracle that appears to answer the question, ‘to which god should we pray’: the text opens with a line describing the Athenians, then suggests which gods to honour in which ways. Of the third line of the Parian inscription, all that survives are the letters […] ωμου [...] which on this interpretation might be βωμούς. 52 Diod. 15.13.4. 53 Cf. e.g. the case of Cyrene: SEG 9.3 = ML5.

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4. Inscribing Oracles Before we examine this in detail, it is important to recognise differences between practice at different oracles. We will focus on the three sanctuaries from which there are sufficient responses for useful catalogues to have been created: Delphi, Didyma and Klaros.54 The question of the mechanism by which oracular responses in the form that we find them in the literary and epigraphic record were produced is a vexed one on which there is no scholarly agreement. 55 However, for our purposes the important question to ask is, in what form was it considered appropriate to present oracular responses in published documents? Here there is a difference between Delphi on the one hand, and Didyma and Klaros on the other. It is clear that ‘official’ versions of Delphic responses might be recorded in prose or in verse. Greek cities which consulted oracles kept records of these consultations in some kind of archive. From at least the fourth century BC these archived responses might be recorded in verse or in prose: three such archived oracles are quoted in the texts of Demosthenic speeches, including one in verse, which is presumed to have come from Delphi.56 On the other hand it is clear that in the fourth century BC the normal expectation was that Delphic oracles would be initially delivered in prose,57 and throughout its history there are very few examples of verse oracles from Delphi recorded on inscriptions.58 The only one from before AD 125 is that to the Parians discussed above. Fontenrose lists only three Delphic responses from inscriptions dating to the second and third centuries AD, but all three are in verse.59 This is obviously a very small number, but it contrasts with the picture provided by Plutarch in his Pythian dialogues, written probably just before or not long after AD 125, which emphasise that the oracle was not then giving verse responses. At Didyma in the archaic period we have no evidence for verse oracles, and three inscriptions recording responses in prose. However from the time of its renewal around 334 BC, all the ‘published’ texts of oracles from Didyma are in verse. Similarly all the published versions of responses from Klaros are in verse. All but one of these are from the Roman imperial period.60 It seems clear that enquirers at these sanctuaries expected to receive responses in verse. 54 It would in principle be possible to include Dodona as well (LHÔTE 2006), but the published evidence is rather different in form, and does not go into the Roman imperial period. 55 e.g. BOWDEN 2005. 56 Dem. 21.51–52, 43.66. 57 When they consult the oracle about the Sacred Orgas in 352/1 the Athenians compose alternative responses for the god in prose: IG ii2 204.24–30. 58 FONTENROSE 1978, 11–57. 59 H66 = IG ii2 5006, from Athens, which is too fragmentary for us to be able to establish the context of the inscription; H67 = I.Magnesia 228, from Magnesia on the Maeander (which Fontenrose indicates may actually come from Didyma or Klaros); H68, from Tralles. It is worth noting that the latter two inscriptions are from Asia Minor, where, as we shall see, there was an expectation of oracular responses being inscribed in verse. 60 Based on the catalogue of STAUBER/MERKELBACH 1996.


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With all this in mind, we can now turn to examples of inscriptions recording responses of oracles in the Roman imperial period, and consider not only why the oracle was consulted, but also why the response was recorded and displayed in the way it was.61 The examples will be drawn now from Asia Minor, from Didyma and Klaros. A first example is from Didyma, around AD 120, concerning, on the surface at least, the order of works on the theatre: Shall E––, Epigonos, and the builders, contractors for the part of the theatre of which the superintendent is the prophetes of the god, the hero Ulpianus, whose employer is the architect Menophilos, undertake the placing of the arches and vaulting and carry it through, or should they consider another task?

The answer, recorded on the same inscription, was the following three lines of hexameter verse: It is advantageous to you, praying to Pallas Tritogeneia and to valiant Herakles with sacrifices, to make use of the building skills and the counsels of an able and excellent man. 62

W. H. Buckler included this in his discussion of labour disputes in the Roman province of Asia, suggesting that the Epigonos and his workers wanted to break a contract for some reason.63 Fontenrose suggests other possible interpretations, for example an argument between the contractor and Ulpianus or Menophilos, or ‘some pious scruple’ – whatever that might mean.64 But all of these suggest that there was a serious issue to be settled, and that asking the god was the best way of settling it. Such an approach fails to explain an important fact: the inscription was put on display in the finished theatre. This suggests that some at least of the men who are named on it actually wanted it widely known that they had consulted the god, which hardly makes sense if the point of the consultation was to settle a dispute which would have no significance once the building works had been completed. Rather, by putting up the inscription, those involved are drawing attention to the building work in that area, and announcing that it had been carried out in accordance with the god’s wishes. The answer from the god is not so much a solution to a problem as a commendation of the possibly now dead Ulpianus, and the consultation was intended not to solve a problem, or answer a question which was not answerable on the basis of human wisdom, but to emphasise the qualities of those who had been involved. A second inscription can be interpreted in the same way. Alexandra, priestess of Demeter Thesmophoros at Miletos at some point in the second century AD asked the god at Didyma: Since from the time when she assumed the office of priestess never have the gods been so manifest through their appearances, partly through maidens and women, partly also through men and children, why is this, and is it auspicious?65

61 62 63 64

On consultations in this period see BUSINE 2005. FONTENROSE, Didyma no 19. BUCKLER 1923, 34–36. FONTENROSE 1989, 194.

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On the same stone is a separate response from the god, which directly addresses Alexandra and praises her for her devotion to Demeter.66 These consultations, like that about Ulpianus, were private, but they are rather different from the consultations by individuals we know from the material from Dodona. Those are recorded on pieces of lead, never meant for publication, and their questions were about personal matters where the enquirers had no other means of getting an answer. Divine signs and epiphanies, as we have seen, were in earlier periods the occasion for consultation of oracles by cities, as at Athens and at Magnesia on the Maiander. In these cases the divine activity was recognised as something of significance to the whole city, requiring a public response. Here however the emphasis of the inscription is very much on the involvement in the events of Alexandra herself, and her enquiry is not asking for advice but for an explanation.67 It is not a public document, but one put up by, or on behalf of, Alexandra herself, to draw attention to her virtues, not to find any kind of certainty. The clientele of Didyma in this period appears to have been predominantly made up of individuals from Miletos. From Klaros we have rather more examples of state consultations, but the inscriptions recording these share features with those from Didyma. An example is the oracle given to Caesarea Troketta.68 Here we have a consultation prompted to an outbreak of plague, where the advice given is to erect a statue of Apollo Soter. We know of this consultation not from a decree of the city, but from the inscription on the statue base itself, which records that the statue was erected in response to the oracle from Klaros, and paid for by Meiletos, son of Glykon,69 the priest of Apollo. The statue base also has the response itself recorded on it, consisting of 28 lines of verse, mostly hexameters, but with some other metres included. Such a lengthy and showy response, which includes rather gory descriptions of the effect of the plague upon the city, might seem out of place as an answer to a straightforward request for help. When read on the statue base it has a different effect, emphasising the service to the city of the man who dedicated the statue and so brought an end to the suffering. The statue and base are in effect a monument to Meiletos as well as a dedication to Apollo, and associates the priest closely with the words of the god he serves. 5. Displaying piety We may put these displays of oracular responses into a broader context by comparing them with other inscriptions recording acts of piety by prominent individuals. In an investigation into ‘negotiating religion in the cities of the 65 66 67 68 69

FONTENROSE, Didyma no 22. FONTENROSE, Didyma no 23: see discussion FONTENROSE 1989, 197–198. I.Didyma 496.7: τί τὸ τοιοῦτο καὶ εἰ ἐπὶ αἰσίωι. STAUBER/MERKELBACH no 8. On this name see STAUBER/MERKELBACH 1996, 19.


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Eastern Roman empire’, Angelos Chaniotis draws attention to a number of decrees of cities recording innovations in their cult activities sponsored by leading citizens, dating between the mid-first and the third centuries AD. 70 In one of his examples, dating from 162–4, Amoinos of Ephesos proposes that the month of Artemision be dedicated in its entirety to Artemis.71 As Chaniotis describes the inscription: The content of the decree is made up of only a few words (1. 27–32). The assembly decided to dedicate the entire month Artemision to Artemis. The rest of the text – the narratio (ll. 8–27) and an hortatory formula (ll. 32–34) – summarise the arguments used by Amoinos.

Chaniotis is interested in how men like Amoinos were able to get their proposals accepted by their cities, and he therefore focuses on the kind of argument used. But it is also interesting to look at the way the individuals proposing legislation come across in the inscriptions. Chaniotis notes the personal piety that appears to characterise their behaviour. In the case of another proposer, Damas of Miletos, who served more than once as prophetes of Didyma, he notes: He was not interested in money contributions; and his measure was certainly not aiming at increasing his popularity… Damas was interested in keeping a religious tradition alive, possibly simply for the sake of tradition, possibly out of a conservative interest in ancestral practices, possibly because of the cultic significance of the celebration he aspired to revive.72

But Damas and Amoinos were presenting themselves to their fellow citizens, and possibly to a wider audience, as advocates of piety, and in this respect they have some similarity to the individuals who chose to record the oracular responses they had received. The Ephesian decree records a summary of the speech that Amoinos made to the city about Artemis and her worship across the Greek world: he draws attention to her past benefactions to Ephesos as well as to the fact that her cult is spread across the world. In making the proposal Amoinos was associating himself with the goddess and her cult in a similar way to Alexandra of Miletos when she used the oracular response from Didyma to associate herself with the divine epiphanies that had taken place during her term of office. The two individuals were each turning to one of the two sources of authority that had been available to Greek communities through the ages, ancestral practice and the words of an oracle. 6. Conclusions If we were to focus on the narrow issue of what enquiries were put to oracles by individuals and communities in the period from the fourth century BC to the third century AD, we might conclude that there was a remarkable level of consistency. 70 CHANIOTIS 2003. 71 LSAM 31. 72 CHANIOTIS 2003, 183.

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Enquirers asked whether they should dedicate altars and other things, or what they should do when faced with plague or natural disasters, or what to do when signs were seen in the sky. But even if it were the case that people continued to be faced with the same uncertainties, it was always the case that oracles were only one of many places to turn to in search of answers to those questions that could not be solved by the application of human wisdom. As Bendlin puts it: ‘oracles like Delphi … were competing in the religious market-place with numerous ‘low’ forms of mantic services.’73 And this was true throughout the period we are considering. Under these circumstances, the questions that need to be asked are: why did those who consulted oracles choose to use that method of divination rather than another? Why did they choose to record the fact of the consultation? And why did they choose to record the oracular response in the way that they did? The answers to these questions differ quite significantly from the classical to the Roman imperial periods. For a start, even though individuals were consulting oracles on their own behalf in the classical and early Hellenistic times, there are very few cases where this fact is recorded on a surviving inscription.74 We tend to know about such individual consultations from literary sources, or in the case of Dodona from the lead tablets on which questions were recorded, which were clearly not intended for public display. Instead, the majority of consultations recorded on inscriptions are made by cities, and the consultations are recorded as part of the usual civic business of the community. In contrast, in the Roman imperial period at Didyma most of the consultations are by individuals – often those who hold offices at Miletos or Didyma, including the prophetes of the oracle, but it cannot be assumed that they are acting in an ‘official’ capacity. 75 At Klaros, where a number of consultations by poleis are found in the epigraphic record, the inscriptions providing this information are not decrees of the polis but paid for and erected by individuals. The practice of putting up verse texts of oracular responses is much more widespread in the imperial period than earlier, and although this in part reflects a higher proportion of responses from oracles in Asia Minor, there is more to notice. The verse oracles on inscriptions, although often verbose, are never cryptic in the way that verse oracles quoted by, for example, Herodotus tend to be. In the classical period Delphi had a reputation for obscurity, and as we have noted, this has been taken by scholars to be a necessary characteristic of its responses. But we may contrast the 29-verse response from Klaros given to Pergamon instructing them how to respond to an outbreak of plague,76 with the 24-verse oracle from Delphi given, according to Herodotus, to 73 BENDLIN 2011, 209. 74 An apparent exception is FONTENROSE H34 = FD 3.1.560 , from c. 360 BC, which appears to be about a man seeking children. But this inscription, entirely in verse, and describing a miracle, is by no means a straightforward record of an oracular consultation. 75 DAMAS, who proposed reintroducing dinners at Didyma, as Chaniotis discusses, held a number of major offices, but his decision to make innovations in cult were apparently prompted by personal considerations: CHANIOTIS 2003, 183 (see above). 76 STAUBER/MERKELBACH no 2.


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the Athenians when faced with Xerxes’ invasion in 481 BC.77 There are some noticeable parallels between the two responses, but there is no doubt what the Pergamenes were being asked to do, while the lack of clarity of the response to the Athenians, with its reference to the ‘wooden wall’, is well-known. All of this suggests that to describe oracles going through a ‘renaissance’ in the Roman imperial period is at best an oversimplification.78 The power of Roman emperors in the Eastern Mediterranean world was presented in religious as well as military-political terms: emperors were gods.79 This fact, whatever its other implications, backed up by the emperor’s ability to demonstrate his power and his favour immediately, affected the relationship between Greek cities and their (other) gods. Faced with disaster, Greek cities could turn to the emperor as well as to their oracles, as they did in AD 17 when the province of Asia was struck by an earthquake.80 Authority in religious matters in the empire might also be assumed by the Roman senate, as when asylia was investigated in AD 22–23: alongside oracles and ancestral custom, the traditional sources of authority, loyalty to Rome was now something to be taken into account when claims were made for recognition of religious claims.81 The arguments that had been presented by Magnesia on the Maiander, when it had initially sought recognition for the festival of Artemis Leukophryene, and the asylia of the sanctuary, had relied on its assertions of divine epiphanies, backed up by reference to an oracular response from Delphi: now it appealed to the decisions of Scipio and Sulla.82 Tacitus’ account of these events, written at the time of the supposed ‘renaissance’ of Greek oracles, does not suggest that he found the religious assertions of Greek cities particularly impressive. In the world created by Roman power, religious priorities in Greek cities clearly changed. One of the features of the new religious landscape was the role of individuals in taking responsibility for looking after the affairs of the gods. We see examples of this in the proposals made by individuals for religious innovations in their cities, often paid for by the proposers themselves. 83 And at the same time we see individuals in effect seeking recognition for their achievements from the gods, by making enquiries about their activities at oracles, or taking on the task of publicising the results of their cities’ enquiries when those are still made. If we return to the pair of consultations with which this paper began we can see the transformation. In the mid fourth century BC the deme of Acharnai agreed to build two new altars. We know the name of the person who proposed that the altars be built, Kalliteles son of Stesios, 84 but we are told nothing more about him; 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84

FONTENROSE Q146–7 = Hdt. 7.139.5–143. See BOWDEN 2005, 100–7. E.g. LANE FOX 1986, PARKE 1985. PRICE 1984. Tac. Ann. 2.47. Tac. Ann. 3.60–3. Tac. Ann. 3.62. CHANIOTIS 2003, discussed above. SEG 21 519.2.

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nor do we know from this inscription who was responsible for proposing that the Acharnians consult Delphi in the first place. We are told that everything is being done ‘so that the Acharnians and the Athenians might act properly towards the gods.’85 At the end of the third century AD, when Damianos, prophetes of Apollo at Didyma, proposed to erect an altar to Kore Soteira, he recorded the question he asked the god, which included the claim that he was god-loving (φιλόθεος) and pained by the omission:86 although the altar is to be erected in the sanctuary at Didyma, by a leading official, it is nonetheless entirely an individual matter. Finally it is worth noting that nothing in Damianos’ two questions to the god suggests that he ‘wanted to acquire a sense of certainty about [a] particular situation’:87 to the contrary, his assertion that the lack of an altar to Kore pained him, and his graceful proposal that Apollo be allowed to give Kore her new ‘auspicious and hymnic title’88 suggest considerable confidence in his own judgment. In this case therefore, one of the principal reasons why people consulted oracles in earlier periods was missing. However, the other reason, the authority the decision of the oracle could provide, can still be seen to be relevant, at least amongst those who came to Didyma and saw the inscription. This new way of using oracles in the Roman imperial period can be seen as a case of religious individuation, resulting from the increasing individualisation that has been taken to characterise the society of the Roman empire in this period. 89 Bert Musschenga distinguishes between ‘individualisation as an objective process of social change, individuation as development of personal identity, [and] values of individuality which express views on personal identity that emerge in the process of individualisation and are used to legitimise that process.’ 90 The people who consulted Didyma in the second and third centuries AD were concerned with their own individuation in a way in which consultants in the fourth century BC were not. Roman period consultants used the responses they received from oracles deliberately to advertise their own individual virtues, while those of earlier periods did so in the service of the state. The eclipse of Greek states by Roman power took away an important function of oracles, and as a result they lost a significant raison d’être. But they therefore became available for redeployment to serve new purposes in the period when they were apparently reborn. Institutions that had developed to serve communities faced with the uncertainties of life became in some circumstances the agents of individuals whose main anxiety was to project their own status in a world which the Romans had made rather more certain.

85 86 87 88 89 90

SEG 21 519.8–10. ΜCCABE IDid 581.7–8. EIDINOW 2007: 137 (see above). ΜCCABE IDid 581.25–7. As for example in FOUCAULT 1986. MUSSCHENGA 2001, 5.


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RIGSBY, Kent J., Asylia: Territorial Inviolability in the Hellenistic World. Berkeley 1996. SOSIN, Joshua D., “Magnesian inviolability“, in: Transactions of the American Philological Association 139 (2009) 369–410. STAUBER, Josef/MERKELBACH, Reinhold, “Die Orakel des Apollon von Klaros“, in: Epigraphica Anatolica 27 (1996) 1–53. SUMI, Geoffrey, “Civic Self-Representation in the Hellenistic World: The Festival of Artemis Leukophryene in Magnesia-on-the-Maeander”, in: BELL, Sinclair/DAVIES, Glenys (ed.), Games and Festivals in Classical Antiquity: Proceedings of a Conference Held in Edinburgh 10–12 July 2000. Oxford 2004, 79–92.

INTERPRETATIVE STRATEGIES FOR DELPHIC ORACLES AND KLEDONS: Prophecy Falsification and Individualism Lisa Maurizio 1. Delphic Accuracy and Oral Traditions in Herodotus One feature of the Delphic tradition of oracles has proved a stumbling block to understanding Delphic divination: nearly all the oracles attributed to Delphi are accurate; few are disconfirmed. Various hypotheses have been offered to explain the accuracy of Delphic oracles. Some emphasize the social elements of divination. For example, Delphic priests fabricated stories of Delphic accuracy or issued ambiguous oracles that could appear accurate in many circumstances; clients asked only for approval of their preconceived plans or indicated their desires during a divinatory session and then implemented the rigged advice they received; clients fabricated oracles to authorize their activities. Literary factors contributing to Delphic accuracy include the activities of writers such as Plutarch or Herodotus who shaped oracular tales to suit their own narrative goals or the gradual blending of folklore genres of proverbs and riddles into the Delphic tradition. Scholars who subscribe to one or more of these hypotheses view Delphi as a successful institution that offered workable, and even desirable, solutions to clients’ questions and that was represented by a largely fictionalized, even sensationalized, tradition.1 Consequently, they often divide the corpus of oracles into authentic oracles (those ascertained to have issued from a divinatory session at Delphi because they are historically plausible as recorded) and inauthentic oracles (those deemed fictional because they defy historical plausibility and did not issue from Delphi), while giving scant attention to the religious and aesthetic elements that inform Delphic divination.2 1


PARKE/WORMELL 1956 emphasize the role of Delphic personnel in issuing ambiguous oracles and crafting stories at the shrine. FONTENROSE 1978 has argued that the interplay between folklore motifs and the Delphic tradition as well as the oral circulation of oracles renders most inauthentic. These different emphases ead both editors of their respective collections to very different conclusions about which oracles are authentic and which are not. Most recently, Hugh BOWDEN 2005 has reviewed the corpus of oracles, and like Fontenrose, argued for the authenticity of the written epigraphical oracles from the fourth century. I have argued for a reexamination of the question of authenticity in light of the oral transmission of oracles (MAURIZIO 1997). See also PARKER 1985, FLOWER 2008 and GRAF 2009 who accept that both verseverse and prose oracles are authentic. Scholars who are not concerned to address Delphic accuracy tend to forego recourse to theories of manipulation, political or otherwise. VERNANT 1991 offered the first study that


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This study increases the number of hypotheses available to explain Delphic accuracy without wholly rejecting rational and crafty (both deceitful and artful) priests, clients, writers and politicians etc. who believed in divination only enough to use it to their own ends.3 It attributes the accuracy of recorded Delphic oracles to the actions and beliefs of individuals, whether they are oracle seekers or informants, ie. those who tell oracular tales, through a study of two interrelated responses to divine language: prophecy falsification and kledonomancy.4 Both are predicated on a belief in the veracity of oracular language or chance utterances whose origin can be located in the divine. This essay explores the religious and aesthetic aspects of these phenomena, and Delphic oracles, in Herodotus’ Histories by tracing them back to the oral traditions in which they appear. In so doing, it provides a way to locate Delphic accuracy in individual responses to divine language, which in turn will allow a consideration of the question of individualism in archaic Greek divinatory practices. Herodotus’ Histories provides one important chronological slice of the Delphic tradition. Not only do its oracular tales have a chronological end-point, namely the middle of the fifth century, but also they comprise a written collection of oracles most proximate to their oral circulation during the prior two centuries when Delphi was frequently consulted.5 Herodotus’ tales capture the oral transmission of oracles better than later sources do and offer the best evidence for studying the practices of prophecy falsification and kledonomancy with Delphic divination. Yet, limiting this study to Herodotean oracular tales risks mistaking his stylistic and narrative inflection of them with the Delphic tradition itself. In his seminal study of Herodotus’ reliance on oral traditions, Oswyn Murray applied insights from the anthropological literature on oral traditions, most notably those of Jan Vansina, to address more precisely how to evaluate Herodotus’ oral sources

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explored the religious, intellectual and social dimensions of Greek and Delphic divination, on which see JOHNSTON 2005, 10. BARKER 2006 and KINDT 2008 offer programmatic studies of Delphic divination that focus on its cultural, religious, and intellectual aspects. See also KIRCHBERG 1965 and KURKE 2009. Herodotus’ reports on the bribery of shrine personnel, interpretative errors about oracles, the misapplication of oracles etc. are frequently collected and noted (perhaps a testament to his rationality and scepticism?). Most recently, see ASHERI 2007, 65 and LATEINER 2007, 813. PERADOTTO 1969, 2 offers a succinct definition of kledonomancy. A kledon is “an apparently casual utterance heard by a man when he is deeply preoccupied with some plan, project, or hope, and understood by him as an omen of the outcome of his preoccupation.” FONTENROSE 1978 delineates in some detail the oral circulation of oracles for generations before their recording in writing. See also MAURIZIO 1997 and FLOWER 2008 who offers a useful modification of Maurizio; he argues that the hexameter oracles had more fixity than their surrounding narrative frames. Similarly, MURRAY 2001 (1987), 31. n. 6 argues that Fontenrose inverts “the relationship fixed text (oracle) and flexible reality: it is the event which is ‘quasi-hsitorical’, not the oracle.” Notably, ASHERI 2007, 63 and 65 n. 14 posits that many Delphic oracles came from “written literary sources” that Herodotus quotes verbatim. GIANGIULIO 2001 offers a cogent review of written and oral collections of Delphic oracles and argues that Delphic oracles were preserved by both means before entering the pages of Herodotus’ history books.

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and distinguish them from his narrative voice. 6 He argues that “the most obvious and fundamental characteristic of oral tradition is the importance of the group that preserves it…group memory is more cohesive than the general recollections of the past.”7 Because oral traditions remembered by groups are formed by their interests,8 they are distinguished from folk traditions that tend to reflect “society as a whole”9 and to spontaneously generate variants. While group memory ensures that an account will be preserved so long as it remains meaningful to the group, “it is also likely to be more limited and more liable to bias, for it reflects the interests of the group rather than those of the society as a whole.”10 The groups whose traditions Herodotus collected include those of aristocratic families, nonaristocratic families, groups or associations within cities, particular classes such as merchants, and cities.11 Extending Murray’s ideas to akoe statements – accounts that Herodotus explicitly attributes to collective oral sources – Nino Luraghi argues that these ought not to be treated as source references,12 for Herodotus did not speak to collectivities of Spartans, Phoenicians etc. Rather akoe statements must be understood as “references to the group that believes it knows – in the sense of holding as true – a certain tale or piece of information.” 13 Akoe statements point to the “social surface of knowledge,” for they indicate to whom the tale and its contents are true and meaningful. Yet, akoe statements do not represent official traditions of groups, remembered and promoted by officials (logioi), but rather emphasize, in a way that needed no clarification in an oral society, that knowledge is collective and is the shared possession of the group to whom it is attributed.14 The Delphic tradition, Murray argues, differs in two key ways from the oral traditions that circulated on the mainland. Mainland traditions “can be regarded as the origin of our Western style of history with its rationalism, its emphasis on 6

7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Oswyn MURRAY’S essay is reprinted in Nino Luraghi’s recent collection of essays where it serves as a touchstone for the essays that follow on oral traditions in Herodotus. It is referred to here as MURRAY 2001 1987. LURAGHI 2001, 1–15 and MURRAY 2001, 314–325 offer overviews of the “oral revolution” to which MURRAY'S original essay responded and its impact on Herodotean studies and frame. See also LANG 1984 a and b. MURRAY 2001 (1987), 25. MURRAY 2001 (1987), 28 has chosen the word “deformation” to express this process and avoid the words bias or prejudice. Yet “deformation” seems as biased and problematic as the other alternatives, while formation seems neutral. The distinction between folklore and oral tradition ought not to be pressed, since folklore is a type of oral tradition. MAYOR 2000 provides an overview of folklore studies in classical scholarship and bibliography. MURRAY 2001(1987), 27. MURRAY 2001(1987), 28–31. LURAGHI 2001, 143–144 emphatically states, “we have to de-emphasize the concrete meaning of these source references.” LURAGHI 2001, 147. See also THOMAS 2001, 205 n. 8 for bibliography on Herodotus’ oral sources, and her argument (210) that “the groups telling and transmitting such [oral] traditions seem to have been various and unorganized, mostly uncentralized and almost always ‘unofficial’.”


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action in politics and war, and its obsession with decision making and human causation.”15 For this reason, these traditions remain elusive. They comport so well with traditional western history, they are difficult to de-naturalize and see as a particular type of explanatory narrative, rooted in a time and place in Greece. The Delphic tradition is, on the other hand, moralizing and theological, even if it sometimes exhibits “‘political’ deformation” and promotes the shrine. Additionally, the Delphic tradition, unlike the mainland traditions, shows “heavy use of folk-tale motifs, recurrent patterns, and deformation for moral ends” and, in this respect, is more similar to “prose storytelling in Ionia.”16 While Murray does not explicitly claim that Delphic tales preserved at the shrine would differ in orientation and style from those attributed to mainland groups, his work implies as much. Roughly half of Delphic tales in the Histories are attributed to informants and are akoe statements.17 Some are attributed to a client, whether an individual or a group, who traveled to Delphi or sent an embassy to receive an oracle; to a group with a vested interest in the oracular tale, such as the Bacchiades; or to Delphi. Thus, Delphic tales were orally circulated by a variety of groups and exhibit characteristics of both mainland and Delphic oral traditions.18 In any case, the discernible orientation of a tradition and the perspective of its transmitters are factors that do not vouch for, nor argue against, the veracity of its tales.19 The perspective inherent in group traditions is a constitutive factor not only in their remembrance, as Murray points out, or their “social surface” as Luraghi argues, but also in their form. In his analysis of identity-constitutive reasoning, Albert Musschenga draws a parallel between narratives in practical argumentation and historical narratives in historical explanation. He argues that individuals must be able to explain their actions to others in ways that will appear “rational, responsible, and reliable.”20 Since simple statements of motives rarely explain or justify actions in ways that are comprehensible to listeners, motives “must be given in the form of small autobiography. By that I mean that I must put my 15 MURRAY 2001 (1987), 31. 16 MURRAY 2001, 318 revisits the debate about the existence of an Ionian prose tradition. 17 Of the 58 oracles that PARKE/WORMELL attribute to Delphi, those that have explicit attributions and thus are akoe statements include PW 6, 7, and 8 are attributed to Sosicles of Corinth; PW 35 and 36 to King Leotychides; PW 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42 to the Cyrenaeans and Theraeans; PW 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 58 to Delphi; PW 63 to Cnidians; PW 72 to Krotoniates and Sybarites; PW 79 to Athenians; PW 86 and 87 to Kleomenes of Sparta; PW 91 to the Parians; PW 92 to the Argives; PW 96 and 97 to Delphi; PW 116 to Metapontines; PW 157 to Spartans. 18 In the Delphic tradition, Spartan tales seem to contain information about interpretative techniques that are often lacking in other tales. On Spartan religion and traditions see MALKIN 1994 and PARKER 1989. 19 MURRAY 2001 (1987), 35 warns that an “investigation should not start from the historical reliability of the traditions available to Herodotus, let alone from the truth or falsehood of single statements or episodes: these are secondary questions, which can only be established after the types of tradition have been established.” 20 MUSSCHENGA 2004, 57.

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motive under the rules of story telling.”21 Explanations of behaviors must be placed in a well-plotted story for their inherent truth and significance to be made evident. Similarly, an event is historically meaningful if it is placed in a narrative with a plot; otherwise it will appear random and without significance or simply one item in a list or chronicle. Herodotus’ akoe statements and stories that are surmised to be from group traditions are not chronicles, nor are they catalogues, a favored oral genre; they are narratives of events that justify actions or lands taken, heroes discovered or recovered, or constitutions or laws adopted. For the most part, they are social charters whose narrative patterning makes sense of their content, and are rightfully judged biased, or less pejoratively, one could say, they always convey the perspective of their tellers. They do so in ways that must appear rational, reliable and responsible to the listeners to whom they are necessarily directed. Group traditions and akoe statements, then, will always be stories as a consequence of their social function and oral circulation prior to their inclusion in Herodotus.22 Delphic oracular tales tend to share a certain pronounced pattern: announcement, action, fulfilment. We cannot imagine Herodotus supplying oracles without interpretations, such as we find in Eusebius’ collection of Oenomaus’ oracles, though it is possible that local collections, whether written or oral, were lists of oracles a group received.23 We can imagine collections that explain interpretations of Delphic oracles, such as Artemidorus’ collection on dreams, but interestingly there are no references to a handbook on how to interpret Delphic oracles. Instead, Delphic tales of accurate oracles are often well-plotted, albeit brief, tragedies, where anagnorisis and peripeteia occur simultaneously as the client realizes what the oracle means at the moment that the oracle’s predicted event unfolds.24 Sometimes the audience understands the oracle when the client does not. In this case, the tale produces dramatic irony, and emphasizes that men, even when informed by the gods, cannot make sense of themselves and their futures, just as the Oedipus Tyrannos (a tragedy much indebted to the Delphic tradition) does. Many oracular tales in the Croesus saga contain this streamlined structure. Indeed, Herodotus most likely learned about Croesus’ oracles from Delphi itself;25 its highly aestheticized composition is not Herodotus’ alone. For example, Croesus’ mute son cries out to protect Croesus as he is attacked and about to be killed. The oracle’s advice not to desire to hear the boy’s voice becomes clear to 21 MUSSCHENGA 2004, 63 quoting RICOEUR. 22 This point is obvious but bears repeating. No one argues that Herodotus converted chronicles, catalogues or genealogies into narrative tales. The only question is how he transformed oral narratives in order to integrate them into his Histories. 23 On references to written collections of oracles, see FONTENROSE 1978, 145–156. 24 FONTENROSE’S survey of oracular tales with folkloric elements 1983 provides many examples of oracular tales with this pattern. 25 FLOWER 1991 makes a convincing case that this tale was well preserved at Delphi because it was attached to Croesus’ numerous dedications there. See also MURRAY 2001 (1987), 34.


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Croesus (anagnorisis) at the moment Croesus goes from being king to slave (peripeteia). In most instances, as in this one, the audience understands Croesus’ oracles while he does not and thus the dramatic irony of the Croesus saga builds across several Delphic consultations and culminates in his demand that Apollo himself explain his oracles. Croesus’ demand mirrors his initial test of Greek prophetic shrines; both are contra mores. Both suggest that this saga operates on two levels; it establishes Delphi, and especially the Pythia, as a reliable narrator in Herodotus’ work.26 The Croesus saga also embodies the aesthetic patterning and moralizing that Murray describes as typical of the Delphic tradition and East Greek tales in the service of commenting on how human desires (whether for kingdoms or knowledge) inhibit the human quest for wisdom.27 But not all of Herodotus’ tales are as aestheticized as the ones in Croesus’ saga and not all of them come from Delphi. Some oracular tales that are attributed to groups and thus are akoe statements have have not been distilled to a crisp brief tragedy with moral import. Several of these describe prophecy falsification and thus draw a link between the accuracy of the Delphic tradition and individual, not institutional, practices and beliefs. 2. Prophecy Disconfirmation in Mainland Tales in Herodotus In his now canonical book When Prophecy Fails, Leon Festinger argued that when a prophecy is disconfirmed, it creates cognitive dissonance in believers and prompts further actions or modifications of beliefs.28 Such cognitive dissonance is particularly acute if believers have taken irrevocable actions to prepare for a specific, and hence verifiable, prophecy that was disconfirmed. In such instances, Festinger argued, believers’ proselytizing would increase because the successful persuasion of others would bolster the viability and success of the group and thus reduce cognitive dissonance. Subsequent studies of disconfirmed prophecies among millennial groups suggest that the responses to a disconfirmed prophecy are more variable. Sometimes, an increase in proselytizing has been documented before a predicted end time, only to drop off after disconfirmation.29 What bears 26 KIRCHBERG 1965, HARTOG 1999 and KINDT 2006 emphasize the historiographical purposes to which Herodotus puts the Delphic oracles in the Croesus saga. 27 Yet PW 50 (Hdt. 1.19) may be an exception. Herodotus reports an oracle about King Alyattes of Lydia that he claims to have heard from Delphi. The oracle has a clear moral message, but the tale lacks a resolution and discernible patterning to mark it as Delphic or Ionic. 28 FESTINGER 1956. 29 The Jehovah’s Witnesses, a millennial group that originated in 1870 in Pennsylvania, has survived and prospered despite six disconfirmed predictions in 1878, 1881, 1914, 1918, 1925 and 1975. Each of these dates was initially predicted to be a time of Armageddon, when the righteous would find themselves in a restored Edenic paradise on earth where death was no more. When each prediction of Armageddon failed to occur, each predicted year was nonetheless marked as a significant moment, and each reshaped the direction of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ institutional and spiritual endeavors. After the most recent disconfirmed prophecy in 1975, proselytizing decreased and many members were expelled from the religious

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noting is that prophecy disconfirmation prompts actions, often in the form of reinterpretation among believers, and is a matter of perspective. For believers, a disconfirmed prophecy that is reinterpreted is not disconfirmed at all. “The denial of failure is not just another option, but the common mode of adaptation of millennial groups following the failure of a prophecy.”30 What happens when a verifiable Delphic oracle has been disconfirmed and prosyletization is not an option to relieve cognitive dissonance? And who decides whether a prophecy has been disconfirmed by events – an inveterate oraclerecorder such as Herodotus, the oral informants he sometimes mentions, the oracle-seekers themselves, or the scholars writing about Herodotus? One tale about oracle disconfirmation raises all of these questions. When Doreius, the younger brother of Kleomenes, leaves Sparta, he receives advice from Antichares of Eleon to take Eryx, the region in western Sicily that belonged to Heracles and thus to Doreius, his descendant.31 Doreius consults with Delphi and is told “to take it.” Upon his arrival in Italy, the Krotoniates ask Doreius to help them take Sybaris, a request he promptly meets. In the course of battle, the Krotoniates with Doreius’ assistance conquer Sybaris. Herodotus reports that the Krotoniates deny that Doreius helped them, and they use as evidence that no land was given to him or his descendants. The Sybarites point to land dedicated to Athena by Doreius in support of their claim that he did indeed help defeat Sybaris. They also claim that he died before taking and possessing Eryx because he acted against the oracle’s advice (para ta memanteumena) when he engaged in battle as an ally of the Krotoniates. Here then we can say that the oracle was disconfirmed. Doreius did not take it (Eryx in Sicily). On the one hand, the akoe statements of the Krotoniates and Sybarites pertain to their local setting and interests. The Krotoniates’ denial of Dorieus’ assistance in effect cuts off any oracular claim the Spartans might have to the land they had helped to conquer. The Spartans could argue that since the oracle prophesied they would take it, and they did indeed take Sybaris, it is now rightfully theirs. The Sybarites’ explanation of Dorieus’ over-stepping the oracle mirrors the overstepping of which they are so often accused. 32 Their story about the Spartan community when they questioned why Armageddon had not occurred (Schmalz 2000, 239). Hence, over time, prophecy disconfirmation may increase proselytizing as Festinger hypothesized, or it may winnow down the number of believers, and/or prompt transformations among believers about their spiritual state or their spiritual tasks (SINGELENBERG 2000). 30 MELTON 2000, 149. 31 Herodotus 5.43–45. This is oracle 72 in PARKE/WORMELL 1956. Hereafter oracles will be cited from their collection and indicated by “PW.” On Doreius, see MALKIN 1994, 203–218; 204 n. 41 provides bibliography to which HORNBLOWER 2004 and 2007 may be added. 32 The Sybarites make several attempts to resettle near Sybaris after being defeated by the Krotoniates. On their second recolonization attempt, Diodorus Siculus (12.10.5) reports that the Sybarites receive an oracle that tells them “it is necessary to establish a city in that place where they will live, drinking water within measure and eating bread without measure”. This is found in Thurii where there is a spring with a bronze fountain called medimnos. The water


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assistance of the Krotoniates also preserves the reputation of the Sybarite military; they would have fended off the Krotoniates, were it not for the Spartans. The selfinterests and political motivations are not difficult to spot in the akoe statements of the Sybarites and Krotoniates. On the other hand, their self-interests do not fully explain the motives or methods behind the disconfirmation of Doreius’ oracle. The Sybarites’ assertion that Doreius took too much denies the oracle’s disconfirmation. Similarly, Simon Hornblower writes, “The colony in Sicily also failed, although this one was endorsed by Delphi to the extent that he [Dorieus] was promised he would ‘take the place he was sent against’ (but if he took Sybaris then he had in a sense ‘used up’ this oracle prematurely and the oracle was not actually falsified).”33 Hornblower emphasizes that the object the Pythia promised Dorieus was not specified. Like the oracle that tells Croesus he will destroy a great kingdom if he goes to war and does not specify which great kingdom, Doreius’ oracle predicts he will take the land, without specifying which land. Because the oracle is not specific, it may be considered ambiguous. But this ambiguity is only recognized after the oracle has been disconfirmed. Thus, imputing ambiguity to Delphi is a form of falsification on the part of individuals and groups invested in the outcome of an oracle. It is a strategy to reduce their cognitive dissonance. Curiously, the Sybaritic denial of this oracle’s disconfirmation depends on disobedience on Doreius’ part, not the inherent ambiguity of the oracular word, suggesting further that recognizing or claiming oracular ambiguity was one of several possible ways to address disconfirmation. Prophecy falsification may be found in other Delphic tales and offers an alternative to the range of scholarly hypotheses that explain accurate oracles as post eventum forgeries. Two tales of prophecy disconfirmation and falsification offer glimpses of the social and religious texture of divinatory practices that contribute the accuracy of the Delphic tradition. When, on the advice of a Delphic oracle, the Phocaeans go to Alalia, a colony they had established twenty years earlier in Corsica, whose alternate name is Cyrnus, they are unable to live peacefully with their neighbors and depart after five years. They then establish Elea in Rhegium where they worship the hero Cyrnus on the advice of a Poseidonian man who re-interprets (falsifies) the name “Cyrnus” to mean the hero, not the place.34 Possessing a Delphic oracle that said he would take Argos, the Spartan Kleomenes begins his military campaign against Argos. Upon will be measured because the fountain’s name medimnos is a measure for grain. Zenobius (5.19) says that this line “drinking water without measure and eating bread in measure” “comes from an oracle which the God gave to the Sybarites. For being very hubristic and unmeasured they were destroyed by the Krotoniates.” Zenobius then sets the oracle in a prior colonization effort of the Sybarites, on which see PW 131 with bibliography. The Sybarites, their oracles, and their interpretations have a shared motif: measures, boundaries and stepping over them. See also RUTTER 1970. 33 HORNBLOWER 2004, 110. 34 PW 49/Hdt. 1.165–166.

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learning that a grove he destroyed was dedicated to the hero Argos, Kleomenes judges his original interpretation of his oracle disconfirmed and abandons his plan to attack on Argos.35 In his speech to his fellow Spartans, Kleomenes claims to have consulted omens in the temple of Athena to verify his interpretation of the Delphic oracle. Kleomenes and the Phocaeans deny prophecy disconfirmation through reinterpretation and thereby make these oracles accurate and multivalent, if not wholly ambiguous.36 Jean-Pierre Vernant writes that the “model” of divination found in oral traditions from the archaic age is neither an “artificial creation” but is instead “a ‘theoretical’ representation of divinatory activity that the polis seems to have made very early on.”37 In this view, parsing which parts of these tales are historically accurate, i.e. describe events that happened, and determining which oracles came from Delphi, comes at the price of ignoring the religious dimensions of how dialogues with gods were conducted. Kleomenes consults a Delphic oracle to authorize, not determine, his decision not to invade Argos. His (and others’) interpretations are consistent with a belief that divine language is always accurate and true, even as his interpretations shift to reflect his self-interests, and first lead him towards and then away from Argos. Kleomenes’ interpretations highlight the authority of clients to interpret and reinterpret Delphic oracles as events unfold. More startlingly, the Argives and Athenians simply reject, without interpretative high-jinks, oracles they do not want to follow.38 The Athenians beg the Pythia for an alternative oracle when they do not like the one she issued. 39 In group traditions from the mainland, oracular tales convey the process of interpretation; although an oracle is a divine prediction, the client is not released from making a complex decision. Additionally, oracular interpretation makes human events as well as divine speech the objects of interpretation.40 That the divine voice could be interpreted variously and to suit its client’s needs does not imply accurate oracles are post eventum forgeries. Oracles were falsified, that is interpreted and 35 PW 86/Hdt. 6.76.1 36 FONTENROSE’S comments on this oracle are typical of Delphic scholarship “The story is improbable, since, though the Spartans were superstitious, we may doubt that Kleomenes would have abandoned his campaign after winning a battle so decisively.” In a footnote, FONTENROSE adds, “I should make it clear that that I believe the story of the oracles and its fulfillment to be pure legend; but this does not mean that I consider Kleomenes‘ attack on Argos to be unhistorical. Here as elsewhere legend has entered into historical narrative.… That in reality Kleomenes may not have wanted to take Argos is irrelevant to the oracle story, in which he intended to take it.” (FONTENROSE 1978, 69 and n.19) As FONTENROSE washes out the legendary aspects of this tale, he eliminates the possibility that Kleomenes’ disconfirmation of the oracle is paradigmatic of how oracle-seekers might interpret and act on oracles that captures a crisis in the midst of a military campaign when a decision is taken that includes divine consultation but is not dictated by it – on which see KIRCHBERG 1965 with IMMERWAHR 1967. 37 VERNANT 1991, 314. 38 PW 92 = Hdt. 7.148.2 and PW 82 = 5.89.2. 39 PW 94 = 7.140. 40 VERNANT 1991, 312–314 on the wooden wall oracle (PW 95 = 7.142).


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reinterpreted, because their constituent elements were not elaborate patterns that required mastery of a system, but words that could be easily remembered. Clients and tale-tellers attempted to suture a true divine word to their circumstances in order to render their world comprehensible. 3. The Divinatory Word and the Limits on Interpretation The Sybarites, Kleomenes, the Phocaeans, and Hornblower, whose reasoning approximates Apollo’s advice that Croesus ought to have asked which great empire would be destroyed if he went to war, deploy slightly different forms of disconfirmation and falsification: but all adhere to the same premise, namely that once spoken, an oracle is true. This belief or premise did not entail a slavish obedience to the divine word, but instead encouraged its opposite: namely interpretation. This belief and its implications for a creative response to oracular utterances is made apparent in the affinity that oracles have with kledons, a type of magical language. A kledon is an utterance that someone hears, in a conversation or randomly, and understands to be prophetic.41 In many instances, the hearer interprets the utterance in a way that is different than its speaker intends. It is as though the utterance’s alternative meaning, one that the hearer intuits, supplies or even insists upon, gives the utterance its status as a kledon. For the utterance’s alternative meaning of which the speaker is unaware renders it innocent of the speaker’s intentions and thus it seems to issue from someone or something other than its speaker. In some ways, this makes a kledon like one of the Pythia’s oracles: to the degree that an oracle appears to exceed the knowledge of its speaker, the Pythia, whether because of its form or content, it appears unintended by her and thus is believed to be the true word of Apollo.42 When Odysseus hears a suitor say to him, “Stranger, may Zeus and the other immortals give you your heart’s greatest desire,” Odysseus “delights in the kledon” (18.112). While the suitor simply wishes the beggar Odysseus well, Odysseus and the reader understand that since Odysseus’ greatest desire is to see the suitors dead and his house restored – precisely what none of the suitors think might happen – Odysseus believes these words are a kledon.43 In Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, when Aegisthus will not back down in his verbal duel with the chorus, he says, “Well, then, I too have sword in hand and do not shrink from death,” to which the chorus replies, “you speak of your death. So be it. We accept the outcome.”44 Like Odysseus, the chorus chooses to understand a statement in a 41 On kledonomancy, see COOK 1907, HALLIDAY 1913, 229–234, STANFORD 1939, 34–38, and JOHNSTON 2008, 131. 42 Confirmation of Delphi’s connection to kledonomancy comes from Plutarch who compares Delphic divination to kledonomancy, on which see LINCOLN 2000, 167. 43 On kledonomancy in the Odyssey, see also PODLECKI 1967, HIRVONENK 1969, FARAONE 1996, and LATEINER 2005a. 44 PERADOTTO 1969, 1–2.

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way its speaker did not intend. More than this, though, both Odysseus and the chorus seem to think that the statement they heard signals what they desire to happen, and that once uttered the saying is efficacious. Peradotto writes: “The spoken word is thought to possess twofold power: it may be an index of what is happening or will happen, or it may actually precipitate events. In practice, these two aspects are not often easy to distinguish.”45 It is rather audacious to convert a statement into a kledon, or to replace a speaker’s intention with one’s desires, as the Argive elders do. Significantly this process depends on the listener’s interpretation, not on the speaker’s intentions, and thus this process points out how important the social participation of listeners is for defining the nature of an utterance’s capacity, to state, predict or precipitate the future. It is the listener alone who can designate and make a spoken word into a kledon. The word “kledon” is only used twice in Herodotus,46 both in tales involving Spartans.47 In a meeting concerning whether the Spartans would help liberate Ionia from the Persians, King Leotychides of Sparta interrupts to ask the name of the Samian who is speaking. Herodotus speculates that perhaps Leotychides was searching for a kledon. When the Samian replies “Hegesistratos” (that is, Army Leader), Leotychides accepts that this name is an omen and agrees to lead the Greek army against the Persians.48 When Kleomenes of Sparta attempts to help Isagoras stage a coup in Athens, he attempts to enter the temple of Athena on the Acropolis.49 The priestess commands him to stay out because Dorians are not allowed to enter the temple. Her statement is a command followed by an explanation of religious protocol. Kleomenes attempts to refute that he is a Dorian, and thus to fend off ominous import of the priestess’ words; he enters the temple and then is promptly forced out of Athens with the other Lacedaemonians. Herodotus explains that because Kleomenes did not heed or use the priestess’ kledon, he was soundly defeated. Lateiner’s concluding observation that “Herodotus draws attention…to real historical consequences of events perceived by some as unintended omens” locates his study in Herodotus’ social world and not in his literary persona, and in religious modalities, not in political motivations. Lateiner’s observation need not imply that the priestess and Kleomenes had this precise conversation or that the Spartans had no political motivations to fight in Ionia. Rather he suggests that kledonomancy was part of the social world of the tellers of these tales and was no less a social force than political interests, and was not merely literary embellishment. These passages, like all Delphic oracles, are better understood as snapshots of how individuals made decisions that conjoined their interests with the divine word for their maximum benefit. 45 PERADOTTO 1969, 7. 46 LATEINER 2005b, 41 n. 21. 47 LATEINER 2005b discusses four instances of kledonomancy in Herodotus, all of which involve Spartans: 5.72, 6.50, 8.115 and 9.90–91. HOLLMANN 2011 provides a comprehensive overview of the instances of reading and interpreting ominous signs in Herodotus. 48 LATEINER 2005b, 41–42 on Herodotus 9.90–91. 49 LATEINER 2005b, 39 on Herodotus 6. 72


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The affinity between oracles and kledons is evident in several oracle-shrines and further suggests the pervasiveness of seeking and finding divine guidance in human words. Some oracular shrines provided a method for an oracle-seeker to garner a chance utterance or kledon that they are then enjoined to regard as an oracle. Pausanias describes an oracle-shrine to Hermes Agoraios in a market place of Pharae.50 There an oracle seeker whispers his question in the ear of Hermes’ statue, deposits a coin and lights oil lamps, and covers his ears with his hands. Once he leaves the market, he removes his hands and then accepts the first saying he hears as his oracle (Paus. 7.22.2–3). Pausanias mentions two other shrines that similarly institutionalize kledonomancy (Paus. 7.22.4 and 9.11.7). In all of these instances to which Dodona might be added, kledonomancy and oracles blend into each other. Even when an oracle is delivered to a client as at Delphi and hence lacks the inadvertent or accidental character of a kledon, there remains a similarity between kledons and oracles. There seems to be a belief that once oracles are uttered, they do not simply predict or foretell the future, but may have, as a kledon does, the power to create the future. Within the Delphic tradition, oracle-seekers and hearers may treat Delphic oracles as if they are kledons and make use of the blurring of the status of an oracle to their advantage by fulfilling the oracle, as they would like it to be, or in a way that comports with their desire. This is why oracles are often kept secret. Since they will come true, they can be made to come true in a way that benefits someone other than their recipient. There are a group of Delphic oracles that have a special affinity with kledons and the oracle of Hermes and Hestia. These take the form of the “the first who meets you, greets you.”51 Perhaps the most well-known of these oracles is from Euripides’ Ion. Xuthos has been told that when he leaves the temple at Delphi, the first person he meets will be his son (Ion 534 ff./PW 190). The candidates who meet and greet the oracle-seeker are akin to the first thing heard. The oracleseeker converts a random encounter into a fateful event by turning the person they have met into an object or person that overflows with unimagined meaning. Ion says, “I am the first you met? … But how strange this is.” This process is indeed strange and also funny. Ion is suddenly imbued with the properties of an oracle or kledon. Part of the scene’s humor derives from the realization that what is trivial is fateful. What is happenstance and easily overlooked is what might be most significant. The practice of interpreting oracles and kledons points to a belief in the efficacy of oracles and magical language that does not imply either an irrational mentality or a simple-minded adherence to the divine word.52 Working in the 50 HALLIDAY 1913 places the shrine of Pharae in the middle of a spectrum of increasing intentionality in divine communications, whereas kledons and oracular shrines such as Delphi are at its end points. 51 The following Delphic oracles are of this type: PW 20, 60, 61, 62, 78, 190, 231, 295, 313, 322, 380, 381, 382, 408, 532. 52 In anthropological literature, reliance on divination or magic was considered an indication of a ‘primitive mentality’ until EVANS-PRITCHARD argued that people who believed in witches,

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intersection of anthropology and cognitive science, Pascal Boyer argues for a causal relationship between a state of affairs considered significant yet not fully understood and a divinatory utterance: “clients and diviners consider the rituals as procedures which make it possible to obtain statements that are directly caused by the situation at hand. A link is established between a certain state of affairs… and the statement which describes this situation.”53 This implicit belief in the causal nature of the situation does not depend on whether the divinatory technique is inspired, consisting of the utterances of possessed persons, or mechanical and depends on a reading of cards, stars, tea, or anthills. For an oracle, Boyer argues, is like a photograph that may be over or under exposed, blurred or unclear, but is still a photograph of its object, while a clear photograph of a model of said object is not.54 The truth criteria of divinatory statements then is applied to “utterances as events caused, rather than sentences expressed.”55 A divinatory statement, even one with little propositional value, must be remembered and repeated with no changes to its form because it is caused by events and is accurate. In Boyer’s analysis, then, prophecy falsification would necessarily pervade all divinatory systems. For if the divine omen is true, whatever its form, its recipient must seek to connect it to events. What is unique to Delphi is that prophecy falsification takes the form of interpretation along distinctly rhetorical lines and becomes embedded in ancient and modern discourses about Delphic ambiguity. Delphic divination and indeed many forms of divination in Greece hinge upon words and their meanings.56 4. Delphic Ambiguity Revisited How were oral tales with accurate and sometimes ambiguous oracles generated? Delphic oracles overlap with popular genres, deploy aural mnemonic devices, and depend on notions about divine language. The popular genres of proverbs and

53 54 55 56

oracles and magic were no less rational than those who did not. He thereby moved the study of divination out of the British intellectualist tradition of TYLOR and FRAZER and away from LEVI-BRUHL’S study of mentalities into functionalist and symbolic analyses where it has remained until recently. Sarah JOHNSTON 2005, 7 explains how these larger trends have influenced the study of divination in antiquity. “Because scholars knew quite well that many civic and religious institutions of the Greeks and Roman incorporated divinatory practices, and because many of these institutions has long been admired for their ‘rational’ accomplishments…it was difficult to put divination in the same category as magic.” BOYER 1990, 73. BOYER 1990, 78. BOYER 1990, 91. VERNANT 1991 notes that Greece is unusual because of the prevalence of speech and its interpretation in its divinatory systems. JOHNSTON’S book on divination (2008) confirms Vernant’s observation. While Greek prophets might read entrails, no elaborate and welldeveloped system of divination involving objectswas more prevalent in Greece than the many divinatory shrines and prophets that depend on words.


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riddles57 share two features with Delphic oracles that are relevant for examining Delphic ambiguity: metaphors and aural devices. In his analyses of style in oratorical prose and tragic diction, Aristotle presents metaphor as the defining feature of proverbs and riddles, thus indirectly offering an explanation for the overlap between oracles, proverbs and riddles.58 There are four types of metaphor: species for species, species to genus, genus to species, and analogy. 59 When two interpretations are provided in the framing narrative of oracle containing a metaphor, the oracle can reasonably be labeled “ambiguous.” Moreover, such tales demonstrate that interpreting Delphic oracles was a rhetorical exercise that revolved around tropes.60 While homonyms play a less prominent role in both riddles and proverbs, they appear often in oracles and, like metaphors, are only evident if two interpretations are offered in an oracle’s framing narrative. Thus oracles with homonyms and etymological play to which homonyms are related, are ambiguous.61 Aural dimensions of oracles, whether in verse or prose, such as alliteration, assonance, consonance, homoioteleuton or internal rhymes, are typical of “orational prose,” that is, orally transmitted prose with poetic features that aid in memorization. These devices often contribute to oracular ambiguity but do not fully account for it as tropes do.62 Aural devices nonetheless speak to the ways Delphic oracles were transmitted orally, and in creating oracles with repeating sound patterns, these devices mark even prose oracles as distinct from every-day language. If Delphic oracles with two possible meanings that are not explicitly included in their narrative frame, but that are easily supplied, were included in a catalogue of ambiguous Delphic oracles, it would grow without limit. It is precisely this observation that makes clear that ambiguity lies in the eyes of interpreters who may choose to locate and interpret homonyms and metaphors. Just as Aegisthus’ words acquire a double meaning because the chorus provides, indeed insists on, an inter57 On Greek proverbs, see KINDSTRAND 1978, HUXLEY 1981, and SHAPIRO 2000 on proverbs in Herodotus. RUSSO 1983 outlines the aural devices typical of proverbs. 58 Aristotle On Rhetoric 1405b–1413a. 59 Aristotle Poetics 21 and On Rhetoric 1413a. 60 Species for species: PW 6, 7, 15, 16, 223, 26, 33, 46, 48, 54, 65, 68, 70, 73, 84, 92, 94, 95, 100, 110, 111, 112, 121, 129, 130, 133, 154, 160, 171, 189, 218, 266, 268, 290, 293, 300, 302, 309, 31, 311, 319, 329, 364, 378, 379, 407, 414, 421, 434, 436, 438, 439, 453, 477, 480, 513, 516, 517, 565, 567, 568, 593, 594, 608; Genus for species: PW 12, 53, 81, 107, 197, 259, 288, 289, 290, 371, 403, 418, 484, 531, 578. Genus for species: PW 1, 25, 31, 45, 46, 67, 109, 111, 121, 127, 131, 154, 180, 198, 222, 250, 306, 307, 311, 312, 329, 375, 423, 424, 434, 451, 579, 581. Genus-for-species metaphors sometimes blend into species-for-species metaphors. Thus some items in this category are dubious. 61 Homonyms: PW 7, 18, 31, 49, 86, 131, 146, 146, 161, 166, 168, 173, 180, 206, 230, 237, 258, 259, 267, 271, 359, 360, 436, 454, 511, 512, 525, 541, Figura etymologia are a related form of ambiguity: 133, 214, 225, 226, 227, 233, 368, 371, 387, 410, 412, 414, 443, 497, 498, 515, 600. 62 “Orational prose” in oral societies is a term coined by Miriam LICHTHEIM to describe Egyptian wisdom literature and adopted by Kevin ROBB 1983 to describe Heraclitus’ work. On these features in Delphic oracles, see MAURIZIO 2012.

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pretation that is different from what Aegisthus intended, so too an oracle may be supplied with several possible meanings. The interpretative action of Delphic clients and listeners, then, was varied and creative, sometimes dependent on the client’s ingenuity and desire and at other times revealing the client’s fatalism or fears. Interpretations of oracle-seekers that deny disconfirmation are the instances where one can witness how oracles become ambiguous. Delphi’s noted ambiguity is a consequence of clients and groups finding and creating ambiguity through their interpretation of oracles and in their story-telling. Both were dialogues, the first with a god and their fellow interpreters, and the second with their listeners, that explored the divine word in relation to their identity, circumstances, desires and political agendas. 5. Individualism Scholars who explain Delphic accuracy through hypotheses that lead them to consider many oracles inauthentic credit ancient actors and writers with self-interested motives that lead them to forge, if not to interpret, oracles. This essay has explained Delphic accuracy through falsification and kledonomancy: oracleseekers were constrained only by their confidence that the words of the oracle were true, as in the case of kledons, and could falsify (interpret endlessly) oracles, even create ambiguity, within acceptable rhetorical limits. The client had the authority to suture the divine word and human world in a way that comported with his desires and needs, even as the divine word was understood to be true and hence impervious to the intentions of its human enunciator and indifferent to the needs of its human listeners. This paradox suggests that Delphic divination belonged to creative and engaged clients and story-tellers as much as to its shrine, and further that Delphic divination supports the notion that religious “individualism”, a concept developed primarily by sociologists to describe the modern world, may with some modification be considered an aspect of archaic Greek religion. In Invisible Religion, Thomas Luckmann details the rise of religious individualism as a symptom and consequence of the transformative processes that mark the transition from the medieval to the modern world. These include industrialization, capitalism, the rise of the scientific method, post-Enlightenment and post-revolutionary definitions of individual freedom and rights, rationalization, secularization, social differentiation, localization, and individualization: the development of an individual’s freedom, rights, interests and needs over any institutional, cultural or social affiliation, wherein the individual becomes his own reference point in an increasingly complex world and is able to exercise choice in all areas of his life. In the religious arena, individualism is best understood in comparison to what it is not: a religiosity “concretely shaped by a historical church” as in the medieval world.63 63 LUCKMANN 1967, 73.


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In Luckmann’s description of medieval religiosity, the divine realm is codified by doctrine found in sacred books and their commentaries and by officially sanctioned experts, who also oversee religious practices. The dominant religious institution oversees the individual’s connection to the divine realm and offers a coherent official model of that connection that in turn allows the institution to oversee most areas of the individual’s life. In its ideal, this formulation “implies a complete identity between the ‘official’ model of religion, the individual system of ‘ultimate’ significance and the individual pattern of priorities.”64 As society becomes segmented and specialized, religious institutions multiply and each oversees an increasingly narrow slice of the social world and cedes ground to secular institutions. Consequently, individuals must apply religious doctrines to discrete and separate spheres of their lives to construct a system of ultimate significance. Gradually, their commitment to their religious institution and its doctrines weaken, as their scope for the selection of beliefs from different and competing religious, as well as moral and ethical systems, increases and generates “invisible religion,” the conglomeration of spiritual and religious beliefs from various and competing traditions that have no one public expression or institution. In addition to Luckmann’s term “invisible,” modern religion is characterized by the collapse of a dualistic worldview in favor of a multiple and indeterminate universal structure, an emphasis on this world and not the afterlife, humanism, syncretism of semi-religious forms, flexibility, revisibility, pluralism, and an orientation towards authenticity and self-realization rather than salvation. 65 With the exception of the last item, this list might apply well to ancient Greek religion with its polytheism and local forms of worship, the absence of a sacred book and formalized doctrine, and its emphasis on this world, not the next. While Luckmann recognizes aspects of religious individualism in the Hellenistic world, he posits that in earlier “simple societies”, such as the cities in archaic Greece, none existed.66 For there, he argues, the official model of meaning and the individual system of ultimate meaning would be congruent. And yet, one cannot accept the assignment of Greek religion to the medieval side of the dichotomy between the modern religious individualism and medieval religiosity. Robert Parker has recently emphasized the range of choices that individuals had in their selection of religious practices and philosophical commitments.67 In his closing chapter, he asks “how, if at all, an individual could choose particular kinds of relation to the gods.”68 To answer this question, he explores how and whether variables such as location, social status, gender, membership in subgroups might influence religious practices before turning to the variety of religious practices an individual might pursue including public worship of private 64 65 66 67 68

LUCKMANN 1967, 79. LAMBERT 1999, 308. LUCKMANN 1967, 92. PARKER 2011, 224–264. PARKER 2011, 225.

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associations, mysteries, bewitching, and binding activities. He concludes that “Greek religion provided a strong frame work of social cohesion; it met a human need by opening channels of communication with that unseen world most humans believed to exist: but it did these things without insisting on any particular set of speculations about the character of that unseen world.” 69 Delphic divination specified the channel of communication, namely human language, of divine communication, but it did not summon nor demand adherence to its oracles. An oracle might instigate an individual’s (or group’s) search to wed circumstances to the divine word, but did not dictate how to achieve such a meaningful connection, other than through keen observation, the interpretation of rhetorical tropes, and careful attention to names or homonyms. The accuracy of the Delphic tradition redounds to the desire of individuals to communicate with the divine. Delphic divinatory practices allowed, even encouraged, individuals to take the authority to interpret the divine word through the prism of their self-interests, without necessitating the sacrifice of one to the other. By generating such a possibility, Delphic divination established that between the individual (or group) and the divine, there was not a doctrine, but a dialogue granting “free play to the life of the mind” such as Parker argues marked paganism. Such a dialogue suggests the sort of individualism Luckmann locates in the sentiments and practices that define invisible modern religions.

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Techniques”, in: The Muse at Play. KWAPISZ, Jen/SZYMANSKI, Mikotaj/PETRAIN, David (ed.) Berlin 2012, 100–120. MAYOR, Adrienne, “Bibliography of Classical Folklore Scholarship: Myths, Legends, and Popular Beliefs of Ancient Greece and Rome”, in: Folklore 111 (2000), 123–138. MELTON, J. Gordon, “Spiritualization and Reaffirmation: What really happens when prophecy fails”, in: Expecting Armaggedon: Essential Readings in Failed Prophecy. STONE, Jon R. (ed.) 2000, 145–158. MURRAY, Oswyn, “Herodotus and Oral History”, in: The Historian’s Craft in the Age of Herodotus. LURAGHI, Nino (ed.) Oxford 2001 (1987) 16–44. MURRAY, Oswyn,“Herodotus and Oral History Reconsidered”, in: The Historian’ s Craft in the Age of Herodotus, LURAGHI, Nino (ed.) Oxford 2001 (1987) 314–325. MUSSCHENGA, Albert; “Identity-Constitutive Reasons and Narrativ Justification“, in: Reasons of One’s Own. SIE, Maureen/SLORS, Marc VAN DEN BRINK, Bert (ed.) Aldershot 2004. PARKE, Herbert.W./WORMELL, Donald E. W., The Delphic Oracle, 2 vols. Oxford 1956. PARKER, Robert, “Greek States and Greek oracles”, in: Crux: Essays in Honour of G.E.M. de Ste Croix. CARTLEDGE, Paul (ed.) London 1985, 298–326. PARKER, Robert, “Spartan Religion”, in: Classical Sparta. POWELL, Anton (ed.) London 1989, 142– 172. PARKER, Robert, On Greek Religion. Ithaca 2011. PRICE, Simon, “Delphi and Divination” in: Greek Religion and Society. EASTERLING, Patricia/MUIR, John V. (ed.) Cambridge 1985, 128–154. PERADOTTO, John, “Cledonomancy in the Oresteia”, in: AJP 90 (1969) 1–21. PODLECKI, Anthony, “Omens in the Odyssey”, in: G&R 14 (1967) 12–23. ROBB, Kevin, “Preliterate Ages and the Linguistic Art of Heraclitus”, in: Language and Thought in Early Greek Philosophy. in: ROBB, Kevin (ed.), La Salle 1983, 152–206. ROWE, Galen O., “The Adunata as a Stylistic Device”, in: AJP 86 (1965) 387–396. RUSSO, Joseph, “The Poetics of the Ancient Greek Proverb”, in: Journal of Folklore Research 20 (1983) 121–130. RUTTER, N. Keith, “Sybaris – Legend and Reality”, in: Greece and Rome 17 (1970) 168–176. SCHMALZ, Matthew N., “When Festinger Fails: Jehovah Witnesses and the Watch Tower”, in: Expecting Armaggedon: Essential Readings in Failed Prophecy. STONE, Jon R. (ed.) Routledge 2000, 233–250. SHAPIRO, Susan O., “Proverbial Wisdom in Herodotus”, in: TAPA 130 (2000) 89–118. SINGELENBERG, Richard, “It Separated the Wheat from the Chaff”, in: Expecting Armaggedon: Essential Readings in Failed Prophecy. STONE, Jon. R. (ed.), London 2000, 191–210. STANFORD, William B., Ambiguity in Greek Language. Oxford 1939. STONE, Jon R. (ed.), Expecting Armaggedon: Essential Readings in Failed Prophecy. London 2000. THOMAS, Rosalind, “Herodotus’ Histories and the Floating Gap”, in: LURAGHI, Nino (ed.), The Historian’s Craft in the Age of Herodotus. Oxford 2001, 198–210. VERNANT, Jean P., “Speech and Mute Signs”, in: Mortals and Immortals, ZEITLIN, Froma (ed.), Princeton 1991, 303–317. WEISER, Neil, “The Effects of Prophecy Disconfirmation of the Committed”, in: Expecting Armaggedon: Essential Readings in Failed Prophecy. STONE, Jon R. (ed.), London 2000, 105–118.

CICERO AND THE PYTHIA – A DECEPTIVE DILEMMA? Susanne William Rasmussen A frequently stated claim in comparative religion is that the mosaic of religious alternatives existing in the Graeco-Roman world resembled the plurality of options in the contemporary Western world. Then, as now, individuals could have multiple religious preferences. Then, as now, not all options were equal. Some had the political backing or the ambitions to extend their sphere of influence much further than others did. And the cult of Christ, for example, placed much more farreaching demands on the individual, compared to other cults in the religious landscape of the Ancient world. These religious and moral demands on the individual have certainly dominated much European thinking and the history of religion ever since the cult of Christ gained a firm foothold. Placing emphasis on such questions of religious beliefs and demands is, however, a rather misleading point of departure for analysing religions in the preChristian world. The non-Christian approach to the divine world was enacted in a set of ritual practices, not codified in a set of religious beliefs.1 Religion in the pre-Christian Roman world revolved much more around ritual action and social, religious, and political tradition than around emotional commitment and personal faith. Consequently, one could plausibly choose to take a balanced social constructionist perspective, trying to grasp the nature of the religious actions, attitudes, and options in the Roman world. As will become evident in the following, this means placing more emphasis on the social construction of religion as a sort of everyday social interaction.2 In the Roman world, ritual practice was of fundamental importance in everyday life, and it consisted in a wide range of rituals, sacrifices, festivals, processions, vows, prayers, divination, and so on, in order to secure the welfare and continuity of society. The most crucial element was the following of age-old traditions concerning religious actions and know-how, for instance when seeking knowledge of the future, or soliciting divine assistance in various situations. Furthermore, following religious tradition and thus identifying with a particular collective past and present was an essential element in the process of acquiring a particular identity.3 1 2 3

See, for instance, BEARD/North/PRICE 1998; RIVES 2007; NORTH 2011, 479–502. Cf. BECKFORD 2003, 1–29. Cf. M. HALBWACHS 1925; ASSMANN 1999; PRICE 2008, 167–178; RASMUSSEN 2003; RASMUSSEN 2008, 259–265.


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Along this line, a consultation of the famous Oracle of Delphi, or other oracles, functioned as legitimization of individual – or collective – decisions while at the same time constructing social identity. The construction of social identity involved the socio-religious status of the Delphic Oracle and consequently the socio-religious prestige given to the person consulting this oracle. As a famous centre of cultural and religious remembrance, the Oracle of Delphi represented a significant aspect of cultural and cultic continuity in the Graeco-Roman world.4 In this way, religion in Antiquity – just as today’s religious life – was an important factor in the construction and maintenance of social worlds, embedding individuals and societies with an ultimate order in the universe. Focussing on this aspect of Ancient and modern religions, we are dealing with the fact that human beings think both as individuals and as social beings – and thus we enter the fields of sociology of religion and cognitive sociology. However, as pointed out by E. Zerubavel, one of the serious problems of modern science of the mind is that: Unlike the way we typically contrast human and animal (or adult and infant) cognition, we certainly cannot attribute the difference between the ancient Roman and present-day Italian visions of the universe (or between the ways liberals and conservatives view art), for example, to any major difference in their genetic makeup or the physiology of their brains.5

From a social constructionist perspective, the meanings attached to religion are, in part, a product of social interaction and negotiation at the level of individuals, groups, organisations and societies. Therefore the social construction of religion is, simultaneously, an individual and a collective process. So, in order to grasp these dynamics we should focus on the interaction between the collective production of religion and the individual responses. This will be further examined in the following case study of Cicero and the Pythia. 1. Cicero Cicero is one of our most important sources on divination and oracles in the Roman world, and thanks to his surviving texts, Cicero is known far better than any other author of Antiquity. And yet his posthumous reputation is ambiguous – and pinning down his religious attitudes seems to be a difficult task. However, the question of his religious views has frequently been used to draw a negative picture of Cicero, namely as a superficial, self-contradictory, hypocritical manipulator. This tradition of aversion to Cicero seems, not least, to hark back to the church father St Augustine, a Christian hardliner who often complained about what he saw as Cicero’s hypocrisy in religious matters. This accusation of hypocrisy has been repeated several times since then. Among the scholars who have dealt with 4 5

In this context, see especially, PRICE 1985, 128–154; ROSENBERGER 2001; ROSENBERGER 2008, 91–106; BENDLIN 2011, 175–250. ZERUBAVEL 1997, 3–4.

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the issue of Cicero’s religious hypocrisy, R. J. Goar analyzes Cicero’s speeches De Domo and De Haruspicum Responso. One of the focal points of these two speeches is the importance of ritual know-how in the procedures of Roman religion. Goar, however, concentrating on questions of belief and emotion, claims that Cicero is caught up in a moral dilemma, which is: The dilemma of an Academic [Cicero] compelled by circumstances to speak positively about haruspicine before a group [the Senate] that knew his philosophical learnings.6

Based on this premise, Goar concludes that Cicero must have felt a certain discomfort in facing the Senate, because the Senators “must have been quite aware of his true feelings about omens and oracles” (my italics). Other scholars have tried to explain away the alleged dilemma with reference to Cicero’s personal development, claiming that Cicero’s attitudes towards divination and oracles simply reflect how he comes to substitute philosophy for religion. And following this hypothesis, some speak of Cicero’s “conversion to philosophy”.7 Consequently, the accusations against Cicero revolve around two theories. First, there is the theory of hypocrisy, according to which Cicero is a sly hypocrite, accused of having no deep religious feelings, and according to which he is also accused of being caught up in a dilemma – or perhaps even two dilemmas: one between religion and philosophy, and the other between religion and politics. Second, there is the theory of personal evolution, according to which Cicero matures. He grows up, and he converts, or gradually shifts, from a (primitive) Roman religious perspective to a more sophisticated Greek philosophical approach. It is especially the Academic scepticism, as expressed in the second book of Cicero’s De Divinatione, that has fuelled the ideas of his hypocrisy, his personal evolution, and his postulated dilemma. This, however, implies the assumption that the second book of De Divinatione is actually a direct expression of Cicero’s own personal views and attacks on divination. Furthermore, the two theories – based respectively on “hypocrisy” and “personal evolution” – rest, in part, on a chronologically unstable foundation, which is weakened by uncertainties as to when Cicero actually wrote what. Finally, a very interesting episode between Cicero and the Pythia in Delphi further complicates both theories, revealing a more complex picture of Cicero’s religious attitudes and actions. The episode is this: When Cicero went abroad for two years in 79 BC, according to Plutarch it was on that very journey that Cicero first studied Greek philosophy in Rhodes and Athens, and then afterwards went to consult the Delphic Oracle in a personal political matter. Plutarch writes:

6 7

GOAR 1972, 111, cf. 29, 57, and 62. Cf. HEIBGES 1969. RAWSON 1975, 10. Cf. MOMIGLIANO 1984. For two excellent contributions concerning Cicero and divination, see BEARD 1986, 22–46, and SCHOFIELD 1986, 47–65.


Susanne William Rasmussen So when Cicero, full of anticipation, leaned towards politics, his initiative was dampened by an oracular response. For when he asked the god at Delphi how he should gain the greatest recognition, Pythia instructed him to allow his own nature, and not the recognition from the majority, to direct his life. 8

A very wise oracular response – and one that could indeed be highly relevant to many European politicians today. Be that as it may, once again parts of the scholarship have perceived this oracular consultation as posing a puzzling and delicate dilemma. And again focussing on the question of religious and individual faith, some scholars doubt whether the story is even true at all. F. Guillaumont, for example, suggests a bit hesitantly that: “If Cicero consulted the Oracle, it was perhaps more because of loyalty towards Platonism than because of religious conviction.”9 Now, this interpretation might well be conceivable. And likewise it might be possible that the story is untrue. We do not know. One could think of many excellent reasons for fabricating such an oracular response. The main focus in this context, however, is not the question of historical truth, but the question of the functions and meanings attributed to religion. So true or not, it is worth noting that Plutarch’s account provides no evidence of any dilemma in simultaneously pursuing philosophical studies and consulting oracles. Naturally, in this context it is worth remembering that Plutarch himself held a priesthood at Delphi from some time in the 90s CE, and at the same time called himself a philosopher. As concerns Cicero’s postulated dilemma, both Guillaumont’s suggestion and the two theories disregard the fact that Graeco-Roman religion as such was not a matter of individual commitment, personal faith, or a body of dogma. Cicero defines religio as cultus deorum,10 and the essential element in Roman religion was not the question of beliefs, but the performance of rituals. Furthermore, from a sociological perspective it is not necessary to accuse Cicero of personal hypocrisy. His consultation of the Delphic Oracle was simply a consequence of the individual’s socio-religious embeddedness; a consequence of tradition, interaction, and negotiation between the profane and the sacred spheres in the Ancient world. Religion included a wide assortment of customs, festivals, rituals, sacrifices, and so forth, all serving to express and sustain a productive human society. Along these lines, divination was an important protective institution that ensured socio-political stability and safeguarded law and constitutional order.11 8 9 10 11

Plut. Vit. Cic. 5.1 (my translation). GUILLAUMONT 1984, 103; cf. 104. Cic. Nat. D. 2.8. This is also reflected in Cicero’s discussions on the Roman res publica in his works De Legibus and De Re Publica, where he constructs an ideal constitution consisting of different definitions and elements from Greek law and ideas, Roman mos maiorum, and Cicero’s own judgement on the Roman constitution seen in the light of current problems of the state and the issue of necessary reforms. Cf. RAWSON 1973, 334–356; SCHMIDT 1973, 262–333; SCHOFIELD 1995, 63–83.

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It must, of course, be stressed that Cicero, as a person, operates within two different social contexts, clearly indicated by the different nature of the sources involved (Cicero’s speeches and his philosophical works, respectively). One context is religio-political, namely the question of his political ambitions, his personal role as a politician, as an orator, and as a Roman augur. And in this case, it is important to bear in mind the considerable socio-religious prestige that Cicero associates with the office of a Roman priest, which he himself was clearly proud to hold from 53 BC onwards.12 Furthermore, in one of his speeches Cicero begins his address to the Roman college of pontifices by defining an ideal religiopolitical relationship regarding Roman priests: Among the many things, gentlemen of the pontifical college, that our ancestors created and established under divine inspiration, nothing is more renowned than their decision to entrust the worship of the gods and the highest interests of the state to the same men – so that the most eminent and illustrious citizens might ensure the maintenance of religion by the proper administration of the state, and the maintenance of prudent interpretation of religion.13

Naturally, we must recall Cicero’s objective in this speech: He is vehemently appealing to this very group of people, and the strong likelihood of rhetorical exaggeration is obvious. Still, his religio-political ideal is clearly expressed: From a Roman perspective, coinciding religious and political roles are desirable – and handling religious affairs and safeguarding the interests of the state are activities that are closely intertwined. The other Ciceronian context is a philosophical one. This second context springs from the Graeco-Roman acculturation process and Cicero’s wish to make Greek philosophical ideas accessible to Latin readers.14 In the first book of his philosophical work De Divinatione, for instance, propounding Stoic arguments in favour of divination, Cicero mentions a prodigy (in 91 BC) where mice had gnawed at the sacred shields.15 According to the traditional interpretation, this was one of the most horrifying public prodigies, indicating that the welfare of society was in danger unless proper ritual expiation was made. However, in the second book of De Divinatione, propounding Academic arguments against divination, Cicero argues polemically against this prodigy, asking: Are we really stupid and thoughtless enough taking it as a prodigy if something is gnawed at by mice, whose most important occupation – after all – is gnawing?16

So when presenting Greek philosophy, Cicero examines the different philosophical aspects of an issue, such as divination and oracles. When acting as a Roman 12 13 14 15 16

Cf. Cic. Leg. 2.20; LINDERSKI 1972, 181–200. Cic. De Domo 1.1. Cf. Cic. Div. 2.1–5; Cic. Nat. D. 1.7–8. Cic. Div. 1.99. Cic. Div. 2.59. Concerning such prodigies see, for instance, ROSENBERGER 1998; RASMUSSEN 2003.


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politician, and personally serving as a Roman priest, however, Cicero considers oracles and Graeco-Roman cult far more important than a potential philosophical improbability seen from, say, a strictly Academic point of view. Of course, philosophical contexts could also imply personal significance. For example, some of Cicero’s letters provide evidence of significant personal reasons for his philosophical studies. One reason was his grief following the death of his daughter Tullia in 45 BC. Another reason was his isolation from political life at the time. We have a letter, written in 44 BC, confirming that philosophy gave Cicero the strength to maintain some mental stability in times of personal and political despair. As Cicero writes to his faithful secretary Tiro: And our friend Atticus, because he once noticed that I panicked, believes I still do; he does not see that I am protected by the safeguard of philosophy.17

The two contextually different situations – the religio-political and the philosophical – are reflected in Cicero’s attitudes and actions, depending, of course, on the sources examined. To Cicero, philosophy was a diversion and a consolation, an intellectual and educational exercise, whereas religio was an unquestionably historical, social, and political necessity. In short: philosophical theory was one thing, religious practice another, and potential contradictory elements would have been basically irrelevant, because Roman religion had no body of dogma, and revolved around ritual action rather than religious belief.18 So to sum up: The dilemma said to exist in Cicero’s visit to the Oracle of Delphi is actually a deception, in the sense that no dilemma exists. Nor is the visit necessarily a personal political stunt, revealing manipulation or hypocrisy, nor is it the beginning of a personal development or shift from Roman religion to Greek philosophy. Cicero’s consultation with the Pythia is a consequence of the traditional religious behaviour of his time, and of his own socio-religious embeddedness. In this case, consulting the famous Oracle of Delphi functions as his legitimization of a decision in a personal political matter. At the same time the episode, whether it is true or not, illustrates the construction of social identity, involving the socio-religious status of the Delphic Oracle and consequently the socio-religious prestige given to the person consulting that oracle. 2. The concept of individualization and “The Great Disembedding” of individuals Now that we are dealing with the concept of individualization, and discussing religion as a social construction, it must be added that the conceptualization of “individualization” is itself a matter of social construction – as well as a matter of social science – and that it is therefore bound to vary depending on time and place. In this section, I deploy the concept of individualization in a sociological 17 Cic. Fam.16.23.2. 18 Cf. Cic. Nat. D. 3.5.

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sense, as a transformation of the relationship between the individual and society. Individualization is a transformation that disembeds individuals from historically inscribed, traditional institutions and status-based groups, roles, norms, values and other social constraints. Paradoxically, at the same time as such disembedding of individuals takes place in society, new forms of reintegration, standardization, control, and constraints are created. These processes are, effectively, “reimbedding”.19 Or in short, following Ulrich Beck: “So – to give a simple definition – ‘individualization’ means disembedding without re-embedding.”20 One of the theoretical problems in analyzing religion and individualization is the tendency to view both of these things as strictly personal matters, perceived simply as common sense in relation to self-understanding and interrelations between individual identity and society. However, as demonstrated in studying the case of Cicero and the Pythia, religion and self-understanding in the Ancient world was something that was deeply embedded in society and in the cosmos as a whole. Of course, on one level human beings are always socially embedded. We learn and define our identities in dialogue with, and sometimes in struggles against, others, and by being inducted into a certain language, and so on and so forth. But on another level – the level of content – the things that we learn are what make us become individuals: forming our own opinions, worshipping our own God or gods, following our own ideas and inclinations in any number of ways. Here the question of classification comes into play. Different cultures apply different classifications, and classification is a social process of actively constructing chunks of meaning – religious or otherwise – in the world. When we draw lines and make distinctions concerning categories such as sacred versus profane, religio versus superstitio, private versus public, hypocrisy versus honesty, we do so not only as human beings and individuals, but also, and even more so, as social beings. In this way, shared meanings and collective identities are (re)constructed or (re)interpreted, internalized and externalized, in ongoing dialectic processes. And, in principle, such processes are the same in Antiquity as in contemporary Europe. However, as reflected in the case study of Cicero and the Pythia, the social embeddedness of the Ancient individual is highly dominated by religion, religious legitimizations, and a recognized cosmic horizon of significance. As we are comparing questions of individualization and social embeddedness in Ancient and modern societies, it is timely to dwell briefly upon the theorizing of Charles aylor. aylor speaks of “the great disembedding” of human indi-viduals, which is his term for the process by which human beings were gradually disembedded from the cosmic sphere; a process involving the growth and entrenchment of a new self-understanding.21 And here aylor certainly found 19 For an analysis of individualization in contemporary Europe see, for instance, BECK/BECKGERNSHEIM 2002. 20 BECK/BECK-GERNSHEIM 2002, XXII. 21 Cf. TAYLOR 2004, 49–67; TAYLOR 2007, 146–158; TAYLOR 2011, 214–302.


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inspiration in Max eber’s concept of “die Entzauberung der Welt”.22 According to aylor “the great disembedding” of the individual was largely powered by Christianity, as seen in the New Testament, for instance, with its call to believers to leave their existing solidarities of family, clan, and society and become part of the Christian community. Conversion to Christianity required of the individual a radical break with the past and hence with the pagan environment, and also with family and friends, whom the new Christian was now obliged to classify as idolaters. Individuals who attached themselves to the Christian community also had to depart from their previous norms, attitudes, and modes of action, confessing these as “sins”. According to the Pauline interpretation, God thereby enabled the individual to escape from sin, for the death of Jesus was interpreted as a sacrifice by which God freed His people from their enslavement to sin. 23 The Christian insistence on personal devotion further increased the distance to, and the hostility towards, the older forms of collective ritual and belonging. 24 As a consequence of this, one of the main vectors in Western civilization has been a steadily growing emphasis on a eligion of personal commitment and devotion, as seen against other forms of eligion centred on collective ritual. We can reasonably identify two closely connected vectors here: one leaning towards personal commitment, and one leaning towards the repression of what came to be understood as “agical” or “superstitious” elements in eligion. And it is thoughtprovoking that in a broader view of the many different cults and movements in the Antique eligious landscape – at least such as we know it – the cult of Christ was the only cult that regarded all others as rivals. Charles Taylor’s theoretical question of “social embeddedness” versus “social disembedding” is, in my opinion, of vital importance to the discussion of religion and individualization, because this question refers to the way human beings – in the modern world and the Ancient world – imagine our social existence at a micro-level and a macro-level. Comparing the past and the present in this regard, an essential difference concerning religion and individualization lies in the fact that in the Ancient world, embedding in society also brings with it a firm embedding in the cosmos. In Graeco-Roman religions the divine forces with whom human beings are dealing are, in various and multifarious ways, intertwined with the affairs of the world – as seen, for instance, in the institution of divination. In the modern world, on the other hand, according to Charles Taylor we Westerners have great trouble understanding this, since we make a sharp distinction between “inner” and “outer”. Between what is in the individual’s “mind”, and what is “out there in the world”. And seen from a modern perspective, 22 According to Weber “the disenchantment of the world” was already implicit in the religion of ancient Israel, and was further radicalized by the Protestant Reformation. Cf. WEBER 1992, 86–87; WEBER 2011, 388–389. 23 Paul Rom. 6:12–23. 24 Cf. Matt. 10:34–38; Luke 14:25–27; Mark 3:31–35.

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everything that has to do with thought, purpose, moral, and meanings – religious and otherwise – is centred in the personal mind. This aspect of individualization is linked to what Charles Taylor calls “the disembedding” of the human individual. It is a disembedding that changes the individual’s sense of self, involving the question of imagining oneself outside a certain social or socio-religious frame of reference. This implies that the self is perceived in two different ways. In the Ancient world the boundary between personal agency and impersonal divine force is fuzzy, in contrast to a modern perspective, which draws a clearer, firmer boundary between the mind and the outer world. But between the subjective inner world of the individual and the outer world there lies an intersubjective social world, and this third world is quite distinct from the other two. It is a world that is regarded as “self-evident” or “logical” – and therefore taken for granted – only by those who happen to inhabit it.25 So, if we keep in mind Taylor’s theory of social embeddedness versus the historical disembedding of the human individual and return to Antiquity, the preChristian line of reasoning might well have run as follows: Human beings are embedded in society. Society is embedded in the cosmos. The cosmos incorporates the divine. And divine knowledge and assistance, which can secure the welfare of society, is obtained via traditional religious know-how and ritual practice. For example, as demonstrated in the case study, the divine knowledge and help concerning Cicero’s political future was communicated through the Pythia. According to this reasoning, religio – as cultus deorum – was an unquestionable historical, social, and political necessity. Religio implied the ancient individual’s socio-religious embeddedness; a consequence of tradition and everyday interaction and negotiation between the profane and the sacred spheres; a consequence of a recognized cosmic horizon of significance in the world of Antiquity. However, in studies of the Ancient world there has been a scholarly tendency to imply, or to employ, Christian ethics and neo-evolutionist viewpoints when focussing on and discussing religious beliefs, as seen with Cicero and the Pythia, our case in point. Unfortunately, instead of focussing on tradition, cult, and ritual know-how, this tendency has made the individual’s feelings and personal commitment the touchstone of what religion is – or, I daresay, what some scholars think religion ought to be. Such questions of feelings and personal commitment certainly form an important aspect of religion in today’s world, but it seems to be somewhat misleading to pose such questions in the context of pre-Christian religions. Likewise, from a sociological perspective there is a rather obvious problem when it comes to identifying processes of individualization in the preChristian era: The risk of making (speculations on) the individual’s religious feelings and personal commitment the touchstone of individualization. Here, too, there lurks the constant danger that our interpretations are clouded by elements of 25 For a classic analysis of this social world, see BERGER/LUCKMANN 1966; cf. ZERUBAVEL 1997; BECKFORD 2003.


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implicit Christian ethics and neo-evolutionist perceptions of social existence – viewpoints that hold no relevance for pre-Christian contexts. Still, it might make some sense to apply the concept of individualization when speaking of tendencies in the religious history of the Roman Empire towards a shift from religion as being embedded in the city-state to religion as being a personal choice for each individual. A choice between distinct, differentiated groups offering various kinds of religious doctrines and ideas, one of which was the cult of Christ. Following this line of thinking, it is of course necessary to delve further into the organization of this specific religious group, investigating the existence of separate norms, values, and behaviours among its members, and comparing these with the (conflicting?) prevailing norms, values, and behaviours in the society around them. Again, the question of individualization in Antiquity calls for further clarification, which should not primarily be based upon the nature of the different kinds of religious beliefs involved, but upon sociological observations and clear analytical criteria.

Bibliography ASSMANN, Jan, Das kulturelle Gedächtnis. Schrift, Erinnerung und politische Identität in frühen Hochkulturen. Munich 21999. BEARD, Mary, “Cicero and Divination: The Formation of a Latin Discourse”, in: JRS 76 (1986) 22–46. BEARD, Mary/NORTH, John/PRICE, Simon, Religions of Rome, vols. 1–2. Cambridge 1998. BECK, Ulrich/BECK-GERNSHEIM, Elisabeth, Individualization. Institutionalized Individualism and its Social and Political Consequences. London 2002. BECKFORD, James A., Social Theory & Religion. Cambridge 2003. BENDLIN, Andreas, “On the Uses and Disadvantages of Divination: Oracles and their Literary Representations in the Time of the Second Sophistic”, in: NORTH, John/PRICE, Simon (ed.), The Religious History of the Roman Empire. Pagans, Jews, and Christians. Oxford 2011, 175–250. BERGER, Peter L./LUCKMANN, Thomas, The Social Construction of Reality. A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. New York 1966. GUILLAUMONT, Francois, Philosophe et augure. Recherches sur la théorie cicéronienne de la divination, Latomus 184, 1984. GOAR, Robert J., Cicero and the State Religion. Amsterdam 1972. HALBWACHS, Maurice, Les cadres sociaux de la mémoire. Paris 1925. HEIBGES, Ursula, “Cicero, A Hypocrite in Religion?”, in: AJPh 90 (1969) 304–312. LINDERSKI, Jerzy, “The Aedileship of Favonius, Curio the Younger and Cicero’s Election to the Augurate”, in: HSCP 76 (1972) 181–200. Momigliano, Arnaldo, “The Theological Efforts of the Roman Upper Classes in the First Century B.C.”, in: CPh 79 (1984) 199–211. NORTH, John, “Pagans, Polytheists, and the Pendulum”, in: NORTH, John/PRICE, Simon (ed.), The Religious History of the Roman Empire. Pagans, Jews, and Christians. Oxford 2011, 479– 502.

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PRICE, Simon, “Delphi and Divination”, in: EASTERLING, Patricia E./MUIR, John V./FINLEY, Moses (ed.), Greek Religion and Society. Cambridge 1985, 128–154. PRICE, Simon, “Memory and Ancient Greece” in: RASMUSSEN, Anders H./Rasmussen, Susanne W. (ed.), Religion and Society. Rituals, Resources and Identity in the Ancient Graeco-Roman World, Analecta Romana Instituti Danici, Supp. XL. Rome 2008, 167–178. RASMUSSEN, Susanne W., Public Portents in Republican Rome, Analecta Romana Instituti Danici, Supp. XXXIV. Rome 2003. RASMUSSEN, Susanne W., “Priests, Politics and Problems in Identity Construction in Ancient Rome”, in: RASMUSSEN, Anders H./RASMUSSEN, Susanne W. (ed.), Religion and Society. Rituals, Resources and Identity in the Ancient Graeco-Roman World, Analecta Romana Instituti Danici. Supp. XL, Rome 2008, 259–265. RASMUSSEN, Anders H./RASMUSSEN, Susanne W. (ed.), Religion and Society. Rituals, Resources and Identity in the Ancient Graeco-Roman World, Analecta Romana Instituti Danici, Supp. XL. Rome 2008, 91–106. RAWSON, Elizabeth, “The Interpretation of Cicero’s De legibus”, in: ANRW 1.4 (1973) 334–356. RAWSON, Elizabeth, Cicero. A Portrait. Plymouth 1975. RIVES, James B., Religion in the Roman Empire. Oxford 2007. ROSENBERGER, Veit, Gezähmte Götter. Das Prodigienwesen der römischen Republik. Suttgart 1998. ROSENBERGER, Veit, Griechische Orakel. Darmstadt 2001. ROSENBERGER, Veit, “Gifts and Oracles: Aspects of Religious Communication”, in: RASMUSSEN, Anders H./RASMUSSEN, Susanne W. (ed.), Religion and Society. Rituals, Resources and Identity in the Ancient Graeco-Roman World. Rome 2008, 89–104. SCHMIDT, Peter L., “Cicero De re publica: Die Forschung der letzten fünf Dezennien”, in: ANRW 1.4 (1973) 262–333. SCHOFIELD, Malcolm, “Cicero for and against Divination”, in: JRS 76 (1986) 47–65. SCHOFIELD, Malcolm, “Cicero’s definition of Res Publica”, in: POWELL, John G.F. (ed.), Cicero the Philosopher. Oxford 1995, 63–83. TAYLOR, Charles, Modern Social Imaginaries. London 2004. TAYLOR, Charles, A Secular Age. Cambridge MA 2007. TAYLOR, Charles, Dilemmas and Connections. London 2011. WEBER, Max, Max Weber Gesamtausgabe: Wissenschaft als Beruf. Politik als Beruf. MOMMSEN, Wolfgang J.,/SCHLUCHTER, Wolfgang (ed.), Tübingen 1992. WEBER, Max, Max Weber Gesamtausgabe: Abriss der universalen Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte, Schluchter, Wolfgang / Schröder, Joachim (ed.), Tübingen 2011. ZERUBAVEL, Eviatar, Social Mindscapes. An Invitation to Cognitive Sociology, Cambridge MA 1997.

“WILL MY CHILD HAVE A BIG NOSE?”: Uncertainty, authority and narrative in katarchic astrology Richard Gordon With his genius for memorable simplifications, Pierre Bourdieu liked to distinguish between two types of anticipation of the future, between that of the Kabyle peasant, apparently secure in his mythico‒ritual habitus, and that of the capitalist world, habituated to – victim of ‒ the management of purely symbolic information.1 On the one hand, we have the intuitive prévoyance of the Kabyle peasant, who estimates his family’s needs for the coming year, setting aside a customary amount of seed-grain for planting, and treating everything above this as ‘superfluity’ to be expended for the sake of social and moral capital; and on the other, prévision, the calculation of the uncertain futurities of capitalist economies, which know no such limitations or regularities, and are forced to submit to the implacable demands of profit. Whereas the Algerian peasant’s future is concrete,“virtuellement enfermé dans le présent”, that of the modern world, based upon monetarisation, is distant, multiform and abstract.2 Bourdieu’s contrast between Tradition and Capital now looks decidedly quaint, if not Romantic; but if, for the sake of argument, we posit these as poles of a notional continuum of anticipations of the future, where would we place the futures envisaged by the divinatory systems of antiquity? It seems obvious that these cannot be treated as a single category, that no one could now even entertain 1


BOURDIEU 1963; 1972/2000 377‒85 (Annexe: “Pratiques économiques et dispositions tempo relles”). Abbreviations: CCAG = Catalogus Codicum Astrologorum Graecorum (Brussels 1898‒1953) SEG = Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum Ep. Chron = Ηπειρωτικά Χρονικά SVF = H. von Arnim, Stoicorum veterum fragmenta. 4 vols. (Leipzig 1903‒05; 1924; repr. Stuttgart 1964) I am grateful to my colleague Veit Rosenberger for allowing me to contribute to the volume even though I was unable to attend the conference. This text was presented as a Werkstattbericht to the KFG ‘Religiöse Individualisierung in historischer Perspektive’ on 5 th June 2013: I thank the Fellows of the Max‒Weber‒Kolleg who were present for their comments. The images were made by my son Henry Heitmann‒Gordon, partly on the basis of those in HÜBNER 2003. “... un futur médiat et abstrait, le calcul rationnel devant suppléer au défaut d’intuition du processus dans son ensemble” BOURDIEU 1972/2000, 380; cf. the helpful exposition by COSTEY 2004 §15.


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the idea of writing L’histoire de la divination dans l’Antiquité, let alone completing it.3 The modern study of ancient divination has fragmented into diverse specialisms, such that the sole synthesis of which we seem to be capable is the specious promise of the Sammelband.4 The only means of bringing these various specialisms together is the development of higher-level researchquestions, such as the issue of individualisation that gives rise to the present volume. Another such question might be the attempt to categorise the means available to agents of different statuses and social resources at different times to identify and cope with classificatory uncertainties, and the types of control they render possible or thinkable, in other words a vaguely ‘transactional’ project, which would subsequently focus on the sociality of such attempts at control. 5 My own focus here, however, is upon the essentially eberian issue of the rationalisation of methods of coping with uncertainty, and in particular the sense(s) in which astrology – or rather one aspect of astrology ‒ can be seen as answering to wider social pressures towards developing more sophisticated, less arbitrary, more negotiable, ways of relating to uncertainty, future choices and possibilities. The most relevant of Weber’s ideas in this connection are those developed between 1911 and 1913 in ‘Einleitung in die Wirtschaftsethik der Weltreligionen’.6 Perhaps the most important point about Weber’s conception of history, derived from his reading in the Chinese, Indian and Jewish traditions, is that rationalisation processes, notably in the religious context, are socially and historically differentiated – ‘rationalisation’ never denotes a uni-directional process, and all such processes are inescapably attended by varying intensities of irrationalism conditioned by social-political and psychological interests. 7 Rationalisation, particularly in religious contexts, can therefore mean many different things and manifest itself in quite different forms. 8 Weber identified two major processes, however: the project, carried forward by individual thinkers – 3 4 5 6



BOUCHÉ-LECLERCQ 1879‒82; cf. FLOWER 2008, 3: “...there has been [no] comprehensive and synthetic treatment of Greek divination as a whole since the nineteenth century”. JOHNSTON 2005. WHYTE 2005, 262: “In a pragmatic and phenomenological view, subjects are trying to exert some degree of control, not necessarily as masters, but rather as helmsmen steering a course”. On the development of this text, see SCHLUCHTER 1985, 534‒49. This is one of the essays translated into English by Gerth & Mills soon after World War II, but given the utterly misleading title “The social psychology of the world religions”: GERTH & MILLS 1948, 267‒ 301. “Auch hier wurden die einzelnen großen Typen der rational methodischen Lebensführung vor allem durch diejenigen irrationalen, als schlechthin gegeben hingenommenen, Voraussetzungen charakterisiert, die sie in sich aufgenommen hatten. Welches diese waren, das gerade ist es nun, was in zum mindesten sehr starkem Maße rein historisch und sozial bestimmt wurde durch die Eigenart, d.h. aber hier: die äußere, sozial, und die innere, psychologisch, bedingte Interessenlage derjenigen Schichten, welche Träger der betreffenden Lebensmethodik in der entscheidenden Zeit ihrer Prägung waren”: WEBER 1920/2012, 303. “Denn es ist hier vorweg noch einmal daran zu erinnern: daß Rationalismus etwas sehr Ver schiedenes bedeuten kann”: WEBER 1920/2012, 313. On Weber’s doubts about whether western rationality was the only valid type, see SCHMIDT-GLINTZER 1988, 64f.

Uncertainty, authority and narrative in katarchic astrology


primitive and not-so-primitive intellectuals ‒ of applying increasingly precise and abstract principles to a given area of reality, religion being conceived as such an aspect of reality; and the attempt to attain a clearly-defined end by means of a progressively precise calculation of appropriate means.9 Closely connected to the latter conception is the notion of Planmäßigkeit, the application of systematisation and ordered procedures to specific areas of human experience. Despite its modern reputation as pure irrationalism, it seems clear to me that ancient astrology represented a form of Planmäßigkeit, the systematic application of explicit ideas, based upon a rationalised account of the cosmos, to the uncertainties of human experience, and thus counts in a Weberian sense as a rationalised and rationalising knowledge-practice. Admittedly it hinged upon two arbitrary claims, but, as I point out below, Bourdieu’s notion of the champ, which confines agents in its own invisible stakes, is perfectly adequate to account for the inability of principals and practitioners to look ‘from the outside’.10 Within the range of ancient forms of divination, therefore, it represents the most significant example of the application of explicit calculation of appropriate means to the area of human uncertainty. In my view, Classical forms of divination and oracles in particular offered a very limited form of uncertainty-control, with virtually no attempt at rationalisation. I say ‘very limited’ because responses of this type failed to provide any of the three major forms of rationalised control of uncertainty: an ordering in the form of narrative or story-telling; an explicit mechanism for weighing instabilities against desired outcomes; the juxtaposition of an element of chance against a matrix of recognised and formalised possibilities.11 It is noticeable that at Dodona, for example, although the institution of written questions (and, evidently, answers) represents a degree of formalised procedure, no effort whatever was made to explain or justify the divine answers. There was no attempt to impose order upon the sequence past-present-future by creating narratives, and there was certainly no explicit account of degrees of uncertainty. In fact almost all this type of work was thrust onto the principals, who had themselves to define the type of uncertainty and create the matrix of possibilities. Thus we find questions about the relative advantage of courses of action for those in a position to choose between a pair of named (or implicit) options: “Will I be better off living in the country or staying where I am?”; “Will it be better for me to work with Dio[ti]mos in Megara [or not]?”12 A few, though posed in the usual binary form, seek to resolve questions of brute fact, e.g.: “Did Thôpiôn steal the money 9 WEBER 1920/2012, 313f. 10 Bourdieu 2003, 140: “Chaque champ, comme l’ordre pascalien, enferme ainsi les agents dans ses enjeux propres qui, à partir d’un autre point de vue, c’est-à-dire du point de vue d’un autre jeu, deviennent invisibles ou du moins insignifiants ou même illusoires”. 11 I am therefore not wholly in agreement with the argument of BELAYCHE 2007, that the ‘theological oracles’ of IIP represent no sharp break with earlier oracular practice. 12 Resp.: SEG 43: 339 (480‒460a) = LHÔTE 2010, no. 54; SEG 24:454b (IV‒IIIa) = LHÔTE 2010, no. 86; SEG 15:386 (early Va) = LHÔTE 2010, no. 67.


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[or not]?”13 Still fewer – and these seem to refer to the divine world, where the god might be presumed to have precise knowledge ‒ are open-ended, in the sense that they seek to elicit a choice from a pool of unstated possibilities, e.g. “To which of the gods must he pray so as to achieve what he has in mind?” 14 In other words, in the great majority of cases, the oracle is asked to state a preference for one of two explicit or implicit alternatives posed by the consultant. 15 As Esther Eidinow has suggested, we can suggest two motivations here: to confirm a decision already more or less decided upon; and to lay the responsibility for settling upon one among several options onto an external authority.16 In either case, the real work is done by the client. The divination-system itself claims no special technical abilities. the situation is slightly, but not essentially, different in the case of the seer. 1. Cosmology, literacy and rationalisation in the Hellenistic period If we disregard the rather limited but real efforts of the Classical period to produce rationalisations of the relation between the divine and human worlds, primarily in the direction of the ethicisation of deity, it seems that the really effective push towards rationalisation of uncertainty only appeared in the mid- to late fourth century and the Hellenistic period and the emergence of new forms of political organisation and new types of élite-formation. At the level of public cult, we can view the emergence of various forms of Tyche, calibrated to a hierarchy of political being, as a new type of rationalised socio-political narrative consciously projecting a sense of continuity from the immemorial past into the future. 17 As regards the critical field of rationalised knowledge-practices, the emergence of a leisured literate class encouraged the massive extension of articulate exposition of emergent technical specialisms, from warfare to architecture, from physics to herbals, literatures almost entirely lost except for crumbs preserved in, say, Pliny’s Historia naturalis or the Mêchanikê syntaxis of Philo of Byzantium.18 This process of Diskursivierung in turn produced not merely new conceptual discrimations and distinctions but also innumerable coinages of new words and extensions of existing meanings.19 All of these discourses represent a major effort to limit the pressure of the unknown, the uncertain, the irrational. How do you put up buildings that do not fall down? What is the best remedy for a sprained ankle? 13 14 15 16 17 18

Ep. Chron. 1935, 259 no. 32 (un-dated) = LHÔTE 2010, no. 119. SEG 15:386 (early Va) = LHÔTE 2010, no. 67. EIDINOW 2007 132‒34. Ibid. 137f. e.g. SFAMENI GASPARRO 1997. VEGETTI 1984; FRENCH & GREENAWAY 1986; KULLMANN, ALTHOFF & ALPERS 1998; BARTON 1994a; CITRONI MARCHETTI 2011. 19 Technical language/lexis: RADICI COLACE & CACCAMO CALTABIANO 1991; SCONOCCHIO & TONETTO 1993 and 1997; RADICI COLACE 1997 On Pliny’s zoological terminology, note CAPPONI 1991.

Uncertainty, authority and narrative in katarchic astrology


How do you best limit the irrationalities of the law-court? The spread of public literacy associated with epigraphic culture also encouraged the development in the Hellenistic period of oracular modes, such as the Homêromanteion, the use of the text of Homer as a means of divination, that employed written matrices.20 Such devices in turn suggested the appropriateness of an ‘epigraphic’ view of the future, as something laid out and potentially readable, like an inscription, by contrast to the earlier notion of moira, which was relatively flexible.21 Symptomatic here is the formalisation of the art of reading dreams, the antecedents of books such as Artemidorus’ Oneirokritikon, which could tell you confidently what it portended to dream of a crucifixion or the collapse of the sky;22 or the collection of portents derived from trees by an author using the name of Aristander of Telmessos, Alexander’s mantis, which much impressed Pliny the Elder.23 Most Hellenistic philosophers allowed that Fate was inexorable and granted it some limited place in their cosmological schemes.24 All these systems in turn were heavily indebted to the rationalisation of the cosmos as a (benignly-ordered) geocentric system developed by Eudoxus of Cnidus and Callippus of Cyzicus in the mid-fourth century BCE (IVa), and progressively refined thereafter.25 With the impetus provided by the Babylonian calculation of solar, lunar and planetary positions, standardised in ephemerides (handy tables), the concept of the fixed zodiac, and primitive ‘horoscopes’ based on the day, month and year of birth, all of them schemes and techniques mediated into Greek in Seleucid Babylonia, the various modes and techniques of Greek horoscopal astrology were created – that is ‘emerged’, since all relevant names are pseudonyms such as ‘Zoroaster’, ‘Hermes’, ‘Nechepso’, ‘Petosiris’, even ‘hierogrammateis’ (i.e. senior Egyptian temple-priests) ‒ no doubt in Alexandria, during the later third and second centuries BCE.26 This intense pseudonymous/anonymous labour produced what is today 20 Cf. ROSENBERGER 2001, 42f., who rightly urges that such oracular forms emerged in the late Hellenistic period. The fullest extant example of a Homeromanteion is set out in P.Lond. 121, of which alternative papyrus fragments are known: MALTOMINI 1995. 21 FLOWER 2008, 76f. 22 Crucifixion: Artemidorus, Oneir. 2.53.1; 4.49.2; sky: ibid. 4.58.2; cf. PRICE 1986; HAHN 1992; HARRIS-MCCOY 2012, 31‒41 (the commentary however is extremely selective and more or less useless for any specific enquiry). Astrology later claimed to be able to intervene supereffectively in the same area, by providing fore-knowledge of any dream a client had had, e.g. ‘Zoroaster’, περὶ ὀνείρων, CCAG V 3 1910, 88‒90, which begins: “If you are asked by someone to tell him what he has seen in a dream …” . 23 Pliny, HN 17, 243, with KAERST 1895; on the genuine Aristander, see NICE 2005; FLOWER 2008, 179‒81. 24 On the peculiar Stoic theories of causation, see HANKINSON 1999a; on the problems raised by the Stoic concept of εἱμαρμένη, see IDEM 1999b, 526‒37; BOBZIEN 1998, 44‒58; FREDE 2003, 192‒203. 25 DICKS 1970, 151‒219 is still an excellent account; for the Hellenistic period, FURLEY 1999; CABALLERO 2004; on the Stoic contribution, SCHMID 2005, 175‒83; on the role of Aratus, GEE 2013. 26 See briefly HOLDEN 2000, 1‒20; BAKHOUCHE 2002, 5‒22; SCHMID 2005, 183‒202; BECK 2007, 12‒19; on pre-Seleucid Babylonian techniques, see now ROCHBERG 2010.


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known as the ‘Hellenistic vulgate’.27 The notion of an immutable futurity, what the IVp author Firmicus Maternus terms fatalis necessitatis lex, a fixed law of absolute necessity, was generally asssumed by practitioners to be basic to the entire project of using the heavenly bodies ‒ regarded as visible divinities whose predictable movements follow unchanging laws ‒ as a reference-point for divination.28 This was of course to pitch the claim to have found a means of rationalising uncertainty at the highest conceivable level, above all when it was a matter of the major art, that of genethlialogical astrology, the art of casting nativities for the entire life of an individual. The result, inevitably, was not merely a flight into complexity but an assiduous lack of interest in the theoretical underpinnings – a practitioner such as Vettius Valens in the High Empire could write an entire handbook of genethliacal astrology without once mentioning the problem of mediation, that is, how the stars affect human life.29 2. “Will my child have a big nose?”: Negotiating with ‘immutable futurity’ In practice, however, what clients usually wanted was a means of negotiating with the astrologers’ Fate.30 “From any individual point of view, the likelihood of achieving desired outcomes must be weighed against the perceived instability of the situation”.31 The astrologers compromised with this desire for control by developing a type of practice at odds with their theoretical view of the field, inasmuch as it used not the individual’s nativity but the condition of the heavens at a significant moment – say, when an event (the subject of the enquiry) occurred, or when it became known, or simply when the question was posed – to predict very short-term outcomes within highly specific contexts, and thus offered an articulated means of deciding for or against a planned course or action, or, alternatively, to set up scenarios to allow the principal to take further measures. This type of practice, in Greek καταρχαί, ‘beginnings’, was later, in the mediaeval and early-modern period, known as horary, electional or judicial astrology.32 27 BARA 1989, 16. 28 Firmicus Maternus, Math. e.g. 1.7.3, 7.23, 8.1‒3, 8.5, 9.2, 10.1 etc., cf. VOLK 2009, 58‒126 on Manilius. For Ptolemy’s arguments against Carneades in favour of astrological prognostication, albeit a weaker (stochastic) view than the standard one, see Apotel. 1.2‒3 (p.5‒22 Hübner) with the comments of TUCKER 1961 and FERRABOLI 1985 ad loc. 29 On the efforts of some astrological writers to reconcile necessity with freedom, above all with regard to the issue of responsibility for one’s actions, see briefly BAKHOUCHE 2002, 124. 30 Notoriously, the Stoic definition of divination was divinationem esse earum rerum praedictionem et praesensionem, quae essent fortuitae, “the foretelling of events that come about by chance” (Cicero, Div. 2.13). However, ‘chance’ here means simply “a cause obscure to human understanding” (Alexander, De fato 172.12 Bruns = SVF 2, 965) , cf. HANKINSON 1999b, 536. 31 STEFFEN, JENKINS & JESSEN 2005, 10. 32 That is, the art of discovering the most advantageous time to begin an action. I use the term to include ‘interrogations’ (Anfragehoroskopie), the art of predicting the results or outcome of an action, cf. HÜBNER 2003, 25.

Uncertainty, authority and narrative in katarchic astrology


We can obtain a preliminary insight into this practice by glancing at some sections of a medieval astrological manuscript in Florence, based upon Byzantine and Arabic sources, but including authentic ancient katarchic material, which records methods devised by earlier practitioners, transcribes a few late katarchic ‘horoscopes’, and includes a series of direct questions that illustrate the kind of day-to-day issues that such astrologers might be confronted by. 33 Parts of it are known to scholarship through the pioneering efforts of Franz Cumont, begun in the 1890s, to provide information in printed form regarding the holdings in major European libraries of materials in Greek relating to ancient astrology, the Corpus Catalogorum Astrologorum Graecorum (1898‒1953).34 One sequence offers the following questions: Which charioteer will win? (fol. 52v; also 53) Will my child have a big nose? (περὶ τοῦ εἰ ἔχει μέγαν ῥῖνα ὁ γεννηθείς, fol. 56) Will it have a squint? (fol. 56v) Will it live (or die)? (fol.57) Will it be a single birth or twins? (fol.58) Is the unborn child mine or from another? (fol.66) Will it rain? (fol.68) When will the father of the child to be born die? (fol. 56) Much later in the ms. (at fol. 193‒313 v) the scribe has copied out ‘Palchus’ book of apotelesmatika’. The following is a translation of some of the contents: fol. 199: what blessings and what harm will befall me? fol. 200: rumours and news; §6 On katarchai fol. 200 §7: using the Lot of Fortune to tell what someone is going to ask one; §8: another method, using the horiokrator of Helios and its “face” fol. 203v: will the birth be human or a monster? fol. 204v: is the questioner’s preference (?) advantageous? fol. 205v: will the child to be born be alive or dead? fol. 206: if there arrives a report of someone’s death 33 cod. Laurentianus, box 28, cod. 33, of 313 folio pages (XVIp), poorly copied from cod. Romanus Angelicanus 29 (1388 CE), as printed in CCAG I 1898, no.11 p.39ff. The ms. as a whole has never been published. 34 The importance of the Latin mss., and the Arabic transmission (cf. PINGREE 2001; BURNETT 2009), let alone the transmission to (Iran and) India that David Pingree likewise did much to illuminate (cf. HÜBNER 2006), was not then fully appreciated. The practice in CCAG was to transcribe in Part 1 of each volume the headings only of the various entries, which is the type of entry of which I translate a fragment here. Part 2, the ‘Appendices’, consisted of very selective transcriptions of entire entries or passages. Without going back to the mss., therefore, one cannot in the great majority of cases discover the actual content of the entry. Virtually none of this vast mass of material has ever been read except by the editors of CCAG; and none of its content is accessible except to those who are good at this difficult kind of Greek, which is full of obscure technical terms, exacerbated by the errors of transmission and scribal editing. A few complete runs of CCAG are still available from the international Classics bookshop, Pórtico Librerías, Zaragoza, Spain.

100 fol. 206v: fol. 208v: fol. 210v: fol. 213v:

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reading a sealed letter law-court thief-finder of Erasistratos method of Timaios ‘son of Praxidos’ (sic) relating to runaway slaves fol. 215v: katarchai by Serapion fol. 218v: finding something lost; also runaway slave fol. 220: … moving residence fol. 221: katarchê ‒ when Theodoros the Augustalis arrived in Alexandria fol. 223: relationships with women, method of Serapion fol. 223v: moving residence abroad; another, fol. 224. fol. 224v: how long the first stay will be? fol. 226: another method of finding out when the questioner will return fol. 226v: Serapion’s method of locating a runaway slave fol. 227: meetings and sex, also by Serapion fol. 228: multi-purpose fol. 230: buying land and residing there fol. 231: is a rumour true? What rumour is it? fol. 230v: to journey or not? (x 2) fol.. 231v: if you are asked about a conditional (event) and you wish to know when it will happen fol. 232: clothes fol. 232v: if you are asked what am I holding in my hand? fol. 234: if someone asks you where a person is staying, and you want to know whether everything is all right with them fol. 235: making up φάρμακα fol. 235v: katarchê of a voyage; question about a katarchê for fear of a voyage to Athens fol. 236v: another, to Smyrna; also further query ibid. slave-flight; war (missing in text); another, also missing; another, on stopping war (also lost) fol. 238: sex; also oracles fol. 241: giving of a letter (?sealed) fol. 246v: sex fol. 247: useful extracts from (the book of) Julianos of Laodicea on Katarchai fol. 250: returning from abroad fol. 256: going abroad fol. 256v: dates for planting fol. 260v: in which month will X die? fol.: 262 as well fol. 261v: Dorotheus on ekptosis (either banishment or shipwreck) fol. 262v: various excerpts

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fol. 263: katarchê of Leon, crowned at Antioch fol. 265: … profit… a birth (girl or boy) (?) fol. 265v: friends and enemies; fol. 266, same fol. 266: knowing the day someone will die; similar, f.266v; reputation, ibid. fol. 268: death abroad; will there be a war?; prosperity or the opposite fol. 268v: whether women will one day give birth or conceive; similar; knowing the intention of a questioner beforehand; similar fol. 271v: will the subject of the question be brought to a conclusion? fol. 272: another, concerning the question to be posed fol. 273: will the questioner return from his stay abroad? fol. 273v: political office fol. 274v: going abroad fol. 275: which of my parents will die first? A list such as this obviously derives proximately from the topics the Byzantine scribe or copyist found worth selecting from the larger mass of materials available – there are moreover numerous slight errors, omissions of phrases, passages edited into incomprehensibility, all of which are the perceptible reminder of unremitting editorial work. Nevertheless it provides some idea of the kind of katarchic material the CCAG provide, and, indirectly, the sorts of competence the katarchic astrologer, or rather: the practitioner in his role as katarchic astrologer, was expected to dispose of. To judge by the range of such issues, katarchic astrology must have been extremely important in practitioners’ daily business,35 yet such was the prestige of genethliacal astrology that of the extant full-length handbooks only that of Hephaestio of Thebes (fl. 415 CE) allocates considerable space to it, recycling material from Book 5 of Dorotheus of Sidon’s hexametrical poem, which was written in Greek in the mid-first century CE (I p).36 There can be little question that this relative neglect is due not to the lack of significance of katarchic astrology in daily life but to the social and intellectual interest focused on the relationship between genethliacal astrology, the imperial power and the struggle to control such knowledge by legal means.37 Ephemerides (which tabulate lunar longitudes through the month), (sign-entry) almanacs and planetary templates and other tables could be used equally well for calculating katarchai as for nativities, and, in general, unless there is a heading γένεσις (nativity), there is no means of deciding what purpose a surviving papyrus horoscope served, since, as we can tell from explicitly katarchic horoscopes in the same manuscript and elsewhere, all provide 35 Cf. PÉREZ JIMÉNEZ 2002, 237f. 36 On Dorotheus see W. & H.-G. GUNDEL 1966, 117‒21; PINGREE 1976, vii‒xvi. Hephaestio cites c.237 verses from Dorotheus in Book 5 alone. ENGELBRECHT 1887, who edited Bk 1 only, rather oddly claimed that the title of Hephaestio’s work as a whole was περὶ καταρχῶν. 37 FÖGEN 1993; SCHMID 2005. It is significant too that Ptolemy makes virtually no reference to katarchic astrology in Apotel., evidently on the grounds that it was inadequately stochastic.


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the same sort of ‘anagraphic’ information about the date, time, location of the planets in the zodiacal signs, and the Horoscope (the eastern horizon) as do natal horoscopes. 38 Another type of table, lists of the positive or negative qualities of days, which are often attached to later ephemerides, must mainly have been used for katarchic predictions.39 3. Some technical background Before examining this type of astrological prediction more closely, I need to provide some very basic technical information for the benefit of those not familiar with ancient astrological practice. We may think of this form of divination in Bourdieu’s terms as a champ, a practice characterised by the pursuit of a specific end suited to the investment made in it by those who possess the required aptitude.40 Once one has interiorised the assumptions and point of view of such a champ, it is no longer possible to stand outside and adopt an external view-point: the nomos, the rules of the game, defines “le pensable et l’impensable, le prescrit et le proscrit ....; matrice de toutes les questions pertinentes, il ne peut produire les questions propres à le mettre en question”.41 The champ constructs its own form of reality, with its own rules and procedures, its own occlusions and self-evidences.42 The Hellenistic vulgate was founded on three claims: as visible divinities, the heavenly bodies have specific, knowable effects upon life on earth; the relevant bodies are the twelve signs of the Zodiac and the seven ancient ‘planets’; the relation between zodiacal signs and planets can be represented in diagrammatic form and thus as a form of reading. Although the observations required to draw up a horoscope were recorded in the form of the long lists I have mentioned, ephemerides, (sign-entry) almanacs and planetary templates, the first of two crucial vulgate inventions was the diagram showing the signs of the Zodiac distributed around a circle.43 This design was no doubt developed from a notional 38 The best examples are the katarchai preserved in cod. Laur. 28.33 fols. 105; 107; 112 v, 113; 125 = CCAG I 1898, 100f., 102‒04, 106‒08, cod. Paris. 2506 fol. 21 = CCAG VIII 1 1929, 240, and cod. phil. gr. Vind. 108 f. 299 = CCAG VI 1906, 65 etc., edited and translated by NEUGEBAUER & VAN HOESEN 1959 as nos. L 474‒84. I discuss one of these below. 39 Cf. JONES 1999, 58. Astrologers seem to have used diagrammatic boards to help in their visualisation of the astronomic situation, cf. PACKMAN 1988; EVANS 2004, 4‒14 40 BOURDIEU 2003, 25. 41 ibid. 140. 42 HÜBNER 2003, 23 employs the analogous notion of Systemzwang. 43 It must be stressed, however, that actual diagrams of this kind hardly occur in astrological papyri (NEUGEBAUER & VAN HOESEN 1959, 163). The diagram at the end of POxy 235 is a rare exception, but its data simply do not fit any known date or year in the reign of Tiberius, invoked in the text; “ ... none of the basic astronomical data can inspire any confidence” (NEUGEBAUER & VAN HOESEN 1959, 18f. on no. 15/22, with a sketch, reproduced by BARTON 1994b, 94 fig. 11. EVANS 2004, 11 fig. 4 illustrates a similar diagram, datable to 219 CE, from a house in Dura-Europos. The ubiquity of circular diagrams in modern study may therefore tell us more about our conceptual needs than the ancients’, and it might be better to speak

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diagram similar to that in Fig. 1, designed to demonstrate how the sun’s course takes it through various recognised constellations, fixed by the Babylonians as twelve in number, which form the ecliptic.44 Now, whereas in observation the sun takes different lengths of time to pass ‘through’ a given constellation in heaven, the invention of the circular diagram made it easy to think that each sign occupies the same number of degrees (30°; 30 x 12 = 360°). The notional circular diagram facilitated a further operationalisation of the underlying astronomy by suggesting a variety of ways that the different signs could be related ‘geometrically’ to one another (Fig. 2). In the case illustrated, the signs form four groups of three (the trigona, triangle), each of whose members could be thought to have a particular, or significant, relation with the other two, relations that shift according to the specific location of the signs at any given moment.45 The notional diagram (Fig. 3) assumes an observer facing south (at the top of the diagram), and thus with the eastern horizon to the left and the western to the right. North is behind the observer and thus invisible. These orientations, up is south, left is east, west is right, ‘behind’ or ‘underneath’ is north, are crucial to all horoscopal astrology, and katarchic astrology in particular. Eastern horizon (hôroskopos, anatolê, Ascendant; here Hor.), zenith (mesouranêma, medium caelum, Midheaven; here MC), western horizon (dysis, dynôn, occasus; here Δ) and the meridian underfoot (hypogeion; imum caelum; here IMC) are the four cardinal points (κέντρα, cardines) of the circular diagram, from which all else depends.46 Moreover, if the circular diagram is a sort of idealised stellar map, the seven ancient ‘planets’ can also be recorded on it, even though in reality they belong to three different types of heavenly body (a star, the true planets, the Moon), and have astronomically nothing whatever to do with the constellations, zodiacal or other. The planets, in relatively rapid movement, show “the beginnings of affairs”, τὰς ἀρχὰς τῶν πραγμάτων, “what they are, and whether they are good or bad”, ἀρχαί here referring to the general issue of when best to begin an enterprise.47 The second crucial invention of the Hellenistic vulgate was the dominant means of associating human life with the circular diagram of the zodiac, namely the dodekatropos, also known as the system of ‘houses’ (Gk: οἶκοι, Lat. domus

44 45 46


more neutrally of ‘templates’. Another type of diagram, a square or rectangle variously subdivided into twelve, is also found in manuscripts, e.g. in the Arab Dorotheus 1,24, 30‒32 Pingree, translated in PINGREE 1976, 184‒188. See also the illustrations in BOUCHÉ-LECLERCQ 1898, 285 figs. 33 and 33bis; NEUGEBAUER & VAN HOESEN 1959, 163 fig. 24, and Fig. 10 here. There are dozens of surviving zodiacal diagrams in all media, mainly in circular or oval form; see GUNDEL 1992. On the ‘aspects’, i.e. angles of 60°, 90° or 120°, see BOUCHÉ-LECLERCQ 1898, 165‒179. e.g. Manilius, Astron. 2, 788‒840; Hephaestio, Apotel. 3,4,8. According to Ptolemy, Hor. and MC indicate τὰ πρῶτα, Δ and IMC τὰ ἔσχατα (Apotel. 4,5,14, p.315 Hübner). The same scheme can be found in the Arabic paraphrase of Dorotheus, A5.36.8‒11 (p.307f. Pingree = 147 Gieseler Greenbaum). Nevertheless, many practical applications make use only of three, or even two, kentra. Theophilus ap. CCAG XI 1 1932, 221 l.22.


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caeli), ‘places’ (Gk. τόποι, Lat. loci), or ‘temples‘ (templa).48 In the full version of this scheme (see Fig. 4) six diameters were laid successively over the circle so as to create a grid of twelve segments; in modern discussions, these segments are numbered I to XII counting anti-clockwise and starting with the eastern horizon (Hor., Ascendant).49 Nominally the segments of the dodekatropos are distinct from the zodiacal signs, but they are often taken to be synonymous. The names given to each segment naturally differed between Greek and Latin (Figs. 5 and 6); in what follows I use either as seems appropriate. The loci Hor. (I) and MC (X), being considered dominant or primary, were sometimes termed τὰ πρακτικὰ κέντρα, in Latin primae cardines.50 The four segments that could not aspect the Hor., i.e. nos. II, VI, VIII and XII, were considered unfavourable or adverse, and bore correspondingly sinister names, such as κακὴ τύχη/porta laboris (VI) and τύχη καὶ θάνατος/Typhonis sedes (VIII). Those that could aspect, i.e. nos. III, V, IX and XI were by contrast deemed favourable.51 This internal differentiation of the significance of the segments created yet another set of powers, sympathies and contrasts to combine with the relations between the zodiacal signs – here already one glimpses the enormous potential complexity of the system, and hence its flexibility in practical use. At the same time, it is rare in katarchic astrology for all twelve loci to be taken into consideration – the great majority of schemes make use only of the kentra/cardines (loci I, IV, VII and X). The dodekatropos also afforded a further means of incorporating the ‘planets’ into the framework, since seven of the segments were assigned to these bodies. The commonest scheme is as follows (see again Fig. 4): I: Hermes/Mercury ‒ ambivalent III: Selene/Luna ‒ favourable V: Aphrodite/Venus ‒ favourable VI: Ares/Mars ‒ negative IX: Helios/Sol ‒ favourable XI: Zeus/Jupiter ‒ favourable XII: Kronos/Saturnus – negative.52 If the ‘planets’ happened to be in their ‘proper’ segment at the significant moment chosen for a decision, they were considered to possess particular weight. By 48 BOUCHÉ-LECLERCQ 1898, 280‒288; the modern standard work is HÜBNER 1995. There were in fact several such systems, e.g. the athla or sortes described at length by Manilius, Astron. 3.43‒159, apparently indifferent to his preceding account of the dodekatropos (2.856‒2.967); another variant was the oktatropos, which only includes houses I‒VIII; see below. 49 The scheme of the kentra/cardines bisects the four segments (I, X, VII and IV) that are imposed on them. 50 Hephaestio, Apotel. 2.18.37 (Greek); Firm. Mat., Math. 7.19.1 (Latin). On πρακτικoς in this sense (‘active’, ‘effectual’), cf. ‘Heliodorus’, Comm. in Paul. Alex. p.83 l.13; 100 l.22 Boer etc. Most schemes prioritise MC, with reference to the sun’s power at mid-day; others the Hor. 51 Two of these (III and IX) are segments that precede a kentron (apoklimata), the two others (V and XI) ‘following’ segments (epanaphora). Each pair is in diametral aspect. 52 HÜBNER 2003, 19f.

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assigning planets to each of the four ‘aspecting’ segments, and thereby guaranteeing their beneficent character, the influence of negative planets could be limited to one diametral pair (loci VI and XII, Ares and Kronos), while the ambivalence of the planet Hermes/Mercury at Hor. allowed the practitioner the freedom to weave a suitably complex story by taking account of the various other forces at work, above all the location and state of the two luminaries, the sun and the moon, as well as the character of the zodiacal sign at Hor., all of which, as we shall see, often turn out to be decisive factors in the play of competing considerations. 4. Getting down to katarchic forecasting Until a decade ago, it was virtually impossible to obtain an overview of the methods of katarchic astrology: no one was interested in it, and even Auguste Bouché-Leclercq only devoted three very general chapters of his great handbook to it, including one on medical prognostication.53 In 2003, however, Wolfgang Hübner published a fundamental study of the multifarious schemes that underlie the surviving katarchic materials,54 mainly in the Arabic Dorotheus and Hephastio Bk III, but extending to numerous shorter passages in the CCAG,55 Vettius Valens, and even the Yavanajātaka, an ultimately Greek text versified into Sanskrit by Sphujidhvaja.56 The fragments of ‘Nechepso’ and ‘Petosiris’, the fanciful Egyptian founders of horoscopal astrology, do not refer to katarchic schemes. 57 Apart from the shadowy Protagoras of Nicaea,58 the first practitioner to have made a name for himself in this branch was an otherwise unknown Timaeus, generally dated to Ia.59 It seems likely that the demand that stimulated the production of methods and 53 BOUCHÉ-LECLERCQ 1898, 458‒542. 54 HÜBNER 2003, cf. HÜBNER 2002a. It must be said, however, that for all its merits the book is not easy to use – partly of course because of the sheer complexity of the material; in particular, it is difficult to work back to the main text from the numerous diagrams (275‒335), which are essential to comprehension; and there is no subject index. 55 See n. 34 above. 56 The verse Yavanajātaka (dated to the third quarter of IIIp) is however heavily spliced with Indian astrological lore; see PINGREE 1978, 3‒6. 57 See RIESS (1894); briefly on ‘Nechepso’, HÜBNER 2000. 58 W. & H.-G. GUNDEL 1966, 106 dated Protagoras to the first half of III a; PINGREE 1978, 438f. thought he should be dated shortly before Hephaestio. HÜBNER 2003, 27 is wisely noncommittal, though elsewhere he seems to accept an early date. 59 Timaeus wrote an entire book devoted to runaway slaves and thieves, a section of which I cite below: Abū Ma’šar ap. CCAG I 1898, 97‒99, cf. cod. Angel. 29 fol. 102 = CCAG V 1 1904, 29 (“Palchus”); cf. W. & H.-G. GUNDEL 1966, 111f.; HÜBNER 2002b; 2003, 21 and 27. I ignore here the problem posed by the name Πραξίδου, ‘corrected’ by W. Kroll to Πραξιδίκου. It has been claimed that the ultimate (Greek) basis of the Yavanajātaka is to be dated as early as the second half of IIa; however that may be, its references to katarchic schemes (§77) are invariably general, and unconnected with specific questions or problems, cf. HÜBNER 2003, 28f.


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schemes came from clients aware of the claims made for (genethliacal) astrology and wanting immediate, practical advice on projected undertakings. On the other hand, the effort made by Dorotheus of Sidon to turn the schemes of katarchic astrology into verse at the time of Nero, and thereby to elevate them to a rank comparable to genethliacal astrology in the eyes of the leisure class of readers, can be taken as an index of current sophistication and of public awareness.60 It seems that the earliest methods employed only the movement/phases of the Moon in relation to the zodiacal sign under which the project would fall. The simplest models based on kentra/cardines use only two, Hor. and Δ.61 The next stage was the construction of a notional southern hemisphere, with Hor. at the eastern horizon, and Δ at the western, and the observer in the centre of the diameter. This scheme provided three kentra/cardines for prognosis; a simple example is Iulianus of Laodicea’s model for forecasting outcomes: τὰς ἀρχάς at Hor., τὰ μέσα at MC, τὰ τέλη at Δ, i.e. beginning, middle and end, an appropriation into astrological terms of an ancient folk-scheme notionally following the daily course of the sun.62 Such a scheme allowed the practitioner to combine information from three, or four, complex sources of information (i.e zodiacal signs + lunar state63 + sun + other planets) in relation to a single project. The completion of the circle, with the construction of the notion ‘northern hemisphere’ came later. Since this scheme incorporated all four cardinal directions, it could be instrumentalised directly, say in relation to runaway slaves: “If the Moon is at Hor. or in one of the following signs, it means the runaway has gone east; if at MC, he has gone [south]; if at Δ, he has gone west; if at IMC, he has gone [north]”.64 Usually, however, it is deployed in a more complex manner to add to the range of considerations on which a prognosis could be made, as in Dorotheus’ scheme of human life (Fig. 7), in which “the hidden parts of the body”, but also “foundations [of houses], choices of residence (?) and business affairs” (καὶ θεμέλια καὶ κτίσεις καὶ ἀγοράς) fall under IMC.65 This fourth kentron/cardo always remained optional, but it permitted a further increment of 60 HÜBNER 2003, 245 thinks that the system was fully developed at latest by I p; Dorotheus for example uses more abstract applications than (the few known) earlier practitioners. 61 e.g. Rhetorius’ scheme for life (ap. CCAG VIII 4, 1922, 123 ll.2f.), which differentiates only between νεότης (Hor.) and γῆρας (Δ), between ‘youth’ and ‘(old) age’: Hübner 2003, 116f., 300 fig. no.13b. This may be from Antiochus of Athens. Another example is the scheme for war in the Greek (Byzantine) tr. of Māšā’allāh, which takes into consideration only the enquirer and the enemy: HÜBNER 2003, 222f., 330 fig. no.37a/2. 62 CCAG IV 1903 p.104 ll.24f.; HÜBNER 2003, 87‒89 with 289 fig. no.10b. Iulianus offers another scheme based on a divinatory folk-model immediately afterwards (l.26f.): past at Hor., present at MC, future at Δ. 63 This means primarily phase and the ascending or descending node. 64 Hephaestio, Apotel. 3.47.61, where north and south have been falsely exchanged; cf. HÜBNER 2003, 38f. with 282 fig. no. 1b/3. 65 Dorotheus G4.1.45 p.382 ll.3‒6, cf. CCAG II (1900) p.197 ll.30‒33; Hübner 2003, 92, 292 fig. 12a/1. At least the ‘hidden parts’ of the body and the ‘foundation-laying’ are metonymically connected to IMC.

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complexity for those practitioners who required a more sophisticated scheme for their prognoses, for example in the case of marriage (the bridegroom, the bride, the path of life, the dowry and the outcome); purchases, as seen from the point of view of the seller or, alternatively, of the buyer; or the case of borrowing and leasing or letting.66 An additional form of complexity was to crowd each kentron/cardo with a list of different considerations. Firmicus Maternus, for example, lists parentes, patrimonium, substantia, fundamenta, mobilia et quidquid ad latentes et repositas patrimonii pertinet facultates under IMC, each to be considered separately; and gives an even more varied list under MC: vita, spiritus, actus omnes, patria, domicilium, totaque conversatio, artes et quidquid nobis artium suffragio confertur; animi vitia.67 The imposition onto the system of kentra/cardines of the dodekatropos and its variants, such as the athla or sortes, permitted still further complexity. An example of the use of the dodekatropos is Hephaestio’s scheme for a prognosis regarding a banquet (Fig. 8), which, though incomplete in its surviving form, in all likelihood originally assigned twelve aspects of a meal round the loci.68 The scheme is explicitly based on the kentra, though in the end result they are practically ignored. The master of the house was at Hor. = I,69 the furniture and equipment at III, the guests at V, wine at VI, the wine-cups at Δ = VII, the butcher/carver of the meat at IX, the organiser, the servants and the head cook at MC = X. More or less every component of such an event, including the master’s wife (at XII, or possibly V) and the room or (in the case of an open-air event) the site (at IV) could be separately addressed, greatly increasing the detail and sophistication of any prognosis. An example of the oktatropos is Thrasyllus’ distribution of eight categories relating to human life between loci I and VIII, where ζωή, life, is set at Hor. = I, γονείς, parents, at IMC = IV, and γυνή, wife, at Δ = VII (Fig. 9). The aim here was evidently to make the topics coincide as much as possible with the traditional associations of the loci (cf. Figs. 5 and 6); thus ‘livelihood’ is at II, parents = ‘origins, source’ at IV, children at V (‘good fortune’), injuries at VI κακὴ τύχη/porta laboris (VI) , death at VIII (τύχη καὶ θάνατος , sedes Typhonis).70 By similar means, quasi-narratives of relatively complex events such as a journey could be constructed. Thus Hephaestio combines the southern kentra Hor., MC, Δ with loci I, XII, XI, X, IX VIII, VII to 66 Respectively: Dorotheus ap. Hephaestio, Apotel. 3.9.1 = Dorotheus A5.16.1, cf. HÜBNER 2003, 313 fig. no.24; seller: Hephaestion, Apotel. 3.16.2, cf. HÜBNER 2003, 157; 310 fig. 20a; buyer: Dorotheus A5.9.6, cf. HÜBNER 2003, 158f.; 310 fig. no. 20b; borrowing: Dorotheus A5.20.1f.; Hephaestio, Apotel. 3.28.1f.; HÜBNER 2003, 161‒63; 311 fig. no. 22. 67 Firmicus Maternus, Math. 2.19.5 and 11, cf. HÜBNER 2003, 296 fig. no.12b4 (using his Latin summary of the passages). 68 Hephaestio, Apotel. 3.36.2‒3, with HÜBNER 2003, 151‒56, 309 fig. 191. PÉREZ JIMÉNEZ 2000 and 2002, 238‒243 has argued that the original scheme was somewhat different and offers an alternative version. 69 I take it that τοῦ δείπνου τὴν ἀρχήν refers to the master or host not to the idea of ‘beginning’. 70 Thrasyllus ap. CCAG VIII 3 1912, 101 ll.3‒9, cf. HÜBNER 2003, 109f.; 297 fig. no. 12c/1. A similar scheme based on the oktatropos is given by Antiochus of Athens, ibid. p.117 ll.22‒27.


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provide a prognostication for each stage of a day’s journey, whether by land or sea.71 Very complicated schemes could be composed regarding the building and navigation of a ship,72 and still more so of truly complex events such as warfare and battles.73 The notional scheme of simple → complex is just that: notional, for the degree of articulation of any project depended more upon the ingenuity and competence of the practitioner on the one hand, and the status, concern and pocket of the principal on the other. ‘Articulability’ is not a constant. At any rate from I a, very simple schemes were being applied alongside very complicated ones, no doubt even by the same practitioner. It is also likely that the schemes found in the hand-books have a model character, and were intended to be applied mutatis mutandis to a variety of actual projects. Hübner discerned a long-term tendency to shift from the private sphere to the public, visible particularly in the Indian Yavanajātaka (IIIp) and Theophilus of Edessa in the Byzantine period (VIIIp).74 The main significance of Hübner’s work, however, is to demonstrate the existence of a widespread, highly adaptable method in katarchic astrology, a method that appropriated certain features of genethliacal astrology for making short-term prognoses. This reliance upon a larger knowledge-practice provided a fall-back authority for individual katarchic forecasts; yet the relation was loose enough to permit a high degree of adaptability to presenting circumstances. The wider context is always the implicit competition with other modes of contingent prognosis. ‘Emergent discrimination’ was the katarchic practitioner’s chosen means of acquiring authority in this contested field. 5. Where do the uncertainties lie? On the basis of the adaptation of Dorotheus’ poem by Hephaestio in Apotel. Bk III, supplemented by the material to be found in al-Tabarī’s version of Dorotheus, we can draw up a list of roughly twenty fields in which katarchic practitioners claimed to offer advice composed on the basis of the scheme of kentra/cardines together with the dodekatropos and its variants.75 71 Hephaestio, Apotel. 3.30.35, as emended by HÜBNER 2003, 73f.; 287 fig. no. 8. The enumeration of stages 3‒6 has fallen out. 72 PÉREZ JIMÉNEZ 2007 with drawings of the zodiacal signs governing the parts of a galley (his fig. 3, 223) and a merchant‒vessel (fig. 4, 229); cf. KOMOROWSKA 2001. MONTERO HERRERO 2010 neglects navigational astrology almost entirely. 73 Warfare: Theophilus of Edessa ap. CCAG XI 1 1932, 213 l.7‒214 l.21 = BIDEZ & CUMONT 1938, 2: 231‒33 (based on a comparison of five mss.); see further HÜBNER 2003, 228‒35; cf. 332 fig. no. 37d/2; battle: Iulianus = ?Theophilus, ap. CCAG V 1 1904, 183 l.26‒184 l.3, with HÜBNER 2003, 235‒37; 333 fig. no. 38. 74 HÜBNER 2003, 245. 75 MacMullen 1990, 224, drawing, like Lynn Thorndike before him, on handbooks of genethliacal astrology, particularly Firmicus Maternus, emphasises the “profit to be found in the ‘empiricism’ of astrological treatises, against the distortion of our other sources”. We can agree, at any rate, that genethliacal astrology too had a good grasp of the peripeteias of

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These can be listed as follows:76 1. House-building/buying 2. Purchases 3. Ships & shipping 4. Journeys 5. Past, present, future 6. Course of life 7. Illness

8. Making a will 9. Worship & sacrifice 10. Inviting guests 11. Rent, tenancy 12. Borrowing and lending 13. Court-cases 14. Imprisonment

15. Marriage 16. Pregnancy 17. Theft 18. Runaway slaves 19. Manumissions 20. Schooling/ apprenticeship

It will at once be clear that the implied principal is the male head of a prosperous household, involved in business affairs and the social intercourse appropriate to his decurial station, and frequently faced with the need to make decisions regarding business, investments, legal threats, appropriate sacrifice, the disposal of members of his family (in the ancient sense), care for the continuity of the house-hold into the next generation,77 and not least his own personal welfare. Questions of the kind we find in later Arabic katarchic astrology, such as Sahl’s entry: A question if a slave, free from one [master], will serve another, or: Whether the present master would be better for the slave, or a future one, do not occur here.78 We may take it that this type of person, with recurrent topical enquiries, formed the ideal or normative client of the katarchic astrologer, who may also have drawn up a genethliacal horoscope for such a person. 79 Some of the fields, such as those at the bottom of the left-hand column, indeed abut the usual topics of genethliacal horoscopes. To this extent, katarchic astrology confirmed that heaven has a special interest in the prosperous just as it told its public what it needed to worry about.80

ancient life. 76 The division into columns has no significance except to save space. This scheme, based on HÜBNER 2003, represents a re‒ordered and simplified list of topics with respect to the source material. For the sake of comparison, I give a full list of the topics treated by Hephaestio in Appendix 1. In view of the interference of other material in the Arabic Dorotheus – it can be shown, for example, that in relation to pregnancy the later Arabic version by al‒Qasrānī includes additional material on e.g. the sex of the child, twins, the mother’s health, or, as may be, death: FROMMHOLD 2004, 24 n.86 ‒ I prefer only to list the topics as given by Hephaestio, though his order differs considerably from that of al‒Tabarī’s Arabic version, as one can see from the comparison set out by PINGREE 1973, 1: x‒xi. 77 On the highly developed concern with pregnancy and birth in ancient astrology, see FROMMHOLD 2004, though she is not concerned with katarchic forecasts (the ‘Petosiris rule’ regarding the relation between conception and birth, for example, is only of importance for genethliacal astrology). 78 Sahl (Zahel), On questions 6.5 and 6, p.91 Dykes. 79 On the similarity of the topics covered in the Arabic tradition, e.g. the ‘Forty Chapters’ of Al Kindī, see BURNETT 1993. 80 On the way divinatory systems may shape and influence anxieties, cf. WHYTE 2005, 253f.


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At the same time, the ‘katarchic range’, covering the socially-recognised uncertainties inherent in the activities inescapably bound up with such a status, implied another kind of offer, equally appropriate to that status, namely intelligent negotiation with a range of possibilities, which it was the role of the practitioner to set out in such a manner that the principal could accede to the merits of the arguments. It is not that such principals hurried off, like Theophrastus’ superstitious man, to consult a diviner if a weasel crossed their path or a mouse gnawed the meal-sack; for these principals that was indeed just superstition. 81 Uncertainty is inescapable but requires to be managed. What they needed was a means of objectifying, naming, discriminating, uncertainties alongside a method of putting the risks involved into a relatively formal hierarchy of acceptability. Ultimately, the kentric schemes served to underwrite the non-arbitrariness of advice given on the basis of a complex set of data. This was precisely what traditional institutionalised oracles lacked: they had no means of showing they appreciated the complexity of projects and situations. At the same time, the diffusion of such schemes focused attention precisely on these types of ‘appropriate’ uncertainty, and not upon, say, metereological forecasting, or the manufacture of clothing, or the length of life of a mud-brick dwelling or a ceramic pot. The schemes are thus part of an implied agreement between practitioner and principal over what matters to a man of substance. The practitioner provided a set of narrative projections that the principal could employ in constructing his own ‘conjectural narratives’, on the basis of which he made his final decision – for better or worse. So far, the rules of the champ. Katarchic astrology promoted itself as a more rational and calculative alternative to other modes of divination, formal and informal; it knew where the uncertainties were located; it could enumerate a battery of different kinds of risks involved in a given project; it could lay out a set of calculable scenarios of the type anticipated. Its futures were always conditional: if this is the case …, then that will happen/it means X or Y. But in practice no decision would have been made solely on the basis of what such an astrologer predicted, or at any rate that would only have been so in a retrospective memory of such a consultation, the narrative simplifying the experience by linking event and prediction: “And it happened just as the astrologer said it would” (or contrariwise, negatively).82 The main social context of decision-making was always inside the (extended) family: astrological predictions provided material – essentially narrative material ‒ for these discussions, which could be deployed and manipulated in defence of any relevant position. Insofar as katarchic astrology contributed to the process of individualisation, it did so by further encouraging the externalisation and rationalisation of uncertainties connected with future projects within the social group that anyway, through its wealth and social status, had the

81 Theophrastus, Charact. 16.3 and 6 (= 28 Jebb). 82 The astrologers’ own representation of the position was different, as we shall see.

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greatest number of options and choices open to it, which are the essential basis for individualisation.83 6. The view from the other side There are a very small number of surviving accounts, transmitted from Late Antique sources by unknown processes into the potpourri typical of mediaeval astrological manuscripts, which give us some inkling of the self-representation of their katarchic practice by working astrologers, and which I assume they set out in some form for their important principals, as justifications for the advice they gave (the ability to give an account being essential to any notion of rationalisation). One of these surviving accounts relates to a vessel that had set out from Alexandria for Smyrna in 479 CE, and weeks later had still not arrived. An astrologer was consulted. Eventually however the vessel did reach Smyrna; and at some later point the practitioner wrote, for purposes unknown to us, possibly as a model for instruction to pupils, or to defend himself in some dispute,84 the following account of why he had given the prediction he had: 85 §1. Another inquiry in Smyrna regarding fear about a ship; for it was expected long before to arrive from Alexandria and had not arrived. §2. Year of Diocletian 195, Epiphi (XI) 20, 3 rd hour of the day, Saturday. Sun Cancer 19 , moon Scorpio 16 , Saturn Virgo 16 , Mars Virgo 18 , Jupiter Aquarius 8 , Venus Gemini 6 , Mercury Leo 4 , retrograde, Horoscopos (= Hor.) Virgo 2 , Midheaven (= MC) Taurus 26 , Ascending node Aries 11 , {conjunction Cancer 11 }, Lot of Fortune Sagittarius 29 . §3. Taking the Ruler of the day (and of the first hour) and the Ruler of the (3 rd) hour – Saturn and Mars ‒ and again having observed Saturn and Mars to be in the Horoscopos (Virgo) and the moon moving towards Saturn, hence I said that the ship had met with a great storm, but that it was saved because Venus (in Gemini) in Midheaven and Moon (in Scorpio) were in aspect to Jupiter (in Aquarius) and the moon’s (position on the) seventh day was moving away from Jupiter and its dodekatemorion was also moving away from Jupiter. §4. The problem of the Katarche concerned a ship of which there was no news: ‒ Observe that the lot of Fortune was in Sagittarius, with which Argo rises; and furthermore the Ruler (Jupiter) of it (i.e. Argo) was in a very watery sign (Aquarius). Having observed that the Horoscopos was in a bicorporal sign (Virgo) {and that the Ruler of the Horoscopos (Mercury) was retrograde, and the Ruler of Midheaven (Taurus), Venus, was in a bicorporal sign, Gemini} and the Ruler (Jupiter) of the (Lot of) Fortune (in Sagittarius) was in a bicorporal sign and (the planet) which receives the Ruler of the of the Lot of Fortune was in a bicorporal sign {and the house Ruler of the moon (Mars) was in a bicorporal sign (Virgo)}, I said that they would change from ship to ship. And because Virgo was a winged sign and

83 Cf. GORDON 2012, 91‒93. 84 Cf. KELLEY 2008 on the debate over astrology in early Christian Syria, as represented by ps.‒ Clementine Recognitions 10, 7‒12. She believes the passage is directed at Bardesanes, or rather the tradition represented by the name. 85 CCAG I 1898, 103f. [ed. F. Cumont], cf. VI 1906, 14 (the text is not reprinted there but the ms. is the source of some additions to Cumont’s text, marked by { }, as read by Neugebauer and van Hoesen) = NEUGEBAUER & VAN HOESEN 1959, 144‒146 no. L479. I reproduce their translation with slight alterations. It begins “Another enquiry …” because the editor/copyist of the ms. has just copied out a shorter response regarding a ship from Athens datable to July 16, 474 CE (p.103 = NEUGEBAUER & VAN HOESEN 1959, 143 no. L475). The date of the response about the ship at Smyrna is July 14, 479 CE, time: 09.00 hours.


Richard Gordon also Sagittarius I said they were bringing some feathered things with them. And because the moon was {in the house of Mars (Scorpio)} I said that they were bringing medical implements with them. And because the moon was in the house of Mars (Scorpio) and terms of Mercury, I said they were probably bringing books and papyrus with them and some bronze objects because of Scorpio. Having noted that Asclepius [= Ophiuchus] was rising with the moon (in Scorpio) I said that they were bringing medical implements with them. §5. And (as to) when it ought to come, I said the moon would be in Aquarius {or Pisces; in Aquarius because of its (the moon’s position on the) seventh day and because the Lot of Fortune (in Sagittarius) was moving towards Jupiter (in Aquarius); in Pisces because of its motion towards its own house Ruler. And they arrived on the eighth day (the moon being) in Aquarius} and be ing asked they spoke about the delay and said that there was an upheaval at sea,} and, as the sea parted, the (handle of the) steeringoar, [αὐχήν] struck a rock and was broken and they were greatly driven by the storm. Having reached a harbour, they transferred the cargo to another ship on which they came, bringing, indeed, ostrich feathers and plain papyrus, because Mercury was retrograde, and cooking implements, because of Scorpio, and a shipload of medical supplies, because of Asclepius and Hygieia.

This retrospective account raises a number of points about the methods and selfimage of a katarchic astrologer, which in turn have implications for the relation between client and expert.86 Given the uncertainty attending all katarchic prognosis, it is imperative for the practitioner to demonstrate his authority throughout. He therefore begins by drawing up a list of basic or ‘anagraphic’ data in conformity with the late-antique rules governing literary horoscopes. These required the year, the month in a local or regional calendar, the day of the week, the hour, the ‘planets’ in the order Sun, Moon, Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, Venus and Mercury,87 followed by Hor. and MC,88 the ascending lunar node, the conjunction or opposition and the Lot of Fortune (see Fig. 10). Generally speaking, papyrus horoscopes contain less information of this kind (they never mention the ascending lunar node, for example, and rarely the Lot of Fortune) and they organise the information differently.89 In what Neugebauer and van Hoesen call ‘literary horoscopes’, however, the amount of information tends to increase as time goes on.90 Yet some of this basic data is often, as here, redundant: the degrees 86 Such an explanatory text bears some indirect relation to so‒called de‒luxe or elaborated horoscopes, which demonstrate how much technical information a practitioner could assemble if paid enough. For the documentary examples from Oxyrhynchus, see P.Oxy 4276‒ 85 = ALEXANDER 1999, 282‒90, cf. 4245 (258f.); others: BACCANI 1992, 46. Yet, as one can see plainly from the most elaborate of all, P.Lond. 130 = NEUGEBAUER & VAN HOESEN 1959, 21‒28 no.81, this wealth of information only concerns the ‘anagraphic’ section. 87 This horoscope is one of only two at this period where Mars is out of place, of only four where the same is true of Jupiter. 88 The text seems to betray some uncertainty about the MC: in the anagraphic information, it is stated to be at Taurus 26°. But, as one can see from Fig. 10, Gemini ought already to be at MC, and in §3 l.4 Venus in Gemini is indeed said to be at MC. This suggests some internal revision of the piece, which one might anyway suspect. NEUGEBAUER & VAN HOESEN 1959, 145f. do not comment, and indeed calculate Taurus 26° as correct for Byzantium. The difference is of course only a few degrees. 89 Cf. BACCANI 1992, 39f. 90 There are more than 120 cases of literary horoscopes in which Hor is considered to belong to the anagraphic information. Only four of the 120 horoscopes in Vettius Valens (II p) add MC, but virtually all late‒antique examples do so. The proportion of references to the Lot of Fortune increases from one third in Vettius Valens to one half in late‒antique examples. The

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within the signs, for example, which could simply be read off the planetary tables, and the lunar node, though assuring a nice exactitude, play no role in the answer itself.91 Moreover, the katarchic system based on the kentra has virtually disappeared, only Hor. and MC surviving, and even then they play a part only in the initial analysis (§3). In order to construct his justificatory narrative, the expert adduces as much ‘collateral’ material as he can squeeze out of the basic horoscope by making extensive use of the schemes and links offered by the hand-books, which he does with great panache ‒ another aspect of his demonstration of authority. 92 He thus takes the chronocrators of the day and the (equinoctial) hour on which he was consulted, without bothering about whether this date had anything to do with the events in question – the date of the interrogation was taken as sufficient. These happen both to be maleficent signs (Saturn and Mars). Their negative effect is increased considerably by the fact that the same signs are together at Hor. This alone would be bad news, but our practitioner reinforces the point by noting that the moon, though still in Scorpio, is ‘approaching’ Saturn – another negative. Now none of this has anything directly to do with shipping – constellations such as Altar/Βῶμος/Ara, which had, are not mentioned here. 93 Implicit contextual knowledge must therefore be adduced: ships often get wrecked, and that is a very common reason for them failing to reach their destination. Storms are the commonest reason for ships to be wrecked. The combination of negative forces might well have induced the astrologer to say, “I’m sorry, it’s sunk”. But that would not be much of a narrative. At this point, though, the kentron-system can be brought momentarily to bear: Venus, a beneficent planet, is in Gemini, a masculine bicorporal sign, at MC – conflict creates narrative. All the same, this is a mere straw in the wind, and needs support; but all our expert can find is a (very tenuous) link to beneficent Jupiter in a watery sign (Aquarius) via the moon in aspect (although Scorpio is generally a negative/harmful sign). I think it would be fair to say that these beneficent features do not count for much, and that the maleficents should by rights have won out. But who would be satisfied with that? Only the fish. The narrative continues into §4, where a great deal more more extraneous information is brought in. A circuitous argument ‒ the Lot of Fortune is in Sagittarius (admittedly in its penultimate degree, usually a sign of fading influence) which happens to rise at the same time as (i.e. is the paranatellôn of) the constellation Argo ‒ allows our expert to bring in a constellation that is at any ascending node and the preceding conjunction or opposition are also characteristic of the late period. See NEUGEBAUER & VAN HOESEN 1959, 164f. 91 With the one exception of the moon at Scorpio 16° being in the term of Mercury (see below). 92 ALEXANDER 1999 10f. gives a list of the most important, all of which we must suppose were stored, with many of their ramifications, in the memory of any competent practitioner. 93 Saturn however might be considered a ‘wet’ sign: BOUCHÉ‒LECLERCQ 1898, 96. Ptolemy, Apotel. 4,8,5 (p.331f. Hübner) sets out the conditions under which Saturn and Mars may cause shipwrecks – but none of his conditions here obtain.


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rate directly connected to shipping.94 Now Ptolemy says that the influence of the bright stars in Argo is like that of Saturn and Jupiter, which means it could be negative or positive;95 but our practitioner ignores Saturn by claiming that Jupiter, the diurnal Ruler of Sagittarius, is also that of Argo. But so what? – we already knew the katarchê is about a missing ship. Emphasising Jupiter’s link to the constellation would amount to the claim that all ships are equally protected. He then overdetermines the notion of bicorporality by finding five cases, again by dint of tenuous arguments, and uses metonymy to read ‘bicorporality’ as signifying ‘two ships’. What could that mean? Well, the crew must have trans-shipped from one to the other. The point of the elaborate over-determination – in other cases, we shall see, he needs no such elaborate evidence to draw a rather spectacular conclusion ‒ is to render the idea of changing ships inescapable. Yet in itself bicorporality could be evoked in many different directions. The over-determination conceals what is in fact a mere guess (assuming we take any of the account to be ‘true’). The narrative then turns to the cargo. So far Virgo (Hor.) has only served as a case of bicorporality. Now it becomes interesting as one of the signs connected to winged creatures with feathers – Ptolemy mentions Virgo, Sagittarius, Cygnus, Aquila in this connection: although only two of these constellations ‘are’ birds, Virgo is represented with wings, and Sagittarius’ arrow-shaft has feathers. 96 But Virgo in connection with Mars and Saturn might have evoked a much more sinister set of associations, with prisons and torture, deformity and delusions. 97 As for books and papyrus, if the moon was at Scorpio 16°, it was in the ‘terms’ (ὅρια) of Mercury, i.e. between Scorpio 12° and 19° according to the Egyptian system; and Mercury causes people to be scribes, business-men, and “in general, those who perform their functions by means of documents (ἀπὸ γραμμάτων)” – such people need papyrus and codices.98 Mars alone would be associated with ironworking and the use of fire; but in association with Mercury with the making of sculptures and the modelling of religious and human figur(in)es, i.e. fine metalwork, though I can find no associations specifically with bronze. 99 These two planets together are also associated with medicine and surgery; but our expert prefers to demonstrate his erudition, and his use of the ephemerides, by appealing

94 Apart from being itself (half a) ship, those born at its rising become sea‒captains: Manil., Astr. 5,32‒56; Firm. Mat., Math.8,27,12. 95 Ptolemy, Apotel. 1,9,23 (p.41 Hübner). 96 ibid. 2,8,8 (p.132 Hübner). Ptolemy is here talking of the influence of these constellations on birds, mainly for the table, but also on fish. The ship might therefore have been carrying chickens or ducks. 97 e.g. Vett. Val., Anth. 1,3,29f. (p.15 Pingree). 98 For the Egyptian system of Terms, see BOUCHÉ‒LECLERCQ 1898, 207; ALEXANDER 1999, 1: 351 Appdx. L no.1. 99 Mercury: Ptolemy, Apotel. 4,4,3 (p.293 Hübner). Nor can I find associations between Scorpio and bronze (cooking) implements, which our expert repeats in §5.

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to the heliacal rising of the constellation Ophiuchus, another paranatellôn of Scorpio, associated since Eratosthenes with the catasterism of Asklepios.100 Even from such a limited commentary it is clear that no katarchê had to take the form it did: as in the case of oneiromancy, all such accounts, though of course motivated, were heavily under-determined. On the one hand, as I have pointed out above in relation to Bourdieu’s notion of champ, the astrologer himself could not stand outside his practice in the way the historian must.101 On the other, the sheer number of schemes and associations developed in the ‘Hellenistic vulgate’ to link the signs of the zodiac with the planets, the multiple connotations and associations of the luminaries, the other planets, the zodiacal signs and the paranatellonta, the opportunities for extensive metaphoric/metonymic leaps from the anagraphic information, all of these gave the practitioner great freedom in the process of constructing the narrative coherence thought desirable and/or attainable. The process of framing the account so that the events proceed as ‘naturally’ as possible from the astrological information adduced is also quite unmistakable, 102 as is the note of triumph at the end when the ship turns out indeed to be carrying ostrich feathers, papyrus and medical supplies.103 These are the points at which authority is most palpably asserted. There can thus be little doubt that the initial prognostic statement would have differed quite considerably both in detail and indeed in its emphases from what we have in ms. Laur. box 28, cod. 23 fol. 112 v §59 = CCAG I (1898) p.103f. On the other hand, the text provides ample evidence not merely of the degree of specialist knowledge and narrative fluency required of a competent katarchic astrologer but also of the difficulty of knowing how much of the raw material available to a quick mind ought to count as relevant and why. For this reason, I suppose that there must always have been a negotiation between practitioner and principal over the preferred narrative(s) to be agreed upon. Both must therefore be considered as ‘intentional subjects’ in the sense used by the American pragmatists in the early twentieth century, each side working towards a scenario that is in some sense agreed or common.104 In that case, we may assume that beneath the surface of such negotiations regarding decisions to act or not to act there was always a conflict, open or implicit, between client and practitioner over the details of the narrative finally offered, which in turn played a significant role in the hypothetical 100 Eratosthenes, epit. 6; Hyginus, Astr. 2,14 etc., set out in ROBERT (1878) 68‒71; cf. LE BOEUFFLE 1977, 198. The only text that also mentions Hygieia, invoked in §5, is the lateantique Latin Hermetica p.65,18 Gundel: Ophiuchus et Aesculapius et Sanitas ... 101 In Méditations pascaliennes, Bourdieu develops the notion of illusio for the practitioner’s total investment (“investissement primordial”) in a given field of action, a commitment that provides a sense of control (BOURDIEU 2003, 139‒141, 196f., cf. 129). 102 On the significance of framing in conceptualising problems, see e.g. KAHNEMAN 2011, 363‒ 374. 103 I take it that these items must have been what the principal was expecting. The ostrich feathers seem to be an early example of the trade from Alexandria later conducted by Jewish merchants, cf. STEIN 2008, ch. 2. 104 Cf. WHYTE 2005, 249f.


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intra-familial discussions. In these discussions, this narrative alone represented the discourse of the champ and its world of assumptions and inferences. Within the family, the crucial site of decision, no one operated out of the corner marked illusio. 7. The struggle for ‘interpretative dominance’ Alongside the scheme based on the four kentra, there were other systems of diagnosis available to practitioners. Since we have only the extracts devoted to specific topics preserved in the CCAG, it is difficult to tell how they were integrated into, or, more generally, related to, the kentra-method. What survives is the type of text preserved in ms. Laur. box 28, cod. 23 under such names as Erasistratus, Timaeus and Serapion, all of which happen to concern either theft or the related topic of runaway slaves.105 It may be that these are the remnants of simpler methods of katarchic divination, based mainly on the signs occupied at the critical moment by the moon and the rising of specific planets, but, if so, efforts were clearly made to integrate such methods into the kentra-system, even if their precise relation is not always clear. The following extract from the text on thefts by Erasistratus illustrates this process of adaptation:106 (7.) You must also take the risings (of the planets) and ages into account: Morning rising means (the thieves are) children; (rising) within 15 of the Sun means old age; the first station and evening rise, middle age; the second station and setting, the stage of life after middle age. So bringing together everything to do with risings ‒ you will discover the precise condition and age (of the thief) thus: If the morning rising of Saturn happens to be in the locus of the thief [i.e. Δ = VII], (it means) they are neither boys or old men but in the prime of life If the evening rising of Mercury (happens to be in the locus of the thief [i.e. Δ], it means) they are young men or boys (If the) evening rising of Venus (happens to be in the locus of the thief [i.e. Δ ], it means) they are girls (If) Mercury is (obscured by) the setting , (it means) they are middle-aged (If) Venus is (obscured by) the setting , (it means) they are middle-aged women (If ) the eastern (planets) are setting, they indicate (the thieves are) young men (If ) the eastern (planets) are at the heliacal setting, say the thieves, whether male or female, are elderly (8.) Losses mainly occur when the Moon or Mercury are maleficent, so: If the maleficent planets at rising are in aspect to the Moon, but the beneficent ones are setting, the lost object will not be found Likewise, if the beneficent planets and Mercury at rising are in aspect to the Moon, but the maleficent ones are setting, the lost object will be found

105 In the extract cited above: fol. 210v: ‘thief‒finder of Erasistratos’; fol. 213v: ‘method of Timaios relating to runaway slaves’; fol. 215 v: ‘katarchai by Serapion’; fol. 226v: ‘Serapion’s method of locating a run‒away slave’. 106 Title: περὶ ἀπωλείας πράγματος κατὰ Ἐρασίστρατον· εὑρεῖν τόν κλέπτοντα καὶ τὸ ἀπολλυμένον καὶ ποῦ κεῖται, ap. CCAG I 1898, 96f. I am grateful to R.L Beck (Toronto) for help with tricky passages, here and in the next extract, though even so I cannot claim to have understood the meaning at every point.

Uncertainty, authority and narrative in katarchic astrology


If both luminaries are above the horizon and in their proper positions, (they indicate) discovery If Saturn aspects (the sign at) Hor. and the Moon, say that the theft has been accomplished by craft and secrecy If Jupiter aspects (the sign at) Hor. and the Moon, say that somebody apparently trustworthy, a free person, has concealed (the object) and that the theft has been effected through the assumption that they were free If Mars aspects (the sign at) Hor. and the Moon, (say that the theft has been effected by) digging through a wall and (using) a false key or breaking open doors or bending the key or use of violence If Venus aspects (the sign at) Hor. and the Moon, (say that the theft has been effected because) of a girl/prostitute or because of a love affair with a woman If Mercury aspects (the sign at) Hor. and the Moon, (say that the theft is due) entirely to wickedness or villainy (9.) So as to be able to declare where the object was taken from, proceed as follows: Let (the sign at) Hor. be the starting-point, the Moon indicates the place the object was stolen from If the Moon is (in the sign at) Hor., the object lost was lying openly visible If instead the Sun aspects the Moon, where the MC is close, it signifies the (object) was hanging up If Mars aspects the Moon, (it means that) the object has been lost from a locked place If the Moon is setting, (it means that) the object was kept in an elevated place If (the Moon is) at IMC, (it means that the object was kept) in an underground cellar If (the Moon) is setting, and aspects the locus of the thief (i.e. Δ = VII), say that the thief has been betrayed.

The use of the simple conditional (protasis) + apodosis in the indicative is characteristic of instructional texts such as Babylonian or Etruscan collections of the meanings of meteorological signs connected with thunder or lightning, or the Babylonian texts on bowl-divination.107 Instructions such as this, directed exclusively to the practitioner, might be taken to indicate that principals expected the practitioner provide them with astonishingly precise information about past events and/or predictions about future ones. This would fit with a traditional trope about the marvellous abilities of μάγοι and μάντεις to peer through the veil. A better explanation however is that such precision should rather be seen from the supply side as a means of stocking up the practitioner’s arsenal in his negotiation with principals over the preferred narrative. The argument looks like this. Viewed as a list, these significations acquire a certain coherence – one can usually glimpse to metaphoric or metonymic logic, e.g. (in §9) taking the moon as your indicator, you can say, if the moon is at the eastern horizon, i.e. visible, the stolen object was likewise visible; if the moon is at IMC, the object was likewise underground, i.e. in a cellar. Linking the moon to other planets provides further precision. Such inferences are individually underdetermined (i.e. arbitrary); they have coherence only as part of a set. But the principal or enquirer is not granted access to the set, and is only allowed to know the individual statement in the past, present or future indicative: “the object was taken from a locked cupboard”, “the lost object will not be found”. Although the kentron-system permitted a quite complex sub-division of events under different aspects, it did require a great deal of work, as in the case of the Smyrna enquiry, to 107 Etruscan: TURFA 2006 – Greek text and Eng. tr. only; EADEM 2012; bowl‒divination: PETTINATO 1966.


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convert the anagraphic information into a meaning narrative. Texts such as Erasistratus’ helped out here by providing ready-made, fixed equivalents analogous to those offered by dice-oracles, with the exception that these challenged the principal directly to exercise his or her interpretative abilities. The practitioner was thus able to combine off-the-peg assertions about the significance of a particular set of astronomical phenomena with personal interpretations – that is, he could allow the former to guide him in the choice between the large numbers of alternatives that the more general hand-books offered him. We can understand the practitioner’s need for coherent and plausible narratives in terms of Harrison White’s insistence on the role of stories in establishing ‘control régimes’.108 On this view, stories are always in (implicit) contention with other possible stories. Such stories, which are a fundamental mode of social competition, mobilise implicit sets of values, which are the true source of the tensions between the participant actors. The more coherent the story, and the more precise the details it contains, the greater the practitioner’s chance of persuading the principal to adopt it as his preferred narrative. Very precise details are thus a major persuasive resource in the establishment of a power régime based on a particular set of values. “Story-lines survive in a matrix of contending control projects”.109 The availability of ready-made lists of significances to combine with other, more personal, conclusions was thus more or less indispensable to katarchic astrologers in negotiations with principals over plausible stories. They provided speed with specificity. Nevertheless there were implicit constraints upon the play of the imagination here. Every competent practitioner would have been in a position to judge for himself the plausibility of, say Erasistratus’ equivalents, on the basis of his own extreme familiarity with the specific properties ascribed to individual planets and zodiacal signs. At the same time, one may wonder whether the major stimulus to these constructions was not an imaginative grasp of the subjective plight of the principal, the content of his worries, and his desire for knowledge sufficient to authorise action – of almost any sort. A good example is Timaeus on runaway slaves:110 If Jupiter is in conjunction with the Moon, (or) if it is (in the) ascendant [Hor.] (sign), (or) if it is in (the sign at) MC, the runaway has carried off silver-plate and chased-silver vessels and will succeed in getting away If Jupiter is in conjunction with the Sun, (the runaway) has taken much more If Venus and the Sun are in the same sign, (the thief) has taken images of the saints, and articles of gold, silver and bronze

108 WHITE 2008, 27‒31, 38. 109 WHITE 2008, 188. 110 Timaeus, περὶ δραπετῶν καὶ κλεπτῶν, ap. CCAG I 1898, 97‒99, likewise from cod. Laur. 28, 33 fol. 102 (see also n.51 above). The reference to statues of saints, and specific linguistic (esp. lexical) features, suggest that this is a ‘living’ text, last revised at a relatively late date. On the plight of runaway slaves, see KUDLIEN 1988. Despite his title, MONTERO HERRERO 1995 does not even mention katarchic astrology, no doubt on the grounds that astrology does not fall under his conception of ‘adivinación’.

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If Jupiter and Mercury aspect one another from the right, he has escaped with quite a lot of stuff but will be quickly caught If the Sun and Mercury aspect one another from the right, he will be taken within 3 and 11 days, on the information of witnesses If Saturn is in the MC sign, or the IMC or Δ, the thief will be apprehended red-handed – they will be in physically bad shape and be betrayed by women If Venus aspects the Moon from the left, or through the MC, a free woman in the know will betray him If Mars is in the same positions, it will have the same effect as Saturn; the thief will have received numerous scars and wounds on the face and legs If a quadruped sign is at Hor., or MC, or has the Moon at a distance from the five planets, (the thief) will be taken on the road If it aspects from the right, he will (be taken by) bribing a neighbour or one of his fellows If Venus, Jupiter or the Sun (aspect from the right), a relative ‒ son or father or brother ‒ will connive with him and he will escape If Jupiter is in Ares, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo Virgo, Scorpius Pisces, the fugitive will be found in a temple area; and especially if Venus aspects from the right, they will be overpowered and handed over in such an area If Saturn is in conjunction with the Moon, he will be discovered in a marshy area.

8. Conclusion Modern histories of western astrology present themselves as cultural and intellectual histories, of religious debate, concepts of rationality, competing institutions, forms of distinction.111 Such concerns have helped (somewhat) to remove astrology from its reputation as a haunt for Fachidioten. My concern here is somewhat different, namely to suggest the potential significance of katarchic astrology both in developing models for types of individualisation in the context of ancient religious practices and in raising the issue of managing uncertainty in the context of lived ancient religion. It is obvious that the ancient world had no concept of risk as understood in the idea of a risk-society, utility theory, or even in the more nuanced form of prospect theory.112 Granted that appreciation of its types and sub-types is a cultural variable,113 however, uncertainty is a permanent human condition, since we are all necessarily oriented towards the future in many different ways and have to use such means as are available to manage it. No less than the Enlightenment, the ancient world could produce devastating critiques of astrology, both in its premises and its execution.114 As I have said, Ptolemy evidently considered katarchic astrology still less defensible than genethliacal. On the other hand, the individual facing the need to make choices regarding specific alternatives in situations of marked uncertainty – the uncertainty-marking being itself part of the frame ‒ saw in katarchic astrology not a set of intellectual propositions but precisely one possible means of managing uncertainty, a means that combined a high-prestige cosmological model with the production of negotiable project-nar111 E.g. CAREY 1992; VON STUCKRAD 2003; cf. GORDON 2013. 112 For prospect theory and criticism of the limitations of utility theory, see KAHNEMAN 2011. Though gambling was widespread among ancient élites, they could do nothing with risk. 113 DOUGLAS & WILDAVSKY 1983, 29‒48. 114 On the two sides of the debate, see LONG 1982; on Sextus Empiricus: SPINELLI 2002.


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ratives. To my mind, it did not matter that many – most, all even ‒ such prognoses were ‘objectively’ disconfirmed. The point lay in the production of usable stories. Appendix 1: The topics of katarchic astrology according to Hephaestio of Thebes.115 An asterisk denotes a section of major importance (i.e. at least two Teubner pages); two denote extreme fascination. 1. III.7: 2. III.8: 3. III. 9: 4. III.10: 5. III.11:

On laying foundations, building a house (When to chance) swearing a (false) oath On marrying* Sexual intercourse Separation of married couple (i.e. the wife leaves her husband’s house) 6. III.12: Late abortion of the foetus 7. III.13: Induced miscarriage/abortion 8. III.14: Agricultural decisions 9. III.15: Digging wells and cisterns 10. III.16: Purchases of different kinds* 11. III.17: Building a ship 12. III.18: Buying horses 13. III.19: Purchasing livestock 14. III.20: Coming into the presence of a powerful official or prince 15. III.21: Manumissions 16. III.22: Giving games and spectacles 17. III.23: Propitious occasions and ~ dreams 18. III.24: Ancient Egyptian method to work out when dreams are truthful using the lunar cycle 19. III.25: Asking for grace and favour 20. III 26: Making any kind of choice or agreement 21. III.27: Writing letters, and judging the veracity of their contents 22. III.28: Making loans 23. III.29: Checking the creditworthiness of someone who wants you to stand surety 24. III.30: Going on a long journey* 25. III.31: The patient* 115 Excluding the technical discussion relating to techniques, the zodiacal signs, and the malign effects of the moon. My titles are often not direct translations of the ms. titles but seek to convey the content (e.g. the ms. title of no. 2 is πῶς δεῖ ὁρκίζειν, whereas the actual content stresses the periods when one can swear a false oath with impunity. The title of no. 6 is περὶ διαφορᾶς κυουμένων, On ‘delay’ of the foetus, but I think διαφορά here must have a different sense, not entered in LSJ but deducible from διαφορέω 4, ‘tear in pieces’, i.e. a surgical intervention to remove a well‒grown foetus from the womb, cf. Dorotheus A5,18 p.276 Pingree: “A pregnant woman, if her child will die in her belly”).

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26. III.32: Surgical interventions 27. III.33: Illnesses (simply cites 7¼ lines of Dorotheus [5,37,2‒8, p.418f. Pingree]) 28. III.34: Purges 29. III.35: On first using new possessions, such as clothes 30. III.36: Giving a banquet 31. III.37: Court-cases, winning and losing 32. III.38: Another method* 33. III.39: Exile; exposure of infants 34. III.40: Imprisonment* 35. III.41: Course of life; property 36. III.42: Lost property and its recovery* 37. III.43: Identifying what has been lost* 38: III.44: Identifying the thief* 39. III.45: Indentikit of the thief* 40. III.46: How was the object lost? 41. III.47: Runaway slaves** Appendix (i.e. omitted by Hephaestio from Bk III but known to have been discussed by Dorotheus): 42. Obstetric matters 43. Wills* 44. Schooling/learning


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Fig. 1: Schematic representation of the ecliptic (the sun’s course ‘through’ the twelve signs of the zodiac).

Uncertainty, authority and narrative in katarchic astrology


Fig. 2: Interrelations between the signs of the zodiac, here the ‘aspecting’ signs of the trigona.


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Fig. 3: The system of kentra, marking the position of the hypothetical viewer in the centre, facing south.

Uncertainty, authority and narrative in katarchic astrology

Fig. 4: The scheme of the dodekatropos overlying the kentra. The seven ‘planets’ are shown in the locations where they were deemed to have their greatest effects.



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Fig. 5: The Greek names of the twelve loci of the dodekatropos.

Uncertainty, authority and narrative in katarchic astrology

Fig. 6: The Latin names of the twelve loci of the dodekatropos.



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Fig. 7: Dorotheus’ scheme of human life.

Uncertainty, authority and narrative in katarchic astrology

Fig.8: Hephaestio’s scheme for a banquet.



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Fig. 9: Thrasyllus’ version of the oktatropos for human life.

Uncertainty, authority and narrative in katarchic astrology

Fig. 10: Chart of some of the ‘anagraphic’ information recorded for the query about the ‘ship at Smyrna’ (479 CE).



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Bibliography Primary texts: Abu Ma’šar, Mysteria = ἡ ἀποτελεσματικὴ βίβλος τῶν μυστηρίων τοῦ Ἀπομάσαρ, Bk 1 = fol. 3‒ 68 of cod. Laurentianus, Box 28, codex 33 = CCAG I (1898) 40‒46 no.11, ed. A. Olivieri (contents only). The Arabic text was translated and spliced with material from other sources by a Greek editor; see also ‘Palchus’. Antiochus of Athens, Excerpta ap. Rhetorius ed. F. Boll, CCAG I (1898) 140‒64 and VII (1908) p.107‒28. Demetrius, περὶ δραπετευόντων, as resumed by ‘Palchus’ in cod. Laur. 28.33 fol. 113, ed. A. Olivieri, CCAG I (1898) 104‒06. Dorotheus of Sidon, Carmen astrologicum ed., tr. D. Pingree (Leipzig 1976). This contains (a) the text of the Arabic paraphrase by ’Umar ibn al-Farrukhān al-Tabarī (ϑ c.815 CE, known in the West as ‘Omar Tiberiades’) of an earlier Pahlavi version of Dorotheus’ poem (pp.3‒158; (b) Pingree’s tr. of the Arabic text into English (pp. 161‒322); (c) the surviving Greek and Latin fragments, based on the work of V. Stegemann, organised by Books (pp.323‒437). In some ways it is more useful to consult the re-printed version of the English translation (without the fragments) edited with charts by D. Gieseler Greenbaum (Abingdon, MD 2005), which contains Pingree’s pagination, but I have not generally referred to it. Erasistratus, περὶ ἀπωλείας πράγματος, as resumed by ‘Palchus’ in cod. Laur. 28.33 fol. 100v, ed. A. Olivieri, CCAG I (1898) 94‒97. Firmicus Maternus, Mathesis, ed. tr. P. Monat (Paris 1992‒94). Hephaestio of Thebes, Apotelesmatika ed. D. Pingree. 2 vols. (Leipzig 1973‒74). A translation of Book III by Robert H. Schmidt is announced by Golden Hind Press, Cumberland MD. Iulianus, περὶ καταρχῶν and περὶ ἀπωλείας καὶ δραπετῶν καὶ χρέους, ap. cod. Laur. 28.34 fol. 83, eds. W. Kroll and A. Olivieri, CCAG I (1898) 138f. ‘Palchus’, Apotelesmatika = fol. 193‒313v of cod. Laur. 28.33 = CCAG I (1898) 53‒60 no.11, ed. A. Olivieri (list of contents only).‘Palchus’ is a pseudonym used by several compilers, i.a. by Eleutherios Elios in XIVp. Porphyry, Introductio ad Ptolemaeum ed E. Boer and S. Weinstock, CCAG V 4 (1940) 190‒228. Ptolemy, Apotelesmatika ed. W. Hübner (Stuttgart and Leipzig 1998); Eng. tr. under the name Tetrabiblos by F.E. Robbins (Cambridge MA 1940); tr., comm. S. Ferraboli (Milan 1985). A new translation by Robert H. Schmidt is in course of publication by Golden Hind Press, Cumberland MD (non vidi). Sahl (Zahel ibn Bishr ibn Habıb), On Questions, in: Works of Sahl and Māshā’allāh, tr. B.J. Dykes (Minneapolis MN 2008) 67‒186. Serapion ‘of Alexandria’, παρανομασίαι (frg.), ed. F. Cumont, CCAG VIII 4 (1921) 225‒32. Theophilus (‘Iulianos’), ed. F. Cumont, CCAG V 1 (1904) 183‒86. Thrasyllus, ed. F. Cumont, CCAG VIII 3 (1912) 99‒101. Timaeus, περὶ δραπετῶν καὶ κλεπτῶν, as resumed by ‘Palchus’ in cod. Laur. 28.33 fol. 102, ed. A. Olivieri, CCAG I (1898) 97‒99. Vettius Valens, Anthologiae ed. D. Pingree (Leipzig 1986) with Appendices I‒XXIII pp.369‒455; Book 1 only: ed.tr. F. Bara. EPROER 111 (Leyden 1989). Zenarius, καταρχαί, ap. cod. Laur. 28.34 fol. 22v, ed. A. Olivieri, CCAG I (1898) 128f.

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HÜBNER, Wolfgang, Die Dodekatropos des Manilius (Manil. 2,856‒2.970), Stuttgart 1995 (= Abh. Mainzer Akad. der Wiss. und Literatur, Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaftl. Kl., Jahrg. 1995.6). HÜBNER, Wolfgang, s.v. Nechepso, DNP 8 (2000) 781. HÜBNER, Wolfgang, „Das Thema der Reise in der antiken Astrologie“, in: Palladio magistro. Mélanges J. Soubiran 27‒54 (= Pallas: Revue des études antiques, Toulouse: Le Mirail 59 (2002) whole volume). HÜBNER, Wolfgang, s.v. Timaios [4], DNP 12/1 (2002) 577‒578. HÜBNER, Wolfgang, s.v. Vettius Valens [II 9], DNP 12/2 (2002) 150f. HÜBNER, Wolfgang, Raum, Zeit und soziales Rollenspiel der vier Kardinalpunkte in der antiken Katarchenhoroskopie, Munich and Leipzig 2003 (Beiträge zur Altertumskunde 194). HÜBNER, Wolfgang, David Edwin Pingree †, MHNH 6 (2006) 3‒12. INGLEBERT, Hervé, “Les modalités et la finalité de la totalisation du savoir sur le monde dans l’Antiquité gréco-romaine”, in: AUGER, Danièle/WOLFF, Étienne (ed.), Culture classique et christianisme: Mélanges offerts à J. Bouffartigue, Paris 2008, 201‒14. JOHNSTON, Sarah I., “Introduction: Divining divination”, in: JOHNSTON, Sarah I./STRUCK, Peter T. (ed.), Mantikê: Studies in ancient divination, Leyden 2005, 1‒28 (Religions in the GraecoRoman World 155). JONES, Alexander, Astronomical Papyri from Oxyrhynchus (POxy 4133‒4300a), Philadelphia 1999 (Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society 233. 2 vols in 1). KAERST, Julius, s.v. Aristandros, no. 6, RE 2.1 (1895) 859‒860. KAHNEMAN, Daniel, Thinking, Fast and Slow, London 2011. KELLEY, Nicole, “Astrology in the Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions”, in: JEcclesHist 59 (2008) 607‒629. KOMOROWSKA, Joanna, “Seamanship, sea-travel and nautical astrology: Demetrius, ‘Rhetorius’ and naval prognostication”, in: Eos 88 (2001) 245‒256. KUDLIEN, Fridolf, „Zur sozialen Situation des flüchtigen Sklaven in der Antike“, in: Hermes 116 (1988) 232‒252. KULLMANN, Wolfgang/ALTHOFF, Jochen/ASPER, Markus (ed.) Gattungen wissenschaftlicher Literatur in der Antike, Tübingen 1998 (ScriptOralia, Reihe A, 22). LE BOEUFFLE, André, Les noms latins d’astres et de constellations, Paris 1977. LHÔTE, Éric, Les lamelles oraculaires de Dodone, Geneva 2010 (ÉPHÉ IV ‒ Hautes études du monde gréco-romain 36). LONG, Anthony A., “Astrology: Arguments pro and contra”, in: BARNES, Jonathan/BRUNSCHWIG, Jacques/BURNYEAT, Myles/SCHOFIELD, Malcolm (ed.), Science and Speculation: Studies in Hellenistic theory and practice, Cambridge 1982, 165‒192. MACMULLEN, Ramsay, “Social history in astrology”, in: MACMULLEN, Ramsay, Changes in the Roman Empire: Essays in the Ordinary, Princeton 1990, 218‒224. Repr. from Ancient History 2 (1971) 105‒116. MALTOMINI, Franco P., “Lond. 121 = PGM VII, 1‒221”, in: Homeromanteion, ZPE 106 (1995) 107‒122. MONTERO HERRERO, Santiago, “Adivinación y esclavitud en la Roma antigua”, in: Ilu (Revista de Ciencias de las Religiones) 0 (1995) 141‒156. MONTERO HERRERO, Santiago, “Adivinacion y navigación en la Roma antigua”, in: ALVAR NUÑO, ANTÓN (ed.), El viaje y sus riesgos. Los peligros de viajar en el mundo griego-romano, Madrid 2010, 261‒273. NEUGEBAUER, Otto/VAN HOESEN, Henry B., Greek Horoscopes, Philadelphia 1959 (Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society 48). NICE, Alex, “The reputation of the (mantis) Aristander”, in: Antiquité Classique 48 (2005) 87‒102. ORLANDO, Carmela/TORRE, Rita “Lessico astronomico-astrologico”, in: RADICI COLACE, Paola/CACCAMO CALTABIANO, Maria (ed.), Atti del I° seminario di studi sui lessici technici greci e latini, Messina 1991, 291‒309.


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PACKMAN, Zola M., “Instructions for use of planet markers on a horoscope board (PWashington inv. 181 and 221)”, in: ZPE 74 (1988) 85‒95. PÉREZ JIMÉNEZ, Aurelio, “Περὶ δείπνου: Referenciás astrológicas antiguas a la dieta y la gastronomía”, in: PÉREZ JIMÉNEZ, Aurelio/CRUZ ANDREOTTI, Gonzalo (ed.), Dieta mediterránea: comidas y hábitos alimenticios en las culturas mediterráneas, Madrid 2000, 125‒157 (Mediterránea 6). PÉREZ JIMÉNEZ, Aurelio, “Περὶ δείπνου: a propósito de Heph. III. 36”, in: MHNH 2 (2002) 237‒ 254. PÉREZ JIMÉNEZ, Aurelio, “La comida y la astrología lunar antigua”, in: SEGARRA CRESPO, Diana (ed.), Connotaciones sacrales de la alimentación en el mundo clásico. Actas del seminario homónimo celebrado ...7.‒8. junio 2002 ...(en) Roma, Madrid 2002, 79‒88 (‘Ilu.Anejos 12). PÉREZ JIMÉNEZ, Aurelio, “Dodecátropos, zodíaco y partes de la nave en la astrología antigua”, in : MHNH 7 (2007) 217‒236. PETTINATO, Giovanni, Die Ölwahrsagung bei den Babyloniern, Rome 1966 (Studi Semitici 21‒22). PINGREE, David E. (ed.), Hephaestio Thebanus, Apotelesmatica. 2 vols. 1: Hephaestionis Thebani Apotelesmaticorum libri tres; 2: Hephaestionis Thebani Apotelesmaticorum epitomae quattuor, Leipzig 1973‒74. PINGREE, David E. (ed.), Dorothei Sidonii Carmen astrologicum …, Leipzig 1976. PINGREE, David E. (ed.), The Yavanajātaka of Sphujidhvaja II, Cambridge MA and London 1978. PINGREE, David E., “From Alexandria to Baghdād to Byzantium. The transmission of astrology”, in: International Journal of the Classical Tradition 8 (2001) 3‒37. PRICE, Simon R. F., “The future of dreams: from Freud to Artemidorus”, in: Past & Present 113 (1986) 3‒37. RADICI COLACE, Paola (ed.), Atti del II° seminario di studi sui lessici technici greci e latini, Messina 1997. RADICI COLACE, Paola/CACCAMO CALTABIANO, Maria (ed.), Atti del I° seminario di studi sui lessici technici greci e latini, Messina 1991. RIESS, Ernst, “Nechepsonis et Petosiridis fragmenta magica”, Philologus Suppl. 6.1 (1894) 328‒ 394 [also as Separatum, Göttingen 1894]. ROBERT, Carl, Eratosthenis Catasterismorum reliquiae, Berlin 1878. (Repr. 1963). ROCHBERG, Francesca, In the Path of the Moon: Babylonian celestial divination and its legacy, Leyden 2010 (Studies in Ancient Magic and Divination 6). ROSENBERGER, Veit, Griechische Orakel. Eine Kulturgeschichte, Darmstadt 2001. SCANNAPIECO, Rosario, “I doni di Zeus, il dono di Prometeo. Strutture retoriche ed istanze eticopolitiche nella riflessione plutarchea sulla τύχη”, in: FRAZIER, Françoise & LEÃO, Delfim F. (ed.), Tychè et Pronoia. La marche du monde selon Plutarque, Coimbra 2010 (Humanitas Supplementum 9), 207‒238. SCONOCCHIO, Sergio/TONETTO, Lucio (ed.). Lingue techniche del Greco e Latino. Atti del I. seminario internazionale sulla letteratura scientifica e tecnica greca e latina, Trieste 1993. SCONOCCHIO, Sergio/TONETTO, Lucio, Lingue techniche del Greco e Latino. Atti del II. seminario internazionale sulla letteratura scientifica e tecnica greca e latina, Trieste 4‒5 ott. 1993, Bologna 1997. SCHLUCHTER, Wolfgang, “Max Webers Religionssoziologie. Eine werkgeschichtliche Rekonstruktion“, in: SCHLUCHTER, Wolfgang (ed.), Max Webers Sicht des antiken Christentums. Interpretation und Kritik, Frankfurt a.M. 1985, 525‒560. SCHMID, Alfred, Augustus und die Macht der Sterne. Antike Astrologie und die Etablierung der Monarchie in Rom, Cologne 2005. SCHMIDT-GLINTZER, Helwig, “Intellektueller Imperialismus? Außereuropäische Religionen und Gesellschaften im Werk Max Webers“, in: CNEUSS, Christian/KOCKA, Jürgen (ed.), Max Weber: Ein Symposion, Munich 1988, 64‒87.

Uncertainty, authority and narrative in katarchic astrology


SFAMENI GASPARRO, Giulia, “Daimôn and Tychê in Hellenistic religious experience”, in: BILDE, Per/ENGBERG-PEDERSEN, Troels/HANNESTAD, Lise (ed.), Conventional Values of the Hellenistic Greeks, Aarhus 1997, 67‒109 (Studies in Hellenistic Civilization 8). SPINELLI, Emidio, “Sesto Empirico e l’astrologia”, in: FREDE, Dorothea/LAKS, André (ed.), Traditions of Theology: Studies in Hellenistic theology, its background and aftermath. Actes du 8e Symposium Hellensiticum (Villeneuve-d’Ascq, 1998), Leyden 2002, 239‒279 (Philosophia Antiqua 89). STEFFEN, Vibeke/JENKINS, Richard/JESSEN, Hanne (ed.), Managing Uncertainty: Ethnographic studies of illness, risk and the struggle for control, Copenhagen 2005 (Critical Anthropology 2). STEIN, Sarah Abrevaya, Plumes: Ostrich feathers, Jews, and a lost world of global commerce, New Haven 2008. VON STUCKRAD, Kocku, Geschichte der Astrologie, von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart, Munich 2 2003. TUCKER, William J., Ptolemaic Astrology: A complete commentary on the Tetrabiblos of Claudius Ptolemy, Sidcup, Kent 1961. Repr. 1968, 1970, 1974, 1990; Fr. tr. Paris 1981. TURCAN, Robert, “Littérature astrologique”, Latomus 27 (1968) 392‒405. TURFA, Jean M., “The Etruscan Brontoscopic Calendar”, in: DE GRUMMOND, Nancy T. (ed.), The Religion of the Etruscans, Austin TX 2006, Appendix A, 173‒190. TURFA, Jean M., Divining the Etruscan World: The brontoscopic Calendar and religious practice, Cambridge 2012. VEGETTI, Mario, “La scienza ellenistica: problemi di epistemologia storica”, in: GIANNANTONI, Gabriele/VEGETTI, Mario (ed.), La scienza ellenistica, Pavia 1984, 427‒470. VOLK, Katharina, Manilius and his Intellectual Background, Oxford 2009. WEBER, Max, „Die Wirtschaftsethik der Weltreligionen: Einleitung“, in: Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Religionssoziologie 1, Tübingen 1920, 237‒275. Revised version of the essay in Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik 41 (1916 [1915]) 1‒30. I have used the repr. in Max Weber. Religion und Gesellschaft, Frankfurt a. M. 2012, 291‒320. WENSKUS, Otta, „Prognosengenauigkeit und Imagepflege. Die hippokratische Schrift Prorrhetikos II und Galens De praecognitione“, in: TISCHER, Ute/BINTERNAGEL, Alexandra (ed.), Fremde Rede – Eigen Rede. Zitieren und verwandte Strategien in antiker Prosa, Frankfurt a. M. 2010, 79‒92. WHITE, Harrison C., Identity and Control: How social formations emerge, Princeton 2008. WHYTE, Susan REYNOLDS. “Uncertain undertakings: Practicing health care in the subjunctive mood”, in: STEFFEN, Vibeke/JENKINS, Richard/JESSEN, Hanne (ed.), Managing Uncertainty: Ethnographic studies of illness, risk and the struggle for control, 245‒64. WILSON, Malcolm C./GEORGE, Demetra, “Anonymi de decubitu: Contexts of rationality”, in: Mouseion (Calgary) ser. IV no. 6 (= 49 of the entire run), 2006, 439‒452.

LUCIAN OF SAMOSATA ON ORACLES, MAGIC AND SUPERSTITION Wolfgang Spickermann 1. Lucian’s life and works Born in Syrian Samosata between 115 and 125 AD, Lucian calls himself an Assyrian in his Dea Syria,1 while elsewhere he refers to himself as ‘Syrian’ or even ‘barbarian’.2 As a Hellenized Syrian, he could either engage in the ethnography of his own territory, or, following in the footsteps of Herodotus, describe the ‘barbarian’ rites of Hierapolis in his Dea Syria as a tourist from the Hellenic world would see them. In the end, we cannot be sure how to treat the first-person narrator within Lucian’s writing, or answer the question of how much fiction and actual biography are interwoven in the texts.3 It is, however, relatively certain that Lucian was born to a wealthy family in Samosata, situated on the Euphrates in Roman Syria. He received a rhetorical education in Ionia,4 travelling to Italy and Gaul as an itinerant orator.5 He visited Antioch in 163/4 to carry favour with the emperor Lucius Verus, who was stationed in the city at the time of his Persian campaign of 161-166 AD. It is possible that Lucian had been in Samosata again in 161/2 AD.6 Soon after, the confrontation with the oracle prophet Alexander of Abonuteichos took place, as related by Lucian in Alexander or The False Prophet. He also recorded the self-immolation of the Pythagorean Cynic Peregrinos in Olympia in 165 AD. Lucian must have been in Athens around this time, probably until the 70s, a time in which he wrote much of his oeuvre. Later on we find him employed in the provincial administration of Egypt (Apol. 12), though the prolalia (prologue) Heracles shows him returning to rhetorical studies later in life. Since he mentions the apotheosis of Marcus Aurelius in his Alexander, he must have died after 180 AD.7

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Syr. D. 1.8. LIGHTFOOT 2003, 205. LIGHTFOOT 2003, 205. Bis Acc. 27. Bis Acc. 37, also Apol. 15. LIGHTFOOT 2003, 208. NESSELRATH 1999, 493; BALDWIN 1973, 18 remarks on the life of Lucian: “it should be iterated that there is virtually nothing in the evidence, internal and external, for Lucianic chronology that deserves the status of a fact”.


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It is well-known that Lucian was one of the main figures of the Second Sophistic, although he must still be considered a rather marginal figure. He was, nonetheless, an exponent of an intellectual standard of learning, whose literary discourses were directed at the members of a socio-political elite within the Roman Empire. Research has so far focussed – and focuses still – either on the author’s contemporary significance, and – in connection – his function as an agent of a prevailing commitment of cultural identity or on the work’s traditionalism, i.e. the recourse to classical models and an ideological retrospection. It has often been claimed that Lucian’s works lack almost any reference to contemporary questions, not commenting at all on phenomena such as ‘emperor cult’, ‘syncretism’, or ‘astrology’.8 Lucian’s text on astrology, however, deals, as he himself points out, with the art of divination, and criticizes mythological obliquities and superstitions since Homer.9 The contemporary significance of his writings is the subject of an ongoing debate. While Josef Delz, James H. Oliver, and Barry Baldwin regard Lucian as a critic of the political, cultural, and social conditions of his time,10 Jacques Bompaire, Jennifer Hall, and Matthew D. Macleod question the topicality of his writings, and stress, rather, his classicism. 11 Graham Anderson may be viewed, in this context, as propounding middle position, which I favour.12 I think, however, that in Lucian’s oeuvre of over eighty texts, it is possible to discern also a moralizing sense in his understanding of paideia and the ideal of classic Greek culture characteristic of the Second Sophistic. The mimesis, the imitation of classical literature, often serves him as a tool to satirize the conditions of his own day. In this he was a master as far as the choice and subtlety of his allusions are concerned.13 In the following remarks, I will deal firstly with Lucian’s ‘Lovers of Lies’ and his text ‘On Astrology’, since these are the central texts for our topic. I will later try to answer the question of what the author understood to be magic and superstition, and where he believed to find it, before concluding with an analysis of his position on this question. 2. Lucian on magic practices and Divination In his text ‘The Lovers of Lies’ (Philopseudes sive Incredulus), Tychiades, Lucian’s alter ego in many writings, visits the bedridden Eucrates, who is afflicted by a bout of gout. While there, he meets not only the attending doctor Antigonos, but a number of well-known philosophers, the Peripatetic Cleodemos, the Stoic 8

CASTER 1937, 175ff.; see BOMPAIRE 1958, 493f. Lucian’s text on astrology discusses, as he says, divination, and is a caustic comment on mythological obliquity and superstitions since the writings of Homer. 9 Its authorship is disputed; see BERDOZZO 2011, 169ff. 10 DELZ 1950. Cf. OLIVER 1980, 304–313 and BALDWIN 1973. 11 BOMPAIRE 1958. Cf. HALL 1981 and MACLEOD 1994. 12 ANDERSON 1993. 13 VON MÖLLENDORF 2000, 11.

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Dinomachus, and the Platonist Ion. Since Eucrates is on his way to getting better, and the gout has slid to his feet, a lively discussion unfolds. When Tychiades the Sceptic reveals the philosophers’ various, and very abstruse, proposals of healing gout to be superstitious, even ridiculing them, he has, at first, the doctor’s support. His rejection culminates in the words: I do, said I, not being altogether full of drivel, so as to believe that external remedies, which have nothing to do with the internal causes of the ailments, applied as you say in combination with set phrases and hocus-pocus of some sort, are efficacious and bring on the cure. That could never happen, not even if you should wrap sixteen entire weasels in the skin of the Nemean lion; in fact I have often seen the lion himself limping in pain with his skin intact upon him!

In order to prove to Tychiades that magic and witchcraft do indeed have power, the philosophers and the patient relate a number of miraculous tales, all of which are commented on and ridiculed by Tychiades, revealing them all to be rather obvious lies. Even the ghost stories told by late-comer Arignotos, a Pythagorean known as ‘The Holy One’, and the story of the walking statue of Hippocrates, related by the doctor, do not convince Tychiades. He finally leaves the company when Eucrates starts telling ever more incredible stories in the company of his two young sons. We need not retell these stories here, but what we can say is that foreign magical practices taken from the Babylonians, the Chaldeans, and the Egyptians play a large part. Of the latter two I wish to give two brief examples. Lucian, Philopseudes sive Incredulus 31: When I heard all this (sc. A phantom in an uninhabitable house), I took my books – I have a great number of Egyptian works about such matters – and went into the house at bed-time[...]. Standing over me, he made attempts upon me, attacking me from all sides to see if he could get the best of me anywhere, and turning now into a dog, now into a bull or a lion. But I brought into play my most frightful imprecation, speaking the Egyptian language, pent him up in a certain corner of a dark room, and laid him. Then, having observed, where he went down, I slept for the rest of the night.” 33: [Eucrates] “When I was living in Egypt during my youth (my father had sent me travelling for the purpose of completing my education), I took it in my head to sail up to Koptos and go from there to the statue of Memnon in order to hear it sound that marvellous salutation to the rising sun […]. (34) But on the voyage up, there chanced to be sailing with us a man from Memphis, one of the scribes of the temple, wonderfully learned,familiar with all the culture of the Egyptians. He was said to have lived underground for twenty-three years in their sanctuaries, learning magic from Isis.” “You mean Pankrates”, said Arignotos, “my own teacher, a holy man, clean shaven, in white linen, always deep in thought, speaking imperfect Greek, tall, flat-nosed, with protruding lips and thinnish legs.” “That selfsame Pankrates”, he replied, “and at first I did not know who he was, but when I saw him working all sorts of wonders whenever we anchored the boat, particularly riding on crocodiles and swimming in company with the beasts, while they fawned and wagged their tales, I recognized that he was a holy man, and by degrees, through my friendly behaviour, I became his companion and associate, so that he shared all his secret knowledge with me (Transl. A. M. Harmon).

In this episode, Lucian links magic to Egyptian teachings which have been recounted by the philosophers in order to underline the credibility of their cockand-bull stories. We do find in Lucian, however, an on-going disdain for Egyptian cult practices and imagery. Lucian’s discussion of the various episodes mentioned


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by the philosophers reveals a very thorough knowledge of the current superstitions and magical practices of his time.14 His prolalia on astrology is, unlike the ‘Lovers of Lies’, less a satire or a parody than a sophistic exercise on a serious topic.15 Lucian discusses both the benefits and the correct application of astrology, as does Cicero in De Divinatione (1.42); he looks into the origins and the meaning of Greek mythology and history. Important episodes include the descent of Ulysses into Hades in order to question Teiresias – something Lucian will come back to in relation to his Necyomanteia, the journey of the cynic Menippos into the Hades – and the rational application of the story of Phaeton, who could not have been a son of Helios, since, if that were true, he would not have died. Phaeton rather made observations about the course of the sun, but died before he could bring his theories to a conclusion (Astrol. 19). Among the Egyptians, however, it was common for different people to worship different animals of the Zodiac, and to use them in divination, so that, for example, those who elected the sign of the bull also worshipped Aries, those who paid homage to the pisces would not eat fish, and those who employed the Capricorn for astrological means would not even think about killing a buck. Lucian uses these topoi already known to Herodotus, firstly to explain the animal forms of Egyptian deities, which he mentions on various occasions, and secondly to explain certain customs; the taboo on the eating of fish can also be found in the Dea Syria (14). Astrology had been around among the ‘fringe peoples’, the Ethiopians, Egyptians and Libyans, for a long time, but it took Orpheus for the Greeks to become acquainted with the practice. Lucian, Astrol. 10: As for the Greeks, they learned not a whit of astrology either from the Aethiopians or from the Aegyptians. It was Orpheus, the son of Oeagrus and Calliope, that first declared these matters upon them, but not all plainly, nor did he bring the science forth into elucidation but unto incantation and pious fraud, such being the humour of the man. For he made a harp and exposed his mystic rites in poesy and his theology in song; and the harp, that had seven chords, discoursed the harmony of the errant spheres (Transl. A. M. Harmon).

Contrary to common opinion that took Atlas to be the first astrologer, having received his knowledge from the heavens and passing it on to Hercules, who in turn instructed the Greeks (Cic. Tusc. 5.3.8; Verg. Aen. 1.740), Lucian claims Orpheus as the father of astrology, understanding the seven-chorded harp as a symbol for the heavenly spheres known to Lucian’s contemporaries.16 Lucian does not deny divination outright.17 He rather emphasizes ironically the right use of divination. 14 15 16 17

JONES 1986, 48. HARMON 1921, 347. HARMON 1921, 354 sq. note 2. BERDOZZO 2011, 169ff. offers a somewhat different account, owing his purely philological approach.

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Astrol. 29: Furthermore, astrology is indeed impotent to convert bad into good, or to effect mutation in any of the effluents, yet it is profitable to those that employ it, in so much as the good, when they know that it is to come, delights them long beforehand, while the bad they accept readily, for it comes not upon them unaware, but in virtue of contemplation and expectance is deemed easy and light. That is my opinion in the matter of astrology (Transl. A. M. Harmon).

3. Education (Paideia), Knowledge and Superstition With paideia and the ideal of classical Greek culture in the Second Sophistic came the devaluation of everything “barbarous”. This included Egyptian practices. Especially for Pausanias, Egyptians and other foreign peoples did not have a notable culture. His periegesis may be traced back to two basic principles: 1. the preeminence of Athens among mainland Greeks; 2. the pre-eminence of anything mainland-Greek to a) Asia Minor, b) anything Island-Greek, c) Cyrenean Greek, d) Western Greek (here – in a negative sense – especially Sicily), and e) anything ‘rest-of-the-world’, with a special depreciation of Egypt.18 According to Christa Frateantonio, the description of (mainland) Greece with a view to these two general principles turns the actual political, economical, cultural, and religious conditions of the Eastern Roman empire in the second century AD on their heads. It has been viewed as an (anachronistic) archaism, therefore terming Pausanias a ‘nostalgic’. Both general principles must be viewed as programmatic, however, thus intentionally turning contemporary conditions upside down – and of course Pausanias knew the realities he subverted all too well for us to find any chance moment in his account. Accordingly, Athens and Greece are not depicted as overly prosperous, but are rather stylized as the ‘Holy Land of Hellenism’. 19 While later on Philostratos (c. 170–248 AD) in his ‘Life of Apollonius’, links the Pythagorean Philosopher Apollonios of Tyana to Egyptian sages, as well as Babylonian magoi and Indian Brahmins (as his teachers) to magic practices, speaking of secret knowledge and a deeper, allegorical sense of the animal forms of Egyptian deities,20 Lucian simply regards Apollonios as a charlatan, much the same as his teacher Alexander, the “false prophet”, was before him.21 He summarizes foreign practices via the Epicurean Damis in his Zeus Tragodos 42, saying:22 the Phrygians sacrifice to Men,23 the Ethiopians to Tag, the Kyllians to Phales,24 the 18 See Pausan. 1.14.2: “The Greeks who dispute most the Athenian claim to antiquity and the gifts they say they have received from the gods are the Argives, just as among those who are not Greeks the Egyptians compete with the Phrygians.” 19 See FRATEANTONIO 2009. 20 Philostrat. 1.1 sq.; 6.4; 6.10. 21 Alex. 5.16–22. Cf. NESSELRATH 2001, 162 n. 26; 166; see also BALDWIN 1973, 105. 22 SkÚqai mn ¢kin£kV qÚontej kaˆ Qr´kej ZamÒlxidi, drapštV ¢nqrèpJ ™k S£mou æj aÙtoÝj ¼konti, FrÚgej dM»nV kaˆ A„q…opej `Hmšrv kaˆ Kull»nioi F£lhti kaˆ 'AssÚrioi perister´ kaˆ Pšrsai purˆ kaˆ A„gÚptioi Ûdati. 23 Cf. Diodor. 3.57. 24 According to Pausan. 6.25.5, Hermes was worshipped in Elean Cyllene in Phallic form. The reference to a Greek city would surprise in this context, it is possible that a city in Asia Minor of the same name is meant. Cf. COENEN 1977, 124.


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Assyrians to a dove,25 and the Persians to Fire.26 These have – as do the Gymnosophists – their own religious specialists: the Brahmins among the Indians and the Magoi among the Persians.27 The Assyrians and Arabs had their own interpreters of eligious traditions and fables.28 The Ethiopians are furthermore the inventors and first practitioners of astrology, which Lucian terms the source of mythology.29 In this context, Lucian stresses the absurdity and ridiculousness of the ideas of foreign peoples.30 He employs a number of common clichés in order to separate Greek culture from those of ‘fringe peoples’. The sacrificial practices of Assyrians, Lydians, and Scythians are depicted accordingly, 31 the Scythians being further discredited due to their alleged practice of human sacrifices to Artemis. 32 The commonplace of the Scythians eating their dead is also gladly employed when comparing the differences in burial rites: the Greeks burning their dead, the Persians burying them, the Indians glazing, the Scythians eating, and the Egyptians salting them.33 The Greeks made use of the magical knowledge of their neighbours. During the Necyomanteia – the descent of itinerant the Cynic philosopher Menippos into Hades (modelled along the lines of Ulysses’ descent into the Underworld) – Menippos meets the Chaldean Mithrobazanes in Babylon, who is persuaded to prepare the protagonist for his katabasis in exchange for an arbitrary sum of money. What follows are a number of purification rites and the donning of the sacred dress, before both men load a boat with all the necessary magical props, cross the marshes of Euphrates, and dig, as did Ulysses, a sacrificial fovea to collect the blood of the sacrificial animals. And then the magician’s show starts: Meanwhile the Magos was holding a burning torch and in a voice no longer quiet raised an enormous cry with all the power he could muster and invoked all the deities at once, Torment and Furies. ‘And Night Queen Hecate and grim Persephone’ at the same time adding in outlandish, unintelligible, polysyllabic names” (Nec. 9,; Transl. A. M. Harmon). A similar episode is also related by the host Eucrates in “The Lovers of Lies” (24). In the course of the grape harvest, the earth shook, and he suddenly encountered Hecate, who threatened him with her dogs, larger than elephants. By turning a magic ring set with a cameo, which he had received from an Arab, Hecate’s stamping of her serpent’s foot creates a rift down to Tartarus, down into which she disappears. While Eucrates himself clutched a tree, he can look into Hades: “Then I saw everything in the Hades, the River of Blazing Fire, and the Lake, and Cerberus, and the dead, well organized to recognize some of them. My father, for instance, I saw distinctly, still wearing the same clothes in which we buried him (Transl. A. M. Harmon).

25 Cf. Syr. D. 54. The esteem in which the dove is held among the Syrian is a classical topos, cf. Xenophon, Anabasis 1.4.9. Lucian describes the worship of a dove in Hierapolis without explicitly calling her ‘divine’. See LIGHTFOOT 2003, 513. 26 Fire appears in Herodot. 1.131 as one of the elements worshipped by the Persians. 27 Brahmins: Peregr. 25 and 39.5; Tox. 34.4; Macrob. 4.5; Fug. 6.14, 8.1; Persian magoi: Macrob. 4.7; Babylonian Magoi: Nec. 6. 28 Macrob. 4.3 sq. 29 Astrol. 4. 30 Cf. COENEN 1977, 123, who believes that Lucian follows a sceptic-academic source. 31 Sacr. 14. 32 JTr. 44; Sacr. 13; D.Deor. 3[23].1 – 18[16].1. This is also a quite common topos, cf. COENEN 1977, 129f. 33 Luct. 21; cf. Herodot. 3.24 and Diodor. 2.14 sq.; here also BETZ 1961, 73.

Lucian of Samosata on Oracles, Magic and Superstition


Lucian speaks of another kind of magic known to his contemporaries in his dialogue Navigium. Three friends narrate their wishful fantasies to Lucian’s alter ego Tychiades, who sneeringly comments on each of them. The first wishes for immense wealth, the second for the power that Alexander the Great had, the third – as Eucrates did – for magic rings, with which he would be able to fulfil all his desires (Navig. 41–44). The passage shows the agelessness of wishful thinking, which defies the laws of nature and achieves the unattainable. Tychiades reacts harshly to all these fantasies, denouncing them as unbecoming of a grown man, and reminds his friends that there is no profit in daydreaming, which only serves to make life in the real world much harder than it already is.34 The worldliness of his writings is rather characteristic for Lucian’s position. His stance with regard to magic may be exemplified by two anecdotes he tells about Demonax, the most revered Cynic philosopher of his day. (Dem. 23): When a fellow claimed to be a sorcerer and to have spells so potent that by their agency he could prevail on everybody to give him whatever he wanted, Demonax said: ‘Nothing strange in that! I am in the same business: follow me to the breadwoman’s, if you like and you shall see me persuade her to give me bread with a single spell and a tiny charm’ – implying that a coin is good as a spell.

Lucian had already mentioned something similar in the ‘Lovers of Lies’ (15), when Tychiades remarks that, after all, one might actually not have needed the very complicated love magic described before, since twenty drachmas would have been enough to lure Chrysis into her lover’s arms. The second episode refers, according to Heinz-Günther Nesselrath, to Herodes Atticus, inconsolable after the death of his beloved son (Dem. 25): He (Demonax) went to a man who was mourning the death of a son and had shut himself up in the dark, and told him that he was a sorcerer (magos) and could raise the boy’s shade for him if he would name three men who had never mourned for anyone. When the man hesitated long and was perplexed – I suppose he could not name a single one – Demonax said: ‘You ridiculous fellow, do you think then, that you alone suffer beyond endurance, when you see that nobody is unacquainted with mourning?”35 (Transl. A. M. Harmon)

In referring to actual magical practices of his times, Lucian denotes magic not only as superfluous, but as downright harmful, since it makes empty promises to people, evoking only false hopes. The magicians themselves, as said before, were mostly members of fringe peoples, and were called by Lucian magoi, or, more often and in reference to soothsayers and fortunetellers, goes (charlatans). Lucian directs his satirical criticism mostly at false prophets like Alexander of Abonuteichos or the Cynic Peregrinos (Proteus), to each of whom he dedicated their own treatises.

34 NESSELRATH 2001, 157. 35 NESSELRATH 2001, 157f.


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4. Lucian on Oracles Egyptian Oracles, much criticized by Lucian, were the domain of bull-bodied Apis in Memphis.36 The ancient practice, reported by Herodotus, of burying the Apis bull after his death and having his priests elect a new one, is ridiculed just as much as the rest of Egyptian religious rituals.37 But the supposed ancestry of Alexander from Ammon and his entire cult are also included in Lucian’s extensive criticism of oracles.38 In his ‘Dialogues of the Dead’, Diogenes pokes fun at that fact that the Greeks added Alexander to the twelve Olympian deities, even dedicating a temple to him. Alexander himself hoped, by having his body transferred to Egypt by Ptolemy, to become a second Anubis or Osiris. 39 Continuing in this line of thought, one may here find a general rejection of the whole notion of ruler cults. Alexander the Great was just at the beginning of a long evolution of Hellenistic divinization, a tradition continued by the Roman emperor cult, and the conveyance of his body to Alexandria was milked for all it was worth by Ptolemy I. Soter. It is here worth recalling Octavian/Augustus’ visit to the grave of Alexander at this point.40 A mocking of the imperial apotheosis can also be found in the Peregrinos, a vulture rising out of the flames and into the heavens, joining those on Mt. Olympus.41 He devoted a large part of his Zeus Tragodos to the ridicule of oracles. Zeus convenes the ekklēsía of the gods after overhearing a dispute between two philosophers in the Painted Stoa: the Epicurean and atheist Damis and the Stoic Timokles argued about the existence of the gods. Zeus exhorts the gods to lend their aid to Timokles, asking Hermes to call forth those gods who are “of age” and allowed to speak before the ekklēsía, “as according to custom”: a roll call to make up their minds. Momus, god of censure, berates the listlessness and disinterest of the gods in human affairs. The convention, however, comes to no psephisma, since the gods function only as an audience to the philosophical dispute, which brings forth all the classical arguments, making any action on their part impossible. When finally Damis walks away, having won the argument over Timokles, Hermes suggests that the gods pretend nothing has happened, since,

36 Astrolog. 7, understanding the zodiac sign to be derived from the Apis bull: Deor. Conc 10; JTr. 42. On the criticism of oracles: BENDLIN 2006, 197ff.; see also COENEN 1977, 91. 37 Herodot. 3,28; Sacr. 15. The killing of the Apis bull by Cambyses as related in Herodotus may also be found in Lucian’s Cont. 13. 38 D.Mort. 12 [14] a. 13. The oracular deity Ammon is referred to as gÒhj kaˆ yeudÒmantij (charlatan and false prophet) by Philipp II, 12 [14],5; cf. NESSELRATH 2001, 159 n. 20. On the Libyan origin of the Ammon oracle: Astrolog. 8. 39 D.Mort. 13.2 sq. 40 Sueton, Augustus 18,1. Cf. BOHM 1989 and HEUSS 1954. 41 Peregr. 39; cf. PILHOFER 2005, 87f. n. 126. NESSELRATH 2001, 162 regards the vulture as a neo-Pythagorean element; cf. HALL 1981, 178ff. and sceptical: JONES 1986, 129. A certain Influence must also be attributed to Seneca’s Apokolokyntosis (The Pumpkinification of Emperor Claudius).

Lucian of Samosata on Oracles, Magic and Superstition


after all, the common people and the barbarians still believed in them. 42 But criticism of oracles is not only met with in the dispute of the philosophers; the gods themselves mention the ridicule surrounding the oracles of Apollon in Delphi, a criticism which is also mentioned in the moral writings of Plutarch.43 The further text quotes Herodotus twice: In the first instance, Delphi’s response to Croesus, „If you meet the Persians, you will destroy a mighty empire!”, in the second, its response to the Athenians: “Divine Salamis, you will bring death to women's sons!”44 The ambiguity of the oracle’s responses is used as an argument against divine providence. In its utterances, the oracle doesn’t help; it rather leads people knowingly to their doom. The Croesus oracle is a stock example of ambiguous divine utterances, mentioned also by the Cynic Oenomaus, a contemporary of Lucian, in his criticism of oracles.45 Oenomaus wonders why Apollon led his clients to terribly astray: is it ignorance, malice, or the impotence of the deity versus a fate that is so much stronger? He comes to a similar conclusion in his text Iupiter confutatus, in which he subjects Zeus to cross questioning by the figure of Kyniskos, who pelts Zeus with questions about the power of the gods in view of fate, destiny, and providence. The arguments of Lucian are once again very similar to those of Cicero, Oenomaus and others, while he quotes the writings of Menippos. Kyniskos too considers the ambiguity of the Croesus oracle as hardly becoming to the dignity of a god.46 Any excuses made by the divinity concerning the unwillingness of Apollon are not accepted, excuses which Oenomaus terms “sophists’ tricks”.47 In contrast to his criticism of the gods, which is, overall, quite modest, Lucian’s stand against oracles is firm and unyielding. Oracles, he says, are nothing more than the expression of human weakness, playing on people’s fears and exploiting their gullibility. The biggest fraud of all is said to be Alexander of Abounoteichos, a goet and charlatan par excellence, who invented the oracle of Glykon. But Trophonios and Amphilochos too are harshly dealt with, on the one hand because of their oracles, on the other because they were worshipped as gods although they were in fact mortals, descending to Hades like everyone else, where they were met by an unfriendly Menippos demanding answers. 48 Apollonios of Tyana, teacher of the pseudo prophet Alexander who is roundly abused by Lucian, 42 JTr. 53,4 f.: pollù g¦r oƒ t¢nant…a gignèskontej ple…ouj, `Ell»nwn Ð polÝj leëj b£rbaro… te ¤pantej. Lucian is referring to the ignorant crowd in contrast to the few educated people in the entourage of Damis; cf. COENEN 1977, 141. 43 JTr. 6,4; cf. Plut. Mor. 396D. 44 JTr. 20,13; cf. Herodot I, 53 and VII, 141. 45 Eus. P. E. 5, 21,1–5; HAMMERSTAEDT 1988, 81 f. and the comm. 157sqq. Cf. JONES 1986, 40. 46 JCf. 14. Cf. HAMMERSTAEDT 1988, 165. 47 Oenomaus fr. 4,43 f., vgl. HAMMERSTAEDT 1988, 165. 48 Deor.Conc. 12; D.Mort. 10 [3]. Amphilochos had an oracle in Mallos (Cilicia), in Athens he had an altar, in Sparta a heroon. He is often mentioned: Odyssee 15,248 – Herodot 3,91; 7,91 – Thukydides 2,68 – Apollodor 3,82; 3,86; 3,129; 9,2; 9,19; Strabon 157; 271; 668; 675–676; Paus. 1,34,3; 2,18,4–5; 2,20,5; 3, 15,8; 5,17,7; 10,10,4. The oracle in the cave of Trophonios in Lebaidaia (Boioitia) is described by Paus. 9,39. Cf. BONNECHÈRE 2003.


Wolfgang Spickermann

was himself said to have visited the oracle. Both are termed by Lucian as charlatans (goetes).49 In doing so, Lucian stands in stark contrast to Pausanias, who openly admired oracle sites. The criticism is centered on Momus’ lamenting the rampage oracle practices of the day,50 since Apollon too had supposedly opened shop (™rgast»ria tÁj mantikÁj) in Delphi, Klaros near Colophon, and Didyma, cheating those that come to him.51 In another passage, Lucian mentions Delos and Patara, the port of Xanthus, both of which are not that prominent in our sources.52 The famous Zeus sanctuary in Dodona is mentioned, though Lucian also notes its slow decline.53 In the Parliament of the Gods, Asklepios is explicitly forbidden to prophesy, although we know that he was addressed in this function in the 2nd century AD.54 In Zeus Rants, the unknowing Apollon is called upon by Momos to predict the outcome of the dispute between Damis and Timokles, but is unable to do so and tries to hide the fact by uttering some flowery, confused hexameters, which Momus interprets by calling Apollon a charlatan, and all gods who believe him asses. A similar criticism of Apollon’s oracles is also to be found in Oenomaus, concerning the Klaric oracle,55 and on a papyrus from the second century AD, in which Daulis calls for the death of the Delphian priests, accusing Apollon with the words: “No gold for the prophecies of the god! Stop the dealing with greedy frauds!”, a chant which is similarly to be heard in Lucian’s writings.56 Lucian is hardly original in his criticism of the oracles; he rather repeats the arguments of his contemporaries, and, concerning Delphi, even those of Plutarch.57 However, when set into the larger context of magic and superstition, he can still be seen as authentic, standing for an almost Epicurean skepticism which denies the entire oracular milieu that was so popular in his day. 5. Conclusion With his criticism of magic and superstition, Lucian joins a tradition already six hundred years old. The polemical use of the term magoi can already be found in Heraklitos (VS 22 B 14), followed by Sophocles, who depicts Teiresias as only another magos looking to his personal gain (Soph. OR 387f), the Hippocratic text De morbo sacro, which derides the people who see epilepsy as something supernatural, down to Plato, who turns against “beggar priests and soothsayers” in both ‘The Republic’ and ‘The Laws’ (364b–c), imposing harsh punishments on malign magic, and on the use of sacrifice and gifts to the gods in order to win their favour 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57

See NESSELRATH 2001, 159 Anm. 19. Deor.Conc. 12. D.Deor. 18 [16],1 JTr. 31; cf.. NESSELRATH 2001, 159 and COENEN 1977, 92ff. Delos: Alex. 8; Bis acc. 1; Xanthos: Bis acc. 1. Cf. Jones 1986, 44. Icar. 24; cf .Strabo 7.7.9, 327 C and Paus. 1,17,5. Conc.D. 16; cf. JONES 1986, 44. Oenomaus Fr. 14. P. Beol. 11517; cf. Alex. 19; DDeor. 18,1; JTr. 30; see JONES 1986, 45. Cf. KARAVAS 2008/9.

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for private wishes (Nom. 10 f.). Pliny the Elder offers a highly polemical epitome on origins and history of magic in the thirtieth book of his Natural History, claiming that magic gained such momentum only by incorporating the resources of other arts, such as medicine, religion and astrology. Pliny is frankly surprised that magic, coming from the Persian orient, ever made it this far, so that even emperors like Nero were eager to master it – though the latter’s attempts remained futile. However, in Pliny’s books we find a number of medicinal recipes against ailments, which we cannot but term ‘magical’. Lucian remains in the tradition of consequential rationalism, turning also against contemporaries like, e.g. Apuleius, who, as we know, was forced to disclaim accusations of using magic.58 In the case of the oracles I agree with Dorothea Elm: that not only the oracle and its creator (here Alexandros) are the aim of the Lucianic criticism but also his credulous and probably uneducated audience.59 So, as Andreas Bendlin pointed out, Lucian is a proper representative of oracle criticism of his time. It is remarkable that his main examples are not Delphi, Didyma, or Klaros but the Glykon oracle in Abonouteichos which he presents as a basis model for those fake mantics. His harsh criticism includes also the social elites coming from Bithynia, Galatia, Thracia, Cilicia and Ionia to Abonouteichos, among them a brother of a roman senator.60 For that, they are all supporters of the false prophet Alexander which in fact is very disappointing because these high ranked persons are expected to be well educated and having paideia. From the Lucianic point of view every educated person has the individual choice to be a pepaideumenos or a believer in magic, superstition and oracles like the striking example of the “silly celt” M. Sedatius Severianus who in 161 AD caused by the oracles of the false prophet Alexander invaded Armenia as Roman general and was disastrously defeated by the Parthians.61 Lucian claims an outsider’s perspective without telling us anything about his own position, about what moves him – apart, that is, from paideia and the consequences for individual life style. He stands in the long tradition of Aristotelian phronesis, claiming that true knowledge cannot be divorced from virtuous practice.62 Lucian is entirely focused on the here and now of this world. He precludes any transcendental speculation. The potency of any kind of magical practices is continually disclaimed, astrology may serve to perceive, but does not have any actual influence on the world. With his Lovers of Lies, Lucian turns on those contemporaries who claim to be educated philosophers, though they give great credence to miracle tales, denoting them as irrational and gullible. All of Lucian’s texts reveal a fundamental defense of Paideia. Lucian shared Pausanias’ opinion that the barbarians had no distinct culture of their own. Athens remained the 58 59 60 61 62

NESSELRATH 2001, 163ff. ELM 2006, 204. BENDLIN 2006, 201f. Alex. 27. Aristot. Eth. Nic. 1140a 24.


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centre of the educated world. Athens was and is the place all cultural impulses originate from. Not even the Romans could claim a distinct culture, since they also copied what was Greek.63 This holds true for religions, also. The impulse did not come from Egypt, rather Egypt was influenced by Greece, turning Greek deities into ‘dogfaces’. Even astrology, an invention he credits the Ethiopians with, did not come to Greece via Ethiopia or Egypt, but was rather revealed to the Greeks by Orpheus himself.64 Lucian himself takes an ethic-intellectual stance to religion, rejecting the notions of magic, oracles, superstitions and all-too-exotic deities.65 He does admit to a certain influence of the stars on the lives and actions of men, admitting to the divinatory function of astrology, which may not convert bad into good, but which may well proclaim fate.66 Accordingly, Marcel Caster’s dictum concerning the iconoclasts with respect to Lucian does not hold.67 In his Lovers of Lies, Lucian stresses via his Alter Ego Tychiades that he does not deny the existence of the gods, that he venerates them, even going so far as to admit to traditional temple medicine.68 And the gods which Tychiades/Lucian worshipped, were the di indigetes of the Graeco-Roman religion.69

Bibliography ANDERSON, Graham, The Second Sophistic: A Cultural Phenomenon in the Roman Empire. London/New York 1993. BALDWIN, Barry, Studies in Lucian, Toronto 1973. BENDLIN, Andreas, “Vom Nutzen und Nachteil der Mantik: Orakel im Medium von Handlung und Literatur in der Zeit der Zweiten Sophistik“, in: ELM VON DER OSTEN, Dorotheé/RÜPKE, Jörg/WALDNER, Katharina (ed.), Texte als Medium und Reflexion von Religion im römischen Reich. Potsdamer Altertumswissenschaftliche Beiträge 14. Stuttgart 2006, 159–207. 63 64 65 66

Cf. E.g. Nigr. 15. Astrolog. 4–10. On the rejection of magic: NESSELRATH 2001. Astrolog. 28 f. – 29,14 f.: ¢ll¦ toÝj creomšnouj t£de çfelšei·t¦ mn ™sql¦ e„dÒtaj ¢pixÒmena pollÕn ¢pÒprosqen eÙfranšei, t¦ dfaàla eÙmaršwj dšcontai. oÙ g£r sfisin ¢gnošousin ™pšrcetai, ¢ll' ™n melštV kaˆ prosdok…V h…dia kaˆ prhša ¹ge‹tai. t£de ¢strolog…hj pšri ™gën Øpolamb£nw. Lucian expressedly turns against the doubts voiced by contemporaries as to the practical use of astrology, thus also against Cicero in de divinatione. 67 cf. HALL 1981, 194ff.; JONES 1986, 33ff.; BRANHAM 1989, 127ff. a. LUCHNER 2004, 376; CASTER 1937. 68 Philops. 10, 5–11: kwlÚei g¦r oÙdn kaˆ qeîn Ôntwn Ómwj t¦ toiaàta yeudÁ enai. ™gë dkaˆ qeoÝj sšbw kaˆ „£seij aÙtîn Ðrî kaˆ § eâ poioàsi toÝj k£mnontaj ØpÕ farm£kwn kaˆ „atrikÁj ¢nist£ntej·Ð goàn 'AsklhpiÕj aÙtÕj kaˆ oƒ pa‹dej aÙtoà ½pia f£rmaka p£ssontej ™qer£peuon toÝj nosoàntaj [–––]; cf. LUCHNER 2004, 379. 69 This is one of the main topics of BERDOZZO 2011, esp. 187f.

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BERDOZZO, Fabio, Götter, Mythen, Philosophen. Lukian und die paganen Göttervorstellungen seiner Zeit. Untersuchungen zur antiken Literatur und Geschichte 106. Berlin/ Boston 2011. BETZ, Hans Dieter, Lukian von Samosata und das Neue Testament. Religionsgeschichtliche und paränetische Parallelen. Ein Beitrag zum Corpus Hellenisticum Novi Testamenti. Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur 76 V. Reihe, Band 21. Berlin 1961. BOHM, Claudia, Imitatio Alexandri im Hellenismus: Untersuchungen zum politischen Nachwirken Alexanders des Großen in hoch- und spät-hellenistischen Monarchien. München 1989. BOMPAIRE, Jacques, Lucien écrivain: Imitation et création. Paris 1958. BONNECHÈRE, Pierre, Trophonios de Lébadée Cultes et mythes d'une cité béotienne au miroir de la mentalité antique. Religions in the Graeco-Roman World 150. Leiden and Boston 2003. BRANHAM, Robert Bracht, Unruly Eloquence. Lucian and the Comedy of Traditions. Revealing Antiquity 2. Cambridge, Mass. 1989. CASTER, Marcel, Lucien et la pensée religieuse de son temps. Paris, 1937 (reprint 1984). COENEN, Jürgen, Lukian. Zeus tragodos. Überlieferungsgeschichte, Text und Kommentar. Beiträge zur klassischen Philologie 88. Meisenheim am Glan 1977. DELZ, Josef, Lukians Kenntnis der athenischen Antiquitäten. Fribourg 1950. ELM VON DER OSTEN, Dorothee, “Die Inszenierung des Betruges und seiner Entlarvung: Divination und ihre Kritiker in Lukians Schrift “, in: ELM VON DER OSTEN, Dorothee/RÜPKE, Jörg/WALDNER, Katharina (ed.), Texte als Medium und Reflexion von Religion im römischen Reich. Potsdamer Altertumswissenschaftliche Beiträge 14. Stuttgart 2006, 141–157. FRATEANTONIO, Christa, Religion und Städtekonkurrenz: Zum politischen und kulturellen Kontext von Pausanias Periegese. Berlin 2009. HALL, Jennifer, Lucian’s Satire. New York 1981. HAMMERSTAEDT, Jürgen, Die Orakelkritik des Kynikers Oenomaus. Beiträge zur klassischen Philologie 188. Frankfurt/M. 1988. HARMON, A. M. (ed.), Lucian III (Loeb Classical Library no. 130). Cambridge Mass. 1921 (reprint 1969). HEUSS, Alfred, “Alexander der Große und die politische Ideologie im Altertum“, in: Antike und Abendland 4 (1954), 65–104. JONES, Christopher P. , Culture and Society in Lucian, Cambridge Mass. 1986. KARAVAS, Orestis, “Apollon Pseudomenos: Lucian, the Fake Oracles and the False Prophets”, in: Eranos, 105, 2008–2009, 90–97. LIGHTFOOT, Jane L. (ed.), Lucian. On the Syrian Goddess, Oxford 2003. LUCHNER, Karin, Philiatroi. Studien zum Thema Krankheit in der griechischen Literatur der Kaiserzeit. Hypomnemata 156. Göttingen 2004. MACLEOD, Matthew D., “Lucianic Studies since 1930”, in: Aufstieg und Niedergang der Römischen Welt II, 34.2. (1994), Berlin and New York, 1362–1421. MÖLLENDORF, Peter von, Auf der Suche nach der verlogenen Wahrheit. Lukians Wahre Geschichten. Classica Monacensia 21. Tübingen 2000. NESSELRATH, Heinz-Günther, “Lukianos”, in: CANCIK, Hubert/SCHNEIDER, Helmuth (ed.), Der Neue Pauly. Enzyklopädie der Antike 7. Stuttgart und Weimar 1999. NESSELRATH, Heinz-Günther, “Lukian und die Magie“, in: EBNER, M. u.a. (ed.), Lukian Filoyeude‹j À 'Apistîn. Die Lügenfreunde oder: der Ungläubige (SAPERE 3). Darmstadt. 2001, 153–166. OLIVER, James H., “The actuality of Lucian’s Assembly of the Gods“, in: American Journal of Philology 101 (1980), 304–313. PILHOFER, Peter, “Anmerkungen”, in: PILHOFER, Peter et al. (ed.), Lukian. Der Tod des Peregrinos. Ein Scharlatan auf dem Scheiterhaufen (SAPERE 9), Darmstadt 2005, 48–93.

INDIVIDUATION THROUGH DIVINATION: The Hieroi Logoi of Aelius Aristides Veit Rosenberger

Jeder Gott ist der ganze; die Individualisierung schränkt ihn ein. Wilamowitz-Moellendorff 1931/32, 2,522

On a dreadful day in January 167, with a freezing cold storm raging and heavy rain pouring down from a black sky, a solitary figure walked in bright sunshine to the sanctuary of Asklepios in Pergamon: the god had created a narrow belt of good weather for the traveller along the path to the temple. 1 The pilgrim was Poublios Ailios Aristeides Theodoros. His name had Latin and Greek components: the praenomen Poublios and the nomen gentile Ailios (Publius Aelius in the original Latin) were presumably given to his father when he became a Roman citizen under Hadrian; the two cognomina Aristeides and Theodoros were Greek, the latter one he had received from Asklepios in a dream.2 Aelius Aristides – due to the confusion of the Greek and Latin languages in the Eastern half of the Roman Empire, we are free to vary the spelling of the names of persons, gods and places – was one of the most famous rhetoricians of his time. Born in 117 in Mysia in northwestern Asia Minor, he made his career as orator mostly in the wealthy Greek cities on the west coast of Asia Minor. A considerable number of Aristides’ writings have survived. While Aristides composed his orations in a beautiful atticising style, the Hieroi Logoi (Sacred Tales) are, as intended by the author, hardly polished.3 Style is not the only feature which makes the Hieroi Logoi one of the most remarkable texts from antiquity. Written in Winter 170/1, the Hieroi Logoi cover the time span from 144 to the 170s, the end is missing. During that entire period, Aristides suffered from several diseases. His illness began when he travelled to Rome, where he was invited to give a public speech; later, he spent years in the sanctuaries of Asklepios in Asia Minor.4

1 2 3 4

Hieroi Logoi 5,26–27. For the English quotations from the HL, I use the translation by BEHR 1968. Citizenship: BEHR 1968, 4–5; cf. ALFÖLDY 2011, 145; name Theodoros: HL 4,53–54. BEHR 1968, XIV. For the chronology, see SCHRÖDER 1986, 9–13.


Veit Rosenberger

Behind the Hieroi Logoi, there was a diary now lost, in which Aelius Aristides wrote more than 300.000 lines, an extremely high number compared to other works from antiquity: the Iliad consists of about 15.000 verses.5 So, Aristides was justified in saying: “Each of our days, as well as our nights, has been written down”.6 The Sacred Tales, consisting of some 90 pages in printed form, are an abridged version of the diary. There are many different layers of meaning in the Hieroi Logoi. It is not the aim of this paper to present psychological interpretations of and speculations on Aristides’ dreams. Neither is it helpful to diagnose his illnesses: diseases are, to a significant degree, cultural constructions.7 Aelius Aristides has been accused of vanity8, he has been called a “malade névrosé et égoiste” 9 and a hypochondriac.10 Over the last few decades, this verdict has changed. Aristides is briefly mentioned by Michel Foucault as one of the examples for the souci de soi11, the correlation between the text and the body of Aristides has been discussed12, the Hieroi Logoi are understood as a “model of elite religious behaviour”.13 Martin Korenjak has interpreted the work as a way of self-fashioning by one of the leading rhetoricians of the Second Sophistic with its emphasis on rhetoric, paideia, and the history of the good old days, from Homer to Alexander.14 Heinrich Otto Schröder has emphasized the parallels between Aristides and Odysseus: both are good rhetoricians, both suffer, both are cunning.15 But this is not the place to embark upon the topic of Wissenschaftsgeschichte. Others have given a full tour ’horizon of the characterizations and interpretations of the text and its author.16 We shall be content with Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff’s statement that Aelius Aristides is “nach allen Seiten unterschätzt”.17 The Hieroi Logoi might be weird, confused and eccentric, but they are composed within the framework of narratibility. They are written within the bounds of what was possible to say and write in the second century AD; the Golden Ass of Apuleius, albeit quite a different text, contains similar passages 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

HL 2,3 and 2,8; SCHRÖDER 1986, 42 presents further calculations; QUET 1993, 211–251. HL 1,3: ἑκάστη γὰρ τῶν ἡμετέρων ἡμερῶν ὡσαύτως δὲ καὶ νυκτῶν ἔχει συγγραφήν. On the diseases cf. HORSTMANNSHOFF 2004, 277–290. BOULANGER 1923, 172: une immense vanité. JACQUES LE GOFF, in the preface to FESTUGIÈRE 1986, 9. VILLA 1989, 133–144. FOUCAULT 1984, 79. LUCHNER 2010, 149–151. On the body and pilgrimage: PETSALIS-DIOMIDIS 2010, 67–121. PETSALIS-DIOMIDIS 2010, 150. KORENJAK 2005; PETSALIS-DIOMIDIS 2010; according to Harrison 2000, Apuleius’ Metamorphoses were a parody of the Hieroi Logoi. 15 SCHRÖDER 1987, 350–356; HOLMES 2008, 81–82. 16 KORENJAK 2005, 221–226 and PETSALIS-DIOMIDIS 2010, 123–124 offer a fairly comprehensive overview. 17 WILAMOWITZ-MOELLENDORFF 1931/32, 2,498 – it is obviously time to revive the once obligatory Wilamowitz-footnote; cf. WEINREICH 1914, 597–602.

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regarding religious practices.18 Aelius Aristides lived in a world that offered many methods of divination. He asked for answers at the great oracles and he received omens; Once all his windows were blown open by a sudden gust of wind, signifying that he should leave; Aristides even received a letter from Asklepios.19 But the best way to communicate with the gods, at least for Aristides, was by dreaming; once a dream occurs within a dream. 20 The Hieroi Logoi are the only text from Antiquity based so consequently on divination. This article argues that, in his almost endlessly prolonged process of divination, Aelius Aristides constructs and displays his self; the Hieroi Logoi are to be understood as a diary of personal individuation by constantly receiving divine advice. This will be shown in four steps: i. Asklepios and Aelius Aristides, ii. a network of dreams, iii. rhetoric and the self, and iv. the power of poetry. 1. Asklepios and Ailios Aristeides – a special relationship In second century Asia Minor the Greek pantheon offered quite a number of deities whom one could ask to be healed of a disease. Certainly, Asklepios was the divine specialist par excellence. He had famous sanctuaries, for example at Pergamon and Smyrna, but it was not self-evident that Aristides would choose him. Other gods like Hygieia or Apollon were also healing specialists, and basically every god or goddess could help those in poor health. By the same token, Asklepios was not just the healing god; he could be called on, just as most other deities in the ancient world, for relief in all possible situations.21 Aelius Aristides presents himself as a religious specialist with remarkably efficient communication with the gods, especially with Asklepios. The question of whether Asklepios, who appears in Aristides’ dreams, is a part of the self of Aristides, must remain open: psychology is not the aim of this paper. Aristides performs his individuation in the religious field. Overall, Aristides is not the chosen one, but he is a chosen one. A number of factors corroborate this view. Asklepios’ initiatives. Aelius Aristides wrote also other texts about matters of religion: a speech about Zeus and hymns for Athena, Herakles, Dionysos, and Sarapis, to name but a few.22 And Aristides was not the first person to claim a special relationship with a god. Ancient tradition offers many such examples, starting with Odysseus and Athena. What distinguishes Aristides, however, is that he was the first to publish a diary of his relationship with a god. And it was the god who demanded Aristides to write down the dreams he had sent; Asklepios 18 Cf. BOULANGER 1923, 209; FESTUGIÈRE 1986, 24. Unfortunately, Artemidoros’ dream book gives hardly any clues to understand Aristides. 19 Omens (HL 4,10; 5,8); oracles (HL 4,75–76); letter (HL 1,78); SCHRÖDER 1986, 108–109, n. 182. 20 Oracle (HL 3,37); dream in a dream (HL 5,50). 21 HL 2,4; cf. Aelius Aristides’ Speech on Asklepios (42,1 Keil). 22 Cf. GOEKEN 2012, esp. 347–625.


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even gave the book its title Hieroi Logoi.23 Very early in the Hieroi Logoi, Aelius Aristides explains that he has chosen Asklepios because the god had helped him from the beginning of his disease. Thus, the first step of the relationship between Asklepios and Aelius Aristides was taken by the god. Aristides responses with a very individual decision: “Therefore, in view of this, I decided to submit truly to the God, as to a doctor and to do in silence whatever he wishes”: Aristides, although only a mortal, receives the attention of a god, and he is worthy of it.24 He calls Asklepios his Saviour, in Greek Σωτήρ (Soter); Asklepios is the one who keeps him alive.25 Ailios Aristeides receives his second cognomen “Theodoros” in a dream: while dreaming to be in Smyrna, someone addresses him “Θεόδωρε χαῖρε” (“Theodoros, I greet you”). He accepts the name because everything about him was a gift from Asklepios.26 On the whole, Aristides is able to interpret the orders and oracles given to him by Asklepios.27 With the help of Asklepios, he can even look into his own body.28 Initiation and emotions. Several passages hint at an initiation ritual. In these cases, Aelius Aristides is singled out from all other humans. Once, Aristides dreams of taking part in a ritual for Asklepios. The author is at the very front, close to the god, and sings a hymn of praise. Then the god signals all to depart, but motions Aristides to stay. Honoured beyond imagination, he shouts out “the One! (εἷς)” (meaning the god). Asklepios replies “it is you” (σὺ εἶ). Aristides comments this remark enthusiastically: For me this remark, Lord Asklepios, was greater than human life, and every disease was less than this, every grace was less than this. This made me able and willing to live. 29

Two aspects of this passage deserve consideration. First, the diseases and their cure are not as important as the relationship with Asklepios. The Hieroi Logoi should be read from this perspective. It is wrong to ask why Asklepios does not heal Aristides once and for all – and it is misleading to understand the Sacred Tales as the diary of a sick man. The Hieroi Logoi are the diary of a lifelong communication between Aelius Aristides and Asklepios. Second, the god makes Aelius Aristides a special person; by exalting Aristides above all others, by emphasizing his uniqueness, Asklepios’ answer enforces the process of individuation in his client. 23 Asklepios’ order to write down the dreams (2,2); title of the book (2,9); BOULANGER 1923, 172–209 on the relationship between Aristides and the god. 24 HL 1,4. 25 e.g. HL 2,7; 2,37. 26 HL 4,53–54. 27 HL 2,71–72. 28 HL 1,8. 29 HL 4,51: τοῦτο το ῥῆμα ἐμοί, δέσποτ' Ἀσκληπιέ, παντὸς ἀνθρωπίνου βίου κρεῖ ττον, τούτου πάσα ἐλάττων νόσος, τούτου πάσα ἐλάττων χάρις, τοῦτ' ἐμὲ καὶ δύνασθαι καὶ βούλεσθαι ζῆν ἐποίησεν.

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In myth, humans often have good reasons to fear the gods. Yet, Aelius Aristides has positive emotions whenever he meets Asklepios. The god is never in a bad mood or dangerous.30 Once, between sleep and waking, Aristides touches the god and cries with joy. Aristides finds it impossible to report that meeting and compares it to the mysteries: “If any man has been initiated, he knows and understands”.31 At another time, Asklepios tells him an effective formula for helping somebody else – again, Aristides declares to remember the words, but not to say them or to write them down.32 Such statements reinforce the relationship between the god and the author, while the readers are left astounded. To that context belongs the enigmatic sentence, which fits both an ancient mystery cult and the world of medieval mystics like Meister Eckhart: „Strike out the dead part of your soul, and you will know the god“. 33 What exactly Aristides means, what the dead part is and how to strike it out, must be left open, particularly so because the text breaks off soon after this passage. The close relationship with Asklepios culminates at a moment in which the identities of Asklepios and Ailios Aristeides become blurred: Aristides dreams that he is in the temple of Asklepios in the Gymnasion in Smyrna, where he sees a statue changing its shape from Aristides to Asklepios.34 Asklepios as healer. Whenever the messages from his dreams differ from what the physicians say, Aristides prefers the god. When a tumor grew in his groin, the doctors debated its treatment, some wanting to cut it out, others opting for special drugs. But Asklepios told his patient to simply endure the disease. The tumor kept growing, just as Asklepios had foreseen: Some of my friends marveled at my endurance, others criticized me because I acted too much on account of dreams, and some even blamed me for being cowardly, since I neither permitted surgery nor again suffered any cauterizing drugs.

In spite of all the reproaches, Aristides would not change his mind. He would stick to Asklepios’ advice, especially since the god sent further dreams ordering him to keep a stiff upper lip. In the end, the tumor disappeared.35 Asklepios’ unorthodox healing methods guarantee Aristides an audience. The sailors of the ship “Asklepios”, moored in the harbor of Elaia near Pergamon, watch him diving from the vessel into the sea – Asklepios had ordered this in a dream and had even revealed the name of the ship.36 In midwinter, the wind is icy cold and the earth is frozen, Asklepios commands Aelius Aristides to take a bath in a river near Smyrna. Friends and physicians accompany him, some of out of 30 BENDLIN 2011, 213–214 points out that the time of the Second Sophistic was not an “Age of anxiety”. 31 HE 2,31–32; further mentioning of emotions in 4,2; 4,6–7; 4,50; 5,3. 32 HL 1,72. 33 HL 6,2. 34 HL 1,17. 35 HL 1,62–64; cf. PETSALIS-DIOMIDIS 2010, 134. 36 HL 2,54.


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concern, others out of medical interest; soon the crowd grows and watches from a bridge. Aristides, deathly ill, jumps into the freezing water, swims and splashes around just as if he were in a heated thermal spa. The whole crowd shouts: “Great is Asklepios!” (μέγας ὁ Ἀσκληπιός). After his swim, Aelius Aristides feels more than refreshed: For there was neither, as it were, conspicuous pleasure, nor would you say that it was like a human joy But there were certain inexplicable high spirits, which counted all things second to the present moment, so that when I saw other things, I seemed not to see them Thus I was wholly with the god ( οὕτω πᾶς ἦν πρὸς τῷ θεῷ).37

He is in a different state of the mind. The ritual of bathing seems to have worked as a sort of initiation. At another occasion, the water of the river is not just cold. Due to severe rainfall and a storm, the river has waves like the sea and carries timber and stones. His friends do not encourage him to enter these dangerous waters, including even the priest and some philosophers. Yet, Aristides does what Asklepios has told him to do, jumps in, remains uninjured and feels much better afterwards.38 Reasons fore concealing the closeness to Asklepios. There is only one instance in which Aristides hesitates to demonstrate in public his knowledge and his relation to Asklepios. In AD 149, terrible earthquakes caused massive damage in Asia Minor. Mytilene was completely destroyed. The Ephesians and Smyrnaeans sent emissaries to Apollo at Klaros. They argued about the ranking order at the oracle. Supplications took place in their cities and at some point, the citizens of Ephesos and Smyrna gave up supplicating. The emissaries in Klaros were, as it seems, at a dead end. People no longer expected divine help. 39 At this moment, when the collectives had given up, Aristides as an individual came into play: In these circumstances, the god commanded me, who was living in Smyrna, or rather in the suburbs of the city, to sacrifice publicly an ox to Zeus the Saviour. While I hesitated being both suspicious and fearful of that former prophecy (not to kill cows), some such notion occurred also to me, that I was not going to sacrifice a cow, and that it was not even necessary to taste it. But I had the following dream, which was most clear and by which emboldened, I sacrificed. For I thought that while I stood by the very altar of Zeus in the market place, and was asking him to give me a sign if it were better to sacrifice, a shining star darted through the market place and sanctioned the sacrifice. So I boldly sacrificed. 40

The earthquakes ended immediately. Aelius Aristides was selected by the gods to make a sacrifice and bring the earthquakes to an end. While the efforts of the cities were not successful, a single man was able to stop the disaster. In his Lives of the Sophists, Philostratos explains that Aristides was regarded as the founder of Smyrna because he moved Marcus Aurelius to tears, so that the emperor granted 37 38 39 40

HL 2,19–24. HL 2,53; cf. 2,74–80. OESTERHELD 2008, 48–49. HL 3,39.

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money to rebuild the city. 41 A few days before the earthquakes began, Asklepios had ordered his disciple to make a sacrifice at the temple of Zeus Olympios and to build altars on the crest of the hill of Atys. The destructive effects of the earthquake went as far as the hill. Everything behind it was safeguarded by the altars. Aelius Aristides recognizes the helping hand of Asklepios: And I became so bold that, almost in the midst of the earthquakes, as I was returning from the warm springs to the city in accordance with my dreams, and saw men in supplication and distraught, I intended to say that there was no need to be afraid, for there would be nothing harmful. For under these conditions, I would not be summoned to the city (by the god). Then I stopped, so that I might not seem to be some demagogue (δημοκοπικός), but I asserted to those who were with me, how “I was situated with safe conduct,” using these very words.42

While other men perform rituals in order to please the gods or are distressed, maybe even hysterical (ἰδὼν ἱκετεύοντας καὶ τεταραγμένους), Aristides feels safe. If Asklepios commands him to go to somewhere, there will be no harm. But in this case, Aristides refrains from publicly announcing his knowledge. This deserves mention: Aristides, the great rhetorician who never has problems speaking to a crowd, decides to be silent. The situation is so tense that Aristides’ speaking up could be interpreted as the act of a demagogue. So he just addresses the people accompanying him. In the face of the terrible public disaster, Aristides’ modesty restrained his wish to demonstrate his knowledge. Silence about the rituals. Although Aelius Aristides spent many years in the sanctuary of Asklepios receiving dreams from the god, the Hieroi Logoi offer not one single description of a ritual. Aristides gives no explanation of how to get a dream from the god nor does he instruct the readers how to discern between important and meaningless dreams – a problem virulent since Homer and thus from the beginnings of the cultural memory of the Greeks. 43 The Sacred Tales are not a handbook on how to consult the god. Now this is not surprising. Descriptions of rituals are notoriously vague in the ancient world and beyond. 44 The few texts dealing with sacrifice offer only scant information; for the Greek world, some verses in the Odyssey remain the most detailed description of a sacrifice.45 For the Roman world, the sources are no better. In his famous recipe on how and when to make a sacrifice, the elder Cato remains very open: one may make a sacrifice when the pear tree is in blossom; and if one wishes, one might make a sacrifice to some other gods than those mentioned in the text. 46 Similar situations occur in the confession inscriptions, set up by the contemporaries of Aelius Aristides not too far away from the places where he spent his life. One example might suffice: 41 42 43 44 45 46

Philostr. soph. 582. HL 3,43. Homer, Il. 2,1–38. Cf. BEARD 2012, 330–340; ROSENBERGER 2012, 55–74; 108–110. Homer, Od. 3,418–472. Cato, De agricultura 132; cf. the article of RÜPKE in this volume.


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Great is Anaitis. When Phoibos had committed a religious mistake, he asked for a ritual (hieropoema). He now gives it grateful, having achieved (what he was hoping for). In the year 284, on the second day of the month Artemisios (Sullan era = AD 199/200).47

We learn about the man who paid for the inscription and the exact date when the stele with the inscription was erected. But he says nothing about the impious act committed by Phoibos – and nothing about the ritual (hieropoema) he had performed.48 Thus, it is of little wonder if the remaining descriptions of divination rituals are vague. Therefore, speculations about the Pythia falling in trance while inhaling ethylene emanating from the rocks underneath the temple at Delphi lead in the wrong direction. This basic fuzziness allows for individual options, variations and innovations. 2. A network of dreams At the end of Book Three, Aristides reports another extraordinary event. Having made a sacrifice in the sanctuary of Isis at Smyrna, he is about to leave. Two of the sacred geese approach him and show him the way. Aristides points them out to his friends: “Look, even these accompany me in the chorus of my friends”. And he interprets the birds as an omen: the geese guide him into the right direction. After some time, Aristides addresses the fowls: “You have done enough, sirs. Go!”49 Immediately, they turn and go back to the temple. Two aspects of this episode deserve attention. First, by writing the Sacred Tales, Aristides inscribes himself to some degree on the sacred landscape of Asia Minor, especially the sanctuaries of Asklepios. He dreams that he demands to see the old statue of Asklepios, which is dear to him, in the Pergamene Asklepieion. Although it has been replaced by a new statue, the priests carry up the old one and Aristides. When he loses a shoe in the sanctuary, a priest brings it to him. 50 Aelius Aristides knows how to properly revere a god; the priests and the other staff at the sanctuaries always help him. He makes sacrifices in a number of other places – for example at the temple of the Olympian Zeus or in the sanctuary of Apollon in Gryneion.51 Often a temple is the first place he goes to when he arrives in a city. Second, the world of a sanctuary of Asklepios seems to have been a place for single men – all those dreaming for Aristides were men. There is no mention of his family, of a wife, a child, of parents or of other siblings in the Hieroi Logoi. And yet it is evident that Aristides has a lot of company: gods appear in his dreams, friends escort him during the day, sometimes even animals. In 1996, 47 PETZL 1994, Nr. 73: Μεγάλη Ἀναειτις. ἐπεὶ ἡμάρτησεν Φοῖβος ἐπεζήτησεν ἱερο[π]όημα ἀποδεί[δι] νῦν εἱλασάμενος καὶ εὐχαριστῶν. Ἔτους σπδ’μη(νὸς) Ἀρτεμεισίου β´. 48 VERSNEL 1991, 77–78. 49 HL 3,49–50. 50 HL 1,11–12. 51 HL 5,8 and 10.

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Harold Remus presented a network analysis of the persons acting in the Hieroi Logoi.52 While Remus listed only the actual persons, the Hieroi Logoi can be better understood by also including the persons and gods appearing in the dreams. By being in the centre of a large network with several sub-groups, Aristides displays his significance and his social capital; this is an act of construction of the self. The sub-groups of Aristides’ network will be described now. Gods and heroes: There is no doubt that Asklepios is the one god who is most present god in the Hieroi Logoi. Nevertheless, other gods appear as well: Zeus, Apollon, Athena, Dionysos, Hermes, Ares, Isis and Sarapis, Adrasteia, further local goddesses from Smyrna – probably Nemesis – and finally unnamed gods of the underworld.53 Even the gods can be unclear: in AD 149, Aelius Aristides dreams at Smyrna of a god changing shape between Asklepios, Apollon Klarios and Apollon Kalliteknos from Pergamon.54 Athena visits Aristides in the shape of the Athena of Phidias in Athens; from her aegis pours the sweetest possible scent. While the friends standing at his sick-bed do not feel the presence of the goddess, only Aristides can see her. She admonishes him to persevere in his sickness, because he himself is both Odysseus and Telemachos55 In this scene, Aristides is unique in a double sense. First, only Aristides is privileged to see Athena and to hear what she says. Second, she compares him to the greatest figures of Greek mythology: Aristides is playing in the same league as Odysseus. Persons from the past: It is typical for the authors of the Second Sophistic to focus on Greek history from Homer to Alexander. This also holds true for minor writers like Polyaenus, who lists in his collection of about 800 stratagems mostly examples from the good old days; the Romans might have conquered the world, but they were worthy of only a few dozen stratagems. 56 In the case of Aelius Aristides’ historical network, there is the same pattern. One instance is particularly telling: I dreamed that I saw Platon himself standing in my room, directly across from my bed. He happened to be working on his letter to Dionysios, and was very angry. He glanced at me and said: “How suited do I appear to you for letter writing? No worse than Celer? – meaning the Imperial Secretary. And I said, “Hush! Remember who you are!”

Soon after that the apparition of Platon vanished. Somebody – it is unclear, if still in the dream – explained that it was not Platon, but Aristides’ Hermes in the shape 52 REMUS 1996, 146–175; on network analysis in Greek religion, see EIDINOW 2011, 9–38. 53 Zeus (HL 1,33; 4,40); Apollon (HL 4,4; 3,12 is an oracle from Apollon at Klaros; cf 1,58), Athena (HL 4,39), Dionysos (HL 4,39), Hermes (HL 4,40), Ares (HL 1,33); local goddesses from Smyrna, probably the two Nemesis (HL 4,41), Isis and Sarapis (HL 2,18; 3,45–46; 4,97); the power of Sarapis to carry men wherever he wishes (HL 3,48); Adrasteia (HL 2,2); gods of the underworld (HL 3,47). 54 HL 2,18. 55 HL 2,41–42. 56 PRETZLER 2010, 85–107.


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of the philosopher.57 The Hermes of a person is his personal guiding god, the Greek parallel to the Roman genius. Caninius Celer was, in spite of his name, a Greek rhetorician who had the position of ab epistulis at the imperial court in Rome for some time.58 If the greatest philosopher – Aristotle is not mentioned in the Hieroi Logoi – asks Aristides for his opinion, and if he even accepts his admonition: “You are Platon! Don’t forget that!”, Aristides must be extremely important. Other persons include Sophokles, Lysias, and Alexander.59 Due to the horizon of the Second Sophistic, Latin poets like Horace, Ovid, or Vergil, rhetoricians like Cicero or Cato are missing. Emperors: In his dreams, Aelius Aristides is the equal of the emperors; they honour and they help him.60 Hadrian meets him in a sanctuary and expresses his great hopes for Aristides. Our author has an encounter with Antoninus Pius, who admits that “Asklepios is better than all worship”. During a lawsuit, Antoninus Pius and his adopted son Marcus Aurelius help him by sending a letter. 61 Aelius Aristides meets Marcus Aurelius and the Parthian king Vologaeses III., the two most powerful men of his time. When Vologaeses III. asks Aristides to give an oration, he improvises a prologue. He is proud to be calm in the company of potentates: “If I had not been trained in divine visions, I think that I would not easily endure this spectacle”. Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus honour him in a way nobody else ever was treated: “For many times I was between the two of them, and whenever I wished to go to one side so that the elder stood in the middle, the younger himself did this.” Just as today, the person in the middle is especially significant. Later, the emperors help him climb a ladder; while Verus is pushing, Marcus Aurelius is pulling him up. The two rulers tell him that they thank the Gods to have met him – and they praise his qualities as rhetorician. Furthermore, Marcus Aurelius emphasises that a good man is also good speaker.62 Others dream for Aristides: In most cases, Aristides is the dreamer, sometimes others have dreams about him: i. friends and family in the wider sense: his friend Zosimos and his foster father Neritos.63 ii. members of the leading classes like the senator Sedatus from Nikaia, the consul P. Salvius Iulianus, the consul L. Cuspius Pactumeius Rufinus, a native of Pergamon and donor of a famous temple for Zeus Asklepios Soter.64 iii. cultural specialists like the philosopher Euarestos from Crete and the temple warden Philadelphos, who has the same dream as Aristides.65 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65

HL 4,57; cf. 5,58–63 Aristides dreams of a temple of Platon. SCHRÖDER 1986, 103. Sophokles (4,60–61); Lysias (4,59); Alexander (4,53–54). Cf. WEBER 2000, 57; 340–41. Hadrian (HL 4,106); Antoninus Pius (HL 1,23; cf. 3,21); Antoninus Pius and Marcus (HL 4,75). Marcus and Vologaeses (HL 1,36–38); Marcus and Verus (HL 1,46–49); cf. 5,44. Zosimos (HL 1,66), Neritos (HL 3,15). Sedatus (HL 2,48), P. Salvius Iulianus (HL 2,9), L. Cuspius Pactumeius Rufinus (HL 4,43); cf. SCHRÖDER 1986, 26, n. 69. Euarestos (HL 4,23), Philadelphos (HL 2,29–35).

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iv. unnamed strangers like the farmer who knew Aelius Aristides only from hearsay; a Macedonian pilgrim staying frequently in the sanctuary dreams of singing a paean composed by Aristides.66 In these cases, the communication is asymmetrical; they know Aristides, whereas he has never heard of them. If other people have dreams concerning Aelius Aristides, they underline his importance. Others die instead of Aelius Aristides: Hermias, the most beloved of his foster children, died the day Aristides’ own disease was cured. He understands this as a deal: his life was saved at the cost of the life of a person dear to him. 67 There is no trace of remorse, since it was the will of Asklepios. Even more striking is the dream about the dead body of Hermias’ sister Philoumene, who also died instead of Aristides. In a dream, he identifies the fatal disease and discovers that the body is widely inscribed: My name had been inscribed in the following way: “Ailios Aristeides.” And there was, almost in intervals, one title after another. “Sosimenes” had been added, and other such things, which heralded safety and that Philoumene had given a soul for a soul and a body for a body, hers for mine. 68

Apart from the gender issues of this episode – a female body is used as a surface to write upon – it becomes clear that the girl had willingly sacrificed herself for Aelius Aristides: the name “Sosimenes” means “the one staying healthy”. 69 She wanted him to survive. In a few cases, Aristides acts as a mediator between humans and the god. He manages to persuade Asklepios to help his old nurse Philoumene and to even prolong the life of Zosimos for some months. In Phokaia, Asklepios forecasts the weather through dreams, which is especially helpful for travelers. Aristides’ host at Phokaia, Rufus, is astounded about how correct and precise the predictions are.70 Due to our limited knowledge of the world of Aelius Aristides, the Hieroi Logoi will remain enigmatic in many respects. He communicates in his dreams with a number of persons unknown to us.71 This indicates how much we do not understand. Shortly before the text breaks off, there is the sentence: „Save yourself for the city of Athens” which meant “for the Greeks”.72 Athens stands as pars pro toto for the Greek world, which stretched over the eastern half of the Mediterranean world and beyond. Here, the network of Ailios Aristeides is fully extended: he is in the centre of Greek civilization.

66 67 68 69 70 71

The farmer (HL 4,5), a Macedonian pilgrim (HL 4,42). HL 2,44; 5,25. HL 5,23–24. Cf. PEARCY 1988, 387–391; PETSALIS-DIOMIDIS 2010, 146–147. Zosimos (HL 1,71); Philoumene (HL 1,78); Phokaia (HL 2,15). Pelops (HL 1,39) might be the teacher of Galenus, the poet Metrodorus (HL 1,42), the seer Koros (HL 1,54), Diophanes (HL 1,49). 72 HL 6,3.


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3. Rhetoric and the self In the age of the Second Sophistic, rhetoric was of paramount importance. Rhetoricians were held in high esteem, successful orators could become wealthy and celebrated; they could perform their speeches in the largest public buildings of famous cities. Aelius Aristides, one of the star rhetoricians – more than 40 of his speeches are known – uses the art of oratory as a means of individuation: he is, as he demonstrates over and over, the best in his craft. The readers learn how Aristides prepares his speeches. When he went to Smyrna to give a speech in the Council Chamber and in public during a festival, he started out with an entourage. Because he was faster than most of the others – Asklepios had ordered him to travel as fast as possible – only two members of his staff were able to keep up with him. After a journey of more than 320 stades (roughly 60 kilometres) they decided to spend the night in an inn. Aristides could not sleep, got up at first light and finished the journey alone. On his way, he discovered the contents of what he was going to say in his two declamations.73 In order to be creative, Aristides had to marginalize himself. Asklepios, rhetoric, and healing. When the disease first developed, it halted Aristides’ career for some time. In the first year of the illness, he neglected his exercises in rhetoric. A depression followed. In the next year, Aristides had moved to Pergamon, Asklepios admonished him in a dream not to give up rhetoric. 74 Henceforth, Aelius Aristides returned to rhetoric and Asklepios was a powerful helper in this field. During a discussion in a dream with a beardless young man named Phoibos – due to Aristides’ idiosyncrasy of playing with blurred identities it remains unclear as to whether Phoibos is a human being or the god Phoibos Apollon – Phoibos states that small pleasures are better than great ones. Aristides reflects on this and concludes that words are small pleasures. Therefore, the delights of other men are like the pleasures of pigs compared to rhetoric. 75 Rhetoric lifts Aelius Aristides above the rest of his contemporaries. Rhetoric is a part of the healing methods used by Asklepios. When Aristides suffered from terrible toothache, Asklepios ordered him to call some friends and to read by himself one of his speeches aloud by himself; even before the end of the speech, the pain was gone. Although Aristides had problems with his breathing at the beginning of a speech, they soon vanished so that he could breathe enough to deliver a long speech.76 The god even sends Aristides to other cities in order to give a speech. Once, Aristides is ordered to go to Ephesos; there is no information about the topic or the place. At Ephesos, Aristides bathes in the river, causing the spectators to wonder no less at the fact that he is bathing than at his 73 74 75 76

HL 5,8–16. HL 4,14–15. HL 1,19. HL 4,22 and 4,30.

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speeches. Both oratory and the healing rituals make Aristides an outstanding man; he is recognized in public.77 At least three persons show up to encourage Aristides to keep up his efforts in oratory. His co-patient Sedatius interprets a dream by Aristides, two others receive dreams to support him: the poet Hermokrates of Rhodos and the philosopher Euarestos of Crete, the latter coming from Egypt to visit Aristides. Later, Aristides dreams of speeches, brilliant in style, surpassing all his models, and about unheard of topics. He writes down everything he remembers. And his training goes on. Aristides has to give extemporaneous speeches and he has to practice thoughtfulness. Furthermore, the gods exhort Aristides to compose speeches. Lucius Claudius Pardalas, temple warden in Pergamon and eminent connoisseur of rhetoric, exclaims that it was a fortunate coincidence for Aristides to fall ill because the sickness allowed him to improve his rhetoric abilities. 78 Quadratus, the new proconsul of Asia, was also a rhetorician. Aristides wants to ask him for help – and dreams that some of his friends intercede with the proconsul on his behalf; they even praise Aristides’ speeches.79 Contests with contemporary rhetoricians. Ancient rhetoric was always competitive, be it in a lawsuit, in politics or in a panegyric. For a speaker, it was always important to outdo one’s rivals: in style, clarity, brevity, to name but a few aspects. Therefore, rhetoric could lead to a particular degree of individuation in the face of a large audience. While writing, Aristides falls into sleep and dreams of giving a speech. During the declamation, he shouts out: “Lord Asklepios, if I excel in rhetoric and excel much, grant me health and cause the envious to burst”. The next day, Aristides finds this same passage in a book – but does not give a reference.80 During a period of terrible sickness, Aristides dreams to read in a book, but he recalls only a few sentences: The author advises him to drink water instead of wine “For if you imitate this, it is possible for you to win the crown of victory or to share in it”. One aspect of this passage is the agonistic nature of rhetoric, emphasized by the title of the book Philostephanos (=The Crown Lover) or Philesistephanos (=The Crown Desirer). Another aspect is of equal importance: Aristides decides to drink water for a long time until Asklepios allows him to drink a specific amount of wine, a “demiroyal” (hemina basilike).81 This quantity – Behr translates it as a “half pint” – is less than half of what Aristides used to drink in earlier days. And yet he finds it sufficient, sometimes he does not even drink that amount. Again after some time, Asklepios allows his client to drink as much wine as he wishes. The god even makes a joke: he finds it foolish that the wealthy people do not use their resources. In this process, Asklepios first prescribes exactly what to drink. 77 78 79 80 81

HL 2,81–82. HL 4,24–27; on Pardalas see SCHRÖDER 1986, 90, n. 66. HL 4,63–65. HL 4,69. SCHRÖDER 1986, 73, n. 57 on this unclear terminology; a hemina is a Roman measure of about ¼ litre.


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Eventually, the god leaves the amount of wine to Aristides’ free will: Asklepios allows an individuation in a narrow field.82 In one case, it is possible to study the competition between Aristides and another rhetorician. The showdown was at Smyrna, from where some citizens had hastened to meet Aristides even before he entered he city. His fame had grown to that extent. Another rhetorician had also just come to Smyrna, “a certain little Egyptian”, who wanted to give a lecture at the Odeion. Aristides, not knowing about his rival, dreams of seeing the sun rising and of seeing himself proclaiming: “Aristides will lecture today in the Council Chamber (bouleuterion) at the fourth hour (ten o’clock)”. When he awakes, Aristides calls some friends to help interpret the dream; they decide to spread the news that Aristides will speak. Aristides appears with a few friends in the bouleuterion, which is so crowded, that – and this is a Greek idiomatic phrase directly translated to English – one cannot “insert a hand between the people”: And the shouting and good will, moreover, if it is fitting to tell the truth, the frenzy was so great from all sides that no one was seen to sit either during the introduction or when I arose to contend, but they stood from the first word, felt the emotions of anguish, joy, and fear, assented to what was said, cried out things which were never heard before, and every man counted it his gain, if he should bestow some very great compliment on me.

This is the best one can achieve as rhetorician: a huge crowd gathering at short notice, applause before the speech, a completely focused audience during the speech ready to experience powerful emotions, assent to whatever one says and praise from everybody. And the icing on the cake is: the nameless Egyptian had also announced a speech for the same time. Although he had done this three days before, he had an audience of 17 people.83 Aristeides’ victory was complete. In whichever city he appears, people are afraid that he will be leaving to soon. The next stop was Ephesos. Aristides was sent there by Asklepios: in a dream, the rhetorician saw victory crowns – and he woke up with the word “Ephesos” on his lips. According to the dream, Aristides had great success at Ephesos. Even more satisfying was another appearance in Smyrna. Aristides talks about his feelings during his speech against the Sophists; it was “the sweetest of all days because of the speech” (5,39: ἡδίστην δὴ ταύτην πασῶν ἡμερῶν ἀγαγὼν ἐπὶ λόγοις). He feels relaxed during the speech and happy that the audience is listening. As he writes, it is not possible to describe his feelings. After the speech, he wants to leave, but is hindered by the crowd which wants him to give another speech; this has never happened to him. But Aristides has the stamina to perform again, because Asklepios had ordered him to have a full meal before delivering the speech; the rhetorician now understands the meaning of Asklepios’ advice and tells this secret to his astounded listeners. The next day, Aristides speaks again, 82 HL 3,31–32. 83 HL 5,29–34.

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under the guidance of Asklepios.84 In another situation, the proconsul Severus labels Aristides as the “first of the Hellenes” as orator. 85 Once, the author dreams that he is in Pergamon and that a herald, standing next to the statue of Asklepios, calls out Aristeides’ name. He is crowned because of his speeches and because he is invincible in rhetoric. Aristides walks off, passes his ancestral home and finds himself in front of a monumental tomb of him and Alexander the Great. The Macedonian king lies on one side, the other is reserved for Aristides. He even smells the wonderful aroma of incense from the body of Alexander. Aristides is very pleased by this and gathers that he and Alexander had something in common: they are both invincible in their respective fields, Alexander in military and he in rhetoric.86 Contests with the great rhetoricians of the Greek past. In the previous chapter, it became clear that Aristides’ network consisted also of persons from a distant past. In order to be a great rhetorician, Aristides had to dominate his contemporaries and the great orators from the past. In a dream, Aristides receives the order to emulate Sokrates, Demosthenes and Thukydides. Aristides wanted to give a speech as an offering to Asklepios; his plan was to go to the sanctuary, to put on his cloak – to be recognizable as a speaker – to think about a topic and to speak a few words. Sedatius, his friend of praetorian rank, persuaded him to give a full speech: Sedatius and some others would be listening. A third person, Maximus of Libya, proposed the topic: “While Alexander is in India, Demosthenes advises that it is time to act”.87 There is no more information about his speech. But it is noteworthy that Aristides had to take on the role of Demosthenes urging the Athenians to shake off the Macedonian yoke. In a later dream, an unnamed philosopher tells him: “For us you have surpassed Demosthenes in dignity (ἀξίωμα; axioma), so that not even the philosophers can scorn you”.88 This comment awakened his ambition and he decided to work harder for his speeches. Axioma is characteristic of a good speech: in the next days, his listeners, not knowing of that dream, praised especially the dignity of his oratorical efforts. Rhetoric was not just a way to make a living or l’art pour l’art, but also a useful weapon for defending oneself in public life. A significant part of Book Four describes how Aristides successfully avoided to assume expensive public offices. Whenever he succeded, it was because of his network – he even applied to the emperor – and his rhetorical skills. When the citizens of Smyrna acclaimed him as high priest of Asia, Aristides was allowed to speak in the council. He was able to turn the offer down, arguing that Asklepios had sent dreams allowing him to do this. But when in turn the Smyrnaeans made him priest of Asklepios, he was not able to turn this offer down.89 84 85 86 87 88 89

HL 5,35–41. The speech at Smyrna seems to be oratio 34 (Keil); SCHRÖDER 1986, 133, n. 75. HL 4,87; speeches are also held in the house of Aristides: 1,64; 4,8. HL 4,48–49; cf. Arr. an. 1,12,5; SCHRÖDER 1986, 99, n. 122. HL 4,15–18; cf. 1,16. HL 4,19; cf. 4,62 and 4,97. HL 4,100–103; lawsuits: HL 4,72–95.


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4. The power of poetry The making of verse, deeply rooted in Greek civilization, has always had two aspects. On the one hand, composing poems was a cultural technique which could create symbolic capital for their producer; in the optimum case – Homer, Sappho, Alkaios, Pindar etc. – the capital would last forever. On the other hand, poetry could be regarded as a religious practice: most poetry had to do with the gods, poets could have a special access to the gods. These two characteristics of poetry, fame and favour of the gods, were another way for Aelius Aristides to construct his self. Again, there is a small network with some famous poets: Aristides compares himself to Simonides, who was saved by Kastor and Polydeukes because of his songs; he dreams of reading a comedy by Aristophanes, and he dreams a verse from Euripides, which he interprets as advice. Sophokles also appears in a dream: And while he stood there in silence, his lips of their own accord sounded as sweetly as possible. His whole appearance was of a handsome old man. Then I was glad to see him, and rising, I welcomed him, and asked: “Where,” I said, “is your brother?” And he said, “Have I any brother?” “It is Aischylos,” I said.90

One of the most famous writers of tragedies of classical Athens, Sophokles, visits Aristides. And our author, pleased to have such a celebrated guest, treats him like an old friend; moreover, he even knows more about Sophokles than the ancient poet does himself: in a way, Aristides is superior to him. Just like rhetoric, poetry is a remedy for Aristides. He forgets his pain while composing a poem on the wedding of Koronis and Apollon, the parents of Asklepios – therefore, he extends the poem as long as possible. 91 During the journey to the sanctuary of Asklepios in Poimainos in Mysia – due to the bad quality of the road Aristides and his entourage were forced to travel for a good part of the night – he composes poems on Asklepios and other regional deities: the river-god Aisepos, the Nymphs and Artemis Thermaia, who possesses the warm springs, to free him from his troubles and to restore his old strength. It is striking that Aisepos, the nymphs and Artemis Thermaia are all connected with bathing, a treatment often used by Aristides. At the sanctuary of Poimainos, Aristides receives the rewards for his work: oracles, healing, and even a sort of initiation; details about his experience are not given.92 Ailios Aristeides’ illness began during his journey to Rome in 144. There, Apollon ordered him to compose a paean. It was the time of the ludi Apollinares, but it seems unlikely that the paean was performed in public. On the way back to Asia Minor, Aristides’ ship stopped at Delos. When he left the ship, he swore to remain for two days on the small island, well-known for its sanctuary of Apollon; according to Greek mythology this was where the god was born. Although the 90 Simonides (HL 4,36); Aristophanes (HL 5,18); Euripides (HL 1,22), Sophokles (HL 4,60–61). 91 HL 1,73. 92 4,4–7.

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seamen wanted to depart one day sooner, Aristides was not willing to leave. So the ship stayed in the harbour. During the night, a severe storm arose and everybody was happy to be in the safe haven of Delos. Aristides interprets this as Apollo’s help as a reward for the paean. Thereafter, Asklepios is the most important god for Aristides. This story helps Aristides to explain the change from the helper Apollon to the helper Asklepios: Apollon signifies that he will help Aristides. And since Apollon is the father of Asklepios, there can be no contest between the two gods.93 Obviously, Asklepios enjoys the hymns composed by his client. He orders Aristides to produce a paean also for other gods. What makes the situation even more pleasant for Aristides is that other gods appear in his dreams, ask for a hymn and even give him the first line: Athena reveals the starting line “Young men come to Pergamon”, Dionysos wants his hymn to commence with “Hail king, ivy crowned”. Zeus, Hermes, and Herakles are also mentioned.94 Poetry is a vehicle to win divine favour to an astounding degree. Due to the command of Asklepios, Aristides composes poetry and maintains a chorus of young boys in order to perform the songs: ancient poetry had to be sung. Whenever Aristides suffers from disease, his doctor Theodotos orders the choir to sing some of Aristides’ lyric verse. The musical medicine helps every time; Aristides feels much better after having listened to his choir. The chorus sings not just for Aelius Aristides, but also in a more public sphere, in the sanctuary of Asklepios in Smyrna. By the medium of dreams, Asklepios leads other people into the sanctuary in order to listen to the chorus. Aristides gives ten public performances with choirs of boys and men.95 After the tenth concert, Aristides wants to dedicate a silver tripod to Asklepios. First, Aristides composes the following elegiac couplet: Poet, judge, and choregos all in one, Has dedicated to you, O King, this monument of his choral performance. Later, “a divine inscription” (theion epígramma) is sent in a dream: Not unknown to the Greeks, Aristeides dedicated this, The glorious charioteer of everlasting words. It is hardly necessary to emphasise that the second inscription is much more favourable to Aristides: his name is mentioned, he is famous among the Greeks and his literary output will last forever.96 The gods help Aristides to increase his symbolic capital. Now Aristides needs a place to set up the monument. He discusses this question with the priest and the temple wardens; they decide to dedicate it in the temple of Zeus Asklepios in Pergamon. The combination of Zeus and Asklepios allows Aristides to give a tripod only at one place and yet to 93 94 95 96

HL 4,32 HL 4,41. HL 4,38. HL 4,45. First version: Ποιητὴς ἀέθλων τε βραβεὺς αὐτός τε χορηγός, / σοὶ τόδ’ ἔθηκεν, ἄναξ, μνῆμα χοροστασίης; second version: Οὐκ ἀφανὴς Ἕλλησιν Ἀριστείδης ἀνέθηκεν / μύθων ἀενάων κύδιμος ἡνίοχος. Cf. PUECH 2002, 144–145.


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serve both gods. The tripod was located next to the god. It contained images of Asklepios, Hygieia, and Asklepios’ son Telesphoros, one on each foot of the tripod. An inscription said that the gift was given according to a dream (ἐξ ὀνείρατος).97 In antiquity, inscriptions were a means of individuation. By producing a stele with an inscription containing one’s name, one could leave a mark for the contemporaries and for posterity. Aristides had achieved even more: his gift to the god was positioned next to the god’s statue in one of the most important sanctuaries in Pergamon, one of the leading cities in the Greek world. His name was inscribed on it and his prestige was immense. Conclusion Once Aristides dreamt that a physician asked him to give a speech. He refused, because he wanted to look through his writings, “for I must also converse with posterity” (δεῖ γάρ με καὶ τοῖς ὕστερον ἀνθρώποις διαλέγεσθαι).98 This he has accomplished. The Hieroi Logoi can be read as an ongoing process of individuation by communicating with the gods. In the end, Aelius Aristides differs from his contemporaries in many ways.99 He has the best contact with Asklepios; the god talks to him, helps him, and declares Aristides to be a unique person; while entire cities are not able to please the gods sending earthquakes, Aristides alone is enough to stop the disaster. Aristides has a wide and exclusive network of friends and helpers in his dreams, including gods, figures from Greek history, and emperors: he moves freely in the cultural memory of the Greek world. Furthermore, two cultural techniques help Aristides to shape his profile: rhetoric and poetry. He is the best orator of his time, and his only true rival is the greatest classical rhetorician, Demosthenes. Poetry is also a means of increasing the social capital of a person; the gods delight in good verses in their honour and in return, they help Aristides and make him a person of note. It goes without saying that these four aspects intersect with each other. Through his elaborate self-fashioning, Ailios Aristeides emerges as a unique person in antiquity: Aristides is not the chosen one, but he is a chosen one. This is individuation in perfection. Aristides’ diseases are not decisive; they are, at best, a pretext for staying in a sanctuary of Asklepios. Therefore, it makes no sense to ask questions along the lines of: “If Asklepios is such a powerful god, why does he not heal Aelius Aristides once and for all?” Finally, it is necessary to ask whether Aelius Aristides was an exception or whether he acted within the normal parameters of religion of the second century AD. For earlier authors, it was clear how to position Aristides in the religious field of the High Empire. Otto Weinreich, to name only one, interpreted Aristides’ 97 HL 4,46–47. 98 HL 5,52; cf. 5,63, some observations about the dedication of books in temples. 99 On deviance and individuality cf. RÜPKE 2011, 147–152.

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writings as part of a world which longed for the Saviour and which would become Christian sooner or later.100 This line of thought, probably necessary in a time in which research in the field of pagan religion was generally frowned upon, is based on a manifest argumentum ex eventu and therefore not applicable. The answer must be different. On the one hand, Aelius Aristides differs from his contemporaries. As far as we can tell, he seems to have been the first and the only one to write such an extensive personal (b)log about his relationship with a god.101 On the other hand, many details of the Hieroi Logoi are known from other sources. Other persons were called in a dream by Asklepios to his sanctuary, as the inscription of M. Iulius Apellas in Epidauros and the texts from the Tiber island in Rome prove.102 Other people engaged in rhetoric, wrote poems in which gods appear, and set up inscriptions kat’oneiron or ex visu. The epigraphic resonance of Aristides’ connection with Asklepios is scant. There is an inscription from Mytilene on a small slab of marble (33x19 cm): Ἀριστεί/δης Ἀσκλη/πιῷ Σωτῆρι / εὐχήν “Aristeides to Asklepios Soter ex voto”. A man by the name of Aristeides thanks Asklepios and calls him Soter (“Saviour”), an invocation often used in the Sacred Tales. Although there must have been thousands of men by the name of Aristeides, Louis Robert argued convincingly that it is precisely the brevity of the name (no patronymikon, nothing about the hometown or the genos) that makes it highly likely that only a famous person can be the author. 103 If the inscription was really set up by Poublios Ailios Aristeides Theodoros, it gives us an idea of what might be behind other inscriptions and donations for a god: the Hieroi Logoi might be just the tip of the iceberg.

100 WEINREICH 1914, 597–606. Cf. the sound scepticism of NORTH 2011, 481: “It is easy enough to say that there had been convergence (of pagan and Christian ideas), but what does that mean?” 101 HOLMES 2008, 82: “a uniquely heroic and unfathomable intimacy with the divine”. 102 WEINREICH 1909, 112–113; BOULANGER 1923, 171; Apellas: IG IV 955; cf. MÜLLER 1987, an inscription for Asklepios by a Publius Aelius Theon (2 nd century AD); Paus. 10,23,13. Vespasian healed in Alexandria people being sent by a dream of Sarapis to him: Suet. Vesp. 7. 103 ROBERT 1980, 7–8 = ROBERT 1990, 575–576; PUECH 2002, 139–140. In another inscription Egyptian cities honour Aelius Aristides for his logoi: PUECH 140–144. BE 1970, 422 and 1971, 102; cf. SEG 28, 229 (Mt. Pentelikon); SEG 32, 387 (Epidauros).


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INDEX Acharnai 41, 56 Aelius Aristides 153–169 Aeschines 29 Aeschylus/Aischylos 70, 167 Agesipolis 32 Alalia 68 Alcinous 27 Alexander the Great 42, 43, 47, 97, 145–146, 154, 161, 162, 167 Alexandra 52–54 Alexandria 97, 100, 111, 146 Ammon/Ammoneion 33, 48, 146 Amoinos 54 Antoninus Pius 162 Apollon 29–30, 33, 41, 45, 48, 53, 57, 66, 70, 147–148, 155, 258, 160–164, 168– 169 Apuleius 149, 154 Archephon 33 Ares 41, 104, 161 Argos 32, 68–69 Aristoteles 74, 161 Artemidorus 65, 97 Artemis 44, 45, 54, 56, 144, 168 Asklepios 114, 148, 153–171 Athena 27, 41, 67, 69, 71, 155, 161, 169 Athens 29–31, 41, 44–45, 53, 71, 83, 100, 139, 143, 149, 161, 163, 168 Atlas 142 Augur 15, 17, 85 Augustus 48, 146 auspicium 14–15 belief 12, 27, 62, 66, 69, 70, 72–73, 76, 81, 83–84, 86, 89–90 Bell, Catherine M. 11–12 Bourdieu, Pierre 93, 95, 102, 115 Butler, Judith 26

Caesarea Troketta 53 chicken 15 Cicero, Marcus Tullius 81–87, 89, 142, 147, 162 Croesus 29, 65–66, 68, 70, 147 Damas 54 Damianos 42, 57 Delos 148, 168–169 Delphi 30–33, 41–51, 55–57, 61–77, 82–84, 86, 147–149, 160 Demeter 52–53 Demosthenes 29, 167, 170 Didyma 41–42, 47–49, 51–57, 148–149 Dione 33, 46 Dionysos 155, 161, 169 Dodona 21, 33–36, 43, 46, 53, 55, 72, 95, 148 Dorotheus of Sidon 100–101, 105–106, 108– 109, 120–121, 128 earthquake 56, 158–159, 170 elea 68 Eleusis 44–45, 49 Ephesos 54, 158, 167–168 Erasistratus 100, 116–118 Eryx 67 Eudoxus of Cnidus 97 Euripides 72, 168 Fachidioten 119 Firmicus Maternus 98, 107 Foucault, Michel 154 Geertz, Clifford 21–22 Giddens, Antony 22–24, 35 Glycon 147, 149 Goffman, Erving 24–25

176 Hadrian 48, 151, 160 Haruspices 17 Helios 99, 104, 141 Hephaistio of Thebes 101, 107–108, 119, 121, 129 Hercules 141, 157, 171 Hermes 72, 146, 159, 161–162, 169 Herodes Atticus 144 Herodotus 28–31, 43, 48, 55, 61–67, 71, 139, 142, 146–147 Hestia 72 Hierapolis 139 Homer 27–29, 97, 140, 155, 160, 162, 169 Hygieia 112, 156, 171

Index Miletos 52–54 Moira 29, 97 Mytilene 158, 171 Nemesis 161 Nymphs 169 obnuntiatio 15 Odysseus 27, 70–71, 154–155, 161 Olympia 33 omen 16, 48, 69 Onomakritos 30 Orpheus 142, 150

Latinius, Titus 16 Lawson, Thomas 12 Leon 100 Leotychides 71 LiPuma, Edward 26 lots 15–16, 32 Lucian of Samosata 139–150 Lutz, Catherine 25 Lysias 163

Paros 50 Patara 148 Pausanias 72, 149 Penelope 27 Pergamon 153, 155, 157, 161–162, 164–167, 169–170 Pharae 72 Pharos 50 Philo of Byzantium 96 Phokaia 68–70, 163 Platon 33, 43, 84, 148, 161–162 Pliny the Elder 96–97, 149 Plutarch 33, 41, 47–48, 51, 61, 83–84, 147 Polykrates 28 pontifex 17, 85 prodigium 17, 85 Prophetes 41–42, 54–55, 57 Protagoras of Nicaea 105 Ptolemy 113–114, 119 Pythia 31, 51, 66, 68–70, 81–84, 86–87, 89, 160

magic 13 Magnesia 44, 45, 53, 56 Marcus Aurelius 139, 159, 162 Mauss, Marcel 12 Megara 95 Meister Eckhart 157 Menophilus 52

Rappaport, Roy 10–13 religio 9–10, 11–16, 21, 47–48, 53–57, 61– 62, 68–69, 71, 75–76, 81–90, 94–95, 114, 119, 142, 144, 146, 149–150, 154– 155, 160, 168, 170–171 Rhegium 68 Rhodes 83

instauratio 16 Isis 161–162 Isokrates 45 Iulianus of Laodicaea 100, 106 Iuppiter 14 Klaros 42, 48, 49–53, 55, 148–149, 159 Kleomenes 67–71 Kore 41, 57 Kroton 67–68

Index Rome 14–15, 42, 56, 153, 162, 168, 171 Salamis 30, 147 Samosata 139 Sarapis 155, 161 Serapion 100, 116 Sibylline books 16 Sibylline oracles 48 signa 16 Simonides 168 Smyrna 45, 100, 111, 117, 131, 155–158, 160–161, 16, 166–167, 169 Sokates 32, 43, 46, 167 Sophocles 148, 162, 168 Sparta 32, 63, 67–69, 71 Strabon 48 Strathern, Marilyn 25 Sybaris 67–68, 70 Tambiah, Stanley J. 13 Taylor, Charles 87–89 Teiresias 142, 148 Telemachos 27, 161 Telesphoros 170 Templum 14

Teos 45 Themistocles 30 Theodoros 100 Theophilus of Edessa 108 Theophrastus 110 Thrasyllus 107, 130 Thucydides 28, 167 Thymos 27 Timaeus 105, 116 Tullia 86 Turner, Victor 9 Tyche 29, 96 Ulpianus 52–53 Vettius Valens 98, 105 Weber, Max 25, 87–88, 94–95, 118 White, Harrison 25, 118 Xenophon 32, 43–44, 46 Zeus 29, 33, 46, 70, 104, 146–148, 155, 158–162, 169


The search for knowledge of the future and for divine help is found in all ancient Mediterranean cultures. The key question of this book is: What are the interdependences between divination and processes of individualization or de-individualization in the ancient world? Individualization is understood as a process of change on the societal level. In contrast, individuation is a development on the personal level. Discussions about the definition of these terms are continuing. Divination may al-

ways have some effects on processes of individuation and individualization. Divination may be a means – and this list does not claim to be exhaustive – of legitimising decisions, to decide competition or to achieve distinctiveness. This book covers aspects from archaic Greece to the High Empire. Not all articles argue along the same lines: nothing highlights better the lively debate and the many open questions in the field of ancient divination.

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ISBN 978-3-515-10629-0


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