God, Religion and Society in Ancient Thought: From Early Greek Philosophy to Augustine 3896659766, 9783896659767, 9783896659774

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God, Religion and Society in Ancient Thought: From Early Greek Philosophy to Augustine
 3896659766, 9783896659767, 9783896659774

Table of contents :
The Polis as the Measure of All Things: The Relation of Greek Mythology to Polis Religion
I. The dynamic structure of Greek mythology
II. Common features and differences between Greek mythology and polis religion
III. Polis religion as center of Greek religiosity
IV. The Polis as the measure of all things
On the Rationalization of Ancient Greek Theology: The Purge of Anthropomorphism from Hesiod to Plato and Aristotle
I. The transition from myth to logos and the progress of theological reasoning
II. Different interpretations of the development of ancient Greek thought
III. From Hesiod to Thales
IV. Anaximander and Anaximenes
V. Xenophanes’ criticism of the anthropomorphic gods
VI. Two different traditions of ancient Greek theology
The “Theology” of the First Philosopher-Poets: the Case of Xenophanes
I Introduction
II. The notion of theology in Xenophanes, Parmenides and Empedocles: State of the question
III. The notion of unity (monism) in Xenophanes’ theology according to Aristotle
Gods and Religion in the Sophistic Context: between Agnosticism and Utilitarian Rationalism
I. Introduction: the Sophistic investigation of the divine
2. The origin of religion and of the gods
2.1 Democritus’ distinctive position
2.2. The Sophists’ positions
3. The instrumental advantages of religious belief
3.1. The Sophistic debate: between tradition and innovation
4. The epistemological level: between agnosticism and atheism
4.1 Protagoras’ agnosticism
4.2 Atheistic positions
The Man who Invented God: Atheism in the Sisyphus Fragment
I. Setting the stage
II. The Athenian context: religion and politics
III. Critias, the wickedest man on earth
IV. The Sisyphus fragment
V. Conclusion
Greek Polytheist Cults and Monotheist Thinking in Tension (and its Political Reverberations)
Eusebeia for the Gods as a Matter of Justice. Greek Popular Religion and Plato’s Euthyphro
I. Introduction
II. Εὐσέβεια between justice and lawfulness. A comparison with ὁσιότης
III. Does religious reverence differ from justice? Εὐσέβεια and ὁσιότης in Plato’s Euthyphro
IV. The missed co-extensiveness between justice and religious reverence. Conclusive Remarks
Demiurge, Good, Forms. Some Reflections on a Crucial Problem of Plato’s Metaphysics
The figure of the Demiurge
The Demiurge as a personal god
The Relationship between Demiurge and Forms
The Form of the Good and the Demiurge
The Demiurge and the Gods
The Demiurge as a religious figure
Religion in Plato’s Laws: Traditional Cults and Astral Theology
Law and Cosmic Order
Cosmology and Theology: The Nocturnal Council
The Citizen’s religion. Traditional Cults
Choruses for the gods: education to the harmony of the soul
Conclusion: The Order of the Soul and the Cosmic Order
Plato, Lg. 910: What Impiety?
Review of the main interpretations.
Plato: The Pervasive Nature Of The Divinity And The Importance Of Religion In The Polis
Two Premises
1. How Plato writes
2. The conception of the divine
3. A binary model
4. The role of the divine Cause
5. The divine soul
6. Poetry and prophecy
7. The attitude of human beings
8. The platonic multifocal approach
9. The ambiguous nature of the laws
10. The relationship with God and with divinity
Naming God as “King” and the Figure of the Legislator in Plato’s Cratylus
1. Introduction
2. Homeric names
3. Genetic Synonymy
4. Names of gods
5. The philosopher-king and the lawgiver
Aristotle’s Departure from the Commonsense Concept of God: His Doctrine of the Prime Mover and its Relation to the Ideal Human Life
Variants of Cosmopolitanism and Individual States in Cicero’s Works
1. Is there Cosmopolitanism in Cicero’s Thought?
a) The Moral Cosmopolitan Community
b) The “Political” Cosmopolitanism. The Community of all Beings under God’s or Natural Law’s Rule.
c) The Multitude of Individual States
2. The Individual State and the Competence of magistratus and rectores.
3. The Role of “Imperialism” in Cicero’s Concept
4. Conclusion
Religious Toleration in Augustine?
Gods, Puppets and Impiety. Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin on god and the divine in Plato’s Laws
1. Strauss and Voegelin on Plato’s Laws: between the hermit and the ecclesiastic statesman
2. The puppets of the gods: the men and the city and the new Platonic anthropology
3. Laws concerning impiety: defending Socrates or constituting a civil theology
Conclusions: Socrates, Plato and the search of truth
Modern and Contemporary Authors
Secondary Literature

Citation preview

Collegium Politicum

Giovanni Giorgini | Elena Irrera [Eds.]

God, Religion and Society in Ancient Thought From Early Greek Philosophy to Augustine



Collegium Politicum edited by Francisco L. Lisi | Giovanni Giorgini | Manuel Knoll Scientific Advisory Board Geoff Bowe | Luc Brisson | Mirko Canevaro Michele Curnis | Arianna Fermani | Silvia Gastaldi Edward Harris | Antony Hatzistavrou | Christoph Horn Jakub Jinek | Maria Liatsi | Alberto Maffi Ermanno Malaspina | Maurizio Migliori Eckart Schütrumpf | Bernat Torres and Barbara Zehnpfenning

Collegium Politicum

Giovanni Giorgini | Elena Irrera [Eds.]

God, Religion and Society in Ancient Thought



Cover picture: Judges of the Dead - Rhadamanthys, Minos & Aeacus, Apulian red-figure krater Ca4th B.C, Inv. 3296 © Staatliche Antikensammlung und Glyptothek, München Photograph by Koppermann

The Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographic data are available on the Internet at http://dnb.d-nb.de ISBN

978-3-89665-976-7 (Print) 978-3-89665-977-4 (ePDF)

British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. ISBN

978-3-89665-976-7 (Print) 978-3-89665-977-4 (ePDF)

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Giorgini, Giovanni | Irrera, Elena God, Religion and Society in Ancient Thought Giovanni Giorgini | Elena Irrera (Eds.) 292 pp. Includes bibliographic references and index. ISBN

978-3-89665-976-7 (Print) 978-3-89665-977-4 (ePDF)

Onlineversion Nomos eLibrary

1st Edition 2023 © Academia Verlag within Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, Baden-Baden, Germany 2023. Overall responsibility for manufacturing (printing and production) lies with Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft mbH & Co. KG. This work is subject to copyright. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. Under § 54 of the German Copyright Law where copies are made for other than private use a fee is payable to “Verwertungs­gesellschaft Wort”, Munich. No responsibility for loss caused to any individual or organization acting on or refraining from action as a result of the material in this publication can be accepted by Nomos or the editors. Visit our website academia-verlag.de

Table of Contents



Note on Citations and Abbreviations




The Polis as the Measure of All Things: The Relation of Greek Mythology to Polis Religion


Nurdane Şimşek On the Rationalization of Ancient Greek Theology: The Purge of Anthropomorphism from Hesiod to Plato and Aristotle


Manuel Knoll The “Theology” of the First Philosopher-Poets: the Case of Xenophanes


Sylvana V. Chrysakopoulou Gods and Religion in the Sophistic Context: between Agnosticism and Utilitarian Rationalism


Francesca Eustacchi The Man who Invented God: Atheism in the Sisyphus Fragment


Giovanni Giorgini Greek Polytheist Cults and Monotheist Thinking in Tension (and its Political Reverberations)


Josef Moural Eusebeia for the Gods as a Matter of Justice. Greek Popular Religion and Plato’s Euthyphro


Elena Irrera


Table of Contents

Demiurge, Good, Forms. Some Reflections on a Crucial Problem of Plato’s Metaphysics


Francisco L. Lisi Religion in Plato’s Laws: Traditional Cults and Astral Theology


Silvia Gastaldi Plato, Lg. 910: What Impiety?


Alberto Maffi Plato: The Pervasive Nature Of The Divinity And The Importance Of Religion In The Polis


Maurizio Migliori Naming God as “King” and the Figure of the Legislator in Plato’s Cratylus


Jakub Jinek Aristotle’s Departure from the Commonsense Concept of God: His Doctrine of the Prime Mover and its Relation to the Ideal Human Life


Maria Liatsi Variants of Cosmopolitanism and Individual States in Cicero’s Works


Denis Walter Religious Toleration in Augustine?


Christoph Horn Gods, Puppets and Impiety. Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin on god and the divine in Plato’s Laws


Bernat Torres Index




The frequent employment of words like “god” (Greek theos; Latin deus), “the gods” (Greek hoi theoi; Latin dei/dī), and “the divine” (Greek to theion; Latin divinum) in several works of ancient Greek and Roman thought elicits a wide variety of philosophically problematic questions. In the first place, it is not entirely clear whether the theoretical accounts produced by poets and philosophers on the nature of the divine realm and its im­ plications in the human world could be regarded as integral parts of a religious experience (either individual or collective). In the second place, it might be wondered whether it makes sense to speak of Greek and Roman religion as homogeneous and unitary phenomena and, if so, what their definitory traits would be. If we provisionally assume that religion involves a set of institutionalised practices, well-entrenched human attitudes, and recognition (intellectual, as well as attitudinal) of a non-human power, we might also ask how and to what extent these featuring elements could be either theoretically justified or, by contrast, critically challenged, by philosophical endeavours. One last issue concerns the possibility for ancient works of natural theology and metaphysics to affect and shape – in virtue of the paradigms of divine perfection they offer – the underlying values of an ethically ap­ propriate conduct in general, as well as those at the basis of wise legislative activity. In this regard, three main questions might be advanced: (1) how and on what grounds can gods and/or an abstract idea of the divine be viewed as paradigms of ethical (and not simply ontological) perfection? (2) How can a philosophical understanding of the divine be employed in the elaboration of specific institutional arrangements? (3) How can belief in the divine represent a guarantee of order and stability for the members of a political community? The present collection of essays aims to investigate the interplay be­ tween philosophy, religion and society in the ancient world by examining how social structures and political institutions reacted to philosophical criticism. It spans from the ‘rationalization’ of the divine operated by early Greek philosophers to the notion of toleration one may find in in Augustine. It features such authors as Plato (who uses for the first time in history the words ‘theology’ and ‘atheism’), and Aristotle, with his intellec­ tualist view of god. The volume tries to show that, in Greek and Roman world, philosophical reflection in the domains of natural philosophy and 7


theology can offer a promising approach towards a critical understanding of concrete political phenomena, religious institutions, and conceptions on virtuous political activity. From a purely disciplinary point of view, it hopes to contribute to a problematization of aims and methods of political philosophy in ancient times. The project of a co-edited volume on the philosophical relationships between the divine, religion, and society has developed within the frame­ work of a series of activities pursued by the members of the Collegium Politicum, an international research network for ancient political theory. The annual meeting of the Collegium organized in Bologna in May 2018 has represented a fruitful opportunity for a joint reflection on the topic. However, only some of the essays included in this book have been present­ ed and discussed at the meeting, and an invitation to contribute to a written volume has been extended also to non-members of the Collegium Politicum with recognised expertise in the field.

Acknowledgements As co-editors of this volume, we would like to express our deepest grat­ itude to Professors Manuel Knoll and Francisco Lisi, members of the Collegium Politicum, for both their precious help in handling relations with Nomos Verlag in the initial stage of the project and their suggestions on the themes to be addressed. We would also like to thank Professor Filippo Andreatta, Head of the Department of Political and Social Sciences of the University of Bologna, for supporting the initiative of the 2018 Meeting of the Collegium Politicum. Bologna, 8th September 2022 Giovanni Giorgini and Elena Irrera


Note on Citations and Abbreviations

Quotation of Greek and Latin authors and titles follow the rules of ab­ breviation adopted in the Liddell-Scott-Jones, Greek-English Lexicon (1940 edition, online version 2011). A full list of the quoted ancient authors and works is supplied below. Aeschines: Aeschin. Against Timarchus Andocides: And. On the mysteries Aristophanes: Aristoph. Ecclesiazousae: Eccl. Aristotle: Arist. Analitica Priora: Apr Athenaiōn Politeia: AP De Anima: de An. De Caelo: Cael. de Divinatione per Somnia: Div.Somn. De Partibus Animalium: PA Eudemian Ethics: EE Metaphysics: Metaph. Nicomachean Ethics: NE Physics: Phys. Poetics: Po. De legibus: Leg. De officiis: Off. Critias: Critias (DK 88) Dēmosthenes: D. Against Meidias: Ag. Meid. Against Aristogeiton


Note on Citations and Abbreviations Dio Cassius: D.C. Diogenes Laertius: D.L. Diogenes Oenoandensis Epicureus: Diog. Oen. Dionysius Halicarnassensis: D.H. de Dēmosthene: Dem. Euripides: E. Sisyphus: Sis. Eusebius: Eus. Praeparatio evangelica: P.E. Gorgias: Gorg. Defense of Palamedes: Pal. Helen: Hel. Herodotus: Hdt. Hermias Alexandrinus Philosophus: Herm. Hermias Alexandrinus Philosophus, in Platonis Phaedrum scholia: [Herm.] in Phdr. Hesiod: Hes. Theogonia: Th. Works and Days: Op. Hippocrates: Hp. De morbo sacro: Morb. Sacr. Homer: Hom. Iliad: Il. Odyssey: Od. Hippolytus Refutationes Isocrates: Isoc. Busiris: Bus.


Note on Citations and Abbreviations Evagoras: Evag. Nicocles: Nic. On the Peace Panathenaicus: Panat. Panegyricus: Pan. Plataicus Lactantius Divinae Institutiones Lucretius: Lucr. De rerum natura Lycurgus Orator: Lycurg. Against Leocrates Lysias: Lys. Against Agoratus Against Nicomachus Against Andocides In Eratosthenem: Eratosth. Philodemus: Phld. De Pietate: Piet. Philolaus: Philol. Philoponus: Phlp. In Aristotelis De anima: In de An. Plato: Pl. Apology of Socrates: Ap. Cratylus: Crat. Crito: Cri. Eutyphro: Euthphr. Epinomis: Epin. First Alcibiades: Alc. Gorgias: Grg. Ion


Note on Citations and Abbreviations Leges: Lg. Meno: Men. Minos: Min. Phaedo: Phd. Philebus: Phlb. Politicus: Plt. Protagoras: Prt. Republic: Rep. Theaetetus: Tht. Timaeus: Ti. Philebus: Phlb. Symposium: Symp. Institutio Oratoria: Inst. Sextus Empiricus: S.E. Adversus mathematicos: M. Pyrrhōneioi hypotypōseis: Pyrrh. Hyp. Simplicius: Simp. In Aristotelis de Caelo commentaria: [Simp.] in Cael. In Aristotelis Physica commentaria: in Ph. Stobaeus, Joannes [Stob.] Florilegium Themistius: Them. Orationes, Them. Or. Theognis: Thgn. Thucydides: Th. Theophrastus Fragments: Ph. Op. M. Terentius Varro Antiquitates rerum divinarum Xenophanes (DK 21)


Note on Citations and Abbreviations Xenophon Constitution of the Spartans (Respublica Lacedaemoniorum): Lac. Cyropaedia: Cyr. Hellenica (Historia Graeca): HG Memorabilia: Mem.


Introduction Giovanni Giorgini and Elena Irrera

The society in which ancient Greeks and Romans lived was a religious one. This idea is well captured by Jan Bremmer, who claims that [T]he ancient Greeks and Romans […] moved in a landscape where temples were everywhere, where gods adorned their coins, where the calendar went from religious festival to festival, and where religious rites accompanied all major transitions in life (Bremmer 2007: p. 11). As a matter of fact, the relationship between religion and social structures has always played a fundamental role in human societies. Equally uncon­ tested is the idea that the relationship at stake has always represented a major concern for political institutions and people in power – the latter being deeply aware of the potential of religion to shape habits of respect, obedience and discipline in the members of political communities. When we now speak of ‘religion’ we identify it mostly with its doctrinal content, which is to say, with its discourse about the nature of God, theodicy and the afterlife. What is less clear, though, is the specific meaning of the word “religion” in the ancient world. In fact, the difficulties experienced by modern and contemporary scholars in thematizing ancient Greco-Roman experiences in terms of "Greek religion" or "Roman religion" are due to the frequent use of the concept of "religion" as a set of fixed and codified norms and/or as a practice which refers to written texts of commonly accepted authority. To reduce such difficulties, we might sketch out a provisional definition of ‘ancient religion’. On the one hand, religion might be interpreted as ‘practised religion’, being regarded as different from philosophical theory on the gods and the divine. In this respect, religion would be qualified as a set of shared beliefs, cultic practices (such as sacrifice, prayer, divination) and reverential attitudes arising in both pre-political and political commu­ nities, being expressed by their members either in moral conduct towards their fellows or in formal worship of the gods. This meaning is successfully expressed by Jon D. Mikalson, who, by focusing on Greek religion, says: [B]y ‘practised’ or ‘popular’ religion I mean the religious beliefs and practices of the vast majority of Greeks of the time, or, to paraphrase



Guthrie [Guthrie 1950: 258], the routine of religion which was accepted by most of the Greeks as a matter of course (Mikalson 2010: 1). Jennifer Larson’s definition of ‘religion’ in ancient Greece is equally accurate and effective: [For our purposes] religion can be defined simply as the actions and beliefs pertaining to relations with supernatural agencies (gods, heroes, demons, etc.) that are characteristic of a culture (Larson 2013: 136). This being the case, we may safely generalise that the Olympian religion was mostly a public and civic matter. Unsurprisingly, a different and more personal kind of religion started to be practiced since an early age, in the form of the Eleusinian and Orphic mysteries, which promised, in Isocrates’ words, “sweeter expectations regarding both the end of life and all eternity” to their adherents.1 Indeed, the Athenian calendar devoted around one hundred days to religious rituals and festivals. We must, however, recall a very important fact. It obviously makes sense to speak of ancient Greek ‘religion’ because the ancient Greeks knew all the elements that we commonly associate with ‘religion’, although they did not have a word for it.2 The closest word, eusebeia, is defined by the priest Euthyphro in the homonymous Platonic dialogue as “the care (therapeia) that human beings have for the gods” (Pl., Euthphr. 12e). Thus religion, and especially civic religion and the Olympian gods, were mostly a matter of rite, of private and public ritual and cult rather than a theological issue: it entailed private worship, public festivals, processions, civic traditions, local rituals and communal sacrifices. The religious authority belonged to the citizen body as a whole ̶ the dēmos ̶ and it was exercised on its behalf by different officers. This latter element is very important, namely the official involvement of magistrates in the supervision and performance of sacrifices, which were assumed to connect human beings and gods: it neatly shows the official participation of civic institutions to religious practices.3 It is also highly significative that 1 Isocr., Pan. 28; cf. On the peace 34: “those who live a life of piety and justice pass their days in security for the present and have sweeter expectations for all eternity”. On the mysteries see Bremmer 2014 and the many fine observations in Vegetti 1997. Vegetti persuasively argues that the Olympian religion and the mysteries complemented each other: the former was open to the citizen, the latter addressed the human being (in fact women participated in them also). 2 For an excellent introduction to ancient Greek religion see Bruit ZaidmannSchmitt Pantel 1992. 3 Arist. AP LIV, 6-7 records the large number of magistrates elected by lot who perform religious duties: “The People also elect by lot the ten sacrificial officers, entitled Superintendents of Expiations, who offer the sacrifices prescribed by or­



many, including the Olympian gods, were associated with specific cities and had different names and cults in different places. Zeus, for instance, was associated with Olympia, while Apollo was associated with the two important temples of Delos and Delphi; Athena was the patron-goddess par excellence of Athens. Moreover, each polis had a different and distinc­ tive pantheon of deities as well as specific, sometimes eponymous heroes and heroines, who were often conceived as the communal ancestors of the city4. When Plato, in the Laws, addresses the question of religious cult, he provides a very significative, traditional list of entities to be honoured: the Olympian gods, the gods of the city, the gods of the Netherworld, demons and local heroes.5 Thus, religion and politics, or rather civic policies, were closely con­ nected to the point that we can safely say that the distinction between sacred and profane, religious and secular, was blurred if not altogether inexistent.6 The Greeks experienced the presence of “the holy” in their everyday life: at home the hearth was devoted to Hestia, who protects the prosperity of the family.7 Outside, there were shrines, images and statues of the gods, temples everywhere. The gods are not far, they have familiarity with men, as the anecdote about Heraclitus reported by Aristotle shows: some visitors who wanted to see him found him at home warming himself at the stove and hesitated to enter; but Heraclitus said: “Come in, don’t be afraid; there are gods even here” (PA I, 5.645a 19-23).


5 6


acle, and for business requiring omens to be taken watch for good omens in cooperation with the soothsayers. It also elects by lot ten others called the Yearly Sacrificial Officers, who perform certain sacrifices and administer all the four-year­ ly festivals except the Panathenaic Festival” (transl. H. Rackham 1952). One of the top officers, the archon basileus, was in charge of overseeing religious matters, notably the sacrifices involved in the “ancestral cults”; however, the other two archons -the Eponymous and the Polemarch- had religious duties too. See Bruit Zaidmann- Schmitt Pantel 1992: 47-48. Larson 2013: 139. Eponymous heroes and heroines are also linked with specific territories and groups or families within a city: this is the case of Lakedaimon, for instance, who gave the name to the area around Sparta. On eponymous heroes, and especially heroines, see Kearns 1998. Plato, Lg. IV, 717a-b; cf. 738d. This is shown by the great number of extant inscriptions related to religious practices: they record the financial accounts of sanctuaries, specify correct ritual procedures, describe dedications to gods and goddesses as well as oracular pro­ nouncements, record religious calendars. Interestingly, Hestia is also the goddess who presides over the common hearth of the polis and can be identified with the lawfulness of the city: see Xen., Hell. II, 3.52.



Another interesting example of the interconnection between religion and politics is provided by the development of shared rituals around com­ mon sanctuaries, which contributed significantly to the construction of regional communities. Such rituals offered a precious opportunity for the creation of networks of people coming from different cities, who met and interacted at the so called “Panhellenic sanctuaries”. The articulations of ethnic myths associated with those shared rituals shaped a sense of a larger community, strengthened by ideas of consanguinity and a common histo­ ry of migration. It is in this respect that ritual action became vital to the process of politicization of the newly moulded regional communities. The oracles who enjoyed Panhellenic prestige – such as the Pythia, Apollo’s priestess at the sanctuary of Delphi – did not only provide indications on the most appropriate rituals of purification, but also gave advice about such political matters as sending out settlers to establish a colony, waging a war or declaring a truce. Priests and soothsayers had a fundamental religious and political role in performing rituals of purification (katharsis): when human beings trespass against the gods, for instance by shedding human blood as in the cases of Oedipus and Orestes, the entire community is contaminated (miasma). What is more, the religious authority of the priestess could be bought off for political purposes, just like the gods themselves could be appeased by prayers and lavish sacrifices – according to Plato’s harsh criticism of the traditional image presented by the poets.8 In this regard, Herodotus reports a very significative fact: at the end of the 6th century BCE, when the Alcmeonids wanted the Spartans to help them chase off the tyrants from their city, they built the beautiful temple at Delphi and bribed the Pythia with gifts “to advise any Spartiates who came, whether they were there on personal or public business, to liberate Athens”9. Another important fact to recall is that the primary source of religious authority was the city government, “which undertook the sponsorship of cults within its territorial boundaries” (Larson 2013: 144). For instance,

8 See Pl., Rep. II, 377c-383c; cf. Hom., Il. IX.497-501: the gods can be bribed. 9 Herodotus 5.63. He adds that the Spartans sent a distinguished citizen, Anchi­ molius, with a task force to expel the Pisistratids. Herodotus takes this opportunity to commend Spartan piety and religiosity: he states that the Spartans did this “despite the fact that they and the Pisistratids were close guest-friends and allies (xeinious), because for them divine matters took precedence over human ones”. The Alcmeonids, on the other hand, were notoriously accursed for the sacrilegious murder of Cylon and his acolytes, who had sheltered as suppliants in a temple but were nonetheless summarily executed: Thucydides 1.126.



the Athenian tyrant Pisistratus exploited religion in a twofold way. He first played on religious awe to hire a very tall and good-looking woman to pretend to be the goddess Athena who escorted him back into town after he had been expelled (Hdt. I, 60; AP 14). Once in power again, he took good care of religious matters: for instance, he heeded the advice of oracles and purified the island of Delos. This deed must have struck the Athenians because Herodotus, after almost one century, was able to describe the purification procedure Pisistratus had adopted (Hdt. V, 64). Concern for religion as a matter deeply intertwined with civic and polit­ ical dynamics, as well as an interest for theological issues, also apply to an­ cient Roman Paganism. Across the centuries, in the Regal Period, as well as in Early and Late Republic up to Principate, both the stability and the evolution of Rome’s institutions are deeply indebted to participation of citizens and non-citizens in religious cults and traditions. In the transition from the Regal to the Republican period, Rome expanded its hegemonic power by accepting and integrating the cults and the deities of Latin, Etruscan and other Italian allies. In the Imperial Era, it adopted a politics of inclusion of different people, cultures, deities and religious traditions, while new foundations by the Romans were generally likely to adhere to Roman religious models. Especially in the Republican Period, Roman religious cults and reverential attitudes played a vital role in strengthening civic ties among citizens and peaceful attitudes towards non-citizens. In this way, they contributed to shaping and preserving the mos maiorum, which represented the primary core of morality, and the sense of justice and loyalty to the civitas. Just as in ancient Greek civilization, even in Roman antiquity moral values are not experienced uncritically, nor do they commit the community members to a passive obedience to the laws. In a similar vein, the impulse to religiously interpret existence is not a passive adaptation to transcendent and inscrutable divine will, nor does it hinge on systematic revelations enclosed in sacred texts. The idea of a human critical approach towards their relationships to the gods emerges in Cicero (106-43 BCE), who suggests that the word religio would stem from the verb relegere, meaning "read again" or "re-consider" (ND II, 28). The iterative prefix "re-" would convey and strengthen the sense of a meticulous care and intellectual understanding of the things related to the cult of the gods. An alternative interpretation of the word is instead offered by the Christian rhetorician and apologist Lactantius (240-320 CE), who maintains that the word religio would refer to the verb religare, meaning "to bind". In that case, the word at stake would indicate the intimate relationship that every believer develops towards God through a "bond of piety" (Divinae Institutiones IV, 28). 19


An operative definition of "religion" can plausibly incorporate both the idea of a bond of piety of human beings towards the realm of the divine and the sense of an intellectual search for truth and authentic goodness. This is for instance the view of religion endorsed by the Christian philoso­ pher and theologian Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE), who in his City of God (De civitate Dei X, 1) claims that the word itself refers exclusively to the service and submission of human beings toward God (similarly to the Greek word latreia). In his view, true worship involves not simply showing reverence through cults and sacrifices, but also re-choosing Him, (X, 3), which involves learning how to understand and love Him and His nature. In this way religion can be conceived as a modus vivendi, i.e. a mode of conduct within which human beings are allowed to undertake paths of research and attribution of meaning to their individual and group life, as well as to activate cognitive, motivational, affective and relational skills. Unlike the pagan religion, Christianity is based on a monotheistic cult and is supported by the holy scriptures (Old and New testament), as well as by interpretations of the scriptures themselves provided by missionaries, apologists and the Church Fathers. Having been spread across the Roman Empire by protagonists such as the evangelist Mark, Paul of Tarsus and Ig­ natius of Antioch, Christian religion was often the ground of persecutions by several Roman emperors (such as Nero, Domitianus, Traianus, Decius and Valerianus). Its legitimacy among other religions was first proclaimed by the emperor Constantine in 313 CE (edict of Milan), and it became the only and mandatory religion of the Empire only in 380 CE thanks to Emperor Theodosius I (edict of Thessalonica). Like pagan religion, Christianity can be expressed in the form of an asymmetric reverential respect towards divinity. In this light, God becomes not only a paradigm of ethical perfection, but also a source of precise obligations for human beings (towards both divinity and other human beings). Both in Greek and Roman religion (pagan and Christian), the search for an understanding of the nature of the divine prompts theoretical spec­ ulations that take the shape of real "theologies". In the Greek world, the first occurrence of the word theologia occurs in Plato, namely in an author who, without openly questioning the contemporary Olympian religion, clearly advocated a monotheistic, intellectual vision of God as the reason behind history.10 Another notable view of theologia is the one endorsed by

10 Plato, Rep. II, 379a4. On the disputed meaning of the word theologia see Naddaf 1996. In Timaeus 28c we read: “Now, to discover the maker and father of this universe is a task indeed; and having discovered him, to reveal him to all people



Aristotle, who takes it not only a branch of the theoretical science called ‘first philosophy’ or ‘science of first principles’, but also “the ultimate and highest goal of all philosophical study of Being”.11 As for theology in ancient Roman world, in the second part of his Antiquitates rerum divinarum, the Roman writer and erudite M. Terentius Varro (116-27 BCE), outlines a systematic theory of the Roman gods and religious traditions by distinguishing theology into three different kinds. As S. Augustine explains (De civitate Dei, Book VI, 2-6), Varro introduced a mythical, a political and a natural theology. While mythical theology explores the gods as described by the poets, political theology concerns the official State religion, its institutions and cults. Notably, Varro lived at a time in which State religion was experiencing a state of crisis, and he believed that religion itself derived its validity from the authority of the State, not the opposite. The third form of theology identified by Varro, the natural one, is for Augustine “religion” in the true sense, given that it explores the nature of the divine as a principle revealed in reality. What has been said so far reinforces the conviction that ancient religion cannot be reduced to religious practices. Rather, it can be complemented and even buttressed by theoretical endeavours aiming at exploring the nature of the divine and the relation between god and/or the gods to several aspects of human reality, including the social and the political. In other words, religion somehow expresses itself through the channels of philosophy. It is for this reason that the present collection of essays aims to explore possible ways in which philosophical conceptualizations of god, the gods, and the divine in the ancient world interact with traditional reli­ gious practices and institutions, as well as with non-philosophical images of the divine. Greek religion is in the first place a “social” experience, which shapes the cultural and political identity of Greek cities by way of cults and references to the gods of mythology. In “The Polis as the Measure of All Things: The Relation of Greek Mythology to Polis Religion”, Nurdane Şimşek outlines the idea of a “Greek polis religion”, which she understands as a tradition open to change. Indeed, myth itself can be regarded as a malleable resource, depending on the contingent and changing socio-polit­ ical needs of each city. The author contends that religion itself is shaped

is impossible”. Plato, famously, bans the poets from his perfect city because they give a false image of the gods by attributing human defects to them: they provide a wrong education to the youth (Republic III and X). 11 Cf. Jaeger 1936, pp. 2-3.



by the polis and for the polis, and she suggests that the separation between the idea of the divine and the city occurs only with Plato's philosophy. Moving from the perspective of practical religion to a more theoretical outlook, it is worth stressing that, in classical scholarship, the gradual elaboration of more critical and less anthropomorphic views on god and the divine is often framed in terms of a shift from mythos to logos (an image famously proposed by Wilhelm Nestle in Vom Mythos zum Logos, 1940). Indeed, such a shift is notoriously considered as one of the key moments in the genesis and evolution of Greek philosophical thought in matters of nature and divinity. Although a deep-rooted academic tradi­ tion has outlined an antagonism between a supposed "religious" vision of the world (i.e. one expressed by the myth), and a properly scientific one, the idea of a rigid dichotomy between religion and philosophy risks compromising an adequate understanding of the role that the idea of the divine plays in philosophical inquiry. In the essay “On the Rationalization of Ancient Greek Theology: The Purge of Anthropomorphism from Hes­ iod to Plato and Aristotle”, Manuel Knoll suggests that the process of “rationalization” of ancient Greek theology does not develop in a linear fashion. The author identifies two intersecting approaches on god and the gods: one focusing on the elimination of mythological elements (one whose main representatives are Anaximander, Anaximenes, Xenophanes, Anaxagoras and Aristotle); the other integrating mythological elements (and exemplified by Pythagoras, Parmenides, Empedocles and Plato). The idea of theology as a subject in its own right, one distinct from the study of nature, is notably found in the work of Xenophanes. In the paper “The ‘theology’ of the first philosopher-poets: the case of Xenophanes”, Sylvana Chrysakopoulou presents Platonic and Aristotelian evidence to qualify Xenophanes not only as a serious philosopher, but also as one who affects the Eleatic tradition by marking a fundamental break from the philosophy of nature of the Milesians. Chrysakopoulou stresses the existence of an epistemological dualism between knowledge and opinion in Xenophanes, despite his being (unlike Parmenides) an optimist about the possibilities for intellectual progress within the sphere of doxa. Also, Xenophanes would set the basis for a relation of nous to the world that anticipates Aristotle’s account of the effect of the unmoved mover on the kosmos. Philosophical reflection on the divine and on religion knows a decisive turning point with the development of the Sophistic movement in the fifth century BCE. The Sophists offer a variegated series of solutions to the problem of the relationship between man and good that highlights the centrality of human rationality in knowledge and action. More to the 22


point, human reason and sense-experience open (and, from other points of view, delimit) the possibility of knowing the gods. In the essay “Gods and Religion in the Sophistic Context: between Agnosticism and Utilitarian Rationalism”, Francesca Eustacchi proposes a conceptualization of the di­ vine showing how the Sophists take a critical approach towards popular re­ ligious beliefs and traditions. More specifically, Eustacchi underlines how the divine can represent an artificial construction with a predominantly so­ cial function, the gods being the motivational horizon for virtuous action. The idea of God as a man-made invention, used to enforce laws and promote virtuous behaviour among citizens, is notably attributed to the sophist and politician Critias. In “The Man who Invented God: Atheism in the Sisyphus Fragment” Giovanni Giorgini addresses the topic by focusing on the Sisyphus fragment, in which the protagonist establishes a link between the origins of mankind, the emergence of laws and the role of gods. By analysing the fragment in relation to the cultural context of the 5th century BCE, the author argues that Critias’ supposed ‘atheism’, rather than being rooted in metaphysical reasons, was part of an innovative edu­ cational project to be employed for political purposes. One of the most distinctive features of Ancient Greek views of religion is a coexistence between polytheistic religious cults and popular imagery with philosophical reflections inclined towards metaphysical monism and some forms of monotheism. In his essay “Greek Polytheist Cults and Monotheist Thinking in Tension (and its Political Reverberations)” Josef Moural stresses the problematic tension between cultural polytheism and philosophical monotheism in the Presocratics and in Plato, with a special focus on the Euthyphro and the Apology of Socrates. In those dialogues, reference to the gods does not prevent the reader from sketching out some form of monotheism. Nevertheless, the employment of the gods in educa­ tional and political projects remains unquestioned in virtue of its power to secure a harmonious and successful functioning of political institutions. Besides institutionally shaped attitudes of reverence towards the gods, examples of more critical forms of respect for the divine can be identified in ancient Greek writings. In her essay “Eusebeia for the Gods as a Mat­ ter of Justice. Greek Popular Religion and Plato’s Eutyphro”, Elena Irrera attempts to analyse some uses of the word “eusebeia” in Greek classical an­ tiquity, laying stress on possible ways in which the notion at stake (which we might consider as a form of “religious piety”) helps to shape the goals and argumentative strategies of Plato in his Euthyphro. Irrera contends that Socratic piety, rather than indicating sheer formal correctness in matters of religious cult, represents an invitation to adopt a critical attitude in



ethically religious controversies, and it can also be qualified as a source of acts of justice and civic respect in the domain of human relationships. The concept of “God” has metaphysical, epistemological and ethical implications which Plato tries to address in many of his dialogues. In “Demiurge, Good, Forms. Some reflections on a crucial problem of Plato’s Metaphysics”, Francisco Lisi takes issue with some ontological and episte­ mological aspects related to the theoretical image of the Platonic demiurge – a figure which, despite essential in the theological discourse of Ancient Greek and Roman polytheist currents, can be properly identified as “God”. By analysis of some passages of Plato’s Timaeus, Lisi presents the Platonic Demiurge both as a personal god, superior to the traditional ones, and as a “mind” (nous) responsible for the shaping of the order and inner rational­ ity of the sensible world. Although being conceptually distinct from the Platonic form of the Good, the Demiurge is affected by that form. This is not to say, however, that the figure at stake presupposes a contemplation of the other forms. As Lisi suggests, the idea that such forms are objects existing independently of the Demiurge is a matter of pure speculation. Plato is aware of the importance of religion in ensuring the cohesion of the polis. Such an interest emerges prominently in his Laws, where religion is treated not only as a set of practices that permeates the education and the morality of all citizens, but also as knowledge of philosophical princi­ ples possessed by wise men in power. In the essay “Religion in Plato’s Laws: Traditional Cults and Astral Theology, Silvia Gastaldi suggests that Plato’s Laws enable readers to identify two different patterns of religion: on the one hand, the traditional, civic Olympian religion; on the other, a philosophical one, based on astral theology. Gastaldi traces a continuity between the theological theory already illustrated by Plato in the Timaeus and the philosophical-theological interests of the members of the Noctur­ nal Council, which is the most important political organ in the best city illustrated in the Laws. The main contention of Gastaldi’s paper is that the two patterns of religion find a point of connection in the philosophical no­ tion of order (kosmos). Indeed, the harmony of the songs and movements in the dance performed in religious celebrations reflects the harmony of the cosmos. This is the way in which all citizens have the possibility to participate in the order guaranteed by the cosmic Intelligence. In the Laws, Plato examines a variety of forms of impiety towards the gods, among which the belief that the gods can be bribed. In “Plato, Lg. 910: What impiety?” Alberto Maffi offers a translation and commentary of the relevant passage by emphasizing the difference between bribers worthy of compassion, as long as they perform their rituals in public shrines, and people who, due to their extreme impiety, deserve the death penalty. Maffi 24


focuses in particular on this second category of offenders and argues that the central point of the context in which the passage is situated is that pious and decent citizens achieve the protection of the gods. The polyvocal use of the notions of “god”, “the gods” and “divinity” in Plato elicits important methodological issues related to Plato’s art of writ­ ing. In “Plato: The Pervasive Nature of the Divinity and the Importance of Religion in the polis”, Maurizio Migliori offers an interpretation of the multiplicity of perspectives adopted by Plato in his dialogues by resort to two distinct, although related approaches of investigation: on the one hand, one premised on the idea that Plato’s dialogues are written games, open to allusions and insights on given topics which the reader has the chance to grasp; on the other hand, an approach which he defines as “multi-focal”. On this second approach, reality can be explored from either a human or a divine perspective, with respectively different outcomes. Migliori argues that the two perspectives can better emerge in the nature of the human laws and in the coexistence between their imperfection and their divine inspiration. In the Cratylus, Plato attempts to turn the traditional discourse of the names of the gods into an opportunity for a rational enquiry on differ­ ent levels of reality. In “Naming God as “King” and the Figure of the Legislator in Plato’s Cratylus”, Jakub Jinek examines Crat. 391–411 and argues that an investigation of the metaphysics of principles underlying the names of the highest divine triad Zeus–Cronus–Ouranus in Plato’s Cratylus is functional to an understanding of the main political issue of the dialogue, which the author identifies as the proper use of the title “king”. Plato’s appeal to metaphysics would shed light on the ethical and political inappropriateness of hereditary kingship, as well as on the legitimacy of philosopher-kings endowed with legislative capacity. The links between metaphysics and the discourse on divinity are also a prominent concern of Aristotle. In Book Lambda of the Metaphysics, Aristotle postulates the idea of God as a metaphysical principle able to regulate the physical necessity active in the universe. However, rather unexplored is the issue of the practical consequences that the principle at stake can have in the human life. In “Aristotle’s Departure from the Commonsense Concept of God: His Doctrine of the Prime Mover and its Relation to the Ideal Human Life”, Maria Liatsi addresses the issue of the relationships between God and human beings in Aristotle by treating Metaphysics XII in the light of Nicomachean Ethics X. In her essay, she shows special concern for the idea of God as a paradigmatic example of the best and most pleasant and happy human activity: intellectual contemplation.



The relationship between God, human beings and the most appropriate condition for their political association emerges also in ancient Roman theorizations. Denis Walter’s essay “Variants of Cosmopolitanism and Individual States in Cicero’s Works” centers on the issue of cosmopoli­ tanism in the late Roman Republic by analyzing some possible uses of cos­ mopolitan ideas and approaches in Cicero’s works. In the first place, the author identifies an ethical cosmopolitanism, which he distinguishes from a political one. While ethical cosmopolitanism is rooted on a minimum level of virtuous moral agency and presupposes horizontal relationships between individuals, political cosmopolitanism has a vertical structure, and relationships between the rulers and the ruled are rooted either in the idea of God or in a natural law. These two sources, by drawing on the idea of a universal reason, qualify a cosmopolitanism that can act only as a regulative ideal. Being unable to find institutional channels for expression, the only political model approaching the one rooted in God and/or natural law is the one having individual states in a respectful and peaceful interaction as main protagonists. Among various human attitudes related to religious experience, tolera­ tion of other people’s creeds or lack of creed is one that has significant political implications. In “Religious Toleration in Augustine?” Christoph Horn explores the issue with reference to the thought of Augustine. On the one hand, he seems to gradually leave behind his former tolerant attitude towards heretics and non-believers and defend political coercion. On the other, he seems to implicitly theorize some of the values that might be ascribed to contemporary political liberalism. With reference to the latter aspect, Horn identifies a subtle interplay of conceptually different forms of toleration, among which one based on love and humanism; one pursued with the intention to preserve unity, and one based on the idea of a free conscience. The last essay of the collection addresses the issue of the reception of the images of god and the divine illustrated in Plato’s Laws by two contempo­ rary political philosophers, Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin. In “Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin on God and the Divine in Plato’s Laws”, Bernat Torres takes issue with the interpretations of relevant passages of the dialogue provided by each of the two philosophers. While Strauss sees in the Laws the conceptual underpinnings of piety – and a consequent virtual defense of Socrates – Voegelin takes the Laws as a work ultimately designed to shed insight into Plato’s thought about god and the destiny of man.



References Bremmer, J. N. (2007). Atheism in Antiquity. In M. Martin (ed), The Cambridge Companion to Atheism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 11-26. Guthrie, W. K. C. (1950). The Greek Philosophers from Thales to Aristotle. London: Methuen. Jaeger, W. (1936). The Theology of the Early Greek Philosophers. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Pub., 2003.. Mikalson, D. J. (2010). Greek Popular Religion in Greek Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Naddaf, G. (1996). Plato’s Theologia Revisited. In Methexis 9, 1996, pp. 5-18. Rackham, H. (1952). Aristotle. Athenian Constitution. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann Ltd.


The Polis as the Measure of All Things: The Relation of Greek Mythology to Polis Religion Nurdane Şimşek

Abstract This essay examines the relationship between Greek mythology and Greek religion by focusing on the characteristics of polis religion. Although the system of the gods offered by Hesiod and Homer was accepted by all Greeks, the religion of each polis was based on a specific god and particu­ lar rituals and practices. The paper discusses the changing and adapting features of Greek myths and rituals and argues that polis religion should be interpreted as a structure shaped by the polis for the polis. It contends that polis religion represents an immanent political-religious structure. The separation between the city and a transcendent divinity, as well as the one between politics and theology, only started at a later time with Plato’s philosophy.

I. The dynamic structure of Greek mythology Ancient Greek civilization has hosted various mystery religions such as Orphism and philosophical religions such as Pythagoreanism. But when it comes to Ancient Greek religion, the first thing that comes to mind is polis religion, in which the Olympian gods played the leading role. There is no doubt that Greek myths and religions are strongly related. However, since they are not referring to the same phenomenon, the attempt to un­ derstand or explain Greek religion solely through Greek mythology would be incomplete, and it would therefore support an inappropriate approach. For this reason, in order to adequately understand the Greek conception of religion, this study addresses as a first step the much-discussed question of what mythology is. Based on the answer to this question, the article examines in a second step the relationship between Greek mythology and Greek religion focusing on polis religion. Explanations of myths, which constitute the subject of mythology, have begun to take their place in the literature starting from the 5th century BC, when myths had still power on people’s life. Undoubtedly, the most 29

Nurdane Şimşek

common of these explanations was the allegorical approach, which was ef­ fective throughout ancient history and the Middle Ages and has continued its influence until today. This approach claimed that myths were a kind of philosophy, science, or theology that “concealed” the truths about nature or morality through allegories (see Graf 1996, pp. 176-198). Interpretations of Greek myths and their role in Greek civilization are, of course, not limi­ ted to this explanation. Scholars from different fields such as philosophy, anthropology, philosophy of religion, and philology were all interested in myths, which led to many new studies. These works, which started in the 18th century and increased especially in the 19th and 20th century, have tried to explain the myths with different approaches such as psycho­ analysis, structuralism, post-structuralism, historical and cultural studies (Dowden 1992, pp. 22-38; Bremmer 1987a, pp. 278-283). Although there is no agreement on the definition of myth within all these studies, there have been some prominent approaches. According to Walter Burkert, “myth is a traditional tale with secondary, partial reference to something of collective importance” (1982, p. 23). In line with this, Geoffrey S. Kirk stated that myths belong to a wider class of traditional stories (1974, pp. 13, 25). As a matter of fact, the word “mythos” in Greek means “story” and “tale” as well as “word” and “speech” (Liddell & Scott 1974, p. 454). Although these explanations of myths are not sufficient and final, they provide some important clues about their characteristic features. First, it should be stated that the meaning of the term ‘myth’ (mythos) in ancient Greece and its usage today in daily, even academic, language is quite different. Today, the concept of ‘myth’ has generally a negative connotation and is used to refer to an unreal situation, in the sense of a ‘tale’ or ‘story’. At best, it points to the legend of an event, phenomenon, or person, which again is connected with the idea of moving away from reality. In contrast, the majority of the ancient Greeks did not question the historical truth of the myths. They took the myths for granted and perceived the world through their perspective. Ordinary Greek people also did not question the impact of the myths on the functioning of their city states. While the poets and philosophers started questioning this prevailing view in the 5th century, ordinary Greeks adhered to it for a much longer period of time. It is striking that in their above-mentioned definitions Burkert and Kirk emphasize the traditionalism of myths. But what is meant by the ‘tradi­ tion’ of myths? Myths originate as anonymous stories that are passed down from generation to generation in an oral way by rhapsodes. Although these stories are generally expressed in the form of poetry, a lyrical form was not mandatory. Likewise, there was not a singular type of poetry in 30

The Polis as the Measure of All Things: The Relation of Greek Mythology to Polis Religion

which myths had to expressed. They can appear both in Homer’s epics and in the works of the three great dramatists of Athens: Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. Their carrier was not necessarily the literary genre (see Graf 1996, p. 2). As a matter of fact, myths have continued their existence in fields such as painting, sculpture, and music independently of written texts. On the one hand, the Greek myths continue a very old tradition of different times and cultures, in which mythology addresses always similar universal issues and problems. In doing this, myths create answers and meaning of the “temporal” as an open-ended system. On the other, poets such as Homer, Hesiod, and Pindar emphasize the originality and truth of their myths. A main cause for this originality is the way myths were trans­ mitted from generation to generation. As rhapsodes recited their poems publicly to their audience and discussed them with their listeners, they were always open to interaction, change and reinterpretation (Bremmer 1987b, pp. 3-4). Therefore, mythology is not a system dependent on fixed laws; rather it shows a moving, changing and adapting feature. Even after the myths were written down, they kept changing and were open to rein­ terpretation by later poets. This elucidates the differences of Greek myths and what we have today as written texts. Myths are often confused with other traditional stories such as epics, folk tales, and legends they came in contact with over the centuries. The most important reason for this confusion was the difficulty in determining the boundaries between myths and these traditional stories. Homer's Iliad is a good example of a work in which epic and myth coexist and are inter­ twined. Among the genres in question, folk tales are most easily differenti­ ated from myths. Along with the moral emphasis, the main purpose of folk tales is to entertain an audience (see Dowden 1992, p. 6). In contrast, myths want to explain the universe and the nature of human beings and gods. A main theme of Greek myths were the gods. While this plays an important role in distinguishing them from other traditional stories, it has often led to the identification of mythology and religion. Greek myths are the source of our knowledge of the gods of Greek religion. As Herodotus stated, the most important source of the knowledge the Greeks had about their gods were the works of Homer and Hesiod (Hdt. II 53; cf. DK 21B11 and B12). Homer, and in particular Hesiod, systematized the Greek myths, which were previously transmitted in an oral way. Thus, these gods, known long before Homer and Hesiod, were presented in detail in terms of their titles, characteristics, appearance, and relations with each other.


Nurdane Şimşek

Associated with the gods, heroes were accepted as an important element of Greek religion.1 The heroes, positioned between the gods and ordinary people, took on the task of mediating between these two groups. Unlike the gods, these heroes, who were mortal, had special tombs and were important for citizen’s collective identity. In the late 7th century BC, the Athenian legislator, Drakon, demanded that heroes be worshiped as well as gods and this practice started to be adopted after the Persian Wars. The Athenian commander Themistocles claimed that gods and heroes pun­ ished Xerxes, the Persian king, for his irreligious deeds. Thus, the Greeks defeated the Persians. Approximately 150 years later, Plato demanded that in the new polis outlined in the Laws religious rituals should be organized for heroes along with gods (Mikalson 2005, p. 32). The polytheistic system2 developed by Homer and Hesiod was formed by bringing together the gods already known in different regions of an­ cient Greece. Thanks to their works, which coincided with the origin of the Greek city-states, a cultural unity was achieved among the politically divided Greeks. But this unity did not mean that every polis had the same political and religious structure. All Greeks accepted Homer’s and Hesiod’s gods, but each polis had special rituals linked to specific gods. This essay aims at a better understanding of this duality by examining the distinction between Homer’s and Hesiod’s texts and myths on the one hand, and the religion and ritual practiced in the Greek city-states on the other (see Mikalson 2005, p. 34).

II. Common features and differences between Greek mythology and polis religion Studies on the relationship between myth and ritual have an important place in research on mythology, religion, and anthropology. According to the dominant understanding in the 18th and 19th centuries, mythology was at the center of Greek religious studies. This approach held Greek religion and Greek mythology to be almost equivalent. With the studies on the relationship between myth and ritual, this dominant emphasis

1 This importance has led scholars such as Martin P. Nilsson to propose that for Greek city-states heroes were more important than gods (1925, p. 232). 2 The expression “polytheos” was first used by the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria. It should not be overlooked that this term explains the Greek under­ standing of religion from the perspective of Jewish monotheism (Pirenne-Delforge & Pironti 2015, p. 39).


The Polis as the Measure of All Things: The Relation of Greek Mythology to Polis Religion

on myth weakened and rituals gradually gained importance. The main question of these studies concerned the problem of precedence. According to one group, myths emerged from rituals, according to another, rituals emerged from myths. Contemporary studies on this subject have chosen a more restrained path between these two radical approaches. Accordingly, although it is clear that these two phenomena affect each other, they also exist independently of each other (Parker 2011, pp. 22-23). As stated before, although the system of the gods presented by the poets was accepted by all Greeks, each city-state continued its existence based on a particular god or goddess for their rituals. Section III will elucidate this with reference to Athena. Not all the gods we know from the works of Homer and Hesiod were adopted and worshiped by every Greek city-state. In other words, not every god turned into a cult in every city. In contrast, however, it also happened that gods and goddesses such as Demeter and Dionysus, whom we rarely encounter in the works of Homer and Hesiod, started to gain importance in local cults due to specific problems and needs of certain Greek city-states (Mikalson 2005, pp. 36-37). Before mov­ ing on to the detailed study of the rituals of the Greek city-states, we need to remember a few important features of myths. The Greek religions did not develop due to a text originating from revelation, as is the case in the Abrahamic religions. In a sense, for Greek religion myths fulfilled the function sacred texts had in the Abrahamic religions. First of all, myths lived on being changed and reinterpreted within the literary tradition. Therefore, myths did not provide a perma­ nent source for rituals. Rituals, such as festivals, ceremonies, offerings, and sacrifices of Greek city-states, which reveal the characteristic structure of Greek religion, often changed slower than the myths they were origi­ nally based upon. Second, as previously mentioned, although these two phenomena usually affected each other, they also existed independently of each other. Another aspect Greek myths and rituals have in common is that they do not have a transcendent dimension. According to polis religion, the gods existed for the city, which was regarded as the measure of all things. In order to better understand the claims made above, the structure and characteristics of city-state religion need to be examined in more detail. Since the second half of the 20th century, the concept of ‘city-state reli­


Nurdane Şimşek

gion’3 has gradually gained importance in studies on Greek religion. With Christiane Sourvinou-Inwood’s article “What is Polis Religion?” published in 1990, it became the dominant perspective to a degree that it is almost impossible to find a later study on Greek religion that does not refer to this article.4 These studies have tried to reveal the relationship between the city-state and religion. The Greek city-states had a structure consisting of multi-layered and in­ tertwined religious systems. The biggest link that holds all Greeks together is known in all literature under the name “panhellenism”. This link was created with Panhellenic poems (myths) and maintained by Panhellenic temples (rituals). Like Greek language, it provided the formation of cultur­ al unity among all Greeks. However, this broad link was not the essential element in the functioning of Greek religion. As a matter of fact, being Greek was not a sufficient criterion for participating in Panhellenic rituals. For being admitted it was obligatory to be a citizen of one of the city-states (Sourvinou-Inwood 2000a, pp. 17-18). Panhellenic temples such as the one of Apollo in Delphi5 and the Tem­ ple of Zeus in Olympus had great importance for the whole Greek world. But only distinguished Greeks had a chance to visit these places once or twice in their lifetime. Apart from this, the religious rituals that a Greek could regularly participate in were events organized by their ‘city-state’ (po­ lis), ‘district’ (deme) and ‘house’ (oikos). These three structures all had their own unique religious rituals. The most important unit after the city-state was the district (deme). Its members participated in festivals organized by the city-state, but the districts also had their own particular religious rituals and events. The house was the smallest unit where religious practices were observed. The family performed religious rituals by offering gifts to the gods at the altars in the house under the leadership of its eldest man (Mikalson 2005, pp. 50-51). In all these rituals the emphasis lay not on the authority of a leader or hero, but on the community itself (Cole 2007, pp. 270-271).

3 The concept of ‘city state’ is often used as equivalent to the Greek word polis. Whether this term fully corresponds to polis is still a matter of debate (see Hansen 2006, pp. 147-148). 4 Of course, such an interest also lead to some criticism. Sourvinou-Inwood was criticized for neglecting the personal religious life of the Greeks and the existence of magical and mystery religions (Cf. Kindt 2012, p. 13). 5 Although the Temple of Apollo in Delphi attracted the attention of the whole Greek world, some argue that it was not primarily a Panhellenic structure but had crucial local features (Solmsen 1942, p. 8).


The Polis as the Measure of All Things: The Relation of Greek Mythology to Polis Religion

Religious rituals organized in a polis usually were specific to its citizens. For example, a Spartan who visited Athens could only participate in its festivals as a ‘foreigner’ (xenos), even if his city had the gods of the same name. The participation of all Greek citizens in the Panhellenic festivals and the fulfillment of the necessary prayers were realized through the ‘consuls’ (proxenoi) of the city where the festival was held. In addition, the other cities sent ‘ambassadors’ (theoriai) to represent them in Panhellenic festivals. These ambassadors were made responsible for the gifts offered to temples by their citizens (Sourvinou-Inwood 2000a, p. 16). The importance city-states had as religious units in Panhellenic rituals is shown by the order that was followed in performing the rituals. For example, there was a certain order for those who came to the Temple of Apollo in Delphi to consult. According to it, first people from Delphi, sec­ ond the cities of Delphic Amphictyony, third other Greek city-states, and finally non-Greeks were accepted to consult. Despite the distinct emphasis on the polis within the Panhellenic structure, no city-state questioned the authenticity of the gods of other cities or claimed that their gods were superior. Of course, this acceptance did not prevent the Greek city-states from fighting with each other. In such wars, it was assumed that the gods and goddesses of all cities entered the war together with their citizens. It is possible to interpret the many conflicts, fights or wars of the gods that appear in different myths as political problems experienced in a certain pe­ riod of the Greek world (Mikalson 2005, pp. 171-172; Sourvinou-Inwood 2000a, pp. 13-16; Solmsen 1942, pp. 6-8). Undoubtedly, institutionalized sports games and festivals played an im­ portant role in strengthening the Panhellenic unity. Moreover, according to unwritten laws this unity was secured through Zeus and Apollo, the gods whose authority all city-states accepted. As a matter of fact, in the Greek world Apollo and Zeus were accepted as the symbol of “law” (nomos6), reconciliation, and stability (Cole 2007, p. 275).

6 It should be recalled that nomos, which is mostly translated as law, has a wider range of meanings. ‘Nomos’ and ‘Nomoi’ refer to the morals, manners, religious beliefs, and practices accepted by a particular group of people, more generally, the way of life of a particular community. Written laws enacted by a specific assembly later came across as one of the meanings of nomos with the rise of democracy (Ostwald 1969, pp. 20-54).


Nurdane Şimşek

III. Polis religion as center of Greek religiosity The question of what gods were at the center of the religious rituals can be answered by examining which altars were dedicated to which gods in the city-states. Whichever gods the altars were dedicated to, those gods were the ones worshiped in that city. As a matter of fact, there were no general altars used to worship all gods at the same time. Altars belong to a particular god or goddess whose names were engraved in them. If a god did not have an altar in a particular polis, this shows that – although that god was part of the literary culture – it did not find a place in its religious ritual (Mikalson 2005, pp. 5-6). Standing out among the classical Greek city-states, Athens is the polis about which we know most. Obviously, the goddess Athena had a special meaning for the city. Although she has many titles such as ‘victory’ (nikē), ‘health’ (hygieia), in Athens Athena came to the fore as ‘Athena Polias’. Considered as the protective goddess of the city, Athena became the goddess at the center of the city’s religious rituals. Through myths we learn the roots of this strong bond established between Athena and Athens. According to one myth, Athena deserved to be the patron goddess of the city because she won a competition against Posei­ don. According to another, Athena was the wet nurse of Erekhtheus who was born from the land where the first Athenians dwelt. Thus, through Erekhtheus the Athenians demonstrated both their indigenousness and their ties with the virgin goddess Athena. The olive tree gifted to the city by Athena has become the symbol of this special bond established between Athena and Athens (Deacy 2007, p. 225). Throughout the classical period of Athens, all festivals, entertainments, and offerings were continuously devoted to the goddess Athena. Her pres­ ence was felt in every success of the city, and her support was sought in every enterprise. For this reason, one of the main concerns of the city was to provide the sacrifice or feast the goddess deserved on every occasion. In the kingdoms that existed before the formation of the Greek city-states, kings were the bearers of religious activities. Later, in city-states such as Athens a chief executive was appointed to perform activities earlier execut­ ed by a king. However, there were also several citizens appointed as lower executives for various festivals. A detailed list of these structures can be found in The Constitution of the Athenians, allegedly written by Aristotle. In ancient Greek, there is no term that directly corresponds to the con­ cept of ‘religion’ in the sense we use it today. What was really important were practices and religion was a topic discussed in terms of practice. In this context, two basic concepts emerge: ‘piety’ (to hosion) and ‘rever­ ence’ (eusebeia). Although the common point of these two phenomena 36

The Polis as the Measure of All Things: The Relation of Greek Mythology to Polis Religion

is respect, reverence (eusebeia) points not only to the relationship estab­ lished with the gods, but also to the appropriate relationship with the dead and among the citizens, including members of the family. Like the phenomenon of religiosity, irreligion was evaluated not in an intellectual sense, but based on direct practices. As a matter of fact, it is seen that philosophers such as Xenophanes or Heraclitus were not punished for their criticism of the dominant understanding of religion (Calame 2007, pp. 260, 280-281). In contrast, Socrates was sentenced to death for disre­ specting the gods of the city while introducing new gods. The communication the Greeks established with their gods was, of course, a certain form of worship. This relationship was not based on love as in Islam or Christianity, but on respect. The Greek gods did not expect to be loved, but to be respected and honored. At the beginning of the Iliad, Apollo, who felt disrespected, was behind the long-lasting failure of the Achaean army. Angered by Agamemnon’s disrespect for his own prayer, Apollo punished the army with a disease. In the same work, the Achaeans built a wall to protect their ships but offered no gifts to the gods. This lack of respect disgruntled Poseidon and enraged Zeus who intervened in the war to punish the Achaeans and to empower the Trojans (Il. I, IIV, IIIV). For the Greeks, respect for the gods is not equal to a child’s respect for his family or a slave’s respect for his master. Respect for the gods, which is the most distinctive feature of Greek religion, was similar to a respect that a good subject should show to a king (Mikalson 2005, p. 23). The places where the practice of ‘respect for gods’ was exercised were the squares, temples, and altars where “respect” could be seen. Similarly, the religious rituals in the house were carried out with the participation of the whole family. This respect-based communication with the gods, of course, came with some formalities. Communication with the gods was carried out standing up, face up, with the right arm extended. A formal prayer consisted of three parts: addressing the gods, reason for the prayer, and request to the divinity (Cole 2007 p. 266, 292). In this context, religiosity was not a matter of private life as common in the modern world, but rather a civic and rational attitude. For this reason, people who were irreligious, in other words, who did not respect the gods, were seen as lacking reason rather than faith (Mikalson, 2005 p. 25). Citizens avoided doubts about the existence of the gods not merely out of fear, but because this was believed to be absurd. Since reverence to the gods and allegiance to the polis were considered one and the same, any doubt about the gods would have directly raise doubt about the existence and functioning of city-states. Because of this unity, in the Greek world a separate propaganda policy promoting patriotism and loyalty was not considered necessary for 37

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a long time. Again, because of the relationship built between the polis and its gods, concepts such as ‘non-political piety’ or ‘secular patriotism’ were seen as contradictory expressions (Solmsen, 1942, p. 8). Presenting gifts to the gods was the most distinctive ritual to respect and honor them. In return, their help for the city-state, clan, or household was expected on issues such as fertility, prosperity, health, and safety. If help was granted, gifts were presented as a sign of gratitude. These gifts varied from hymns to offerings to sacrifices during festivals held in their honor. There is no doubt that these sacrifices occupy a special place in Greek religious rituals.7 This is elucidated in Euripides’ Cyclops, which presents the godless cyclopes as those who do not sacrifice to the gods (2001, v. 370, p. 51). While sacrifice was always accompanied by prayer, prayer did not neces­ sarily require sacrifice. While free men could speak to the gods expressing imperatives, slaves could only make requests. However, slaves had to be silent during the sacrifice ceremony. In cases where sacrifice ceremonies are depicted, slaves are only present to carry out necessary service tasks such as transportation and cleaning. Although women were generally ex­ pected to perform religious rituals in their homes, during the ceremonies they were permitted to make sacrifices in their own name. However, the role of women in sacrifice ceremonies was generally to support men. The most well-known role of women in sacrifice ceremonies were the howls, which were high-pitched cries at the time of the slaughter (Cole 2007, p. 294). In the context of Greek religion, behaviors such as disrespect to the elders of the family and the temples, not welcoming guests, breaking an oath were seen as great disrespect to the gods. Later, respect for gods, heroes, and parents was even protected by law in Athens. Those who disrespected the order of polis life, such as the temple robbers, were equat­ ed with traitors and sentenced to the heaviest punishments (Sourvinou-In­ wood, 2000b, p. 52). In her famous article “What is Polis Religion?”, Sourvinou-Inwood argued convincingly that Greek religion and the polis were intertwined and inseparable structures (Sourvinou-Inwood 2000a,

7 The word thyein used for sacrifice in ancient Greek means “to smoke”. In the Greek religious context, sacrifice is not only limited to the slaughter of the animal; it consists of a process of cleaning the animal, decorating it, slaughtering it, shed­ ding its blood, dividing it into pieces and burning certain parts on the altar. The last part is the most special part of the ritual. As a matter of fact, it was believed that the smoke of the cooked meat would please the gods (Mikalson 2005, pp. 23-26).


The Polis as the Measure of All Things: The Relation of Greek Mythology to Polis Religion

p. 37; See also Mikalson 2005, pp. 183-184). However, there were some noticeable differences in the functioning of Greek religion and the polis. First, Greek women occupied different roles in politics and in religious practice. It is well-known that women in city states were not accepted as citizens (politai), even if they belonged to the city’s inhabitants (astai) for generations (Hansen 2006, p. 119). In other words, women could not participate in politics. Conversely, women’s participation in religious ritu­ als was not seen as an extraordinary phenomenon. Women-only festivals were held, and women were also able to assume the priesthood of temples dedicated to goddesses (Price 1999, p. 68). The economies of Greek city-states and temples were separated from each other. The budgets of the festivals were covered sometimes by the city-states and sometimes by wealthy citizens. City-states even borrowed money from temples in times of financial crises. As a matter of fact, Athena was the goddess who owned the greatest amount of property in all Attica. The city-states regularly repaid their debts to the temples (Hansen 2006, p. 119). In contrast to Christianity, in Greek religion there was no clergy as a specific and separate class of society. The priests, who were mostly in charge of maintaining temples and performing rituals such as sacrifice per­ formed short-term and periodic duties. They held no life-long positions. The supervision of the priesthood, which performed rather honorary than professional tasks, was taken care of by the city-states. Issues such as the dismissal of priests, their punishment, and the control of city cults includ­ ing the acceptance of new cults were also under the control of city-states (Parker 2011, p. 12). In the Greek world, holiness is a phenomenon attributed to the tree, the sea, the sun, and the whole cosmos in general. Some places, e.g. a grove or a cave were attributed sacredness due to the features and beauty of their location (Cole 2007, p. 281). Apart from this natural sacredness, it was also possible to make a place holy by building a temple. But this was a special kind of holiness. Although temples were dedicated to a particular god or goddess, the idea that temples actually belong to people, not gods, was immanent in Greek religiosity. However, this was not explicitly expressed. With the physical or political changes that occurred over time, the god of the region and the temple could also change. It was not believed that in such cases – when temples changed hands – the gods were disrespect; in other words, no act against religion was committed (Parker 2011, p. 14). As a matter of fact, city-state’s initial choice of gods and their alter­ ations were closely related to geography. In case of emigration to a new settlement, the old temples were not destroyed and the ties with the old 39

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gods were not broken. Therefore, the relationship with history was not interrupted (Cole 2007, p. 286). The picture drawn above indicates that the city-states had decision-mak­ ing power over their religion. This situation brings to mind the modern idea that religion can be and is indeed manipulated for political purposes. Indeed, the return of the Athenian tyrant Peisistratos from exile to the city with a woman disguised as the goddess Athena supports such a view. Pei­ sistratos entered the city with a horse-drawn carriage driven by a woman dressed as Athena, which gave the message that the goddess of the city was with him. This cunning plan influenced the Athenians and allowed Peisistratos to be readmitted to the city (Hdt., I 60 3). As mentioned before, mythology has a unique tradition. According to it, myths are not a system dependent on unchangeable laws, but a mov­ ing, changing, and adapting phenomenon. Just like the mythology from which it was nourished, Greek polis religion had a tradition which was open to change (Price 1999, p. 7). Similarly, the political structure of the polis underwent changes over time. Both polis religion and city-states tried to improve their form of order over time. Therefore, the interpretation that polis religion was instrumentalized creates an erroneous perspective. Although individual instances such as Peisistratos’s doings occur,8 the in­ strumentalization and political manipulation of religion in the context of the city-state did not become a tradition in the Greek world. It only emerged as a result of the separation between this world and the other world introduced by the three Abrahamic religions such as Judaism, Chris­ tianity, and Islam.

IV. The Polis as the measure of all things The Greeks, who did not have a written religious text or a religious au­ thority such as a prophet, were aware of their limited knowledge of the Divine. The understanding of this limitation is an important reason why the structure of Greek religion remained open to change and why no final unchangeable rules were determined. The effort of Greek religion to ob­ tain information about the Divine was partially established through what could be called ‘prophecy’. There were professional ‘seers’ (mantis) helping leaders in times of crisis and challenges to establish, e.g., a new cult in

8 Whether this event actually happened as reported by Herodotus is a questionable issue (see Solmsen 1942, p. 13).


The Polis as the Measure of All Things: The Relation of Greek Mythology to Polis Religion

the polis, decide about war, and make important legal or administrative decisions. Prophecies were made based on the shape and direction of nails and gallbladder cut from sacrificed animals, the color and shape of the animals’ lungs, the flight of birds, or the content of dreams. Seers were especially important in the archaic period. However, it is known that in the middle of the 5th century BC Pericles sent the seer Lampon to Italy to give advice to the leaders of the new Athenian colonies to be established. Seers and prophecies lost their importance throughout the 4th century BC. In the Greek world, there were temples famous for their prophecies and their seers such as the Apollo temples in Dephi and Didyma and the Zeus temple in Dodona (Cole 2007, pp. 297-298). In these temples, answers to specific questions asked to the god on behalf of an individual or a polis were sought. In specific ceremonies, where questions were prepared for positive or negative short answers, the responses were conveyed to their addressees by an interpreter (exgētaí). Despite all magnificence of the prophecies, the fallibility of man and the unknowability of the Divine entailed the possibility that the prophecy was wrong. This was an impor­ tant cause for new cults to be created. The preoccupation that in times of crisis a God or a cult might have been neglected led to renewed attention towards them or to the formation of new cults (Parker 2011, pp. 19-21). In the context of Greek religion, it is difficult to make the common and modern distinction between the secular and the Divine. Greek religion, which derives its origin from myths and therefore from human stories, did not point to an entity or world beyond the physical world. Therefore, the vision of an afterlife entailing punishment and reward was not generally accepted.9 As mentioned earlier, respectful behavior towards gods and heroes was secured by law over time. It was believed that there would be penalties inflicted by the gods in matters such as health, abundance, and money for disrespect. If someone escaped punishment by the law, people believed that the gods made sure that in the end no one got away unpunished. Whatever form of punishment was to be expected, it was bound to happen in this world (Mikalson 2005, p. 191). An important issue in discussions about the law is the question of its source. In the classical period – especially in the 4th century BC – Solon was praised as the legislator starting the democratic tradition in

9 Greek religion did not include the notion of an afterlife that foresees the punish­ ment of the wicked, nor was there the idea that the good were rewarded and promised ‘salvation’. Greek religion was founded on the “here and now” (Price 1999, p. 3).


Nurdane Şimşek

Athens. This is in particularly true for the rhetoric of Athenian democracy (Thomas 1994, pp. 122-123). In the mythological tradition, the gods were pointed out as the source of the laws. Especially Apollo and Zeus were accepted as the symbols of law, reconciliation, and stability in the Greek world (Cole 2007, p. 275). But the relationship between the Greek gods and the laws was of a special kind. The gods did not dictate laws to humans, neither directly nor indirectly by means of a mediator (Burkert 1985, p. 248). Greek gods were depicted alongside humans in important events such as war, victory, and migration. Thus, a reference was made to the gods’ witnessing these important events, rather than to them giving or sending laws. The gods also played an important role in the tradition of the oath, which was the basis of Greek democracy, more specifically Greek laws. In societies in which the tradition of putting everything important in writing was not yet established, the oath was seen quite binding for the parties making agreements about the past and the future. Although this bindingness was extremely important in the archaic period, it remained relevant in the classical period. An oath ritual started with a call to the gods to witness, it continued with the performance of the oath seen as an irreversible act and ended with a ritual making people fearful of breaking the oath. While the irreversible act was often represented by dropping an iron rod into the sea, the fear factor was generally impressed on peoples’ minds by sacrificing and animal and by shedding its blood. For making people afraid, the sacrifice accompanying the oath ceremony featured bloody scenes of atrocity like castrating an animal. In the context of our subject, the most important part of the oath was the witnessing of the gods of a collective action, such as was the case in legislation (Burkert 1985, p. 250). Maybe the relationship between the Greek city-state and Greek polis religion is most conclusively revealed through the myths that describe Athens’s relation to the goddess Athena. According to the familiar myth, Poseidon and Athena competed to be the gods of Athens. In this compe­ tition, Poseidon offered the Athenians a saltwater spring, while Athena offered them an olive tree. This myth probably points to contemporary debates between those Athenians engaged in seafaring and those occupied with agriculture. At the end of these conflicts, the Athenians chose Athena as their guardian goddess and, at first, called her Athenaia, which means the ’Athenian Goddess’. This usage clearly refers not to a goddess who exists for the sake of the city, but to a goddess who took her name from the city, in other words, a goddess that exists for the flourishing of the political community (cf. Cole 2007, p. 273). The opposite idea, claiming 42

The Polis as the Measure of All Things: The Relation of Greek Mythology to Polis Religion

that gods do not exist for the polis but that the political community exits for the Divinity, came to light only later in Plato’s political and theological thought.

References Bremmer, J. (1987a). Selected Bibliography, In: J. Bremmer (ed.), Interpretations of Greek Mythology (pp. 278-283). London: Croom Helm. Bremmer, J. (1987b). What is a Greek Myth?, In: J. Bremmer (ed.), Interpretations of Greek mythology (pp. 1-9). London: Croom Helm. Burkert, W. (1982). Structure and History in Greek Mythology and Ritual. Berkeley: University of California Press. Burkert, W. (1985). Greek Religion (J. Raffan Trans.). Cambridge: Harvard Universi­ ty Press. Calame, C. (2007). Greek Myth and Greek Religion. In: R. D. Woodard (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Greek mythology (pp. 259-285). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Cole, S. G. (2007). Greek Religion. In: J. R. Hinnells (ed.), A Handbook of Ancient Religions (pp. 266-317). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Deacy, S. (2007). “Famous Athens, Divine Polis”: The Religious System at Athens. In: D. Ogden (ed.), A Companion to Greek Religion (pp. 221-235), Oxford: Black­ well. Dowden, K. (1992). The Uses of Greek Mythology. London and New York: Rout­ ledge. Euripides, (2001). Cyclops (H. McHugh Trans.). New York: Oxford University Press. Graf, F. (1996). Greek Mythology: An Introduction (T. Marier Trans.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Hansen, M. H. (2006). Polis: An Introduction to the Ancient Greek City-State. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Kindt, J. (2012). Rethinking Greek Religion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kirk, G. S. (1974). The Nature of Greek Myth. New York: Barnes & Noble. Liddell, H. G. & Scott, R. (1974). Greek-English Lexicon (Abridged). Oxford: Oxford University of California Press. Mikalson, J. D. (2005). Ancient Greek Religion. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. Nilsson, M. P. (1925). A History of Greek Religion. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Ostwald, M. (1969). Nomos and the Beginnings of the Athenian Democracy. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Parker, R. (2011). On Greek Religion. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.


Nurdane Şimşek Pirenne-Delforge, V. & Pironti, G. (2015). Many vs. One. In: E. Eidinow & J. Kindt (eds.), The Oxford handbook of ancient Greek religion (pp. 39-47). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Price, S. (1999). Religions of the Ancient Greeks. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Solmsen, F. (1942). Plato's Theology. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Sourvinou-Inwood, C. (2000a). What is Polis Religion. In: R. Buxton (ed.), Oxford Readings in Greek religion (pp. 13-37). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sourvinou-Inwood, C. (2000b). Further aspects of polis religion. In: R. Buxton (ed.), Oxford Readings in Greek Religion (pp. 38-55). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Thomas, R. (1994). Law and the Lawgiver in Athenian Democracy. In: R. Osborne & S. Hornblowe (eds.), Ritual, Finance, Politics: Athenian Democratic Accounts (pp. 119–33). Oxford: Clarendon Press.


On the Rationalization of Ancient Greek Theology: The Purge of Anthropomorphism from Hesiod to Plato and Aristotle Manuel Knoll

Abstract This article examines the development of ancient Greek theological thought from Hesiod to Aristotle. It argues against Aristotle’s and John Burnet’s accounts of the advance of early Greek philosophy. Complement­ ing Werner Jaeger’s views, the paper claims that there is a process of rationalization within ancient Greek theology which does not progress in a linear fashion. Rationalization is defined as demystification and demythol­ ogization. The degree of ‘rationality’ of a theological view depends primar­ ily on its degree of anthropomorphism. The less human characteristics or behaviors are attributed to the Divine, the more ‘rational’ a view is. This article argues that the efforts of a group of Greek theologians to purge anthropomorphism were only partly successful.

I. The transition from myth to logos and the progress of theological reasoning In his famous book Vom Mythos zum Logos, Wilhelm Nestle claims that in the 6th and 5th century Greek mythological thought was continually replaced by rational and naturalistic thought, which led to the subversion of Greek religion (Nestle 1975, p. v, cf. 539). Similarly, John Burnet and Theodor Gomperz interpret the early Greek philosophers as natu­ ralists and empirical scientists with whom the history of European natu­ ral science began (Burnet 1920; Gomperz 1901). Nestle’s, Burnet’s, and Gomperz’s interpretations grasp some important developments in ancient Greek thought. Their blind spot, however, is both the early Greek philoso­ pher’s genuine interest in theological questions and the process of rational­ ization within Greek theology. The Greek theologians were neither priests nor prophets but philosophers who did not possess any practical religious authority (cf. Bryant 1986, p. 281). They were “natural theologians” (T. Varro) who developed philosophical views about the essence of God. Their teachings were the “actual true religion” (eigentlich wahre Religion) (Jaeger 1953, pp. 10–11; cf. Jaeger 1947, p. 2). However, their divinities had “no 45

Manuel Knoll

direct connection with the public cult” (Vlastos 1952, p. 104; cf. 116). As Werner Jaeger accurately observes, the “problem of the Divine occupies a much larger place in the speculations of the early natural philosophers than […] we might be led to expect from Aristotle’s picture of the develop­ ment of philosophy in the first book of the Metaphysics” (Jaeger 1947, p. 6; cf. Vlastos 1952, p. 101). This article examines some of these theological speculations and claims that there is a process of rationalization within ancient Greek theology. Section II starts with a critical overview of the different interpretations of the development of early Greek thought (Aristotle, Nestle, Burnet). The paper moves on to an interpretation of the progress from Hesiod to Thales (section III) and from Anaximander to Anaximenes (section IV). Section V examines Xenophanes’ position. The interpretations of sections III through V are critically directed against Aristotle’s and Burnet’s historical accounts and interpretations of the development of early Greek philosophy. While Jaeger and Nestle only briefly mention Plato and Aristotle in their studies, section VI sketches a thesis regarding their role and position in the process of rationalization of ancient Greek theology. This section argues that the rationalization of ancient Greek theology does not progress in a linear fashion. The interpretations of this article partly draw on Max Weber’s theory of a process of Western rationalization and intellectualization. Weber empha­ sizes that there are many different meanings of the term ‘rationalization’ (Rationalisierung) and many different ‘rationalizations’ (Rationalisierungen) that take place in a variety of areas such as economic life, technique, scien­ tific research, law, and administration (Weber 2001, pp. XXXVIII–XXXIX). For Weber, the process of rationalization and intellectualization equals to the ‘disenchantment’ (Entzauberung) of the world (Weber 1946, p. 139). In the context of religion, for Weber ‘rationalization’ or ‘disenchantment’ primarily means the ‘elimination of magic’ (Weber 2001, p. 71). From this perspective, Protestantism is more rational than Catholicism because it casts out magical elements such as the priest’s power to mediate between God and the humans. In the context of ancient Greek religion and theolo­ gy, rationalization means the elimination of mythical or mythological ele­ ments. An additional device to measure the degree of “rationality” of a reli­ gious or theological view is to examine the degree of anthropomorphism of this view. The less human characteristics or behaviors are attributed to ‘God’ (ho theos), the ‘gods’ (hoi theoi), or the ‘Divine’ (to theion), the more “rational” the view in question and the higher the probability that it could be an appropriate representation of its object. This criterion for demystification and demythologization was famously introduced into the 46

On the Rationalization of Ancient Greek Theology

ancient debate by Xenophanes (section V). Like the process of rationaliza­ tion of ancient Greek theology, its importance has not been sufficiently recognized and appreciated in the literature (Jaeger 1947, Vlastos 1952).1 This article defends the general thesis that the efforts of a group of Greek theologians to purge anthropomorphism were only partly successful.

II. Different interpretations of the development of ancient Greek thought In Vom Mythos zum Logos, Nestle defends the view that in the 6th and 5th century a transition from myth to logos happened, which means that rational and natural explanations of the world substituted mythological ones (Nestle 1975, p. v). For Nestle, the main antagonism exists between mythical ‘imagination’ (Vorstellung) and logical thought, between uncon­ scious images on the one hand, and intentional and conscious concepts on the other. In contrast to rational thought, mythological imagination does not examine the truth of its images by confronting them with reality. The conflict between myth and logos begins when human thought starts scrutinizing mythological images and explanations; it starts with doubt and with asking the “question of truth” (die Wahrheitsfrage). Both myth and logos presuppose some form of causality. Nevertheless, logos uncovers the pseudo-causal relations characteristic of myth, which it criticizes and subverts. The logos aims at replacing mythological errors with correct insights. It strives to substitute magical and supernatural explanations with research on the natural causes, which does not always succeed on the first attempt (Nestle 1975, pp. 1–4). The opposition between myth and logos corresponds to an antagonism between a religious and a scientific “view of nature” (Naturbetrachtung) (Nestle 1975, p. 10). Nevertheless, Nestle points out that in ancient Greek thought logos and myth interpenetrate each other. Despite their manifold mutual interpenetration, in its long struggle against myth, logos comes out as winner (Nestle 1975, pp. 17-20). It is noteworthy that almost half of Nestle’s voluminous book is devoted to the sophists and the “sophistic enlightenment” (sophistische Aufklärung) (Nestle 1975, p. 486, cf. pp. 249–447, 486–528). He claims that Nietzsche was the only thinker who completely grasped the meaning of this move­ ment, which lead to a “true revolution” (wahrhafte Umwälzung) of Greek

1 Vlastos is aware, however, that the early Greek philosophers were also “religious thinkers” who transposed the Divine into the “natural order […] completely purged of miracle and magic” (Vlastos 1952, p. 116).


Manuel Knoll

intellectual life (Nestle 1975, p. v). Nestle further explains that the sophis­ tic movement made the “popularization of religious enlightenment among both the adults and the youth one of its main businesses” (Nestle 1975, p. 19, my trans.). In the context of reason’s successful fight against the irrational elements of the world view of myth, Nestle refers mainly to Max Weber’s concept of a progressive “disenchantment” (Entzauberung) of the world and to Leopold Ziegler’s view of a continuous “desacralization” (En­ theiligung) of being (Nestle 1975, p. 4).2 According to Nestle, the transition from myth to logos leads to the “subversion of Greek religion” (Zersetzung der griechischen Religion) (Nestle 1975, p. v; cf. p. 539). In his influential book Early Greek Philosophy, published in 1892, John Burnet interprets the early Greek philosophers as naturalists and empiri­ cal natural scientists. Like Theodor Gomperz, and other 19th century re­ searchers from the “positivist school” (positivistische Schule), Burnet aims at “proving the modernity of the pre-Socratics” (Jaeger 1953, p. 5, 17; Jaeger 1947, p. 7). Among the section headings of Burnet’s introduction, we read “The Secular Character of Ionian Science” and “The Scientific Character of the Early Greek Cosmology”. About the early cosmologists’ views on motion and rest, Burnet declares that they contain “no trace of theological speculation” (Burnet 1920, p. 8). For him, a “non-religious use of the word ‘god’” (theos) is characteristic of “the whole period” he calls “early Greek philosophy” (Burnet 1920, p. 9).3 For good reasons, Gregory Vlastos criticizes that “Burnet explained away the term ‘god’ in the pre-Socratics”, a term that occurs very frequently in their fragments4 (Vlastos 1952, pp. 97–98). Referring to Jaeger’s The Theology of the Early Greek Philosophers, Vlastos argues that Jaeger’s book is “the strongest reply Burnet’s thesis has yet received” (Vlastos 1952, p. 101). Jaeger explains, with regard to Burnet’s and Gomperz’s anachronistic and one-sided interpretations of the early Greek philosophers, that “The unilateral emphasis on the physical side of pre-Socratic philosophy in their works is a product of 19th century scientism and its horror of everything metaphysical” (Jaeger 1947, p. 195).

2 In this context, Nestle refers to L. Ziegler’s 1920 book Gestaltwandel der Götter and to A. Schweitzer’s Verfall und Wiederaufbau der Kultur (1923). 3 “In its religious sense the word ‘god’ always means first and foremost an object of worship, but already in Homer that has ceased to be its only signification” (Burnet 1920, p. 9). 4 In the word index of Diels-Kranz (1952), p. 204–208, the listings of the term “theos” take up eight columns (clearly more than the respective listings of “physis” and “cosmos”); cf. Vlastos 1952, p. 97.


On the Rationalization of Ancient Greek Theology

Jaeger draws attention to a second important reason for this empha­ sis, which is the historical account Aristotle presents of the early Greek philosophers in Book I of the Metaphysics. One of Aristotle’s terms for these philosophers is ‘physikoi’5 “(in the ancient sense of the term), which in turn led modern interpreters of the nineteenth century to understand them as the first physicists (in the modern sense)” (Jaeger 1947, p. 7). For good reasons, Aristotle’s historical account of early Greek philosophy was criticized for not being historically accurate (Cherniss 1935). One central problem of Aristotle’s account is that he interprets the early thinkers from his own philosophical perspective and with his own terminology (cf. Rapp 2007, 22–23). For Aristotle, the main task of theoretical philosophy is to investigate the first and supreme “principles” (archai) and “causes” (aitiai) of all things. This understanding of philosophy presupposes that reality is not what is seems to us, but that “behind” it there is to be found a more essential and “true” reality. For Aristotle, already the early Greek philosophers were searching for the first principles and causes of being: Of the first philosophers, most thought the principles (archai) which were of the nature of matter (hylē) were the only principles of all things; that of which all things that are consist, and from which they first come to be, and into which they are finally resolved (the substance remaining, but changing in its modifications), this they say is the element (stoicheion) and the principle (archē) of things, and therefore they think nothing is either generated or destroyed, since this sort of entity is always conserved, […]. Yet they do not all agree as to the number and the nature of these principles. Thales, the founder of this school of philosophy, says the principle is water (hydōr) (for which reason he declared that the earth rests on water) […] (Metaph. I 3, 983b6–22, trans. Ross; cf. D.L. I 27). In his Physics and Metaphysics, Aristotle distinguishes four kinds of ‘causes’ (aitiai). For him, the early philosophers such as Thales were only aware of one of these causes and principles, the material cause. ‘Matter’ (hylē) is the substance from which all things are made and which outlasts these things. A sculpture is made out of an amount of bronze that persists after the sculpture is destroyed (Ph. II 3, 194b23–26). Aristotle presents the history of philosophy as an ongoing progress that leads to himself as the most advanced philosopher who is – contrary to his predecessors – aware of all four causes that he distinguishes in his texts.

5 Ph. I 2, 184b17; Ph. I 4, 187a12; Metaph. IV 3, 1005a33-b2.


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III. From Hesiod to Thales Aristotle conceives of Homer and Hesiod as the “first theologians” (Metaph. I 3, 983b29, III 4, 1000a9; cf. Nestle 1975, p. 45 and Jaeger 1947, pp. 9-17). They were the main creators of the notions of the polytheistic gods of Greek popular religion (Hdt. II 53; cf. DK 21B11 and B12). Despite Hesiod’s and Homer’s enormous influence, their works were not consid­ ered to be sacred texts (cf. Bryant 1986, p. 281). Hesiod’s view of the gods is more rational than Homer’s because he connects the different existing myths and puts them in a systematic and genealogical order. While Thales is usually interpreted as the first philosopher, there are good reasons to attribute this honor already to Hesiod (cf. Gigon 1968, p. 14–25). Our main source for Thales is Aristotle. If we understand Thales’ philosophy through Aristotle’s texts, the multitude of appearing things in the world can be reduced to water as its essential and true reality. According to Aristotle, for Thales water was the material cause and material principle of reality. However, to substantiate this interpretation Aristotle would need to show how water can transform itself into some other matter or element such as earth or air. Another Milesian philosopher, Anaximenes, presented such an explanation two generations later. For him, the whole world consists of air. All the different qualities of the world can be reduced to different densities of air: condensed air becomes clouds; if further con­ densed, this amount of air becomes water and rains down; if it is even further condensed, it becomes earth etc. (DK 13A5). Aristotle’s interpretation of Thales, according to which all things con­ sist of water, is not convincing. A more promising reading focuses on Aristotle’s statement that all things primordially came to be from water. For Thales, water is the archē. In such an interpretation, archē should be translated as “beginning” or “origin”. According to this reading, the earth, which rests on water, could originally have been generated from water. This does not mean, however, that everything on earth must necessarily consist of water. Nevertheless, such an interpretation raises the question of how the thesis that all things originated from water should be understood. The most conclusive reading of this thesis is to interpret Thales in the tradition of Hesiod. In his Theogony, Hesiod presents a genealogy of the gods, which is at the same time a genealogy of the emergence of the world. The first stages of this genealogy, in which Eros is the driving force of all procreation, are: “In truth, first of all Chasm (Chaos) came to be, and then broad-breast­ ed Earth (Gaia), the ever immovable seat of all the immortals […],


On the Rationalization of Ancient Greek Theology

and Eros, who is the most beautiful among the immortal gods, the limb-melter – he overpowers the mind and the thoughtful counsel of all the gods and of all human beings in their breasts. […] Earth first of all bore starry Sky, equal to herself, to cover her on every side […]. And she also bore the barren sea seething with its swell, Pontus, without delightful love; and then, having bedded with Sky, she bore deep-eddying Ocean (Okeanos) […]” (Hes., Th. 116–133, trans. Most). Like Greek popular religion, Hesiod holds all parts of nature and the cosmos to be divine. Therefore, he could be interpreted as one of the first pantheistic philosophers. While Hesiod’s ‘Chasm’ (Chaos) is devoid of anthropomorphic elements, his Eros – who anticipates the principle of movement Empedocles calls Love – represents a sophisticated and subtle anthropomorphism (cf. section VI). Hesiod takes love, a phenomenon that occurs among humans, and projects it into the cosmos. The genealogy Hesiod presents in his Theogony, which poses many ques­ tions and problems, leads to the anthropomorphic gods of popular Greek religion. For the purpose of an alternative interpretation of Thales, it is enough to focus on the fact that all other gods and parts of the world are descendants of ‘Chasm’ (Chaos) and ‘Earth’ (Gaia) and, in particular, that Earth gives birth to the divine ‘sea’ (Pontos) and Okeanos, the divine river that surrounds the earth. The latter part of this genealogy is crucial because, in all likelihood, Thales does not understand water as a natural substance as Aristotle and modern interpreters would have, but rather possesses an understanding closer to that of Hesiod, who thinks of water as an ensouled and divine being. Two reasons for the thesis that also Thales had a religious understand­ ing of water are (1) his views that the loadstone, and maybe even the whole world, has a soul, and (2) his claim that everything is full of gods (Ar. APr. I 405a19–21; I 411a7 = DK 11A22; cf. D.L. I 27, Pl. Lg. 899b, and Jaeger 1947, p. 21). Hesiod understands the Earth, the sea, and Okeanos, like the other parts of the world, as divine beings. It is quite conceivable that Thales reversed Hesiod’s teaching that the Earth gives birth to the sea and Okeanos. This means that Thales gives priority to the divine water instead of the divine Earth. This interpretation is also plausible because Homer, who in all likelihood lived earlier than Hesiod, had already attributed a cosmological or cosmogonical meaning to Okeanos. According to Homer, Okeanos is the creator of the gods and the origin of all things (Il. XIV 244, 301; cf. Kirk-Raven-Schofield 1983, pp. 10–17). It is remarkable that Aristotle puts his own view of Thales into question by referring to the


Manuel Knoll

meaning which the “first theologians” attributed to Okeanos (Metaph. I 3, 983b27-984a3; cf. Kirk-Raven-Schofield 1983, pp. 10–17). Another important reason for the interpretation that Thales reversed Hesiod’s teaching is that he likely had a good motive for it. Homer’s view that Okeanos is the creator of the gods and the origin of all things was quite common in earlier ‘oriental’ cultures. Homer may have been influenced by the Babylonian epos of creation, according to which the earth was formed out of the primordial water. Also, in the psalms and the story of Eridu the earth originated from the sea (cf. Kirk-Raven-Schofield 1983, p. 92). It seems that Hesiod was an innovator when he reversed these teachings and claimed that the Earth gives birth to the sea and Okeanos. Hesiod’s agonal or competitive spirit is clearly expressed at the beginning of his Theogony where he pronounces against Homer and other Greek poets that he will not tell “many false things” but “proclaim true things” (Th. 27–28, trans. Most). It is likely that out of the same agonal or competitive spirit Thales reversed Hesiod’s teaching again and returned to the traditional view that the earth originated from water. Thales had “associations both with Babylonia and with Egypt” and in these countries his teaching that the earth is swimming on the water – this is how the Egyptians explained earthquakes – was common (Kirk-Raven-Schofield 1983, pp. 92–93). Final­ ly, two generations after Thales, Anaximenes apprehends air, like later Heraclitus fire, as a divine active primary substance (DK 13A10). Before Thales, Hesiod understood earth as a divine being. It would be at least awkward if Thales had a completely different view of water, the fourth element.

IV. Anaximander and Anaximenes Aristotle claims that Anaximenes conceives of air as a material cause (Metaph. I 3, 984a5-6.). For Aristotle, matter is a passive substance like wood or bronze.6 However, Anaximenes understands air as a divine and active substance; all things, and even the gods, originate from air (DK 13B2; DK 13A6, 7, 10 and 20). This shows that Aristotle’s interpretation is mistaken. The same is true for his interpretation of Thales who does not

6 For Aristotle, matter changes either by art, e.g. when a sculptor gives shape to wood or bronze, or by nature. Natural substances such as animals change by na­ ture because they contain “within itself” a ‘source’ or ‘principle’ (archē) of change and of stability (Ph. II 1, 192b13-14).


On the Rationalization of Ancient Greek Theology

comprehend water as a passive matter or material. However, Anaximenes’ understanding of air is different from Thales’ interpretation of water. As previously outlined, Anaximenes proposes that the whole world is com­ posed of only one substance and that all its qualities and changes can be reduced to it.7 Considering Anaximenes’ claims that the whole world is composed of air and that air is a divine and active substance, he could be interpreted – like Hesiod and Thales – as one of the first pantheists in history. The awareness of the differences between Thales and Anaximenes al­ lows us to solve an alleged problem in the history of ancient philosophy. Scholars often wonder about the historical step from Anaximander to Anaximenes. While the former introduced the apeiron, clearly a non-ma­ terial and undetermined principle, it seemed to them that Anaximenes fell behind this progress by reintroducing, like Thales, a determinate mate­ rial principle. However, this view is induced by Aristotle’s interpretative lenses, which blur the difference between Thales’ understanding of water and Anaximenes’ concept of air. The preceding interpretation of Thales, which opposes him to Hesiod, allows us to see these differences. It takes away anything peculiar regarding the historical step from Anaximander to Anaximenes, which now appears as one of the many developments and progresses in ancient Greek philosophy. Indeed, Anaximenes was a quite original thinker.8 His view of the Divine is clearly not anthropomorphic and implies a criticism of Greek popular religion. There is another indication for the thesis that Thales’ cosmology is not substantially different from Hesiod’s cosmogony. This is Diogenes Laertius’ history of philosophy, which does not mention Thales but only Anaximander as the first true philosopher (D.L. I 122, II 1; cf., however, D.L. VIII 1). Anaximander offers interpretations of the cosmos, the world, and the Divine, which are more advanced than the ones Hesiod and Thales propose. According to the tradition, Anaximander introduces the apeiron

7 Anaximenes’ philosophy is not based on speculation but departs from observations and experiences about the world. He is original in the history of philosophy because likely he is the first philosopher who developed the ideas that qualities can be reduced to quantities and that quantity can transform into quality. 8 This claim could be refuted by the widespread view that Anaximander understood the apeiron as primal matter. For different reasons this view is not convincing (cf. Knoll 2017, pp. 41–42); e.g., Anaximander nowhere indicates how the apeiron could transform itself into some other matter or element.


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as the ‘principle’ or the ‘beginning’ (archē)9 (DK 12A9, D.L. II 1). Anaxi­ mander holds the apeiron to be an active, eternal, and divine principle. According to Aristotle, the apeiron is ‘the Divine’ (to theion) because it is ‘deathless’ (athanaton) or ‘imperishable’ (anōlethron). Furthermore, the apeiron is ‘uncreated’ (agenēton) and held “to encompass all and to steer all” (periechein hapanta kai panta kybernan) (Ph. III 4, 203b7–15, trans. Hardie-Gaye). As the apeiron has no beginning and no ending, it is eter­ nal (cf. Jaeger 1947, pp. 28–33).10 Hesiod declares about Chasm (Chaos) that it “came to be”, but remains short on explaining how and why this process happened.11 Anaximander’s cosmology is more sophisticated than Hesiod’s because the apeiron has no beginning. Rather, it is the beginning of everything else, which after a certain amount of time reverts to it (DK 12A9, B1). The main activity of this divine and indefinite principle is to steer and control the cosmos. In the extant fragment of Anaximander, the Ionian philosopher declares that the apeiron does this based on retributive justice (DK 12A9, B1). In the literature, there are mainly two different interpretations of the exact meaning of this fragment. According to the first, the apeiron emits consecutive cosmic orders that all have to perish after an equal amount of time. Through its necessary demise, each of these consecutive orders pays penalty and retribution to all other possible orders, which could not be actualized during its existence. According to the second interpretation, the apeiron does not generate consecutive cos­ mic orders. This interpretation claims that the fragment of Anaximander only refers to retributions among polar opposites within the one cosmic order or world that originated from the apeiron. Such opposites are ‘day’ and ‘night’ or ‘warm’ and ‘cold’ or ‘dry’ and ‘humid’ (DK 12A9).12 While during summer it is warm and dry, during winter it is cold and humid.

9 In the literature, it is disputed whether Anaximander uses (and if, how) Aristotle’s term archē (cf. Jaeger 1947, pp. 24–28; Kirk-Raven-Schofield 1983, pp. 108–109; Knoll 2017, p. 41). 10 According to the terminology of Aristotle, Anaximander’s apeiron is ‘uncreated and imperishable’ (agenēton kai anōlethron) (Ph. III 4, 203b8, 14). In his poem, Parmenides uses exactly these two terms to characterize the eternal being (DK 28B8, line 3). 11 According to Aristotle’s interpretation of water as a material cause, it has neither beginning nor ending. The alternative interpretation of water as a divine creator of the world does not allow for any definite clues whether, for Thales, water itself originated like Hesiod’s Chaos or not. 12 The qualities ‘warm’ and ‘cold’, ‘dry’ and ‘humid’, can be matched with the four elements fire, earth, air, and water, which in turn can be associated with the four parts of the cosmos: sun, earth, sky, and sea.


On the Rationalization of Ancient Greek Theology

Through the change of the seasons these polar opposites, which prevailed for a similar and limited time, pay each other penalty and retribution.13 Anaximander’s interpretations of the Divine and the origin of the world are more advanced than those proposed by Hesiod and Thales. While Hesiod’s explanation of the emergence of the world through sexual procreation is clearly genealogical, in all likelihood Thales just modifies this approach. In contrast, Anaximander’s thought is not genealogical. He conceives of the divine apeiron as an eternal and causative principle, which is itself the source of renewed beginnings and endings. The same is true of Anaximenes’ air (cf. DK 13B2). The theories of Anaximander and Anaximenes already imply a critique of the anthropomorphic gods, which later Xenophanes expressed explicitly. As Jaeger argues, “Naturally, Anaximander must have sensed his own opposition to the traditional an­ thropomorphic deities when he boldly asserted the Boundless to be the Divine, and thus refused to let divine nature take the form of distinct individual gods” (Jaeger 1947, p. 42). Most important, Anaximander conceives of his non-material and unde­ termined divine principle not only as a cosmological but as an ethical principle executing cosmic justice. Before him, Hesiod associated justice with individual gods. Hesiod presents Dikē as Zeus’ divine daughter and Zeus as the one who “has given Justice (Dikē)” to human beings (Op. 279, trans. Most; Th. 901–903; cf. Op. 247–284). Anaximander was partly able to overcome this anthropomorphic view. He does not impersonate justice by an individual God, but holds it to be a cosmological and ethical princi­ ple, which he interprets in moral and legal terms (cf. Vlastos 1952, pp. 114–115). These terms are evidently derived from the social and political life of the polis. Therefore, Anaximander’s notion of a cosmic justice also contains an anthropomorphic element, even though a more sophisticated and concealed anthropomorphism than the one embodied in the human, all too human gods of Greek popular religion. Anaximander relates his new God primarily to the cosmos and to nature. In contrast, the gods of Greek popular religion are related both to nature and to the polis. Anaximander’s innovative interpretation of God as a cosmic principle that executes retributive justice is maybe the most important reason for the claim that his concept of the Divine is more advanced or more rational than the views of his predecessors. Developing this tradition further, Hera­ clitus conceives of the divine as Logos, as active and intelligent principle,

13 For these two interpretations and the literature, see Knoll 2017, pp. 43–45, and Rapp 2007, pp. 41–44.


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which combines the opposites and executes cosmic justice (DK 22B30, 64, 67, 80; cf. B94 and Jaeger 1947, pp. 109–127, Knoll 2017, pp. 65–78). Hera­ clitus holds the divine “law” (nomos) to be the model for the human law (DK 22B114, cf. B102). Therefore, he should be interpreted as a precursor of the natural law tradition (cf. Ottmann 2001, p. 172).

V. Xenophanes’ criticism of the anthropomorphic gods Xenophanes was one generation younger than Anaximenes. He is best known for his criticism of the conventional notions of the Greek gods as human, all too human. With his criticism, Xenophanes anticipates Ludwig Feuerbach’s claim that man created God in his own image (and not vice versa). Xenophanes pronounces that the Greek gods are merely human creations. Their constructional principle is the projection of human quali­ ties onto beings that are deemed to be superior to humans. The mortals suppose that “gods are born, wear their own clothes and have a voice and body” (DK 21B14, trans. Lesher). A comparative study of popular religions shows that different peoples project their own specific characteristics on­ to their gods: “Ethiopians say that their gods are snub-nosed and black; Thracians that theirs are blue-eyed and red-haired” (DK 21B16, trans. Lesh­ er). That such projections produce inappropriate notions of the gods is revealed by the fact that Hesiod’s and Homer’s gods even share the vices of human beings such as “theft, adultery, and mutual deceit” (DK 21B11 and 12, trans. Lesher). Xenophanes does not only criticize the conventional notions of the gods, but proposes a conception of God that he holds to be more reason­ able: “One god is greatest among gods and men, not at all like mortals in body or in thought” (DK 21B23, trans. Lesher). Whether Xenophanes’ claim of the existence of a single non-anthropomorphic God implies a monotheistic or an henotheistic deity and a rejection of polytheism is disputed (cf. Chrysakopoulou 2017; Kirk-Raven-Schofield 1983, pp. 169– 70; cf. DK 21B18). According to Aristotle, with reference to the “whole heaven” (holon ouranon) Xenophanes “says the One is God” (Ar., Metaph. I 5, 986b24; cf. DK 21B24). Therefore, he might also have been a pantheist. However, such an interpretation is not easy to reconcile with Simplicius’ two testimonies regarding Xenophanes’ view of God. According to the former, by the power of His mind God effortlessly sets all things astir (DK 21B25). This attribution refers back to Anaximander’s concept of


On the Rationalization of Ancient Greek Theology

God14 and anticipates Aristotle’s, and probably Anaxagoras’15, conception of God as “Mind” (nous) (Ph. III 4, 203b11–12; Metaph. XII 9, 1074b33–35). According to the latter, God remains always in the same place, not moving at all (DK 21B26). This testimony anticipates Aristotle’s conception of God as “unmoved mover” (Metaph. XII 7, 1072a26–b4; cf. section VI). Like Anaximander’s and Aristotle’s God, Xenophanes’ deity is a cosmological and physical God. Xenophanes’s criticism of the anthropomorphic gods is not an isolated view, but the consequence of Anaximenes’ and Anaximander’s cosmologi­ cal and theological views (cf. Jaeger 1947, p. 48). Xenophanes makes the implications of these views explicit and perpetuates the intellectual efforts of the Ionian philosophers to come up with a more “appropriate”16 or ra­ tional notion of God. For him, the less human characteristics or behaviors are attributed to the Divine, the more appropriate or rational is its concept. Xenophanes’ intellectual efforts demonstrate that Burnet’s view of him is mistaken. Burnet claims that “he would have smiled if he had known that one day he was to be regarded as a theologian” (Burnet 1920, p. 85). In contrast, Jaeger’s interpretation of Xenophanes is quite persuasive: “Only as a theologian, indeed, can he really be understood” (Jaeger 1947, p. 49).

VI. Two different traditions of ancient Greek theology We can observe a process of rationalization within ancient Greek theology that intensifies with Anaximander and moves on with Anaximenes, Xeno­ phanes, probably Anaxagoras, and ends with Aristotle. All these philoso­ phers conceive of God as a cosmological and physical principle. They all refrain from attributing mythical or mythological elements to the Divini­

14 The apeiron is supposed “to encompass all and to steer all” (periechein hapanta kai panta kybernan) (Ph. III 4, 203b11–12). The first of these two attributions could have the same meaning as Xenophanes’s view that “the One is God” (Ar., Metaph. I 5, 986b24; cf. Metaph. XII, 1074b1–3). 15 For Anaxagoras, the “Mind” (nous) is the principle of movement (Ar., Ph. VIII 1, 250b24–25). Although Anaxagoras does not explicitly refer to the nous as the Di­ vine, Jaeger argues persuasively that this “must, however, have been his doctrine” (Jaeger 1947, p. 161). 16 In DK 21B26, Xenophanes claims that moving around from place to place is not ‘appropriate’ or ‘fitting’ (epiprepei) for God; cf. Jaeger 1947, p. 49–50. Combined with his denial that God has human features, Xenophanes could be interpreted as the first negative theologian. This form of theology approaches to God by negation, focusing on what may not be said about God.


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ty. Opposed to this tradition, there is a second line of theological thought that approves of such elements and combines them with a rationalist approach. While the first tradition focuses on purging mythical or mytho­ logical elements, the second affirms and integrates them intentionally. This second tradition starts with Pythagoras, moves on with Parmenides and Empedocles, and ends with Plato. Parmenides and Empedocles use verses to present their philosophy and Plato ends several of his dialogues with a myth. This parallelism of two different traditions shows that the rationalization of ancient Greek theology does not progress in a linear fashion. Like Xenophanes, Pythagoras was born around 570 BC. He was not just a philosopher, but a spiritual leader who had numerous followers and was surrounded by miracle stories. His main philosophical doctrine is a meta­ physics of numbers, which is influenced by Anaximander and Anaximenes and likely has a religious or theological dimension (cf. Knoll 2017, pp. 45, 59). Pythagoras is also a religious mystic who developed a teaching on reincarnation. The belief in reincarnation, which the followers of Orphism shared, was defended later by Empedocles of Akragas. Pythagoras and Empedocles have a lot in common. They are both surrounded by miracle stories and depict themselves as teachers of salvation. Both combine a continuation of Ionian philosophy of nature with a “mythico-theological style and type of thought” (Jaeger 1947, p. 133; cf. 129–133). The differ­ ences between Empedocles’ two epic poems ‘On Nature’ (Peri physeōs) and ‘Purifications’ (Katharmoi) represent the tension between the Ionian scientific tradition and Pythagorean-Orphic beliefs. Empedocles’ cosmol­ ogy establishes the fundamental forces Love and Strife as principles of movement (cf. Jaeger 1947, p. 138).17 These divine forces are, however, ingenious projections of interhuman relations onto the cosmos. Empedo­ cles’ cosmology is influenced by Parmenides’ philosophy of the uncreated and imperishable being, which he renders compatible with our sensual experience of becoming and passing away by claiming that four eternal elements, which are constantly mixed and separated, underlie all these changes (DK 31B6, 8, 9, 11 and 12, cf. B13 and B14). Although Parmenides presents his teaching as absolute truth and the revelation of a Goddess, it proceeds by rational argument and demonstration (Knoll 2017, pp. 78–94). Plato’s philosophy is influenced by both rationalist and mythical ap­ proaches. On the one hand, he builds on Pythagoras’ and Parmenides’ on­

17 Anaxagoras substitutes Love and Strife with “Mind” (nous) as the principle of movement.


On the Rationalization of Ancient Greek Theology

tologies and Xenophanes’ criticism of the anthropomorphic gods (Metaph. I 6 987a29–31, b8–14, Rep. II–III, 377c–392a; cf. Knoll 2017, pp. 87–88). On the other, he is swayed by Pythagoras’s religious mysticism and the belief in reincarnation. Plato develops his theory of forms in connection with the Pythagorean metaphysics of numbers and the cosmic One. For the Pythagoreans, the objects of the physical and perceptible world are an “imitation” (mimēsis) of numbers, the essence of the world. For Plato, the objects of the physical world participate (methexis) in the forms, which for him are the essence of the world (cf. Metaph. I 6, 987b8–14). For good reasons it was claimed that for Plato the forms, and in particular the supreme form of the good, concur with the divine (Rep. VI, 509b; Zeller 2006, p. 139; Nestle 1975, p. 541). Such a religious or theological view is not fully rational because it contains anthropomorphic elements, whose precursors are Anaximander’s and Heraclitus’ notions of a cosmic justice. These elements are more subtle and sophisticated and certainly harder to detect than the anthropomorphism of the gods of popular Greek religion. However, from a rational perspective the ‘good’ or the ‘just’ are only human concepts and value judgments. Plato’s ontological and theological claim is that such subjective concepts and judgments refer to an objective and knowable reality that exists separately and independently of our lan­ guage and of our minds. Plato’s ‘ethical realism’ and ‘cognitivism’ (to use terms of contemporary meta-ethics) attribute human characteristics to a moral reality that is supposed to be divine and objective. From a rational perspective, Plato’s objective forms are “queer” or “strange” entities and a projection or objectification of subjective concepts and judgments (cf. Mackie 1977, p. 38). In the Laws, Plato claims that God is the measure of all things (Lg. IV, 716c). In Book X, he rejects three possible misapprehensions of the gods: (1) they do not exist; (2) they exist but do not care about human beings; (3) they exist but can be easily influenced and won over by prayers and sacri­ fices. It seems obvious that misapprehension 3 is indeed irrational because it is based on an inappropriate view of the gods and an overestimation of human power and influence on them. Most interesting is misapprehension 2, which is a criticism of one of Plato’s own understandings of God. In the Politikos, he conceives of God as a good and caring keeper of the human herd (Plt. 270d–272d; cf. Lg. IV, 713a–714b). This theistic view is anthropomorphic because it attributes human characteristics or behaviors like ‘good’ and ‘caring’ to God. It also comes close to misapprehension 3 because it claims a close relationship between gods and humans. Finally, Aristotle’s theological view is more rational than Plato’s because his God is merely a cosmological and physical God, who, like the God of 59

Manuel Knoll

deism, does not care about human beings. What Plato views as misappre­ hension 2 fits exactly Aristotle’s theological view. According to Aristotle’s notion, God is abstract and remote. Such a God hardly incites the rever­ ence and prayers of a religious person. As “the good and the highest good”, God is contained in the “nature of the universe” both as “something sepa­ rate and by itself” and as the order of all its parts (Metaph. XII 10, 1075a12– 14, trans. Ross). Aristotle conceives of God as an eternal substance and pure “actuality” (energeia) without matter (Metaph. XII 6, 1071b4–5, 20– 21). God is a pure “Mind” or “Reason” (nous) whose eternal activity is “thinking on thinking” (noēsis noēseōs) (Metaph. XII 7, 1072b14–30; XII 9, 1074b15–35). Such God is the final cause that moves everything in the cosmos as being loved and desired (Metaph. XII 7, 1072a26–b4). This view of a physical God is more advanced than Anaximander’s, Xenophanes’, and Anaxagoras’s because it gives an innovative account of how God moves and steers the cosmos. However, thinking and ‘Mind’ or ‘Reason’ are human characteristics and activities that Aristotle’s own mind or reason attributes or projects onto God. In retrospect, this was a bad omen for the efforts of future theologians to free themselves from anthropomorphism.

References Bryant, J. M. (1986). Intellectuals and Religion in Ancient Greece: Notes on a Weberian Theme. The British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 37, No. 2, 1986, 269–296. Burnet, J. (1920). Early Greek Philosophy. London: A & C Black (3rd ed., original 1892). Cherniss, H. (1935). Aristotle’s Criticism of Presocratic Philosophy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press. Chrysakopoulou, S. (2017). La Théologie de Xenophane. In: Ch. Vassallo (ed.), Physiologia. Topics in Presocratic Philosophy and its Reception in Antiquity (pp. 169– 197). Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag. Diels, H.-Kranz, W. (1952). Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, Vol. 3, Berlin: Weidmann (6th ed.). Gigon, O. (1968). Der Ursprung der griechischen Philosophie. Von Hesiod bis Par­ menides, Basel/Stuttgart: Schwabe & Co. (2nd ed., original 1945). Gomperz, Th. (1901). Greek Thinkers: A History of Ancient Philosophy. Vol. I (L. Magnus Trans.), London: Magnus Press (original 1893). Jaeger, W. (1947). The Theology of the Early Greek Philosophers. The Gifford Lecture 1936. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Jaeger, W. (1953). Die Theologie der frühen griechischen Denker. Stuttgart: Kohlham­ mer.


On the Rationalization of Ancient Greek Theology Kirk, G.-Raven, J. E.-Schofield, M. (1983). The Presocratic Philosophers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2nd ed.). Knoll, M. (2017). Antike griechische Philosophie. Berlin-Boston: De Gruyter. Lesher, J. H. (1992). Xenophanes of Colophon. Fragments. A Text and Translation with a Commentary. Toronto. Mackie, J. L. (1977). Ethics. Inventing Right and Wrong. London: Penguin. Nestle, W. (1975). Vom Mythos zum Logos. Die Selbstentfaltung des griechischen Denkens von Homer bis auf die Sophisten und Sokrates. Stuttgart: Kröner (2nd ed., original 1940). Ottmann, H. (2001). Geschichte des politischen Denkens. Die Griechen. Von Platon bis zum Hellenismus, Vol. 1/1. Stuttgart: Metzler, 2001. Rapp, Ch. (2007). Vorsokratiker. München: Beck (2nd rev. ed.). Vlastos, G. (1952). Theology and Philosophy in Early Greek Thought. The Philo­ sophical Quarterly, Vol. 2, No. 7, 97-123. Weber, M. (1946). Science as Vocation. In: H.H. Gerth & C. Wright Mills (Ed./ Trans.), From Max Weber. Essays in Sociology (pp. 129–156). Oxford: OUP (origi­ nal 1919). Weber, M. (2001). The Protestant Ethics and the Spirit of Capitalism (T. Parsons Trans.). London/New York: Routledge (original 1920). Zeller, E. (2006). Grundriss der Geschichte der griechischen Philosophie. Leipzig: Fues (Elibron Classics, original 1883).


The “Theology” of the First Philosopher-Poets: the Case of Xenophanes Sylvana V. Chrysakopoulou

Abstract In this essay I attempt to rehabilitate Plato’s view in the Sophist, where Xenophanes is considered to be the founder of the Eleatic school and thus the intellectual father of Parmenides, followed by Heraclitus and Empedocles, who also used the epic verse. Thus, I present Xenophanes as the first thinker who broke from the Milesian tradition, inasmuch as he treated theology as a subject in its own right, distinct from the study of nature. Aristotle in his Metaphysics establishes the distinction between the first philosophers as naturalists and those who engaged in the study of the first principles, which I take as a further indication that Xenophanes stands at the source of the study of the Aristotelean First science (Theological science), especially since Plato coins the term θεολογία in the Republic, having Xenophanes in mind. Last, but not least, in my view, Xenophanes’ concept of the noetic, immovable god who shakes everything through his φρήν anticipates Aristotle’s god as Νόησις Νοήσεως and as the unmoved mover.

I Introduction The present essay may be read as a follow-up to Knoll1’s introductory essay in this same book. It consists of a brief reassessment of Xenophanes’ ‘theol­ ogy’ in the sense of the terminus technicus θεολογία, as used of a specific field in both Plato and Aristotle.2 In fact, Plato was the first to use the word θεολογία in contradistinction to the word μυθολογία in Republic II.

1 First and foremost, I would like to thank Manuel Knoll for kindly sharing with me the unpublished version of his article and for his most insightful remarks on mine. Last but not least, I owe special thanks to John Petropoulos for the thorough reading of my paper and all linguistic and stylistic corrections. Any remaining flaws are entirely my own. 2 See Chrysakopoulou 2017, pp. 169-197.


Sylvana V. Chrysakopoulou

Coined by the philosopher in order to rectify the mythological content of epic accounts of gods, the word ‘theology‘ echoes Xenophanes' criticism of the anthropomorphism of the gods in the epic poets Homer and Hesiod. Conversely, Xenophanes’ criticism, as reconstructed through his surviving epic verses and elegiac poems, anticipates Plato's educational project in the Republic.3 For Aristotle, the term “theology” and in particular the term “theolog­ ical science” designates his First Science (Metaph. Z.1206, 17-34), the ob­ ject of which is the study of “the eternal causes” (19-22). Hence, since “God appears to be the first principle of causes[...] such a science, God alone, or at least God mainly is able to possess” (A2 983a 8-10). In his Metaph. Λ (1072a.1-7), Aristotle identifies God with the First Unmoved Mover (Πρῶτον κινοῦν ἀκίνητον), the self-contemplating Intellect (Νόησις νοήσεως) that sets everything in motion as an object of desire (κινεῖ δὴ ὡς ἐρώμενον). Since the immutable divine Νοῦς in Xenophanes “shakes everything with his noetic force”, it would not be unjustified to recog­ nize him as the precursor of the Aristotelian First Mover, especially since Aristotle, following Plato, attributes to Xenophanes the first notion of Eleatic monism. In this sense, Aristotle may be considered the first thinker to espouse “theology”, inasmuch as “to think that being is unique and immutable is not to think about nature” (Ph., 184b25-185a1): τό μέν εἴ ἓν καί ἀκίνητον τό ὂν οὐ περί φύσεως ἐστί σκοπεῖν. It is in the same sense that the Eleatic Xenophanes, as well as his supposed disciple Parmenides, should be distinguished from their Ionian predecessors, whom Aristotle rightly considered the first “naturalists”. In our view, the Ionians did not observe the distinction between “physical”, namely, cosmological discourse and "theology", that is to say, discourse on the divine. On the contrary, their first principle, to which they apparently attributed a divine character according to Aristotle (Ph. III 4, 203b8)4, is the origin of the generation and the corruption of all things, inasmuch as it was presented as the first generator of everything in the world. By condemning anthropomorphism, Xenophanes, on the other hand, was the first thinker to exclude god from the process of generation, (21 B 14, v.1): “Mortals think that gods are born”. Likewise, according to Plato, his supposed disciple Parmenides attributed to Being all the characteristics

3 Ibid. (2010), pp. 75-98. 4 See Knoll, note. 10: Anaximander’s apeiron is ‘uncreated and imperishable’ (agenēton kai anōlethron). In his poem, Parmenides uses exactly these two terms to characterize the eternal being (28B8 DK, line 3).


The “Theology” of the First Philosopher-Poets: the Case of Xenophanes

of the Xenophanean God, his noetic character included, while clearly dis­ tinguishing his ontological narrative from his cosmology. Finally, Empe­ docles, the third philosopher-poet who wrote in hexameters, sought to reconcile the demands of Parmenidean ontology with his cosmology by re­ garding his deified physical principles, which were the origin of all things in his cosmology, not only as incorruptible, but also as un-generated. By excluding God from generation and corruption, the early philoso­ phers of Magna Graecia resort to Greek piety under which god qua im­ mortal is un-generated, which is to say, in the sense that He has always existed. It is in this sense, moreover, that my main thesis differs from that of Jaeger and Gerson, both of whom attempted to find theological elements mixed with other elements in all pre-Socratics with the exception of the Pythagoreans; neither Jaeger nor Gerson signaled the difference between the physicist Ionians and the Italians who first made a distinction between the divine and the physical realm. In this respect, the first philoso­ pher-poets, namely Xenophanes, Parmenides and Empedocles drew on the radical dichotomy between mortals and immortals, the very foundation of traditional piety. The dichotomy between the divine world of immortals and that of mortals is echoed in the bipartition of poetic speech in both Xenophanes and Parmenides; in the latter’s poem the goddess distinguishes clearly between the narrative of truth and the narrative of appearance (doxa). As the only traditional knower of eternal truth, God rules and moves the world through his divine knowledge. However, the world, to which hu­ mans belong, is subject to change and therefore to appearance (δόκος). By drawing a radical distinction between truth and appearance in their poetic discourse, Xenophanes and Parmenides follow up on Hesiod’s Theogony, in which the Muses might utter truths, but also lies that resemble truths (vv. 27-28). As the traditional vehicle of the divine word, the language of epic is the language in which the Muses give their response to the poets who invoke them. In adopting epic language in order to convey their thought, Xeno­ phanes, Parmenides and Empedocles differ from their Ionian predecessors, who espoused physics in the sense of ἱστορία (the first prose genre) based on the empirical data of perceptible reality. In other words, the philoso­ pher-poets pursue “theology”, since they invoke god in order to answer questions about divine matters beyond human experience and knowledge and employ epic language in order to be transported to the level of divine truth. It is far from accidental that Parmenides and Empedocles describe their noetic expedition to divine knowledge, unveiling it through poetry in as a poetic journey inspired by the goddess who also carries them to the 65

Sylvana V. Chrysakopoulou

divine world. By making use of the formulaic language of epos, they enter into dialogue with their epic predecessors, namely Homer and Hesiod, so as to reform the content of epic poetry. It is for this reason too that they may be considered “theologians” in the sense of the Aristotelian term used of the first epic poets who professed doctrines about god (Metaph. I 3, 983b29, III 4, 1000a9). In other words, the dichotomy in poetic discourse between the narrative of truth and the narrative of appearance (δόκος) in Xenophanes and espe­ cially in Parmenides seems to be targeted at the intentional ambiguity of the words of the Muses in the Hesiodic Theogony, who are apt to utter truths in the same way that in the name of poetic license they tell lies resembling truths (vv. 27–28). By taking a critical view of the epic tradi­ tion, the first philosophers of Magna Graecia endowed the requirements of traditional piety with philosophical meaning. In other words, by applying for the first time the criterion of what is proper to God, who unlike human beings is by definition excluded from birth and death, they distin­ guished the immortal from the mortal world and treated each accordingly. Regarding the relationship between the two worlds, Empedocles gave the most elaborate answer, describing human destiny as subject not only to generation and corruption in the Peri Physeōs, but also to divine decrees in the Purifications. While adopting the Xenophanean critique of the gods’ anthropomorphism, Empedocles aims to reconcile men and gods, and he does so by dismissing the radical heterogeneity of the two as established by Olympian religion. In borrowing from Xenophanes the notion of god as an omnipotent Intellect who directs everything by his thought, he reduces the Olympian gods to allegorical names of his first cosmological princi­ ples, otherwise called “roots” (ριζώματα), from which sprouts every being in the world, including the other gods. Indeed, Empedocles grants divinity not only to his physical principles and to the god Sphairos who precedes them, insofar as they arise after his being torn apart by the divine force of Hate, but also to “demons”, whose immortal status seems to depend on their conscious adherence to Love, the primary divine force responsible for the reconciliation and the mixing of roots. Thus, the Empedoclean pantheon promises a pantheism not only thanks to the divine origins of all beings, both mortal and immortal (since everything derives from four ingenerated and incorruptible roots), but also by virtue of the common destiny of all beings from the perspective of demonic eschatology. Putting forward murder as the origin of the fall of “δαίμονες”, Empedocles rejects the institutional basis of traditional religion, namely blood sacrifices in honor of the gods.


The “Theology” of the First Philosopher-Poets: the Case of Xenophanes

As paradoxical as it may seem, not only the religious reformation advo­ cated by Empedocles, but also his project for political peace was anticipat­ ed by Xenophanes: the latter praised the usefulness of his "wisdom" for the good legislation of the city in times of peace and also opposed the tradi­ tional ritual of the symposium in his banquet elegy. By wiping off the car­ pet all traces of the blood sacrifice that traditionally precedes the banquet ritual, Xenophanes not only appears to foreshadow Empedocles’ reform of the institution of sacrifice, but also to be the first philosopher to bestow on his theological thought the status of “an offering to god”. In his banquet elegy, Xenophanes advances his criticism of the useless anachronism of the bloody episodes in traditional mythological accounts, and thereby encour­ ages his guests to recognize their first duty in a symposium to address the god of pious myths (μύθοι) and pure words (λόγοι) (22B 1 DK). In criticiz­ ing the mythopoetic tradition of its epic antecedents, his poetry not only rises to the rank of a theology endowed with philosophical claims, but also, as his banquet elegy shows, it becomes a hymn to his conception of god proper to pious conviviality.5 In sum, this essay detects the philosophical criticism of Xenophanes and its sequel in the poetry of Parmenides and Empedocles and aims to demonstrate that the notion of “Xenophanean theology” may serve as a point of reference by which one can distinguish between the aforemen­ tioned philosophers and their epic as well as Ionian predecessors.

II. The notion of theology in Xenophanes, Parmenides and Empedocles: State of the question Two twentieth-century commentators who have dealt with the theological question in early philosophy, Jaeger6 almost a century ago and Gerson7 half a century later, regard the “theology” inherent in pre-Socratic philoso­ phy as belonging to the genre of so-called “natural theology”. Historically, this distinction goes back to Varro, the Roman ency­ clopaedist who distinguished between three genres of religion: political, mythical and philosophical (natural) religion. The distinction was taken up by St. Augustine in order to show the link between Christian theology and the philosophical intuitions of the Greeks on the question of God,

5 Chrysakopoulou 2018. 6 Jaeger 1947. 7 Gerson 1990, pp. 1-20.


Sylvana V. Chrysakopoulou

and in particular his universalism, which moreover, according to Jaeger, constitutes one of the foundations of Western humanistic civilization. The Varronian distinction between the three genres of religion reveals its Stoic origin, since the third genre keeps its Greek name, “physicon”. Unlike St. Augustine, who strove to demonstrate the superiority of this genre over the others, Varro intended to justify the religion of the Roman Republic by giving primacy to civic theology, because of the supposed priority of the institution of the State over that of religion. Both Jaeger and Gerson begin their history of natural theology with the early Greek philosophers, although the Varronian distinction was not common in their time. While dealing with the question of natural theolo­ gy in pre-Socratic philosophers in particular, Jaeger reserves the question of the divinity of the first principle, as highlighted by Aristotle, only for the Milesian philosophers, unlike Gerson, who considers it the foundation of natural theology for most of the early philosophers. Broadie,8 ten years later, refuted the idea that the early philosophers espoused rational theolo­ gy, on the ground that they neither provided substantiated evidence on the question of the existence of God and the reasons for believing in Him, nor did they come up with a well-founded explanation of His nature. She also derived the god of Xenophanes from the uniqueness of the first principle of the first Ionian philosophers. However, as we have suggested in the previous pages, Xenophanes does not only make a clear distinction between his "theology" and his "physics" according to his epistemological fragment (21 B 34 DK), but also manages to provide a rational basis for bringing into prominence the quintessential noetic nature of the god, as well as the noetic way of approaching it. The noetic nature of the Xenophanean god is also reflected in the coextensive character of Being with νοεῖν in Parmenides, as well as in the conception of god in Empedocles as φρὴν ἀθέσφατος. Gerson, however, reserves the distinction between “metaphysics” and “physics” in the Aristotelian sense of the term only for Parmenides in the chapter devoted to him under the highly suggestive title “Metaphysics versus natural theology”, and classifies Xenophanes with the Ionians who espoused “natural theology”. On the other hand, although he emphasizes the noetic character of the Xenophanean god, which lies at the center of our interpretation of the conception of the god in the first philosophical poets, he refers to the no­ tion of the divine Intellect only when dealing with Anaxagoras, although Anaxagoras himself never qualified his “Mind” as divine in the extant

8 Broadie 1999, pp. 205-224.


The “Theology” of the First Philosopher-Poets: the Case of Xenophanes

fragments (59 B DK). Finally, the Empedoclean theology has no place in Gerson's treatise, whereas Jaeger devotes a separate chapter to this, given that Empedocles deals with the question not only of divinity and its first natural principles, but also of the divinity of humans or at least the process of human deification, thus formulating the theological question alongside the question of religion. First Jaeger and then Vlastos9 adopt the same methodological doctrine on the question of theology among the first philosophers, thus opposing the positivism of the beginning of the century, and more precisely that of Burnet. The latter proclaimed the purely scientific character and, by ex­ tension, the secular identity of Greek philosophy since its very beginning, though admitting that it “is based on the belief (faith) that reality is di­ vine”, and hence “it strives to satisfy what is called the religious instinct”10. Burnet shares his objective to “combat the error which consists in deriving philosophy from mythology” not only with Vlastos, but also already with Jaeger, who contests the mystical origin of philosophy claimed by the French School of Sociology, which was founded by Durkheim and later followed by the Cambridge School of J.H. Harrison, A. B. Cook, G. Mur­ ray and F. Cornford. According to Cornford11, Orphic mysticism, which derived from the reformation of the Dionysian religion, was the origin of the Italian school of thought, as opposed to the Ionian, which bore the mark of the Olympian religion. This schematization, both simplistic and over-interpretative of the birth of philosophy, was probably inspired by Nietzsche (see his Die Philosophie im tragischen Zeitalter der Griechen) and Erwin Rhode, according to whom “the philosophical categories were already implicit in Greek mythology”; this scheme deservedly was criti­ cized, especially when Cornford detected behind the Ionian philosophy of nature a “cosmological ritual”. Both Burnet and Vlastos objected to Cornford’s view that the conception of the divinity as advocated by the first philosophers entailed its ritualization and was interconnected with sacrifice and prayer, i.e. the primary institutions of popular worship: the first philosophers did not aim to replace the current cult with their con­ ception of divinity in keeping with Orphism, for Orpheus, unlike them, was a legendary figure who possessed miraculous powers. Vlastos asserts that if Burnet were content to use the expression “nonreligious use of the word god”, in the sense of the independence of philo­

9 Vlastos 1952, pp. 97-123. 10 Burnet 1920, pp. 11-12. 11 Cornford 1952.


Sylvana V. Chrysakopoulou

sophical thought on the gods of popular worship, he would agree with him, except in the case of Empedocles. But as the following sentence specifies that “like many a god and goddess in Hesiod, the gods of the philosophers are not objects of worship, but mere personifications of natu­ ral phenomena”,12 Vlastos changes his course of interpretation. Moreover, Most13 more recently upholds the connection of the philosophy of the first philosophers with primitive poetry, which he believes was decisive in the formation of their theological questioning. Indeed, Empedocles is treated by most modern and contemporary commentators as a special case, insofar as he appears more of a reformer of traditional religion than a theological thinker, presenting himself as a god and a miracle worker. However, according to our interpretation, the Xenophanean criticism of earlier epic poetry leads to religious reform as evidenced by his banquet elegy. By way of conclusion, Xenophanes, like Empedocles, aims not only to criticize the epic poets, namely Homer and Hesiod, but also to reform traditional Olympian religion. Through the epic language not only Xeno­ phanes and Empedocles, but also Parmenides, who presents his poetry as a divine revelation, consciously situate themselves in epic tradition. Through their implicit and explicit allusions to earlier epic tradition, however, they aim to transform its content and its cultural predominance among all Greeks, since Homer and Hesiod stand at the center of mainstream culture. But as Dodds already noted in the first chapter of his book The Greeks and the Irrational, which deals with the birth of the Homeric gods, even Gilbert Murray, to whom he dedicated his book, argued that popular cult in Greece was not related to the Olympian gods of Homer until the fourth century. By calling into question the religiousness of epic poetry according to the criterion of correspondence to religious practices, Dodds operates a distinction between worship and epic poetry, which might be parallel to the distinction between worship and the theology of the early philosophers. Yet, as Dodds14 made clear at the end of the same chapter, only Olympian religion can be supported with evidence; under these con­ ditions, we must not think of Greek religion in the way that we think of contemporary religion, and this takes us back to Willamowitz's attempt in his Glaube der Hellenen to integrate the theology of the philosophers from

12 See note 8, p. 101. 13 Most 1999, pp. 332-362. 14 Dodds 1956, p. 347.


The “Theology” of the First Philosopher-Poets: the Case of Xenophanes

Plato onwards in Greek religion. This attempt was followed by Burkert15, in his classic Griechische Religion der archaischen und klassischen Epoche, in which he devotes several chapters to the religion of the philosophers, start­ ing however with the Ionians. Admittedly, the religious intellectualism of the Ionians must be treated as a separate body of the Greek religion, inso­ far as not only Thales maintained that “everything is full of gods”, but also Anaximander, unlike the first philosophical poets, regarded the divine as his first principle; the Ionians, however, did not distinguish between theol­ ogy and cosmology, nor between the religion promoted by epic poets and the rituals of popular religion.16 Last but not least, as Tor eloquently puts it in the introduction of his recent book Mortal and Divine in Early Greek Epistemology: “But the engagements of philosophers with traditional or non-philosophical religious attitudes are hardly limited to criticisms […] Ultimately, philosophical theologies constitute one aspect of the flexible and inclusive mass of beliefs, representations and practices that was Greek religion.”17 To conclude, if the Varronian distinction between natural, mythical and political theology could be applied in an anachronistic manner, the first philosophers of Magna Graecia provided reasons for the reformation of rituals such as sacrifice and prayer, inasmuch as their philosophical conception of the divine consisted in an argued refutation of the mythical theology of the first epic poets, namely Homer and Hesiod.

III. The notion of unity (monism) in Xenophanes’ theology according to Aristotle In the last part of this essay we will limit ourselves to the question of how the term “theology” coined by Plato in the Republic describes Xenophanes’ endeavor, given that Aristotle follows his master’s teaching in this respect. In the Republic (377c-379a; cf. 606a- 607d), Plato repeats almost verbatim Xenophanes’ accusations of the epic poets in his hexameters 21 B11-12 DK; moreover, in the Sophist Xenophanes becomes an emblematic figure, whose monistic account is purified from the absurdities of the pluralists who are presented as the epic poets. Plato’s view, voiced by the Eleatic 15 Burkert 1977. 16 See op. cit., p. 8, supra note: Jaeger uses the expression “handicapped by prote­ stant bias”, when he talks about Willamowitz in regard to the criteria he uses when it comes to the concept of religion in classical antiquity. 17 Tor 2017, p. 2.


Sylvana V. Chrysakopoulou

Visitor in the Sophist, is that Xenophanes was the founder of the so-called Eleatic ‘tribe’ and thus the first monist, in the sense that he was the ‘father’ of Parmenides, the traditional founder of the Eleatic school (242c-243a). By proposing Xenophanes as the founder of the Eleatic ἒθνος, as distinct from the Ionian and Sicilian Muses, i.e. Heraclitus and Empedocles respec­ tively, the Eleatic Stranger appears to adopt a proto-classification into schools of different origins or rather a different philosophical lineage, in juxtaposition to the μέγιστα γένη that he will later introduce in the Sophist (254c).18 Such a taxonomy proves more insightful and more question-beg­ ging than later schematic and anachronistic approaches to the matter, although, prima facie, it is also based solely upon local criteria19. According to the taxonomy adopted by Aristotle in his classification of his predecessors in the Physics (1.2, 184a15-18),“it is necessary that there be either a single principle or several and if there is only one, either that it is immobile, as Parmenides and Melissos say, or that it is mobile, as the physicists claim”.20 Aristotle’s subsequent remark that “to think that being is unique and immobile is not to think about nature” (184b25-185a1) es­ tablishes a clear distinction between the physicists and the Eleatics, namely Melissos and Parmenides. The explanation of this remark is to be found in his Metaphysics (986b 10-18), where Aristotle refers to the Eleatics, for whom “the doctrine of those who proclaimed that all things are one (na­ ture) [...] is of another kind, because while the physiologists add movement, when generating all things, these philosophers on the contrary, claim that the whole is immobile”.21 In other words, the “One” according to the doctrine of the Eleatics, “all things are One” (ἓν πάντα εἶναι) ̶ to use the Platonic formulation in the Sophist which Aristotle seems to reproduce in Metaphysics (A5 986b 25-26 ) ̶ is considered immutable, in the sense that

18 Chrysakopoulou 2018, pp. 324-337. 19 In the Lives of the Philosophers, Diogenes classifies all known Greek thinkers into different schools, which indicated largely only a close relationship between a master and his disciple(s). For the history of the matter, I quote Kirk, Raven and Schofield (1983: 102, footnote 2): ‘The arrangement of early philosophers into schools and into masters was initiated by Theophrastus and systematically applied into succession by Sotion, c. 200 B.C. Apollodorus used the latter work, normally assuming a 40 year interval between master and pupil.’ 20 οὐ γὰρ ὥσπερ ἔνιοι τῶν φυσιολόγων ἓν ὑποθέμενοι τὸ ὂν ὅμως γεννῶσιν ὡς ἐξ ὕλης τοῦ ἑνός, ἀλλ᾽ἕτερον τρόπον […] ἐκεῖνοι μὲν γὰρ προστιθέασι κίνησιν, γεννῶντές γε τὸ πᾶν, οὗτοι δὲ ἀκίνητον εἶναί φασιν. 21 οὐ γὰρ ὥσπερ ἔνιοι τῶν φυσιολόγων ἓν ὑποθέμενοι τὸ ὂν ὅμως γεννῶσιν ὡς ἐξ ὕλης τοῦ ἑνός, ἀλλ᾽ἕτερον τρόπον οὗτοι λέγουσιν: ἐκεῖνοι μὲν γὰρ προστιθέασι κίνησιν, γεννῶντές γε τὸ πᾶν, οὗτοι δὲ ἀκίνητον εἶναί φασιν.


The “Theology” of the First Philosopher-Poets: the Case of Xenophanes

it is excluded from generation. Consequently, while the Eleatics belong to the same category as the physiologists, insofar as their doctrine deals with a single principle, they differ from the latter, because they deprive it of the notion of "kinesis" in the sense of “generation”. By excluding the Eleatics from his inquiries in the Physics, Aristotle takes a further step in order to include them in his Metaphysics. Moreover, in his De Caelo (298b 18-21), where Aristotle stakes his theory of celestial motion on the First Immovable Mover, he observes that things not subject to generation and change belong to a science (ἐπιστήμη), which is qualified as either ‘preceding’ (προτέρα) or as different (ἑτέρα) from natural science (φυσική ἐπιστήμη) (Cf. Ph., 184b25-185a1).22 In this way, he implicitly grants to the Eleatic kind of inquiry a higher status than that which he accords to research on nature. Simplicius, in his Commentary on Aristotle's Physics (21A31 DK), repro­ duces the taxonomy that Aristotle adopts in his Physics, in order to classify the views of his predecessors on the subject of first principles, while adding an additional diairesis, that of the unlimited and the limited. Indeed, according to Simplicius, “there must be either a single principle or […] several principles, and if there is a single principle, it must either be mutable or immutable and if it is immutable, (it must be) either unlimited as Melissos seems to say, or limited, as Parmenides (seems to say). The diairesis that Simplicius adds to the Aristotelian distinction in his Physics is not arbitrary. It takes into account Aristotle’s remark in his Metaphysics, when he tries to clarify the Xenophanean notion of unity, in which he does not recognize the sense of either formal unity, which he ascribes to Parmenides, and by virtue of which the One is limited, or of the notion of material unity according to Melissos, by virtue of which the One is unlimited (A5 986b 21-24). Indeed, Aristotle criticizes Xenophanes on the ground that “he did not clarify anything and does not seem to have grasped the nature of any (of the two causes) (A5 986b 27)”, that is to say, of either the formal or the material cause, as introduced by Parmenides and Melissos respectively23. Consequently, the observation of Theophras­ tus (Ph. Op. Fr. 5D. 480) that Simplicius quotes in the same context, according to which the first principle in Xenophanes, is neither limited

22 Cael. 298 b 20-21: τὸ γὰρ εἶναι ἄττα τῶν ὄντων ἀγένητα καὶ ὅλως ἀκίνητα μᾶλλόν ἐστιν ἑτέρας καὶ προτέρας ἢ τῆς φυσικῆς σκέψεως. 23 Παρμενίδης μὲν γὰρ ἔοικε τοῦ κατὰ τὸν λόγον ἑνὸς ἅπτεσθαι, Μέλισσος δὲ τοῦ κατὰ τὴν ὕλην διὸ καὶ ὁ μὲν πεπερασμένον ὁ δ᾽ἄπειρόν φησιν εἶναι αὐτό: Ξενοφάνης δὲ πρῶτος τούτων ἑνίσας […] οὐθὲν διεσαφήνισεν, οὐδὲ τῆς φύσεως τούτων οὐδετέρας ἔοικε θιγεῖν.


Sylvana V. Chrysakopoulou

nor unlimited, mutable, nor immutable, voices Aristotle‘s strictures that “Xenophanes did not clarify anything”. This criticism seems to go back to Plato’s general observation at the expense of his predecessors in the Sophist (243a), who “disregarded and did not pay attention to most of our kind, without caring whether we follow them in what they say or if we are left behind, each one of them going his own way till the end”. However, Simplicius, following Aristotle (Metaph. A5 986b26), who in his turn follows Plato, considers Xenophanes to be the teacher of Par­ menides, and reinforcing this point, he quotes Theophrastus (Ph. Op. fr.5 D480), according to whom “the resumption of the opinion of Xenophanes of Colophon, the master of Parmenides who supposed that the first princi­ ple is unique, in other words that the Being and the whole are One, [...] does not concern the research (ἱστορία) on nature, but a different type of research”. Whether this quote really traces back to Theophrastus or whether it is a forced interpretation by Simplicius remains unclear. What matters in the first instance is that the quotation attaches to Xenophanes in particular the thesis which Aristotle ascribes to the Eleatics in general, in­ sofar as it goes back to Aristotle’s remark in his Metaphysics (A5 986b16-20) that “the doctrine (of the Eleatics) is different from the doctrine of certain physiologists, who by positing Being as One they generate all things from the One considered as matter”. Simplicius, on the other hand, specifies in the same context that the first principle in Parmenides and Melissos does not have the sense of a natural element. In other words, he refers to the first principle of the physiologoi, who “generate all things from the One considered as matter” (Metaph. A5 986b17-20). Indeed, for Aristotle “most of the first philosophers considered as the only principle of all things those which are of the nature of matter [...] such is for them the first element (στοιχεῖον), such is the principle (ἀρχή) of beings” (A 3, 983b 8-13). Aristotle, despite his reservations regarding the monism outlined by Xenophanes, considers him “the oldest champion of Unity" (A5 986b 25-26)”. Simplicius too, citing Theophrastus, emphasizes that Xenophanes was the first to conduct research that did not have to do with nature, but with “being qua being ” (In Ph. 22, 22 fq), unlike his predecessors (φυσιολόγοι) who, according to Aristotle, studied the principle from which all things are derived: “the starting point of their generation and the final term of their corruption ”(Metaph. A3 983b 8-10). Xenophanes indeed ex­ cludes god from generation and corruption, and he might in this sense be considered the predecessor of Aristotelian theological science, because “be­ ing qua being” constitutes for Aristotle the object of his “primary science”, otherwise called “theological science” (Metaph. E1 34-36), in the sense that it deals with the “eternal causes” of things (E1 19-22). Last but not least, 74

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since God for Aristotle “appears to be the first principle of all causes…, such a science, god alone or at least god mainly, can only possess” (Metaph. A 2. 983a 8-10). According to fragment 21 B 34 DK, Xenophanes clearly distinguishes not only between his theology and his “physics”, but also between divine and human knowledge, thus paving the way for Parmenides, who presents his ontology as a divine revelation, while recognizing in his cosmology the status of “doxa”. In his epistemological fragment 21 B 34 DK, Xenophanes maintains that men will never succeed in giving a definitive answer to the question of the divine, nor to any other matter treated in his poetry because “even if someone finds the exact truth, he himself cannot be aware of it, for everything is conjecture (doxa)”. Nevertheless, Xenophanes recog­ nizes the possibility of an improvement in the field of inquiry through time, which the gods confer on men, to whom “they did not reveal ev­ erything from the beginning” (DK 22 B 18). The consequences of such a statement are considerable, since God in Xenophanes is, like God in Aristotle, the only perfect knower. Just as the divine Νοῦς in Xenophanes remains immutable, so also does the character of divine knowledge, being regarded as definitive (τετελεσμένον) in the sense that it does not change. Similarly, as God in Aristotle is said to be the first principle of causes and immutable, he is therefore the goal of himself (Cael., 292b5). According to the etymological research that Palmer conducted in his article on this subject24, the verb ἀποβλέπειν (to watch) in this context does not retain its literal meaning, but in conjunction with εἰς it rather designates in Aristotle “what one takes in consideration” before drawing a conclusion. Under the influence of the famous Aristotelian expression, ac­ cording to which “Nature aspires to the Good”, where one attests a similar grammatical construction, one could reformulate the sentence as follows: “Xenophanes drew the conclusion that the One is God, taking the entire sky as a model”. It is therefore necessary to clarify the meaning of the expression “whole sky”. According to the enumeration of the meanings of the word οὐρανός in the Aristotelian On the Heavens (1: 9, 278b 9-21), the only one that suits the context according to Palmer seems to be “uni­ verse”. This interpretation is reinforced by the adjective “whole”, which qualifies the word οὐρανός, and which, like the notion of the universe, refers to the notion of the whole. Aristotle, on the other hand, uses the same expression in the identical sense when expounding the theory of the Pythagoreans, according to whom “the whole sky is composed of num­

24 See Palmer 1996 fn 53, p. 27.


Sylvana V. Chrysakopoulou

bers” (A5 986a 2-3) in the same chapter of his Metaphysics, where he deals with Xenophanes. Therefore, if in this case the expression “whole sky” means “the universe”, one could reformulate the Aristotelian statement on Xenophanean monism as follows: Xenophanes drew the conclusion that “the One is the God” by taking as a model the “whole universe”, namely the totality of things. However, we only have one line left, in which Xenophanes relates his god to the universe and which opens up other possibilities of interpretation. According to fragment 21 B 25 DK, quoted by Simplicius in his Commentary on Aristotle’s Physics (23:19), the god that Xenophanes announces “shakes all things without difficulty, by the force of his thought”. Moreover, not only does he exercise his power over the totality of things, but he also considers Himself to be a whole according to his mode of perception, for “he sees, he conceives and he hears as a whole” (21B 24 DK) according to the quotation in Sextus Empir­ icus (M. ix 144). The way God perceives things is neither partial, as in the case of humans, since it depends on their sense organs, nor passive, since He is the one who moves everything (Simp., Ph. 23, 10 = 21 B 26 DK). Consequently, Aristotle places the god of Xenophanes at the origin of the unity of all things, given the analogy between, on the one hand, the latter, who forms a unity according to his mode of perception and on the other, the universe that he shakes (κραδαίνει) through his perception (φρενί). Aristotle, intending to designate the whole universe, uses the same adjective as Xenophanes when describing the “holistic”, as it were, mode of divine perception: ὃλος. Therefore, Aristotle seems to have interpreted the notion of the Xenophanean God in terms of his own notion of God, which is to say, as “the first principle of all things” (Metaph. A2 983a 8-10) and therefore of their unity. By considering the God of Xenophanes as the origin of the unity for all things, Aristotle reaffirms the Platonic view on the latter in the Sophist. In other words, Aristotle explains the Platonic “the All is One” by “the One is the God”. But Xenophanes neither said via recta nor suggested that “the One is the God”, at least according to his few surviving fragments and the relevant testimonies. Therefore, the only prima facie reasons for justifying Aristotle’s interpretation are to be found in the definition of his own “theological science”, which conceptu­ ally is related to the notion of Eleatic monism that for lack of any other possible classification in the doxographic scheme proposed by Aristotle, Xenophanes founded according to Plato. It is in this context of interpretation of Xenophanean theology that we will try to clarify the possible relationship between the few dactylic verses attributed to him and the notion of monism that Aristotle ascribes to him. Indeed, according to Clement’s quote, Xenophanes professes “one god, the 76

The “Theology” of the First Philosopher-Poets: the Case of Xenophanes

greatest among gods and men” (21 B 23 DK) (εἳς θεός, ἐν τοῖς ἀνθρώποισιν καί τοῖς θεοῖσι μέγιστος). If Clement’s quote is correct, Xenophanes did not say that there is only one god (θεός εἳς), as Clement claims, eager as he is to make Xenophanes the first advocate of the Judaic type of monotheism, nor that “the One is the God” as in Aristotle’s quote, which probably corresponds to the same verse. Rather, he asserted that “there is a god (εἳς θεός), the greatest among gods and men”. In other words, Clement’s error lies in the inversion of the position of the subject and of the numerical adjective εἳς, to which he arbitrarily grants the absolute meaning of the synonymous adjective μόνος; however, he does not take into account the end of the verse ἐν τοῖς θεοῖσι μέγιστος, which admits of other gods, albeit less important, thus excluding the possibility of Xenophanes’ supposed monotheism. Aristotle, in his own quotation from (in all probability) this same segment of the verse, treats the adjective εἳς as attributive and referring to the subject Θεός; he inverts their position, and changes the gender of the adjective to the neutral ἓν, in order to assign to Xenophanes the first notion of unity. Although the legacy of Xenophanes as the first philosophical monothe­ ist is not justified by careful textual analysis, his case remains the best example of a rational henotheism that initiated a philosophical tradition stretching from Plato to Neoplatonism.

References Broadie, S. (1999). “Rational Theology” in The Cambridge Companion to Early Greek Philosophy, ed. A. A. Long. Cambridge: University Press, 1999, 205-224. Burkert, W. (1977). Griechische Religion der archaischen und klassischen Epoche. Stuttgart, Berlin, Köln, Mainz: Kohlhammer. Burkert, W. (1985). Greek Religion (trans Raffan, J.). Cambridge: Harvard Universi­ ty Press. Burnet, J. (1920). Early Greek Philosophy. London: A & C Black (3rd ed., original 1892), p. 11-12. Cornford, F. M. (1952). Principium Sapientiae. The origins of Greek Philosophical Thought, Cambridge, ed. W. K. C. Guthrie, Cambridge: University Press. Chrysakopoulou, S. (2010). “Heraclitus and Xenophanes in Plato's Sophist”, Ari­ adne, vol. 16, pp. 75-98. Chrysakopoulou, S. (2017). “La Théologie de Xénophane” in Physiologia, Topics in Presocratic Philosophy and its Reception in Antiquity,’ eds Christian Vassallo, Georg Woerle, AKAN, Einzelschriften, Wissenschaftliger Verlag, Trier 2017, pp. 169-197.


Sylvana V. Chrysakopoulou Chrysakopoulou, S. (2018a). “Du Banquet de Xénophane aux Purifications d'Empedocle”, Caliope, 2018, vol.35, online publication. Chrysakopoulou, S. (2018b). “Xenophanes in Plato's Sophist and the First Philo­ sophical Genealogy”, Trends in Classics 2018, vol. 10, issue 2, 324-337. Dodds, E. R., (1956). The Greeks and the Irrational (Sather classical lectures), Berke­ ley-Los Angeles: University of California Press, pp. 347. Gerson, L. P. (1990). “God and Greek Philosophers” in Studies in the Early History of Natural Theology, London: Routledge,1-20. Jaeger W., (1947). The Theology of the Early Greek Philosophers, Oxford: Clarendon Press.Kirk, G.S., Raven, J.E., Schofield, M., (1983). The Presocratic Philosophers: a Critical History with a Selection of Texts, Cambridge: University Press. Most, G. W. (1999). “The Poetics of Early Greek Philosophy”, The Cambridge Companion to Early Greek Philosophy, ed. A. A. Long, Cambridge, 332-362. Palmer J.A. (1996). “Xenophanes’ Ouranian God in the Fourth Century”, Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 16, 1-34. Tor, S., (2017). “Mortal and Divine in Early Greek Epistemology”, in Cambridge Classical Studies, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Vlastos, G. (1952). “Theology and Philosophy in early Greek Thought”, Philosophi­ cal Quarterly 2, pp. 97-123.


Gods and Religion in the Sophistic Context: between Agnosticism and Utilitarian Rationalism Francesca Eustacchi

Abstract The Sophistic thought affirms the primacy of the human dimension over Nature and focuses on the different aspects of the anthropological domain (rhetoric, ethics, politics), but it does not bypass the topic of the divine, despite the penal judicial consequences the Sophists might face for poten­ tially unconventional interpretations (see Protagoras and Socrates). From the surviving fragments, the Sophists’ interest in the topic emerges from their investigation of the relationship between the human being and god at two levels: an epistemological level, which can be expressed through the question “can humans know the gods?”, and a practical one, through the question “what role has religious belief in the moral and social praxis?”.On the basis of the traditional view of the gods (see Gorgias, Antiphon and Thrasymachus), the Sophists present a large variety of stances, some of which incompatible with each other (like the Dissòi lógoi = DK90.2 shows: «if it is seemly to treat the gods with respect, it is also shameful to treat the gods with respect»). In these debates, the Sophistic movement develops attitudes proposed again in the West through the centuries. Among these, we can underline two attitudes: at the epistemological level, agnosticism (see Protagoras) and atheistic rationalism; at the ethical-political level, atheistic rationalism, which takes on two different positions: one is utilitar­ ian (see Prodicus) and the other instrumental (see Critias). Keywords: Sophists, Gods, Agnosticism, Atheistic, Rationalism

I. Introduction: the Sophistic investigation of the divine Consistently with their affirmation of the primacy of the human dimen­ sion and their interest in the anthropological sphere in all its various aspects (rhetoric, ethics, politics, etc.), and despite the penal judicial conse­ quences this might entail (think of the sentences inflicted on Protagoras and Socrates), the Sophists did not overlook the topic of the divine, but


Francesca Eustacchi

rather addressed it by focusing on the relations between men and gods, and hence on “religion”. This constitutes a significant turn if compared to the previous tradition, which had pursued a common goal, namely, the acquisition of knowl­ edge of nature or being, in view of which the question of the origin of all things, that is, the basic principle of reality, was addressed. Natural philosophers considered this principle to be “divine”, that is to say, differ­ ent from and superior to perceptible things, things that can be grasped by the senses. This thought in itself is already an unconsciously metaphysical move, insofar as the raison d’être for the world is intelligibly explored and grasped through a material principle that is posited beyond the level of phenomena, which explains and justifies them. Within this context, there­ fore, the reflection on the divine, the chief characteristic of the principle, is internal to – and coincides with – that of nature. The Sophists shift the axis of the enquiry from the “metaphysical”-natu­ ralistic perspective to the anthropological one, by raising the question of the presence of the phenomenon of religion. Within this enquiry, a range of different positions are developed, each of which stems from «an attitude which no longer demands an objective philosophical knowledge of the divine essence such as the older philosophers of nature had proclaimed, but which regards the traditional religious conceptions of the Divine as among the constituents of human nature as such, and seeks to approach them rather from the standpoint of the subject by analysing man himself» (Jaeger 1947, p. 176). In brief, a transition is made from the investigation of the divine to the investigation of religion, which acquires meaning within the context of human civilisation and human social structures. On the basis of surviving fragments, it is possible to classify the Sophists’ reflections into two main spheres: 1. the practical sphere, in which (1.1) the addressed problem is the one of the origins of religion as an important element in human society, which affects practices and morals; (1.2) from a utilitarian and instru­ mental perspective, the advantages of religious belief on the socio-polit­ ical and rhetorical-juridical level are enumerated; 2. the epistemological sphere, with an investigation of the problem of man’s knowledge of the gods and the issue of the truth-content of this knowledge (the existence or non-existence of the gods). In dealing with these questions, the Sophists adopt a different perspective that introduces new elements, if compared to previous treatments of the matter. However, they still operate within the traditional religious dimen­


Gods and Religion in the Sophistic Context

sion, in relation to which some of them maintain a more “conservative” approach, while others adopt a more critical attitude, as we will see below.

2. The origin of religion and of the gods 2.1 Democritus’ distinctive position I must start from an apparent “oddity”: the Sophistic anthropological treatment of the issue concerning the origin of religion was not at all something new. It is worth briefly recalling the position of the atomist Democritus (who, as one tradition has it, taught Protagoras when the latter was already a mature man). Democritus may be seen to have anticipated the Sophists in certain respects. As witnessed by many sources, he provided different explanations regarding the origin of belief in the gods, all of which are in keeping with his materialistic view of nature and man. 1) From the epistemological point of view: the gods are images, εἲδωλα, which are spontaneously produced in dreams and depend on real objects that man perceives in the world (cf. Plu., Quaestiones conviviales, VIII 10,2 = DK68A77). Some of these images are big and powerful, difficult to alter, and serve as omens that can have good or bad effects on man: Democritus says that “certain images approach humans”, and of them some cause good and others evil, and as a result he prayed “to meet with propitious images”. These are large and immense, and difficult to destroy though not indestructible. They indicate the future in advance to people when they are seen and emit voices. As a result people of ancient times, upon perceiving the appearances of these things, supposed that they are a god, though there is no other god aside from these having an indestructible nature (S.E., M. IX 19 = DK68B166)1. The text explains that it is the human being who interprets these images and assimilates them to the gods, by wholly identifying the divine with them. Actually, as an Aristotelian evidence specifies, the gods have nothing to do with this and it is not necessary to bring them into play in relation to such images: It happens to everyone to be in this state and not just to wise men. Indeed, if it were God who brought these visions about, they would be 1 English translation of the quoted text is taken from McKirahan & Curd, 2011, with my slight changes.


Francesca Eustacchi

visible only to wise men, and only at daytime (Ar., Div.Somn., 2, p. 464A5).2 The fact that Democritus believes that these images are produced in all men (as well as in all irrational beings, cf. DK68A79) confirms the idea that in his view it is a natural event. We must bear in mind that the conception of the gods which the texts just quoted refer to differs from the conception that Democritus formulates about the divine. This is a more complex notion I cannot delve into here.3 2) There is also another explanation of the origin of the gods: men con­ ceive the gods as the cause of “marvellous (παραδόξων)” natural phenome­ na (a conception that foreshadows that of Prodicus): awesome phenomena like lightning and thunder engendered fear in the gods, while others, such as the seasons, led men to worship and respect the gods. On this basis, men then assigned the abodes of the gods to the heavens, which is to say, the place from which these phenomena originate (cf. S.E., M. IX 24 = DK68A75). 3) The philosopher also provides an ethical explanation: certain concep­ tions of the gods are fanciful products of remorse for an ill-spent life (cf. Lucr., De rerum natura III, 987 ff.), which is to say, fictions produced by the human mind, which agonises throughout its life, paying on earth that penalty that men (erroneously) believe will be inflicted upon them by the gods in the afterlife4. These reflections of Democritus are interesting because, as we will soon see, they present a number of elements that occur in the same form in the

2 Unless otherwise specified, the English translation of the quoted texts is mine and it is based on the Greek text in Reale, 2006. 3 In brief: Democritus identifies nature – human nature and that of the world – and the rationality within it with the divine, and grants the existence of beings different from man, superior and less ephemeral beings; these are akin to daemons (cf. DK68A78), and hence differ from the traditional gods, consistently with Dem­ ocritus’ physical perspective. 4 Jaeger (1974, p. 182) shows how these different interpretations of the origin of religious beliefs provided by Democritus are mutually consistent. Very briefly: the feeling of awe elicited by natural phenomena lies at the origin of the belief in the gods, understood as their cause, a cause uncontrollable by man; as such, the gods are worthy of fear and respect; the ethical explanation of remorse fits well with these feelings; likewise, they can be associated with the epistemological theory of the gods-images, which are described as being large, almost indestructible, and hence fearsome.


Gods and Religion in the Sophistic Context

Sophists:5 an indicator of their common cultural climate (let’s not forget that Democritus was a contemporary of Protagoras). This testifies to the fact that the transition to the new contributions made by the Sophists was not an abrupt change, but rather a gradual process and a timely development.

2.2. The Sophists’ positions Democritus’ mature pupil, Protagoras, addresses the problem of the origin of religion, as evidenced by Plato in the myth of Prometheus (although this is a Platonic tale, the choice to put it into the Sophist’ mouth is far from implausible): As man had become partaker of a divine portion, he, in the first place, by virtue of his bond of kinship with the divine, was the only animal to believe in the gods, and set himself to establish altars and statues of the gods (Prt., 322A4-5). The bond between man and God is the cause of religious belief and worship. It is described in strong terms: τοῦ θεοῦ συγγένεια (322A4), as a close form of kinship that puts man in a unique position: alone of all animals, man believes in the gods. The man-God relation, moreover, is considered essential not just for the birth of human civilisation, but also for its preservation: Zeus was worried that our species might be completely annihilated, so he gave Hermes the job of teaching humankind decency and justice, to bring order to their communities and to bind men together in friendship (Protagoras, 322C1-3). The position expressed by the Sophist here serves an essentially practical function, in the sense that it helps explain the birth of civilisation and

5 Obviously, as emphasised by Jaeger (1947, pp. 183-184), the tone and style are those of natural philosophy: marvelling at natural phenomena, the philosopher, or wise man, wonders about them and describes the Divinity as the only God (a clear contrast with traditional polytheism) that is the cause of being and encompasses all things. We catch an echo here of the natural philosophers, from Anaximander to Anaxagoras, who speak of a divine element that has come to light through their study of being and nature. The fact that Democritus projects this discovery back into the earliest age of humanity is an attempt to explain all religious beliefs within the context of the investigation of nature.


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religion. As I will further clarify later, it must not be mistaken for an epistemological investigation, as in relation to the gods Protagoras adopts an agnostic position. The problem of the birth of religion is also investigated by Prodicus of Ceos who, like Protagoras, sets it within the framework of the birth of civilisation: the ancients have identified those things useful to human life as the gods. Perseus […] in his work On the Gods states that the theory championed by Prodicus for the first time (πρῶτον) – namely that things that nourish and are beneficial were regarded and honoured as gods and then, after them, those who discovered ways of nourishing oneself or shelters or crafts, such as Demeter and Dionysius – does not strike him as unlikely […] (Phld., Piet. 9, 7, p. 45 = DK84B5). What are identified with the gods are not only useful and advantageous things, but also the discoverers of such things, as Cicero further clarifies: How much religion did Prodicus of Ceos leave remaining, who said that it was the things which were serviceable to human life that had been regarded as gods? Perseus argues… that those who had discovered something very useful to civil life were regarded as gods, and that these useful and advantageous things were called by the names of gods (Cic., ND I 37, 118; 15, 38 = DK84B5). This deification also concerns the stars and nature, and all things that nourish man: Prodicus of Ceos then states: “The ancients thought of the sun and the moon and rivers and springs, and in general all the things that benefit our lives, as gods because of the benefit that comes from them, just as the Egyptians regard the Nile”; and that for this reason bread was thought of as Demeter, wine as Dionysus, water as Poseidon, fire as Hephaistus, and so on for each of the things that are useful to us [...] those labeled atheists say that there is no divinity, such as Euhe­ merus [...] and Diagoras of Melos, Prodicus of Ceos, and Theodorus ... Prodicus said that what benefits life was assumed to be a god, like the sun and moon and rivers and pools and meadows and crops and everything of this sort (S.E., M. IX 18 = DK84B5).6

6 The English translation is by Bett, 2012.


Gods and Religion in the Sophistic Context

Useful things are regarded as reflecting a higher, divine will. We find here certain elements reminiscent of the Democritean explanation of the birth of religion. The Sophist, however, does not merely trace the belief in the gods back to the cause of natural phenomena, as Democritus does, but identifies the two. The gods are seen as an intellectual creation stem­ ming from the spontaneous human need to justify – within a finalistic perspective (which implies intelligence, will, etc.) – natural phenomena, resources and all the useful things that men encounter and can fruitfully employ. This is a rationalistic approach, which might even be described as utilitarian. We are witnessing here an entirely new hypostatisation of the useful: «Whereas the natural philosophers had identified the divine with the Principle, which is to say with what was most valuable, Prodicus identified it with the useful, which is to say what was most valuable to him» (Reale 2004, p. 92). What comes to light here is the need for man to identify a cause that acts in a finalistic way.

3. The instrumental advantages of religious belief The Sophists’ reflection on the origin of religion would therefore appear to be connected to an attempt to identify the advantages accruing from this belief in the various areas of human praxis. 1) In the political sphere, the position voiced by Critias in the satyr play Sisyphus stands out: And Critias, one of the tyrants in Athens, seems to belong in the ranks of atheists when he says that the ancient lawgivers made up god as a sort of overseer of the right actions and misdeeds of humans, with the aim of having no one do injustice to his neighbour in secret, since he would be cautious about punishment from the gods. His exact words are as follows: Then, since the laws kept them from doing Open acts of violence, But they still did them in secret, at that point it seems to me That some cunning man, wise in judgement, first Invented fear of the gods for mortals, so that There would be something for the bad to fear, even if They did or said or thought something in secret. The gods here are explicitly regarded as an invention, an original expedient to make up for the fact that it is impossible for the law to “control” the hidden behaviour of men in their private sphere. Through an all-seeing, all-hearing God, it is possible to influence the consciences of individual 85

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men and prevent them from committing evil deeds, which cannot be hidden from the eyes of God: So that is how he introduced the divine, Saying that there is a god, flourishing in life without end, Hearing and seeing with his mind, aware of And attending to these things, bearing a divine nature, Who will hear everything that is said among mortals And will be able to see everything that is done. And even if you plan something bad in silence, This will not escape the notice of the gods; for wisdom Belongs in them. Saying these words, He introduced the most pleasant of teachings (διδαγμάτων ἥδιστον) Covering up the truth with a false account (ψευδεῖ λόγωι). The text clearly states that according to Critias this discourse about the gods is false, yet welcome, because it is useful and advantageous for society. The coercive power of this invention is reinforced by the place assigned to the gods: And he said that the gods dwelt in a place where, If you took humans there, you would most strike them with terror; From there, he knew, mortals have fears And also toils in their miserable lives – From the circuit of the heavens above, where he beheld There was lightning, and fearful claps Of thunder, and the starry expanse of heaven, The fine embroidery of Time, wise craftsman. From there, too, proceeds the bright mass of a star And wet showers come down on earth. With these kinds of fears he surrounded humans And by means of them in his account he housed God finely and in a fitting place, And quenched lawlessness with laws. And a little further on he adds In this way, I think, someone first persuaded (πεῖσαι) Mortals to think (νομίζειν) there was a race of gods7. (E.,8 Sis. in S.E., Adversus mathematicos, IX 54 = DK88B25).

7 The English translation is by Bett, 2012. 8 The attribution of this fragment has been much discussed by scholars: modern scholarship has attributed a tragic tetralogy to Critias (Tennes, Rhadamanthys, Pirit­


Gods and Religion in the Sophistic Context

The gods are assigned to the place where they prove more fearsome: their creator exploits men’s fear of a remote nature which they do not know well and cannot control, and whose actions, in a way, they “suffer” (light­ ning, thunder, rain...). In this account too, with certain nuances, we find an echo of some of the ideas previously examined: the Democritean theory of fear of the gods and Prodicus’ theory of the gods as useful things. Like Democritus, Critias assigns the gods to the heavens, the source of all natural phenomena; yet, unlike the atomist, he does not present this as a spontaneous motion, but as a conscious decision made by an ingenious and persuasive man in view of a particular purpose. Again, Democritus too attributes to only a few, among all men endowed with reason, the (erroneous) belief that God possesses wisdom in the highest degree, that he sees and hears everything, and can be the sovereign of everything by giving or taking (cf. DK68B30). For this reason, a man with a bad conscience knows that he will incur punishment after death (cf. DK68B297). Unlike Democritus, however, according to whom the people who attributed these characteristics to the gods, the causes of the natural world, were wise men seeking to explain phenomena, Critias emphasises the strictly political and instrumental use of these claims, and hence of religion in general. Here too the perspective is a rationalistic one, but it is more instrumen­ tal (compared to Prodicus’ utilitarianism): the gods and religion are a means of control used to make up for the limits of a political system. In a perfectly logical way, then, religion is presented as deriving from a conscious political fiction. 2) In the rhetorical-legal sphere, Gorgias maintained a traditional view of the gods, yet exploited it as a supporting argument to persuade his audi­ ence. In the Encomium of Helen (= DK82B11),9 he invokes the powerful influence of the gods over human actions as an extenuating factor: She did what she did either because of the desires of Fortune, the decision of the gods, and the decrees of Necessity, or because she was abducted by force, or because she was persuaded by the spoken words, . Now, if it was because of the first reason, it is fitting to lay the blame where it lies, since it is impossible for human premonition to impede divine predilection. It is not in the nature of things that the stronger be impeded by the weaker, but the weaker should be ruled and guided by the stronger – that the stronger should lead and the weaker follow. God is stronger than man in might and wisdom and all other respects. Therefore, if responsibility is to be assigned to Fate and to the gods, Helen is to be acquitted from her ill reputation. Gorgias exploits the established view of the gods, according to which they intervene in human affairs by taking decisions that man, who is weak in the face of their power, is forced to accept. These qualities assigned to the deities, namely power and strength, are later confirmed once again, along with the idea of man’s weakness: If Eros is a god and has the divine power proper to the gods, how would the weaker party be able to repel it and ward it off? […] How, then, should one consider it fair to blame Helen, when she did what she did either because she was enamoured by what she saw or persuaded by the spoken word, or forcibly abducted or compelled by divine compulsion? Whichever of these is the case, she is not guilty of the charge brought against her (Hel., 19-20). The unbridgeable gap between the human condition and that of a power­ ful and “interventionist” God constitutes a strong argument in support of Helen’s innocence, an argument capable of persuading not just the judges but also those citizens who hold fast to traditional religious beliefs. It is important to note that Gorgias speaks of Eros in a double sense: 1) as a natural experience which concerns every human being; 2) as a genuine god. Gorgias presents here the kind of dialectic between the “natural” concept of the divine – as a characteristic of nature – and the concept of God as a higher being, that also occurs in Plato’s Symposium. There characters such as Phaedrus, Pausanias and Agathon voice the idea that Eros is a god, whereas Eryximachus, the famous physician, presents Eros as a natural force at work within man and all things in the world (both animals and plants), thereby voicing a naturalistic perspective. We then have the view of Aristophanes, according to whom Eros represents man’s aspiration to regain the unity he has lost, which is to say the Good, and that of the priestess Diotima, who affirms the intermediate nature of Eros – not a god but a daemon. As we can see, a wide range of positions were to be found in the Athenian milieu dramatically portrayed in the Platonic dialogue.


Gods and Religion in the Sophistic Context

The view illustrated by the Encomium is also adopted in the Defence of Palamedes (= DK82B11a): Nor, furthermore, would one do these things on grounds of security. For the traitor is the enemy of all: the law, justice, the gods, the great multitude of mankind. He transgresses the law, he dissolves justice, he destroys the multitude, he dishonours divinity […] (Pal. 17). In order to acquit Palamedes, the Sophist exploits the belief that actions such as transgressing human and divine laws bring huge disadvantages, and no advantages, to those performing them; no one can act in a rational­ ly unseemly fashion. Significantly, Gorgias notes: «All men do all things in pursuit of these two aims: either in search of some profit, or to escape some punishment» (Defence of Palamedes, 19). Therefore, Palamedes cannot be guilty of what he is accused of. What emerges here is a utilitarian perspective based on the advantage-disadvantage dichotomy, which occurs several times, including in sections 13 and 17: «no one wishes to run the most serious risks […] without gaining any advantage»; «this action, therefore, would not have brought any advantage». This perspective also applies to the positive role played by traditional religion, alongside justice: to live in a community it is advantageous to respect the gods and the laws, whereas it is disadvantageous not to do so. In relation to Gorgias, therefore, the following verdict expressed by Jaeger (1947, p. 178) certainly holds true: «While the older theology of the natural philosophers replaced the traditional ideas of the gods with its own conception of the Divine, the new anthropological and psychological approach proceeds to rehabilitate the popular religion, which has hitherto seemed irreconcilable with philosophical truth».

3.1. The Sophistic debate: between tradition and innovation Generally speaking, as far as the divine is concerned, the Sophists took up and further developed the themes of traditional folk culture with a critical attitude, open to engagement with different or even contrasting positions. One example is provided by the divergent opinions on the issue of the gods’ interference with human affairs (an issue already partly addressed in some of the aforementioned texts). On the one hand we find those Sophists, like Thrasymachus, who deny gods’ involvement: «we must misfortunes, the most serious of which are not the work of the gods or of fate, but of our rulers» (D.H., Dem. 3 = DK85B1). The Sophist clears


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the divinity of all responsibility with respect to suffering and injustice, for which rulers are to be blamed. Here is another testimony: In one of his own books, Thrasymachus said something along the following lines: “The gods pay no attention to human affairs; if they did, they would not have ignored justice, which is the greatest good for men; for we see that men do not act with justice” (Herm., in Phdr., p. 239, 21 Couvreur = DK85B8). The idea of the gods’ lack of interest in human affairs is pushed to the extreme through a negative view, according to which the gods not only have not bothered to provide good for men, but have not even granted them the most important good of all: the sense of justice. On the other hand, Antiphon upholds the opposite position: When the divinity does not wish to bestow beneficial things in full measure, he gives [man] monetary wealth, but makes him poor in wisdom; thus, by stripping him of one thing, he deprives him of both (Stob., Florilegium, III 16, 30 = DK87B54). Prestige, prizes, all the lures which the gods have given men, involve them in the necessity of hard work and enormous quantity of sweat (Stob., Florilegium, IV 22, 66 = DK87B49).10 In both passages, it is the divinity who, according to his will, allots bene­ ficial things and resources to men, who on their part (according to the second passage) acquire them in exchange for toil. The two-way relation and exchange between God and man typical of tradition is preserved. Further confirmation of the fact that traditional religious issues are preserved and re-discussed by the Sophists is provided by the Dissòi Lógoi. Here, as proof of the absurdity of the opinion according to which the shameful and the seemly are identical, the Author refers to the common example of the verdict on the practice of honouring the gods: «if it is seemly to treat the gods with respect, it is also shameful to treat the gods with respect, if the same thing is shameful and seemly» (= DK90.2). This passage clearly attests to a debate between radically opposite positions.

10 The English translation of Thrasymachus’ and Antiphon’s fragments is by Water­ field, 2000.


Gods and Religion in the Sophistic Context

4. The epistemological level: between agnosticism and atheism The Sophistic reflections examined so far provide different explanations re­ garding the origin, diffusion and usefulness of religion, but tell us nothing about the actual existence of the gods, or the possibility of knowing them. What is required is an epistemological enquiry, distinct from the former one, but this is something the Sophists (with the exception of Protagoras) never explicitly focused on (probably because they found it largely unin­ teresting, since they were not so much concerned with the issue of the divine in itself as with man’s relationship with other human beings and his milieu). Nevertheless, it is possible to grasp the emergence of two main positions: the agnostic and the atheistic.

4.1 Protagoras’ agnosticism Protagoras adopts an openly agnostic position. The investigation he con­ ducts is not inconsistent or in conflict with the one carried out through the myth of Prometheus, but it is certainly different: from a practical standpoint, it is necessary to provide an explanation for the human belief in the existence of the gods, as this proves to be something positive and important for man as a social animal. In this sense, I have described Protagoras’ stance on religion as “pragmatic”,11 since it applies to the level of practical usefulness rather than the level of truth. From an epistemological point of view, Protagoras refrains from passing any judgement on the existence of the gods: Concerning the gods, I am unable to know either that they are or that they are not or what their appearance (ἰδέαν) is like. For many are the things that hinder knowledge: the obscurity (ἀδηλότης)12 of the matter and the shortness of human life (Eus., PE XIV 3.7 = DK80B4).13 Protagoras here once again follows the outline of his homo-mensura maxim: «Man is the measure of all things, of the things that are, that they are, of

11 See Jaeger, 1943, p. 39. 12 As noted by Timpanaro Cardini (1954, p. 28 n. 1), the term ἀδηλότης indicates what cannot be grasped by the senses and cannot be experienced directly. Unter­ steiner, 2008, p. 43, translates it as «impossibilità di un’esperienza sensibile», an expression which has the merit of bringing out the content of the word, yet it risks being too free and stretching the text in the direction of sensation. 13 Translation by McKirahan & Curd, 2011, with slight changes.


Francesca Eustacchi

the things that are not, that they are not» (S.E., M. VII 60 = DK80A14). In other words, he presents the contrast between entities that are and that are not, only to a reverse effect. Man is the measure of all things except the gods, with respect to whom he is incapable of telling whether they are or are not, for two basic reasons: the first is 1) the obscurity of the matter; the term ἀδηλότης, “obscurity”, is an intentionally vague one, designed to emphasise the rift between the human sphere and the divine one, which cannot be experienced and poses a challenge so great that it cannot be overcome; 2) the second reason is the shortness of human life, which makes it impossible to make up for the lack of experience with reasonings which are too complex and difficult to be carried out over the course of one’s life. This second reason, combined with the first, is crucial to rule out – along Zenonian-Gorgian lines – any possibility of knowing the gods. Both reasons define human limits in a way that is perfectly consistent with the homo-mensura, understood as a horizon of knowledge, and not as an epistemological criterion. I cannot explore this interpretation in greater detail here,14 so I will only share a small insight: if the man-measure prin­ ciple were the criterion, as is suggested by the traditional interpretation based on Sextus Empiricus’ testimony, it would be impossible to explain why the Sophist deems it impossible to take a stance in favour or against the existence of the gods; on the contrary, he ought to have staunchly upheld an atheistic position: the gods do not exist, precisely because man – the criterion – cannot have any experience of them. But what Protagoras does, instead, is grant the possibility of embarking on extensive intellectual research in the attempt to bridge this gap. What we are dealing with is an awareness of human limits, which traces the boundaries of human knowledge – not the establishment of man as a criterion to relativistically settle all matters. The Protagorean position, then, which expresses a refusal to pass any judgement, should not be simplified into a form of atheism, which is what the Epicurean Diogenes of Oenoanda does: Protagoras of Abdera held a view that was identical in meaning to that of Diagoras, but he did not express himself in identical words, in order to avoid the excessive boldness of the view. So he said that he did not know whether there were gods (εἰ θεοὶ εἰσιν); but this is the same as saying that he knew there were no gods (Diog. Oen., fr. 12, C. 2, 1 p. 19 William = DK80A23)15. 14 See Eustacchi, 2017, pp. 38-42. 15 English translation by Waterfield, 2000, with slight changes.


Gods and Religion in the Sophistic Context

This (erroneous) reading may however be explained by reflecting on the difference between the epistemological-assertive level and that of praxis. Whereas in relation to the former level it is possible to establish an inter­ mediate position between belief and atheism, that is the agnostic position: “I do not know”, at the practical level, this is not possible, as one must choose to live either as a believer (under God’s gaze) or as an atheist (by one’s own rules) – tertium non datur. It only makes sense to attribute an atheistic position to Protagoras if we switch from the theoretical to the practical level. In conclusion, it is possible that Diogenes of Oenoanda conflated these two levels.

4.2 Atheistic positions While an atheistic statement as explicit as Protagoras’ agnostic one is nowhere to be found in the surviving texts by other Sophists, in certain cases it is not difficult to reconstruct it. This is the case with Prodicus, whom Sextus Empiricus lists among the atheists in the above-mentioned text. It is a matter of determining, on the basis of the texts we have, whether this attribution can in any way be justified. One strong element in favour of it is the emphasis in the texts on the action of man, who has “deified” all useful things, including natural ones. This may also be inferred from the use of the verbs describing such action (cf. DK84B5): the passive form of the verb νένωμαι – phenomena «were regarded and honoured (νενομίσθαι και τετειμῆσθαι) as gods» – and the verb νομίζω – «the ancients thought of (ἐνόμισαν) [...] all the things that benefit our lives as gods» – which means precisely “to have as a custom, by usage, by habit”. These elements would reinforce the idea that the gods are created by man; hence, it may be inferred – even though this is not explicitly stated by Prodicus in the texts we have – that according to the Sophist the gods actually do not exist as beings apart from this operation. Another text confirms this reading: We are now approaching the sacred mysteries, and we shall invoke the wisdom of Prodicus in our account, who derived all religious practices of humans and mysteries and festivals and rites from the benefits of agriculture, believing that the idea (ἔννοιαν) of gods came to humans, along with all forms of religiosity (Them., Or. 30 = DK84B5). All forms of religiosity are therefore traced back to an idea, a thought that came to man’s mind during agricultural labour, which is what provides the sustenance necessary for the preservation of life. The tone here is not 93

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just finalistic but also psychological: the gratitude that man feels towards the products of nature that are beneficial for life is translated into worship of the gods. Critias’ position too may be defined as “atheistic”, and indeed more easily so, even though some scholars maintain that the question of his atheism is a “red herring”,16 in the absence of any clear element allowing us to infer a position of this sort from the texts. However, Critias’ strictly instrumental way of investigating the issue of the divine (the gods are an invention useful for controlling the polis) seems to leave little doubt as to this Sophist’s atheism. To sum up, despite the lack of explicit statements, in the surviving texts we can still catch glimpses of the arguments at the basis of positions that may legitimately be described as atheistic. In conclusion, this brief investigation has showed the multiplicity of Sophistic positions on the issue of the divine and of religion. We can underline that the fragments we have been examining provide an echo of a varied debate within the Sophistic movement, a debate exemplifying some of the main approaches that Western thought was to adopt over the following centuries: from the idea of religion as an expression of man’s natural temperament and an element useful for peaceful coexistence to the deconstruction of all human ideas as fictions instrumental to the preservation of power and of political control over the polis; from belief based on folk tradition, combining different elements, to agnosticism and rationalist atheism. Therefore, for its innovativeness, Sophistical reflection appears useful to better understand the complexity of perspectives and of nuances about these different attitudes.

References Bett, R. (2012). Sextus Empiricus, Against the Physicians. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Bultrighini, U. (1999). Maledetta democrazia, Studi su Crizia. Alessandria: Edizioni dell’Orso. Collard, C., Cropp, M. (2008). Appendix: Critias or Euripides? in Euripides: Frag­ ments. Vol. 2 (627–677). Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.

16 See Bultrighini, 1999, p. 231: «un falso problema».


Gods and Religion in the Sophistic Context Eustacchi, F. (2017). Il pensiero dei sofisti tra relazioni e relativismo. In M. Migliori (ed.), Assoluto e Relativo, Un gioco complesso di relazioni stabili e instabili (pp. 37-54). Brescia: Morcelliana. McKirahan, R.D., Curd, P. (2011). A Presocratics Reader, Selected Fragments and Testi­ monia, Second Edition. Indianapolis, Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company. Moore C., Raymond, C.C. (2019), Critias of Athens, Oxford Bibliographies in Clas­ sics. Jaeger, W. (1943). Humanism and Theology. Milwaukee: Marquette University Press. Jaeger, W. (1947). The Theology of the Early Greek Philosophers. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Reale, G. (2004). Storia della filosofia greca e romana, vol. 2, Milan: Bompiani. Reale, G. (ed.) (2006). I Presocratici. Prima traduzione integrale con testi originali a fronte delle testimonianze e dei frammenti nella raccolta di Hermann Diels e Walter Kranz, Milan: Bompiani. Timpanaro Cardini, M. (1954). I sofisti, Frammenti e testimonianze. Bari: Editori Laterza. Untersteiner, M. (2008). I Sofisti, Milan: Bruno Mondadori. Waterfield, R. (2000). The First Philosophers: The Presocratics and Sophists, New York: Oxford University Press. Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, U. (1875). Analecta Euripidea. Berlin: Borntraeger.


The Man who Invented God: Atheism in the Sisyphus Fragment Giovanni Giorgini

Abstract The atheistic view expressed by Sisyphus in a fragment of a play disput­ edly attributed to Critias has struck the imagination of generations of interpreters. Critias’ atheism is set into the context of his general view of the world as well as of Athenian society, to show that it should be read in a political perspective -as part of a comprehensive project to provide a new education to citizens of a prospective oligarchic Athens. The notion that it was not God who created man but rather man who created ‘God’ to address his own weaknesses and limitations is most commonly associated with the 19th century German philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach. In his radical criticism of Christianity, he argued that God is in fact an imaginary representation, and his qualities are a projection of the most distinct traits of the human being: Feuerbach concluded proclaiming the divinity of man.1 In time this position would evolve in an atheistic humanism and materialism, and would strongly influence such authors as Marx, Darwin, Nietzsche and Freud. However, the bold imagination of 5th century BCE Greek thinkers had already hit upon such a view. And the similar boldness of contemporary dramatists put this notion on the stage for thousands of spectators, and then readers, enabling them to appreciate the freedom of thought of the age.2 In the following pages I will set the stage for the appearance of the notion that God is a man-made invention to enforce laws and good behaviour by looking at the intellectual climate of the age. I will then

1 Feuerbach 1854. The original was published in 1841; the first English translation was done by Mary Ann Evans, better known by her pen name George Eliot. 2 I wish to emphasise that the 5th century BCE was an age of experiment, of ‘crisis’ in its literal meaning of krisis: tradition, beliefs and values underwent rational evaluation, but it would be anachronistic to call it an “age of enlightenment”. Some classics of this approach are Gomperz 1901: see especially vol. 1 section 3; and Nestle 1975; see also the beautiful and still worth reading Dodds 1951.


Giovanni Giorgini

focus on the Sisyphus fragment,3 namely the portion of a 5th century BCE play in which Sisyphus, the protagonist, ties together many contemporary themes about the original condition of mankind, the emergence of laws, the role of the gods, to argue that religion is a human creation devised to control human beings’ behaviour. In doing so, I will examine the Atheni­ an philosophical and religious climate in the 5th century BCE as well as the biography of ‘the worst man on earth’ – Critias. Placing the Sisyphus frag­ ment in context will rescue it from modernising interpretations that ap­ proach it with a modern notion of religion, conceived around a doctrinal content. I will accordingly conclude arguing that Critias’ ‘atheism’ was ut­ terly political, not metaphysical, and part of a comprehensive project for a complete new moral and political education for contemporary Athenians.

I. Setting the stage Ancient Greek society was a religious society. However, the Greek notion of ‘religion’ was very different from our own. When we now speak of ‘religion’ we identify it mostly with its theoretical and doctrinal content, namely with its vision of God, the articles of faith and the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures; the ritualistic aspect is secondary. The wars of religion at the beginning of Modernity, for instance, were fought because of the conflicting interpretations about the true content of the Bible (although political reasons played an important part too). The Greeks, on the other hand, did not have such a clear-cut distinction between the sacred and the profane and civic authorities controlled every aspect of the cult. This role of government in establishing and supervising religious practices plays a fundamental part in understanding the political use of religion in demo­ cratic Athens and, conversely, in explaining Critias’ ‘atheism’.4 Conversely, it is very significative that the first occurrence of the word theologia occurs in Plato, namely in an author who, without openly ques­

3 'Critias' TrGF 1 (43) F 19 = DK 88 B25. The long passage is attributed to Euripides by Aetius plac. 1.7.2, and to Critias by Sextus Empiricus, Adv. Math. 9.54 and Pyrrh. Hyp 3.218; Athenaeus, Deipn. 496 quotes the Peirithous commenting “whether it was written by Critias the tyrant or by Euripides”. On the attribution see my considerations further. 4 For Pericles’ specific role in this use of religion see further.


The Man who Invented God: Atheism in the Sisyphus Fragment

tioning the contemporary Olympian religion, clearly advocated an intellec­ tual vision of God as the reason behind history.5 When did religion, or rather its theological content and not the ritu­ alistic aspect, begin to be questioned? We know that certain religious practices, such as animal sacrifices, were criticized since an early time: Empedocles, for instance, opposed the killing of animals for sacrificial purposes and called it an abomination.6 It is highly questionable that the very birth of philosophy should be considered the beginning of a Weberian process of ‘rationalization’ and of Entzauberung der Welt.7 The earliest philosophers, the Milesian physiologoi, looked for a natural explana­ tion of phenomena but they did not question the presence of a God or gods in the universe nor their status. By searching for a common root or beginning of all things (arché) they implicitly thought that the universe is not as it appears, that behind the variety of perceived objects there must be a unifying element. In addition, they provided evidence for their opinions, they argued for their beliefs instead of merely relying on a Godbestowed knowledge. But this attitude coexisted with their firm belief in the existence of the divine. Thales, for instance, famously stated that “All things are full of gods” (DK 11 A 22). And, according to John Philoponus, he even thought that “Providence extends to the extremes and nothing escapes its notice, not even the smallest thing”.8 Another important step toward the rational examination of religious matters was taken by Hippocrates and his medical school, who rejected all sorts of divine explanation for illnesses as well as religious remedies. Emblematic in this respect is the treatise on epilepsy titled De morbo sacro,

5 Pl., Rep. II, 379a4. On the disputed meaning of the word theologia see Naddaf 1996. In Ti. 28c we read: “Now, to discover the maker and father of this universe is a task indeed; and having discovered him, to reveal him to all people is impossible”. Plato, famously, bans the poets from his perfect city because they give a false image of the gods by attributing human defects to them: they provide a wrong education to the youth (Republic books 3 and 10). 6 Empedocles DK31 B128 = Porph., Abst. 2.21: When human beings worshipped Aphrodite “their altar was not steeped in the pure blood of bulls, but rather was this the greatest abomination among men, to tear out the life from the goodly limbs and eat them”: in Kirk-Raven 1957, p. 349. See also B136-7 for an attack on the bloodshed of sacrifices. On the meaning and ritual of sacrifices see Blake Tyrrell-Brown 1991, chapter 4. 7 I will proceed quite swiftly in this section since Manuel Knoll, in his essay in this volume, covers the topic excellently. See also the very interesting Kahn 1997. 8 Phlp., In de An. 86. 29-30 (transl. P.J. van der Eijk in Philoponus 2005).


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whose opening is a sort of manifesto of the scientific school of medicine, which adopted a ‘secular’ approach to illnesses: I am about to discuss the disease called ‘sacred’. It is not, in my opin­ ion, any more divine or more sacred than other diseases, but has a natural cause (physin men echei kai prophasin), and its supposed divine origin is due to men’s inexperience and their wonder at its peculiar character. The “sacred disease” has this name because men are ignorant, inexperi­ enced and look with awe at what they do not know; if we should call divine everything that we cannot explain, there would be many more sacred diseases – the author concludes.9 God is not responsible for ailments nor, importantly, is he the cure. This is the same conclusion Democritus drew about the role of the gods in explaining natural phenomena: it is the result of ignorance. When primitive men observed natural events such as lightnings and eclipses they attributed them to the power of the gods; rational investigation into nature dispels such naive ideas of reality: thunder, lightning, earthquake all have a physical explanation based on the atoms and void.10 In this context, we should not underestimate the importance of Democritus’ doctrines about the nature of reality; for they showed that the truth about the world we live in is inaccessible to our senses and is disclosed only by our reason. In Diogenes Laertius’ words: “the principles of all things are the atoms and the void; all the rest is subjective opinion”.11 Reality is not what it seems. Anaxagoras famously stated that “the sun was a red-hot mass of met­ al”. This statement must have impressed contemporary and subsequent authors because it is reported by many of our sources.12 He added that the sky is composed of stones and gave a physical explanation of lightning, thunder, earthquake and wind. It is perhaps not a matter of chance that

9 Hp., Morb. Sacr. 1; the author, however, describes as divine (theia) all the powers of nature (18). 10 See DK 68 A75 = S.E. M. 9.24. 11 D.L. 9.44. Diogenes adds that according to Democritus perceptual qualities are merely subjective (nomo) whilst in reality (physei) there are only atoms and void. 12 DK 59 A1 = D.L. 2.11-12; reported also by Harpocration (A2) and Suda (A3). Plu., Lys. 12 reports Anaxagoras’ opinion that the heavenly bodies are stones and this fact explains their occasional fall (meteorites). See also Socrates’ statement in Pl., Ap. 26d = DK59 A35, and B42=Hippolytus, Refutationes 1.8.1.


The Man who Invented God: Atheism in the Sisyphus Fragment

he would go on to be the first philosopher and inquirer into nature to be tried for impiety at Athens.13 The dramatist Euripides was famous or, according to many contempo­ raries, infamous, for his unconventional religious ideas and for putting on stage prickly topics. In his Bellerophon (before 425 BCE) he tackled atheism and the problem of theodicy. It is an old theme that we find already at the beginning of Greek civilization, in such early poets as Solon and Theognis: righteousness should be rewarded by the gods and injustice should be pun­ ished whereas in reality we find that the opposite is often true: does this mean that the gods do not exist? Christoph Riedweg made this point very well: “Bellerophontes deduces his rebellious conviction that the gods do not exist from the bewildering observation that the wicked and impious enjoy a comfortable and prosperous life whereas the good suffer hardship and affliction” (Riedweg 1990b, p. 130). The perfect exemplification is the apparently prosperous fate of tyrants. In addition, Riedweg reminds us of an important methodological point -we should not assume that the sayings of dramatic characters automatically express the author’s opinion; also, we should place them in the context of the entire play to understand their meaning and function: in Euripides, the final message is that the gods exist and retain their role of punishing evildoers and rewarding the good.14 For many reasons, including time-proximity and similarity of views, the two closest thinkers to the author of our fragment are the sophists Protago­ ras and Antiphon. It is impossible to overestimate the role of Protagoras in secularizing the notion of truth and in connecting it solely to man and human faculties. This approach reverberates in the famous beginning of his work On the gods, which reads: Concerning the gods, I cannot verify that they exist or that they do not exist nor what their shape is; for many are the obstacles that prevent our knowledge: not only the obscurity [of the problem] but also the brevity of human life.15 In his profession of agnosticism,16 Protagoras argues that the gods cannot be imported in the human world for any purpose; even if they exist, they cannot influence our life, nor can they be taken as standard of action. This

13 Diod. 12.39.2. See the classic Derenne 1933. 14 In the case of Bellerophon, Riedweg 1990b, p. 52 concludes: “Thus at the end, the traditional order is again established, and Bellerophontes' "atheistic" declaration is more than outweighed by his pitiable lot.” 15 DK80 B4; translation mine. 16 Cic., ND 1.1.2 supports this interpretation.


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statement represents the best introduction to Protagoras’ most famous saying, which opened his work On truth: Man is the measure of all things: of the things which are, that they are, and of the things which are not, that they are not.17 Lacking the possibility of an empirical verification, it is safer to suspend judgment: Protagoras’ statement about the gods is agnostic and acknowl­ edges human limitations, whereas atheism proclaims that human reason can conclude that God does not exist. The status Protagoras enjoyed in Athens, his close friendship with Pericles, his welcome in the houses of the wealthiest citizens (witness Plato’s Protagoras)18 support the vision of a bold but respectful thinker; atheists were not welcome in Athens. The trial for impiety is likely a later fabrication.19 The Athenian sophist and politician Antiphon, who has a conspicuous role in Thucydides’ narration of the oligarchic coup of 411,20 was appar­ ently quite critical of mantic and the art of prophecy, which he called “an intelligent man’s guess” (DK 87 A 9). He also questioned the truth-status of the legal system; a remarkable feat for someone who practiced law for a living. In fact, in his work On truth Antiphon contrasted the requirements of the law with the “demands of nature”; he concluded that by infringing the law one suffers damage only if caught whereas by transgressing the demands of nature one suffers a damage which “is not in appearance but in truth”.21 The reality and universality of the laws of nature are here contrasted with the relativity of human laws. This seems to be the fundamental point Antiphon wanted to make in this fragment, a variation on the typical 5th-century sophistic opposition between law and nature. By arguing that the most useful way to respect the laws of the city consists in obeying them in public while eluding them in private, if possible, Antiphon drew the attention to the externality of the law: if human beings are not intimately persuaded to obey the laws, they will only pay lip-service

17 DK 80 B1; translation mine. 18 In Men. 91e Plato records that Protagoras enjoyed a high reputation throughout his life. For Protagoras in Athens see O’ Sullivan 1995. 19 Although things are not so easy to determine. See the accurate account in Lenfant 2002, who provides also the relevant passages; Filonik 2013 finds the entire story doubtful. 20 See Th. 8.68.1: “But the man who had planned the whole thing […] was An­ tiphon, one of the ablest Athenians of his time. He had a most powerful intellect and was most able to express his thoughts in words”. 21 DK 87 B44 A.


The Man who Invented God: Atheism in the Sisyphus Fragment

to them. This problem resurfaces in the discourse Plato’s brothers Glaucon and Adeimantus deliver at the beginning of book 2 of the Republic, and in their passionate plea to Socrates to disclose them the truth about justice be­ hind the appearances. The tale of Gyges’ ring shows that no-one chooses justice by itself but only as a second best: justice is the result of an agree­ ment, an “artificial virtue” as Hume would put it, because everybody would prefer to do injustice if they knew they could elude punishment.22 This theme of the important but ultimately insufficient role of the laws in human society is present also in the Sisyphus fragment.23 The contrast between public and private, appearance and reality, leads to the problem of how to persuade, or compel, men to always behave correctly and obey the laws, which is solved by the author of the Sisyphus fragment through the ingenious invention of a supernatural entity who sees everything: God. Conveniently placed in the skies, remote from hu­ man beings but where he can always control them, God is the ingenious solution to the problem of human morality and law-abidingness. From the theoretical point of view, we may thus consider the opinions expressed in the Sisyphus fragment as an elaboration on the question posed by Antiphon, which was in turn prepared by 5th century philosophi­ cal Stimmung. But, as we shall see, there is more to it.

II. The Athenian context: religion and politics We should recall the considerations we made at the beginning about religion in ancient Greece: the doctrinal content was very limited while the emphasis was on local cult and public ritual. Also, since there were no church or dogma, the definition of what was pious or impious was not so evident. Religion and politics also appear to have been closely inter­ twined, since the demos of Athens, directly or through its functionaries, supervised all religious practices. One of the most important steps in a citizen’s political life, his insertion into a phratry and thus into the citizen body at the age of 18, was both a religious ceremony and a political act: this happened during the festival of the Apatouria, which took place in Oc­ tober-November. Finally, we noticed the reciprocal relationship between

22 Pl., Rep. II, 358e-360d. 23 Notice that Xenophon approvingly describes the Spartan legislator Lycurgus’ “contrivance”: he had his new laws sanctioned by the Delphic oracle, thus mak­ ing disobedience impious as well as illegal (Lac. 8.6).


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gods and human beings that characterized Greek religion; at Athens, this produced the sentiment that the prosperity of the city, its extraordinary success in the 5th century BCE when it became the greatest city in Greece, was due to a combination of politics and religion: the democratic system and the favour of the gods.24 We may add that the close connection be­ tween Athenian imperial policy and religious practices is revealed also by certain civic rituals which benefited the demos and thus reinforced the democratic regime: this is the case, for instance, of the participation to the great Athenian festivals (such as the Great Panathenaea)25 by the allies in the Delian league, which emphasized the centrality of Athens and its naval power; the allies had to make specific contributions, such as grain, a bovine and a panoply.26 Also, the famous “Thoudippus’ decrees” dating to 425/4 BCE connected the reassessment of the tribute of the Delian league to the Athenian festivals of the Great Panathenaea.27 In Athens there was a general tolerance towards new, foreign gods and cults. Here again, laws were of the utmost importance: they regulated the procedures for introducing new deities into the city. When they were not respected or people did not conform to the laws and traditions concern­ ing religion, they could be prosecuted for impiety. The notorious decree proposed in 432 BCE by the soothsayer Diopeithes punished people who “did not recognize the gods” or propounded theories about the celestial bodies.28 Impiety became a possible ground for prosecution by one’s ene­ mies and Socrates, in Plato’s Apology, tells the jurors that speculating about the heavens is, in the public opinion, considered equivalent to being an atheist. Prosecution for impiety could typically take two forms: there was the graphe asebeias (written plaint of irreligiosity), a specific legal procedure

24 Lys., Against Nicomachus 18 is enlightening: “Now, our ancestors, by sacrificing in accordance with the tablets, have handed down to us a city superior in greatness and prosperity (eudaimonestaten) than any other in Greece; so that it behoves us to perform the same sacrifices as they did, if for no other reason than that of the success which has resulted from these rites”. Nilsson 1925 comments: “It was no wonder that the Athenians were attached to their gods, who gave them food and money”: p. 255. 25 On the significance of these festivals see the excellent Shear 2021. 26 See OR 121; OR 142 and OR 154 which can be compared to the contributions of the Athenian deme in IG I3, 144 A. 27 See IG I3, 71. 28 Plu., Per. 32,2. Diopeithes is described as “a very influential soothsayer” by Xen., HG 3.3.3. Filonik 2013 and 2021 rejects the authenticity of the decree: pp. 32-33, following Dover 1976; Wallace 1994; and Lefkovitz 1987.


The Man who Invented God: Atheism in the Sisyphus Fragment

which could be initiated by any citizen and then had to be brought before a body of jurors by a magistrate. Then there was the eisangelia (impeachment). The important question concerns what counted as asebeia. In general, asebeia meant, to quote Bruit, “absence of respect for the beliefs and rituals shared by the inhabitants of a city”. In a very accurate work on this topic, Jakub Filonik goes on to explain: In the texts of the classical period the noun asebeia and verb asebein usually signify the lack of reverence towards and profanation of the ‘sa­ cred matters’ (sacred places; monuments of the gods; religious festivals, functions, or rituals, etc.). The charge of impiety would thus simply be a charge of neglect of the sacred, including the violation of laws perceived as ‘natural’ and the breaking of an oath. It could also refer to an improper ritual conduct, such as making sacrifices on the wrong day or in an untraditional manner, or the lack of acceptance of the cult officially recognised by the polis (Filonik 2013, p. 14). Accusations of impiety were bound up with the network of social relations in which all Athenian citizens were entangled; and the law was vague enough to leave much discretionary power to the jurors. So, an accusation of impiety could be ‘added’ to the other charges against the defendant. An excellent example is [Lysias], Against Andocides, where the author accuses Andocides of many crimes against religion which make him unfit to be a citizen: “He has made it plain to the Greeks at large that he does not revere the gods (theous ou nomizei)” (Against Andocides 19). For his irreligious acts he was cursed by the priestesses and priests “according to the ancient and time-honoured custom” (51). It is only by dispatching him that the city can be purified from pollution -the writer concludes (53). The trials for impiety and Diopeithes’ decree show the importance of religion in Athenian society. The most famous of all trials for impiety was obviously that of Socrates. However, since many of these trials for impiety, including Socrates’, had political motivations behind them,29 they are again evidence of the strict connection between civic religion and polit­ ics. This is confirmed by another famous investigation and trial, that for the mutilation of the Hermae and the profanation of the Mysteries of 415 BCE. Critias was involved in it but was exonerated by Andocides.30 Finally, 29 See Derenne 1933. 30 And., On the mysteries 36, where the mutilation is described as “an organized attempt to overthrow democracy (tou demou)”; cf. 47; Th. 6.27-28, 53; Lys., Against Agoratus 20 uses the same expression when narrating those events. Demosthenes, Against Conon 14 and esp. 39 speaks of groups of young people who had assumed


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the fateful trial and summary execution of the generals after the battle of Arginousae (405 BCE) is another prominent example of the politicization of religion and the legal system. We may conclude that the political use of religion and of the courts by the end of the 5th century BCE had become one of the strongest weapons of the Athenian democratic regime.

III. Critias, the wickedest man on earth After reviewing some of Critias’ deeds, Philostratus concludes: Hence it seems to me that he is the wickedest of all the men who have gained a reputation for wickedness. Philostratus adds that Critias’ actions were not the result of lack of educa­ tion or bad influences, because he was a very learned and sophisticated man: his actions were the result of his “wicked nature” (kakia physis).31 Critias was born around 460 BCE in an aristocratic family; his cousin Perictione was Plato’s mother. He is typically portrayed as an opportunis­ tic politician, devoid of a true and consistent political ideology: first con­ nected to Alcibiades32 and implicated in the Hermae affair, then accuser of Phrynichus; afterwards stark oligarch and finally one of the Thirty Tyrants, indeed the most violent, savage and bloodthirsty. He suffered a fate of damnatio memoriae; therefore, although he wrote extensively, we have only fragments of his works, from which it is difficult to grasp the coherence of his thought. This coherence is determined by his adhesion to the Spar­ tan ideal of aristocratic rule, which had in Cimon its most prominent Athenian exponent.33 Critias wrote on the constitution of different Greek cities, extolling the merits of the Spartan regime and of the mores and

gross and funny names, who mocked religious practices and disregarded with contempt all sacred things. Their nonchalant approach to religious matters is significative of the spirit of the age. 31 Philostratus calls Critias a “sophist”. 32 We gather from Plutarch that Critias’ relationship with Alcibiades experienced a shift: from being the mind behind Alcibiades’ return from exile to denouncing him to the Spartan Lysander: Plutarch, Alcibiades 33.1 and 38.5. 33 See B 8 and B 52, where Critias praises Cimon’s magnanimity (megalophrosyne) and his intervention to help Sparta during the Helots’ revolt following the disas­ trous earthquake in Laconia of 462 BCE. On the meaning of this word in 5th century BCE and in Plutarch see the refined analysis by Bultrighini 1999, pp. 136-154.


The Man who Invented God: Atheism in the Sisyphus Fragment

habits of the Spartans. When he was given the chance, after the utter defeat of the democratic regime in 404 BCE, he tried to implement at Athens a consistent educational programme inspired by Spartan values: not the Spartan politeia but the Spartan balance of powers. And at Athens he died: although he despised its political arrangement, Critias chose not to forsake his fatherland -differently from Alcibiades and Xenophon. He died fighting for his ideas, however debatable, and some sources recognize this fact as a merit. A difficulty we must face in examining this icon of evil34 is the bi­ ased nature of most of our sources, starting with his contemporaries.35 Xenophon presents a consistent portrait of Critias as a completely negative character; even if we discount his apologetic intentions, his desire to exon­ erate Socrates from the accusation of corrupting the youth, Xenophon’s total lack of sympathy for Critias is apparent. In the Memorabilia he is introduced as “the greediest, most violent and most murderous of all those who took part in the oligarchy” -in a pair with Alcibiades, “the most dissolute, arrogant and violent of all those who took part in democracy”.36 Xenophon depicts him as a cynical political realist, someone who can reproach the fellow oligarchic leader Theramenes saying “But if, merely because we are thirty and not one, you imagine that it is any the less necessary for us to keep a close watch over this government, just as one would if it were a tyranny, you are foolish”.37 Critias’ character and ideas emerge most clearly in the dramatic debate in the Council that opposes him to Theramenes: the vivid description, the effective verbal exchange, constitute one of the highest moments of Xenophon’s prose in the Hellenica. The readers know that the debate is rigged because Critias had already made all the legal and practical prepara­ tions to dispatch Theramenes, and this knowledge adds to the dramatic atmosphere. Critias addresses the Council thus: Gentlemen of the Council, if anyone among you thinks that more people than is fitting are being put to death, let him reflect that where

34 As an icon of evil, Critias was a favourite subject for the rhetors and the authors of the ‘Second Sophistic’: his life, and especially his death, were used as the example of the prototypical tyrant. See Gotteland 2018. 35 Centanni 1997 presents a well-balanced, well-documented portrait of Critias. 36 Xen., Mem. 1.2.12. Usher 1968 explores the extent to which these speeches may be based on the original speeches delivered in the Council. 37 Xen., HG 2.3.16 cf. 2.3.49 and 2.4.1 for the use of the word ‘tyranny’ applied to the Thirty. Also, indirectly, 2.3.48.


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governments are changed (politeiai methistantai) these things always take place.38 As Chairman Mao would paraphrase it, the “revolution is not a dinner party” -killings inevitably happen. In Xenophon’s portrait Critias is very outspoken in stating his realistic view of politics: And if we find anyone opposed to the oligarchy, so far as we have the power, we put him out of the way; but in particular we consider it to be right that, if any one of our own number is harming this order of things, he should be punished (HG. 2.3.26). Xenophon draws a very favourable portrait of Theramenes, to contrast him to the ruthless and unforgiving Critias,39 and depicts Theramenes moderate oligarchic position in these terms: But I, Critias, am forever at war with the men who do not think there could be a good democracy until the slaves and those who would sell the city for lack of a shilling should share in the government, and on the other hand I am forever an enemy to those who do not think that a good oligarchy could be established until they should bring the city to the point of being tyrannized by a few (HG. 2.3.48). However, we should go beyond Xenophon’s unsympathetic portrait and look at the essence: Critias was determined, perhaps ruthless in his purpose to prepare the foundations for a completely new political arrangement for Athens -not merely a regime change but rather the creation of an oligarchic city. Education, a new paideia, was part of this plan and so was religion.40 In his comprehensive and well-researched book on Critias, Umberto Bultrighini (1999) persuasively argued that Critias’ atheism was function­ al to his political programme, which consisted in a total renovation of the Athenian constitution, including the education of the citizens. Since

38 Xen., HG. 2.3.24; cf. 2.3.32: “all sorts of changes in government are attended by loss of life (metabolai politeion thanatephoroi)”. 39 In their final dramatic confrontation Critias accuses Theramenes of being a traitor, someone who betrayed both democrats and oligarchs: Xenophon, HG 2.3.32. Lysias, Against Agoratus 10 reports that Theramenes did not pass the doki­ masia after being elected general in 406 BCE, a sign that his loyalty to democracy was considered suspicious. 40 We may read Critias’ famous invective against Archilochus as part of this educa­ tional project for Archilochus was considered very close to democratic ideals in the 5th century BCE. This hypothesis is very well defended by Rotstein 2007.


The Man who Invented God: Atheism in the Sisyphus Fragment

polis-religion at Athens was intertwined with democratic policies and in­ stitutions, attacking religion meant attacking democracy. We must recall that in the old days worship was organized and led by aristocratic fami­ lies. Social development brought about major changes in the religious organization of the cities and Athens was no exception. When Cleisthenes undertook his constitutional reforms in 508 BCE, these included a major change in the tribal system: he created ten tribes, when there had been only four before. He gave to these new tribes the names of local heroes, which were allegedly selected by the oracle at Delphi.41 This political use of religion was continued by Pericles: at the outbreak of the Peloponnesian war, he instructed the Athenians to use the silver and gold treasured in temples, including the gold plates on the statue of Athena in the Parthenon, to finance the prospective fighting; he, apparently, did not see anything wrong in using money coming from sanctuaries for war expens­ es, provided the sum was paid back in full.42 Then, in Thucydides’ Funeral Speech, Pericles remarked that under democracy the Athenians provided themselves with a wealth of recreation for the spirit –“games and sacrifices held throughout the year”.43 Arguably, Critias objected to the instrumental use of religion carried out by democratic leaders: the sceptical view about man’s creation of god voiced in the Sisyphus fragment can be seen as part of his revolutionary and coherent educational programme, summarized by the formula: from mob-rule to the rule of justice through a return to the “ancestral constitution” (patrios politeia).44 This programme must be set into the context of the overall reforms that the Thirty had planned and started to carry out in Athens. The scope

41 Hdt. 5.66, who goes on to comment that in his opinion, in doing this, Cleisthenes was imitating his maternal grandfather Cleisthenes, the tyrant of Sicyon, who had similarly used a local hero-cult for his own political purposes: Hdt. 5.67. For the role of the oracle at Delphi in the choice of names see Pausanias 10.10.1. 42 Th. 2.13. Recall that stealing from the temples was considered a typical tyrannical action: see e.g. Pl., Rep. I, 344a. 43 Th. 2.38. 44 Even a moderate oligarch like Xenophon must have been struck by the events at the trial of the Arginusae generals in 406 BCE; he reports that when Euryp­ tolemus said in the Assembly that the proposal was unconstitutional, “some of the people applauded this act, but the greater number cried out that it was monstruous (deinon) if the people were to be prevented from doing whatever they wished” (HG. 1.7.12). Plato, Epist. 7, 324b-d candidly states that he thought that the rule of the Thirty “would lead the city from a rather unjust to a just way of life”; although he immediately adds that in fact it made the previous government look like gold in comparison.


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of the reforms mentioned by our sources has often eluded the attention of readers, who were prone to pass a completely negative summary judge­ ment on the activities of the bloodthirsty junta.45 A fair-minded reading, however, shows that the Thirty embarked in serious and extensive legal and constitutional reforms. It must be emphasised, moreover, that these reforms had a broad support from the Athenian citizenry, at least initially: acts such as getting rid of the sycophants and curtailing the power of the courts had strong popular support.46 Finally, Xenophon himself reports that Critias was a “lawgiver” at Athens, was writing laws and took this opportunity to issue a law which prohibited “teaching the art of words” (Mem. 1.2.31). Xenophon states that this law was aimed at Socrates, against whom Critias bore a grudge,47 but it makes more sense to read in it an attempt to curtail free speech and the power of rhetoricians. In any case, it seems clear that, at least in the beginning, the Thirty were very serious about constitutional reforms.48 The swift way in which the Thirty proceeded reveals that they had a general vision about the sort of politeia Athens should become and the kind of paideia that was conducive to that end. From the scattered information of our sources, we get the impression that the reforms they envisaged were radical and extensive but at the same time realistic in considering what could reasonably be implemented at Athens. Although

45 Two notable recent exceptions are Osborne 2003 and Shear 2011 (see especially chapter 6). Shear points to the works to enlarge the Pnyx, where the Assembly met, as evidence that the Thirty indeed planned to set up a body of 3000 citizens to participate in government. Osborne is very well-balanced in making his case for the Thirty’s serious engagement in legal reforms. Previously, Krentz 1982 and Whitehead 1982/3 had argued that the Thirty wanted to remodel Athens on the lines of the Spartan constitution. 46 As it is exemplified by the Solonian law on wills, which was made simpler and easier for courts to decide: the amendment stripped the sycophants of their litigation power and the courts of much leeway in making decisions: Ar., AP 35.2, who mentions extensive legal overhaul by the Thirty; on the law on wills see Plu., Sol. 18.4 and 21. 47 In his speech To Plato: In defence of the four 438-439 Aelius Aristides argues that this prohibition was extremely serious and tantamount to a sentence of atimia for Socrates -although this speech is a rhetorical exercise this is an interesting observation. 48 In his last speech in Xen., HG 2.4.9 Critias states before the Athenian hoplites and horsemen: “We, gentlemen, are establishing this government (politeia) no less for you than for ourselves”. The politeia they established was founded on the assumptions that “democracy is a heinous (chalepen) regime” (2.3.25) and that “the Spartan constitution appears to be the most perfect” (2.3.34).


The Man who Invented God: Atheism in the Sisyphus Fragment

comprehensive, they did not aim at realizing a political system like Sparta’s at Athens:49 that would have been unrealistic and the demos would have fought to the end.50 Most likely, they wanted to curtail the excessive power of the demos in the Assembly and in the courts; rid the city of the syco­ phants; transform the Athenian constitution into a kind of oligarchy that could appeal to, and be accepted by, most of the citizens. It was a radical programme but it was not unrealistic, since it did not want to transpose Sparta’s political arrangement, partly or in toto, in Athens. It was radical because it aimed at sapping the very foundation of Athenian democracy: the power of the lowest class – the thetes – who rowed in the ships and were indispensable for exercising the arché. The Thirty had perfectly under­ stood the relationship between democracy and naval power that is so well captured by Thucydides and by the ‘Old Oligarch’.51 Accordingly, they tried to cut this link with maritime power and planned to transform the city into an agrarian and pastoral society -as is testified by their emblematic decision to turn the bema in the Pnyx from which orators spoke so as to look inland, instead of looking off toward the sea as before (Plu., Them. 19.4).

49 Surely all the Thirty admired the Spartan constitution and they implemented certain reforms and institutions which are evidently moulded on the Spartan model: their very number was equal to the members of the Spartan gherousia, the council of the Elders (28 members plus the 2 kings); the limitation of full citizenship to 3000 people is more or less equivalent to the number of Spartiates -the homoioi- in 404 BCE; the creation of a group of 5 ephors in the interim between the democratic and the oligarchic constitution in 404 BCE is clearly derived from the analogous body at Sparta (we get this information from Lysias, Against Eratosthenes 43-47, on which see Cartledge 1987 p. 282). However, I find the main difference to lie in the condition of the helots at Sparta: it would have been impossible to reduce the thetes to a similar condition of semi-slavery at Athens, especially after one hundred years of democracy. In addition, Powell 2018: 173 correctly remarks that Spartan history does not show any example of an allied city remodelled as a “new Sparta” as contrasted to the Athenian practice of establishing democracies in the cities of their empire. 50 Thrasybulus, the leader of the democratic revolt against the Thirty, vowed to fight “until all citizens come back from exile and the demos retrieves its patrios politeia”: Diodorus 14.32.5-6. Bearzot 2018 emphasises the role of Thrasybulus in reappropriating, in a democratic perspective, certain political terms, such as patrios politeia: pp. 172-195. 51 Canfora 1980 argued that Critias is the author of the pseudo-Xenophontic Con­ stitution of the Athenians, although, in my opinion, the tone of resignation of the pamphlet does not fit well with Critias’ subsequent attempt at an oligarchic revolution.


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Critias was one of the most intellectually sophisticated men in the oli­ garchy of the Thirty and we can try to elicit from our scant evidence some information about his Weltanschauung. Concerning his political ideas, one fragment seems especially interesting, for it targets one democratic notion -the role and rule of law- at the heart. The political ideal of isonomia envis­ aged that all citizens were equal before and under the law. This notion put on an equal legal footing people who might be unequal in all other respects -wealth, education, social status. Oligarchs saw this as theoretically problematic as well as politically unacceptable (in their view ‘equality’ should apply only to equals, not to everybody without distinction). In addition, the alleged fixity of the law was in practice manipulated by the orators in the Assembly. Critias argues that An honest character is more steadfast than the law. No orator could ev­ er distort the one; but, stirring the other up and down with speeches, he frequently does dishonour (DK88 B22). Tropos, character, is the result of nature and ethical habituation whereas the law is flimsy because it can be manipulated by rhetors: this is an attack on Athenian demagogues and orators and their ability to persuade the masses while infringing upon the law. Opposing character to the law, and thus to legal and political equality, meant attacking the very foundations of the democratic city. It is the same problem lamented, at a higher the­ oretical level, by Aristotle: the activity of the orators and the decrees of the Assembly turn democracy into a form of whimsical tyranny in which there is no rule of law.52 In an extreme democracy led by orators and the Assembly there are the same dynamics as in a tyranny, where there is no fixed law because the will of the tyrant is the law. I wish to conclude this part by examining an interesting document, the (probably apocryphal) inscription on a stele celebrating the oligarchs who died fighting against democracy in 403 BCE. It is reported by the scholium to Aeschines 1.39 (= DK88 A13) in these words: “When Critias, one of the Thirty, had been slain, they erected by way of memorial Oligarchy wield­ ing a firebrand and igniting Democracy; and they inscribed the following:

52 Ar., Pol. IV 4, 1292a; cf. 1292b-1293a. Here Aristotle blames the absence of good laws for the appearance of demagogues: “where the laws are not supreme, there demagogues spring up”. He adds that the “demagogues are those who make the decrees of the people override the laws, by referring all things to the popular assembly”; finally, he remarks that “the decrees of the demos correspond to the edicts of the tyrant”. Briefly, the demagogues in a democracy play the same role that flatterers play in a tyranny.


The Man who Invented God: Atheism in the Sisyphus Fragment

This is a memorial to good men who restrained the accursed (kataro­ ton) populace of the Athenians from arrogance (hybrios) for a brief pe­ riod.” There are many remarkable things in this document. The iconographic part, to begin with: the image of a personified Oligarchy setting fire to a personified Democracy. An iconographic counterpart is the stele reporting Eukrates’ law against tyranny of 337/6 BCE: it has a sculptured relief representing Democracy crowning the Athenian demos. The law equates overthrowing democracy to establishing tyranny and gives provisions in­ cluding considering blameless (hosios) whoever kills the prospective tyrant: according to democratic ideology, any regime alternative to democracy is tyranny.53 Then, we have a glimpse of the political climate, the relentless hatred between the oligarchic and the democratic factions. It is the climate we know from Thucydides’ account of the civil war at Corcyra (Thuc. 3.80-82) and from the oath sworn in certain oligarchies, reported by Aristo­ tle, Pol. V 9, 1310a9-11: “And I will be hostile (kakonous) to the people and will plan whatever evil I can against them”. Finally, we may see in it a glimpse of Critias’ political thought: the attempt to restrain what many Athenian citizens perceived as the arrogance of the demos -most likely the sovereignty of the Assembly instead of the laws and the consequent excessive use of decrees, the role of the demagogues and the unrestrained power of the jury courts, as lamented also by Aristotle.54 We may compare this notion with what appears to have been the slogan of the Thirty when they were established in government: they “declared that the city must be purged (katharan poiesai) of unjust men (ton adikon) and the rest of the citizens inclined to virtue and justice (ep’areten kai dikaiosynen)” (Lys., Eratosth. 5).

IV. The Sisyphus fragment The Sisyphus fragment is quoted by Sextus Empiricus M. 9.54, who at­ tributes it to “Critias, one of the tyrants in Athens”, and in Pyrrh. Hyp. 3.218. Sextus adds that “it seems that Critias must be included into the

53 Published in Meritt 1952, pp. 355-359. On the relationship between democratic ideology and tyranny see Giorgini 1993. 54 Ar., Pol. V 5, 1304b20 ff blames especially “the insolence (aselgheian) of the dema­ gogues” and the people’s appropriation of the laws. See also IV 4, 1292a7-22 on the nefarious role of demagogues in destroying the rule of law in democracies.


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number of atheists, for he maintained that the ancient lawgivers shaped God as the overseer (episkopon) of the good and evil deeds of mankind”. The authorship of the fragment is debated since antiquity: Sextus quotes it in its entirety and points to Critias as the author; Aetius says it belongs to a play of Euripides. Modern scholarship is equally divided. In 1875 Wilam­ owitz strongly argued for Critias’ authorship, remarking that Sextus is the only author who quotes the fragment in its entirety; he speculated that the Sisyphus completed the trilogy which included Peirithous, Rhadamantus and Tennes, which was written during his exile of 407 BCE (Wilamowitz 1875, pp. 166-172). A century afterwards Albrecht Dihle put forth interesting but not definitive arguments in favour of Euripides; more specifically, he argued that the fragment belonged to the Satyr-play Sisyphus which completed the trilogy composed of Alexandros, Palamedes and Trojan Wom­ en, staged in 415 BCE (Dihle 1977). There is no compelling theoretical, historical or philological reason to support with certainty the attribution to either author.55 Euripides was famous for addressing difficult contempo­ rary issues, including religion and what we owe to the gods; Critias, on the other hand, was bold enough to tackle the tight connection between religious practices and Athenian democracy and surely had a plan for a total renewal of the city after the disastrous democratic experience. The style of the fragment is not on the same level as Euripides’ usual dramatic prose, whereas we possess too little of Critias to make a comparison. For reasons of style and content I am therefore inclined to attribute it to Critias, especially if we interpret the content -its inherent ‘atheism’- in a political perspective. In an excellent essay about the ways of atheism in the 5th-4th century BCE, David Sedley maintained, with refined arguments, that the Sisyphus fragment probably circulated anonymously from the start, since overt athe­ ism was an extremely dangerous stance in Athens: this fact helps to explain the debated authorship. Sedley added that the fragment may either have

55 Dihle 1977 and Yunis 1988, to mention only recent works, argue for Euripides’ authorship; Sutton 1974 and 1981 (with the proviso that it does not express Critias’ ideas), Winiarczyk 1987, Bultrighini 1999 attribute it to Critias; Whit­ marsh 2014 plausibly suggests that “the play was originally attributed to Critias and subsequently reallocated to the more famous Euripides (who already had a reputation for atheism)”: p. 112; Dover 1976 and Davies 1989 (more inclined to Critias) state that there is no conclusive evidence to settle the dispute. A very good critical review of the evidence and of the dispute on authorship in Collard 2007. These are all excellent, comprehensive works. I find the case for Critias’ au­ thorship more compelling when adopting an exquisitely political interpretation.


The Man who Invented God: Atheism in the Sisyphus Fragment

been part of an entire play or self-standing: even in the first case, it was likely not performed at the Dionysia, otherwise it would have been much easier to identify the author; accordingly, it was probably meant for a circle of readers and not for theatrical audiences (Sedley 2013). The fragment reads: There was a time when humans’ life was disordered and like that of the beasts, and subservient to brute force, when there was neither any reward for the noble nor punishment for the wicked. Then it seems to me that humans enacted laws to administer punishment, in order that justice might be established as tyrant and might have arrogance enslaved; and there was punishment for whosoever kept on doing wrong. Naturally enough, the laws began to prevent them from doing [wrongful] deeds by open force but they continued to do so covertly; then at last it was, I think, that some ingenious cunning man first invented fear of the gods for the benefit of mankind, so that the wicked have some object of terror, even if it was in secret that they acted or spoke or thought anything. From this motive, then, he intro­ duced the divine (theion), alleging that there exists a deity (daimon) flourishing with indestructible life, hearing and seeing in his mind, thinking and noting these things through his divine nature, and who would hear everything spoken among men and would see everything they did. For if you silently plot some evil plan, this will not escape the notice of the gods, since the power of thought is present . By speaking these words, he introduced [to mankind] the sweetest of teachings, concealing the truth with his false speech. He mentioned such an abode for the god's dwelling-place as would be most likely to strike fear in mankind, a place he recognised as the source for mankind's fears as well as for the benefits that its miserable existence enjoys: from the sphere that encircles the sky above, where he saw that there were flashes of lightning and fearful rumblings of thunder and the gleam of heaven's stars, the fair painted embroidery of the wise craftsman Time. From this region comes the star's bright mass, and from it the dripping rain proceeds down to earth. Such were the fears wherewith he encircled mankind, and by their means he produced a fine lodging for the deity in an appropriate region and quenched the fire of lawlessness (anomian) by the imposition of laws . So it was,


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I think, that some man first persuaded mortals to believe in the race of gods.56 When we turn to the interpretation of this fascinating piece, we must recall two previous considerations. First, religion at Athens was far from being autonomous from politics; indeed, it was closely intertwined with the specific civic and political institutions of the city. Religion did not exercise any theological or doctrinal pressure on citizens; rather, it was part of the social and political order of the city. Second, ‘atheism’ was therefore a political crime since it sapped the foundations of the community. We should recall that Socrates’ trial had political motivations,57 but he was sentenced to death for not believing in the gods of the city (theous ou nomizein); literally for “not having the same gods as the city, but other new gods”.58 We have seen that the intellectual climate of the late 5th century BCE, characterized by the Sophists and their critical evaluation of received opinions and values which culminated in the nomos/physis distinction, produced forms of religious agnosticism. In Critias’ case, there is more to it -there is the deliberate intent to overturn Athenian civic religion, to shatter the connection between religious authorities and democratic institutions by presenting a new form of religious education. I subscribe to Bultrighini’s approach to the matter, to his view that Critias’ secularism is “entirely political”, is part and parcel of his anti-democratic project of overall political reform. I would add that Critias was not necessarily an atheist: no contemporary source mentions that, the first being Epicurus almost two centuries later;59 rather, he elaborated a refined anti-democratic

56 Translation mine. I relied heavily on Davies 1989 and Whitmarsh 2014. Davies’ and Whitmarsh’s essays are full of remarkable insights and I learnt a lot from them. 57 This fact is openly stated by Aeschin., Against Timarchus 173, who is even more specific: “Did you put to death Socrates the sophist, fellow citizens, because he was shown to have been the teacher of Critias, one of the Thirty who put down the democracy […]”. Beside atheism, or not believing in the gods of the city, the other accusation against Socrates was to “corrupt the youth” (diaptherein tous neous): every Athenian citizen knew that “the youth” referred to Alcibiades and Critias. Xen., Mem. 1.2.12 spoke of Critias and Alcibiades as “two former pupils of Socrates’” and commented “none wrought so many evils to the city”. 58 Pl., Ap. 24b; cf. 26 c. Xenophon, Mem. 1.1.1 with almost identical wording. Nomizein in this context means “honouring” the gods, according to the practices of the city. 59 Apparently, Epicurus attacked Prodicus, Diagoras and Critias, accusing them of being insane, in book 12 of his On Nature: quoted in Phld., Piet., col 19 (in


The Man who Invented God: Atheism in the Sisyphus Fragment

educational project which included a secular approach to religion and a different image of the gods, an image which collided with traditional Athenian religion and its democratic control by, and of, the masses. If God is a human invention, there is no need of priests, soothsayers, sacrifices, civic rituals and festivals; and, perhaps more importantly, men should have no fear of God or of the afterlife. We cannot infer from the statements in this fragment that they inevitably implied an amoral conclusion -God does not exist, anything goes. Critias could have supported a Protagorean-style relativistic morality, but it is tempting to suppose that the murderous actions of the Thirty had atheism as a theoretical underpinning. The opening scene is typical of 5th-century narrations of the evolution of mankind similar to those we find in Protagoras’ ‘Great Speech’ and in Prometheus’ lament in Aeschylus. It is closer to Aeschylus’, for in Protago­ ras’ speech human beings are assisted by the gods in their escape from their unbearable, unsocial natural condition. Critias’ universe is devoid of supernatural entities -rain, thunder, lightning are all natural phenomena. Mankind proceeds to create a liveable world through its ingeniousness, first inventing laws and then God himself. The laws have a fundamental role in enabling human beings to emerge from their beastly condition.60 However, they can affect only our public, visible behaviour, while they are impotent as regards our intentions and the acts we perform without witnesses -a fact already pointed out by An­ tiphon and picked up by Plato in Rep. II. In Antiphon, however, there is no mention of God; Plato, on his part, concluded the Republic with a beautiful myth about the destiny of our soul in the afterlife, showing that the gods exist, they care about human beings, and they reward the good and punish the wicked (X, 612c-613b). Hence the necessity of an addi­ tional entity that makes human beings good; for the existence of God does not only secure law-abidingness and affect our external behaviour, it also turns us into moral persons, for we think that God reads our mind and scrutinizes our heart. Making Sisyphus disclose his truth to his interlocutor and hence to the audience, Critias implies that God was invented for the common people, who are contrasted with ‘those who know’. This position is strikingly similar to Plato’s final view of religion in the Laws: belief

Obbink 1996, pp. 142-3). Plu., De superstitione 171 b defines Critias an atheist: however, [Plu.], De placitis philosophorum 880e (cf. Eus., P.E. 14, p. 753) attributes these same words to Euripides’ character Sisyphus (and in fact to Euripides him­ self). 60 For the importance of the laws for human civilization see also Protagoras’ ‘Great Speech’ in Plato’s Protagoras and Demosthenes, Against Aristogeiton I 20.


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in the gods for the common people must be “according to the law”; of course, philosophers in the Nocturnal Council know better -just like Plato. In fact, Hesk makes a comparison with Plato’s notion of the “noble lie” in the Republic, which is told by rulers with allegedly beneficial consequences for the stability of the political order -a very effective comparison.61 I find therefore Sedley’s suggestion that this text circulated anonymous among a circle of aristocrats and was never intended for public performance very interesting: it was meant to enlighten fellow comrades. On the other hand, if it belonged to a satyr-play, this reinforces the political interpretation: it meant to show to everyone in the audience that Athenian religious practices were devoid of foundation. There is a remarkable choice of words in the idea that justice (dikē) might be established as tyrant (tyrannos) over human beings to keep arro­ gance (hybris) enslaved. True, the word tyrannis when used by 5th century BCE dramatists did not necessarily imply violent, lawless government, it could simply mean ‘absolute rule’ and was often used for metrical reasons. However, the term’s overtones in the almost oxymoronic expression would not have eluded the highly politicized Athenian audience: for tyranny was supposed to be the opposite of justice. Likewise, hybris was a typical feature of the tyrant -an infringement upon human and divine laws- whereas here hybris is tamed by the tyrannical force of justice. The entire notion of justice as a tyrant draws on the sophistic contrast between law and nature and the only similar statement in the extant literature is made by Hippias in Plato’s Protagoras: Gentlemen, I regard you all as related, all akin, all fellow citizens -by nature, not by law. For like is by nature akin to like, but law (nomos), a tyrant (tyrannos) over mankind, ordains many things by force (biazetai) contrary to nature. (Plato, Protagoras 337c-d = DK86 C1) This is one of the many clear signs that the author was well-acquaint­ ed with contemporary sophistic literature and debates. Whitmarsh 2014 pointed also to similarities with Hesiod’s Theogony, which marked, literal­ ly, the creation of the Greek Pantheon. At the beginning of the poem the Muses famously say to Hesiod that they know how to tell many lies like true things, but they also know how to speak true things when they wish (Theog. 27-28). Whitmarsh accordingly interprets the fragment as a meditation on the function of drama and the role of the poet.

61 Hesk 2000, pp. 179-188. Cf. Pl., Rep. II, 369b7-c6; III, 414b8-415d5.


The Man who Invented God: Atheism in the Sisyphus Fragment

The origin and role of the fear of the gods is also interesting. Kahn finds a connection with Democritus DK68 A75 (cf. B30), who says that the insti­ tutors of religion relied on the human fear of celestial phenomena (Kahn 1997, p. 230). If we consider that Democritus and, later, Epicurus with their writings wanted to set human beings free from fear of divine pun­ ishment, we may conclude that this religious sentiment was widespread and cut across social classes, the learned and the uncultured. For instance, Solon, traditionally included in the Seven Wise Men, believed that divine “justice always comes in the end” (Stob. Fl. 9.25= fr. 13). This attitude was different from the superstitious practices mocked by Theophrastus in his Characters 16, where we encounter the superstitious person who spends his entire life in fear of divine punishment and who continuously makes sac­ rifices and rituals to ingratiate the gods. For completely different reasons both kinds of people lived in awe of the divine and this was also the foundation of the political and legal order: oaths, testimonies, contracts were based on divine sanction, as it is perfectly expressed by Lycurg., Against Leocrates 79: “The power which keeps our democracy together is the oath.” The Sisyphus fragment was part of a play. We do not know whether it was performed or the text was circulated privately - as argued by Sedley. We may surmise that, if it was performed on stage, even the disenchanted Athenian audience would have been struck by the daring, even subversive discourse of Sisyphus. As Aristotle puts it at Po. 1449b, the author wanted to “cause fear and pity” in the audience;62 for the spectators knew of Sisyphus’ pitiful fate and of his punishment by Zeus.63 It is interesting to note that what must have sounded shockingly bold at the end of the 5th century BCE could be stated as a somewhat matter-of-fact opinion by the historian Polybius a couple of centuries later.64 The central idea of the fragment -that a cunning man invented the no­ tion of God and shaped him as an overseer of men’s actions- has a definite 62 Aristotle repeats his statement at Po. 1452a, 1452b, 1453a. See also Plb. 2.56.11, who says that tragedy aims to “shock and divert” the audience. 63 This is the ground for Scodel’s ironic interpretation of the fragment -a piece of self-mockery by the poet, who is also among the deceivers: Scodel 1980, p. 137. 64 Plb. 6.56.10-12: “If it were possible to form a political arrangement (politeuma) wholly of wise men, such a custom would perhaps be unnecessary. But seeing that every multitude is fickle, and full of lawless desires, unreasoning anger, and violent passion, the only resource is to keep them in check by mysterious terrors and scenic effects of this sort. Wherefore, to my mind, the ancients were not acting without purpose or at random, when they brought in among the vulgar those opinions about the gods, and the belief in the punishments in Hades.”


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connection with Socrates. Xenophon reports that Socrates was extremely pious and believed that the gods care about human beings and they “know everything, our words and deeds and secret purposes, and are present everywhere [..]”.65 Later in the same book (1.4.19), Xenophon reiterates this idea narrating what Socrates taught the disbeliever Aristodemus: Then you will know that such is the greatness and such the nature of the deity that he sees all things and hears all things alike and is present in all places and heedful of all things. Xenophon comments: To me at least it seemed that by these sayings he kept his companions from impiety, injustice, and baseness, and that not only when they were seen by men, but even in solitude; since they ever felt that no deed of theirs could at any time escape the gods. Bultrighini 1999, p. 246 notices that, beside the apologetic intention re­ garding Socrates’ impiety, we can find a likely allusion to Critias’ religious doctrines in this episode. What is sure is the connection with Xenophon’s Socrates and his image of a God who knows everything, is present every­ where, cares about human beings, sees their actions and knows their in­ tents: accordingly, nothing men think or do escapes him. We can put forth two hypotheses: either Critias had heard Socrates teaching this doctrine (and its political conclusion -that the best way to honour the Gods consists in obeying the laws of the city)66 and wanted to sever this traditional connection between the gods and the (democratic) laws of the city still upheld by Socrates; or Xenophon knew Critias’ text and wanted to counter it by quoting Socrates’ position, who is portrayed maintaining the opposite view (whether this was actually Socrates’ or Xenophon’s own).

65 Xen., Mem. 1.1.19; the notion that the gods know everything is repeated in Cyr. 1.6.46. Yunis 1988 pointed out this connection too; he strongly supports Euripides’ authorship of the fragment. 66 Xenophon, Mem. 1.3.1 reports that the Pythia tells people “Follow the law of the city: that is the way to act piously” and Socrates recommended the same to his friends and pupils; this idea is repeated at Mem. 4.3.16. Socrates’ piety and his loyalty to the laws of Athens are famously the topic of Plato’s Crito.


The Man who Invented God: Atheism in the Sisyphus Fragment

V. Conclusion Philosophical investigation and, especially, the Sophists’ questioning the nature of the divine created an atmosphere in which agnosticism and atheism could emerge in the second part of the 5th century BCE. At that stage, traditional religion was mostly a matter of cult and public ritual: believing in the gods of the city by celebrating them, participating in the public rituals, worshipping at the altars of the civic gods. A citizen would show piety by obeying the laws of the city and following the religious prescriptions laid down in the laws. The ‘atheism’ in the Sisyphus fragment is certainly remarkable, even shocking for being so outspoken, but is not surprising: other authors had come to conclusions that were not so dissimilar, for they recognised human intervention in shaping religiosity through the laws. God and the laws of the city: this was the connection that Critias wished to sever, in his comprehensive plan for a new moral and political education for the Athenians. Critias was a profound mind and had understood the reasons for the failure of the mild oligarchic regime of 411 BCE. He had realized that a mere regime change would be most precarious: the ‘revolution’ also needed a cultural basis and he tried to provide it. His ‘atheism’ was part of it. Critias longed for, and aimed at, establishing a truly oligarchic city and political culture in Athens -an oligarchic regime was not enough. Unfortunately for him, the regime of the Thirty proved to be a typical oli­ garchic regime, rife with feuds among the rulers, only worse: it justly went down with infamy in the books of history. Critias’ attempt at an overall moral and political renovation of the city was thus a complete failure: he was almost obliterated from history and his works all but destroyed and forgotten.

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The Man who Invented God: Atheism in the Sisyphus Fragment Naddaf, G. (1996). Plato’s Theologia Revisited. In Methexis 9, 1996, pp. 5-18. Nestle, W. (1975). Vom Mythos zum Logos. Die Selbstentfaltung des griechischen Denkens von Homer bis auf die Sophisten und Sokrates. Stuttgart: Kröner (2nd ed.; original 1940). Nilsson, M.P. (1925). A History of Greek Religion. Oxford: Clarendon. Obbink, D. (1996). Philodemus On Piety Part 1. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Osborne, R. (2003). Changing the Discourse. In K.A. Morgan (ed), Popular Tyran­ ny. Sovereignty and its Discontents in Ancient Greece. Austin: University of Texas Press, pp. 251-272. O’ Sullivan, N. (1995). Pericles and Protagoras. In Greece & Rome 42, pp. 15-23. Philoponus (2005). On Aristotle on the Soul 1.1-2. London: Bloomsbury. Powell, A. (2018). Critias, sa révolution et la politique de Sparte. In J. Ivonneau (ed), La muse au long couteau. Bordeaux: Ausonius., pp. 159-175. Riedweg, C. (1990a). The ‘Atheistic’ Fragment from Euripides’ “Bellerophontes” (286 N 2). In Illinois Classical Studies 15, pp. 39-53. Riedweg, C. (1990b). TrGF 2.624 -A Euripidean Fragment. In Classical Quarterly 40, pp. pp. 124-136. Rotstein, A. (2007). Critias’ Invective against Archilochus. In Classical Philology 102, pp. 139-154. Scodel, R. (1980). The Trojan Trilogy of Euripides. Goettingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Sedley, D. (2013a). The Atheist Underground. In V. Harte-M. Lane (eds), Politeia in Greek and Roman Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 329-348. Sedley, D. (2013b). From the Pre-Socratics to the Hellenistic Age. In S. BullivantM. Ruse (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Atheism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 125-135. Shear, J.L. (2011). Polis and Revolution. Responding to Oligarchy in Classical Athens. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Shear, J.L. (2021). Serving Athena. The Festival of the Panathenaia and the Construc­ tion of Athenian Identities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Sutton, D. (1974). The Nature of Critias’ Sisyphus. In Rivista di Studi Classici 22, pp. 11-15. Sutton, D. (1981). Critias and Atheism. In Classical Quarterly 31, pp. 33-38. Usher, S. (1968). Xenophon, Critias and Theramenes. In The Journal of Hellenic Studies 88, pp. 128-135. Wallace, R.W. (1994). Private Lives and Public Enemies: Freedom of Thought in Classical Athens. In A.L. Boegehold-A.C. Scafuro (eds), Athenian Identity and Civic Ideology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, pp. 127–155. Whitehead, D. (1982/3). Sparta and the Thirty Tyrants. In Ancient Society 13/14, pp. 105-130.


Giovanni Giorgini Whitmarsh, T. (2014). Atheistic Aesthetics: The Sisyphus Fragment, Poetics and the Creativity of Drama. In Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society 60, pp. 109-126. Wilamowitz-Moellendorf, U. von (1875). Analecta Euripidea. Berlin: Borntraeger; reprinted Hildesheim: Olms, 1963. Winiarczyk, M. (1987). Nochmals das Satyrspiel “Sisyphos”. In Wiener Studien 100, pp. 35-45. Yunis, H. (1988). The Debate on Undetected Crime and an Undetected Fragment from Euripides’ Sisyphus. In Zeitschrift fuer Papyrologie und Epigraphik 75, pp. 39-46.


Greek Polytheist Cults and Monotheist Thinking in Tension (and its Political Reverberations) Josef Moural

Abstract While Greek religious cults and popular imagery were decidedly polythe­ ist, philosophers were strongly attracted by monism and - up to a degree that eludes precise determination - by monotheism. In my paper, I discuss this tension as it appears in the Presocratics and in Plato, where I focus on the Euthyphro and the Apology of Socrates. I propose to revise Werner Jaeger's claim that nearly all systems of Greek philosophy culminate in theology, and I largely agree with Myles Burnyeat that Socrates was guilty in terms of the accusation: guilty of monotheism, by and large. I conclude my paper with a guess - inspired by Jan Patočka -about what is the ergon on which gods invite humans to cooperate according to the Euthyphro: it is cultivating politics by education and by building institutions that bring as much transparent efficiency as possible. Keywords: Presocratics, Socrates, monism, monotheism, politics, Patočka It is quite amazing how strongly, in spite of vivid Greek polytheism that was never seriously challenged as the established religion until late antiqui­ ty,1 the Greek philosophers were attracted by monotheistic conceptions. And, one may add, it is also puzzling how little attention they paid to the possible philosophical charms of polytheism, as we know them described by Walter F. Otto and other Nietzsche-inspired scholars. These two obser­ vations, taken together, suggest a vast topic of study; one that, of course, cannot be adequately dealt with in a single paper of modest length. Thus, I shall proceed in just three steps. First, I shall provide a brief survey of philosophical mono- and polytheism up to the classical period. Next, I shall focus on the tension between mono- and polytheistic motives in certain dialogues of Plato, especially the Euthyphro and the Apology of

1 But we should also recognize that there was a widespread - yet often neglected - tendency towards various monotheist religions in the Late Antiquity, largely independent of Judaism and Christianity – see Athanassiadi, Frede (1999).


Josef Moural

Socrates. And finally, since the focus of this group is particularly on the political relevance of ancient thought, I shall briefly reflect on possible reverberations of the theological views in political matters.

I. In his Gifford Lectures of 1936, Werner Jaeger made the strong claim that ”every system of Greek philosophy (save only the Sceptics) culminated in theology” (Jaeger 1947, 4). While there may be some exaggeration in this claim, it certainly points to an important phenomenon: most Greek philosophers held opinions about what and how to think about the God or Gods or the god-like – and, very often, their opinions were quite distant from the explicit (if there was any) or implicit theology of the established religious cults. Let us look at what they have to say – if only in a rather quick survey. Before starting, I should make clear that I use the words monotheism and polytheism in their straightforward meaning, having to do simply with the number of the revered Gods or deities. I do not connect with these words any more profound theological contents, and I use them sim­ ply to facilitate communication on the issue that was our starting point. While it might be fruitful to approach the same problem another time with a more sophisticated conceptual system, for the time being I adopt a minimalist, purely numerical conception of the distinction (also to avoid controversies as to which of such more sophisticated systems is preferable). Greek philosophers sometimes name some of the established Gods or deities, sometimes they speak of the God (ho theos), sometimes of the Gods (hoi theoi) and sometimes about the divine or the god-like (to theion). Anaximander reportedly calls the everlasting origin of the universe the divine, to theion (A 15), and the same characteristic was attributed to their everlasting origin of the universe in the Pythagorean school (Philol. B 11 etc.). Given that the ruling origin according to Anaximander seems to be singular in one way or another, his use of to theion can be interpreted as bearing a monotheistic inclination. With the Pythagoreans, the situation is more complicated: in their opinion, the origin seems to be both one and many, as there is a vast plurality of numbers and their ratios, but it is all a manifestation of a single principle of the arithmetic of integers. Thus, there is at least a streak of monotheism here, but perhaps one that would not be incompatible with rich polytheism (that we see present in several Pythagorean texts).


Greek Polytheist Cults and Monotheist Thinking in Tension

The recognized champion of monotheism in early Greek thought is, of course, Xenophanes, who explicitly opposes the genuine God (in the sin­ gular) to the simple-minded stories about Gods in the plural. Xenophanes' God is personal (unlike the divine principles in the previous paragraph) but not anthropomorphic: for example, he does not use sensory organs in his cognition of particulars (B 23-26). Importantly, he is universal: the single God worshipped everywhere under different names and guises. But nonetheless Xenophanes keeps referring to Gods in the plural, not just to Homeric Gods that he wants to discredit but to some unspecified plurality of Gods (B 18, B 23, B 36, A 12, A 32): we may either explain these refer­ ences away as being used in the negative or in uncommitting comparisons (as in B 23), or conclude that Xenophanes did not hold his monotheistic views quite consistently (perhaps his views developed or he was, after all, just a poet rather than a thinker). There is a continuous dispute going on concerning the possible divine character of Parmenides’ ‘the One’: the extant Parmenidean text does not make that claim, but some scholars are strongly inclined to read it that way (e.g. Werner Jaeger) – and anyway, we should not forget that since we do not have the entire text of Parmenides’ poem, the evidence from the ab­ sence cannot be very strong. Further, there are plural Gods mentioned in the context of the false opinion in Parmenides' poem, and the mysterious Goddess in the prooemium, who seems to be of the kind that belongs to the polytheist world – but some would say we need not take the prooemium too literally. Anyway, while Xenophanes provides a strong monotheistic message, Parmenides’ monotheism (as opposed to general monism) might depend on an interpretative choice. As concerns Heraclitus and Empedocles, there are good reasons to see them as referring to a singular divine principle that governs the universe but reveals itself in plural and opposite and mutually striving ways. Empe­ docles reportedly describes Love and Hatred as Gods (A 40), but elsewhere he speaks of an immortal God in the singular (B 115), and again of what is forbidden by the God (B 112). In Heraclitus, we have the God in the singular explicitly in fragments B 32 (the one, who is the sole wise), B 67 or B 93, but also Gods in the plural who esteem the excellence in battle (B 24) and who emerge as such on the basis of the excellence in battle (B 53). A strong monist tendency can be found in Anaxagoras: we might per­ haps say monotheistic, for his nous has characteristics remarkably identical with the characteristics of a monotheistic God: it is eternal (B 14), it created the world (A 40) and it governs it in an order-preserving way (B 12). According to A 48 Anaxagoras even called the nous a God, but the ren­ dering is not quite reliable. Next, in a remarkable antithesis to Anaxagoras, 127

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Democritus denies that the movement of microscopic particles is governed by any intelligent superhuman force, and he seems to be the main reason for us to somewhat weaken Werner Jaeger’s strong claim quoted at the beginning of this section. To sum up, we see the Presocratics speaking both in monotheistic and polytheistic way. But it is always monotheism, latent or patent, that is connected with philosophical achievement, with an intellectual value added to the already existing pool of opinions. In so far as there is a talk about polytheism and the established Gods, it is often casual and not really connected with the core of the philosopher’s message. More serious polytheistic thoughts are always a part of a larger structure with dominant monist elements, as we saw it in Pythagoreanism, Empedocles or Heraclitus. A legitimate question may arise: should we not speak here primarily about a general monist tendency among the Presocratics, and treat their inclinations towards monotheism only as a predictable projection of this general tendency on the philosophy-of-religion canvass? Or, one step fur­ ther, should we not say that while most of the Presocratics want to ascribe some kind of Sacredness to their monist principles, they do not necessarily wish to treat them as Gods (in a reasonably clear and compact sense of the word)? We do not need to answer these questions in this paper, for the political reverberations of the philosophical monotheism proper and of the general philosophical monism seem to be much the same - but it would be nice to know.2

II. In the second part of my paper, let us turn to Socrates and Plato. Again, we shall find the characters in Plato’s dialogues to refer both to a singular God and plural Gods (as well as to name some of the Olympian Gods and sub-Olympian deities), and again, we shall find an obvious tendency to speak with more emphasis or more philosophical sophistication in the monotheistic rather than in the polytheistic voice. But, as one might expect with Plato, the situation is by no means simple. First, we shall have a very brief survey of the two major dialogues. Next, I turn to the Euthyphro, the dialogue in which there is no single

2 It seems that accepting the two suggestions from this paragraph would amount to abandoning Jaeger's claim from the beginning of this section.


Greek Polytheist Cults and Monotheist Thinking in Tension

sentence using monotheistic ways of speaking and where there is plenty of talk about hoi theoi, but where nonetheless we shall see Socrates making a number of points weakening the traditional polytheism and perhaps sympathetic to monotheism. Finally, we shall have a look at the Apology of Socrates, with some help from Myles Burnyeat. Of the two major dialogues, in the Republic the use of God in the singular, ho theos or to theion, is much more prominent while in the Laws the anonymous main speaker tends to switch between singular and plural. “The God is in each respect the best,” says Socrates in the Republic (381b4), while the argument in favor of the existence of plural Gods in the Laws culminates in the passage around 897-899, where it is first shown that “the best soul takes care of the universe” (897b7-c1), but then the argument continues, with remarkable indifference to the singular/plural issue, “since a soul or souls were shown to be the causes of everything, good in every respect, we shall call them Gods” (899b5-7). I suspect that the difference between the Republic and the Laws may have to do with the absence - or at least a weaker role - of philosophy in the Laws, but this is too large an issue to delve in here. Let us now see in more detail what can be made for the monotheistic preference of Socrates in the dialogue where no communication about the singular God (at least in grammatical sense) takes place. The dialogue is the Euthyphro, and it is the coincidence of the charge against Socrates having to do with his disrespect to the Gods of the city and the character of Euthyphro specialized in the talk about plural Gods that gives Plato the opportunity to write such a piece with Gods only in the plural (of course, both characters quite often emphasize their points by invoking Zeus by name, but I leave these conventional phrases like nē Dia, ma Dia or pros Dios out of the scope of the present investigation). So what is going on in the Euthyphro? Euthyphro introduces the plural­ ity of Gods in the most comical way: he compares what he is doing, prosecuting his own father, to the mythical violent actions of certain early gods against their own ancestors (5e2-6a6). Euthyphro’s speech shows a lot of self-confidence (of the sort that does not get weakened by repeated failures), and his self-confidence inspires Socrates to ask him for a tutorial in matters of Gods and piety, allegedly in order to get prepared for his trial. We do not know whether he is serious or joking, or half serious and half joking (or perhaps, to speak with Vlastos and Patočka, both fully


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serious and supremely joking3) – we have no way to tell and need to leave this issue aside. What concerns us is what comes up next during the tutorial. Socrates adopts a distance from Euthyphro’s full-fledged polytheism making use of two strategies. First, he repeatedly and quite straightfor­ wardly says that he does not believe it or is ignorant of it, at least in so far as such polytheism involves discord and enmity among the gods. Thus he replies to Euthyphro’s yet another portion of stories about Gods’ discord and enmity with these words: “I wonder if this is why I am being prosecuted, Euthyphro, because when anyone says such things about the gods, I somehow find it difficult to accept? Perhaps this is why people claim I am guilty.” (6a7-10) Again, in the next reply: “Do you believe there is really war among the gods, and terrible enmities and battles, and other sorts of things our poets tell […]? […] Are we, Euthyphro, to say those things are so?” (6b7-9, c4) And somewhat later, more mildly but still with the same intention: “But I imagine that those who disagree—both men and gods, if indeed the gods do disagree (eiper amfisbétúsin theoi)—disagree about particular things (and not universal principles) …” (8e5-8, italics J.M.) And his second strategy is to steer the conversation away from Euthy­ phro’s beloved scenes of discord among Gods and towards agreement among them. That is what happens at the crucial turn of the first dialec­ tical passage, where Socrates makes all the alleged discord among Gods irrelevant to the problem of piety on which the dialogue is focused; no­ toriously, he does that by proposing to modify Euthyphro’s first general definition into "whatever all the gods hate is impious, whatever they all love is pious" (9d2-4). Thus, even in the dialogue where Socrates, seriously or in joke, accepts the partner’s way of speaking about Gods only in the plural, he nonetheless makes it quite clear that there are certain aspects of traditional polytheism that are profoundly foreign to him. Next, let us look at the Apology of Socrates, a text closely related to the Euthyphro and yet so very different. Myles Burnyeat’s paper “The impiety

3 Jan Patočka's view of Socratic irony as multi-layer communication where on each layer the communication can be - and often is - really meant (unlike in the most common concept of irony, where we just switch from the literal to the really meant opposite of the literal), proposed in his lecture course on Socrates in 1947, was rediscovered by Gregory Vlastos in the 1980s - see Patočka (1991, 122-125), Vlastos (1985, 30) and (1991, 21-42), and Moural (2017, 138-139); and for the traditional conception e.g. Quint., Inst. IX, ch. 2, 44.


Greek Polytheist Cults and Monotheist Thinking in Tension

of Socrates”4 helpfully analyzes some of the points I would like to make. Burnyeat says: given the accusation and Socrates’ defense in the court, it was the right thing for a conscientious member of the jury to vote guilty rather than not guilty (2012, 226), for Socrates never dealt with the main point of the accusation, namely that he does not believe in the Gods of the city. As you may remember, he makes use of Meletus’ gullibility and defeats him by showing only that, if the accusation is true, it follows that he believes in some gods (26c1-28a2). And his defense not being satisfacto­ ry is not the only worrying thing: as he speaks, Socrates in fact provides a perceptive juror with further evidence that his faith is far from standard. He keeps referring to ho theos, the God in the singular, when he speaks his own mind, as when he tells the crucial story about Chaerephon and the Delphic oracle, and about his subsequent interpretation of the statement (20e6-23c1) - admittedly, he might be referring to Apollo, the God of the Delphic cult (and in the earliest part of the story he apparently is, especially at 20e7-8), but he does not name him, which seems to prepare the subsequent meaning shift from Apollo in particular to the God in general. Also, it is ho theos who is responsible for the personal daimonion that occasionally speaks to Socrates (to tou theou sēmeion - 40b2). When not referring to the accusation, Socrates mentions theoi in the plural only once - but without definite article (and with regard to what Socrates says) he does not seem to mean the particular gods of Athens: "Nothing bad happens to a good man alive or dead, nor are his concerns neglected by gods" (41d1-3). Besides, when Socrates says that it is the virtue (apparently to be under­ stood in a Socratic way as transparent rationality) from which all the good things follow for an individual and for the city (30b2-4), he is clearly guilty of hybris, for according to standard Greek religion many of the good things follow from the non-transparent and volatile favor of Gods5 (Burnyeat 2012, 231). Thus, there are very good reasons to believe that Socrates is guilty of not believing in the Gods of the city. Further, claims Burnyeat, if his young followers learn from him to believe the same things (regardless of whether he teaches them intentionally or not) and if the shared traditional cult is something good for the city, he is also guilty of corrupting the youth.

4 Burnyeat (2012, 224-237), orig. Burnyeat 1996. 5 Which is the reason why the Athenians keep performing the traditional rituals, rituals that Socrates mocks in Euthphr. 14d1-15a5.


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Burnyeat had a different agenda from ours, but most of his results are relevant to our task. According to him, Socrates in Plato’s Apology of Socrates holds heterodox religious opinions, in Burnyeat ‘s own words “al­ most a monotheist” (2012, 228). One might question the identification of the virtue in the Apology 30b3 with the virtue based on knowledge of good and bad known from dialogues like Laches or Protagoras, mainly because it seems incompatible with the emphatic central claim of the Apology that sofia is admitted ignorance, claim understood as issued and sanctioned by the God (23a5-b4) - but Burnyeat's general result does not depend on this single point. Let me summarize and generalize the findings of this section: in Plato’s dialogues, the prominent speakers presented in favorable light use both polytheistic and monotheistic way of speaking. However, even when they use polytheistic way of speaking, the content of their communication quite often differs from the established Greek polytheism. The difference typically consists in suppression of discord and enmity among Gods and in strengthening their unanimity and concord (sometimes, this is achieved through subordinating all Gods to one overarching divine ruler). But more often the polytheist way of speaking is marginal or absent and the monotheist way is dominant.

III. We proceed to the third and final section of my paper. In this context of investigation, we are not interested in ancient Gods and religion for their own sake only, but also because of their potential relevance to the political thinking of our epoch. In view of that, let me conclude with a few somewhat speculative remarks loosely related to our findings so far. First, I think it would be inappropriate to seek in Greek polytheism a parable to our pluralistic constitutional democracy. For the plurality of ancient Gods is based on different mentalities and different social positions and remains remarkably stable, while our political plurality is based primarily on merely partial points of view and on unstable social positions. Some political theorists would say that mentalities are also rel­ evant to modern and contemporary pluralist party-building: if they are, there would be some similarity between the plurality of ancient Gods and the plurality of our political life, but such similarity would not reach very far. Second, I do not think that monotheism as such has a strong affinity to political dictatorships. Admittedly, there seems to be a certain structural 132

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similarity: just one strong leader able to overrule everybody and to decide everything. But it is the vulnerability of human dictators that prevents them from ruling efficiently and benevolently: they must be so preoccu­ pied of preserving and strengthening their positions and of suppressing potential rivals and rebels that it is difficult for them to find enough time and energy to pursue their common good agenda (even if they wished to).6 Monotheistic gods not only do not suffer of vulnerability or mortality, but their positions seem to be stable and guaranteed enough to make them free to actualize their benevolent intentions, if they have them. Third, there is one specific feature of the philosophical monotheisms of the early and classical antiquity that makes these authors politically suspi­ cious: their rationalism. Of course, I do not mean the unfortunate concept of rationalism that has been used in the history of modern philosophy, I mean what we repeatedly saw in some of the Presocratics and in Plato’s texts: the view that the singular ruling force of the universe is identical with rationality itself or with a paradigm instance of it. It is this type of monotheism that has a rather close affinity to what has been called rationalism in politics. We need to be careful here, for 'rationalism in politics' is clearly a label coined and spread by its enemy (Oakeshott 1962). In view of that, we should also look up for a more favorable description of the phenomenon, perhaps associated with terms like ‘the unfinished project of modernity’ or ‘neo-enlightenment’. But it seems clear that there is a big difference be­ tween the rationalist monocracy of the ancient type on the one hand and a Habermasian institution-building based on discourse and criticism on the other. Much of ancient rationalism is based on the vision of supreme rationality embodied in a single mind – and it is the projection of this vision into politics that is especially dangerous. Once such vision is abandoned and what remains is final fallible ratio­ nality in need of continuous intersubjective criticism, there emerges a connection to modern views like critical rationalism or critical theory. But here, too, one needs to be cautious. One might argue that what is peculiar about Plato’s Laws is precisely such loss of confidence in a single supreme intelligence, a philosopher-king par excellence. Instead, there is an emphasis on a collective organ with membership based on accumulat­ 6 Democracies, too, are haunted by this danger. But Churchill's dictum about democracy is true: while the power-greedy rivalry is indeed debilitating, through the voters-seeking it still has to be somehow oriented towards the common (or at least majoritarian) good - and if the media and the public are educated and vigilant, it can perform remarkably well.


Josef Moural

ed experience rather than on reason. But collective discourse need not guarantee beneficial results: typically, it would guarantee nothing much better than some kind of harmonized aggregate of the intentions with which the participants entered. If these intentions are evil or just base, discourse as such may not be strong enough to make the result benevolent (certainly not a real-world discourse). Also, there is much contingency in how discourses develop - as it is beautifully illustrated by Plato’s dialogues. Perhaps it is quite natural, from a developmental point of view, for the human mind to pass through a stage of such unlimited rationalist vision. But it is our task to distinguish and criticize: the task we inherited from Socrates. And once the perils of perfect knowledge are abandoned and the positive potential of discussion and criticism becomes recognized, we can see that it is especially education on which the health of our democracies eventually depends. Let me conclude with a brief étude, borrowed largely from Jan Patočka. In the second main part of the Euthyphro, Socrates suggests that piety per­ haps consists in our skilful serving to gods (hē theois hypēretikē) aiming at a certain main outcome (ergon) – and that, if only Euthyphro determined that outcome, the problem of piety would have been satisfactorily solved (14c1‑3). In the Apology, Socrates describes his activity (in the later part of his life) as service to the God (tou theou latreia – 23c1). I want to explore the possibility that, despite the shift from the plural gods to the singular God and from hypēretikē to latreia, Plato may be pursuing the same agenda, an agenda with a quite heavy political load. According to Jan Patočka‘s interpretation, Plato‘s Socrates is a remedy to the disease that haunts mankind since the emergence of politics. The precariousness of human condition is best shown by the Attic tragedy of the 5th century: not only (1) we can‘t avoid acting in situations that are pressing, but also (2) we don‘t have anything like a full information of the situation and thus of the consequences of the deliberated action, and even if we could have it, (3) we may find ourselves caught in conflicting obligations (like, say, Antigone did). Even the best person could not safely live a good life in a world like that (Patočka 1991, 30-31). But, according to Patočka, the dark sky of the tragedy – as opposed to the clear sky of the Homeric epic – reflects the fact that the tragic hero understands his or her situation primarily as related to the polis, and through the polis to the gods (while the epic hero relates himself directly to the gods - Patočka 1991, 30-31). It is politics that makes the human world less transparent and fuller of latent obligation conflicts. The task of philos­ ophy, according to Plato, is to reform politics so that it becomes more transparent in responding to the God’s demand that we live a good life – 134

Greek Polytheist Cults and Monotheist Thinking in Tension

by which it liberates (as far as possible) the previously haunted mankind. This may be the ergon about which the God invites us to cooperate, the agenda pursued already in the Euthyphro and in the Apology – and it is the agenda we are and will be pursuing today and tomorrow.

References Athanassiadi, P. - Frede, M. (1999), Pagan Monotheism in Late Antiquity, Oxford: Clarendon Press. Burnyeat, M. (1996), The Impiety of Socrates, in: A. Dykman, W. Godzich (eds.), Platon et les Poètes: hommage à George Steiner, Genève: Unité de littérature com­ parée, Faculté des lettres, pp. 11-36. Burnyeat, M. (2012), The Impiety of Socrates, in: Explorations in Ancient and Mod­ ern Philosophy, vol. 2, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 224-237. Diels, H. - Kranz, W. (1959/60), Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, Berlin: Weidmann (9th ed.) Jaeger, W. (1947), The Theology of the Early Greek Philosophers: The Gifford Lectures 1936. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Moural, J. (2017), Ironie a sofistika v Havlově Žebrácké opeře, in: J. Hoblík (ed.), Filosofické procházky českou a ruskou literaturou, Ústí nad Labem: FF UJEP, pp. 132-141. Oakeshott, M. (1962), Rationalism in Politics and other Essays, London: Methuen & Co. Patočka, J. (1991), Sókratés: Přednášky z antické filosofie, Praha: Státní pedagogické nakladatelství. Vlastos, G. (1985), Socrates' Disavowal of Knowledge, The Philosophical Quarterly 35 (1985), 1-31. Vlastos, G. (1991), Socrates: Ironist and Moral Philosopher, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Eusebeia for the Gods as a Matter of Justice. Greek Popular Religion and Plato’s Euthyphro Elena Irrera

Abstract This essay aims to analyse some uses of the word “eusebeia” in Greek classi­ cal antiquity, with a special focus on the way in which the corresponding notion helps to shape the goals and argumentative strategies of Plato’s Euthyphro. Rather than indicating sheer formal correctness in matters of religious cult (i.e. an attitude which seems to be better expressed by the adjective “hosios”), Socratic eusebeia represents an invitation to adopt a critical attitude in ethically religious controversies. What is more, eusebeia can be understood as a source of acts of justice and civic respect in the domain of human relationships.

I. Introduction In Greek classical antiquity, the word εὐσέβεια – being generally translated as ‘piety’,1 ‘holiness’,2 ‘religiosity’,3 and/or ‘proper respect’4 – is primarily employed with reference to a variety of human attitudes, activities, and beliefs concerning the gods and the most appropriate ways to worship them (e.g. prayers, sacrifices, ceremonies, oracle consulting, and divinatory practices). In particular, the use of εὐσέβεια is frequently attested in con­

1 See for instance Fowler (1966). Rabinowitz (1958) and Vlastos (1999) translate as ‘piety’ both ἡ εὐσέβεια/τὸ εὐσεβές and ἡ ὁσιότης/τὸ ὅσιον. Cf. Liddell-Scott-Jones (http://stephanus.tlg.uci.edu/lsj/#eid=46293, last accessed 16/06/2021). 2 Mikalson (2010, p. 6) presents this as a possible translation for εὐσέβεια, although he criticizes it. 3 The substantive adjective τὸ εὐσεβές, cognate of εὐσέβεια, is translated by Burnet (1979) as “the religious”. 4 Cf. Norlin (1980), who translates the word “reverence”. Mikalson (2010, p. 9) sug­ gests that ‘proper respect’ ought to replace translations as ‘piety’ and ‘holiness’ so as to avoid inappropriate connotations of the word ‘piety’ and focus on reverence for the gods (instead of respect for persons and things). Cf. Chantraine (1983, p. 831), who believes that εὐσέβεια is exclusively referred to respect for gods and rituals.


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texts where a reverential, asymmetric respect towards the gods holds pride of place.5 The meaning of εὐσέβεια, however, cannot be confined to issues of sheer formal correctness in the performance of religious practices, as it also includes proper acts of justice and civic respect. Indeed (as I will try to show throughout this essay), several literary and philosophical Greek texts imply that various forms of lack of reverential respect towards the gods (ἀσέβεια) revolve around acts of injustice committed by some subjects towards their fellow-humans. What is more, reverential respect for the gods may generate a sense of moral obligation in the respecting subjects, as well as the awareness that any omitted, misguided or inappropriate care for divine authority may end up in charges of unrighteous ethical conduct towards gods and/or human beings. In this essay I will explore some possible relations between worldly justice and human respect for the gods in ancient Greek culture, and show how a common-sensical view of piety can be addressed philosophically, i.e. in the context of a critical investigation of the nature of reverential respect for the gods and also of its implications in the domain of a distinc­ tively human justice. To this goal, in the first part of the essay I will introduce some possible uses of ἡ εὐσέβεια in Greek orations, by focusing in particular on the occasional links that Isocrates establishes between religious reverence and a “horizontal”, human justice. Furthermore, I will investigate possible meanings of the words ἡ ὁσιότης/τὸ ὅσιον, and suggest that most references to those words denote the sense of a purely formal (and non-critical) abidance by rituals and practices concerning the gods. In the second part of the essay, I will ask whether (and, if so, in what possible ways) the supposed relationship between human justice and holy respect for the gods (an issue widely entrenched in Greek culture and literature) is philosophically addressed by Socrates in Plato’s Euthyphro (to this goal, I shall devote special attention only to the first sections of the dialogue). The proposed question will give me the opportunity to inquire into some possible relationships between ἡ εὐσέβεια/τὸ εὐσεβές and ἡ ὁσιότης/τὸ ὅσιον and criticize the idea of a supposed interchange­ ability between them. In particular, I will suggest that τὸ ὅσιον and τὸ εὐσεβές (contrary to what Eutyphro seems to assume) are not treated by Socrates as synonyms. As I maintain, by employing the word τὸ εὐσεβές, Socrates betrays the intention to shift the discussion into a more critically

5 A similar form of respect can be qualified as “respect as honour”. For a contempo­ rary theorization of this kind of respect and the accountability of the respecting subject towards the authority of the addressee(s) of respect see Darwall (2013).


Eusebeia for the Gods as a Matter of Justice

informed, truth- and justice-oriented dimension. I will contend that Euthy­ phro’s failure to meet the expectations of a proper critical discussion on reverence causes Socrates to give up his search for τὸ εὐσεβές, leading him to maintain the discussion in terms of τὸ ὅσιον.

II. Εὐσέβεια between justice and lawfulness. A comparison with ὁσιότης Besides including the idea of a reverential respect for the gods, the seman­ tic spectrum of the term εὐσέβεια also encompasses aspects of loyalty, admiration, and devotion towards qualities (like one’s good physical as­ pect6) and/or human beings. If considered in relation to humans, εὐσέβεια can denote some sort of reverential respect towards family members – either “vertical”, like in a relation towards one’s ancestors7 and parents,8 or “horizontal”, like in the case of relationships towards one’s friends.9 In both cases, the word εὐσέβεια is employed within prescriptive contexts, i.e. as an ethical ideal to pursue. Literary evidence, however, exhibits a more widespread use of the word, which is most frequently introduced in relation to the idea of a reverential respect for the gods and a solicitous spirit of service towards them. By way of example, the phrases πρὸς τοὺς θεοὺς εὐσέβεια (cf. Isocrates, Helen 31.3, and Busiris 15.7; Plato, Symposium 193d3),10 εὐσέβεια περὶ τοὺς θεοὺς (cf. Isocrates, Panathenaicus 124.4) and εἰς θεοὺς εὐσέβεια (cf. Plato, Republic 10.615c2-3) convey the idea of recog­ nition by human beings of a distinctively superior power. Furthermore, as is attested in the sphere of oratorical speech, εὐσέβεια is occasionally

6 Cf. Isoc., Hel. 10.58: εὐσεβείᾳ καὶ προνοίᾳ χρώμεθα περὶ τὴν ἰδέαν. 7 Cf. Isoc., Plataicus, 14.60: «You must [also] take some thought of your ances­ tors and not be negligent of the piety due to them (χρὴ δὲ καὶ τῶν προγόνων ποιήσασθαί τινα πρόνοιαν καὶ μὴ παραμελῆσαι μηδὲ τῆς περὶ ἐκείνους εὐσεβείας)» (tr. Norlin, 1980). 8 Cf. Pl., Lg., 4.717a2-d3, where the unnamed Athenian claims that the “mark of piety” (τοῦ τῆς εὐσεβείας σκοποῦ; 717a6-b1) is achieved not only through worship to gods, daemons, and heroes, but also through the honour paid to living parents. Cf. Rep. 615c2-3: εἰς δὲ θεοὺς ἀσεβείας τε καὶ εὐσεβείας καὶ γονέας. Reverential respect for parents is also mentioned by the sophist Gorgias (Funeral Oration, fragment VS 82 B6), although he speaks in terms of ὁσιότης (πρὸς τοὺς τοκέας). 9 See the above mentioned Gorgias, VS 82 B6: εὐσεβεῖς πρὸς τοὺς φίλους. For a later use of εὐσέβεια towards human, see Dio Cassius (155-235 AD), who speaks of εὐσέβεια πρὸς ἀδελφόν (i.e. towards one’s brother; D.C. 48.5). 10 Cf. περὶ τοὺς θεοὺς θεραπεία in Isocrates 11.24.1-2.


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introduced in conjunction with the ideal of φιλανθρωπία, i.e. "love" and/or regard by human beings towards their fellows. A telling example in this respect is offered by Demosthenes in the speech Against Meidias, where he presents himself as the victim of a series of outrages perpetrated by the Athenian rich man Meidias – the most serious of which was a slapping during the holy celebrations of the Great Dionysia. Demosthenes had voluntarily taken on a choregia in 348 BC, paying for equipment and the maintenance of the chorus of the Pandio­ nis tribe (Martin 2009, p. 15). Meidias, who had tried to obstruct the chorus’ activity, was only the addressee of a προβολή, namely a prelimi­ nary accusation brought by the orator before the ἐκκλησία. Nevertheless, Demosthenes seems to stress the legitimacy of a public accusation for religious impiety (γραφὴ ὕβρεως or γραφὴ ἀσεβείας) with regard to the case at issue (Martin 2009, p. 16). By speaking publicly to his fellow-citizens, Demosthenes stresses the fact that, in the same days in which Meidias had committed offences that called for the severest punishment, the Athe­ nians themselves had all risen to such a height of benevolence towards human beings (φιλανθρωπία) and reverence towards the gods (εὐσέβεια) that they had suspended the exaction of penalties due for past offences (Ag. Meid., 12.2). Despite Demosthenes’ inclination to use religious and ethical references for rhetorical purposes,11 philanthropy and reverence for the gods (which me might refer to as “religious” reverence) are here presented as distinct, but at the same time as complementary qualities in a speech which is meant to emphasize the idea of good ethical conduct in general. A similar approach is kept by Isocrates, whose rhetorical strategy is gen­ erally thought to advance specific civic, political and pedagogical purpos­ es.12 In the Panathenaicus, the orator sings the praises of the ancestors who ruled the city of Athens in the most excellent manner. While extolling their superiority in moral excellence over the governors of other cities, he

11 Cf. Martin (2009), who argues that Demosthenes’ (and other Athenian orators in the fourth century BC) references to religion is simply part of a rhetorical strategy, especially in public trials (although less in the assembly and in private trials). With regard to the Against Meidias, Martin argues that religious aspects are introduced by Demosthenes only gradually, and also that they enforce the moral and political reasons for the trial advanced in the first sections of the speech (2009, pp. 19-48). 12 See Garver (2004), who argues that Isocrates believes to have reconfigured the relation between philosophy, rhetoric and practical wisdom, situating its work in an intermediate position between the Sophists and Plato, and qualifying it as a matter of civic education as a distinct endeavour from both rhetoric and pure philosophy.


Eusebeia for the Gods as a Matter of Justice

praises their εὐσέβεια in relation to the gods and their justice (δικαιοσύνη) towards human beings (Panat. 124, 3-4). Likewise, in the speech On the Peace Isocrates dwells on the good qualities which, if possessed by human souls, enable people to acquire the advantages of which they stand in need (32-33). Isocrates admits that he would be surprised if people thought that those who practice εὐσέβεια and δικαιοσύνη remained steadfast in these virtues simply because they expect to have less advantages than the wicked. It is remarkable that the ideal portrait of human excellence sketched out in Greek oratory, although considering reverence for the gods and justice among human beings as conceptually separate virtues, does not exclude significant relations of reciprocal determination and influence between them. Indeed, several pieces of oratory show that justice and love for humanity can be regarded not only as definitory components of religious piety towards the gods. Reverence towards the gods is not exclusively (nor necessarily) expressed in acts of pure formal abidance by rituals (prayers, purifications, divinatory practices and rules, etc.). To the contrary, respect for a divine order and the gods (understood as the authoritative deposi­ tories of that order) surfaces through acts of justice and respect directly addressed towards human beings – acts for which no conventionally estab­ lished performative pattern is made available. By way of example, in the already mentioned Panathenaicus, Isocrates expresses a steady condemnation of the Ephors, i.e. the highest Spartan magistrates, who used to inflict death arbitrarily and with no previous trial. Isocrates stresses the fact that, in other Greek cities, their behaviour would have been regarded as a crime against the gods – and not simply against men (181-182). Isocrates wonders whether those who praise the deeds performed by the Spartans are also inclined to praise as “pious” (εὐσεβεῖς) and honourable those acts of injustice perpetrated against com­ mon people (182). In saying so, the orator highlights the idea that human injustice can be framed in terms of human lack of recognition of the gods’ authority. Likewise, a way to respect divine authority is to act virtuously towards human beings. In his view, the kind of excellence that the Spar­ tans claim to possess is the one that develops in human souls alongside piety and justice (μετ᾽εὐσεβείας καὶ δικαιοσύνης; 183.6) – the same kind of excellence he praises as the core of his own ethical teachings (183.6-7). In the light of his speech, those excellences will no longer appear as dis­ tinct pieces of a puzzle composing a supposed idea of “complete virtue”. Conversely, human justice towards human fellows can be viewed as the normative content of εὐσέβεια, and also as its ratio essendi. This idea is explicitly illustrated in Isocrates’ speech To Nicocles. In paragraph 20 of the oration, Isocrates addresses Nicocles, king of Cyprus, with the intention 141

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of showing him the duties of a sovereign. In clarifying the nature of the greatest “service to the gods”, he explains that the highest form of it is not detached from human justice. On the contrary, justice towards human fellows can be seen as the greatest service to the divine: In the worship of the gods (τὰ μὲν πρὸς τοὺς θεούς), follow the exam­ ple of your ancestors, but believe that the noblest sacrifice and the greatest devotion is to show yourself in the highest degree a good and just man (my italics) (ἡγοῦ δὲ θῦμα τοῦτο κάλλιστον εἶναι καὶ θεραπείαν μεγίστην, ἂν ὡς βέλτιστον καὶ δικαιότατον σαυτὸν παρέχῃς); for such men have greater hope of enjoying a blessing from the gods than those who slaughter many victims. Honor with office those of your friends who are nearest of kin, but honor in very truth those who are the most loyal (tr. Norlin). As the passage above suggests, human justice represents an indispensable requirement and, all the same, the content itself of an authentic respect for the gods. Devotion for the gods is generally related to the human search for solutions of stability in the field of human relations. The human quest for divine favour, then, will express itself not only in formal and institutionalized acts of reverence towards ontologically superior entities, but also in the urgence and the moral necessity to establish conditions of justice in the domain of human relationships. The idea that εὐσέβεια towards the gods can be a way to the acquisition of benefits for the human life (such as survival, material prosperity and preservation of social stability) is well- exemplified also in Isocrates’ Busiris. In that speech, Isocrates critically addresses the orator Policrates, who was supposed to defend the Egyptian King Busiris from charges of impiety levelled against him (well-known was Busiris’ habit of sacrificing foreign­ ers as a form of devotion to Zeus). On his view, Policrates has failed at emphasizing Busiris’ active contribution to an efficient administration of his kingdom. What he might rather have highlighted is the king’s use of εὐσέβεια towards the gods as a means of protection and defence of people and territories (just like the art of war). As Isocrates suggests, the favour of the gods is a source of benefits for the human life. This is the reason why Busirides had established the presence of a professional group of people appointed for priestly service, alongside other arts: So Busiris thus began, as wise men should, by occupying the fairest country and also by finding sustenance sufficient for his subjects. Af­ terwards, he divided them into classes: some he appointed to priestly


Eusebeia for the Gods as a Matter of Justice

services, others he turned to the arts and crafts, and others he forced to practise the arts of war. He judged that, while necessities and su­ perfluous products must be provided by the land and the arts, the safest means of protecting these was practice in warfare and reverence (εὐσέβεια) for the gods (15. Tr. Norlin). Throughout the whole speech, the author’s call for a sense of responsibility and moral bindingness towards the gods appears related to the expected positive consequences of reverence in matters of human prosperity and social stability. What is more, reverential respect for the gods seems to possess an eminently pedagogic function. As he suggests, a consolidated habit of respect for the gods enables the members of a certain political community to acquire the discipline and respect needed in the field of reciprocal interaction between fellow-humans, as well as a sense of moral obligation stemming from fear of punishment. This idea is confirmed in paragraph 25 of the oration: [F]or actually those who in the beginning inspired in us our fear of the gods, brought it about that we in our relations to one another are not altogether like wild beasts. So great, moreover, is the piety and the solemnity with which the Egyptians deal with these matters13 that not only are the oaths taken in their sanctuaries more binding than is the case elsewhere, but each person believes that he will pay the penalty for his misdeeds immediately and that he will neither escape detection for the present nor will the punishment be deferred to his children's time. A sense of justice and responsibility for one’s behaviour, being generated by repeated activity in matters of promise-keeping and the payment of penalties, is influenced by what Isocrates names “practices of ὁσιότης”: And they have good reason for this belief; for Busiris established for them numerous and varied practices of piety (ἀσκήσεις τῆς ὁσιότητος) and ordered them by law even to worship and to revere (σέβεσθαι καὶ τιμᾶν) certain animals which among us are regarded with contempt, not because he misapprehended their power, but because he thought that the crowd (τὸν ὄχλον) ought to be habituated to obedience to all the commands of those in authority.

13 Literally: “the Aegyptians behaved in such a holy and solemn way (ἁγίως περὶ ταῦτα καὶ σεμνῶς)…”.


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Although the Greek word ὁσιότης, being here translated as piety, may be taken as a synonym of εὐσέβεια14, it is not unreasonable to suppose that – at least in this passage – it specifically expresses some form of uncritical acceptance of rituals and cults15. This idea would find confirmation in Isocrates’ reference to a mass (τὸ ὄχλον) who needs to acquire lawfulness as a habit rather than a sophisticated intellectual awareness on the nature of the divine and its relations to human morality. The issue of the proper meaning of ὁσιότης and the possible contexts for its employment are notoriously a matter of controversy among scholars. The range of the word at stake spans from sheer lawfulness in religious practices (in particular to those that require pure obsequious obedience to rules and institutions) to a more general and critically informed attitude of reverential respect for the gods. What is more, given the semantic ambiguity of both ὁσιότης and εὐσέβεια, it is extremely difficult to establish proper conceptual distinctions between the two, as well as possible points of contact and overlaps. Broadie, for instance, has proposed that τὸ εὐσεβές applies to both persons and performed acts and has a more positive value, whereas τὸ ὅσιον applies to actions which are nothing more than ‘not religiously forbidden’ (Broadie 2003, p. 54, footnote 1). What Broadie’s classification neglects, in my opinion, is the fact that, on several occasions, ὁσιότης is also used as either a distinctive virtue of character (cf. Pl., Prot. 329c5; Men. 78d3; Lg. 2.661b5 and 4.717a2; Isoc., Evag. 51.1) or as a quality of a virtuous life (cf. Pl., Lg. 2.663b2; 2.663d3; 12.959c1). Broadie’s belief that ὁσιότης is specifically associated to “non-unlawful” acts is probably derived from the idea that lack of piety involves the transgression of a moral or institutional order. However, to judge from the uses of the word in classical Greek literature and philosophy, the idea of a holy life does not necessarily exclude either a positive attitude of reverence for the gods – one that transcends pure abstention from injustice and unlawfulness – or (as we shall see in the case of Euthyphro in the homonymous Platonic dialogue), initiatives that would be regarded as socially and traditionally inappropriate. It is worth noting, however, that the word ὁσιότης frequently conveys the idea of a human attempt to establish a bond with the divine realm through the performance of conventionally established religious practices – such as offerings to the gods and public sacrifices (Pl., Lg. 6.782c4-5), li­

14 The idea that the two words are synonym is held by Burnet (1979). 15 Cf. Bus. 28, where the ὁσιότης of the Aegyptians is specifically related to sacrifices and ceremonial purity.


Eusebeia for the Gods as a Matter of Justice

bations and hymn singing (7.799a6-b4), appropriate behaviour at sacrifices and prayers (7.821d1-3), and technical activities like the construction of temples and other religious buildings (6.778c7-d4). It seems that a purely technical and ceremonial abidingness by conventional rules, however, fails to account for a fuller sense of human justice and reciprocal moral obliga­ tion between humans. Despite its being conducive to the acquisition of morally righteous habits, sheer “technical” piety, i.e. the one expressed through obedience and the performance of conventional rituals and practices, cannot be prop­ erly identified as “εὐσέβεια” – especially if εὐσέβεια is referred to a sense of moral responsibility that transcends sheer “non-unlawfulness”. As I pro­ pose to show in the following sections of this essay, a distinction between a purely formal and uncritical piety and a critically informed sense of reverence towards the gods is needed in view of an appropriate ethical solution to specific cases of justice, just like the ones that see respectively Euthyphro and Socrates as protagonists.

III. Does religious reverence differ from justice? Εὐσέβεια and ὁσιότης in Plato’s Euthyphro Plato’s Euthyphro, one of the early Socratic dialogues, is centred on the nature of piety and its supposed interdependence with justice between hu­ man beings. Since the very first lines of the dialogue, Socrates' discussion with the priest Euthyphro gets structured within the framework of a com­ parison between two distinct judicial events. The first one is represented by Euthyphro’s initiative against his own father, whom he accuses of mur­ der. As Euthyphro himself explains, his father had thrown one of his slaves into a pit, leaving him with his hands and feet bound as a provisional pun­ ishment for the murder of a fellow-servant in a condition of drunkenness. The enchained slave had died out of starvation, just at the time at which his master was consulting an oracle to get advice on the most appropriate and definitive punishment to inflict on him (4c3-d4). The second legal case addressed in the Platonic dialogue is represented by the well-known public accusation brought against Socrates by Meletus and Anitus – a charge for which Socrates himself, at the moment of his meeting with Euthyphro, is preparing to appear in court. Both Euthyphro’s and Socrates’ conduct, although expressing problematic cases of justice between human beings,


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are ideally presented by Plato as potential violations of traditional religious piety.16 As Socrates remarkably points out at the beginning of the conversation with Euthyphro, the procedure used by his accusers to formalize the in­ dictment is not a private action, but a γραφή (2a4), i.e. an accusation whose content is presented as highly destabilizing for the public, social and cul­ tural order.17 Socrates' clarification on the difference between the two judicial cases seems to prefigure in a symbolic and programmatic way the elaboration of two different visions on justice: on the one hand, the one entertained by Euthyphro, who remains anchored to his own biographical experience, without realizing that his indictment can be framed as a matter of public justice; on the other hand, Socrates’ view, which presents and defends his public activity as a form of reverence for the divine. Notably, both Socrates and Euthyphro appear well-aware that their deeds, choices, and initiatives significantly challenge the ethical sense of their fellow-citizens and hypothetical external observers in matters of morality and religious sentiment. Euthyphro, on the one hand, expressly declares that his intention to bring an accusation against his father can be widely interpreted as an expression of madness (4a1). Socrates, instead, describes himself as addressee of a charge and a victim of slander. As he says, his tendency to engage in dialogical interaction with common people has misled his fellow-citizens into thinking that he lavishes his knowledge on anyone, especially by introducing novelties in the sphere of divine things. In the introductory part of the dialogue, both Socrates and Euthyphro seem inclined to address the issue of impiety mainly in terms of human justice. Socrates himself emphasizes the purely legal dimension of the just by asking Euthyphro what he charges his father for (Euthyphro’s answer being “murder, Socrates”) (4a9; tr. Fowler). Socrates’ alleged astonishment for the idea that a father might be the object of a charge from his son (4a6: “Your father, my dear man?”), who immediately (and perhaps already iron­ ically) does not entail straightforward moral condemnation. Unlike the members of a hypothetical majority, who might believe that Euthyphro’s

16 See McPherran 2000, p. 301, who explains that the traditional conception of piety which is questioned throughout the whole dialogue contemplates the conflation of ‘religion’ and human justice. 17 The legal procedure known as γραφή was used for disputes and crimes of public import. The word dike, instead, often (although not exclusively) denotes private suits. Cf. Cohen (2005), especially pp. 195, 206 and 212.


Eusebeia for the Gods as a Matter of Justice

conduct is reproachable with no further right of appeal, Socrates makes room for the possibility of justifying him (4a10-11): [H]eracles! Surely, Euthyphro, most people do not know where the right lies; for I fancy it is not everyone who can rightly do what you are doing. Despite such an initial display of open-mindedness, Socrates (perhaps iron­ ically), wonders whether the killed man belongs to his own family, given that, as he points out, nobody would accuse his father of killing a stranger. By so doing, Socrates seems to sketch out the fundamentals of a traditional morality, one for which the limits of justice and injustice find articulation and binding limits in relation to a net of family attachments. By reacting against a similar ethical and judicial scenario, Euthyphro explains that the death of his father's slave, which he qualifies without hesitation as a case of murder, should be judged not on the basis of the familiarity between the accuser and the victim, but only on the ground of the possible reasons of the killer: It is ridiculous, Socrates, that you think it matters whether the man who was killed was a stranger or a relative, and do not see that the only thing to consider is whether the action of the slayer was justified (ἐν δίκῃ) or not, and that if it was justified one ought to let him alone, and if not, one ought to proceed against him, even if he share one's heart and eat at one's table (4b7-c1). As the following lines of the dialogue reveal, Euthyphro’s appeal to a supposed idea of reasonableness does not betray considerations of public justice totally detached from traditional religious customs. As he explains, the main reason to charge a father is to avoid contamination by an unjust man: [F]or the pollution (τὸ μίασμα) is the same if you associate knowingly with such a man and do not purify yourself (ἀφοσιοῖς σεαυτόν) and him by proceeding against him (4c1-2). Euthyphro, who argues that justice can sometimes be incompatible with religious piety, presents himself as a staunch defender of an unconvention­ al morality. His reference to fear of contamination, however, brings to light ethical convictions that markedly fail to uplift the idea of reason­ ableness to a more critical level. In this sense, Euthyphro’s approach to justice might be virtually situated in an intermediate position between a philosophically informed morality, i.e. the one endorsed by Socrates, and a


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totally uncritical one.18 From a different point of view, his lack of a critical, inquiry-based approach of investigation to events and ethical convictions might cause readers to fully identify Euthyphro’s ethical outlook with the traditional one he attempts to challenge.19 The flows and weaknesess of Euthyphro’s beliefs start to emerge when he claims possession of the attitude of the deity20 about the ὅσιον and the ἀνόσιον – a form of knowledge that, as he says, most people ignore (4e1-2). In the attempt to question Euthyphro’s knowledge, Socrates shifts the focus of attention to the specific issue of the nature and meaning of the values at issue, thus expressing the need to look for a general idea of the two concepts able to account for specific cases of justice/injustice and piety/impiety: [N]ow in the name of Zeus, tell me what you just now asserted that you knew so well. What do you say is the nature of piety and impiety (ποῖόν τι τὸ εὐσεβὲς φῂς εἶναι καὶ τὸ ἀσεβὲς), both in relation to murder and to other things? Is not holiness (τὸ ὅσιον) always the same with itself in every action and, on the other hand, is not unholiness (τὸ ἀνόσιον) the opposite of all holiness, always the same with itself and whatever is to be unholy possessing some one characteristic quality? (5c3-d3). Notably, in the passage above Socrates sets out his investigation of piety in terms of τὸ εὐσεβές, not of τὸ ὅσιον (although he uses the latter word in the following line of the text). We might therefore wonder whether he treats the two words as synonym and, if he does not, what kind of message he is trying to convey by introducing the word τὸ εὐσεβές. To answer this question, we might look at other Platonic dialogues, where Socrates uses the adjectives (and the expressions deriving from) τὸ ὅσιον and τὸ εὐσεβές quite casually. In the final sections of the Apology of Socrates (which can be related to Euthyphro in terms of both biographical events and themes), Socrates, who has already been condemned, professes his willingness to avoid either begging the jury for absolution or proclaim­ ing himself guilty, so as to escape death penalty. In so doing, he claims

18 See McPherran (2002), pp. 111-112, who describes Euthyphro’s morality as a composite of two paradigms: one of retrograde traditionalism and one of non-tra­ ditionalist, religious innovation. Cf. Benson (2013), pp. 123-124. 19 See Furley (1985), p. 205, who describes Euthyphro as a defender of the same conventional dogma that inspires the charge of empiety moved against Socrates. 20 Here I follow Burnet’s translation of τὸ θεῖον (1979, p. 107). Fowler, instead, translates “the divine law”.


Eusebeia for the Gods as a Matter of Justice

that acting contrary to the truth would not be a way of ‘acting piously’ (εὐσεβεῖν; Apology, 35c5). In the following lines, however, he addresses the Athenians by saying that a similar conduct would be tantamount to acting in a way that he considers not only not right, but not even sacred (πράττειν ἃ μήτε ἡγοῦμαι καλὰ εἶναι μήτε δίκαια μήτε ὅσια; 35c6-d1). A similar form of coherence between a sense of justice, love of the truth and piety can be identified in the Crito, where Socrates, who confirms his decision to face his death-sentence despite his innocence, stages a virtual dialogue between himself and the Laws of Athens. The Laws point out that escaping from prison by avoiding punishment and doing violence to one’s country and laws is “not holy” (οὐχ ὅσιον), and lack of respect for the laws is even more despicable than disrespect for one's father or master (51c1-3). The idea of piety that emerges out of the Laws’ speech appears to enforce the idea of a reverential respect grounded primarily (or even exclusively) in a superior authority – one which is primarily aimed at avoiding trans­ gressions of the social order – and, more specifically, to abidance by rules (either critical or uncritical). By stressing the importance of obedience towards one’s father, country, and laws, the Laws appear to defend a form of public morality (expressed in terms of τὸ ὅσιον) that can be compared to the same one challenged by Euthyphro in the homonymous dialogue. The Laws’ attitude, in this respect, might not reflect Socrates’ view on escaping from prison (cf. Harte 1999), and the use of the word τὸ ὅσιον instead of τὸ εὐσεβές might contribute to enforce Socrates’ critical position towards the Laws’ argument. An example of Socrates’ use of the ideal of εὐσέβεια as a critically informed form of reverence is instead offered in the Philebus by reference to its opposite, namely ἀσέβεια. Being committed to a joint investigation on the nature of the best life, Socrates, Protarchus and Philebus agree that such a life consists in a mix of pleasure and intelligence. After establishing that the notion of pleasure belongs to the sphere of the unlimited, Socrates wonders whether thought, intelligence and sciences ought to be included in the category of the limited or in that of the unlimited (28a1-6). Interest­ ingly enough, Socrates says that lack of a careful treatment of the issue could prompt them not only to find the wrong answer to the question, but also to act impiously (28a4: νῦν θέντες οὐκ ἂν ἀσεβοῖμεν). Philebus’ answer “Oh Socrates, you worship your own god” (σεμνύνεις γάρ, ὦ Σώκρατες, τὸν σεαυτοῦ θεόν; 28 b1) might point to the idea that religious reverence can be nourished by a distinctively philosophical search for the truth. If we admit that the same use of εὐσέβεια can be identified in the Euthy­ phro, why should Socrates immediately give it up in favour of the basis of τὸ ὅσιον? Keeping aside the hypothesis of a supposed interchangeability 149

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between the two terms, one possibility is that Socrates is already aware that Euthyphro would fail to notice a difference between the two and its philosophical (not to mention its practical) implications. It is not perhaps a chance that Euthyphro offers a first definition of τὸ ὅσιον, and also one which centers on specific – and supposed – cases of justice: [W]ell then, I say that holiness is doing what I am doing now, prose­ cuting the wrongdoer who commits murder or steals from the temples or does any such thing, whether he be your father, or your mother or anyone else, and not prosecuting him is unholy (Euthphr. 5d6-e1). As we see, the first definition he supplies is premised on his own person­ al case. What is more, it includes a cluster of specific situations which he does not refer to a unitarian semantic paradigm (as Socrates instead would have expected). So conceived, the idea of τὸ ὅσιον as “prosecuting whoever commits injustice” rules out a plurality of alternative forms of virtuous human conduct – for instance, acting respectfully towards others and/or worshipping the gods” – forms which not only the defenders of a traditional morality, but also Socrates would positively assess. Equally flawed is Euthyphro’s attempt to buttress his definition by in­ troducing a τεκμήριον, i.e. a resolutive evidence for his case, which draws on the sphere of mythology, on generally shared beliefs, and also on a sup­ posed epistemic authority of those deities who had dared to punish their father. As Euthyphro’s declares, Zeus himself, the best and most righteous of the gods, had killed his father Cronus, who had in turn devoured his children. By comparing his own situation with that of Zeus, he points to the lack of coherence in those who criticize him while approving at the same time divine behaviour (5e5-6a4). In the following sections of the dialogue, Socrates is committed to demolish the paradigm of a piety that appeals to the authority of the gods without any reference to the properties that make an action pious or impious. By expressing doubts on the mytho­ logical evidences offered by Euthyphro, Socrates does not invoke Zeus who killed Cronus or Zeus used as interlayer in the phrases Δία and πρὸς Διός (4b2, 4e3, 5b7), but “(Zeus) protector of friendship” (ἀλλά μοι εἰπὲ πρὸς Φιλίου: 6b3). What he asks is whether the things described in mythol­ ogy really happened. It is possible that, by invoking a ‘new’ Zeus, Socrates means to stress the possibility of a critical questioning of facts in a spirit of authentic friendship, which is to say, one in which persons committed to a joint investigation try to dismantle prejudice and falsehood. In that case, Socrates’ religious reverence would prove compatible with the need to create better conditions for a search of the meaning of εὐσέβεια.


Eusebeia for the Gods as a Matter of Justice

IV. The missed co-extensiveness between justice and religious reverence. Conclusive Remarks The continuation of Socrates and Euthyphro’s discussion in terms of τὸ ὅσιον proceeds parallel to a difficulty in establishing the relationship be­ tween justice and reverence for the gods. In the first place, as Socrates does not fail to point out on many occasions across the dialogue, sheer abidance by a supposed divine authority does not account for the existence of a disagreement among different gods in matters of value and justice. In this respect, doing what is “dear to the god” might hypothetically lead to different courses of action. Equally unsuccessful is Socrates’ attempt to frame the relationship be­ tween justice and religious reverence in terms of a relation between a limited part and a whole. Although the idea of a supposed co-extensiveness between justice and reverence is introduced as a possibility at Euthyphro 11e5 (ἆρ᾽οὖν καὶ πᾶν τὸ δίκαιον ὅσιον;), Socrates immediately directs the discussion towards the idea that τὸ ὅσιον is a restricted part of τὸ δίκαιον. That move, being accepted by Euthyphro, will lead him to propose a definition of τὸ ὅσιον in terms of a specific and exclusive service towards the gods (τὸ περὶ τὴν τῶν θεῶν θεραπείαν; 12e5-6) – one which cannot find any intersections or overlapping with human justice. Socrates, in his turn, will refute such an idea of τὸ ὅσιον by applying his craft-analogy to the idea of religious reverence, and by trying to stress the implausible implications of the idea of a craft designed to either ameliorate the condition of its addressee (i.e. the gods, which are by definition blessed and immortal) or to benefit and/or gratifying him/her by way of a particular form of care and devotion (a form of gratification which, being pursued for the human benefit, would reduce piety to a vile form of trade between human beings and gods). It is interesting that, while introducing the issue of the relationship between justice and religious reverence, Socrates uses once again the word τὸ εὐσεβές – this time alongside τὸ ὅσιον: [N]ow try in your turn to teach me what part of the right holiness is, that I may tell Meletus not to wrong me any more or bring suits against me for impiety, since I have now been duly instructed by you about what is, and what is not, pious and holy (τά τε εὐσεβῆ καὶ ὅσια καὶ τὰ μή) (12e1-3). The same association of words is accepted by Euthyphro, who replies: [T]his then is my opinion, Socrates, that the part of the right which has to do with attention to the gods constitutes piety and holiness (τὸ


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μέρος τοῦ δικαίου εἶναι εὐσεβές τε καὶ ὅσιον), and that the remaining part of the right is that which has to do with the service of men (τὸ περὶ τὴν τῶν θεῶν θεραπείαν). As I believe, the joint use of τὸ εὐσεβές and τὸ ὅσιον confirms Socrates’ intention to give up his original attempt at setting the basis for a serious discussion of religious reverence purely in terms of εὐσέβεια. Besides the lack of a proper distinction between the two words, another notable flaw in the remainder of the dialogue is represented by Socrates’ unwillingness to pursue the path of an investigation into the supposed co-extensiveness between justice towards men and reverence towards the gods. A detailed analysis of the second part of the Euthyphro goes beyond the limited scope of this essay. What is worth stressing, however, is the fact that Socrates, by following the path of a separation between justice and piety/holiness, loses the opportunity to offer a critical investigation of an important aspect that, as we have seen, many pieces of Greek oratory had brought to the fore: the educational value of religious reverence and its implications in the development of a sound sense of justice. It is the lack of a proper inquiry into the possible relationships and reciprocal benefits of the two forms of virtuous conduct that causes common people to follow uncritically traditional paths of religious behaviour. What is more, a missed investigation risks to produce intellectually and ethically inappropriate judgments on specific cases of human justice, just like the one which ends up in Socrates’ sentence to death. It is in this respect that, as we might surmise, the Socrates portrayed by Plato in the Euthyphro prefigures the tragic outcomes of the trial in which he is involved.

References Broadie, S. (2003), Aristotelian Piety. Phronesis 1, pp. 54-70. Burnet, J. (ed. by) (1979. First ed. 1924). Plato’s Euthyphro, Apology of Socrates, and Crito. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Chantraine, P. (1983). Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue grecque. Paris: Klinck­ sieck. Cohen, D. (2005). Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law in Classical Athens. In Gagarin, M., and Cohen, D. (eds.). The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Greek Law. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 211-235. Darwall, S. (2013). Respect as Honor and as Accountability. In Honor, History, and Relationship. Essays in Second-Personal Ethics II (pp. 11-29). Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Eusebeia for the Gods as a Matter of Justice Mikalson, J.D. (2010). Greek Popular Religion in Greek Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Fowler, H.N. (1966). Plato. Euthyphro. In Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vol. 1. Introduc­ tion by Lamb, W.R.M. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. Furley, W.D. (1985). The Figure of Euthyphro in Plato’s Dialogue. Phronesis 30: 201-8. Garver, E. (2004). Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Civic Education in Aristotle and Isocrates. In Poulakos, T., and Depew, D. (eds.). Isocrates and Civic Education (pp. 186-213). Austin: University of Texas Press. Harte, V. (1999). Conflicting Values in Plato’s Crito. Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 81(2): 117-147. Martin, G. (2009). Divine Talk. Religious Argumentation in Demosthenes. Oxford: Oxford University Press. McPherran, M. (2000). Piety, Justice, and the Unity of Virtue. Journal of the History of Philosophy 38(3), 299-328. McPherran, M. (2002). Justice and Pollution in the Euthyphro. Apeiron 35, pp. 105-129. Norlin, G. (ed. by). (1980). Isocrates. Speeches. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; London: Willian Heinemann Ltd. Rabinowitz, W.G. (1958). Platonic Piety: An Essay toward the Solution of an Enigma. Phronesis 3(2), 108-120. Vlastos, G. (1999). Socratic Piety. In Fine, G. (ed. by). Plato 2: Ethics, Politics, Religion, and the Soul (pp. 213-238). Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Demiurge, Good, Forms. Some Reflections on a Crucial Problem of Plato’s Metaphysics Francisco L. Lisi

“Philosophy is asking about the obvious” Adolfo P. Carpio In memoriam Abstract Abstract: In the Platonic writings there appears a mysterious figure, the Demiurge, whose meaning is still an object of controversy. However, he cannot be eliminated because he is the basis of Plato's belief in the ruling providence. The Demiurge is a personal god identified with mind and superior to the World Soul, acting as the principle of order and efficient cause. The passages show that the Demiurge is the creator of the Forms and an intermediate figure between the first principle and the multiplicity of the Forms and the sensible world. Plato’s influence on the history of Eastern and Western monotheism is so strong that it does not need to be especially remarked. The impact of Platonism, however, is not limited to monotheism, for his thought was also essential in the theological discourse of the Greek and Roman world's polytheist currents. Plato’s conception of God occupies a central place in his thought, since this cannot be truly understood without the idea of providence. The belief in reincarnation, in the existence of rewards and punishments in this world and the afterlife structures his political conception and his practical philosophy as a whole. Plato’s followers have understood reality as the deployment of a supreme principle, Good/One, in the sensible world, embracing it and giving it life. This basic idea mainly presupposes a degradation of the principle in which different stages correspond to new and weaker forms of the divine. In this demeaning of the highest principle's presence, the gods of the polytheistic faith have a substantial part.


Francisco L. Lisi

The figure of the Demiurge In Plato’s dialogues there occurs a mysterious figure, the Demiurge, which creates the sensible world and steers it. He has been the object of long discussions trying to lessen his meaning or to eliminate him. Another interpretative line considers the Form of the Good as divine and god and the Demiurge as an inferior divinity depending on it.1 One of the strongest arguments against the literal interpretation is Timaeus’ characterisation of his own exposition as a myth. Letting aside the question of the significance of Plato’s myths and their meaning,2 the Demiurge occurs in several pas­ sages in which there is no question of myth.3 The idea of a god maker and pilot of the world seems to contradict the existence of eternal Forms that are the sensible world's paradigms and which are also incongruent with the same conception of creation. If the Forms are always reflecting themselves in the region or chora, why should a creation act be necessary? Nevertheless, the Demiurge can neither be eliminated from Plato’s thought nor identified with the Form of the Good because of the following reasons:4 1. He often occurs when Plato must apply what Aristotle would call 'efficient cause' (Soph. 235a10-236a2, 264d9-265d4; Phlb. 27b1/2, Pol. 269c4-274e1, Rep. VII 530a6-7, etc.). He always occurs in the same function as creator and direct steer of becoming. 2. The same idea of 'providence', essential to Plato's thought, requires a higher personality intentionally leading the movement of the world, as described in the myth of the Statesman (269c4-274e1). As the same myth clearly shows, the world 'soul' can only in an imperfect way accomplish this task, and not permanently. 3. The recourse to myth as justification for eliminating the Demiurge from Plato's thought is based on a supposed opposition between myth and logos, which Plato consciously refuses. Besides, it ignores that Timaeus' speech contains the most probable description adapted to the sensible realm's nature (48d1-e1). 1 Some examples are Cornford (1937), Diès (1927, 1955). Verdenius (1954), Corvez (1967), Gadamer (1974), Brisson (2016), van Riel (2017). 2 On this question, cf. Lisi (2009 and 2016). 3 This is the reason why it is an unsound hermeneutical principle to eliminate its oc­ currences as metaphorical mental experiments. For a contrary view, cf. Fronterotta (2007). 4 For other reasons concerning the difference between Demiurge and the Form of the Good, cf. Fronterotta 2003.


Demiurge, Good, Forms. Some Reflections on a Crucial Problem of Plato’s Metaphysics

4. The Demiurge is a necessary element in Timaeus' conception for intro­ ducing order and rationality into the sensible world. Without him, a correct reflection of the Forms cannot be explained. This is the meaning of the statement that introduces the mathematical harmony existing in the sensible world (28c5-29a6, 30a2-6, 53b1-c3, 69b2-c5). 5. The whole ancient tradition has taken literally the existence of the Demiurge so that an interpreter must have very good reasons to oppose it.5 6. Aristotle never accuses Plato of writing things he does not believe in. Instead, he criticises the literal meaning of his writings. Therefore, there is no reason to reject the obvious literal meaning because we cannot understand ideas. Once we have accepted the presence of the Demiurge in Plato's thought and, especially, his presence as efficient cause, many problems remain; the following text will consider only three: 1) whether he is a personal god, 2) his relationship to the Forms, and 3) whether he can be identified with the Form of the Good.

The Demiurge as a personal god It is undeniable that the Demiurge shares some characteristics with the gods of the monotheistic religions. He is eternal and ontologically prior to the world, a clear difference from the astral and traditional gods who exist forever, but not ever. The Demiurge is personal in so far as he has desires and will. He is also personal because he intervenes in creating the world and guides it exercising his providence (cf. Ti. 30b6-c1). Finally, concerning his personality, he has a predilection for all those who respect the principles of goodness and wisdom (e.g. Ti. 53d6-7; Lg. IV 716c1-d2). Finally, he is a kind of spirit or mind that addresses the inferior divini­ ties, orders them the tasks they have to fulfil in the world order. The Demiurge's figure does not disappear from the second creational discourse (47e-69a). God keeps on intervening actively, and Timaeus often states that his intervention is crucial to order the world (cf. 53b4, b6, 55e5, 69b3). The natural interpretation of the passages where the intellect occurs is not to conclude that god has been obliterated but that Timaeus employs nous as another denomination for Demiurge. 5 For the survival of the Demiurge in the ancient Platonic tradition, cf. Vorwerk (2010).


Francisco L. Lisi

The definition of the Demiurge as mind (νοῦς) can also be found explic­ itly in the Philebus (28d5-e6; cf. Brisson 2016). The same designation as 'Demiurge' shows that Plato intends to take him as efficient cause, and, in the second part of his speech, he uses the term nous for designating what in the first part appears as 'Demiurge.'6 Timaeus keeps calling god the principle acting as the ordering element (38c4, 7, 39b4, 55c5, 68d4, 69b3, etc.). In other words, there is no reason to establish a difference between Demiurge, god, and mind. He is a god, superior to the traditional gods, but also a personal god. However, in what sense can Plato state that the Demiurge is also nous? The nous of the World Soul is of the same substance as the rest of the gods and human beings. The only difference lies in the degree of gods' purity and humans' particular souls related to the World Soul. There is a continuous diminution in the degree of purity of the mixture from the World Soul on (cf. 41d4-8; cf. Broadie 2010:7-12). On the contrary, the Demiurge is not a mixture in the sense in which the ordinary souls are one.7 He builds up the World-Soul and all others immortal souls. Thirdly he is independent of them and ontologically prior to them, as just stated. Therefore, the only possible interpretation is that he has some kind of kinship with the other intellects, but his nature is purer and higher. Another possibility is that Timaeus uses the word nous in a metaphorical sense to underline the kinship between the different kinds of soul and the Demiurge.

The Relationship between Demiurge and Forms From the four elements distinguished in the second part of Timaeus' discourse - god, the world of Forms, the sensible world and chora - the distinction between god, sensible world, and region is evident. However, the Demiurge's relationship with the Forms and especially with the Form of the Good needs further explanation. It is reasonable to tend to identify

6 At the very beginning, Timaeus states that what preceded was the work of mind (τὰ διὰ νοῦ δεδημιιυγεμένα; 47e4). It is a clear indication of the Demiurge's identity with intellect, i. e., a hint to his actual nature. 7 He cannot be either the World-Soul's intellect as some interpreter pretends (cf. Brisson 2016) because the World Soul, as the Timaeus describes it, is only intellect. The World has no mortal parts. Therefore, a tripartition of the soul on a cosmic level cannot be supposed.


Demiurge, Good, Forms. Some Reflections on a Crucial Problem of Plato’s Metaphysics

the Demiurge with the Form of the Good or with a Form or the whole world of Forms if his personal nature. is not accepted8 A superficial survey shows that the supposition that the model is exter­ nal is supported mainly by the idiom βλέπειν πρός at Ti. 28c5-29b1. The Demiurge has the possibility of choosing between two different models (παραδειγμάτων), “that which is comprehensible by rational discourse and understanding and is always in the same state” and that which comes to be. Here is clear that the idiom βλέπειν πρός is used in both cases in a metaphorical sense, since becoming is also unseen, as another passage of the Timaeus (51a7-b2) shows. A look into Ast’s lexicon (1835 I: 353) highlights the fact that the idiom – unlike the use of βλέπειν τινά and our modern use of a similar expression9 does not imply any material or external object, but simply has the meaning of 'to considerate' or 'to take into consideration'. Therefore, it is mere speculation that the World of Forms or even the world of becoming is external to the Demiurge. It is based on the supposition that the Forms are objects existing independently from the perceiving subject.10 This can be true for human beings, but it is not warranted for the Demiurge. The spatial perspective is not a correct approach to the problem of the relationship between Demiurge and Forms.11 However, the relationship between the Demiurge and the Forms is not resolved through this first conclusion. When Timaeus divides the spheres of reality (50b7-e1), he maintains that one of them is that “wherefrom becoming sprouts up turning similar to it (τὸ δ’ ὅθεν ἀφομοιούμενον φύεται τὸ γιγνόμενον; 50d1-2).12 Later this element is called 'father'. The Greek of this sentence is utterly clear. There is no mention of a model or a copy as translators into English generally suppose, but a reference to a natural growing originated in a source. This sources' function is to be the end of the growth of the offspring. It is the father because it is the origin and end of the movement of becoming. If

8 Larose (2016) characterises the Demiurge as a particular Form, precisely the Form of god (la forme intelligible de dieu), and considers him a mythical representa­ tion of the paradigmatic cause. 9 Erroneously interpreted by des Places (1970: p. 103). 10 Nevertheless, there is a passage (37c6-d1) in which Timaeus refers to the Forms as “the eternal gods” (τῶν αἰδίων θεῶν). This could induce to think that the World of Forms is exterior to the Demiurge. 11 The spatial perspective is somehow present in all the interpretations that insist on having a chronological approach to the three speeches of Timaeus (cf. e.g. Karfik 2007). Timaeus is explaining the same process from three different points of view. 12 I take ἀφομοιούμενον in the medial sense meaning the act of ‘becoming similar to’.


Francisco L. Lisi

there is some conclusion possible, it should be that, in this passage, the Demiurge is identified with what becoming is likening to. If we consider what was stated in the first discourse about the Demiurge's characteristics and his model, the next step should be a confirmation that the model is not external to the god's figure but internal to him. Further, if the Forms are noetic and the god is nous, it is clear that the identification of both objects is not necessarily excluded. The questions let open by the Timaeus are answered in a passage of the 10th Book of the Republic (596a6-598d6). In it, Socrates’ main goal is to attribute a lower value to poetic creation. This has probably been the reason for obliterating the fragment’s cosmological and even ontological consequences. In this kind of passages, Plato usually conceals very impor­ tant messages. Socrates’ reference to the usual way of analysis (εἰωθυίας μεθόδου; a5-6) at the beginning is a clear indication that it cannot be dismissed as a sim­ ple metaphor. On the contrary, it indicates that the following treatment has clear relevance for the understanding of reality. In this text, the ordi­ nary craftsman also looks to the Form of the bed for making the objects. However, an obvious question could be and is how is it possible that an artisan without the dialectical formation and without using dialectics can contemplate the Form to build up the artefact, especially when in the seventh Book the difficulty of dialectical education has become evident. 13 At this point, we have only two possibilities: either we maintain that artisans have somehow access to the Ideal World without the necessity of dialectics in contradiction to the former books, or we have the recourse to some kind of innate notions implanted in the soul of the craftsman. Based on the reminiscence theory, the latter supposition is the most plausible. The carpenter does not produce this notion since it is ontologically prior to him and has its being for its participation in the Form created by the Demiurge.14

13 Among the contributions I know, only one addresses this important point (Sillitti 2009, p. 94). Karfik (2007, p. 132) mentions that dialectical knowledge of the Forms is difficult, but, without being aware of the flagrant contradiction with his interpretation of the passage, maintains the usual explanation that an average arti­ san "saisit , par sa pensée, la forme de la navette ou du lit à produire." Practically all scholars interpret the passage in a similar way cf. e.g. Vegetti 1999, pp. 104f. 14 Sillitti (2009) seems to forget this obvious meaning of the text. She also is con­ founding the object created by the carpenter with the Form created or produced by the Demiurge. Nowhere in the text, Socrates affirms that the carpenter makes only one table or bed.


Demiurge, Good, Forms. Some Reflections on a Crucial Problem of Plato’s Metaphysics

The continuation of the passage (597b5-c5) makes it possible to at­ tribute a similar 'interior' interpretation of the Demiurge and Forms' relationship. In it, Socrates affirms that the Demiurge not only can create artefacts but also the whole nature. Three points are worthy of being remarked concerning this passage: 1. In the seventh book, proleptic anticipation of the cosmological func­ tion of the Demiurge as creator occurs when Socrates is describing the philosophers’ curriculum (530a4-7). 2. As Fronterotta (2007) has rightly pointed out, the term φυτουργός (d5) does not have here the significate of ‘planter’ as some interpreter seems to believe.15 φυτουργός is related to φύω and means creator’ ‘author’ according to LSJ or, still better, ‘engender’ ‘father’, in the sense that he lets naturally grow all the beings of the sensible world as it is clearly stated not only at Soph. 266b 2-4, but also in the Timaeus’ passage just analysed (50d1-2). 3. The reference to the argument of the ‘third man’ (Rep. X 597c1-d2) reaffirms the fact that the interlocutors are walking on a deep ontolog­ ical field. It is also a hint to the discussion of the subject in the Par­ menides. We also know through the indirect tradition, especially Aristo­ tle, the significance of this argument for the ontological foundation of the doctrine of Forms. The allusion to the 'third man' argument does not invalidate but reinforces the Demiurge's figure in this context.16 It indicates that the Demiurge is the actual creator or 'maker' of the Forms as expressly stated later. 4. The identity of this figure with the Demiurge of the Timaeus is clearly expressed at 596c4-9. Immediately after exposing the third man's argu­ ment, Socrates switches from the Forms to the objects existing in this world. He is declared the creator or producer of everything existing in this world.17

15 For the usual interpretation as ‘planter’, cf. Brisson (2007), Karfik (2007). 16 The religious value of Plato's approach is also stressed. Socrates underlines his ignorance about the cause of the existence of only one Form for every being and proposes the 'third man' argument as a possible reason, no more. In other words, Socrates makes evident the human ignorance of God’s ultimate designs. 17 ὁ αὐτὸς γὰρ οὗτος χειροτέχνης οὐ μόνον πάντα οἷός τε σκεύη ποιῆσαι, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὰ ἐκ τῆς γῆς φυόμενα ἅπαντα ποιεῖ καὶ ζῷα πάντα ἐργάζεται, τά τε ἄλλα καὶ ἑαυτόν, καὶ πρὸς τούτοις γῆν καὶ οὐρανὸν καὶ θεοὺς καὶ τὰ ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ τὰ ἐν Ἅιδου ὑπὸ γῆς ἅπαντα ἐργάζεται. (“…this same handicraftsman is not only able to make all implements, but he produces all plants and living beings, not only the other things but also himself, and thereto earth and heaven and the gods and


Francisco L. Lisi

5. The mirror's image and the creation of appearances contribute to switching the argument to the figurative arts. Socrates's image shows that the Demiurge's action creates this world in a way similar to the process described in the second part of Timaeus' speech. 6. More significant is that the Demiurge also creates the World of Forms, apparently in himself because Socrates has just explained that he is the creator of the Form of an artefact (596c2). 7. The only possible literal interpretation of the parenthetical syntagma at 596c7 (τά τε ἄλλα καὶ ἑαυτόν) is that Socrates now changes the perspective and refers τά τε ἄλλα to the Forms. Therefore, the sentence means that the Demiurge is the creator of himself and of the World of Forms. This passage’s literal interpretation indicates that the Demiurge has an ontological primacy over the World of Forms. As Socrates declares at 597b13-14, he is the ἐπιστάτης, the one who stands over the World of Forms. This interpretation also explains why in the second part of Timaeus’ speech, the Forms are not mentioned but only the νοῦς. If the Demiurge is a kind of pure intellect, different from the mixed intellect of the World Soul and all other intellects, and Demiurge and World of Forms constitute a whole, the reference to the Forms is implicit when Timaeus uses the word νοῦς. It is not necessary to suppose only a metaphorical or mythical use of the figure of the Demiurge. The interpretation would not change very much if the Forms were thought of as an intellective whole introducing order in the disorder of the χώρα. However, this interpretation would require the Forms' action as a whole and the kind of intentionality they do not have. The Demiurge‘s figure helps to understand how order can be introduced in the disorderly motion of the region and why his action was necessary to stop the disorder of the region's movement and the imperfect reflection of the Forms in it (cf. 53a7-b6). If this hypothesis is accepted, the relationship between the Demiurge and the Forms can be explained through the relationship between the World Soul and the world's body in the Timaeus. The relationship model/ copy established in the dialogue supports this interpretation.

all things in heaven and in Hades under the earth.” 596c40-9; translation Shorey with modifications)


Demiurge, Good, Forms. Some Reflections on a Crucial Problem of Plato’s Metaphysics

The Form of the Good and the Demiurge The question about what kind of relationship has the whole constituted by the Demiurge and the Forms with the Idea of the Good must still be considered. Some characteristics of the Form of the Good indicate that it cannot be identified with the Demiurge: 1. Never in Plato’s writings does an interlocutor attribute to the Form of the Good any action, movement, or change. 2. According to the allegory of the Sun, its effects over the whole creation are not the effect of any action but somehow similar to the rays of the Sun. 3. Although it is the foundation of order and goodness in reality, it does not intervene actively in creating and preserving this order. When the Demiurge leaves the universe's rudder, its effect on the world is strongly limited. 4. The One/Good is transcendent over the Forms, as it is stated at Rep. VI 509b9-10 (cf. Lisi 2007, 2018). It has no direct relationship to this world. A possibility is to consider the Demiurge as an intermediate between the sensible World and its principle. If the Demiurge is a kind of superior and transcendent nous which englobes the Ideal World, this approach is not very far away from the conception of proodos of Neoplatonism and would in some way confirm the hermeneutics of those careful readers of the Platonic corpus. This interpretation could also explain why the passage analysed above states that the Demiurge produces himself. He could be seen as the result of a kind of emanation similar to the sun's light. The allegory of the sun in the 6th Book of the Republic is based precisely on such an image. The mirror's metaphor transferred to the Timaeus shows a picture of the sensible world under a continuous creation, so far as it reflects the World of Forms through the action of the noetic wholeness to which the Forms belong. Demiurge and World of Forms appear as an intermediate degree between the first principle, the Good, and the sensible world, but as a level that has generated itself. A more accurate view of the Platonic tradition could be obtained through this picture. The way to the fusion between the first principle and this supreme personal god, i.e. the path to Middle-Platonism, becomes clearer. Besides, the Neoplatonic reading seems to have a strong basis on the text, at least according to a literal interpretation. Perhaps it should be remembered that no interpretation


Francisco L. Lisi

can go against evident facts or obliterate those textual evidences that falsify the hypothesis.

The Demiurge and the Gods What is the function of the rest of the divinities in this complex scenery? According to the textual evidence - not only in the Timaeus but also rati­ fied by other dialogues as the Statesman or the Laws - they are inferior divinities in charge of specific functions in the world's harmony. The agreement with the traditional and polytheistic beliefs is here complete. From the philosophical point of view, this implies a continuous decline from the Supreme Being up to the last stage of reality. In this approach, the whole reality is full of gods (Leg. X 899b8-9). We are here very near the vision of the Epinomis and the rest of the Platonic tradition.

The Demiurge as a religious figure Nevertheless, one feature of the Demiurge remains still unclear. How is it possible that Plato never mentions a particular cult for the supposed supreme god, and not even alludes to it? On the contrary, all other gods, astral gods included, are objects of worship. There is a passage in the Timaeus which could give some explanation to this puzzle. In it,18 Timaeus' declares that it is impossible to communicate to everybody the existence of the world creator. The literal sense is that only a selected group can know the existence of this supreme god and creator.19 The no­ tion of a selected group of knowers is not isolated in the dialogue. It is also present when Timaeus declares that his listeners have the proper education for understanding his speech (53b7-c3) or that the highest principles of reality are known only to god and to the man whose friend he is (53d4-e4). The latter reference somehow implies a kind of revelation of a superior knowledge nearer to a kind of religion than to what we would call today 'philosophy'. In many places of his dialogues, Plato stresses the supreme

18 τὸν μὲν οὖν ποιητὴν καὶ πατέρα τοῦδε τοῦ παντὸς εὑρεῖν τε ἔργον καὶ εὑρόντα εἰς πάντας ἀδύνατον λέγειν (“It is difficult to discover the maker and father of this universe, but to disclose him to everybody is impossible?”; Tim. 28c2-5). 19 The πάντας can only be interpreted in a distributive sense of everyone because Timaeus is proclaiming the existence of a world creator to his group of listeners.


Demiurge, Good, Forms. Some Reflections on a Crucial Problem of Plato’s Metaphysics

god's affectionate relationship to those who have discovered him. This is the case when he refers to ὁ θεός without any concrete reference to a par­ ticular god (cf. e.g. Thaeet.176b1-2; Tim. 53d4-e4; Leg. IV 715a7-8; 716c1, 4-5). These passages reveal that there is some kind of worship, which is not exposed in Plato’s written work. The worship probably requires a fitting nature and a long philosophical education. Both requisites are supposed in Timaeus’ sentence.

Conclusion The preceding exegesis of Plato's Demiurge is based on a literal interpre­ tation of the corresponding passages, mainly in the Republic and the Timaeus. It has shown a coherent image of a derivative conception of reality, which is present also in other fields of Plato's thought related to our notion of metaphysics or ontology. It does not contradict other perspectives of the derivative ontology as they are exposed, e.g., in the allegory of the line (Resp. VI 509d6-511d5). It connects closer his philoso­ phy to the whole Platonic tradition. Unlike Middle Platonism, Plato does not subsume the active principle of creation under the supreme principle. Unlike the Neoplatonists, he does not believe that the supreme principle is beyond Being. All signs in the dialogues point to an interpretation of it as the Supreme Being, beyond the Forms, but still in the sphere of Being (cf. Rep. VII 532c3-d1; Lisi 2007). Plato considers possible a definition of it (Rep. 543b8-d1; Lisi 2018). This excludes the interpretation of the first principle as unknowable or ineffable. An interesting feature of Plato's vision influencing all the Platonic tra­ dition is that the supreme personal god is not characterized by a proper name in his dialogues. His knowledge is not accessible to ordinary people, and his worship is not public but reserved to a close circle of philosophers.

References Ast, F. (1835). Lexicon Platonicum sive vocum Platonicarum index. Lipsiae: Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft 1956. Baltes, M. (1997). Is the Idea of the Good in Plato's Republic Beyond Being? In: M. Joyal, (ed.). Studies in Plato and the Platonic Tradition. Essays presented to J. Whittaker (pp. 3-23). London/New York: Routledge. Now in: Διανοήματα. Kleine Schriften zu Platon und zum Platonismus. (351-371). B. G. Teubner Stuttgart/ Leipzig 1999.


Francisco L. Lisi Brisson, L. (2007). El sembrador divino (phytoyrgós). In: F. L. Lisi (ed.), The Ascent to the Good. Collegium Politicum 1 (pp. 229-240). Sankt Augustin: Academia Verlag. Brisson, L. (2016). The Intellect and the Cosmos. Retrieved 20.02.2021 from Metho­ dos. Savoirs et textes. 16. https://journals.openedition.org/methodos/4463 . Broadie, S. (2010). Nature and Divinity in Plato's Timaeus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Corvez, M. (1967). Le Dieu de Platon. Revue Philosophique de Louvain 86: 3-35 Cornford, F. M. (1937 [1966]). Plato’s Cosmology. The Timaeus of Plato. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd. Cornford, F. M. (1941). The Republic of Plato translated with introduction and notes by F. M. C. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Diès, A. (1927) Le Dieu de Platon. In: Autour de Platon. Essais de critique et d’his­ toire (pp. 523-532). Bibliothèque des Archives de Philosophie: Paris: Les Belles Lettres. Diès, A (1955). Le Dieu de Platon. In: Autour d’Aristote. Recueil d’études de philosophie ancienne te médievale offert à A. Mansion (pp. 61- 67). Bibliothèque philosophique de Louvain 16: Louvain: Publications de l’Université de Louvain. Fronterotta, F. (2003). La divinité du Bien et la bonté du dieu producteur (φυτουργός / δημιουργός). In: J. Laurent (ed.). Les dieux de Platon. Actes du colloque organicé à l’Université de Caen-Basse Normandie, les 24, et 26 janvier 2002 (pp. 53-76). Caen: Presses Universitaires de Caen. Fronterotta, F. (2007). Φυτουργός, δημιουργός, μιμητής, chi fa cosa in Resp. X 596a-597e? In: Platone, La Repubblica Traduzione e commento a cura di M. Vegetti. Vol. 7: Libro 10 (pp. 173-198). Elenchos 28-7. Napoli: Bibliopolis. Gadamer, H. – G. (1974). Idee und Wirklichkeit in Platos ‘Timaios’. Sitzungs­ berichte der Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften, Philosoph./histor. Klasse 1974,2. Now in: Gesammelte Werke 6. Griechische Philosophie II (pp. 242-270). Tübingen 1985: Mohr Siebeck [quoted following this edition]. Karfik, F. (2007). Que fait et qui est le démiurge dans le Timée?. In: Études Platonici­ ennes 4: Les puissances de l’âme selon Platon, 129-150. Krämer, H. (1982). Platone e i fondamenti della metafisica. Saggio sulla teoria die principi e sulle dottrine non scritte di Platone con una raccolta del documenti funda­ mentali in ediyione bilingue e bibliografia. Milano: Vita e Pensiero. Larose, D. (2016). Le démiurge du Timée de Platon et la représentation mythique de la causalité paradigmatique de la forme du dieu. Methodos. Savoirs et textes 16: La notion d’intelligence (nous-noein) dans la Grèce Antique. Retrieve from https://journals.openedition.org/methodos/4516 . Lisi, F. L. (2007). "The Form of the Good". In: F. L. Lisi (ed.) The Ascent to the Good (pp. 199-227). Collegium Politicum. Contributions to Classical Political Thought 1. Sankt Augustin Academia Verlag. Lisi, F. L. (2009). El mito en Platón. Algunas reflexiones sobre un tema recurrente. Areté 21,1, 35-49.


Demiurge, Good, Forms. Some Reflections on a Crucial Problem of Plato’s Metaphysics Lisi, F. L. (2014). ¿Hay un mito platónico? In: A. Pérez Jiménez (ed.). Realidad,fan­ tasía, interpretación. Funciones y pervivencia del mito griego: Estudios en honor del Pr. Carlos García Gual (pp. 375-388). Málaga: Libros Pórtico. Lisi, F. L. (2018). “República VII 517a8-521c1.” Emerita 82:2, 233-252. Nilles, J. C. (1986). Approche mythique du bien, du phytourgos et du démiurge. Revue internationale de philosophie 40, 115-139. des Places. É. (1970). Platon. Œuvres Complètes. XIV Lexique de la langue philosophique et religieuse de Platon. Paris: Les Belles Lettres. Shorey, P. (1937). Plato. Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vols. 5 & 6 Plato. Republic trans­ lated by P. Sh. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. (1969). Sillitti, G. (2009). La divinità, l’ ídea´del letto e la razionalità della natura: Pl. Resp. 597 b. In: W. Lapini, L. Malusa & K. Mauro (eds.), Gli antichi e noi. Scritti in onore di Antonio Mario Battegazzore (pp. 93-106). Genova: Claudio Brigati. Taylor, A. E. (1928). A Commentary on Plato’s Timaeus. Oxford Clarendon Press (1962). Van Riel, G. (2017). Perspectivism in Plato’s Views of the Gods. In: P. Destrée & R. G. Edmonds III (eds.). Plato and the Power of Images (pp. 107-120). Mnemosyne Supplements 405. Leiden/London:. Verdenius, W. J. (1954). Platons Gottebesbegriff. In: La notion du divin depuis Homère jusqu’à Platon (pp. 239-293). Entretiens de l’Antiquité Classique 1: Vandœuvres-Genève: Fondation Hardt. Vorwerk, M. J. (2010). Maker or Father? The Demiurge from Plutarch to Plotinus. In: R. D. Mohr & B. M. Sattler (eds.). One Book the Whole Universe. Plato’s Timaeus Today (pp. 79-100). Las Vegas/Zurich/Athens: Parmenides Publishing.


Religion in Plato’s Laws: Traditional Cults and Astral Theology Silvia Gastaldi

Abstract In the city planned in Plato’s Laws, religion is a matter of primary impor­ tance: it permeates the aspects of the city life that ensure the cohesion of the community. The latest Platonic dialogue, however, presents a pecu­ liarity, consisting in two different patterns of religion: on the one hand, the traditional, civic Olympian religion; on the other, a philosophical one, based on astral theology. I initially analyse this theological theory, which is already present in the Timaeus. A full understanding of this theology is one of the main tasks of the Nocturnal Council, which is the most important political organ in the city. Then I examine the traditional religion. Plato describes a set of practices, both religious and educational, that involve all citizens. They are dedicated to the Olympians, which is to say, to the civic gods. Among these practices, choirs play a central role. The link between the two patterns of religion is the notion of order (kosmos). The harmony of the songs and movements in the dance reflects the harmony of the cosmos and in this way all citizens participate in the order guaranteed by the cosmic Intelligence. Keywords. Plato, Laws, Greek religion, astral theology In the city outlined by Plato in the Laws, religion plays – as it can easily be verified – an absolutely pivotal role. Remarkably, it permeates every sphere of the community life by playing a crucial political function: that of securing the cohesion of citizens by way of cult practices collectively tributed to deities. As far as this religious aspect is concerned, it is worth noting that the Laws presents a peculiarity. In the dialogue two different patterns stand out: on the one hand, Greek traditional religion, which is related to the worship of the Olympian gods; on the other, a type of religion that we might call “philosophical”. The main depositaries of this second form of religion – which refers to the astral theology worked out by Plato in his late dialogues, mainly in the Timaeus and, precisely, in the Laws – are the lawgiver, the guardians of the laws and the members of the Nocturnal Council. 169

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The goal of this essay is to show how these two patterns of religion are configured in the dialogue and how they interact with each other.

Law and Cosmic Order The religious imprint of the Laws gets outlined since the very first line of the dialogue. In fact, the opening word of the dialogue is theos. The question posed by the Athenian to his interlocutors – the Cretan Cleinias and the Spartan Megillus – on the origin of their cities’ laws, i.e. whether they have been posed by a god or by a human being, receives by both characters one and the same answer: it is a god, respectively Zeus for Crete and Apollo for Sparta. The divine origin of the laws, which are regarded as the work of two of the most authoritative Olympian gods, is the theme to which Plato means to draw attention since the beginning of the dialogue. Indeed, he portrays the three old protagonists in the act of heading to the cave of mount Ida, where not only Zeus as a child had escaped the attempt of his father Cronus to kill him, but also where the same god used to periodically meet with Minos with a view to discussing the best possible laws for Crete.1 Although evoking this mythical background, which has the function of placing the legislative work under the patronage of a divine entity, Plato does not show in the dialogue the willingness to connect to an Olympian deity the drafting of the laws for the city he intends to design. The nature of the law emerges from a meaningful passage of Book I (644 d), where the human being is described as a puppet, a thauma disorderly moving across the stage of life (Frede, 2010, pp. 108-126; Kurke, 2013, pp. 123-170). This behaviour depends on the tractions it undergoes from the iron strings of passions which are nevertheless contrasted by the solicitation of the golden string, which coincides with the law of the city. This is defined as «the golden and sacred pull of calculation» (I, 645 a 1. Translation by T. L. Pangle). The logismos, which is to say, the calculating rationality, identifies this traction as the best. Following only the solicitation of reason, whose precepts coincide with the law of the city, allows the soul to find its inner balance, while yielding to the traction of the other strings means its aban­ 1 At 624 a7, the Athenian, by addressing Cleinias, indicates in Homer the source of this tradition: cf. Od. XIX, 178-179; the interpretation of these verses is not clear, although they are present and explained in the Pseudo-Platonic Minos (319b-e) in the sense that appears also in this opening passage of the Laws. On the issue see Morrow 1993, pp. 23-24.


Religion in Plato’s Laws: Traditional Cults and Astral Theology

donment to conflict, to that «being defeated by one- self» which entails the predominance of the worst elements, which is to say, of the irrational components of the soul, over the best element, namely rationality, which in turn can be identified with the nomos.2 This passage makes it clear that the law coincides with the prescription of a rational entity identified with the Nous, i.e. the divine intellect. As is stated in 714 a, the law is nou dianomē, which means “distribution”, “assignment made by the intellect”. By adopting this definition Plato seems to play on words, given that the term nomos, from the verb nemo, implies by itself a disposition – in the double sense of “regulation” and “distribution” – of the Intellect. What is worth underlining in this passage is that the law is not a simply human work. Consequently, it is the result of a convention, but it is an intelligent rule, one of divine origin. Therefore, the god from whom law stems is not a traditional one. In this regard, it suffices to read the opening words of the great speech that, in Book IV, the Athenian makes the lawgiver pronounce, imagining that the inhabitants of the planned colony gather, as in a great assembly, in front of him: «The god, just as the ancient saying has it, holding the beginning and the end and the middle of all the beings, completes his straight course by revolving, according to nature. Following him always is Justice (Dike), avenger of those who forsake the divine law. He who is going to become happy follows Her» (716 a). In the description of that divinity, which reports an ancient discourse, a palaios logos, the reference to an Orphic poem3 has been recognized; however, the cosmological characteristics attributed to that divinity are completely original. In the first place, it belongs to its nature to accom­ plish a circular movement which is the most perfect inasmuch as it is the most rational. Plato here anticipates the discourse that he will resume in Book X, in the context of the prooemium to the laws against impiety, certainly the most important one in the code of the nomoi of the planned city. The starting point of that passage is the demonstration of the nature of the soul, with respect to which Plato emphasises the chronological

2 The phrase «being defeated by one-self», which appears at I, 626 ff., refers above all to the inner strife within the soul between passions and rationality, but it is subse­ quently transferred by the Athenian to a political level, with a view to emphasizing the need for a rule of the best over the worst in the city. 3 As such, it is reported by the author of the Pseudo-Aristotelian De mundo, VII, 401 a 28, alongside other fragments endowed with the same origin. On the citation of this orphic fragment and its meaning within the Theology of the Laws, see Mayhew 2012, pp. 197-216.


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priority over all existing things (895b) on the one hand and the fact that it moves by itself on the other – the latter being a prerogative which renders it the universal driving principle. This principle causes in the first place the motions of the stars and the alternation of the seasons. It is not simply a matter of referring to traditional views on the divine nature of the stars, i.e. views that are challenged by materialistic positions such as those of Anaxagoras; it is rather a matter of thinking of the soul, and in particular the ordered soul, as associated with the cosmic Intellect. Despite the complexity of the relationship between the soul and the Nous, the Platonic text – especially the passage at 897 b 1-2, which states that the soul relates the Intellect to itself – supports the thesis that the Nous, as a virtue, brings the behaviour of the soul to perfection (Menn, 1992, pp. 543-573; 1995). The soul, being associated to the intellect, is a deity (theon: 899 a 9) and it rules the cosmos, endowing it with that order that displays itself through the circular motion of the celestial bodies. Plato assumes that souls are present in those bodies, being as divine as the bodies themselves, so much that he dares to claim that «all things are full of gods» (899 b).4 The connections between these doctrines and those previously expressed in the Timaeus are evident. In that dialogue, in the passage at 30 b-c, Plato, having openly expressed the goodness of the Demiurge, who acts for the best, attributes to him the belief that nothing beautiful can derive from what is bereft of Intellect; the Nous, in its turn, can exist only if connected to a soul: hence the notion of a universe equated to a living being, endowed with soul and intellect. Further on, it is stated that the movement communicated to the universe is the uniform, circular one, the most perfect and, consequently, one complying with intellect and intelligence, nous and phronēsis (34 a). Within the universe, then, in the ar­ rangement of the various species, the Demiurge gives priority to the divine lineage represented by the stars which, being spherical in shape, made of fire, shining and beautiful to see, are placed in a privileged position, the circle of the identical: being distributed throughout the sky, they visibly represent the cosmic order (40 a). Already in the Timaeus, then, the underpinnings of the positions ex­ pressed by Plato in the Laws are present, which is to say, the concept of a well-ordered universe, guaranteed by a soul endowed with intellect (Brisson, 1995, pp. 115-130).

4 Aristotle, in de An. I, 5, 411 a 8, attributes this sentence to Thales.


Religion in Plato’s Laws: Traditional Cults and Astral Theology

Cosmology and Theology: The Nocturnal Council In the city of the Laws, cosmological and theological knowledge is not pos­ sessed by all citizens; it is rather the prerogative of a small group of magis­ trates: the members of the Nocturnal Council. The presence of this body inside the city emerges only in the final pages of the dialogue, although it has a function of guarantee with respect to the entire organization of the community that has been previously described. Plato introduces its institu­ tion in book XII, 950 d ff. Given that the Council will meet «from dawn until the sun has risen» (951 d 6-7), it is designated as the Nocturnal Coun­ cil, Nukterinos Syllogos. With regard to its composition, the text presents two versions: in the first, which is found at 951 d-e, it includes in the first place the priests who have proved themselves to be the most excellent for their virtue, then the ten oldest custodians of the laws, the superintendent on education – a no less important magistrate than the nomophylakes in of­ fice – and his predecessors. In addition, each of them will be accompanied by a particularly deserving young man, destined to be trained under his guidance. In a second version, at 961 a-c, the ten custodians of the laws are still present, as well as all the citizens who have obtained the highest re­ wards for their value, and also the observers, that is, those who have gone abroad to examine the laws and customs of other peoples, so as to report them to the magistrates of the city, and finally to the young people (Bris­ son 2001, pp. 161-177.) The difference between the two versions may be due to the incomplete nature of the Laws, and especially of this final section. More than the composition, which in any case includes the highest magistrates and the best individuals, it is important to analyze the competences that Plato assigns to the Council. Its relevance is testified by the numerous and significant metaphors with which it is designated, including "an anchor for the entire city" (961c), its "guard" (phylakterion: 962c) and above all its head, in which the sense organs, sight and hearing are situated (961 d). If the city is assimilated to a body, of which the citizens are the members and the young people co-opted into the Council are the sense organs, the older and more authoritative members are the intellect of the entire community: just for this reason, there is a close connection between the human nous and the divine, cosmic Nous. The education of the members of the Nocturnal Council, expressly defined by Plato as "more precise" (akribestera) with reference to that of other citizens, has as its object the unity of virtues on the one hand – and, therefore, an ethical dimension – and, on the other, theology and cosmology. For the object of knowledge are the existence of the gods and 173

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the divinity of the stars, with a view to grasping that order of the cosmos that must be reproduced in the order present in the city through the laws. The members of the Council attain this type of superior knowledge through a curriculum that includes the preliminary sciences, represented by mathematics, and which seems to culminate with dialectics, given that these "divine men" are required to logon didonai, that is, give the reason, of all objects of their knowledge (968 a).5

The Citizen’s religion. Traditional Cults The majority of citizens must be forgiven for following only the letter of the laws (966 c): with this statement, the Athenian expresses very clearly the distance that separates, in terms of knowledge, the inhabitants of the city from its supreme magistrates. After all, already in Book VII, which is entirely dedicated to education, the Athenian states that arithmetics, geometry, stereometry and astrono­ my6 are not objects of study on which the many must toil. Only «certain few» are strictly required to pursue them (817 e). In this passage, Plato anticipates an issue which will be discussed more extensively and in a more detailed way at a subsequent stage. This is certainly the institution of the Nocturnal Council in Book XII. In fact, the skills that must be possessed by all citizens must be limited to those basic capacities that prove indispensable for the performance of the activities they are meant to pursue: on the one hand, military training; on the other the study of

5 It is the same expression which, in the Republic, designates the procedure of dialec­ tics, the highest form of knowledge being the prerogative of philosophers: cf. VII, 534 b. The issue of the supposed relationship between the philosophers-kings of the Republic and the members of the Nocturnal Council of the Laws is a matter of debate, and so is the question as to whether one can speak of a political tripartition connected in turn to a psychic tripartition in the Laws. On the continuity between the two dialogues on these issues, cf. Brisson, 2012, pp. 281-307. In my opinion, it does not seem possible to share this view, which has no binding textual founda­ tions. However, it can be admitted that even in the Laws Plato feels the need to place people with knowledge of the purposes and values of the community at the helm of the city. 6 Precisely with regard to astronomy, the Athenian argues that citizens must be convinced that the stars always travel regular orbits, thus not sharing the positions of those who question this astral order and who attribute to the celestial bodies the name of "planets”, that is, wandering stars. This type of belief - the Athenian states - is useful to the city and pleasing to the divinity (821 b-c).


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letters, music and calculation, the latter being limited to what is useful «for war, household management, and the management of the city» (809 c). Citizens are therefore not required to possess either a specifically scien­ tific knowledge or theological notions. As the great speech uttered by the lawgiver in Book IV clearly shows, they must confine themselves to con­ form their behaviour to those principles the reasons of which are possessed only by the supreme magistrates. «What then is the activity that is dear to and follows god?» (716 c). The lawgiver has already claimed that god repre­ sents the principle, the middle part and the end of all things (715 e), and now he adds that he is also their measure. We are not faced only with the alleged overthrow of the Protagorean claim, which attributes this function to man only, but also and especially with the ethical consequences of the notion of the metrion-god. Keeping up with the divinity means to act in accordance with the right measure, this being understood here as order, both on the cosmic and psychic levels. Concerning the ways in which this assimilation to the god is achieved, it happens that the practices to which it is entrusted make constant refer­ ence to a religious model totally different from the one we have talked about so far, namely the traditional one, based on the worship of the Olympian gods. In the same great speech of Book IV, in the code of conduct prescribed to the citizen pride of place is assigned to the worship paid to traditional divinities: «First […] one would most correctly hit the target of pious reverence if one honoured the gods of the underworld after the Olympians and the gods who possess the city […] After these gods, the prudent man at least would worship the demons, and then next after these, the heroes» (717 a-b). In addition, the urban arrangement itself, which has a circular shape, has the acropolis at its center (745 b), where the temples of Hestia, Zeus and Athena stand. Hestia is, as in Athens, the goddess of the common hearth of the city. At the same time, the legislator divides the territory into twelve parts, consecrating each of them to one of the Olympian divinities, even if the name is not mentioned, and he places a tribe in each of them. The land is divided into 5040 plots, the so-called kleroi, which are assigned to the heads of the families as an inalienable possession, and it is sacred to the gods. In each of the twelve villages in the area, temples must be built for gods and demons, and also for the local deities worshipped by the inhabitants of the planned city, Magnesia. Besides temples, reference is made to the presence on the territory of sacred enclosures, shrines, altars, sacred woods: thus, places destined for religious cults seem to be present everywhere. 175

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Furthermore, there are numerous evidences of traditional religious be­ liefs, such as the one that makes Zeus the protector of property boundaries as well as the entity who watches over the members of the same tribe and foreigners (842 e ff.). Plato also mentions all the other Olympian gods, re­ serving their traditional prerogatives for each.7 The god who appears most frequently in the Laws is undoubtedly Apollo, whose oracle is necessary to consult with a view to formulating sacred laws and deciding everything concerning cults (Morrow 1993, pp. 403-411; 419-426).

Choruses for the gods: education to the harmony of the soul The presence of traditional religion in the city of the Laws is however most explicitly attested by the religious festivals that take place throughout the year, which have the citizens themselves as protagonists, being included in choruses - according to a division into age groups – each chorus being supported by an Olympian deity. The one made by children is dedicated to the Muses, the one composed of young people up to thirty to Apollo and finally the one made up of citizens between thirty and sixty years old to Dionysus. As far as the latter chorus is concerned, its members will consume wine, a gift from the god, as a pharmakon, a term used in this context in its positive meaning, since it remedies the drying up and stiffening of the body. The introduction of the symposium in the city of the Laws does not make room for the recklessness that Megillus vigorously rejects, when he points out that this institution, a typically Ionian and Athenian one, is banned from his city. It is rather a symposium governed by the symposiastic laws, which are issued by the lawgiver himself (II, 671 c) and supervised by an elderly citizen who shows absolute self-control. The gods themselves are credited with the institution of religious cele­ brations, these being understood as a gift intended to intersperse the chain of daily labors with moments of joy, and the Athenian declares that the gods themselves are present alongside men. In book II, where choirs are established, the gods are defined as «fellow celebrants» (syneortastas: 653 d) and «fellow members or leaders of […] choruses» (synchoreutas: 665

7 For example, in Book VII, at 832e- 833c, the gymnastic practices that prepare citizens for war are described: among these, various competitions are mentioned, including a competition between athletes armed with hoplite equipment, whose race will end at the temple of Ares, and one of archers who will end at the temple of Apollo and Artemis.


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a) together with men «fellow celebrants» (syneortastas: 653 d) and «fellow members or leaders of […] choruses» (synchoreutas: 665 a) of men. The specific nature of choreutic practices, which are constantly present in the city of the Laws, is constituted by their cohesive and educational value. The whole city is a real educating community. Citizens, being de­ voted only to political and military activities due to their exclusion from any economic activity (V, 741 and: XI, 918 b), devote most of their time to celebrations. As we read in Book VII, which is entirely dedicated to education, «[O]ne should live out one’s days playing (paizonta: (803 e))». Plato establishes a close connection between educational practices - the paideia - and the paidia. In this context, the term paidia does not have the current meaning of “play” and “fun” as opposed to serious and demanding activities, that is, the spoudē (Jouët-Pastré, 2006). Celebrations are certainly and inherently pleasurable, but what is more important to stress is that they constitute a real "sacred game". For all the citizens involved in this process throughout their life, the correct way to live is the one spent in paidia, i.e. fun; however, their enjoyable activity consists in participating in sacrifices, songs, dances specifically designed to propitiate the gods’ favour towards the city. As it is stated at the beginning of Book VIII (828a), in which the oracle of Delphi is mentioned as the highest authority on the subject, sacrifices will be organized every day of the year in honour of a god or a demon. In addition, for the twelve Olympian deities there will be monthly sacrificial rites accompanied by choruses, musical and gymnastic competitions. Widespread participation in choruses strengthens the bonds between citizens and safeguards the unity of the city; the close connection between song, dance and music gives the performances a specific formative char­ acter. The name by which these events comprising several components are designated is the choreia, and the three moments merge into a single representation (Calame 2013, pp. 87-108; Kowalzig 2013, pp. 171-211; Prauscello 2014, pp. 105-191). A central role is played by those texts entrusted with the promotion of an educational discourse. They convey a constant message: the fairest life is the most pleasant (662b). Plato is aware that in all men there is an innate tendency to pursue what is pleasant and to shy away from what is painful: the Athenian declares that no one could be persuaded to lead a life in which there is more pain than joy (II, 663 b). However, it is necessary to make sure that true pleasure coincides with the practice of the virtues. It is precisely the life consonant to virtue that constitutes the purpose of the citizen's paideia, and the continuous and constant repetition of ethical messages, sung by the members of the choruses and listened to by 177

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other citizens, favours their widespread diffusion. The accompaniment of appropriate music, followed by the dance step, infuses order and harmony into everyone's soul, starting with the youngest persons. As O’Meara has stressed (2017, pp. 125-129), it almost seems that these movements represent the visible and thoroughly human transcription of the order that reigns in the skies, the order in relation to which the entire city must model itself. The two levels - that of the structure of the world and that of the citizens’ behaviour - would therefore converge, united by the reference to that notion of kosmos which indicates the presence of a rational order in both areas. As far as the soul of the citizens is concerned, the virtues that participation in collective rites must communicate are self-control (sophrosynē) and courage (andreia). These are virtues connect­ ed to each other, since the ability to keep pleasures and desires under control predisposes to channel the psychic energies towards the valiant performances required of the citizen. The compound movements that characterize the components of chorus­ es are the sign of the achievement of inner balance, just as the disorder of the movements testifies to the internal instability of the soul. This is demonstrated by the child, being still bereft of rationality, whom Plato equates to a young animal «incapable of remaining calm in body or in voice» (653e). This is an evident revival of musical ethics, already and clearly present in the Republic, which has its origin and its theorization in Damon, the musicologist who, in Pericles’ age, elaborates the so-called "musical ethics", by identifying what are the practices destined to exercise a positive or negative role on the soul of those who participate in choruses (Meister 1973, pp. 29-44; Wallace 2015). It is precisely these reflections that lead to distinguish correct and incorrect musical modes, and consequently the performances, which foster – or, on the contrary hinder – the forma­ tion of a virtuous character. The constant repetition of these events must act like a real spell: as stated in Book II, 666c, «every man and child, free and slave, female and male […] must never cease singing, as an incantation to itself, these things we have described». The enchantment, epode, is the result of the constant repetition of virtu­ ous attitudes which, over time, remain impressed in the soul:8 therefore, the person who does not participate in the choruses, the achoreutos, is

8 The nature of spell is also attributed by Plato to all the speeches of the legislator addressed to citizens and, more specifically, to the persuasive proems that are placed before the coercive formulation of the laws. See Gastaldi 1984, pp. 69-109.


Religion in Plato’s Laws: Traditional Cults and Astral Theology

labelled as apaideutos, i.e. bereft of an adequate education, one which – as it is evident – is related to participation in choruses and, therefore, in collective performances (II, 654 a). Plato contrasts this correct choreutic-musical model with the one dom­ inant in democratic Athens of the time. Here the audience judges all artistic expressions on the basis of the pleasure that can be derived from them and shows either appreciation or dissent through respectively either applause or screams of disapproval. In Book III, Plato defines this Atheni­ an practice as «theatrocracy», whose consequences can also be found in the political realm. In fact, the irrational reactions of citizens determine not only the awarding of prizes in poetry competitions, but also the decisions taken in public venues: the term «theatrocracy», which is purposely coined by Plato, effectively clarifies how citizens, even without possessing any skills, assume a decision-making role in every area (III, 701 a) (Gastaldi 2005, pp. 159-171). To carry out their distinctively educational function, musical events must be not only correct, but also constant over time. To the continuous variability that characterizes Athenian shows, which adapt to the everchanging tastes of the public, Plato contrasts the rigid conservatism present in the Egyptian world, where the artistic canons repeat themselves unaltered: Egypt – as is also attested in the Timaeus, where the meeting be­ tween Solon and the Egyptian priest is staged (21 et ff.) – is the seat of an ancient wisdom, of which the priests are the guardians, having placed the correct models inside the temples (II, 656 d-657a). Precisely for this reason, the rules that must be applied to songs and dances are called nomoi. By this name the Greeks used to designate the fixed schemes according to which the songs were composed, and especially the citarodic ones. For Plato, however, the assimilation of the song to the nomos acquires another – and much more pregnant – meaning: the musical nomos is closely connected to the civic-political law and shares with it its rational, immutable character.

Conclusion: The Order of the Soul and the Cosmic Order As we have seen, through the repetition of gestures, melodies, and of the ethical content of the songs, the entire apparatus of religious celebrations aims at introducing into the souls of the citizens the order, kosmos, that reflects in the human world the harmonious organization of the divine world, which is visible through the regular movement of the stars. Through the centrality assigned to the notion of kosmos it seems possible to establish a connection between the two models of religiosity, which, at 179

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least at first sight, appear separate, since knowledge of the cosmic order is the exclusive prerogative of those who know, i.e. the lawgivers, the laws’ guardians and the Nocturnal Council, while citizens possess only those rudimental elements of astronomy sufficient to understand the alternation of days and nights and the revolutions of the moon, the sun and the other stars (VII, 818 cd). The Laws present a sort of compromise situation: traditional gods are still present, and they are the addressees of the rites of which the citizens are the protagonists. On the other hand, citizens themselves are placed in a city whose structure and functioning – namely the law – refer to a different order, in the presence of a cosmic intelligence. Plato probably warns that the Olympian religion represents the "inherited conglomerate", to use the famous expression of Eric Dodds (1962, pp. 207-224), which is to say, the whole set of popular beliefs that settles down over time, the dissolution of which opens the way to impiety, as is testified in Book X. Even in traditional religion, however, traces of an evolution towards astral religion are visible. As Burkert remarks in his volume on Greek religion, a peculiarity of the cults present in the city of the Laws is the explicit connection between Apollo and the Sun.9 In Book XII, at 945e, it is said that the citizens will gather in the «precinct common to the Sun and Apollo» to select the Auditors (euthynoi), who are entrusted with the task of listening and examining the accounts of all magistrates. Further on in the same passage, Plato writes that the chosen ones will be crowned with olive trees, and it will be declared that the city has indicated to Helios the best men on whom his salvation depends (946b). The definitive transition to astral religion takes place in the Epinomis, an appendix to the Laws traditionally attributed to Philip of Opus (Aronadio 2013, pp. 13-178). The purpose of this short text, which sees the same protagonists as the Laws, is to determine how man can become wise, sophos (973b), a topic that has not been exhaustively treated in the Laws. Wisdom

9 Burkert 1985, pp. 332-337. Burkert notes, however, that this connection is already attested in the fifth century and cites the earliest evidence in this regard, consisting of verses 212-214 of Aeschylus's Supplices. The interpretation of Abolafia 2015, pp. 369-392, according to whom Plato, in the Laws, would have assigned a central role to the sun, making it the recipient of cults, thus attributing to the solar religion the role of trait d’union between traditional civic religion and "philosophical" religion. As Morrow points out, at p. 447, there are no clear traces, in the Laws, that Plato intended to attribute a real cult to the stars, differently from what takes place in the Epinomis.


Religion in Plato’s Laws: Traditional Cults and Astral Theology

does not depend on the possession of techniques, neither artisanal ones, even if they benefit the city in everyday life, nor medical or legal. Among all knowledge, the one relating to the number is a priority, which is a gift from Heaven, whose divinity is immediately highlighted, and whose beneficial effects are identified in all fields. Heaven is only one of the names by which it is possible to name it, as it can also be mentioned as Cosmos or Olympus; whatever the designation, however, its function is to be responsible for the motion of the stars and all the celestial bodies. In the Epinomis, the ambiguity found in the Laws on the coexistence of different levels of religiosity disappears: as the Athenian declares to Cleinias and Megillus, there is only one god, Heaven, «which it is most our duty to honor and pray to especially, as do all others spirits and gods» (977a. Translation by W. M. R. Lamb). You can call it whatever you like, that is, Cosmos, or Olympus, or Heaven (977 b). The stars, like visible gods, are the divinities that all citizens must venerate (986b-c), and below these, in an intermediate position with respect to the human world, we find the demons, which are also to be honoured with prayers. What, then, of the gods of tradition? «Now the gods – Zeus and Hera and all the resteach man must regard in what light he pleases, though according to the same law» (984 d). There is therefore an overall design relating to divinities and the cults that situate the stars in a dominant position. the Olympian gods are admitted, or rather tolerated, as long as their presence does not compromise the new model of religiosity. There is another difference between the Epinomis and the Laws: the different value attributed to the contemplation of the Cosmos. In the Epinomis it is no longer a question, as it is in the Laws, of getting – at least by some, such as the members of the Nocturnal Council – a scientific knowledge of the stars and the Nous, the divine intelligence on which they depend. It is rather a matter of deriving a precise ethical model from their contemplation. Observation of the sky produces a real wonder, a thaumazein. The view of the order of the celestial bodies not only opens the way to learning astronomy, but establishes in the soul the virtue of theosebeia, of devotion to the gods, which is the most important virtue.

(Trans. Elena Irrera)


Silvia Gastaldi

References Abolafia, J. (2015). Solar Theology and Civic Religion in Plato’s Laws, Polis, 32, 369-392. Aronadio, F. (2013). L’Epinomide: struttura compositiva e contenuti teorici, in F. Aronadio, M. Tulli, F. Petrucci (eds.). [Plato], Epinomis (pp. 13-178). Napoli: Bibliopolis. Brisson, L. (1995). Une comparaison entre le livre X des Lois et le Timée, in J.-F. Balaudé (sous la direction de), D’une cité possible. Sur les Lois de Platon (pp. 115-130). Nanterre: Université Paris X-Nanterre. Brisson, L. (2001). Le Collège de Veille (nukterionòs sùllogos), in F. L. Lisi (ed.), Plato’s Laws and its Historical Significance (pp. 161-177). Sankt Augustin: Academia Verlag. Brisson, L. (2012). Soul and State in Plato’s Laws, in R. Barney-T. Brennan- C. Brittain (eds.), Plato and the Divided Self (pp. 281-307). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Burkert, W (1985). Greek Religion, Oxford: Blackwell. Calame, C. (2013), Choral Practices in Plato’s Laws: Itineraries of Initiation?, in A.E. Peponi (ed.), Performance and Culture in Plato’s Laws (pp. 87-108). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Dodds, E. R. (1962). The Greeks and the Irrational. Berkeley-Los Angeles-London: University of California Press. Frede, D. (2010). Puppets on Strings: Moral Psychology in Laws Books 1 and 2, in Ch. Bobonich (ed.), Plato’s Laws. A Critical Guide, (pp.108-126). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Gastaldi, S. (1984). Legge e retorica. I proemi delle Leggi di Platone, Quaderni di Storia, 20, 69-109. Gastaldi, S. (2005). La «teatrocrazia»: cattiva educazione e degenerazione politica nelle Leggi di Platone, in Furnari Luvarà, G. (ed.), Filosofia e Politica. Studi in onore di Girolamo Cotroneo, vol. III (pp.159.171). Soveria Mannelli: Rubbettino. Jouët-Pastré, E. (2006). Le jeu et le sérieux dans les Lois de Platon. Sankt Augustin: Academia Verlag. Kowalzig, B. (2013). Broken Rhythms in Plato’s Laws: Materialising Social Time in the Chorus, in A. E. Peponi (ed.). Performance and Culture in Plato’s Laws (pp. 171-211). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kurke, L. (2013). Imagining Chorality: Wonder, Plato’s Puppets, and Moving Stat­ ues, in A. E. Peponi (ed.), Performance and Culture in Plato’s Laws (pp. 123-170). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lamb, W. R. M. (1927). Plato. Epinomis, Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press. Mayhew, R. (2010). The Theology of the Laws, in Ch. Bobonich (ed.), Plato’s Laws. A Critical Guide, (pp.197-216). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Religion in Plato’s Laws: Traditional Cults and Astral Theology Meister, K. (1973). Damon. Der politische Berater des Perikles, Rivista di Storia dell’Antichità, 3, 29-44. Menn, S. P. (1992). Aristotle and Plato on God as Nous and as the Good, Review of Metaphysics, 45, 543-573. Menn, S. P. (1995). Plato on God and Nous. Carbondale IL, Southern Illinois Uni­ versity Press. Morrow, G. R. (1993). Plato’s Cretan City. A Historical Interpretation of the Laws. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press. Pangle, T. L. (1988). The Laws of Plato. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. Prauscello, L. (2014). Performing Citizenship in Plato’s Laws. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Wallace, R. W. (2015). Reconstructing Damon. Music, Teaching, and Politics in Perik­ les’ Athens. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Plato, Lg. 910: What Impiety? Alberto Maffi

Abstract In the tenth book of the Laws Plato considers various behaviors that can be traced to the notion of impiety. One of these is the belief that the gods can be bribed. Among those who engage in these practices there are people worthy of compassion, as long as they perform their rituals in public shrines and people who, because of their extreme impiety, deserve the death penalty. The definition of this second category of offenders in Lg. 910 b-d presents obscure points that the present contribution aims to clarify (also providing a new translation of Lg. 910b). The salient point is that Plato entrusts pious and decent citizens with the protection of the gods. In the framework of the legislation on asebeia, the final part deals with the third type of illicit behavior: that of those who consider the gods bribable (paraitetoi) (905e - 907b). Plato divides these people into two categories, depending on the seriousness of the crime. For all there is a ban on the establishment of private cults. But those belonging to the first category, who are "superstitious and overly emotional people" (Mayhew p. 208), erect altars or perform rituals (so I prefer to translate hiera in 910a41) in order to invoke the help, or to secure the favor, of supernatural beings who are not the gods worshipped in the official cults of the city2. In this they do not manifest an evil will, and therefore are not punished as long as they consent to perform their acts of worship in public shrines (910c4-6). The

1 Obviously this is a polysemic term. It is true that here hiera idruesthai seems to allude to material elements, as confirmed by the fact that at 910c hiera depends on the verb ktaomai (I owe this remark to Martin Dreher). However, I think that Plato here attributes a broader meaning to the term, as shown by the expression thuein hiera at the end of 910c. For the meaning I propose, see also Lambrinoudakis 2005, p. 339. 2 The characteristics of the behaviors repressed at 909d - 910e do not correspond exactly to the behaviors illustrated at 905e and 907d: in the latter passage, for example, no reference is made to magic, while in the former there is no direct reference to a divine punishment to be diverted by appropriate rituals.


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second category, on the other hand, consists of true anosioi people, who deserve capital punishment: the behavior that is so severely repressed is described by Plato in 910 b-d in terms that are difficult to understand. πρὸς τούτοις δὲ ἕνεκα τῶν ἀσεβούντων, [910b] ἵνα μὴ καὶ ταῦτα κλέπτοντες ταῖς πράξεσιν, ἱερά τε καὶ βωμοὺς ἐν ἰδίαις οἰκίαις ἱδρυόμενοι, λάθρᾳ τοὺς θεοὺς ἵλεως οἰόμενοι ποιεῖν θυσίαις τε καὶ εὐχαῖς, εἰς ἄπειρον τὴν ἀδικίαν αὐξάνοντες αὑτοῖς τε ἐγκλήματα πρὸς θεῶν ποιῶνται καὶ τοῖς ἐπιτρέπουσιν, οὖσιν αὐτῶν βελτίοσιν, καὶ πᾶσα οὕτως ἡ πόλις ἀπολαύῃ τῶν ἀσεβῶν τρόπον τινὰ δικαίως. τὸν μὲν δὴ νομοθέτην ὁ θεὸς οὐ μέμψεται: κείσθω γὰρ νόμος οὗτος: μὴ κεκτῆσθαι θεῶν ἐν ἰδίαις οἰκίαις ἱερά, τὸν δὲ [910c] φανέντα κεκτημένον ἕτερα καὶ ὀργιάζοντα πλὴν τὰ δημόσια, ἐὰν μὲν ἄδικον μηδὲν τῶν μεγάλων καὶ ἀνοσίων εἰργασμένος ἀνὴρ ἢ καὶ γυνὴ κεκτῆταί τις, ὁ μὲν αἰσθανόμενος καὶ εἰσαγγελλέτω τοῖς νομοφύλαξιν, οἱ δὲ προσταττόντων εἰς τὰ δημόσια ἀποφέρειν ἱερὰ τὰ ἴδια, μὴ πείθοντες δὲ ζημιούντων ἕως ἂν ἀπενεχθῇ: ἐὰν δέ τις ἀσεβήσας μὴ παιδίων ἀλλ᾽ ἀνδρῶν ἀσέβημα ἀνοσίων γένηται φανερός, εἴτε ἐν ἰδίοις ἱδρυσάμενος εἴτ᾽ ἐν δημοσίοις θύσας ἱερὰ θεοῖς [910d] οἱστισινοῦν, ὡς οὐ καθαρὸς ὢν θύων θανάτῳ ζημιούσθω. τὸ δὲ παίδειον ἢ μὴ κρίναντες οἱ νομοφύλακες, εἰς τὸ δικαστήριον οὕτως εἰσαγαγόντες, τὴν τῆς ἀσεβείας δίκην τούτοις ἐπιτελούντων. «and a further reason is this—to prevent impious men [910b] from act­ ing fraudulently in regard to these matters also, by setting up shrines and altars in private houses, thinking to propitiate the gods privately by sacri­ fices and vows, and thus increasing infinitely their own iniquity, whereby they make both themselves and those better men who allow them guilty in the eyes of the gods, so that the whole State reaps the consequences of their impiety in some degree—and deserves to reap them. The lawgiver himself, however, will not be blamed by the god; for this shall be the law laid down:—Shrines of the gods no one must possess [910c] in a private house; and if anyone is proved to possess and worship at any shrine other than the public shrines—be the possessor man or woman,—and if he is guilty of no serious act of impiety, he that notices the fact shall inform the Law-wardens, and they shall give orders for the private shrines to be removed to the public temples, and if the owner disobeys the order, they shall punish him until he removes them. [910d] And if anyone be proved to have committed an impious act, such as is not the venial offence of children, but the serious irreligion of grown men, whether by setting up a shrine on private ground, or on public ground, by doing sacrifice to any gods whatsoever, for sacrificing in a state of impurity he shall be punished with death. And the Law-wardens shall judge what is a childish or venial offence and what not, and then shall bring the offenders before the court, 186

Plato, Lg. 910: What Impiety?

and shall impose upon them the due penalty for their impiety” (tr. Bury 1967).3 Despite some stylistic variations, the translations of the passage do not differ much from each other. I believe, however, that they do not resolve some obscurities of the Platonic text. I therefore propose to focus on the fundamental points that will allow me in the end to propose a new translation of 910b. 1) The "private houses" (910b1) in this passage, unlike in 909d7 and 910b9, are not the houses of those who erect altars and perform rituals. The subject is instead the "wicked" impious, who "despise men" (name­ ly, despise their credulity and their fears) (909b1 to be compared with 933), in contrast to the "good" impious, who instead "love the just men "(908c). The wicked impious put at the service of individuals, families and cities their ability to "bewitch" the gods with sacrifices, prayers and enchantments; and, of course, they do it for a fee (909b4-6). This explains the insistence on the fraudulent nature of the operations in question4 (while those who perform acts of worship in their own home do not necessarily do it in secret: I am thinking in particular of the first category of unjust impious referred to at 909a5 - 910a7, whose behavior is judged by Plato to be childish, in the sense that results from the comparison between 910c7 and 933c1).5 I believe that the γοητεύοντες, which have the gods as their object in 909b5, are echoed

3 Here are two other authoritative translations: “E inoltre, per gli empi, affinché non facciano queste cose con azioni furtive, costruendo santuari e altari nelle loro case private, credendo di rendersi propizi gli dei con sacrifici e preghiere nel segreto della casa, e affinché, aumentando essi all’infinito l’ingiustizia, non attirino su di sé le accuse degli dei e di quelli che li lasciano fare e sono migliori di loro, e così tutto lo stato, giustamente, in qualche modo non faccia il guadagno degli empi. La divinità non avrà nulla da rimproverare al legislatore” (tr. Zadro). “A ces motifs ajoutons celui-ci, relatif aux impies, dont le but est d’éviter que, dissimulant leur impiété sous le masque de leurs actes, élevant des temples et des sanctuaires dans leur domaine privé, s’imaginant pouvoir gagner en secret l’indulgence des dieux au moyen de leurs sacrifices et de leurs prières, ils n’accroissent infiniment leur injus­ tice et n’accumulent les griefs des dieux contre eux-mêmes et contre ceux qui les y autorisent alors même que ces derniers sont meilleurs qu’eux, au point que la cité toute entière, non sans quelque justice, doive assumer leur impiétés. Le législateur, lui au moins, n’encourra pas les reproches du dieu… » (tr. Brisson-Pradeau). 4 In my opinion Mayhew 2008, p. 201, misses exactly the fact that fraud is practiced against gods, not against the people convinced by magicians. 5 Saunders 1991, p. 315 n. 87, refers to 934a2, where, however, we read “dia neotata” in a context completely unrelated to our topic.


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by the κλέπτοντες of 910b1, which obviously do not have as their object the person of the gods but the result of their action, subtracted λάθρᾳ and aimed at damaging third persons.6 What does it mean to make the gods benevolent (910b7)? Commenta­ tors have generally believed that these are rituals carried out by those who have committed serious wrongdoing to avert divine wrath from themselves. I believe rather that this is an attempt to get the gods to be benevolent towards the person who commissioned the rituals, while turning their wrath and their destructive power towards rivals and enemies of the commissioner. It seems to me that this interpretation finds textual support at 906c (precisely in the context of the criticism of the thesis of the corruptibility of the gods), where the voices (i.e. the "advertising") of the impious ensure that those who use their arts can easily prevail over their enemies (as confirmed by the metaphor of the gods as dogs that allow wolves to freely attack the flock: 906d). "By infinitely increasing their adikia" (910b2-3). I think it should be understood as an allusion to the involvement of divinities as the target of the wrongdoing, which pushes the illicit itself beyond the limits of the relationships between men. “hautois enklēmata pros theon poioumenoi” (910b4) is generally under­ stood in the sense of “accusations from the gods”. But enklēma is a technical term that indicates judicial accusation, which therefore can­ not come from the gods. I therefore propose to translate: behaving like this, "they attract accusations in the name (or on behalf) of the gods" (obviously by citizens who are obliged to report the offense).7 "epitrepousin" (910b5). The term is understood as an allusion to the authorities or to the entire citizenry tolerating such practices. But it seems to me that, if we hold to the technical meaning of enklēma, it is hard to see who could sue the authorities or the citizens. I therefore

6 These are therefore procedures that have a similar purpose to that labeled as poisoning in Lg. 933. On the various ways to extort the intervention in human affairs from the gods, see again the classic Graf 1991 (= 1994) and Graf 2005, p. 257 and 264-270 with reference to Pl. Rep. 364b-c and Lg. 932-933. For interpretations that differ from the one I propose here, see the Appendix. 7 It would remain to be understood, if they are the same people, why the punish­ ment at 909b is prison whereas at 910d the death penalty (Mayhew's explanation 2008, p. 211, seems confusing to me). The only apparent element of differentiation is, in the second case, the offering of public sacrifices in a state of impurity. But perhaps, on closer inspection, the crime referred to at 909 b is carried out on a purely verbal level (see how at 933 a the the legislator’s focus is first and foremost on the ability to persuade).


Plato, Lg. 910: What Impiety?

believe that, in the light of the interpretation illustrated so far, the participle should be understood in the technical sense of "those who have entrusted (to the wicked) the task of carrying out the forbidden rituals". I think a comparison with 933 a-c can clarify in what sense the commissioners are "better" (beltiosin: 910b5): who decides to turn to an expert in magical arts to damage an opponent or a rival does not know exactly what effects it can cause; for this he will be punished, but in a milder way than the expert.8 6) The text says that the whole city "will enjoy, will take advantage" of the impious acts in some right way (910b6). The verb in its literal meaning has been considered incomprehensible in the context of the passage. Since the enklēmata (in the sense of accusations or "griefs" or punishments for citizens' guilt) have been assumed to come from the gods, the verb is given the sense of involvement in divine punishment. But if we take it to mean, instead, that the city reacts by accusing the impious, it restores justice; therefore in a certain sense good comes from evil, in the sense that the city will acquire merit from the gods. In fact, the creation of the law (which is thus presented as a novelty with respect to the historical reality of his time) means that the gods cannot reproach anything to the legislator (910b7), therefore to the city whose will the legislator becomes the interpreter of, protecting the gods themselves from magical practices that Plato deems they do not like.9 7) Finally, I propose a translation of 910b in accordance with the results of the exegesis proposed above. "In addition to these reasons, [the law is justified] also because of those who commit impiety, so that they do not try to illicitly attract the favor of the gods by their acts, that is, by performing rituals and erecting altars in private homes, as they believe to be able to make the gods benevolent by fraudulent means consisting of sacrifices and prayers; and so that, by doing so, they do not increase their wrongdoing beyond all limits, procuring judicial charges, in the name of the gods, against themselves and against their commissioners, even if the latter are to be considered better than them: in this way the whole city will benefit in some way from the impious practices by

8 The parallelism with the norm of 909d - 910d is recognized by Brisson-Pradeau (p. 36 n. 90). 9 Saunders 1991, p. 313, n. 79, believes that enklemata and memphomai are rather mild expressions if intended to express what the anger aroused in the gods by the impious practices illustrated at 910b should be. But in the interpretation that I propose the Platonic terminology finds justification.


Alberto Maffi

conforming to justice. For this reason, the divinity cannot reproach the legislator”.

APPENDIX Review of the main interpretations. What Mayhew 2008 writes, p. 209, does not seem convincing to me: “Plato says that allowing the impious to make sacrifices and prayers in secret and against the laws increases ‘injustice infinitely’ and brings ‘the reproach of the gods against both the impious and those who (though they are better than them) tolerate them, such that the entire city catches … their impiety (in a way justly)”. And he continues: ““Private shrines allow the spread of the disease of impiety…The spread is potentially unlimited, because, occurring in private, the city … is unable to keep it in check. The impious themselves would receive the primary blame, but so would those who, though they do not themselves share in this impiety, tolerate it, thus allowing it to spread”. To these considerations I address the following objections: a) it is not clear why acting in secret should remove all limits to the spread of impiety: if anything, it should be the opposite; precisely because it is an activity carried out in secret, it is not clear why those who have no knowledge of it should have to bear the consequences, unless the objective and collective responsibility of an archaic matrix is implied (as proposed by Schöpsdau and Cleary), for which, however, there is no textual support here; b) it is not clear why the rest of the citizens are defined as "better": if anything, they should be defined as innocent or good. I am not convinced by Schöpsdau 2012, pp. 457-458 either: in the case of the impious who have committed “etwas Ungerechtes (910b4: adikēma) oder Unfrommes (910c7: asebēma) und dann die Götter zu bestechen suchen”, the city will be held co-responsible. As for the verb apolauein, the German scholar recalls that Saunders, on the basis of the parallel with Pl. Rep. and Phaedr. 255d5 etc. understood the verb in the sense of contracting the infection of asebeia as a disease. Schöpsdau, however, believes that ton asebon in 910b6 refers to the person of the impious; therefore the verb must be referred "nicht auf die Asebie, sondern auf die göttliche Strafe für Asebie" (italics of the A.). The adverb "rightly" referring to the entire city would confirm that it is a "Kollektivstrafe". Saunders 1991, pp. 313-314, assimilates the behaviour of the 'impulsive' (or 'infantile') impious and of the 'convinced' impious ('heinous', as Saun­ 190

Plato, Lg. 910: What Impiety?

ders calls them), in the sense that in both cases private sanctuaries are founded. Only that the heinous of the second category attract divine wrath through the following behaviors: "(i) by 'secreting' these things too 'in their actions; (ii) by founding shrines and altars in private dwellings; (iii) by intending secretly to make the gods propitious by sacrifices and prayers; (iv) by [thus?] increasing their injustice to infinite ". With respect to (i) it may be observed that from the text of 909e - 910a it does not appear that sacred installations and rituals founded by the 'impulsive' wicked are secret; with regard to (ii): it is not certain that even the 'impulsive' impious do not erect altars in their private homes; with regard to (iii): the acts performed inside the house are in themselves 'secret' as opposed to the acts performed in public sanctuaries; regarding (iv): Saunders argues that making impious speeches is already injustice; putting them into practice by founding private sanctuaries "is injustice on 'infinite' scale" (314), an explanation that seems to me to be quite bizarre. Furthermore, by setting the exegesis of the passage in this way, the Platonic norm loses any mean­ ing: according to Saunders the difference in the sanction that affects the former with respect to the latter would be due to a psychic attitude, of which however in 909 and - 910 there is no trace (and moreover Saunders himself, p. 315, "Problem 8", acknowledges that the assimilation of the two categories of the 'infantile' and of the 'convinced' impious to the two subcategories of heretics, those who do not believe in the existence of gods and those who consider them disinterested in human destiny, is not evident). Saunders therefore believes that the law prohibiting private sanc­ tuaries has two purposes: 1) to prevent the exercise of a private religiosity that could weaken the prestige and effectiveness of public cults; 2) to dis­ courage a 'commercial' conception of relations between men and gods. On the first point, Saunders may be right (perhaps an economic reason could be added: neglecting the exercise of religiosity in public places of worship could reduce their income); on the second point the interpretation of him does not seem to me to be shared, also in light of the complex meaning that the non-corruptibility of the gods seems to have. In a brief mention of his Introduction (p. CXCV), Gernet argues that the law against private sanctuaries intends to proscribe "tous les cultes qui s'abritent dans des maisons privées, ... toute adoration individuelle ou en petit comité - toute religion de confrérie ". In such generic terms it does not make an effective contribution to the interpretation of the Platonic text. Nothing new is contained in the short comment in Cleary 2001, p. 138, which paraphrases the text of 910b in these terms: “Another reason given is that [the law] prevents the third type of impious man from acting 191

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fraudulently by setting up shrines and altars in private houses. Of course, they are doing so for gain in the hope of propitiating the gods privately by sacrifices and vows, thereby gaining some advantage over other citizens. The Athenian insists that such impiety has dire consequences not only for these people themselves but also for their fellow citizens. It is not very clear what Plato has in mind here, though the most obvious traditional meaning is connected to the notion of pollution ", which will cause divine punishment to the detriment of the family and the entire city. Interpreted in this way, the case described at 910b would not differ at all from that provided for by the general law formulated at 909d-e.

References Brisson L. – Pradeau J. F. (2006). Platon. Les lois, I-II. Paris: Flammarion. Cleary, J. J. (2001). The Role of Theology in Plato’s Laws. In: F. Lisi (ed.) Plato’s Laws and its Historical Significance (pp. 125-142). Sankt Augustin: Academia. Gernet, L. (1951). Introduction aux Lois de Platon. Les Lois et le droit positif (p. XCIV ss.). Paris: Les Belles Lettres. Graf, F. (1991). La magie dans l’antiquité gréco-romaine, Paris: Les Belles Lettres (tr. it. Ferrara degli Uberti, La magia nel mondo antico. Bari: Laterza). Graf, F. (2005). Fluch und Verwünschung, in Thesaurus cultus et rituum antiquorum (ThesCRA), III, 6.g, (pp. 247-270) Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum. Lambrinoudakis, V. (with Sgouleta, Z. & Petrounakos, S.) (2005). Consecration, Foundation rites, VI B, in Thesaurus cultus et rituum antiquorum (ThesCRA), III, Addendum to vol. II (pp. 303-346), Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum. Mayhew, R. (2008). Plato: Laws 10. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Morrow, G. R. (1960). Plato’s Cretan City. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Saunders, T. J. (1991=1994). Plato’s Penal Code.Oxford: Clarendon Press. Schöpsdau, K. (2012). Nomoi. Buch VIII-XII, Platon Werke IX.2. Übersetzung und Kommentar. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Zadro, A. (1971). Platone. Leggi (tr.). Bari: Laterza.


Plato: The Pervasive Nature Of The Divinity And The Importance Of Religion In The Polis Maurizio Migliori

Abstract This paper starts from two premises: 1) the Platonic concept of “written games”; 2) the differences between the ancients and us on religion. The article shows Plato's ambivalent attitude about the evaluation of Greek religion. On the one hand, he does not believe in a pantheon of conflicting gods, on the other hand, he often seems to share the traditional view of divinity. But the most relevant theme is the onto-cosmological elaboration (Philebus and Timaeus). Many passages confirm 1) the action of a higher divine Cause, the Demiurge, and 2) the personal character of this Nous, which employs different materials as secondary causes in the light of the Good. Furthermore, these good deities take care of human beings; they must collaborate with the gods for the fulfilment of the order, which achieves the Measure and the Good. In its last section, the article empha­ sizes the Platonic multifocal approach: it is possible to interpret all things from both the divine and the human point of view, obviously with very different outcomes. This aspect emerges in relation to the nature of the laws, which are often full of defects, but which always depend on divinity and on the relationship with God and divinity.

Two Premises 1. How Plato writes To understand what Plato wrote, we must start from what he himself affirms in the Phaedrus and in the Seventh Letter 1) on the limits of philo­ sophical communication, and, 2) above all, of the written one. Without this attention there is a risk of not adequately reflecting on some of Plato’s


Maurizio Migliori

behaviours”.1 As it is not possible to adequately address the issue here2, I will list only some more important data. In the Phaedrus Plato explains the reasons why he decided to write as he does. 1) The text repeatedly states that Socrates loves both written and oral speeches. The philosopher even says that he is “ill” due to his passion for speeches (228B; cf. also 236E). 2) The text highlights the importance of the written word. Phaedrus is able to memorize Lysias’s speech only because the author has given him the text; Socrates twice asks Phaedrus to read again the text from the beginning (262D-E); Socrates can also stop Phaedrus reading and then ask him to read again (263E); this is possible because the written word is always available3. 3) Socrates claims to have learned from the ancient poets (235C3). This was only possible by reading their texts. 4) He affirms that powerful men also love writing with reference to the judgment of posterity (257D-258C) i.e. we write for our contempo­ raries, but also (and perhaps especially) for posterity. In fact, unlike oral communication, the written text persists. 5) Plato displays the characteristics that are necessary for a good speech: a) to know the truth about the topic; b) to not despise the “formal” elements, elaborated by rhetoricians4 (264c); c) lastly, to know the nature of the soul to which the speech is directed, to make a simple speech to a simple soul, a complex one for a complex soul (277b-c). Then Socrates focuses on the problem of “writing”: It remains only to deal with the advisability or not to write, under what conditions it is beautiful and under what conditions it is not appropriate to do so (274b6-7).

1 More generally, we can say that in many cases Plato seems to want to make issues more difficult for readers. Even the ancients had noticed this aspect; for example: «Plato employs a variety of terms in order to make his system less intelligible to the ignorant people» (D.L., III, 63, 1-2). 2 Cf. M. Migliori, Il disordine ordinato. La filosofia dialettica di Platone, 2 vv., Morcel­ liana, Brescia 2013, pp. 25-190; cf. also M. Migliori, Platone 2017, pp. 23-54. 3 In short, only a reflection on written texts has allowed the birth and the develop­ ment of rhetoric: to elaborate rules it is necessary to have something stable and analyzable, and this is only possible with a written text. 4 As L. Robin (Platon, Phèdre, texte établi et traduit par L. Robin, Les Belles Lettres, Paris 1930, p. CLXI) observes, Plato quotes a dozen rhetoricians, although using very generic expressions (cf. 258d, 266c, 271a, 272c, 273a, 273c, 277d).


Plato: The Pervasive Nature Of The Divinity And The Importance Of Religion

The issue is addressed on the basis of a myth (274 c ff.) about the god Theuth. He invented writing, and he praises it as an aid to wisdom and memory for all men, but the Pharaoh takes the contrary view and illus­ trates all the limitations of this medium. Writing does not strengthen, but weakens memory, because people, trusting in the written text, will no longer exercise it. Besides, they will get used to relying not on what they have inside, but on outside signs. Finally, writing does not offer true knowledge, but only the appearance of it (275a; 276c). Worse still, writing has serious limitations, because it seems alive but it is not (275d-e): it is un­ able to answer and it always repeats the same thing; it does not know how to defend itself, but it always needs its author (275e; 276c); it “rolls” into the hands of anyone, either worthy or unworthy. In brief, only a naive per­ son can think to pass or receive some stable knowledge through written words (275c; 277d). It seems like a condemnation without remedy, but it is not. Indeed, Socrates adds that there is another speech, “legitimate brother” of the written one, the oral discourse that is better and more powerful (276a). Oral discourse is the speech of those who know, a living and animated speech of which the written one can be said, with good reason, to be an image (εἴδωλον) (276 a 8-9). There is a relationship of connection and opposition. We have to accept the evident weakness of the written word without turning it into a con­ demnation: it is a more fragile and weaker brother that should be taken care of. Plato tries to address the problem by the invention of the “written game”. In short, the philosophy writer must not write the “things of greater value”,5 but provoke the reader with allusions, tricks, omissions, problems and other inventions, in order to force him to “do” – not only to learn – philosophy, which is to say, to think in order to respond to the problems that the text imposes. Plato thus confirms that he is a follower of Socrates: he tries to keep in the written words the educational attitude of his master. This choice (to not explain everything, but to proceed by allusions, provocations etc.) leads him to define this activity as a “game”: The philosopher

5 For reasons of space, I renounce showing how the Seventh letter confirms this conception. I just mention a particularly explicit sentence: «There is no writing of mine about these matters, nor will there ever be one» (οὔκουν ἐμόν γε περὶ αὐτῶν ἔστιν σύγγραμμα οὐδὲ μήποτε γένηται, 341c4-5).


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does not write seriously (σπουδῇ) with black water, sowing this knowl­ edge using a straw, with speeches that cannot defend themselves dis­ cursively and which cannot properly teach the truth (τἀληθῆ διδάξαι) [...] But he, it seems, will sow them in the gardens of writing and he will write, when he writes, as a game (παιδιᾶς) (276c7-d2). The writing game becomes the principal characteristic of the philosopher. The philosopher is one who thinks that in a written discourse on any subject there is necessarily a large part of game (παιδιάν), and that no discourse worth of great seriousness (σπουδῆς) has ever been written in verse or prose (277e5-8).6 All written texts are only “games”, but not futile, on the contrary useful. Plato says that they are so important that we can dedicate all our life to them (276d-e). It is unlikely that he wrote this without thinking of the many dialogues that he had already written.

2. The conception of the divine Before addressing the issue of the relation between humanity and divinity, it is worth recalling that we find ourselves in a field where the rift between us and the ancients is really wide, as is shown by the very impossibility of adequately translating the Greek term τὸ ὅσιον. This does not at all correspond to “holiness”, the term we are “forced” to use. The fact is that our thought and language have been shaped by centuries of Christianity, which have radically altered the approach to the issue. The key problem in the pagan world is to put human beings in touch with divine beings.

6 What is the difference between a philosopher who writes about mathematics or politics, and the mathematician or politician who write things apparently similar? If anyone «has composed these works knowing the truth and being able to come to their aid when he is challenged on the things he wrote, and if speaking he is able to demonstrate the weakness of the writing, he must not be called by a name derived from those [the themes that he addresses], but by what he is dedicated to ... To call him “wise”, Phaedrus, seems excessive and proper only for a deity, but “lover of wisdom” (philo-sopher) or something similar, would be more appropriate for him and more moderate» (278C4-D6). Therefore, the defining characteristics of the “philosopher who writes” consist not only in the knowledge of the truth and in the capacity to aid the written word, but also and above all in the capacity to demonstrate orally its weakness.


Plato: The Pervasive Nature Of The Divinity And The Importance Of Religion

In brief, the problem is to identify and/or build a bridge between two different worlds. We can assume an action by the gods and we can posit prayers and sacrifices that reach the Divinity, persuading it to adopt a benevolent attitude. Be that as it may, we find ourselves in a mysterious field, not bound – and therefore not reassured – by anything, a field almost impossible to approach rationally. We find ourselves in the presence of a range of traditions that conflict with one another – for instance, even on the issue of the birth of individual deities. The least irrational thing to do, then, is to adopt a syncretistic approach, leaving the door open for further integrations, down to the acceptance of the “unknown god”. The situation is radically different in the Christian context. We have sacred texts, which is to say “revealed” ones, which provide a canon the be­ liever must necessarily deal with. These texts can and must be interpreted, but never be either directly or indirectly rejected.7 In this case, at least on the theoretical level, mediation between the human and the divine sphere is not a problem, as there is a God-man as the mediator, and hence saviour. In brief, the bridge is not to be built, as it already exists, but it must be crossed, so to speak. Therefore, “holiness” presents itself as “imitatio Christi”, something for which no parallel is possible to find in the pagan world.

3. A binary model Although many scholars are reluctant to deal with the divine figure in dialogues, the Platonic God is pervasive because he operates at all levels of reality. We must therefore verify his presence at all levels - something I cannot do here. One very relevant theme is the onto-cosmological one, which is particularly preeminent in the Philebus and Timaeus.8.Let us set out from the basic level of the evaluation of religious practice. An ambiva­ lent attitude is evident in this field. On the one hand, Plato does not be­ lieve in a pantheon of gods in mutual conflict: from Apology 6a-c onwards, he always opposes this view of the gods; on the other hand, in the Apology the author shows that his position cannot be traced back to that of the

7 Evidently, this can give rise to dramatic clashes, based on one orthodoxy condemn­ ing another because it denies “the truth” of a text. 8 An adequate analysis of these texts would lead us off course, given the socio-politi­ cal focus of this paper. However, we cannot simply skip these texts, because they help bring out some elements that cannot be ignored. To deepen this topic, cf. Migliori 2013, pp. 493-703.


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natural philosophers, since he believes that the Sun and the Moon are gods (26d). This might seem like a characteristic of the historical Socrates, but even in the Laws Plato puts forward an astronomical reflection from a religious perspective and explicitly criticises the dominant conception. The Greeks maintain that, out of respect, one should refrain from investigating the highest god and the cosmos as a whole (τὸν μέγιστον θεὸν καὶ ὅλον τὸν κόσμον, 821a2); instead, it is right to investigate in order to gain correct information and not make any mistakes when performing prayers and sacrifices, so as to avoid being blasphemous by spreading erroneous interpretations of such things, which might offend the gods (822c). More­ over, in the Apology (27d) Socrates adopts a traditional perspective about daemons, who are born of gods and nymphs (or other mothers), and expresses complete trust in the Oracle of Delphi, that leads him to embark on a long quest. It would take too much time to list the many instances in the dialogues that confirm this binary model. I only wish to recall Socrates at the mo­ ment of death. He had received the order to compose poetry from Apollo and believed he could fulfil it by practising philosophy. Seized by doubt, in prison he wrote a hymn for the god and set Aesop's fables to verse (Phd. 60d-61b). This is his swansong: just as swans, birds sacred to Apollo, are soothsayers and sing on the day of their death, rejoic’ng in view of the bliss of Hades, so Socrates, a companion to the swans in their service to the same god, that has given him too the gift of divination, believes that he ought to leave this life with as much joy as them (Phd. 85b).

4. The role of the divine Cause In this field Plato shares the same attitude as his master, who was accused of not acknowledging the gods of the city and of introducing new deities. Likewise, Plato in many ways shows that he does not appreciate tales about the gods, yet at the same time he displays what may be described as a “religious” sensibility. This is illustrated by certain cursory passages, such as that in which Socrates asks whether the world depends on chance or on the action of a god, to which Protarchus replies: It is not at all the same thing, my dear Socrates. For the alternative you have laid out does not seem to me to be respectful of the gods. But the assertion that the Intelligence orders all things is worthy of the spectacle of the world, of sun, moon, stars, and the whole revolving


Plato: The Pervasive Nature Of The Divinity And The Importance Of Religion

universe; I can never say or think anything else about these issues (Phlb. 28e1-6). Likewise, when the problem of the action of the Demiurge is raised, the hypothesis that the Divinity is not good cannot be taken into the consider­ ation: if this world is beautiful and the demiurge good, it is plain that the latter fixed his gaze on the eternal model; but if it is not so – which is something that cannot legitimately be affirmed – he fixed his gaze on the generated one (Tim. 29a2-4). At this stage, if we draw upon the outcomes of the cosmological analysis – which I cannot illustrate here – two elements may be seen to emerge. The first element is Plato’s view of reality: then it would be better to say, as we have often said, that in the all there is a plentiful Unlimited [Apeiron] and a sufficient Limit [Peras], and, above them, a by no means feeble Cause which orders and ar­ ranges years and seasons and months, and may most rightly be called wisdom and intelligence [sophia and nous] (Phlb. 30c3-7). This passage, which confirms the existence of a higher divine Cause, is developed along an ontogonic trajectory whose meaning is later explicitly laid out: Now do not think, Protarchus, that I made this speech in vain; it in­ stead supports those who declared in the past that the Intellect [Nous] always rules the universe (Phlb. 30d6-8). The second element is the personal character of this Nous. The first cosmo­ logical exposition in the Timaeus (29e-47e) is based on the action of the Demiurge, who has used the Ideas as a paradigm; thus, he has actualized their potency (28a) and has fashioned the cosmos, of which he is the maker and father (28c). Plato assigns this divine cause the functions of reasoning (30b1; 34b1), thinking (32c8), producing (34b3; 34c1), speaking (41a5; 41d4), wanting (29e3; 30a2; 30d3; 41a8; 41b2), and being happy about its work (37c7). The Demiurge is good (29a3, 29e1); in fact, he is the best of all causes (29a5-6), so much so that he wants the world to be as similar to him as possible (29e3); therefore, he gives it a soul and intelligence, fashioning a cosmos which is itself divine (34a-b). To accomplish this, the Demiurge took the matter that was moving in a disorderly fashion, according to no rules, and gave it order, deeming this better than disorder (30a3-6). The Demiurge employs many different


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materials as secondary causes, which are used in the light of the Good to fulfil the idea of the best as far as possible (46c7-d1). So, in accordance with a likely account, we must say that this living cosmos, endowed with soul and intelligence, has truly been generated according to the providential plan of the Divinity (30b6c1). The second cosmological exposition is based on Necessity, which is to say, on the interplay of material causes, and is “added” (παραθέσθαι, 47e5) to the previous one, which considered the actions of the Nous. But in this second exposition the divine figure is not at all suppressed or left out of the picture; in fact, it is explicitly mentioned in eight important passages, especially emphasising that 1) prior to divine intervention there is no order (53b4); 2) the Divinity has accomplished these things in the best possible way (53b6) and 3) it has governed Necessity, as far as this is possible9.

5. The divine soul The existence of the divine Nous becomes relevant in the light of an element which emerges from the required multifocal evaluation of man, who on the one hand is made up of body and soul, on the other hand finds “his true being” in the soul, or rather in its divine and immortal part. Plato addresses this issue in the First Alcibiades. People ignore that we can know what is good or bad for us only by the knowledge of ourselves (131a-b; 133c-e). The Delphic maxim “Know thyself” requires us to know the soul; but “one’s true self” lies in the rational part, which is not “the whole of oneself”, but the part that qualifies it and reveals its nature. There is a process: to known himself the human being (made up of body and soul) must gaze at his own soul, and the soul must gaze at the best part within itself. This process brings us face to face with a higher reality, a soul that is similar to God (133b10). In fact, there is nothing more divine in us than that part of the soul in which knowledge and thought are located (133c):

9 It would be necessary to further investigate the matter and to show that this view of the Divinity is also confirmed in other dialogues, but this is not the time to do so.


Plato: The Pervasive Nature Of The Divinity And The Importance Of Religion

this is similar to God, and whoever looks at this comes to know all that is divine, both God and thought (θεόν τε καὶ φρόνησιν), and will gain thereby the best knowledge of himself (133c4-6). But if the Divinity is a Nous endowed with personal characteristics and if man has a divine and immortal nous in his tripartite soul, it is possible to establish a sort of analogia entis. This explains why Plato often discusses simultaneously divine and human choices, so much so that the final inves­ tigation of the Philebus, a dialogue on the good and happy life, seeks to determine what is best for human beings and for the gods (65b). In fact, in the Laws too it is stated that the truth is the highest of all goods for the gods, the highest of all goods for human beings: let partake of it from his earliest days he who purposes to become blessed and happy, so as to spend his life in the truth for most of the time (730c1-4). Ultimately, the established connection entails two consequences: the “good and just” Divinity takes care of human beings; the “good and just” human beings are concerned with being “friends of the gods”. Already in the Apology the gods’ concern is stated explicitly (41c-d) and the whole mode of acting of Socrates is presented as a response to a divine order. This connection is emphatically confirmed in a late dialogue such as the Theaetetus: the Divinity has forced Socrates to act as a midwife, forbidding him to procreate (150c-d). Earlier a mention is made of a shared action: only those “to whom God have granted it” can make any progress (150d); Plato then makes it explicit that the Divinity and Socrates have a joint responsibility in the maieutic process (150D8-E1). It might seem that this is an exclusive feature of Socrates or of philosophers. But we will soon see how the virtue of “holiness” implies precisely some form of collaboration on man’s part with regard to the aims the Divinity has set itself. Moreover, also in this dialogue Plato repeatedly claims that gods take care of human beings and that nothing bad can happen to those who are good. He accuses people of not knowing that no god is hostile to human beings (151c8-d1) and that the Divinity is not at all unjust, in any respect (176b8).

6. Poetry and prophecy In its different forms, this care is directed towards all human beings, whom the gods address by various means. One of these means is poetry:


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all (Ion 533e5) poets are possessed like the bacchants. Plato formulates this idea through a radical position: In fact, a poet is a light, winged and sacred thing, and is unable to make poetry before being inspired by the divinity and being out of his mind and no longer having the intellect within himself. Every man, whilst he retains possession of it, is powerless to write verses and prophecies (Ion 534b3-7). We find the same association with prophecy in the Apology, where Socrates concludes with regard to poets; that they did not do what they did by wisdom, but by a certain nature and by divine inspiration, like a diviner and prophet (Ap. 22b9-c2). It not by chance, therefore, that in the Phaedrus the inspired poet is as­ signed the first place, along with the philosopher, in the cycle of reincarna­ tions; the soul that has seen the most shall enter into the seed of a man who will become or a lover of sophia [philo-sophos], or a lover of beauty, or a friend of the Muses and expert about love (248d2-4). Instead, the non-inspired verse-writer is ranked sixth, along with those who deal with imitation. The strange thing is that the diviner and the person initiated into the mysteries are only ranked fifth. But the divination is so important that in the dialogues we find over 200 occurrences of man­ tis, manteuesthai and the like. In Eryximachus’ speech in the Symposium divination is what ensures communion (κοινωνία) between gods and men and produces (δημιουργός) friendship (φιλίας) between gods and men (188b-d). The reason for the place assigned to divination might be – as the character Euthyphro shows in the dialogue named after him – the fact that this gift from the gods can in no way be controlled: it is very difficult to trace a clear line between illusion, deceit and truth. It is nonetheless clear that the gods concern themselves with human beings, who must therefore draw certain consequences from this.


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7. The attitude of human beings In the Laws Plato repeatedly speaks out against those who uphold the idea of the gods’ disengagement: Let us persuade this young man by our discourses that the one who takes care of everything has ordered all things for the preservation and fulfilment of the whole, whereof each part, as far as it can, suffers and does what is proper to it. Each of these parts is under the control of rulers who constantly oversee even the smallest action or passion, and accomplish the ultimate aim down to the smallest detail (903b4-9). Divine care is therefore wide-ranging and concerns humanity as a whole, as well as every individual – although the emphasis is mostly on the for­ mer. Man must accept this holistic view, anchored in the essential relation between the whole and its parts: even you, wretched man, being a part, always tend to the all and aim for it, even though you are absolutely tiny. But on this you fail to think that every generation occurs in order that true happiness may be present in the life of the all, which does not exist for you, whereas you exist for that. In fact, every doctor and every expert craftsman always works in function of the whole and produces the part by striving after the highest common good, for the sake of the whole, and not the whole for the sake of a part. You complain because you ignore that what occurs is the highest good for the whole and even for you, by virtue of the power of the common generation (Lg. 903c1-d3). In fact, according to Plato, we must be under no illusion as to the possibil­ ities to act in real life both as individuals and as social group, because it is the circumstances that determine events: the effects produced by wars, famines, epidemics and natural disasters are felt for years and show our limits; therefore, we must acknowledge that the Divinity controls all human affairs and, along with it, chance and the favourable occasion. It must further be granted that these two are accompanied by a third factor, closer to us, which is the technique. For in the event of a storm, I believe that it is more advantageous to have the help of an expert captain than to not have it (709b7-c3). Man can act, yet only in a very limited way compared to the overall scale of the processes at work. This has certain consequences for the relation between the individual and the Divinity. “Holiness” is a part of justice, the one concerning the gods. Plato states this right from the Euthyphro. 203

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Socrates, in the face of Euthyphro’s incapacity to come up with an accept­ able definition, proffers a suggestion: while everything that is holy is also just, not everything that is just is also holy. Justice is a broader concept than holiness, which is a part of it, the one concerning the gods, distinct from the other part that deals with human beings (Euthphr. 11e-12e). This finds confirmation in the Gorgias: the wise man will do what is fitting as regards both gods and men; for he would not be wise if he did what was unfitting. … When he does what is fitting as regards men, he will perform just actions, and as regards the gods, holy ones; and he who does what is just and holy is necessarily a just and holy man (Grg. 507a7-b4). The same concept is proposed in Protagoras 331e4-6: justice coincides with holiness, or at any rate these are the most similar virtues. Holiness, there­ fore, achieves the just relationship with the Divinity. Given the ontological gap, this relationship is presented in the Euthyphro as being akin to that between servant and master. This raises a problem: if holiness consists in contributing to the divine plan, according to a relationship akin to that between servant and master, it is necessary to determine for what purpose the Divinity may resort to the service of man. As no answer is provided in the dialogue, we can attempt briefly to answer the question (leaving aside the reflection on the Good and on Measure) by considering a short passage from the Philebus: the goddess sees that indeterminate things are bad, that order is good, and that she can achieve it by means of limit; in such a way she imposes order and “saves” (26b-c). We can therefore hypothesise that holiness consists in the collaboration of virtuous men with the gods for the coming and accomplishment of order, which expresses the Measure and the Good. Such is the task of virtuous men, who follow in the steps of the Divinity, which is what blessedness consists in (Lg. 803c). Indeed, holiness is often included in the list of virtues in the dialogues, along with wisdom, wise temperance, courage, and justice. Therefore, the wise man must be a follower of the Divinity: And what conduct is friend and follower of the Divinity? One kind alone, expressed in one ancient maxim, namely that “like loves like”, provided it is according to right measure, whereas immoderate things neither love each other, nor are they loved by those measured. In our eyes, the Divinity will be the measure of all things in the highest degree, far more than man is, as they say. Therefore, he who wishes to


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become its friend must become, as far as he possibly can, similar to it (Lg. 716c1-d1). The Divinity is the model and we must look up to it, yet without inter­ preting this suggestion from a one-sided or absolute perspective. We must recall that it is always necessary to maintain the “right measure”; according to the text, he who wishes to become a friend of the Divinity must try to become as similar to it “as possible”; - Plato speaks of the “absolute” measure only in relation to God. This is confirmed by the contrast with Protagoras’ homo mensura: the ultimate criterion is not the individual, but divine wisdom – in other words, truth has an objective foundation. This relationship of dependence is to some extent implicit to the Greek keyword philo-sophia, as it is specifically defined in the Platonic system. It entails a mechanism of imitation with regard to the Divinity, who alone is sophos. We are also to interpret in this perspective the statement that “God is the measure for us”, which might seem strange considering that the Good serves as a “measure”. Indeed, the Divinity, who perfectly fulfils the Good and the Measure, constitutes a sort of model on the “personal” level. This results from what I have called the “analogia entis”. We must also interpret some strong texts in this perspective. For example, Tht. 176a8-b3: Therefore, we ought to try to escape from down here to up there as quickly as we can. To escape is to become like God, as far as this is possible (κατὰ τὸ δυνατόν); and this likeness is to become just and holy with thought (μετὰ φρονήσεως).

8. The platonic multifocal approach This is not at all a dramatic statement, if we bear in mind the reference to possibility and the presence of thought (phronesis). Similar considerations can be made with regard to other texts of this sort: The philosopher, who lives in harmony with what is divine and or­ dered, becomes ordered and divine, as far as this is possible for a human being (R. 500c9-d2). In sum, as in many other cases, an apparently absolute statement must be qualified in the light of what Plato himself claims (as far as this is possible, to the extent possible, as much as possible) and adopted as a “regulative idea”, a paradigm for just actions and a happy life. It must be recalled that Plato always adopts a multi-focal approach to the problems he addresses. He


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makes this clear in the Laws, the dialogue in which, as we have seen, truth is said to lie at the basis of a happy life for both men and gods: This is how I conceive of such matters: each of us, living creatures, is a wonderful puppet, crafted by God, either for amusement or for some serious purpose – we do not know it (Lg. 644d7-e1). In the light of this, Plato suggests that man lead his life according to that nature by which we are almost only puppets, who have a small connection with the truth (σμικρὰ δὲ ἀληθείας ἄττα μετέχοντες, 804b2-4). It might seem as though human life is of no worth, but the matter is immediately clarified: Marvel not, Megillus, but try to understand: for when I spoke thus, I was contemplating the Divinity and undergoing its influence. But, if you wish, let us grant that the human race is not worthless but deserving of some attention (Lg. 804b7-c1). Therefore, it is possible to interpret an element like life from either the divine point of view or the human one, obviously with very different outcomes. This is such a relevant point that Plato further clarifies it. So far we have spoken of what behaviour to adopt and of how every individual should be, and we have spoken almost exclusively about divine things, whereas we have not spoken of the more human aspects. So we must do so now: for we are discussing men and not deities. In nature it is proper to man to enjoy, suffer and desire, so it is necessary for every being who is living and mortal to be dependent on these things and suspended, so to speak, with the most serious worries. Therefore, in commending the noblest life, one should not only say that in its external form it is superior to all others with respect to the fame it procures, but also add that it is superior for those who seek pleasure and that it should not be avoided from youth, also in order to attain what we all seek: to rejoice as much as possible and suffer as little as possible throughout life (Lg. 732d8-733a4). This “human and concrete” vision leads to the compelling affirmation that undoubtedly, an unjust life is not only worse and ignoble, but in truth it is also more painful than a just and holy life (Lg. 663d2-4); therefore,


Plato: The Pervasive Nature Of The Divinity And The Importance Of Religion

that reasoning which does not separate pleasure from what is just, good and beautiful helps, if nothing else, to live a holy and just life. So any doctrine which denies this is, in the eyes of the lawgiver, most immoral and contrary to his action. For no one would voluntarily consent to be induced to commit an act, unless it involves as its consequence more pleasure than pain (Lg. 663a9-b6). Plato has few qualms here and goes so far as to justify deceit: Even if the case were different from what it has now been proved to be by our argument, and if a lawgiver who was quite able dared to deceive the youths for a good purpose, could any more useful and effective deceit than this be found to persuade each person to perform just actions, not under compulsion but willingly? (Lg. 663d6-e2). However, it is much better to entrust the gods with safeguarding this principle: let this be the principle: the identity between the most pleasant life and the most just has been established by the gods. Thereby we will be saying something most true and will be persuading those who need to be persuaded more than we could by formulating any other discourse (Lg. 664b7-c2). Indeed, in Plato it seems as though the whole system of laws is governed by the divine, right from the prosopopoeia of the Laws we find in the Criton.

9. The ambiguous nature of the laws This gives rise to an interesting ambiguity. On the one hand, Plato has no doubt as to opportuneness, or better to say need, to change the laws. This is made clear right from the start of the Laws, where Plato recalls that every nine years Minos would visit his father Zeus and impose new laws by following his words. Laws, then, are never everlasting and unchangeable, not even when they depend on the words of a god (624a-b). Indeed, the elderly are allowed to critically examine the laws, which is right because it is not dishonourable to acknowledge those things which are not beautiful (Lg. 635a7-8). No matter how carefully they have been laid down, laws must constantly be revised and perfected in view of the continuous betterment of the city:


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there will never be a lawgiver so foolish as to ignore that very many things must necessarily be left so imperfect that his successor must set them right, in order that, in the city he has founded, the constitution and order does not become worse, but always better (Lg. 769d4-e2). Therefore, future citizens and lawgivers are urged to judge the laws in a strict and coherent way: they must censure those laws which fail to accomplish their purposes (Lg. 771a1). All this is confirmed in the speech to the young: Dear saviours of the laws, in every department of our legislation we shall leave some gaps, for this is inevitable. Yet, as far as we can, we will not leave out important matters, as well as the general structure, but will provide an outline of it, so to speak. You will need to com­ plete the sketch (Lg. 770b4-8). As we can see, Plato's “utopian” idea is to foster a process of constant im­ provement of the laws and of the polis. At the same time, Plato repeatedly claims that the laws are valid and depend on the Divinity: In any case, it is important that our arguments prove convincing by affirming that the gods exist and that they are good, and honour justice much more than men do. Indeed, this would probably be the finest and best proem to all our laws (Lg. 887b5-c2). Therefore, the acceptance of the possibility of correcting the laws goes hand in hand with an “absolute” respect for them: it is right to forbid young people from criticising them, while it must be proclaimed that they are all beautiful because they have been given by the gods (Lg. 634e2). Consequently, in order to make any change, not only is the unanimous consent and consultation of everyone (including oracles) required, but the criterion is that, if there is anyone opposing the proposed change, his opinion should always prevail by law (Lg. 772d). This “prudence” certainly implies a polemical reference to a kind of practice which leads to the excesses of sectarianism: the experience of civil conflict has shown that victors always impose laws that express their own interests and convictions.


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In this case, total condemnation is voiced: But we now say that these are not constitutions and that those are not just laws which have not been established for the common good of the whole city. (715b2-4). The conception of the laws connected to the will of the stronger to pre­ serve his power (Lg. 714c-d) is traced back to a widespread cultural climate. In fact, some “wise men” believe that everything happens either by nature or by chance, and that art is only an ephemeral human product, something secondary which has nothing to do with the truth; as for politics, they say that it has little to do with nature and much with art, and likewise that also all law-giving is due not to nature but to art, and that the things it establishes are not true (Lg. 889d6-e1). This verdict is directly connected to a similar one expressed with regard to the Divinity: these people first of all say that the gods are the product of art, that they do not exist in nature but rather by certain laws, and that they vary from place to place, according to what the lawgivers in each place have agreed (Lg. 889e3-5). This link is no coincidence. According to Plato, in order to have laws worth respecting the human beings must not be influenced by wealth, power or nobility; instead, it is expedient and/or necessary to associate the laws with the will of the Divinity.

10. The relationship with God and with divinity As we have seen, the wise man will strive to become a follower of the Divinity, envisaged as the “highest” model to be imitated “as far as possi­ ble” (716c). Hence a judgement that leads us back to the Euthyphro: it is pointless for the impious to pray and offer sacrifices to the gods, whereas it is something opportune for those who are holy. Therefore, the Athenian Stranger speaks of the acts of worship that befit the gods and then demons, heroes and household deities (716d-717b). Plato does not condemn acts of worship but only wishes to avoid that the virtue of holiness may be reduced to them. Also in this case we must accept his multifocal approach. On the one hand, we have the kind of human and “earthly” evaluation that is proper


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to man, who is made up of body and soul and is therefore far from divine perfection: we assert this to be the thing worthy of the greatest consideration in our eyes: everyone should live his life in peace for as long as he can and in the best possible way. What, then, is the right way? We should live out our lives enjoying some games, sacrificing, singing and dancing, so as to be able to win Heaven's favour and to repel our foes and vanquish them in fight (Lg. 803d6-e4). On the other hand, a sensible man must take care of his soul, which is more valuable than the body (Rep. 591B7). He will not strive after bodily things alone, but he will always be found ensuring harmony in his body so as to create concord in his soul (591d1-3), insofar as he aspires to be a genuine musician and pursues the same order and concord in relation to riches and honours. Ultimately, from the point of view of the rational soul, that is our best part (604d5), we have to heed the argument according to which no human thing deserves serious attention (604c1). However, Plato seems conscious of the fact that his ethical/political suggestions are, if not unfounded or unlikely, at any rate not entirely per­ suasive. In Lg. 662a-c the Athenian manages to convince his audience that the evil man leads an unworthy life, but not that his life is bad and less still that it is detrimental to him. However, it seems evident to him that an unjust life is not only morally worse but also unhappier. As a lawgiver, he would be very harsh towards anyone who argued that there are evil men who live enjoyably, or that it is one thing to serve one's own interest and another to be just. Therefore, what we have is a somewhat “forced” solution. Significantly, therefore, some of Plato's major ethical/political works, like the Gorgias and Republic, end with an eschatological myth. If the happy life is a good life, and if the fulfilment of goodness is under the aegis of the divine, only the Divinity can ensure its complete and final attainment after death. However, it would be wrong to emphasise only the rift between the ethical ideal and its accomplishment, without noticing the constant pres­ ence of Platonic “hope”, which stands at the basis of its ideal of a commit­ ted life. There is only one choice that Plato proposes, and it is – and is intended to be – rational and valid for living as well as dying (Grg. 527e). In his view, the soul's destiny does not replace but rather crowns and completes life. We can refer here to what Socrates states in the Apology. 210

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While constantly claiming not to know, he addresses these final words to the “true judges”: Indeed, the folk there are happier than the folk here and, moreover, they are always immortal, if what we are told is true. But you too, judges, must regard death hopefully and must think that one thing is true, namely that no evil can come to a good man either in life or in death. The things that concern him are not neglected by the gods (Ap. 41c4-d2). Divinity takes care of man both in life and in death: this is the true guarantee that lies at the basis of hope. Without this element, the great myths of the Gorgias and Republic would remain inexplicable.

References: Migliori, M. (2013). Il disordine ordinato. La filosofia dialettica di Platone, 2 vols. Brescia: Morcelliana. Robin, L. (1930). Platon, Phèdre, texte établi et traduit par L. Robin. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.


Naming God as “King” and the Figure of the Legislator in Plato’s Cratylus Jakub Jinek

Abstract Socrates’ hints about the hidden metaphysics of principles underlying the names of the highest divine triad Zeus–Cronus–Ouranus in the Cratylus helps to solve the main political issue of the dialogue, which concerns the proper use of the title “king”. The link to metaphysics shows, on the one hand, the impossibility of a hereditary transfer of “kingly” rule among hu­ man beings, thus confirming contemporary widespread skepticism about kingship, On the other hand, it helps to identify exceptional persons who, by virtue of their nous, are the true heirs to divine rule and can thus become philosopher-kings. Keywords: world soul; nous; Platonic metaphysics of principles; lawgiver; philosopher-king.

1. Introduction In dealing with the names of gods in a well-known passage of the dialogue Cratylus (391–411), Plato at first follows a traditional path: starting from the names of gods, he tries to reach the nature of God by inference. The works of poets, especially Homer and Hesiod, the most prominent among them, were paradigmatic to this type of questioning. Significantly, however, Plato endeavours to transform the traditional discourse of divine names into a philosophical doctrine. He develops a theology of the names of gods as a rational inquiry into the level of reality which can be denoted by the adjective “divine” (θεῖος).1 This discipline treats the divine as an appropriate name for the highest metaphysical principles. In this text I would like to examine the metaphysical-theological doc­ trine that forms the background of the theory of divine names in the

1 Cf. Empedocles DK 31 B 29, B 31; Diogenes of Apollonia DK 64 B 5, B 7; Plato, Rep. 500c9, 517d4; Aristotle, Metaph. XI, 7,1064a36-b1; XII, 7,1072b14-30.


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Cratylus and bring out its political consequences. I want to concentrate pri­ marily on two political-philosophical problems: firstly, on the legitimation of royal rule, which is based on an analogy with the rule of God, who was traditionally given the title of “king”, and secondly on the question of the role of the lawgiver and his relationship with the king.

2. Homeric names Plato’s starting point in discussing the correctness of names and, in partic­ ular, of the names of gods, is traditional insofar as it is represented bythe exegesis of Homer.2 A linguistic-philosophical principle is taken from Homer’s Iliad, according to which the correctness of the naming process depends on the rank of the person giving the name. This principle goes back to the semantic theory presented earlier in the dialogue, which pre­ sented the figure of “the creator of the name” (ὀνοματουργός) and assigned him the title “lawgiver” (νομοθέτης, 388e–390e). Socrates’ interpretation of Homer now results in two polar oppositions between name givers: that between gods and humans (391d4–6) and – analogously for the human level (s. ἀνθρωπινώτερον, 392b4) – between men and women, with the former having priority in each case. However, both oppositions prove to be extremely problematic for the solution of the question of the correctness of the naming. In the first case, the difference between humans and gods is illustrated by the obviously contingent naming variants of various banal objects3 and pompously pro­ claimed as “something sacred” (σεμνόν τι, 392a1). In the first line, though,

2 This occurs at the dramatically important passage of the dialogue in which Socrates first summarizes the previous “joint investigation” (the name has “a cer­ tain natural correctness, and that not every man knows how to give a name well to anything whatsoever”, 391a; transl. H. N. Fowler), and now asks about the correct­ ness of the specific names. But since the “most correct investigation” (ὀρθοτάτη τῆς σκέψεως, 391b9), i.e. to be instructed by the sophists for money, is excluded for Hermogenes for financial reasons, Socrates suggests a more popular solution: to be instructed by Homer and other poets (391c f.). The following exegesis of Homer and Hesiod is therefore designed as a – comically travestied – δεύτερα πλοῦς (cf. Phd. 99c9 f.). 3 River: Xanthos – Skamanthos; bird: Chalkis – Kyminis (cf. Aristophanes, Av. 1181); Hill: Batieia – Myrinê. The banality of the distinction is reminiscent of Socrates’ usual references to “his teacher” Prodikos (Crat. 384b4; Meno, 96d7), who was the originator of various – and from the Platonic point of view insignificant – distinctions between words (Euthd. 277e4; Charm. 163d4; Meno, 75e3).


Naming God as “King” and the Figure of the Legislator in Plato’s Cratylus

the thesis of the primacy of the gods as name givers fails because of the fact that, especially in the passages in the Iliad, in which the name differences under discussion make their appearance, the gods are assigned enormously problematic actions: either they lie (Il. XIV,291), or they quarrel with one another (Il. XX,67 ff.). This loss of authority is reminiscent of the criticism of poetic theology in Book II of the Politeia, in which it is precisely these problematic characteristics, i.e. mendacity and disunity, which are system­ atically denied of God (Rep. 376c–383c). The second Homeric opposition between women and men fails, first, because of the lack of credibility of the construction, according to which it is men who call Hector’s son “Astyanax”, while women “Skamandrios”.4 This juxtaposition, which is based on a sweeping judgment about women as a sex,5 which contradicts the probably authentic Socratic-Platonic pos­ ition of Book V of the Politeia (456a–b), seems to belong more to the arse­ nal of Aristophanic comedy, which frequently makes use of the opposition between men and women as a dramaturgical and, indeed, comical device (cf. Aristoph., Eccl. 214–228, 441–454). Secondly, this judgment is based on an error that stems from the incorrect recollection of the Homeric text, a mortal sin for every hermêneus: in truth, Hector himself is the author of the name Skamandrios (see Homer, Il. VI,402 f.; cf. XII,506).6 When Socrates then asks the question about the reason (διὰ τί, Crat. 392d11) of the correctness of the alternative Astyanax, he makes it clear that he himself does not consider the men–women criterion to be entirely correct. The reason for the correctness of the name Astyanax is finally found – with the help of a quote from the Iliad (XXII,507) – elsewhere: in the fact that the boy can be called “city ruler” (Ἀστυάναξ), i.e. ruler (ἄναξ) of that (τούτου, i.e. the city, ἄστυ) (Crat. 392e2–3) which his father (Hector) protected. Does this mean that rule over the city is inherited by the son solely on the ground of the merits of the father – regardless of how

4 Socrates asserts, in agreement with Hermogenes, that because (1.) the wiser can give more correct names than the unwise (φρονιμωτέρους ἢ τοὺς ἀφρονεστέρους, 392c3–4), (2.) men are wiser in the city than women, and (3.) the name Astyanax is used by “the Trojans” (ὑπὸ τῶν Τρώων), i.e. by the men, and Skamandrios then “probably by the women”, the name Astyanax seems to be more correct. 5 In addition to this general presupposition – in the previous note under (2.) – the literal interpretation of the name “the Trojans” as “the men from Troy” (above under 3.) is responsible for the unviability of the entire argument. 6 The fact that Hector, i.e. a man, is the author of an incorrect name can be read as further reason for the wrongness of the previous sweeping judgement but also as an indirect indication of the constant validity of the Socratic-Platonic thesis from the Republic about the equality of both sexes in terms of intellectual prerequisites.


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the son himself will behave? On Socrates’ interpretation, Homer seems to want to say more. Having given both men two names, both of which can be associated with the adjective “royal” and meaning almost the same thing, ruler (ἄναξ) and holder (ἕκτωρ, 393a–b),7 Homer seems to expect from the son what the father has achieved. It is noteworthy, however – and everyone familiar with the background plot of the Homeric poems is aware of it – that Hector and his son failed precisely in the respect that was stated to be decisive for the correct transfer of the name. Neither Hector nor his son saved the city, and consequently they were unable to take possession of it permanently. Thus, from a purely objective point of view, they were not entitled to their names.8 Although Socrates does not express an explicit reservation about Homer on this point, his exegesis reminds every knowledgeable reader of the limits of poetical wisdom. The Homeric names may basically be true; however, they require a correct interpretation, just as the poet depends on the help of the philosophical hermêneus (cf. Plato, Lg. VII, 811c–e, 817a–d).

3. Genetic Synonymy The question raised in the further course of the dialogue can serve as the starting point for such an interpretation, namely under what conditions a being that originates from another being can be referred to by the same name. Socrates transposes this question into a principle that we can call the principle of the synonymy of the natural succession of the genera – or in short: the principle of genetic synonymy (cf. Ademollo, 2011, 160):9 a

7 In fact, in the verses discussed by Socrates, Homer even gives both men the very same name, “Astyanax” (Il. XX,500, 506). 8 At this point, the argument is also heavily affected by a hidden obscene comedy. The name Astyanax might have sounded ambiguous to the Greek, because its first part can also be derived from the vulgar Greek verb στύω, erect (cf. Aristophanes, Ach. 1220; Av. 557, 1255; Lys. 598, 989, 996), which, together with the alpha privative, could be understood as “impotence”, and Astyanax could then be inter­ preted as the “ruler of impotence”. See S. M. Ewegen, Plato’s Cratylus. The Comedy of Language, 103 n. In the context of the inheritance between father and son, which presupposes the ability to procreate, the comic effect is enormous. Behind the comedy, however, lies a serious message: since neither Hector nor Astyanax survived the war, and thus no genealogy can come from them, the poets are far from reliable as name-givers. 9 Speaking about a synonymy, we are not referring to a pure language problem; rather, it is a question of synonymy in the sense of Aristotelian Cat. 3.


Naming God as “King” and the Figure of the Legislator in Plato’s Cratylus

name can be “inherited” if the named is a natural descendant of a species of natural beings (τοῦ γένους ἔκγονον τὴν φύσιν, 393c1), e.g., lions, horses, bulls, humans, beech trees, etc. With this principle we leave the sphere of the purely poetic; its philosophical relevance for the realm of natural creatures is evident – and it is precisely in this context in which Aristotle also takes up this principle (Aristotle, Metaph. Z,7–9). Socrates extends its validity to everything (cf. καὶ τἆλλα ἅπαντα, Crat. 393c5), and thus grasps it as a cosmological principle. However, the further transfer of this principle to the political field is rather daring. Socrates now claims that according to the same principle (κατὰ τὸν αὐτὸν λόγον) the descendant of a king should also be called a king (393c9 f.). Such a thesis is of course difficult to accept, since the inher­ itance of the title of power is obviously based on factors other than those which apply in the case of the natural succession of the species: the king does father children, but he does so not as a king, but as a man. Socrates therefore warns his interlocutor against being deceived by him (393c8 f.). And immediately afterwards he adds an important clarification: The trans­ fer of names is not so much about the syllables and letters (393d1, 3; cf. 394b4–6), i.e., in Aristotelian terms, about the material substrate of mean­ ing (cf. σημαίνει), “as long as only the essence of the thing has power to reveal itself through the name” (ἕως ἂν ἐγκρατὴς ᾖ ἡ οὐσία τοῦ πράγματος δηλουμένη ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι, 393d3–4).10 So it is the essence (οὐσία) and not the linguistic matter that is responsible for the identical naming of two things; hence it seems to play a role similar to that of nature (τὴν φύσιν, 393c1) in the succession of natural creatures.11

10 This precise formulation makes a contribution to the semantic theory discussed earlier, which differentiated between the name and the essence of what is named (Crat. 388–389), and thus also to the overall picture of bipolar reality. 11 The transfer of the principle of genetic synonymy to the figure of the king and thus also the expansion of its force outside the sphere of the natural species is in­ tended by a further argument which Socrates now adds. The principle can be ap­ plied to the names which reveal the nature of the letters. The nature of βῆτα is indicated by the names of the other letters, in such a way that its components ἦτα, ταῦ and ἄλφα can be understood as elements of the more complex letters: just as Bêta arises from Êta, the latter arises from Tau and Tau again from Alpha. One can thus also observe a natural sequence of “creation” in the realm of the linguis­ tic stoicheia: the more complex arises from the elementary, of which it is a natural “descendant”. In this procedure one can see a method analogous to the process of elementarization in Platonic metaphysics. Cf. also 424b ff. and Gaiser, 1974, 81– 85, 107–110.


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So what is the identical essence of the king and his son, their same “nature”, which enables the name to be inherited? According to Homer, it consisted in his contribution to the protection of the city, i.e. in his merit as a city-saviour (see 392d–e), and Socrates now seems to be aiming to a similar direction. His comparison of the king with the good and noble person (ἐκ βασιλέως βασιλεύς, καῖ ἐξ ἀγαθοῦ ἀγαθός, καὶ ἐκ καλοῦ καλός, 394a2–3) indicates that it is the inner nature in the sense of virtue (ἀρετή) that makes the indentital nomenclature possible. In this form, the question of taking over the title “king” is posed much more reflexively than at the beginning: The question now is whether, in the case of preserving the same ethical and political character, i.e. the ethical and political aretê, the political title “king”, can also be preserved. At this point, Socrates arrives at a controversial question that has been asked frequently in the current political discussion. It is the question of bequeathing the good character traits of eminent persons in the city, espe­ cially the rulers, to their children. The classical thinkers were well-aware of the difficulty of such a bequeathing?.12 For Plato’s Socrates in our dia­ logue, however, the positive possibility of inheriting aretê along with the name is extremely important, at least as a hypothesis, because it confirms the principle of genetic synonymy in its general application (see again: καὶ τἆλλα πάντα, 394a3, similar to 393c5). So he summarizes the previous argument in a new formulation of the principle: “To those who are born in accordance with nature the same names should be given” (Τοῖς μὲν δὴ κατὰ φύσιν γιγνομένοις τὰ αὐτὰ ἀποδοτέον ὀνόματα, 394d2–3). Nevertheless, Socrates makes it clear here that the principle needs not apply without exception. He repeatedly mentions the case in which the transmission of nature does not succeed and the procreation results in a monster (τέρας, 393b9, 394a4, 394d9). In this case, the descendant, which actually belongs to a different genus, must be given a different name (394d). However, outside the biological context, the expression τέρας can mean “miracle”, i.e. a positive exception. Such an exception in the genus “human” is mentioned earlier in the dialogue: it is the figure of the “law­ giver” assumed by the semantic theory at 388e–390e, who is characterized as “the rarest among men” (σπανιώτατος ἐν ἀνθρώποις, 389a2). This rarity, which must logically be shared also by his supervisor, i.e. the dialectician (390c–d), reminds us of the characteristic of the true, “divine” philosopher

12 Plato, Men., 93c–94e; Prt. 324d–328d; cf. Lg. III,695e–696a; Aristotle, Pol. 1286b22–27; cf. 1285b14–22.


Naming God as “King” and the Figure of the Legislator in Plato’s Cratylus

which is repeatedly stressed in several Platonic works.13 We shall see that the connection of these three rare figures (lawgiver, dialectician and philosopher) is also important for the question of the transfer of royal rule.

4. Names of gods The previous line of argument is applied in the further course of the dialogue to the genealogy of the king Orestes and his ancestors. Socrates claims that their names were given correctly, but the principle of genetic synonymy does not apply to them at first: each subsequent generation has its own name and its own nature and the properties including character are not passed on. Since the names were at the same time attributed by mere chance (ἡ τύχη τῆς φήμης, 395e4–5; 394e), the etymologies cannot be taken as absolutely certain; indeed, they sometimes border on comedy (cf. e.g. Tantalos as “the hanging one”, 395d). The situation changes significantly with the transition to the gods (395e). From a formal point of view, Socrates only pursues the same mythological genealogy; nevertheless, the genetic succession of three di­ vinities, Zeus, Cronus and Ouranus, differs fundamentally from the previ­ ous ones, both in terms of the reliability of their naming and the actual transmission of nature from the father to the son. The seriousness of the current etymologies of the gods can easily be justified intertextually – at least for Cronus and Ouranus.14 “Zeus” is more than a name – it is a definition (λόγος)15 that only “by us” is broken down into two ὀνόματα: Zeus or Dis, whereby some use one, and others use the other “half”. But when put into one,16 the two reveal to us the true nature of God (συντιθέμενα δ᾽ εἰς ἓν δηλοῖ τὴν φύσιν τοῦ θεοῦ, 396a4–5), which – as Socrates adds with reference to the outcome of an earlier semantic discussion – “is just what we said a name should be able to do”. In other words, the duality of naming first arrives at its goal, which is

13 Plato, Rep. 497c1–3, 500d1, cf. 492e5, 540c2; Tim. 90a5–b1; Epist. VII, 340c3, Sph. 216b9–c2; Lg. 951b5, 966d1. 14 Cf. Plato, Lg. IV,714a; and Papyrus Derveni (see Hladký, 2012; Anceschi, 2007); Resp. VI,509d. 15 Λόγος is understood in the ontological theory of language and truth of the Sophist as the opposite of ὄνομα (Sph. 218b–c). The figure of the god Zeus thus connects the surface with the essence, outside with inside. 16 The connection of both aspects is understood as a “combination into one” (συντιθέμενα εἰς ἕν, 396a4–5).


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to reveal something that is different from the name itself, when it unites as one and becomes the real name.17 Both “names” of Zeus which are included in his logos18 represent two as­ pects of his nature: life (ζῆν) and the cause (δι’ ὅν) of life of all living be­ ings. So the cause of all life is an aspect of the nature of Zeus as the ruler and king of all. Life, on the other hand, which forms another aspect of his nature, is what is caused. Zeus’ nature, which is the same as his logos and which is revealed in his two names, seems to integrate both the cause and the caused. In Platonic cosmology, we find an entity which comprises the same two characteristics, namely its being the cause of every form of life and, all the same, the thing being caused (which, in a certain sense, in­ cludes everything), which is to say, the world soul (cf. Plato, Lg. 896a ff.; Tim. 30c ff.). It is noteworthy that association of the world soul with the figure of Zeus the King is not unknown elsewhere in Plato (see Phlb. 30c– 31a). The continuation of the genealogy shows that Zeus is the descendant of a great thought (μεγάλης τινὸς διανοίας ἔκγονον, Crat. 396b5). This designation is accurate, because – as the discussion of the name of his father further shows – “Cronus”19 means purity and unblemished nature of intellect (σημαίνει ... τὸ καθαρὸν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀκήρατον τοῦ νοῦ, 396b6–7). From these two utterances it follows that Cronus also has two names: As the procreator of the (world)-soul, he is dianoia, but in itself he is the pure nous. The correct nomenclature corresponds not only to the essence of what is named, but also to the genealogy: In the name dianoia the essence of father and son is combined; more precisely, the essence of the father (nous) is linked to the part-aspect of the essence of the son (cause: dia-). In this sense, there is a unity between father and son. In the forcefield of this unity, names recede completely into the background. It can be said that, insofar the names are absolutely accurate, they express the essence of the deity directly, without any intermediation. The cosmological role of Cronus is also well known from the other dialogues: he is the creative demiurgic intellect. The correctness of the “names” of both deities is given by the genetic-synonymous connection, which preserves the nature of the most elemental (nous is present in the dianoia and this in turn in the soul). This corresponds to the doctrine 17 Because the essence of a name is to be one (ἓν ὂν τὸ ὄνομα, 396b2–3). 18 The whole logos is the following: “the one through whom life comes to all living” (δι᾽ ὃν ζῆν ἀεὶ πᾶσι τοῖς ζῶσιν ὑπάρχει, 396b1–2). 19 Although he does not say this explicitly, Socrates probably sees behind him the genitive κοροῦ νοῦ, “of pure reason”; cf. Sedley, 2003, 91.


Naming God as “King” and the Figure of the Legislator in Plato’s Cratylus

of the Philebus, according to which the fourth genos (the cause) includes reason in all its appearances: the demiurgic nous, the reason of the world soul and human reason (Phlb. 29a–30c).20 Cronus’ father is Ouranus, “as it is told” (ὡς λόγος, 396b). The mention of the logos indicates that “Ouranus” is not a name in the usual sense either.21 In fact, it is more of an explanation, and indeed a complicated one, although seriously meant: The name οὐρανία denotes the “looking at the things above” (ἡ ἐς τὸ ἄνω ὄψις) which sees what is above (ὁρῶσα τὰ ἄνω), from where (ὅθεν) – as the experts say – the pure intellect comes (τὸν καθαρὸν νοῦν παραγίγνεσθαι, 396c2). That is why Ouranus rightly has his “name”. The pure nous is on the one hand the cause (δι’ ὅν) of the universe, on the other hand it is not original in itself, but also has its source (ὅθεν, 396c1), which corresponds to the father Ouranus. And while in the case of the two lower deities the correctness of their names and the father-son inheritance is an instance of genetic synonymy, in the case of Ouranus we can no longer even speak of synonymy, insofar as his “name” consists merely of a series of linguistic hints expressing the fact that the two lower deities depend on him: the relationship to them is therefore merely genet­ ic, not genetic-synonymous. This also makes tangible the exact point at which Platonic cosmology, which knows nothing higher than intellect, nous, passes over into meta­ physical considerations. Those interpreters (Sedley, 2003, 91; Ademollo, 2011, 192) who read the passage in an exclusively cosmological way under­ stand it as an assertion that the purity of (human) reason stems from astronomy, in the sense that astronomical discipline is a prerequisite for philosophy (see Rep. 527d–528a; Tim. 47b–c, 90c–d). However, this inter­ pretation is difficult to accept insofar as it presupposes a regress precisely at the highest level of reality: from the level of the pure nous – the originator of the world, a return is made to what is in truth a part of this world. It seems obvious that the passage requires a metaphysical reading. Moreover, Ouranus is by no means the last stage of this metaphysical consideration. Socrates indicates the existence of even higher (ἀνωτέρω) ancestors in the Hesiodic genealogy.22 When he says he doesn’t remember that last stage, it sounds almost ridiculous. It was well known, and so it is to this day, that the highest level of Hesiodic genealogy is represented

20 This synonymy is again closely related to genetic terminology (cf. Phlb. 25d3). 21 The name is rather the adjective οὐρανία, see 396b8–c1. 22 The genealogy has thus four parts: ψυχή – διανοία/νοῦς – ὅθεν/ἄνω – ἀνωτέρω.


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by Chaos and Gaia. So the reason for Socrates’ omission of the highest level can be, from a formal point of view, that the order of the previous genealogy is violated here: at the highest level we encounter not one, but two elements, of which, moreover, only the feminine, namely Gaia, is productive for the Zeus-Cronus-Ouranus genealogy. An indirect and unspoken reference to this feminine origin of divine genealogy is therefore an Aristophanic punchline, at which the highest level of reality is repre­ sented by the travesty of the sexes. Apart from the comedy, the couple Chaos and Gaia in Hesiod’s theogony represent a figure typical of Greek theological thought: the gods as well as the cosmic forces are divided into two polarized spheres, which are ruled either by Chaos or by Gaia, i.e. by a principle of infinity on the one hand and by a peratic principle on the other (Theog. 116 ff.; cf. Philipp­ son, 1944, 51–68). If we now concentrate on the peratic element and place Gaia at the highest level of the divine genealogy of the Cratylus, an interesting inter­ textual connection comes to mind. It is the hierarchy of entities from the end of the Platonic Philebos (66a–c), the first level of which is measure (μέτρον), moderation (μέτριον) and fitness (καίρον), the second level the proportion (σύμμετρον), beauty (καλόν), perfection (τέλεον) and sufficien­ cy (ἱκανόν), the third level intellect (νοῦς) and wisdom (φρόνησις) and the fourth level the faculties of the soul (on the last, fifth level there is pleasure, ἡδονή; see the appendix).23 The measure (μέτρον) corresponds systematically to the “accuracy in itself” (αὐτὸ τἀκριβές) in Plato’s Statesman (Plt. 284d2)24 or ἀνυπόθετον, i.e. the idea of the good in the Republic (Rep. VI,504b8–c4, 511b3–c2). If we dare also consider the indirect Platonic tradition, according to which on the highest level of reality there is not just one, but a pair of polar principles, whose interaction or mixture is responsible for γένεσις of the lower levels (Aristotle, Met. XIV,2,1089a2–6; Alexander of Aphrodisias, In Arist. Met. 56,13–35 Hayduck; cf. Phlb. 26d7–9), the theological picture of our passage of the Cratylus becomes complete in a manner that mirrors the most important part of Plato’s metaphysical doctrine, including its esoteric context. One of the most important aspects of this mirroring is the polarity of being, already reflected in the semantic theory presented earlier

23 It should also be remembered that precisely according to the Philebus, being is a result of a γένεσις (Phlb. 25b–26d). 24 It is important that τὸ μέτριον in the Statesman lies metaphysically on a lower level than αὐτὸ τἀκριβές, insofar as it “comes into being” (cf. Plt. 284c1).


Naming God as “King” and the Figure of the Legislator in Plato’s Cratylus

in the dialogue, which at our passage manifests itself both in the duality of the supreme deity and in the inner split of Zeus, who, as the lowest of the noetic deities, borders with – and also causes – other cosmic realities, trans­ mitting as it were his own duality to the whole universe.

5. The philosopher-king and the lawgiver What does all this mean for the question of the legitimate usage of the name “king”? This title pertains primarily to Zeus insofar as he represents the cause of the whole universe. He is also the last item in the genealogy based on the identity of the essence of the gods. In Socrates’ conception – and also in a complete departure from the traditional theology of poets – they represent a systematic connection in the sequence of Nous – Dianoia – Soul, i.e. a kind of noetic homogeneity, which corresponds to the aboveelaborated hypothesis that the genetic synonymy in the case of kings must be based on the inner state of soul. Although Socrates does not explicitly say whether Cronus can also be called king, according to the genetic principle this should actually be the case. In an interesting contrast to gods, the succession of human kings from Tantalus onwards presents – as we have already mentioned – a failure of genetic synonymy. Although they were all nominally kings, this fact certainly did not correspond to the state of their souls – they were all (with the possible exception of Agamemnon) known to the Greek public for morally problematic acts that also correspond to their – mostly dis­ honourable – etymologies.25 The comparison with the genealogy of gods indicates a clear fracture between human and divine rulers, whereby only the later can be called legitimate kings. The royal genealogy from Tantalus to Orestes seems therefore to con­ firm the skepticism that was widespread in the classical epoch with regards to succession of rulers within a family, and legitimizes as correct what is actually a negative exampleIn this situation the term τέρας plays a system­ atically central role. In the case of human rulers, deformity is no exception; an exception would rather be a good ruler. If such a thing occurs, then it would have to be viewed as a teras in the sense of a miracle – as a deviation from what is usually deformed. This corresponds precisely to the situation

25 Orestes: Rough mountains (τὸ ὀρεινόν); Atreus: The baneful (ἀτηρός); Pelops: Who only sees the near (πέλας); Tantalos: Hanging (ταλαντεία). From this point of view the names seem to be more or less correct.


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described in the other dialogues, in which the saving philosophical ruler enters the scene as a divine exception.26 He, too, must face skepticism from other citizens with respect to the possible royal rule (Rep. VI,487c ff., 498d ff.). The aspects of skeptical reception from others and of being an ex­ ception are the most important structural characteristics of the Platonic philosopher king. Such an exception is mentioned in two places in our dialogue.27 The first of them comes immediately after the passage about the names of gods, when Socrates changes the subject from gods to daemons (397d). With constant concentration on the ousia of the things discussed, he asks who the daemons are (τίνας εἶναι, 397e5 f.). The answer is situated in the histori­ cal perspective: the daemons can be identified with the first golden race that contrasts with the “present people” (οἱ νῦν, 398a8). From this group of the “present people”, however, “someone” (τις) can be separated who, based on his wisdom (see φρόνιμοι), might still be regarded as belonging to the golden race (398a–b). Socrates lays so much emphasis on the fact that naming such people as “daemons” is correct, that he supports this nomen­ clature once again with his personal authority.28 The traditional juxtaposi­ tion of people and gods, which failed already with the exegesis of Homer, is questioned here again: It is admitted that some people can be as intelli­ gent as the daemons (398a7).29 Thus, the figure of the philosopher-king does not seem absent even from the Cratylus. The theology of the names of gods shows that the true king in the given historical situation cannot arise on the basis of mere birth, but only on the basis of the rationality of his soul, which elevates him above the majority of people, and which makes him the true heir to the daemonic rule.30 The cognitive faculty represents the criterion of

26 See above, note 13. 27 Cf. already 386b, where Hermogenes admits that there are very few (μάλα ὀλίγοι) good people and that they differ from the bad in that they are wise (φρόνιμοι). 28 ταύτῃ οὖν τίθεμαι καὶ ἐγὼ πάντ’ ἄνδρα ὃς ἂν ἀγαθὸς ᾖ, δαιμόνιον εἶναι καὶ ζῶντα καὶ τελευτήσαντα, καὶ ὀρθῶς “δαίμονα” καλεῖσθαι. 398c1–3. 29 In a somewhat later passage, where Socrates again disavows his knowledge and refuses Hermogenes’ demand to address the other gods just as he did with Zeus (400d), he claims that we know nothing about the gods; but immediately after­ wards he himself denies this thesis by claiming apodictically that the gods use the correct names. It is obvious that his skepticism is only assumed; in fact, Socrates has a share in the knowledge of the gods. 30 This is also the reason why Agamemnon, although deviating from the royal genealogy, presents no divine exception – his aretê is only linked to doxa (395a6– 7).


Naming God as “King” and the Figure of the Legislator in Plato’s Cratylus

the validity of the genetic synonymy also with the noetic deities (logos – nous). It is the rational element that acts analogously on all levels on which it occurs31 and connects these levels. The philosopher is a “scion of the gods”, which literally corresponds to his title of a daemon formulated elsewhere (Ap. 27d). Still elsewhere, the inhabitants of the best city are referred to as “gods or children of gods” (Lg. V,739d6). The second case of human exception is the above-mentioned “legislator of names”, the Onomatourgos, who is considered the rarest among the skilled craftsmen (388d–389a), because he does not look at other “prod­ ucts” during his creative activity, but at the eidos of the word (389a5– 390a7). Socrates emphasizes that the best achievements in the field of naming, namely the naming of the most stable and natural things, must be carried out by a “more divine power than human power” (397b–c). However, the figure of the legislator is not identical to that of a king. His activity is subject to the control of a dialectician who oversees his work and who judges the result (390c). If we equate this dialectician with the demonic man discussed so far, then we can claim that the figures of the philosopher-king and the legislator are systematically linked in the Cratylus in a way that is known from other political dialogues. Both figures are seen as a rare exception among other people, and both are given the title “divine”; but this title belongs to them to an unequal degree. The role of the philosopher-dialectician seems to be more unique. He is the one who takes over the given material (onomata or nomoi) from various – both Greek and barbaric – legislators, both in the field of language and in the field of politics, and who judges this material and possibly also reforms it according to philosophical principles. He is the founder of the unity that arises in his hands from the original plurality. In the Cratylus, Socrates received both the Greek and the barbaric Ono­ mata from Homer, Hesiod and the other anonymous Onomatourgoi and in his exposition he tried to create a unity out of this plurality. Of course, this is also partly a kind of legislative activity, the result of which agrees with the linguistic-philosophical principle discussed above, according to which the correctness of the designation depends on the value of the person making the name.32 But the main role of Socrates is obviously

31 This is indicated in our dialogue by the analogical description of the high­ er beings (daemons, heroes and humans) with the noetic deities Zeus-CronusOuranus. 32 It can therefore be said that the gods actually have priority in naming, but this only applies: 1. if we understand the deity correctly, 2. if we do not overestimate the traditional difference between humans and gods.


Jakub Jinek

more to be equated with that of the examining dialectician. His dual role is strongly reminiscent of the role of the Athenian in the Laws, who first participates – in apparent competition with the prominent legislative figures of Solon, Lykurgos and Minos – in creating the law code of the new city of Magnesia, only later to admit his willingness to contribute to its implementation, i.e. to accept the ruling role, which was associated, throughout the dialogue, with the need further to refine the given code (Lg. V,737a; XII, 969a). In the literature it has often been pointed out that behind the etymolo­ gies presented in the dialogue lies the idea of reality as a constant flow that is in tension with the stability of the world of ideas. This is of course correct. On the other hand, it would be incorrect to see this as the uncon­ scious effect of ambivalence between two conceptions in Socrates’ mind – the Heracleitic on the one hand, the Eleatic on the other – in the sense in which Aristotle interprets the intellectual development of Plato (cf. Aris­ totle, Metaph. I,6,987a29–b1). That ambivalence of constant change and the stability of ideas is not a characteristic of Socrates’ soul and its inner tension. The main interlocutor always has the ambivalence under control because he has the knowledge of the interaction of two polar moments of reality in the sense of the Philebos or the indirect Platonic tradition; on this basis, he himself can become the originator of the order in the chaotic or the unifier of plurality.33 The element that triggers this activity is the pure nous, which creates unity on all levels. The philosopher can carry out a similar activity in various legislative tra­ ditions, as the Athenian does in the Laws. The philosopher-king becomes, through his constant organization of the chaotic, the sovereign lawgiver.

Bibliography Ademollo, F. (2011). The Cratylus of Plato. A Commentary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Anceschi, B. (2007). Die Götternamen in Platons Kratylos. Ein Vergleich mit dem Papyrus von Derveni. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. Ewegen, S. M. (2013). Plato’s Cratylus: The Comedy of Language. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

33 Socrates’ etymological consideration of the gods begins with the idea of the ever-moving cosmic deities (397b–c) and closes with the doctrine of the seasons (410c–e), which are precisely such a limitation on the constant movement of the gods.


Naming God as “King” and the Figure of the Legislator in Plato’s Cratylus Gaiser, K. (1974). Name und Sache in Platons Kratylos. Heidelberg: Carl Winter. Hladký, V. (2012). Papyrus Derveni. Červený Kostelec: Pavel Mervart. Philippson, P. (1944). Untersuchungen über den griechischen Mythos. Zürich: Rhein Verlag. Sedley, D. (2003). Plato’s Cratylus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Aristotle’s Departure from the Commonsense Concept of God: His Doctrine of the Prime Mover and its Relation to the Ideal Human Life Maria Liatsi

Abstract Aristotle’s Metaphysics XII (Book Lambda) is a text that in the history of philosophy, was mostly understood as Aristotle’s Theology. But this inter­ pretation is at least one- sided and has only little to do with the traditional and popular concept of God. The text of Book Lambda postulates the concept of God as a first principle in the form of a physical necessity of the universe. Therefore, it is only after a summary of his philosophy of nature (in the first five chapters of Book Lambda) that Aristotle starts his theory of the Prime Mover, because his philosophy of nature needs an explanation of the origin of movement in the whole universe, a first cause of all movements within the world, given that the most decisive quality of everything in nature is movement. Aristotle combines the physicalistic elements of his argumentation with anthropomorphistic elements (chapter 7), when he illustrates how the First Mover is moving the world as a causa finalis: by being loved, by being the object of longing, like the object of loving is moving the subject of love. In other places of his work Aristotle shows that he uses the being of God as the pattern of the human being. This means, the being of God as the model for the best and most pleasant human activity and therefore for the perfect, ideal human happiness (NE X). I think there is a consensus that Aristotle was not a wholehearted theolo­ gian and I can imagine that he had certain difficulties in saying something about God’s behaviour.1 What in the later tradition was called Aristotle’s theology has its foundation in Metaphysics Lambda, where Aristotle uses 1 Cf. M. Frede, Introduction, in M. Frede/D. Charles (eds.), Aristotle’s Metaphysics Lambda. Symposium Aristotelicum, Oxford 2000, 9: “the real subject of Lambda is not God or the divine substances”. See also C. Horn, ‘In welchem Sinn enthält Metaphysik Lambda eine Theologie?’, Jahrbuch für Religionsphilosophie 1, 2002, 28-49. T. De Koninck, ‘Aristotle on God as Thought Thinking Itself’, in L. P.


Maria Liatsi

a short summary of his general philosophy of nature as the basis of his doc­ trine of the so-called Prime Mover, the universal mover of the world, what he calls God.2 In Aristotle’s view the most common and most characteristic quality of everything, which is natural, is motion, movement (κίνησις).3 And the decisive question for Aristotle was therefore the following: from whom comes the movement into the world. Plato had found no convinc­ ing answer to this question; his theory of forms neglected this decisive question. Therefore, Aristotle could not accept Plato’s solution as a correct, adequate system of the world. Aristotle formulates his own solution of the problem of movement in Metaphysics Lambda, after giving a short outline of his Physics in the first five chapters; in the sixth chapter he firstly teaches, through the figure of a syllogism, the necessity of the existence of a first mover; this figure of syllogism was later on called Aristotle’s argument or proof of the existence of the prime, universal mover of the world. Before coming to this point, he explains his doctrine of being, his ontology (chapter 1), that means here his doctrine of the three main ousiai (οὐσίαι), substances: 1) the sensible substance, one part of which is eternal (the stars and the “first heaven” [πρῶτος οὐρανός] for instance), and 2) the sensible substance, whose other part of it is changeable (for instance plants and animals), and the elements of these, and 3) the universal substance. Both the first ousiai belong to the philosophy of nature, because they are connected with kinêsis, move­ ment; the third one belongs to a science, different from this philosophy of nature, namely to what is called First Philosophy, which was later called Metaphysics. Chapter 2 of Metaphysics Lambda is concerned with the meaning of matter (ὕλη) and change (μεταβολή) and chapter 3 is concerned with matter and form (εἶδος) within the beginning (γένεσις). Chapter 4 is con­ cerned with the difference and identity of causes and principles. Chapter 5 is concerned with potentiality (δύναμις) and actuality (ἐνέργεια) as prin­ ciples and causes. Chapter 6 starts with a general proclamation: Because there are three substances, two natural ones and on the other side a univer­

Gerson (ed.), Aristotle. Critical Assessments I: Logic and Metaphysics, London 1999, 365-402. 2 Cf. M. Liatsi, ‘Aristotle’s Silence about the Prime Mover’s Noêsis’, in C. Horn (ed.), Aristotle’s Metaphysics Lambda – New Essays, Boston/Berlin 2016, 229-245. See also J. G. De Filippo, ‘Aristotle’s Identification of the Prime Mover as God’, Classical Quarterly 44, 1994, 393-409. 3 Cf. B. Manuwald, Studien zum Unbewegten Beweger in der Naturphilosophie des Aristoteles, Stuttgart 1989.


Aristotle’s Departure from the Commonsense Concept of God

sal substance, it is concerning this last one that there must exist an eternal, unmovable substance. Because the substances (ousiai) are the first of the things, and if all substances are passing away and are perishable, all things are passing away and are perishable. But it is impossible that movement is coming and is passing away, for movement was eternal, and time likewise was eternal. Because it is impossible that there is a before or a later, if there is no time. Consequently, movement has the same consistency as the time has. Because the time is the same as movement or a quality of movement. But there is no consistent movement outside the local movement, and of this it is the circular movement, which is consistent.4 The most important presupposition of Aristotle’s philosophical thinking is the axiom that the series of causes in the world is finite and under no circumstance infinite. Therefore, by necessity, there must be a first being, which is the first cause of all movements within the world, which is itself eternal but unmovable. In this sense Aristotle offers an argument for the existence of such a first being at the beginning of chapter 6 of Book Lambda. The first being here is the final cause of everything in the world, and beyond this first being there is absolutely nothing in the cosmos. In Aristotle’s view the cosmos, the universe is a finite one, a closed entity. The worst thing for Aristotle is an open system left incomplete by a regressus in infinitum. In chapter 7 Aristotle starts the description of the first moving entity (the first universal mover of the world, and what is in it) and its activity.5 “On such a principle depends the heaven and the nature” (1072 b 13f.). In other words, he defines the nature of the Prime Mover. The nature of this substance is to be Activity, Energeia. Since the highest type of activity is ‘Thought’6 (this is a fundamental assumption, a basic belief of Aristotle), Aristotle defines the nature of the Prime Mover as Thought, and Thought in its purest form, that is as pure Noêsis, without restriction to the sensory content of perception and imagination. Aristotle explains in great detail (1072 b 7-13) that as Prime Mover the Nous is unmoving and immutable and in no way contingent.7 This point has a decisive role to play in his

4 Ph. VIII 7. 261 a 31 – 261 b 26; 8. 261 b 27 – 263 a 3; 8. 264 a 7 – 265 a 12. 5 For a thorough analysis of an important part of ch. 7 see S. Herzberg, ‘God as Pure Thinking. An Interpretation of Metaphysics Λ 7’, 1072b14-26, in C. Horn (ed.), 2016, 157-180. 6 Burnyeat suggests to translate the verb νοεῖν as ‘understand’ and νοῦς as ‘intellect’. See M. F. Burnyeat, Aristotle’s Divine Intellect, Milwaukee 2008, 9-63, esp. 10-19. 7 Metaph. Λ 7. 1072 b 7-3: ἐπεὶ δὲ ἔστι τι κινοῦν αὐτὸ ἀκίνητον ὄν, ἐνεργείᾳ ὄν, τοῦτο οὐκ ἐνδέχεται ἄλλως ἔχειν οὐδαμῶς. φορὰ γὰρ ἡ πρώτη τῶν μεταβολῶν, ταύτης δὲ ἡ κύκλῳ: ταύτην [10] δὲ τοῦτο κινεῖ. ἐξ ἀνάγκης ἄρα ἐστὶν ὄν: καὶ ᾗ ἀνάγκῃ, καλῶς,


Maria Liatsi

argumentation concerning the Prime Mover. Aristotle’s intention is to show that the Prime Mover sets up the first motion and hence cannot itself be subject to movement (in order to avoid a regressus in infinitum, as we have mentioned above). Since the state of the Prime Mover can undergo no change, its existence is necessary. This confers to it the character of the Good and through this property, which makes it the object and aim of all efforts, the telos, the final cause, it becomes the moving principle of the entire cosmos.8 Since its existence does not in any way participate in the contingent, it can exist in only one way: as a simple entity (ἁπλῶς). This sole method of existence is the state of pure, absolute Energeia. Being per­ fect Energeia, the nature of the Prime Mover, i.e. its self-thinking, excludes any kind of un-actualized potentiality, since this can be realized only in the transition to the actual, that is to say by change. Any such transition takes place in time and is necessary for the sort of thought that moves among a plurality of objects. This is a characteristic of the finite human reason, but not of a divine mind. Given his premises, Aristotle could arrive at no other conclusion than that the mind of the Prime Mover thinks itself and that this thinking does not switch backwards and forwards between different parts. That would be, in Aristotle’s eyes, an expression of imperfection and as such incompatible with the perfection of the Prime Mover’s nature. Thus, the pure Energeia of the Prime Mover’s reflexive thought has no room for variability, since this would have to consist in a continuum of transformations, which would admit of the actualizing of potentialities. On Aristotle’s assumptions such an actualization is not only not needed but actually contradictory, since the Prime Mover’s reflexive thought is the highest of realities. In other words, the two arguments on which Aristotle bases the immutability of the Prime Mover are that: a) any change in a perfect being would involve the loss of perfection. b) A perfect being can­ not harbour undeveloped capacities and unrealized possibilities. A being, which is subject to change, is not fully actualized, and therefore exists in a state of potentiality, of process and of imperfection. The object of this highest, purest Noêsis of the Prime Mover is that which is best in itself, that which is in the highest degree good: “that which is thinking in the

καὶ οὕτως ἀρχή. τὸ γὰρ ἀναγκαῖον τοσαυταχῶς, τὸ μὲν βίᾳ ὅτι παρὰ τὴν ὁρμήν, τὸ δὲ οὗ οὐκ ἄνευ τὸ εὖ, τὸ δὲ μὴ ἐνδεχόμενον ἄλλως ἀλλ᾽ ἁπλῶς. ἐκ τοιαύτης ἄρα ἀρχῆς ἤρτηται ὁ οὐρανὸς καὶ ἡ φύσις. 8 Cf. for example C. H. Kahn, ‘The Place of the Prime Mover in Aristotle’s Teleolo­ gy’, in A. Gotthelf (ed.), Aristotle on Nature and Living Things, Bristol/Pittsburgh 1985, 183-205.


Aristotle’s Departure from the Commonsense Concept of God

fullest sense deals with that which is best in the fullest sense”.9 In the next paragraph the Prime Mover is not described; instead, it is analysed the function and the structure of the thought, which has the thinking self as its object: “And thought thinks on itself because it shares the nature of the object of thought; for it becomes an object of thought in coming into contact with and thinking its object, so that thought and object of thought are the same. For that which is capable of receiving the object of thought, i.e. the essence, is thought. But it is active when it possesses its object”.10 This is meant as an answer to the question, how the Nous knows itself. The Nous knows itself by means of its participation in the nature of its object. The nature of its object is to be knowable. When the Nous participates in it, it assumes the nature of its object, which thereby becomes common to both. That is to say: the Nous takes on the property of knowability, becomes knowable to itself, becomes its own object. In this process, thought and what is thought are united. By the way: In chapter 7 we see that a new element comes up in Aristotle’s kind of argumentation: may be that the hitherto argumentation in chapters 1 to 5 appears Aristotle himself too abstract and sophisticated. He from now on combines the physicalist elements of his argumentation with anthropomorphic elements. He starts to do so at 1072 a, where he illustrates the behaviour of the First Mover, which he later on in the text of Lambda identifies with God, in the way that the Prime Mover is moving the world not as a causa efficiens, but as a causa finalis,11 like the object of loving or desire is loved, in moving the subject of love and desire: the First Mover is moving by being loved, by being object of longing.12 To maintain that the Prime Mover is a causa efficiens would be also incompatible with Aristotle’s well-known doctrine of the eternity of the world. The whole connection of the moved world with the moving principle is purely ontological and has in Aristotle’s view nothing to do with a personal God or Divine Creator.13 And this is the reason, why we 9 1072 b 18f.: ἡ δὲ νόησις ἡ καθ᾽ αὑτὴν τοῦ καθ᾽ αὑτὸ ἀρίστου, καὶ ἡ μάλιστα τοῦ μάλιστα.. 10 1072 b 19-24:αὑτὸν [20] δὲ νοεῖ ὁ νοῦς κατὰ μετάληψιν τοῦ νοητοῦ: νοητὸς γὰρ γίγνεται θιγγάνων καὶ νοῶν, ὥστε ταὐτὸν νοῦς καὶ νοητόν. τὸ γὰρ δεκτικὸν τοῦ νοητοῦ καὶ τῆς οὐσίας νοῦς, ἐνεργεῖ δὲ ἔχων, ὥστ᾽ ἐκείνου μᾶλλον τοῦτο ὃ δοκεῖ ὁ νοῦς θεῖον ἔχειν, καὶ ἡ θεωρία τὸ ἥδιστον καὶ ἄριστον. 11 Cf. convincing A. Ross, ‘The Causality of the Prime Mover in Metaphysics Λ’, in C. Horn (ed.), 2016, 207-227. 12 1072 b 3f.: κινεῖ δὴ ὡς ἐρώμενον, κινούμενα δὲ τἆλλα κινεῖ. 13 Cf. Liatsi, a.a.0, 231 with n. 10 and n. 11. On the view that the Prime Mover is a causa efficiens see for example E. Berti, ‘Unmoved mover(s) as efficient cause(s)


Maria Liatsi

don’t find in the context of Metaphysics Lambda a statement about the togetherness of the highest being and the world, and not a single word about the cosmic creation, the origin of the universe by that highest being, or about the maintenance of the world. A further relationship, other than the one that all things have to this removed telos, towards which they always tend and which they try to imitate, i.e. between this highest being and the world, is undefined and undetermined. No further explanation is necessary, because for Aristotle the world is eternal, without a beginning and without an end. The highest being, the so-called God, is an ἀρχὴ τῆς κινήσεως because it provokes the ceaseless movement of the heaven and of the natural world, which means that it provokes life, moreover it is life,14 as it provokes the continuous attempt of the universe to reach the final aim of the kinêsis, which is the first principle itself. That simply means that it moves everything as the final cause. The universe depends necessarily on such a principle,15 which could explain why “heaven” and “nature” actually have to move in a circular way: in order to achieve constancy, one might answer. And why must constancy be achieved? Because the empirical experience, the phenomena, show for Aristotle that there is this constancy, this regularity, as well as an order, a τάξις, in the universe, and this must be explained.16 So, what Aristotle does, is to explain the phenomenon and the concept of movement by means of ontology alone – and we cannot forget that Aristotle begins always from the phenomena, not only in his Metaphysics. Everything else is a picture, a metaphor, like the phrases “ὡς ὀρεκτόν” (1072 a 26) and “ὡς ἐρώμενον” (1072 b 3). He knows that there is no more to say for him, i.e. from a human perspective – hence the use of pictures and metaphors.17 It would be in my opinion a big misunderstanding of the Aristotelian text to claim that the Prime Mover’s self-knowledge would contain all the objects of ἐπιστήμη, that its self-knowledge must be knowledge of the world. Aristotle gives many reasons about the Prime Mover’s immutability but does not say a single word about the Prime Mover’s omniscience.

14 15 16 17


in Metaphysics Λ 6’, in M. Frede/D. Charles (eds.), 2000, 181-206. Cf. V. Politis, Aristotle and the Metaphysics, London/New York 2004, 278. 1072 b 27: ἡ γὰρ νοῦ ἐνέργεια ζωή, 1072 b 13f.: ἐκ τοιαύτης ἄρα ἀρχῆς ἤρτηται ὁ οὐρανὸς καὶ ἡ φύσις. For more details on this see Liatsi, a.a.O., 237 with n. 22. Cf. for example L. Elders (ed.), Aristotle’s Theology. A Commentary on Book Λ of Metaphysics, Assen 1972, 173-174. C. Genequand (ed.), Ibn Rushd’s Metaphysics. A translation with Introduction of Ibn Rushd’s commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Book Lambda, Leiden 1986, 36-39.

Aristotle’s Departure from the Commonsense Concept of God

Perhaps because an omniscience of the Prime Mover would not be logical­ ly consistent with his immutability. The ἀρχή that Aristotle calls πρῶτον κινοῦν ἀκίνητον or νόησις νοήσεως or θεός does not consist in knowledge of the world, but it answers the “why”, the οὗ ἕνεκα of the constancy, of the regularity, of the certain order and of the eternity of the κίνησις. Chap­ ter 9 of Lambda clearly excludes from the Prime Mover any knowledge of something, which is not itself. This appears to exclude from the Prime Mover all knowledge of the world. Aristotle follows the axiom that the Nous is the most divine thing of all.18 He then concludes that the object of the Nous of the Prime Mover is not just anything but is something equal to its own ontological status.19 Hence, it can only be itself. Therefore, the Nous of the Prime Mover is one with its object, and its thought is a thinking of thinking.20 In contrast with human thought about thinking, the thought of the Prime Mover is not just reflexive “on the side” (1074 b 36: ἐν παρέργῳ), but has no object other than itself. And it has it in toto, as a whole (1075 a 10). The divine mind is not dependent on the mediation of linguistic symbols like words and sentences: on the contrary, the divine thought is autonomous and consists of a single act of immediate insight: the divine thought and its object will be the same. In this self-referential status is the divine Mind forever: he is permanently active, he is eternally thinking of itself. On the contrary, the human nous is only sometimes active and always dependent on other things, because only other things impel the human nous, which is only able to receive its object, that means the nous as potentiality, to really think and to transform its potentiality into actuality, to become from nous an active noêsis.21 That implies that the initiative comes from the noêton, that the most important element in the process of thinking is the object of the thought, not the thought itself. The objects turn the mere faculty of perception and of thought to their active form, thereby changing the potential state of these faculties into actual perfor­ mance. In this process the perceiving of something leads to the awareness that we perceive, the thinking of something leads to the consciousness that we think. So, the human mind is primarily concerned with something else and only incidentally with its own activity. In contra-distinction to the human mind, the divine mind knows itself not incidentally but as its only 18 Metaph. Λ 9. 1074 b 15f.: δοκεῖ μὲν γὰρ εἶναι τῶν φαινομένων θειότατον. 19 1074 b 25f.: δῆλον τοίνυν ὅτι τὸ θειότατον καὶ τιμιώτατον νοεῖ, καὶ οὐ μεταβάλλει. 20 1074 b 33f: αὑτὸν ἄρα νοεῖ, εἴπερ ἐστὶ τὸ κράτιστον, καὶ ἔστιν ἡ νόησις νοήσεως νόησις.. 21 1072 a 30:νοῦς δὲ ὑπὸ τοῦ νοητοῦ κινεῖται.


Maria Liatsi

object. From this follows the conclusion that the divine mind, defined as pure Energeia, is always in the state of self-reference, whereas the human mind does not remain, because it cannot remain, in this state according to its human conditions. The divine mind is the best of all because it is thinking what it is thinking.22 The dignity of the Prime Mover, of God, is the highest, not because it is the first ground of the cosmos and not because Aristotle assigned to him knowledge of the causes of all things, as it was commonly conceived, 23 but because his thought participates in what it is thinking, only in this way becoming one and the same (1072 b 21: ὥστε ταὐτὸν νοῦς καὶ νοητόν). The reflexive thought of the Prime Mover is only the purest form of the same self-reference, which Aristotle met with in other forms in life of all kinds. Perception (αἴσθησις) and knowledge (γνῶσις) are also forms of life and in Aristotle’s view intellectual activity is the highest form of life. It is a fundamental assumption of Aristotle that life as such implies self-awareness and self-knowledge. For example, in EE VII 12. 1244 b 24 – 1245 a 10 we find a general statement about the relationship between living and knowing: “It is manifest that life is perception and knowledge, and that consequently social life is perception and knowledge in common. But perception and knowledge themselves are the thing most desirable for each individually and it is owing to this that the appetite for life is implant­ ed by nature in all, for living must be deemed a mode of knowing. […] When perceiving one becomes perceived by means of what one previously perceives, in the manner and in the respect in which one perceives it, and when knowing one becomes known – hence owing to this one wishes always to live because one wishes to be oneself the object known”.24 Man’s desire of life and man’s desire of knowledge are connected by Aristotle in a way which shows very clearly the self-referential character of

22 1074 b 21: διὰ γὰρ τοῦ νοεῖν τὸ τίμιον αὐτῷ ὑπάρχει.. 23 Cf. Metaph. A 2. 983 a 8-10. 24 δῆλον δὲ λαβοῦσι τί τὸ ζῆν τὸ κατ᾽ ἐνέργειαν, καὶ ὡς τέλος. φανερὸν οὖν ὅτι τὸ αἰσθάνεσθαι καὶ τὸ γνωρίζειν, ὥστε καὶ τὸ συζῆν τὸ συναισθάνεσθαι καὶ τὸ συγγνωρίζειν ἐστίν. ἔστι δὲ τὸ αὑτοῦ αἰσθάνεσθαι καὶ τὸ αὑτὸν γνωρίζειν αἱρετώτατον ἑκάστῳ, καὶ διὰ τοῦτο τοῦ ζῆν πᾶσιν ἔμφυτος ἡ ὄρεξις: τὸ γὰρ ζῆν δεῖ τιθέναι γνῶσιν τινά. εἰ οὖν τις ἀποτέμοι καὶ ποιήσειε τὸ γινώσκειν αὐτὸ [30] καθ᾽ αὑτὸ καὶ μὴ (ἀλλὰ τοῦτο μὲν λανθάνει, ὥσπερ ἐν τῷ [31] λόγῳ γέγραπται, τῷ μέντοι πράγματι ἔστι μὴ λανθάνειν), οὐθὲν ἂν διαφέροι ἢ τὸ γινώσκειν ἄλλον ἀνθ᾽ αὑτοῦ: τὸ δ᾽ ὅμοιον τοῦ ζῆν ἀνθ᾽ αὑτοῦ ἄλλον. εὐλόγως δὴ τὸ ἑαυτοῦ αἰσθάνεσθαι καὶ γνωρίζειν αἱρετώτερον. δεῖ γὰρ ἅμα [35] συνθεῖναι δύο ἐν τῷ λόγῳ, ὅτι τε τὸ ζῆν καὶ αἱρετόν, καὶ ὅτι τὸ ἀγαθόν, καὶ ἐκ τούτων ὅτι τὸ αὐτὸ τοῖς ὑπάρχειν τὴν τοιαύτην φύσιν.


Aristotle’s Departure from the Commonsense Concept of God

life as well as of knowledge. In describing the highest form of existence, i.e. the Prime Mover, i.e. God, as a living thing and its existence as pure, continuous, immortal Energeia, as absolute self-reference, as imperishable and eternal life, Aristotle was only following through the consequences of his own premises. 25 In the text of Lambda 7. 1072 b 24-30 we read: “God is always in that good state in which we sometimes are. This should compel our wonder. And if in a better, this compels it yet more. And God is in a better state. And life also belongs to God; for the actuality of thought is life, and God is that actuality; and God’s essential activity is life best and eternal. We say therefore that God is a living thing, eternal, most good, so that life and duration continuous and eternal belong to God; for this is God”.26 We see: Aristotle calls θεός the highest being within his ontological and natural order and his Energeia calls “life”, eternal and best life.27

25 In order to answer one of the fundamental questions of the Conference of Col­ legium Politicum in Bologna, that means the question “To what extent are they (i.e. the references to God) able to produce persuasion”, it is to say, concerning the Aristotelian concept of God as Prime Mover, that the efficiency of this concept in the later history of philosophy was weak, because it was dominated by the Platonic influence and the Christian theology. The Aristotelian God as Unmoved Mover does not care of the mankind and what happens within the human world, as Christianity does and did. In Antiquity Aristotle’s concept of God had only a short lifetime: it ends with the history of Aristotelianism in the Middle Ages. The Aristotelian theory of the Prime, Unmoved Mover was much too abstract for the mass of the people and too far away from the common-sense concept of God, which was already widespread in what is called Greek Theology from early times of the Presocratics. Therefore, the Aristotelian God was only a God for philosophers or, better, of physicists. The main reason was that Aristotle himself by his nature and character was a pragmatist, not a speculative idealist like Plato. He was an empiricist and he disliked and looked down on windy, empty speculations (cf. for example Met. B 4. 1000 a 5ff.). Therefore, his belief in God, his ‘religion’, in reality, was physics and not what we call theology. Aristotle’s attempts to make his doctrine of the Prime Mover more popular by elements of anthropomorphism were in vain, had no success in the long run of the history of philosophy. Nevertheless, by his concept of God Aristotle saved at least the concept of the unity of nature. But the people were not interested in that. They wanted salvation and immortality. Aristotle could not give that to them, and that was not his intention. 26 πότερον οὖν διαφέρει τι ἢ οὐδὲν τὸ νοεῖν τὸ καλὸν ἢ τὸ τυχόν; [25] ἢ καὶ ἄτοπον τὸ διανοεῖσθαι περὶ ἐνίων; δῆλον τοίνυν ὅτι τὸ θειότατον καὶ τιμιώτατον νοεῖ, καὶ οὐ μεταβάλλει: εἰς χεῖρον γὰρ ἡ μεταβολή, καὶ κίνησίς τις ἤδη τὸ τοιοῦτον. πρῶτον μὲν οὖν εἰ μὴ νόησίς ἐστιν ἀλλὰ δύναμις, εὔλογον ἐπίπονον εἶναι τὸ συνεχὲς αὐτῷ τῆς νοήσεως:. 27 Cf. Cael. II 3. 286 a 8.9.


Maria Liatsi

Pleasure (ἡδονή) plays in Aristotle’s analysis of life a very important role. Pleasure is experience of life itself. Because in his eyes pleasure indi­ cates the very existence of life and makes contact with an ultimate reality and hence, in describing the highest form of existence as a ζῷον, as a living thing, he comes to the conclusion that its activity (Energeia), which is the being of Nous in its active form, and that is νόησις, νόησις which nev­ er rests, is pure, uninterrupted pleasure. Since the highest manifestation of the Energeia of noêsis is θεωρία (knowledge), then theôria is the most delightful and the very best.28 The activity of God is also characterized by immobility, for there is a truer pleasure in rest as in motion. See NE VII 14. 1154 b 24-28: “If there is some being whose nature is simple, the same mode of action will be continuously and in the highest degree pleasurable to it. Hence, God enjoys everlastingly one pure pleasure. For there is actuality not only of change but also of rest, and pleasure consists rather in rest than in change”.29 Aristotle uses the being of God as the pattern of human being. That means that Aristotle ascribes to the noetic existence of the Prime Mover a paradigmatic character. Of course, it is given that in the mainstream Greek philosophical tradition gods are paradigms of Eudaimonia (happiness) and that the divine life is standard reference to it. Even the etymology itself implies an essential connection with divinity (a god-favoured life was a supremely happy life). The main presumption in all philosophical schools, before and after Aristotle, was that Eudaimonia was a godlike or quasi-di­ vine existence30 and that Gods themselves are especially blessed and hap­ py.31 The same is of value for Aristotle, as we see in his Nicomachean Ethics, Book I and especially Book X 7-8. It might be that the detailed conditions, which the different philosophical schools specified in order for Eudaimo­ nia to be achieved were different, but the basic concept was the same. And this concept fits Aristotle’s account of Eudaimonia as well. For Aristotle proposes that all human Eudaimonia is godlike. Eudaimonia is one of the most divine things and more divine than justice.32 But he also proposes

28 1072 b 24 καὶ ἡ θεωρία τὸ ἥδιστον καὶ ἄριστον. 29 ἐπεὶ εἴ του ἡ φύσις ἁπλῆ εἴη, ἀεὶ ἡ αὐτὴ πρᾶξις ἡδίστη ἔσται. διὸ ὁ θεὸς ἀεὶ μίαν καὶ ἁπλῆν χαίρει ἡδονήν: οὐ γὰρ μόνον κινήσεώς ἐστιν ἐνέργεια ἀλλὰ καὶ ἀκινησίας, καὶ ἡδονὴ μᾶλλον ἐν ἠρεμίᾳ ἐστὶν ἢ ἐν κινήσει. :. 30 EN I 9. 1099 b 16ff.: εἶναι φαίνεται καὶ θεῖόν τι καὶ μακάριον.. 31 Cf. EN X 8. 1178 b 8-9: τοὺς θεοὺς γὰρ μάλιστα ὑπειλήφαμεν μακαρίους καὶ εὐδαίμονας εἶναι:. 32 EN I 12. 1101 b 25-27: οὐδεὶς γὰρ τὴν εὐδαιμονίαν ἐπαινεῖ καθάπερ τὸ δίκαιον, ἀλλ᾽ ὡς θειότερόν τι καὶ βέλτιον μακαρίζει..


Aristotle’s Departure from the Commonsense Concept of God

that there are various degrees of Eudaimonia; he distinguishes higher and lower recipes for Eudaimonia and he deems that the highest degree of Eudaimonia, i.e. the happiest life, is the life which is most godlike, which is most akin to the divine life as such (cf. NE X 8. 1178 b 21-23: “The activity of God, which surpasses all others in blessedness, must be contemplative; and of human activities, therefore, that which is most akin to this must be most of the nature of happiness”.33) Since the activity of God is theôria of Nous, that means that of human activities what must be most productive of happiness must be theôria as well.34 Nous is what is best and most important in us human beings. It is something divine (1177 a 13ff.; 1177 b 30). And if this is so, then, in comparison with man, the life according to it is divine in comparison with human life (cf. NE X 7. 1177 b 26-30). The quasi-divine life is the perfect or complete happiness,35 the best life to which a human being could ideally aspire. It consists in the theoretical activity of nous, which is the best possible activity, and as such this activity is accompanied by the most perfect and complete pleasure. This theoretical, contemplative activity, i.e. the perfect happiness, is not only most pleasurable, but also most durable and especially self-sufficient – a very important attribute of the divine life (X 7. 1177 a 19-28). Second happiest is the life in accordance with the ethical virtue. But gods do not engage in any actions in the ethical or productive domain. The only activity that leaves for them to practice is contemplative (cf. 1178 b 10ff.). Since the gods are paradigms of happiness, theôria is the activity that makes human beings most akin to gods and therefore “happiest” (1178 b 23: τῶν ἀνθρωπίνων δὴ ἡ ταύτῃ συγγενεστάτη εὐδαιμονικωτάτη). Of course, the human being is mortal and therefore he cannot reach this perfect state of being, he can only reach it in some excellent moments of time. But he is longing for it by his whole

33 ὥστε ἡ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐνέργεια, μακαριότητι διαφέρουσα, θεωρητικὴ ἂν εἴη: καὶ τῶν ἀνθρωπίνων δὴ ἡ ταύτῃ συγγενεστάτη εὐδαιμονικωτάτη. 34 On the relation between the human Eudaimonia and the divine way of being see very clearly A. A. Long, ‘Aristotle on eudaimonia, nous and divinity’, in J. Miller (ed.), Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. A Critical Guide, Cambridge 2011, 92-113. On different aspects of the relationship between Eudaimonia and theôria within the frame of the Aristotelian Ethics see P. Destrée/M. Zingano (eds.), THEORIA. Studies on the Status and Meaning of Contemplation in Aristotle’s Ethics, Leuven 2014. 35 Cf. X 7. 1177a 17, b 24:ἡ τελεία εὐδαιμονία.


Maria Liatsi

existence and he tries to achieve it – at least to some extent and for some of the time.36 Let us finish with the own Aristotelian words: “The whole life of the gods is blessed, and that of men too in so far as some likeness of such activity belongs to them; but none of the other animals is happy, since they in no way share in theôria (contemplation). Happiness extends then, just so far as theôria does, and those to whom theôria more fully belongs are more truly happy, not incidentally but in virtue of the theôria; for this in itself is precious. Happiness therefore, must be some kind of theôria”.37

References Berti, E., ‘Unmoved mover(s) as efficient cause(s) in Metaphysics Λ 6’, in M. Frede/D. Charles (eds.), 2000, 181-206. Burnyeat, M. F., Aristotle’s Divine Intellect, Milwaukee 2008. De Koninck, T., ‘Aristotle on God as Thought Thinking Itself ’, in L. P. Ger­ son (ed.), Aristotle. Critical Assessments I: Logic and Metaphysics, London 1999, 365-402. De Filippo, J, G., ‘Aristotle’s Identification of the Prime Mover as God’, Classical Quarterly 44, 1994, 393-409. Destrée, P./Zingano, M. (eds.), THEORIA. Studies on the Status and Meaning of Contemplation in Aristotle’s Ethics, Leuven 2014. Elders, L. (ed.), Aristotle’s Theology. A Commentary on Book Λ of Metaphysics, Assen 1972. Frede, M./Charles, D. (eds.), Aristotle’s Metaphysics Lambda. Symposium Aris­ totelicum, Oxford 2000. Genequand, C. (ed.), Ibn Rushd’s Metaphysics. A translation with Introduction of Ibn Rushd’s commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Book Lambda, Leiden 1986. Herzberg, S., ‘God as Pure Thinking. An Interpretation of Metaphysics Λ 7’, 1072b14-26, in C. Horn (ed.), 2016, 157-180. Horn, C., ‘In welchem Sinn enthält Metaphysik Lambda eine Theologie?’, Jahrbuch für Religionsphilosophie 1, 2002, 28-49.

36 Cf. M. Liatsi, Irdische Unsterblichkeit. Die Suche nach dem ewigen Leben in der Antike, Boston/Berlin 2021, esp. 83-89. 37 EN X 8. 1178 b 25-32: τοῖς μὲν γὰρ θεοῖς ἅπας ὁ βίος μακάριος, τοῖς δ᾽ ἀνθρώποις, ἐφ᾽ ὅσον ὁμοίωμά τι τῆς τοιαύτης ἐνεργείας ὑπάρχει: τῶν δ᾽ ἄλλων ζῴων οὐδὲν εὐδαιμονεῖ, ἐπειδὴ οὐδαμῇ κοινωνεῖ θεωρίας. ἐφ᾽ ὅσον δὴ διατείνει ἡ θεωρία, καὶ ἡ εὐδαιμονία, καὶ οἷς μᾶλλον ὑπάρχει τὸ θεωρεῖν, καὶ εὐδαιμονεῖν, οὐ κατὰ συμβεβηκὸς ἀλλὰ κατὰ τὴν θεωρίαν: αὕτη γὰρ καθ᾽ αὑτὴν τιμία. ὥστ᾽ εἴη ἂν ἡ εὐδαιμονία θεωρία τις.


Aristotle’s Departure from the Commonsense Concept of God Horn, C. (ed.), Aristotle’s Metaphysics Lambda – New Essays, Boston/Berlin 2016. Kahn, C. H., ‘The Place of the Prime Mover in Aristotle’s Teleology’, in A. Gotthelf (ed.), Aristotle on Nature and Living Things, Bristol/Pittsburgh 1985, 183-205. Liatsi, M., ‘Aristotle’s Silence about the Prime Mover’s Noêsis’, in C. Horn (ed.), Aristotle’s Metaphysics Lambda – New Essays, Boston/Berlin 2016, 229-245. Liatsi, M., Irdische Unsterblichkeit. Die Suche nach dem ewigen Leben in der Antike, Boston/Berlin 2021. Long, A. A., ‘Aristotle on eudaimonia, nous and divinity’, in J. Miller (ed.), Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. A Critical Guide, Cambridge 2011, 92-113. Manuwald, B., Studien zum Unbewegten Beweger in der Naturphilosophie des Aristote­ les, Stuttgart 1989. Politis, V., Aristotle and the Metaphysics, London/New York 2004. Ross, A., ‘The Causality of the Prime Mover in Metaphysics Λ’, in C. Horn (ed.), 2016, 207-227.


Variants of Cosmopolitanism and Individual States in Cicero’s Works Denis Walter

Abstract In this article Cicero’s use of cosmopolitan ideas will be analysed. We will see that Cicero distinguishes an ethical cosmopolitanism from a political one. As the political cosmopolitanism is linked to god’s or natural law’s rule, no state led by human beings can ever become a political cosmopolis. The political order that is suitable to human beings consists necessarily of the existence of a plenitude of individual states. It will be argued that the individual state has its roots in the attempt of the politician to copy the cosmopolitan community that stems from godly rule by the law of nature.

1. Is there Cosmopolitanism in Cicero’s Thought? It is surely a matter of debate whether the academic sceptic Cicero pro­ vides us with any definitively true statement about a given subject matter (cf. e.g. Malaspina 2012, 8). A close reading of Cicero’s works shows, how­ ever, that he uses wordings and phrases concerned with the political order of the world1 in about 40 instances. These evidences are spread over all periods of his work, indicating a certain consistency in his thought.2 The issue of cosmopolitanism is never addressed as a subject of investigation in its own right, but is always used in argumentative contexts that are concerned with other subjects. In this essay I will analyse some passages (mainly by looking at De officiis, De re publica and De legibus) in which more extensive treatments of the topics are provided.

1 I use the term “political order of the world” provisionally, following K. M. Gi­ rardet, Die Ordnung der Welt. Ein Beitrag zur philosophischen und politischen Interpre­ tation von Ciceros Schrift De legibus (Wiesbaden 1983). 2 Resp. I, 19; II, 48; Leg. I, 16; I 19; I 23; I, 57; I, 60; I, 61, I, 27; I 35; I, 42; I, 60; Fin. II, 45; III, 63; III, 64; III, 65; III, 67; IV, 4; V, 65; V, 66; V, 67; Off. I, 51; I, 53; I, 149; III, 15; III, 28; III, 32; III, 32; III, 52; III, 69; Amic. 19; ND I, 4; II, 78-79; II, 154.


Denis Walter

If we provisionally structure all the texts that are relevant to this study, we are going to see that, though they consider the political world order, they do not all agree with each other in their content. At least three different groups can be distinguished: a) passages regarding the worldwide community of individuals, b) those regarding a universal state and c) passages regarding the multitude of individual states. I am going to system­ atically analyse these three groups in the following and show how they are interrelated.

a) The Moral Cosmopolitan Community Cicero describes the community of the entire human species3 as larger than each existing state by its own, transcending all of them in the number of its members and extension. It is interesting that Cicero emphasises about this community first of all that is universal. It is the interaction of all with all (…omnium inter omnes…), a relationship not mediated by any authority, but resting only on the humanity that its participants share in. The same explanatory tendency is presented in De officiis I, 51 (…omnibus inter omnes…). The interaction that Cicero mentions is rooted in the capac­ ity for a basic moral agency (Off. I 52) and, more specifically in helping and sharing. From these passages we can infer that this community is a potential one, meaning that whenever reasonable human beings meet they are usually going to interact, talk, and behave in a way that is beneficial to them. The interaction is not as stable or permanent as the structure of an organized state, it is rather established ad hoc and based in the good moral constitution of the individuals participating in it. Moreover, the interaction is structured “horizontally”, resulting in mutual assistance (Wright 1999, 189-190; cf. Nussbaum 2019, 3). This largest of communities between human beings finds its expression in help and gratitude, friend­ ship, and the mutual feeling of affiliation. This greatest human community has, though, its limits. It is the case of the tyrant that shows that humanity can be lost as a consequence of moral failure. Indeed, the tyrant falls out of the cosmopolitan community so conceived as he loses his morality. Not belonging to the human communi­ ty anymore, he will in consequence also be rejected physically from any human society. As Cicero says in Off. III 32 clearly:

3 Off. III, 69.


Variants of Cosmopolitanism and Individual States in Cicero’s Works

Now it is very easy to make a judgement in the case of Phalaris. For there can be no fellowship between us and tyrants - on the contrary there is a complete estrangement - and it is not contrary to nature to rob a man, if you are able, to whom it is honourable to kill. Indeed, the whole pestilential and irreverent class ought to be expelled from the community of mankind. (tr. Griffin, Atkins). What is more, an estrangement of the tyrant from the community elicits unrespectful behaviour by the morally intact human beings, who are here said to be allowed, as it seems, to rob and expel the tyrant. Cicero’s standards of who counts as a member of the human communi­ ty are, as far as we can see so far, not all too high (Wright 1999, 192). His benchmark for whom he admits to it is defined by a basis goodness that is not restricted to the old Stoic concept of the wise (as in a commonwealth of sages). Cicero rather defines it in Off. I 50 as a community where teaching and learning play an outstanding role – thus including people who still have to learn, not having reached the state of a wise person. I take Off. I 52 to describe this “minimal standard” of moral behaviour that is required: Therefore such things as the following are to be shared: one should not keep others from fresh water, should allow them to take fire from your fire, should give trustworthy counsel to someone who is seeking advice; (tr. Atkins, Griffin). As Cicero writes in the following paragraph, we can naturally also think about narrower fellowships of e.g. family ties, but the above given advice applies to the community which encompasses all human beings.4

4 The idea of a community of non-ideal members goes, according to different studies back to Chrysippus. J. Annas, The Morality of Happiness (New York 1993), pp. 308-9; M. Schofield, Saving the City. Philosopher-Kings and other Classical Paradigms (London, New York 1999), p. 142 discussing J. Annas point; Ph. Mitsis, ‘The Stoic Origin of Natural Rights’ in: K. Ierodiakonou (ed.) Topics in Stoic Philosophy. (Ox­ ford 2004), p. 175 referring to Schofield; The scarce available evidence in favour of this reading is actually to be found in the writings of Cicero himself (Off. III, 42).


Denis Walter

b) The “Political” Cosmopolitanism. The Community of all Beings under God’s or Natural Law’s Rule. In Cicero’s writings we also find some reference to the idea of a cosmopoli­ tan community of a different kind from the one outlined out so far. Notably, he speaks about a cosmic State common to all beings. As we will see, the difference with the first community is indicated by two markers, i.e. i) the potestas i.e. a component which plays a major role here, ii) the even larger scope of its membership. i) The first main point of difference is that whereas the ethical commu­ nity is structured “horizontally”, we find in other passages arguments in favour of a vertically arranged state-like community. This becomes especially clear as Cicero, in several instances, describes a hierarchical structure, in which some of its participants rule while others are ruled, both belonging to the same all-encompassing state. There are two powers that are regularly considered to take the ruling role. While he sometimes points at the gods (Leg. I 61; ND. II 78-79) at other times it is the natural law, to which both humans and gods are subjected (Leg. I 23). Cicero is notoriously unclear about the exact definition of who is ruling (cf. Horn 2017). However, both readings share the assumption that human beings are understood as subjects in this cosmic State, either of the gods or of the natural law or of both. I would like to call this concept – in the line of thought presented in Leg. I 61 – “political” cosmopolitanism. The potestascomponent of this cosmopolitan order is identical with the right reason that commands what should be done and what should be avoided (Resp. III 33; Leg. I 42). Insight into the natural law and its commands are given to us by nature that implanted common notions into us (Leg. I, 44) and its violation has an immediate negative effect on wrongdoers (Leg. II 44) as compliance with it means virtue and happiness. ii) One might assume that the world-wide ethical cosmopolitanism and the “political” cosmopolitanism are one and the same, still taken from different perspectives. It is, after all, the case that the individuals of the first kind of community are likewise bound by natural law and subjected to god. Yet it is important to note why it is impossible to consider both concepts as identical. Unlike the community of all human beings, the “po­ litical” cosmopolitan order has a wider range. The most evident difference is its incorporation of the tyrants as well as the fact that the gods partake of it, being the ruling class.


Variants of Cosmopolitanism and Individual States in Cicero’s Works

While the tyrants are outcasts in the first community, they, in fact, remain subjects to the second community. Cicero implies exactly this In Leg. I 40 where he writes: But there is no purification for crimes against humans and for acts of impiety, and so they pay the penalty, not so much in courts – which used not to exist anywhere and now do not exist in many places, and where they do, they are often corrupt – as through being chased and hounded by the Furies, not with burning torches as in the myths, but with the pains of conscience and the tortures of deceit. In the context of this passage Cicero discusses the concept of positive law independently of natural law. Positive law rests only on ratifications by political majorities and is judged from the perspective of individual advan­ tages. The explicit reference to a tyrant’s regime is listed only shortly after in De legibus I 42 as an example of a regime based on unjust legislation. However, natural law exists and acts independently of the persons that disregard it. Irrespectively of the effective legislation, natural law punishes whoever neglects it by the pains of conscience. This argument is supported by Amic. 52, 8-13, where the tyrant’s life is again described in a similar manner, being characterized by an ever-present unease.5 While the tyrant is expelled from the ethical community, he still be­ longs to the political cosmopolitan community. Thus, it is clear that the extension of this “political” cosmopolis is greater than that of the ethical community of all human beings, making it by definition a different con­ cept. Both concepts are nevertheless interconnected by the fact that the ra­ tionality of the cosmos made human beings social animals.6 We described

5 “Haec enim est tyrannorum vita nimirum, in qua nulla fides, nulla caritas, nulla stabilis benevolentiae potest esse fiducia, omnia semper suspecta atque sollicita, nullus locus amicitiae.” 6 An alternative interpretation that might become a challenge to those who think that the Stoic notion of cosmopolitanism was central to Cicero’s theory of “politi­ cal world order”. It might be the case that there is another concept which explains his views on the political world order, namely the Roman ius gentium, often translated as “law of nations”. This law could have been the ultimate normative basis for the political order of the Roman world and it would thus be possible that the lawyer Cicero also gives it priority over any Stoic concepts. However, there are several arguments that speak against the possibility that the ius gentium was the main basis of Cicero’s understanding of the political world order. For ex­ ample, Mousourakis explains that the notion ius gentium is equivocal (Mousourakis 2003, pp. 22-4). Ius gentium is not simply an equivalent of what we nowadays call international law or law of nations. Rather, it can be understood either as Roman


Denis Walter

so far the two concepts of ethical and political cosmopolitanism that are both present in Cicero’s works.

c) The Multitude of Individual States Besides the two orders, namely, the “horizontal” ethical cosmopolitan community and the “political” cosmopolitan community stemming from the unsurpassable power of the gods, we find yet another type of political order in Cicero’s works, namely one that does not seem to fit very well in­ to either of the previous models, as it comprises the existence of individual states. So, how do they fit into our discussion. Different answers have been given ever since Capelle’s research in 1932. Asking how the expansion of the Roman rule can be understood philo­ sophically, he argued that it was the establishment of law, order and justice among otherwise competing, chaotic and disorganized nations. Roman rule, he says, is a rule of the best, not of the strongest, over inferiors that benefit from it. From this it would follow that an all-encompassing Roman rule would represent a just world order. Roman “Imperialism” would be understood as a process of spreading justice among nations and would lead, in a utopian future, to a just world order. Hampl (1957), on the other hand, objects to this interpretation that the theory of just war expounded by Cicero (Off. I 34) excludes attacks on other nations simply because of their inferiority (whatever that means in detail). And Ruch (1965) maintains the existence of a middle level in which no state will

law applicable to peregrini, law that is common to all nations or international private law. Thus, focusing on the ius gentium one would have to explain which of these meanings Cicero had exactly in mind. While this is only a minor objection, the following one has greater significance. The identification of ius gentium with natural law can only be found in later antiquity. The fact that the Roman legal scholar Gaius, who lived at the beginning of the 2nd century AD, makes a direct connection between ius gentium and naturalis ratio is due to the impact of Stoicism on the Roman legal tradition. The linking of the norms of the ius gentium to the sciences and thus to principles of nature was a development owed to the influence of Greek philosophy for which Cicero was largely responsible (Mousourakis 2003, 25), with reference to more detailed studies). Thus, when we inquire into the principles of the legal aspects of Cicero’s thought this leads us straight to the question of which were the philosophical influences on these legal aspects. These arguments rule out the possibility that the ius gentium tradition could have been an independent basis for Cicero’s understanding of the political world order, an understanding that was not subject to philosophical influences.


Variants of Cosmopolitanism and Individual States in Cicero’s Works

tend to dominate the others. He, and this is the point of connection to our discussion about cosmopolitanism, draws the attention to the analogy (and not identity) of state and cosmos and points out several similarities between the two: Both have a claim to exist eternally, and the state is explicitly called by Cicero a small version of the cosmos (Resp. III 34). Furthermore, he says, Cicero classifies the foundation and preservation of states (plural) as the one human activity that is the closest possible to divine agency (cf. Resp. I 12). There seems to be a longstanding consensus that the just individual state is somehow a copy of the political structure of the universe which is ruled by the gods.7 it is Sellars (2007) who points to the fact that Cicero could have advocated the idea of a Roman ruled cosmopolis. This would imply that the Roman rule can become at a cer­ tain point identical to the godly ruled political cosmopolis. However, this appealing idea is, as we will shortly see, clearly contradicted by several statements of Cicero. The just state remains necessarily a copy of the godly ruled universe and represents a third structure, besides ethical cosmopoli­ tanism and god-ruled political cosmopolitanism. A human-led world-state is impossible and states must remain regional and one among many. Let us take a closer look at the relevant passages. It is true that Cicero calls Rome in several instances the leader of the world. However, the textual evidence remains scarce and appears only a few times, e.g. in De re publica III 21. In this passage Philus argues against the existence of justice (by drawing on Carneades’ speech held in Rome) and uses figurative speech in order to emphasize his argument. He establishes a contrast between the wide Roman rule and the result that would follow from Rome giving back the property to the nations it controls, namely “…to go back to living in huts and languishing in want and wretchedness.” (tr. Zetzel). On the other hand, we have physical and geographic arguments that exclude a possible political rule by a single state over all human beings. You see that humans inhabit small and scattered portions of the earth, and that huge emptiness separates the blotches of human habitation. The people who inhabit the earth are not only so broken up that noth­

7 Girardet (1983) argues, as Capelle did before him, once again in favour of a cultural Roman expansion; Pangle replies that Cicero rejects the Stoics’ idea of cosmopolitanism by pointing out the primacy of intellectual life and by funda­ mentally criticizing their notion of providence as well as by explaining that a just war can, according to Cicero, be started simply to preserve honour (cf. Resp. III, 33-35).


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ing can pass from one group of them to another, but some of them live across from you, others below you, and some directly opposite you on the earth; and it is clear that you can expect no glory among them. (Resp. VI 20, Somn. tr. Zetzel) The existence of geographically unreachable places, like those of the an­ tipodes on the other side of the earth, as well as the immensity of the universe8 eliminate this possibility. A further reason that rules out the possibility of establishing a human-led “cosmopolis” stems from human nature itself. To understand this argument, we have to take a look at the role Cicero ascribes to magistratus and rectores.

2. The Individual State and the Competence of magistratus and rectores. The definition of the state in De re publica I 39 reads: [T]he commonwealth is the concern of a people, but a people is not any group of men assembled in any way, but an assemblage of some size associated with one another through agreement on law and com­ munity of interest (transl. J. Zetzel). This definition is cryptic and notoriously difficult, with the result that the scholarly debate has given rise to a plenitude of interpretations. Many scholars have tried to explain the short passage by reference to the Roman legal tradition, or, putting the focus on the public and on hierarchy, or on the sense of partnership regarding the law, or on the meaning of the benefit for the community (cf. Brouwer 2015). It has also been tried to ex­ plain it by reference to the four types of constitution that Cicero discusses (democracy, aristocracy, kingship or the mixture of all three elements) (cf. Woolf 2015). While it is difficult to take a position on the question which of the existing interpretations is the most accurate, we can identify three more general elements that all of the approaches to the “essence” of the res publica share: There is a) a “vertical” element in the form of rule (auctoritas, potestas), there is b) the distinction between ruling and ruled and there is c) the necessary existence of the component of “justice” (Schofield 1995,

8 Resp. VI, 16: “The globes of the stars easily surpassed the size of the earth, and earth itself now seemed so small to me that I was ashamed of our empire, which touches only a little speck of it.”


Variants of Cosmopolitanism and Individual States in Cicero’s Works

65-67, 77-78). If one of these components is missing, then – according to Cicero’s point of view – we cannot speak of a state. Let us now consider component a), which means at auctoritas and potes­ tas. The component of rule is introduced in De re publica I 41 and linked to the magistratus (Resp. II 57; Leg. III 2; Leg. III 5) as well as to the rectores (Resp. II 51; Resp. VI 17). Zarecki (2014) shows, while focussing on the rector, that he is to be understood as a virtuous person who gains his auctoritas from his dignitas (cf. Balsdon 1960, 45). When we speak about the impact of rule, we have to look at the character and the degree of virtue of the respective politician. Even though the notions magistratus and rectores have manifold contextual meanings in the works of Cicero, their basic signification is nevertheless a normative one (not one meaning the formal position that a person can have in the administration of the state), including their ability to foresee events, to act for the best of the communi­ ty (Leg. III 3) and to lead people in the “inevitable flux and change below the moon” (Atkins 2013, 78). It is them whom Cicero awards an existential role for the subsistence of the state as they embody the law. In Leg. III 2, and III 3 he says: You see, then, that this is the power of the magistrate, that he be in charge and ordain behavior that is right and useful and in accordance with the laws. […] I want you to understand that I am speaking of the law – as the power of command, without which no home or state or nation or the whole race of mankind can survive, nor can nature or the world itself (tr. Zetzel). And what is more, not only their power as such, but also their way of living has an impact on the morals of the people (Leg. III 32).9 To summa­ rize, Cicero tells us that the magistratus are somehow the embodiment of communities, holding them together: It is, then, the particular function of a magistrate to realize that he assumes the role of the city and ought to sustain its standing and its seemliness, to preserve the laws, to administer justice, and to be mindful of the things that have been entrusted to his good faith (Off. I 124, tr. Atkins, Griffin).

9 “Immoral leaders are all the more damaging to the commonwealth because they not only harbor their own vices but they instill them into the state; the fact that they are corrupted is not the only damage they cause, but the fact that they corrupt others: they are more harmful as examples than for their failings.” (tr. Zetzel)


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But besides that, they are also identified with the law: Just as the laws are in charge of the magistrates, so the magistrates are in charge of the people; it can truly be said that a magistrate is a law that speaks, and a law is a silent magistrate (Leg. III 2, tr. J. Zetzel). We can infer that the systematic position the statesmen, who are the living law, have for communities, the natural law has for the entire universe. As it seems, Cicero implies that the magistrates are, to a certain extent, small images of the natural law in the state (cf. Atkins 2013, 79)10. The radius of action of a politician is an image of the godly power, as the just state is a small-sized image of the cosmos (cf. Gallagher 2001). The analogy Cicero hints at implies, however, that the human-led community has its limits according to the ability of the politicians to attain virtue and power. As a god would be needed to “assume the role” of the entire cosmos (cf. Atkins 2013, 78), Cicero clearly excludes the possibility that a rector or a magistratus could “become a god” – as it would, in a way, be the case if he was a Stoic sage (Nicgorski 1991, 243). The politician’s agency is limited by the powers of an outstanding, yet – in comparison to the Stoic sage or god – base being. If we examine, in the light of these arguments, Sellars’s suggestion that Rome could become the political cosmopolis, we find two reasons that speak strongly against his claim. The first results from geographical and physical considerations, as the size of a state is limited by the properties of the world. The second argument is that the abilities of the political leaders can never match the virtues of god who would be needed to rule the entire cosmos. The distinction b) between ruling and being ruled is likewise a general characteristic of the state. As Brüllmann (2017, 103-104) points out, the ruled individuals in the state have to have specific qualities. In a list that he reconstructs from the extant parts of Book IV of De re publica he enumer­ ates among other things personal affection, respect, loyalty and reliability, modesty and decency. Cicero even goes so far as to say that people who display these qualities can be included without problems into the Roman state in order to become Roman citizens (Off. I 35). This, he says, has been done with the Aequi, the Sabines, and the Hernici. They are suitable to the state because they can be ruled with their own consent (Resp. II 38) and not despotically. People who do not have these humane characteristics

10 “Over against these forces with which politics must deal, the cosmos portrayed in the Dream of Scipio is the model of divine, rational, and ideal harmony of which the constitution of Rome is the empirical realization.”


Variants of Cosmopolitanism and Individual States in Cicero’s Works

according to Cicero are heavily criticized, like the Carthaginians or the Celtiberians in Numantia. I see a strong similarity between these qualities that Brüllmann enumer­ ates for the people suitable to the Roman state and the virtues that we have found to be characteristic for the membership in the ethical cosmopolitan community. The characteristics do not rely on components of auctoritas and potestas and have a reciprocal ring to them. There is a resemblance between the attributes needed to participate in the ethical cosmopolitan community, and the characteristics that are needed on the part of popu­ laces of a just state. Not brute force or coercion defines the community of these people but their ethical behaviour. The third component c) essential for the subsistence of a state is justice (Resp. II 69-70). As we have already found, the ethical cosmopolitan com­ munity has a reciprocal goodness at its centre. But this goodness is quite base. No extraordinary virtue or perfection is needed in order to imple­ ment it, just a minimal standard of interpersonal ethical behaviour. Cicero calls these qualities, that are necessary for the ethical human community, on different occasions a fundamentum for justice. They carry the potential to contribute to the establishment of justice that can be achieved in a well-ordered state. For example, in De officiis I, 23 he says: Moreover, the keeping of faith is fundamental (fundamentum) to ju­ stice, that is constancy and truth in what is said and agreed (tr. Zetzel). By contrast, justice itself is never a starting-point, but always a goal accord­ ing to Cicero. It is the most exalted and intrinsic goal, that should not be made a means to anything else (Leg. I 48-49).11 The “horizontal” ethical cosmopolitan community that has no political component does not share in the same level of excellence as it provides only the basis for the establish­ ment of justice. The result from these considerations is that Cicero cannot conceive an utopian future in which humanity will be united in a single super state known as the Roman empire. The best possible world-order is, thus, as Gi­

11 “Therefore justice too seeks no reward and no prize, and thus it is sought for itself, and the same is the case for all virtues […] And if friendship is to be cultivated for itself, then the fellowship of men, equality, and justice are desirable in themselves. And if that is not so, then there is no such thing as justice at all. For that is the most unjust thing of all, to seek a reward for justice.”


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rardet (1983, 144-163) rightly points out, a world made up from individual just states – each with a necessarily limited extension.12

3. The Role of “Imperialism” in Cicero’s Concept Having proposed the interpretation that Cicero’s reasons for the existence of a multitude of individual states of which none is identical or can be­ come identical to either the ethical cosmopolitan community or to the political cosmopolis, we have now to inquire into their interrelation. Is the claim first found in Capelle (1932) and later in Girardet (1983) correct, i.e. that according to Cicero Rome has to spread its own just constitution? Girardet maintains that Cicero had the idea to establish the code of laws he set out in De legibus in every state of the world. He thus ascribes to the Romans a mission of cultural expansion. There are several passages that could be taken to support this interpretation, for example, in De officiis III 25, where he says: The great Hercules undertook extreme toils and troubles in order to protect and assist all races of men. His reputation among mankind, recalling his kind services, has placed him in the council of the heaven­ ly ones. It is more in accordance with nature to imitate him in this, if it can be done, than to live in solitude, even though you might be not only free from trouble, but also enjoying very great pleasures, endowed with plentiful resources and excelling too in beauty and strength. And so, the men with the best and most brilliant talent far prefer that life to this. Consequently, a man who is obedient to nature cannot harm another man (tr. Atkins Griffin). The statement that Hercules assisted all races of men, could be read as his quest for bettering the lives of different populaces. It is just a small step to the interpretation that this means a quest for distributing a just way of life to barbarians. This is, however, not the right lesson to be taken out of this passage. Here Cicero mainly explains the difference between a life of pleasure and leisure on the one hand and an active life that is full of hardship on the other hand. Thus, this text is first of all a critique of a hedonistic life, not a political demand. Only few lines earlier he says

12 K. M. Girardet, Die Ordnung der Welt. Ein Beitrag zur philosophischen und politis­ chen Interpretation von Ciceros Schrift De legibus (Wiesbaden 1983), pp. 144-63.


Variants of Cosmopolitanism and Individual States in Cicero’s Works

For loftiness and greatness of spirit, and, indeed, friendliness, justice and liberality, arc far more in accordance with nature than pleasure, than life, than riches. (Off. III 25, tr. Atkins Griffin) Contributing to the wellbeing of other nations is an emphatic example for a personal active life, but it is not identical to the “political” activity of implementing the Roman code of law. To infer from this passage the ten­ dency to a kind of cultural or political expansion is an overinterpretation. Another passage in De officiis III 84 is likewise making no allowances for imperialism: […] Then how much more true do you think it is of the king who oppressed the Roman people themselves with the Roman people's army, and forced a city that was not just free, but even the ruler of the nations, to be his slave? (tr. Atkins Griffin) The words Cicero uses are a rhetorical device for criticizing someone who, thinking he is a king, dares to try to supress the proud people of Rome. This contrast is simply accentuated by the characterization of the Roman republic as ruler of the nations. A further candidate for such a reading is Leg. I 37. Cicero says there that the goals of the discussions in Leg. are these: My whole discourse aims at making commonwealths sound, establish­ ing justice, and making all peoples healthy. (tr. Zetzel) Yet, just a few lines earlier he emphasizes the single way of life for all human beings (Leg. I 35).13 This fits very well with the idea that law is grounded in nature. His statement is thus universalistic. It is not meant as a cultural expansion or as an appeal for imperialistic conquest. Cicero’s overall approach to the Roman role among the multitude of the states is formulated in Off. II 26-27: In such a matter it gives me more pleasure to recall foreign examples than ones from home. But as long as the empire of the Roman people was maintained through acts of kind service and not through injus­ tices, wars were waged either on behalf of allies or about imperial rule;

13 “Could I think otherwise, since this has already been proven: first, that we have been equipped and adorned as if by gifts of the gods; secondly, that there is one equal manner of life, shared by all people; and finally, that all people are bound by a sort of natural goodwill and benevolence as well as by the bond of justice? Since we have agreed (rightly, I think) that these things are true, how could we separate laws and justice from nature?” (tr. Zetzel)


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wars were ended with mercy or through necessity; the senate was a haven and refuge for kings, for peoples and for nations; moreover, our magistrates and generals yearned to acquire the greatest praise from one thing alone, the fair and faithful defence of our provinces and of our allies. In this way we could more truly have been titled a protectorate than an empire of the world (tr. Atkins Griffin). Roman rule must be understood as patronage. The characteristic of a patronage (patrocinium) is that endangered nations and political leaders look by themselves for protection by the Romans.

4. Conclusion We have seen that Cicero uses the notion of cosmopolitanism in two ways and locates the state in between the two. First, he explains that there is a cosmopolitan community of individuals which he shows to be ethical. It is characterized by mutuality and is structured “horizontally”. But it is deficient with regard to the degree of justice realizable. The second kind of cosmopolitanism we encounter in Cicero’s writings is “political” and as it comprises the entire world, it is led by god. Such a cosmopolitanism is more encompassing than the first one and it establishes order by reward or punishment. The third order is settled between these two, and is the order of individual states. As there is a physical limit to the extension of a state, as well as a limit regarding the virtue attainable by its leaders, Cicero does not imply that Rome could ever take the role of the universal cosmopolis.

Bibliography Asmis, E. (2005). A New Kind of Model: Cicero's Roman Constitution in "De republica". The American Journal of Philology 126, 3, 377-416. Atkins, J. W. (2013). Cicero on Politics and the Limits of Reason. The Republic and Laws. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Balsdon, J. P. V. D. (1960). Auctoritas, Dignitas, Otium. The Classical Quarterly 10,1, 43-50. Brouwer, R. (2017). ‘Richer than the Greeks’: Cicero’s Constitutional Thought. In: O. Höffe (Hg.), Ciceros Staatsphilosophie. Ein kooperativer Kommentar zu De re publica und De legibus (pp. 33-46). Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter. Brüllmann, Ph. (2017). Die Einrichtung des besten Staates. De re publica V und VI. In: O. Höffe (Hg.), Ciceros Staatsphilosophie. Ein kooperativer Kommentar zu De re publica und De legibus (pp. 91-109). Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter.


Variants of Cosmopolitanism and Individual States in Cicero’s Works Capelle, W. (1932). Griechische Ethik und römischer Imperialismus. Klio. Beiträge zur alten Geschichte, 25, 86-113. Dieter, H. (1968). Der iustitia-Begriff Ciceros, Eirene 7, 33-48. Gallagher, R. L. (2001). Metaphor in Cicero’s “De Re Publica”. The Classical Quar­ terly 51, 2, 509-519. Girardet, K. M. (1983). Die Ordnung der Welt. Ein Beitrag zur philosophischen und politischen Interpretation von Ciceros Schrift De legibus. Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag. Hampl, F. (1957). ’Stoische Staatsethik‘ und frühes Rom‘. Historische Zeitschrift 184,2, 249-271. Horn, Ch. (2017). Die metaphysische Grundlegung des Rechts (De legibus I). In: O. Höffe (Hg.), Ciceros Staatsphilosophie. Ein kooperativer Kommentar zu De re publica und De legibus, (pp. 149-166). Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter. Malaspina, E. (2012). Cicerone e la verità. Res Publica Litterarum. Documentos de trabajo del grupo de investigación “Nomos”, 1-13. Mousourakis, G. (2003). The Historical and Institutional Context of Roman Law. London: Routledge. Nicgorski, W. (1991). Cicero’s Focus: From the Best Regime to the Model States­ man. In: Political Theory 19, 2, 230-251. Nussbaum, M. (2019). The Cosmopolitan Tradition. A Noble but Flawed Ideal. Cam­ bridge MA: Harvard University Press. Pangle, T. L. (1998). Socratic Cosmopolitanism: Cicero's Critique and Transforma­ tion of the Stoic Ideal. In: Canadian Journal of Political Science / Revue canadienne de science politique 31, 2, 244-247. Schofield‚ M. (1995). Cicero’s Definition of Res Publica. In: J. G. F. Powell (ed.), Cicero the Philosopher. Twelve essays. (pp. 63-84). Oxford: Clarendon Press. Sellars, J. (2007). Stoic Cosmopolitanism and Zeno’s Republic. In: History of Politi­ cal Thought 28,1, 1-29. Woolf, R. (2015). Cicero. The Philosophy of a Roman Sceptic. London: Wright, M. R. (1999). Cicero on Self-Love and Love of Humanity. In: J. G. F. Powell (ed.), Cicero the Philosopher (pp. 171-195). Oxford: Clarendon Press. Zarecki, J. (2014). Cicero's Ideal Statesman in Theory and Practice. London, New York: Bloomsbury.


Religious Toleration in Augustine? Christoph Horn

Abstract After the year 398, as several scholars have pointed out, Augustine left behind his former tolerant attitude (the strategy of a ‘friendly persuasion’) and started to support the idea of political coercion. While the younger Augustine rejected it, the older bishop was very much in favour of perse­ cutions of the Donatists executed by the state. In this paper, I will shed some light upon Augustine’s twofold attitude from a modern perspective. I shall begin with a discussion of some basic elements of toleration as it is discussed today and continue with a look at the political difficulties generated by religious belief in modern societies. Finally, I will come back to Augustine and show how he is not only the source of some typical arguments used later for the oppression of heretics and non-believers but – surprisingly – also in a sense the origin of some aspects of political liberalism. The works of Augustine show quite a complex approach to the problem of religious toleration. The church father developed a multitude of interest­ ing (and questionable) thoughts on this issue. Accordingly, there already exist several careful scholarly studies which describe Augustine’s position and its development over his long life.1 As has been repeatedly remarked, Augustine devoted his considerations on religious toleration mainly to the challenge for the church caused by Donatism, whereas we find only few remarks on how to deal with Paganism and Judaism. Concerning the Donatists, a group of Christian fundamentalists who, in North Africa at the time, also committed crimes and cruelties (to be exact, an extremist group called the ‘Circumcellions’), he changed his mind after the year 398. Several scholars have pointed out (e.g., Brown 1972, Part III, and before him Rohr 1967 and Markus 1970) that Augustine then left behind his former tolerant attitude (the strategy of a ‘friendly persuasion’) and started to support the idea of political coercion. While the younger Augustine 1 The most important ones are O’Dowd 1919, Rohr 1967, Lamirande 1975, and Burt 2000.


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rejected it, the older bishop was very much in favour of persecutions of the Donatists executed by the state (we find important considerations on that point especially in epistula 93 from the year 407 AD). Augustine seems thus to have created, on the one hand, a paradigm of religious intolerance. The problematic consequence of his treatment of Donatism was that many later (medieval and early modern) persecutors appealed to the church father in order to justify their measures against ‘heretics’ or ‘schismatics’. On the other hand, he offers a multitude of affirmative considerations on toleration, based on the Christian idea of charity. Therefore, Rainer Forst in his comprehensive study Toleranz im Konflikt (2004: 69-96) comes to the balanced conclusion that Augustine is the origin and starting point of Christian thinking on toleration both in the friendly sense of a benevolent patience and in the hostile sense of using paternalistic force ‘for the best’ of those who are forced. In what follows, I will shed some light upon Augustine’s twofold atti­ tude from a modern perspective. I shall begin with a discussion of some basic elements of toleration as it is discussed today (I.). Then I’ll look at the political difficulties specifically generated by religious belief in modern so­ cieties (II.). Finally, I will come back to Augustine and show how he is not only the source of some typical arguments used later for the oppression of heretics and non-believers but – surprisingly – also in a sense the origin of some aspects of political liberalism (III.).

I. According to a basic understanding, toleration signifies a temporary or stable attitude of persons or institutions to patiently accept other individu­ als or social groups, although their behaviour, their personal convictions, standpoints, beliefs, doctrines, habits, traditions, or mindsets are (i) de­ fective, wrong, false, incorrect, and mistaken, maybe even immoral (at least seen from the perspective of the tolerating person), and (ii) deeply deviant or different from one’s own persuasions, up to a degree of full incompatibility or even incommensurability. One may thus distinguish between personal and institutional forms of toleration, horizontal and verti­ cal, and passive and active ones. Normally, the personal type is identical with horizontal toleration (since it is practiced on the same level), and the institutional type coincides with vertical toleration (because of its top downdirectedness). Passive toleration is practiced by someone who remains in a quiescent state, active toleration implies at least some initiative.


Religious Toleration in Augustine?

Toleration as a personal and institutional attitude can be a merely con­ tingent phenomenon, and in this case, it might simply rely on external fac­ tors (e.g., enforced mutual acceptance within a liberal state, going hand in hand with a thorough disinterest in all personal convictions of divergent groups of people). If, on the other hand, toleration is based on a carefully reflected attitude, i.e., on a version of broad-mindedness, it may to some extent resemble a virtue (as described in classical virtue ethics). But quite often, it considerably differs from a virtue. Especially in the institutional sense, toleration means in many cases a problematic policy adopted by a state or an institution (such as a religious community), and in this sense it can again be based on strategic reasoning. As we see from these considerations, the tricky problem of toleration is its moral ambivalence. The issue becomes clearer when we look at typical reasons for the realization of toleration. Deviant people and their mistak­ en and divergent standpoints can be tolerated because of at least three reasons: (a) insensibility or indifference (someone might be tolerant out of disinterest); (b) forbearance (perhaps with a certain condescendence, a feeling a superiority), and (c) some version of epistemic pluralism. Note that, at least in the first two cases, (a) and (b), toleration does simply lead to some sort of modus vivendi. Neither (a) nor (b) contain any under­ standing or sympathy for those people who have the deviant positions. Even in case (c), tolerance does not imply a genuine insight into the pos­ ition or standpoint which is held by the deviant individuals. And for this reason, tolerance cannot be a classical virtue. While the virtuous person understands and affirms the righteousness of his or her behaviour, the tolerant person sees that someone represents a position which he sees as wrong and unbridgeably different from his own positions and nevertheless remains indulgent. Toleration thereby shows, as has been pointed out by J. Raz (1987), some similarities with Aristotelian enkrateia that signifies an attitude of inner tension and conflict. Even epistemic pluralism might lead someone to an acceptance of divergent views without motivating him to really share them. And hence tolerance is deeply different from the more demanding standpoints of respect and recognition (as we know them from the Fichte and Hegel tradition in social philosophy). What is the concrete place of toleration within the history of politi­ cal philosophy? The idea of toleration – in all of its weaknesses and deficiencies) seems to come up with religious pluralism (and atheism or secularism) in early modernity, to be more precise, with the Protestant Reformation (as, e.g., John Rawls in his second main work Political Liber­ alism (1993) described the origins of liberal thought out of a situation of confessional pluralism) and with European Enlightenment. But at a 261

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closer look, it turns out to be much older than this. In societies with a factual plurality of religions, toleration is an important issue (as e.g., in medieval Islamic Spain). And so it seems unsurprising that it existed before the age of the confessional disruption of Europe, especially in the Roman Empire. To a remarkable extent, Augustine reflected on this situation, as we will see. The difficulties with religious pluralism can be traced back to late antiquity and the political rise of Christianity. The three Mosaic reli­ gions – Judaism, Christianity, Islam – characteristically insist (a) on their infallibility and the absoluteness and completeness of their possession of truth, (b) on their untranslatability and irrevocability, (c) on their rational ineffability (as containing a set of revealed beliefs), (d) the demand for strict loyalty and obedience (any individual has to assent to them as the necessary and sufficient condition for salvation), (e) consequently, on the privileged position of the believers (as truth-holders) and the fatal effects caused by heretics and schismatics, and (f) on the necessity to proselytize the ‘pagans’ or ‘infidels’. The problematic consequence of this is that the three Mosaic religions, according to their self-interpretation, possess the ultimate world-view and have always priority to any other epistemic or doxastic system (science, philosophy, politics, art, everyday life experience, etc.). Their adherents hence make no (or no easy) compromises with other positions, and they insist on their right to live and to believe whatever their religion commands. How can one be tolerant as a member of such a religion? And how can a member of such a religion be tolerated? If one carefully analyses the constitutive elements of the concept, toleration does not simply mean an acquiescence of alterity and deviation. It rather rests upon a complex dialectical dynamic, happening within the tolerating subject, between an ‘objection component’ and an ‘acceptance component’ (to use the widely acknowledged terminology of Preston King). The practice of toleration mirrors an inner conflict in the tolerating person or institution: on the one hand, the standpoint of the tolerated individual or group is rejected and even despised, on the hand it is accepted. At first glance, this tension seems to amount to a ‘paradox of toleration’: the tolerating side identifies the position of the tolerated side as epistemically and normatively false and inappropriate, but nevertheless it bears this situation without intervening – thereby relativizing one’s own position. Strictly speaking, however, the attitude of the tolerating side is not a paradoxical one since the conflict between the ‘objection component’ and the ‘acceptance component’ is resolved by an appeal to a higher level. In the famous case of Voltaire’s Traité sur la tolérance (1763), this higher level is our common humanity: regardless which position and religion someone adopts, we should see him 262

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or her as a human being. Augustine shares this – even if he does so on the specific background of Christian charity.

II. As we saw, the most relevant historical phenomenon that made toleration necessary was religious pluralism (cf. Schreiner 1990). There is, however, more at play than mere pluralism. The Mosaic religions and especially Christianity show some signs of fundamentalism – in the sense described above by its elements: infallibility and absoluteness, untranslatability and irrevocability, rational ineffability, demand for strict loyalty and obedience etc. Religious political systems typically show an illiberal attitude towards minorities. But also in cases where a relevant fundamentalist minority is involved, the problem of fundamentalism emerges. An insufficient degree of toleration cannot only be practiced by the social majority or the politi­ cal government, but also by a minority, typically a religious or a political one. This leads to a number of difficult challenges: Who deserves to be treated tolerantly? Up to which extent is toleration a morally desirable attitude? From which point onwards toleration needs not be or must not be adopted (e.g., in order not to encourage misbehaviour)? Do intolerant people deserve toleration? Toleration can both come as a praiseworthy social practice and as an excessive, inappropriate indulgence, whereas a virtue – such as justice or courage – can never applied to an excess. With regard to religion, there has been, during the last decades, the worldwide experience of a remarkable return of religion into public life. Far from ‘dying out’, as the older secularization thesis expected, there has been a strong renaissance of religions, and there has been an even stronger reappearance of religion within the political sphere. A widely shared con­ viction that can be traced back to the European Enlightenment period is what might be called the thesis of rationalization of religion. Defenders of this thesis, such as e.g., Immanuel Kant, claim that the valuable core of religions must be limited to certain rational persuasions of metaphysics and morals; the rest (namely the elements of prayer, worship, miracles, dogmas, sin and grace, pious practices, mystic experience, rituals, holy places, sacrifices, blessings, hallow persons etc.) amounts to superstition and irrationality. But this position seems strongly outdated, at least in the eyes of religious believers. Religion is today widely accepted to be a genuine and irreducible way to experience and interpret the world. This leads to the concession, now almost generally shared, that the state has to admit religious beliefs in the public realm. Religious convictions must 263

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not be excluded; they have to be respected as binding for their members, including, e.g., members of a government or parliament. But under which restrictions should the use of religious argument be allowed? When is the presentation of religious elements tolerable? What do they have to accept for being tolerated? Three possible candidates – among others – for such basic conditions are: (i) Religious people must acknowledge the general standards of morals and the requirements of the constitutions and laws in the states where they are living in; furthermore, they must respect the human rights, especially the rights of non-believers, women, children, homosexuals and other groups that are typically discriminated by them. (ii) Religious believers must accept basic standards of everyday life experi­ ence and of the natural sciences (e.g., the Darwinist evolution theory in biology or the big bang theory of astrophysics). (iii) Adherents of a certain religion are not allowed to use in public the sort argument which counts as an argument only within their own religion (on the basis of their own revelation, mythology, or tradition; example: the condemnation of homosexuality in Leviticus 18.22). To be sure, this small list is not exhaustive; additionally, all three points seem to go too far. Two famous contemporary philosophers, John Rawls and Jürgen Habermas, recently reacted to the phenomenon by developing more defensive concepts of the right use of religious reason in public. The originally Kantian idea of öffentlicher Vernunftgebrauch tries to deal with the problem that religion, at least as we know it from the three Mosaic religions with their characteristics described above. According to Rawls, e.g., adherents of a certain religion must acknowledge that the deviant position of non-believers cannot be traced back to their simple-mindedness or foolishness, stubbornness, or dazzlement, but goes back to the ‘burdens of judgment’ and the ‘fact of reasonable pluralism’. And Rawls explains: “The seminal idea of Political Liberalism is ‘overlapping consensus.’ In an overlapping consensus, each citizen—no matter which of society’s many ‘comprehensive conceptions’ he or she endorses—ends up endorsing the same limited, ‘political conception’ of justice, each for his or her own reasons. The principal role of the overlapping consensus is to replace TJ’s [A Theory of Justice (1971); C.H.] description of wholehearted acceptance. Unlike TJ’s description, the overlapping consensus conceptually reconciles wholehearted acceptance with the fact of reasonable pluralism.” According to Habermas in his Zwischen Naturalismus und Religion (2005), we should be even more concessive: Religions, he thinks, can even make genuine contributions to the development of liberal states. – The common problem 264

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of these models seems to be that they interpret epistemic pluralism as some sort of relativism, a move that is unacceptable for religious believers.

III. It is well known that, for Augustine, when he finally accepted the use of public violence, the right target of political coercion were only the Donatists, not members of other religions or further deviant beliefs. This has to do with the character of Donatism as a separatist movement within Christianity; he saw it, in its radicality and its fundamentalism, as some sort of perversion of Catholicism. Moreover, Augustine was so enraged by acts of crime and brutality done by some Donatists that he, in the end, assented to the proposal made by the imperial administration to use force against them. In his pertinent writings, Augustine justifies this coercion on the ground of the Biblical saying ‘compel them to enter’ (compelle intrare: Luke 14.23) which he uses (or misuses) in letters and sermons written against this movement about 10 times. The most important passage by Augustine is the following (Sermon 112, 8): Whomever you find, don’t wait for them to agree; compel them to come in. I have prepared a great dinner, a great house; I won’t tolerate any empty place there. Let the gentiles come in from the square and the alleys. Let the heretics and schismatics come from the highroads and hedges. Compel them to come in. Here they can find peace, because those who put up hedges are seeking divisions. Let them be dragged from the hedges, wrenched from the thorns. They are stuck fast in the hedges, and they don’t want to be compelled. ‘Let us come in of our own free will’, they say. But that was not the instruction that Christ gave to his servants. He told them: ‘Compel them to come in!’ Sometimes willingness is born inwardly only when force is applied from outside. Augustine interprets the Biblical passage in the sense of a generous invita­ tion by God offered to the Donastists while the invited guests are arrogant­ ly refusing the invitation or at least hesitating if they should follow it. He recommends to use force in order to coerce them to enter the dinner hall by suggesting that, in this case, those who force the waverers are benefit­ ting them. The coercion, he claims, turns out to be advantageous for the forced people (“here they can find peace”). This is the classical argument in favour of paternalism which we still find, e.g., in Rawls’ A Theory of Justice (§§ 33 and 39). The person who uses coercion is thereby not damaging his 265

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addressees but fostering them – given that the addressees are in an insuffi­ cient possession of their powers of cognition or will. While this argument can basically be sound, its application to cases of religious illiberality is nearly always ideological and highly questionable. In Augustine’s case with Donatism, we are certainly confronted with an illegitime paternalism. But Augustine does not only discuss the limits of toleration. He also de­ velops a rich picture of reasons in favour of tolerance – more detailed than anyone else before early modernity. His considerations are comparable on­ ly with those of the later central figures of the conceptual history like John Locke, Pierre Bayle, and Voltaire. In several of the scholarly presentations of how Augustine is dealing with the topic of religious toleration, we find a distinction of four considerations advanced by the African bishop and philosopher in favour of this attitude (e.g. in Forst 2004). (i) Toleration based on love and humanism: Love (in the sense of Christian charity) implies the willingness to indulgently accept the weaknesses and shortcomings of the beloved person for the sake of God; toleration should hence be practiced as forbearance (perhaps with a certain condescendence which might, to put it critically, include a feeling a superiority). Neverthe­ less, Augustine defends some sort of true humanism: for him, all human beings are equally created by God. All humans are seen by him as mem­ bers of the single family of mankind. All of them are loved by God, and it is according to divine will that we should love all of them. Therefore, Augustine claims (Sermon 164A.3): No human being is to be excluded from kindness and compassion, and no sinner should be allowed to go unpunished. Rebuke the sinner because of his sin but feel sorry for him because he is a human being. We should not support sinners in their sin, but we must treat them with humane consideration as human beings. Toleration, based on this fundament, is characterized by the appeal to a higher standpoint: the antagonism of the objection component and the acceptance component is here resolved by a recourse to the divine will. We shall, on the one hand, condemn the sins of someone but, on the other hand, respect the person who commits the sins. (ii) Toleration with the intention to preserve unity: In other considerations, Augustine develops a somewhat consequentialist perspective. Looking at the unity of religion (i.e. the institutional continuity of the church) as a higher value, he believes, one has to wait patiently for a solution without immediately enforcing what is seen to be the right views. So discussion is necessary; Augustine is aware of the fact that, e.g., passages of the Bible can be understood in highly diverging ways without one of them appar­ 266

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ently being mistaken. The adequate way of understanding a dogmatic content (and he believes that, ultimately, there is only one adequate way) can hence only be found on the basis of some patience. Here toleration amounts to some sort of institutional prudence. (iii) Toleration based on the idea of a free conscience: Augustine’s thoughts going in this direction are much more convincing than those (ii). Basically, he develops the idea of a free conscience that must not be forced, as e.g. the famous formula Credere non potest homo nisi volens indicates (In Ioannis 26.2). Religious belief, following Augustine, cannot be accepted but will­ ingly. In the background, he seems to assume that those who finally do not accept the right religious view are not among those who are elected for redemption or salvation. By respecting their freedom of conscience one leaves the judgment on them entirely to God – which, again, is an appeal to a higher perspective. Although Augustine is not explicitly admitting this point, (iii) might even leave room for an epistemic pluralism – given that God might, in the end, redeem also people having seriously deviant convictions and attitudes. (iv) Toleration based on the doctrine of the two cities: Augustine’s theory of the duae civitates is probably the most interesting element within his ideas on toleration. Roughly speaking, the duae civitates theory means the doctrine that each human being belongs, according to his or her ultimate inner strife, either to the civitas Dei or to the terrena civitas. Whereas members of the former group are basically driven by their love for God, members for the second community are dominated by self-love. Both civitates are ‘invisible’ in the sense that we cannot know for sure who belongs to which of them, not even by intense introspection with regard to ourselves. But while the first group will be redeemed, the second one will be condemned. Interestingly, the first civitas is not said by Augustine to be identical with the institution of the church. On the contrary, the visible church is part of the ‘mixed body’ (corpus permixtum) of good and bad people in this world. The true affiliation of someone remains opaque during his earthly life: sinners can be converted and reach divine salvation, and believers can finally be rejected. Seen from the standpoint of religious toleration, the doctrine of the duae civitates contains three relevant elements: (a) the idea of an epistemic opacity that avoids spiritual arrogance, (b) the idea of a ‘political realism’, i.e. the concession that the political sphere is something that exists in its own right, and (c) the idea that one has to accept some elements of what in the modern world is called ‘political liberalism’. (a) Augustine’s conviction that we cannot know for sure who will ulti­ mately be redeemed and who will be condemned implies an effect which 267

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is similar to the modern idea of epistemic pluralism. Epistemic pluralism (or, in Rawlsian terms, the ‘fact of reasonable pluralism’) rests upon the idea that there are several legitimate perspectives on our lives and the world. Their plurality cannot be reduced or eliminated; the rationality of different views is equally well-founded; therefore everyone deserves our recognition – even those who are far from our own positions. Not knowing the candidates of salvation or condemnation, in the Augustinian case, leads to some modesty with regard to one’s own life and persuasions. As Augustine puts it: “many who seem to be outside are really inside and many who seem to be inside are really outside” (De baptismo contra Donatistas V.27,38). (b) The descriptions of political offices, institutions, and procedures given by Augustine follow the model of what has been called ‘political realism’. He has the tendency to give a rather negative picture of the entire field of politics, seen as a field of egotistic individuals who are fighting against or consenting with each other for the own personal advantage. Au­ gustine understands the political situation of his time from the perspective of his doctrine of original sin as a fallen state. The world in its Postlapsari­ an condition cannot fully be ordered according to the principles of true justice – since God wishes to punish mankind for the sin committed by Adam (see Lavere 1980 and Weithman 2001). The political philosophy developed by Augustine hence relies on a quite specific type of ‚political supernaturalism’. According to Augustine, no administration or state can be a Christian one in an eminent sense. Chris­ tianity does not call for a specific political order. For him, it is not the case that one should or even could establish some sort of theocracy. Given that political actions can never bring about a perfect state for human beings, we have to confine ourselves to become members of the civitas Dei. The fruitful result of that is that Augustine accepts the idea of a genuinely earthly justice, based on an agreement for the best of all citizens (White 1994, Horn 2002 and 2008). There are mainly three elements of Augustinian political philosophy anticipating political liberalism: [1] A free consensus leading to the establishment of a public administration; [2] the idea that public order must be justifiable by the advantage of every individual member; [3] the neutrality of the state in questions of good life. Furthermore, Augustine accepts that a Christian citizen has to be loyal against the state (cf. De civitate Dei XIX.17): Consequently, so long as it lives like a captive and a stranger in the earthly city, though it has already received the promise of redemption, and the gift of the Spirit as the earnest of it, it makes no scruple to


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obey the laws of the earthly city, whereby the things necessary for the maintenance of this mortal life are administered; and thus, as this life is common to both cities, so there is a harmony between them in regard to what belongs to it. But on the other hand, what is completely lacking in Augustine’s account of politics is the idea of human rights. He is reflecting on the individual not from a standpoint of basic liberties and inviolable rights, but from the perspective of eternal salvation and an earthly realm that is far away from it.

References Brown, P. 1972: Religion and Society in the Age of St. Augustine, London. Burt, D. X. 2000: Friendly Persuasion: Augustine on Religious Toleration, in: American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, LXXIV, 1, 63-76. Forst, R. 2004: Toleranz im Konflikt, Frankfurt a.M. Horn, Ch. (ed.) 1997: Augustinus, De civitate dei, Berlin (Reihe ‚Klassiker Ausle­ gen’). Horn, Ch. 2002: Politische Gerechtigkeit bei Cicero und Augustinus, in: Interna­ tionale Zeitschrift für Philosophie, 181-204. Horn, Ch. 2008: Augustinus über politische Ethik und legitime Staatsgewalt, in: Th. Fuhrer (Hg.), Die christlich-philosophischen Diskurse der Spätantike: Texte, Per­ sonen, Institutionen, Stuttgart 2008, 123-142. Lavere, G. J. 1980: The Political Realism of Saint Augustine, in: Augustinian Studies 11, 135-144. Lamirande, E. 1975: Church, State, and Toleration. An Intriguing Change of Mind in Augustine, Villanova. Markus, J. R. 1970: Saeculum. History and Society in the Theology of St. Augustine, Cambridge. Markus, J. R. 1999: Augustine’s City of God. A Reader’s Guide, Oxford. O’Dowd, W.B. 1919: The Development of St Augustine’s Opinions on Religious Toleration, in: The Irish Theological Quarterly 14/56, 337-348. Raz, J.: Autonomy, Toleration, and the Harm Principle, in: R. Gavison (ed.), Issues in Contemporary Legal Philosophy. The Influence of H.L.A. Hart, Oxford 1987, 313-333. Rohr, J. A. 1967: Religious Toleration in Augustine, in: Journal of Church and State, 9.1, 51–70. Schreiner, K. 1990: Duldsamkeit (tolerantia) und Schrecken (terror). Reaktion­ sweisen auf Abweichungen von der religiösen Norm, in: D. Simon (ed.), Reli­ giöse Devianz, Frankfurt a.M., 159-210.


Christoph Horn Weithman, P. 2001: Augustine’s Political Philosophy, in: E. Stump/N. Kretzmann (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Augustine, Cambridge, 234-252. White, M. 1994: Pluralism and Secularism in the Political Order: St. Augustine and Theoretical Liberalism, in: The University of Dayton Review 22, 137-153.


Gods, Puppets and Impiety. Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin on god and the divine in Plato’s Laws Bernat Torres

Abstract The article deals with the image of god and the divine in Plato’s Laws and the interpretation of these elements given by two of the most impor­ tant contemporary political philosophers, Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin. Specifically, the article deals with the following two passages and their significance: i) the comparison between human beings and puppets of the gods offered at the end of book I; and ii) the establishment of the laws concerning impiety presented in book X. Both Strauss and Voegelin see in the Laws a key to understand Plato’s political philosophy. Strauss sees the Laws as Plato’s most political dialogue and also his most pious work. For him, the laws established in this dialogue concerning impiety would protect Socrates (and philosophy) from the city and, in this sense, at the end of the Laws we need to go back to the beginning of the Republic. For Voegelin, the Laws represent the final expression of Plato’s thought about god and the destiny of man; in them a Platonic theocracy is developed after the failure of the Republic. These two challenging interpretations of the dialogue will allow us to discuss the importance of god and the divine in Plato.

Introduction The question of god and the divine is one of the richest and most challeng­ ing fields of study of Plato and Platonism. 1 It is rich because of the plurali­ ty of forms in which the divinity can be presented in the dialogues, from the Socratic daemon until the almost monotheistic god; it is challenging

1 For Plato’s theology or the subject of the divine in the dialogues see specially Solm­ sen, 1942; Reverdin, 1945; Goldschmidt, 1949; Jaeger, 1967 and, more recently, Sedley 2019. See for the presence of god in the Laws Bordt, 2014; Ottmann, 2017.


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because the divine or godly is surrounded by mystery and maybe the first of these mysteries is Plato’s true belief in the divinity or, if you will, in religion. One of the most privileged places to observe this subject matter is, as it is well known, Plato’s Laws. The first word of the dialogue is ‘god’ (theos) and all its action takes place during a walk in which three men, an Athenian, a Spartan (Megillus) and a Cretan (Clinias), pursue a conversation as they walk from Knossos to the cave of Zeus on Mount Ida, re-enacting the pilgrimage of Minos, the ancient lawgiver of Crete. The first question of the dialogue and its subject matter all along the journey is whether the laws of the city have a divine or a human origin. In its tenth book, a demonstration of the existence of god is given and a legislation concerning impiety is developed. The dialogue reveals a clear way of understanding the strong bond between religion and politics, as well as between philosophy and politics; it moves between images of the divinity and is surrounded by the divine. In the present paper I want to deal with two specific passages of the Laws that reveal two images or perspectives on the divinity. In the first place, I will deal with the comparison between human beings and puppets of the gods, which occurs at the end of book I. Secondly, I will analyse the establishment of the laws concerning religion and impiety developed in book X. My approach will be made using Plato’s text and the interpre­ tation of two of the most important interpreters of Plato in the 20th century, Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin. Both of them took the theological or religious dimension of Plato’s thought very seriously. Few authors have dealt more in the contemporary context with the theological and religious dimension of Plato’s thought than Strauss and Voegelin. These two authors, deeply concerned and honestly dedicated to understanding and reviving classical thought, offer different but comple­ mentary approaches to Plato. Strauss offers a more sceptical reading, while Voegelin tends toward a rather dogmatic one.2 Strauss’s vision, sees in the dialogues a constant and almost endless search, because as he says to Voegelin in a letter from 1951 “Socrates knew that the hen anagkaion is deloun or skopein” (Emberley & Cooper, 2004: 90). For Strauss, philosophy

2 As it happened in the early times of the Academy, two great visions of Plato are possible and justified: the dogmatic and the sceptical , originally defended by Speusippus and Xenocrates during the first years of the Academy and continuing until the Neoplatonism and beyond in the first case; or by authors such as Arcelaus or Carneades, belonging to the New Academy, or Cicero much later and others in the second case (Tarrant, 2000; Gonzalez, 1996; Long and Sedley, 1987; see also Diogenes Laertius, III.65).


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has not its origin in a revelation, or in a revealed truth, but rather in the search, the permanent and constant skepsis. Philosophy and revelation are, for Strauss, mutually exclusive (Strauss, 1953, p. 74–75; Lastra & Monser­ rat, 2016). On the other hand, Voegelin, considers that philosophy and revelation or religion are bound together, because there is always an experience with the transcendence behind any philosophical symbol or idea. As he says in a letter from 1951 to Strauss, for Plato “God does not speak unmediated, but only as mediated through Socrates-Plato” (Emberley & Cooper, 2004, p. 87). Voegelin, nonetheless, considers that in Plato there is not a system but rather a constant illumination of questions that are presented in such a way that any kind of doctrinal teaching is avoided; the dialogues present rather “the light of wisdom that falls on the struggle”, a struggle that is produced through what he calls “pairs of concepts, which illuminate truth by opposing it to untruth” (Voegelin, 2000a, p. 117-118). Both perspectives can be for us valid in our attempt to understand the Platonic dialogue, and we will need them both in the attempt to capture Plato’s understanding of god and the divine in the Laws.3

1. Strauss and Voegelin on Plato’s Laws: between the hermit and the ecclesiastic statesman Strauss and Voegelin devoted special attention to the Laws (Planinc, 1991, p. 154 and ff.). Strauss gave two important lectures on the Laws, one in 1959, and the other in 1970-71;4 Aside from that, as it is known, Strauss wrote a book devoted to this dialogue which was posthumously published in 1975: The Argument and the Action of Plato's Laws. In the case of Voegelin, we find an extensive comment on the Laws in the third volume of his Order and History, as well as materials spread out in different articles

3 The idea of integrating models in order to understand Plato’s dialogues, with which we fully agree, has been defended by Sales (2010); Tarrant (2000); Gonzalez (1995). For Voegelin’s interpretation of Plato see Planinc (2001) and Torres (2021). 4 Throughout this article we will quote the transcript from St. John’s College course using the reference “Strauss 1972” and the course from the University of Chicago using the reference “Strauss 1959”. The paging is from the pdf that can be found on the website of the University of Chicago.


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and books of his extensive work, published in 34 volumes by the Universi­ ty of Missouri Press.5 For Strauss, the Laws are Plato’s most pious and also most political dialogue (Strauss, 1975: 1). It is the most political dialogue because for Strauss the other dialogues do not have a clear or direct political intention; the Republic and the Statesman, each in its own way, lay the foundation for answering the question of the best political order, the best order of the city compatible with the nature of man, but only the Laws fulfils this task (Strauss 1987, p. 78). On the other hand, it is the most pious dialogue for two main reasons. Firstly, because in it we find the first demonstration of the existence of god and, secondly, because in it Plato develops a legis­ lation compatible with the life of philosophy (meaning with the life of Socratic philosophy) in the city. In his lectures on the Laws given in Chicago, Strauss begins with Avi­ cenna’s comment on the Laws, where the Persian physician states that “the treatment of prophecy and the Divine law is contained in … the Laws”6. After Avicenna, he quotes Al-Farabi’s story of the hermit: a hermit or a pious man who escapes persecution from a tyrant without telling a lie but pretending to be something he is not (a vagabond and a drunk). 7 Starting his lectures with Avicenna and Al-Farabi, Strauss highlights the importance of the profound theme of divine inspiration in the opening of the dialogue, but he also draws attention to the fate of Socrates (Strauss, 1972, p. iii). Strauss states that “this hermit is a kind of foil for Plato. For Plato was not an hermit, and Plato was not so much concerned with never telling a lie, to put it mildly, as Farabi makes clear in the same context” (Strauss, 1972, p. 1). Strauss only states that the comparison “is not uninteresting”, but never clarifies (at least there is no record of it) the reason of this interest. Maybe the hermit resembles more Socrates, who is also pious and has the chance to escape the city, although he decides, at least in the Apology, to tell the truth. Or maybe the hermit is more like Plato, who learned the lesson and is also aiming at telling a truth which

5 The second and third volumes of Order and History offer a complete analysis of the Laws. Also, in other articles written during the late 60s and early 70s, especially the ones included in the 12th volume of his Collected Works: “The Gospel and Culture”, “Wisdom and the Magic of the extreme” and “Reason, the classic experi­ ence”. See Voegelin, 1990. 6 Avicenna, “On the Divisions of the Rational Sciences,” (cf. Lerner & Mahdi, 1963, p. 97). 7 The story of the hermit can be found in Al-Farabi’s Compendium Legum Platonis. Section 2.


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is not “all” the truth. Perhaps this last one is the reason for the image not being uninteresting. And that would make Strauss’s reading of the Laws become less literal, much more esoteric. I believe Voegelin would not agree with Strauss’s (or Al-Farabi’s) com­ parison with the hermit, whatever its interpretation might be. Actually, for Voegelin, in the dialogue -in any dialogue-, we find truth, and more specif­ ically, a revealed truth. In fact, Voegelin chooses as we will see another image to represent Plato in the Laws, that of the ecclesiastic statesman. For him, the Laws occupy also a very special position among Plato’s dialogues, because in them we find Plato’s final conception of political order or political science and also of the nature of human being. This shift in Plato’s perspective on political order (and in his conception of human being) is what explains, according to Voegelin, the transition from the Republic to the Laws. In the first dialogue, an attempt would be made to impose the order of the soul in society through persuasion or peitho; in the second, the truth of the soul is withdrawn and what dominates is the institutionalization of truth based on a cosmic model, a model that is closer to the society to which it is addressed. As Voegelin put it: “in the Laws Plato has arrived at the Pauline, ecclesiastic compromise with the frailty of man […] Plato’s position evolves from heroic appeal to ecclesiastic statesmanship, as we have said, within the boundaries drawn by the myth of the cosmos” (Voegelin, 2000a, p. 281). For Plato, the spirit must manifest itself in the visible, finite form of an organized society, and this is precisely what the Laws present: the final form of Plato’s political project. In this project, as will be made clear at the end of the article, the combination between persuasion and power of force is fundamental, in the same sense that the presence of a spiritual source of order is fundamen­ tal, which will inform the Platonic concept of a civil theology. Plato saw that it was impossible to institute the truth of the soul without establishing a social structure that would allow access to it, thus showing a constant tension between these two elements. For Voegelin, the Laws might have been a very good instrument for the Sicilian reform that is mentioned in the Seventh Letter, so they are a real attempt to transform the political situation (Voegelin, 2000a, p. 69).

2. The puppets of the gods: the men and the city and the new Platonic anthropology After the discussion on the role of the symposia and of gymnastics in education, towards the end of book one, the Athenian stranger offers 275

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two images to make clear for Megillus and Clinias the relevance and the interaction between passions (pleasure and pain) and reason in education. The interlocutors do not understand at all the first image, so the Athenian looks for a better one, and finds it in an image representing human beings as puppets (thauma) of the gods. The Athenian stranger introduced the image saying that we do not know if our purpose as puppets is a plaything (paignon) or serious (spoudē): “these inward affections of ours, like sinews or cords, drag us along, and, being opposed to each other, pull one against the other to oppo­ site actions; and herein lies the dividing line between goodness and badness: for, as our argument declares, there is one of these pulling forces which every man should always follow and never letting go of it, counteracting thereby the pull of the other sinews; it is the leadingstring, golden and holy, of ‘calculation,’ entitled the public law of the State; and whereas the other cords are hard and steely and of every possible shape and semblance, this one is flexible and uniform, since it is of gold” (Plato, Lg. 644d6-645a3). Many questions remain open in front of such a rich and mysterious image. The conflict and the need to coordinate the different pathē, which include pleasure and pain, and also the gentler and softer cord of rationality (or the law) seems to be the main message of the image. As it is known, the purpose of the image in the economy of the dialogue is to justify the benefits of wine-drinking and symposia in general as a training for the soul, specifically for the acquisition of aidōs (a virtue strongly connected with courage or andreia), which is defined in the dialogue as a kind of fear (phobeō) derived from considering that we have done something wrong in front of others (Lg. 646e-647b). Behind this, we find the fundamental question of the necessary knowledge of the human soul in order to proper­ ly govern the city and as part of the education of its ruler (Plato, R. 368d-e; Aristotle, NE I, 1102a18-26). Strauss observes that using the image of the puppets is a strange way of talking about self-control, because even if we may be controlled by the cords moved by the gods, we need to find our own way of dealing with the different forces (a way which is not clarified by the image or elsewhere). One of the main conclusions that Strauss draws from the image is that “those who are guided merely by the law, however reasonable, without knowing (knowing through themselves) that it is reasonable, are as much puppets as those who are dragged only by their passions, although they are of course superior to the latter” (Strauss, 1975, p. 18-19). We will come


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back later to the question of our agency (or responsibility) as puppets of the gods, as seen from Voegelin’s perspective. For Strauss, one of the main messages of the myth is the “understand­ ing of the relation between reasoning and law” (1975, p. 18). He greatly stresses the fact that rationality and law are different forces in the myth. After the myth, the Athenian Stranger says that “with that most excellent leading-string of the law we must co-operate always” (Lg. 645a3). This “most excellent” (kallistē) is for Strauss the proof of the difference between rationality and the law. A difference, by the way, not seen (or at least not stressed out) by Voegelin and not easy to prove, in my opinion, in the wording of the text. For Strauss, the distinction between rationality and law is bound with the distinction between the individual level and the political or social one and, as he will defend, between the presence and the absence of god. Control applies to the individual as well as to society, but it applies differently to these two levels: at the individual level it means obedience to the alethēs logos (Lg. 645b4), the true reasoning regarding these pushes and pulls of the different cords or pathē; at the level of the polis, at the social level, reason (logos) seems to be identified with the law, because reasoning (which does not need to be right) establishes the law with which one has to comply. And what is more interesting for our pur­ poses here: “only the polis -states Strauss-, not the individuals, may need a god for its guidance. The gods do not necessarily guide us [as individuals] toward the rational. As a simple proof, think of what Aphrodite does to men: this does not necessarily lead men to the rational.” (1959, p. 103).8 This interpretation is sustained, from Strauss’s perspective, in the argu­ ment of the Laws itself, especially in Book IV, where the conditions for a real foundation of the perfect politeia are established: “wherever a State has a mortal, and no god, for ruler, there the people have no rest from ills

8 Although Strauss does not mention it, a similar claim is made by Socrates as depicted in Xenophon’s Memorabilia. I wonder if he took the idea from there (although the accent is on the epistemological level, not directly on the political one): “Those who intended to control a house or a city, he said, needed the help of divination. For the craft of carpenter, smith, farmer or ruler, and the theory of such crafts, and arithmetic and economics and generalship might be learned and mas­ tered by the application of human powers; but the deepest secrets of these matters the gods reserved to themselves; they were dark to men.” (Xenophon, Memorabilia, I, 1, 7). In this sense, or at least this is my understanding, the separation between the private and the public sphere has to do with Strauss’ understanding of the separation between philosophy and faith: faith may be useful for the obedience of the city, but the individual needs only understanding, the true discourse of reason. See, for example, Strauss (1978, p. 51ff) and Pangle (1993, p. 220-31).


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and toils; and it deems that we ought by every means to imitate the life of the age of Cronos, as tradition paints it, and order both” (Lg. 713e2-8). This presence of the divine in the foundation of the city has, in this sense, a direct influence on the understanding of the different virtues, including moderation or temperance, which are at the centre of the image of the puppets and are directly linked with the virtue of piety (Strauss 1959, p. 178). The idea that only the city, and not the individual, is in need of god (or of piety) is of course far removed from what Voegelin sees in the image or myth, in what he calls the “puppet play”. For him, god is equally necessary to guide the city and the individual man; god, for Voegelin, speaks actually in the first instance to the philosopher, as he expresses it in a letter to Leo Strauss from April 1951: “The myth of Plato seems to be an intermediate form -no longer the polytheistic myth that, because of the concentration of his soul, had become impossible; but it is not yet the free diagnosis of the divine source of knowledge of order. God does not speak unmediated, but only mediated through Socrates-Plato. Insofar as the place of God as the addresser is taken by Socrates-Plato, as the speaker in the dialogue, the fullest expression of the ‘theomorphic’ polytheism seems to be the final reason for the dialogue form; the divine and the human are not yet completely separated” (Emberly & Cooper, 2004, p. 87) Of course, Strauss could not disagree more with this identification be­ tween philosophy and revelation, nor with Voegelin’s understanding of the Platonic myth. Actually, Strauss explicitly said to Voegelin in a letter from February 1951, that “those pieces that are usually designated as the myths of Plato are always elements of a dialogue. But as far as I know, so far nobody has been able to say clearly what the meaning of the dialogue is” (Emberly & Cooper, 2004: 79). For Voegelin, the meaning of the dialogue can be only understood when we are able to capture and interpret the revelatory experience that lies behind any symbol. In the case of the myth of the puppets, Voegelin sees a clear formulation of Plato’s anthropology. The myth is the last word on Plato’s vision of human nature: the equality of all men before god both in the individual and in the political dimension. We are of the same condition, we live, as Voegelin likes to say, in the metaxy, in-between the pulls and the counterpulls that the myth perfectly describes. The reason why man should follow one pull rather than another is not to be found in what Voegelin calls the “psychodynamics of the puppet play”, nor in some standards of “morality,” but “in the potential immortality offered 278

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by the divine presence in the metaxy. In the classic experience of noetic existence (as Voegelin calls it) man is free either to engage in the action of “immortalizing” by following the pull of the divine nous, or to choose death by following the counterpull of the passions” (Voegelin, 1990, p. 281). That means that life is not given; rather, life is to be gained and requires the cooperation of man. This is, then, Voegelin’s version of the problem of agency seen before. Also, the internal conflict at the individual level, the confrontation between passions and rationality, is connected with the polis, because in the polis the rational judgments find a final expression in the nomos. For Voegelin, this aspect is developed in Book VII, where it is said that the good citizens should “mould their lives according to the shape of their nature, inasmuch as they are puppets for the most part, yet share occasionally in truth.” (Laws, 804a7-b4). This aspect is of fundamental importance to understand Voegelin, who believes that the myth points toward the equality of all men before god both in the individual and in the political dimension. On this point, the disagreement with Strauss is clear. For Voegelin, law and rationality are not essentially distinct, as in the case of Strauss. Finally, in Voegelin’s reading, Plato’s myth and the conception of the human being that it implies, is very clearly shown in the transition (and the progress in terms of differentiation of the psyche) from the Republic to the Laws. There is not a philosopher king who is existentially different from the rest of the humans, as we all share the same condition, and the laws are equal for all of us: “[w]hat they have in their souls” -concludes Voegelin- “is the logismos, the ability to discern values, but whether they will follow the pull of this golden cord or, rather, the pull of another one, is uncertain” (Voegelin, 2000a, p. 287). From the rigidity of the different virtues that we find in the Republic, now at the centre of the image are human passions and their confrontation with the logismos. The ascent from the cave to the immediate vision of the idea of the Republic has been replaced in the Laws by the gentle pulling of the golden cord that man should follow. In the same sense, the myth of the metals, which rigidly divided the different social strata, has been transformed in the Laws, where the struggle between the different metals happens inside each individual man: “The soul now comprises the gold of rulership together with the lesser metals.” (Voegelin, 2000a, p. 303-304). In the same manner, the community, is now contracted from its distention through the shift in the meaning of philia, from that of a sentiment that binds in existential community the equals in the spirit, to that of a sentiment that binds into a communal whole the noble and the vile. Finally, what in the Republic was 279

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the vision of the idea, in the Laws “has solidified into a decree (dogma) of the polis; and this dogma, while it may be renewed and expanded by the citizens of the polis, is not created by them; they find themselves equipped with it, at the foundation of the polis, through the lawgivers” (Voegelin, 2000a, p. 288). Like Strauss, Voegelin remains open on the intention of the myth (or that of the god pulling the different strings), whether it is written in a serious or in a playful way. “Why did God create the world which is in such disorder that one has then to be saved from its disorder? That [prob­ lem] cannot be solved simply on the doctrinal level. One has to go back to the experiential problem. That problem Plato considers a mystery.” The puppet play illustrates this mystery (Voegelin, 2003, p. 414; cf. Voegelin, 1990, p. 337). Actually, Voegelin argues that the myth is full of uncertain­ ty, which is “caused by Plato’s exploration of the field of existential tension beyond the movement of the search that finds its fulfilment in the saving tale” (Voegelin, 1990, p. 185). Plato’s conception of the human being in the Laws is, very close to the Christian view: we are all equals because we are all at the same distance from god (or the law). That is the reason why the myth becomes a “true story”, alethēs logos, because it raises the question to which no further answer can be given. Strauss strongly disagrees on this point, for the alethēs logos, the truth of the image, was limited only to the individual, to his own capacities, and not to the dimension of the polis or the city, where only god can guarantee the order.

3. Laws concerning impiety: defending Socrates or constituting a civil theology As is well known, in books IX and X of Plato’s Laws, a complete code of laws for the new city to be founded is developed. The purpose of this last section of the article is to comment on the laws concerning impiety that are developed in book X (especially Lg. 885b-890d). The Athenian stranger has reminded us that having a penal code is something shameful, but “we are not now legislating, like the ancient lawgivers, for heroes and sons of gods” we are, on the contrary, “mortal men legislating for the sake of men” (Lg. 853c3-8). Book X attempts to demonstrate or persuade regarding the existence of the gods and their goodness and also defends the need of piety as a civil virtue necessary for the order and cohesion of the city. Without going into detail, this defence is based on the idea that the soul is prior to the body, because the soul, “more than anything else is what governs all the changes and modifications of bodies” (Lg. 892a-b).


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As we have already anticipated, for Strauss, book X is where the Laws reveal themselves as Plato’s most pious work. This is so firstly because in it we find the first extensive demonstration of the existence of God which has come down to us. Only in Xenophon’s Memorabilia can something similar be found (Strauss, 1972, p. 582). 9 The demonstration, based on the priority of the soul over the body, has for Strauss important consequences, one of which is the understanding of atheism. Strauss’s approach to the mentality of atheists is remarkable: for him, atheists consider that all right originates in convention because, for them, body is prior to soul and mind, or soul or mind derivate from body and, consequently, nothing is by nature just or unjust (Strauss & Cropsey, 1987, p. 86). A similar argument can be found in Strauss’ Natural Right and History. The second reason why book X reveals the Laws as being Plato’s most pious work is because, through them, Socrates (or philosophy) seems to be protected from the city. The Laws tells of what Socrates might have done if he had turned up incognito in another Greek city (Strauss, 1972, p. iii). That is why, for Strauss, the reading of two other dialogues is necessary to illuminate the scene of the Laws. The first of these is the Crito, which explains Socrates’ attempt to escape the city of Athens and where Crete is explicitly mentioned by Crito as a possible destination (Cri. 52e-53a). The second is the Minos, where it is argued that the best laws are the laws of Crete, given by king Minos; a king considered by some Athenians to be very unjust (Plato, Min. 318d.). For Strauss, the conclusion is that “an Athenian looking for the best laws must go beyond the Athenian laws; he must disregard them [and] sit at the feet of Minos, who was an enemy of Athens” (Strauss, 1972, p. 2). Book X, states Strauss, “deals with the subject of God or gods in the context of punishment for impiety, and Socrates was condemned to death on the ground of impiety. So, the whole question of Socrates’ guilt or innocence comes up in the mind of the reader and surely also in the mind of the writer in book ten” (Strauss, 1972, p. 582). The indirect reference to Socrates is found in the passage quoted at the beginning of the section (Lg. 885b), where the different causes of impiety are exposed. These different causes need to be completed with the clarification of the two possible forms into which each cause of impiety may fall: the first form is that of the just man who does not believe in god; the second one is that of “the afflicted by incontinence in respect of pleasures and pains, and possess also

9 Xenophon, Memorabilia 1.4, 4.3. Recall that in that text, it is Socrates himself who “demonstrates” the existence of god, as part of Xenophon’s defence of his piety.


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powerful memories and sharp wits”, to which group belong the tyrants, the demagogues and also the sophists (Lg. 908c-d). For Strauss, Socrates cannot belong to the second group, but must belong to the first, which would imply that, “even in the worst case he [Socrates] would get five years’ prison and not death” (Strauss, 1972, p. 591). The only thing that makes Strauss doubt this kind of impiety applying to Socrates is the fact that it may imply ridiculing other people who do not have the same principles or beliefs (Laws, 908d1): “what happens Strauss wonders, referring to Socrates – to the atheist who is a just man and does not ridicule others because they sacrifice and pray and who to this extent is a dissembler? Is it literally true of him that he deserves not one death or two, i.e., no death at all, nor imprisonment?” (1975, p. 156). Indeed, we can say that, in general terms, Socrates’ dialogic art, does not imply and is even against, ridiculing its interlocutors, except if they are its enemies.10 Be that as it may, Strauss does not further clarify this point, which is nonetheless one of his main theses in the interpretation of the dialogue. Socrates may have saved his life, but Socrates would have been an impious person, and this is so, in Strauss’s eyes, because the laws of the city are the ones that decide which is the god to be believed. This is, I believe, a weakness of Strauss’s reading of the dialogue. In a similar way, if atheists belong to conventionalism, would that make Socrates also a conventionalist? Strauss, again, remains silent about that. As we have previously seen, Voegelin’s position concerning the rele­ vance and presence of god in both the Laws and in philosophy in general is quite different form Strauss’s. For Voegelin, Book X can be understood as prooemium: “The Prooemium is the form that Plato has created for his religious poetry; and the great prooemia, in particular the prooemium that fills the whole of Book X, are the final expression of Plato’s thought on God and the destiny of man” (Voegelin, 2000a, p. 310). Voegelin, again, captures the intention of the Platonic dialogue, through the understanding of the evolution of his thought. The need to explicitly write down the laws of the new city expresses perfectly the final stage of Plato’s thought: “The play of the polis is serious because its measure is God. In the polis of the nomoi, however, men are not the sons of God; they are his puppets. On the lower existential level, which is presupposed for the citizenry, the divine measure cannot be the living order of the soul; God and man have drawn apart and the distance must now be bridged

10 About ridiculing enemies and friends see Phlb. 47d-50e.


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by the symbols of a dogma. From the vision of the Agathon man has fallen to the acceptance of a creed.” (Voegelin 2000a, p. 316). Plato has withdrawn as the saviour and now becomes the founder of a religion understood as a civil theology. Only through a civil theology can “the substance of his mystical communication with God be translated into a dogma with obligatory force” (Voegelin 2000a, p. 316). For Voegelin, Plato’s civil theology encompasses his conception of order, his last word on his conception of human nature: Plato in the Laws was able to cap­ ture the inevitable tension between the truth of the soul and the truth of society, he would have seen the necessity of combining the spiritual dimension of human existence and the appropriated amount of “dogma with obligatory force” to reach the order of society. Plato’s ability to adapt to the social truth of his time, states Voegelin, “was not possessed by the Church Fathers, and we would have to wait until the arrival of Hobbes to see the need of a civil theology as a condition for achieving public order” (Voegelin, 2000c, p. 220). Hobbes “saw himself in the role of a Plato, in quest of a king who would adopt the new truth and indoctrinate the people with it” (Voegelin, 2000c, p. 218). The problem was that Hobbes’s anthropology, the truth of the soul, was unable to capture the real nature of man: the Hobbesian man has no soul in the Platonic or Christian sense, which is why the Hobbesian enterprise must be placed, for Voegelin, in the broader context of the Western crisis. 11 For Strauss, there is a distinction between “the political doctrine of Hobbes, as the founder of modern political philosophy” and “that of Plato and Aristotle, as the founders of traditional political philosophy (Strauss, 1963, p. viii).” Hobbes’s new science of the state is distinguished from that of classical political philosophy in the sense that it is based on two funda­ mental human passions: vanity and fear of violent death (Strauss, 1963, p. 10-15). For Plato, the fundamental antithesis is between passion and reason, from which exact political science arises (Strauss, 1963, p. 149-151). There is, for Strauss, no connection between Hobbes and Plato at the level of creation of a civil theology. Also on this point, the interpretation of Voegelin and Strauss diverge deeply. Strauss would agree with Voegelin, on the other hand, that their anthropologies were deeply different, that -to use Voegelin’s style- Hobbes’s man does not have a soul. For Strauss, the impossibility of modern man to know what is good and bad, what is right and wrong, brings him to believe that “in our time […]

11 See Castellanos & Torres (2022).


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political philosophy is impossible.” (Strauss, 1989, p. 81). For Voegelin political philosophy is possible, and he attempted, in his The New Science of Politics, to rebuild it. With more or less success, both Strauss and Voegelin seriously tried to understand Plato’s Laws, and the presence of god and the godly in them. While Strauss remains sceptical about the impact and feasibility of a political reform, Voegelin looks more optimistic, and he believes in the possibility that the divine order of things reveals to men. Both their readings remain valid approaches, moving between religion and philosophy, trying to understand man’s condition as a human being and also as a citizen.

Conclusions: Socrates, Plato and the search of truth We come to the end of our journey with one more challenge to overcome and with one more tool to fully understand the dialogue in all its complex­ ity. The challenge is now to understand Plato’s laws on impiety and their prooemia: are these laws and their prooemia there to justify and allow philosophy (or Socrates) to survive in the city as Strauss seems to suggest? Or are the laws and their prooemia meant to orient the establishment of a civil theology which may inspire a new foundation as Voegelin argues? Is there any way of making both interpretations compatible? I want to believe in a positive answer to this last question. The life of philosophy should be compatible with the understanding of the spiritual dimension of man and the city. As it happened with the myth of the puppets, Strauss proposes a more skeptical reading and Voegelin a more dogmatic one. For Strauss, the puppet-play shows in the first instance the complexity of self-control and also the difference between control at the individual level (where only rationality is needed) and at the political level (where god and piety are fundamental). For Voegelin, on the other hand, the myth reveals a truth about humans being both at the individual and the political level: we are all the same, we are of the same condition, we live in the metaxy, in-between the pulls and the counterpulls that the myth perfectly describes. Voegelin and Strauss both offer strong interpretations of the figures of god and the divine in Plato’s Laws. Apparently incompatible, they both show the richness of the Platonic dialogue. Perhaps we can now return to the images of the hermit and the ecclesiastic statesman, wondering which is closer to the author of the Laws. Both are pious figures; both are images of justice and goodness. But the hermit needs to escape from injustice, leaving the city in his search of truth. The ecclesiastic statesman 284

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does not seem to be escaping from anything, but he is rather willing to confront injustice in a more direct way (through the institution of a civil theology). Strauss’s interpretation placed Socrates and his fate at the center; Voegelin seems to go beyond that, seeing Plato’s intention as beyond Socrates (beyond the conflict between philosophy and the city). I believe this enigma is perfectly compatible with Plato’s intention when he wrote his dialogues, when he placed mysteries and revelations in them. We must always return to the dialogue and ask again and again the questions he is asking, wondering and finding, as much as possible, our place in the whole, before ourselves, the city and god.

References Bordt, M. (2014). “Die theologische Fundierung der Gesetze“. In Christoph Horn (ed.) Platon: Gesetze/Nomoi. Akademie Verlag. Castellanos, R. & Torres, B. (2022) “Voegelin on Hobbes: the Idea of the Everlast­ ing Constitution”, Eric Voegelin Studies, Brill / Fink. In print. Goldschmidt, V. (1949). La religion de Platon. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. Gonzalez, F. (1995). The Third Way. New Directions in Platonic Studies. Boston & London: Rowman & Littlefield. Jaeger, W. (1967). The Theology of the Early Greek Philosophers. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Lastra, A. & Monserrat, J. (2016). Leo Strauss, Philosopher. European Vistas. New York: Suny Series. Lerner, R., & Mahdi, M. (1963). Medieval Political Philosophy. New York: Free Press of Glencoe. Long, A., & Sedley, D. (1987). The Hellenistic Philosophers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Müller, J. (2014). “Der Mensch als Marionette: Psychologie und Handlungstheo­ rie”. In Christoph Horn (ed.) Platon: Gesetze/Nomoi. Akademia Verlag. Ottmann, H. (2017). “Platon als Begründer der Politischen Theologie”. In Manuel Knoll, Francisco Lisi (eds.), Platons Nomoi. Die politische Herrschaft von Vernunft und Gesetz. Baden-Baden: Nomos, p. 49-64. Pangle, T. L. (1993). “Platonic Political Science in Strauss and Voegelin”. In Peter Emberly and Barry Cooper (trans. and eds.). Faith and Political Philosophy: The Correspondence Between Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin, 1934-1964. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press. Planinc, Z. (2001). The Significance of Plato’s Timaeus and Critias. In G. Hughes, S. McKnight & G. Price (eds.). Eric Voegelin’s Philosophy, Politics, Order and History. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, pp. 327–375.


Bernat Torres Reverdin, O. (1945). La Religion de la Cite Platonicienne. Paris: E. de Boccard. Romanello, J. (2018). “Eric Voegelin on Plato’s Laws” (Part I and II). In Voegelin View. Retrieved: https://voegelinview.com/eric-voegelin-platos-laws-part-two/. Sales, J. (2010). “Two Figures of Platonic Hermeneutics: The Wealthy Young Man and the Wall”. In A. Bosch-Veciana, J. Monserrat Molas (eds.). Philosophy and Dialogue. Studies on Plato’s Dialogues. Barcelona: Barcelonesa d’Edicions. vol. 1. pp. 15-28. Sedley, D. (2019). “Plato’s Theology”. In The Oxford Handbook of Plato, second editon. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Solmsen, F. (1942). Plato's Theology. New York: Cornell University Press. Strauss, L. (1953). Natural Right and History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Strauss, L. (1963). The Political Philosophy of Hobbes: Its Basis and Its Genesis. Trans­ lated by Elsa M. Sinclair. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Strauss, L. (1989). “The Problem of Socrates: Five Lectures”. In Thomas L. Pangle (ed.). The Rebirth of Classical Political Rationalism. An Introduction to the Thought of Leo Strauss. Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press. Strauss, L., & Cropsey, J. (1987). History of Political Philosophy. Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press. Strauss, L. (1972). Plato, Laws (St. John’s College), 1970-71. Retrieved 20.05.2021 https://leostrausscenter.uchicago.edu/plato-laws-st-johns-college-1970-71/?et_fb= 1&PageSpeed=off. Strauss, L. (1975). The Argument and the Action of Plato's Laws. Chicago and Lon­ don: The University of Chicago Press. Strauss, L. (1989). “The Three Waves of Modernity”. In Hilail Gildin (ed.). An Introduction to Political Philosophy: Ten Essays by Leo Strauss. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. Strauss, L. (1978). The City and Man. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Tarrant, H. (2000). Plato's First Interpreters. London: Duckworth. Torres, M., & Monserrat, J. (2021). Eric Voegelin’s Political Readings: From the An­ cient Greeks to Modern Times. London: Routledge. Torres, M. (2021). “Eric Voegelin’s Reading of Plato: Discovering the Soul as a Source of Order”. In Torres, M., & Monserrat, J. (2021). Eric Voegelin’s Political Readings: From the Ancient Greeks to Modern Times. London: Routledge. pp. 13-27. Voegelin, E. (1990). Published Essays, 1966-1985. vol. 12. The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. Voegelin, E. (2000a). Order and History, vol. III. Plato and Aristotle, vol. 16. The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin. Columbia: University of Missouri Press. Voegelin, E. (2000b). Order and History, vol. IV. The Ecumenic Age., vol. 17. The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin. Columbia: University of Missouri Press. Voegelin, E. (2000c). Modernity Without Restraint: The Political Religions; The New Science of Politics; And Science, Politics, and Gnosticism, vol. 5. The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin. Columbia: University of Missouri Press.


Gods, Puppets and Impiety Voegelin, E. (2002). Anamnesis: On the Theory of History and Politics. vol. 6. The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin. Columbia: University of Missouri Press. Voegelin, E. (2003). Miscellaneous Papers. vol. 33. The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin. Columbia: University of Missouri Press.



Abrahamic Religions: 33-44 Agnostic(ism): 23, 79, 84, 91, 93-94, 101-102, 116, 121 Ambassador(s) 35 Anosion/oi: 148, 186 Anthropomorphic/sm: 22, 45-47, 51, 53, 55-57, 59-60, 64, 66, 127, 229, 233, 237 Apeiron: 53-55, 57, 64, 199 Archē: 49, 50-52, 54, 99, 111 Aristotle: 7, 17, 21, 22, 25, 36, 45-46, 49-54, 56-57, 59-60, 63-64, 68, 71-77, 112-113, 119, 156-157, 161, 172, 213, 217-218, 222, 226, 229-239, 276, 283. Asebeia/ἀσεβεία(ς) (impiety) 104-105, 138-140, 149, 185-186, 190. Assembly 35, 109-113, 140, 171 Atheism/Atheist: 7, 23, 91-94, 97-98, 101, 103, 108, 114, 116-117, 121, 261, 280 Athena: 17, 19, 33, 36, 39, 40, 42, 109, 175, Belief(s): 7, 15-16, 23, 24, 35, 58, 59, 69, 71, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 85, 87-89, 91-94, 97, 99, 105, 117, 119, 137, 143-144, 148, 150, 155, 164, 172, 174, 176, 180, 185, 231, 237, 259, 260, 262-263, 265, 267, 272, 282 Ceremony/ies: 33, 38, 41, 42, 103, 137, 144-145 Chaos (deity): 50-51, 54, 222 City-State: 32-40, 42 Chorus/es: 140, 176-179 Christianity: 20, 37, 39, 40, 97, 125, 196, 237, 262, 263, 265, 268, Cosmopolitan(ism): 26, 243-244, 246-249, 253-254, 256

Cronus: 25, 150, 170, 213, 219-223, 225 Cult(s)/Cultic practice(s): 15-21, 23-24, 30, 33, 39-41, 46, 69-70, 98, 103-105, 121, 125-126, 131, 137, 144, 164, 169, 172 Demeter: 33, 84 Democracy: 35, 42, 105, 107-114, 116, 119, 132-133, 250 Dionysus: 33, 69, 84, 115, 140, 176. Deity: 56-57, 115, 120, 148, 170, 172, 176, 196, 220, 223, 225 Demiurge: 24, 155-165, 172, 193, 199 Demystification: 45-46 Demythologization: 45-46 Divination: 15, 198, 202, 277 Divine: 2, 7-8, 15, 18-23, 26, 40-41, 45-47, 51-57, 65-66, 68-71, 75-76, 79-80, 82-83, 85, 86, 88, 89, 91-92, 94, 99-100, 115, 118-119, 121, 126-127, 131, 132, 138, 141-142, 144, 146, 148, 150-151, 155-156, 170-174, 179, 181, 184, 185, 188-189, 191-193, 196, 197-207, 210, 213, 218, 222-225, 229, 231, 232-233, 235-236, 238-239, 249, 252, 266-267, 271-272, 274, 278, 282, 284. Energeia: 60, 231-232, 236-237, 238 Eusebeia (εὐσέβεια): 16, 23, 36-37, 137, 142-145, 149-150 Festival(s): 15-17, 33-36, 38-39, 93, 103-105, 117, 176 Faith: 37, 69, 98, 131, 155, 251, 253, 256, 277 Flourishing: 42, 86, 115 God (θεός): 7-15, 19-26, 31, 33, 36, 39, 45-46, 48, 55-57, 59-60, 63-70, 74-77,


Index 81, 83-88, 90, 97-100, 102-103, 109, 114-115, 117, 120-121, 126-129, 131-132, 134-135, 149, 151, 155-161, 163-165, 170-171, 175-177, 186, 193, 195, 197-198, 200-201, 205-207, 213-215, 219, 229-234, 236-237-239, 243-246, 252-256, 265-266, 268, 271-274, 277-280, 282-285. Gods: 6-7, 15-26, 31, 45-46, 48-52, 55-60, 64, 66-69, 74-89, 94-101, 104-105, 113-121, 125, 126-132, 134, 137-145, 150-152, 155, 157, 159, 161, 164, 169-170, 173-177, 180-181, 185-189, 191-193, 197, 198, 201-204, 206-209, 211, 213-215, 219, 222-226, 238-240, 246, 248-249, 255-272, 275-277, 280-281. Greek Religion: 15-16, 21, 29, 31-33, 38-41, 45-46, 48, 51, 59, 70-71, 104, 131, 169, 180, 193. Holy: 17, 20, 39, 98, 138, 140, 143-144, 148-149, 150-151, 204-207, 209, 263, 276. Hosion/hosios (ἡ ὁσιότης/τὸ ὅσιον.): 36, 113, 137, 138-139, 143-144, 147-152, 196. Imagination (mythological): 22, 42, 45-47, 57-58, 64, 67, 150, 219 Immortality: 237, 278 Impiety: 24, 101-102, 104-105, 120, 130, 140, 142, 146, 148, 151, 171, 180, 185-187, 189-190, 192, 247, 271-272, 280-282, 284 Intellect: 64, 66, 68, 102, 157-158, 162, 171-173, 199, 202, 220-222, 231, 236ù Justice: 16, 19, 23-24, 54-56, 59, 83, 85, 89-90, 103, 109, 113, 115, 118-119, 137-139, 141-143, 145-152, 171, 187,


189, 203-204, 208, 238, 248-251, 253, 255-256, 263-265, 268, 284 Kosmos: 22, 24, 169, 178-179 Law of nature: 243 Logos: 22, 45, 47-48, 55, 156, 171, 220-221 225, 277, 280 Lyrics, Lyrical: 30 Magnesia: 175, 226 Mantis: 40 Mimēsis: 59 Methexis: 59 Measure: 21, 29, 33, 40, 46, 59, 92, 102, 175, 193, 204-205, 222, 260, 282 Metaphysics: 7, 24-25, 46, 49, 58-59, 63, 68, 72, 73-74, 76, 155, 165, 213 (Divine) Mind: 24, 29, 40, 57, 58-60, 68, 232, 235-236 Myth: 21-22, 29-30, 31-36, 40-41, 45-48, 50, 57-58, 67, 71, 83, 91, 117, 129, 156, 159, 162, 170, 195, 210-211, 247, 275, 277-280, 284 Mythology/mythological: 21-22, 29, 32-33, 40, 42, 45-47, 57-58, 64, 67, 69, 150, 219, 264 Nomos/nomoi: 35, 56, 100, 116, 118, 171, 173, 179, 225, 279, 282 Nous: 22, 24, 57-58, 60, 127, 157-158, 160, 163, 171-173, 181, 193, 199-200, 213, 220-221, 223, 225, 226, 231, 233, 235, 238-239, 279 Offerings: 33-34, 36, 38, 67, 144, 188 Okeanos (Deity): 51-52 Olympian (gods/religion): 16-17, 20, 24, 29, 66, 69-70, 99, 128, 169, 170, 175-177, 180-181 Order (cosmic) 54, 170, 172, 179-180 Orphic 16, 58, 69, 171 Ouranus/Ouranian: 25, 213, 219, 221-222, 225

Index Paideia: 108, 110, 177 Panathenaic (festival): 17 Panhellenism: 34 Pantheism: 66 Persian Wars: 32 Piety: 16, 18-20, 23-24, 26, 36, 38, 65-66, 120-121, 129-130, 134, 137-148, 150-152, 277-278, 280-281, 284 Polis religion: 21, 29, 32-34, 38, 40, 42 Politēs, Politai:39 Polytheistic: 23, 32, 50, 125, 128, 132, 155, 164, 278 Prayer: 15, 18, 35, 37, 38, 59-60, 70-71, 137, 141, 145, 181, 187, 189, 190, 191, 197, 198, 263, Prime Mover: 25, 229-238 Principles: 21, 24-25, 49, 58, 63, 65-66, 69, 73, 100, 127-128, 130, 157, 164, 213, 222, 225, 230, 248, 268, 282 Prosperity: 17, 38, 104, 142-143 Purification: 18-19, 58, 66-67, 141, 247 Rationalism (Utilitarian): 23, 79, 133 Rationalization: 7, 22, 45-47, 57-58, 99, 263 Respect (and disrespect): 15, 20, 23-24, 26, 37-39, 41, 48, 72, 74, 79, 82, 89-90, 102, 104-105, 137-144, 149, 151, 157, 171, 198, 201, 206, 208, 252, 261, 264, 266-267 Reverence: 20, 23, 37, 60, 105, 137, 138-146, 149-152, 175 Rhapsodes: 30-31 Ritual(s): 16-18, 24, 29, 32-38, 41-42, 67, 69-71, 98-99, 103-105, 117, 119, 121, 131, 137-138, 141, 144-145, 185, 187-189, 191, 263

Sacrifice(s): 15-18, 20, 33, 36, 38-38, 41-42, 59, 66-67, 69, 71, 99, 104-105, 109, 117, 119, 137, 142, 144-145, 177, 186-192, 197-198, 209, 263, 282 Scientism: 48 Secularization: 101, 116, 261, 263 Self-contemplating (intellect): 64 Seer (mantis): 40-41 Spiritual: 58, 267, 275, 283 sophia: 199, 202, 205 Soul: 51, 117, 129, 141, 155-156, 158, 160, 162, 170-172, 176, 178-179, 181, 194, 199-202, 210, 213, 220-224, 226, 275-276, 278-283 Synchoreutēs (fellow celebrant): 176-177 syneortastēs (fellow members or lead­ ers of choruses): 176-177 Therapeia (care): 16 Theology (natural theology; Rational theology): 7-8, 21-22, 24, 29-30, 45-46, 48, 57-58, 63-65, 67-68, 70-71, 75-76, 89, 125-126, 169, 171-173, 213, 215, 223-224, 229, 234, 237, 240, 271, 275, 280, 283-285 Tolerance/Toleration: 6-7, 26, 104, 101, 104, 188, 190, 259-267 Worship: 15-16, 20, 32-33, 36-37, 48, 69-70, 82-83, 94, 99, 109, 121, 127, 137, 139, 142-143, 149-150, 164, 165, 169, 175, 185-187, 191, 209, 263 Zeus: 17, 25, 34-35, 37, 40, 42, 83, 119, 129, 142, 148, 150, 170, 175-176, 181, 207, 213, 219-220, 222-225, 272

Sacred: 17, 19, 33, 39, 50, 93, 98, 100, 105-106, 128, 149, 170, 175-177, 191, 197-198, 202, 214 Sacrificial officers: 16-17 Ancient Authors

Anaxagoras: 22, 57-58, 60, 68, 83, 100, 127, 172

Aeschines: 112


Index Anaximander: 22, 46, 52-56, 60, 64, 71, 83, 126 Anaximenes: 22, 46, 50, 52-53, 55-58 Andocides: 105 Aristotle: 7, 17, 21-22, 25, 36, 45-46, 49-54, 56-57, 59-60, 63-64, 68, 71-77, 112-113, 119, 156-157, 161, 172, 213, 218, 222, 226, 229-240, 276, 283, Athenaeus: 98 Augustine: 6, 7, 20-21, 26, 67-68, 259-260, 262-263, 265-269 Cicero: 19, 26, 84, 243-246, 248-250, 252-256, 272 Critias: 23, 79, 85-87, 94, 97-98, 105-117, 120-121 Democritus 81, 83, 85, 87, 100, 119, 128 Demosthenes: 105, 117, 140 Diagoras: 84, 92, 116 Dio Cassius: 139 Diodorus Siculus: 111 Diogenes Laertius: 53, 100, 272 Diogenes Oenoandensis Epicureus: 92 Dionysius Halicarnassensis: 89 Empedocles : 22, 51, 58, 63, 65, 66-70, 72, 99, 127-128, 213 Euripides: 31, 38, 87, 94, 98, 101, 113-114, 117, 120 Eusebius: 91, 117 Gorgias: 79, 87-89, 139, 204, 210-211 Harpocration: 100 Herodotus: 18-19, 31, 40 Hermias Alexandrinus Philosophus: 90 Hesiod: 22, 29, 31-33, 45-46, 50-56, 64-66, 70-71, 118, 213-214, 221-222, 225 Hippocrates: 99 Hippolytus: 100 Homer: 29, 31-33, 48, 50-52, 56, 64, 66, 70-71, 127, 134, 170, 213-216, 218, 224-225


Isocrates: 16, 138-144 Lactantius: 19 Lucretius: 82 Lycurgus Orator: 119 Lysias: 105, 108, 111, 194, Parmenides: 22, 54, 58, 63-68, 70, 72-75, 127, 161 Philip of Opus: 180 Philodemus: 84, 116 Philolaus: 126 Philoponus: 99 Plato: 7, 16-18, 22-26, 29, 32, 43, 45-46, 58-60, 63, 64, 71-72, 74, 76-77, 83, 88, 98-99, 102-104, 106, 109-110, 117-118, 120, 125, 128-129, 132-134, 137-140, 144-146, 148, 152, 155-158, 160-161, 163-165, 169-174, 176-180, 185-187, 189-202, 205-210, 213-222, 224, 226, 230, 237, 271-285. Plutarch: 106 Porphyrius: 99 Polybius: 119 Prodicus: 79, 82, 84-85, 87, 93, 116 Protagoras: 79, 81, 83-84, 91-93, 101-102, 117-118, 132, 204-205 Quintilian: 130 Sextus Empiricus: 76, 92-94, 98, 113-114 Simplicius: 56, 73-74, 76 Socrates: 26, 37, 79, 100, 103-105, 107, 110, 116, 120, 125, 128-132, 134, 138-139, 145-152, 160-161-162, 194-195, 198, 201, 204, 210, 213-226, 271-274, 277, 280-282, 284-285 Stobaeus, Joannes: 90, 119 Thales: 46, 49, 50-55, 71, 99, 172 Themistius: 93 Theognis: 101 Thucydides: 18, 102, 109, 111, 113 Theophrastus: 72-74, 119

Index M. Terentius Varro: 21, 45, 67-68, 71 Xenophanes: 22, 37, 46-47, 56-60, 63-68, 70-77, 127 Xenophon: 103, 107-110, 116, 120, 277, 281

Modern and Contemporary Authors Hegel, G.W.F.: 261 Feuerbach, Ludwig: 56, 97 Kant, I.: 263-264 Nussbaum, M.: 244 Oakeshott, M.: 133

Raz, J.: 261 Strauss, L.: 26, 271-285 Voegelin, E.: 26, 271-285 Voltaire: 262, 266 Weber, M.: 46, 48

Patočka, J.: 125, 129-130, 134 Rawls, J.: 261, 264-265, 268

Secondary Literature Anceschi, B.: 219, 226 Asmis, E.: 256 Athanassiadi, P.: 125, 135 Atkins, J. W.: 245, 251-252, 254-256 Balsdon, J. P. V. D.: 251, 256 Bearzot, C.: 111, 121 Berti, E.: 233, 240 Bett, R.: 84, 86 Blake Tyrrell, W. M.: 99, 121 Bobonich, Ch.: 182 Bordt, M.: 271, 285 Bremmer, J. N.: 15-16, 27, 30-31, 43 Brisson, L.: 156, 158, 161, 166, 172-174, 182, 187, 189 Broadie, S.: 68, 77, 144, 152, 158, 166 Brouwer, R.: 250, 256 Brown, F.S.: 99, 121 Brown, P.: 259, 269 Bruit Zaidmann L.: 16, 17, 105, 121 Brüllmann, Ph.: 252, 253, 256

Bryant, J. M.: 45, 50, 60 Burkert, W.: 30, 42, 43, 71, 77, 180, 182 Burnet, J.: 45, 46, 48, 57, 60, 69, 77, 137, 144, 148, 152 Burnyeat, M.: 125, 129, 130-132, 135, 231, 240 Burt, D.: 259, 269 Bultrighini, U.: 94, 106, 108, 114, 116, 120-121 Calame, C.: 37, 43, 177, 182 Canfora, L.: 111, 121 Capelle, W.: 248-249, 254, 257 Cartledge, P.: 111, 122 Castellanos, R.: 283, 285 Centanni, M.: 107, 122 Chantraine, P. 137, 152 Charles, D.: 229, 234, 240 Cherniss, H.: 49, 60 Chrysakopoulou, S.: 22, 56, 60, 63, 67, 72, 77-78


Index Cleary, J. J.: 190-192 Cohen, D.: 146, 152 Collard, C.: 114, 122 Collard, C., Cropp, M.: 87, 94 Cole, S. G.: 34-35, 37-43 Cornford, F. M.: 69, 77, 156, 166 Danzig, G.: 122 Darwall, S.: 138, 152 Davies, M.: 114, 116, 122 Deacy, S.: 36, 43 De Koninck, T.: 229, 240 Depew, D.: 153 Derenne, E.: 101, 105, 122 De Filippo, J, G.: 230, 240 Destrée, P.: 167, 239-240 Diels, H.-Kranz, W.: 48, 60, 95, 135 Dieter, H.: 257 Dihle, A.: 114, 122 Dodds, E. R.: 70, 78, 97, 122, 180, 182 Dover, K.: 104, 114, 122 Dowden, K.: 30-31, 43 Elders, L.: 38, 111, 234, 240 Eustacchi, F.: 23, 79, 92, 95 Ewegen, S. M.: 216, 226 Filonik, J.: 102, 104-105, 122 Forst, R.: 260, 266, 269 Fowler, H. N.: 137, 146, 153, 214 Frede, D.: 182 Frede, M.: 125, 135, 170, 229, 234, 240 Furley, W. D.: 148, 153 Furnari Luvarà, G.: 182 Gaiser, K.: 217, 227 Gallagher, R. L.: 252, 257 Garver, E.: 140, 153 Gastaldi, S.: 24, 169, 178-179, 182 Gernet, L.: 191-192 Gerson, L. P.: 65, 67-69, 78, 230, 240 Genequand, C.: 234, 240 Giorgini, G.: 15, 23, 97, 113, 122 Gigon, O.: 50, 60 Girardet, K. M.: 243, 249, 254, 257 Goldschmidt, V. : 271, 285


Gomperz, T.: 45, 48, 60, 97, 122 Gonzalez, F.: 272-273, 285 Gotteland, S.: 107, 122 Graf, F.: 30-31, 43, 188, 192 Guthrie, W.K.C.: 16, 27, 77 Hampl, F.: 248, 257 Hansen, M. H.: 34, 39, 43 Harte, V.: 123, 149, 153 Herzberg, S.: 231, 240 Hesk, J.: 118, 122 Hladký, V.: 219, 227 Horn, Ch.: 26, 229-231, 233, 240-241, 246, 257, 259, 268-269, 285 Jaeger, W.: 27, 45-51, 54-58, 60, 65, 67-69, 71, 78, 80, 82-83, 89, 91, 95, 125-128, 135, 271, 285 Jouët-Pastré, E.: 177, 182 Kahn, C.H.: 99, 119, 122, 232, 241 Kindt, J.: 34, 43-44 Kirk, G.S.: 30, 43, 51-52, 54, 56, 61, 72, 78, 99, 122 Knoll, M.: 8, 22, 45, 53-56, 58-59, 61, 63-64, 99, 285 Kowalzig, B.: 177, 182 Krentz, P.: 110, 122 Kurke, L.: 170, 182 Lamb, W. R. M.: 153, 181-182 Lambrinoudakis, V.: 185, 192 Lamirande, E.: 259, 269 Lastra, A.: 273, 285 Lavere, G. J.: 268-269 Lefkovitz, M.R.: 104, 122 Lenfant, D.: 102, 122 Lerner, R.: 274, 285 Lesher, J. H.: 56, 61 Liatsi, M.: 25, 229, 230, 233-234, 240-241 Liddell, H. G. & Scott, R.: 9, 30, 43, 137 Lisi, F.L.: 8, 24, 46, 155-156, 163, 165-167, 182, 192, 285 Long, A.A.: 272, 285

Index Mackie, J.L.: 59, 61 Mahdi, M.: 274, 285 Malaspina, E.: 243, 257 Manuwald, B.: 230, 241 Martin, G.: 140, 153 Markus, J.R.: 259, 269 Mayhew, R.: 171, 182, 185, 187-188, 190, 192 McKirahan, R.D.: 81, 91, 95 McPherran, M.: 146, 148, 153 Meister, K.: 178, 183 Menn, S.P.: 172, 183 Meritt, B.D.: 113, 122 Migliori, M.: 25, 95, 187, 193-194, 197, 211 Mikalson, D.J.: 15-16, 27, 32-39, 41, 43, 137, 153 Monserrat, J.: 273, 285-286 Moore C.: 87, 95 Morrow, G.R.: 170, 176, 180, 183, 192 Most, G.: 55, 70, 78 Moural, J.: 23, 125, 130, 135 Mousourakis, G.: 247-248, 257 Müller, J.: 285 Naddaf, G.: 20, 27, 99, 123 Nestle, W.: 22, 45-48, 50, 59, 61, 97, 123 Nicgorski, W.: 252, 257 Nilsson, M.P.: 32, 43, 104, 123 Nussbaum, M.: 244, 257 Norlin, G.: 137, 139, 142-143, 153 Obbink, D.: 117, 123 Osborne, R.: 44, 110, 123 Ostwald, M.: 35, 43 O’ Sullivan, N.: 102, 123 Ottmann, H.: 56, 61, 271, 285 Palmer, J.A.: 75, 78 Pangle, T.L.: 170, 183 Parker, R.: 33, 39, 41, 43 Peponi, A.E.: 182 Petrounakos, S.: 192 Pirenne-Delforge, V.: 32, 44 Pironti, G.: 32, 44 Philippson, P.: 222, 227 Planinc, Z.: 273, 285

Politis, V.: 234, 241 Powell, A.: 111, 123, 257 Poulakos, T.: 153 Pradeau J.F.: 187, 189, 191 Prauscello, L.: 177, 183 Price, S.: 39-41, 44, 285 Rabinowitz, W.G.: 137, 153 Raymond, C.C.: 87, 95 Rapp, Ch.: 49, 55, 61 Rackham, H.: 17, 27 Raven, J.E.: 51-52, 54, 56, 61, 72, 78, 99, 122 Reale, G.: 82, 85, 95 Reverdin, O.: 271, 286 Riedweg, C.: 101, 123 Robin, L.: 194, 211 Rohr, J.A.: 259, 269 Romanello, G.: 286 Ross, A.: 49, 60, 233, 241 Rotstein, A.: 108, 123 Sales, J.: 273, 286 Saunders, T.J.: 187, 189-192 Schmitt Pantel P.: 16, 17, 121 Schofield, M.: 51, 52, 54, 56, 61, 72, 78, 245, 250, 257 Schöpsdau, K.: 190, 192 Schreiner, K.: 263, 269 Scodel, R.: 119, 123 Sedley, D.: 114-115, 118-119, 123, 220-221, 227, 271-272, 285-286 Sellars, J.: 249, 252, 257 Sgouleta, Z.: 192 Shear, J.L. 104, 110, 123 Solmsen, F.: 34-35, 38, 40, 44, 271, 286 Sourvinou-Inwood, C.: 34-35, 38, 44 Sutton, D.: 114, 123 Thomas, R.: 42, 44, 286 Timpanaro Cardini, M.: 91, 95 Tor, S.: 71, 78 Torres, B.: 26, 271, 273, 283, 285, 286 Untersteiner, M.: 91, 95 Usher, S.: 107, 123


Index Vassallo, Ch.: 60, 77 Vlastos, G.: 46-48, 55, 61, 69-70, 78, 129, 130, 135, 137, 153 Wallace, R.W.: 104, 123, 178, 183 Waterfield, R.: 87, 90, 92, 95 Weithman, P.: 268, 270 White, M.: 268, 270 Whitehead, D.: 110, 123 Whitmarsh, T.: 114, 116, 118, 124 Wilamowitz-Moellendorf, U. von: 95, 124


Winiarczyk, M.: 114, 124 Woerle, G.: 77 Woolf, R.: 250, 257 Wright, M.R.: 61, 244, 245, 257 Yunis, H.: 114, 120, 124 Zadro, A.: 187, 192 Zarecki, J.: 251, 257 Zeller, E.: 59, 61 Zingano, M.: 239-240