Prayer in Greek Religion 0198150881, 9780198150886

This study presents a comprehensive treatment of a crucial aspect of Greek religion hitherto largely neglected in the En

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Prayer in Greek Religion
 0198150881, 9780198150886

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The aim of the Oxford Classical Monographs series is to publish books based on the best theses on Greek and Latin literature, 11I1cienthistory, !IIld !IIlcient philosophy examined by the Faculty Board of Literae Humaniores.

Prayer in Greek Religion SIMON



PRESS 1997


Oxford University Press, Great Clarendon Street, Oxford o:i-2 Oxford New York At}ums Aucklond Bangkok Bogota Bombay Buenos Aires Calcutta Cape Torun Dares Salaam Delhi Florenc11Hc,ng Kong Istanbul Karachi Kuala Lumpur Madras Madrid Melbo11me Mexico City Nairobi Pam Si'ngapore Taipei Tokyo Toronto Warsaw and associated companies in Berlin Ibadan


Oxford is a trade mark of Oxford University Press Publuhed in the United States by Oxford University Press Im:., New York © Simon Pulleyn 1997

.4ll rights reserved. No part of this publicatfon may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or tmnsmitted, in any form or by any meam, without the prior permission in writing of Oxford U,iit,•ersity Press. Within the UK, exceptions are allowed in respect of any fair dealing for the purpoie of research or private study, or criticism or review, as f>l!Tmitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988,or in the case of reprogmphic reproduction in accordancewith the terms of the licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency. Enquiries umcerning reproduetion outside these terms and in other countries should be sent ta the Rights Department, Oxfom University Press, at the addren above British Libmry Cataloguing in Publication Data Data available

Libmry of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Pmyer in Greek religion/Simon Pulleyn. (Oxford classical monagmphs) Based on the author's thesis ( doctoml }. Includes bibliographical references and indexer. ,. Greece-Religion. i. Pmye,-Greece. l. Title. 11. Serie,. BL195.P6P85 1997 i92.4':r-tfeJ1 97-2o.p3 JSB,\' O-l!/"llljC8S-1 1 I3


10 8 6 4 l

Typeset by J&!L Composition Ltd, Filey, North Yorkshire Printed in Great Britain on aeid-free paper by Biddies Ltd., Guild/am and King's Lynn

For Jane



I HAVE noticed, in reading the acknowledgements pages of other books, that, whilst many writers acknowledge debts of one sort or another to their universities, not many mention the schools they attended as children, I, on the other hand, feel very fortunate to have been able to attend Leeds Grammar School, where I learned much from Geoff Caseley, John Jordan, Philip Milner, Christopher Slater, Peter Spivey, John Taylor, Geoff Thompson, Anthony Verity, and Walter Welburn. I am reminded almost daily what a huge debt I owe to them all. My greatest debt, however, must be to Nicholas Richardson who supervised the dissertation on which this monograph is based. He is a man who combines a rare kindness and patience with the most astute critical acumen. I also wish to thank my old tutor at Balliol, Jasper Griffin. As an undergraduate, I benefited enormously from his erudition and generosity and have continued to do so ever since. I am also grateful to Oswyn Murray whose suggestion it was in the first place that I should work on prayer. He gave me some very useful advice at the beginning of my research. The Warden and Fellows of Merton College elected me to a Senior Scholarship and then to a Lectureship. I am very grateful to them on both counts. I have enjoyed in Merton the pleasantest surroundings in which to work and some very congenial company. John Gould and Robert Parker examined the thesis. I thank them both for many important insights. Robert Parker, in particular, has been extremely generous with his time and help during the process of revising the thesis for publication as a monograph. Without him, this book would have been immeasurably the worse. Daniele Aubriot, author of the recent Priere et conceptions religieuses en Grece ancienne (Lyons, 1992), a magisterial volume almost three decades in the writing, has also given me much encouragement and the benefit of her vast acumen. I also wish to thank my friend Marcus Smith for many helpful interdisciplinary discussions. I have benefited on countless occasions from his extraordinary clarity of mind. The following have also been generous with their time


and encouragement: John Baines, Jonathan Barnes, Jeremy Black, Tom Braun, Stephanie Dalley, Richard Fynes, Oliver Gurney, Sir Hugh Lloyd-Jones, Anna Morpurgo-Davies, Ernest Nicholson, Richard Parkinson, Peter Parsons, John Penney, Alexis Sanderson, Christiane Sourvinou-Inwood, Elizabeth Tucker. Oxford University Press kindly gave permission for me to reproduce, in an expanded form as part of Chapter 6, material which first appeared as an article in Classical Quarterly. On a persona] note, I owe to my parents far more than I could ever possibly say. I also wish to record my gratitude to my late grandfather, a bequest from whom allowed me to build up a complete working library whilst still a graduate student. Finally, I thank my wife Jane, to whom I dedicate this book. She has helped me enormously at every stage. -rl71-rot -raii-ra lovty 'Tf'a.v-r' , ' ayopEvw;

S.J.P. Merton College, Oxford September 1996


Texts and Abbreviations Glossary of Terms I.



Reciprocity and Remembrance




3. Thanks and Praise


4. Prayer and Supplication


Curses and Justice


6. Magic and Names



7. Prayer and the Cult of the Dead


8. The Language of Prayer


9. Sitz im Leben


10. Prayer, Reason, and Piety


Appendices I.


Literary and Epigraphic Attestations of Some Common Words in Greek Prayers


Aspect in Greek Prayers


Select Bibliography


Index Locorum


General Index


Index of Greek Words


Texts and Abbreviations


All translations are my own, unless otherwise stated. Thev are intended to help the Greekless reader and make no preten~e to literary merit.



All references are to the Oxford Classical Text, except for the following:

Loeb Andocides; Antiphon; Apollodorus; Athenaeus; Dinarchus; Diodorus Siculus; Greek Anthology; Hippocrates; Hyperides; Isaeus; Isocrates; Pausanias; Pliny, Natural History; Plutarch; Theophrastus.

The abbreviations used for ancient authors and their works are as in the Oxford Classical Dictionary, 3rd edn. Abbreviations of periodicals are those used in L'Annee philologique. The following abbreviations are used for certain other works:

AA ANET Aubriot

Teubner Bacchylides (ed. Snell); Lucian (ed. Jacobitz); Pindar (ed. SnellMahler; Boeckh's numeration); Plato (ed. Wohlrab); Strabo (ed. Meineke). Other Akaeus (ed. Page); Callimachus (ed. Pfeiffer (Pf.) ); Sappho (ed. Page); Theocritus (ed. Gow). Lyric Poets are cited from Page's Poetae Melici Graecae (PMG). The Iambic and Elegiac poets are cited from West's Iambi et Elegi Graeci2 (West). For fragments of Hesiod, see Merkelbach and West, Fragmenta Hesiodea (MW). Tragic fragments are from Nauck, Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta~ (N 2 ) for Euripides, and Radt's Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta (TGF) for Aeschylus and Sophocles. Comic fragments are taken from the Kassell-Austin Poetae Camici Graeci (PCG). The fragments of Menander are either from the OCT of Sandbach or from Kock, Comicarum Atticorum Fragmenta (K). The Presocratics are cited from Diels-Kranz Die Fragmente der Vorsokmtiker (D-K). For the fragmentary historians, Jacoby's Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker (FGH) is used. Menander Rhetor is cited from D. A. Russell and N. G. Wilson, Menander Rhetor ( Oxford, 1981). Details of epigraphic sources are in the list of abbreviations below.


Ausfeld Burkert Burkert, HN

CEG Corlu



B. Merritt and J. Traill, The Athenian Agora, xv (Princeton, 1974) J. B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament" (Princeton, 1955) D. Aubriot-Sevin, Priere et conceptions religieuses en Grece ancienne (Lyons, 1992) C. Ausfeld, 'De Graecorum Precationibus Quaestiones', NeueJahrbucher, Suppl. 28 (1903), 505-47 W. Burkert, Greek Religion (Eng. trans., Oxford, 1985) W. Burkert, Homo Necans (Eng. trans., Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1983) P. A. Hansen, Carmina Epigraphica Graeca (Berlin, 1983) A. Corlu, Recherches sur les mots relatifs a l'idee de la pn·ere, d'Homere au:x tmgiques (Paris, 1966) A. Audollent, Defi:xionum Tabellae (Paris, 1904) R. Wunsch, Defixionum Tabellae Atticae = IG iii/3, appendix (Berlin, 1897) C. A. Faraone and D. Obbink (eds.), Magika Hiem (Oxford, 1991) Inscriptiones Graecae, various editors (1877- ) A. Degrassi (ed.), Inscriptiones Latinae Liheme Rei Publicae, i 2 (Florence, 1965) Inscrizione storiche ellenistiche L. Moretti, (Florence, 1967 and 1976) F. Sokolowski, Lois sacrees de l'Asie Mineure (Paris, 1955)

Texts and Abbreviations




F. Sokolowski, Lois sacrees des cites grecques (Paris, 1969

Van Straten, 'Gifts'

H. G. Liddell, R. Scott, and H. S. Jones, A Greek-English Lexicon 9 (with Suppl.) (Oxford,




F. Sokolowski, Lois sacrees des cites grecques, Supplement (Paris, 19'62) R. Meiggs and D. M. Lewis, A Selection of Greek Historical Inscriptions to the End of the Fifth Century BC' (Oxford, 1988) M. P. Nilsson, Geschichte der gr£echischenReligion, i3 (Munich, 1967), ii' (Munich, 1961) A. D. Nock, Essays on Religion and the Ancient World, ed. Z. Stewart, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1986) E. Norden, Agnostos Theos (Leipzig and Berlin,


0. Kern, Orphicorum Fragmenta 3 (Zurich, 1972) A. Athanassakis, Orphic Hymns (Atlanta, 1977) K. Pteisendanz, Papyri Graecae Magicae, 2 vols.


Nilsson, GR Nock



Richardson Rohde Rudhardt


(Leipzig and Berlin, 1928-31; 2nd edn. 1973-4) A. Pauly, G. Wissowa, and W. Kroll, Real-Encyclopiidie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, 83 vols. (Stuttgart, 1894-r980) N. J. Richardson (ed.), The Homeric Hymn to Demeter (Oxford, 1974) E. Rohde, Psyche (Eng. trans., London, 1925) J. Rudhardt, Notions fondamentales de la pensee religieuse et actes constitutifs du culte dans la Grece classique" (Paris, 1992) , Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum (Leiden, 1923-



D.R. Jordan, 'A Survey of Greek Defixiones Not Included in the Special Corpora', GRBS 26


W. Dittenberger, Sylloge Inscriptionum Graecarum3 (Leipzig, 1915-24) Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (CD-ROM, University of California at Irvine) F. T. Van Straten, 'Did the Greeks Kneel before their Gods?', BABesch 49 (1974), 159-89

(1985), 151-97


Van Straten

Texts and Abbreviations


F. T. Van Straten, 'Gifts for the Gods', in H. S. Versnel (ed.), Faith, Hope and Worship (Leiden, 1981), 65-151

H. S. Versnel (ed.), Faith, Hope and Worship (Leiden, 1981)

Glossar_v of Terms


Where practical, quotations in foreign languages in this book are accompanied by an English translation. These are not meant to be literary, but basic idiomatic English. In some contexts, for example the technical discussions of the significance of the moods and tenses of the Greek verbs used in prayer, it is not possible to give an English translation because the morpho-semantic categories simply do not e.xist in English. Certain Greek words do recur extremely frequently in the text. Where the English equivalent of the word is not in dispute, it is given in brackets after its first appearance. The reader with no Greek may find it helpful to know how to pronounce these words in his head as he goes along. I therefore give a list of the commonest words, their approximate meaning, and, in parentheses, their English transliteration. All vowels are short unless marked long with a macron. Final vowels should be sounded (e.g. mole has two syllables not one). Anyone who wishes to learn how to read the Greek alphabet should consult W. S. Allen, Vax Groeca 3 (Cambridge, 1991), 177ff.


(ara) (araomai)

dpdoµcu: I curse/pray

~Mli: come! (elthe) (eukhe) Evxoµai: I pray (eukhomai) tKEr,{a: supplication (hiketeia) iKETEuw: I supplicate (hiketeuo) KAv9i:hear! {kluthi) }i{(1aoµai: I entreat (lissomai) }i,T'TJ:entreaty (lite) µ6k come! (mole) [w[a: guest-friendship (xenia) 1rpoaKvviw: I abase myself or I raise a hand to my lips (proskuneo) 1Tp0'1KIJVT/ats: (the noun for the foregoing) (proskunesis) xdp,s: favour shown/received (reciprocal relations) (kharis)


da-quia-dedi: give because I gave da-quia-dedisti: give because you gave da-quia-dedit: give because (s)he gave da-ut-dem: give so that I will give da-ut-dare-passim: give so that I shall be able to give da-ut-des: I give that you might give




This is a book about Greek prayer as part of Greek life. No attempt is made to use Greek evidence to produce a definition of prayer valid for all religions. It is far from clear that the search for universal definitions of cultural phenomena is the highest goal of study. 1 However similar any two cultures may be, those similarities ought not to be emphasized to the exclusion of all else. Too much schematization leads to distortion. If two societies share the same practice or institution, then, to use a mathematical analogy, that factor may eventually, after due consideration of its intrinsic interest, be discounted as a lowest common denominator. The societal remainder, the set of practices that distinguish cultures from each other, often turns out to be the most revealing. For example, if one began one's search for a universal definition of prayer with the attempt to formulate a definition that would fit Greek religion and Judaism between 750 and 350 BC, the task would be extremely difficult. Even something as banal and general as 'Prayer is an act of communication with a higher power' will not really fit the bill. Although true of most Greek and most Jewish prayers, it obscures many differences. First, the Greeks were polytheistic; the Jews were not. Greeks prayed to heroes; for the Jews, Jahweh was the only proper recipient of prayer. Secondly, in a monotheistic world, it is much easier to develop a concept of a unified will of God. Alongside this goes the Jewish concept of sin as a departure from the covenant with their creator God. The Greeks did not share this sense of sin. Furthermore, although there was plenty of intellectual reflection about prayer in Greece, the Greeks had no Isaiah to remind them that prayer had to be more than just an empty calling upon the name of the Lord. 2 There are countless other telling differences 1 The best-known attempt at a universal synthesis must be F. Heiler, Prayer 2 trans S. McComb (Oltford, 1932). Isaiah 29: 13-14.



to which one could point. One can see how undesirable it is, in order to arrive at a definition that will serve in all cases, to strip away precisely those details which give each prayer-tradition its individuality. Surely we ought to be doing the reverse. Comparative evidence is used in this study, but never as part of a quest for the key to understanding a11prayer. It is used either by way of contrast or else, in the case of evidence from other Indo-European cultures, to throw light on the ancient roots of Greek practices. If we try to give an account of Greek prayer on its own, specialists in other cultures will be able to see how it differs from the practices of the peoples with whom they are familiar. For the most part, this book uses a synchronic rather than a diachronic approach. I have not set out to explain the origin of prayer but rather how it works at a given period. 3 That period, however, spans some four centuries, from Homer to the fourth century. This may seem somewhat eccentric for an allegedly synchronic study. However, our evidence for Greek prayer is unevenly scattered. Some periods and places have produced more evidence than others. When we speak of Greek prayer we are actually talking about the practices of many independent citystates. Only fifth-century Athens provides enough evidence for a narrow study limited to one place and one time. But if we limited ourselves to that area, we should have to ignore, among other things, Homer; and that, as I hope to show, would leave a huge gap in our understanding. Even if one were only looking at fifthcentury Athens, one would still have to take into account the possibility that later, non-Athenian sources might preserve genuinely old and relevant testimony. In retrospect, Greek prayer seems to have altered very little over the period under consideration. One is therefore not guilty of gross misrepresentation, I believe, if one cites a passage of eighth-century Aeolic-lonic Homer alongside a piece of fifth- or fourth-century Attic Lysias. One might wonder about the legitimacy of using literary evidence (e.g. Euripides) in a historical study of Greek prayer. Since so much of this study relies on literary evidence, it ought to be made clear at the outset why it has been used. Scholars are only

too well aware that literature is, in many respects, stylized. Can we be certain, for example, that linguistic features present in the literary sources would also have figured in real-life prayers? As it happens, we are fortunate to have quite a large body of epigraphic material containing prayers. I have examined these and drawn up a table of common words used in prayer, giving wherever possible literary and epigraphic attestations of each (App. 2). It will be seen that most common prayer-words are attested epigraphically as well as in the literature. I am only too aware that some inscriptions are themselves consciously artistic productions-mimicking to a greater or lesser degree the language of the high literature. None the less, such compositions, if carved on stone at a sanctuary, surely have a perfect right to be considered as part of the realia of Greek religion. Consider, for example, the Delphic paeans to Apollo. These are highly wrought pieces. The reason they were set down was to preserve them for future generations. There is every reason to believe that they were part of the Delphic cult. They should be taken as genuine examples of cletic hymns. The fact that they stand in a more literary tradition than the average ex-voto is interesting evidence of the way that life and art cannot be neatly separated out. It should not be seen as detracting from the authenticity of the material. If a word used by a tragic writer does not have an epigraphic parallel, this does not mean that it was not a genuine part of the real-life vocabulary of prayer. There are some things which one simply would not expect to find on a stone. For example, the worshipper who says l>.IU('come') is likely to do so either in the context of a public ritual or in some private situation when he earnestly desires the god's presence. He would have no reason to carve it on a stone. Curiously, the word KAii8,('hear') is epigraphically attested (in late texts), when one might expect it to be found only in spoken contexts. It is significant that of the three epigraphic attestations of KAiilhthat are known to me, two appear in hymns that have been carved on stone for posterity and one appears in a grave-inscription that is clearly imitating Homer. 4 We can thus be confident, on the strength of this epigraphic




I have, however, allowed myself to comment on prayer formulae which may be part of an ancient Indo-European tradition. For some, this may seem to be of value merely as a curiosity.

,.).f,IJ,-lt. t. 37,451, 5. I 15, IO. 278, 16. 514, 23. 770; Od. 2. 262, 3. 55, 4. 762, ;. 445, 6. 324, 9. 528. Other parts: Aesch. Chu. 139, 332. Epigraphic attestation: SEG viii. 548. 35, 550. 19 (Egyptian hymns to Isis from the Jst cent. AD); SEG xxix. uo2

(an undated Lydian epitaph, clearly imitating JI. 23. 19).




corroboration, that we are not following a chimaera when discussing words found in the literature. However, the epigraphic evidence can only take us so far. For example, we shall be arguing that JMU is not found in prayers accompanying sacrifice. Since all our evidence for prayers accompanying sacrifice during the classical period comes from literature, the inscriptions cannot help us. We have to assume that the literature is correct. Quite simply, it is the only source we have for certain questions. In cases where no epigraphic examples are given, the reader must understand that I am obliged to base my remarks on the only evidence available. Beyond this narrow question of diction, however, there is always the possibility, when one uses fiction as a source for history, that one is dealing with a view of the world which, whilst not wholly unimaginable, is nevertheless somewhat unreal. For example, one could easily form the impression, from a superficial perusal of Greek tragedy, that Greek women were powerful and terrifying. That assumption would be as mistaken as the belief that Elizabethan women were all like Lady Macbeth. The same kind of caveat should apply to religious matters. Homer's Iliad, for example, has almost nothing to say about hero-cult. That does not mean that it was unknown in the eighth century. Rather, he has omitted details of it because, one assumes, it would detract somewhat from the pathos of death if heroes could look forward to some special status afterwards. Similarly for prayer, it is clear that artistic intention and dramatic conventions must be taken into account if we are not to be misled by the imaginative literature. The central thesis of this book is the importance of xo.pis in Greek prayer. That word is often translated 'grace' or 'favour'. In fact, it refers to a whole nexus of related ideas that we would call reciprocity. When one gives something to a god, one is giving xapir in the sense that the offering is pleasing; but equally one is storing up for oneself a feeling of gratitude on the part of the god, which is also xap1s. The whole two-way relationship can be called one of xapis. Although our sources for the workings of xap1s are predominantly literary, the universal cohesion of the evidence across the different literary genres means that we can be confident that we are not dealing with a chimaera. It is well known that, tragedy, comedy, rhetoric, and history can all take a different stance with regard to religion. None the less, xapis is the same for all of them. We ought not, therefore, to be unduly pessimistic

overall about the value of literary evidence for historv. 5 In the chapters that follow, this question will be taken up more fully. Bearing all this in mind, we shall now consider what ought to be the scope of a study of Greek prayer. What is a prayer in Greece? Aubriot, in her recent comprehensive survey, defines Greek prayer as: ' ... toute demarche par laquelle l'homme, ou bien s'addresse a la divinite, OU bien tente de recourir a des puissances superieures pour obtenir un resultat' ('any procedure by which man either addresses a divinity or tries to appeal to superior powers in order to obtain a result'). 6 She is unwilling to say that prayer is simply a request. 7 This is partly because she feels that the category of prayer should include other, not necessarily verbal, acts which, being directed towards the gods, imply an attempt to communicate with them. An example, she suggests, might be the silent gesture of raising the hand to the lips to greet a god when standing before his statue. 8 She would also like to include loud ritual shrieks and dances. 9 This is a very broad approach. It is indeed clear that there was great variety in the formulation of speech addressed to the gods. We have only to look at Homer to appreciate this. Some addresses are very formulaic and have a tripartite structure of invocationargument-request.10 Then there is a group where the structure is not so rhetorical, but where we still have elaborate invocations which the poet explicitly refers to as prayers. 11 Simpler still, there is an abundance of optatives which are presumably meant ultimately for the attention of the higher powers. 12 A few of these




If carried too far, this sort of scepticism can lead one to the view that the ancient world contained two distinct things called 'literature' and 'life'. In fact, the tv-m must have interacted in a very complex manner. Can it really have been the case that people's religious lives were not to some considerable extent shaped by myths, recitations of Homer, theatre, etc.? Similarly, their literature must 6 Aubriot , -'4 • reflect the civilization that created it. 7 Ibid. r09f. 8 I~id. 91; not cited there but relevant are Lucian, Demosthenis /ncomium 49 ; Apulems, Met. 4. 28. Aubriot 22 10 (a) da-quia-dedi; If. 1. 37ff., 503 ff.; cf. 8. 236ff. (b) da-quia-dedisti; Il. 1: 45fff., 5. 115ff., ro. 278ff., 284ff., 16. 233ff.; Od. 20. 98ff.; cf. 20. u2ff. (c) daq11ia-dedit;ll. 1.5. 372ff.; Od. 4. 762ff., 17. 24off. 11 Less fonnulait,;;1 1r0Tl.

He will indeed rejoice and pray to the gods, when he hears that the child whom he once saved is alive.

At line 764 of the same play, when Aegisthus has been killed, the XPEWII('Now, we must pray messenger says: aA.\n8t:otaw EVXEC18cu to the gods [sc. in thanksgiving]'). The prayer, when it comes (771 ff.), begins as follows: J, Ow(, .JlKTJ'TE n&:vO' 6pwa: if,\8Es 'lTO'rE ('O gods, and Justice who see all, you have come at last'). It is rattier similar to a prayer in the Heracleidae (869-70), where Alcmene says to Zeus: Iii Zni xpovtp µiv Tr1µ'(1TEIJK(Y,WKO.Ka, xapw {:/oµw; /JOI 'TWII1Tti1TpayfJ,b>WII 1:xw. j

Zeus, it took you a long time to heed my troubles; but none the less I am thankful to you for what has been done.

1 For bibliography and an excellent treatment of the whole question, see Versnel, 42ff.

Thanks and Praise

Thanks and Praise

We saw in Chapter I that it does not really make sense to think of Greek prayer as an autonomous religious action .. The most normal context for a prayer is accompanying a sacrifice. Where this is not so, there is usually a reference to past sacrifices or a promise of future ones. Is one to conclude, on the basis of the literary examples just given, that it was sometimes permissible for some people to thank the gods without offerings? Unless we could show that such occasions were very rare, we would have to ask ourselves why anybody would have gone to the expense and trouble of making an offering if he could have avoided it. It is more than likely, then, that these literary prayers of thanksgiving are subject to the same dramatic conventions as the other tragic · prayers discussed in Chapter r. In the Heracleidae, offering is not ruled out. Although Alcmene herself makes no offering to Zeus, · she envisages her children doing so in thanksgiving for their deliverance (877). The god will not go without his due honour. In the Electra, there is mention of dinner (8afra, 414) and it could · well be that the old man would make a food or wine offering to the gods. If, in any case, prayer and sacrifice were known to belong together, Euripides may have felt it unnecessary for Electra to mention this obvious detail. Later on, at El. 764ff., the conventions of the Attic stage would not permit a sacrifice. One supposes that libations might have been possible but the paraphernalia that would involve would interrupt the overa11 pace of the scene. Electra wants news from the messenger. She is scarcely going to rush indoors to prepare a libation. Perhaps our best example of how acts of thanksgiving are compounded of prayer and offering is the colossal mass of exvoto inscriptions which survive from the ancient world. Various different types of formulae are used. One example, found on the Athenian acropolis and dated to 500 BC (JG i 3 . 776) reads: hEpflE11mT08E] I ayaAµ.a [Stoos] I xapw lv[Ba.8££.10711.161T7Js Leonidas: 8u1:1UOI TOO£ yap a'.Ka'ITVOJ/ d1:lBvos ('The Muse of Leonidas sacrifices this writing to you; for the sacrifice to Calliope is always smokeless'). Eustathius, referring to the passage in Callimachus, says that there was an ancient proverb that bards always made smokeless offerings. 32 Perhaps by ancient he means nothing more than that it was current in Callimachus' day. Perhaps he is just guessing that this line derives from a proverb. All the same, his report of Pindar's words on arrival at Delphi merits our attention and cannot lightly be dismissed. I do not, of course, mean us to conclude from this evidence that the two activities of sacrificing and singing hymns had an equivalent value in the ancient world or that hymns were more · important than sacrifice; that would make nonsense of the whole institution of animal sacrifice. 33 I simply wish to point out that hymns appear to be negotiable commodities in a way that prayers are not. The only seeming exception to this of which I am aware seems, to my mind, to prove the rule. When Odysseus arrives back on Ithaca, he addresses the nymphs as follows (Od. 13. 357 ff.): vvv 6' nlxw,\ys ayavfia, I xo.lpn-' ('for the moment, rejoice in gentle prayers'). The nymphs may rejoice in the prayer but it • is not a gift; he goes on to say o:nlp KO.f 8wpa.816waoµw, liJS 7() 7fctpos. 1T1:p ('but I shall give you gifts, as before'). The prayers are just a n Eust. De vii. mtJnach., in Opus,., p. 235, p Tafel: ;xu ,,.,,;.,.,,i,,,rapo,µlav 1mpa,eEoas A: rrJi'l(T'Jp◊v liv&.1TTa.w, ,call ~1,1 TCI;f MaUatur tiKo.ff'll«, 9Vavaw o{ lto,OOt/ (' "Kindling the wax" is an imitation of an old proverb, according to the words of which bards make smokeless offerings to the Muses'). 33 It is only in the very different traditions of Stoicism and Epicureanism that we find such things. Cf. Furley, 'Praise and Persuasion'.

Thanks and Praise


stopgap. He would ideally like to re-establish the network of give · xapis. , 34 an d ta k e t h at 1s In what, precisely, did this Ttµ,~ consist? Most obviously, there is the fact that humans have seen fit to expend their creative skill to delight the god. What material is to be included and how shall it be arranged? If it is not a hexameter hymn accompanied by the lyre, then it will be choral and this requires the training of a chorus of singers. One particularly important feature of the hymn, though, is that its very language is fulsome'. .It reh~§.c;s the attributes and Homeric Hymn to Demeter makes one explo1ts~]lie:goo.TFie reflect on what an august, powerful, and yet also beneficent power that goddess could be. On the smaller scale, too, the use of certain divine epithets can also have a laudatory function. A brief excursus on this will allow us to appreciate better both the nature of hymns and what distinguishes them from prayers. Several literary and inscriptional prayers use only the name of the god in the vocative and omit any epithets, e.g. Eur. El. 137; Soph. Aj. 708; JG i 3 • 662, iv. 1372; SEG xxvi. 266; CEG 764. In those prayers where epithets are used, their function is often to distinguish between different aspects of the same deity, e.g. Zeus Herkeios and Zeus Xenios. However, not all epithets were actually attested in cult. Although we have plenty of good historical evidence for the cult of Athene Nt1and those based on IKn~•"-·The reader should note that when I use such terms, they are a convenient shorthand. It must be home in mind that they are not separate species but different sub-genera of the genus 'prayers based on human interactions', which is in rum part of the overarching species 'prayer'.


Epidaurus detailing the cures effected by Apollo and Asclepius on people who 'incubated' in the sacred precinct. 2 In these texts, it is repeatedly stressed that the patient was a t1'O(, I'iJn Kai 'Epµ.iJ,paa,AEii-r'lvtpwv, 11tµrpa-r' (VtplJEV,f,vx~vES,J,w,;· El yap TI KllKWV0,l{OS olo,; 11.\fov, p.ovo'ii Q;Vfhrrirwv 1tlpa;; El11'01.


XIJ&vo.o'wyuytav l111JCEKAoµlvo,;; xfJ&v1ov(J''Epµ:q I 11'01),110/J, ,pfhµ.bwv, [mlrovxfJv1011.:Jta!'1!~•11.\wv I {IJ} foµ.ov&v£ivo.1 1Toro,µ.ovGTOIJ,«TC/>V,

Calling upon primeval Earth and Hermes of the underworld, the escort ofthe dead, ask Zeus of the underworld to send up a swarm of those who rove by night from the mouths of the river. Furthermore, when Electra is summoning Agamemnon in the Choephoroe (124aff.), she makes her first address to Hermes Chthonios. He is presumably a useful intermediary, in his role as conductor of souls. The prayer to Agamemnon himself only starts at line 130. It might be objected to all this that the details mean nothing. They could just be a quirky idee fixe of Aeschylus. However, the fact that different intermediary powers are invoked in the Odyssey, Persae and Choephoroe, militates against the idea of direct copying from Homer and a single schema in Aeschylus' mind. There is, moreover, an example in Euripides (fr. 912 N") of a prayer addressed to Zeus Chthonios (or Hades). The dead are being invoked for the knowledge they can impart and Zeus Chthonios is the intermediary: 170i

'Tcj, 1Tll"7'WI'~Slovn


11'€.\av&v n ,J,lpw,ZEv, ,;fr' }U871s dvoµ.a,6µ.evo,a'Tlpyn-,;· ITV8./ µm

With hymns we shall ask the escorters of the dead to be kindly beneath: the earth. Now, pure spirits of the underworld, Earth and Hermes, an the king of those beneath, send the soul up from below into the light. For if he has greater knowledge of how to cure our ills, he is the only mortal; who could tell us their limit. It is particularly striking that, as in Homer, the guardian deities. of the underworld are addressed before ever a word is spoken to Darius. Circe advised Odysseus (Od. 10. 534), ETTEtilao6at (Jr;ofatl', / i'ef,8lµ.'!:) -r' :Affin Kai £TTawfillEpoEipovElT/('Pray to the gods, to mighty Hades and dread Persephone'). This is what he went on to do (11. 46f.). There are parallels for this elsewhere. In the fragmentary remains of Aeschylus' Psychagogoi (fr. 273a Radt) we read the: following: 18


18 Edilio princepi in Kiilner Papyri, iii (Cologne, 1980): see also H. l.loyd-Jones, 'Notes on P. Kain III 125 (Aeschylus, Psychagogoi?)', ZPE .p (1981), 21 ff.

IJvafuv ii11'Vpov1TO.jlKO.p1T£la, oifat1TA,jp71 1TpoxvlJ,;iaa11. uv ytip b -,,; 8£oi, -roi, oilpavl8a.1, aKij7r"rpov 'TO.110,/LE'TllXE1plCn.:: x9ovlwv (! lt1Bv µ.rc;'TtX,f:l1.vri{J1

/[. 23. 770

Eur. Rhes. 229 ll. r. 37 Aesch. Supp. 207 Eur. Bact:h. ro17

We shall end this chapter with a glance at a bizarre practice which differs markedly from anything known from the archaic and classical periods, namely the conjuration of dead spirits into doing particular practical tasks without any concern or reciprocity. Rohde has collected together much of the evidence. 28 A few examples will suffice to give the reader a taste of what we are dealing with. 27

See Versnel, z6ff., 37ff. for humm anxiety about whether the gods can actually hear what we say, Gods may not have been disposed to listen to a given prayer but nobody seems to have thought that they were physically prevented from hearing by the sort of barrier which existed between the Jiving and the dead, zs Rohde 594 ff., 603 ff.


Prayer and the Cult of the Dead

On a lead tablet from Carthage (discussed by R. Dareste, 'Inscriptions imprecatoires trouvees a Carthage', BCH I.2 (1888), 299), we read the following: l[opid{w 111;,VEKv6aiµovaw ('I conjure you, spirit of the dead, untimely departed'). It usual to choose the grave of a person who had died before th time. Some of these might have died violent deaths, f3uuo9ava.r or f3{aioi.The former term is actually found in the magical papyr;i, PGM rv. 1950). A natural enough explana:-' (cf. f3io9avamv 1TJJEiJµa, tion of this would be that these people, through dying before their time, still had some of their vital energy left to them. The,' could thus be used for diabolic purposes. This is broadly com parable with the later belief that suicides were likely to beco vampires, the race of the undead. Tertullian testifies to the f that the ancients themselves thought along these lines (De anim 56): 'aiunt irnmatura morte praeventas [anirnas] eo usque vag istic, donec reliquatio compleatur aetatum quas tum pervixissen . si non intempestive obiissent' ('They say that those who were cul off by an untimely death wander here continually, until theri elapses a period of time equivalent to the age that they would, have reached if they had not died untimely'). Tertullian is, o course, a late source, but then so is the phenomenon we are dealing with. 29 Sometimes, however, even a spirit seemingly at rest will be conjured. At PGM IV. 368 ff., we read the fol]owing injunction: µ71 µov 1ra.pa1.a.os,and Evµ,a,,f,;tum up in very many prayers. A list of these uses can be found in Appendix L Tricolon

\Vhen Chryses is invoked by Apollo at Il. I. 37 ff., we find that the dµipi{Uf171,cas--KU>.av line breaks neatly into three parts: osXp-,J {Joecpwoo, 8vwv. / att£ mvp£, a[t£ -ravpE (Plut. Quaest. Graec. 36 = PMG 871, 'Come hero Dionysus, to the temple of the Alei, to the holy temple with the graces, rushing with your bull's foot. Worthy bull, worthy bull'). This prayer has been discussed 3 " Ar. Thesm. 310; Eccf. 781; fr. 504 PCG; Eur. Hel. 754; Men. Kolllx, fr. r. sf. (OCT}. . . 37 I shall cite these prayers in the same order as they are given by Aubr,ot, J6f. 38 For further discussion, see F. Schwenn, Gebet und Opfer (Heidelberg, 1927), 3 ff; For bibliography, see Aubriot, 36 n. 8, 30 Bibliography; Aubriot, 36. n. 9. .+o See Aubriot, 36 n. 10.

The Language of Prayer

The Language of Prayer

at great length by many people. 41 The bull-form of Dionys · surfaces again in Euripides' Bacchae (1017) where the 42 invoked t/xf.vrJf.h -ravpo,; ('show yourself as a bull'). It 1s interesting that the infinitive is used as a command.

the tragedians, and Aristophanes. The Orphic Hymns, on the other hand, which date from the second century AD, are full of optatives-26 of them in 87 hymns. According to Ziegler, the writers of these hymns took seriously the criticism of Protagoras on the opening line of the Iliad, namely that it was rude of Homer to use an imperative in a prayer. 47 Ziegler concludes that there was a gradual evolution to a state where the optative was preferred to the imperative because it was felt to be more polite. 48 I do not doubt the truth of this but one ought not to lose sight of the fact that tragedy, in particular, has a lot of optatives. They are massively outnumbered by imperatives but, still, there they are. I remain unsure as to how far, if at all, the audience of a fifthcentury tragedy perceived a difference between imperatives and optatives. Aubriot takes the same view. She does not believe that we should automatically see the optative as the mood of polite religiosity and the imperative as the mood of boorish egoism. 49 The infinitive looks at first sight rather an odd way to express a command or wish. The so-called imperatival infinitive may be used as a second-person imperative or to express wishes relating to the third (or, sometimes, the first) person. 50 If the infinitive is doing the work of a second-person imperative, the subject is put in the nominative or vocative case. The well-known invocation of Dionysus from Elis (PMG 871) has l>..lkivifpw ..:h&vvaE.If it is being used as a third-person imperative, the subject is in the accusative, e.g. 11. 2. 413. This latter construction is believed by


The fossil prayers so far quoted have in common a cert simplicity. They are different in spirit from the more comp literary things that have come down to us on stone. There several interesting points to note about them. The most obvi thing is that they are short. Also, they are concerned with £e lity. Even the invocation of Dionysus mentions the Graces, they are usually thought of as bringers of plenty. It is also noti able that they all have a repetitive and jingle-like quality. This probably because repetition and alliteration are thought increase the efficacy of the action. 43 One hesitates to call th magical. It is clear that rhetorical considerations, of an admitte very crude kind, have played an important part in shapi them. 44 It is assumed that these prayers were used in the archa and classical periods. They certainly have an archaic look and f. about them, if only because of their simplicity. It may be that should see them as belonging to the class of prayers called Proclus tq,o-rroio!('life-giving'). We shall end this formal survey with a short look at the use verbs in prayers. We may begin by looking at the moods use The best catalogue of these is the dissertation by K. Ziegler. From his data, it seems that the most frequent mood used express commands is the imperative (541 cases), then the optati (207 cases), and then the infinitive (107 cases). In Homer, the are 20 optatives in prayers but 72 imperatives. In all of the !yr· poets taken together, there are 16 optatives, but over 30 impe tives. 46 A similar predominance of imperatives is seen in Pind 41

Schwenn, Gehet 8ff.; for a comprehensive list, see Aubriot, 37 n. 11. See Dodds's note, ad. loc. 43 Expressive gemination, whereby the force of a morpheme is increased repetition, is an accepted concept in linguistics. One thinks of the Hebrew Hip and Hophal intensives, which are formed by doubling one of the consonants of root. 44 See J. de Romilly, Magic and Rhetoric in Ancient Greece (Cambridge, M and London, 1974) on the whole subject. 45 K. Ziegler, De precationum apud Graecos Jormis (Diss. Breslau, 1905). -«> Aubriot says (p. 258) that Ziegler's figures are, in fact, a gross distortion the truth. She says that he omits a large number of the optatives that are to found in Homer and the lyric poets. She is referring to the figures given 42


Ziegler on pp. 10-u of his study, where he is counting those second-person optatives which are doing the job of second-person imperatives, i.e. q181101, &hf ayalla equivalent to q19£ol, llor£ µo,