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Prophets and Profits
This volume examines the ways in which divination, often through oracular utterances and other mechanisms, linked mortals with the gods, and places the practice within the ancient sociopolitical and religious environment. Whether humans sought knowledge by applying to an oracle through which the god was believed to speak or used soothsayers who interpreted specific signs such as the flight of birds, there was a fundamental desire to know the will of the gods. In many cases, pragmatic concerns – personal, economic or political – can be deduced from the context of the application. Divination and communication with the gods in a post-pagan world has also produced fascinating receptions. The presentation of these processes in monotheistic societies such as early Christian Late Antiquity (where the practice continued through the use of curse tablets) or medieval Europe, and beyond, where the role of religion had changed radically, provides a particular challenge and this topic has been little discussed by scholars. This volume aims to rectify this desideratum by providing the opportunity to address questions related to the reception of Greco-Roman divination, oracles and prophecy, in all media, including literature and film. Several contributions in this volume originated in the 2015 Classics Colloquium held at the University of South Africa and the volume has been augmented with additional contributions. Richard Evans has taught at the Universities of South Africa and Cardiff. His research has focused on the political and military history of Greece and Rome, and the ancient topography of Sicily and Magna Graecia. He is currently an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Biblical and Ancient Studies at the University of South Africa.
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Prophets and Profits Ancient Divination and Its Reception Edited by Richard Evans
First published 2018 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2018 selection and editorial matter, Richard Evans; individual chapters, the contributors Published in association with Acta Classica as Acta Classica Supplementum #9 (ISSN 0065-1141) The right of Richard Evans to be identified as the author of the editorial material, and of the authors for their individual chapters, has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Evans, Richard J., 1954- editor. Title: Prophets and profits: ancient divination and its reception / edited by Richard Evans. Description: First [edition]. | New York: Routledge, 2017. | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2017015105| ISBN 9781138290150 (hardback: alk. paper) | ISBN 9781315266527 (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: Divination. Classification: LCC BL613 .P76 2017 | DDC 203/.2093–dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2017015105 ISBN: 978-1-138-29015-0 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-315-26652-7 (ebk) Typeset in Times New Roman by Deanta Global Publishing Services, Chennai, India
Notes on contributors Preface Acknowledgements Abbreviations 1 Introduction
vii x xi xii 1
2 Was Didyma (Branchidae) a false oracle?
3 Who wrote Greek curse tablets?
4 A story of blood, guts and guesswork: synthetic reasoning in classical Greek divination
5 Value-added divination at Dodona
6 Divination and profit in the Roman world
7 Profiting from prophecy: Q. Marcius Rex and the construction of the Aqua Marcia Alex Nice
8 Valerius Maximus and the language of stars
9 ‘Arrows fletched from our own wings’: discovering a ‘Delphi of the mind’ in the writings of the Early Church Fathers
10 Egyptian necromancy in Heliodorus Aethiopica (6.12–15) and the Witch of Endor narrative (1 Sam 28)
11 Sosipatra: prophetess, philosopher and theurgist: reflections on divination and epistemology in late antiquity
12 One oracle too many? Corippus (and Procopius) on female prophecy in North African divination and profit in the Roman world
Martine de Marre
13 Deconstructing divination: superstition, anticlericalism and Cicero’s De Divinatione in Enlightenment England, c. 1700–1730
14 Prophecy and Paul Kruger: Robert Grendon’s appropriation of Graeco-Roman prophets and prophetic devices in his South African epic, Paul Kruger’s Dream 199 Szerdi Nagy
15 Cassandra prophesies back: Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Firebrand 209 Elke Steinmeyer
Crystal Addey is a Teaching Fellow in the School of Classics at the University of St Andrews, UK. She has published widely on ancient divination and religion, mainly in Late Antiquity, and on philosophy, especially Neoplatonism. Her monograph Divination and Theurgy in Neoplatonism: Oracles of the Gods was published in 2014. She has also made numerous contributions to journals and volumes of collected papers. Ralph Anderson is Senior Teaching Fellow in Ancient History at the University of St Andrews, UK. His research interests lie mainly in Greek religion, divination and ancient magic. He is currently revising his doctoral dissertation for publication with Cambridge University Press with the provisional title of Dwelling with Divinity: Person, Place and Perception in Athenian Religion. Philip Bosman is Associate Professor in Classics at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa. He is the author of Conscience in Philo and Paul (2003) and the editor of Mania: Madness in the Greco-Roman World (2009), Corruption and Integrity in Ancient Greece and Rome (2012) and Alexander in Africa (2014). He has also contributed numerous articles to journals in South Africa and in the UK. Daniel Crosby is studying for his PhD at Bryn Mawr College, having previously studied at Fresno Pacific University. His main research interests are Greek and Roman religion, Delphi and early Christianity. He has recently (2016) published in the Journal of Ancient History on Josephus. Martine de Marre is Associate Professor in the Department of Biblical and Ancient Studies at the University of South Africa. Her research to date has spotlighted the role of women in antiquity, especially in Roman North Africa. She has also published on the literary sources of Late Antiquity. Olivier Dufault completed his doctoral studies at the University of Santa Barbara and is currently a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Distant Worlds Graduate School of Ancient Studies at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Germany. His current research focuses on Greek alchemical inquiry and Late Antiquity. Katherine East is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at the University of Newcastle, having previously
viii Contributors completed her PhD at Royal Holloway, University of London, UK. She is the author of The Radicalization of Cicero: John Toland and Strategic Editing in the Early Enlightenment (forthcoming). Richard Evans has taught at the University of South Africa, Pretoria, and at Cardiff University, UK. Most recently he has been a Visiting Researcher and Research Fellow in the Department of Biblical and Ancient Studies at the University of South Africa. His publications include: Gaius Marius: A Political Biography (1994), Questioning Reputations: Essays on Nine Roman Republican Politicians (2003), Syracuse in Antiquity: History and Topography (2009), Roman Conquests: Asia Minor, Syria and Armenia (2011), A History of Pergamum (2012), Fields of Death: Retracing Ancient Battlefields (2013), Fields of Battle: Retracing Ancient Battlefields (2015) and Ancient Syracuse: From Foundation to Fourth Century Collapse (2016). He also edited Mass and Elite in the Greek and Roman Worlds: From Sparta to Late Antiquity (2017). John Hilton is Professor of Classics at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and is the current editor of Acta Classica, the journal of the South African Classical Association. He has published extensively on the ancient novel, especially with regard to Heliodorus, in reception studies and in Greek and Latin linguistics. He is co-author of Apuleius: Rhetorical Works (2001 and 2007) and Alma Parens Originalis? Classical Receptions in South Africa, Cuba and Europe (2007). Jeffrey Murray taught at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, prior to studying in the Department of Classics at the University of Cape Town. In 2016, he completed a PhD thesis entitled Valerius Maximus on Vice: A Commentary on ‘Facta et Dicta Memorabilia’ 9.1–11. Szerdi Nagy is a Lecturer in Classics at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Her research focuses on the reception of epic literature, classics in Africa and the construction of gender and identity in the ancient world. Alex Nice completed a PhD thesis at Exeter University and was a Lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg before teaching in the US. He is currently an Associate of the Free University, Brussels, Belgium. His research has focused on divination, especially in the Roman Republic and Early Principate. Daniel Ogden is Professor of Ancient History and currently Head of Classics at Exeter University, UK. He has published extensively on Greek religion, ancient magic and divination. Among his numerous publications are: Greek Bastardy in the Classical and Hellenistic Periods (1996), Polygamy, Prostitutes and Death (1999), Magic, Witchcraft, and Ghosts in the Greek and Roman Worlds (2002), Aristomenes of Messene: Legends of Sparta’s Nemesis (2004), Night’s Black Agents: Witches, Wizards and Ghosts in the Ancient World (2008), Alexander the Great: Myth, Genesis and Sexuality (2011) and Drakōn: Dragon Myth and Serpent Cult in the Greek and Roman World (2013). He has also
Contributors ix edited, among others, A Companion to Greek Religion (2007). He is also an Academic Associate of the University of South Africa. Federico Santangelo is Senior Lecturer in Ancient History at Newcastle University, UK. He is a specialist in the history of the Roman Republic and particularly the period of Marius and Sulla, both of whom he has discussed in monographs: Sulla, the Elites and Empire (2007) and Marius (2016). He has also published extensively and widely on the role of divination in republican politics, notably in Divination, Prediction and the End of the Roman Republic (2013). Moreover, he has authored, edited and co-edited numerous volumes and publications, including Priests and State in the Roman World (with J. H. Richardson, 2011), The Roman Historical Tradition: Regal and Republican Periods (with J. H. Richardson, 2014), Teofane di Mitilene: Testimonianze e frammenti (2015) and Ruin or Renewal? Places and the Transformation of Memory in the City of Rome (with M. García-Morcillo and J. H. Richardson, 2016). He has also edited a collection of previously unpublished papers by Sir Ronald Syme, Approaching the Roman Revolution: Papers on Republican History (2016). In July 2015, he was ‘Visiting Scholar’ to the University of South Africa on the occasion of the Prophets and Profits Classics Colloquium. Elke Steinmeyer is Senior Lecturer and Head of the Classics Programme at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Her main areas of research are in reception studies, Greek tragedy and in Greek and Roman poetry.
The majority of the chapters in this volume had their origins in the Sixteenth Classics Colloquium held at the University of South Africa in July 2015. The objective of the colloquium was to examine the ways in which divination, often through oracular utterances and other mechanisms, linked mortals with the gods and so featured in the sociopolitical and religious environment of antiquity. Whether humans in ancient times sought knowledge by applying to an oracle through which the god was believed to speak, used soothsayers – the μάντεις – who interpreted specific signs such as the flight of birds, or resorted to dice divination, sortation or even the whispered messages from leaves moving in the breeze, there was a fundamental desire to know the will of the gods. In many cases, pragmatic concerns – personal, economic or political – can be deduced from the context of the applicant. Taking a critical look at the wider issues around the writings of ancient authors, and incorporating the vast array of non-literary and material evidence across this research field, has led to stimulating debate in this area of socio-religious scholarship. The concept of pagan divination and communication with the gods in a post-pagan world has also produced an interesting range of literary receptions. The presentation of these processes in monotheistic societies such as medieval Christian Europe, and in later periods, where the role of religion in general had changed radically, provides a particular challenge. This subject has not yet been discussed in any depth by scholars. This volume aims to rectify this desideratum by providing the opportunity to address questions related to the reception of Greek and Roman divination, oracles and prophecy, not only across the genres in which this phenomenon appears but also in various regions around the world, including especially Africa. Richard Evans Pretoria, March 2017
I should like to thank the numerous reviewers of the papers which in due course became the chapters of this volume. Their silent contribution often goes unacknowledged but reviewing is a taxing process that is nonetheless vital to ensuring that the standards of scholarship are maintained. I take this opportunity to thank you all, especially those hard-pressed colleagues in South Africa. My thanks also to Professor Martine de Marre at the University of South Africa, for her kind support in this project and for organizing the colloquium devoted to the Prophets and Profits theme in 2015. I should also like to thank Michael Greenwood, Matthew Twigg and all their colleagues at Routledge (Taylor & Francis), and Rachel Cook at Deanta Global, for their constant and tireless advice during the preparation of this volume and for making this project a pleasant and rewarding experience.
Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, consilio et auctoritate Academiae litterarum regiae Borussicae editum. 17 volumes. Berlin (1863–) DT Wünsch, R., Defixionum Tabellae [Atticae]. Berlin (1897) DTA Audollent, A., Defixionum Tabellae. Paris (1904) FGrH Jacoby, F. et al., Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker. Leiden et aliubi. (1927–) IG Inscriptiones Graecae. Multiple series, volumes, parts. Berlin. (1903–) IKourion Mitford, T.B., The Inscriptions of Kourion. Philadelphia (1971) LGPN Fraser, P.M. et al., Lexicon of Greek Personal Names. Oxford (1987–) LTUR Steinby, E.S., Lexicon Topographicum Urbis Romae. 5 volumes. Rome (1993–2000) MRR Broughton, T.R.S. The Magistrates of the Roman Republic. New York (1951–2) NGCT Jordan, D.R., ‘New Greek Curse Tablets (1985–2000),’ GRBS (2000) 41 5–46 PG Migne, J.-P. (ed.), Patrologia cursus completes. Series Graeca. Paris (1857–1904) PGM Preisendanz, K. and A. Heinrichs, Papyri Graecae Magicae. Die griechischen Zauberpapyri. 2 volumes. Stuttgart (1973–4) PSI Papiri greci e latini. Pubblicazioni della Società Italiana per la ricerca dei papiri greci e latini in Egitto. 15 volumes. Florence (1912–79) RRC Crawford, M.H., Roman Republican Coinage. 2 volumes. Cambridge (1974) SEG Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum. Leiden (1923–) SGD Jordan, D.R., `A Survey of Greek Defixiones Not Included in the Special Corpora.’ GRBS (1985) 26 151–197 Tab. Sulis Tomlin, R.S.O., ‘The Curse Tablets.’ In B. Cunliffe (ed.) The temple of Sulis Minerva at Bath. Volume 2. The finds from the sacred spring. 59–277. Oxford (1988)
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1 Introduction Daniel Ogden
Let us begin, as all accounts of ancient divination should, with the bromide that the activity was not wholly given over to the prediction or navigation of the future.1 It sought the revelation of hidden information, but this information could equally well relate to the past or the present, or indeed to eternity, in the case of eschatological enquiry. There are of course many other ways to categorize divination. One may, for example, distinguish between procured or ‘impetrative’ methods (such as a purposeful visit to an oracular shrine, or a hieroscopic investigation) and spontaneous or ‘oblative’ methods (such as encounters with unsought dreams or with omens based in nature, as in the case of prodigy births). Or one may distinguish between inductive divination and inspired divination. In inductive divination, one reads signs which the gods have sown, as it were, into the fabric of the universe (in prodigies, in the livers of victims, in bird flights, in the drawing of lots, etc.); in inspired divination, a human soul comes into direct contact with the divine (through a dream, for example, or through more violent forms of possession, as in the case of the Pythia).2 Admittedly, however, future-related divination was and remains the most eyecatching variety, so let us make some observations about it. First, even when divination was sought in relation to the future, queries were seldom framed in terms of a crude demand to know events or outcomes; more typically, one might ask which among alternative courses of action might be more pleasing to the gods, or to which of the gods one might sacrifice for better fortune.3 Secondly, for obvious reasons, divination was a poor and inefficient tool for making sense of the future. But two pleas could be entered in mitigation. On the one hand, it could certainly be a useful tool for managing anxiety: at least one might think that one had done one’s best to discover the will of the gods and to act in accordance with it, and that in itself might be thought an approach deserving of divine mercy. On the other hand, future-divination was a very powerful tool indeed for making sense of the past and for structuring it. It is evident that in many cases a great event, anticipated or otherwise, was a catalyst for the retrospective collection of future-related omens and prophecies, for the reinterpretation and perhaps also the outright confection of the latter (though I suspect that this happened less often that modern sceptics might suppose).4 The work of the chrēsmologoi, the ‘oracle collectors’, keepers of pre-existing oracular pronouncements, was doubtless focused precisely
2 Daniel Ogden upon this activity.5 Pertinent here is Thucydides’ well-known report of the old oracle suddenly recalled (its origin obscure) by the Athenians when they were stricken by plague during the Peloponnesian War, which read, according to an interpretation then favoured, ‘A Dorian war will come, and a pestilence together with it’.6 Pertinent too is Herodotus’ tale of Sparta’s rediscovery of the bones of Orestes: as he tells it, Lichas discovered the bones first, and only then did he work out, intellectually, the relationship between the words of the Delphic oracle supposedly guiding the Spartans to the spot and the circumstances of his actual discovery.7 The enhancement of a given event with retrospectively found omens and prophecies not only conferred significance and grandeur upon it, it also supported the integration of the event into a satisfactory or even a compelling narrative, and above all a memorable one (we have only to think of Herodotus’ marvellous story (7.141) of the Delphic prophecy of the ‘wooden walls’). And, indeed, the promulgation of such narratives legitimated and validated the processes of futurerelated divination and prophecy more generally.8 We ourselves, of course, are the ultimate beneficiaries of these engagingly woven narratives. Indeed, their engaging nature is doubtless the principal reason why ancient divination remains a topic of fascination for us today. Lucid abstracts are provided with some of the chapters that follow, so the brief treatments here aspire, for the most part, to offer modest additional perspectives upon the chapters’ contentions or upon the material handled in them. Evans (Chapter 2) focuses on Didyma (Branchidae), Miletus’ external oracle. Apollo’s major oracles in Asia Minor, those at Clarus and Didyma, together with the one subsequently founded for him at Daphne near Antioch by Seleucus I (this last, seemingly, in part at least, on the model of Didyma), all seem to have relied upon a sacred spring for their prophetic force, albeit in different ways.9 In history, what is not there, or not said, can often be more telling than what is, and the skill of the historian lies in spotting instructive silences in our sources. And so it is that Evans fashions a suggestive argumentum e silentio about the role of Didyma in the great Ionian Revolt, which was led by the oracle’s own Miletus. One should indeed expect the Didyma shrine to have pronounced a favourable oracle in support of its patron city’s revolt (or at least an oracle which initially seemed to be such), either before or during, and one should equally expect Herodotus to have reported such an oracle, given that he provides such a detailed account of the revolt (his narrative of it spans almost the entirety of his fifth book, albeit with many a digression), given that he is such a great devotee of oracles, and in particular given that he was very much alive to the usefulness of oracles in structuring and shaping historical narratives. Evans’ solution is that the rebel city of Miletus was at loggerheads with its own oracle, a conservative institution and firmly pro-Persian. This antagonism may well be visible in Hecataeus’ advice that Aristagoras should plunder the shrine to fund the revolt.10 Understandably, the wealthy shrines of the Greek world ever preferred order to chaos, and therefore tended to be supportive of the status quo or the great power of the day. Evans’ case may be supported by a fragment of the Hellenistic paroemographer Demon, according to which the
Introduction 3 oracle discouraged the Carians from making common cause with the Milesians against the Persians during the revolt.11 We may introduce a further consideration here too. It could be that the role one might typically have expected an oracular message to play in initiating a chain of events in an expansive Herodotean narrative is in this case taken rather by the message of support and advice which the revolt’s leader Aristagoras is sent from the Persian court by his father-inlaw Histiaeus (Hdt. 5.35–6). It is noteworthy that the message is conveyed to Aristagoras by means of a tattoo, which in other contexts can serve as a medium for oracles: we think in particular of the oracles tattooed onto the skins of Anthes and Epimenides.12 Dufault (Chapter 3) leaves prophets behind, but remains with issues of profit. He mounts a challenging argument to the effect that there was no significant specialization or professionalization in the writing of curse tablets before the second century ad. Rather, up until this point, users of such tablets were responsible for writing their own. Such a claim, entailing as it does that all users were at least basically literate, has significant implications for their class profile, and suggests that the use of curse tablets was a relatively elite activity.13 Dufault further conjectures that the development of specialization in the writing of the tablets, when it came, was a product of or concomitant with the extraordinary developments in the complexity of the tablets’ textual content (in line with the curse recipes and curse texts of the Greek Magical Papyri). Dufault’s hypothesis may draw support from the seeming origin point of the curse tablets. The earliest ones discovered derive from the milieu of the law courts – those of Selinus, c. 500 bc.14 It may at first seem curious that these seemingly visceral artefacts should have originated in such a rarefied and almost intellectual environment. But (relatively advanced) literacy is surely key here: c. 500 bc, the curse tablet represented a new verbal-literary variation upon the wordless voodoo dolls that had long been established in Greek culture. And so it did after all make sense that it should have made its debut in the Greek world’s most intensely literate environment, that of the speechifying rhetoricians. Here, then, we had a series of individuals making physical curses for themselves, but now in the idiom with which they themselves were most familiar, that of the written word. And let us not forget here the intriguing prospect (a fair chance) that a distinctive group of legal curse tablets and voodoo dolls from the Athenian Ceramicus (c. 400 bc), the ‘Mnesimachus doll’ and its associated finds, incorporate an autograph text of the great orator Lysias!15 Faraone’s influential hypothesis that binding curses tended to be produced in agonistic contexts retains some merit, as does the corollary that they were often made between social equals (for all that the curser might be keen to pull ahead of his rival in one respect or other), with all its implications for the identification of the social class of the curse-maker. But this corollary can be taken too far: when shopkeepers or brothel-keepers are identified as the victims of curses, those curses need not have been formulated by directly rival shopkeepers or brothel-keepers.16 The anthropologically widespread notion of the ‘limited good’ may be at play: the
4 Daniel Ogden notion that there is a limited store of good luck out there means that the success of a neighbour comes to be seen as an obstacle to one’s own success: ‘So long as he has it, I can’t have it’.17 And some curse tablets clearly did cross class boundaries in quite emphatic ways, such as the curses made in the first century ad by a ‘wicked’ public slave against the great and good senators of the town of Tuder (the modern Todi in Perugia), the details of which outrage are preserved for us by an inscription (the senators’ names were ‘attached to tombs’).18 A striking implication that emerges from Dufault’s study is its incidental exposure of a lack of agricultural or rural content in the earlier tablets. One gets the impression that they were essentially products of an urban environment. This perhaps makes sense if one is indeed to conclude that their use was directly determined by literacy, for this was likely to have been concentrated in cities. However, our evidence may be obscured to some extent here by the practicalities of archaeological investigation, which is more likely to target and indeed simply to find curse tablet deposition sites in urban zones.19 One may still wonder, even so, whether a specialization of a certain kind was required in connection with the earlier curse tablets – a specialization, that it is to say, in the deposition that enabled their activation. Anyone could toss a curse tablet into a sacred spring or a well, whether secretly or ostentatiously, as required. But what about all the curse tablets entrusted to graves? Are we to imagine that they were all inserted by amateur curse-making relatives at the point of burial? In this case, we might think of the famous third-century ad curse against the gates of Rome inserted into the tomb of one Demetrius by his own brother in the confidence that this new and guaranteed well-disposed ghost would enact it for him.20 Beyond this, we might also think of Lucan’s horrid witch Erictho who, in attending the funerals of her relatives, makes a show of smothering the deceased’s head in kisses while biting bits off it for her store of magical supplies: with this ‘stuff’ she will be able to control the corpse’s ghost at a later point (Luc. Phars. 6.564–9). If items could be secretly removed from a corpse in the course of a funeral, they could equally well be added to it. But let us contemplate once again the example of the Mnesimachus doll and its accompanying curse tablet box from Ceramicus: this was found in the grave of a corpse that had been mutilated after burial. We can only imagine that gravediggers were operating a lucrative sideline, taking the opportunity to exploit older burials as they dug down for new ones and, in this case, were at once inserting curse tablets and retrieving cadaverous material for use in other spells – admirable economy. Anderson (Chapter 4) takes a cognitive approach to Greek divination. He makes the point that divinatory interpretation was essentially a relational activity: the key thing was ever to select the right circumstantial, thematic or definitional context within which to site and read the omen or oracle in question. Success in the field of divination essentially depended upon the ability to construct a compelling (if provisional) story around the oracle, the meaning of which could only become apparent when every item was in its place and the story was complete (Anderson speaks of ‘framing, synthesis and narrativization’). ‘Performative efficacy’ in the
Introduction 5 construction of the right kind of story out of such elements as were available was ultimately more important than the detection of any definitive meaning in signs. It is easy to agree with Anderson’s identification of the importance of story construction in connection with divination (cf. my own words at the beginning of this introduction). The study of Greek religion from cognitive perspectives is indeed very much in vogue since Jennifer Larson’s remarkable Understanding Greek Religion: A Cognitive Approach (2016), and she has much to say on the cognitive background to Greek divination in particular, while taking a radically different approach to Anderson’s. As she notes, divination assumes the existence of a force of intentionality out there in the cosmos. Human beings are equipped with the tool of ‘agent detection’, that is, ‘the capacity to recognise intentional behavior from cues in the environment’, and ‘over-detection of agency [is] a better evolutionary strategy than under-detection’. One is more likely to survive, Larson explains, if one over-detects tigers in the rustling of a bush. Hence man’s general propensity to over-read prospective signs of intentional behaviour in his environment, and to commit to the possibility of readable signs in it, as the Greeks certainly did. It is noteworthy, too, that people in all cultures tend to become more responsive to signs of a spontaneous nature in their environment in times of crisis, when a decision is desperately needed in an uncertain context.21 Bosman (Chapter 5) takes us to Dodona. A visit to an oracle was not just about grabbing the info and leaving. Rather, such a visit would normally be a transporting sensory, emotional and intellectual experience, one in which the consulter engaged not only with the divine itself but also with the ambience of the locale and its ancient and venerable myths and traditions (the latter real or confected). A typical visit to the oracle of Trophonius at Lebadeia, as described in some detail by Pausanias, is a case in point: after their multifaceted but ultimately grim experience, consulters supposedly lost the ability to laugh.22 What sort of experience did Dodona offer in this regard? How was it able to recruit clients and pilgrims in the competitive market for divination? Bosman shows that, in the archaic and classical periods, the oracle’s unique selling point was its distinctively and reassuringly primitive, perhaps even primeval nature. There are several considerations here: (1) its perceived remoteness on the fringe of the Greek-speaking world (this paradoxically combined with a vague notion that it was at the same time a fount of Greekness); (2) its site’s want of architectural development; (3) the partial obscurity of its divine patrons, of whom, however, the name ‘Dodona’ itself seemed to sing; and (4), above all, its focus on a tree, even if the Greeks can have remembered little of the actual Minoan roots of tree cults. It may have been a source of attraction and credibility, too, that the genially primitive but unthreatening Dodona shared its region, Thesprotia, with another oracle probably considered to be yet more ancient, but also rather more terrible, the Oracle of the Dead at the River Acheron, famous in myth and legend (it was some 20 miles distant as the crow flies).23 A notorious enquiry lamella from Dodona asks, ‘To Zeus of the place and to Dione. They shouldn’t use Dorios the evocator [psuchagōgos],
6 Daniel Ogden should they?’24 Here we perhaps find the safe oracle being asked whether it is advisable to progress to the unsafe one, or even being invited to mitigate the terrors and risks of doing so. Santangelo (Chapter 6) discusses Roman anxieties about divination for profit. The Roman state’s hostility to this does not seem to have derived from any general disapproval of free-market enterprise in itself. There was a certain worry that the profit motive might undermine the integrity of divination, and this is expressed repeatedly, for example, in Cicero’s De Divinatione. But the principal concern seems to have been rather that the state should exercise a monopoly over this potentially very dangerous craft,25 with the result that there was a tendency to attempt to suppress the freelance varieties of divination, which would necessarily be those varieties wherein their practitioners required fees, if only to keep body and soul together.26 A key expression of this attitude is to be found in the resolution of the republican senate, recounted by Cicero (Div. 1.92), to attempt to seize control of Etruscan haruspicium for the benefit of the Roman state by the measure of dispatching ten noble lads to Etruria to learn the craft so that they could return to exercise it, without remuneration, on behalf of the city (the precise date of the resolution is unclear).27 As the state subsequently came to be identified with the figure of the (ever-anxious) emperor himself, its control over haruspicium became ever tighter: so it was that Tiberius banned the private consultation of haruspices altogether (Suet. Tib. 63), while Claudius instituted a formal order of state haruspices in ad 47.28 As Santangelo notes, the well-known myth of Tarquin, the Sibyl and her books, for all that it focuses precisely on a sale of divination, contrives paradoxically to affirm the pricelessness of true divination and, notably, divination at state level in particular, through its motif of the unvarying price (Dion. Hal. RA. 4.62). Despite the state’s anxieties, those who found themselves paying freelance diviners will seldom have been looking to its fall, or to the death of the emperor. In the second century ad at any rate, private divination seems to have been dominated by matters of economic concern: as Santangelo demonstrates, such matters occupy a third of the questions of the Sortes Astrampsychi and almost half of the responses of the Asia Minor dice oracles. Most typically, it seems, paying a modest sum to a diviner for his advice would have been viewed as a cautious business investment. Nice (Chapter 7) reconstructs political and religious battles between 144 and 140 bc over the city praetor Q. Marcius Rex’s attempt to bring fresh water into Rome via a much-needed but massively expensive new aqueduct, the eventual Aqua Marcia, the longest of the city’s aqueducts. The political battles of the Roman republic were often articulated in terms of religion. Accordingly, Marcius’ rivals among both decemviri and the consuls attempted to thwart the project on mantic grounds, finding justification in the Sibylline books and in ominous prodigies of the sort in which Livy revels. But Marcius Rex and his brother were able to push the aqueduct through to completion by virtue of the political and indeed religious capital (gratia) they and their clan, not least their mythical forbears, had accrued. Some of this capital was evidently established through typological methods.29
Introduction 7 Strikingly, it seems that the clan was able to construct a mythical precedent and justification for the aqueduct and in particular for their own construction of it in the claim that one of their supposed ancestors, Ancus Marcius, the fourth king of Rome, had been responsible for creating some sort of forerunner in his own age. The clan was further fortified in the dispute by its own countervailing reputation for expertise in prophecy, a reputation of long standing. Some seventy years previously, one or more of the Marcii had had some prophecies of their own deemed worthy of incorporation into the same Sibylline books. Furthermore, the clan boasted a forebear of remoter mythical status even than Ancus Marcius, in the silenus and sometime river god Marsyas, who had supposedly given his name to them and was responsible for the introduction of the craft of augury to Italy. Marsyas too could be pressed into typological service for the aqueduct. It was said that he had also given his name to the race of the famously snake-bursting Marsi of the Fucine Lake, while the Marcii found that the sources of their new water were ultimately connected, somehow, to this lake. Murray (Chapter 8) demonstrates that Valerius Maximus has a tendency to intervene in the historical material he is reworking for his collection of exemplary deeds and sayings in order to allude to and celebrate the sidereal affinities and catasterizations of various members of the imperial family. Accordingly, he is to be considered a valuable source for what was in fact the acceptable take on these themes in the age of Tiberius. For such dangerous interests ostensibly sat somewhat uncomfortably with the official line on astrology long adopted by the Roman state, as indeed, for that matter, did Tiberius’ own well-attested close relationship with the astrologer Thrasyllus. We repeatedly hear of expulsions of Chaldaeans under the empire, pagan and Christian alike, including by Augustus, Tiberius, Nero, Vitellius and Constantius II.30 The tradition actually stretched right back into the Republic. Valerius himself tells us that as early as 139 bc the praetor Cornelius Hispalus issued a decree against the Chaldaeans, requiring them to depart from Rome and Italy within ten days.31 One has to wonder what actually happened when the Romans issued decrees of expulsion of this sort. How was the decree policed, given the vast numbers that must have been involved? How was it ensured that those expelled did not merely tarry briefly beyond the borders before returning? The questions have only to be posed for the answers to be obvious: such decrees of expulsion could not really be policed, except in the rare cases in which remaining Chaldaeans, or people representable as such, drew attention to themselves by ostentatious activity. The more extreme measure of mass executions would, one accepts, have been rather easier to enforce, however arbitrarily it was done: one thinks, for example of the 2,000 and 3,000 people that Livy tells us were executed for veneficium in the years 184 and 180 bc, respectively (Liv. 39.41, 40.43). In all probability, the decrees of expulsion never effected very much at all in terms of the actual movement of people. Rather, their primary significance must surely have been largely symbolic or performative, as Orlin has argued.32 Crosby (Chapter 9) investigates, in a learned and interesting piece, the multifaceted attacks made upon the great pagan shrine of Delphi in the apologetic writings
8 Daniel Ogden of the early Church Fathers. The material of these attacks was often filched, cynically, one might think, from the critical and sceptical writings on religious matters of the pagans themselves, a phenomenon neatly crystallized by the great Julian who, as Theodoret tells us, attempted to debar Christians from engaging with (possibly even being educated in) the words of classical poets, orators and philosophers, on the basis that they were fletching their arrows against the pagans with feathers taken from their own wings. Crosby rightly observes that the Delphi the Church Fathers were attacking was a straw man, an impressive fantastical construct, ‘a Delphi of the Mind’, far removed from the actual conditions of the sad, silent shrine in their own day, it having been in long-term decline since even before the age of Plutarch. Their game in this regard was evidently a more sophisticated and intellectually abstract one than is immediately apparent – all the better, perhaps, to appeal to and seduce the educated pagan audience targeted for conversion. One particularly appealing feature of the Fathers’ explications of Delphi (and, indeed, of other pagan religious phenomena) is their lucidly mechanistic nature and their wonderful physicality. To modern – perhaps one should say ‘Christian’– eyes, these readings, for all their prejudice and hostility, tend to read rather more accessibly and engagingly than any explanations, such as they are, offered to us by the pagans themselves. We may note the explanation of the Pythia’s enthusiasm formulated by Origen and John Chrysostom (and referred to by Crosby for other purposes): Apollo is an evil demon that emerges from the earth (from its abode in the abyss, no doubt) and enters the Pythia through her genitals as she straddles the tripod, to take violent physical possession of her and set her raving.33 We may add a further example. In an influential discussion in his Apology of ad 197, Tertullian establishes the winged nature of the demons with which the righteous must contend, the corrupted stock of angels presided over by Satan.34 This, he explains, was the category to which the supposed pagan gods belonged, and he illustrates the point with reference to a story famously recounted by Herodotus.35 According to this, Croesus, the sixth-century bc king of Lydia, tested a series of oracles and found Apollo’s at Delphi to be the only reliable one. He tested them by remaining at home in Sardis and cooking up a soup of lamb and tortoise. In the meantime, he dispatched messengers to the oracles to ask them what he was doing. Only Delphi got it right. Tertullian explains that the demon Apollo had been able to fly on its wings to Sardis, cutting through the air in an instant. There it observed directly what Croesus was up to before flying back to Delphi in a moment to give the king’s messenger an immediate response.36 Hilton (Chapter 10) compellingly contextualizes the famous episode of the Old Woman of Bessa in Heliodorus’ Aethiopica, in which an old woman reanimates her son’s corpse for the purpose of divination, against mid-fourth-century ad Christian debates about necromancy, these being enlivened by the conundrum posed by the Book of Samuel’s Witch of Endor episode.37 According to Christian theology, the witch ought not to have been able to call up the ghost of Samuel, which should have been safely confined, like all other ghosts, in the underworld
Introduction 9 until the Day of Resurrection. Of course, the date of the Aethiopica’s composition is itself a notorious aporia, but Hilton follows Morgan’s dating of the text to the mid-fourth century ad (subsequent, that is to say, to the siege of Nisibis in ad 350, the historical details of which appear to be reflected in Heliodorus’ account of the siege of Syene).38 But other contexts, we may be sure, were equally live for the Aethiopica’s first readers. For the baser form of Egyptian magic with which the witch is associated corresponds to the series of spells for accomplishing skull divination found in one of the grimoires that survive from the sands of Graeco-Roman Egypt. The recipe book in question, one the Greek Magical Papyri, is similarly thought to derive from the fourth century ad. This spell series prescribes rites to be performed on the skull of a dead man to compel his ghost to manifest itself to the practitioner in his sleep, whereupon it may impart its secret knowledge to him.39 Also live for Heliodorus’ first readers would have been the deep tradition of necromantic episodes in classical literature, in particular those featuring the more graphic reanimation variety of necromancy on the one hand and, on the other, those appearing in the novels. As to the former, one thinks of the greatest reanimation sequence to survive in classical literature, that featuring Lucan’s quite Gothic Thessalian witch Erictho (first century ad).40 As to the latter, one thinks of a series of episodes from novels of the second century ad, first among them the episode in Apuleius’ Metamorphoses in which the Egyptian (again) priest Zatchlas reanimates the corpse of the dead Thelyphron to confirm that the man had been murdered by his wife (Apuleius Met. 2.21–30). But the novel tradition evidently pullulated with this sort of thing: we find reanimations of various kinds elsewhere in the Metamorphoses (1.5–19, Socrates); in Iamblichus’ Babyloniaca (a Chaldaean revives a dead girl);41 and in Philostratus’ novelistic third-century ad Life of Apollonius (the eponymous sage restores a dead bride to life).42 Perhaps the most necromantic of all the ancient novels was Antonius Diogenes’ tortuous Wonders beyond Thule, again of the second century ad, in which the murky Cimmerians help Dercyllis to call up the ghost of Myrto, while the wicked Egyptian priest Paapis specialises in inflicting various kinds of deathlike states on his victims.43 Addey (Chapter 11) investigates Eunapius’ ‘life’ of the earlier fourth-century ad Sosipatra of Ephesus in his Lives of the Philosophers and Sophists (her ‘life’ is concatenated with the ‘lives’ of her husband Eustathius and her son Antoninus).44 The limited but rich and fascinating details which Eunapius supplies about her are sufficient to indicate that she was in effect, or at any rate was portrayed as, a latterday Apollonius of Tyana, a female counterpart to the ‘divine man’ (theios anēr) type: an initiate into Chaldaean mysteries, a remote-seeing prophet, a theurgist, a Neoplatonist and a Neopythagorean. Addey’s careful and learned study braces us in salutary fashion against complacent analyses of ancient representations of women and their works in accordance with lazy, off-the-peg stereotypes. Johnston’s all-too generic misreadings of her representation are corrected. Sosipatra is not projected as somehow ritually ‘passive’. Rather, Eunapius makes it explicitly clear that Sosipatra was fully trained in
10 Daniel Ogden ritual. When her vine-dressing Chaldaean instructors seal their sacred books into a chest for her upon their departure, they do not do so to leave her somehow passive in relation to them; it is merely a gesture of safekeeping. If Eunapius speaks little of Sosipatra’s physical engagement with ritual, this is because the rituals she performs, as a most advanced practitioner, largely take the form of intellectual and incorporeal worship. Her acts of divination, while appearing spontaneous from an external perspective, similarly proceed from ritual because she enjoys a perpetual internal ritual engagement with the divine. When Sosipatra asks Maximus to perform a counter-ritual against the love spell she suspects has been put upon her by Philometor (is the ‘wood burning’ attributed to him literal or metaphorical?), the request does not reflect her own ritual passivity, but rather her role as an instructor in a ritual of which she is already master; she brings her pupil on by demonstrably showing faith in him, a gesture he receives with pride. We might add to the points Addey makes: that the tendency to silence that Eunapius tells us was exhibited by the grown Sosipatra should not be attributed to any kind of passivity but rather to philosophical discretion (and indeed we are told that her most successful son, Antoninus, would similarly adopt the silence of a statue on occasion; one thinks here too of the popular narrative of Secundus the Silent Philosopher).45 This ‘life’ of Sosipatra exhibits some intriguing thematic correspondences with the first of the engaging tales in the collection of Lucian’s Philopseudes,46 in which a farm’s vinedresser, Midas, is bitten on the toe by viper. A BabylonianChaldaean is called in from nearby, and he cures Midas’ rotting leg; indeed, he restores him from the point of death with his spells, which include the tying of a fragment chipped from a virgin’s tombstone to the toe in question. Instantaneously healed, Midas jumps up and carries back the stretcher upon which he had been brought. The Chaldaean then magically summons all the farm’s pestilential reptiles to gather before him so that he can burn them all up with his fiery breath. As the animals gather, he somehow knows – presumably by virtue of remote sight – that one big old snake (a drakōn) in particular has failed to heed the summons, and so he sends one of the others to fetch it. Here too, then, as in the Sosipatra material, we find the motifs of (1) farm-visiting Chaldaeans, (2) vinedressers, (3) the stretchering about of men with afflicted legs and (4) the exercise of remote sight.47 Indeed comparison of these two texts might lead one to an enhanced reading of the Eunapian episode in which Sosipatra remote-sees Philometor’s carriage accident. Just as Lucian’s Chaldaean cures Midas’ leg, we may imagine that Sosipatra is not merely remote-seeing Philometor’s accident as it unfolds, but also remotely healing him even as she perceives and as she speaks: ‘his legs are in danger … no, they’re not; his elbows and hands are wounded … but it’s not serious’. Possession of the faculty to effect miraculous cures would, furthermore, bring Sosipatra yet further into line with the ‘divine man’ type, such healing constituting the type’s principal activity. It would be wonderful to know who these marvellous ‘Chaldaeans’ that long stalked the Roman Empire with their mysterious rituals and their astrological expertise actually were. One suspects that few of them had ever set foot in Babylon, and Eunapius’ pair of old men, dressed in animal skins and hawking
Introduction 11 their services as itinerant vinedressers, exhibit few signs of having had any link to the city.48 De Marre (Chapter 12), in another learned piece, takes us into the fascinating world of Late Antique North Africa. She evaluates the competing literary and socio-historical contexts of Corippus’ representation of the indigenous Maurians’ (Moors’) use of female prophecy in his Johannis (c. ad 550), his epic devoted to the martial achievements of John Troglita. On one occasion, Corippus (Johannis 6.152–87) gives us a clear example of an inspired prophetess of Ammon. On another, in a slightly confusing passage, he gives us what is formally presented as a description of an inspired Apolline prophetess, though context may lead us to think the description applicable to an Ammonian one too (Johannis 3.85–151). There are no traces of female prophets of Ammon in history or tradition prior to Corippus, so what is going on here? De Marre demonstrates that, on the one hand, the representations depend on classical representations of the inspired Pythia, and indeed Lucan’s famous account of the Pythia in his Pharsalia (5.146–224) constitutes a particular model for Corippus here.49 On the other, they make appeal to the contemporary culture of divination in the region, as evidenced by Procopius. Procopius (Vand. 4.8.12–14; cf. 4.7.28) does indicate quite strongly that the Moors only used female prophets (or at any rate he indicates the Graeco-Roman assumption that such was the case).50 Then early Arabic sources proceed to speak of one Kahina, a seventh-century queen and prophetess of the Berbers.51 This culture of female prophecy was perhaps only loosely tied to cult sites, or not tied to them at all, and so it may have continued to flourish or even come to flourish for the first time in North Africa after the ad 391 Edict of Theodosius closed down the pagan shrines. No doubt the representations of these prophets are also shaped by the highly schematized axis with which Corippus articulates his narrative, in which Christian Byzantines stand against Maurian polytheists. East (Chapter 13) gives us a demonstration of the authority lent by Cicero’s De Divinatione to the anticlerical arguments formulated by English Enlightenment writers (and to the arguments of their respondents too) – a demonstration that will leave the modern Classicist rueful at the neglect of the precious texts of classical literature in the public discourse of his own day. The Enlightenment writers were advocates of ‘natural religion’, a religion bound by the laws of nature: man, they held, was capable of comprehending God and his works through the direct application of reason; indeed, this was the only fashion in which they could truly be comprehended. The notion, by contrast, of a mystically ‘revealed religion’ was scorned and consigned to the realm of ‘superstition’ with its accompaniments (miracles, portents, etc.). And this is where the blow fell upon the clergy. Insofar as the clergy interposed themselves between the common man and God, and arrogated the role of uniquely authorized interpreters of a revealed religion and of its mystic texts, they could only ever be agents of ‘superstition’. To contentions of this sort the De Divinatione seemed particularly apposite, with the sustained attacks of its second book on bogus varieties of divination and their proponents, men who, precisely, sought to interpose themselves between the common man and the gods, to
12 Daniel Ogden claim privileged access to divine will, all the while exploiting people’s fears and anxieties for their own profit: divinatio was superstitio. A passage in which Cicero (Div. 2.110) speaks disparagingly of the interpreters of the books of the Sibylline Oracles seemed to be of peculiar pertinence. The extent of the Enlightenment writers’ appropriation of this text and the Ciceronian corpus more generally becomes strikingly apparent in John Toland’s aspiration to incorporate into a new edition of the orator’s complete works an index of all passages bearing upon Christianity. Nagy (Chapter 14) gives us some intriguing insights into the reception of the Classics in late-nineteenth-century South Africa with a look at the epic poem Paul Kruger’s Dream by the remarkable Robert Grendon, son of an Irish father and a Herero mother. Only two copies of this poem, published by Munro Brothers in Pietermaritzburg in 1904, survive, though fortunately a new edition is in preparation.52 The poem represents an attempt to give South Africa not only its first national epic, but also an appropriately inclusive one, and so in some respects has much to say to modern generations. If the poem’s control of narrative may leave something to be desired, the 4,750 lines in which its tale is conveyed exhibit highly creditable versification across a range of metres, not least the iambic pentameter. The poem tells how a South Africa with a bright future (as Grendon trusted) is forged in a paradoxically negative fashion – through the failure of the ambitions of the supposedly hubristic and tyrannically inclined Paul Kruger. The poem’s themes are conveyed well enough by its somewhat ungainly full title: Paul Kruger’s Dream, The Struggle for Supremacy in South Africa between Boer and Briton; or the Overthrow of ‘Corruption’, ‘Falsehood’, ‘Tyranny’, ‘Wrong’, and the Triumph of ‘Justice’, ‘Truth’, ‘Liberty’, ‘Right’: A Poem. In composing his poem, Grendon made the most of the education he had received in Latin at Zonnebloem College in the Cape (although he seems to have excelled primarily in maths), and in particular his readings in the first half of the Aeneid, that celebration of the founding of the Roman state. So it is that we find Grendon’s Kruger scorning the (truthful) prophecies bestowed upon him by the goddess Fortuna (who owes something to Virgil’s Sibyl), by the god Mars (in ancient tradition, the sponsor of the Trojans with whom Kruger’s Boers are aligned), by Truth in personified form (whose conception owes something to Virgil’s personified abstractions, such as Fama), and by the assembled ghosts of the great Boers of the past (who recall the parades of the dead and the not-yet-born encountered by Aeneas in his visit to the underworld). Given his comfort in the manipulation of the themes and apparatuses of ancient epic, one would give much to know the degree of access Grendon enjoyed to other ancient poems beyond the Aeneid. There is a suggestion of some familiarity with the Iliad, if only in translation. As Grendon’s poem progresses, a Christian voice becomes ever more insistent in these prophecies: once literary legitimacy has been established by means of the use of classical (and necessarily pagan) forms, it seems, attention may then be given to the greater matter of religious legitimacy. And thus the poem closes with Kruger’s deathbed redemption, his return to Christ and his praise of God for the peace he has brought to his land.
Introduction 13 Steinmeyer (Chapter 15) reviews Marion Zimmer Bradley’s 2002 novel Firebrand, which attempts to ‘recuperate’ a lost female voice from classical literature, that of Cassandra. Since she is a woman who ever speaks insightful truth and yet ever goes unheeded, one can readily understand the appeal of the Cassandra figure to those seeking to impose upon ancient myths readings of a sort congenial to contemporary feminists. One wonders how long the justifying claim that only (born) females can write myth from a genuinely (gender) female perspective can survive in the current age of transgender politics: it perhaps already feels regressive. Nonetheless, there is evidently much for the Classicist to admire in Bradley’s reworking and kaleidoscoping of the ancient source material. She is to be commended for having committed herself to making the most of the further reaches of the Cassandra tradition and indeed the broader field of Greek myth. It is reassuring to find her alluding (albeit indirectly) to the obscure but delightful episode in which Cassandra and her twin brother Helenus were left overnight in the temple of Apollo Thymbraeus as babies, whereupon a (or the) pair of the god’s sacred snakes licked out their ears, thereby ridding them of a metaphorical deafness and bestowing upon them the gift of prophecy.53 It is interesting too to see her extending Cassandra’s snake affinities by taking her off to Colchis, there to follow in the serpent-tending Medea’s footsteps.54 It is a pity that Bradley is not able to give greater credit than she does to the one surviving ancient work that is wholly given over to Cassandra’s voice, namely the Lycophronian Alexandra (c. 200 bc), which is admittedly a deeply challenging text. It has recently been rendered slightly more accessible by Hornblower’s new commentary. Pertinently, Hornblower adumbrates the case for supposing that its (pseudonymous) author was actually a woman: the poem adopts female focalization for most of its extent; Cassandra’s rape is used as an organizing principle; and the author shows remarkable knowledge of female cults.55
Notes 1 Cf. Bonnechere (2007) 145. Note Ogden (2001) 231–50, especially 238: in what aspired to be a comprehensive review of the kinds of answers sought by the specific technique of necromancy (divination from the dead), I could find relatively few examples of straight prediction of the future. There are two caveats here, however: first, our evidence for necromantic consultations is all effectively fictional; second, it might be thought that of all sources of divinatory power, the dead had the weakest natural affinity with the future. 2 For the latter distinction see Bonnechere (2007) 150–5. 3 As with Hdt. 1.158, discussed by Evans in this volume. 4 Fontenrose’s (1978: 240–416 and passim) noble attempt to determine which of the recorded Delphic oracles were genuine and which fictional, etc., may accordingly have been simplistic. 5 Cf. Fontenrose (1978) 145–65; Larson (2016) 79–80. 6 Thuc. 2.54. The text is referred to by Anderson in this volume. 7 Hdt. 1.67, also discussed by Anderson in this volume. 8 I draw inspiration for these remarks from some powerful observations made by Prof. Kai Trampedach at the Tenth Melammu Symposium held at Kassel University in 2016.
14 Daniel Ogden 9 Iamb. De mysteriis 3.11; Amm. Marc. 22.12.8. 10 Hdt. 5.36; cf. 1.92 for the wealth that Croesus had bestowed upon it. 11 Demon FGrH 327 F16. Cf. Parke (1985a) 18–20, 203–4. 12 Stephanus of Byzantium s.v. Ἀνθάνα; cf. Suda s.v. Ἐπιμενίδης. 13 I cannot forbear to mention here the Bath tablets to whose makers illiteracy appears to have presented no obstacle, the mysteries of writing being mimicked with series of repetitive but meaningless marks (Tab. Sulis nos. 112–16; these derive from an age decently subsequent to Dufault’s watershed: the third or fourth century ad). As the exemplary editor of the Bath tablets, Roger Tomlin, sympathetically observes of such illiterate writing, ‘After all, the goddess would be able to read it’: Tomlin (1988) 247. 14 Listed at Jameson et al. (1993)125–6. 15 Jordan (1985a) no. 9 = Faraone (1991a) no. 5 = Gager (1992) no. 41 = Ogden (2009) no. 237; cf. Jordan (1985–1988). 16 DT nos. 41, 47, 52, 72–3, 87, 92, 109; DTA nos. 12, 30, 55, 68–75, 84, 86, 97; Jordan (1985a) nos. 3–4, 11, 20, 43–4, 48, 52, 72–5, 124. 17 Bernand (2000). 18 CIL 11.2.4639; Ogden (2009) no. 180. 19 Let us not leave this point without mentioning another Bath tablet, Tab. Sulis no. 31 (similarly third or fourth century ad, and so again after Dufault’s watershed), in which the aggrieved peasant Civilis asks Sulis for the return of his stolen ploughshare. 20 SEG xiv no. 615, with revisions suggested by Jordan (1985a) no. 129 = Ogden (2009) no. 179. 21 Larson (2016) 74–5, 79. She builds in part on the work of Lisdorf (2007), especially on Roman divination. 22 Pausanias. 9.39; cf. Bonnechere (2003). 23 Hom. Od. 11, Hdt. 5.92; cf. Ogden (2001) 43–60. 24 Christidis et al. (1999) no. 5 (fourth century bc?) = Ogden (2009) no. 31. 25 See Graf (1999) 294–5. 26 In point of fact, however, we may wonder whether Scipio Aemilianus’ clear-out of his Numantian camp in 134 bc really was motivated by a disapproval of divination for profit as such. Appian’s account of the matter might be taken to imply rather that his motivations were discipline and morale (Iberian Wars 85). The traders and the prostitutes were cleared out for the sake of the former, while the diviners and the sacrificers were cleared out quite explicitly for the sake of the latter (ἐλθὼν δὲ ἐμπόρους τε πάντας ἐξήλαυνε καὶ ἑταίρας καὶ μάντεις καὶ θύτας, οἷς διὰ τὰς δυσπραξίας οἱ στρατιῶται περιδεεῖς γεγονότες ἐχρῶντο συνεχῶς). Their presence was a function of low morale in the first place, but no doubt they also sustained a debilitating climate of anxiety even when generally delivering positive messages in individual cases (as it was doubtless in their commercial interest to do). 27 Cic. Div. 1.92. 28 Tac. Ann. 11.15.1. 29 For the term ‘typology’, its roots in Biblical exegesis and its application in Roman thought, see Gransden (1973–1974) and especially (1976) 14–20. 30 Cassius Dio 49.43.5 (Augustus); Tac. Ann. 2.32 (Tiberius); Tac. Ann. 12.52 (Nero); Suet. Vit. 14 (Vitellius); Amm. Marc. 19.12.14 (Constantius II). 31 Val. Max. 1.3.3. The decree also bore upon the Jewish proponents of Jupiter Sabazius. 32 Orlin (2010). 33 Origen Against Celsus 3.25.31–4; John Chrysostom Homily on First Corinthians 29.1 = PG 242, 11–19. In this connection, it is a relief to see that the ‘pendulum’ (in Crosby’s phraseology) has swung back again from the revivalist and implausibly historicizing claims of de Boer et al. (2001) to have found evidence of a mephitic cleft beneath Apollo’s temple. I have always been dubious: See Ogden (2001) 245. 34 Tertullian Apology 22; cf. Revelation 12.7–9.
Introduction 15 35 Hdt. 1.46–8. The tale also is referred to by Anderson in this volume. 36 Cf. Martin (2001). 37 For which see the most convenient Smelik (1979). 38 Morgan (1996) 417–21. 39 PGM IV. 2006–139. 40 Luc. Pharsalia 6.413–830. Hilton quite appropriately reassures us of the likelihood that Heliodorus could read Latin. I print the name ‘Erictho’ with its classical Latin – and, indeed, Lucan’s – orthography, -cth- being the classical Latin reflex of -χθ-. Many scholars prefer to take the name back to its original Greek form (it is vestigially attested: LGPN s.v.) and then retransliterate it into English as ‘Erichtho’. 41 As summarized at Photius Bibliotheca cod. 94, § 74b. 42 Philostratus Life of Apollonius 4.45. Cf. 4.11–16, where Apollonius summons up the ghost of Achilles. 43 Photius Bibliotheca cod. 166, §§109–11; PSI 1177. See Stephens and Winkler (1995) 101–78; Ogden (2009) 306–9 no. 311. 44 Eunapius Lives of the Philosophers and Sophists 6.5–11. 45 The text is edited and translated by Perry (1964) and the translation is reprinted at Hansen (1998) 68–75. 46 Lucian Philopseudes 11–13. On this see Ogden (2007) 65–104. 47 Improbable as it may seem, one gets the idea that ‘Chaldaeans’ may well have had a tendency to hang around farms. Already in c. 160 bc Cato had been saying of his ideal farm steward (vilicus) that ‘He should not wish to have consulted any haruspex, augur, diviner or Chaldaean’ (haruspicem, augurem, hariolum, Chaldaeum nequem consuluisse velit; De Agric 5). 48 Santagelo (in this volume) perhaps takes the claims of such individuals to Babylonian roots seriously, in his passing reference to ‘Near Eastern astrologers’. 49 Luc. Pharsalia 5.146–224. 50 Procopius Vand 4.8.12–14; cf. 4.7.28. 51 Hendrickx (2013). 52 So reports Christison (2012). 53 Tzetzes on Lycophron Alexandra, introduction; scholl. Hom. Il. 6.76a, 7. 44 (incorporating Anticlides FGrH 140 F 17). 54 Cf. Ogden (2013) 198–209. 55 Hornblower (2015) 40–1.
Was Didyma (Branchidae) a false oracle? Richard Evans
Introduction Miletus you crafty orchestrator of bad deeds, you will become a meal and magnificent prize for the many, your wives will wash the feet of many longhaired men, and our temple at Didyma will be cared for by others. (Hdt. 6.19) The following discussion attempts to determine the reason for the complete absence from Herodotus' Book 5 of any reference to oracles originating from the Sanctuary of Apollo at Didyma during the Ionian War (c. 500--493). That problem might not excite much interest initially except when considering the importance Herodotus devotes to oracular messages elsewhere in his history. 1 It is therefore curious that there are no oracles - the one exception was from Delphi - dealing with a war which disrupted the whole of western Asia Minor and the islands including Cyprus for nearly a decade, making this a conflict of far greater duration and magnitude than the punitive expedition that Darius sent against Athens and Eretria in 490 or even Xerxes' full-scale invasion of Hellas in 480. 2 Herodotus' report of the oracle given above is surely also important since it is mentioned not in conjunction with Ionian affairs but in his account leading up to the battle of Sepia in which Sparta defeated Argos in 494 (Hdt. 6. 77), and so reflects Argive concerns to know the outcome of that ongoing conflict. Therefore, the oracle dates either to a point in time immediately before or during the Persian siege of Miletus after the battle of Lade. 3 It does not precede the beginning of the war but illustrates oracular comment on what was almost inevitable by 494: the destruction of Miletus' power. It is not relevant to the time when it ought to have been announced: before the war began or when Aristagoras, probably in 500 or the spring of 499, was active in the Peloponnese trying to elicit support for the rebellion. 4 It certainly does not explain why the oracle at Didyma appears to have been tight-lipped on the subject of a war against the Persians and why Herodotus chose to ignore any issues about Miletus and its relations with the nearby shrine. The cult of Apollo (and Artemis) at Didyma was administered by Miletus since it was situated in its chore (Hdt. 1.157-158; Strabo, 14.1.5), and the daily functions of the temenos were undertaken by a local clan named the Branchidae.
Was Didyma (Branchidae) afalse oracle?
Didyma was one of the most respected oracular sites in Asia Minor if not in the entire Greek world and its treasury possessed great wealth deposited there, especially by Croesus the Lydian king (Hdt. 1.92) who had sought advice about making war on Persia. Herodotus specifically states that 'all the Ionians and Aeolians made a point of consulting the oracle', but also notes its international reputation (Hdt. 2.159). Yet no encouraging sign seems to have emanated from Didyma, nor any warning of the catastrophe that was to engulf not just Miletus but eventually the whole region. 5 And why should the Ionian Greeks appear to have ignored such a prestigious oracle which they would normally have consulted when they were preparing to wage war against Persia? Moreover, can Herodotus have considered the outcome of the Ionian cities' rebellion against the Persian king so predictable that he did not consider recording any oracle about this war, or was there a darker motive in his failure to transmit messages from deities which elsewhere are deemed to be of interest to the audience? Considering the importance Herodotus devotes to oracular messages elsewhere in his history, the absence in Book 5 of oracles of any origin dealing with any matter, not to mention other supernatural occurrences, shows a startling departure from the topical elements that comprise his methodology elsewhere.
The rebellion of Pactyes and an oracular response from Didyma Herodotus is the sole source for this episode, which evidently occurred shortly after the fall of Croesus in 546-545 BC (Hdt. 1.153-61). The Persian king Cyrus returned to Ecbatana soon after the capture of Sardis but he first appointed Tabalus as military governor (in effect, satrap) and the civilian Pactyes as the head of the local administration. 6 This division of control was probably intended to prevent any unrest among the new subject population. However, Cyrus seems hardly to have departed when Pactyes chose to lead a rebellion, raising a force of mercenaries mostly, it appears, from among the Greeks on the coast, with which he took control of Sardis and besieged Tabalus in the acropolis. The ease with which the rebels took much of Sardis suggests that Tabalus possessed little in the way of military resources. On the other hand, Pactyes seems not have been that popular with the local community if his support came essentially from paid troops. On the face of it, this was not a Lydian uprising but a quarrel between two figures in the newly formed government in Sardis. 7 Moreover, Pactyes' revolution was brief and in a matter of days, at most weeks, a relief column sent by Cyrus approached Sardis and what support there was for the rebel melted away. It is the events which took place in the aftermath of this uprising that have some impact of the assessment of the worth of Didyma as a trustworthy oracular site. Pactyes fled from Sardis to Cyme and when the Persians demanded that he be surrendered, its citizens prevaricated and sent a delegation to Didyma to ascertain whether they should accede to this request. The delegates were to ask which action regarding Pactyes would be more pleasing to the gods (Hdt. 1.158). The oracle stipulated that Pactyes should be handed over to the Persians. The citizens accepted this response but a certain Aristodicus interjected as they were about to
18 Richard Evans deport Pactyes. He claimed to have some doubt about the oracle and suggested that the legation sent to Didyma had misunderstood or misinterpreted the message. He created sufficient disquiet that a further delay was called while a second delegation including Aristodicus was dispatched to pay another visit to Didyma. Aristodicus acted as spokesman at the shrine and explained that Pactyes had come to the Cymaeans as a suppliant and would be executed if delivered to the Persians; he stated that they did not wish to be a party to violence unless the god gave a specific command. The oracle again stated that Pactyes should be handed over to the Persians. Yet Aristodicus remained unconvinced, which is certainly an indication of scepticism about the validity of the oracle. Herodotus relates that Aristodicus remained at the shrine and walked around the temple, removing birds wherever he found them nesting in the walls. Then a threatening voice was heard to come from the va6c; of the shrine which reprimanded the Cymaean for his behaviour, for the birds had sought refuge in the god's sanctuary. Far from being awed by the god's anger, Aristodicus responded with equal vigour, calling out the double standards of the god who chose to take care of the suppliants in his temple - the birds - but ordered the Cymaeans to give up Pactyes, a suppliant in their city. Still it seems that Apollo had the last word. The voice dismissed Aristodicus' protest with the comment that the god did indeed protect suppliants in his own temple but that the Cymaeans must surrender theirs. The sooner this was done, the quicker Cyme would pay the penalty for its sacrilege and the god ordered that the Cymaeans must never again approach Didyma for advice about future suppliants. The Cymaeans returned to their city but, rather than handing Pactyes to the Persians they sent him to Mytilene on Lesbos. When they heard that the Mytileneans had been offered money to deliver him to the Persians, they rescued Pactyes and transported him to Chios. But the rebel was soon given to the Persians by the Chians, who were rewarded for their treachery with land on the coast at Atarneus (Hdt. 1.160). The Cymaeans' actions may initially have deferred their punishment by the gods for delivering their suppliant to the enemy but the Pactyes affair ushered in a period of great upheaval and destruction to Ionia, as Herodotus clearly reveals (Hdt. 1.161-71). The Persians were intent on punishing any city which had contributed to Pactyes' rebellion and from Herodotus' account it appears that there had either been widespread support for his cause in Ionia and elsewhere or that the rebellion had caused instability across the region. 8 The Persians quickly and thoroughly regained control. Along the west coast of Asia Minor, Phocaea and Teas were sacked (Hdt. 1.163-8), and other Ionian cities were similarly subjugated. Herodotus fails to mention how all this must have affected the Aeolians, who lived directly to the north of Ionia, and he offers no account of the fate of Cyme, which had perhaps been mostly closely linked with Pactyes and his revolt. 9 Moreover, Miletus was completely unaffected by any of these events. Sole rule in the form of tyranny appears to have been the regular system of government in Miletus for much if not all of the sixth century. Herodotus (Hdt. 5.92) refers to Thrasybulus the tyrant of the Milesians as a contemporary of Periander of Corinth, who ruled from about 625 to 587 Bc. 10 There was also close cooperation
Was Didyma (Branchidae) afalse oracle?
between Miletus and Lydia whose king, Croesus, contributed as liberally to the treasury at Didyma as he did to Delphi.'' Following the destruction of Lydian power, Miletus, like the other cities along the coast of Asia Minor, came under the control of Persia and so the existing system of tyrannies was maintained, although there is no record of the ruler of the city at the time of Croesus' fall or in the subsequent uncertainties of Pactyes' revolt. However, from about 520 the tyrant was Histiaeus, a loyal partisan of Darius who was rewarded with the position of adviser to the king, whom he accompanied to Susa in about 510. 12 At that juncture the administration of the city passed to Aristagoras, Histiaeus' son-in-law. In 501 or 500, Aristagoras dispensed with a government controlled by a single ruler and the Milesian demos elected generals to conduct the revolt against Persian rule. 13 And so a long-standing system of government at Miletus was replaced and this political upheaval will surely have affected all institutions in the polis, including the religious sites such as nearby Didyma. Nonetheless, the Branchidae, who supervised the cult, seem to have been unaffected by the turmoil which had developed all around them in the 540s and then again nearly fifty years later. It is therefore very curious indeed that instead of appealing to an oracle unconnected with the Persians, the Cymaeans chose to send a deputation to Didyma, although it is also worth noting that the suppliant was not a Greek, according to Herodotus (Hdt. 1.159), but of Lydian origin. The Cymaeans could easily have sent a delegation to another oracular centre in the region. 14 Perhaps their reasoning was based on Didyma's long relationship with the Lydian king, who had by then been taken captive or killed by Cyrus. 15 And Miletus had evidently not engaged in any hostile act against Persia and had in fact already negotiated a peace with Cyrus. Therefore, the response of the oracle can hardly have come as a surprise to Aristodicus and his fellow delegates. Understandably, not wishing to jeopardize that peace, the Branchidae were not helpful to the Cymaeans. It is of course possible that Herodotus' account, with its supernatural tendencies, disguises a more pragmatic reason for the Cymaeans' presence in Didyma. Since all the other Ionian cities had declared themselves free when Lydian power came to an end, was the intention to force the hand of the Milesians into joining a common rebellion? In any event, the strategy failed and backfired since the Branchidae simply followed the policy of their patrons the Milesians. Brown argues that the negative portrayal of the Branchidae, and hence of the shrine at Didyma, found in Herodotus' account was originally the creation of Xanthus, the Lydian historian whose Lydiaca influenced all later accounts. He suggested that to a Lydian, 'it might have seemed appropriate that a corrupt family of priests ... betrayed the Lydian cause after taking Croesus' gold,' 16 yet there can be no certainty that Pactyes was actually Lydian, and besides, Lydian participation in this rebellion had already ceased. It was far more realistic of the Branchidae to recommend an accommodation with Persia and avoid certain destruction, a denouement which the oracle clearly presaged. Contrary to Brown's thesis, therefore, the reason is more likely to be a much less complex one of political obligation and, as such, unconnected with any literary tradition or bias, especially since
20 Richard Evans the special political attachment of the Branchidae at Didyma can also be identified later in the greater war after 500 BC.
The Ionian War, Aristagoras, Hecataeus and the Branchidae Miletus maintained its particularly close ties with Persia, especially when Darius made Histiaeus its ruler some years before the king campaigned in Thrace and across the Danube (Hdt. 4.83-143). But following Histiaeus' forced exile in Susa from about 510, the internal politics in Miletus turned against Persian rule and there appears to have been a widespread desire to rebel. This change of allegiance was in part the work of Aristagoras, who ruled Miletus in Histiaeus' absence. Histiaeus encouraged Aristagoras in his scheme, although the motives of both were driven more by personal ambition - the former to return to his city, the latter to avoid losing his position - rather than to achieve any long-term independence for the Ionian cities. Aristagoras' singular lack of success in an attempt to capture N axos for the Persians, and his lack of funds afterwards to pay the troops he had employed in the adventure, accelerated an existing political crisis and helped the personal intrigues of the protagonists, namely Histiaeus and Aristagoras. Following his return from Naxos and before he could be reprimanded or punished by Artaphernes, the Satrap of Lydia, Aristagoras sounded out the level of support for a rebellion among his friends. He may well have regarded this option as his only future course, but Histiaeus sent a message to his son-in-law, also encouraging revolt, which arrived at this precise moment (Hdt. 5.35). 17 In this meeting a vote for military action would have been unanimous if not for the opposition of the Milesian philosopher Hecataeus, who was present and argued for maintaining the status quo. 18 Hecataeus offered some interesting advice at this stage. He urged the Milesians to invest in an enlarged fleet of warships and to gain command of the sea. 19 In order to finance this strategy, Hecataeus recommended the seizure of the treasures deposited at Didyma by Croesus (Hdt. 5.36). Although this advice was not taken up, in such an open discussion, perhaps recorded by Hecataeus, the news will have reached Didyma very quickly. It would be strange if the Branchidae's reaction to this denuding of their sanctuary's wealth had been positive, and if it had become a subject of debate, the possibility remained that the Milesians would remove the treasures when or if they were required in the future. It is therefore highly probable that after a half-century of close cooperation with Persia the relationship between the Milesians and the Branchidae at Didyma now became rather strained to say the least. If, as seems very likely, given the tradition, the Branchidae were not in favour of a war against Persia, this stance made the shrine vulnerable to attack by the Greeks but meant that it could also be surrendered willingly to the Persians by the keepers of the shrine. The Milesians missed an opportunity to finance their war, but the Branchidae did not forget the threat. It should further be noted that the mainland Greeks did not pillage sanctuaries such as Delphi in this period and the first recorded occasion was almost certainly during the Third Sacred War in the 350s (Diod. 16.14.3, 23.1). At that time, the Phocian leaders decided to fund hostilities against the Amphictionic League
Was Didyma (Branchidae) afalse oracle?
and Philip II of Macedon by drawing on the contents of the various treasuries at Delphi for the payment of mercenary soldiers. 20 One hundred and fifty years before this, Hecataeus had presented a cogent argument for ransacking Didyma to finance the war against Persia. Could this rupture between shrine and polis be the reason that when oracles feature so prominently in the history of Herodotus there are so few references to those ofDidyma and none related to the Ionian War, when it should have been a usual feature of the narrative? Moreover, why would any Ionian Greek at war with Persia seek advice from an oracle so assuredly and consistently pro-Persian? The roles of Aristagoras and Histiaeus consume Herodotus' account of the Ionian War (Hdt. 5.35-6.21). 21 Thus, while Herodotus has room to tell the tale of the slave sent from Histiaeus to Aristagoras bearing a message urging rebellion tattooed on his head (Hdt. 5.35), and even of oracles received by other Greek cities, none seem to have been deemed worthy of mention for the Ionians or their allies among the Aeolians or Carians, whose fate is the focus of the narrative. 22 In other words, Herodotus gives the impression that all military decisions made by the Ionians in this war were governed not by religion or divination, but by rational thought. Yet the attack on Sardis (Hdt. 5.99-103) by the Ionians and their allies, the Athenians and the Eretrians, would normally have been preceded by advice from the deity. The campaign ended in a serious defeat and the Athenians refused to provide further aid for the rest of the war. Was it because an oracle had been ignored or never sought? We are given no reason for the Athenians' about-face. Moreover, why, when only advice from Hecataeus is alluded to - that the former tyrant should evacuate just to the island of Leros, close to Mount Mycale, so that he might return more easily - did Aristagoras decide to desert the cause he had been instrumental in launching (Hdt. 5 .124-6)? Aristagoras chose to flee to Myrcinus in Thrace, where he was soon killed. Had he sought an oracle for this action and why was Hecataeus ignored? Undeterred by their leader's departure, the Milesians elected new generals and carried on their war, although they did so now in the face of overwhelming odds. The Milesians had few options by then, unless they defeated the Persian fleet, and so warships were gathered at Miletus by the Ionian allies (Miletus, Priene, Myus, Teos, Phocaea, Erythrae, Chios, Lesbos and Samos). 23 But there is no word that an oracle was sought or delivered on the Greeks' capacity to defend themselves and gain mastery of the sea. Hecataeus had advised this strategy long before, in 500, but with just 353 warships in the Greek fleet against a force of 600 Persian ships, the outcome looked bleak. Most of the Samian contingent broke ranks at the start of the battle, followed by the ships of Lesbos, leaving the Greeks outnumbered three to one. It was a wonder that the fighting (Hdt. 6.15-16) was so long drawn out until the Greeks retreated either into Miletus or beached along the coast of Mount Mycale.
The destruction of Miletus As the Delphic oracle predicted, according to Herodotus (Hdt. 6.19), in early 493 BC, Miletus was destroyed by the Persians and with it the oracular site of Apollo
at Didyma. After the Persians had concluded the fighting with the Carians, their strategy was to reoccupy the Ionian cities which had rebelled one by one and so they advanced overland to Miletus. Today the site of Miletus lies inland but for much of antiquity the city lay on a peninsula in the Latmian Gulf that has since silted up. In late 494 sc, an army could approach the city only from the south. This must also mean that Didyma must have been occupied before the Persians could begin their siege. Once the battle of Lade was lost, Herodotus gives some detail about the aftermath as it affected certain of the losing participants, such as the Chians, massacred in error perhaps, outside Ephesus and the journey into exile of many of the Samians. Yet there is no coverage of a siege at Miletus, implying possibly that the fall of the city occurred very soon after the naval defeat. Still, there is some evidence to indicate a more complex situation than Herodotus' narrative presents, which runs contrary to his claim that the city was actually left in a ruinous state. And if Miletus escaped relatively unscathed by the defeat of the Ionian fleet, then Didyma most probably did too. Thus, some Milesians may have escaped and resettled, temporarily if not permanently, in Zancle (Thuc. 6.4.5-6: 'Ionians who sailed to Sicily to escape the Persians'). The main obstacle to Herodotus' devastating picture, however, is the obvious presence of Milesians in the Persian forces at Mycale in late 479 (Hdt. 9.99), 24 and the city's subsequent membership of the Delian League after 478. It is therefore highly likely that only known and active supporters of Aristagoras' rebellion were actually removed from the city in 493 and that the city itself was quickly re-established. Delphi' s supposed warning about Milesian women washing the feet of the Persian victors was at best an exaggeration and Herodotus must have known this. If Herodotus is guilty of embellishing the fate of Miletus at the end of the Ionian War, then the destruction ofDidyma, which he also claims was foretold by the oracle, is, on balance, not likely to have occurred at this time, but can be safely redated to 4 79 simply because of its pro-Persian sympathies in the past. It is nonsense to suppose that Didyma would have been destroyed when it was not associated with the rebellious Ionian Greeks. If the fabric of the city was spared, then its nearby shrine was also left untouched. Why Herodotus gave so dramatic an ending to the Ionian Revolt will never be known, but there may have been some personal hostility towards members of the Milesian elite such as Aristagoras, although the latter was already dead by the time the Persians recaptured Miletus. Herodotus certainly considered Aristagoras a 'worthless' person for the manner in which he chose to desert Miletus before the end of the war. Yet Aristagoras must have had some positive character traits to win over so many of the Ionian cities to his self-proclaimed cause. Moreover, Herodotus' account of the Delphic oracle's prediction of the end of Didyma may be questioned further. The oracle had insisted that the shrine would be the concern of others but does this mean reassignment of the land to new ownership or simply that the Persians established direct control from Sardis? The fact that Herodotus states that the land above the plain was granted to Carians while the Persians occupied the plain itself led Hammond (1998) to assume that the Carians were given control of the site at Didyma. The juxtaposition of 'Carians' with the
Was Didyma (Branchidae) afalse oracle?
destruction of Didyma in the narrative forces an assumption that they occupied the oracular site. But Didyma does not belong to the land above the plain and it was on the sole overland route through the plain from Miletus into Caria and Lydia. It is far more likely that the Persians turned over much of the territory of Miletus to the care of the Satrap of Lydia, and that peripheral land on Mount Grion was leased to farmers who lived in adjacent Caria. If Miletus had been destroyed, it would not have had control over Didyma in the period between the defeat at Lade and its resurgence after Mycale. If so, who took control of Didyma? Was it in fact the Carians, as Hammond seems to have accepted as implicit in Herodotus' statement, although 'above the plain' does not suit the geographic location of this sanctuary? Moreover, would Darius have rewarded the Carians of Pedasa, who had proved to be some of the most obdurate of Persian enemies in the Ionian War with the 'most famous' oracular site in Western Asia Minor? 25 Even considering the Persian king's conciliatory temperament, Hammond has overlooked both the geographical evidence and the role of the Carians in the recently concluded war. Herodotus claims that the oracle was fulfilled, and describes the end of Didyma very dramatically: 'shrine and temple and oracle' were ransacked and burned. There is surely no doubt that the historian wished to convey this message, but the question of whether he thought he was retelling a fact or inventing or perpetuating a myth cannot be answered. Whatever, the condition of Miletus after the siege in 494, it returned to its status as a subject city of Persia within the Lydian satrapy just like the other cities of Ionia, and so too, presumably, Didyma.
The massacre of the Branchidae While this subject is not central to the discussion here, the historicity of Alexander's massacre of the descendants of the Branchidae, as related by Curtius Rufus (7.5.28-35), is the subject of much debate and is an element that needs to be addressed since it does have an impact on the worth of the oracle and the activities and loyalties of the temple keepers. 26 Tarn's argument for regarding as an ancient invention the massacre of the Branchidae - earned for their ancestors' 'treacherous' behaviour in sacking the temenos at Didyma, which was their charge, and then taking refuge with Xerxes in 479 after the battle of Mycale - hinges on the 'rule' that a late unsound source should not take precedence over a reliable early source. 27 Besides Curtius, therefore, Tarn has also to include Diodorus, Strabo and Plutarch in this category while he omits Pausanias and Aelian, who also mention the affair. Herodotus' evidence is therefore to be preferred, but is this evidence as secure as Tarn argues? Herodotus is never a thoroughly reliable historical guide. Two examples ought to suffice: the Samians are said to have occupied 'the beautiful town of Zancle' (Hdt. 6.24) but Herodotus surely knew that these settlers were expelled - or most of them at least - within two or three years by Anaxilas of Rhegium, who installed new citizens; while the claim that the Ionian cities were destroyed and their inhabitants deported (Hdt. 6.31-2) is simply a gross generalization at best and untrue at worst. Herodotus was probably employing poetic elements rather than a good historical source. 28
There were certainly other writers who covered the Ionian War, some earlier than Herodotus, one or more of whom could have been his source since Book 6 of his history cannot have been written earlier than the mid-430s, already fifty years after the event. Herodotus did not write his history from memory and the Ionian War was concluded before he was born, hence his reliance on these earlier sources. The nature of these sources is difficult to categorize or even identify. Currently, it is thought that his sources were mostly of an oral rather than a literary nature although it is also recognized that there is a range of written material that he could have accessed during the composition of his work. 29 Hecataeus is the most likely written source for events in Ionia before and during the war and Herodotus will not have found much if anything other than hostile information about Didyma and the Branchidae in this material, as is obvious from the discussion above. Other works like those of Xanthus or Hellanicus may have thrown a quite different light on events, while others again, such as a playwright or a poet, would have emphasized the dramatic aspects. Herodotus used Aeschylus' The Persians for his account of Marathon, and referred to at least one epitaph credited to Simonides in his account of Thermopylae. Herodotus could easily have employed Phrynichus' Fall of Miletus for events in the Ionian War. Such dramatic versions could account for the elaborate and highly theatrical account for the apparent destruction of Didyma in 494-493. But it was not history, since any destruction at Didyma can only have occurred in 4 79, after the battle at Mycale and in response to this Greek victory and the reoccupation of the site by the victors. 30 Didyma's century-long loyalty to the Persians at that point would inevitably have led to revenge by the Greeks and not the other way around. The absence of oracular utterances from Didyma may have something to do with Herodotus' audience, of course, although it seems unlikely that Athenians would have found reference to this site as emotionally distressing as they apparently found Phrynichus' tragedy at the end of the 490s. But if this tragedy had contained material about treachery and betrayal, and ended with the Milesian women washing the feet of their Persian conquerors, the population forced into exile and Didyma destroyed, it is not inconceivable that Herodotus would have incorporated this tale into his own narrative. He refers to Phrynichus' play (Hdt. 6.21) and concludes by stating that 'Thus Miletus was emptied of its citizens'. Yet Miletus simply could not have been deserted from 493 and so it seems that tragedy and history became muddled and, writing fifty years or more after the event, the historian chose a more dramatic but also less accurate account. 31
Conclusion The discussion here has to some extent highlighted the vulnerability of Herodotus' evidence for a study of the Ionian War. Notwithstanding that conclusion, this weakness does not impinge on the question of whether or not Didyma had come to be considered a false oracle by that time, and thus its utterances of no use to the Greeks. Therefore, it seems unlikely that there would be any record of oracles from Didyma when there was a general uprising against Persia, since no requests
Was Didyma (Branchidae) afalse oracle?
would have been made because of the shrine's long-standing loyalty, first to the Persian backed tyrants and, second, to the Lydian kinship. It is also not irrelevant to suggest that the lack of reference to oracles in Herodotus Book 5 might reflect the notion of Ionian rationalism compared to earlier Lydian complacency about divine intervention, and that, granted the prominence Hecataeus appears to occupy as a source, this could well have influenced the methodological approach at this point in the Histories. Still, the fact that Hecataeus failed to convince the Milesians, even the otherwise unscrupulous Aristagoras, suggests that as yet the plundering of temple treasures remained beyond the bounds of acceptable action. Elsewhere, before and after the Ionian War, the pervasive supernatural features witnessed in the Marathon campaign and the prominent role of oracles in the later invasion of Greece by Xerxes seem to indicate that Didyma's was silent. With regard to the charge of 'treachery', who was guilty? The Branchidae were killed because their ancestors were said to have behaved in a treacherous fashion and this is supposed to have been manifest in the surrender of Didyma to the Persians. But Didyma had never been sympathetic towards to the Greeks and if there was any guilt regarding treachery it was the consistent loyalty to Persia, at first a friend and overlord but later the enemy. Curtius (7.5.31) claims that some of the Milesians were hesitant about the guilt of the Branchidae but he does not mention why. Perhaps it was because they remembered that some of their ancestors had been ready to pillage temple treasures. 32 The theme was treachery and betrayal and so, in Curtius' view, or that of his source, this crime was not one of simply siding with the Persians but had a much greater significance, and it is possible that, in revenge for Milesian contempt of Didyma, the Branchidae had played some role in the sack ofMiletus in 494 or in the defeat at Lade. Moreover, it is possible that the oracles from Didyma came to be recognized as poor and unreliable. It was convenient that the spring associated with the delivery of the oracles in the sanctuary dried up and that oracles were no longer available after 479, and it seems at least likely that the Branchidae were responsible for blocking up the oracular spring when they fled from Miletus. It seems likely too that the oracle continued to function under Persian patronage after 494 and that the renaissance of the shrine had more to do with Alexander than the physical functioning of the cult. In conclusion, it seems unfair to have described the actions of the Branchidae as treachery or betrayal when they surely knew about the speech delivered by Hecateaus even before the Ionian War commenced and that the Milesians, or some of them, would have been quite prepared to plunder the treasury at Didyma to fund their rebellion. 33 The fact that Herodotus recounts this also indicates that there must have been some animosity in the relationship between the shrine and Miletus. However, this state of affairs cannot be traced back to the Pactyes episode, when the oracle demanded that the Cymaeans return their suppliant to the Persians. Herodotus appears again to present a misleading picture since Pactyes was not an Ionian Greek but a Lydian and hence a subject of the Persian Empire. Jurisdiction over his case belonged not to the Ionians but to the Persians. The oracle therefore behaved impeccably but it is as well to remember the context.
Miletus had come to terms with Cyrus but the other Ionian cities chose to fight for independence following the collapse of Lydia and were then incorporated into the Persian Empire by force. In that case, therefore, the oracle and the city acted together and at that stage both were pro-Persian. It was only during the consultations for the start of war in 500 that the allegiance of the city and the shrine diverged. The Branchidae could justifiably claim betrayal by sentiments in the city even if the sanctuary's treasury remained untouched during this war. At least, it is not recorded that the Milesians raided the treasure. If Hammond is correct, Herodotus then maintains his misleading impression by heavily underscoring his description of the end ofDidyma in 494, when Darius may well not have ordered such an act. If the Branchidae had been threatened in 500, this could have been because of the oracle's perceived pro-Persian stance, which is likely to have been regarded as having a negative impact on the rebellion of Miletus. As a result, leaders such as Aristagoras would have avoided this 'false' oracle. Treason seems evenly divided between Miletus and Didyma, and, unfortunately for the Branchidae, the Milesians or their admirers wrote the history to their perpetual disadvantage. Brown (1978) may be partly correct in his argument but the Branchidae were perhaps less guilty than Aristagoras and the Milesian elite. Didyma became a false oracle for the new democracy at Miletus since it had long links with the Milesian tyrants, Lydia and, ultimately, the Persian king. No democratic leader, even a turncoat tyrant like Aristagoras, could possibly hope for favourable messages from Apollo at Didyma and he would have been wiser to seek out other oracular centres, such as Delphi. This commitment to the tyrants and their link with Persia explains the Milesian leaders' antipathy towards the sanctuary in 500 although they did not adopt the ruthless move suggested by Hecataeus, however sensible it may have been. The failure to support the rebellion against Persia must be the 'betrayal' perceived by Curtius and the reason why Alexander took violent revenge on the descendants of the Branchidae. Alexander had destroyed Thebes in part because of its Medizing; the Branchidae were slaughtered for the same crime of collaboration committed by their ancestors. Finally, it should also be noted that Herodotus was himself guilty of some distortion (Hdt. 6.19), deliberate or not, since he certainly redated any destruction ofDidyma from the aftermath ofMycale to the capture ofMiletus in 494, perhaps in order to enhance his own dramatic presentation of the events in Book 5.
Notes 1 The extent of dependency on oracular messages in the narrative may be gauged by noting references in Books 4 to 6 of the Histories. In Book 4, Herodotus (155-9) mentions no less than five Delphic utterances connected to the foundation of Cyrene, while in Book 5 there are several references to Delphi (Hdt. 5.43, 79, 82, 89, 92) but none relate to the war in Ionia. There are other references to Delphi (Hdt. 6.77, 6.86c, 6.139), but these are also not connected to events in Ionia. In the entire history, there are just two references to oracles from Didyma (Hdt. 1.46 and 1.57-9), which deal with Croesus and the revolt of Pactyes. On Pactyes, see below.
Was Didyma (Branchidae) afalse oracle?
2 However, Herodotus (6.98) illustrates his belief in the supernatural by dwelling on an earthquake on Delos said to be an indication of the troubles ahead, and this notion becomes a vivid and integral element in the Marathon campaign well before the Persian fleet arrived in Greece in 490. See further discussion in Cob et ( 1986) 11. 3 Herodotus' text (6.18-20) raises some interesting questions about the events because he implies that a part of the oracle meant for Miletus was to be forwarded by the Argives. There is no evidence that it was ever sent, since by then it was too late to influence events; furthermore, could oracles be unsolicited or was this a unique event? Fontenrose (1978: 70-1, 169) notes that Herodotus is alone in stating that the oracle granted to the Argives also contained a message for the Milesians. Other sources Pausanias, the Suda and Tzetzes - seem to be under the impression that there were two oracles. Fontenrose (1978: 169 n. 6) and others recognize the episode's dubious historicity since there is no record of a Milesian delegation to Delphi and the Pythia would only have addressed a suppliant who was present. For the oracle specifically directed to the Argives see Hdt. 6.77. 4 There is no mention that he went to Argos before or after his failed bid to win Spartan aid although it is quite logical that he should have visited other cities in Greece besides Athens and Eretria. 5 Other important oracular sites were at Chryse in the Troad, Claros on the coast at Colophon and Gryneum north of Cyme to name just three. For Gryneum see Brown (1978) 70. Croesus seems to have regarded advice from Didyma as less reliable than that from Delphi or Amphiaraus (Hdt. 1.49), yet his gifts to the Asia Minor cult of Apollo equalled his donations to Delphi (Hdt. 5.36). 6 Brown (1978: 65 and n. 6) notes that Herodotus' use of the verb Koµit/iv leaves Pactyes' position a little vague since some see this to mean that he was in charge of 'transporting the treasury to Cyrus' (de Selincourt/Marincola, trans. 1996) or of 'the administration' (Godley, trans. 1920). Herodotus (1.55) states that Tabalus was a Persian and Pactyes a Lydian. For a discussion of their relative positions in the new province's hierarchy, see Asheri inAsheri, Lloyd and Corcella (2007) 181 and Hornblower (2013). 7 Herodotus ( 1.155-6) claims that Cyrus blamed the Lydi ans and intended to sell them all as slaves, but was dissuaded from this drastic action by their former king Croesus. This tradition surely presents a negative picture of the Lydians, who do not in fact appear to have been involved at all, and perhaps emanates from a writer such as Xenophanes of Colophon. See Asheri in Asheri, Lloyd and Corcella (2007) 181. 8 The later rebellion in c. 500 was probably on a broader scale, but there are indications of unhappiness with Persian rule fifty years earlier. Herodotus (1.141-3, 148, 170.1) refers on a number of occasions to the meetings of the Ionian cities - the Panionium. However, Miletus, with its special relationship with Persia, chose to take little or no part, although the meetings were held on Mount Mycale and administered by Priene, the nearby city across the Gulf of Latmus. As in the greater Ionian conflict, Herodotus chose to highlight personal rather than sociopolitical or economic motives for Pactyes' uprising. 9 Herodotus' survey and enumeration of the Ionian fleet at Lade in 393 (6.8) does not include a contingent from Cyme. However, Cyme had contributed to the force that Aristagoras led against Naxos in 501-500 (Hdt. 5.37-8) and so would have possessed a fleet of its own, and indeed the city joined the rebellion. 10 Robinson (1997) surveys early examples of democracies outside Athens in the sixth century but makes no mention of Miletus, where there is plainly no record of this form of government before 501-500. 11 Croesus controlled Ionia, including Miletus, and when Cyrus conquered the Lydian kingdom in 545, by default he also acquired control of the Greek cities of western Asia Minor. Croesus bestowed gifts on both Delphi and Didyma, and others copied this patronage.
12 Histiaeus was a member of Darius' entourage during the king's expedition across the Bosphorus and the Danube in 513-512. His loyalty was rewarded with a gift of the city of Myrcinus in Thrace. However, Darius' general Harpagus warned the king of Histiaeus' personal ambitions and as a result the tyrant was called to Susa. 13 Herodotus (5.37) refers to a state of 'isonomia' or an equitable interpretation of the laws. He also provides the primary cause for rebellion: Aristagoras' failure to seize Naxos for the Persians, who had financed the expedition (Hdt. 5.30-5). 14 See n. 4 above. 15 Herodotus ( 1.155-6) relates that Croes us advised Cyrus on the best actions for the Persians to take against the Lydians supporting Pactyes, but this episode is not historical and the Lydian king may well have died at the end of the siege of Sardis. 16 Brown (1978) 77. Brown also notes (1978: 72) that Herodotus' account shows that the oracle maintained control of the situation and that Aristodicus did not defeat the god. It seems unlikely that Xanthus could have been responsible for the extant account, which is plainly supportive of Didyma. 17 Evans (2015) 8-9. On the historicity of the episode and the likelihood that Histiaeus was not responsible for Aristagoras' actions, see Georges (2000) 14. 18 His presence at this meeting indicates that Hecataeus was not only a member of the Milesian elite but that he was also close to Aristagoras and presumably also to Histiaeus. As such, Hecataeus was well placed to record the events that unfolded in the region, as is duly noted by Asheri in Asheri, Lloyd and Corcella (2007: 182). 19 This bears a striking similarity to the Delphic oracle's advice to the Athenians (Hdt. 7.141), as interpreted by Themistocles (Hdt. 7.143), to rely on their war fleet as a defence against the Persian invasion of Greece in 480. 20 Philomelus is described as the author of this sacrilege by Diodorus (16.30.1, 16.31.4, 16.61.2). Note also the discussion of Buckler (1989: 38-9). Some sources suggest that it was not Philomelus but rather Onomarchus, his successor, who first pillaged the treasuries, but it is most likely that the latter emulated his predecessor and took the sacrilege to new heights, as suggested by Buckler (1989: 47). See Buckler (1989: 38 n. 10) for references to the discussion of Philomelus' guilt and the ancient sources. The 'Sacred Wars', three in all, that were fought for control of Delphi, highlight the complex perceptions among the Greeks regarding the control of their sanctuaries and the wealth these contained. No such conflict is attested for the early control ofDidyma for there the dominant powers, initially Lydia and then Persia, probably foiled local Ionian Greek rivalry in this area. 21 Neither Aristagoras nor Histiaeus was present in Miletus at the end of the hostilities. Histiaeus was captured and executed in the Troad. 22 The Thebans consulted Delphi (Hdt. 5.79), as did Epidaurus (Hdt. 5.82), Athens (Hdt. 5.89, 90), and Corinth (Hdt. 5.92b, 92e). Herodotus relates the military campaigns of the Cypriot cities and the Carians without any mention of oracular activity. However, a fragment of Diodorus (10.25.2) appears to contradict Herodotus and indicate that the Carians sought and obtained at least one oracle, perhaps from Delphi, and seemingly in the last stages of the Ionian War. The context suggests that Miletus was still a dominant force in the region and that the Carians needed allies. The latter had made peace with the Persians before the fall of Miletus, when considerable concessions were granted to the rebels since the Persians needed a pacified Caria before they could regain control of Ionia. See Evans (2015 38-9). Notably, Diodorus has nothing to say about Didyma in the context of the war. 23 The absence at this stage of Ephesus, Smyrna, Colophon and Clazomenae suggests that the Persians had retaken these cities or that, like Smyrna, they had not in fact been involved in the war. The attention to tactical details proposed by the Phocaean Dionysius (Hdt. 6.11-12) prior to the crucial battle, although ultimately unsuccessful because of the arrogance of certain crews, is possibly also indicative of Herodotus' illustration of human artfulness over a dependence on religion. Nevertheless, naval training must have
Was Didyma (Branchidae) afalse oracle?
24 25 26
been equally important and more decisive in subsequent naval battles against Persia rather than simple or naYvetrust in oracles. This discrepancy has long been noted. See How and Wells (1928) 2.330; Marincola (1996) 601. Hammond (1998) 339-44. Hammond (1998: 339-44) discusses the ancient references for the massacre of the Branchidae. It seems to me that Hammond has shown conclusively enough that the Branchidae migrated to Sogdiana and were killed by Alexander. But he overlooked two significant points that support his assertion. The first is the date at which the Branchidae abandoned Didyma, and just who had overall control of the temenos between 493 and 4 79. See Tarn (1922) 63-6. Cf. Tarn (1948) 2.272-4, whose argument that Callisthenes (Strabo 17.1.43; Jacoby, FGrH Callisthenes fr. 14) had invented the massacre dominated the debate until twenty years ago. Thus Hammond (1980: 298) notes that the episode 'is generally regarded as unhistorical.' However, opinion has now changed. See Dascalakis (1966) 221-3; Brown (1978) 64-78; Parke (1985b) 59-68; Bosworth (1988) 108-9; Flower (2000) 117-18. Didyma was conveniently reborn in 333, when it again provided oracles, primarily to Alexander. See Worthington (2003: 48). Both Jouguet (1928: 86) and Radet (1950) place the destruction in 493-494 and then the treacherous behaviour of the Branchidae in 4 79. For Callisthenes as the original source for the episode see Brunt (1965) 205-15; Worthington (2003) 48. All the Ionian cities were functioning as civic entities in the 470s. Ephesus and, particularly, Smyrna do not appear to have been affected by the war. For further analysis of Herodotus' sources see, for example, How and Wells (19121928) 1.21-36; Pearson (1939); Evans (1982); Fehling (1989); Marincola (2001); Cawkwell (2005). The debate clearly remains closely contested and without obvious conclusion, although the argument here is that some literary material must have caught Herodotus' imagination. Neither the destruction of the site at Didyma nor the desecration of the shrines is attested; they are assumed, although some structure must have been available for Alexander to visit. It should also be noted that the Branchidae may have fled their sanctuary believing that pillage was inevitable, along the lines of Xerxes' objective after Thermopylae to capture Delphi as related by Herodotus. This episode is usually regarded as an invention created to excuse the pro-Persian leanings of the Pythia. Still, an intention to sack Didyma could have been presented as revenge for damage done to Delphi, although neither Herodotus nor any other source hints at this. The destruction of sanctuaries became a more regular event, perhaps as a result of the financial demands made on the warring states in the Peloponnesian War. The Syracusans fully expected the Athenians to pillage the temple of Zeus at Polichne when the invaders began their siege in 414. Olympia was sacked in 369 by the Arcadians, while Dionysius I sacked the temple of Eileithyia atAgylla (Diod. 15.14.3-4; Strabo 5.2.8). The date of the play is unknown and both 492-491 and 479-478 have been suggested. For a discussion see Rosenbloom (1993) 159-96. The later date poses an interesting context since the Athenian audience would have watched a series of events played out over nearly a decade but been reminded of the brevity of their own city's defence even if that strategy had contributed to ultimate success over the Persians. For a discussion of the relationship between Miletus and Sybaris, to which Herodotus draws attention (Hdt. 5 .21), and the fact that the historian is again manipulating the evidence to suit his narrative plan, see Evans (2013). Curtius expresses no doubt about the episode but asserts that it was unfair to kill the descendants of the Branchidae, who knew nothing of Miletus and Xerxes. Moreover, Alexander's motives may have been ambivalent since the Milesians' presence was not necessarily voluntary. Alexander had besieged Miletus and great damage must have been done to the city as a result. The Milesians may well have been serving with the
Macedonians to ensure the good behaviour of their fellow citizens at home. If the episode has any basis in historical fact, it was therefore much more complex than is evident in Curtius' brief notice or in modern scholarship thus far. The charge made by Alexander against the Branchidae, as reported by Callisthenes (fr. 14), was sacrilege and therefore the same crime committed by the Phocians in the Third Sacred War (Diod. 16.35.5). Had the Milesians followed the advice of Hecataeus to remove the temple treasures from Didyma, their city may well have been destroyed by Alexander. 33 Note also Hecataeus' negotiations with Artaphernes at the conclusion of the war, as related by Diodorus (10 .25 .4), again hinting that the so-called destruction of Miletus was not as dramatic as Herodotus would have his audience believe.
Who wrote Greek curse tablets? 1 Olivier Dufault
Many scholars of ancient Greek religion would probably agree that the use of curse tablets in the ancient Mediterranean world 'cut across all social categories' .2 In practice, however, it is also a common working assumption that the use of curse tablets was typical of the non-elite (i.e. of those who did not actively participate in politics and could not accumulate surplus wealth). 3 I believe this last assumption to be dominant in part because these two hypotheses can easily turn out to be the same: if one were to think that curse tablets were produced at a similar rate by each social class, one would also have to assume that non-elite classes wrote or commissioned most curse tablets. This is indeed the assumption which readers are sometimes expected to make. 4 In the following, I argue that the bulk of published Greek curse tablets, which come from Attica in the fourth century BCE, do not support this assumption. To test the assumption that, generally speaking, the writing of Greek curse tablets from the classical and Hellenistic periods was a non-elite phenomenon, I had to reconstruct the missing argumentation. This reconstruction forced me to consider a subsidiary question: since it is generally agreed that illiteracy was common in ancient Greek societies, it would be impossible to assume that curse writing spread across all social classes unless we also imagined that those who were illiterate or insufficiently literate acquired tablets from literates. In other words, the claim that the use of curse tablets cut across all social categories is inextricably linked to the idea that those without sufficient writing skills acquired curse tablets from those possessing an adequate level of literacy. 5 It is not surprising, therefore, that scholars typically assume that specialists wrote many if not most curse tablets. 6 Consequently, I will also consider the assumption that curse tablets were generally written by professional curse writers, and I will argue that this second assumption is similarly impossible to substantiate for the classical and Hellenistic periods. The goal of this study is to address the question of the social distribution of curse writers directly and to suggest at least two different avenues of research. On the one hand, the evidence of curse tablets could support the hypothesis that democratic institutions stimulated the expansion of literacy in Athens. It could well be that Athenians in the classical and Hellenistic periods were exceptionally literate and that people from all classes came to see the writing of curse tablets as
an effective way to solve problems. The fact that most of the earliest curse tablets come from Attica could be a manifestation of exceptionally high literacy levels in Athens. On the other hand, if one is to assume that ancient Greek or Latin literacy was connected with the possession of wealth or political power (an assumption that must be partly accepted by those assuming that democracy influenced literacy levels positively), one should rather consider the hypothesis that the writing of curse tablets was typical of ancient literate milieux. I have chosen to explore the second avenue of research. Richard Wunsch bought most of the tablets studied here in 1894 from a certain Rhousopoulos, who acquired them in unknown circumstances. The majority of the tablets date from the fourth century BCE and come from Attica, and were published by Wunsch in the Defixionum Tabellae Atticae (DT). They are currently being reedited by Jaime B. Curbera. 7 In addition to these works, I have consulted Auguste Audollent's Defixionum Tabellae (DTA), which includes Greek tablets that were missing from Wunsch's edition. I have also consulted David R. Jordan's catalogues (SGD and NGCT) as well as the Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum, which cover the rest of the evidence published up to 2006. The most common way to classify curse tablets is to divide the material according to the occasion for which they are assumed to have been written. Curse tablets are usually classified into four different categories: (1) 'relationship' curses, also called amatory or erotic curses; (2) 'judicial' curses (a group of curses usually binding the linguistic abilities of a target and often set in a judicial context); (3) 'competition' curses, used in the context of dramatic competitions and games; and (4) 'commercial' curses targeting businesses. The fact that curse tablets from the last category targeted shopkeepers (Kami,~OL), women, servitors and craftsmen must have contributed to the impression that curse tablets cut through all social categories. This material, however, represents only a fraction of the evidence. Moreover, the four categories do not inform us about cursers since they did not necessarily targeted individuals from their own social class. Even if they did, and if the use of classical and Hellenistic curse tablets offered a true cross-section of Athenian society, we would expect to find references to peasant or agricultural work. But these are conspicuously absent from the tablets. 8 In fact, most classical and Hellenistic curse tablets (around twothirds) only list names and do not provide enough information to be classified into any of the four categories above. Curse writers rarely referred to themselves and the literary tradition does not explicitly discuss the writing of curse tablets (see below). In sum, curse tablets tell us next to nothing about the social context in which they were written. This observation emphasizes the importance of an obvious fact: those who wrote curse tablets were literate to some degree. I see two ways in which curse writers could have come from every social classes. First, we would need to believe that literacy was widespread in Athens and that high levels of literacy were achieved there (and elsewhere) in the first century BCE, the time at which the simplest of Greek curse tablets (i.e. those listing names and lacking in sentence structure) stopped being written. 9 The second and more realistic hypothesis
Who wrote Greek curse tablets?
would be to consider that curse writing was the product of a specialized trade was run by literates. Ancient literacy plays a fundamental role in this argument and I will (1) discuss this issue before looking at (2) literary and (3) epigraphic evidence that could tell us more about the social origins of curse writers. Finally, (4) I will present the three sets of tablets that were most certainly written by professional curse writers. These all date to the second century CE or later. In short, I argue that the assumption that curse tablets were generally written by professional curse writers who worked on behalf of the non-elite cannot be substantiated for the classical and Hellenistic periods. Rather, the evidence suggests that the professionalization of curse writing was a post-Classical phenomenon. 10
Ancient Greek literacy From a comparative perspective, it would be surprising if high levels of Greek literacy had been achieved by all social classes in classical and Hellenistic times. 11 There are, however, different types of literacy since people learn how to read and write for different reasons and in different situations. 12 Since two-thirds of classical and Hellenistic curse tablets only list names, 'name literacy' (the ability to read and/or write names) could have been sufficient to write the majority of ancient Greek curse tablets. To know who could have written these curse tablets, we consequently need to evaluate the spread of name literacy in ancient Athens. The level of name literacy can be approximately gauged by the fifth-century BCE practice of ostracism in Athens. If each person wrote their name individually, the ostracism quorum of 6,000 suggests that at least 20 per cent (6,000 out of c. 30,000) of Athenian citizens were expected to possess name literacy. Again, if we assume that democratic institutions and wealth increased the chances of obtaining higher levels of literacy, we can further assume that this represents the minimum level of Greek literacy possessed by Athenian citizens in the fifth century BCE. It is more complicated to estimate the name literacy rate of the total population of Attica. First, population estimations for the region in the fourth century BCE, which are based on the estimation of the total number of citizens, vary between c. 75,000 and c. 250,000. 13 If we assume that for each Athenian citizen there was one woman and two adult metics or slaves, we can estimate the total adult population at an average of 120,000. The minimum percentage of name literacy among the inhabitants of Attica would then have been somewhere around 5 per cent (6,000 citizens out of a total population of 120,000). Following the same reasoning, we could also concede name literacy to all those who were part of the hoplite class. The percentage of the population of Attica able to write two-thirds of classical and Hellenistic tablets (i.e. name-only tablets) thus represented probably somewhere between 5 per cent (the minimum percentage of the population of Attica with name literacy) and 7.5 per cent (the proportion of the population of Attica expected to have been of hoplite class or higher). 14 Simply considering the practice of ostracism, we can estimate that two-thirds of classical and Hellenistic curse tablets from Attica could have been written by 7.5 per cent of the population or less.
These estimates depend on the hypothesis that Athenian citizens took democratic institutions seriously enough to learn how to read and write. There are signs that the democratic regime of Athens might not have increased the general level of literacy. Athenians did leave many public inscriptions, and certainly expected some to read them, but they did not take public measures to spread the use of writing. In fact, it was not necessary to possess any level of literacy to participate in basic Athenian democratic institutions. 15 Arguments based on ostracism should also be qualified by epigraphic and literary evidence showing that some ostraka were pre-written for illiterate citizens. 16 In any case, if we are to assume that around 5 to 7.5 per cent of the Athenian population could have written name-only curse tablets - and which disappeared by the first century BCE - it would be difficult to affirm that the ability to write curse tablets cut through all social classes and through all periods. The poorly drawn letterforms, aberrant orthography and deficient grammar found in some private inscriptions and curse tablets do not prove that basic literacy was widespread in Athens since non-official writing standards are unknown. As Mabel Lang has shown, the letterforms and orthography of almost all types of official and non-official writing fluctuated during the fifth century BCE and only stabilized towards its end. 17 This means that writing in Attica around the fourth century BCE had been fixed only three or four generations earlier. If even those who had experience with writing did not think much about orthographic norms in non-official writing, we cannot take variations in handwriting, orthography and grammar seriously when establishing literacy levels. The obscurity and sheer illegibility of some tablets can also give the misleading idea that curse writers were barely literate. Many curse writers throughout antiquity apparently thought that curse texts should be encrypted or at least anomalous. 18 In classical and Hellenistic times, this mostly involved the misplacement or reversion of words and letters. 19 The practice of sealing tablets with nails was perhaps a result of the assumption that reading a curse would dispel its power, as mentioned on a fourth-century BCE tablet from Pella. 20 Other curse writers might have attempted to make their curses difficult or impossible to read in order to ensure their efficacy. 21 The unpredictable nature of curse texts could have induced Wiinsch's assumption that some curse writers were barely literate. For instance, the text found on DTA 66, which Wunsch said was 'written by an illiterate', is strangely placed and sometimes leaves out or misspells vowels. But its handwriting does not appear to be less practised than those of most tablets from the oracle ofDodona (c. 500-250 BCE) 22 or than those from a fourth-century cavalry archive from Athens. 23 There are other reasons to believe that letterforms, orthography, syntax and the general appearance of curse tablet texts are not good indicators of their writers' literacy levels. The lead tablets recording consultations of the oracle of Dodona all appear to have been written by different persons and show a general fluidity in orthography and grammar. 24 Some consultants wrote on behalf of communities, some planned to acquire ships or to do business and could have been educated. At least one appears to have been a peasant, and one a fisherman. 25 With the exception
Who wrote Greek curse tablets?
of one writer who appears to have been exceptionally learned, the spelling and grammar of the tablets do not follow the rules of official inscriptions. 26 In other words, the range of writing styles, orthography, grammar or spelling found in classical and Hellenistic Greek curse tablets is similar to that found in comparable inscriptions, such as the oracular tickets from Dodona and the archive of the Athenian cavalry. Neither of these sets are representative cross-sections of Athenian society or of the wider ancient Greek-speaking world. If anything, they show that the writing of texts that were not supposed to be put up publicly in a city did not usually follow strict writing norms. Letterforms also appear to be a particularly poor indicator of the social origins of curse writers. For instance, we would expect that the handwriting found on DT 66, categorized as 'ignorant of letters' by Wunsch, would have been inferior to that of an Athenian cavalry archive. The only reason for this judgement appears to have been the misspellings found on the tablet and the strange disposition of the text. The first anomaly is in fact common to all types of non-official inscription and the second might have been an encryption method. We will have to wait for the publication of Curbera's new edition of Wiinsch's tablets to judge the level of literacy of classical and Hellenistic curse writers with more precision. For the time being, considering that the general appearance of curse tablet texts cannot give reliable information about the social origins of their writers, we should tum to the Greek literary tradition to see if it can help determine who wrote Greek curse tablets.
Literary sources and curse tablets Athenian women - especially courtesans and procuresses - were often associated with cursing in classical and Hellenistic literature. 27 Greek literature, however, always represents these women using non-literary cursing techniques. As I will argue in the next section, this is not specific to the representation of ancient witches. While references to curses or bindings are relatively common in ancient Greek texts, no explicit mention of curse tablets can be found in texts from the classical and Hellenistic eras. In fact, the only representation of a professional curse writer, Pamphile, in Apuleius' Metamorphoses (3.17), dates from the second century CE. Curse tablets and the idiom of ancient Greek cursing Katadesmos, one of the technical terms now used for curse tablets, comes from the verb KaTaMw, which primarily means the action of physically binding something to something else. In Homer (Od. 5.383-5, 7.272, 10.19-24) the verb can also denote how divinities 'bind' the 'path of the winds'. 28 The verb was used on a third of legible tablets from Wiinsch's collection and it must have been intended in the sense found in Homer. 29 It is certainly because of the presence of the verb in curse tablets that Plato's use of its past participle (KaTa8t0µ0Lc;) in Republic 364 is sometimes understood to refer to the writing of curse tablets rather than to the action of
stopping or binding. In support of this interpretation, scholars have also noted the occurrence of the past participle form of Ka-raoewin the collection of recipe books from late antique Egypt known as the Papyri Graecae Magicae (PGM). 30 A first problem with this reading is that we cannot assume that the practice of curse writing in Attica around the fourth century BCE was similar to that found in Egypt six or seven hundred years later. 3 t Moreover, when the PGM writers and a late antique 32 curse writer denoted a curse tablet, they used Ka-roxoc;rather than Ka-ra.8E0µoc;. Elsewhere, Plato used the verb Ka-raoew to refer to the binding of the soul to the body. Once again, the reference to the Homeric use of the word seems more likely although Plato did add an important detail. The soul, Plato wrote (Phaedo, 83d; Timaeus, 73c) is bound (Ka-raOEhm)to the body through pleasure and pain 'as though with a nail' (w0m:p ~;\.ov). With this metaphor, Plato was most probably alluding to cursing, but it would be difficult to tell which type since curse figurines were also sometimes run through with nails. Moreover, even if this practice was relatively common, less than half of classical and Hellenistic curse tablets were found sealed with nails. 33 While the use of figurines and spoken words were common features of ancient Greek cursing, 34 specific mentions of curse writing are absent from classical and Hellenistic sources. The evidence suggests that Ka-raoewand cognates could designate the act of cursing in general rather than the act of cursing through writing. We need to look into the Latin tradition for the first explicit references to written curses. 35 The only ancient term for curse tablets comes from the aforementioned PGM, a collection of recipe books from late antique Egypt. The word used there, however, was always Ka-roxoc;.
Professional curse writers in literary sources The text from Plato's Republic mentioned above is one of only two passages that could be used in support of the assumption that professional curse writers were common in classical and Hellenistic Greece. In the Republic, Socrates' interlocutor Adeimantos mentions the activities of 'itinerant priests and seers' (ayup-rm oeKai µav-rnc;) who are said to have peddled 'enchantments and bindings' (enaywyaTc; nmv ... Kai Ka-ra8£0µmc;)to the rich and to have claimed that they could convince the gods to serve them. 36 Adeimantos adds that these individuals also brought forward books attributed to Orpheus and Musaeus and convinced citizen bodies and individuals of their capacity to purify them from wrongdoings (aOLK~ µa-ra), or from those of their ancestors (364e-365a). It is unproblematic to claim that Athenian religious professionals would have 'driven the practice' of curse writing, 37 or that this practice could involve the work of' different kinds of specialists'. 38 It is less so, however, to base the argument that curse tablets were usually written by religious professionals or 'so-called magicians on the evidence provided by Plato. 39 Support for this theory can also be sought in a passage of the Laws (932e-933e) concerning healers and religious professionals injuring others with cpapµaKa ('drugs'). Under that heading, Plato classified a first type of offence 'in which
Who wrote Greek curse tablets?
injury is done to bodies by bodies according to nature's laws'. The second group includes cases in which harm was done 'by means of trickery, incantations and by what are called bindings' (~ µayyavt:lm~ 1'£TLmvKal empoaT~Kal KaTa0£0£m Aeyoµevm~).Those targeted by Plato here are µavT£L~and TepaTooK6noL('seers' and 'interpreters of portents'), whom he assumed to have harmed others through the use of the second type of . For discussion see Maurizio 22 Thuc. 2.54: ~~EL LiwpLaKoc; (1997) 317-18. ~v ot ye oIµal TIO'(£ 23 Thuc. 2.54: oi yap av8pwTIOL rrpoc;a foaaxov -r~v µv~µ17vETIOLOUVtO. aAAoc;TIOA£µoc; Ka-raAa~nLiwpLK0