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What did Athenians ask the Delphic Oracle? Sources for our knowledge Sources for our knowledge - Some ancient authors report oracular responses - a few.

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Presentation on theme: "What did Athenians ask the Delphic Oracle? Sources for our knowledge Sources for our knowledge - Some ancient authors report oracular responses - a few."— Presentation transcript:

1 What did Athenians ask the Delphic Oracle? Sources for our knowledge Sources for our knowledge - Some ancient authors report oracular responses - a few inscriptions survive Methodological issue> how typical were those consultations? Critical approach necessary

2 When oracle was consulted, for what? -Plague, famine, drought, catastrophe -Plague, famine, drought, catastrophe War or casus belli War or casus belli Portents, prodigies Portents, prodigies Problems of rulership Problems of rulership Welfare of city or state Welfare of city or state Desire to found a city or colony Desire to found a city or colony Worship of gods, how to honor and please them Worship of gods, how to honor and please them Religious problems Religious problems

3 Examples of oracle consultation for plague, famine, catastrophe The following example recorded by a later historian (Diogenes Laertius, 3 rd century AD) writing about the 6 th century The following example recorded by a later historian (Diogenes Laertius, 3 rd century AD) writing about the 6 th century “When the Athenians were attacked by a plague, the Pythia told them to purify the city. And he came in the 46 th Olympiad (595-2 BC) and purified the city and stopped the plague in this way.

4 Plato writing on the same episode Plato writing on the same episode Plato’s Laws 642 d Plato’s Laws 642 d You have probably heard how that inspired man Epimenides…was born in Crete, and how ten years before the Persian War (i.e. 500BC) in obedience to the oracle of a god he went to Athens and offered certain sacrifices which the god had ordained.

5 Methodological problems when comparing two sources about same incident Note difference in date Note difference in date For Diogenes Laertius (who has most likely the correct date) the incident was placed in the early 6 th century, whereas for Plato in late 6 th, beginning 5 th (note that ten years before persian wars puts us in 500 BC, persian wars 490) For Diogenes Laertius (who has most likely the correct date) the incident was placed in the early 6 th century, whereas for Plato in late 6 th, beginning 5 th (note that ten years before persian wars puts us in 500 BC, persian wars 490)

6 Another example- PLAGUE Plague of 430, just after the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War (of 431BC) Plague of 430, just after the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War (of 431BC) Athens was struck by a very serious plague, perhaps smallpox or a form of typhus according to University of Athens team Athens was struck by a very serious plague, perhaps smallpox or a form of typhus according to University of Athens team The plague killed about 1/3 of the population of Athens. See archaeological record, and article in Archaeology magazine. The plague killed about 1/3 of the population of Athens. See archaeological record, and article in Archaeology magazine.

7 Plague in Athens Recent findings from a mass grave in the Ancient Cemetery of Kerameikos in central Athens show typhoid fever may have caused the plague of Athens, ending centuries of speculation about what kind of disease killed a third of the city’s population and contributed to the end of its Golden Age. Recent findings from a mass grave in the Ancient Cemetery of Kerameikos in central Athens show typhoid fever may have caused the plague of Athens, ending centuries of speculation about what kind of disease killed a third of the city’s population and contributed to the end of its Golden Age. Examined by a group of Greek scientists coordinated by Dr Manolis Papagrigorakis of Athens University’s School of Dentistry, the findings provide clear evidence that Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi was present in the dental pulp of teeth recovered in remains from the mass grave. Examined by a group of Greek scientists coordinated by Dr Manolis Papagrigorakis of Athens University’s School of Dentistry, the findings provide clear evidence that Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi was present in the dental pulp of teeth recovered in remains from the mass grave. Fromhttp://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/news/content.a sp?aid=65444 Fromhttp://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/news/content.a sp?aid=65444

8 The plague that decimated the population of Athens in BC was a deciding factor in the outcome of the Peloponnesian Wars, ending the Golden Age of Pericles and Athens’s predominance in the Mediterranean. The plague that decimated the population of Athens in BC was a deciding factor in the outcome of the Peloponnesian Wars, ending the Golden Age of Pericles and Athens’s predominance in the Mediterranean. It broke out during the siege of the city by the Spartans in the early summer of 430 BC; after a brief hiatus in 428 BC, the epidemic returned in the winter of 427 BC and lasted until the winter of the following year. It is assumed that one-third of the Athenians, including one- fourth of their army and their charismatic leader, Pericles, perished in the epidemic. It broke out during the siege of the city by the Spartans in the early summer of 430 BC; after a brief hiatus in 428 BC, the epidemic returned in the winter of 427 BC and lasted until the winter of the following year. It is assumed that one-third of the Athenians, including one- fourth of their army and their charismatic leader, Pericles, perished in the epidemic. Quoted from: d=65444 Quoted from: d=65444

9 Kerameikos, the Athens cemetery, is named after Keramos, son of Dionysios and Ariadne, hero of potters. Kerameikos, the Athens cemetery, is named after Keramos, son of Dionysios and Ariadne, hero of potters. Connect that with our discussion on hero cults. Connect that with our discussion on hero cults. Kerameus in greek means potter Kerameus in greek means potter

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11 The site of a mass grave and nearly 1,000 tombs from the fourth and fifth century B.C.

12 From Archaeology magazine A unique mass grave and nearly 1,000 tombs from the fifth and fourth century B.C. were recovered during excavations prior to construction of a subway station just outside Athens' ancient Kerameikos cemetery. Both the mass grave and the tombs were destroyed after rescue excavations. A unique mass grave and nearly 1,000 tombs from the fifth and fourth century B.C. were recovered during excavations prior to construction of a subway station just outside Athens' ancient Kerameikos cemetery. Both the mass grave and the tombs were destroyed after rescue excavations. Located near the surface, the mass grave was excavated during by Efi Baziotopoulou-Valavani of the Third Ephoreia (Directorate) of Antiquities. Inside a shaft were some 90 skeletons, ten belonging to children. Baziotopoulou thinks a tumulus crowning the shaft may have contained 150 people. Skeletons in the graves were placed helter-skelter with no soil between them. It was bordered by a low wall that seems to have protected the cemetery from a marsh. Along with the skeletons, various ceramic burial offerings were found, far fewer than excavators expected. Located near the surface, the mass grave was excavated during by Efi Baziotopoulou-Valavani of the Third Ephoreia (Directorate) of Antiquities. Inside a shaft were some 90 skeletons, ten belonging to children. Baziotopoulou thinks a tumulus crowning the shaft may have contained 150 people. Skeletons in the graves were placed helter-skelter with no soil between them. It was bordered by a low wall that seems to have protected the cemetery from a marsh. Along with the skeletons, various ceramic burial offerings were found, far fewer than excavators expected.

13 The fifth-century B.C. Greek historian Thucydides detailed the panic caused by the plague, which struck Athens and Sparta in 430 and lasted two years, killing nearly a third of the population. He wrote that bodies were abandoned in temples and streets, where they were collected and hastily buried. The disease reappeared in the winter of 427 B.C. The fifth-century B.C. Greek historian Thucydides detailed the panic caused by the plague, which struck Athens and Sparta in 430 and lasted two years, killing nearly a third of the population. He wrote that bodies were abandoned in temples and streets, where they were collected and hastily buried. The disease reappeared in the winter of 427 B.C. eikos.html eikos.html

14 A white-ground lekythos (oil flask), left and a black- glazed pot, right [were recovered from a mass grave. A white-ground lekythos (oil flask), left and a black- glazed pot, right [were recovered from a mass grave.

15 Plague could be associated with problems in communication with the divine, see begnning of Iliad Plague could be associated with problems in communication with the divine, see begnning of Iliad Displeasure of gods Displeasure of gods Need to please the gods Need to please the gods Purification/cleansing rites Purification/cleansing rites

16 The Plague of Athens and the Cult of Asclepius The plague had an enormous effect on the imagination, self-esteem of the city The plague had an enormous effect on the imagination, self-esteem of the city Influences in literary genres, especially tragedy. Influences in literary genres, especially tragedy. Robin Mitchell-Boyask’ s work studies the impact of the plague on Athenian tragedy in the 420s and argues that the development of the cult of Asclepius (healer god) is related, investigating the relations between drama, healing and the polis afflicted by the plague. Robin Mitchell-Boyask’ s work studies the impact of the plague on Athenian tragedy in the 420s and argues that the development of the cult of Asclepius (healer god) is related, investigating the relations between drama, healing and the polis afflicted by the plague.

17 Asclepius Healing god, Healing god, Son of Apollo and Coronis (his mother was killed, laid out on a funeral pyre to be consumed, but the unborn child was rescued from her womb Son of Apollo and Coronis (his mother was killed, laid out on a funeral pyre to be consumed, but the unborn child was rescued from her womb parallel with Dionysus story. parallel with Dionysus story. The cult of Asclepios was very popular. His healing temples were called Asclepieion; pilgrims went to them to be healed. They slept overnight and reported their dreams to a priest the following day to find a cure. The cult of Asclepios was very popular. His healing temples were called Asclepieion; pilgrims went to them to be healed. They slept overnight and reported their dreams to a priest the following day to find a cure.sclepieion Famous Asclepieion near theater of Epidaurus Famous Asclepieion near theater of Epidaurus Ritual of incubation Ritual of incubation

18 Roman statue of Roman statue ofAsclepius


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