Athenian Democracy and Divination Essay

Athenian Democracy and Divination Essay

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Athenian Democracy and Divination


Divination was a prevalent feature in Archaic Greece, as it provided
objective advice, to assist people in making appropriate decisions in
problematic predicaments. In certain situations its ambiguity allowed
decisions to be postponed, or blame to be assigned to others.
Divination was also used to explain matters that seemed unexplainable,
such as crop failure or drought. This is illustrated in the Homeric
epics, which depicts numerous oracle interpreters, such as Calchas,
consulting oracles on domestic, as well as, military decisions.
Divination was a guiding authority in ancient society. However, during
the fifth and fourth century BC, the democratic establishment and the
dominance of politics, overtook the importance of divination, so that
decision making occurred in democratic assemblies, with the use of
rhetoric. Unexplainable matters were now approached by cults, such as
the Sophists, and the increase in scientific knowledge meant that
divination was not so readily consulted. Democracy brought politics,
rather than religion and divination, to the forefront of society.

The Melian dialogue illustrates the Athenian's waning belief in
divination. Firstly, it highlights the lack of divinity because of the
rise of democracy. The Athenians approach the subject of justice, by
suggesting that its equality is dependent on the discussion and
persuasion of both of their people.[1] The distinct lack of gods in
this statement is significant, when compared to the literature of
Archaic Greece, which assigns the gods as issuers of justice. For
example, in the Iliad, Apollo justly sends down a shower of arrow...


... middle of paper ...


...hucydides: 8.1.

[7] Thucydides: 6.8.

[8] Thucydides: 6.9, 6.13.

[9] Thucydides: 6.24.

[10] Thucydides: 6.16.

[11] Thucydides: 6.32.

[12] Thucydides: 6.69.

[13] Thucydides: 6.70.

[14] Herodotus: 7.140.

[15] Thucydides: 6.24.

[16] Thucydides: 1.118, 1.28.

[17] Thucydides: 6.28.

[18] Thucydides: 7.79.

[19] Thucydides:

[20] Dover: The Greeks and their Legacy.

[21] Thucydides: 1.126.

[22] Parker: Athenian Religion.

[23] Herodotus: 6.98.

[24] Herodotus: 9.43.

[25] Herodotus: 5.63, 6.66.

[26] Aristophanes.

[27] Herodotus: 5.63, 6.66.

[28] Demosthenes: 18.246.

[29] Isocrates: 19.5.

[30] Mikalson: Athenian Popular Religion.

[31] Xenophon: 3.11.

[32] Plato: Lg. 10.909E-910A (see Mikalson p.40)

[33] Xenophon: 3.11 ff.

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