Classical Athens and the Delphic Oracle: Divination and Democracy

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Cambridge University Press, May 5, 2005 - History - 188 pages
The Delphic Oracle was where, according to Greek tradition, Apollo would speak through his priestesses. This work explores the importance placed on consultations at Delphi by Athenians in the city's age of democracy. It demonstrates the extent to which concern to do the will of the gods affected Athenian politics, challenging the notion that Athenian democracy may be seen as a model for modern secular democratic constitutions. All the known consultations of the oracle by Athens in the period before 300 BC are examined, and descriptions of consultations found in Attic tragedy and comedy are discussed. This work provides a new account of how the Delphic oracle functioned and presents a thorough analysis of the relationship between the Athenians and the oracle, making it essential reading both for students of the oracle itself and of Athenian democracy.
 

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An excellent and accessible account of the significance of religion in Athenian democracy. Its highly useful and well presented accounts of Delphic divinations in tragedy and comedy are a boon to both theatre academics and theatre lovers.
A lively text that gets better as the thesis unfolds. This book is a gem. BJA
 

Contents

Introduction
1
How did the Delphic oracle work?
12
What did the Athenians think of the Delphic oracle?
40
What did historians and philosophers say about the Delphic oracle?
65
How and why did the Athenians consult the Delphic oracle?
88
What did the Athenians ask the Delphic oracle?
109
Why did the Athenians and other Greek cities go to war?
134
Conclusion divination and democracy
152
Consultations of Delphi in Attic tragedy
160
Concordance of Athenian consultations of Delphi
168
Bibliography
170
Index of passages
180
Subject Index
186
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About the author (2005)

Hugh Bowden is Lecturer in Ancient History at King's College London. He is the author of numerous articles on Greek religion and history and is editor of The Times Ancient Civilizations (2002).

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