Classical Athens and the Delphic Oracle: Divination and Democracy

Classical Athens and the Delphic Oracle: Divination and Democracy

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By (author) Hugh Bowden

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  • Publisher: CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS
  • Format: Paperback | 206 pages
  • Dimensions: 136mm x 214mm x 14mm | 259g
  • Publication date: 23 June 2005
  • Publication City/Country: Cambridge
  • ISBN 10: 0521530814
  • ISBN 13: 9780521530811
  • Edition statement: New.
  • Illustrations note: 11 b/w illus. 2 maps 3 tables
  • Sales rank: 781,129

Product description

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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Author information

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).

Review quote

'... clear, straightforward and jargon-free'. BBC History 'This work provides a new account of how the Delphic oracle functioned, making it essential reading both for students of the oracle itself and of Athenian democracy.' History Today 'His discussion of this central theme of the book is carefully and thought-provokingly placed within a wider religious, political, intellectual and cultural context than one might immediately imagine such a title to embrace ... closely argued and immensely provocative ...' Journal of Classics Teaching 'This excellent little book challenges many generally accepted views about both Athenian democracy and the Delphic oracle in an attempt to highlight the role religion played in ancient Greek political discourse. ... well written and researched ... this affordable monograph with its clean text, useful appendices, full bibliography, and fine (and extensive) English translations will surely become a standard reference on both the Delphic oracle and Athenian society.' Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Table of contents

Introduction; 1. How did the Delphic oracle work?; 2. What did the Athenians think of the Delphic Oracle?; 3. What did historians and philosophers say about the Delphic oracle?; 4. How and why did the Athenians consult the Delphic oracle?; 5. What did the Athenians ask the Delphic oracle?; 6. Why did the Athenians (and other Greek cities) go to war?; 7. Conclusion: divination and democracy; Appendix 1. Consultations of Delphi in Attic tragedy; Appendix 2. Concordance of Athenian consultations.