Divine Masters, wise men, the ancient Greeks, Oxford, Hesiod, Delphic oracle, Socrates, Greek gods, Petrovic, Greek Religion, Cambridge History, performance, London, Skamandrios, Greek education, poets, Homeric epics, divine teacher, Pythagoras, Protagoras 325e-326c, legislative role, Greek cities, Homeric Hymn to Demeter, Muses, Homerus, Protagoras, divine teachers, educational text, Plato's Apology, The Cambridge Companion to Homer, Preface to Plato, P. Plato, Petrovic Morris, C.H. Oldfather, Diodorus Siculus, Diogenes Laertius, Cambridge, MA, Homer, Hymn to Apollo, Disciples Empedocles, Empedocles, Petrovic Lycurgus, Human Disciples Apollo, Hellenistic Poetry, Literary Criticism, Lycurgus
Durham Research Online Deposited in DRO: HQ wy PHIT Version of attached le: ulished ersion Peer-review status of attached le: eerEreviewed Citation for published item: etroviD sF @PHIPA 9hivine msters nd humn disiples X the ide of gods s tehers nd its development in qreek poetry nd philosophyF9D in weister und hu¤ler in qeshihte und qegenwrtX von eligionen der entike is zur modernen isoterikF q¤ottingenX ndenhoek und upreht ni ressD ppF SQETVF Further information on publisher's website: httpXGGwwwFvErFdeGdeGmeisterundschueleringeschichteundgegenwart/t - 0/1006723/ Publisher's copyright statement: Additional information: Use policy The full-text may be used and/or reproduced, and given to third parties in any format or medium, without prior permission or charge, for personal research or study, educational, or not-for-prot purposes provided that: · a full bibliographic reference is made to the original source · a link is made to the metadata record in DRO · the full-text is not changed in any way The full-text must not be sold in any format or medium without the formal permission of the copyright holders. Please consult the full DRO policy for further details. Durham University Library, Stockton Road, Durham DH1 3LY, United Kingdom
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Almut-Barbara Renger (HS.) Meister und Schьler in Geschichte und Gegenwart Von Religionen der Antike bis zur modernen Esoterik V&R unipress
Bibliografмsche Information der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek verzeichnet diese Publikation in der Deutschen Nationalbibliografie; detaillierte bibliografмsche Daten sind im lnternet irber http ://dnb.d-nb.de abrufbar. lsBN 978-3-89971 -648- 1 Gedruckt mit freundlicher Unterstьtzung durch die Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung. O 2012, V&R unipress in Gцttingen / www.vr-unipress.de Alle Rechte vorbehalten. Das Werk und seine Teile sind urheberrechtlich geschьtzt. jede Verwertung in anderen als den gesetzlich zugelassenen Fдllen bedarf der vorherigen schriftlichen Einwilligung des Verlages. Printed in Germany. Titelbild: Raffael, La scuola di Atene (Detail: Platon und Aristoteles), I 509 - I 5 I 0, Fresko, Vatikan, Stanza della Segnatura, bpk Bildagentur fьr Kunst, Kultur und Geschichte, PreuЯischer Kulturbesitz, Foto: Scala Druck und Bindung: CPI Buch Bъcher.de GmbH, BiЎkach Gedruckt auf alterungsbestдndigem Papier.
Der ,,Meister": Begriff, Akteur, Narrativ. Grenzgдnge zwischen Religion,
Kunst und Wissenschaft
- I Gцtter, Vдter, Lehrer Menschen, Sцhne, Schьler: Modelle und Rollen personalen \)lissenstransfers in der hellenischen, rцmischen und graeco-Ўьdischen / christlichen Tradition
Divine Masters, Human Disciples. The Idea of Gods as Teachers and Its
Development in Greek Poetry and Philosophy
John T. Hamilton O mi frIi" o mi discipulel Der Vater als Philosophiemeister im alten Rom 69 Hildegard Cancik-Lindemaier Contubernium. Schьler und Lehrer der Philosophie in neronischer Zeit 81
Lehrer - Charismatiker - Philosoph. Zum Rollenverstдndnis
intellektueller und religiцser Vergemeinschaftung im rцmischen
Imperium (2. Ih. n. Chr.) . . .
Libanios, der Meister der Rhetorik
Ivana Petrovic Divine Masters, Human Disciples. The ldea of Gods as Teachers and lts Development in Greek Poetry and Philosophy
In archaic Greece there were no state-organized schools, nor was there any other structured or institutionalized form of education. However, Ancient Greeks did learn things they considered useful, and they learned. them from the elders or through the medium of poetry.t since no written text
s were used for educating the young in archaic Greece, a teacher's authoritЎ essential for his status and. esteem, was based either on his advanced age or on entities more knowledgeable and powerful than humans-divine beings. In this paper, I shall investigate the manifold ways in which Greek gods acted as human masters.2 The idea of divine teachers pervaded all aspects ofAncient Greek life. I focus on three topics: the earliest attestations ofthe idea ofgods as teachers ofmen, gods teachin! poetry, and gods teaching rituals.
Divine Education in Early Greek Epic
An illustrative example of the archaic model of education as emulation of the older, wiser man, is the relationship between the hero Achilles and his teacher Phoinix. In the ninth book of the r/iad, Achilles' old teacher remind.s his disciple of the reason why he followed him to Troy: ' The old horseman Peleus sent me out with you on the day when he sent you from Phythia to join Agamemnon-you were a child, with no knowredge yet of leveling war
I For poetry as a chief medium for teaching in archaic Greece, Havelock 1963, 36-60; Nagy
1989, 8- l0; Thomas 1992, tt3 - tt7.
2 I use the word "master" as a synonym for "teacher," mainly in the following meaning: .,A man
or (occas.) woman ofwhom a person is a disciple; the teacher or practсioner (oirerigion,
' philosophЎ art, etc.) from whoma person has chмefly learned, or whгse doctrines or exampre
a peЎson follows," Oxford English Dictionary
s.v. "master," I2. (Third edition, March 2001;
online sed on
version seprember 2011, available at http://www.oed.com/viedEntry/ll475l 20 February 2012).) on the terminorogy, see Renger 20r0 and Renger zotz.
or of debate, where men win distinction. So he sent me out to teach you all these things, to make you a speaker ofwords and a doer ofdeeds.3 Phoinix here figures as a representative of Achilles' father Peleus. His authority as a teacher is based on the fact that he is older than Achilles, but also on the careful selection Achilles' father Peleus made. Peleus' paternal authority is bestowed on Phoinix, and Achilles assumes the role of the child. Phoinix's goal is to enable Achilles to take up his position in aristocratic society-to talk and behave Iike a distinguished member of the elite. Phoinix is skilled in the codes of behavior in aristocratic societyand is thus able to act as a master of wisdom.a Another eminent old man who serves as an important model to Homeric heroes is Nestor, who often indulges in lengthy speeches describing his acts as a young man.s Even though he is too old to be a "doer of deeds," as a skilful and enthusiastic "speaker ofwords" Nestor is able to recall his past acts and bring them up as good examples for Greek warriors in times of need' Nestor's exceptional status in the Greek camp as a settler of disputes and a source of highly prized advice is legitimized by his remarkable longevity. He is already ruling a third generation of men.6 This advanced old age, as well as his exploits including battles with legendary adversaries such as Heracles, the Centaurs, and the invincible Siamese twins give Nestor almost suPerhuman status. The inteЎsection between the human and divine spheres which Nestor embodies is relevant for the status of a teacher in general. In Greek culture, a great teacher often negotiates the boundary between human and divine. Another famous superhuman teacher of heroes was the centaur Cheiron. According to early Greek myth, he was "the most righteous of the centaurs,"T immortal, and a son of gods.8 He taught several heroes in the arts of hunting, warfare, music, and healing,e
3 Homerus,IIias 9 .438- 443. AllTranslations of the lliadareby M. Hammond (Hammond 1987). 4 According to Wach's important study published in 1925 (see Renger 2012,14-19 on its conrext and influence), the difference between a master and a teacher is that although both possess knowledge, a master has a charismatic authority and his relationship with a disciple is determined by his own persona and personality. In the Archaic Greece, what a teacher conveyed to a pupil was not merely information or knowledge, but a way of life, and there was no differentiation between the knowledge and a person possessing it. This renders Wach's distinction between a master and a teacher inapplicable to the study of the ancient Greek sociefy. 5 On Nestor, Frame 2009. 6 Homerus, lliasl.252. 7 Homerus, Ilias 11.832. 8 Gantz 1993,146-147. 9 On Cheiron, Kirk 1970, 152-162 Gantz7993,l44-747. According to the early sources, the pupils of Cheiron were Achilles (Homerus, Ilias ll.812; Hesiodus, fragment 155 fwest' 87-901); Jason (Hesiodus,Theogonia 1001, fragment 36 [West]); Asclepius (Pindar,Pythia 3.5-7; Nemea 3.54f.). Later authors narrate the myth of his catasterism: after an enraged
Divine Masters, Human Disciples
The motif of an Olympian god as a teacher is also very old. Already in the Homeric epics we find a plethora of humans who have been taught by the gods themselves.ro Sometimes they are marginal figures, such as the unlucky Skamandrios whose death is described in the fifth book of the Iliad: Strophios' son Skamandrios, skilled in the hunt, was caught by Menelaos son of Atreus with his sharp spear-he was a fine huntsman: Artemis herself had taught him to shoot down ali the wild things that the forest breeds in the mountains. But Artemis the archergoddess did not protect him then, nor his archer's skill inwhich he had excelled before: but the son of Atreus, the great spearman Menelaos, stabbed him with his spear as he fled before him.tt ThirE is a typical episode from Homeric battle descriptions. The singer does not only dwell on the moment of death, but provides background information about the fallen hero, evoking the audience's empathy. We find out that Skamandrios was a skilled hunter, but that in the open battle a spear triumphs over arrows. In order to convey the idea of a skilled huntsman, the epic describes Skamandrios as taught by the goddess ofhunting personally. A more general application of the idea of divine teachers can be found in Hesiod's epic Works and Days. Illustrative of the way the Greeks conceived divine gifts is the story of the creation of the first woman, Pandora. Physical and mental qualities such as beautЎ grace, and deceitfulness are described as gifts of the gods, but skills such as handiwork and weaving are the result of divine "teaching." Zeus thus commands the gods to create a woman: ,. He told renowned Hephaestus at once to mix earth with water, to add in a human voice and strength, and to model upon the immortal goddesses'aspect the fair lovely form of a maiden. Athene he told to teach her cЎafts, to weave the embroidered web, and golden Aphrodite to shower charm about her head, and painful yearning and consuming obsession; to put in a bitch's mind and a knavish nature, that was his instruction to Hermes the go-between, the dog-killer.r2
. pupil attempts to murder him, CheiЎon turns into a star. According to some authors, he was assaulted by Heracles (Eratosthenes, Katasterismoi 40; Hyginus, Astronomнca 2.38) or Achilles (Ovidius, Fasti 5.379 - 414). l0 On gods in Homer, Dietrich 1965; Griffin 1980,144-204; Burkert 1985, 119 ff.; Kullmann 1985; Feeney 7991,5-56; Emlyn-Jones 1992; Kearns 2004. On the role ofArtemis, Petrovic 2010. Homerus, Ilias 5.49 -56. Hesiodus, Opera et dies 60 - 68. All translations of Hesiodic poems are by M.L. West, West 1988.
56 2 Gods as Masters of Poetry
The idea of a divine teacher is present in the entire epic cycle. ln the Odyssey we encounter a fine singer, Demodocus, who performs at the court of the hospitable Phaeacians. He has many different poems in his repertoire and manages to impress Odysseus with a skillful rendering of an episode from the Trojan War- an event which Odysseus himself had witnessed. Odysseus praises the singer in the following manner: Demodocus, I give you the highest possible praise. Either Zeus' Child, the Muse, or Apollo must have been your teacher. For it is remarkable how well you sing the tale of the Achaeans' fate and of all their achievements, sufferings, and toils. It is almost as though you had been with them yourself or heard the story from one who was.r3 In this passage, the origin of song is ascribed to the teachings of a divine being, and Divine knowledge
is equated with that of an eye-witness. This strategy recalls the famous invocations of the Muses, a typical motif of epic poetrЎ which attributed to the gods the information the epics provided.t' The singer of the Iliad even claims to be devoid of all knowledge-it is the Muses who provide all factual information: Tell me now, you Muses who have your homes on Olympos-you are gods, and attend al1 things and know all things, but we hear only the report and have no knowledge-tell me who weЎe the leaders of the Danaans and their rulers. As for the mass of men, I could not tell of them or name them, not even if I had ten tongues and ten mouths, and in me a voice unbreakable and a heart ofbronze, unless the Olympian Muses, daughters ofZeus who hoids the aegis, were to tell over the names of all the many who came to llios. Yet I will give the leaders of the ships, and the ships in all their number.tt Ascribing the omniscience of the narrator to the Muses posed problems and important questions about the boundaries of human knowledge and perception and the truthfulness of song. How can one exPlain inconsistencies and Paradoxes in poetry? The Hesiodic corpus contains one of the most cunning solutions to this paradox and provides the most enduring and influential description of a poetic initiation.16 At the beginning of a poem which outlines the history of the universe through the lens of divine genealogЎ Hesiod invokes the Muses: From the Muses of Helicon let us begin our singing, that haunt Helicon's great and holy mountain, and dance on their soft feet round the violet-dark spring and the altar of the
Homerus, Odyssea8.487 -491. All translations of the Odyssey arebyE V. Rieu, Homer (Rieu) 1946. On the Muses in ancient literature
, Spentzou/Fowler 2002,1-28 (with bibliography); Morrison 2007,73-90. l5 Homerus, Ilias 2.484 - 493. l6 On the Hesiodic narrator in the TheogonЎ Stoddard 2004.
Divine Masters, Human Disciples
mighty son of Kronos (1-4). [...] And once they taught Hesiod fine singing, as he tended his lambs below holy Helicon. This is what the goddesses said to me first, the olympian Muses, daughters of Zeus the aegis-bearer: 'shepherds that camp in the wild, disgraces, merest bellies: we know to tell many lies that sound like truth, but we know to sing realitЎ when we will.' so said mighty Zeus' daughters, the sure of utterance, and they gave me a branch of springing bay to pluck for a staff, a handsome one, and they breathed into me wondrous voice (audиn thйspin), so that I should celebrate things of the future and things that were aforetime. And they told me to sing of the family of blessed ones who are forever, and first and last always to sing ofthemselves.tT In this passage Hesiod presents the Muses as teachers of poets, but the teaching process itself seems to be very short, almost instantaneous. It consists of a proclamation, a gift of a staff and a voice, which the goddesses breathe into Hesiod, thus making a poet out of a shepherd. The breathing of avoice into a poet recalls Homer's claim quoted above, which negates the possibility of telling a storywithout the help of a Muse. However, there is more to Hesiod's depiction of a voice, as Ford notes : 18 the Greek word audй always denotes a human voice in Homer and Hesiod,re and thйspis means "divine," so that the unity of the two represents an oxymoron and implies that the poet is bridging the gap between human and divine.2o Hesiod's striking innovation is the explanation of lies in poetry-the Muses are capable of teaching a poet "many lies" and also the "reality." They are the ultimate source of all bardic information and the teachers of poets.2r Poets, in turn, were the rnost important teachers of men in archaic Greece. Herodotus (2.53.2) famously stated that it was Homer and Hesiod who taught the Greeks the ancestry ofthe gods, gave the gods their epithets, distributed their honors and areas of expertise, and described their outward forms. Herodotus' statement is generally taken as a true representation of the impact of early epic on the visual and literary representation of the Greek gods. Greek epic was viewed as fundamental for the whole of Greek culture. Homeric and Hesiod.ic portraits of the gods were perceived as paradigmatic both in poetry and in the visual arts. The epics were also seen as a reservoir of all kinds of knowledge-militarЎ geographical, even medical.22 This is why all subsequent pretenders to the position of teacher of wisdom had to challenge early Greek epic as the source of
17 Hesiodus, Theogonнa 22 - 35. l8 Ford 1992, I73. l9 For a discussion of the meaning of audй in early Greek epic, Ford 1992, t73 - lg}. 20 Stoddard 2004,86. 21 on various interpretations of these verses, Morriso n 2007 ,76 f. (with bibliography). 22 Plato's dialogue lon provides a very good insight into the kind of specialisi knowledge ancient Greeks hoped to learn by reading Homer. on this dialogue, verdenius 1943; Murray 1981; Murray 1996; Ferrari 1989; Morris 1993.
fiercest competition.23 PoetrЎ especially epic, was seen as the ultimate and best educational text by the ancient Greeks throughout their entire history. It was always central in the curriculum. At first, the setting for the performance and memorizing of educational poetry was the aristocratic symposium.2a Essentially a drinking party following an evening meal, a symposium was a gathering of male members of the elite which usually involved the performance of poetry. In the classical period, not only aristocrats, but all wealthy male citizens begin to have access to education' However even in cities like Athens, education was not a systematic Process organized by the city but was left to individuals to set up. In his dialogue Protagoras, Plato sums up the efforts undertaken by parents in educating their children and provides an important testimony of the role of poets and poetry in Greek education: After this they send them to school and charge the master to take faЎ more pains over their children's good behaviour than over their letteЎs and harp-playing. The mastels take pains accordingly, and the children, when they have learnt their letters and are getring to understand the written word as before they did only the spoken, are furnished with works ofgood poets to read as they sit in class, and are made to learn them off by heart: here they meet with many admonitions, many descriptions and praises and eulogies of good men in times past, that the boy may eagerly imitate them and yearn to become even as they. Then also the music-masters, in a similar sort, take pains for their self-restraint, and see that theiЎ young charges do not go wlong: moreovel' when theylearn to play the harp, they are taught the works ofanother set ofgood poets, the song-makers, while the master accompanies them on the harp; and they insist on familiarizing the boys' souls with the rhythms and scales, that they may gain in gentleness, and by advancing in rhythmic and harmonic grace may be efficient in speech and action; for the whole of man's iife requires the graces of rhythm and harmony. Again, over and above all this, people send their sons to a trainel, that having improved their bodies they may perform the orders of their minds, which are now in fit condition, and that they may not be forced by bodily fauits to play the coward in wars and other duties. This is what people do, who are most able; and the most able are the wealthiest. Their sons begin school at the earliest age, and are freed from it at the latest.2s Poets who claimed to have had divine inspiration were Pelceived as the ultimate authorities in all aspects of life. In recognition of their immense influence and importance, poets themselves even began to receive cultic honors. HomeЎ "the
23 On the reactions of early philosophers and sophists to Homeric epics, Richardson 1975; Feeney 1991, 5 - 56; Ford 2002,46-66. 24 On the symposium as a setting for the performance and interpretation of poetrЎ Murray 1 990 ; Slater 1 991 ; Stehle 1997, 273 - 226 ; F ord 2002, 25 - 45. 25 Plato, Protagoras 325e-326c (trans. by W.R'M. Lamb, Lamb 1967).
Divine Masters, Human Disciples
educator ofGreece,"26 a poetwith the greatest influence, received cultic honors in many Greek cities, mostly those claiming to be his place of origin.27 The establishing of the cult of poets in many Greek cities can be interpreted as yet further evidence that the ancient Greeks saw the gods and divine beings in general as the greatest source of authority and the best teachers. Numerous praises of Homer as the offspring of the Muses or the messenger of the gods can be found in Greek literature.2s In the Hellenistic era the divine status of poets seems to have been subject to inflation-so numerous are the poets to whom divinity was ascribed, that it becomes a commonplace. "Homer was not a man, but a god" was one of the first sentences children learned to write in the Hellenistic period.2e
Gods as Teachers of Rituals The long Homeric Hymn to Demeter
tells the story of the abduction of Persephone, Demeter's daughter, and the goddess' subsequent anger and refusal to allow the growth of crops. Unable to find her daughteЎ devastated Demeter withdraws from Olympus and lives in human guise in Eleusis, in the house of king Keleos. There the goddess orders the king to institute her cult in the following manner: Now, let the whole people build me a great temple with an altar below it, under the citadel's sheer wall, above Kallichoron, where the hill juts out. As to the rites, I myself will instruct you on how in future you can propitiate me with holy performance.3o After the release of her beloved daughter from captivitЎ Demeter allows the crops to grow in abundance, goes to the kings on earth, and "taught them the sacred service and showed the beautiful mysteries."3l A similar story is told in the second part of the Homeric Hymn to Apollo, which narrates the legend about the founding of the Delphic oracle. The god himself searches far and wide for a suitable place, until he is directed to the right spot on a mountain slope
. After Apollo has located a fitting site for his oracular shrine, he realizes that priests will be needed. He then glimpses a ship full of Cretan men, whom he decides will be fit to serve as priests in his sanctuary. The god himself leads them in a procession, singing and dancing to his cult hymn the paiбn, and teaches the humans how to perform a procession to the sanctuary. 26 Plato, Respublica 606e2 - 3. 27 On the cults of Homer, Clay 2004,74 f. and 136 - 143. 28 Skiadas 1965. 29 Murray 1996,19. 30 HymniHomerici2.2Tl-2T4.AlltranslationsofHymniHomerнciarebyM.L.west,west2003. 3l Hymni Homerici 2.473 ff.
lvana Petrovic After bringing the sailors to his temple at Delphi, the god provides them with the instructions and rules of conduct in his sanctuary. Not only has the god established his own sanctuary, brought the priests, and taught them how to dance in a ritual procession, but he also provides a sacred regulation which governs priestly duties and obligations in the sanctuary." The leader of the Cretans is worried, since the land to which Apollo brought them is barren and rocky. He addresses the god and asks him: "Lord, as you have brought us far from our dear ones and our native land,-so it must have pleased your heart-how are we going to feed ourselves now? That's what we want you to consider."33 Apoilo replies: Each of you must just keep a knife in his right hand and keep slaughtering sheep continually: they wilt be available in abundance, as many as the thronging peoples bring for me. Watch over my temple and welcome the peoples as they gather here and regard my will above all.3a Apollo's response is a sacred regulation as it clearly outlines the main duties and responsibilities of the priests-they are to conduct sacrifмces, guard the temple, receive visitors, and announce the oracles. According to the wide-spread and broadly attested belief of the ancient Greeks, gods themselves introduced their rituals and taught humans how to perform them. In the mythic stories of the origins of temples and rituals, gods appear, as in the examples quoted above, and instruct people in their worship. Intriguing are also the depictions on painted pottery and reliefs of gods who partake in sacrifмces and libations." In cults, the idea ofgods as teachers ofritual and the ultimate source of religious regulations was reflected in the custom of consulting the oracle, mostly that of Apollo in Delphi and later in Didyma, on matters pertaining to cult and sacred regulations.36 A large portion of transmitted oracular responses from Delphi pertains to matters of cult. Fontenrose 1978 analyzed the topics of all transmitted Delphic oracular responses and concluded that the oracle was regularly consulted by states in all matters relating to religious life. Oracular consultations pertained to cult foundations, sacrifices and offerings, ritual ordinances, rights of sanctuary and immunity, patron deities of cities, ritual customs, and the like. The Greeks were very reluctant to introduce even the slightest changes in their rituals without first consulting 32 On sacred regulations, Parker 2004; Lupu 2005, 3- 112; Petrovic/Petrovic 2006. 33 Hymni Homerici 3.527 -529. 34 Hymni Homerici 3.536 - 540. 35 See on this Simon i953 and Patton 2009. 36 On the role ofApolline oracles in general, Parke/Wormell i956; Fontenrose 1978; Fonten- rose 1988; Parke 1985; Parker 2000; Busine 2005. On the Apolline oracles and Greek sacred regulations, Bowden 2005; Petrovic/Petrovic 2006.
Divine Masters, Human Disciples Apollo, who was seen as a mediator between gods and men. Apollo was thus understood to be the supreme exegete of religious rituals and the cult of the dead. To find out how they might best please the gods, the Greeks consulted the Delphic oracle. The mediating role of the Delphic god is something the early texts stress time and again. The HomeЎic Hymn to Apollo repeatedly insists that the god's prime concern was to "communicate to the mortals the immortal will of Zeus."37 Plato's Socrates sums up this legislative role of the god when he states in his Republic that the first, most important, and fairest objects of legislation are reserved for the Delphic Apollo, and that these objects of legislation are: T1":e founding of temples, and sacrifices, and other forms of worship of God
s, daemons, and heroes; and likewise the burial of the dead and the services we must render to the . dwellers in the world beyond to keep them gracious. FoЎ of such matters we neitheЎ know anything nor in the founding ofour city ifwe are wise shall we entrust them to any other or make use of any other interpreter than the God of our fathers. For this God surely is in such matters for all mankind the interpreter of the religion of their fathers who from his seat in the middle and at the very navel of the earth delivers his interpretation.3s 4 Epilogue According to Plato's Apology (2la-e),3e when Chaerephon asked the Delphic oracle if anyone was wiser than his friend Socrates, the god's response was: "No one." Socrates was puzzled at this response, since he was convinced he knew nothing at all, so he went to question men who were reputed to be wise. However, his discussions with the wise men only disclosed that they were not wise at all. Socrates concluded that the oracle was correct after all, since he, knowing that he was not wise, still knew more than those who thought themselves wise and yet were not. Being aware of his own ignorance made him wiser than these men. However, this quest for knowledge was also his downfall, as Socrates remarked, since the wise men with whom he conversed began to hate him. In his version of Apology 14 f., Xenophon offers a slightly different account. According to Xenophon's version, to Chaerephon's inquiry the Delphic oracle answered in the presence of many people that no man was more free, more just, or more prudent than Socrates. In his defense speech, SocЎates tells this story and goes on to remind the Athenians of the oracle given to the Spartan law-giver 37 Hymni Homerнci 3.131f. See also w. 247 -253;287 -293. 38 Piato, Respublica 427b-c (trans. by P. ShoreЎ Shorey 1969). 39 Plato, Apologia 2la- e.
lvana Petrovic Lycurgus. According to legend, Lycurgus entered the Delphic shrine, and the god addressed him thus: "I am pondering whether to call you god or man." The story about Socrates and the Delphic shrine seems to be based on a conviction that the gods are the ultimate teachers, be it of handiwork, agriculture, or wisdom. Even the authority of a rational skeptic (Socrates) was derived from the Delphic oracle. lIe is, however, just one in a plethora of wise men whom the Greeks perceived as sanctioned by the Delphic god or as divine in origin. The example of the Spartan law-giver Lycurgus demonstrates that also the laws of the states were sometimes seen as divine in origin andperceived as taught to humans by the gods. Early masters of wisdom were often associated with the divine sphere in one way or another. Pythagoras, often perceived as the first philosopher, asserted that he was born many times. He claimed to have inherited his soul from a distinguished line of ancestors and to remember his past existences. According to some authors, Pythagoras was a miracle workeз and his birth was prophesied by the Delphic oracle. His mother was told that she would have a son supremely beautiful, wise, and beneficial to human kind. According to other legends, he was a son of Apollo.ao The Sicilian philosopher Empedocles went even further and claimed that he had lived before for 10,000 years in various shapes-as a boЎ girl, tree, and a fish in the sea.ar The theory of the transmigration of the soul can be perceived as similar to a claim of supernatural old age, as both Empedocles and Pythagoras claimed to remember their past existences. At the same time, the extraordinary belief in the possibility of metempsychosis connects these thinkers to the divine sphere since, in myth, Greek gods are able to take any shape, human or animal. Empedocles even claimed to be divine and presented himself thus in his poetry: My friends, who dwell in the great city sloping down to yellow Acragas, hard by the citadel, busied with goodly works, all hail ! I go about among you an immortal god, no more a mortal, so honored of all, as is meet, crowned with fillets and flowery garlands. Straighnvay as soon as I enter with these, men and women
, into flourishing towns, I am reverenced and tens of thousands follow, to learn where is the path which leads to welfaЎe, some desirous oforacles, others suffering from ail kinds ofdiseases, desiring to hear a message of healing.a2 40 For testimonies, see Riedweg 2005,5f.,59,72f. 4l Diels/Kranz 3l,B 117. 42 DielslKranz 31 B 112 (trans. by R.D. Hicks, Diogenes Laertius [Hicks] 1972).
Divine Masters, Human Disciples Empedocles presents himself as a divine teacher, honored as a god among humans because of his authority and vast knowledge. According to his teaching, wise men such as healers, prophets, poets, and rulers can become gods." The search for ultimate wisdom, which leads to exceptional knowledge, also transgresses the boundaries between human and divine. Empedocles threw himself into an active volcano, wishing to prove his divine nature. In the story of Socrates and the Delphic oracle, the oracular answer ofApollo sets Socrates on a path which ultimately leads him to perdition. In both Xenophon's and Plato's stories, it is the oracle of Apollo which incites Socrates to question the wisdom of his fellow Athenians and ultimately leads to his death. In the Hellenistic age, when kings customarily received divine honors, Euhemerus of Messene postulated that the gods were once nothing more than wise humans. Since they have indebted humanity by their benefactions and great deeds, they received divine honors. His original writings are lost and are transmitted as quotations of later writers. His theory is encapsulated in the following passage: As regards the gods, then, men ofancient times have handed down to later generations two different conceptions: Certain ofthe gods, they saЎ are eternal and imperishable, such as the sun and the moon and the other stars of the heavens, and the winds as well and whatever else possesses a nature similar to theirs; for ofeach ofthese the genesis and duration are from everlasting to everlasting. But the other gods, we aЎe told, were terrestrial beings who attained to immortal honour and fame because of their benefactions to mankind, such as Heracles, Dionysus, Aristaeus, and the others who were like them.nn After the poets and philosophers, in the Hellenistic age, rulers came to be associated with the divine sphere and to receive divine honors.nt Perhaps as a result of this inflation of divine status, Callimachus, a poet active in the third century B.C.E., relates the following story about the seven sages in his first Iambus: Bathycles, a man from Arcadia, was on his deathbed. He summoned his sons and left them a golden cup to give to whoever is best of the seven wise men. His middle son went to Miletus and offered it to Thales, but Thales sent it to Bias, he to Periander, Periander passed it on to Solon, who gave it to Chilon; from him, the cup went to Pittacus, Cleobulus, and back to Thales. Thales, having received it twice, sent the cup to Didyma, to be dedicated to Apollo. Bowing to divine 43 Diels/Kranz 3I B 146. 44 Diodorus, Fragments of Library of History 6,1,2 as quoted by Eusebius, Praeparatio Evan- gelica 2.2.598- 61 (trans. by C.H. Oldfathes Diodorus Siculus [Oldfather] 1935). 45 Onthecultofrulers,Habichtl9T0isstillfundamental.Foradiscussionofscholarshipandan overview ofolder literature see Chaniotis 2003.
knowledge and acceptance of the boundary between the divine and the human was, after all, the ultimate sign of wisdom.
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