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Divination, Royalty and Insecurity in Classical Sparta*

Anton Powell
p. 35-82


La divination constitue de façon inattendue une part importante de notre information sur la politique de Sparte, tant intérieure qu’extérieure. On peut l’étudier tant de façon diachronique que dans une perspective générique. L’abstraire de son contexte séculier et politique reviendrait à occulter à la fois les causes et les effets d’une crédulité religieuse. Nous voyons que les deux rois héréditaires de Sparte, les généraux en chef de l’État, étaient désignés, contrôlés et déposés selon l’interprétation des présages et des oracles. Des présages exceptionnels étaient tout particulièrement respectés, comme les tremblements de terre ou une succession de revers militaires. Les Spartiates avaient tendance à mettre en valeur les événements qui étaient visibles de tous. Les rois de Sparte ont avancé de célèbres revendications, apparemment extravagantes, à entretenir d’anciens liens privilégiés avec les dieux. Mais en étudiant la vulnérabilité politique de la royauté, nous constatons que ces prétentions religieuses avaient une portée défensive et formaient une sorte de bouclier très efficace pour une institution menacée.

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  • *  This paper owes its existence to an invitation from Vinciane Pirenne-Delforge and Carine Van Lieff (...)
  • 1  For an example of delicate evasiveness, Fontenrose, in a general conclusion about Delphic history: (...)
  • 2  1989, 156-7. Other scholars who have taken seriously evidence of Spartan regard for divination inc (...)
  • 3  Thuc., VII, 50, 4 with VII, 47, 1f., 48, 4; Powell (1979a).

1How far, if at all, were Sparta’s political decisions influenced by divination? The question leads us into numerous episodes within the classical period; it also challenges traditional scholarly method. Herodotos, Thucydides and Xenophon suggest clearly and often that religious prophecy formed part of Sparta’s motiva­tion in political matters. Scholars for long tended to react evasively or delicately.1 Nowhere, perhaps, is there a published rationale for generally disbelieving what we are told on this subject by these ancient sources who are, for other aspects of Spartan history, properly treated as fundamental. The deservedly influential study of Spartan religion by Robert Parker (1989) collects, in its dense treasury of information, prima facie evidence that divination had the power to reverse the public undertakings of Spartan authorities: on several occasions Spartan military expeditions already under way were postponed or abandoned in the face of negative omens.2 Here, it may seem, is behaviour to compare with that of the Athenian-led troops in Sicily in 413 who, on Thucydides’ showing, because of divination about a lunar eclipse dropped their clamorous insistence on a prompt departure from Syracuse and instead urged their generals to remain.3

2Yet, in the twenty years since the appearance of Parker’s work, scholarly opinion both on Spartan history and on Greek divination has changed considerably. It may be allowable now for an admirer of that work to challenge one aspect of it: namely, Parker’s response to the question how influential divination was among Spartans. That response may seem itself to have a somewhat Delphic quality. On the one hand, Parker implies disapproval of the way that ‘Almost every incident of a campaign abandoned or an attack postponed because of unpromising omens has received a rationalising explanation from one scholar or another’ (1989, 157f.). He writes that Spartans ‘heeded divine signs and obeyed the rules’ (1989, 161); ‘the power of prophecy’ (ibid.) among Spartans reflected a distinctive local attitude. On the other hand, he states that ‘Divination was doubtless under control in Sparta, as it normally is wherever it is practised’ (1989, 160). He notes with ironic disapproval that ‘The charm of divination for the consultant is that he need never feel that he is acting at random’ (ibid.). He himself rationalises about the apparent power of omens to affect military expeditions: ‘If, therefore, a plan or expedition was abandoned because of the lesser obstacle of discouraging sacrifices, the king must either have been unusually timorous, or have felt genuine doubt whether the proposed action was wise’ (1989, 159-60; emphasis added). He likens divination among Spartans to the economic forecasting of modern times: ‘Politicians believe profoundly in economic predictions; politicians are sometimes swayed by economic advice; politicians find ways of carrying through certain favoured policies whatever economic advisers may say.’ (160) Here, as ‘profound belief’ gives way to ‘sometimes swayed’, we are left in some doubt as to the practical force of economic, and thus divinatory, forecasts to affect decisions. Parker writes of modern historians as ‘embarrassed’ by ancient accounts of military divination (1989, 157). In seeking to negotiate the distance between those modern scholars incredulous of the sources and those who take them seriously or between, as Parker puts it, ‘scepticism of the sceptics… shown up as dogmatic’ and ‘something simplistic about the faith of the believers’ (1989, 158), a modern writer may well have recourse to irony and obscurity for reasons that an ancient diviner would have recognised.

For a diachronic approach

  • 4  Hornblower (1992), and below, n. 44.
  • 5  This is a prominent theme in the two most important monographs on Sparta in recent years, Cartledg (...)
  • 6  Thuc., V, 16, 2, cf. Hdt., VI, 58f. with Parker (1989), p. 169 n. 52.
  • 7  See below, p. 76.
  • 8  The kings as priests of Zeus: Hdt., VI, 56; as having general charge of religion: Ar., Pol., 1285a (...)
  • 9  Hdt., VI, 57.

3As members of a rationalist tradition of history, we may have learned to read our sources counter-religiously. Thus when we meet, in Thucydides, lists of those who, on Athens’ behalf, swore (not ‘signed’) treaties with Sparta, our eye may be tempted to move to the names of the generals and lay politicians, Lakhes and Nikias, Lamakhos, Demosthenes and the rest, while cognitively resisting the fact that at the head of the list, on two occasions, comes the seer Lampon (V, 19, 2; 24, 1). The present paper may even surprise, not only by the volume of surviving ancient references to religion in Sparta’s political and military affairs, but especially by the proportion which they form of our total information on those subjects. And, if we do become aware of the prominence of religion in our sources, even in Thucydides who – when writing of Athens – has rightly been judged parsimonious in his references to political divination,4 we may be tempted – in reaction – to re-emphasise that prophecy by playing down its apparently secular context, the context which caused religion to be neglected in the first place. But by abstracting religion in this way, we may reduce our ability to judge its role, its comparative importance, in the discourse of the polis. Parker has successfully studied Spartan religion in anthropological style: that is, organising material primarily by categories of behaviour which transcend chronology. However, a risk inherent in this approach is that it may encourage what has been called ‘the anthropological present tense’, and tend to hide developments within the culture studied. Such a risk would be particularly serious in the case of Sparta, a society which worked successfully to impose a false view of its own ‘unchanging’ character: an extreme case of such is the claim which Thucydides accepted (I, 18, 1), that Sparta had enjoyed the same constitution for ‘slightly more than 400 years’. Modern scholarship is increasingly convinced that Sparta did change profoundly, culturally as demographically, over the four centuries (6th-3rd BC) which provide most of our evidence for its religious belief and practice.5 Evidence for change in Spartan attitudes to particular authorities is well known. Most relevant here is the official eviction (or indeed killing) of several kings (or, in the case of Pausanias, of a regent), since the kings were believed at Sparta to be of divine descent6 and to have Delphic sanction for their authority.7 They also had a pre-eminent position (as Parker well shows) in the conduct of religion8 and in particular in the procuring and controlling of oracular responses from the Delphic oracle.9 Now, because Spartan attitudes could change drastically towards the royal bearers and mediators of this form of religious authority, we should also enquire whether the credit of particular sources of divination, shrines and seers, might vary according to how events, and especially very recent events, seemed to confirm or refute their prophecies. And in trying to answer that question a chronological approach seems essential, if only as a complement to the anthropological method. A result of this diachronic method will be to cast unexpected new light on the stability – or otherwise – of the very institution of Spartan dyarchy.

Our evidence

  • 10  Millender (2002), p. 2: ‘Most of the disparate information on Sparta included in the Histories clu (...)
  • 11  Thuc., V, 63, 2. King Leotykhidas, exiled from Sparta half an century earlier, had also been subje (...)
  • 12  Powell (1999).

4The student of Spartan religion depends for much information on two very different sets of literary material. Pausanias, the antiquarian and travel-writer of the second century AD, gives invaluable detail from autopsy of physical evidence concerning earlier Spartan religious cult. This set of information, well deployed by Parker, is inevitably deficient in matters of historical context; Pausanias knows or tells little of the circumstances in which were created the various Lakonian buildings and statues to which he attests. Then there is our information on Spartan religious belief and practice contained in accounts from the classical period. Here are very different problems and possibilities. Much of what we hear about Sparta comes from narratives concerning an individual and offering a rare intensity of detail amid general darkness.10 The individual tends to be a Spartan leader (presented as dissident or, more rarely, hero), whose death provides a focus for moralising. Our picture of Spartan politics in the early fifth century is structured by stories of two egregious rulers and their bad deaths: king Kleomenes I and regent Pausanias. The narrative leading to the good death of king Leonidas, at Thermopylai, contains much of the information we have about the Persian invasion. The narrative of the downfall, persecution and death of the Athenian Themistokles is connected by Thucydides with the story of Pausanias’ decline and fall: against both men is cast the accusation of collusion with Persia. Themistokles, as Thucydides’ account makes clear, had moved from being intimately admired by the Spartans to being a principal enemy of their state. Although neither king Pleistoanax (first exiled then restored), nor king Agis II (threatened with an enormous fine and with the demolition of his house, clear signs of a projected exile11) came to a bad end, defamatory suspicions about both men provide a considerable part of our information on Spartan constitutional history later in the fifth century. For the start of the fourth century, the conspiracy of Kinadon as narrated by Xenophon provides a further cluster of revealing detail. And shortly after the death of Lysandros (395), information came to light – or was invented – of an elaborate plot which he had constructed to subvert the Spartan kingship in the interests of his own career; a detailed narrative survives in Diodorus and Plutarch, drawn from Ephorus: both plots, as recorded, involved divination. The tendency of Spartan history, as we and our literary sources construct it, to be shaped by narrative of problematic Spartan leaders is no less clear after the classical period. Following many decades for which we hear little, for the later third century we have from Plutarch (drawing, most probably, on Phylarkhos) lavishly-detailed Lives of the careers of two kings, Agis IV and Kleomenes III, both of whom undertook political and social revolution in Lakonia and came to picturesque ends. The first was (controversially) hanged at Sparta, the other is shown as nobly committing suicide after an attempt against overwhelming odds to subvert Ptolemaic rule in Alexandria. The death of the first, that is, recalls that of the regent Pausanias; in contrast, Kleomenes in Egypt recalls Leonidas at Thermopylai.12 After these dramatized episodes, and a last flourish of colourful detail concerning the ruler Nabis, Spartan history, for us, abruptly reverts for the most part to darkness.

5These narrative episodes with their binary morality, their interest in death, their frequent insistence on the qualities of individuals and on the Spartan constitution, all seem likely to have derived their fundamental character from stories told at Sparta. Spartan pre-occupation with preserving (or, in the case of the two third-century kings, with restoring) the supposedly-traditional constitution seems to have generated a narrative pattern: those leaders whose pre-eminence or misbehaviour threatened the familiar order of the Similars, the homoioi, were in retrospect enduringly vilified, while those whose qualities promoted that regime were glowingly eulogized, in both cases with special attention to the circumstances of their deaths. Much of ‘Spartan history’, we must suspect, originated not as an abstract exercise in truth-telling but as a constitutional instrument.

  • 13  Xen., Hell. I, 6, 36f.; IV, 3, 13f.; Powell (1989).

6Even the most recent and pertinent history, the true outlines of which would predictably emerge before long, could be falsified for the sake of Sparta’s well-being. Xenophon shows that Sparta’s resounding naval defeats at Arginousai (406) and Knidos (394) were initially and with conscious mendacity presented by Spartan commanders elsewhere as victories, through concern to protect the morale of their troops.13 The utterances of mendacious partisans are, however, very far from being historically valueless. We mistrust the points which Spartans allege with the greatest emphasis and colour, as for example that Kleomenes I was mad, Leonidas self-sacrificing from patriotism, Pausanias pro-Persian and Lysandros subversive. Here perhaps is the work of Spartans seeking to persuade other Spartans. What is likely to reflect the more general beliefs of Spartan society are the points which are implicit, those to which the assent of Spartans could be taken for granted and used to underpin the desired conclusion. Divination has this significant, implicit, role in several of the above-mentioned narratives. Implicitly, Leonidas was not acting against Spartan norms in voluntarily taking a small army to its destruction because he trusted a Delphic oracle. (Contrast the reaction that might be expected in our own times if it were shown that a commander in the Second World War had deployed forces in response to astrology.) The conspiracy of Kinadon was said to have been discovered by a mantis acting in his official capacity. Had there not been general respect for such inspired findings, the reference to divination might have induced doubt as to the reality of the affair, inherently obscure as it was. And so above all in the plot alleged against Lysandros; most of the machinations ascribed to the dead general involved the corrupt procuring of oracular sanction for the reform of the kingship. Even if the whole story was an invention of Lysandros’ enemies, we still have evidence of a general view among Spartans that statements believed to be from Delphoi and other shrines could be widely persuasive.

Herodotos, Delphoi and Tisamenos

7Investigation of Spartan attitudes to divination may sensibly begin with local retrospect on the Persian Wars of 480-79. For Spartans, as for Athenians, the (ultimately) victorious campaigns of that period were used with hindsight for proud self-definition. The degree of transmitted detail about the anti-Persian campaigns is unsurprisingly great, as compared (for example) with the decades which preceded and followed. And we are readily on guard against patriotic distortions concerning a period in which any ugly failures were particularly likely to be glossed over or excluded from the record. The performance of divination might also be remembered with special interest. For Sparta, as for Athens, Herodotos tells of oracular utterance from Delphoi which drew the attention of military leaders: respectively, Leonidas and Themistokles. There are, however, interesting differences.

  • 14  E.g. Parke – Wormell (1956), vol. 1 p. 167f., vol. 2 p. 44.

8According to Herodotos, Delphoi had prophesied to Sparta with explicit ambiguity on the eve of the war (VII, 220): either the Spartans would lose a great and noble city, sacked by ‘men descended from Perseus’, or Sparta would mourn the death of a king of Heraclid descent, one whom even the strength of lions (λεντων) could not hold. Herodotos also reports his belief that Leonidas at Thermopylai, reflecting on this oracle, sent away certain of his allies – and even ordered the army’s mantis to leave – so that Sparta might monopolise the glory of the coming defeat which the prophecy implied (and which the mantis, Megistias the Akarnanian, confirmed from sacrificial omens). He suggests, that is, that Leonidas believed the prophecy and its hint as to his own death. Scholars have argued against the historicity of this oracle, on the grounds that it fits too closely the actual outcome of events to be other than an ex eventu composition. The name of one of the Spartan kings (Leonidas) itself referred to a lion, and he in the event was killed by the Persians; the correspondence is too neat.14 The Delphic authorities could, of course, have been informed in advance by Spartans that Leonidas would be leader of an exceptionally dangerous campaign, and might have prophesied accordingly. Herodotos says that the prophecy was issued when Sparta consulted the shrine ‘about this war, right at its start’ (περ το πολμου τοτου ατκα κατ’ρχs γειρομνου); that is, probably too early for Leonidas’ role to be known. But precise chronology is commonly among the first elements to be lost in memory. What makes the prophecy particularly suspicious is the uncharacteristic risk of clear refutation that the oracle would have taken in making it: quite conceivably Sparta would survive unsacked, and Leonidas not be killed. The two outcomes covered too little; in this case the imputed Delphic ambiguity was too precise.

9The prophecies which, according to Herodotos (VII, 139-43), were given to Athens by Delphoi make an instructive contrast. They clearly implied the destruction of the Athenian Akropolis, a less bold prediction, since Athens, north of the Isthmos, was more exposed to a Persian army, and the battle of Marathon had given the Persians a special reason for targeting the place vindictively. But more importantly, the oracle is vaguer as to the ‘wooden wall’ which alone would remain unravaged. Salamis was mentioned, suggesting here too that, if the prophecy was historical, consultation took place at a late stage. (Again, Herodotos located the consultation much earlier: VII, 145.) But if a naval battle at Salamis had failed, the oracle could protect its credit by claiming that it had meant ‘wooden wall’ to apply (for example) to flight by sea: the term was quite vague rather than ambiguous as between precise alternatives. In the case of the prophecies reportedly given to Athens, Herodotos has provided elaborately-detailed context: he tells of the striking circumstances of the consultation, and the desperate pressure applied by the Athenian envoys in the face of initial Delphic pessimism. He names the Pythia and one of the leading men of Delphoi who intervened in the matter: respectively, Aristonike and Timon son of Androboulos (VII, 140f.) – ‘Best-victory’ and ‘Honour son of Manly-counsel’, appropriate – indeed, well omened – names in the circumstances. And he describes the diver­gent interpretations which the prophecies received when reported to Athens, to ‘the demos’, and publicly discussed (VII, 142f.). Themistokles reportedly persuaded the Athenians, against the opinion of the (unofficial) oracle-specialists (khresmo­logoi), that the references to the ‘wooden wall’ and to Salamis pointed to a success­ful naval battle. Yet for the hardly less dramatic prophecy supposedly given to Sparta, itself clearer and provocative, there is no corresponding detail as to how the Spartan authorities reacted when it arrived.

10To impose an utterly false record of public discussion of sensational material by the Athenian demos might be far harder than to create a false record in the case of Sparta. In accordance with their institutions and ethos, Spartans could explain how their oracle might have become known belatedly and without much detail. They might claim, for example, that the consultation of Delphoi had been performed by the Pythioi, the king’s men after all, and that the kings, into whose control the response duly came, had decided not to divulge its contents. Such would be in keeping with Leonidas’ noble motives, in going to his death with eyes open, as later believed; it would accord with the general Spartan practice of secrecy, observed by Thucydides (V, 68, 2), and with the manipulation of news in the interest of morale, as later described by Xenophon. Delphoi, which had reason to be pessimistic as the Persians approached, might afterwards happily concur with a false tale which credited the shrine with implicit advice on how the city of Sparta might be saved.

  • 15  We might even speculate that one reason for Sparta’s possibly inventing a Delphic prophecy about L (...)

11In the aftermath of the Persian Wars, the intelligence of Themistokles (σοφηs δ κα δεξιοττοs: Hdt., VIII, 124) was initially revered by the Spartans. Herodotos and Athenian speakers at Sparta, reported by Thucydides, attest to his having been honoured by the Spartans more than any other foreigner (Hdt. l.c.; Thuc., Ι, 74, 1). From Herodotos we also hear, of the period just before the war, that the only non-Spartan whom (with his brother) the Spartans respected enough to make their fellow-citizen was a diviner, whose skills (as we shall see) the Spartans were exceptionally anxious to use as war approached. Since, as Herodotos would later present it, part of Themistokles’ mastery of affairs before the arrival of the Persians in Attike was to see and impose the correct interpretation of alarming Delphic prophecy in a military crisis, we might consider the possibility that part of the reason for his exceptional welcome at Sparta was his own cleverness in the matter of divination.15 It is possible that in the aftermath of the Persian Wars Delphoi and (for a while) Themistokles enjoyed at Sparta a record of having (respectively) issued and interpreted successful divination when it was most needed.

  • 16  The point is rightly emphasised by Flower (2008), p. 94f.

12Herodotos, who says almost nothing on the circumstances in which the prophecy concerning Leonidas was uttered at Delphoi, gives much detail about how the Spartans acquired their leading mantis for the war (IX, 33-6). Tisamenos was an Elean of the Iamidai, a clan long esteemed for prophetic skill. Herodotos elsewhere (V, 44f.) tells of an Iamid prophet Kallias, who had been rewarded with lavish grants of land, and so presumably with citizenship also, by the state of Kroton in connection with a war of the late sixth century. Tisamenos was repeatedly invited by Sparta before Xerxes’ invasion to issue divination as Sparta’s agent; initially, according to Herodotos, the Spartans offered money but, as their fear grew great in the face of imminent Persian attack and they wanted him ‘terribly’ (δεινs), they agreed to Tisamenos’ demand that he and his brother be given Spartan citizenship. It is hard to overemphasize the significance of the details we possess on Tisamenos, as they bear on Spartan retrospective attitudes towards him and his craft in Herodotos’ time, the second half of the fifth century. The terms which Herodotos uses for Sparta’s original invitation may well seem extraordinary, for any state at any period: the Spartans wanted Tisamenos to become ‘director of their wars alongside the kings of Heraklid descent’ (μα Ηρακλειδων τοσι βασιλεσι γεμνα τν πολμων, IX, 33).16 The commentary of How and Wells (ad loc.) rightly reflects the gravity of this expression, but for that reason recoils from taking it at face-value: ‘This cannot mean that the seer was to share the actual command in war, for in comparison with this the grant of citizenship would be nothing. It seems to refer to the position of the kings as priests, since they offered sacrifice before all important undertakings (Xen.,L.P.,13). Tisamenus was to act with them in this.’ Herodotos’ picture is indeed remarkable: Sparta – that xenophobe state – wanted a foreigner, one who would advertise his lack of loyalty by negotiating stubbornly and at arm’s length with those inviting him, to impinge on the sovereignty of its revered hereditary authorities in matters of life and death for the community. At the root of this Spartan desire was, according to Herodotos, not merely the fact that Tisamenos was an Iamid but also the belief that Delphoi had prophesied that he would win five very great victories. Retrospectively, Tisamenos was thought to have achieved exactly that, in Sparta’s interest: the victories were, according to Hero­dotos, first at Plataia (against the Persians), then at Tegea against Tegeates and Argives, later at Dipaieis against most of the Arkadians, at Isthmos (Ithome?) against the Messenians, and finally at Tanagra against Athenians and Argives (IX, 35). We may see why Spartans could perhaps, with retrospect, unashamedly report that they had trusted profoundly from the start in Tisamenos’ competence. And the diviner’s record, as remembered, was such as to vindicate his craft for the future in Spartan eyes.

  • 17  Aristotle knew of a Spartan tradition according to which foreigners had been admitted as citizens, (...)
  • 18  Parke (1967), p. 176, citing Wilamowitz.

13That Herodotos had information from a Spartan source on these matters is strongly suggested by internal details. The historian reports with emphasis that Tisamenos and his brother were the only foreigners ever (μονοι δ δ) to have received Spartan citizenship. Of similar form, and similarly likely to be of Spartan origin, is Herodotos’ statement elsewhere that Themistokles was ‘the only (outsider) ever so far as we know’ (μονον δ τοτον πντων νθρπων τν μεῖς ἴδμεν) to have been sent on his way from Sparta with such honours (VIII, 124). Compare the report from the same historian concerning compaigns of the sixth century that the Spartans had ‘succeeded in all their other wars and had failed only (μονουs) against the Tegeans’ (I, 65). Statements involving a large claim to historical knowledge, qualified by an admission of a rareexception to an alleged rule, occur with special frequency in Spartan contexts, so much so as to form something like a signature of origin. We think of Thucydides’ report that the Spartans were (by their standards) exceptionally hasty in considering severe action in the case of king Agis (V, 63, 2), or indeed of his statement about Sparta’s normal judicious slowness – in the context of the official killing of regent Pausanias (I, 132, 5; cf. Plut., Ages., 32). In connection with a report that Spartans on the battlefield (in 418) had become quite exceptionally disoriented by their standards, Thucydides signals his Spartan source explicitly: the event was unique ‘in the memory of the Spartans’ (μάλιστα δὴ Λακεδαιμόνιοι ἐς ὃ ἐμέμνηντο ἐν τούτῳ τῷ καιρῷ ἐξεπλάγησαν, V, 66, 1f.). In all these cases we detect one underlying element of apologia: Sparta was a consistently well-run and successful state, in keeping with its claim to have enjoyed the same constitution for centuries. There was homogeneity down the years, as there was among the citizenry, the homoioi, at any one time. Discordant events had to be clearly labelled as rare or unique. So no doubt with the ‘unique’ grant of citizenship to Tisamenos and his brother, one eminently in need of apology for a state where xenophobia, in the form of xenelasia, could be institutionalised.17 The apologia may have gone further. Pindar, in Ol.6 (27ff.), tells that Iamos, eponymous ancestor of the Elean clan of diviners to which Tisamenos belonged, was born of one Evadne who herself had been conceived and born at Sparta, in a union between Poseidon and another eponymous figure, Pitane. Evadne, having as a baby been smuggled from Lakonia to the banks of the Alpheios, was herself as a young woman involved in a second divine union. The composite tale manages to preserve the appropriate origin for the seer Iamos himself, fathered on Evadne by Apollo in or near Elis, with an added element which would have the effect of legitimating the Spartan citizenship of Tisamenos and his brother, as being themselves of Spartan origin.18 This ode is dated to 472 or 468; at l. 93-96 it mentions Hieron of Syracuse (obit 466) as still alive. It may thus testify indirectly to Spartan reverence of Tisamenos at a period decades earlier than the text of Herodotos. We shall see that relatives of Tisamenos were eminent diviners at Sparta long after the latter’s probable time of death; that too attests to the influence of the man in his lifetime.

  • 19  Flower (2008), p. 80f., well observes that Hegesistratos here is represented not as the prophet of (...)

14Herodotos proceeds (ΙΧ, 36) to describe Tisamenos’ performance as diviner when the Spartans commanded at Plataia; he advised the defensive posture which the Greeks adopted. In this connection (ΙΧ, 37) the historian also gives detail about the leading diviner in the enemy camp, another Elean, by the name of Hegesistratos. Again, the account has a Spartan perspective. This Elean, we are told, had previously been caught and condemned to execution by the Spartans for the multiple forms of strange harm (πολλ τε κανρσια) he had done them.19 He had, however, escaped his bonds by cutting off much of his own foot, ‘the bravest act of any we know, νδρηϊώτατον ργον πντων τν μεs δμεν’, says Herodotos. The Spartans went out looking for him ‘in full force’ (πανδημε), and were amazed at the daring of the man (Herodotos’ admiration, then, matched that of the Spartans). Hegesistratos escaped to Tegea but ‘in the end his hatred of the Spartans did not profit him’; for he was caught by the Spartans while acting as mantis on Zakynthos and put to death by them. This story, implying inside knowledge of Sparta as well as a pro-Spartan moral, again seems to reflect belief by Spartan authorities in the formidable powers of an Elean diviner.

Omens and Oracles

15It may help at this point to distinguish between the roles – in ancient minds and in our own – of omens and oracles. The two forms of divination were, of course, closely linked in antiquity: the case of Tisamenos shows that the Delphic oracle was supposed to have commended the future work of a mantis acting away from Delphoi, an interpreter of omens such as those which appeared in the form of animal livers. There was good reason for an oracular shrine not to contest the utility of sacrificial and other divination practised far from the shrine. For many purposes, a shrine could not offer the necessary service. Before a campaign, a state might have the time to consult a distant shrine on the grand question of war or peace, or on a general prospect – assuming that the shrine (or the land and sea giving access to it) were not at the time under enemy control. (When Sparta and Athens contested control of Delphoi in the early 440s, at issue was the right of each to precedence in consultation, promanteia, that is the right to consult quickly: Thuc., I, 111, 5; Plut., Peric., 21.) But at short notice, in the face of the enemy, there was usually no question of consulting Delphoi, let alone remote shrines such as those of Dodone or Zeus Ammon. Likewise in the matter of precise timing in a campaign – a key element in the thinking of Spartans in particular. Oracles could hardly pretend to regulate all such things.

  • 20  Flower (2008), p. 215: ‘No aspect of Greek divination has drawn as much scholarly attention as Del (...)
  • 21  Thucydides comments at II, 28 on the apparent causal role of the moon in solar eclipses. At VII, 5 (...)
  • 22  Plut., Mor. (= Apoph. Lac.), 224e; cf. Cic., De Divinatione II, 62.
  • 23  Hdt., VI, 66 for Kleomenes believed to have suborned the Pythia to undermine his fellow king Damar (...)
  • 24  Theognis, 805-10, with Flower (2008), p. 218f.

16Now, in spite of the widespread reluctance of many scholars in earlier generations to engage with ancient testimony to the influence of divination, scholarly monographs were written on oracles: one thinks in particular of the calm and systematic studies by H.W. Parke. Modern cultures are familiar with textual prophecies, in books still held sacred. And metrical prophecies in ancient languages engage our professional competence; we like dealing with such fixed, well-wrought things.20 Historians have come more slowly to the study of ancient Greek omens, though there exists now the valuable study of Flower, The seer in ancient Greece (2008). For the modern preference of oracle over omen, a rationalisation is readily available: omens incur from the start insoluble problems of definition. Whether even eclipses were numinous events may well have been contested in the late fifth century.21 The point concerning definition is illustrated by an anecdote about a Spartan: when manteis claimed as an omen the discovery of a snake wrapped around a (large) key, he asserted that this was no omen, whereas if the key had wrapped itself around the snake, that would have been.22 However, somewhat similar problems occur with oracular utterances. Not only are modern writers properly exercised by the question of which oracular predictions recorded from antiquity were in fact composed after the event; it is difficult to be sure whether any particular recorded oracular prophecy is genuine. The credit of oracular texts was qualified in antiquity by source-criticism, both subtle, as in Thucydides’ remark about the tendency for prophecies to be adjusted retrospectly to suit the supposedly prophesied event (II, 54, 3), and plain, as in Spartan (and Athenian) belief that on occasion corruption had occurred at the Delphic shrine.23 Theognis had written pointedly of the need for theoroi, official reporters of Delphic prophecy, to be utterly honest, neither adding to nor subtracting from the utterance of the shrine.24 When Tacitus wrote of mendaciopretium (Hist. IV, 81), reward for lying, he was thinking of reported omens in the Graeco-Roman world, but the phrase might apply to oracles too.

  • 25  Stephenson – Fatoohi (2001).

17It is perhaps the public effects of recorded prophecies, rather than their origins, which form the more fruitful field of study, though the two cannot be dissociated. And, for this study of ancient reception, omens may well turn out to be the more important category. For, while oracles originated in circumstances which few witnessed, and so were generally open to question, the events which counted as omens were sometimes beyond question and indeed spectacular: eclipses, earthquakes, strange weather, plague are examples. Eclipses, indeed, are for us uniquely privileged among the events recorded by ancient writers, in that their reality and timing can be checked by modern physics.25 Thucydides, writing of a Delphic prophecy about Spartan victory in the Peloponnesian War, records it with some reservation, and describes its effect, early in that war, on ‘those [Athenians] who knew about it’ (II, 54, 4; cf. I, 118, 3; 123, 1f., and below, n. 30). There could, and can, be no such qualification concerning the awareness of Athenian-led troops in Sicily of the total lunar eclipse of 27th August 413.

  • 26  Hdt., V, 63 for ‘the Athenians’ stating that their own Alkmaionid aristocrats had been successful (...)

18Compare Herodotos’ account of divination at Athens concerning the Persian invasion. He explicitly gives more weight to an omen than to the Delphic oracle about flight, destruction and a wooden wall: explaining the evacuation of Athens, he writes (VIII, 41): ‘they [the Athenians] hurried… wishing to obey the [Delphic] prophecy but mainly for the following reason:…’. And he proceeds to tell of a report, originating with the priestess of Athena, that a large snake which normally lived in the shrine as guardian of the Akropolis, had disappeared; its usual meal of honey-cakes had been left untouched. This was taken by ‘the Athenians’ as a sign that Athena herself had abandoned the Akropolis. We recall the relative weight given in Herodotos’ account to the origins of the Delphic prophecy about the fates of Sparta and Leonidas as compared with his detail on the seer Tisamenos. Was the extent of this concentration on omens perhaps a peculiarity of the historian? Was he perhaps conducting a special defence of omens? Further comment which he makes on the affair of the sacred snake may suggest something very different. He seems to invite doubt as to the reality of the snake. Twice he uses λγουσι, ‘they say’, of the Athenian belief in it; he also writes, ‘and moreover they put out sacrificial offerings to it every month as if it exists’ (s ἐόντι). Contrast the assertiveness of a passage (the genuineness of which has been doubted) in which Herodotos defends oracles against disbelief: ‘I cannot deny that oracles are true… when I consider such as the following: [text of 8-line hexameter oracle]…When Bakis speaks so clearly on such matters neither do I dare myself to utter an argument challenging oracles nor do I accept such from others’ (VIII, 77). In explaining why Athenians might put more faith in an omen concerning an unseen snake than in a reported Delphic prophecy, one should remember an ancient pattern of source-criticism; the integrity of Delphoi was open to challenge,26 whereas the report about the snake came from a priestess of Athena, a local official whose goodwill and honesty were far harder to doubt.

19Spartan practice in the matter of taking sacrificial omens seems to have evolved in a spirit of source-criticism, to minimise the chance of fraud or of wishful perception. Of Xenophon’s time, a century after the Persian invasions of Greece, we read that when a Spartan king sacrifices in connection with a campaign, the following are in attendance ‘around the sacrifice’ (περ τν θυσαν):

… polemarchs, lokhagoi, pentekonteres, leaders of allied mercenary contingents, commanders of the baggage train, and anyone who wishes (ὁ βουλόμενοs) of the generals of the (allied)cities. Two of the ephors are also present; they do not act in any interventionist way(πολυπραγμονοῦσι μὲν οὐδέν), unless the king invites them. But their presence, watching whateach person does, keeps everyone in order, as one would expect. And when the sacrifice iscompleted, the king summons everyone and gives out the commands. If you saw all this, you would think that in military matters all other peoples were mere improvisers, while the Spartans alone were true military specialists (Lak.Pol., 13, 4f.).

  • 27  Perikles, in an anti-Spartan context, is shown implicitly rebutting the charge of πολυ­πραγμοσύνη (...)

20This picture of Spartan practice is highly revealing, but it too must be treated critically, with a view to its author’s context and intentions. In the first place, Xenophon may have been writing in conscious defence of the king for whom he composed a formal eulogy (the Agesilaos). Agesilaos (king from 400 to 360) was for decades the most powerful individual at Sparta, and thus was eminently exposed to criticism in that officially levelling culture. Elsewhere in our present text, the Lak. Pol., Xenophon insists on the claim that at Sparta, unlike other Greek cities, the ‘most powerful’ (i.e. the hereditary rich) act with proper deference towards the officers appointed by the city (VIII, 2). Plutarch in his Agesilaos (ch. 4) represents that king as eagerly hurrying to obey the ephors, or rising to his feet in deference to them. Such statements of ideal implicitly suggest a criticism: the power of Agesilaos meant that he might have disobeyed if he wished, perhaps indeed that he did on occasion allegedly overstep the mark. Similarly with the ephors: they did not act at sacrifices in interventionist fashion. The verb used here, πολυπραγμονεν, is noteworthy. In Xenophon’s day it was pungently pejorative: πολυπραγμοσνη had been, for many, a besetting fault of the Athenian demokratia and its empire.27 Here Xenophon, in stating that the ephors did not impinge upon the king’s prerogative, reveals with his lively word a lively concern. Xenophon’s text has, then, an idealising insistence on institutional balance: a king’s power over divination was limited by that of ephors and others, while the ephors themselves duly respected the king’s prerogative. Whether matters were in reality quite so well adjusted we may doubt. But Xenophon’s elaborate description does imply that suspicion directed against royal misuse of divination was great enough to engender elaborate countermeasures in the form of observation by numerous officers of state.

21Commenting on the present passage of Xenophon, Parker writes:

… insistent though Xenophon is that this is a truly public examination of entrails, there is no doubt that the dominant figure at the ceremony is the king. In this passage Xenophon simply fails to mention the professional seer who must have provided the formal interpretation of the sacrifice. The rite was in theory public and objective, in practice under the close supervision of the king… the whole conduct of the ceremony lessened the likelihood of serious conflict between human and divine will (1989, p.157).

  • 28  On the point of a ‘truly public’ sacrifice, we should not be misled by Xenophon’s use of the term (...)
  • 29  E.g. Ι, 10; ΙΙ, 12f.; ΙΙΙ, 1; ΙV, 7; V, 2; V, 5; VI, 1; VI, 4; VII, 1; X, 4; XV, 1.

22This argument is important for the rationalising element in Parker’s work. It may, however, be challenged, not least in respect of the omitted seer.28 Xenophon was not writing in an anthropological spirit. His Lak. Pol. has as its advertised aim to explain the uniqueness of Sparta’s success (I, 1), and is accordingly structured around points of contrast between Sparta and other Greek states. Two instances of such have already been noted: the Spartans as uniquely specialised in war, and their kings as unusually obedient to other officials, as compared with (rich) Greeks elsewhere. There are many other references in the work to such supposed differences.29 Indeed the treatise opens with the claim that the Spartan lawgiver, Lykourgos, proceeded ‘not by imitating the other city-states but by having opposite ideas to most of them’ (I, 2). If, therefore, Sparta resembled other city states in allowing a mantis adominant role at sacrifices, that would not have advanced Xenophon’s main thesis and might for that reason have been passed over without comment, as being banal and readily inferred. It is possible that the relations of seer and dyarch were not always what secularising modern scholars may assume them to have been. And in particular one may suspect that the influence of a Spartan king in prophetic matters was not the same in the early fifth century as it was a century later, during the long ascendancy of Agesilaos. In any case, the above-quoted passage of Xenophon implies that the interpretation of sacrificial entrails might be contested in the early fourth century, as between king, ephors and others. The very possibility of such contest might give to the mantis a certain influence, a chance to manoeuvre as between the different parties.

Divination and the Spartan constitution

  • 30  Mass-Observation (1947), p. 60: the credit of astrology was highest, affecting almost half of the (...)
  • 31  Thuc., V, 103, 2; Antiphon, 5, 81; Xen., Hipparch., 9, 8f. I cannot agree with the view of Flower (...)
  • 32  Greek divination should not, however, be seen as simply therapeutic: Thucydides’ account of the la (...)
  • 33  Plut., Ages., 32 with Cartledge (1987), p. 164.

23Measurements conducted in fairly recent times (on the British population during the Second World War)30 bear out remarkably the suggestion made by an Athenian speaker in Thucydides,31 and amplified by the latter’s narrative, that the influence of divination (or, in the modern case, of astrology) is greatest when secular arguments yield least security. Compare Herodotos on the way great fear of the Persian invasion impelled Sparta to employ Tisamenos. In crises, argu­ments from the supernatural may supply hope when other calculations tend to pessimism.32 Behind Sparta’s insistent claims to have a stable constitution (cf. Xen., Lak. Pol., 15, 1 on the kingship) lay nervousness. Fear for the Spartan constitution is itself particularly evident at times of military crisis. In the late 420s, when Thucydides shows the Spartan authorities in a state of near-panic over their military setbacks (IV, 55, 3f.), Sparta disfranchised some 120 of her own citizen-warriors, many of them of leading families, merely as a precaution (V, 15, 1; 34, 2). It was evidently feared that these men, who had allowed themselves to be taken prisoner at Sphakteria in breach of what we may call the ‘ethic of Thermo­pylai’, might react to the moral cloud hanging over them (and thus to their own reduced prospects of social advancement at Sparta) by contriving a revolu­tion. It might well also have been wondered whether some of these men, who had spent several years under Athenian control as prisoners, might (to use Greek idiom) be ‘thinking Athenian thoughts’: that is, might be inclined to compound with the enemy. Half a century later, when Sparta, having lost her hegemony and much of her citizen army at Leuktra, was facing an unprecedented invasion of her home villages by the victorious Theban-led army, we hear that the Spartan authorities led by Agesilaos turned on and killed a sizeable group of Spartiates believed to be planning revolution.33 In this crisis, too, it would be rational to fear that some might prefer to deal with the ascendant enemy by negotiation, even if treasonable, rather than by warfare. We might well ask, accordingly, how confident Spartans were in their own constitutional solidity, in the competence and loyalty of their own leaders, in the crisis posed by the Persian invasion of 480 – especially if there were divisions on policy. And if there were good reasons to be fearful on this score, divination might have its role to play in the constitutional as well as the military area.

  • 34  Hdt., VI, 82 for the trial of Kleomenes, at the initiative of ‘his personal enemies’ (ἐχθροί) on a (...)

24The years around 480 were, for the standing of the Spartan kingship, deeply – but not exceptionally – unstable. The most memorable of recent dyarchs, Kleo­menes, had come to a violent end at Sparta (490), after a period of exile in which he is recorded as having organised anti-Spartan moves among the Arkadians (Hdt., VI, 74). Whether or not he died by suicide, as seemingly in the official account (colourfully detailed: Hdt., VI, 75), the enmity of other leading Spartans towards him is clear.34 Damaratos, the dyarch whose ejection Kleomenes had earlier secured with the aid of Delphic divination (Hdt., VI, 66), had gone over to the Persians, and is recorded by Herodotos as having accompanied them on their invasion (e.g. VII, 101). He had been keenly pursued across Greece at the beginning of his exile, in a way which may suggest that the Spartan authorities planned to kill him (Hdt., VI, 70): subsequently other exiled kings, Pleistoanax and (in the early fourth century) Pausanias, are recorded as living in sanctuary, in an attempt to use Sparta’s religious inhibitions to restrain the state’s possibly lethal intentions. In the aftermath of the Persian invasion, Damaratos’ successor, king Leotykhidas, victorious commander at the battle of Mykale, was exiled for taking a bribe in the enemy, Thessalian, interest (Hdt., VI, 72). Earlier in his eventful life he had been handed over, by a Spartan court, to the control of his enemies the authorities of Aigina (Hdt., VI, 85). And the regent Pausanias, victor at Plataia, would be brought to his death by the Spartan authorities, accused of plotting with Persia and for a revolution involving Sparta’s helots (Thuc., Ι, 95, 128-34). It is hard to imagine evidence of greater suspicion towards Sparta’s hereditary dyarchs – short of actual overthrow of the institution.

  • 35  Powell (1998).
  • 36  Plut., Ages., 1.
  • 37  Xen., Ages., 1, 26; Hell. ΙΙΙ, 4, 17.
  • 38  Hdt., VI, 60; Berthiaume (1976).
  • 39  On the importance for manteis of being descended from a line of such prophets, Flower (2008), p. 4 (...)

25If we believe that Sparta’s transition to an austere constitution was at this period still quite recent, as has been suggested by Lakonian vase-painting of the mid-sixth century with its scenes of luxury and social division, we should perhaps also wonder whether the rough treatment of the dyarchs around 480 was not a case of revolution manquée.35 The dyarchs did not 5 r over divinstyle)oe. Thty were an aosmays among the ancie régime. TheirTheis- apparent seemingly did not partiiptate in thehomo­egerising Spartanreduaution.36As noteworthh quality of clasgical Sparta, perhaps the most importantgone for explaining Sparta’s success under its adivins retime, was specialims. We recall Xenophon’swcords about the Spartans as the only true military specialists, or his description of the partilo imaers preduced under Agesilaos atEophetos as resembking a‘ wor shup ofowa’.37Scome Spartan 38Yest heet too the dyarchs comparedawkwhardl). xclurded astThty might be from the militadistcnreduautiostyle)o,stThty were nnhethnless Sparta’s gerore general). os mumbels of the Pol>,>nlike Sparta’s own specialisstherlds.,

16It maybhe woith The­pcompo, who supposedly had cquidesced in thefrountation of the ephoutr,s limiring the dyarcye in ordeh to prbserve i (Art., Pol.,1313a)y. And ifrloyalty in 480felot p in a, maring concessiog to nn- royal authorities at Sparta, It might evenbre, for reasons familiar in rbintratios, that Tisamenos’ stauhs s ounsiden reducedtthe p it; he ot least was notonme of toshe Spartans who had in recent timeseacned severely against Damaratos, Kleomenesfor Leotykhidae

17on (of nea) 465/4t the Spartans were strukn by that Thucydidesw as so describf simplyasy ‘the great earthquakm’ (I, 12I, 1). He gives ()d the reason why the earthquakl occurres, ‘astThty[ the Spartan] thinmm; the present tnse, is noteworthy. ht hppsened ‘to thee’ (φ


Thucydides does notsaye that Spart, after the earthquakl accepred that thd kilting of the suppriants hed acusedrit. His use of the present tnse, appives to Spartan belief in his own day and no doubtnduring some earlier period which he does notsspecfysh Tisamenoe, we ricale, was credired with elpting to preducn a great victory for the Spartasy against theMlesseniaes at ‘sthmnos’ (of perhaps ‘t homs)s. In any case, the onsition which Herodotoslasggnus to this victord,inh this hronpologicaly- orderedaliit, is homewhere between the battlms of Platai (479)s and f Tlingri (458sfor457);d the titing astTurs apro prtate for theMlessenian revot which fallowed the great earthquak. Nwn, even if Spartanshea, shorly> after the earthquake, rflfecned on their own possible resconsibility for i,n a mighyt victory over theMlesseniae,y such as Herodotos recorda, would have severely intefferds with any such religious interpretatiot. Buthelpting toenstabtish the religious interpretationaws Sparta wortrodxyn astTh success of theMlesseniaas inholdking out against the Spartans for mane yearsionMcountt hom). In explaining why the Spartan,> after this long war,"leh the r beeMlesseniaasgo,y Thucydides records that ‘the Laedaimoeniaas hed had intTheir onscessiog for come time(πσ>ο this oracle supposedly was srsuedise of greaa siglificeacs. Spart, evidentlycwould not claim thatits had been srsuedhat thd time when the helots were infeact rlecasds. accordingly the onssibility of fraud shouldtadire in ouritids;, it would also pobkably occur od sime of the Spartanstthemselvet, to tosle, thatins, whh were not prvyn to ary mniopulatio). In mentioting not the srsting of the oraclebout the onscessiog ofit,s Thucydides’ description should makwuas think of the dyarchs’ soure of Delphic propheties. the reference to rlecaking a supprians ofZeouscco rescondednicetly with the supposed ffceacs of kilting suppriant,f toshe ofPoshid o,n hisbr ethe:f the oracle shoedf the Spartanshnow to resorhe relations with divilitd by ymbpolicalle revrsting theirbe hav oue.

Ten dploirahicutiality of tisn allegee oracleise bav osn. It minimised the oess of face On the arte of the Spartae stat,e which nwycwould claim that the( u fogletrabl)g concessiog to the r bers was not the reault ofweaksness.Thle wirst precedene had not been ict. Aye helotsthinking of revotn in thefucturecwould noterely On the though, that prdeccessosm in that role had been nvrancable. The supposed oracle aboutt homs apyears to resembln that concerningtthe Persian invasioa and Leonida:, it both siglificentlylbacksay detailee origil and hepned to pasd ffe in retrospec, a Spartan military defabt as divinely rdainend,inndeeddaa at act ofvirtule.Dduring this pisoide,firmden religious co vicaones in the Spartans pobkablyaroshe from publily-kn own eventsimputrable to divilit,r the earthquakl and cnbsequenf revot). Interpreting srch would apro prtatlaybhethhe work ofay mantiaoin the sot). Integestingly, Pausaniagtthe Peilegtle would writ,h centuties later, that the Spartaes tokg theirdecissiog to rlecast the helots sobekin> Tisamenos And the oracle tf Delphom’ (VII, 1, 8)e. We notice that he tentionh Tisamenos beforf Delpho,d simthiing thatthe s, unlikldy to havedyone i adverdentls. If Tisamenoe, with his revreds recork ofadvtice about earlier victornes, hadeaffectivelyurgedf the Spartans not to prbns forbou right victorythes time,this cords werenlikldy to be taken very serioutls.Oin this occasiod,inndeee,this prophecy might beian asly Oe:s notonely would he verynlikldykn oy that the Spartans rsheddhaim tosmay,bButhiaseforccate, rather than ening rfutrablebyn evente, was quitenlikldy to betsel-fulfkiltine.

Thucydide,f Delphoi And the credit of kingn

.,(FfryApfallh had a stssuggested tha,n if Sparts did not 5ight tse eos,t the ars might (of woul)d not bt wo. And heet asay plussible case of ecclin, insstanharos, the groupscurrunder on Sphakteri,e which as maringnnehessrymaon impl cin dploirahicadmiessiog that the ars had not beenwioe.

  •  Plu., Peics.,22f.; Art., /emCclouia

It maybhe possible os tance in Thucydides ggnus of authe Spartae dpcendnace On Delphoiain this perios, the 420. A ether Spartan king, xmpelled long beforf in crcumnstanced of et reme prjudfice, bcaimg wkwhardle rlevtantoencemorh. Kking Pleistoanan, who hadlted an invasion of Atiker in446n which did notlread to victord,for nndeed to aattl,, hadtvenbrhen eailee n, a chrage of bribrym( Thuc.,(.,(istssuggested notjmustbyn i formition from the Athenian sideof usspecfniedespecia, xmpndictureain thiscconnuctios, utd by Thucydides’ repor, thatien eailg Pleistoanan,scurely well i forged, elotits iusl toltive in abuildking whichplaySpartly wit in a religious sanctuary, the shrine ofZeoushatMcountLykation in Arkadie – for fear of the Spartaes). He evidently rekoredf thatthis mern eailgwwould notiratsfly ai,e thathey might be mecinlesnly pursued brea aes isn prdeccessof Damaratoa had bee,ebout tabt as a supprians ofZeoushey might be prtpected fromSSpartanw rat, for the aimg religious reason that Spart, had ivokced in the450ns for not kilting the helots of countt homy, themselves suppriants ofZeou’. Nws in the119th9>cf.(V,335, 1;715, 1f or his subsequena military commans). Nwn, to resorhe to a onsitionhat the hhad fd the sttes aman, who hadmsuch reason to beevegetfultowards toshe who haddriveen hmf inos exile, in suchhuamilisking and righenminn crcumnstanced and for st lon,e l earlythgreatredf an>So rolewkwh which dpcendng:-.0the d bnts from the

36., 1, 2neneeee to mkle expicrit.Apfallh ans tadiu­f016in;"d with Athend in421 ((V, 6-175, 1; Thee of tgososm in te by a Sparot with ‘ft427"436spacd[ Ati – evstbyn i fo thenews, a9dbare,n i formition which Thucydides giveshat8.1.1,> after reporting in verygor (...)

In th‘e meche 16ist to dfter thelyurgeectivelhemay suggest domeepan stter-sot p iry ofaier-splass=entrls Gs tance in Ths,Tisamenoctith divinepacing:-dgh >cf. thtatitarte of theee,nnote[ft427"436VI.,arr, thaotos’strfe Athets alauthor GreekeV,etc.orcusms and 2) ulcturew as itsrgesishance to rshtfulthinkos atEophetosa8o 4esembking a‘ wor shup ofowa’.Thaim thaomSSpartrd to iSparot witha>spacc ary siglificn ient troled toeAndh thn evval,tyle="n-co-opet witha> s   id="bo>

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ht dousclass="hatnwenoctar iveaeentlycwouldcing: – axgio(016in;, m"44­omSSpartrdcusracleec‘ft427"436>ίhly fought to the eost of theiraibility(κα τεmibilsvn alties, ans aimaeed by the suspicion that the Spartans had gonesofts ( αλακ)tanw,this upr ars And the ut r a Grelphoydide Thucle: elycwouldee ttyle, tt SgsrSpartgoidesr authe 3. ss befoarot withe]r, and wciti,s ifrdeale of emeads.orculass="foot9)s ansSpartrdcusracletrunted abo that role ter-s would y suggest dtadire in edyonmlliynstancnumber"3lting of theent terThnrshtment wacing:-.001ty to g:-.001i27" hhtme, for reas,the 3. se must paranumtshorly> afty to givlrable foty of-.0016inlthe t isvi iys for "texte" ust hdf At stylenestreligious inest dt"lette origieligious inparanumber"323<..)ThaSx would bee st,s divinely recovt terewcissiog tclass="paranumthatbtlracle from thePytherar016inc>an>the Spartanshnow to resorhe relations with divilitd by ymbpolicalle revrsting their

,inh – axgispan thoug 2-3 in;";"t,stThelysmen,t in acct ditionl4, 34/3a>iasy again style="emand isn>Ffe plnimselvet, txte" dir="ltr">erThnnis oracle suppan ch unrshtmentin ourirej breaaring conceerThi"#ft43strfaw1i27" hinvasioa a,oracle suparairmalropheties(παρίis noteworthy. ht hppsened ‘to thee’ (φ<)>ονFpacmspdid cvmistrifes. the resorhd, Pleistoanax would have enemies at Sparta,as Thucydides shows (νθυ<) And4, 3.,ld be th=h"ltr">< ποιan>>ssmfpect0, 4an>the Spartanshnow to resorhe relations with divilitd by ymbpolicalle revrsting theiror not kilting the helots of countt homy, themTlysmen,t in acc araaotos’str]r, and wr autry embare t isntediring conceear fendseligiouletter-spac31 raiheet 16ist to In the prparanumber"323<..heowaf.posedly was astauhs.hoboutlowed os ners, acle must fendbents heetter-ight nwyetter-sracle sup0y emphaimoes Perlige016inoinely rdainend orac ar?hoboutlowed os n;">n><#ftlbe)sosm . Here as,wciranc ednax wounantoence (s tha, n. 42)nmorhe cnvld bee 425t Spartgoidesciranc veryn(εmibilsvn alties, ans aimaeed by the suspicion thly fought to the eost of theiraibility(κα τ mibilsvn alties, ans aimaeed by the suspicion thhatits was simthiingesentbyo divilit: δαιμτωFfry rae higeatewkan sttice abSpartasstans os, hadeaffectivefreeend itnfuros, thenliit, bSpartaaf autospan sse, deselththe cnpan><. Nh an styled s Thee indeed posedlybyhucydnWwfe:s n oralotits iOlymp’ Xene in aint, as it were, for Tisdiviis’ affecting the Compard for st lon,e l earlythgreatredf artans (Thuc.,II, 10, 2s – 103,3; Art., (..been ieod bahis rumio). Ieate<’s wor ary sie;ter t#ft43n bothen thetpaa‘e meanInfseekomSSptcn ient trolearde4/3a tse wirsteefuctron Delh reach arta w s, unlity to-.0016ihomsitere ltrbye openers,ies th 2). esnly purtempposed fofZeouacing:ei

  • ,inauhs.hBhe religef in r">< mig(t436"4 resconen)he Spartan( >ade to Ai,e which as maringnnehessrymaon impl cin dploirahicadmiessiog that the ars had not beenwioe.

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      Bp016layr 1981),har. 15;n
        Cthatedli 1987)t p. 35f. a82-5an class="num"436  Plu., Peics.,22f.; Art., /emCclouia 4

    )bhLysof rosfdkwhardla> Ilge t to deluxum t/a>ali,of Damarabt,shat uisb tanshelpco/esquecotly wit it have cnompi eclipsngtdi(..klycwouldcingSpctro, t isntedi Spgreabilphoydrouywhlsndvlpcos (Thuc­.,II, 10, 2s – 103,3; Art., <.cte3b-c; e in aint, as it were, for Tisdiviis’ affecting theLysartans (Thuc.,II, 10, 2s – 103,3; Art., Ffe(rdcusar ha"efaasofia"eracle su, e mtnsPleinb-.edacinSgsrSeoin;">Fte asn>Helalirhation>ade to ag64, picu0016di thawyetter-sasuch rmoaquecotly wit iMexgio(ich didalsa wingLysof ros-taious tnoenhautcr tnary re" an iby alikforiddiv(X, 9, 7).,Bhed os neng:-as re indistoan.On De7osiaydirtthb tancnav=lo/em>..klycwouldcingfaasofia"euledsuriege;"asia In th‘ os na his subseartaryabenos mern 5icur"hea). Thucydides sees isndis on thepantnced and for st lon,e l earlythgreatredf 45r not kAer-spacileantiss="textetoagivverycinghhe bo/spa-sanume beev in honl ecaenl erSarv -spaathe Arec‘t poengage:-as areigoenta micn>alc‘fev isuinide v isdstttsy reit it have cnfleeo, "lettnrsiach ll bghat roletan oppnfleeo Pleistoanan"lettnrsiae wh se ch ll bg in fr arye whsairomSSuthosiohty obasf style="noakternous ot broelys ClensheA theMlessfifthin fr a tr">36., Peics.,22f.; Art., /emCclouia 4

    (.. Aril for aious inmmet fter-edspacingtbt(IX, 36spa1"s)ccormementsilet/li> ,must -And4, it iPphoii wcamp 3.TofuprVaryabeadv r-spalass0016,gdmsiasoenhautamp-y=aidr-spacingaffe: IX, 37f. Tn33">mhe pr ,inauhf theas#ft436"4 resconen,must stbyn i as it were, for Tisdiviis’ affecting thepantnced and for st lon,e l earlythgreatredf AndofuprV,t poenormananren oh e wh ed talhis pe whgtionhlikfiiAce Kyrosovtaa -Andis subsecorylcihomton hiious inauhf thm wfe asbmove:-aso vodid cvmistrifes. the resorhd, Pleistoanax wo theAnabompard for st lon,e l earlythgreatredf -spale m(<64, ofart iminrom thePyhiet wcoarot;a as aprolipseTe Spith thdingy fa>spi ew the htme, retttter-s as asster ted Lysof ros-w isvinostbyn i as it were, for Tisdiviis’ affecting theunciranc eded and for st lon,e l earlythgreatredf Alnctuarcntt retSSparsvacalle cdf n sw isv agaifo ypb tasishelpcowri AndPaasofia"c rathers hondamenoum tADantcinednax wouely couuprVary as aasethnzparaoan.>,inavictlgia"e]r, and werupposedgerun>Hela15, tidl Thr="lstoan‘aγκαaαιSpartn’s own efpectschould perucasvelaybheblamle­tio, rflfecis reportedespercs, arte(Thty werει)fev idf thgreabintoenc d when(IX, 35)erSe, des r-spapa5),yn earcwo/setls>᱃Phelpcor as ocispe bt isv (thennshiing elesuinide earcn>36ho, hadn inyanan/embye opeasethr, asse441to In the prprstr isvc/ fo thenews, 59o be a priese of Delphoiain the Second centuryAD,r adse that 5or not k Forcydn by evt he thiet wouhucydidle ceast:-.04tter th ragr 2006).se of Delphoiain the SeconPlu., Peics.,22f.; Art., /emCclouia 4d helof revotn

    > triulirtaAgiiwhenosnly ifromsn>(...)<,ht in sharyutraa>sptatmili wivmet f"rcno. AagkomSS4tteiddly wasicte r (>  sted notjm)erKispafaasofia"ei ary ny-i ad , tsocr Al" hydiddayse"rrurnstbygtter-eaafSSpary ulcturew as itsrgesishance to rshtfulthin60do thenews, 60d 5or mbking a‘ wor shup ofowa’.undr-spacon sgeltn33">uc pr oinsiu­n( e in aint, as it were, for Tisdiviis’ affecting theLysartans (Thuc.,II, 10, 2s – 103,3; Art., > Andarta (395)bhLysof rosf earkiltrud by, tfcr

    Cthatedli 1987)t p. 110-15an class="num"436  Plu., Peics.,22f.; Art., /emCclouia 4

     shiefd bspruwhic . A/euledwte:sly wkomSSAgiissspac00,t, e iinide et wstaPhssutarheAgiioyetter-sraclalirdf n shiiouts heglinely lan> e="ccle must lphoydiis syfaiee Thucbparedfs)<,hLeotyk" dishelpcopartasstofuprVary(likft arch in aint, as it were, for Tisdiviis’ affecting theAgcled and for st lon,e l earlythgreatredf A.. Aril t poendhePyhietlif(..beeaccnesledli>utrauluraeavictseir ulcturew as itsrgesishance to rshtfulthin61"o thenews, 61"d60r ayuunder the control of iative Delphaons with an inteeast infavoduring Spart,ovder Athees.

    (...)  saomy reing:pfal-y=ainip hat roleyfaiel fo thenews, 62o be a priese of Delphoiain the SeconPlu., Peics.,22f.; Art., /emCclouia 4or not kilting the helots of countt homy, themA oualo/ale dan> AlAgii.g">(...)<,hfromnsitiathera.stdf thgclalaos,ofuprVet byhibenos mern 5icur"hea). Thucydides sees isndis on the Cln fr ompard for st lon,e l earlythgreatredf (...)  mt dou,ssothmper stssairnsart>iasy s aproasse44sovt clalaos s yhietefuctro0rsiced Dedf thhadeaff 1d f">(...)(...) 5uprcessioe.

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    e="ccle moing‘ight rgeparioumber"sstantTch ll bg w teionht hegios tartasstsaidrd fofe froe as a supprnse]r, a circ srana In thty oobln tover neirolr. wint wation "paca=a1u aym>(...)<,ht436"4 resconen,mccesdiidmoingem-sinthiisSnumber-anumeroep ; archoboesalass0016,gpnging tseointu ay. Scholaraxn>rertdi thaydn bt inging tIohetpcletavado..beeag‘atil;teltrudn eahDiopeirolswheover the n aint, as it were, for Tisdiviis’ affecting theBirVeed and for st lon,e l earlythgreatredf wou heettyle thye f‘ardlaPyheiitaLamn stirnsartgreabiDiopeirolswheovSiAce Lamn stubseand wtherairehohigt have cnnos mern 5icur"hea). Thucydides sees isndis on thepantnced and for st lon,e l earlythgreatredf hof thipaddtoan In thDiopeirols;t poaudiinceselettnrsiaisn(ssumpdrd fknest).llhis suiais. lpcolt e ceast:-.0idep rphan>(...)(...)(...)<,e as apslaboulgclalaosididdoue;ter t ishelpcolt douerase impta inairmeclLeotyk" dish , oBhe foriddivgrescnctuarcnt eligiouynt w-y opeathe Arh re"r -spaynt wfe:s non thnPy, ebarro (...)<,htersay-.0(Vsic10"rdfo thenewtocstyl1n10"rshtftocto1n10"rT eitnspi "ccle mKn sd:-.e whorcf thgclalaos? i forh1nshnow to resorhe relations with divilitd by ymbpolicalle revrsting thei5

    Heremy o,et436"435aSSpi, tsee,t" an styledubealaehmper stssSoancct abovnarrbeev helpco/esspi "nthee ="paal="pare ucbpa(orayo incsion)shxteofd bfphiorngr

    scter-saSSpi, t hhit i16ist to DeLysof rosyle=of esu. HereheBhe anliwaotch n witnesf hiesiay-spin stnos mern 5icur"hea). Thucydides sees isndis on then eailed and for st lon,e l earlythgreatredf (...)stdf tkomSSAgclalaos,tutilgclalaosiced Deb>wyetter-sa mnhoriysciimrtt16inwsang anikploossspin;"kploo Ans esnly e tbtand wa>spi ewc reit ie;teumpeelowed oiro  stetevvehoiilliea" e suriinced hy=rchiced Deiniteroansbidweyu.,oboumr ary winacallf;ttl">(...)

    Davi ulcturew atself woul64o be a priese of Delphoiain the Second centuryAD,r adse that 64r not k P
      2006)t p. 293an class="num"436  d centuryAD,r adse that 65r not k
        Gr ade 10,a h. 78t p. 65a ";"t,stsn">(...)(..(thei5l,ra w atself woul66o be a priese of Delphoiain the SeconPlu., Peics.,22f.; Art., /emCclouia 5

    (...)<,niOnKn ss (Thuc­.,II, 10, 2s – 103,3; Art., wyer as ocispe pace;ter tary re">(...)(...)wyer del froe lal(...)ade to,Kn sd:-.esnly ‘ctiong sarcany tartaulatehac.0pan>

    Gr ade 9,a h. 73t p. 319)Tnam>hoat ta mnhoe sidy rvaanfoairmidverycbossv-ith 1-37gyra w atself woul68o be a priese of Delphoiain the Second centuryAD,r adse that 68"num">36(..eiroliantuticenca6iner Khry16,gAth., 609bln eas
     Plu., Peics.,22f.; Art., /emCclouia 61s (Thuc.,II, 10, 2s – 103,3; Art., 1;">hePyreghichPaasofiasyle=ploofpn3h – axgi,ef aunwy rvaxt, astto Lysof rosyle=.0arkhateipaddciaf thantTingaseay a spee rea theMtll,raelighshat thsahonl ecaem tan yoeaulednctuarcn. Gr daan ydida ph au-bynitan liev ope.0  it Arrymd ,wfeh,ebo-irnsarir=lsiud rejeaenl ly wetabor tenrhetSpae,ec evn>1;"er‘oumbers,o/a>uhe btakhateipaprVarayo b iopeaIn thonehsagai sisdAte;v archoinds;.ooeus snuledmdtopSSpae m‘st/uarpar n aav hi-y(nos mern 5icur"hea). Thucydides sees isndis onὑ have enemies at Sparta,as Thucydides shows (<εκρartn’s own efpectschould perucasvelaybheblamlenos mern 5icur"hea). Thucydides sees isndis onνετοnos mern 5icur"hea). Thucydides sees isndis on the, Lysartans (Thuc.,II, 10, 2s – 103,3; Art., ; pronctuari, tfitt d ).llhwpthomts n n uprVaryabsupps DeLysof rosyle=c001An,firmelyuunder the control of iasuifferds from tia 6

    inairmrom thno. A"sypub:pfeeuledpub:pfedomter,ebef"leetpcotroeae muledplooflipslauncheybh hope tasahietrslspan stw eahuleduspeemleyaf thahr-sisn DeuledG01Akbf dlr. Lysof ros-tsTofuprVaryabee shautexcuharyaneaIsinthi-ith Ssiu­n reyfaiehautauirch n no. AougivlasahietgouldcingZeeboAmmjm,ein Libyardenda"patold the shmenditoan,c.0 oiroleaafSSparta(eePylmmjmeulenar theMnong:aine byolSsiu­ned oiLysof ros-ubsetriarebeeycwrupteuledahr-si,naa h r>< hope to lalmmjmewastitncoppose reit iaam>wusion crI apslp dir="e;vlmigusi fvhics< hope to lalmmjmee wh aendisiuure ai tanc‘Lysof ros-aeauledarrivalaeoinsiu­nofohancf diry>figures -ith ely ahr-siye whwnds;sfisvaan smanikeoinsiu­nte of the adeaff:n3knesteaiy aildSsPlfFure whorco tan0016ae whdhat thLysof rosyle=lifen aint,­.,II, 10, 2s – 103,3; Art., xp-spiv it omongthehpslvicn;"> And henlicofse it-ith onehAnaxof ridast Dete of t-ed oiLysof ros-ubselefhta cphoydroudistcioae mslsnlylye h n thenluwwo.roeasst teuledahr-siidn aint, as it were, for Tisdiviis’ affecting theifompard for st lon,e l earlythgreatredf 3ph amons atoelysoumb deseahr-siy Detodoge,ylg rescnoaofe fro thnoets n prolipscuryl6i-innLysof rosyle=lifearsi,firmelyuunder the control of iateeast infavoduring Spart,ovder Athees.

    ., Peics.,22f.; Art., /emCclouia 65d for st lon,e l earlythgreatredf ,irolea aaeePyabo:psh ope ly s narng elehy=rchyewhsa ratherairae wh bo/inlywnhe"rantnsiu­nhe tosiatt the he onewwomodern errons Decphopi ad ,gbossvl ecaeurrocrlte16in;"ians,ylg rescodf esoim te by a s lidvh>hePy, ehy=rchy/saeaulusang Sx would bertan ituom ta ot .1-37).ic,a Spotwo n 480feerThedte higraas thiit, atelg resctos anaryuoouclose"yan>t gaz sy whi-yciiAcip).o>sion "erHerodotos-wri Aitunairgytheedyhbroelysonlywk thyls syamenbeea apectmb desitse;he td: LeonidaeerTh– axgindil5, ito wkispaArkhidamo(he­ea">(...)< wr date"e6gthon iepfal-y,tuti2nging .aArkhidamo(ewhsakispacoraerccorh>harta(he­eaS f aunweseistaInndfr theMyem;slgclalaosireignedecoraishohigexacntanforh>harta(he­eaheliitrsnlylye aounsearaymbo:pzf th (thenpartacpartcro,/f au,tlphmaye thdic rge. IPynec oistlh ,1WW8Num9rt,ovder Athees.< of Delphoiain the Second c; Art., /emCcloue l earmargin-rsnly:0., Peics.,2.; Art., /emCclouia 66r not kThonht e Eu">poated=0pase:ulnder the control of ia/p> oistlh ,1WW8Num9rt,ovder Athees.< of Delphoiain the Second c; Art., /emCcloue l earlythgreatredf An,ar theMXerxesyle=pnvaei)<,n"riionhacaoblphpaneasaexile,ayer epaseadimolpshe T ret po (thennsaafSSparta(hounder the control of i iat of Delphoiain the SeconP of Delphoiain the Second c; Art., /emCcloue l earlythgreatredf Anaryt isvSuct,ebo--siy., Peics.,2.; Art., /emCcloue l earlythgreatredf 67r not kIy eple).sa win,gerculedlphmaye500-395,rmohig(sfvhin tho wetfvhi)gSoy).orurnrsang Sx woul/="paei tanckifras,aetahat t-y=exile bSpothpe> Anaryt isvexileh uunder the control of iasuifferds from te l earlythgreatredf 6 Now, abovht rculeddiewEleanae mS (thennsn eailk, atelphmaybhthermoot adeaffprole of resconeeare uc"imae wh-ith owoula thindcaem tae wh as acuryl6i-hy=rchsyte of ere i hmenbeeaanre tdhounder the control of ilteeast infavoduring Spart,ovder Athees.

    Parker 1989)t p. 152f.;e
      Mifrahe b 2002)t p. 2-11,aanlw atself woul77o be a priese of Delphoiain the SeconPlu., Peics.,22f.; Art., /emCclouia 70s (Thuc.,II, 10, 2s – 103,3; Art., vh>hmfg (thenpartamohigptom-sintSaafSSparta(,huledof tserThisdfragilfFu-innuledof tship earconem :n3bsc(...)< wri, s,dePy, eburialarlgisdhoug as apnfoe gr  itmplexvh>h/ isvexacontudiyedSsPlfFaesang ye37)rchyotuti2ikertaOn).llhbeallfu-37). ulcturew as itsrgesishance to rshtfulthin77"atself woul77o 76r tiog of military opprtunriices.edairmss Dea ooy).ihigc bemony,rgnudy o wusmbrp,nearcon.It stsypro2nging uledfr. sulxp-rtsa ratherapp:pfaoncedePy,iehau,lle of knest as allfu-37).,gpnspany au-bures asnrsia Spothermnntonvh>hePyn aint, as it were, for Tisdiviis’ affecting theDpamortuistailtaisianoeumompard for st lon,e l earlythgreatredf edSsnly momhichthev thu"e inoexhiesi itmplimhichthwardsnooy).Fu-inna=li,5sawsereooy).o2ikertlipsfohth. itpcer­vas ed.lgis,ewmenos snmoot-then-mortalafu-37).du)(.egi byfuure :n3hmpong,giearecl-y,euledw reaem tang yer f"leignali,5cyrdHt uharyhitamo:-as, hsas tanso2nging uc pruledroy).ofu-37).b,btn3assf oue whdnf-spi , te wh aenantngivh>hePyt  oph aeitndhtysefundI­nnntongimpSpovewee onedi (thennsat5, . Ru bee,nnhbseand whitameanfobro er--pr aem taieligioufes an- (theinsrgtthe itaexile,a teuledaannoua thrLykayle;iou bee,ebo< bemonynlipslike0016ahitamediumobro er--"nf-sreeotareuu"niope on>  ivh>.arlevtant iod committed by the comunriys which especiallysuifferds from tia 71r not kltehe ly impSpovewee Deciheowcclita.1-37).oa mnho supprns,naoesatsereoemtipaany raas thwhur:-esteverpanldvas imonynf tHerodotos,3h – axgi,e">(...)< tndhht rcG01Akbfri Ansofe Athebe.klycwooseenusu t, tl5toanccpartcroiatt the h,torouapect?rI-.edi lsnly mfg (thenpartatroeasacoraeph amon ly ope.aIcallnal (thennsargu:-asseaIn thwsets n Pleistoanaxiraclycwrupt pruledte ofic oumber,saeaulenabrab pan>vh>hmpini taeoinsiu­nta> n;"iansh-ith ots n ffFaesaulusayamenbeesharhiinnuledmirageae m (thennsou bee,svh>.aSh. Aanea aaec ary ardebida tlevved,lmigecmoot ecoomae tchypots sibois-avails="l:s win,gpnshmputiope onediireof eaecietygabcihfiredafai:sl bdd an style, sara supprnse/="paardeabnoam t, tunlphthpad rdt iod committed by thcomunr

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      *  This paper owes its existence to an invitation from Vinciane Pirenne-Delforge and Carine Van Liefferinge to address the subject in a communication at Bruxelles: sine quibus non. – I am fortunate to have received criticism and advice for the paper from Paul Cartledge, Thomas Figueira, Stephen Hodkinson, Simon Hornblower, Ellen Millender and Karen Radner. I am most grateful for the improvements they have made.

      1  For an example of delicate evasiveness, Fontenrose, in a general conclusion about Delphic history: ‘What effect or influence did Delphi have upon the Greek states? If we look through genuine responses, we must say that it had no direct and active influence upon them’ (1978, p. 239). One notices the triple qualification (‘genuine’, ‘direct’, ‘active’): how much is being excluded thereby? Contrast Pritchett (1979), p. 298, 300: ‘Certainly the oracle at Delphi had immense influence’. On the (typically unavowed) reasons for modern disbelief in influential ancient divination, Powell (2001), p. 423-7, Flower (2008), p. 245, Johnston (2008), p. 23.

      2  1989, 156-7. Other scholars who have taken seriously evidence of Spartan regard for divination include Grote, Popp (1957), Pritchett (1979) esp. chs. 1, 3, 9, Hodkinson (1983), p. 273-6, Holladay and Goodman (1986), p. 155f., Cartledge (1987), Jacquemin (2000), p. 102-104.

      3  Thuc., VII, 50, 4 with VII, 47, 1f., 48, 4; Powell (1979a).

      4  Hornblower (1992), and below, n. 44.

      5  This is a prominent theme in the two most important monographs on Sparta in recent years, Cartledge (1987) and Hodkinson (2000). In Powell (1998) I examined evidence from vase-painting that the austere Spartan constitution did not antedate the second half of the sixth century.

      6  Thuc., V, 16, 2, cf. Hdt., VI, 58f. with Parker (1989), p. 169 n. 52.

      7  See below, p. 76.

      8  The kings as priests of Zeus: Hdt., VI, 56; as having general charge of religion: Ar., Pol., 1285a. Cf. Parker (1989), p. 154f.

      9  Hdt., VI, 57.

      10  Millender (2002), p. 2: ‘Most of the disparate information on Sparta included in the Histories clusters around the figures of the Spartan kings and renders Herodotus’ portrait of Sparta essentially a series of royal biographical sketches.’

      11  Thuc., V, 63, 2. King Leotykhidas, exiled from Sparta half an century earlier, had also been subject to the demolition of his residence: Hdt., VI, 72.

      12  Powell (1999).

      13  Xen., Hell. I, 6, 36f.; IV, 3, 13f.; Powell (1989).

      14  E.g. Parke – Wormell (1956), vol. 1 p. 167f., vol. 2 p. 44.

      15  We might even speculate that one reason for Sparta’s possibly inventing a Delphic prophecy about Leonidas was respectful rivalry with Athens, in the matter of strategic prophecy. Rivalry is implicit at Hdt., VIII, 124, where in parallel with the crown of olive given to Themistokles by the Spartans, we hear that a similar crown, but also the aristeia in respect of the naval campaign, were given by Sparta to its own man, Eurybiadas.

      16  The point is rightly emphasised by Flower (2008), p. 94f.

      17  Aristotle knew of a Spartan tradition according to which foreigners had been admitted as citizens, in the state’s early days: Pol., 1270a. One wonders whether the acute oliganthropy of Sparta in his time had commended a change in policy towards granting citizenship, and thus a correspondingly different picture of Spartan history to serve as precedent.

      18  Parke (1967), p. 176, citing Wilamowitz.

      19  Flower (2008), p. 80f., well observes that Hegesistratos here is represented not as the prophet of harm to Sparta but as the actual cause of it.

      20  Flower (2008), p. 215: ‘No aspect of Greek divination has drawn as much scholarly attention as Delphic oracles.’

      21  Thucydides comments at II, 28 on the apparent causal role of the moon in solar eclipses. At VII, 50, 4 he may well hint at a similar physical explanation of lunar eclipses. Plut., Peric., 32, 2 seems to show that divination concerning the heavenly bodies was under challenge from physical theories, near the end of Perikles’ life. Plut., Nic., 23, 2 attributes even to the mass of Nikias’ Athe­nian contemporaries in 413 a belief that the moon was somehow responsible for solar eclipses.

      22  Plut., Mor. (= Apoph. Lac.), 224e; cf. Cic., De Divinatione II, 62.

      23  Hdt., VI, 66 for Kleomenes believed to have suborned the Pythia to undermine his fellow king Damaratos; on bribery imputed to Pleistoanax, see below.

      24  Theognis, 805-10, with Flower (2008), p. 218f.

      25  Stephenson – Fatoohi (2001).

      26  Hdt., V, 63 for ‘the Athenians’ stating that their own Alkmaionid aristocrats had been successful in bribing the Pythia, who accordingly urged Sparta to free Athens, that is, to evict the Peisistratid tyranny.

      27  Perikles, in an anti-Spartan context, is shown implicitly rebutting the charge of πολυ­πραγμοσύνη against Athens, by refusing to give a positive value to an opposite term, ἀπράγμων: Thuc., II, 40, 2.

      28  On the point of a ‘truly public’ sacrifice, we should not be misled by Xenophon’s use of the term ὁ βουλόμενοs. In an Athenian context that phrase might indeed suggest that any citizen was free to participate. But in the Spartan context described here by Xenophon there is no mention of rank-and-file attendance at the sacrifice; the term ὁ βουλόμενοs is applied only to ‘generals from the (allied) cities’.

      29  E.g. Ι, 10; ΙΙ, 12f.; ΙΙΙ, 1; ΙV, 7; V, 2; V, 5; VI, 1; VI, 4; VII, 1; X, 4; XV, 1.

      30  Mass-Observation (1947), p. 60: the credit of astrology was highest, affecting almost half of the sampled population, when secular forecasts were bleakest. As the prospect of winning the war improved, avowed faith in astrology fell off sharply.

      31  Thuc., V, 103, 2; Antiphon, 5, 81; Xen., Hipparch., 9, 8f. I cannot agree with the view of Flower (2008), p. 17, that Thucydides does not reflect the general Greek tendency to perceive omens in times of crisis.

      32  Greek divination should not, however, be seen as simply therapeutic: Thucydides’ account of the last days of the Sicilian expedition shows that popular religious prophecies then conduced to self-recrimination, pessimism and a fear of imminent destruction: Powell (1979a), p. 28f. On Sparta similarly, Parker (1989), p. 161.

      33  Plut., Ages., 32 with Cartledge (1987), p. 164.

      34  Hdt., VI, 82 for the trial of Kleomenes, at the initiative of ‘his personal enemies’ (ἐχθροί) on a charge of having been bribed into favouring Argos; VI, 66, 74 for the influence at Sparta of the belief that Kleomenes had by trickery at Delphoi contrived the exile of his fellow-dyarch Damaratos.

      35  Powell (1998).

      36  Plut., Ages., 1.

      37  Xen., Ages., 1, 26; Hell. ΙΙΙ, 4, 17.

      38  Hdt., VI, 60; Berthiaume (1976).

      39  On the importance for manteis of being descended from a line of such prophets, Flower (2008), p. 45-47.

      40  Hodkinson (2000), p. 417f. for ancient references and modern analysis. Cartledge (1976) argues for a connection between the seismicity of Lakonia and the strength of Spartan interest in divination.

      41  Compare the phrase of Xenophon used of a later occasion: ‘the god shook the earth’, Hell. IV, 7, 4.

      42  Thuc., 1, 118, 3; 123, 1f.; ΙΙ, 54, 4f. In the first passage Thucydides will not take responsibility for the reality of the prophecy, but uses the qualifying phrase ‘as is said’ (ὡς λέγεται). In the third-mentioned passage he writes of those who ‘knew’ of it (τοῖς εἰδόσιν). If, at least for a time, Thucydides who had been a well-placed Athenian politician in the early 420s was unsure of the reality of this most significant contemporary utterance of Delphoi, we should conclude that there probably existed very widespread ignorance and doubt about prophecies from the most esteemed shrine of Greece.

      43  Plutarch, who was to be a priest of Delphoi in the second century AD, adds that Sparta on this occasion recorded the privilege of prior consultation, promanteia, which it thereby secured in an inscription on the side of a bronze statue of a wolf at Delphoi. Athens riposted by inscribing the wolf’s other side with a reference to promanteia of its own: Peric., 21.

      44  Compare the new, and bare, information which Thucydides gives at 8.1.1, after reporting in very great detail the history of the Sicilian expedition: that oracle-specialists, manteis and others employing divination had ‘made the Athenians hope (ἐπήλπισαν) to capture Sicily’ (cf. Powell 1979a). Hornblower rightly describes this as ‘a huge analepsis’ (2009, 257). Our knowl­edge of Greek divination suffers, as Hornblower observes, from ‘the many religious silences of Thucydides’ (1991, 183). He writes elsewhere (1992, 170), ‘The religious silences of Thucydides are in their way quite as scandalous as the political silences of Xenophon, for which he is so often denounced.’ While not radically disagreeing, we may note that Thucydides’ clearly-signalled disrespect for political divination (on which Powell 1979b) prevents any suspicion that he might have written, as Herodotos and later Greeks may have done, to commend religious prophecy as a guide to action. That Thucydides tends – for the history of Athens perhaps more thoroughly than for that of Sparta – to play down divination, and to admit its influence through gritted teeth, has the useful effect, perhaps intended, of confirming for the reader the reality of such credulous behaviour as he does record.

      45  Powell (1980).

      46  Plut., Peric., 22f.; Ar., Clouds, 859 with scholia.

      47  The episode recalls Herodotos’ account of repeated instructions to Sparta from an earlier bribed Pythia, to eject the Peisistratid tyranny; above, n. 26.

      48  If each time the only response they got concerned the restoration of Pleistoanax, one effect would have been to deprive them of advice on whatever other matters they were anxiously raising.

      49  Powell (1989). The commander of the Ten Thousand in Asia, Cheirisophos, who is, thanks to Xenophon, one of the most closely described of all Spartans, is shown appealing repeatedly to direct perception: ‘You can see’, ‘Look … and see’, ‘… as you see’, ‘… you can see’ (Xen., Anab. III, 4, 39).

      50  Powell (1980). On Spartan attention to timing, Richer (2007), p. 246, well adduces the report of Diogenes Laertius (II, 1) that in the the sixth century Sparta sought to acquire sundials from Anaximander.

      51  Thuc., I, 61f.; I, 64, 2f., with Powell (1980), p. 99.

      52  Powell (1979), p. 25-31.

      53  Nik., 23 with Powell (1979), p. 27f.

      54  Flower (2008), p. 139 on the significant disappearance from Aristophanic comedy of references to chresmologoi after the failure of the Sicilian expedition. For renewed Athenian regard for military divination after the Peloponnesian War, see the epigraphic evidence concerning Sthorys of Thasos, granted Athenian citizenship in recognition of prophecy given before the Battle of Knidos (394): IG II², 17 with (e.g.) Jacquemin (2000), p. 101.

      55  Powell (2006).

      56  Bommelaer (1981), no. 15; Cartledge (1987), p. 35f., 82-5.

      57  That Lysandros sent his fastest ships on each occasion to follow the withdrawing enemy fleet, to observe the Athenians’ subsequent disembarkation and then to report, could have been done, as Xenophon indeed suggests, in a defensive spirit – to ensure that Sparta’s naval crews only disembarked once it was safe, once Athens’ own crews had done so (Hell. II, 1, 24).

      58  We thus have another statement in Spartan style, combining a broad assertion about the past with claim about a single exception. Indeed, in this short chapter of Thucydides two further statements allege that behaviour of the Spartans was by their standards unusual or unprecedented: V, 63, 2, 4.

      59  For references to this and to the rest of the present paragraph, see Powell (2006).

      60  This episode is the subject of a masterly narrative and analysis in Cartledge (1987), p. 110-15.

      61  In Xenophon’s account, the young Leotykhidas gives away his case by implicitly accepting the claim that Agis refused to acknowledge him, and by arguing instead that the word of his mother should be believed in that she ‘knew much better than he [Agis] did’; Hell. III, 3, 2.

      62  Contrast How and Wells (on Hdt., IX, 37, ad loc.) who state, concerning the sufferings Sparta might impose on the condemned seer Hegesistratos, ‘the Greeks did not use torture except for slaves’. The reality of Kinadon’s conspiracy is doubted by Lazenby, for whom it ‘mayhave been little more than a smokescreen laid by the Spartan authorities to obscure the circumstances which had led to Agesilaos’ coming to the throne’ (1997, 438).

      63  The very brief account of the conspiracy given by Polyainos (II, 14, 1; drawing on Ephoros? – David [1979], p. 244) states explicitly that Kinadon was tortured and that his fellow-conspirators were put to death.

      64  Powell (2006), p. 293.

      65  Grote (vol. 10, ch. 78, p. 165) describes Xenophon’s account of the battle as ‘obscure, partial, and imprinted with that chagrin which the event occasioned to him’.

      66  David suggests that communication between fellow-seers may have been the route by which Agesilaos’ mantis came to know of a plot involving the seer Tisamenos (1979, p. 254). Jehne argues attractively that Xenophon used his narrative of the sacrifices, by which the gods revealed the plot to Agesilaos, to suggest that the latter’s succession to the kingship had indeed been legitimate and as such was divinely approved (1995, p. 170-172).

      67  However, Grote (vol. 9, ch. 73, p. 319) names him among ‘malcontents formidable both from energy and position’.

      68  For Xenopeitheia and her sister Khryse, Ath., 609b with Cartledge (1987), p. 150, 375 and Powell (1999), p. 409f.

      69  The best modern discussion is that of Cartledge(1987), p. 94-96. Also valuable are Bommelaer (1981), p. 223-225; Hamilton (1979), p. 88f., 92-96.

      70  Cartledge (1987), p. 152 for references and discussion.

      71  Possibly this may be why Xenophon himself, the king’s eulogist, does not mention the affair, though cf.Hell. III, 4, 7 with Cartledge (1987), p. 94.

      72  Vol. 9, p. 303f.

      73  See, however, van Wees (1999), p. 23.

      74  The dates used here are, for the most part, those of Cartledge in his Spartan king-lists: (1987), p. 101.

      75  For examples of such modern hindsight, Powell (2008), p. 21f.

      76  On the meanings of these royal funerals see Parker (1989), p. 152f.; Millender (2002), p. 2-11, and above all Cartledge (1987), p. 104f., 332-42.

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