Divine Dependence: Laws Allegedly Made By Human Beings

Aelius Aristedes, A Reply to Plato 2. 38-39

“What of your righteous art of lawmaking which has uncovered great things for human beings? I think this yields, or already has yielded for along time, to the women at the tripod. People travel to Delphi and inquire about the laws of their state. And then they make their laws in accordance with the utterance that comes from the Pythia (as they have since the time of Lykourgos, one whom it is necessary to bring up before many for the sake of argument).

They say, in fact, that he did not make any law for the Spartans without divine assent. But, it was not since Lykourgos the best of the Greeks did not make the laws that the god acquired the belief of making the laws, but because Lykourgos who was the best of the Greeks gave testimony that the words of the Pythia who knew nothing on her own prevailed. She provided answers as seemed best to the god and the god received the reputation for the laws from the Pythia in turn.”

τί δὲ ἡ σεμνή σοι νομοθετικὴ καὶ τὰ μεγάλα ἀνθρώποις εὑρίσκουσα; οἶμαι μὲν παραχωρήσεται, μᾶλλον δὲ πάλαι παρεχώρησεν ταῖς ἀπὸ τοῦ τρίποδος γυναιξί. βαδίζουσί γε εἰς Δελφοὺς καὶ πυνθάνονται περὶ τῶν πολιτειῶν. καὶ τότε τοὺς νόμους τίθενται πρὸς τὴν ἐλθοῦσαν παρὰ τῆς Πυθίας φωνὴν ἀπὸ Λυκούργου πρώτου, τὸν μετὰ πολλοὺς εἰ δεῖ πρῶτον εἰπεῖν χάριν τοῦ λόγου. οὔκουν φασί γ’ ἐκεῖνον οὐδὲν θεῖναι Λακεδαιμονίοις ἄνευ τῆς παρὰ τοῦ θεοῦ φωνῆς, ἀλλ’ ὅμως οὐκ ἐπειδὴ Λυκοῦργος ὁ τῶν Ἑλλήνων ἄριστος ἔθηκεν, οὐ διὰ τοῦθ’ ὁ θεὸς δόξαν εἴληφεν τεθεικέναι τοὺς νόμους, ἀλλ’ ὁ μὲν Λυκοῦργος ἄριστος ὢν τῶν Ἑλλήνων ἐμαρτύρει τὰ τῆς οὐδὲν ἰδίᾳ γιγνωσκούσης Πυθίας νικᾶν, ἡ δὲ ἀπεκρίνατο ὡς ἐδόκει τῷ θεῷ, ὁ δὲ τῷ παρὰ τὴν Πυθίαν μέρει τὴν δόξαν εἴληφε τὴν ἐπὶ τοῖς νόμοις.

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