A Conspiracy of Heroes and Gods

The following comes from a section where Socrates Scholasticus is discrediting Greek polytheism by reporting on the corruptibility of the oracles

Socrates Scholasticus, 3.23.155-170

“The oracle claims that it is Attis, the one who killed himself because of sex madness, and Adonis, and Dionysus. When Alexander the King of the Macedonians was crossing to Asia, the Amphictiones were trying to please him and the Pythian oracle reported these things:

Zeus, highest of the gods, and Athena Tritogeneia
Honor them, and the lord hidden in a thundrous body,
The one whom Zeus sowed on his noble knees
A helper of Good-law to mortals, Alexander the King!

The divine authority at Pythia prophesied these things. And in this, it used to even flatter powerful people by making gods. For perhaps it it did this for flattery. For why would the oracle say, as it did when apotheosizing the boxer Kleomedes, these things about him:

The last of the Heroes, Kleomêdes the Astupaliean,
Honor him with sacrifices, because he is no longer a mortal.

Because of this oracle, Diogenes the Cynic and Oinomaos the philosopher condemned Pythian Apollo.”

῾Ο μὲν δὴ χρησμὸς ῎Αττιν, τὸν ἐκ μανίας ἐρωτικῆς ἑαυτὸν ἀποκόψαντα, τὸν ῎Αδωνιν καὶ Διόνυσον εἶναι φησί. Τοῦ δὲ Μακεδόνων βασιλέως ᾿Αλεξάνδρου ἐπὶ τὴν ᾿Ασίαν διαβαίνοντος, οἱ ᾿Αμφικτύονες ᾿Αλεξάνδρῳ ἐχαρίζοντο, καὶ ἀνεῖλεν ἡ Πυθία τάδε·

Ζᾶνα θεῶν ὕπατον, καὶ ᾿Αθηνᾶν Τριτογένειαν
Τιμᾶτε, βροτέῳ τ’ ἐν σώματι κρυπτὸν ἄνακτα,
῝Ον Ζεὺς ἀρίσταις γοναῖς ἔσπειρεν, ἀρωγὸν
Εὐνομίης θνητοῖσιν ᾿Αλέξανδρον βασιλῆα.

Ταῦτα τὸ ἐν Πυθοῖ δαιμόνιον ἐχρημάτισεν· ὃ καὶ αὐτὸ τοὺς δυνάστας κολακεῦον ἐθεοποίει· καὶ τοῦτο μὲν ἴσως κολακείᾳ ἐποίει. Τί δ’ ἂν εἴποι τις, ὡς Κλεομήδην τὸν πύκτην ἀποθεώσαντες, ἔχρησαν περὶ αὐτοῦ τάδε;

῞Υστατος ἡρώων Κλεομήδης ᾿Αστυπαλιεύς·
῝Ον θυσίαις τιμᾶθ’, ὡς μηκέτι θνητὸν ἐόντα.
Διὰ μὲν οὖν τὸν χρησμὸν τόνδε Διογένης ὁ Κύων καὶ Οἰνόμαος ὁ φιλόσοφος κατέγνωσαν τοῦ Πυθίου ᾿Απόλλωνος.

File:Oracle of Delphi, red-figure kylix, 440-430 BC, Kodros Painter, Berlin F 2538, 141666.jpg
Oracle of Delphi, red-figure kylix, 440-430 BC, Kodros Painter, Berlin F 2538

 

4 thoughts on “A Conspiracy of Heroes and Gods

  1. How does this show that the oracles were “corruptible”? Alexander was said to have been a particularly pious man when worshipping the Gods. Why wouldn’t They say Alexander should be honored? And as for Kleomedes, he was most likely made a hero to ensure that such a violent soul would not have been left to their own devices (recall that a plague had struck after his death). Wouldn’t you prefer dangerous people be given places in society where their skills could be utilized for the greater good as opposed to allowing then to run rampant? Isn’t that what rehabilitation is all about?

      1. I understand that. I’m just responding to Socrates Scholasticus’ arguments (and of course, anyone who would potentially agree with him). After all , it’s an incredibly hypocritical thing for him to have written considering the early history of Christianity has a period where Christians believed that it was totally fine inciting anger and violence in the hopes that people would kill them and make them martyrs. Sure, that’s not the same as causing a building to fall on some kids but at least the people who would later give offerings to Kleomedes knew what he did was wrong.

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