Athenian Democracy and Divination Essay

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Athenian Democracy and Divination

Divination was a prevalent feature in Archaic Greece, as it provided objective advice, to assist people in making appropriate decisions in problematic predicaments. In certain situations its ambiguity allowed decisions to be postponed, or blame to be assigned to others. Divination was also used to explain matters that seemed unexplainable, such as crop failure or drought. This is illustrated in the Homeric epics, which depicts numerous oracle interpreters, such as Calchas, consulting oracles on domestic, as well as, military decisions. Divination was a guiding authority in ancient society. However, during the fifth and fourth century BC, the democratic
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Furthermore, when the Athenians suggest to the Melians that they should become allies with them, against the Spartans, the Melians state:

'…We trust that the gods will give us fortune as good as yours…'[3]

In contrast, the Athenians dismiss the protection of the gods, and state:

'This kind of attitude is not going to be of much help to you in your absurd conquest for safety at the moment'.[4]

Thucydides portrays the Athenians in an arrogant light, which suggests that they will get their comeuppance for such sacrilegious opinions. Furthermore, Thucydides also highlights the scientific approach that the Athenians have towards their domination of the Peloponnese, suggesting that it is the 'law of nature', that they should conquer as much as they can. The rise of freethinking, that the democracy had established, had lead to the neglect of the gods. In comparison, Xerxes, in his conquest to dominate Greece, complies with a dream that is sent from the gods, which indicates to him and Artabanus that he should continue with the Persian wars.[5] Herodotus, writing in the early fifth century, highlights the importance of following divination, whereas, Thucydides, writing in the later fifth century, focuses on decisions made by the people.

The Sicilian expedition, from 415BC,
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