Dr. Mohamed Gamal Al-Kilany
Assistant Professor of Greek and Roman Philosophy
Faculty of Arts in Ismailia – Suez Canal University. , Ismailia, Egypt.
The ancient Greeks did not differ much from the Hebrews in their claim that they were God’s chosen people, and that they were distinct from other peoples and civilizations before them like the ancient Egyptians. If the ancient Greeks described other peoples as being “Barbarians”, this was due to their belief that they were different from other peoples and civilizations in their way of life and mentality. Although western historians praised the Greeks as the owners of the scientific and mental miracle, or what they called the “Greek miracle”, they firmly believed in magic and superstition – temples and prophecies of fortune-tellers such as the prophecies of the Temple of Delphi were the cornerstones of the formation of the foundations and patterns of worship, as well as a powerful influence in all fields of thought, politics, war, and social life in various Greek cities for centuries.
If the ancient Greek’s sense of pride dominated the scene for some time, especially that of their current European descendants, it is necessary to remind them of the following facts:
A. the Greek has neither a prophet nor a legislator explaining the nature of the gods.
B- He does not have scriptures with a specific text in his teachings of the principles of morality.
C. Does not have the main organization of a serial priestly structure.
D. He does not know the dedicated and pious life.
E- He has no straight religious teachings, nor an acceptable system of repentance and atonement.
F- He does not acknowledge the Day of Resurrection and Judgment.
G- He does not believe in divine justice, because his gods compete with him in everything.
It should be noted that the ancient Greeks were not a cohesive nation; rather, they were groups of people conflicting and struggling for centuries; they also communicated with other neighbors and were exposed to new gods forgetting their previous one. If they retained one goddess, they usually got her married to the new god. If a god, they used to make him a son of the new god. They used to do so in fear of bothering the new gods. (1)
The concept of the temple differed among Greeks, (although its religious value was reduced by some Greeks) from other religions, because of its multiplicity of forms according to inherited mythical contexts. The Greeks did not know at first the traditional form of temples as in Egypt, Babylon, and India, as the rituals of worship were performed directly to the image of god embodied on the ground. Then, the house was a temple due to the presence of the holy fire stove (“Hestia”) in it. In addition, roads, mountains, and excavations were also temples so long as they contained a statue or a structure of one of the gods of the Olympus. (2)
Divination and fortunetelling have become a firm belief in Greek culture among commoners and private people alike. Some Greeks have returned the lie of some prophecies to the oracles and their ability to understand the hadiths of the gods. Greek fortunetellers were divided into classes and ranks that reflected their ability to communicate with gods and interpret the mysterious speeches of the gods. The fortunetellers of Zeus temple in Dodon occupied the highest ranks of the oracle; however, they did not attain fame like their Apollo temple counterparts at “Delphi.” The Greeks believed that female oracles had more power of prediction than males; chief among them were “Dyothima” and “Cassandra.” Divination was not spared from fraud and deception; some fortune-tellers used it as a means of collecting money; they used to fabricate news by the god to satisfy those who payed them money. The Fortunetellers played an important role in the fields of politics, culture, and philosophy between the 8th and 5th centuries BC.
(1)H.D. Quito, The Greeks, translated by Abdul Rizk Yousry, reviewe by Dr. Mohammed Saqr Khafaja, Arab Thought House, Cairo. 1962, p261
(2)Dr. Esmat Nassar. Religious Thought in Greece, Al-Alam Publishing and Distribution House, Al Fayoum – Cairo. 2002, p122
I will rely on the historical critical analytical approach to present the following elements:
First: Greek temples and their role in shaping the culture of the Greeks.
Second: Divination and its types in the Greeks.
Third: The effect of divination on the Greek rulers from the eighth to the fifth centuries BC.
Fourth: The effect of divination on Greek philosophers from the sixth to the fifth centuries BC.
First: Greek Temples and their Role in Shaping the Culture of the Greeks.
The Greeks knew the idea of establishing temples since the 6th century BC and were commonly used to house a statue of a deity or as a particular religious emblem. They were not in themselves places of worship but places of gods. They were inspired by the legends of the gods who constructed these temples for themselves. The concept of the temple then developed among the Greeks. (3)
It was associated with the location of the structures embodying the gods; therefore they considered this place a holy sanctuary, where refugees and stalkers were sheltered attaining their security. The temple was not a place for prayer, worship, or the performance of certain rituals. Also, it was not a place that visitors liked; rather, it was a residence for these living gods, where their statues were erected and a fire in front of them would not extinguish the “holy fire”. People often believed that the god manifested himself in the image of the statue, in the sense that there is no difference between his reality and the form embodied in a statue; that’s why the cared for the statues’ washing and clothing. Oracles used to tell people how the statue of god sweats or cried in some cases because people neglected him, or committed some sins. (4)
This makes us feel the naivety of the Greek mentality with its superior ability to believe illusions and superstitions through which Fortunetellers, especially oracles, earned a lot.
(3)The temple in Greece was a rectangular base containing an inner chamber called the Oracle, with a statue of God or gods. Some large temples contained two or three rooms. The hall or retreat was surrounded by an external gallery either on either side of the two entrances or on its four sides. The entrance to the temple was oriented to the east so that the sunlight connects to the statue of the god, and the opposite entrance was located on the west side. The temples were marked by a plethora of columns from the outside, surrounded by a spacious space. Most of the temples were window-free, relying on sunlight from the eastern door.
(4)Dr. Esmat Nassar. Religious Thought in Greece. p. 123
Our question now is: How does this mentality fit into what historians have described as a “Greek miracle”?
The concept of the temple then devolved into a sacred building for all Greeks. The Greek temple included two secret halls:
1- Temenos or Religious Secrets Hall.
In most Greek temples, they were separated and isolated from the temple, so that some people may enter only once a year, or only the oracles may enter; as for female oracles, they may enter only veiled such as the female oracles of Sosipolis temple in the city of Elis; and in the inner temple it was written the word “Adyton”, i.e. forbidden to enter. In other places walking was forbidden, such as the yard of the goddesses “Demeter” and “Kire” in the city of Megalopolis. (5)
2- The Oracle.
It is a sacred place, where people consult Oracles whom they believe they have the power to reveal the will of the gods and predict the future. The English word “Oracle” is given to the fortuneteller or the prophecy itself. The most important structure of the Oracle was in Delphi in central Greece which was dedicated to the god Apollo. The word “Pythia” (6) was given to any female Oracle at Delphi temple, where she worked by sitting on a three-legged bench, often becoming almost faint and speaking hysterically. The Greeks thought that Apollo was speaking through Pythia during her faintness. The message or prophecy conveyed by the Oracles was often unclear and was interpreted by the Oracles of the Temple to the public. Most of the Oracles became dedicated to the god Apollo, whereas some others were assigned to the god Zeus, or other gods.
One of Zeus’s famous structures is found in Dodona in northwestern Greece. People thought that Zeus spoke through the swasith of oak leaves, and the oracle explained it. It is ironical that the Greeks believed that the gods resembled humans in most of their characteristics.
(5)Jeffrey Barander, the Religious Beliefs of the Peoples, translated by Dr. Imam Abdel Fattah Imam, Reviewed of Dr. Abdul Ghaffar Makkawi, Library Medboli I2, Cairo. 1996 pp.55-56
(6) The legend tells that the god Apolloon killed a snake called “Python”, which took Delphi as its sanctuary in the Mesinian period from the 14th to the 11th centuries BC. There were small counties and gatherings in Delphi to worship and sanctify the earth. Jupiter punished him for it and sentenced him to slavery; he spent a long time at Admete king of salvia to take care of his cattle. Since then, the cult of the god Apollo had spread in Delphi, and any Oracle or fortuneteller of the Apollo temple have been called Pythia.
For instance, they thought that the gods ate, drank, reproduced, slept, and walked in markets, diseased, committed crimes, and being led by their sexual desires almost like humans. (7)
However, they built temples for them to draw their help and advice in all aspects of their lives.
Trust in gods and feeling proud of them may have been two of the factors that led the ancient Greeks to feel that they were superior to other human beings; and that they had been chosen by gods to share them the same characteristics. (8)
The ancient Greeks distinguished between the gods of Olympus and other gods inferior to them because they were of a pure animal nature such as Pan, the god of goats, and Philippides, the god of rats, who helped the Greeks to attain victory in their war against the Persians in 490 BC. (9)
The Gods of Olympus, accredited to the Greeks are twelve in number, most of whom born out of adultery, because their father, Jupiter, forcibly cohabited and raped women, whether gods or human beings. They are: Zeus, Hera, (10) Poseidon, Dimitre, (11) Athens, Ares, (12) Aphrodite, Apollo, Artemis, (13) Hephaistos, (14) Hermes, (15) and either Hestia or Dionysus. (16)
(7)Dr. Ali Abdelwahid Wafi, Ancient Greek Literature and its Significance to the Beliefs of Greece and their Social System, Egypt’s Renaissance House, Cairo.1979. p11
(8)S.M. Bora, The Greek Experience, translated by Dr. Ahmed Salama Mohamed El Sayed, the series of 1,000 books (2)”67″ The Egyptian General Book Authority, Cairo.1989.p97
(9) Dr. Abdullatif Ahmed Ali and Dr. Mohamed Saqr Khafaja, Greek Mythology, Egyptian Renaissance Library, Cairo.1959. p37
(10)The goddess Hera or Junon, jupiter’s legitimate wife and sister, the goddess of marriage. She was known for her jealousy and hatred.
(11)Demeter or Ceres, the daughter of Kronos and the sister of Jupiter, the goddess of fertility, agriculture, and land.
(12) The god Ares or Mars, the god of war, the son of Jupiter from his wife Hera.
(13)The goddess Artemis or Diana, the twin sister of the god Apollon, and Jupiter’s daughter, born out of adultery by Laton. Artemis is the goddess of hunting in Greece.
(14) The god Hephaistos, son of Jupiter, from his wife Hera. He was born disfigured and distorted, disliked by his mother Hera and thrown from the sky, to the island of Limnos, with his feet bent from falling and been lame.
(15)Hermes, the god of rhetoric, oration, commerce and thieves; the son of Jupiter who was out of adultery by Mia Maia, the daughter of the god Atlas, who joined the Titans against Jupiter, and sentenced by Jupiter to remain the bearer of the earth.
(16) The god Dionysos or Bachus, the god of wine. He is the son of Jupiter who was born out of adultery by Semele, a human being and the daughter of Cadmus, king of Thebes.
It should be noted that the idea of building temples for the Greeks as a sacred structure was concentrated between the 6th and 5th centuries BC, after King Barclays took the rein after destruction of the Akerbolus Plateau by the Persians. The most famous Greek temples are:
1- Parthenon Temple: It was built in the 6th century BC and destroyed in Greece’s wars with the Persians. It was rebuilt in the 5th century BC, in 447 BC. The Parthenon dedicated to Athens the patron goddess of the city of Athens in ancient Greek mythology. (17)
2- Hera Temple, Olympia: It was built in 550 B.C, in the Greek city of Betom. Hera is the goddess of marriage and love, and the wife of the god Jupiter.
3- Hephaistos Temple. It was built in the 5th century BC. Hephaistos was called the lame god and is the husband of Venus, the goddess of beauty. The temple was founded near the Acropolis, a neighborhood with many foundries and metal shops.
4- Apollo Temple (18). It was built between 450 and 400 BC. It is located on one of the remote mountain slopes of the Peloponnese.
5- Arctium Temple: It was built between 421 and 407 B.C. to honor the Greek hero Erichthonius, it is located on mount Acropolis in Athens, Greece.
6- Zeus Temple (19): It was built in 490 BC in Guerina.
7- Poseidon Temple: It was built in 440 BC in Sonion. Poseidon is the god of the sea.
8- Aphrodite Temple: It was built in 400 BC and is located in Corinth. It is one of the most income-generating temples in Athens, the so-called sacred temple of prostitution, especially after Barclays recognized prostitution and prostitution as a source of public income. Aphrodite is the goddess of beauty, love and reproduction.
In 464 B.C., a man named Xenophon, a native of Corinth, unlike Exinofon the disciple Socrates, who spoke about Socrates in his book Memories (he was a famous runner and winner of the Pentathlon prize at the 464 B.C., allocated 100 young girls to the Temple of God as a sign of thanks. (20)
(17) The goddess Athena or Minerve, goddess of wisdom and the arts. She is Jupiter’s daughter. It was brought by a serial killer of the wise Metis. (18) Apollo: The most famous goddess of Greece, he is the god of predictions, the unseen, poetry, the arts and music, and he is the son of Jupiter brought in by a serial killer of his cousin Latone Latone. He is the twin brother of the God Artemis. (19)Zeus or Jupiter, the most famous goddess of Greece. He was well known for his anger and irritability. And the love of revenge and dullness of the mind and the purity of his sexual desires. He did not like any belle of goddesses or human beings until he raped her. (20)The goddess Aphrodite: the goddess of beauty, love and reproduction. She’s Jupiter’s daughter.
Therefore, we can say that the idea of building temples for the ancient Greeks was founded only because of the Greek’s feeling that he was without gods protecting him or guiding him to the right, especially with his jealousy of other civilizations that preceded him and his contemporary, which are pursued in their lives in an ideological way that demonstrates the value of human life (21), unlike the ancient Greeks, whose need for the gods was to anticipate and predict the future for their common interests, so long as they believed that they do not differ from them in their human needs.
Second: Types of Divination for the Greeks.
Divination was best known to the Greeks in terms of its ability to predict the will of the gods and other supernatural entities (such as demons and ghosts) and future events, particularly their ability to bring the human self in harmony and peace with the gods. This has made all Greeks generally fully subject to their prophecies and speculations, whether for fear or begging for gods. We can explain the difference between the Oracle and the Fortuneteller for the Greeks as follows:
The Oracle was the collector of prophecies and servant of god, coordinator of religious rites and rituals, and collector of sacrifices and vows. He benefited from the Fortuneteller in collecting the prophecies of each human being according to his own circumstances, and then used them to make deals with those who have the same conditions. (22) As for the Fortuneteller, he was the receiver of the prophecy and its interpreter; he depended on the alleged mediation between human beings and multiple gods. Since the Fortuneteller needed a characteristic distinguishing him from the rest of humanity, the claim, illusion and superstition that he went from coexistence with human beings to cohabitation with god to ask him and get answers from him appeared and people believe disbelieving that. It is customary among people to have worldly and religious counseling through fortune-tellers, the spiritual mediators with a distinct ability by god to deal with and consult them. (23)
(21)Herodotus: The History of Herodotus, translated by Abdelilah Al-Mallah, reviewed by Dr. Ahmed Al-Saqqaf, Dr. Hamad Bin Sray, Abu Dhabi Cultural Complex, United Arab Emirates. 2001, P.65
(22) Peter. T Struck, A Cognitive History of Divination in Ancient Greece. JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF IDEAS, University of Pennsylvania. JANUARY 2016.p11.
(23) Sarah Iles Johnston and Peter T. Struck, Studies in Ancient Divination, Leiden: Brill. 2005,p.231
The Greeks believed in two types of divination:
First: Experience-based divination.
It was called Divination as the fortune teller examined the internal organs of animals being sacrificed for the sake of gods; he also monitored roots of birds and stars, and interpreted dreams. (24) The Greeks paid (pessimism) much attention, especially before the outbreak of battles or doing anything in their lives such as marriage, reproduction, planting, and harvesting.
In case of the fault of the prophecy, the Greeks had to look for other explanations if the gods failed to fulfil their obligations to human beings; instead of accusing them of treachery and betrayal, they attributed the mistake to the oracle or Fortuneteller. For example, Sophocles (497-405 B.C.), the tragic poet who served as an Oracle in the temple of the god Easclipieus, in his plays Women of Thrace and Oedipus the King, emphasized his faith in the prophecies of Oracles and Fortunetellers. (25) He says: ” If the prophecy deviates from correctness – this is due to its misinterpretation by its recipients – and that the mistake is theirs. It is expected that the prophecy is in vague words, since there is no need for gods to have their speeches clear like those of human beings’.” (26)
Second: Inspiration-based divination.
It was carried out in a coma-like situation, where the spirit of god related to this person and giving him the teachings and news directly, articulating them in his name, after performing many rituals that qualified him for this connection. Such rituals began by washing in the holy spring and then evaporating and being absorbed in the things close to the god. (27) They thought that women were more prepared to receive revelation than men. So three female Oracles, each at least half a century old, were trained to know the will of the god Apollo while they were in a coma-like state.
(24)Will Durant, The Story of Civilization Volume III, The Life of Greece C2, translated by Mohamed Badran, Egyptian General Book Commission, Cairo. 2001, p113
(25) Oedipus the King, by Sophocles, is about king (“Leos”) king of Thebes, who married and did not have children, so he went to the Temple of Delphi to find a solution to his problem. The oracle came to him with a prophecy that he would have a son who would kill him and marry his mother. So king Leos was upset and decided to leave his wife so as not to give birth to any children. Before she gave birth to her son Oedipus told him not to believe the prophecy of the oracle. See Dr. Ahmed Ottoman, Greek Literature: is a World Heritage. pp. 336-337
(26)S.M. Bora, The Greek Experience, p.86
() (27)W.jaeger, The theology of the Early Greek Philosophers, Oxford. 1968, p56
One of the illusions of sensory divination was that a foul-smelling gas emerged from a hole in the ground under the structure and people attribute it to the decomposition of the snake that Apollo killed in that place. The female Oracle, who would receive the revelation, sat on a high three-legged chair placed above the slit, inhaled the holy stench, chewed the anesthetic foliage, and fell unconscious and whereby her body shrank, and then the revelation came down on her in such a state. She uttered intermittent words translated by the Oracles to the listening people and often the final answer was likely to be differently interpreted. Therefore, the Fortuneteller was always honest, no matter what happened. (28) The Greek Oracles and Fortunetellers became a plaything in the hands of other people; they sometimes accepted bribes articulating what those people wanted them to say.
In most cases, Fortunetellers’ predictions agreed with the most influential figures in Greece. They provided sacred footing for all the corruption of the rulers or the rich in the country. By the 8th century B.C., Delphi became known as the source of Bethea’s divine powers, and the inspiration of the fortune-tellers and oracles, most of whom were women according to their previous beliefs. The female oracle or fortune-teller should be over 50 years old, abandon her husband and dress as maids, according to Plutarch. (29)
Divination established the Greeks’ belief in and good luck and bad omen, linking the fate of individuals to certain events and dates and requiring certain hours to perform certain acts so that they would not be cursed. (30) For example:
a- Their beliefs that: A boy born on the 20th of the month is expected to be intelligent.
b- The most appropriate day for the birth of a male child is the tenth day of the month.
c- The most appropriate day for the birth of girls is the fourth day of each month.
d- The 4th and 24th days of each month is not suitable for any work.
(28) Gilbert Murray, Five Stages of Greek Religion, Oxford. 1974, pp. 67
(29) Plutarch, The History of Greek Emperors and Philosophers, translated by Gerges Fathallah.m1, The Arab House of Encyclopedias, Beirut. 2010.
(30) Dr. Esmat Nassar, Religious Thought in Greece, Al-Alam Publishing and Distribution House, Fayoum – Cairo. 2002, p.109
e- The fifth day of the month is a bad omen for those who did not fulfill in their vows.
f- Avoiding ingesting women and having sex with them during the day and the full-moon days, believing that this act should not be seen by the sun or the moon, as well as any human beings.
g- Their pessimism of the left-hand, because it is the hand with which Kronos cut off his father’s penis.
h- Avoiding sitting at a table of thirteen people.
i- Their pessimism of number thirteen.
j- Panic from the owls’ squeals.
k. Escaping from the madman believing that an evil ghost may enter into the one he deals with. (31)
As for the means of divination multiplied by the multiplicity of temples, especially with the multiplicity of gods and the functions of each of them. We find that the method of divination Delphi temple was to sit on a three-legged chair with and enter into a coma, whereas that of Zeus temple in the city of Dodona was dependent on the method of colored grains, where the person was pulling a set of grains in different colors meaning yes, or no. They also relied on the sounds of the rustle of oak leaves. The divination of the city of Yves used 256 small statues numbered on a sand board that the fortune-teller interpreted. (32)
We also find many examples of conflicting prophecies in order to manipulate the affairs of the Greeks and their future. For example, according to the historian Herodotus, before the Persian invasion (480 B.C.) a fortune teller said that “After seeing Zeus who gave you Athens and the wall, he will help you and your children.” (33)
According to this prophecy, there are two things:
1- There is nothing wrong with Athens going to war against the Persians.
2- The Victory of the Athenians over the Persians.
(31) J. Rose, Ancient Greek Religion, translated by Ramzi Abdo Gerges, reviewed by Dr. Mohammed Salem Salem, The 1,000-book series (569), Egypt’s Renaissance house, Cairo. 1965.p45
(32) Herodotus, Histories, in 2 Vol., translated by A. D. Godley, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, London. 1920.vol 1.p77.
(33) Herodotus, History of Herodotus, pp. 63-64
However, the following prophecy made everything confusing and illogical, as the oracle warned the people of Athens not to go to war and said: “Blessed Salamis, you will be the children of the deceased mother, if you scatter like seeds; and if you meet, You’ll be.” According to this prophecy, If Athens enters the Naval Salamis war against the Persians, it will be defeated. Themistocles (the leader of Greece during the Persian Wars of 480 B.C.) appeared and dared the Greek gods and the superstitions of Delphi divination, where he saw that they did not explain the fate of Athens or their gods; war was better than sitting and waiting for death. (34)
Another example of the lying of the Greek oracles and fortune-tellers, is the care of the god Apollo to the oracle Cassandra, where Apollodores narrated that in Greek mythology Cassandra is the daughter of Priam, king of Troy and Hecuba; she was loved by the god Apollo, who promised her the grace of foresight, divination, and predictability, if she responded to his wishes and turned herself into him. But once she got that talent, she mocked Apollo and refused to achieve it. Apollo took revenge by making all her predictions lies. (35)
Two of the most famous prophecies given by her were:
1. Before the birth of Prince Paris, she predicted that the newborn would be the cause of the destruction of Troy. So, the king gave an order of killing the baby after his birth. But the servant that ordered the murder of the young prince left him in the open, where Paris grew up as a shepherd.
2- The Oracle Cassandra warned the Trojans not to take the wooden horse as a gift of the Greeks in the Trojan War into their city, but the Greek prisoner Sinon managed to convince them that the horse was sacred and would bring them the protection of the gods. (36)
(34) Plutarch, The History of Greek Emperors and Philosophers, p. 190
(35) Apollodorus, Gods & Heroes of the Greeks, The Library of Apollodorus, translated by Michael Simpson, The University of Massachusetts Press. 1976, p205
(36) Ibid., p. 305
We conclude that the Greek divination especially influenced the Greek mentality by establishing the idea of their contact with the gods, in particular their ability to intercede with the gods to change their destiny despite the Greeks’ belief that the destiny was subjected to by both gods and human beings. Their belief was due to the idea that all people were subject to the three gods of destiny (Clottus, Lajestius, and Atropos) (37) in both heaven and earth. (38)
Third: The effect of divination on the Greek rulers from the 8th to the 5th centuries BC.
The Greek rulers did not differ much from the general public and the wise persons in terms of their faith in the prophecies of the oracle, especially their consultation in all of Greek affairs, whether political or economic. The Spartans assigned a man of an oracle to advise kings and serve as their legal councilors. They decided to attend all the sessions held by the senate. In dangerous matters, they used to consult ” Delphi”, “Jupiter” or “Dodona” oracles. Lycurgus (800-730 B.C.), who ruled the Spartans, enacted his laws authorized by Apollo divination in Delphi. When “Lizander” tried to stop it, people rejected it in fear of the authority behind divination they had inspired. Moreover, the rulers of Sparta were not convinced of their affairs during the day; so they slept in a temple in “Pasivy” to see dreams while sleeping, because they believed that the revelation was true if they received it while sleeping comfortably. (39)
Herodotus tells us that the war between Crusius (595-547 B.C.), king of Lydia, and the Persian king Curish in 585 B.C. ended with the solar eclipse predicted by the first Greek philosopher, “The Malten The Thalis.” The two armies affirmed their refusal to continue the war and stopped fighting, fulfilling this prophecy.
The second war between them was a quarter of a century later, around 560 BC; it was initiated by Crosius who consulted the oracle of the Delphi temple, for whom he had the greatest respect. She predicted that if he crossed Hallis river, he would destroy the strongest empire.
(37) The Greek gods of destiny are A- Cluto: the youngest of them who spins the rope of life from black and white threads. B. Lajestis: who makes this rope to be durable or aloe. C. Atropos: The eldest, who cuts this rope in parts until it fades. See (20) w.jaeger. The Theology of the Early Greek Philosophers, Oxford. 1968. See Also.H. Frank fort, Before and After Philosophy, London. 1959, p23
(38) See Dr. Ali Abdel Wahed, Ancient Greek Literature and its Significance to the Beliefs of Greeks and their Social System. Egypt’s Renaissance House, Cairo. 1979, pp. 9-10
(39) Will Durant, The Story of Civilization Volume III, The Life of Greece C2, translated by Mohamed Badran, p. 96 Also: Jean-Jacques Chevalier, History of Political Thought “From the City – State to the Nation – State”, translated by Mohamed Arab Sassila, University Foundation for Studies, Publishing and Distribution, Beirut. 1985, p. 37-38.
He did so and the prediction came true; but unfortunately, it was his empire that collapsed. This war resulted in the Persian’s domination over the coast of Eaga sea in 548 BC. (40)
As for the son of King Crosius, he was a proper boy except being deaf and dumb. In the days of his power, Crosius did everything that a king could do so that his son could lead a good safe life. When the king wanted to confirm his son’s future, he consulted the Delphi oracle.
The oracle’s answer was:
Lady who reigns many nations, the fool Crosius.
Don’t ask to hear the missing sound in your palace.
That is, the voice of your son, it’s better if he remains deaf.
Because his first words will be uttered on the day of your death.
Herodotus narrates that when the city fell into the Persians’ hands, one of them fell on Crosius and was about to kill him, not knowing who he was. When Crosius saw the man, he did not try to avoid him paying no attention being alive or dead. As deaf son saw the Persian soldier rushing towards his father, king Crosius, he horribly cried “Do not kill him, man; he is king Crosius. (41)
When the Persian king wanted to test what some fortunetellers said that Crosius had a share of the powers of the gods, and that the gods would save him from the fire, king Kurash put Crosius upon a pile of wood sitting fire to it. He did so to find out the truth of the Greek oracles Claim that their gods would save Crosius. But, no one came for the rescue of Crosius who died being burned by the fire saying “No human being knows happiness in this life.” (42)
Solon (640-560 B.C.) also predicted Zeus’ revenge based on his belief that his anger might slow down, though it was nevertheless inevitable and certain. He says,
“That is how the curse of Zeus comes true – unlike humans,
Zeus doesn’t rush to anger at everything that comes.
(40) Herodotus, The History of Herodotus, translated by Abdelilah Al-Mallah. P66
(41) Ibid., p. 70
(42) Ibid., p. 71
There is no escape for anyone with a heart with a sin out of his own.
But in the end, he knows the truth of the wrong doers in absolute clarity.
One person may be punished now, another later. (43)
What makes the oracles predictions more debatable, and what they claim is out of their imagination is that some Greek rulers sometimes took the oracle’s prophecy by force directing it to their satisfaction. For example, after his victories over the Locris, Philomelus forced Pythia to give him a definite prophecy; (44) when she refused to sit on the three-legged chair, King Philomelus dragged her by force; she could not resist his violence and said to him “You are allowed to do whatever you like.”
The same situation was repeated with Alexander the Great, who visited the oracle in the days considered bad omen for the Greeks; the fortune-teller refused to give him a prophecy; so Alexander the Great dragged and sat her on the three-legged chair. She said to him “You will never be conquered, my son.” (45) This means that the oracle was not respected by some Greek kings, because they thought themselves to be gods. Some others exploited them to serve their political and economic purposes. This confirms the idea that divination influenced some rulers who believed in their predictions asking for her help to achieve victory over their enemies, and even citizens, whether the rulers were fair or not.
Fourth: The effect of divination on Greek philosophers between the 8th and 5th centuries BC.
From the 6th to the 5th centuries BC, philosophers were influenced by divination and predictions beginning from Theales 640 BC and his interpretation of the magnet attraction to iron believing that it has a spirit which moves it. “The magnet stone has a spirit that attracts iron.” He claimed so to explain the movement of living and non-living beings such as iron. (46)
Hercules 505 BC confirmed that he had been given the ability to interpret divine wisdom.
(43) S.M. Bora, The Greek Experience, translated by Dr. Ahmed Salama Mohamed El Sayed, The series of 1,000 books (2)”67″ The Egyptian General Book Authority, Cairo. 1989, p91.
(44) Unlike Philomelus, he is the son of the god Dimiter and Iasion, the brother of Plutos, Plutos was very rich, but he did not give any of his wealth to his brother, and philomelus invented the cart or the plow.
(45) Dr. Mohammed Hassan Wahba, The Prophecies of Delphi Oracle and the Reasons for its Ambiguity, Cairo. 1983, pp, 40-41
(46) Aristotle., the Self, He was transferred to Arabic by Dr. Ahmed Fouad Al-Ahwani, reviewed him on the Greek father George Shehata Qanati, Arabic Books Revival House, Cairo. I.1. 1949. K1. F1 405.
In an interview with his friend Aqriton, Socrates says: “I will die in three days; in a dream, I saw a beautiful lady who shouted my name, and recited this verse by Humor: Humans will encounter you, in the morning of the third day; and then you are on the beach of Bethea. (47)
Plato had a higher vision of divination; he confirmed that the structure of the liver in the mortal part of man was associated with two functions: prediction and divination. he says: ” God has given the oracle the ability to understand intelligently through the making of liver within man; and that proper divination does not happen in consciousness; rather, it occurs in a sleep-like state where the human being’s power of realization is chained.” (48) Plato, indeed, links prediction of the unseen or divination to a state of mania. He says: “The greatest blessings come to us through mania when it is a divine gift.” He gives us an evidence by saying: “The divination of the Delphi and Dodona temples has brought countless bounties thanks to their mania; such bounties may be related to private matters, or public affairs. Otherwise, when they are in full consciousness, their efforts reach trivial things or nothing at all.” (49)
Plato considers the art of predicting the unseen to be one of the most beautiful arts. The ancients believed that as “Mantike” was more superior to “Rdionistike, mania coming through god is more superior to human wisdom. Plato objected to the name of the oracle because of their place and divine role. He said “Those who call them “oracles” are ignorant of the fact that this sect of assistance of the gods is more superior to all human beings, since they interpret vague words and closed visions; that is why we should not call them fortune-tellers, but good-assistance who are to interpret god’s speeches. (50) In any case, divination has negatively influenced the Greek mentality, making it live captive to superstitions and false speculations. The aim behind this was that the ancient Greeks wanted to establish the idea that they had gods like the Old East civilizations, even though there was a difference in the concept of divinity between the Old East and the Greek. However, divination transplanted the illusion that the oracles were related to gods, and that they played the role of a mediator between gods and human beings in an attempt to establish the idea of divinity on one hand and to deceive people on the other.
(47) S.M. Bora, The Greek Experience, p. 97
(48) Plato, Timius. investigated and presented by Albert Revo, translated by the father Fouad Gergy Barbra, Publications of the Syrian General Book Authority for Writers, Damascus. 2014, 72A, p. 298.
(49) Plato, Vidros Dialogue, translated and presented by Dr. Amira Hilmy Matar, Gharib printing, publishing, and distribution house, Cairo. 2000, F244S. P.59
(50) Plato, Timius Dialogue, P72B. P. 299
We conclude that most of the scientific and philosophical errors, particularly the religious ones found in the ancient Greek mentality between the 8th and 5th centuries BC, are due to the influence of divination on the Greek mentality, and the pressures it exerted to undermine human thought by linking everything to the prophecies and superstitions of gods with human qualities that do not deserve to be worshipped or offered sacrifices.
In fact, the ancient Greek, with all the aura surrounding him as propagated by historians, was thought to be the owner of a creative mind, whose philosophy surpassed the civilizations of the Ancient East, and the Greek miracle. But, in truth, he was deceived by the oracles and fortunetellers who abused people under the illusion of providing them with the gods’ satisfaction and blessing. The oracles exploited the human beings’ desire to foreshadow the future by providing them with directed predictions. The ancient Greek resorted to these supernatural powers neglecting their mental and physical powers to attain victory over their opponents, for instance. Instead, they used to consult the oracle in every matter believing that the gods would fight and achieve on behalf of them.
This contradiction between the reality of the ancient Greek and the rant of historians about the Greek miracle, particularly the West and its civilization, makes us think carefully about all the ideas and scientific theses presented by the West, which are incompatible with its ideologies or way of life in that historical period, which was dominated by myths and superstitions in general. This confirms the idea that the ancient Greek did not have a religious vision or doctrine to believe in, because their religion was prepared by poets in the form of superstitious legends such as the Iliad and Odyssey by Homer, and the Theogonia or the Descendants of the Gods by Hesiod. Nevertheless, such ideas were adopted by wise philosophers and poets, as well as common people.
The present study confirms that the ancient Greeks’ idea of building the temple was not as a place for worship or prayer, but as buildings inhabited by living gods, from their point of view, and supervised by oracles as mediators to make a compromise between gods and human beings. Although some Greeks rejected some claims of the oracles with their false prophecies, such as Themistocles in 480 B.C., who dared the gods and prophecies of the oracle not to fight the war against the Persians, and fought it with his army and achieving victory over the Persians. Common Greek people could not row against the mainstream and believed in divination in fear of gods’ infinite powers. We saw another of several models that forced the oracle to interpret the prophecies as they wanted, or to make the god say what these rulers wanted, like Philomelus and Alexander the Great. This confirms the idea that the oracle and its prophecies are a form of amusement, deception and superstition that influenced and shaped the consciousness of the ancient Greek between the 8th and 5th centuries BC.
Peter. T Struck, A Cognitive History of Divination in Ancient Greece. JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF IDEAS. University of Pennsylvania. JANUARY 2016..
Sarah Iles Johnston and Peter T. Struck: Studies in Ancient Divination .Leiden: Brill, 2005
Herodotus, Histories, in 2 VoL , translated by, A. D. Godley, Cambridge: Harvard University Press; London, 1920.
Apollodorus, Gods & Heroes of the Greeks: The Library of Apollodorus, translated by Michael Simpson, The University of Massachusetts Press,1976..
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1() Dr. Mohamed Gamal Al-Kilany ,Roman Cynicis and Humanism—interartes – LITERATURA-ARTA-CULTURA- Constanta,Romaia AnuI VII. Augustus’- 2019.
Dr. Mohamed Gamal Al-Kilany ,Lying according to Aristotle, Augustine, and Jacques Derrida, interartes-LITERATURA-ARTA-CULTURA- Constanta,Romaia AnuI VII .October 2020.