Oracles in Xenophon
Mon Jun 1 02:06:09 2009
The Greeks were well-known for fighting amongst themselves. Alliances between city-states are often full of tension and short-lived, yet their quarrels can last for decades or more. Even within a single city-state there competing factions and no end to the arguments, strife and litigation. A culture not known for rigid social hierarchy might see great benefits from the use of oracles for war and battle. An oracle is a something that will have the respect and reverence of all participants. In a culture so full of competing points of view an oracle can provide a very important source of agreement, unity and coherence at strategic points. This is even more clear in Xenophon’s Anabasis. The ten thousand have a very democratic and egalitarian structure. The almost obsessive use of oracles provides a very helpful form of agreement and continuity for the group. No matter how much it may help there is still the problem that it doesn’t seem to stop them from disagreeing and quarreling about what the oracle means.