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.

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~ by severalfourmany on June 1, 2009.

4 Responses to “Oracles in Xenophon”

  1. Mon Jun 1 06:04:51 2009
    Right, but with Xenophon, he held a precarious position as commander as well. One which maybe he was reluctant to accept. He did not seem to have as much confidence about his command hence the predictions. Yet, you are right on about the unifying nature of the oracle.

  2. Mon Jun 1 10:32:04 2009
    Xenophon’s more democratic approach shares the responsibility of command and leadership with many in the army. One of the benefits is that I can’t imagine the army falling apart if Xenophon had been killed in battle, as happened with the Persian general Mardonius at the Battle of Plataea.

  3. Mon Jun 1 15:12:12 2009
    True, but they were coming apart from homesickness. Only the enticement of money held them together even after Xenophon left. Democracy and the military do not usually co-exist together when it comes to command.

  4. […] The broken center would usually spell disaster. The fact that both wings had beaten the Persians and turned toward the center instead of pursuit made the difference. I don’t mean to imply that is was so much an accident but rather a necessity. What I do have trouble seeing is this move as a perfectly executed preformulated tactical plan (unless, of course, it was dictated by one of those oracles.) […]

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