oracles earth method divine influence dead
ORACLE. It was a universal belief in the ancient world that there is a capacity in the human mind to divine the will of God 0.cavrucliv rc 757 Iiivx4, Plato, Pluedr., 242 C). This capacity is not equally developed in all men, and, practically, a very few persons, in whom it is strong, are distinguished from the mass as IhCf.VTE IS. These are able to understand the methods by which the gods reveal their intentions to men. There occur cases where the gods speak directly to men, where a divine voice is i heard issuing its commands or warnings, but these n- stances are confined, except in a few remarkable historical cases (such as the appearance of Pan to the Athenian messenger, 4 0 B.c., Herod., vi. 105), to the heroic age and to epic: oetry. Setting these aside, we find that the divine will was revealed to the interpreting medium in two ways - by inspiration and by signs. In the former case the divine influence overpowers the soul of the medium and takes entire possession of it for the time. The medium cannot himself bring on a revelation, but is at rare intervals affected by the power of the god, his consciousness ceases, and the god speaks through him words which he is himself unable to control or even to understand. So, for example, the propleetes of Apollo Ptoios gave a response in .the Carian language, which no one except the questioner could understand (Herod., viii. 135). The second method of revelation, by signs, required a distinct art of interpretation ; certain events, phenomena in the heavens or in bird or animal life, the conduct of sacrificial animals and the appearance presented by their entrails, Sze., presaged the will of the god to him who possessed the art of interpreting them. The second method was called artificial (i'vrExvos), in opposition to the first, which is direct and artless (arexvos).
In every case the revelation of the divine will is dependent on the direct act of the god ; he affects the soul of the pAPT IS when and where he pleases ; he sends, when he chooses, the signs from which his intentions can be inferred. There was, however, a belief that at certain places the god gave revelations more frequently than at others. Such places were generally characterized by some marked physical feature. At these places there were established regular institutions, with a staff of priests and prophets, to which the neighbours resorted for counsel ; the Latin term "oracle" (in Greek tcavreia, xprio-T4 p La) is the general name. With regard to these institutions we have to consider (1) their method of interpretation, in so far as this is not most naturally given under the articles treating of the particular localities, and (2) their rank and influence among the Greeks.
had experienced a long development before the time which we know best. Probably this method was originally more widely practised than we can actually trace.
The common method of revelation in hero-oracles and in the oracles of some gods, was through dreams. Hero- oracles were certainly in their earliest form simply oracles of the dead ; the word ipon is a generic term for a dead man. We can trace occasional survivals of the most primitive form of the hero-oracle. The person who seeks advice goes to sleep over the actual grave, and the dead man appears in a dream. A type of the usual method, which was called "incubation" or Eyxoiprtvc,, is the oracle of Amphiaraus near Oropus, beside the spring where the hero had risen from the earth to become a god. The inquirer, after abstaining from wine for three days and from all food for twenty-four hours, slept in the temple on the skin of a ram which be had sacrificed. The oracles of Gam or Ge are closely connected with those of the dead and of heroes. The Earth is giver of responses, as being the home of the dead, who sleep in her womb, but who can be called forth to give counsel to their descendants living on earth. Earth-oracles also belong to a primitive stage of Hellenic religion, and had in historical times either given place to oracles of more developed Hellenic type or occupied a very secondary position. In Olympia it is probable that the oracle of Gaza was the oldest institution, and it is universally recognized in ancient and modern times that the Delphic oracle originally belonged to the same goddess. Probably the cleft in the earth in the Delphic adyton was originally conceived as the passage of communication between the dead under the earth and the living on its surface. A uniform tradition (Pans., x. 5, 3; ./Esch., CU, 1 sq.) recognizes one most important fact : in the progress of Greek history, as religious thought developed, there was a progressive development in the character of the Delphic oracle. Gaya was replaced by Themis, a more moralized conception of the Earth-goddess, as the incarnation of natural order and law ; but Apollo, the highest creation of Hellenic religion, finally occupies Delphi as the prophet and counsellor of his people. The oracles of Apollo work through inspiration. In Delphi the seer was a woman, Pythia, who was thrown into a state of ecstatic frenzy by the influence of a vapour ascending from a cleft in the earth within the adyton, and while in this state uttered words and cries which contained the answer of Apollo. All the methods of interpretation by signs were practised at different oracles in Greece ; even in Apolline oracles, such as the Delphic, the artificial method was employed along with that by inspiration.
life was united. In accordance with this we find that almost all the great lawgivers and sages of the 8th and 7th centuries B.C. were in close relation with the Delphic oracle. All questions of colonization were referred to the oracle, and it is due a good deal to this central guiding influence that the overflow of the teeming population of Greece was directed so systematically. It is instructive to compare the position of the oracles in Greece with those of the kindred races of Asia Minor. In the latter country the god is supreme over his people, the government is a pure theocracy, and the priests, as interpreters of the divine will, are absolute masters of the servants of the god. In Greece it is wholly different. In both cases the oracles are the creation of the national genius, - in Asia Minor Oriental and stationary, in Greece living and progressive. In the earliest time we can trace the influence of the oracles discouragino. the relentless blood-feud, distinguishing classes of murder, and allowing purification and expiation in suitable cases. They make the sanctity of oaths between man and man a special duty ;. Apollo regards even hesitation to keep a pledge as already a sin (Herod., vi. 86 ; cf. i. 159). They are the centre of unions or amphictyonies which bind their members to observe certain duties and show mercy to their fellow-members ; and Delphi, as the oracle of an amphic- tyony including great part Of Greece, had an important share in promoting that ideal unity of the whole country which, though never realized, yet floated always before the Greek mind. The oracles did something towards uniting the efforts of Greeks against foreigners, and towards spreading Greek influence abroad in a systematic way.
As education became more general the qualification of superior knowledge necessary to the proper working of the oracles was more difficult to keep up. At the same time the growth of political life in the states intensified their mutual enmities, and made it impossible for the oracles to maintain an attitude of perfect justice, neutrality, and superiority. Though the custom continued till a late period in Greek history that each state should consult the oracle in difficulties, yet complaints of partiality become frequent. Concurrently with the degradation in this respect there grew a demoralization in the whole tone of the oracles : they were consulted by all in the most trivial matters. It became an object to the priests to facilitate the access of votaries who contributed to the wealth of the temple. Whereas originally the Delphic oracle spoke only once a year, the number of days on which it was open to inquirers was gradually increased ; and other oracles in like manner turned their attention to the wants of every applicant. In Dodona a large number of leaden tablets have been discovered containing the questions addressed to the god by inquirers; they range in date from the end of the 5th century B.C. onwards, and do not give any very high idea of the kind of difficulties in which the god was asked to advise his worshipper.
See Carapanos, Dodone, also an important article in Flockeisen's Jahrbilcher for 1883. The most complete work on oracles is Bouchy Leclerc's Histoire de in divination dans l'antiquitg. (W. M. RA.)