Oedipus on a Pale Horse, Journey through Greece in Search of a Personal Mythology Novelsmithing, The Structural Foundation of Plot, Character, and Narration The Mysteries - Daughter of Darkness  Story Alchemy: The Search for the Philosopher's Stone of Storytelling 

But what happened after all the dead were finally buried? Does the story end there? And the answer is no, it doesn’t. At the end of The Suppliant Women, the sons of the seven dead generals are brought on stage and told that they were to avenge the death of their fathers by once again attacking Thebes. The sons were called the “Epigoni”, the “after-born”. We don’t have a surviving tragedy where the sons perform this duty, but we do know the result from the myths that come down to us from Apollodorus. The sons returned to succeed at the task failed at by their fathers. They burned Thebes.

Apollodorus:

Ten years later the sons of those who had died, who were called Epigoni, undertook an expedition against Thebes to avenge their fathers’ deaths. When they consulted the oracle, the god prophesied victory if Alcmaeon commanded the army. … They chose Alcmaeon to lead them and made war on Thebes. The members of the expediton were: Alcmaeon and Amphilochus, sons of Amphiaraus; Aegialeus, son of Adrastus; Dionmedes, son of Tydeus; Promachus, son of Pathenopaeus; Sthenelus, son of Capaneus; Thersander, son of Polyneices; and Euryalus, son of Mecisteus.

First they destroyed the neighboring villages. They were then attacked by the Thebans under the command of Laodamus, the son of Eteocles, and fought bravely. Laodamas killed Aegialeus and Alcmaeon, Laodamas. After his death the Thebans withdrew inside the walls. On the advice of Teiresias they sent a herald to the Argives to negotiate a truce and then, putting their wives and children into wagons, fled from the city. They arrived by night at the spring called Tilphussa. After drinking from it Teiresias died. ...

The Argives, learning later of the flight of the Thebans, entered the city, looted it, and pulled down the walls. They sent part of the booty, along with Teiresias’ daughter Manto, to Apollo at Delphi, for they had vowed that if they captured Thebes they would dedicate to him the finest of the spoils.

Why Teiresias escaped without his daughter is not known. But Manto was taken to Delphi and served as priestess, Pythia, there for many years until she was ordered by Apollo to found a colony in Asia. Diodorus Siculus, a 1st century AD Greek historian, also provides a little more information about Manto at Delphi:

This maiden possessed no less knowledge of prophecy than her father, and in the course of her stay at Delphi she developed her skill to a far greater degree; moreover, by virtue of the employment of a marvellous natural gift, she also wrote oracular responses of every sort, excelling in their composition; and indeed it was from her poetry, they say, that the poet Homer took many verses which he appropriated as his own and with them adorned his own poesy. And since she was often like one inspired when she delivered oracles, they say that she was also called Sibylla, for to be inspired in one’s tongue is express by the word sibyllainein.

The last bit of her story comes from Pausanias:

… when Polyneices’ son Thersander and the Argives captured Thebes, Manto was brought with the other prisonsers to Apollo at Delphi, though her father Teiresias met his fate on the journey at Haliartia. The god sent them out to found a colony, so they crossed over by ship to Asia, and when they reached Klaros the Cretans [who had settled there] came out against them under arms and brought them before Rakios [their king]. Rakios found out from Manto who they were and why they had come, and took her for his wife, accepting her people as citizens of the colony. It was Mopsos the son of Rakios and Manto who completely expelled the Carians from the country. [They] swore a treaty of union with the Greeks of Colophon and lived on equal terms with them….

But the story of her son continues at Colophon because of a contest between Mopsus and another great seer, Calchas who was with the Greek forces at Troy. Following the siege of Troy, Calchas realized those who returned home would not fare well and chose himself to drift along the coast of Asia to Colophon. Apollodorus tells of his conflict with Mopsus:

Amphilochus, Calchas, Leonteus, Podalirius, and Polypoetes left their ships at Ilium [Troy] and traveled by land to Colophon. There they buried Calchas the seer. For it had been foretold that he would die if he met a seer wiser than himself. They were guests of Mopsus, son of Apollo and Manto, who engaged in a contest with Calchas in the art of divination. When Calchas asked him how many figs were growing on a wild fig tree nearby, Mopsus answered, “Ten thousand and a bushel and one fig over,” and the answer turned out to be correct. Mopsus then asked Calchas how many pigs a pregnant sow was carrying in her womb and when was she due to give birth to them. When Calchas answered eight, Mopsus smiled and said, “Calchas, you fall short of true prophecy but I, who am the son of Apollo and Manto, have a wealth of keen vision. I say that there are not eight, as Calchas says, but nine in the womb, all males, and that they will be born tomorrow exactly at the sixth hour.” When it turned out to be so, Calchas died of a broken heart….

But even this isn’t the final note in the genealogy of the ancient Greek seers. In their book People of the Sea, The Search for the Philistines, by Trude and Moshe Dothan, we find the following:

The last version of his [Mopsus’] biography was preserved by the fifth-century BC Lydian historian Xanthus. Xanthus placed Mopsus’ greatest feat at the Philistine city of Ashkelon, where Mopsos cast the local goddess and her son into the pond of the city, thereby destroying the power of the local cult.

No other Hebrew judge … was remembered for his physical prowess (or erotic exploits) as were the Greek heroes. Samson'’ spiritual strength—if it could be called that—was of a completely different nature; he delighted in posing riddles.

In this respect he resembled Mopsos. But there are other parallels. His exploits at various places were memorialized by names, such as the “Hill of the Jawbone,” where he slew a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass, or the “Spring of the Caller,” where after an appeal to God his thirst was quenched. Finally, like Mopsos, in a daring raid on another Philistine capital, Gaza, Samson laid low the prestige of the local god Dagon.

No one knows if a connection between Mopsus and Samson really existed although Samson’s tribe, called the Dan, was remarkably like that of the Danaäns who fought in the Trojan War.

But following the Trojan War, the Mycenaean Civilization collapsed and a great migration to the coast of Asia occurred. The reason for the collapse is not fully known, but many of the Greek palaces were burned by a mysterious Sea People. The Sea People have been connected with the Philistines, and some have wondered at apparent connections between the Philistines and the ancient Greeks. A rather startling connection is that Goliath was in all probability Greek. His armor and battle tactics [that of calling out another single combatant to settle the dispute one-on-one] were unmistakably Greek.

The other part of the story of course is: What happened to the descendents of Oedipus? And we learn that from Herodotus. (See the attachment.) Oedipus last known descendent, Theras, went to the island of Calliste where he made himself king over the descendents of Cadmos left there when he originally left Phoenicia searching for his sister Europa. Theras changed the name of the island to Thera, for himself, but the island is today known as Santorini.

Recent archaeological discoveries on Santorini point to an irruption of the volcanic island in the year 1628 BC. The irruption destroyed an advanced civilization there of which we have no record. The only possible word we have of this catastrophe is the description of the destruction of Atlantis provided by Plato. Many have come to believe that Santorini was indeed Atlantis.


Optional Reading

The Sanctuary of Demeter and Kore at Eleusis by Kevin Clinton 

The Heraion at Samos by Helmut Kyrieleis.

Both these articles are from a book on Greek sanctuaries. The first gives a good description of the ceremonies leading up to the Mysteries. The second I’ve provided to give you a description of a major site on the island of Samos devoted to Hera to let you know that she was worshiped and not just known for her jealousy over Zeus’ adulteries.

Myth and Cult, The Iconography of the Eleusinian Mysteries by Kevin Clinton.

This contains the major portion of a monogram devoted to Eleusis and the ancient texts concerning the Mysteries. It will also provide an alternative glimpse of what might have gone on in the Mysteries.

Consolation to His Wife by Plutarch.

You encountered the writing of Plutarch (2nd century AD) before in his biography of Theseus. Remember that Plutarch was a priest of Apollo at Delphi for many years. This time, in keeping with the theme of death for this lecture, I’ve selected a letter Plutarch [who was away from home at the time he wrote it] sent to his wife after learning that their two-year-old daughter had just died. This is a touching account and demonstrates both the mourning customs and how fond he was of his little daughter and also how concerned he was about his wife. We’ve heard a lot of derogatory things said about women while reading the tragedies and you might have the idea that men didn’t care about the female members of their families at all. This just simply wasn’t true as is demonstrated in this short piece, although again a portion of the letter is devoted to keeping his wife under control during grieving.

The Greek Way of Death by Robert Garland.

Death has been a prominent theme in all the tragedies we’ve read and this book by Robert Garland has the best discussion of death and funeral customs I’ve found anywhere.

Marriage to Death by Rush Rehm.

From the first reading of the ancient texts [Homeric Hymn to Demeter], one element has reappeared more frequently than any other, ‘marriage to death’. Rehm discusses this subject in detail. I’ve excerpted the chapters that pertain to the works we’ve read.

Frogs by Aristophanes.

I thought it would be appropriate to end all this murder and suicide with a little comic relief. Many elements of Greek myth are reenacted in this comedy. It provides a description of the Underworld and also allows us to see and hear a chorus of initiates to the Mysteries. Plus, and this is the great attraction, it contains a debate on the art of writing tragedies by Aeschylus and Euripides who appear as character in the play. Also we see Aristophanes’ irreverence by his portrayal of the god Dionysus as a very human character.

Timaeus and Critias by Plato.

The story of Atlantis as told by Plato is contained in the Timaeus and the Critias dialogues. This is the complete source material for the origin of the myth. Everything ever written about Atlantis has its origin in these words. The bit about Atlantis in the Timaeus only concerns the first five pages. The Critias is very short but is all about Atlantis. I’ve also included an appendix from another book that discusses Atlantis and provides a layout of the city according to Plato’s discussion.

You have already seen part of the Timaeus in the readings I provided last time on divining by entrails. This time I want to focus on the particular part that refers to Atlantis. This will give you plenty of background on the Atlantis ‘myth’ for our last class where we’ll discuss the archeological findings at Santorini [Akrotiri] which many people are beginning to believe was Atlantis.

Black Athena, The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization by Martin Bernal.

The excerpts I’ve provided here will give you additional information on the volcanic eruption of Santorini in 1628 BC and the collapse of Mycenaean civilization following the Trojan War in 1200 BC. It also contains and interesting discussion of the burning of Thebes and the Oriental cylinder seals found in its ashes.

Excerpt from Plutarch, The Histories.

The following event occurred during the Persian invasion of 480 BC.

The following is a tale told by Dicaeus, the son of Theocydes, an Athenian, who was at this time an exile, and had gained a good report among the Medes [the Persians]. He declared that after the army of Xerxes had, in the absence of the Athenians, wasted Attica, he chanced to be with Demaratus the Lacedaemonian in the Thriasian plain, and that while there, he saw a cloud of dust advancing from Eleusis, such as a host of thirty thousand men might raise. As he and his companion were wondering who the men, from whom the dust arose, could possibly be, a sound of voices reached his ear, and he thought that he recognised the mystic hymn to Bacchus (the Iocchus song). Now Demaratus was unacquainted with the rites of Eleusis, and so he inquired of Dicaeus what the voices were saying. Dicaeus made answer-

"O Demaratus! beyond a doubt some mighty calamity is about to befall the king's army! For it is manifest, inasmuch as Attica is deserted by its inhabitants, that the sound which we have heard is an unearthly one, and is now upon its way from Eleusis to aid the Athenians and their confederates. If it descends upon the Peloponnese, danger will threaten the king himself and his land army- if it moves towards the ships at Salamis, 'twill go hard but the king's fleet there suffers destruction. Every year the Athenians celebrate this feast to the Mother and the Daughter (Demeter and Persephone); and all who wish, whether they be Athenians or any other Greeks, are initiated. The sound thou hearest is the Bacchic song, which is wont to be sung at that festival."

"Hush now," rejoined the other; "and see thou tell no man of this matter. For if thy words be brought to the king's ear, thou wilt assuredly lose thy head because of them; neither I nor any man living can then save thee. Hold thy peace therefore. The gods will see to the king's army."

Thus Demaratus counselled him; and they looked, and saw the dust, from which the sound arose, become a cloud, and the cloud rise up into the air and sail away to Salamis, making for the station of the Grecian fleet. Then they knew that it was the fleet of Xerxes which would suffer destruction. Such was the tale told by Dicaeus the son of Theocydes; and he appealed for its truth to Demaratus and other eye-witnesses.

CHRONOLOGY

The dates of events in Greek mythology are subject to debate. I have adopted the following chronology, which may prove useful:

Kadmos founded Thebes sometime around 1400 BC, and Thebes was destroyed by Oedipus’ grandsons in 1225 BC. The Trojan War occurred a generation later, and shortly thereafter the Mycenaean civilization collapsed.

Kadmos founds Thebes

1400

Europa gives birth to Minos on Crete

Birth of Oedipus

1310

 
 

1295

Theseus born in Troezen

Oedipus kills Laius

1290

 

Oedipus learns he has killed his father and married his mother

1270

Theseus kills Minotaur, becomes king of Athens following father's death

Death of Oedipus at Colonus

1250

Seven Against Thebes

Thebes destroyed by Epigoni

1225

 

The Trojan War

1200

 

Destruction of the Mycenaean Civilization

1190-1000

 

A dark age (loss of writing) followed the collapse of the Mycenaean Civilization during which the stories of these heroic characters were told and retold through an oral tradition and, sometime after the end of the millennium, culminated in the works of Hesiod and Homer. Many of its peoples had relocated in Ionia on the western coast of Asia Minor (Turkey) and the adjacent Aegean islands. Homer was reported to have been born either on the island of Chios or on the mainland at Smyrna (now Izmir). Hesiod lived on the Greek mainland near Thebes. The work of the great Greek tragic poets of Athens (Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides), who continued the dramatization of the characters and events of the Heroic Age, followed during the outburst of creativity in the 5th Century BC know as Classical Greece. A chronology for the lives of these writers is as follows: 

Homer

~750 BC

Hesiod

~750 BC

Aeschylus

525-456 BC

Sophocles

497-406 BC

Euripides

485 (480?)-405 BC

Plato

427-348 BC

Aristotle

384-322 BC

Plutarch

046-120 AD

As for writing itself, three forms of it existed in ancient Greece: Linear A, Linear B and ancient Greek written using the Phoenician alphabet. Linear A was in use by the Minoans and is the most ancient form of writing found in Greece. Linear A is pictographic and difficult to decipher although some sound values of Linear B may be used for similar symbols of Linear A. Many of the words appear to be Egyptian. Linear B is also pictograph and was used primarily by the Mycenaeans. It was decoded in 1953 by a young Englishman, Michael Ventris, who was a cryptographer during World War II. He used statistical analysis to show that Linear B is ancient Greek.

Following the fall of Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations, writing was no longer practiced and a Greek "dark-age" followed until revived during the time of Homer and Hesiod. This written form of ancient Greek received its alphabet from the Phoenicians and, according to legend, was brought into Greece by Kadmos of Tyre who founded Thebes. If this is true, a lapse of 600 years occurred between Kadmos bringing the alphabet to Greece and it being used. More likely, the alphabet was brought into Greece sometime after 800 BC. In any case, the Greeks assigned sound values to the Phoenician letters and in that way a written form of ancient Greek developed. Ancient and Modern Greek forms a continuous line of descent from Homer to modern times, the ancient writing relating to the modern much as the English of Chaucer relates to Modern English.

THE REDISCOVERY OF THE ANCIENT MYCENAEAN CIVILIZATION

For centuries scholars believed that the writings of Homer concerning the Trojan War and those of the tragic poets were an elaborate fiction about totally “mythic” characters. No one thought a civilization of any significance existed before that of 5th century BC Greece. In the late 19th century AD, an amateur archaeologist named Heinrich Schliemann shocked the world by uncovering the ruins of Troy at Hisarlik at the mouth of the Dardanelles on what is now the north-western coast of Turkey. Schliemann had used Homer’s text to locate the site, and after his first discovery, he went into central Greece and successfully located Mycenae, the legendary home of Agamemnon, the general who led the Greek forces in the ten-year war against Troy. Other finds quickly followed, including what came to be called the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete with its magnificent palace at Knossos, which was excavated by Arthur Evans. Just north of Athens archaeologists uncovered the ruins of ancient Thebes, the setting for the tragedy of Oedipus and his family.

Schliemann’s finds rocked not only the world of archaeology but classic literature as well. The legends of the ancient Greeks were viewed with a new respect. The names Theseus, Oedipus, Odysseus, Agamemnon took on a dimension heretofore only realized by those from the Bible. Ancient Greek religion took on a new respectability.

Additional reading.

First of all let me say that I realize I’ve given you a lot to read, probably too much. If you can’t get through all of it, don’t worry. I’ve provided it so that in the days to come when the class is over you can continue your investigation of ancient Greek myth and its significance.

The extra reading material falls into three categories: (1) ancient myth, (2) psychology, and (3) archaeology. These subjects are closely connected because Hermes was guide of souls in the Underworld and was frequently seen in the present of those going-to or coming-from. If you’ll remember, just before Oedipus died he saw Hermes coming for him along with Persephone.

ANCIENT MYTH

Book XXIV of The Iliad.

This excerpt from Homer’s The Iliad is the last chapter of that work. Achilles, the most fearsome warrior among the Greeks has just killed Hector, the champion of the Trojans. Achilles won’t bury Hector’s body but continues to defile it by dragging it about his friend’s, Patroclus’, grave. (Hector had killed Patroclus a little earlier.) Priam, Hector’s father, finally goes to retrieve his son’s body. The story is about that retrieval, and how Hermes assisted Priam in getting in and out of the enemy’s camp safely.

Pay particular attention to Hermes’ actions because they are discussed in detail in Murray Stein’s In MidLife, part of which I’ve also included in this reading assignment. This will then give you a good idea of not only how Greek mythology is related to our lives today, but also how it is currently being used by psychotherapists to uncover our psychic structure.

Book X of The Odyssey.

Book XI of The Odyssey.

These two excerpts from Homer’s The Odyssey describe part of Odysseus’ attempt to get home following the Trojan War. Odysseus spent ten years fighting Troy and then ten years trying to get home. They also concern Odysseus’ encounter with the sorceress, Circe, and Odysseus’ descent into the Underworld to see the shade of Teiresias who had recently died. Teiresias is the only human being to retain an unclouded mind in the Afterlife. Book X also contains Odysseus’ encounter with Hermes, and it is used extensively by Stein in In MidLife. Also note that Odysseus sees Oedipus’ mother/wife (here called ‘Epicaste’ and Oedipus ‘Oedipodes’) in the Underworld.

There is an interesting connection between Oedipus and Odysseus. They both suffer at the hands of the gods (Oedipus by Apollo and Odysseus by Poseidon) and have difficulty finding their way home. Oedipus’ search is for a final resting place, and he has been searching for his rightful home since he was exposed on Cithaeron when three-days old. The aspect of wandering the countryside has characteristics reminiscent of midlife as described by Murray Stein. This should cause us to rethink the metaphorical significance of Oedipus’ wanderings.

Book XXIV of The Odyssey.

This is the final chapter in The Odyssey. I’ve included it because it is used by Murray Stein in In MidLife and also Karl Kerenyi’s Hermes, Guide of Souls, part of which I’ve also included for your reading assignment.

The Republic by Plato.

Of course the writings of Plato aren’t myth, but this particular selection contains a story, supposedly true, describing one man’s near-death experience. I’ve included this Plato dialogue primarily because of its discussion and presentation of the Underworld contained in the last few pages as The Legend of Er. I’ve included the entire dialogue because it contains a discussion of tragedy and a lengthy dissertation on the soul. This will give you another view of the ancient Greek’s philosophical view of the divine.

PSYCHOLOGY

Murray Stein’s In MidLife, Chapters 1-4. This is of interest because of its use of myth to explain elements of the human experience.

ARCHAEOLOGY

In keeping with my plan to provide not only mythology but also a description of the landscape where the events took place, the guidebook (Mycenae-Epidaurus by S. E. Iakovidis) on the ruins of ancient Argos, Mycenae and Epidaurus. This region of the Peloponnese is called the Argolis. When Oedipus’ sons argued over the throne of Thebes, Polyneices went into exile at Argos and raised seven armies to try to regain it. This region is then where he spent his period of exile during which he married and had a child from whom we’ll hear in the last lecture.

Epidaurus is also of interest because of its use of psychotherapy in the treatment of illness. To illustrate this I’ve included a selection from Karl Kerenyi’s Asklepios, Archetypal Image of the Physician’s Existence. ( See the Preface as well as Chapters II and III.) Treatment was accomplished by dream-reading through the worship of the god Asklepios. When we reflect on Hermes being the ‘bringer of dreams’ we can see how closely these two gods were connected. Asklepios was the son of Apollo, and since Apollo and Hermes were brothers we can see that Asklepios and Hermes are indeed related. This one excerpt then combines elements of all three, archaeology, myth and psychology, which I consider to be the full scope of this course.
 

Prophecy.

Since prophecy plays such a large role in all these tragedies, I’ve suggested material on its mythological origin and an explanation of how it was accomplished by the great seers. The practice comes from Prometheus, the god who stole fire and gave it to man. Prometheus is the one god who sides with mankind, and for it he suffers 30,000 years of punishment at the hands of Zeus.

First, I suggest reading Hesiod’s Theogony, which is our best source of the genesis of the Universe. It also provides the story of Prometheus stealing fire and giving it to man, and the story of him setting up the first sacrifice and tricking Zeus (who is willing to be tricked) into accepting the inferior portion of the sacrifice. Prometheus also gave us the art of prophecy and reading entrails.

Second, I suggest reading another tragedy by Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound, which provides our best source of information on Prometheus. It also provides a list of all the gifts Prometheus gave to mankind including the ability to read the will of the gods.

I also suggest reading an excerpt from a book titled The Etruscans in the Ancient World. The Etruscans lived just north of Rome in Italy and were known as the most religious people in the world. Much of our information concerning the practice of entrail reading comes from them. The Greek practice was similar. I also suggest reading an excerpt from The Bronze Liver of Piacenza. This contains the description of a replica of a sheep’s liver containing all the markings showing the area of the liver affected by each god.

Plato.

The subject of the liver being the center of prophecy went further than the stories provided by tragedies. The following is an excerpt from Plato’s Timaeus dialogue concerning the nature of the liver and its propensity to reflect the will of the gods. Socrates is speaking:

The part of the soul which desires meats and drinks and the other things of which it has need by reason of the bodily nature, they placed between the midriff and the boundary of the navel, contriving in all this region a sort of manger for the food of the body; and there they bound it down like a wild animal which was chained up with man, and must be nourished if man was to exist. They appointed this lower creation his place here in order that he might be always feeding at the manger, and have his dwelling as far as might be from the council-chamber, making as little noise and disturbance as possible, and permitting the best part to advise quietly for the good of the whole. And knowing that this lower principle in man would not comprehend reason, and even if attaining to some degree of perception would never naturally care for rational notions, but that it would be led away by phantoms and visions night and day-to be a remedy for this, God combined with it the liver, and placed it in the house of the lower nature, contriving that it should be solid and smooth, and bright and sweet, and should also have a bitter quality, in order that the power of thought, which proceeds from the mind, might be reflected as in a mirror which receives likenesses of objects and gives back images of them to the sight; and so might strike terror into the desires, when, making use of the bitter part of the liver, to which it is akin, it comes threatening and invading, and diffusing this bitter element swiftly through the whole liver produces colours like bile, and contracting every part makes it wrinkled and rough; and twisting out of its right place and contorting the lobe and closing and shutting up the vessels and gates, causes pain and loathing. And the converse happens when some gentle inspiration of the understanding pictures images of an opposite character, and allays the bile and bitterness by refusing to stir or touch the nature opposed to itself, but by making use of the natural sweetness of the liver, corrects all things and makes them to be right and smooth and free, and renders the portion of the soul which resides about the liver happy and joyful, enabling it to pass the night in peace, and to practise divination in sleep, inasmuch as it has no share in mind and reason. For the authors of our being, remembering the command of their father when he bade them create the human race as good as they could, that they might correct our inferior parts and make them to attain a measure of truth, placed in the liver the seat of divination. And herein is a proof that God has given the art of divination not to the wisdom, but to the foolishness of man. No man, when in his wits, attains prophetic truth and inspiration; but when he receives the inspired word, either his intelligence is enthralled in sleep, or he is demented by some distemper or possession. And he who would understand what he remembers to have been said, whether in a dream or when he was awake, by the prophetic and inspired nature, or would determine by reason the meaning of the apparitions which he has seen, and what indications they afford to this man or that, of past, present or future good and evil, must first recover his wits. But, while he continues demented, he cannot judge of the visions which he sees or the words which he utters; the ancient saying is very true, that "only a man who has his wits can act or judge about himself and his own affairs." And for this reason it is customary to appoint interpreters to be judges of the true inspiration. Some persons call them prophets; they are quite unaware that they are only the expositors of dark sayings and visions, and are not to be called prophets at all, but only interpreters of prophecy.

Such is the nature of the liver, which is placed as we have described in order that it may give prophetic intimations. During the life of each individual these intimations are plainer, but after his death the liver becomes blind, and delivers oracles too obscure to be intelligible. The neighbouring organ [the spleen] is situated on the left-hand side, and is constructed with a view of keeping the liver bright and pure-like a napkin, always ready prepared and at hand to clean the mirror. And hence, when any impurities arise in the region of the liver by reason of disorders of the body, the loose nature of the spleen, which is composed of a hollow and bloodless tissue, receives them all and dears them away, and when filled with the unclean matter, swells and festers, but, again, when the body is purged, settles down into the same place as before, and is humbled.

Herodotus.

In addition to this reading from Plato, I suggest reading the last chapter from Herodotus’ The Histories. Herodotus is known as the father of history (also as the father of lies). He it was who wrote the first historical book. In it he describes the battles fought against the Persians (Iranians) when king Xerxes invaded Greece (480 BC). Read the last chapter of his book and look for all the references to sacrifices and omens the seers relate from reading the livers. This is not myth, but in fact the prophetic art put to work.

The Archeology of Thebes.

Finally I also suggest reading the first chapter of the guidebook for the museum at Thebes. Much of this is a repetition of that provided in The Topography of Thebes, but it does contain a great deal more information on the artifacts found at Thebes, in particular, the Oriental cylinder seals and the ivory leg of the throne over which so much blood was shed.


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