The Epicene Oracle concerning Argos and Miletus.

. By J. B. Bury.

§ 1. The Argive campaign of Cleomenes. It is now generally agreed that the decisive defeat which Cleomenes of Sparta inflicted upon Argos occurred at the time of the Ionic revolt. The main ground for this dating is the curious oracle quoted by Herodotus as having been delivered at Delphi "to the Argives and Milesians in common”,') though “the Milesians were not present”, ?) apparently not long before the capture of the Ionian city.") The truth of this synchronism is corroborated by other considerations,“) while there is nothing to be said in favour of the statement of Pausanias that the Argive campaign of Cleomenes belonged to the early years of his reign.")

All that we know of the campaign can be told in a few words. Having instructed his Aeginetan and Sicyonian allies to send ships to the Cynurian coast, Cleomenes at the head of a Lacedaemonian army marched into Argolis as far as the banks of the river Erasinus, but did not cross it, forbidden by unfavourable diabateria. So he gave out; so the Argives believed, and, as they saw his army withdraw into Cynuria, imagined that the danger was over. But the demonstration at the Erasinus was only a feint ,") and the unfavourable sacrifice served the strategy of the Spartan king. The Aeginetan and Sicyonian vessels were already waiting ,') to transport his host across to Nauplia. The battle

1) Herod. 6, 77.
2) Ib. 6, 19.

3) This does not follow from the words of Herodotus (6, 18) nvdparodioavto rnv πόλιν ώστε συμπεσείν το πάθος των χρηστηρίω τω ες Μίλητον γενομένω, for συμπεσείν need not mean “coincide chronologically”, but simply "fulfil”. But it is reasonable to infer that when the oracle was given Miletus was either besieged or menaced.

4) Cp. Busolt, Griechische Geschichte II° 561, note, and Macans ed. of Herodotus, note on 6, 76, 2. I may note here that I agree with the chronology of the Ionic revolt which sets the Battle of Lade in 494 B. C. (and not in 497 B. C. with Busolt).

5) Pausanias 3, 4, init. (followed by E. Curtius).
6) Cp. Macan, op. cit., on 6, 76, 11, and Busolt, op. cit. II° 562, note 4.

7) Herod. 6, 92. Perhaps they waited at Prasiae. They must have been stationed a good distance down the coast, to avoid the risk of being seen.

was fought at Sepeia') near Tiryns, Cleomenes taking his foes unawares, and when some of the Argives fled into the sacred grove of Argus, the Lacedaemonians surrounded it and set it on fire. This overwhelming defeat in which the Argives lost the greater part of their male population should, it might be thought, have exposed their city defenceless to the victor, yet Cleomenes returned home without capturing it.?) Such is the general outline of the campaign, stript of all the problematical or clearly unhistorical details which beset the narrative of Herodotus.

§ 2. The epicene oracle: what was its motive?The epicene oracle on which our dating of the battle of Sepeia depends is, when one comes to consider it, extremely curious. I need not elaborate the point that it is quite inconceivable that a single joint answer should have been given to Argive and Milesian Ikonpónoi coming independently to consult the god, each about their own affairs; since Herodotus—although in the passage where he quotes the Argive part of the oracle he speaks as if this had been the case)-expressly states, in the passage where he quotes the Milesian portion, that the oracle was given to the Argives and the Milesians were not present. In other words, it was the Argives only who consulted the Oracle; Miletus (as we might expect) addressed no inquiry to Delphi.

The matter of the Argive inquiry was περί σωτηρίας της πόλιος ris oqeréons, 4) when they were threatened by a Spartan invasion. According to Herodotus, the reply of the Pythia was as follows:

αλλ' όταν η θήλεια τον άρσενα νικήσασα
εξελάση και κύδος έν' Αργείοισιν άρηται,
πολλας Αργείων αμφιδρυφέας τότε θήσει.
ως ποτέ τις έρέει και έπεσσομένων ανθρώπων
«δεινός όφις άέλικτος απώλετο δουρί δαμασθείς.
και τότε δή, Μίλητε κακών επιμήχανε έργων,
πολλοίσινό) δείπνόν τε και αγλαά δωρα γενήση,
σαι δ' άλοχοι πολλοίσι πόδας νίψουσι κομήταις,

νηού δ' ημετέρου Διδύμοις άλλοισι μελήσει. The oracle is not complete, for it could not have begun with chic.


1) 'Hoinela in the Mss. of Herod. 6, 77.

2) He was accused at Sparta of dopodoxia and acquitted. The Spartan informants of Herodotus ascribed to Cleomenes an explanation, which is really no explanation (6, 82).

3) επικοινα έχρησε 6, 77.
4) 6, 19 init.

5) Oracularly vague. If any correction is required I suggest arnvoioiv, which is (1) palaeographically better, (2) more oracular, than v. Herwerdens öpviGiv.

Herodotus has omitted the beginning 1) and was apparently unconscious of the omission.

But how are we to explain the portion—the greater portion, undoubtedly—which he has quoted? What had Miletus to do with Argos ? How was the fate of Miletus pertinent to the inquiry of the Argives about the safety of their city? So far as the Herodotean narrative goes, no connexion whatever is indicated. It seems to me quite outside the range of probability that the Pythian priestess and her prompters were ever in the habit of adding gratuitously to their official replies expressions of opinion or prophetic intimations concerning irrelevant affairs. Gods and their interpreters move doubtless in mysterious ways; but to suppose that the Pythia, consulted as to the safety of Argos, would have digressed upon the peril of Miletus, seems somewhat as if-it is hard to think of a modern illustration-, as if we were to suppose an "international" authority of the present day, say Professor Martens, when asked his opinion on the delimitation of Venezuela, turning aside to discuss a crisis in China.

Nor would the difficulty be lessened by the assumption that the oracle was compiled, or rather tampered with, after the event. The whole subject of oracles post eventum is extremely obscure, and, when this question arises in regard to Delphic zonguoi, we have to do, so far as I can judge, less often with oracles entirely invented after the event than with interpolations in oracles actually delivered.) Now we might assume that the Argive portion of this oracle was original and genuine, and that the napevtxn (as Herodotus calls it) about Miletus was a subsequent addition. But if the Delphic priesthood, in order to strengthen the credit of their shrine, issued (in collections of Delphic xenouoi, we should have to suppose) partially spurious oracles, it is highly unlikely that they would not have taken care that in point of form such oracles should be perfectly regular and beyond suspicion.

In the actual contents of the oracle which we are considering, there is nothing really inconsistent with the implication of Herodotus that it was given shortly before the Argive war and the capture of Miletus. The oracular utterance is ambiguous, there is no unequivocal indication of the event.) At the time when it was pronounced, Delphi was pro

1) Which need not have consisted of more than two verses or conceivably one.

2) Thus the 3rd 1. of the oracle to Cypselus in Herod. 5, 92, 5 (cp. Macan ad loc.); the last 5 lines of the oracle to the Athenians, ib. 7, 141 (cp. Wilamowitz, Aus Kydathen, 97; Bury, Aristides at Salamis, in Classical Review, Dec. 1896 p. 417). On the other hand the oracle to the Spartans, ib. 7, 220, seems entirely a concoction ex eventu.

3) So Macan rightly, note on 6, 19 (p. 282 b): "nor does the oracle here given commit Delphi so deeply as to be beyond the resources of interpretation, whatever the event". But one line may be an interpolation (see below, S 6).

bably convinced that the fall of the Ionian city was inevitable; but even if the unforeseen had befallen and Miletus had escaped, the veracity of the Delphian god would not have been compromised; there was a long capacious future still for the evil city to fulfil its destiny. As for the Argive portion, the phrases are so ingeniously obscure that they could cover any and every occurrence. Had the oracle been forged afterwards, there would assuredly have been some less equivocal reference to actual events. So far as internal evidence goes, the assumption of a post eventum origin is unnecessary, and therefore untenable. The problem is to discover the motif underlying the colligation of Miletus and Argos.

$ 3. Solution of the problem. At the beginning of the fifth century the position of Sparta was this. She had failed repeatedly, and her failures had been humiliating, to control the developement of Athens. She saw that, before she could interfere effectually in the affairs of central Greece, she must rule with undisputed sway in the Peloponnesus; and to attain this object, the first and most important step was to bring to her feet her diminished but still independent and formidable rival, Argos. The words which Herodotus 1) puts into the mouth of Aristagoras when urging Cleomenes to assist the Ionians: χρεόν εστι υμέας μάχας αναβάλλεσθαι πρός τε Μεσσηνίους εόντας ισοπαλέας και Αρκάδας τε και 'Αργείους, these words (apart from the anachronism ισοπαλέες Μεσσήνιοι) express the situation. A war with Argos was imminent, and this circumstance was probably the reason which weighed most with the Spartan government when it declined to help Ionia.

When Aristagoras visited European Greece, probably in the first months of 498 B. C., ") did he apply for help only to Sparta and Athens? This is in the highest degree unlikely. We may be sure that he left no stone unturned, - that he sought assistance for Miletus (which, as the Milesians knew well, would soon be besieged by a Persian army) from all the more powerful Greek states on the Aegaean side of Greece. Herodotus mentions only his visits to Sparta and Athens; but this is a case where the general circumstances and probabilities of the situation are far more weighty than the mere silence of a historian whose methods

1) 5, 49 ad fin.

2) The chronology of the first years, 499—8 B. C., presents little difficulty. Cp. Macan, op. cit. II, App. V. 499 B. C. summer: failure at Naxos; autumn: Tvpávvov κατάπαυσις, απόστασις 'Αρισταγόρεω. 499–8 B. C. winter: Aristagoras in European Greece; spring: siege of Miletus, despatch of Athenian and Eretrian fleet; summer: burning of Sardis, relief of Miletus. The council held at Miletus, Herod. 5, 36, would fall in summer 499 B. C. Beiträge z. alten Geschichte II 1.


and sources are such as those of Herodotus.) We cannot doubt, for instance, that the Milesian ex-tyrant paid a personal visit to Eretria and moved the Eretrians to send their five triremes.) And we might be morally certain, a priori, that he could not have omitted to make an application for help to Argos. That he actually made such an application, the oracle under consideration seems to me to be the proof. For this oracle is explicable only on the assumption that the Milesians asked Argos to send help. :)

It would perhaps have been out of the question for Argos with the best goodwill in the world, to have acceded to the Milesian appeal, conscious as she must have been that at any moment she might be exposed to Lacedaemonian hostility. But the fact that Ionia had been partially colonised from Argolis was in itself sufficient to enlist sympathy, and, if Aristagoras visited Argos after the rebuff at Sparta, Argive sympathy would have been the more easily awakened. Argos then, we may take it, showed her goodwill by not summarily refusing the Milesian request, but promising to be guided by the counsel of the Delphic god. Her inquiry, Herodotus says, was repi owinpins rís nóhos tņs oqeréons. We may infer that the Argive fronponou asked whether their city would be safe if a contingent were sent to the help of Miletus.

I will deal first with the verses concerning Argos, and then with those concerning Miletus. But I may point out here that the oracle presupposes that Miletus itself is directly menaced. Hence it might be thought that the oracle must have been given shortly before the battle of Lade, which (according to the only reasonable chronology, in my opinion) belongs to 494 B. C. But there was in 498 B. C. an earlier siege of Miletus,') which is entirely omitted in the superficial narrative of Herodotus, and the fact illuminates the obscure campaign of that year. The object of the Greek march on Sardis was to raise the siege. It was in fact inevitable that Miletus, the centre and leader of the rebellion, should be the first objective of the Persian generals. And Delphi, well informed, was quite aware of this at the beginning of 498 B. (.

1) The Spartan source of the Herodotean account of the visit of Aristagoras is reflected clearly in 5,39; Aristagoras sailed to Lacedaemon, idze yào di Guuuurins τινός οι μεγάλης εξευρεθήναι.

2) Herod. 5, 99.

3) It would, of course, be possible to suppose that at some later date in the course of the Ionic revolt (say 495 B. C.) the Ionians, hard pressed, made another appeal to their European brethren, and that on this occasion Argos consulted the oracle. But as no such appeal is recorded, it would be a violation of scientific method to multiply hypotheses.

4) Recorded by Plutarch, De malignitate Herod., 24, probably on the authority of Charon of Lampsacus. The record was rightly accrpted by Grote cap. XXXV.

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