Work in Progress

Rafael Capurro




Part I

1. Greek, Egyptian, and  Hebrew traditions
1a. Greek, Egyptian, and Hebrew tratditions

Part II
2. Arabic and Persian  traditions
3. Latin, Spanish and Latin American traditions
4. Australia, New Zealand and Polynesia traditions

Part III
5. Far East tradition
6. African tradition
7. German tradition

Part IV
8. English tradition
9. French tradition









F.S. Naiden and  J.A. Talbert: Mercury's Wings
Götz Großklaus: Orts-Botschaften - Orte in Jordanien und Syrien
F.S. Naiden: Ancient Greek Sacrifice
Harald Strohm: Orakel und Offenbarung
Plato: Apology
Xenophon: Apology
Plutarch: De defectu oraculorum
Wikipedia: Hecate
Wikipedia: Pandora
Wikipedia: Tyche
Wikipedia: Nemesis
Wikipedia: Charites
Wikipedia: Pothos
Wikipedia: Nereus
Wikipedia: Erotes
Wikipedia: Silenus
Wikipedia: Prophet
Wikipedia: Major Prophet
Wikipedia: Bible Prophecy
Wikipedia: Prophets of Christianity
Wikipedia: False Prophet
Wikipedia: Angel

Rafael Capurro: Zum griechischen Begriff der Botschaft
Wikipedia: Angels in the New Testament
New Testament: Zacharias
New Testament: Annunciation (Luke)
New Testament: Annunciation (Matthew)
New Testament: Birth (Luke)
New Testament: Baptism  (Luke)
New Testament: Desert (Matthew)
New Testament: Desert (Mark)
New Testament: Desert (Luke)
New Testament: Agony (Luke)
New Testament: Resurrection (Luke)
New Testament: Resurrection (Matthew)
New Testament: Resurrection (Mark)
New Testament: Resurrection (John)
New Testament: Pentecost
New Testament: Barnabas and Paul
Rafael Capurro: Engel, Menschen und Computer
John Holgate: The Hermesian Paradigm
Sian Lewis: News and Society in the Greek Polis

Rafael Capurro: On the Genealogy of Information
Rafael Capurro: Theorie der Botschaft
Wikipedia: Geschichte der Post
Hermes / Iris
Wikipedia: Caerus
Wikipedia: Kairos
Wikipedia: Metis
Plato: Cratylus
Plato: Phaidros
Rafael Capurro: Genealogie der Information
Diogenes Laertius: Lives of Eminent Philosophers: Plato
Jacques Derrida: La dissémination
Jan Assmann: Ma'at: Gerechtigkeit und Unsterblichkeit im Alten Ägypten
Jan Assmann: Tod und Jenseits im Alten Ägypten
Jan Assmann: Das kulturelle Gedächtnis
Günther Bien: Hypolepsis
Aristotle: Peri Psyches
Thomas Gutschker: Hypolepsis
Otfried Höffe: Hypolepsis
Diogenes Laertius: Epicurus
Rafael Capurro: Informatio - Prolepsis
Plato: Leges
Jan Assmann: Religion und kulturelles Gedächtnis
Daniel Bougnoux: La controverse Thot-Thamous
George N. Gordon: Aristotle as a Modern Propagandist
Eric A. Havelock: The Muse Learns to Write
Homer: Iliad 2
Homer, Iliad 5
Wikipedia: Stentor
Wikipeida: Hera
Homer: Iliad 19



Oxford University Press 2017


Introduction, by F.S. Naiden and Richard Talbert

PART ONE: Networks

1. Environmental Perspectives on Ancient Communication, by Grant Parker
2. Libraries and Communication in the Ancient World, by Matthew Nicholls
3. Communication and Roman Long-Distance Trade, by Taco Terpstra
4. Military Communication: The Example of the Classical Battlefield, by F. S. Naiden


5. Monuments of the Hittite and Neo-Assyrian Empires During the Late Bronze and Iron Ages, by James F. Osborne
6. Communicating with Images in the Roman Empire, by Jennifer Trimble
7. Musical Persuasion in Early Greece, by Timothy Power
8. Gesture in the Ancient Mediterranean World, by Gregory S. Aldrete

PART THREE: Divinities

9. Messaging and the Gods in Mesopotamia: Signals and Systematics, by Seth Ricardson
10. Pilgrimage and Communication, by Ian Rutherford
11. The Inspired Voice: Enigmatic Oracular Communication, by Julia Kindt
12. Christianity, by Michael Kulikowski

PART FOUR: Engagements

13. Cross-Cultural Communication in the Hellenistic Mediterranean and Western and South Asia, by Matthew Canepa
14. Cross-Cultural Communication in Egypt, by J.G. Maning
15. Diplomatic Communication in the Ancient Mediterranean, by Sheila L. Alger
16. Coinage and the Roman Economy, by Kenneth W. Harl
17. Communicating Through Maps: The Roman Case, by Richard Talbert

Introduction, by F.S. Naiden and Richard Talbert


F.S. Naiden and Richard Talbert


[...] This volume dares to take the broad view that communications are a vehicle, not just for the transmission of information, but also for the conduct of religion, commerce, and culture. Encompassed, too, within this scope are varied purposes of communication such as propaganda and celebration, as well as profit and administration. No less varied are the means and mechanisms of communication taken into account–from coins, papyri, artwork, and inscriptions on durable surfaces, to transient forms like watch-fires and mounted messengers. This said, we maintain that, for all its breadth, the scope of "communications" thus conceived should not be as extensive as that of general cultural expression, especially literary or artistic expression. Even so, works of literature and visual art merit inclusion insofar as they achieved communicative effects (resulting from public performance, for example), as distinct from achieving aesthetic effects. [2] In addition, we recognize that the communicative skills required to create and deliver works of literature and art―the skills of composition, performance, and dissemination―are indispensable for ancient communication, not just in theses two fields, but also in related ones ranging from oratory to graffiti. The topic of communication is larger that (and largely different from) that of technology, as treated in The Oxford Handbook of Engineering and Technology in the Ancient World already noted. It is smaller that (and again largely different from) that of social relations, as covered in The Oxford Handbook of Social Relations in the Roman World.[3]

The spatial, temporal, and cultural boundaries of this volume are extended but firm. The Near East formed a diplomatic and commercial communications network by the middle of the second millennium BCE, one that included part of Greece; this network then reemerged, with all of Greece now included, before the middle of the second millenium BCE. The eastern boundary of the network encompassed Persia, from the early first millenium onwards, the western boundary included Greek, Punic, and Italian city-states; later, this boundary moved farther west and north to include Roman possessions. Just the volume's terminus post quem is the division of the Near East soon after the rise of Islam. [4] Nonetheless, we do not attempt to be comprehensive in our coverage. That would be a gargantuan, as well as premature undertaking.


In an Ancient context, what are "communications"? Can today's communications terminology help explain the ancient variety, or were ancient communications, as Deleuze and Foulcault implied, part of a world that was too simple or naïve to require any terms or idea of this kind? [5]

As an academic pursuit, communications developed from the older, focused field of rhetoric. In the 1940s and 1950s, the study of communications began to involve electronics. Since then, sociology has been injected into this study, along with elements of anthropology and economics, and those disciplines in turn have taken account of communications. [6] However, in spite of these developments, there is no general theory of communications, and no prospect of one. Instead, the theory of communications has become a subfield, with its own journals.[7] [...] Abundant earlier work on the dissemination of propaganda and ideology did not conceive of these phenomena as "communications." The important exception to this generalization was the use of semiotics, which entered Classics and Indo-European linguistics after World War II. [10] Semiotics, however, dealt only with symbolic aspects of communications; in other words, with several kinds of signs. It did not deal with communications infrastructure, or with networks  as opposed to transmissions.

Describing communications in the elementary physical sense―in other words, as movement and interchange―is an obvious starting point. In the Federalist Papers, for example, James Madison wrote of "communication between the western and Atlantic districts" in the United States; in other words, of the movement of people and goods as well as of information. Madison predicted that, as the nation expanded, communications would, too, and that communications would unite the nation.[11] For communication in this sense, the physical environment is crucial. Madison saw it as an obstacle to be overcome. In the ancient Mediterranean, the environment was both an obstacle and a theater for communications, as Plato wrote when comparing Greek communities to frogs around a pond. [12] In the Near East and India, river valleys ringed by deserts and mountain ranges played the same role, but with less isolation within watersheds and more isolation between them.

Communication in these environments bore some resemblance to its character in early eighteenth-century North-America and also Europe. Sea routes were often better than routes by land. [13]  The thirteen colonies and Europe had nothing to match Roman roads. Waiting for the mail was the privilege of a relative few. Population growth produced great crowds, large armies, and grand parades, but it also created a corresponding need for new kinds of controls or stabilizing forces―for propaganda, court orders, and "multimedia" scripts for public performance.

This is one, not entirely dated, sense of "communication." Applicable to any one region or nation, it also applies to continents or civilizations. Diplomacy is an international example of this kind of communication; commerce is another, with both international and local dimensions. Institutions like armies and navies are in turn agencies of communication. [14] Communications on this scale required networks, of which three basic types may be identified: first, a hub with spokes; second, plural hubs with links from one to the next; and third, connected nodes. [15] The first of these types concentrated power in senders with a knowledge of routes located at a hub. If messages took the form of information or directives, there was an issue of credibility; to resolve it, ancient communicators sometimes used exceptionally costly and impressive media. Issues of information-management also arose: ancient rulers (like their modern counterparts) needed to signal what was inconvenient or impossible for them to say, or what should be impossible for others to detect.

A salient political concern in any hub-and-spoke network was its vulnerability to an attack on the hub―that is, in the case of military communications, an attack on the commanders of an army of fleet. This vulnerability influenced both organization and tactics. The opposite possibility was that a hub might me used to block or censor communications. Several ancient societies practiced damnatio memoriae in one form or other―for example, destroying images of an individual, erasing all mention of his name, and annulling his public measures, as the Romans did, [16] or more broadly, blocking communication between deposed rulers and their erstwhile subjects.

The second type of network, plural hubs with spokes, appeared in the Archaic period among Greek city-states (poleis), but far earlier in the Near East. In this type, alternative routes provided greater flexibility, but one hub might interfere with messages meant for another. Diplomatic and commercial protocols, however, served to reduce this threat. [17] In the Roman and Persian empires, where the network of plural hubs took the form of a central hub surrounded by peripheral ones, another issue arose: the degree of centralization, or of altering recentralization and decentralization, between the imperial center and the periphery.

The third, nodal type of network resembles a grid or rhyzome rather than a wheel, as with the hub and spoke. Today's World-Wide Web is one example of such a network. [18] An older example is the U.S. interstate highway system, in which each node is an interchange. Yet the oldest well-documented examples are ancient networks of archives and libraries. If archives were semi-secret, they are better described as part of a hub-and-spoke system; but if they were open to the reading public, they resembled nodes. The ancient agora or forum, with its give-and-take, was nodal, too, but used mostly oral rather than written communication.

No matter what kind of network was involved, the media, or means, by which ancient communications were conducted were as diverse as several centuries ago (although less diverse than today). Gestures, music, art and architecture, and, of course, writing and numbers systems, from personal letters to business ledgers and works of literature―all appear as early as the third millennium BCE in Mesopotamia and Egypt, and, by the start of the Common Era, in all settled regions from Britain to India, and from the Black Sea steppes to Ethiopia. Rapid, long-distance communications were lacking, although the signal-fire relays used by Greeks and Persians provided some primitive telegraphy.

Comparison between ancient communications and those of the early modern period sharpens an appreciation of the range of messages sent. Some messages are intended to impart directives or information, not necessarily always with the use of language: ancient Greek symbola or sēmeia, for example, correspond to modern tokens, flags, or signals. Other messages seek to influence their recipients. Such messages may be speech-acts (including fictions); equally, they may take the form of objects or of processes. Ancient (and modern) terms for these messages are diverse, but several examples illustrate the parallels between ancient and modern practices. Both Greek poleis and early modern nations published laws and decrees, both used military insignia, and both organized public ceremonies to legitimize magistrates as well as to inaugurate them. As James Madison understood, communication of this kind was a means of achieving political and social unity. It was affective in nature, whereas communication of the first kind was informative.

Among the informative means of ancient communication are letters and epigraphical texts; among affective means are gestures and music. [19] Some means belong to both groups, and so can be regarded either as conveying a message, or as doing that and more―music accompanied by singing, for example; rituals that recount myths but also unify worshippers; works of art that glorify as well as depict. Another feature linking some means of communication is the resemblance between human practices and those of mankind's remote, primate ancestors.[20] Supplicating a Roman magistrate or a king of Judah are two instances of ritualized communication occurring on a vertical axis―ruler above, subject below―that derives from the behavior of other hominids and higher mammals.[21]

Informative and affective communications differ in their relation to the physical environment. The informative kind transmits messages through space; the affective kind may maintain relations over time. In the second case, the purpose is to cooperate or persuade, not to inform or coerce, and the outcome is a confirmation or change in relations, not a transmission. The two kinds may have the same content―for example, a piece of news―but in the first sense, the news is merely reported, while in the second, it is both reported and ritualized.[22] The two kinds must both have senders and recipients, but only the second has an active recipient, a co-participant. Just as the first kind is economic and political, the second is religious and cultural.

Written communications appear in both circumstances. One potential effect of the use of writing is the dissemination of copies that inform and empower those in the hubs or centers of a network. Another is the assertion, and also the extension, of the privilege of literacy. [23] Neither effect, however, is achieved through writing alone. Images, too, may be standardized and multiplied, and the displayed in contexts that complicate their meaning and also their social impact. Just as the spread of writing is an outstanding feature of the first two millenia covered by this volume, so the spread of standardized messages is an outstanding feature of the millenium thereafter; that is, the Hellenistic period followed by the Roman Empire.

Religious communications differ from other kinds with respect to networks and also to range. Religious communications commonly have two recipients: one, a god or spirit, and the other, fellow worshippers or priests who may observe or overhear. As a result, religious communication is oblique: what is said to one part must be redirected towards, and reinterpreted by, another. All statements are effectively double, and some are obscure. Oracles depend on this obscurity. Dedications and other acts of ostentatious piety are costly signals, like the signals conveyed by royal monuments. Signals of this sort permit the signaler to accumulate prestige; at the same time, they give material benefit to the community.

Religious communication in later periods has some of these features, but it lacks the outstanding feature found in antiquity: ubiquity. Most ancient historical records are, formally speaking, religious records: the doings of the gods; the outcome of rituals, portents, and divine judgements; the countless plagues and famines caused by divine displeasure, or victories and harvests due to divine complaisance. Religion is everywhere in the ancient communications stream, as advertising today; or propaganda was at the height of communism and fascism. In Mesopotamia, rulers wrote letters to the gods. In Greece, gods inspired verses for the edification of oracular consultants. In both these societies, as well as in Egypt, gods made suburban boat trips, and worshippers for their part gratefully undertook long-distance pilgrimages. There was no avenue of communication considered inappropriate for addressing a god―not dancing or libanomancy, nor sharing food and drink. Gods were no less liberal in response, using birds in flight and nodding statues, earthquakes and sheep livers.

If religion was important from the very beginning of ancient communication, a second distinctive feature emerged mostly in the last millennium or so BCE, under the Achaemenid Persian and Roman empires, and also the empire of the Maurya in India. Such far-flung states not only ruled diverse peoples―a phenomenon going back to the unification of Egypt, and then Mesopotamia, in the fourth and third millennia―but also integrated them through deportation or immigration, the establishment of garrisons and military colonies, and the encouragement of urban growth through building projects. Although there had always been bilingual populations at the interstices of ancient societies, such as the Phoenicians and later the Greeks, now there were bilingually administered empires, like Persia, which used Persian and Aramaic, and Rome which used Latin and Greek. In such empires, religious life, too, was more complicated than in earlier states, and commerce was more active, better organized, and farther-reaching. Communication tools like maps and coins became more sophisticated as well as more common.

These changes were not only extensive but also intensive. In the most populous and wealthy regions, like Egypt, the intermingling of populations from the Hellenistic period onward led not just to bilingualism, but to biculturalism, too. In Rome (its population as high as one million) and leading cities elsewhere―including those of the rival Parthian and Sasanian empires, like Ctesiphon with a reported population of 400,000―the multiplication of inscriptions and images combined with the larger and more diverse population to cause a growth in communications comparable to what the modern world has experienced. The quantitative change was so great that the quality of communications must have changed also: it became cross-cultural.[24]

Two means of communication illustrate this change―currency and religious proselytism. For the first time in antiquity (indeed, in history), fiduciary coinage appeared, the result of innovations in Roman financial policy during the third and fourth centuries CE. Moreover, for the first time, Greeks and Romans came into extensive, permanent contact with the interiorr of the Levant, the Iranian plateau, and India, and with religions notably more different from their own than those they had encountered in Celtic Europe or the Punic Mediterranean. The spread of Christianity to Roman cities was one eventual result. At the end of antiquity, the Mediterranean basin had more money that it would again until the early modern period, and more places with Christian majorities than it ever would again.

2. Cf. the treatment of literature in Hedrick (2011)
3. Peachin (2011)
4. For essays on medieval communications, a subject of comparable scope, see Mostert (1999), Canepa (2010a). On Late Antiquity: Ellis and Kidner (2002)
5. Deleuze (Negotiations 1990); Foucault (Ethics, Subjectivity and Truth Ed. P. Rabinow 1998). A contrary view: Chase-Dunn and Hall (1999)
6. Early evolution of the field: Innis (1951); Inose (1979). For anthropology and sociology, see Vansina (1985), who addresses communications explicitly; Geertz (1973), who addresses them implicitly.
7. Note Shepherd at al. (2006). A possibly unique philosophical treatment: Habermas (1970a,b).
10. A general treatment of tis much-discussed subject: Manetti (1993)
11. Federalist Papers, no. 14.
12. Pl. Phaedo 109b
13. Note, in this connection, Andreu and Virlouvet (2002).
14. Note Brosius (2003).
15. Figures 4.1 and 4.2 illustrate the first and second types.
16. Flower (2006)
17. For modern protocols, see Galloway (2004).
18. Berners-Lee (1999).
19. For epigraphy in its social context, see Meyer (2011). A general study of gestures: Bolens (2009). Gestures in other nonverbal forms: Catoni (2008).
20. Maynard-Smith and Harper (2003).
21. Naiden (2006), 29-104.
22. Ancient Greek news and information-gathering: Lewis (News and Society in the Greek Polis 1996); Russell (Information -Gathering in Classical Greece Univ. of Michigan Press 1999).
Roman circulation of information: Capdetrey and Nelis-Clément (eds.) (La circulation de l'information dans les états antiques. Actes de la table ronde, Institut Ausonius, Pessac 2006).
23. Ancient writing as communication: Arslan (ed.)
(La "parola" delle imagini e delle forme di scrittura. Mnicazione nel mondo antico. Messina1998); Bresson et al. (L'écriture publique du pouvoir. Bordeaux 2005.

(p. xviii-xxv)



In: Rafael Capurro - John Holgate (eds.): Messages and Messengers. Angeletics as an Approach to the Phenomenology of Communication. Munich, 2011, 271-277

1. Der “heilige Ort”: die Botschaft der Erinnerung

Wir befinden uns auf dem Berg Nebo in Jordanien – genauer auf dem Hügel Khirbet es Syagha. Wir blicken nach Westen hinunter auf das Jordantal und das Tote Meer – nur im Dunst zeichnen sich am Horizont schwach die Umrisse zweier Städte ab: Jerichos und Jerusalems. Eine wunderbare Aussicht. Auf dem Hügel lediglich die Überreste einer Basilika aus dem 6.Jahrhundert. Jetzt schreiben wir das Jahr 2009.

Unsere augenblickliche neuzeitliche Wahrnehmung dieses Ortes versichert sich der Leistung  unseres Vorstellungs- und Erinnerungs-Vermögens. Wir rufen uns ins Gedächtnis, dass es sich um einen besonderen Ort handelt: um einen uralten Kult-Ort, um eine geweihte, heilige Stätte – und zwar in Bezug auf eine bestimmte alttestamentarische Geschichte. Dieser besondere Ort verweist auf ein legendäres biblisches Ereignis in einem angenommenen  Zeitraum des letzten Jahrtausends v. Chr. Hier habe Gott Moses das gelobte Land  gezeigt, hier sei der Todesort des historisch sonst nicht bezeugten  Mannes Moses, hier sei er von Engeln beigesetzt. So nimmt dieser Ort am Berg Nebo in der Topographie der kultischen Stätten im “heiligen Land“  einen wichtigen Platz ein.

Die Jahrhunderte der frühchristlichen Gedächtnisfeiern an diesem Ort  haben zu seiner symbolischen Aufladung geführt. “Der Raum saugt gleichsam  all die kollektiven Bedeutungen in sich auf, ist gesättigt mit „Sinn“, mit Vorstellungen und Werten, Gedanken und Gefühlen“ (Egger 2003, 262), um sie für alle  Zeiten im materialen Text des Ortes und des Raumes zu bewahren. An ihrem alten kultischen Versammlungsort bezeugt der „heilige Ort“ den Christen die Wahrheit  ihres Glaubens – wie umgekehrt der an dieser Stelle immer wieder bekundete Glauben den Sinn des authentischen Ortes  überhaupt erst verbürgt.

In seiner “Topographie legendaire“ hat Maurice Halbwachs diese Thematik für die heiligen Stätten im heiligen Land ausführlich behandelt. In unserem Zusammenhang  einer Erkundung des Wechselspiels von Bote  und Botschaft, von Botschaft und Empfänger ist interessant, wie sich diese Akte des Bezeugens und Verbürgens am Ort des Gedächtnisses als kommunikative  Tauschhandlungen  beschreiben lassen. Wenn Halbwachs nicht müde wird, von den zwei Seiten  des Gedächtnis- oder  Erinnerungs-Gegenstandes zu sprechen: „einerseits seiner materiellen Wirklichkeit [...] (z.B.) eines Ortes im Raum – und auf der anderen Seite einer symbolischen Vorstellung, einer spirituellen Bedeutung [...] die sich an die materielle Wirklichkeit heftet“ (Halbwachs 2003, 169) – dann erfasst er nichts anderes als den Zeichen-Charakter des Ortes überhaupt. Denken wir den Gedächtnisort als Versammlungsort und als Tauschort – so wäre der Raum als Medium vorzustellen, in dem ein spezifischer, raumsprachlich formulierter Orts-Text eine Botschaft überbringt, dessen Bote mit dem Empfänger identisch ist.

Indem der Empfänger-Bote die Wahrheit des Orts-Textes  verbürgt,  bezeugt  der Boten-Empfänger die Authentizität des Text-Ortes. Über die Botschaft  des Ortes kommt es zum Tausch von „Bürgschaft“ und „Zeugenschaft“. Kreisschlüssig verweist die Botschaft des „heiligen Ortes“ auf sich selbst (Nora 1998, 40). Seit dem 4. Jahrhundert n. Chr. besuchen christliche Pilger die geweihte Stätte auf dem Berg Nebo. Auch nach der arabisch-islamischen Eroberung Syriens und Palästinas (631-635 n. Chr.) blieb der  Wallfahrtsort  durch viele  Jahrhunderte hindurch erhalten. Erst 1564 berichtet  ein Franziskaner, der den heiligen Ort auf dem Berg Nebo aufsucht, „von einem verlassenen Ort mit zerstörten Bauten“ (Schenk 2008, 265). Als Wallfahrtsort entdeckt das 19. Jahrhundert den Berg Nebo neu. So lässt sich von einer „materiellen und symbolischen Permanenz“ (Egger 2003, 262) dieses Ortes sprechen.

Die  symbolisch-spirituelle Kommunikation im Medium des  kultisch ausgezeichneten Raums kann nur im kollektiven Sinn-Rahmen der christlichen Heilsgeschichte gelingen. Der moderne, agnostische Tourist ist auf die Rolle des Voyeurs verwiesen, der den heiligen Ort lediglich als  exotisch-interessante Stelle wahrnimmt. Als Voyeur aber partizipiert er an der Rest-Aura des alten Kult-Ortes Pierre Nora spricht von Überresten und Spuren, die die Bewegung der Geschichte am Ort der Erinnerung hinterlassen hat: von sichtbaren Zeichen dessen, was einst war (Nora 1998, 20).

Die topographische  Einheit des Raums, die eindeutige  Begrenzung des Ortes erscheint „neuzeitlich“  zersplittert, diffus, sowohl nach der Seite seiner materiellen Substanz, als auch nach der Seite seiner symbolischen Repräsentanz. “Das Heilige“ – so  heißt es bei Pierre Nora – steckt jetzt in der Spur, die doch seine Negation ist.“ (Nora 1998, 23) Die fragmentarische Raum-Schrift der Spur übergibt dem modernen Touristen-Pilger keine Botschaft mehr, sondern lediglich Daten.

2. Profane Tauschorte: die Botschaft der Dinge

Ein arabischer Suq ist der profane Tauschort par excellence. Betreten wir den Suq von Damaskus, betrachten wir seine Topographie  abstrakt von „oben“, so fallen jene zwei Raum-Muster auf, nach denen das gesamte Raumfeld gegliedert und strukturiert ist:

1) das Raum-Muster des Netzes ( der  sich verzweigenden Gassen),

2) das Raum-Muster des Platzes (der Innenhöfe: der Khane).

Bewegen wir uns durch den Raum des Suq,  nehmen wir das räumliche Netz als verwirrendes Labyrinth wahr, dessen Ordnung nach Arealen der unterschiedlichen Gewerbe  sich dem Fremden  erst nach und nach erschließt. Den sich hinter Torbögen öffnenden Platz und Hof des Khans, dessen  Galerien- und Kolonaden-gesäumte Gebäude früher als Herberge und Warenlager der Karawanen  aus fernen Ländern dienten, nehmen wir wahr  als beruhigte Zone und Insel inmitten der Flüsse und Ströme des Labyrinths. Wir befinden  uns  überall im Reich der Dinge, der Waren und Güter – und doch vermittelt die materielle Wirklichkeit der unterschiedlichen Orte – der Suq-Gassen, der Khane – die funktionale und symbolische Differenz: Die Tausch-Rituale  gingen  im Labyrinth der Gassen anders vonstatten als in den Höfen der Khane , den Orten der Ankunft und Abreise  der Karawanen, den Orten des Waren und Güterumschlags, der Lagerung und Verteilung, den Orten  der Herberge für die Karawanenführer und -begleiter. Mit etwas historischer Phantasie könnte man sich vorstellen, dass im  geschlossenen, abgegrenzten Ort des Khans sich  materialer Güter-Tausch immer auch als symbolischer Tausch von Kenntnissen, Fertigkeiten, von Konzepten und Rezepten abgespielt hat. Der Tausch- und Umschlag-Ort des Khans war immer auch Ort des kommunikativ-transkulturellen Tausches von Botschaften. Der materiale Tausch von Dingen ging einher mit dem Tausch von Informationen, Nachrichten und Geschichten aus der der Fremde einer anderen Kultur. Als direkte Boten kommen die Händler, die Karawanenführer, kommen Handwerker und Künstler in Frage. Sie sind es, die am Versammlungs- und Tauschort der Khane mit den Einheimischen zusammentreffen. Auszugehen ist davon, dass die  Suq-Khane so etwas wie verdichtete kommunikative  Knotenpunkte bildeten – im weitläufigen Netzwerk der Suq-Gassen. Das materielle Korrelat dieser Verdichtung ist der abgeschlossene Innenraum des Khan-Hofes.

Gewissermaßen am Gegenort zu diesen umfriedeten Höfen werden in den Gassen die Einzel-Güter ausgestellt, angeboten, gehandelt und getauscht. Das Angebot macht auf die dem Waren-Ding eingeschriebene Botschaft aufmerksam. Der Zeichenkörper des Dings selbst verweist  auf den kulturellen  Kontext seiner Herkunft und seiner Verwendung – so z.B. für fremde  Objekte  wie Papyrus und Idole aus Ägypten, Seide aus China, Weihrauch, Myrrhe, Aloe und Kassia aus Südarabien etc. Symbolisch konnotiert das fremde Objekt  seinen Status, seine Funktion und sein Versprechen im Gefüge der kollektiven Bedürfnisse, Wünsche und Begierden der anderen Gesellschaft. Als Fetisch übernimmt das Ding die Rolle des Boten seiner Botschaft.

Fügen wir noch einen Satz von Marx – in Abwandlung – an: „Man sieht, wie die Geschichte der Industrie (= des Karawanen-Handels) und das gewordene gegenständliche Dasein der Industrie (= des Suqs) das aufgeschlagene Buch der menschlichen Bewußtseinskräfte, die sinnlich vorliegende menschliche Psychologie ist.“

In historischer Sicht sind die großen Suqs der einflussreichen arabischen Metropolen Damaskus und Aleppo durch Jahrhunderte Orte des fluktuierenden Tausches materialer und symbolischer Güter gewesen: von Dingen, Botschaften und Geschichten. Seit dem 2. Jahrhundert v. Chr. verbindet ein Netz von Seidenstraßen den fernen Osten  Chinas  und Indiens mit den Tausch- und Umschlagplätzen in Syrien. Aber schon ab Mitte des 3. Jahrtausends v. wird die Weihrauchstraße genutzt zum Gütertausch  zwischen  Südarabien, Ägypten,  Mesopotamien und der  Mittelmeer-Region. Die Suqs von Damaskus und Aleppo liegen im Schnittpunkt dieser großen Handelsrouten: Orte äußerster Verdichtung und Akkumulation. Unterschiedlichste  Waren- und Informationsströme fließen hier zusammen. In den  Khanen, den Karawansereien begegnen sich  Menschen  aus den Weiten  der damaligen Ökumene. Die Suqs  und ihre Khane  werden zu Orten intensivsten transkulturellen Austausches. Stellen wir sie uns vor als  besondere Versammlungsorte einer Menge von Boten und Empfängern, als einzigartige Tausch-Orte einer Vielzahl von Botschaften – übrigens immer in der unmittelbaren Nachbarschaft zu den Stätten, die allein dem mentalen Austausch von Botschaften  zwischen den Irdischen und dem Überirdischen gewidmet sind: den Moscheen.

3. Der Ruinenort: die Botschaft der Spur (Palmyra)

Am Abend sitze ich auf den Mauern einer  Burg aus der Osmanenzeit – und schaue  vom Burgberg herab  auf das Ruinenfeld der Jahrtausende alten   Oasenstadt Palmyra in der Syrischen Wüste. Etwa 150 km weiter östlich fließt der Euphrat.

Vor genau 224 Jahren hatte vom gleichen Aussichtspunkt auf dem Burgberg, zur gleichen Abendstunde der Comte Constantin Francois de Volney  auf die Ruinen von Palmyra herabgesehen und war in tiefes Nachdenken  versunken:

Der Anblick einer großen verödeten Stadt, das Andenken an vergangene Zeiten, die Vergleichung mit den gegenwärtigen Zuständen, alles erhob mein Herz zu.hohen Gedanken [...] Hier, sagte ich zu mir, hier blühte ehemals eine begüterte Stadt; hier war der Sitz eines mächtigen Reichs. Eine lebendige Menge beseelte vormals diese jetzt so verödeten Plätze und belebte ihren Umkreis. In diesen Mauern, wo jetzt totes  Schweigen  herrscht, ertönte unaufhörlich das Geräusch der Künste, das Geschrei der Festlichkeit und Freude [...] Hier sammelte sich ein zahlreiches Volk, um die ehrwürdigen Pflichten des Glaubens zu verrichten [...] Hier rief eine an Genüssen schöpferische Erfindungskraft die Reichtümer aller Himmelsgegenden herbei. Der Purpur von Tyrus wurde gegen die kostbare Seide von Serica, die reichen Gürtel von Kaschmir gegen die prächtigen Teppiche von Lydien, der Ambra des Baltischen Meeres gegen die Perlen  und Wohlgerüche  aus Arabien , das Gold von Ophir gegen das Zinn von Thule vertauscht [...] Und was bleibt jetzt von dieser mächtigen Stadt? – ein trauriges Skelett. Was bleibt  von einem großen Gebiet? – ein dunkles, leeres Andenken! (Volney 1977, 24).

Der melancholische Blick des Comte ist gebannt gerichtet auf das Hier dieses Ruinenorts vor seinen Augen; gefangen in diesem gegenwärtigen Augenblick  des Jetzt erweckt der Anblick  von Ödnis und Untergang  nur ein „dunkles und leeres Andenken“ an die einstige Größe. Dem Hier und Jetzt  des Ruinenorts versucht die Imagination des Gewesenen zu Entkommen. Doch die Schattenbilder des Vergangenen scheinen die Trauer im Anblick der geschichtlichen Vergängnis nur zu bestärken.

Was geht in dem einsamen Betrachter  und Reisenden des 18.Jahrhunderts vor? Wie verhält sich sein Anblick (vergangener Größe), seine Vergleichung (mit seiner Gegenwart), und sein Andenken zum konkreten und sichtbaren Trümmerfeld als „authentischen Ort“? Als der Comte de Volney nach dreitägigem Marsch durch die  Wüste  Palmyra erreicht, trifft er dort  nur auf ein paar arme arabische Bauern, die in Strohhütten  am Eingang des großen Baal-Tempels hausen. Hier findet Volney Gastfreundschaft und Unterkommen. Mit Sicherheit ist er an diesem Tag des Jahres 1784 der einzige europäische Reisende  in Palmyra.

Wir sind indessen nicht mehr die einzigen in Palmyra – auf dem  Aussichtsberg. Zerstreut lassen wir unsere Blicke schweifen, Versunkenheit im Anblick des Ruinenfeldes stellt sich nicht mehr ein. Die Erlebnisse der frühen Reise-Abenteurer bleiben uns versagt. Angereist im Bus besichtigen wir den Ruinenort nicht  mit der inneren Sammlung  des einsamen, von Trauer über die geschichtliche Vergängnis  erfassten Reisenden des Jahres 1784. Der Ruinenort jedoch  dürfte sich – von einigen Ausgrabungen und Freilegungen abgesehen – nicht wesentlich verändert haben. Verändert aber haben sich offensichtlich die Formen der Wahrnehmung und des  Andenkens – und damit die Lesarten einer diesen Überresten  eingeschriebenen Botschaft.

Überhaupt erst nach Jahrhunderten des Absinkens in die vollkommene Bedeutungslosigkeit und Verödung  wird Palmyra von ein paar europäischen  Orient-Reisenden im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert als exotischer Ruinenort  (wieder)entdeckt. In Europa aber werden ihre Berichte kaum zur Kenntnis genommen. Erst der 1787 veröffentlichte  Reiseberichte des Comte de Volney: „Voyage  en Egypte et en Syrie“  findet  aufgeklärte Leser, die sich in ihrem säkularen Verständnis geschichtlicher Abläufe bestätigt sehen. Tatsächlich  artikuliert Volneys Text einen Wahrnehmungswandel: ein Ruinenort im fernen Syrien, der – anders als etwa die „heiligen Stätten in Palästina – nicht dem sog. christlich-okzidentalen Erinnerungs-Kontext zuzurechnen ist, erfährt  die Würdigung als ein Gedächtnisort ganz anderer Art wahrgenommen zu werden. Es geht nicht mehr darum, an einem ausgezeichneten Ort die kollektive Erinnerung an ein bestimmtes  Ereignis  der eigenen (nationalen) Geschichte wachzuhalten, sondern darum, den fremden Ruinenort als Schauplatz  universal-historischer Abläufe aufzufassen

Und was bleibt jetzt von dieser mächtigen Stadt? – ein trauriges Skelett. Was bleibt von einem großen Gebiet? – ein dunkles, leeres Andenken! Gehen so die Werke der Menschen zu Grunde? Verschwinden so Reiche und Nationen? (Volney 1977, 25)

Nichts anderes beschreibt dieses Fazit Volneys als die neuzeitliche Transformation eines entlegenen exotischen Ruinenortes in einen „universalen Gedächtnisort“ (Nora 1998, 26), der Zeugnis a blegt von der Geschichte als Kette  ewiger Auf- und Niedergänge: eine  Botschaft, die sichtbar niedergelegt ist  in dem Text, den eine Masse von Spuren zusammensetzt.

Der Spuren-Text bekundet, die Wahrheit der Geschichte: eine Botschaft, die im Betrachter Gefühle des Erhabenen  und der Trauer  zugleich  zu erregen vermag. Das 19.Jahrhundert wird Landschaften und Regionen  fernab Europas  mit einem  Netzwerk „universaler Gedächtnisorte überziehen. Der europäische Reisende wird sich als Spuren-Kundiger verstehen, um sich, wo immer er hingelangt, an den bezeichneten Orten dem Studium der immer gleichen Botschaft widmen zu können. Anders allerdings als der Tourist des 20/21.Jahrhunderts  wird er sich  in der Regel besonders kundig machen, um vor den Ruinen  allen Spuren nachgehen zu können. Alles, auch das geringste Trümmerstück auf dem Ruinenfeld, erlebt seine parallele Transformation zur Spur, die von der Wahrheit des Gewesenen zeugt: jeder Stein wird zum Zeichen dessen, was einst war. Pierre Nora spricht von den Gedächtnisorten  als den „flüchtigen Heiligtümern in einer Gesellschaft der Entheiligung“ (Nora 1998, 19-20) – von einer  Ritualisierung  der Begehung von Gedächtnisorten in einer Zeit der Entritualisierung. „Das Heilige steckt jetzt in der Spur“ (Nora 1998, 23).

Wenn Reisende des 19. Jahrhunderts in der Nachfolge Volneys nach  Palmyra  kamen, besuchten sie schon einen, im Netzwerk der Gedächtnisorte  besonders markierten und angeeigneten Ort, an dem man sich dem europäischen Kult der Geschichte hingeben konnte. So errichteten  die Europäer ihre „flüchtigen Heiligtümer“ des Gedächtnisses überall in der Fremde – in Form eines symbolischen Kolonialismus.

Die Orts-Aneignung ging einher mit der funktionalen Festlegung der Rollen von Bote, Botschaft und Empfänger. Man bedurfte der Materialisierung in Form des dinglich-konkreten Spuren-Feldes, um sich der Geschichte zu vergewissern. Allein die sichtbare Spur verbürgt die Wahrheit des  geschichtlichen Prozesses, dessen Ziel der Untergang ist. Diese Botschaft überbringt der dingliche Bote der  authentischen Spur. In der Tat erlangt  die Spur  in diesem Kontext den Status des allein gültigen Zeichens  und Symbols. Der Reisende betritt den „universalen Gedächtnisort“  als Kundiger: wiederum nur im Rahmen von „festgelegten Beständen kulturellen Wissens“ (Egger 2003, 265)  gelingt ihm die Dechiffrierung  der Zeichen-Spur – nur so  findet er kreisschlüssig Zugang zum „Ersatz-Imaginären der Geschichte“ – wie Pierre Nora es ausdrückt (Nora 1998, 41).

Für den frühbürgerlichen Reisenden wie Volney ging der Reise ins Imaginäre der Geschichte eine intensive Vorbereitungs-Arbeit voraus. Nach  einem Studium der alten Sprachen und der Geschichte entschloß er sich 1782 zu seiner  Reise nach Ägypten und Syrien, auf die er sich gezielt noch einmal  ein Jahr lang vorbereitete. In Ägypten hielt er sich 8 Monate in einem koptischen Kloster auf, um  sich in der arabischen Sprache zu vervollkommnen Erst danach begann er seine fast vier Jahre dauernde  Wanderung durch den Vorderen Orient. (Mensching 1977, 359). Vergleichen wir diesen Zusammenhang  von Interesse – Studium – Sprachkenntnissen und Orts-Erkundung  mit einem gebuchten Besichtigungspaket unserer Tage, wird überdeutlich wie fundamental sich die Wahrnehmungen in Raum und Zeit  geändert  haben. Beschleunigt bewegt sich  der moderne Tourist in dem  zum  Netzwerk von „Event-Spots“ mutierten alteuropäischen Netz der Gedächtnisorte.

Der Beschleunigung der Bewegung von Event-Spot zu Event-Spot  entspricht eine  zerstreute Wahrnehmung in einem engen Zeitfenster  von  Stunden. Die symbolische Dimension der Spur als authentisches Zeichen bleibt dieser Wahrnehmung verschlossen, der es darauf anzukommen scheint, pro Zeiteinheit  möglichst viele äußere Einzel-Eindrücke zu sammeln. In dieser Hinsicht hat sich unsere Wahrnehmung  der fotografischen Aufnahme in Tempo und Punktualität angeglichen. Die zerstreute Wahrnehmung  schweift umher, ohne allzu lange zu verweilen. Die Spuren eines Ruinenortes  vermitteln dem modernen Touristen Informationen und Daten – aber keine Botschaft. Die quasi-rituelle  Differenz  des Gedächtnisortes: seine auratische Besonderheit erscheint geschleift. Das zwischen Boten und Empfängern  vereinbarte Spiel des Austausches von Botschaften  ist geschrumpft zur flüchtigen Daten-Übergabe. Der universale Gedächtnisort erlebt seine Einebnung zum botschaftlosen globalen Event-Spot.


Egger, Stephan: Auf den Spuren der verlorenen Zeit. Maurice Halbwachs und die Wege des „kollektiven Gedächtnisses“. In Maurice Halbwachs: Stätten der Verkündigung im Heiligen Land (Topographie des Evangiles en Terre Sainte), Konstanz 2003.

Halbwachs, Maurice: Stätten der Verkündigung im Heiligen Land (Topographie legendaire des Evangiles en Terre Sainte), Konstanz 2003.

Mensching, Günther: Zur Dialektik des Kosmopolitismus in Volneys „Ruinen“. In Constantin François de Volney: Die Ruinen oder Betrachtungen über die Revolutionen der Reiche. Frankfurt am Main 1977.

Nora, Pierre: Zwischen Geschichte und Gedächtnis. Frankfurt am Main 1998.

Scheck, Frank Rainer: Jordanien. Völker und Kulturen zwischen Jordan und Rotem Meer. Ostfildern, 4. Aufl, 2008.

Volney, Constantin François de: Die Ruinen oder Betrachtungen über die Revolutionen der Reiche. Frankfurt am Main 1977.

from the
Archaic through Roman Periods

Oxford University Press 2013


1. The Invention of a Ritual
2. Venues and Offerings
3. Prayers and Answers
4. A God Says No
5. Rules, Rewards, and Experts
6. Markers and Messes
7. A Detective Story
8. The Demise of a Ritual


This book deals with a subject that evokes the slaughter of animals and the feasts of the Homeric poems and Classical Athens. Yet the most common Greek word for killing an animal for a good was thuein "to make smoke." English "dusky" is a cognate. So are Latin "fumus", or "smoke" and thus or "incense." [1] A Greek worshipper used smoke to send a signal to a distant point. The two leading views of Greek sacrifice say little of this smoke. One of these views, Walter Brukert's, presupposes that Greek ways of making animal offerings descended from Stone Age hunters. As implied by the title of one of Burkert's books, Homo Necans, the Greek worshipper was a prototypical killer. [2] The most important part of the rite was the killing of the animal. The other leading view, that of Marcel Detienne and the late Jean-Pierre Vernant, supposes that Greek ways of making animals offerings, and also eating them, unified the citizenry of the Classical city-states. The Greek worshipper was the prototypical democrat. [3] The most important part of the rite was feeding the worshippers. The same conclusions would hold for religions with similar rites, such as the religion of pagan Rome, or even of ancient Israel.

Scholars of Greek religion had other reasons to doubt these views, and even to doubt the importance given to animal offerings. Burkert, Vernant, and Detienne trafficked in social science with more or less staying power; and Burkert did the same with natural science. Archeologists had always known there was more to worship than animal sacrifice. Literary critics knew that the stress on rituals, coupled with a divorce of ritual from mythic antecedents, had done a kind of violence to Greek experience, which was as much about gods and heroes known though myth as it was about rites known through anthropology and sociology. And they knew that the gods of the poets and historians responded to acts of sacrifice less predictably than in the two prevailing views. Neither view paid much attention to the gods, or considered the standards  by which gods might judge worshippers, or the laws that worshippers ought to obey.

1 Thuein: DIR s.v. _dheu, II.5, which is the extended form of dheus Thus and fumus derive from theu; English "dusk" from dheus. Further discussion at chapter 6 here. In contrast, Greek tuphein and its English cognate, "smoke," have no sacrificial character.
2 Burkert (1981), a translation of a 1972 original, followed by Burkert (1985) and other workds discussed in chapter 1 here.
3 Vernant and Detienne (1989)

(p. vii-viii)

I The Invention of a Ritual

When an ancient Greek prayed, he or she might burn an offering. After noticing the smoke from the fire, a god might grant the prayer and accept the offering, or he might not. Odysseus experienced both responses. At the start of the Illiad, when the Achaeans suffered from a plague, Odysseus brought a hecatomb of animals to the priest of Apollo, Chryses, hoping that the pries would sacrifice them and pray to Apollo for relief. Chryses was a likely intercessor, for the god had inflicted the plague after Agamemnon refused to release his daughter, a captive. Odysseus returned the girl to her father. With this wrong righted, the priest performed the rite, and Apollo "heard him," ending the plague. [1] On another occasion, Odysseus did not obtain his request. After he escaped from the Cyclops, he sacrificed the ram that had carried him to safety from the monster's cave - an apt thanksgiving. When the smoke rose into the air, Zeus "paid no heed." [2] By  blinding the Cyclops, Odysseus had wronged the monster's father, Poseidon, and he had not righted the wrong. This time, Odysseus was at a disadvantage. Before, he was not.

It did not matter what the offering was. The Achaeans gave some number of ca cattle, Odysseus a particular ram. Other worshippers in Homer gave incense and a woven dress. [3] nor did it matter how many people made the offering, or how many would benefit. Odysseus and Chryses offered the hecatomb on behalf of the army, but Odysseus offered the ram on behalf of his crew. The conduct of the worshippers did matter. The Achaeans had satisfied Apollo, but Odysseus had not satisfied Zeus. The god also mattered. After Apollo granted Chryses's prayer, the Achaeans sang and danced. [4] They sensed the god's presence, which Homer confirms, saying that the god watched. Sacrifice let the worshippers commune with the god. Or, if the god were displeased, as Zeus was, the rite failed to achieve this effect. The two sides communicated, but did not commune.

1 Il 2.434-456, especially 456, tou d'éclue
2 Od. 9.551-555, especially 555, ouk empázeto. The same animal: Stanford ad 9.550
3 Il. 6.297-311.
4 Il. 1.471-474.

(p. 3-4)

München 2013


Harald Strohm: Vorwort

Jan Assmann: Einführung
Aleida Assmann: Die Medien Gottes. Stationen des Wandels religiöser Offenbarung
Theo Sundermeier: Offenbarungen: Kontrapunkte des Lebens?
Jan Assmann: Hierosemie und Hierophanie. Bemerkungen zur Phänomenologie der Offenbarung in Ägypten und Israel
Burkhard Schnepel: Zur Stofflichkeit religiöser Erfahrungen: "Idolatrie" in Ostindien
Harald Strohm: Polytheismus, multiple Persönlichkeiten und die Formen der Rücksprache mit den Göttern im vedischen Indien - Eine Annäherung über David Hume
Léon Wurmser: "Für das geschriebeneeBuch gibt es keinen Schrank" - Zur Dialektik von Geheimhaltung und Offenbarung in der jüdischen Mystik, v.a. im Zohar
Bernhard Lang: Der redende Gott. Erfahrene und erfundene Offenbarung im Alten Testatemn
Reinhard Schulze: Die sechste Gestaltung. Koranische Gottesrede im Kontext
Raimar Zons: Metakritik aller Offenbarung
Manfred Schneider: Romantische Prognostik: Richard Wagners "Ring des Nibelungen"


Die Götter oder die Gottheit nach der berühmten Frazerschen Definition mit "Magie" zu zwingen, ist das eine Extrem: Nach solcher Anmaßung haben die Götter oder die Gottheit, so Frazer,

... auf Erden oder im Himmel voller Ergebung das zu vollziehen, was ihre Herren, die Zauberer, an Befehlen zu äußern geruhen, ... selbst die höchsten Götter haben sie ihrem Willen zu un unterwerfen, .. 1

Das andere Extrem ist die bedingungslose Unterwürfigkeit der Menschen: Das Medium, das die Botschafaten der Gottheit vernimmt, fungiert nach dieser Auffassung als bloßes Sprachrohr und "channelt" ohne alle Übersetzungsvorbehalte, was die Gläugiben dann, es sei als Wahrheiten, moralische Befehle oder auferlegtes Schicksal, passiv und widerspruchslos anzunehmen und zu befolgeen haben.– Ob diese Extreme je wirklich zum Tragen kamen, mag man bezweifeln. Zwischen ihnen spannt sich jedenfalls das Feld von Kommunikationsmöglichkeiten auf, bei denen ein interaktiver und umgänglicher Kontakt mit dem Göttlichen und jener andren Welt gesucht und gepfegt wird.– Ein instruktives Beispiel für solch umgängliche Kommunikation speigelt der altindische Begriff brahman, wörtlich "die Formulierung", wider:
Bei ihren frühmorgendlichen Kultfeiern setzten sich die vedischen Opfergemeinden einst um ein offenes "Lagerfeuer" und luden dazu ihre Götter zu einem Gastmahl. Die Einladung erfolgte dabei durch einen mit heiligen Gras, dem barhis, bestreuten Sitz, durch ein Stückchen Opferkuchen und ein Getränk sowie durch explizites Herbeibitten. Einer der prominentesten ihrer Götter war Indra, und da Indra dem Mythos nach oft auf seinem von Falben gezogenen Dreirad ausfuhr, sang man zum Beispiel

Indra, ... schirr deine mähnigen Falben, die Hengste, an,...– die übermütigen, – deine Zechgenossen, die schöngestrigelten ... – Das Barhis ist ausgelegt, komm doch her, du Mächtiger nimm Platz und trink, spann hier die Falben aus!– Komme.... zu der lieben Speise!

Erfolg aber, so die Vorstellung, konnte solches Herbeibitten nur haben, wenn die Worte dabei in wirksames brahman gegossen waren und damit den Ton trafen, den die Götter lieben und verstanden. Wo dies gelang und die Welt der Götter also in Resonanz und Allung versetzt wurde, erhoben diese nun ihrerseits das Wort und beflügelten die Dichter von sich aus mit gottgefälligen Formulierungen und weiterem brahman. So heißt es etwa in Liedern an den Gott Soma:

Soma... frohlockt über die Lobrede, stimmt in sie ein, .. (gibt) der wohlgesetzten Rede Schwung,  ...– (und) erzeugt aus eigener Kraft die dichterischen Gedanken.– Während er die Rede hervortreibt, spornen sie ihn durch die Dichtung an... 2

In dieser Kreisenden Hermeneutik zwischen Dichter- und Göttersprache offenbarte sich das Göttliche. Die kunstvolle Formulierung des brahman inspirierte dabei Götter wie Dichter und machte die Dichter für die übrigen Menschen zu göttlichen Vermittlern und zu einer Art von "Propheten". Götter und Dichter sprachen dabei nicht nur dieselbe Sprache, sondern ein und denselben Text; und dies obenhin durch das Medium ein und derselben Person: eben den vom brahman  "beseelten" und Götterworte rezitierenden Dichter oder Rsi. – Nur das brahman, so der Glaube, gab den Kultliedern ihre heilige Kraft und göttliche Würde. Wie hoch es in Ehren stand, erhellt nicht nur daraus, dass sich diese Kultlieder über dreieinhalb Jahrtausende – in mündlicher und dabeei selbengetreuer Tradition – erhielten und in Indien noch heute ihr Heiliges haben. Es erhellt auch daraus, dass das Wort brahman, urspünglich "nur" zur Bezeichnung dieser ekstatischen Kunst des Formulierens gebraucht, in späteren Priester- und Philosophenzirkeln zum brahma geriet, dem Inbegriff jenes "All-Einen" und höchsten Prinzips des Daseins, das den religiösen Geist Indiens bis heute prägt. Auch nimmt es nicht wunder, dass sich die Priesterschaften, die die alte Religiion bald dann schon unter ihre Verwaltung zu nehmen und zu klerikalisieren begannen, Brahmanen nannten.
Die altindische Konzeption des brahman ist kein Sonderfall. Zwar kam und kommt bei der umgänglichen Kommunikation mit dem Göttlichen nicht selten auch die gewöhnliche Sprache mit ihren Möglichkeiten zu Klage und Beschwerde, zu Bekenntnis und Dank, zu Zweifel und Rückversicherung, zu Bitten und Beten in Betracht. Vertiefte Wirksamkeit scheint sie in der Regel und weltweit aber erst zu entfalten, wenn sie ins Poetische und Musikalische gehoben wird: Lyrik und dichte Prosa, Gesang und Gesinge scheinen Ohr und Mund auf beiden Seiten zu öffnen und zu befreien. Desgleichen die metaphorische, in Bildern verschlüsselte und insgesamt rätselhafte Rede, ja überhuapt das profan Schwe- und Unverständliche, dessen Endprodukt im Schweigen und Verstimmen liegt: Schon mancher Schamane, Prophet und ekstatische Poet fand sich in dieser Not oder Verzückung.
Ähnliche Wirkung wie heiliger Poesie wurde und wird auch allerlei psychedelischen Methoden und Möglichkeiten zugesprochen: Drogen, Askese und Keuschheit, Einsamkeit, Schlafentzug, ... wildler Tanz, Ausgelassenheit, Schmerz, Blutzoll. Manche solche "Technik" diente und dient dabei dem Auffinden gottgefälliger Worte und Reime nach Art des brahman; im alten Indien galten die noch heute gepflegten Übungen des yoga, wörtlich: der "Anspannung", als goldener Weg dorthin. Aber das Zungenlösen und Gehörerweitern waren nicht die einzigen Beweggründe. Das durch solche Ekstase- und Meditationsformen bewerkstellgte Außer-sich- oder ins-eigene-Innere-Geraten war und ist nicht selten auch Selbstzweck und wurde und wird in seiner Erfüllung hier als Stille, Leerwerden, ... kosmische Harmonie oder göttliches Licht, dort in Form von sich überstürzenden und oft von apokalyptischen Schrecken durchzitterten Visionen geschildert.
Als gänzlich averbale Bekundungen des Göttlichen galten und gelten zuletzt die "Zeichen" im engeren Sinne: Formationen und Termine des Vogelflugs und Planetenbewerungen, Befunde vom  Lebern und anderer Eingeweide, gewofene Hölzchen, Kartenfolgen, Handlinien,..., ja Kaffeesatz und Lüscherkleckse. Sie alle scheinen das Zeug zum Tragen göttlicher Nachricht und menschlicher Anfrage zu haben  bedürfen aber gerade ob ihres averbalen Charakters um so dringlicher der Auslegung durch beredter Experten.

1. James G. Frazer, Der goldene Zweig (The Golden Bough, 1922), übers. v. H.v. Bauer, Reinbek 2000, 75.
2. RV: I 10,3; I 81,3; III 43,6; I 1777,4;X 112,4 . - IX 71,3; IX 90,c; IX 95,1; IX 72.1. Quelle: Der Rig-Veda, aus dem Sanskrit ins Deutsche übersetzt usw. von Karl Friedrich Geldner; in: Harvard Oriental Studies, Vol. 33 ff., Cambridge etc. 1978, 4 Bde.

(S. 7-9)



ὑπολάβοι ἂν οὖν τις ὑμῶν ἴσως: ‘ἀλλ᾽, ὦ Σώκρατες, τὸ σὸν τί ἐστι πρᾶγμα; πόθεν αἱ διαβολαί σοι αὗται γεγόνασιν;
οὐ γὰρ δήπου σοῦ γε οὐδὲν τῶν ἄλλων περιττότερον πραγματευομένου ἔπειτα τοσαύτη φήμη τεκαὶ λόγος γέγονεν,
εἰ μή τι ἔπραττες ἀλλοῖον ἢ οἱ πολλοί. λέγε οὖν ἡμῖν τί ’

‘ [20δ] ἐστιν, ἵνα μὴ ἡμεῖς περὶ σοῦ αὐτοσχεδιάζωμεν.’ ταυτί μοι δοκεῖ δίκαια λέγειν ὁ λέγων, κἀγὼ ὑμῖν πειράσομαι ἀποδεῖξαι τί ποτ᾽ ἐστὶν τοῦτο
ὃ ἐμοὶ πεποίηκεν τό τε ὄνομα καὶ τὴν διαβολήν. ἀκούετε δή. καὶ ἴσωςμὲν δόξω τισὶν ὑμῶν παίζειν: εὖ μέντοι ἴστε,
 πᾶσαν ὑμῖν τὴν ἀλήθειαν ἐρῶ. ἐγὼ γάρ, ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, δι᾽οὐδὲν ἀλλ᾽ ἢ διὰ σοφίαν τινὰ τοῦτο τὸ ὄνομα ἔσχηκα.
ποίαν δὴ σοφίαν ταύτην; ἥπερ ἐστὶν ἴσως ἀνθρωπίνη σοφία: τῷ ὄντι γὰρ κινδυνεύω ταύτην εἶναι σοφός. οὗτοι δὲ τάχ᾽ ἄν, οὓς ἄρτι

[20ε] ἔλεγον, μείζω τινὰ ἢ κατ᾽ ἄνθρωπον σοφίαν σοφοὶ εἶεν, ἢ οὐκ ἔχω τί λέγω: οὐ γὰρ δὴ ἔγωγε αὐτὴν ἐπίσταμαι,
ἀλλ᾽ ὅστις φησὶ ψεύδεταί τε καὶ ἐπὶ διαβολῇ τῇ ἐμῇ λέγει. καί μοι, ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι,
μὴ θορυβήσητε, μηδ᾽ ἐὰν δόξω τι ὑμῖν μέγα λέγειν:
οὐ γὰρ ἐμὸν ἐρῶ τὸν λόγον ὃν ἂν λέγω, ἀλλ᾽ εἰς ἀξιό χρεωνὑμῖν τὸν λέγοντα ἀνοίσω. τῆς γὰρ ἐμῆς,
εἰ δή τίς ἐστιν σοφία καὶ οἵα, μάρτυρα ὑμῖν παρέξομαι τὸν θεὸν τὸν ἐν Δελφοῖς. Χαιρεφῶντα γὰρ ἴστε που. οὗτος

[21α] ἐμός τε ἑταῖρος ἦν ἐκ νέου καὶ ὑμῶν τῷ πλήθει ἑταῖρός τε καὶ συνέφυγε τὴν φυγὴν ταύτην
καὶ μεθ᾽ ὑμῶν κατῆλθε. καὶ ἴστε δὴ οἷος ἦν Χαιρεφῶν,
ὡς σφοδρὸς ἐφ᾽ ὅτι ὁρμήσειεν. καὶ δή ποτε καὶ εἰς Δελφοὺς ἐλθὼν ἐτόλμησε τοῦτο μαντεύσασθαι
—καί, ὅπερ λέγω, μὴ θορυβεῖτε, ὦ ἄνδρες—ἤρετο γὰρ δὴ
 εἴ τις ἐμοῦ εἴη σοφώτεροςἀνεῖλεν οὖν ἡ Πυθία μηδένα σοφώτερον εἶναι. καὶ τούτων πέρι ὁ ἀδελφὸς
ὑμῖν αὐτοῦ οὑτοσὶμαρτυρήσει, ἐπειδὴ ἐκεῖνος τετελεύτηκεν.

σκέψασθε δὴ ὧν ἕνεκα ταῦτα λέγω: μέλλω γὰρ ὑμᾶς διδάξειν ὅθεν μοι ἡ διαβολὴ γέγονεν.
ταῦτα γὰρ ἐγὼ ἀκούσας ἐνεθυμού μην οὑτωσί: ‘τί ποτε λέγει ὁ θεός, καὶ τί ποτε αἰνίττεται;
ἐγὼ γὰρ δὴ οὔτε μέγα οὔτε σμικρὸν σύνοιδα ἐμαυτῷ σοφὸς ὤν: τί οὖν ποτε λέγει φάσκων ἐμὲ σοφώτατον εἶναι;
οὐ γὰρ δήπου ψεύδεταί γε: οὐ γὰρθέμις αὐτῷ.’
καὶ πολὺν μὲν χρόνον ἠπόρουν τί ποτε λέγει: ἔπειτα μόγις πάνυ ἐπὶ ζήτησιν αὐτοῦ τοιαύτην τινὰ ἐτραπόμην.
ἦλθον ἐπί τινα τῶν δοκούντων σοφῶν εἶναι, ὡς

[21ξ] ἐνταῦθα εἴπερ που ἐλέγξων τὸ μαντεῖον καὶ ἀποφανῶν τῷ χρησμῷ ὅτι ‘οὑτοσὶ ἐμοῦ σοφώτερός
ἐστι, σὺδ᾽ ἐμὲ ἔφησθα.’ διασκοπῶν οὖν τοῦτον—
ὀνόματι γὰρ οὐδὲν δέομαι λέγειν, ἦν δέ τις τῶν πολιτικῶν πρὸς ὃνἐγὼ σκοπῶν τοιοῦτόν τι ἔπαθον,
ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, καὶ διαλεγόμενος αὐτῷ—
ἔδοξέ μοι οὗτος ὁ ἀνὴρ δοκεῖνμὲν εἶναι σοφὸς ἄλλοις τε πολλοῖς ἀνθρώποις καὶ μάλιστα ἑαυτῷ,
εἶναι δ᾽ οὔ: κἄπειτα ἐπειρώμην αὐτῷ δεικνύναι ὅτι οἴοιτο μὲν εἶναι σοφός, εἴη δ᾽ οὔ.

[21δ] ἐντεῦθεν οὖν τούτῳ τε ἀπηχθόμην καὶ πολλοῖς τῶν παρόντων: πρὸς ἐμαυτὸν δ᾽ οὖν ἀπιὼν
ἐλογιζόμην ὅτι τούτου μὲν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐγὼ σοφώτερός εἰμι:
κινδυνεύει μὲν γὰρ ἡμῶν οὐδέτερος οὐδὲν καλὸν κἀγαθὸν εἰδέναι,
 ἀλλ᾽ οὗτος μὲν οἴεταί τι εἰδέναι οὐκ εἰδώς, ἐγὼ δέ, ὥσπερ οὖν οὐκ οἶδα, οὐδὲ οἴομαι: ἔοικα γοῦν
τούτουγε σμικρῷ τινι αὐτῷ τούτῳ σοφώτερος εἶναι,
ὅτι ἃ μὴ οἶδα οὐδὲ οἴομαι εἰδέναι. ἐντεῦθεν ἐπ᾽ ἄλλον ᾖα τῶν ἐκείνου δοκούντων σοφωτέρων εἶναι καί

[21ε] μοι ταὐτὰ ταῦτα ἔδοξε, καὶ ἐνταῦθα κἀκείνῳ καὶ ἄλλοις πολλοῖς ἀπηχθόμην.

μετὰ ταῦτ᾽ οὖν ἤδη ἐφεξῆς ᾖα, αἰσθανόμενος μὲν καὶ λυπούμενος καὶ δεδιὼς ὅτι ἀπηχθανόμην, ὅμως δὲ ἀναγκαῖον
ἐδόκει εἶναι τὸ τοῦ θεοῦ περὶ πλείστου ποιεῖσθαι—ἰτέον οὖν, σκοποῦντι τὸν χρησμὸν τί λέγει, ἐπὶ ἅπαντας τούς τι

[22α] δοκοῦντας εἰδέναι. καὶ νὴ τὸν κύνα, ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι— δεῖ γὰρ πρὸς ὑμᾶς τἀληθῆ λέγειν
—ἦ μὴν ἐγὼἔπαθόν τι τοιοῦτον: οἱ μὲν μάλιστα εὐδοκιμοῦντες ἔδοξάν μοι
ὀλίγου δεῖν τοῦ πλείστου ἐνδεεῖς εἶναι ζητοῦντι κατὰ τὸν θεόν, ἄλλοι δὲ δοκοῦντες φαυλότεροι ἐπιεικέστεροι εἶναι ἄνδρες
πρὸς τὸ φρονίμως ἔχειν. δεῖ δὴ ὑμῖντὴν ἐμὴν πλάνην ἐπιδεῖξαι ὥσπερ πόνους τινὰς πονοῦντος ἵνα μοι καὶ ἀνέλεγκτος ἡ μαντεία γένοιτο.
μετὰ γὰρ τοὺς πολιτικοὺς ᾖα ἐπὶ τοὺς ποιητὰς τούς τε τῶν τραγῳδιῶν καὶ τοὺς τῶν

[22β] διθυράμβων καὶ τοὺς ἄλλους, ὡς ἐνταῦθα ἐπ᾽ αὐτοφώρῳ καταληψόμενος ἐμαυτὸν ἀμαθέστερον ἐκείνωνὄντα.
ἀναλαμβάνων οὖν αὐτῶν τὰ ποιήματα ἅ μοι ἐδόκει μάλιστα πεπραγματεῦσθαι αὐτοῖς, διηρώτων ἂναὐτοὺς τί λέγοιεν,
ἵν᾽ ἅμα τι καὶ μανθάνοιμι παρ᾽ αὐτῶν. αἰσχύνομαι οὖν ὑμῖν εἰπεῖν, ὦ ἄνδρες,
τἀληθῆ: ὅμωςδὲ ῥητέον. ὡς ἔπος γὰρ εἰπεῖν ὀλίγου αὐτῶν ἅπαντες
οἱ παρόντες ἂν βέλτιον ἔλεγον περὶ ὧν αὐτοὶ ἐπεποιήκεσαν. ἔγνων οὖν αὖ καὶ περὶ τῶν ποιητῶν ἐν ὀλίγῳ τοῦτο, ὅτι οὐ σοφίᾳ ποιοῖεν

[22ξ] ἃ ποιοῖεν, ἀλλὰ φύσει τινὶ καὶ ἐνθουσιάζοντες ὥσπερ οἱ θεομάντεις καὶ οἱ χρησμῳδοί:
καὶ γὰρ οὗτοι λέγουσι μὲν πολλὰ καὶ καλά, ἴσασιν δὲ οὐδὲν ὧν λέγουσι. τοιοῦτόν
τί μοι ἐφάνησαν πάθος καὶ οἱ ποιηταὶ πεπονθότες, καὶ ἅμα ᾐσθόμην αὐτῶν διὰ τὴν ποίησιν οἰομένων
καὶ τἆλλα σοφωτάτων εἶναι ἀνθρώπων ἃ οὐκ ἦσαν.
ἀπῇα οὖν καὶ ἐντεῦθεν τῷ αὐτῷ οἰόμενος περιγεγονέναι ᾧπερ καὶ τῶν πολιτικῶν.

τελευτῶν οὖν ἐπὶ τοὺς χειροτέχνας ᾖα: ἐμαυτῷ γὰρ

[22δ] συνῄδη οὐδὲν ἐπισταμένῳ ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν, τούτους δέ γ᾽ ᾔδη ὅτι εὑρήσοιμι πολλὰ καὶ καλὰ ἐπισταμένους. καὶ τούτου μὲν οὐκ ἐψεύσθην,
ἀλλ᾽ ἠπίσταντο ἃ ἐγὼ οὐκ ἠπιστάμην καί μου ταύτῃ σοφώτεροι ἦσαν. ἀλλ᾽,
ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, ταὐτόν μοι ἔδοξαν ἔχειν ἁμάρτημα ὅπερ καὶ οἱ ποιηταὶ καὶ οἱ ἀγαθοὶ δημιουργοί—διὰ τὸ τὴν τέχνην καλῶς ἐξεργάζεσθαι
ἕκαστος ἠξίου καὶ τἆλλα τὰ μέγιστα σοφώτατος εἶναικαὶ αὐτῶν αὕτη ἡπλημμέλεια ἐκείνην τὴν σοφίαν

[22ε] ἀποκρύπτειν: ὥστε με ἐμαυτὸν ἀνερωτᾶν ὑπὲρ τοῦ χρησμοῦ πότερα δεξαίμην ἂν οὕτως
ὥσπερ ἔχω ἔχειν, μήτε τι σοφὸς ὢν τὴν ἐκείνων
σοφίαν μήτε ἀμαθὴς τὴν ἀμαθίαν, ἢ ἀμφότερα ἃ ἐκεῖνοι ἔχουσιν ἔχειν. ἀπεκρινάμην οὖν ἐμαυτῷ
καὶ τῷ χρησμῷ ὅτι μοι λυσιτελοῖ ὥσπερ ἔχω ἔχειν.

ἐκ ταυτησὶ δὴ τῆς ἐξετάσεως, ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι,

[23α] πολλαὶ μὲν ἀπέχθειαί μοι γεγόνασι καὶ οἷαι χαλεπώταται καὶ βαρύταται, ὥστε πολλὰς διαβολὰς ἀπ᾽αὐτῶν γεγονέναι,
ὄνομα δὲ τοῦτο λέγεσθαι, σοφὸς εἶναι: οἴονται γάρ με ἑκάστοτε οἱ παρόντες
ταῦτα αὐτὸν εἶναι σοφὸν ἃ ἂν ἄλλον ἐξελέγξω. τὸ δὲ κινδυνεύει, ὦ ἄνδρες,
τῷ ὄντι ὁ θεὸς σοφὸς εἶναι, καὶ ἐν τῷ χρησμῷ τούτῳ τοῦτο λέγειν,
ὅτι ἡ ἀνθρωπίνη σοφία ὀλίγου τινὸς ἀξία ἐστὶν καὶ οὐδενός. καὶ φαίνεται τοῦτον λέγειν τὸν Σωκράτη, προσκεχρῆσθαι δὲ

[23β] τῷ ἐμῷ ὀνόματιἐμὲ παράδειγμα ποιούμενος, ὥσπερ ἂν εἰ εἴποι ὅτι
οὗτος ὑμῶν, ὦ ἄνθρωποι, σοφώτατόςἐστιν, ὅστις ὥσπερ Σωκράτης ἔγνωκεν ὅτι οὐδενὸς ἄξιός ἐστι τῇ ἀληθείᾳ πρὸς σοφίαν.’
ταῦτ᾽ οὖν ἐγὼ μὲν ἔτικαὶ νῦν περιιὼν ζητῶ καὶ ἐρευνῶ κατὰ τὸν θεὸν καὶ τῶν ἀστῶν
 καὶ ξένων ἄν τινα οἴωμαι σοφὸν εἶναι: καὶἐπειδάν μοι μὴ δοκῇ, τῷ θεῷ βοηθῶν ἐνδείκνυμαι ὅτι οὐκ ἔστι σοφός. καὶ ὑπὸ ταύτης τῆς ἀσχολίας
οὔτε τι τῶν τῆς πόλεως πρᾶξαί μοι σχολὴ γέγονεν ἄξιον λόγου οὔτε τῶν οἰκείωνἀλλ᾽ ἐν

[23ξ] πενίᾳ μυρίᾳ εἰμὶ διὰ τὴν τοῦ θεοῦ λατρείαν.

πρὸς δὲ τούτοις οἱ νέοι μοι ἐπακολουθοῦντες—οἷς μάλιστα σχολή ἐστιν, οἱ τῶν πλουσιωτάτων—αὐτόματοι, χαίρουσιν ἀκούοντες ἐξεταζομένων τῶν ἀνθρώπων,
καὶ αὐτοὶ πολλάκις ἐμὲ μιμοῦνται, εἶτα ἐπιχειροῦσιν ἄλλους ἐξετάζειν: κἄπειτα οἶμαι εὑρίσκουσι πολλὴν ἀφθονίαν οἰομένων μὲν εἰδέναι τι ἀνθρώπων,
εἰδότων δὲὀλίγα ἢ οὐδέν. ἐντεῦθεν οὖν οἱ ὑπ᾽ αὐτῶν ἐξεταζόμενοι ἐμοὶ ὀργίζονται, οὐχ αὑτοῖς,

[23δ] καὶ λέγουσιν ὡς Σωκράτης τίς ἐστι μιαρώτατος καὶ διαφθείρει τοὺς νέους: καὶ ἐπειδάν τις αὐτοὺς ἐρωτᾷὅτι ποιῶν καὶ ὅτι διδάσκων,
ἔχουσι μὲν οὐδὲν εἰπεῖν ἀλλ᾽ ἀγνοοῦσιν, ἵνα δὲ μὴ δοκῶσιν ἀπορεῖν, τὰ κατὰ πάντων τῶν φιλοσοφούντων πρόχειρα ταῦτα λέγουσιν, ὅτι
‘τὰ μετέωρα καὶ τὰ ὑπὸ γῆς’ καὶ ‘θεοὺς μὴνομίζειν’ καὶ ‘τὸν ἥττω λόγον κρείττω ποιεῖν.’
τὰ γὰρ ἀληθῆ οἴομαι οὐκ ἂν ἐθέλοιεν λέγειν, ὅτι κατά δηλοι γίγνονται προσποιούμενοι μὲν εἰδέναι, εἰδότες δὲ οὐδέν. ἅτε οὖν οἶμαι φιλότιμοι

[23ε] ὄντες καὶ σφοδροὶ καὶ πολλοί, καὶ συντεταμένως καὶ πιθανῶς λέγοντες περὶ ἐμοῦ,
ἐμπεπλήκασιν ὑμῶντὰ ὦτα καὶ πάλαι καὶ σφοδρῶς διαβάλλοντες.
ἐκ τούτων καὶ Μέλητός μοι ἐπέθετο καὶ Ἄνυτος καὶ Λύκων, Μέλητος μὲν ὑπὲρ τῶν ποιητῶν ἀχθόμενος, Ἄνυτος δὲ ὑπὲρ τῶν δημιουργῶν καὶ

[24α] τῶν πολιτικῶν, Λύκων δὲ ὑπὲρ τῶν ῥητόρων: ὥστε, ὅπερ ἀρχόμενος ἐγὼ ἔλεγον,
 θαυμάζοιμ᾽ ἂν εἰ οἷός τ᾽εἴην ἐγὼ ὑμῶν ταύτην τὴν διαβολὴν ἐξελέσθαι
ἐν οὕτως ὀλίγῳ χρόνῳ οὕτω πολλὴν γεγονυῖαν. ταῦτ᾽ ἔστινὑμῖν, ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, τἀληθῆ, καὶ ὑμᾶς οὔτε μέγα οὔτε μικρὸν ἀποκρυψάμενος ἐγὼ λέγω
οὐδ᾽ὑποστειλάμενος. καίτοι οἶδα σχεδὸν ὅτι αὐτοῖς τούτοις ἀπεχθάνομαι, ὃ καὶ τεκμήριον ὅτι ἀληθῆ λέγω καὶ ὅτιαὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ διαβολὴ ἡ ἐμὴ καὶ τὰ αἴτια

[24β] ταῦτά ἐστιν. καὶ ἐάντε νῦν ἐάντε αὖθις ζητήσητε ταῦτα, οὕτως εὑρήσετε.

περὶ μὲν οὖν ὧν οἱ πρῶτοί μου κατήγοροι κατηγόρουν αὕτη ἔστω ἱκανὴ ἀπολογία πρὸς ὑμᾶς:
 πρὸς δὲ Μέλητοντὸν ἀγαθὸν καὶ φιλόπολιν, ὥς φησι, καὶ τοὺς ὑστέρους μετὰ ταῦτα πειράσομαι ἀπολογήσασθαι.
αὖθις γὰρ δή, ὥσπερ ἑτέρων τούτων ὄντων κατηγόρων, λάβωμεν αὖ τὴν τούτων ἀντωμοσίαν. ἔχει δέ πως ὧδε:
Σωκράτηφησὶν ἀδικεῖν τούς τε νέους διαφθείροντα καὶ θεοὺς οὓς ἡ πόλις

[24ξ] νομίζει οὐ νομίζοντα, ἕτερα δὲ δαιμόνια καινά. τὸ μὲν δὴ ἔγκλημα τοιοῦτόν ἐστιν: τούτου δὲ τοῦἐγκλήματος ἓν ἕκαστον ἐξετάσωμεν.

φησὶ γὰρ δὴ τοὺς νέους ἀδικεῖν με διαφθείροντα. ἐγὼ δέ γε, ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, ἀδικεῖν φημι Μέλητον, ὅτισπουδῇ χαριεντίζεται,
ῥᾳδίως εἰς ἀγῶνα καθιστὰς ἀνθρώπους, περὶ πραγμάτων προσποιούμενος σπουδάζεινκαὶ κήδεσθαι ὧν οὐδὲν τούτῳ πώποτε ἐμέλησεν:
ὡς δὲ τοῦτο οὕτως ἔχει, πειράσομαι καὶ ὑμῖν ἐπιδεῖξαι. καί μοιδεῦρο, ὦ Μέλητε, εἰπέ: ἄλλο τι ἢ

[24δ] περὶ πλείστου ποιῇ ὅπως ὡς βέλτιστοι οἱ νεώτεροι ἔσονται;


ἴθι δή νυν εἰπὲ τούτοις, τίς αὐτοὺς βελτίους ποιεῖ; δῆλον γὰρ ὅτι οἶσθα, μέλον γέ σοι. τὸν μὲν γὰρ διαφθείροντα ἐξευρών, ὡς φῄς, ἐμέ,
 εἰσάγεις τουτοισὶ καὶ κατηγορεῖς: τὸν δὲ δὴ βελτίους ποιοῦντα ἴθι εἰπὲ καὶ μήνυσο ναὐτοῖς τίς ἐστιν.
 —ὁρᾷς, ὦ Μέλητε, ὅτι σιγᾷς καὶ οὐκ ἔχεις εἰπεῖν; καίτοι οὐκ αἰσχρόν σοι δοκεῖ εἶναι καὶ ἱκανὸντεκμήριον οὗ δὴ ἐγὼ λέγω,
ὅτι σοι οὐδὲν μεμέληκεν; ἀλλ᾽ εἰπέ, ὠγαθέ, τίς αὐτοὺς ἀμείνους ποιεῖ;

οἱ νόμοι.


ἀλλ᾽ οὐ τοῦτο ἐρωτῶ, ὦ βέλτιστε, ἀλλὰ τίς ἄνθρωπος, ὅστις πρῶτον καὶ αὐτὸ τοῦτο οἶδε, τοὺς νόμους;

οὗτοι, ὦ Σώκρατες, οἱ δικασταί.

πῶς λέγεις, ὦ Μέλητε; οἵδε τοὺς νέους παιδεύειν οἷοί τέ εἰσι καὶ βελτίους ποιοῦσιν;


πότερον ἅπαντες, ἢ οἱ μὲν αὐτῶν, οἱ δ᾽ οὔ;


εὖ γε νὴ τὴν Ἥραν λέγεις καὶ πολλὴν ἀφθονίαν τῶν ὠφελούντων. τί δὲ δή; οἱ δὲ ἀκροαταὶ βελτίους ποιοῦσιν


Now perhaps someone might rejoin: “But, Socrates, what is the trouble about you? Whence have these prejudices against you arisen?
For certainly this great report and talk has not arisen while you were doing nothing more out of the way than the rest, unless you were doing something other than most people; so tell us

[20d] what it is, that we may not act unadvisedly in your case.” The man who says this seems to me to be right, and I will try to show you what it is that has brought
about my reputation and aroused the prejudice against me. So listen. And perhaps I shall seem to some of you to be joking; be assured, however, I shall speak perfect truth to you.
The fact is, men of Athens, that I have acquired this reputation on account of nothing else than a sort of wisdom. What kind of wisdom is this?
Just that which is perhaps human wisdom. For perhaps I really am wise in this wisdom; and these men, perhaps,

[20e] of whom I was just speaking, might be wise in some wisdom greater than human, or I don't know what to say; for I do not understand it,
and whoever says I do, is lying and speaking to arouse prejudice against me. And, men of Athens, do not interrupt me with noise, even if I seem to you
 to be boasting; for the word which I speak is not mine, but the speaker to whom I shall refer it is a person of weight. For of my wisdom—if it is wisdom at all—and of its nature,
 I will offer you the god of Delphi as a witness. You know Chaerephon, I fancy.

[21a] He was my comrade from a youth and the comrade of your democratic party, and shared in the recent exile and came back with you.
And you know the kind of man Chaerephon was, how impetuous in whatever he undertook. Well, once he went to Delphiand made so bold as
to ask the oracle this question; and, gentlemen, don't make a disturbance at what I say; for he asked if there were anyone wiser than I.
Now the Pythia replied that there was no one wiser. And about these things his brother here will bear you witness, since Chaerephon is dead. 

[21b] But see why I say these things; for I am going to tell you whence the prejudice against me has arisen. For when I heard this,
I thought to myself: “What in the world does the god mean, and what riddle is he propounding? For I am conscious that I am not wise either much or little.
What then does he mean by declaring that I am the wisest? He certainly cannot be lying, for that is not possible for him.” And for a long time I was at a loss as to what he meant;
then with great reluctance I proceeded to investigate him somewhat as follows.

I went to one of those who had a reputation for wisdom,

[21c] thinking that there, if anywhere, I should prove the utterance wrong and should show the oracle “This man is wiser than I, but you said I was wisest.”
So examining this man—for I need not call him by name, but it was one of the public men with regard to whom I had this kind of experience, men of Athens
—and conversing with him, this man seemed to me to seem to be wise to many other people and especially to himself, but not to be so; and then I tried to show him that he thought

[21d] he was wise, but was not. As a result, I became hateful to him and to many of those present; and so, as I went away, I thought to myself,
“I am wiser than this man; for neither of us really knows anything fine and good, but this man thinks he knows something when he does not,
whereas I, as I do not know anything, do not think I do either. I seem, then, in just this little thing to be wiser than this man at any rate, that what I do not know
I do not think I know either.” From him I went to another of those who were reputed 

[21e] to be wiser than he, and these same things seemed to me to be true; and there I became hateful both to him and to many others.

After this then I went on from one to another, perceiving that I was hated, and grieving and fearing, but nevertheless I thought I must consider
 the god's business of the highest importance. So I had to go, investigating the meaning of the oracle, to all those who were reputed to know anything. And by the Dog, men of Athens

[22a] —for I must speak the truth to you—this, I do declare, was my experience: those who had the most reputation seemed to me to be almost the most deficient,
as I investigated at the god's behest, and others who were of less repute seemed to be superior men in the matter of being sensible. So I must relate to you my wandering as
I performed my Herculean labors, so to speak, in order that the oracle might be proved to be irrefutable. For after the public men I went to the poets, those of tragedies, and those of dithyrambs,

[22b] and the rest, thinking that there I should prove by actual test that I was less learned than they. So, taking up the poems of theirs that seemed to me
to have been most carefully elaborated by them, I asked them what they meant, that I might at the same time learn something from them.
Now I am ashamed to tell you the truth, gentlemen; but still it must be told. For there was hardly a man present, one might say,
who would not speak better than they about the poems they themselves had composed. So again in the case of the poets also I presently recognized this,

[22c] that what they composed they composed not by wisdom, but by nature and because they were inspired, like the prophets and givers of oracles;
for these also say many fine things, but know none of the things they say; it was evident to me that the poets too had experienced something of this same sort.
And at the same time I perceived that they, on account of their poetry, thought that they were the wisest of men in other things as well, in which they were not.
So I went away from them also thinking that I was superior to them in the same thing in which I excelled the public men.

Finally then I went to the hand-workers.

[22d] For I was conscious that I knew practically nothing, but I knew I should find that they knew many fine things.
And in this I was not deceived; they did know what I did not, and in this way they were wiser than I. But, men of Athens, the good artisans
also seemed to me to have the same failing as the poets; because of practicing his art well, each one thought he was very wise in the other most important matters,
and this folly of theirs obscured that wisdom, so that I asked myself

[22e] in behalf of the oracle whether I should prefer to be as I am, neither wise in their wisdom nor foolish in their folly, or to be in both respects as they are.
I replied then to myself and to the oracle that it was better for me to be as I am.

Now from this investigation, men of Athens,

[23a] many enmities have arisen against me, and such as are most harsh and grievous, so that many prejudices have resulted from them and I am called a wise man.
For on each occasion those who are present think I am wise in the matters in which I confute someone else; but the fact is, gentlemen, it is likely that the god is really wise
and by his oracle means this: “Human wisdom is of little or no value.” And it appears that he does not really say this of Socrates, but merely uses my name,

[23b] and makes me an example, as if he were to say:
“This one of you, O human beings, is wisest, who, like Socrates, recognizes that he is in truth of no account in respect to wisdom.”

Therefore I am still even now going about and searching and investigating at the god's behest anyone, whether citizen or foreigner, who I think is wise;
and when he does not seem so to me, I give aid to the god and show that he is not wise. And by reason of this occupation I have no leisure to attend
to any of the affairs of the state worth mentioning, or of my own, but am in vast poverty

[23c] on account of my service to the god.

And in addition to these things, the young men who have the most leisure, the sons of the richest men, accompany me of their own accord,
find pleasure in hearing people being examined, and often imitate me themselves, and then they undertake to examine others; and then, I fancy,
they find a great plenty of people who think they know something, but know little or nothing. As a result, therefore, those who are examined by them are angry with me,
 instead of being angry with themselves, and say that “Socrates is a most abominable person

[23d] and is corrupting the youth.”

And when anyone asks them “by doing or teaching what?” they have nothing to say, but they do not know, and that they may not seem to be at a loss
they say these things that are handy to say against all the philosophers, “the things in the air and the things beneath the earth” and “not to believe in the gods”
and “to make the weaker argument the stronger.” For they would not, I fancy, care to say the truth, that it is being made very clear that they pretend to know, but know nothing.

[23e] Since, then, they are jealous of their honor and energetic and numerous and speak concertedly and persuasively about me, they have filled your ears both long ago
and now with vehement slanders. From among them Meletus attacked me, and Anytus and Lycon, Meletus angered on account of the poets, and Anytus on account of the artisans and the public men,

[24a] and Lycon on account of the orators; so that, as I said in the beginning, I should be surprised if I were able to remove this prejudice from you in so short a time
when it has grown so great. There you have the truth, men of Athens, and I speak without hiding anything from you, great or small or prevaricating. And yet I know pretty
 well that I am making myself hated by just that conduct; which is also a proof that I am speaking the truth and that this is the prejudice against me and these are its causes. And whether you investigate

[24b] this now or hereafter, you will find that it is so.

Now so far as the accusations are concerned which my first accusers made against me, this is a sufficient defence before you; but against Meletus, the good and patriotic,
as he says, and the later ones, I will try to defend myself next. So once more, as if these were another set of accusers, let us take up in turn their sworn statement.
It is about as follows: it states that Socrates is a wrongdoer because he corrupts the youth and does not believe in the gods the state believes in, but in other

[24c] new spiritual beings.

Such is the accusation. But let us examine each point of this accusation. He says I am a wrongdoer because I corrupt the youth. But I, men of Athens, say Meletus is a wrongdoer,
because he jokes in earnest, lightly involving people in a lawsuit, pretending to be zealous and concerned about things or which he never cared at all. And that this is so I will try to make plain to you also.

Come here, Meletus, tell me: don't you consider it

[24d] of great importance that the youth be as good as possible? “I do.” Come now, tell these gentlemen who makes them better? For it is evident that you know,
since you care about it. For you have found the one who corrupts them, as you say, and you bring me before these gentlemen and accuse me; and now, come,
tell who makes them better and inform them who he is. Do you see, Meletus, that you are silent and cannot tell? And yet does it not seem to you disgraceful
and a sufficient proof of what I say, that you have never cared about it? But tell, my good man, who

[24e] makes them better? “The laws.” But that is not what I ask, most excellent one, but what man, who knows in the first place just this very thing, the laws.
“These men, Socrates, the judges.” What are you saying, Meletus? Are these gentlemen able to instruct the youth, and do they make them better? “Certainly.”
All, or some of them and others not? “All.” Well said, by Hera, and this is a great plenty of helpers you speak of. But how about this?

Wikipedia: Apology (Xenophon)

Contrast with Plato's Apology of Socrates

The stylistic differences between the Socratic dialogues the Apology of Socrates to the Jury, by Xenophon, and the Apology of Socrates, by Plato, is in the literary descriptions of the philosopher, by the Oracle at Delphi;
in Xenophon's dialogue, the Oracle said that there was no man “more free, more just, or more sound of mind” than Socrates; in Plato’s dialogue, the Oracle said that there was no man “wiser” than Socrates.
Moreover, the narrative differences in the dialogues indicate that Xenophon avoided direct attribution of “wisdom,” the term suggesting that Socrates was accurately characterized as a natural philosopher and an atheist; as he is portrayed in the comedy  (423 BC),
a play by 
Aristophanes. As portrayed by Xenophon, Socrates does not claim to be wise “from the time when I began to understand spoken words . . . [I] have never left off seeking after and learning every good thing that I could.”
Moreover, in Xenophon's Apology of Socrates, the philosopher’s daimonion (divine sign) is described as giving positive indications about what to do, whereas the philosopher Socrates portrayed by Plato
consistently and explicitly describes the daimonion as meant to “turn me away from something I am about to do,” but “never encourage me to do anything.”
A further difference between Plato and Xenophon is that whereas Plato has Socrates finally suggest a thirty-
mina penalty for himself, the Xenophon/Hermogenes version says
that he refused to suggest any and refused to allow his friends to do so, claiming that to do otherwise would imply guilt.
Finally, whereas Socrates' willingness to face the death penalty is in Plato's Apology explained by Socrates' unwavering commitment to his divinely appointed mission to keep philosophizing at all costs,
it is explained in the Xenophon/Hermogenes version by the claim that it is better for him to die now than to face the pains and limitations of advanced old age.

[12] καινά γε μὴν δαιμόνια πῶς ἂν ἐγὼ εἰσφέροιμι λέγων ὅτι θεοῦ μοι φωνὴ φαίνεται σημαίνουσα ὅ τι χρὴποιεῖν;
καὶ γὰρ οἱ φθόγγοις οἰωνῶν καὶ οἱ φήμαις ἀνθρώπων χρώμενοι φωναῖς δήπου τεκμαίρονται. βροντὰςδὲ ἀμφιλέξει τις ἢ μὴ φωνεῖν ἢ μὴ μέγιστον οἰωνιστήριον εἶναι;
ἡ δὲ Πυθοῖ ἐν τῷ τρίποδι ἱέρεια οὐ καὶ αὐτὴ φωνῇ τὰ παρὰ τοῦ θεοῦ διαγγέλλει;

[13] ἀλλὰ μέντοι καὶ τὸ προειδέναι γε τὸν θεὸν τὸ μέλλον καὶ τὸ προσημαίνειν ᾧ βούλεται, καὶ τοῦτο, ὥσπερἐγώ φημι,
οὕτω πάντες καὶ λέγουσι καὶ νομίζουσιν. ἀλλ᾽ οἱ μὲν οἰωνούς τε καὶ φήμας καὶ συμβόλους τε κα ὶμάντεις ὀνομάζουσι τοὺς προσημαίνοντας εἶναι,
ἐγὼ δὲ τοῦτο δαιμόνιον καλῷ καὶ οἶμαι οὕτως ὀνομάζων καὶ ἀληθέστερα καὶ ὁσιώτερα λέγειν τῶν τοῖς ὄρνισιν ἀνατιθέντων τὴν τῶν θεῶν δύναμιν.
ὥς γε μὴν οὐ ψεύδομαι κατὰ τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ τοῦτ᾽ ἔχω τεκμήριον: καὶ γὰρ τῶν φίλων πολλοῖς δὴ ἐξαγγείλας τὰ τοῦ θεοῦ συμβουλεύματα οὐδεπώποτε ψευσάμενος ἐφάνην.

[14] ἐπεὶ δὲ ταῦτα ἀκούοντες οἱ δικασταὶ ἐθορύβουν, οἱ μὲν ἀπιστοῦντες τοῖς λεγομένοις, οἱ δὲ καὶ φθονοῦντες, εἰ καὶ παρὰ θεῶν μειζόνων ἢ αὐτοὶ τυγχάνοι,
πάλιν εἰπεῖν τὸν Σωκράτην: ἄγε δὴ ἀκούσατε καὶ ἄλλα, ἵνα ἔτιμᾶλλον οἱ βουλόμενοι ὑμῶν ἀπιστῶσι τῷ ἐμὲ τετιμῆσθαι ὑπὸ δαιμόνων. Χαιρεφῶντος γάρ ποτε ἐπερωτῶντος ἐν Δελφοῖς
περὶ ἐμοῦ πολλῶν παρόντων ἀνεῖλεν ὁ Ἀπόλλων μηδένα εἶναι ἀνθρώπων ἐμοῦ μήτε ἐλευθεριώτερον μήτε δικαιότερον μήτε σωφρονέστερον.

[15] ὡς δ᾽ αὖ ταῦτ᾽ ἀκούσαντες οἱ δικασταὶ ἔτι μᾶλλον εἰκότως ἐθορύβουν, αὖθις εἰπεῖν τὸν Σωκράτην: ἀλλὰ μείζω μέν, ὦ ἄνδρες, εἶπεν ὁ θεὸς ἐν χρησμοῖς περὶ Λυκούργου
τοῦ Λακεδαιμονίοις νομοθετήσαντος ἢ περὶ ἐμοῦ. λέγεται γὰρ εἰς τὸν ναὸν εἰσιόντα προσειπεῖν αὐτόν: φροντίζω πότερα θεόν σε εἴπω ἢ ἄνθρωπον. ἐμὲ δὲθεῷ μὲν οὐκ εἴκασεν,
ἀνθρώπων δὲ πολλῷ προέκρινεν ὑπερφέρειν. ὅμως δὲ ὑμεῖς μηδὲ ταῦτ᾽ εἰκῇ πιστεύσητετῷ θεῷ, ἀλλὰ καθ᾽ ἓν ἕκαστον ἐπισκοπεῖτε ὧν εἶπεν ὁ θεός. 

[16] τίνα μὲν γὰρ ἐπίστασθε ἧττον ἐμοῦ δουλεύοντα ταῖς τοῦ σώματος ἐπιθυμίαις; τίνα δὲ ἀνθρώπων ἐλευθεριώτερον, ὃς παρ᾽ οὐδενὸς οὔτε δῶρα οὔτε μισθὸν δέχομαι;
δικαιότερον δὲ τίνα ἂν εἰκότως νομίσαιτετοῦ πρὸς τὰ παρόντα συνηρμοσμένου, ὡς τῶν ἀλλοτρίων μηδενὸς προσδεῖσθαι; σοφὸν δὲ πῶς οὐκ ἄν τιςεἰκότως ἄνδρα φήσειεν εἶναι
 ὃς ἐξ ὅτουπερ ξυνιέναι τὰ λεγόμενα ἠρξάμην οὐπώποτε διέλειπον καὶ ζητῶν καὶμανθάνων ὅ τι ἐδυνάμην ἀγαθόν;

[17] ὡς δὲ οὐ μάτην ἐπόνουν οὐ δοκεῖ ὑμῖν καὶ τάδε τεκμήρια εἶναι, τὸ πολλοὺς μὲν πολίτας τῶν ἀρετῆς ἐφιεμένων, πολλοὺς δὲ ξένων, ἐκ πάντων προαιρεῖσθαι ἐμοὶ ξυνεῖναι;
ἐκείνου δὲ τί φήσομεν αἴτιον εἶναι, τοῦπάντας εἰδέναι ὅτι ἐγὼ ἥκιστ᾽ ἂν ἔχοιμι χρήματα ἀντιδιδόναι, ὅμως πολλοὺς ἐπιθυμεῖν ἐμοί τι δωρεῖσθαι; τὸ δ᾽ἐμὲ μὲν μηδ᾽ ὑφ᾽ ἑνὸς ἀπαιτεῖσθαι εὐεργεσίας,
 ἐμοὶ δὲ πολλοὺς ὁμολογεῖν χάριτας ὀφείλειν;

[18] τὸ δ᾽ ἐν τῇ πολιορκίᾳ τοὺς μὲν ἄλλους οἰκτίρειν ἑαυτούς, ἐμὲ δὲ μηδὲν ἀπορώτερον διάγειν ἢ ὅτε τὰμάλιστα ἡ πόλις ηὐδαιμόνει; τὸ δὲ τοὺς ἄλλους μὲν τὰς εὐπαθείας
ἐκ τῆς ἀγορᾶς πολυτελεῖς πορίζεσθαι, ἐμὲδὲ ἐκ τῆς ψυχῆς ἄνευ δαπάνης ἡδίους ἐκείνων μηχανᾶσθαι; εἴ γε μὴν ὅσα εἴρηκα περὶ ἐμαυτοῦ μηδεὶς δύναιτ᾽ἂν ἐξελέγξαι με ὡς ψεύδομαι,
πῶς οὐκ ἂν ἤδη δικαίως καὶ ὑπὸ θεῶν καὶ ὑπ᾽ ἀνθρώπων ἐπαινοίμην;

[12] As for introducing ‘new divinities,’ how could I be guilty of that merely in asserting that a voice of God is made manifest to me indicating my duty? Surely those who take their omens
from the cries of birds and the utterances of men form their judgments on ‘voices.’ Will any one dispute either that thunder utters its ‘voice,’ or that it is an omen of the greatest moment?
Does not the very priestess who sits on the tripod at Delphi divulge the god's will through a ‘voice’?

[13] But more than that, in regard to God's foreknowledge of the future and his forewarning thereof to whomsoever he will, these are the same terms, I assert, that all men use, and this is their belief.
The only difference between them and me is that whereas they call the sources of their forewarning ‘birds,’ ‘utterances,’ ‘chance meetings,’ ‘prophets,’ I call mine a ‘divine’ thing; and I think that in using such a term
I am speaking with more truth and deeper religious feeling than do those who ascribe the gods' power to birds. Now that I do not lie against God I have the following proof: I have revealed to many of my friends
the counsels which God has given me, and in no instance has the event shown that I was mistaken.” 

Hermogenes further reported that when the jurors raised a clamour at hearing these words, some of them disbelieving his statements, others showing jealousy at his receiving greater favours
even from the gods than they, Socrates resumed: “Hark ye; let me tell you something more, so that those of you who feel so inclined may have still greater disbelief in my being honoured of Heaven.
Once on a time when Chaerephon made inquiry at the Delphic oracle concerning me, in the presence of many people Apollo answered that no man was more free than I, or more just, or more prudent.”


When the jurors, naturally enough, made a still greater tumult on hearing this statement, he said that Socrates again went on: “And yet, gentlemen, the god uttered in oracles greater things of Lycurgus,
the Lacedaemonian law-giver, than he did of me. For there is a legend that, as Lycurgus entered the temple, the god thus addressed him: ‘I am pondering whether to call you god or man.’
Now Apollo did not compare me to a god; he did, however, judge that I far excelled the rest of mankind. However, do not believe the god even in this without due grounds, but examine the god's utterance in detail.

[16] First, who is there in your knowledge that is less a slave to his bodily appetites than I am? Who in the world more free,—for I accept neither gifts nor pay from any one?
Whom would you with reason regard as more just than the one so reconciled to his present possessions as to want nothing beside that belongs to another? And would not a person
with good reason call me a wise man, who from the time when I began to understand spoken words have never left off seeking after and learning every good thing that I could?

[17] And that my labour has not been in vain do you not think is attested by this fact, that many of my fellow-citizens who strive for virtue and many from abroad choose to associate
with me above all other men? And what shall we say is accountable for this fact, that although everybody knows that it is quite impossible for me to repay with money,
many people are eager to make me some gift? Or for this, that no demands are made on me by a single person for the repayment of benefits, while many confess that they owe me a debt of gratitude?

[18] Or for this, that during the siege,1 while others were commiserating their lot, I got along without feeling the pinch of poverty any worse than when the city's prosperity was at its height?
Or for this, that while other men get their delicacies in the markets and pay a high price for them, I devise more pleasurable ones from the resources of my soul, with no expenditure of money?
And now, if no one can convict me of misstatement in all that I have said of myself, do I not unquestionably merit praise from both gods and men?

1. The story1 is told, my dear Terentius Priscus, that certain eagles or swans, flying from the uttermost parts of the earth towards its centre, met in Delphi at the omphalus, as it is called ; and at a later time Epimenides2 of Phaestus put the story to test by referring it to the god and upon receiving a vague and ambiguous oracle said,

Now do we know that there is no mid-centre of earth or of ocean;
Yet if there be, it is known to the gods, but is hidden from mortals.

Now very likely the god repulsed him from his attempt to investigate an ancient myth as though it were a painting to be tested by the touch.

1 The numerous other references to this story may be found most conveniently in Frazer's Pausanias, v. p. 315.
2 Diels, Frag. der Vorsokratiker, ii. p. 191, Epimenides, no. b 11.

2. Yet a short time before the Pythian games, which were held when Callistratus1 was in office in our own day, it happened that two revered men coming from opposite ends of the inhabited earth met together at Delphi, [p. 353] Demetrius2 the grammarian journeying homeward from Britain to Tarsus, and Cleombrotus of Sparta, who had made many excursions in Egypt and about the land of the Cave-dwellers, and had sailed beyond the Persian Gulf; his journevings were not for business, but he was fond of seeing things and of acquiring knowledge; he had wealth enough, and felt that it was not of any great moment to have more than enough, and so he employed his leisure for such purposes ; he was getting together a history to serve as a basis for a philosophy that had as its end and aim theology, as he himself named it. He had recently been at the shrine of Ammon, and it was plain that he was not particularly impressed by most of the things there, but in regard to the everburning lamp he related a story told by the priests which deserves special consideration ; it is that the lamp consumes less and less oil each year, and they hold that this is a proof of a disparity in the years, which all the time is making one year shorter in duration than its predecessor ; for it is reasonable that in less duration of time the amount consumed should be less.

1 The year 83-84 a.d.
2 Cf. Inscript. Graec. xiv. no. 2548 θεοῖς τοῖς τοῦ ἡγεμονικοῦ Πραιτωρίου Σκριβώνιος>) (others σκρῖβαΔημήτριος and Ὀκεανῷ καὶ Τηθύι Δημήτριος). Cf. also Huebner, Ephemeris Epigr. iii. 312; Clark, Archaeol. Jour.xlii. p. 425; Dessau, in Hermes, xlvi. (1911) pp. 156 ff.

3. The company was surprised at this, and Demetrius went so far as to say that it was ridiculous to try in this way to draw great conclusions from small data, not, as Alcaeus1 puts it, ‘painting the lion from a single claw,’ but with a wick and lamp postulating a mutation in the heavens and the universe, and doing away completely with mathematical science. [p. 355]
‘Neither of these things,’ said Cleombrotus, ‘will disturb these men ; certainly they will not concede any superior accuracy to the mathematicians, since it is more likely that a set period of time, in movements and cycles so far away, should elude mathematical calculation than that the measurement of the oil should elude the very men who were always giving careful attention to the anomaly and watching it closely because of its strangeness. Besides, Demetrius, not to allow that small things are indication of great stands directly in the way of many arts ; for it will result in taking away from us the demonstration of many facts and the prognostication of many others. Yet you people try to demonstrate to us also a matter of no small importance : that the heroes of old shaved their bodies with a razor, because you meet with the word ‘razor’ in Homer2; also that they lent money on interest because Homer3 somewhere says that ‘a debt is owing, not recent nor small,’ the assumption being that ‘owing’ signifies ‘accumulating.’ And again when Homer4 speaks of the night as ‘swift,’ you cling to the expression with great satisfaction and say that it means this : that the Earth's shadow is by him called conical, being caused by a spherical body ; and as for the idea that medical science can predict a pestilential summer by a multitude of spiders' webs or by the fig-leaves in the spring when they are like crows' feet, who of those that insist that small things are not indications of great will allow this to go unchallenged ? Who will endure [p. 357] that the magnitude of the sun be measured by reference to a quart or a gill, or that, in the sun-diai here, the inclination of the acute angle which its shadow makes with the level plane be called the measurement of the elevation of the ever-visible pole above the horizon ? This was what one might hear from the priests of the prophetic shrine there ; so some other rejoinder must be offered to them, if we would make for the sun the wonted order of its course immutable, in accord with the tradition of the ages.’

1 Bergk, Poet. Lyr. Graec. iii. p. 184, Alcaeus, no. 113.
2 Il. x. 173.
3 Od. iii. 367-368.
4 Il. x. 394, for example; cf. also Moralia, 923 b. Further explanation of the idea that θοός may mean ‘conical’ may be found in the Life and Poetry of Homer, 21 (Bernardakis's edition, vol. vii. p. 347).

4. Thereupon Ammonius the philosopher, who was present, exclaimed, ‘Not for the sun only, but for the whole heavens. For the sun's course in passing from solstice to solstice must inevitably become shorter and not continue to be so large a part of the horizon as the mathematicians say it is, since the southern portion is constantly subject to a contracting movement, which brings it closer to the northern portion ; and so our summer must become shorter and its temperature lower, as the sun turns about within narrower limits and touches fewer parallels of latitude at the solstitial points ; moreover, the phenomenon observed at Syenê,1 where the upright rods on the sun-dials cast no shadow at the time of the summer solstice, is bound to be a thing of the past; many of the fixed stars must have gone below the horizon, and some of them must be touching one another, or have become coalescent, as the space separating them has disappeared !
But if, on the other hand, they are going to assert that, while all the other bodies are without change, the sun displays [p. 359] irregularity in its movements, they will not be able to state the cause of the acceleration which affects the sun alone among so many bodies, and they will throw into confusion almost all the celestial mechanics, and into complete confusion those relating to the moon, so that they will have no need of measures of oil to prove the difference. In fact, the eclipses will prove it, as the sun more frequently casts a shadow on the moon and the moon on the earth ; the other facts are clear, and there is no need to disclose in further detail the imposture in the argument.’
‘But,’ said Cleombrotus, ‘I myself actually saw the measure ; for they had many of them to show, and that of this past year failed to come up to the very oldest by not a little.’
‘Then,’ said Ammonius, taking up the argument again, ‘this fact has escaped the notice of the other peoples among whom ever-burning fires have been cherished and kept alive for a period of years which might be termed infinite ? But on the assumption that the report is true, is it not better to assign the cause to some coldness or moisture in the air by which the flame is made to languish, and so very likely does not take up nor need very much to support it ? Or, quite the reverse, may we assign the cause to spells of dryness and heat ? In fact, I have heard people say before this regarding fire, that it burns better in the winter,2 being strongly compacted and condensed by the cold ; whereas in warm, dry times it is very weak and loses its compactness and intensity, and if it burns in the sunlight, it does even worse, and takes hold of the fuel without energy, and consumes it more slowly. Best of all, the cause might be assigned to the oil itself; for it is not unlikely that in days of old it [p. 361] contained incombustible material and water, being produced from young trees ; but that later, being ripened on full-grown trees and concentrated, it should, in an equal quantity, show more strength and provide a better fuel, if the people at Ammon's shrine must have their assumption preserved for them in spite of its being so strange and unusual.’

1 Syenê was on the Tropic of Cancer, and because of the fact that on the day of the summer solstice the sun was directly overhead it was used by Eratosthenes (third century b.c.) as one of the termini in calculating the circumference of the Earth. Cleomedes, On the Circular Movement of Heavenly Bodies, i. 10, describes Eratosthenes' method.
2 Cf. Plutarch, Comment. on Hesiod, Works and Days, 559 (Bernardakis's edition, vol. vii. p. 78).

5. When Ammonius had ceased speaking, I said, ‘Won't you rather tell us all about the oracle, Cleombrotus ? For great was the ancient repute of the divine influence there, but at the present time it seems to be somewhat evanescent.’
As Cleombrotus made no reply and did not look up, Demetrius said, ‘’There is no need to make any inquiries nor to raise any questions about the state of affairs there, when we see the evanescence of the oracles here, or rather the total disappearance of all but one or two ; but we should deliberate the reason why they have become so utterly weak. What need to speak of others, when in Boeotia, which in former times spoke with many tongues because of its oracles, the oracles have now failed completely, even as if they were streams of flowing water, and a great drought in prophecy has overspread the land ? For nowhere now except in the neighbourhood of Lebadeia has Boeotia aught to offer to those who would draw from the well-spring of prophecy. As for the rest, silence has come upon some and utter desolation upon others. And yet at the time of the Persian Wars many had gained a high repute, that of Ptoan Apollo no less than that of Amphiaraüs ; Mys, as it seems, made [p. 363]trial of both.1 The prophetic priest of this oracle, accustomed in former times to use the Aeolic dialect, on that occasion took the side of the barbarians and gave forth an oracle such that no one else of those present comprehended it, but only Mys himself, since it is quite clear from the inspired language then used by the prophetic priest that it is not for barbarians ever to receive a word in the Greek tongue subservient to their command.2
“The minion who was sent to the oracle of Amphiaraüs had, in his sleep3 there, a vision of a servant of the god who appeared to him and tried first to eject him by word of mouth, alleging that the god was not there ; then next he tried to push him away with his hands, and, when the man persisted in staying, took up a large stone and smote him on the head. All this was in harmony, as it were, with events to come ; for Mardonius was vanquished while the Greeks were led, not by a king, but by a guardian and deputy of a king4; and he fell, struck by a stone j ust as the Lydian dreamed that he was struck in his sleep.
‘That time, too, was the most flourishing period of the oracle at Tegyrae, which place also by tradition is the birthplace of the god ; and of the two streams of [p. 365] water that flow past it, the inhabitants even to this day call the one ‘Palm’ and the other ‘Olive.’ 5 Now in the Persian Wars, when Echecrates was the prophetic priest, the god prophesied for the Greeks victory and might in war ; and in the Peloponnesian War, when the people of Delos had been driven out of their island,6 an oracle, it is said, was brought to them from Delphi directing them to find the place where Apollo was born, and to perform certain sacrifices there. While they were wondering and questioning the mere possibility that the god had been born, not in their island, but somewhere else, the prophetic priestess told them in another oracle that a crow would show them the spot. So they went away and, when they reached Chaeroneia, they heard the woman who kept their inn conversing about the oracle with some strangers who were on their way to Tegyrae. The strangers, as they were leaving, bade good-bye to the woman and called her by her name, which actually was ‘Crow.’ Then the Delians understood the meaning of the oracle and, having offered sacrifice in Tegyrae, they found a way to return home a short time thereafter. There have been also more recent manifestations than these at these oracles, but now the oracles are no more ; so it is well worth while, here in the precinct of the Pythian god, to examine into the reason for the change.’

1 The mss. show several lacunae and corruptions here; the general sense must be restored from Herodotus, viii. 133-135. For some unexplained reason Plutarch in his Life of Aristeides, chap. xix. (330 c) and Pausanias, ix. 23, lay this scene at the oracle of Trophonius at Lebadeia.

Herodotus, The Histories, Book VIII
133. The Greeks, then, sailed to Delos, and Mardonius wintered in Thessaly. Having his headquarters there he sent a man of Europus called Mys to visit the places of divination, charging him to inquire of all the oracles which he could test. What it was that he desired to learn from the oracles when he gave this charge, I cannot say, for no one tells of it. I suppose that he sent to inquire concerning his present business, and that alone.
134. [1] This man Mys is known to have gone to Lebadea and to have bribed a man of the country to go down into the cave of Trophonius and to have gone to the place of divination at Abae in Phocis. He went first to Thebes where he inquired of Ismenian Apollo (sacrifice is there the way of divination, as at Olympia), and moreover he bribed one who was no Theban but a stranger to lie down to sleep in the shrine of Amphiaraus.
[2] No Theban may seek a prophecy there, for Amphiaraus bade them by an oracle to choose which of the two they wanted and forgo the other, and take him either for their prophet or for their ally. They chose that he should be their ally. Therefore no Theban may lie down to sleep in that place.
135. [1] But at this time there happened, as the Thebans say, a thing at which I marvel greatly. It would seem that this man Mys of Europus came in his wanderings among the places of divination to the precinct of Ptoan Apollo. This temple is called Ptoum, and belongs to the Thebans. It lies by a hill, above lake Copais, very near to the town Acraephia.
[2] When the man called Mys entered into this temple together with three men of the town who were chosen on the state's behalf to write down the oracles that should be given, straightway the diviner prophesied in a foreign tongue.
[3] The Thebans who followed him were astonished to hear a strange language instead of Greek and knew not what this present matter might be. Mys of Europus, however, snatched from them the tablet which they carried and wrote on it that which was spoken by the prophet, saying that the words of the oracle were Carian. After writing everything down, he went back to Thessaly.2 Cf. Life of Themistocles, chap. vi. (114 d); Life of Cato the Elder, chap. xxiii. (350 c).

3 The oracle of Amphiaraüs was an incubation oracle: the consultants went to sleep in the shrine and received their answer in dreams.
4 Mardonius was defeated at Plataea in 479 b.c. by the Greeks under the command of Pausanias, who was regent of Sparta and guardian of Pleistarchus, son of Leonidas.
5 Plutarch gives more information about Tegyrae in his Life of Pelopidas, chap. xvi. (286 b).
6 In the year 421 b.c. (Thucydides, v. 1).

6. Proceeding onward from the temple, we had by this time reached the doors of the Cnidian Clubhouse.1Accordingly we passed inside, and there we saw sitting and waiting for us the friends to whom [p. 367]we were going. There was quiet among the other people there because of the hour, as they were engaged in taking a rub-down or else watching the athletes. Then Demetrius with a smile said, ‘ ‘Shall I tell you a falsehood or speak out the truth?’ 2 You seem to have on hand nothing worth considering ; for I see that you are sitting about quite at your ease and with faces quite relaxed.’
‘Yes,’ said Heracleon of Megara in reply, ‘for we are not investigating which of the two lambdas in the verb ‘hurl’ 3 is the one that it loses in the future tense ; nor from what positives the adjectives ‘worse’ and ‘better’ and ‘worst’ and ‘best’ are formed ; for these and similar problems may set the face in hard lines, but the others it is possible to examine in a philosophic spirit, without knitting the brows, and to investigate quietly without any fierce looks or any hard feelings against the company.’
‘Then permit us to come in,’ said Demetrius, ‘and with us a subject which has naturally occurred to us, one which is related to the place and concerns all of us on account of the god ; and beware of knitting your brows when you attack it!’

1 In the north-east corner of the sacred precinct. The foundations may still be seen.
2 Homer, Od. iv. 140.
3 Present βάλλω, future βαλῶ.

7. When, accordingly, we had joined their company and seated ourselves among them and Demetrius had laid the subject before them, up sprang at once the Cynic Didymus, by nickname Planetiades, and, striking the ground two or three times with his staff, cried out, ‘Aha ! a difficult matter to decide and one requiring much investigation is that which you have come bringing to us ! It is indeed a wonder, when so much wickedness has been disseminated upon earth that not only Modesty and Righteous Indignation, as Hesiod1 said long ago, have deserted the life [p. 369] of mankind, but that Divine Providence also has gathered up its oracles and departed from every place ! Quite the contrary, I propose that you discuss how it happens that the oracle here has not also given out, and Heracles for a second time, or some other god, has not wrested away the tripod2 which is constantly being occupied with shameful and impious questions which people propound3 to the god, some of whom try to make a test of him as though his wisdom were an affectation, while others init questions about treasures or inheritances or unawful marriages ; so Pythagoras4 is proved to be utterly wrong in asserting that men are at their best when they approach the gods. Thus those maladies and emotions of the soul which it would be good to disclaim and conceal in the presence of an older man, they bring naked and exposed before the god.’
He would have said more, but Heracleon seized hold of his cloak, and I, being about as intimate with him as anybody, said, ‘Cease provoking the god, my dear Planetiades ; for he is of a good and mild disposition.
And towards mortal men he hath been judged the most gentle, as Pindar5 says. And whether he be the sun6 or the lord and father of the sun and of all that lies beyond our vision,7 it is not likely that he should deny his utterance to people of the present day because of [p. 371] their unworthiness, when he is responsible for their birth and nurture and their existence and power to think ; nor is it likely withal that Providence, like a benign and helpful mother, who does everything for us and watches over us, should cherish animosity in the matter of prophecy only, and take away that from us after having given it to us at the beginning, as if the number of wicked men included among a larger population were not larger at that earlier time when the oracles were established in many places in the inhabited world ! Come, sit down again and make a ‘Pythian truce8 ’ with evil, which you are wont to chastise with words every day, and join us in seeking some other reason for what is spoken of as the obsolescence of oracles ; but keep the god benign and provoke him not to wrath.’
What I had said was so far effective that Planetiades went out through the door without another word.

1 Works and Days, 199.
2 Cf. 387 d, supra, and the note.
3 Cf. 408 c, supra.
4 Cf. Moralia, 169 e.
5 Ibid. 394 a and 1102 e; Pindar, Frag. 149 (ed. Christ).
6 Cf. 386 b, supra, and the note.
7 The language is reminiscent of ἐπέκεινα τῆς οὐσίας (Plato, Republic 509 b).
8 The sacred truce, made throughout the Greek world, for the duration of the Pythian games.

8. There was quiet for a moment, and then Ammonius, addressing himself to me, said, ‘See what it is that we are doing, Lamprias, and concentrate your thoughts on our subject so that we shall not relieve the god of responsibility. The fact is that the man who holds that the obsolescence of such of the oracles as have ceased to function has been brought about by some other cause and not by the will of a god gives reason for suspecting that he believes that their creation and continued existence was not due to the god, but was brought about in some other way.
For prophecy is something created by a god, and certainly no greater or more potent force exists to abolish and obliterate it. Now I do not like what Planetiades said, and one of the reasons is the inconsistency which it creates regarding the god,[p. 373] who in one way turns away from wickedness and disavows it, and again in another way welcomes its presence ; just as if some king or despot should shut out bad men at certain doors and let them in at others and have dealings with them.
Now moderation, adequacy, excess in nothing, and complete selfsufficiency are above all else the essential characteristics of everything done by the gods ; and if anyone should take this fact as a starting-point, and assert that Greece has far more than its share in the general depopulation which the earlier discords and wars have wrought throughout practically the whole inhabited earth, and that to-day the whole of Greece would hardly muster three thousand men-at-arms, which is the number that the one city of the Megarians sent forth to Plataeae1(for the god's abandoning of many oracles is nothing other than his way of substantiating the desolation of Greece), in this way such a man would give some accurate evidence of his keenness in reasoning. For who would profit if there were an oracle in Tegyrae, as there used to be, or at Ptoiim, where during some part of the day one might possibly meet a human being pasturing his flocks ? And regarding the oracle here at Delphi, the most ancient in time and the most famous in repute, men record that for a long time it was made desolate and unapproachable by a fierce creature, a serpent; they do not, however, put the correct interpretation upon its lying idle, but quite the reverse ; for it was the desolation that attracted the creature rather than that the creature caused the desolation. But when Greece, since God so willed, had grown strong in cities and the place was thronged with people, they [p. 375] used to employ two prophetic priestesses who were sent down in turn ; and a third was appointed to be held in reserve. But to-day there is one priestess and we do not complain, for she meets every need. There is no reason, therefore, to blame the god ; the exercise of the prophetic art which continues at the present day is sufficient for all, and sends away all with their desires fulfilled. Agamemnon,2 for example, used nine heralds and, even so, had difficulty in keeping the assembly in order because of the vast numbers ; but here in Delphi, a few days hence, in the theatre you will see that one voice reaches all. In the same way, in those days, prophecy employed more voices to speak to more people, but to-day, quite the reverse, we should needs be surprised at the god if he allowed his prophecies to run to waste, like water, or to echo like the rocks with the voices of shepherds and flocks in waste places.’ 

1 Cf. Herodotus, ix. 21 and 28.
2 Homer, Il. ii. 96.

9. When Ammonius had said this and I remained silent, Cleombrotus, addressing himself to me, said, ‘Already you have conceded this point, that the god both creates and abolishes these prophetic shrines.’
‘No indeed,’ said I, ‘my contention is that no prophetic shrine or oracle is ever abolished by the instrumentality of the god. He creates and provides many other things for us, and upon some of these Nature brings destruction and disintegration ; or rather, the matter composing them, being itself a force for disintegration, often reverts rapidly to its earlier state and causes the dissolution of what was created by the more potent instrumentality ; and it is in this way, I think, that in the next period there are dimmings and abolitions of the prophetic agencies ; for while the god gives many fair things to [p. 377] mankind, he gives nothing imperishable, so that, as Sophocles1 puts it, ‘the works of gods may die, but not the gods.’ Their presence and power wise men are ever telling us we must look for in Nature and in Matter, where it is manifested, the originating influence being reserved for the Deity, as is right. Certainly it is foolish and childish in the extreme to imagine that the god himself after the manner of ventriloquists (who used to be called ‘Eurycleis,’ 2 but now ‘Pythones’) enters into the bodies of his prophets and prompts their utterances, employing their mouths and voices as instruments.3 For if he allows himself to become entangled in mens needs, he is prodigal with his majesty and he does not observe the dignity and greatness of his preeminence.’

1 Cf. Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag. p. 311, Sophocles, no. 766 (no. 850 Pearson). The same thought is in the Oedipus at Colonus, 607.
2 Eurycles was a famous ventriloquist. Cf. Plato, Sophist, 252 c, and Aristophanes, Wasps, 1019, with the scholium.
3 Cf. 397 c and 404 b, supra.

10. 'You are right,’ said Cleombrotus; “but since it is hard to apprehend and to define in what way and to what extent Providence should be brought in as an agent, those who make the god responsible for nothing at all and those who make him responsible for all things alike go wide of moderation and propriety. They put the case well who say that Plato,1 by his discovery of the element underlying all created qualities, which is now called ‘Matter’ and ‘Nature,’ has relieved philosophers of many great perplexities ; but, as it seems to me, those persons have resolved more and greater perplexities [p. 379] who have set the race of demigods midway between gods and men,2 and have discovered a force to draw together, in a way, and to unite our common fellowship - whether this doctrine comes from the wise men of the cult of Zoroaster, or whether it is Thracian and harks back to Orpheus, or is Egyptian, or Phrygian, as we may infer from observing that many things connected with death and mourning in the rites of both lands are combined in the ceremonies so fervently celebrated there. Among the Greeks, Homer, moreover, appears to use both names in common and sometimes to speak of the gods as demigods ; but Hesiod3 was the first to set forth clearly and distinctly four classes of rational beings : gods, demigods, heroes, in this order, and, last of all, men ; and as a sequence to this, apparently, he postulates his transmutation, the golden race passing selectively into many good divinities, and the demigods into heroes.
“ Others postulate a transmutation for bodies and souls alike ; in the same manner in which water is seen to be generated from earth, air from water, and fine from air, as their substance is borne upward, even so from men into heroes and from heroes into demigods the better souls obtain their transmutation. But from the demigods a few souls still, in the long reach of time, because of supreme excellence, come, after being purified, to share completely in divine qualities. But with some of these souls it comes to pass that they do not maintain control over themselves, but yield to temptation and are again clothed [p. 381] with mortal bodies and have a dim and darkened life, like mist or vapour.

1 In the Timaeus, 48 e ff., for example.
2 Cf. Plutarch, Comment. on Hesiod, Works and Days, 122 (Bernardakis's edition, vol. vii. p. 52); cf. also 390 e, supra.
3 Cf. Plutarch, Comment. on Hesiod, Works and Days, 122 (Bernardakis's edition, vol. vii. p. 52); cf. also 390 e, supra.

11. ‘Hesiod thinks that with the lapse of certain periods of years the end comes even to the demigods ; for, speaking in the person of the Naiad, he indirectly suggests the length of time with these words:1
Nine generations long is the life of the crow and his cawing, 
Nine generations of vigorous men.2 Lives of four crows together 
Equal the life of a stag, and three stags the old age of a raven ; 
Nine of the lives of the raven the life of the Phoenix doth equal; 
Ten of the Phoenix we Nymphs, fair daughters of Zeus of the aegis.
Those that do not interpret ‘generation’ well make an immense total of this time ; but it really means a year, so that the sum of the life of these divinities is nine thousand, seven hundred and twenty years, less than most mathematicians think, and more than Pindar3 has stated when he says that the Nymphs live
Allotted a term as long as the years of a tree,
and for this reason he calls them Hamadryads.’
While he was still speaking Demetrius, interrupting him, said, ‘How is it, Cleombrotus, that you can say that the year has been called a generation ? For neither of a man ‘in his vigour’ nor ‘in his eld,’ as some read the passage, is the span of human life such [p. 383] as this. Those who read ‘in their vigour’ make a generation thirty years, in accord with Heracleitus,4 a time sufficient for a father to have a son who is a father also ; but again those who write ‘in their eld’ and not ‘in their vigour’ assign an hundred and eight years to a generation ; for they say that fifty-four marks the limit of the middle years of human life, a number which is made up of the first number, the first two plane surfaces, two squares and two cubes,5 numbers which Plato also took in his Generation of the Soul.6 The whole matter as stated by Hesiod seems to contain a veiled reference to the ‘Conflagration,’ when the disappearance of all liquids will most likely be accompanied by the extinction of the Nymphs,
Who in the midst of fair woodlands, 
Sources of rivers, and grass-covered meadows have their abiding.7

1 Hesiod, Frag. 183 (ed. Rzach); cf. the Latin version of Ausonius, p. 93, ed. Peiper (1886). See also Moralia, 989 a; Martial, x. 67; Achilles Tatius, iv. 4. 3.
2 Cf. Aristophanes, Birds, 609.
3 Pindar, Frag. 165 (ed. Christ); quoted also in Moralia, 757 f.
4 Cf. Diels, Frag. der Vorsokratiker, i. p. 76, Heracleitus, no. a 19.
5 That is 1 + (1x2) + (1x3) + 4 + 9 + 8 + 27 = 54.
6 Cf. Plato, Timaeus, 34 c - 35 a.
7 Homer, Il. xx. 8-9.

12. ‘Yes,’ said Cleombrotus, ‘I hear this from many persons, and I observe that the Stoic ‘Conflagration,’ just as it feeds on the verses of Heracleitus and Orpheus, is also seizing upon those of Hesiod. But I cannot brook this talk of universal destruction ; and such impossibilities, in recalling to our minds these utterances, especially those about the crow and the stag, must be allowed to revert upon those that indulge in such exaggeration. Does not a year include within itself the beginning and the end of ‘all things which the Seasons and the Earth make grow,’ 1 and is it not foreign to men's ways to [p. 385] call it a ‘generation’? As a matter of fact you yourselves surely agree that Hesiod by the word ‘generation’ means a man's life. Is not that so ?’
‘Yes,’ said Demetrius.
‘And this fact also is clear,’ said Cleombrotus, “that often the measure and the things measured are called by the same name, as, for example, gill, quart, gallon, and bushel.2 In the same way, then, in which we call unity a number, being, as it is, the smallest number and the first ; so the year, which we use as the first measure of man's life, Hesiod has called by the same name as the thing measured, a ‘generation.’ The fact is that the numbers which those other persons produce have none of those notable and conspicuous qualities which may be inherent in numbers. The number nine thousand, seven hundred and twenty3 has been produced by adding together the first four numbers and multiplying them by four,4 or by multiplying four by ten. Either process gives forty, and when this is multiplied five times by three it gives the specified number.5 But concerning these matters there is no need for us to disagree with Demetrius. In fact, even if the period of time in which the soul of the demigod or hero changes its life6 be longer or shorter, determinate or indeterminate, none the less the proof will be there on the basis which he desires, fortified by clear testimony from ancient times, that in the confines, as it were, between gods and men there exist certain natures susceptible to [p. 387]human emotions and involuntary changes, whom it is right that we, like our fathers before us, should regard as demigods, and, calling them by that name, should reverence them. 

1 Cf. Diels, Frag. der Vorsokratiker, i. p. 97, Heracleitus, no. b 100.
2 Cf. Censorinus, De die natali ad Iu. Caerellium, xviii. 11, and Geffcken in Hermes, xlix. 336.
3 Cf. 415 d, supra.
4 (1 + 2 + 3 + 4) x 4 = 40.
5 40 x 35 = 9720.
6 Cf. 415 b, supra.

13. “As an illustration of this subject, Xenocrates, the companion of Plato, employed the order of the triangles ; the equilateral he compared to the nature of the gods, the scalene to that of man, and the isosceles to that of the demigods ; for the first is equal in all its lines, the second unequal in all, and the third is partly equal and partly unequal, like the nature of the demigods, which has human emotions and godlike power. Nature has placed within our ken perceptible images and visible likenesses, the sun and the stars for the gods, and for mortal men beams of light,1 comets, and meteors, a comparison which Euripides2 has made in the verses :
He that but yesterday was vigorous 
Of frame, even as a star from heaven falls, 
Gave up in death his spirit to the air.

But there is a body with complex characteristics which actually parallels the demigods, namely the moon ; and when men see that she, by her being consistently in accord with the cycles through which those beings pass,3 is subject to apparent wanings and waxings and transformations,some call her an earth-like star, others a star-like earth,4 and others the domain of Hecate, who belongs both to the earth and to the heavens. Now if the air that is between the earth and the moon were to be removed and withdrawn, the unity and consociation of the universe would be destroyed, [p. 389] since there would be an empty and unconnected space in the middle ; and in just the same way those who refuse to leave us the race of demigods make the relations of gods and men remote and alien by doing away with the ‘interpretative and ministering nature,’ as Plato5 has called it ; or else they force us to a disorderly confusion of all things, in which we bring the god into men's emotions and activities, drawing him down to our needs, as the women of Thessaly are said to draw down the moon.6 This cunning deceit of theirs, however, gained credence among women when the daughter of Hegetor, Aglaonicê, who was skilled in astronomy, always pretended at the time of an eclipse of the moon that she was bewitching it and bringing it down.7 But as for us, let us not listen to any who say that there are some oracles not divinely inspired, or religious ceremonies and mystic rites which are disregarded by the gods; and on the other hand let us not imagine that the god goes in and out and is present at these ceremonies and helps in conducting them ; but let us commit these matters to those ministers of the gods to whom it is right to commit them, as to servants and clerks, and let us believe that demigods are guardians of sacred rites of the gods and prompters in the Mysteries, while others go about as avengers of arrogant and grievous cases of injustice. Still others Hesiod8 has very impressively addressed as Holy Givers of wealth, and possessing in this a meed that is kingly, implying that doing good to people is kingly. For [p. 391] as among men, so also among the demigods., there are different degrees of excellence, and in some there is a weak and dim remainder of the emotional and irrational, a survival, as it were, while in others this is excessive and hard to stifle. Of all these things there are, in many places, sacrifices, ceremonies, and legends which preserve and jealously guard vestiges and tokens embodied here and there in their fabric.

1 ‘All last night the northern streamers flashed across the western sky.’
2 Cf. Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag. p. 674, Euripides, no 971. Plutarch quotes the lines again in Moralia, 1090 c.
3 Cf. Moralia, 361 c, and the lines of Empedocles there quoted.
4 Ibid. 935 c.
5 Cf. Republic, 260 d, and Symposium, 202 e.
6 Cf. the note on 400 b supra.
7 Cf. Moralia, 145 c.
8 Works and Days, 123, 126; cf. also Moralia, 361 b, supra.

14. “Regarding the rites of the Mysteries, in which it is possible to gain the clearest reflections and adumbrations of the truth about the demigods, ‘let my lips be piously sealed,’ as Herodotus1 says ; but as for festivals and sacrifices, which may be compared with ill-omened and gloomy days, in which occur the eating of raw flesh, rending of victims, fasting, and beating of breasts, and again in many places scurrilous language at the shrines, and
Frenzy and shouting of throngs in excitement 
With tumultuous tossing of heads in the air,2
I should say that these acts are not performed for any god, but are soothing and appeasing rites for the averting of evil spirits.
Nor is it credible that the gods demanded or welcomed the human sacrifices of ancient days, nor would kings and generals have endured giving over their children and submitting them to the preparatory rites and cutting their throats to no purpose save that they felt they were propitiating and offering satisfaction to the wrath and sullen temper of some harsh and implacable avenging deities, or to the insane and imperious passions of [p. 393] some who had not the power or desire to seek satisfaction in a natural and normal way. But as Heracles laid siege to Oechalia for the sake of a maiden,3 so powerful and impetuous divinities, in demanding a human soul which is incarnate within a mortal body, bring pestilences and failures of crops upon States and stir up wars and civil discords, until they succeed in obtaining what they desire. To some, however, comes the opposite ; for example, when I was spending a considerable time in Crete, I noted an extraordinary festival being celebrated there in which they exhibit the image of a man without a head, and relate that this used to be Molus,4 father of Meriones, and that he violated a young woman ; and when he was discovered, he was without a head.

1 Herodotus, ii. 171; cf. Moralia, 607 c and 636 d.
2 Pindar, Frag. 208 (ed. Christ). Cf. Moralia, 623 b and 706 e.
3 Iolê; cf. e.g. Sophocles, Trachiniae, 475-478.
4 A son of Deucalion.

 15. ‘As for the various tales of rapine and wanderings of the gods, their concealments and banishment and servitude, which men rehearse in legend and in song, all these are, in fact, not things that were done to the gods or happened to them, but to the demigods; and they are kept in memory because of the virtues and power of these beings ; nor did Aeschylus1 speak devoutly when he said
Holy Apollo, god from heaven banned;
nor Admetus in Sophocles,2
My cock it was that sent him to the mill.
But the greatest error in regard to the truth is that of the theologians of Delphi who think that the god[p. 395] once had a battle here with a serpent for the possession of the oracle, and they permit poets and prose-writers to tell of this in their competitions in the theatres, whereby they bear specific testimony against the most sacred of the rites that they perform.’
At this Philip the historian, who was present, expressed surprise, and inquired against what hallowed rites Cleombrotus thought that the competition bore testimony. ‘These,’ said Cleombrotus, ‘which have to do with the oracle here, and in which the city recently initiated all the Greeks west of Thermopylae and extended the rites as far as Tempê. For the structure which is erected here near the threshing-floor3 every eight years4 is not a nest-like serpent's den, but a copy of the dwelling of a despot or king.5 The onset upon it, which is made in silence through the way called ‘Dolon's Way,’ by which the Labyadae with lighted torches conduct the boy, who must have two parents living, and, after, applying fire to the structure and upsetting the table, flee through the doors of the temple without looking back ; and finally the wanderings and servitude of the boy and the purifications that take place at Tempê — all prompt a suspicion of some great and unholy deed of daring. For it is utterly ridiculous, my good friend, that Apollo, after slaying a brute creature, should flee to the ends of Greece in quest of purification and, after arriving there, should offer some libations and perform those ceremonies which men perform in the effort to placate and mollify the wrath of spirits whom [p. 397] men call the ‘unforgetting avengers,’ as if they followed up the memories of some unforgotten foul deeds of earlier days. And as for the story which I have heard before about this flight and the removal to another place, it is dreadfully strange and paradoxical, but if it has any vestige of truth in it, let us not imagine that what was done in those days about the oracle was any slight or common affair. But that I may not seem to be doing what is described by Empedocles6 as
Putting the heads of myths together, 
Bringing no single path to perfection,
permit me to add to what was said at the outset the proper conclusion, for we have already come to it. Let this statement be ventured by us, following the lead of many others before us, that coincidently with the total defection of the guardian spirits assigned to the oracles and prophetic shrines, occurs the defection of the oracles themselves ; and when the spirits flee or go to another place, the oracles themselves lose their power, but when the spirits return many years later, the oracles, like musical instruments, become articulate, since those who can put them to use are present and in charge of them.’

1 Aeschylus, Supplices, 214.
2 Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag. p. 311, Sophocles, no. 767 (no. 851 Pearson).
3 At the right of the second section of the sacred way, as one progresses upwards toward the temple of Apollo.
4 See Moralia, 293 b-e.
5 That is, a copy of the primitive circular house.
6 Diels, Frag. der Vorsokratiker, i. p. 235, Empedocles, no. b 24.

16. When Cleombrotus had expounded these matters, Heracleon said, ‘There is no unsanctified or irreligious person present, or anyone who holds opinions about the gods that are out of keeping with ours ; but let us ourselves be stringently on our guard lest we unwittingly try to support the argument with extraordinary and presumptuous hypotheses.’ ‘That is a very good suggestion,’ said Philip, [p. 399] ‘but which of the theses of Cleombrotus makes you the most uncomfortable?’
‘That it is not the gods,’ said Heracleon, ‘who are in charge of the oracles, since the gods ought properly to be freed of earthly concerns; but that it is the demigods, ministers of the gods, who have them in charge, seems to me not a bad postulate ; but to take, practically by the handful, from the verses of Empedocles1 sins, rash crimes, and heaven-sent wanderings, and to impose them upon the demigods, and to assume that their final fate is death, just as with men, I regard as rather too audacious and uncivilized.’
Cleombrotus was moved to ask Philip who the young man was and whence he carne ; and after learning his name and his city he said, ‘It is not unwittingly, Heracleon, that we have become involved in strange arguments ; but it is impossible, when discussing important matters, to make any progress in our ideas toward the probable truth without employing for this purpose important principles. But you unwittingly take back what you concede ; for you agree that these demigods exist, but by your postulating that they are not bad nor mortal you no longer keep them ; for in what respect do they differ from gods, if as regards their being they possess immortality and as regards their virtues freedom from all emotion or sin ?’

1 Cf. Diels, Frag. der Vorsokratiker, i. p. 267, Empedocles, no. b 115.

17. As Heracleon was reflecting upon this in silence, Philip said, “Not only has Empedocles bequeathed to us bad demigods, Heracleon, but so also have Plato, Xenocrates, and Chrysippus1; and, [p. 401] in addition, Demolitus,2 by his prayer that he may meet with ‘propitious spirits,’ clearly recognized that there is another class of these which is perverse and possessed of vicious predilections and impulses.
‘As for death among such beings, I have heard the words of a man who was not a fool nor an impostor.
The father of Aemilianus the orator, to whom some of you have listened, was Epitherses, who lived in our town and was my teacher in grammar. He said that once upon a time in making a voyage to Italy he embarked on a ship carrying freight and many passengers. It was already evening when, near the Echinades Islands, the wind dropped, and the ship drifted near Paxi. Almost everybody was awake, and a good many had not finished their after-dinner wine. Suddenly from the island of Paxi was heard the voice of someone loudly calling Thamus, so that all were amazed. Thamus was an Egyptian pilot, not known by name even to many on board. Twice he was called and made no reply, but the third time he answered ; and the caller, raising his voice, said, ‘When you come opposite to Palodes, announce that Great Pan is dead.’ On hearing this, all, said Epitherses, were astounded and reasoned among themselves whether it were better to carry out the order or to refuse to meddle and let the matter go. Under the circumstances Thamus made up his mind that if there should be a breeze, he would sail past and keep quiet, but with no wind and a smooth sea [p. 403] about the place he would announce what he had heard. So, when he came opposite Palodes, and there was neither wind nor wave, Thamus from the stern, looking toward the land, said the words as he had heard them : ‘Great Pan is dead.’ Even before he had finished there was a great cry of lamentation, not of one person, but of many, mingled with exclamations of amazement. As many persons were on the vessel, the story was soon spread abroad in Rome, and Thamus was sent for by Tiberius Caesar. Tiberius became so convinced of the truth of the story that he caused an inquiry and investigation to be made about Pan ; and the scholars, who were numerous at his court, conjectured that he was the son born of Hermes and Penelopê.’ 3
Moreover, Philip had several witnesses among the persons present who had been pupils of the old man Aemilianus.

1 Cf. von Arnim, Stoicorum Veterum Fragmenta, ii. 1104 (p. 321).
2 Cf. Diels, Frag. der Vorsokratiker, ii. p. 94, Democritus, no. 166; and Life of Timoleon, chap. i. (235 b).
3 Cf. Herodotus, ii. 145.

18. Demetrius said that among the islands lying near Britain1 were many isolated, having few or no inhabitants, some of which bore the names of divinities or heroes. He himself, by the emperor's order, had made a voyage for inquiry and observation to the nearest of these islands which had only a few inhabitants, holy men who were all held inviolate by the Britons. Shortly after his arrival there occurred a great tumult in the air and many portents ; violent winds suddenly swept down and lightning-flashes darted to earth. When these abated, the people of the island said that the passing of someone of the mightier souls had befallen. ‘For,’ said they, ‘as [p. 405] a lamp when it is being lighted has no terrors, but when it goes out is distressing to many,2 so the great souls have a kindling into life that is gentle and inoffensive, but their passing and dissolution often, as at the present moment, fosters tempests and storms, and often infects the air with pestilential properties.’ Moreover, they said that in this part of the world there is one island where Cronus is confined, guarded while he sleeps by Briareus ; for his sleep has been devised as a bondage for him, and round about him are many demigods as attendants and servants.

1 Presumably the Scilly islands; cf. Moralia, 941 a - 942 a.
2 Cf. the interesting account which Plutarch gives in Moralia, 941 a ff., and Lucretius's statement that a smouldering lamp may cause apoplexy.

19. Cleombrotus here took up the conversation and said, ‘I too have similar stories to tell, but it is sufficient for our purpose that nothing contravenes or prevents these things from being so. Yet we know,’ he continued, “that the Stoics1 entertain the opinion that I mention, not only against the demigods, but they also hold that among the gods, who are so very numerous, there is only one who is eternal and immortal, and the others they believe have come into being, and will suffer dissolution.
‘As for the scoffing and sneers of the Epicureans2 which they dare to employ against Providence also, calling it nothing but a myth, we need have no fear. We, on the other hand, say that their ‘Infinity’ is a myth, which among so many worlds has not one that is directed by divine reason, but will have them all produced by spontaneous generation and concretion. If there is need for laughter in philosophy, we should laugh at those spirits, dumb, blind, and soulless, which [p. 407] they shepherd for boundless cycles of years, and which make their returning appearance everywhere, some floating away from the bodies of persons still living, others from bodies long ago burned or decayed, whereby these philosophers drag witlessness and obscurity into the study of natural phenomena ; but if anyone asserts that such demigods exist, not only for physical reasons, but also for logical reasons, and that they have the power of self-preservation and continued life for a long time, then these philosophers feel much aggrieved.’

1 Cf. von Arnim, Stoicorum Veterum Fragmenta, ii. 1049 (p. 309).
2 H. Usener, Epicurea (Leipzig, 1887), 394.

20 After these remarks Ammonius said, ‘It seems to me that Theophrastus was right in his pronouncement. What, in fact, is there to prevent our accepting an utterance that is impressive and most highly philosophical ? For if it be rejected, it does away with many things which are possible but cannot be proved ; and if it be allowed as a principle, it brings in its train many things that are impossible or non-existent.1 The one thing that I have heard the Epicureans say with reference to the demigods introduced by Empedocles2 is that it is not possible, if they are bad and sinful, that they should be happy and of long life, inasmuch as vice has a large measure of blindness and the tendency to encounter destructive agencies, so that argument of theirs is silly. For by this reasoning Epicurus will be shown to be a worse man than Gorgias the sophist, and Metrodorus worse than Alexis the comic poet; for Alexis lived twice as long as Metrodorus and Gorgias more than a third as long again as Epicurus. It is in another [p. 409] sense that we speak of virtue as something strong, and vice as something weak, not with reference to permanence or dissolution of the body. For example, many of the animals that are sluggish in movement and slow in their reactions and many that are lascivious and ungovernable live a longer time than the quick and the clever. Therefore they do not well who make God's eternal existence to be the result of watchfulness and the thrusting aside of destructive agencies. No, immunity from emotion and destruction ought to reside in the blessed Being, and should require no activity on His part. Perhaps, however, to speak thus with reference to people that are not present does not show great consideration. So it is right that Cleombrotus should resume the topic which he discontinued a few moments ago about the migration and flight of the demigods.’

1 Some editors would insert a negative in the last sentence.
2 Diels, Frag. der Vorsokratiker, i. 267, Empedocles, no. b 115.

21. Then Cleombrotus continued, ‘I shall be surprised if it does not appear to you much more strange than what has already been said. Yet it seems to be close to the subject of natural phenomena and Plato1has given the key-note for it, not by an unqualified pronouncement, but as the result of a vague concept, cautiously suggesting also the underlying idea in an enigmatic way ; but, for all that, there has been loud disparagement of him on the part of other philosophers. But there is set before us for general use a bowl of myths and stories combined, and where could one meet with more kindly listeners for testing these stories, even as one tests coins from foreign lands ? So I do not hesitate to favour you with a narrative about a man, not a Greek, whom I had great difficulty in finding, and then only by dint of long wanderings, [p. 411] and after paying large sums for information.
It was near the Persian Gulf that I found him, where he holds a meeting with human beings once every year ; and there I had an opportunity to talk with him and met with a kindly reception. The other days of his life, according to his statement, he spends in association with roving nymphs and demigods. He was the handsomest man I ever saw in personal appearance and he never suffered from any disease, inasmuch as once each month he partook of the medicinal and bitter fruit of a certain herb. He was practised in the use of many tongues ; but with me, for the most part, he spoke a Doric which was almost music. While he was speaking, a fragrance overspread the place, as his mouth breathed forth a most pleasant perfume. Besides his learning and his knowledge of history, always at his command, he was inspired to prophesy one day in each year when he went down to the sea and told of the future. Potentates and kings' secretaries would come each year and depart. His power of prophecy he referred to the demigods. He made most account of Delphi and there was none of the stories told of Dionysus or of the rites performed here of which he had not heard ; these too he asserted were the momentous experiences of the demigods and so, plainly, were those which had to do with the Python.
And upon the slayer of that monster was not imposed an exile of eight full years,2 nor, following this, was he exiled to Tempê; but after he was expelled, he fared forth to another world, and later, returning from there, after eight cycles of the Great Years, pure and truly the ‘Radiant [p. 413] One,’ he took over the oracle which had been guarded during this time by Themis. Such also, he said, were the stories about Typhons and Titans3; battles of demigods against demigods had taken place, followed by the exile of the vanquished, or else judgement inflicted by a god upon the sinners, as, for example, for the sin which Typhon is said to have committed in the case of Osiris, or Cronus in the case of Uranus ; and the honours once paid to these deities have become quite dim to our eyes or have vanished altogether when the deities were transferred to another world. In fact, I learn that the Solymi, who live next to the Lycians, paid especial honour to Cronus. But when lie had slain their rulers, Arsalus, Dryus, and Trosobius, he fled away from that place to some place or other, where they cannot say ; and then he ceased to be regarded, but Arsalus and those connected with him are called the ‘stern gods,’ and the Lycians employ their names in invoking curses both in public and in private. Many accounts similar to these are to be had from theological history. But, as that man said, if we call some of the demigods by the current name of gods, that is no cause for wonder ; for each of them is wont to be called after that god with whom he is allied and from whom' he has derived his portion of power and honour. In fact, among ourselves one of us is Dïus, another Athenaeus, another Apollonius or Dionysius or [p. 415]Hermaeus ; but only some of us have, by chance, been rightly named ; the majority have received names derived from the gods which bear no relation to the persons, but are only a travesty.’

1 Cf. 421 f, infra.
2 Cf. Moralia, 293 b-c.
3 Cf. 360 f, supra.

22. Cleombrotus said nothing more, and his account appeared marvellous to all. But when Heraeleon inquired in what way this was related to Plato and how he had given the key-note for this topic, Cleombrotus said, ‘You well remember that he summarily decided against an infinite number of worlds, but had doubts about a limited number; and up to five1 he conceded a reasonable probability to those who postulated one world to correspond to each element, but, for himself, he kept to one. This seems to be peculiar to Plato, for the other philosophers conceived a fear of plurality,2 feeling that if they did not limit matter to one world, but went beyond one, an unlimited and embarrassing infinity would at once fasten itself upon them.’
‘But,’ said I, ‘did your far-away friend set a limit to the number of worlds, as Plato did, or did you not go so far as to sound him on this point when you had your interview with him ?’
‘Was it not likely,’ said Cleombrotus, ‘that on anything touching these matters, if on nothing else, I should be an inquisitive and eager listener, when he so graciously put himself at my disposal and gave me the opportunity ? He said that the worlds are not infinite in number, nor one, nor five, but one hundred and eighty-three,3 arranged in the form of a triangle, [p. 417] each side of the triangle having sixty worlds ; of the three left over each is placed at an angle, and those that are next to one other are in contact and revolve gently as in a dance. The inner area of the triangle is the common hearth of all, and is called the Plain of Truth, in which the accounts, the forms, and the patterns of all things that have come to pass and of all that shall come to pass rest undisturbed ; and round about them lies Eternity, whence Time, like an ever-flowing stream, is conveyed to the worlds. Opportunity to see and to contemplate these things is vouchsafed to human souls once in ten thousand years if they have lived goodly lives ; and the best of the initiatory rites here are but a dream of that highest rite and initiation; and the words of our philosophic inquiry are framed to recall these fair sights there — else is our labour vain. This,’ said he, ‘is the tale I heard him recite quite as though it were in some rite of mystic initiation, but without offering any demonstration or proof of what he said.’

1 Cf. Plato, Timaeus, 55 c-d; Moralia, 389 f, supra, and 430 b, infra.
2 Cf. Aristotle, De Caelo, i. 8 (276 a 18).
3 Cf. Proclus on Plato, Timaeus, p. 138 b.

23. Then I, addressing Demetrius, said, ‘How do the verses about the suitors run, when they are marvelling at Odysseus as he handles the bow?’ And when Demetrius had recalled them to my mind, I said, ‘It occurs to me to say this of your far-away friend :
Surely he liked to see, or else was given to filching1 beliefs and tales of all sorts. He had ranged widely in literature and was no foreigner, but a Greek by birth, and replete with Greek culture to a high degree. The number of his worlds convicts him, since it is not [p. 419] Egyptian nor Indian, but Dorian and from Sicily, being the idea of a man of Himera named Petron. Petron's own treatise I have never read nor am I sure that a copy is now extant; but Hippys2 of Rhegium, whom Phanias3 of Eresus mentions, records that this was the opinion and the account of it given by Petron : that there are one hundred and eighty-three worlds in contact with one another according to element; but what this is, ‘to be in contact according to element,’ he does not explain further nor subjoin any plausible proof.’
Demetrius, joining in, said, ‘What plausible proof could there be in matters of this sort in which even Plato, without stating anything reasonable or plausible, simply set down his own account ?’
‘But,’ said Heracleon, ‘we hear you grammarians attributing this view to Homer on the ground that he distributed the universe into five worlds4: the heavens, the water, the air, the earth, and Olympus. Of these he leaves two to be held in common, the earth for all below and Olympus for all above, and the three that lie between were assigned to the three gods. In this wise Plato5 also, apparently, associated the fairest and foremost forms and figures with the different divisions of the universe, and called them five worlds, one of earth, one of water, one of air, one of fire, and last of all, the one which includes all these, the world of the dodecahedron, of wide expanse and many turnings, to which he assigned a form appropriate to the cycles and movements of the soul.’ [p. 421]
‘Why,’ said Demetrius, ‘do we call up Homer in the present instance ? Enough of legends ! Plato, however, is very far from calling the five different divisions of the world five different worlds ; and in those passages again, in which he contends against those who postulate an infinite number of worlds, he says that his opinion is that this world is the only-begotten and beloved of God, having been created out of the corporeal whole, entire, complete, and sufficient unto itself. Wherefore one might well be surprised that he, in stating the truth himself, has supplied others with a source for a doctrine that is unconvincing and lacking in reason. For not to defend the idea of a single world implied somehow an assumption of the infinity of the whole universe ; but to make the worlds definitely just so many, neither more nor less than five, is altogether contrary to reason and devoid of all plausibility — unless,’ he added, with a glance at me, ‘you have anything to say.’
‘It appears,’ said I, ‘that we have already discontinued our discussion about oracles, feeling it to be completed, and are now taking up another topic just as large.’
‘Not discontinued that topic,’ said Demetrius, ‘but not passing over this one which claims our attention. We will not spend much time on it, but only touch upon it long enough to inquire into its plausibility ; and then we will follow up the original proposition.’

1 Homer, Od. xxi. 397.
2 Frag. 6, Müller, Frag. Hist. Graec. vol. ii. p. 14.
3 Frag. 22, Müller, Frag. Hist. Graec. vol. ii. p. 300.
4 Cf. 390 c, supra; Homer, Il. xv. 187.
5 Cf. Plato, Timaeus, 31 a, and 55 c; Moralia, 390 a and 887 b.

24. ‘In the first place, then,’ said I, “the considerations that prevent our making an infinite number of worlds do not preclude our making more than one. For it is possible for God and prophecy [p. 423] and Providence to exist in more worlds than one, and for the incidence of chance to be reduced to the very smallest limits, while the vast majority of things and those of the highest importance attain to genesis and transmutation in a quite orderly sequence, none of which things does infinity, by its nature, admit. Then again it is more consistent with reason that the world should not be the only-begotten of God and quite alone. For He, being consummately good, is lacking in none of the virtues, and least of all in those which concern justice and friendliness ; for these are the fairest and are fitting for gods. Nor is it in the nature of God to possess anything to no purpose or for no use. Therefore there exist other gods and other worlds outside, in relation with which He exercises the social virtues. For not in relation with Himself nor with any part of Himself is there any exercise of justice or benevolence or kindness, but only in relation with others. Thus it is not likely that this world, friendless, neighbourless, and unvisited, swings back and forth in the infinite void, since we see that Nature includes individual things in classes and species, like seeds in pods and envelopes. For there is nothing in the whole list of existing things for which there is not some general designation, nor does anything that does not possess certain qualities, either in common with others or solely by itself, obtain such an appellation. Now the world is not spoken of as having qualities in common with others. It has its qualities, therefore, solely by itself, by virtue of the difference when it is compared with other things which are akin to it and similar in [p. 425] appearance, since it has been created with such qualities as it possesses. If in all creation such a thing as one man, one horse, one star, one god, one demigod does not exist, what is there to prevent creation from having, not one world, but more than one ? For he who says that creation has but one land and one sea overlooks a matter which is perfectly plain, the doctrine of similar parts1; for we divide the earth into parts which bear similar names, and the sea likewise. A part of the world, however, is not a world, but something combined from the differing elements in Nature.

25. “Again, as for the dread which some people especially have felt, and so use up the whole of matter on the one world, so that nothing may be left over outside to disturb the structure of it by resisting or striking it—this fear of theirs is unwarranted. For if there are more worlds than one, and each of them has received, as its meet portion, substance and matter having a restricted measure and limit, then there will be nothing left unplaced or unorganized, an unused remnant, as it were, to crash into them from the outside. For the law of reason over each world, having control over the matter assigned to each, will not allow anything to be carried away from it nor to wander about and crash into another world, nor anything from another world to crash into it, because Nature has neither unlimited and infinite magnitude nor irrational and disorganized movement. Even if any emanation is carried from some worlds to others, it is certain to be congenial, agreeable, and to unite peaceably with all, like the rays of starlight and [p. 427] their blending ; and the worlds themselves must experience joy in gazing at one another with kindly eyes; and for the many good gods in each, they must provide opportunities for visits and a friendly welcome. Truly in all this there is nothing impossible or fabulous or contrary to reason unless, indeed, because of Aristotle's1 statements some persons shall look upon it with suspicion as being based on physical grounds. For if each of the bodies has its own particular place, as he asserts, the earth must of necessity turn toward the centre from all directions and the water be above it, settling below the lighter elements because of its weight. If, therefore, there be more worlds than one, it will come to pass that in many places the earth will rest above the fire and the air, and in many places below them ; and the air and the water likewise, in some places existing in positions in keeping with nature and in other places in positions contrary to nature. As this, in his opinion, is impossible, the inference is that there are neither two worlds nor more, but only this one, composed of the whole of matter and resting firmly in keeping with Nature, as befits the diversity of its bodies.

1 Cf. Aristotle, De Caelo, i. 7 (276 a 18).

26. All this, however, has been put in a way that is more plausible than true. Look at it in this way, my dear Demetrius,” said I ; “when he says of the bodies that some have a motion towards the centre and downwards, others away from the centre and upwards, and others around the centre and in a circular path, in what relation does he take the centre ?1 Certainly not in relation to the void, for according to him it does not exist. And according to those for whom it does exist, it has no centre, just as it has no point where it begins or where it ends ; [p. 429] for these are limitations, and the infinite has no limitations. And if a man could force himself, by reasoning, to dare the concept of a violent motion of the infinite, what difference, if referred to this, is created for the bodies in their movements ? For in the void there is no power in the bodies, nor do the bodies have a predisposition and an impetus, by virtue of which they cling to the centre and have a universal tendency in this one direction. It is equally difficult, in the case of inanimate bodies and an incorporeal and undifferentiated position, to conceive of a movement created from the bodies or an attraction created by the position. Thus one conclusion is left : when the centre is spoken of it is not with reference to any place, but with reference to the bodies. For in this world of ours, which has a single unity in its organization from numerous dissimilar elements, these differences necessarily create various movements towards various objects. Evidence of this is found in the fact that everything, when it undergoes transformation, changes its position coincidently with the change in its substance. For example, dispersion distributes upwards and round about the matter rising from the centre and condensation and consolidation press it down towards the centre and drive it together.

1 Cf. Moralia, 925 b and 1054 b.

27. Because one may postulate as the author of these occurrences and changes, that cause will keep each of the worlds together within itself; for each world has earth and sea, and each has its own centre and occurrences that [p. 431] affect its component bodies; it has its own transmutations and a nature and a power which preserves each one and keeps it in place. In what lies beyond, whether it be nothing or an infinite void, no centre exists, as has been said; and if there are several worlds, in each one is a centre which belongs to it alone, with the result that the movements of its bodies are its own, some towards it, some away from it, and some around it, quite in keeping with the distinctions which these men themselves make. But anyone who insists that, while there are many centres, the heavy substances are impelled from all sides towards one only,1 does not differ at all from him who insists that, while there are many men, the blood from all shall flow together into a single vein and the brains of all shall be enveloped in a single membrane, deeming it a dreadful thing in the case of natural bodies if all the solids shall not occupy one place only and the fluids also only one place. Such a man as that will be abnormal, and so will he be who is indignant if everything constituting a whole has its own parts, of which it makes use in their natural arrangement and position in every case. For that would be preposterous, and so too if anybody called that a world which had a moon somewhere inside it2; as well call that a man who carries his brains in his heels or his heart in his head!3 But to make more worlds than one, each separate from the other, and to delimit and distinguish the parts belonging to each to go with the whole is not preposterous. For the land and the sea and the heavens in each will be placed to accord with nature, as is fitting ; and each of the worlds has its above and below and its round [p. 433] about and its centre, not with reference to another world or the outside, but in itself and with reference to itself.
1 Cf. Moralia, 928 a-b.

2 Instead of revolving around it.
3 Cf. Demosthenes, Oration vii. 45.

28. “On this topic it is not necessary to use more words at present. The truth is that whatever cause one may postulate as the author of these occurrences and changes, that cause will keep each of the worlds together within itself; for each world has earth and sea, and each has its own centre and occurrences that [p. 431] affect its component bodies; it has its own transmutations and a nature and a power which preserves each one and keeps it in place. In what lies beyond, whether it be nothing or an infinite void, no centre exists, as has been said; and if there are several worlds, in each one is a centre which belongs to it alone, with the result that the movements of its bodies are its own, some towards it, some away from it, and some around it, quite in keeping with the distinctions which these men themselves make. But anyone who insists that, while there are many centres, the heavy substances are impelled from all sides towards one only,1 does not differ at all from him who insists that, while there are many men, the blood from all shall flow together into a single vein and the brains of all shall be enveloped in a single membrane, deeming it a dreadful thing in the case of natural bodies if all the solids shall not occupy one place only and the fluids also only one place. Such a man as that will be abnormal, and so will he be who is indignant if everything constituting a whole has its own parts, of which it makes use in their natural arrangement and position in every case. For that would be preposterous, and so too if anybody called that a world which had a moon somewhere inside it2; as well call that a man who carries his brains in his heels or his heart in his head!3 But to make more worlds than one, each separate from the other, and to delimit and distinguish the parts belonging to each to go with the whole is not preposterous. For the land and the sea and the heavens in each will be placed to accord with nature, as is fitting ; and each of the worlds has its above and below and its round [p. 433] about and its centre, not with reference to another world or the outside, but in itself and with reference to itself.

1 Cf. Moralia, 928 a-b.
2 Instead of revolving around it.
3 Cf. DemosthenesOration vii. 45.

29. “As for the stone which some assume to exist in the regions outside the world, it does not readily afford a concept regarding either its fixity or its motion. For how is it either to remain fixed, if it has weight, or to move towards the world like other heavy substances when it is no part of the world and has no place in the order of its being ? Land embraced in another world and bound up with it ought not to raise any question as to how it comes about that it does not break away from the whole and transfer itself to our world, because we see the nature and the tension under which each of the parts is held secure. For if we take the expressions ' below ' and ' above ' as referring, not to the world, but outside of it,1 we shall become involved in the same difficulties as Epicurus,2 who would have all his atoms move to places under our feet, as if either the void had feet, or infinity granted us to conceive of ‘below’ and ‘above’ within itself! Wherefore we may well wonder at Chrysippus,3 or rather be quite unable to understand what possessed him to assert that the world has been firmly set in the centre and that its substance, having pre-empted the central place from time eternal, thereby gains the greatest help towards its permanence, and that is as much as to say its immunity from destruction. This is actually what he says in the fourth book of his work on Things Possible, where he indulges in a day-dream of a central place in the infinite and still more preposterously ascribes the cause of the permanence of the world to the non-existent centre ; yet in other [p. 435] works lie has often said that substance is regulated and held together by its movements towards its own centre and away from its own centre.

1 Cf. Moralia, 1054 b.
2 Frag. 299.
3 Cf. von Arnim, Stoicorum Veterum Fragmenta, i. 551 (p. 174), and Moralia, 1054 c.

30. “Then again, who could feel alarm at the other notions of the Stoics, who ask how there shall continue to be one Destiny and one Providence, and how there shall not be many supreme gods bearing the name of Zeus or Zen, if there are more worlds than one ? For, in the first place, if it is preposterous that there should be many supreme gods bearing this name, then surely these persons' ideas will be far more preposterous ; for they make an infinite number of suns and moons and Apollos and Artemises and Poseidons in the infinite cycle of worlds. But the second point is this : what is the need that there be many gods bearing the name of Zeus, if there be more worlds than one, and that there should not be in each world, as pre-eminent governor and ruler of the whole, a god possessing sense and reason, such as the one who among us bears the name of Lord and Father of all ? Or again, what shall prevent all worlds from being subject to the Destiny and Providence of Zeus, and what shall prevent his overseeing and directing them all in turn and supplying them all with first principles, material sources, and schemes of all that is being carried out ? Do we not in this world of ours often have a single body composed of separate bodies,1 as, for example, an assembly of people or an army or a band of dancers, each one of whom has the contingent faculty of living, thinking, and learning, as Chrysippus2 believes, while in the whole universe, that there should be ten worlds, or fifty, or an hundred even, living under one reasoned plan, and organized under one government, is an [p. 437]impossibility ? Yet such an organization is altogether appropriate for the gods. For we must not make them unable to go out, like the queens in a hive of bees, nor keep them imprisoned by enclosing them with matter, or rather fencing them about with it, as those3 do who make the gods to be atmospheric conditions, or regard them as powers of waters or of fire blended therewith, and bring them into being at the same time with the world, and burn them up with it, since they are not unconfined and free like drivers of horses or pilots of ships, but, just as statues are riveted and welded to their bases, so they are enclosed and fastened to the corporeal; and are partners with it even unto destruction, dissolution, and transmutation, of whatsoever sort may befall.

1 Cf. Moralia, 142 e; Sextus Empiricus, Adversus Mathematicos, vii. 102.
2 Cf. von Arnim, Stoicorum Veterum Fragmenta, ii. 367 (p. 124).
3 Ibid. 1055 (p. 311).

31. 'That concept is, I think, more dignified and sublime, that the gods are no subject to outside control, but are their own masters, even as the twin sons o Tyndares1 come to the aid of men who are labouring in the storm,
Soothing the oncoming raging sea, 
Taming the swift-driving blasts of the winds,2
not, however, sailing on the ships and sharing in the danger, but appearing above and rescuing ; so, in the same way, one or another of the gods visits now this world and now that, led thither by pleasure in the sight, and co-operates with Nature in the directing of each. The Zeus of Homer3 turned his gaze not so very far away from the land of Troy towards the [p. 439] Thracian regions and the wandering tribes about the Danube; but the real Zeus has a fair and fitting variety of spectacles in numerous worlds, not viewing the infinite void outside nor concentrating his mind upon himself and nothing else, as some have imagined,4 but surveying from above the many works of gods and men and the movements and courses of the stars in their cycles. In fact, the Deity is not averse to changes, but has a very great joy therein, to judge, if need be, by the alternations and cycles in the heavens among the bodies that are visible there. Infinity is altogether senseless and unreasoning, and nowhere admits a god, but in all relations it brings into action the concept of chance and accident. But the Oversight and Providence in a limited group and number of worlds, when compared with that which has entered one body and become attached to one and reshapes and remodels it an infinite number of times, seems to me to contain nothing involving less dignity or greater labour.’

1 Castor and Pollux, the protectors of sailors.
2 Repeated with some variants by Plutarch in Moralia, 1103 c-d; cf. Bergk, Poet. Lyr. Graec. iii. p. 730.
3 Homer, Il. xiii. 3.
4 Cf. Aristotle, The Eudemian Ethics, vii. 12. 16 (1245 b 14).

32. Having spoken at this length, I stopped. Philip, after no long interval, said, ‘That the truth about these matters is thus or otherwise is not for me to assert. But if we eliminate the god from one world, there is the question why we make him the creator of only five worlds and no more, and what is the relation of this number to the great mass of numbers ; and I feel that I would rather gain a knowledge of this than of the meaning of the E1 dedicated here. For the number five represents neither a triangle nor a square, nor is it a perfect number nor a cube, nor does it seem to present any [p. 441] other subtlety for those who love and admire such speculations. Its derivation from the number of elements, at which the Master2 hinted darkly, is in every way hard to grasp and gives no clear intimation of the plausibility which must have drawn him on to assert that it is likely that when five bodies with equal angles and equal sides and enclosed by equal areas are engendered in matter the same number of worlds should at once be perfected from them.

1 The meaning is discussed in the second essay of this volume.
2 Presumably Pythagoras, but possibly Plato.

33. ‘Yes,’ said I, ‘Theodorus of Soli1 seems to follow up the subject not ineptly in his explanations of Plato's mathematical theories. He follows it up in this way : a pyramid, an octahedron, an icosahedron, and a dodecahedron, the primary figures which Plato predicates, are all beautiful because of the symmetries and equalities in their relations, and nothing superior or even like to these2 has been left for Nature to compose and fit together. It happens, however, that they do not all have one form of construction, nor have they all a similar origin, but the pyramid is the simplest and smallest, while the dodecahedron is the largest and most complicated. Of the remaining two the icosahedron is more than double the octahedron in the number of its triangles. For this reason it is impossible for them all to derive their origin from one and the same matter. For those that are simple and small and more rudimentary in their structure would necessarily be the first to respond to the instigating and formative power, and to be completed and acquire substantiality earlier than those of large parts and many bodies, from which class comes the dodecahedron, which requires [p. 443] more labour for its construction. Hence it follows that the only primal body is the pyramid, and not one of the others, since by their nature they are outdistanced by it in coming into being. Accordingly, the remedy which exists for this strange state of affairs consists in the division and separation of matter into five worlds, one where the pyramid shall acquire substantiality first, another for the octahedron, and another for the icosahedron ; then from the one that first acquires substantiality in each world the rest will have their origin, since a transmutation for everything into everything takes place according to the adaptability of parts to fit together, as Plato3 himself has indicated, going into the details of nearly all cases. But for us it will suffice to acquire the knowledge in brief form. Since air is formed when fire is extinguished, and when rarefied again gives off fire out of itself, we must observe the behaviour of each of the generative elements and their transmutations. The generative elements of fire are the pyramid,4 composed of twenty-four primary triangles, and likewise for air the octahedron, composed of forty-eight of the same. Therefore one element of air is produced from two corpuscles of fire combined and united ; and that of air again, when divided, is separated into two corpuscles of fire, and again, when compressed and condensed, it goes off into the form of water. The result is that in every case the one which first acquires substantiality always affords the others a ready means of coming into being through transmutation ; and it [p. 445] is not one alone that first exists, but another in a different environment is endowed with movement, which takes the lead and forestalls the others in coming into being, and thus the name of being first is kept by all.’

1 Cf. Moralia, 1027 d.
2 The five solids of which each has the same number of sides on all its faces, and all its solid angles made up of the same number of plane angles. Cf. Plato, Timaeus, 53 c - 56 c, and Grote's Plato, iii. 269.
3 Plato, Timaeus, 55 e ff.
4 Does Plutarch (or Plato before him) see an etymological relation between ‘pyramid’ and ‘pyr’ (fire)? See also 428 d infra.

34. ‘Manfully and zealously,’ said Ammonius, ‘have these matters been worked out by Theodorus ; but I should be surprised if it should not appear that he has made use of assumptions which nullify each other. For he insists that all the five shall not undergo construction at the same time, but the simplest always, which requires the least trouble to construct, shall first issue forth into being. Then, as a corollary to this, and not conflicting with it, he lays down the principle that not all matter brings forth the simplest and most rudimentary form first, but that sometimes the ponderous and complex forms, in the time of their coming into being, are earlier in arising out of matter. But apart from this, five bodies having been postulated as primary, and on the strength of this the number of worlds being put as the same, he adduces probability with reference to four only ; the cube he has taken off the board, as if he were playing a game with counters, since, because of its nature, it cannot transmute itself into them nor confer upon them the power of transmutation into itself, inasmuch as the triangles are not homologous triangles. For in the others the common triangle which underlies them all is the half-triangle ; but in this, and peculiar to it alone, is the isosceles triangle, which makes no convergence towards the other nor any conjunction that would unify the two. If, therefore, there are five bodies and five worlds, and in each one body only has precedence in coming into being, then where the cube has been the first to come [p. 447] into being, there will be none of the others, since, because of its nature, it cannot transmute itself into any one of them. I leave out of account the fact that they make the element of the dodecahedron, as it is called, something else and not that scalene from which Plato constructs the pyramid and the octahedron and the icosahedron. So,’ added Ammonius, laughing,‘either you must solve these problems or else contribute something of your own concerning this difficulty in which we all find ourselves involved.’

‘For the present, at least,’ said I, “I have nothing more plausible to offer; but perhaps it is better to submit to examination on views of one's own rather than on another's. I repeat, therefore, what I said at the beginning, that if two natures be postulated, one evident to the senses, subject to change in creation and dissolution, carried now here now there, while the other is essentially conceptual and always remains the same, it is a dreadful thing that, while the conceptual nature has been parcelled out and has variety within itself, we should feel indignant and annoyed if anyone does not leave the corporeal and passive nature as a unity knit together and converging upon itself, but separates and parts it. For it is surely fitting that things permanent and divine should hold more closely together and escape, so far as may be, all segmentation and separation. But even on these the power of Differentiation has laid its hand and has wrought in things conceptual dissimilarities in reasons and ideas, which are vaster than the separations in location. Wherefore Plato,1 opposing those who declare for the unity of the whole, says that these five things exist: Being, Identity, [p. 449] Differentiation, and, to crown all, Movement and Rest. Granted, then, that these five exist, it is not surprising if each of these five corporeal elements has been made into a copy and image of each of them respectively, not unmixed and unalloyed, but it is because of the fact that each of them participates most in its corresponding faculty. The cube is patently a body related to rest because of the security and stability of its plane surfaces. In the pyramid everybody may note its fiery and restless quality in the simplicity of its sides and the acuteness of its angles. The nature of the dodecahedron, which is comprehensive enough to include the other figures, may well seem to be a model with reference to all corporeal being. Of the remaining two, the icosahedron shares in the nature of Differentiation mostly, and the octahedron in that of Identity. For this reason the octahedron contributed air, which in a single form holds all being in its embrace, and the icosahedron water, which by admixture assumes the greatest variety of qualities. If, therefore, Nature demands an equal distribution in all things, there is a reasonable probability that the worlds which have been created are neither more nor less in number than the patterns, so that each pattern in each world may have the leading rank and power just as it has acquired it in the construction of the primary bodies.

1 Plato, Sophist, 256 c; cf. also Moralia, 391 b, supra.

35. “However, let this be a comfort for him that wonders because we divide Nature into so many classes in its generation and transmutation. But here is another matter1 which I ask you all to consider, [p. 451]and to give your undivided attention to it: of those numbers which come at the very first (I mean the number one and the indeterminate duality), the second, being the element underlying all formlessness and disarrangement, has been called infinity; but the nature of the number one limits and arrests what is void and irrational and indeterminate in infinity, gives it shape, and renders it in some way tolerant and receptive of definition, which is the next step after demonstration regarding things perceptible. Now these first principles make their appearance at the beginning in connexion with number; rather, however, larger amounts are not number at all unless the number one, created from the illimitability of infinity, like a form of matter, cuts off more on one side and less on the other. Then, in fact, any of the larger amounts becomes number through being delimited by the number one. But if the number one be done away with, once more the indeterminate duality throws all into confusion, and makes it to be without rhythm, bounds, or measure. Inasmuch as form is not the doing away with matter, but a shaping and ordering of the underlying matter, it needs must be that both these first principles be existent in number, and from this has arisen the first and greatest divergence and dissimilarity. For the indeterminate first principle is the creator of the even, and the better one of the odd. Two is the first of the even numbers and three the first of the odd ; from the two combined comes five,2 which in its composition is common to both numbers and in its potentiality is odd. For when the perceptible and corporeal was divided into [p. 453] several parts because of the innate necessity of differentiation, that number had to be neither the first even nor the first odd, but the third number, which is formed from these two, so that it might be produced from both the primary principles, that which created the even and that which created the odd, because it was not possible for the one to be divorced from the other ; for each possesses the nature and the potentiality of a first principle. So when the twro were paired, the better one prevailed over the indeterminate as it was dividing the corporeal and checked it; and when matter was being distributed to the two, it set unity in the middle and did not allow the whole to be divided into two parts, but there has been created a number of worlds by differentiation of the indeterminate and by its being carried in varying directions ; yet the power of Identity and Limitation has had the effect of making that number odd, but the kind of odd that did not permit Nature to progress beyond what is best. If the number one were unalloyed and pure, matter would not have any separation at all ; but since it has been combined with the dividing power of duality, it has had to submit to being cut up and divided, but there it stopped, the even being overpowered by the odd.

1 Cf. 387 f ff., supra.
2 Cf. 388 a, supra.

36. “It was for this reason that among the people of olden time it was the custom to call counting ‘numbering by fives,’ 1 I think also that ‘panta’ (all) is derived from ‘pente’ (five) in accord with reason, inasmuch as the pentad is a composite of the first numbers.2 As a matter of fact, when the others are multiplied by other numbers, the result is a number different from themselves ; but the pentad, [p. 455] if it be taken an even number of times, makes ten exactly ; and if an odd number of times, it reproduces itself.3 I leave out of account the fact that it is the first composite of the first two squares, unity and the tetrad4; and that it is the first whose square is equal to the two immediately preceding it, making with them the most beautiful of the right-angled triangles5; and it is the first to give the ratio 1 1/2 : 1.6 However, perhaps these matters have not much relation to the subject before us; but there is another matter more closely related, and that is the dividing power of this number, by reason of its nature, and the fact that Nature does distribute most things by fives. For example, she has allotted to ourselves five senses and five parts to the soul7: physical growth, perception, appetite, fortitude, and reason; also five fingers on each hand, and the most fertile seed when it is divided five times, for there is no record that a woman ever had more than five children together at one birth.8The Egyptians have a tradition9 that Rhea gave birth to five gods, an intimation of the genesis of the five worlds from one single Matter; and in the universe the surface of the earth is divided among five zones, and the heavens by five circles, two arctic, two tropic, and the equator in the middle. Five, too, are the orbits of the planets, if the Sun and Venus and Mercury follow the same course. The organization of the world also is based on harmony, just as a tune with us is seen [p. 457] to depend on the five notes of the tetrachord10: lowest, middle, conjunct, disjunct, and highest ; and the musical intervals are five : quarter-tone, semitone, tone, tone and a half, and double tone. Thus it appears that Nature takes a greater delight in making all things in fives than in making them round, as Aristotle11 has said.

1 Cf. 374 a and 387 e, supra.
2 Cf. 374 a and 387 e, supra.
3 Cf. 388 d, supra.
4 Ibid. 391 a.
5 Ibid. 373 f.
6 Ibid. 389 d.
7 Cf. 390 f, supra; Plato, Republic, 410 b, 440 e - 441 a; and much diffused in Timaeus, 70 ff.
8 Cf. Moralia, 264 b; Aristotle, Historia Animalium, vii. 4 (584 b 33); since Plutarch's time there have been a few authenticated cases of sextuplets.
9 Cf. 355 d-f, supra.
10 Cf. 389 e, 1028 f, 1138 f - 1139 e.
11 Cf. Aristotle, De Caelo, ii. 4 (286 b 10).

37. ‘‘Why, then,’ someone will say, ‘did Plato1 refer the number of his five worlds to the five geometric figures, saying that God used up the fifth construction on the universe in completing its embellishment?’ Further on, where he suggests the question about there being more worlds than one,2whether it is proper to speak of one or of five as in truth naturally existent, it is clear that he thinks that the idea started from this source. If, therefore, we must apply reasonable probability to his conception, let us consider that variations in movement necessarily follow close upon the variations in the bodies and their shapes, as he himself teaches3 when he makes it plain that whatever is disunited or united changes its place at the same time with the alteration of its substance. For example, if fire is generated from air by the breaking up of the octahedron and its resolution into pyramids, or again if air is generated from fire by its being forced together and compressed into an octahedron, it is not possible for it to stay where it was before, but it escapes and is carried to some other place, forcing its way out and contending against anything that blocks its course or keeps it back. [p. 459] 

What takes place he describes more clearly by a simile,4 saying that in a manner like to ‘grain and chaff being tossed about and winnowed by the fans and other tools used in cleaning the grain’ the elements toss matter about and are tossed about by it; and like always draws near1 to like, some things occupying one place and others another, before the universe becomes completely organized out of the elements. Thus, when matter was in that state in which, in all probability, is the universe from which God is absent, the first five properties, having tendencies of their own, were at once carried in different directions, not being completely or absolutely separated, because, when all things were amalgamated, the inferior always followed the superior in spite of Nature.5 For this reason they produced in the different kinds of bodies, as these were carried some in one direction and others in another, an equal number of separate divisions with intervals between them, one not of pure fire, but fiery, another not of unmingled ether, but ethereal, another not of earth by itself alone, but earthy ; and above all, in keeping with the close association of air with water, they contrived, as has been said,6 that these should come away filled with many foreign elements. It was not the Deity who parted substance and caused it to rest in different places, but, after it had been parted by its own action and was being carried in diverse ways in such great disarray, he took it over and set it in [p. 461] order and fitted it together by the use of proportions and means. Then, after establishing Reason in each as a governor and guardian, he creatjed as many worlds as the existing primal bodies. Let this, then, be an offering for the gratification of Plato on Ammonius's account, but as for myself, I should not venture to assert regarding the number of wbrlds that they are just so many ; but the opinion that sets their number at more than one, and yet not infinite, but limited in amount, I regard as no more irrational than either of the others, when I observe the dispersiveness and divisibility implicit by nature in Matter, and that it neither abides as a unit nor is permitted by Reason to progress to infinity. But if in any other place we have recalled the Academy7 to our mind, let us do so here as well, and divest ourselves of excessive credulity and, as if we were in a slippery place in our discussion about infinity, let us merely keep a firm footing.’

1 Plato, Timaeus, 55 c.
2 Ibid. 31 a; cf. 389 f and 421 f, supra.
3 Plato, Timaeus, 57 c.
4 Plato, Timaeus, 52 e.
5 Some would prefer to make Plutarch say ‘in keeping with Nature.’
6 Cf. 428 d-e, supra.
7 Cf. 387 f, supra.

38. When I had said this, Demetrius remarked, ‘Lamprias gives the right advice ; for
The gods make us to slip by many forms
not ‘of tricks,’ as Euripides1 says, but of facts, whenever we make bold to pronounce opinions about such matters as if we understood them. ‘But the discussion must be carried back,’ as the same writer says,2 to the assumption made at the beginning. For what was said then, that when the demigods withdraw and forsake the oracles, these lie idle and inarticulate like the instruments of musicians, raises another question of greater import regarding the causative means and power which they employ to [p. 463] make the prophetic priests and priestesses possessed by inspiration and able to present their visions. For it is not possible to hold that the desertion by the demigods is the reason for the silence of the oracles unless we are convinced as to the manner in which the demigods, by having the oracles in their charge and by their presence there, make them active and articulate.’
Here Ammonius joined in and said, ‘Do you really think that the demigods are aught else than souls that make their rounds, ‘in mist apparelled,’ as Hesiod3 says ? To my mind the difference between man and man in acting tragedy or comedy is the difference between soul and soul arrayed in a body suitable for its present life. It is, therefore, not at all unreasonable or even marvellous that souls meeting souls should create in them impressions of the future, exactly as we do not convey all our information to one another through the spoken word, but by writing also, or merely by a touch or a glance, we give much information about what has come to pass and intimation of what is to come. Unless it be, Lamprias, that you have another story to tell. For not long ago a rumour reached us about your having had a long talk on these subjects with strangers at Lebadeia, but the man who told of it could recall none of it with exactness.’
‘You need not be surprised,’ said I, ‘since many activities and distractions occurring in the midst of it, because it was a day for oracles and sacrifice, made our conversation desultory and disconnected.’
‘But now,’ said Ammonius, ‘you have listeners with nothing to distract them and eager to seek and [p. 465] gain information on this point or that ; all strife and contention is banished and a sympathetic hearing and freedom of statement, as you observe, is granted for all that may be said.’

1 Cf. Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag. p. 674, Euripides, no. 972.
2 Cf. the note on 390 c, supra.
3 Works and Days, 125.

39. As the others also joined in the request, I, after a moment of silence, continued, “As a matter of fact, Ammonius, by some chance you happen to be the one who provided the opening and approach for what was said on that occasion. For if the souls which have been severed from a body, or have had no part with one at all, are demigods according to you and the divine Hesiod,1
Holy dwellers on earth and the guardian spirits of mortals,
why deprive souls in bodies of that power by virtue of which the demigods possess the natural faculty of knowing and revealing future events before they happen ? For it is not likely that any power or portion accrues to souls when they have left the body, if they did not possess them before ; but the souls always possess them ; only they possess them to a slight degree while conjoined with the body, some of them being completely imperceptible and hidden, others weak and dim, and about as ineffectual and slow in operation as persons that try to see in a fog or to move about in water, and requiring much nursing and restoring of the functions that properly belong to them and the removal and clearing away of the covering which hides them. Just as the sun does not become bright when it bursts through the clouds, but is bright always, and yet in a fog appears to us indistinct and dim, even so the soul does not acquire the prophetic power when it goes forth from the body [p. 467] as from a cloud ; it possesses that power even now, but is blinded by being combined and commingled with the mortal nature. We ought not to feel surprised or incredulous at this when we see in the soul, though we see naught else, that faculty which is the complement of prophecy, and which we call memory, and how great an achievement is displayed in preserving and guarding the past, or rather what has been the present, since nothing of all that has come to pass has any existence or substantiality, because the very instant when anything comes to pass, that is the end of it — of actions, words, experiences alike ; for Time like an everflowing stream bears all things onward. But this faculty of the soul lays hold upon them, I know not how, and invests with semblance and being things not now present here. The oracle given to the Thessalians about Arnê2 bade them note
A deaf man's hearing, a blind man's sight.
But memory is for us the hearing of deeds to which we are deaf and the seeing of things to which we are blind. Hence, as I said, it is no wonder that, if it has command over things that no longer are, it anticipates many of those which have not yet come to pass, since these are more closely related to it, and with these it has much in common ; for its attachments and associations are with the future, and it is quit of all that is past and ended, save only to remember it.

1 Works and Days, 123.
2 Cf. Thucydides, i. 12.

40. “Souls therefore, all possessed of this power, which is innate but dim and hardly manifest, nevertheless oftentimes disclose its flower and radiance in [p. 469] dreams, and some in the hour of death,1 when the body becomes cleansed of all impurities and attains a temperament adapted to this end, a temperament through which the reasoning and thinking faculty of the souls is relaxed and released from their present state as they range amid the irrational and imaginative realms of the future. It is not true, as Euripides2 says, that

The best of seers is he that guesses well;

no, the best of seers is the intelligent man, following the guidance of that in his soul which possesses sense and which, with the help of reasonable probability, leads him on his way. But that which foretells the future, like a tablet without writing, is both irrational and indeterminate in itself, but receptive of impressions and presentiments through what may be done to it, and inconsequently grasps at the future when it is farthest withdrawn from the present. Its withdrawal is brought about by a temperament and disposition of the body as it is subjected to a change which we call inspiration. Often the body of itself alone attains this disposition. Moreover the earth sends forth for men streams of many other potencies, some of them producing derangements, diseases, or deaths ; others helpful, benignant, and beneficial, as is plain from the experience of persons who have come upon them. But the prophetic current and breath is most divine and holy, whether it issue by itself through the air or come in the company of [p. 471] running waters ; for when it is instilled into the body, it creates in souls an unaccustomed and unusual temperament, the peculiarity of which it is hard to describe with exactness, but analogy offers many comparisons. It is likely that by warmth and diffusion it opens up certain passages through which impressions of the future are transmitted, just as wine, when its fumes rise to the head, reveals many unusual movements and also words stored away and unperceived.

For Bacchic rout 
And frenzied mind contain much prophecy,

according to Euripides,3 when the soul becomes hot and fiery, and throw's aside the caution that human intelligence lays upon it, and thus often diverts and extinguishes the inspiration.

1 Cf. Plato, Apology, 39 b.
2 Cf. Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag. p. 674, Euripides, no. 973; cf. Moralia, 399 a, supra.
3 Bacchae, 298.

41. “At the same time one might assert, not without reason, that a dryness engendered with the heat subtilizes the spirit of prophecy and renders it ethereal and pure ; for this is ‘the dry soul,’ as Heracleitus has it.1 Moisture not only dulls sight and hearing, but when it touches mirrors and combines with air, it takes away their brightness and sheen.2 But again the very opposite of this may not be impossible : that by a sort of chilling and compacting of the spirit of inspiration the prophetic element in the soul, as when steel is dipped in cold water, is rendered tense and keen. And further, just as tin [p. 473] when alloyed with copper, which is loose and porous in texture, binds it together and compacts it,3 and at the same time makes it brighter and cleaner, even so there is nothing to prevent the prophetic vapour, which contains some affinity and relationship to souls, from filling up the vacant spaces and cementing all together by fitting itself in. For one thing has affinity and adaptability for one thing, another for another, just as the bean4 seems to further the dyeing of purple and sodium carbonate5 that of scarlet, when mixed with the dye ;

All in the linen is blended the splendour of glorious scarlet,

as Empedocles6 has said. But regarding the Cydnus and the sacred sword of Apollo in Tarsus we used to hear you say, my dear Demetrius, that the Cydnus will cleanse no steel but that, and no other water will cleanse that sword. There is a similar phenomenon at Olympia, where they pile the ashes against the altar and make them adhere all around by pouring on them water from the Alpheius ; but, although they have tried the waters of other rivers, there is none with which they can make the ashes cohere and stay fixed in their place.

1 ‘A dry soul is best (and/or wisest)’ is the dictum of Heracleitus, which is often quoted; see Diels, Frag. der Vorsokratiker, i. p. 100, Heracleitus, no. b 118; cf. also Moralia, 995 e, and Life of Romulus, chap. xxviii. (36 a).
2 Cf. Plutarch, Moralia, 736 a-b.
3 Cf. Aristotle, De Generatione Animalium, ii. 8 (747 a 34).
4 Cf. H. Blümner, Gewerbe und Künste bei Griechen und Römern (Leipzig, 1875), i. 236.
5 Ibid. 238.
6 Cf. Diels, Frag. der Vorsokratiker, i. p. 255, Empedocles, no. b 93.

42. “It is not, therefore, anything to excite amazement if, although the earth sends up many streams, it is only such as these that dispose souls to inspiration and impressions of the future. Certainly the voice of legend also is in accord with my statement; [p. 475] for they record that here the power hovering about this spot was first made manifest when a certain shepherd fell in by accident and later gave forth inspired utterances, which those who came into contact with him at first treated with disdain ; but later, when what he had foretold came to pass, they were amazed. The most learned of the people of Delphi still preserve the tradition of his name, which they say was Coretas. But I incline most to the opinion that the soul acquires towards the prophetic spirit a close and intimate connexion of the sort that vision has towards light, which possesses similar properties. For, although the eye has the power of vision, there is no function for it to perform without light1; and so the prophetic power of the soul, like an eye, has need of something kindred to help to kindle it and stimulate it further. Hence many among earlier generations regarded Apollo and the Sun as one and the same god ; but those who understood and respected fair and wise analogy conjectured that as body is to soul, vision to intellect, and light to truth, so is the power of the sun to the nature of Apollo ; and they would make it appear that the sun is his offspring and progeny, being for ever born of him that is for ever. For the sun kindles and promotes and helps to keep in activity the power of vision in our perceptive senses, just as the god does for the power of prophecy in the soul.

1 See 436 d, infra, and Plato, Republic, 508 a - 509 b.

43. “Those, however, who had reached the conclusion that the two are one and the same god very naturally dedicated the oracle to Apollo and Earth in common, thinking that the sun creates the disposition and temperament in the earth from which the prophet-inspiring [p. 477] vapours are wafted forth. As Hesiod,1 then, with a better understanding than some philosophers, spoke of the Earth itself as

Of All the unshaken foundation,

so we believe it to be everlasting and imperishable. But in the case of the powers associated with the earth it is reasonable that there should come to pass disappearances in one place and generation in another place, and elsewrhere shifting of location and, from some other source, changes in current,2and that such cycles should complete many revolutions within it in the whole course of time, as we may judge from what happens before our eyes. For in the case of lakes and rivers, and even more frequently in hot springs, there have occurred disappearances and complete extinction in some places, and in others a stealing away, as it were, and sinking under ground3; later they came back, appearing after a time in the same places or flowing out from below somewhere near. We know also of the exhaustion of mines, some of which have given out recently, as for example the silver mines of Attica and the copper ore in Euboea from which the cold-forged sword-blades used to be wrought, as Aeschylus4 has said,

Euboean sword, self-sharpened, in his hand.

And it is no long time since the rock in Euboea ceased to yield, among its other products, soft petrous[p. 479] filaments like yarn.5 I think some of you have seen towels, nets, and women's head-coverings from there, which cannot be burned by fire ; but if any become soiled by use, their owners throw them into a blazing fire and take them out bright and clear. To-day all this has disappeared, and there are scarcely any attenuated fibres or hairs, as it were, running through the mines.

1 Theogony, 117.
2 Cf. 432 e, supra.
3 A not uncommon phenomenon in Greece; cf. Moralia, 557 e.
4 Cf. Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag. p. 107, Aeschylus, no. 356. The hardness and temper of cold-forged copper is well attested.
5 An interesting early notice of the use of asbestos.

44. ‘And yet the school of Aristotle1 would make it appear that exhalation is the author of all these changes that have taken place in the earth, and that things of this nature must of necessity follow with it in disappearing, changing their locality, and bursting forth once more in full vigour. Plainly the same sober opinion is to be held regarding the spirits that inspire prophecy ; the power that they possess is not everlasting and ageless, but is subject to changes. For excessive rains most likely extinguish them, and they probably are dispersed by thunderbolts, and especially, when the earth is shaken beneath by an earthquake and suffers subsidence and ruinous confusion in its depths, the exhalations shift their site or find completely blind outlets, as in this place they say that there are still traces of that great earthquake which overthrew the city. And in Orchomenos they relate that a pestilence raged and many persons died of it, and the oracle of Teiresias become altogether obsolescent and even to this day remains idle and mute. And if a like fate has befallen those in Cilicia, as we have been told, there is nobody, Demetrius, who could give us more certain information than you.’ [p. 481]

1 Cf. Aristotle, Meteorologica, i. 3 (340 b 29); Cicero, De Divinatione, i. 19 (38); ii. 57 (117).

45. I do not know,’ said Demetrius, ‘the state of affairs there at present; for as you all know, I have been out of the country for a long time now. But, when I was there, both the oracle of Mopsus and that of Amphilochus were still flourishing. I have a most amazing thing to tell as the result of my visit to the oracle of Mopsus. The ruler of Cilicia was himself still of two minds towards religious matters. This, I think, was because his scepticism lacked conviction, for in all else he was an arrogant and contemptible man. Since he kept about him certain Epicureans, who, because of their admirable nature studies, forsooth, have an arrogant contempt, as they themselves aver,1 for all such things as oracles, he sent in a freedman, like a spy into the enemy's territory, arranging that he should have a sealed tablet, on the inside of which was written the inquiry without anyone's knowing what it was. The man accordingly, as is the custom, passed the night in the sacred precinct and went to sleep, and in the morning reported a dream in this fashion : it seemed to him that a handsome man stood beside him who uttered just one word ‘Black’ and nothing more, and was gone immediately. The thing seemed passing strange to us, and raised much inquiry, but the ruler was astounded and fell down and worshipped ; then opening the tablet he showed written there the question : ‘Shall I sacrifice to you a white bull or a black?’ The result was that the Epicureans were put to confusion, and the ruler himself not only duly performed the sacrifice, but ever after revered Mopsus.’

1 Frag. 395 Usener; Diogenes Laertius, x. 135.

46. When Demetrius had told this tale he lapsed into silence. But I, wishing to crown, as it were, [p. 483]the discussion, glanced again towards Philip and Ammonius who were sitting side by side. They seemed to me to be desirous of saying something to us, and again I checked myself. Then Ammonius said, ‘Philip also has some remarks to make, Lamprias, about what has been said ; for he himself thinks, as most people do, that Apollo is not a different god, but is the same as the sun.1 But my difficulty is greater and concerns greater matters. I do not know how it happened, but a little time ago we yielded to logic in wresting the prophetic art from the gods and transferring it merely to the demigods. But now it seems to me that we are thrusting out these very demigods, in their turn, and driving them away from the oracle and the tripod here, when we resolve the origin of prophecy, or rather its very being and power, into winds and vapours and exhalations. For these temperings and heatings and hardenings that have been spoken of serve only the more to withdraw repute from the gods and suggest in regard to the final cause some such conclusion as Euripides2 makes his Cyclops employ :

The earth perforce, whether it will or no, 
Brings forth the grass to fat my grazing flocks.

But there is one difference : he says that he does not offer them in sacrifice to the gods, but to himself and to his ‘belly, greatest of divinities,’ whereas we offer both sacrifices and prayers as the price for our oracles. What possesses us to do so, if our souls carry within themselves the prophetic power, and it is some particular state of the air or its currents which stirs this to activity ? And what is the significance of the [p. 485] libations poured over the victims and the refusal to give responses unless the whole victim from the hoofjoints up is seized with a trembling and quivering, as the libation is poured over it ? Shaking the head is not enough, as in other sacrifices, but the tossing and quivering must extend to all parts of the animal alike accompanied by a tremulous sound ; and unless this takes place they say that the oracle is not functioning, and do not even bring in the prophetic priestess. Yet it is only on the assumption that they ascribe the cause almost entirely to a god or a demigod that it is reasonable for them to act and to believe thus ; but on the basis of what you say it is not reasonable. For the presence of the exhalation, whether the victim be excited or not, will produce the inspiration and will dispose the soul auspiciously, not only the soul of the priestess, but that of any ordinary person with whom it may come into contact. Wherefore it is silly to employ one woman alone for the purpose of the oracles and to give her trouble by watching her to keep her pure and chaste all her life. As a matter of fact, this Coretas, who the people of Delphi say was the first, because he fell in, to supply any means of knowing about the power with which the place is endowed, was not, I think, any different from the rest of the goatherds and shepherds, if so be that this is not a fable or a fabrication as I, for one, think it is. When I take into account the number of benefactions to the Greeks for which this oracle has been responsible, both in wars and in the founding of cities, in cases of pestilence and failure of crops, I think it is a dreadful thing to assign its discovery and origin, not to God and Providence, but to chance and accident. But regarding [p. 487] these matters,’ he added, ‘I wish that Lamprias would say something to us. Will you wait ?’

‘Certainly I will,’ said Philip, ‘and so will all who are here. For what you have said has set us all thinking.’

1 Cf. 376 b, supra, and 1130 a, for example.
2 Euripides, Cyclops, 332-333. 

47. Then I, addressing myself to him, said, “Not only has it set me thinking, Philip, but it has filled me with confusion, if, in the presence of so many men such as you all are, I seem, in contradiction to my years, to give myself airs over the plausibility of my argument and to upset or disturb any of the beliefs regarding the Deity which have been conceived in truth and in piety. I shall defend myself by citing Plato as my witness and advocate in one. That philosopher1 found fault with Anaxagoras, the one of early times, because he was too much wrapped up in the physical causes and was always following up and pursuing the law of necessity as it was worked out in the behaviour of bodies, and left out of account the purpose and the agent, which are better causes and origins. Plato himself was the first of the philosophers, or the one most prominently engaged in prosecuting investigations of both sorts, to assign to God, on the one hand, the origin of all things that are in keeping with reason, and on the other hand, not to divest matter of the causes necessary for whatever comes into being, but to realize that the perceptible universe, even when arranged in some such orderly way as this, is not pure and unalloyed, but that it takes its origin from matter when matter comes into conjunction with reason. Observe first how it is with the artists. Take as our first example the far-famed stand and base for the mixing-bowl here which [p. 489] Herodotus2 has styled the ' bowl-holder '; it came to have as its material causes fire and steel and softening by means of fire and tempering by means of water, without which there is no expedient by which this work could be produced ; but art and reason supplied for it the more dominant principle which set all these in motion and operated through them. And, indeed, the author and creator of these likenesses and portraits here stands recorded in the inscription3:

Thasian by race and descent, Aglaophon's son Polygnotus 
Painted the taking of Troy, showing her citadel's sack;

so that it may be seen that he painted them. But without pigments ground together, losing their own colour in the process, nothing could achieve such a composition and sight. Does he, then, who is desirous of getting hold of the material cause, as he investigates and explains the behaviour of the red earth of Sinopê and the changes to which it is subject when mixed with yellow ochre, or of the light-coloured earth of Melos when mixed with lamp-black, take away the repute of the artist ? And he that goes into the details of the hardening and the softening of steel, how it is relaxed by the fire, and becomes pliant and yielding for those who forge and fashion it, and then, plunged anew into clear water, is contracted and compacted by the coldness because of the softness and looseness of texture previously engendered [p. 491] by the fire, and acquires a tenseness and firmness which Homer4 has called ‘the brawn of steel’ — does such an investigator any the less preserve intact for the artist the credit for the creation of the work ? I think not. In fact there are some who question the properties of medicinal agents, but they do not do away with medical science. And thus when Plato5 declared that we see by the commingling of the irradiation from our eyes with the light of the sun, and that we hear by the vibration of the air, he certainly did not mean by this to abrogate the fundamental fact that it is according to the design of Reason and Providence that we have been endowed with sight and hearing.

1 Plato, Phaedo, 97 b-c.
2 The stand, dedicated by Alyattes (king of Lydia from 617 to 560 b.c.), was of wrought iron and welded together, not riveted. Cf. Herodotus, i. 25; Pausanias, x. 16. 1. Of interest also in this connexion is the dedication recorded in the Sigeum inscription. C.I.G. i. 8, or Roberts, Introduction to Greek Epigraphy, no. 42 (p. 78).
3 Bergk, Poet. Lyr. Graec. iii. p. 502, Simonides, no. 160; or Edmonds, Lyra Graeca, ii. p. 399 (L.C.L.). Cf. also Pausanias, x. 25. 1.
4 Od. ix. 393.
5 Cf. 433 d, supra, and Plato, Republic, 507 c-d, and 508 d

48. “To sum up, then: while every form of creation has, as I say, two causes, the very earliest theological writers and poets chose to heed only the superior one, uttering over all things that come to pass this common generality :

Zeus the beginning, Zeus in the midst, and from Zeus comes all being1;

but as yet they made no approach towards the compelling and natural causes. On the other hand the younger generation which followed them, and are called physicists or natural philosophers, reverse the procedure of the older school in their aberration from the beautiful and divine origin, and ascribe everything to bodies and their behaviour, to clashes, transmutations, and combinations. Hence the reasoning of both parties is deficient in what is essential to it, [p. 493] since the one ignores or omits the intermediary and the agent, the other the source and the means. He who was the first to comprehend clearly both these points and to take, as a necessary adjunct to the agent that creates and actuates, the underlying matter, which is acted upon, clears us also of all suspicion of wilful misstatement. The fact is that we do not make the prophetic art godless or irrational when we assign to it as its material the soul of a human being, and assign the spirit of inspiration and the exhalation as an instrument or plectrum for playing on it. For, in the first place, the earth, which generates the exhalation, and the sun, which endows the earth with all its power of tempering and transmutation, are, by the usage of our fathers, gods for us. Secondly, if we leave demigods as overseers, watchmen, and guardians of this tempered constitution, as if it were a kind of harmony, slackening here and tightening there on occasion, taking from it its too distracting and disturbing elements and incorporating those that are painless and harmless to the users, we shall not appear to be doing anything irrational or impossible.

1 Orphic Frag. vi. 10 (21 a, 2); cf. Mullach, Frag. Phil. Graec. i. p. 169. 11.

49. Nor again, in offering the preliminary sacrifice to learn the god's will and in putting garlands on victims or pouring libations over them, are we doing anything to contradict this reasoning. For when the priests and holy men say that they are offering sacrifice and pouring the libation over the victim and observing its movements and its trembling, of what else do they take this to be a sign save that the god is in his holy temple ? For what is to be offered in sacrifice must, both in body and in soul, be pure, unblemished, and unmarred. Indications regarding the body it is not at all difficult to perceive, but they [p. 495] test the soul by setting meal before the bulls and peas before the boars ; and the animal that does not eat of this they think is not of sound mind. In the case of the goat, they say, cold water gives positive proof; for indifference and immobility against being suddenly wet is not characteristic of a soul in a normal state. But for my part, even if it be firmly established that the trembling is a sign of the god's being in his holy temple and the contrary a sign of his not being there, I cannot see what difficulty in my statements results therefrom. For every faculty duly performs its natural functions better or worse concurrently with some particular time ; and if that time escapes our ken, it is only reasonable that the god should give signs of it.

50. “I think, then, that the exhalation is not in the same state all the time, but that it has recurrent periods of weakness and strength. Of the proof on which I depend I have as witnesses many foreigners and all the officials and servants at the shrine. It is a fact that the room in which they seat those who would consult the god is filled, not frequently or with any regularity, but as it may chance from time to time, with a delightful fragrance coming on a current of air which bears it towards the worshippers, as if its source were in the holy of holies ; and it is like the odour which the most exquisite and costly perfumes send forth. It is likely that this efflorescence is produced by warmth or some other force engendered there. If this does not seem credible, you will at least all agree that the prophetic priestess herself is subjected to differing influences, varying from time to time, which affect that, part of her soul with which the spirit of inspiration comes into association, and that she [p. 497]does not always keep one temperament, like a perfect concord, unchanged on every occasion. For many annoyances and disturbances of which she is conscious, and many more unpereeived, lay hold upon her body and filter into her soul; and whenever she is replete with these, it is better that she should not go there and surrender herself to the control of the god, when she is not completely unhampered (as if she were a musical instrument, well strung and well tuned), but is in a state of emotion and instability. Wine, for example, does not always produce the same state of intoxication in the toper,1 nor the music of the flute the same state of exaltation in the votary ; but the same persons are roused now to less, now to more, extravagant conduct by the Bacchic revels or stimulated by the wine, as the temperament within them becomes different. But especially does the imaginative faculty of the soul seem to be swayed by the alterations in the body, and to change as the body changes, a fact which is clearly shown in dreams ; for at one time we find ourselves beset in our dreams by a multitude of visions of all sorts, and at another time again there comes a complete calmness and rest free from all such fancies. We ourselves know of Cleon here from Daulia and that he asserts that in all the many years he has lived he has never had a dream ; and among the older men the same thing is told of Thrasymedes of Heraea. The cause of this is the temperament of the body, just as that of persons who are prone to melancholy, at the other extreme, is subject to a multitude of dreams and visions ; wherefore they have the repute of possessing the faculty of dreaming straight; for since they turn now to this [p. 499] and now to that in their imagery, like persons who shoot many arrows, they often manage to hit the mark.

1 Cf. 406 b, supra.

51. “Whenever, then, the imaginative and prophetic faculty is in a state of proper adjustment for attempering itself to the spirit as to a drug, inspiration in those who foretell the future is bound to come ; and whenever the conditions are not thus, it is bound not to come, or when it does come to be misleading, abnormal, and confusing, as we know in the case of the priestess who died not so long ago. As it happened, a deputation from abroad had arrhed to consult the oracle. The victim, it is said, remained unmoved and unaffected in any way by the first libations ; but the priests, in their eagerness to please, went far beyond their wonted usage, and only after the victim had been subjected to a deluge and nearly drowned did it at last give in. What, then, was the result touching the priestess ? She went down into the oracle unwillingly, they say, and halfheartedly ; and at her first responses it was at once plain from the harshness of her voice that she was not responding properly ; she was like a labouring ship and was filled with a mighty and baleful spirit. Finally she became hysterical and with a frightful shriek rushed towards the exit and threw herself down, with the result that not only the members of the deputation fled, but also the oracle-interpreter Nicander and those holy men that were present. However, after a little, they went in and took her up, still conscious ; and she lived on for a few days.

“It is for these reasons that they guard the chastity of the priestess, and keep her life free from all [p. 501] association and contact with strangers, and take the omens before the oracle, thinking that it is clear to the god when she has the temperament and disposition suitable to submit to the inspiration without harm to herself. The power of the spirit does not affect all persons nor the same persons always in the same way, but it only supplies an enkindling and an inception, as has been said, for them that are in a proper state to be affected and to undergo the change. The power comes from the gods and demigods, but, for all that, it is not unfailing nor imperishable nor ageless, lasting into that infinite time by which all things between earth and moon become wearied out, according to our reasoning. And there are some who assert that the things above the moon also do not. abide, but give out as they confront the everlasting and infinite, and undergo continual transmutations and rebirths.

52. ‘These matters,’ I added, ‘I urge upon you for your frequent consideration, as well as my own, in the belief that they contain much to which objections might be made, and many suggestions looking to a contrary conclusion, all of which the present occasion does not allow us to follow out. So let them be postponed until another time, and likewise the question which Philip raises about the Sun and Apollo.’

English Translation by Frank Cole Babbitt

Hecate or Hekate (/ˈhɛkətiː/; Ancient Greek: Ἑκάτη, Hekátē) is a goddess in ancient Greek religion and mythology, most often shown holding a pair of torches or a key and in later periods depicted in triple form. She was variously associated with crossroads, entrance-ways, light, magic, witchcraft, knowledge of herbs and poisonous plants, ghosts, necromancy, and sorcery. She appears in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter and in Hesiod's Theogony, where she is promoted strongly as a great goddess. The place of origin of her following is uncertain, but it is thought that she had popular followings in Thrace. She was one of the main deities worshiped in Athenian households as a protective goddess and one who bestowed prosperity and daily blessings on the family. In the post-Christian writings of the Chaldean Oracles (2nd–3rd century CE) she was regarded with (some) rulership over earth, sea, and sky, as well as a more universal role as Saviour (Soteira), Mother of Angels and the Cosmic World Soul. Regarding the nature of her cult, it has been remarked, "she is more at home on the fringes than in the center of Greek polytheism. Intrinsically ambivalent and polymorphous, she straddles conventional boundaries and eludes definition." 

Name and Origin 

The etymology of the name Hecate (Ἑκάτη, Hekátē) is not known. Some suggestions derive the name from a Greek root: from ἑκών "willing" (thus, "she who works her will" or similar), or from Ἑκατός Hekatos, an obscure epithet of Apollo interpreted as "the far reaching one" or "the far-darter", whence for the feminine form "she that operates from afar" or "she that removes or drives off".
R. S. P. Beekes rejected a Greek etymology and suggested a Pre-Greek origin. A possibility for foreign origin of the name may be Heqet, name of an Egyptian goddess of fertility and childbirth.
In Early Modern English, the name was also pronounced disyllabically (as /ˈhɛkɪt/) and sometimes spelled Hecat. It remained common practice in English to pronounce her name in two syllables, even when spelled with final e, well into the 19th century.
The spelling Hecat is due to Arthur Golding's 1567 translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses, and this spelling without the final E later appears in plays of the Elizabethan-Jacobean period. Webster's Dictionary of 1866 particularly credits the influence of Shakespeare for the then-predominant disyllabic pronunciation of the name.
Hecate possibly originated among the Carians of Anatolia, the region where most theophoric names invoking Hecate, such as Hecataeus or Hecatomnus, the father of Mausolus, are attested, and where Hecate remained a Great Goddess into historical times, at her unrivalled cult site in Lagina. While many researchers favor the idea that she has Anatolian origins, it has been argued that "Hecate must have been a Greek goddess." The monuments to Hecate in Phrygia and Caria are numerous but of late date.
Hecate was also worshipped in the ancient city of Colchis. William Berg observes, "Since children are not called after spooks, it is safe to assume that Carian theophoric names involving hekat- refer to a major deity free from the dark and unsavoury ties to the underworld and to witchcraft associated with the Hecate of classical Athens." In particular, there is some evidence that she might be derived from the local sun goddesses (see also Arinna), based on similar attributes. She also closely parallels the Roman goddess Trivia, with whom she was identified in Rome.
If Hecate's cult spread from Anatolia into Greece, it is possible it presented a conflict, as her role was already filled by other more prominent deities in the Greek pantheon, above all by Artemis and Selene. This line of reasoning lies behind the widely accepted hypothesis that she was a foreign deity who was incorporated into the Greek pantheon. Other than in the Theogony, the Greek sources do not offer a consistent story of her parentage, or of her relations in the Greek pantheon: sometimes Hecate is related as a Titaness, and a mighty helper and protector of humans.


Shrines to Hecate were placed at doorways to both homes and cities with the belief that it would protect from restless dead and other spirits. Likewise, shrines to Hecate at three way crossroads were created where food offerings were left at the new moon to protect those who did so from spirits and other evils. Dogs were sacred to Hecate and associated with roads, domestic spaces, purification, and spirits of the dead. Dogs were also sacrificed to the road. This can be compared to Pausanias' report that in the Ionian city of Colophon in Asia Minor a sacrifice of a black female puppy was made to Hecate as "the wayside goddess", and Plutarch's observation that in Boeotia dogs were killed in purificatory rites. Dogs, with puppies often mentioned, were offered to Hecate at crossroads, which were sacred to the goddess.
Her most important sanctuary was Lagina, a theocratic city-state in which the goddess was served by eunuchs. Lagina, where the famous temple of Hecate drew great festal assemblies every year, lay close to the originally Macedonian colony of Stratonikeia, where she was the city's patroness. In Thrace she played a role similar to that of lesser-Hermes, namely a governess of liminal regions (particularly gates) and the wilderness.
As Hecate Phosphorus (Venus) she is said to have lit the sky during the Siege of Philip II in 340, revealing the attack to its inhabitants. The Byzantines dedicated a statue to her as the "lamp carrier."
There was an area sacred to Hecate in the precincts of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, where the priests, megabyzi, officiated.
She was greatly worshipped in Byzantium. She was said to have saved the city from Philip II, warning the citizens of a night time attack by a light in the sky, for which she was known as Hecate Lampadephoros. The tale is preserved in the Suda.

The Deipnon

The Athenian Greeks honored Hekate during the Deipnon. In Greek, deipnon means the evening meal, usually the largest meal of the day. Hekate's Deipnon is, at its most basic, a meal served to Hekate and the restless dead once a lunar month during the new moon. The Deipnon is always followed the next day by the Noumenia, when the first sliver of moon is visible, and then the Agathos Daimon the day after that.
The main purpose of the Deipnon was to honor Hekate and to placate the souls in her wake who “longed for vengeance.” A secondary purpose was to purify the household and to atone for bad deeds a household member may have committed that offended Hekate, causing her to withhold her favor from them. The Deipnon consists of three main parts: 1) the meal that was set out at a crossroads, usually in a shrine outside the entryway to the home 2) an expiation sacrifice, and 3) purification of the household.

Attributes and Bynames

Hecate was known by a number of bynames:
Apotropaia (that turns away/protects)
Chthonia (of the earth/underworld)
Enodia (on the way)
Klêidouchos (holding the keys)
Kourotrophos (nurse of children)
Krokopeplos (saffron cloaked)
, Lampadephoros (bringing or bearing light)
Propolos (who serves/attends)
Propulaia/Propylaia (before the gate)
Soteria (savior)
Trimorphe (three-formed)
Triodia/Trioditis (who frequents crossroads)
Trivia (mythology) (Roman form)


Hecate was generally represented as three-formed. This has been speculated as being connected with the appearance of the full moon, half moon, and new moon. As a virgin goddess, she remained unmarried and had no regular consort, though some traditions named her as the mother of Scylla.

The earliest Greek depictions of Hecate were not three-formed. Farnell states: "The evidence of the monuments as to the character and significance of Hecate is almost as full as that of to express her manifold and mystic nature." The earliest known monument is a small terracotta found in Athens, with a dedication to Hecate, in writing of the style of the 6th century. The goddess is seated on a throne with a chaplet bound round her head; she is altogether without attributes and character, and the main historical value of this work, which is evidently of quite a general type and gets a special reference and name merely from the inscription, is that it proves the single shape to be her earlier form, and her recognition at Athens to be earlier than the Persian invasion.

The 2nd-century travel writer Pausanias stated that Hecate was first depicted in triplicate by the sculptor Alkamenes in the Greek Classical period of the late 5th century BCE which was placed before the temple of the Wingless Nike in Athens. Greek anthropomorphic conventions of art resisted representing her with three faces: a votive sculpture from Attica of the 3rd century BCE (illustration, left), shows three single images against a column; round the column of Hecate dance the Charites. Some classical portrayals show her as a triplicate goddess holding a torch, a key, serpents, daggers and numerous other items. Depictions of both a single form Hekate and triple formed, as well as occasional four headed descriptions continued throughout her history.

In Egyptian-inspired Greek esoteric writings connected with Hermes Trismegistus, and in magical papyri of Late Antiquity she is described as having three heads: one dog, one serpent, and one horse. In other representations her animal heads include those of a cow and a boar. Hecate's triplicity is elsewhere expressed in a more Hellenic fashion in the vast frieze of the great Pergamon Altar, now in Berlin, wherein she is shown with three bodies, taking part in the battle with the Titans. In the Argolid, near the shrine of the Dioscuri, Pausanias saw the temple of Hecate opposite the sanctuary of Eileithyia; He reported the image to be the work of Scopas, stating further, "This one is of stone, while the bronze images opposite, also of Hecate, were made respectively by Polycleitus and his brother Naucydes, son of Mothon." (Description of Greece 2.22.7)

In the Argonautica, a 3rd-century BCE Alexandrian epic based on early material, Jason placates Hecate in a ritual prescribed by Medea, her priestess: bathed at midnight in a stream of flowing water, and dressed in dark robes, Jason is to dig a round pit and over it cut the throat of an ewe, sacrificing it and then burning it whole on a pyre next to the pit as a holocaust. He is told to sweeten the offering with a libation of honey, then to retreat from the site without looking back, even if he hears the sound of footsteps or barking dogs. All these elements betoken the rites owed to a chthonic deity.

A 4th-century BCE marble relief from Crannon in Thessaly was dedicated by a race-horse owner. It shows Hecate, with a hound beside her, placing a wreath on the head of a mare. She is commonly attended by a dog or dogs, and the most common form of offering was to leave meat at a crossroads. Images of her attended by a dog are also found at times when she is shown as in her role as mother goddess with child, and when she is depicted alongside the god Hermes and the goddess Kybele in reliefs.


Dogs were closely associated with Hecate in the Classical world. "In art and in literature Hecate is constantly represented as dog-shaped or as accompanied by a dog. Her approach was heralded by the howling of a dog. The dog was Hecate's regular sacrificial animal, and was often eaten in solemn sacrament." The sacrifice of dogs to Hecate is attested for Thrace, Samothrace, Colophon, and Athens.

It has been claimed that her association with dogs is "suggestive of her connection with birth, for the dog was sacred to Eileithyia, Genetyllis, and other birth goddesses. Although in later times Hecate's dog came to be thought of as a manifestation of restless souls or demons who accompanied her, its docile appearance and its accompaniment of a Hecate who looks completely friendly in many pieces of ancient art suggests that its original signification was positive and thus likelier to have arisen from the dog's connection with birth than the dog's underworld associations." The association with dogs, particularly female dogs, could be explained by a metamorphosis myth. The friendly looking female dog accompanying Hecate was originally the Trojan Queen Hekabe, who leapt into the sea after the fall of Troy and was transformed by Hecate into her familiar.

Another metamorphosis myth explains why the polecat is also associated with Hecate. From Antoninus Liberalis: "At Thebes Proitos had a daughter Galinthias. This maiden was playmate and companion of Alkmene, daughter of Elektryon. As the birth throes for Herakles were pressing on Alkmene, the Moirai (Fates) and Eileithyia (Birth-Goddess), as a favour to Hera, kept Alkmene in continuous birth pangs. They remained seated, each keeping their arms crossed. Galinthias, fearing that the pains of her labour would drive Alkmene mad, ran to the Moirai and Eleithyia and announced that by desire of Zeus a boy had been born to Alkmene and that their prerogatives had been abolished.

At all this, consternation of course overcame the Moirai and they immediately let go their arms. Alkmene’s pangs ceased at once and Herakles was born. The Moirai were aggrieved at this and took away the womanly parts of Galinthias since, being but a mortal, she had deceived the gods. They turned her into a deceitful weasel (or polecat), making her live in crannies and gave her a grotesque way of mating. She is mounted through the ears and gives birth by bringing forth her young through the throat. Hekate felt sorry for this transformation of her appearance and appointed her a sacred servant of herself."

Aelian told a different story of a woman transformed into a polecat: ""I have heard that the polecat was once a human being. It has also reached my hearing that Gale was her name then; that she was a dealer in spells and a sorceress (Pharmakis); that she was extremely incontinent, and that she was afflicted with abnormal sexual desires. Nor has it escaped my notice that the anger of the goddess Hekate transformed it into this evil creature. May the goddess be gracious to me : fables and their telling I leave to others."

Athenaeus (writing in the 1st or 2nd century BCE, and drawing on the etymological speculation of Apollodorus of Athens) notes that the red mullet is sacred to Hecate, "on account of the resemblance of their names; for that the goddess is trimorphos, of a triple form". The Greek word for mullet was trigle and later trigla. He goes on to quote a fragment of verse "O mistress Hecate, Trioditis / With three forms and three faces / Propitiated with mullets". In relation to Greek concepts of pollution, Parker observes, "The fish that was most commonly banned was the red mullet (trigle), which fits neatly into the pattern. It 'delighted in polluted things,' and 'would eat the corpse of a fish or a man'. Blood-coloured itself, it was sacred to the blood-eating goddess Hecate. It seems a symbolic summation of all the negative characteristics of the creatures of the deep." At Athens, it is said there stood a statue of Hecate Triglathena, to whom the red mullet was offered in sacrifice. After mentioning that this fish was sacred to Hecate, Alan Davidson writes, "Cicero, Horace, Juvenal, Martial, Pliny, Seneca and Suetonius have left abundant and interesting testimony to the red mullet fever which began to affect wealthy Romans during the last years of the Republic and really gripped them in the early Empire. The main symptoms were a preoccupation with size, the consequent rise to absurd heights of the prices of large specimens, a habit of keeping red mullet in captivity, and the enjoyment of the highly specialized aesthetic experience induced by watching the color of the dying fish change."

The frog, which was also the symbol of the similarly-named Egyptian goddess Heqet, has also become sacred to Hecate in modern Pagan literature, possibly due in part to its ability to cross between two elements.

In her three-headed representations, discussed above, Hecate often has one or more animal heads, including cow, dog, boar, serpent and horse.


Hecate was closely associated with plant lore and the concoction of medicines and poisons. In particular she was thought to give instruction in these closely related arts. Apollonius of Rhodes, in the Argonautica mentions that Medea was taught by Hecate, "I have mentioned to you before a certain young girl whom Hecate, daughter of Perses, has taught to work in drugs."

The goddess is described as wearing oak in fragments of Sophocles' lost play The Root Diggers (or The Root Cutters), and an ancient commentary on Apollonius of Rhodes' Argonautica (3.1214) describes her as having a head surrounded by serpents, twining through branches of oak.

The yew in particular was sacred to Hecate.

"Greeks held the yew to be sacred to Hecate... Her attendants draped wreathes of yew around the necks of black bulls which they slaughtered in her honor and yew boughs were burned on funeral pyres. The yew was associated with the alphabet and the scientific name for yew today, taxus, was probably derived from the Greek word for yew, toxos, which is hauntingly similar to toxon, their word for bow and toxicon, their word for poison. It is presumed that the latter were named after the tree because of its superiority for both bows and poison."

Hecate was said to favor offerings of garlic, which was closely associated with her cult. She is also sometimes associated with cypress, a tree symbolic of death and the underworld, and hence sacred to a number of chthonic deities.

A number of other plants (often poisonous, medicinal and/or psychoactive) are associated with Hecate. These include aconite (also called hecateis), belladonnadittany, and mandrake. It has been suggested that the use of dogs for digging up mandrake is further corroboration of the association of this plant with Hecate; indeed, since at least as early as the 1st century CE, there are a number of attestations to the apparently widespread practice of using dogs to dig up plants associated with magic.

Boundaries and crossroads

The coins of Agathocles of Bactria (ruled 190-180 BCE), show Zeus holding Hecate in his hand.

Hecate was associated with borders, city walls, doorways, crossroads and, by extension, with realms outside or beyond the world of the living. She appears to have been particularly associated with being 'between' and hence is frequently characterized as a "liminal" goddess. "Hecate mediated between regimes—Olympian and Titan—but also between mortal and divine spheres." This liminal role is reflected in a number of her cult titles: Apotropaia (that turns away/protects); Enodia (on the way); Propulaia/Propylaia (before the gate); Triodia/Trioditis (who frequents crossroads); Klêidouchos (holding the keys), etc.

As a goddess expected to avert harmful or destructive spirits from the house or city over which she stood guard and to protect the individual as she or he passed through dangerous liminal places, Hecate would naturally become known as a goddess who could also refuse to avert the demons, or even drive them on against unfortunate individuals.

It was probably her role as guardian of entrances that led to Hecate's identification by the mid fifth century with Enodia, a Thessalian goddess. Enodia's very name ("In-the-Road") suggests that she watched over entrances, for it expresses both the possibility that she stood on the main road into a city, keeping an eye on all who entered, and in the road in front of private houses, protecting their inhabitants.

This function would appear to have some relationship with the iconographic association of Hecate with keys, and might also relate to her appearance with two torches, which when positioned on either side of a gate or door illuminated the immediate area and allowed visitors to be identified. "In Byzantium small temples in her honor were placed close to the gates of the city. Hecate's importance to Byzantium was above all as a deity of protection. When Philip of Macedon was about to attack the city, according to the legend she alerted the townspeople with her ever present torches, and with her pack of dogs, which served as her constant companions." This suggests that Hecate's close association with dogs derived in part from the use of watchdogs, who, particularly at night, raised an alarm when intruders approached. Watchdogs were used extensively by Greeks and Romans.

Cult images and altars of Hecate in her triplicate or trimorphic form were placed at three-way crossroads (though they also appeared before private homes and in front of city gates). In this form she came to be known as the goddess Trivia ("the three ways") in Roman mythology. In what appears to be a 7th-century indication of the survival of cult practices of this general sort, Saint Eligius, in his Sermo warns the sick among his recently converted flock in Flanders against putting "devilish charms at springs or trees or crossroads",and, according to Saint Ouen would urge them "No Christian should make or render any devotion to the deities of the trivium, where three roads meet...".

Like Hecate, "[t]he dog is a creature of the threshold, the guardian of doors and portals, and so it is appropriately associated with the frontier between life and death, and with demons and ghosts which move across the frontier. The yawning gates of Hades were guarded by the monstrous watchdog Cerberus, whose function was to prevent the living from entering the underworld, and the dead from leaving it."


Classical period

Hecate has been characterized as a pre-Olympian chthonic goddess. The first literature mentioning Hecate is the Theogony by Hesiod:

And she conceived and bore Hecate whom Zeus the son of Cronos honored above all. He gave her splendid gifts, to have a share of the earth and the unfruitful sea. She received honor also in starry heaven, and is honored exceedingly by the deathless gods. For to this day, whenever any one of men on earth offers rich sacrifices and prays for favor according to custom, he calls upon Hecate. Great honor comes full easily to him whose prayers the goddess receives favorably, and she bestows wealth upon him; for the power surely is with her. For as many as were born of Earth and Ocean amongst all these she has her due portion. The son of Cronos did her no wrong nor took anything away of all that was her portion among the former Titan gods: but she holds, as the division was at the first from the beginning, privilege both in earth, and in heaven, and in sea.

According to Hesiod, she held sway over many things:

Whom she will she greatly aids and advances: she sits by worshipful kings in judgement, and in the assembly whom she will is distinguished among the people. And when men arm themselves for the battle that destroys men, then the goddess is at hand to give victory and grant glory readily to whom she will. Good is she also when men contend at the games, for there too the goddess is with them and profits them: and he who by might and strength gets the victory wins the rich prize easily with joy, and brings glory to his parents. And she is good to stand by horsemen, whom she will: and to those whose business is in the grey discomfortable sea, and who pray to Hecate and the loud-crashing Earth-Shaker, easily the glorious goddess gives great catch, and easily she takes it away as soon as seen, if so she will. She is good in the byre with Hermes to increase the stock. The droves of kine and wide herds of goats and flocks of fleecy sheep, if she will, she increases from a few, or makes many to be less. So, then, albeit her mother's only child, she is honored amongst all the deathless gods. And the son of Cronos made her a nurse of the young who after that day saw with their eyes the light of all-seeing Dawn. So from the beginning she is a nurse of the young, and these are her honours.

Hesiod emphasizes that Hecate was an only child, the daughter of Perses and Asteria, the sister of Leto (the mother of Artemis and Apollo). Grandmother of the three cousins was Phoebe the ancient Titaness who personified the moon.

Hesiod's inclusion and praise of Hecate in the Theogony has been troublesome for scholars, in that he seems to hold her in high regard, while the testimony of other writers, and surviving evidence, suggests that this may have been the exception. One theory is that Hesiod's original village had a substantial Hecate following and that his inclusion of her in the Theogony was a way of adding to her prestige by spreading word of her among his readers. Another theory is that Hekate was mainly a household god and humble household worship could have been more pervasive and yet not mentioned as much as temple worship. In Athens Hecate, along with Zeus, Hermes, Hestia, and Apollo, were very important in daily life as they were the main gods of the household. However, it is clear that the special position given to Hecate by Zeus is upheld throughout her history by depictions found on coins depicting Hecate on the hand of Zeus as highlighted in more recent research presented by d'Este and Rankine.

In the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, Hecate is called the "tender-hearted", a euphemism perhaps intended to emphasize her concern with the disappearance of Persephone, when she assisted Demeter with her search for Persephone following her abduction by Hades, suggesting that Demeter should speak to the god of the sun, Helios. Subsequently she became Persephone's companion on her yearly journey to and from the realms of Hades; serving as a psychopomp. Because of this association, Hecate was one of the chief goddesses of the Eleusinian Mysteries, alongside Demeter and Persephone.

Variations in interpretations of Hecate's role or roles can be traced in classical Athens. In two fragments of Aeschylus she appears as a great goddess. In Sophocles and Euripides she is characterized as the mistress of witchcraft and the Keres.

One surviving group of stories suggests how Hecate might have come to be incorporated into the Greek pantheon without affecting the privileged position of Artemis. Here, Hecate is a mortal priestess often associated with Iphigeneia. She scorns and insults Artemis, who in retribution eventually brings about the mortal's suicide.

Hellenistic period to Late Antiquity

Hecate is the primary feminine figure in the Chaldean Oracles (2nd-3rd century CE), where she is associated in fragment 194 with a strophalos (usually translated as a spinning top, or wheel, used in magic) "Labour thou around the Strophalos of Hecate." This appears to refer to a variant of the device mentioned by Psellus.

In Hellenistic syncretism, Hecate also became closely associated with IsisLucius Apuleius in The Golden Ass (2nd century) equates Juno, Bellona, Hecate and Isis

"Some call me Juno, others Bellona of the Battles, and still others Hecate. Principally the Ethiopians which dwell in the Orient, and the Egyptians which are excellent in all kind of ancient doctrine, and by their proper ceremonies accustomed to worship me, do call me Queen Isis."

In the syncretism during Late Antiquity of Hellenistic and late Babylonian ("Chaldean") elements, Hecate was identified with Ereshkigal, the underworld counterpart of Inanna in the Babylonian cosmography. In the Michigan magical papyrus (inv. 7), dated to the late 3rd or early 4th century CE, Hecate Ereschigal is invoked against fear of punishment in the afterlife.


Strmiska (2005) claims that Hecate, conflated with the figure of Diana, appears in late antiquity and in the early medieval period as part of an "emerging legend complex" associated with gatherings of women, the moon, and witchcraft that eventually became established "in the area of Northern Italy, southern Germany, and the western Balkans." This theory of the Roman origins of many European folk traditions related to Diana or Hecate was explicitly advanced at least as early as 1807 and is reflected in etymological claims by early modern lexicographers from the 17th to the 19th century, connecting hag, hexe "witch" to the name of Hecate. Such derivations are today proposed only by a minority A medieval commentator has suggested a link connecting the word "jinx" with Hecate: "The Byzantine polymath Michael Psellus [...] speaks of a bullroarer, consisting of a golden sphere, decorated throughout with symbols and whirled on an oxhide thong. He adds that such an instrument is called a iunx (hence "jinx"), but as for the significance says only that it is ineffable and that the ritual is sacred to Hecate."

Shakespeare mentions Hecate both before the turn of the 16th century (A Midsummer Night's Dream, 1594-96), and just after, in Macbeth (1605): specifically, in the title character's "dagger" soliloquy: "Witchcraft celebrates pale Hecate's offerings..." Hecate also appears as a main character in the British theater company Punchdrunk's New York-based site-specific theatre work, Sleep No More, an adaptation of Macbeth. The character functions as a villain of the work, silently conducting the three witches who prophesy Macbeth's rise to power, and leading certain audience members into private interactions and stories in her small grotto. Many of Hecate's dominions are represented in various ways throughout the show, such as one of her familiars behaving in a dog-like manner around her; her grotto being connected to an herb-filled apothecary space; and watching from the shadows as the witches give their prophecies to Macbeth.

Modern reception

In 1929, Lewis Brown, an expert on religious cults, connected the 1920s Blackburn Cult (also known as, "The Cult of the Great Eleven,") with Hecate worship rituals. He noted that the cult regularly practiced dog sacrifice and had secretly buried the body of one of its "queens" with seven dogs. Researcher Samuel Fort noted additional parallels, to include the cult’s focus on mystic and typically nocturnal rites, its female dominated membership, the sacrifice of other animals (to include horses and mules), a focus on the mystical properties of roads and portals, and an emphasis on death, healing, and resurrection.

As a "goddess of witchcraft", Hecate has been incorporated in various systems of modern witchcraft, Wicca and Neopaganism, in some cases associated with the Wild Hunt of Germanic tradition, in others as part of a reconstruction of specifically Greek polytheism, in English also known as "Hellenismos". In Wicca, Hecate has in some cases become identified with the "Crone" aspect of the "Triple Goddess".

Hecate is also the namesake of the hundredth numbered asteroid, which was discovered by American astronomer James Craig Watson on July 11, 1868. Its adopted name alludes to it as being the hundredth named asteroid ('hekaton' being the Greek for 'hundred').


Greek mythology, Pandora (GreekΠανδώρα, derived from πᾶν, pān, i.e. "all" and δῶρον, dōron, i.e. "gift", thus "the all-endowed", "the all-gifted" or "the all-giving") was the first human woman created by the gods, specifically by Hephaestus and Athena on the instructions of Zeus. As Hesiod related it, each god helped create her by giving her unique gifts. Zeus ordered Hephaestus to mold her out of earth as part of the punishment of humanity for Prometheus' theft of the secret of fire, and all the gods joined in offering her "seductive gifts". Her other name—inscribed against her figure on a white-ground kylix in the British Museum—is Anesidora (Ancient GreekἈνησιδώρα), "she who sends up gifts" (up implying "from below" within the earth).

According to the myth, Pandora opened a jar (pithos), in modern accounts sometimes mistranslated as "Pandora's box" (see below), releasing all the evils of humanity—although the particular evils, aside from plagues and diseases, are not specified in detail by Hesiod—leaving only Hope inside once she had closed it again.

The Pandora myth is a kind of theodicy, addressing the question of why there is evil in the world. However, there is an alternative tradition in which it was the divine gift of a jar of blessings that was opened by a curious male. These stories account for the presence of hope in the world although, depending on pessimistic or optimistic interpretations of the meaning of that word, its benefit is uncertain.

Hesiod’s anti-feminist interpretation of Pandora’s story eventually went on to influence both Jewish and Christian theology and so perpetuated her bad reputation into the Renaissance. Later poets, dramatists, painters and sculptors made her their subject and over the course of five centuries contributed new insights into her motives and significance.



Tyche (English: /ˈtaɪki/; from GreekΤύχη, meaning "luck"; Roman equivalent: Fortuna) was the presiding tutelary deity who governed the fortune and prosperity of a city, its destiny. In Classical Greek mythology, she is the daughter of Aphrodite and Zeus or Hermes.
In literature, she might be given various genealogies, as a daughter of Hermes and Aphrodite, or considered as one of the Oceanids, daughters of Oceanus, and Tethys, or of Zeus. She was connected with Nemesis and Agathos Daimon ("good spirit).
The Greek historian Polybius believed that when no cause can be discovered to events such as floods, droughts, frosts, or even in politics, then the cause of these events may be fairly attributed to Tyche.




In the ancient Greek religion, Nemesis (/ˈnɛməsɪs/GreekΝέμεσις), also called Rhamnousia or Rhamnusia ("the goddess of Rhamnous"), was the goddess who enacted retribution against those who succumb to hubris (arrogance before the gods). Another name was Adrasteia or Adrestia, meaning "the inescapable". Her Roman name and counterpart is Invidia.




In Greek mythology, a Charis (/ˈkeɪrɪs/GreekΧάρις, pronounced [kʰáris]) or Grace is one of three or more minor goddesses of charm, beauty, nature, human creativity, and fertility, together known as the Charites /ˈkærɪtiːz/(Χάριτες [kʰáritɛːs]) or Graces. The usual list, from youngest to oldest is Aglaea ("Splendor"), Euphrosyne ("Mirth"), and Thalia ("Good Cheer"). In Roman mythology they were known as the Gratiae, the "Graces". In some variants, Charis was one of the Graces and was not the singular form of their name.
The Charites were usually considered the daughters of Zeus and Eurynome, though they were also said to be daughters of Dionysus and Aphrodite or of Helios and the naiad Aegle. Other possible names of their mother by Zeus are EurydomeEurymedousa, and Euanthe. Homer wrote that they were part of the retinue of Aphrodite. The Charites were also associated with the Greek underworld and the Eleusinian Mysteries.
The river Cephissus near Delphi was sacred to the three goddesses.




Pothos (Greek: Πόθος "yearning") was one of Aphrodite's erotes and brother to Himeros and Eros. In some versions of myth, Pothos is the son of Eros, or is portrayed as an independent aspect of him. Yet others called him son of Zephyrus and Iris. He was part of Aphrodite's retinue, and carried a vine, indicating a connection to wine or the god Dionysus. Pothos represents longing or yearning. In the temple of Aphrodite at Megara, there was a sculpture that represented Pothos together with Eros and Himeros which has been created by Scopas. Pothos is a name for the white Asphodelus albus flower, "used at funerals" according to Arthur Hort's index and translation of Theophrastus (VI, 8, 3).



In Greek mythology, Nereus (/ˈnɪəriəs, ˈnɪərjuːs/; Greek: Νηρεύς) was the eldest son of Pontus (the Sea) and Gaia (the Earth), who with Doris fathered the Nereids and Nerites, with whom Nereus lived in the Aegean Sea.

In the Iliad the Old Man of the Sea is the father of Nereids, though Nereus is not directly named. He was never more manifestly the Old Man of the Sea than when he was described, like Proteus, as a shapeshifter with the power of prophecy, who would aid heroes such as Heracles who managed to catch him even as he changed shapes. Nereus and Proteus (the "first") seem to be two manifestations of the god of the sea who was supplanted by Poseidon when Zeus overthrew Cronus.
The earliest poet to link Nereus with the 
labours of Heracles was Pherekydes, according to a scholion on Apollonius of Rhodes.
During the course of the 5th century BC, Nereus was gradually replaced by 
Triton, who does not appear in Homer, in the imagery of the struggle between Heracles and the sea-god who had to be restrained in order to deliver his information that was employed by the vase-painters, independent of any literary testimony.
In a late appearance, according to a fragmentary 
papyrusAlexander the Great paused at the Syrian seashore before the climacteric battle of Issus (333 BC), and resorted to prayers, "calling on Thetis, Nereus and the Nereids, nymphs of the sea, and invoking Poseidon the sea-god, for whom he ordered a four-horse chariot to be cast into the waves."
Nereus was known for his truthfulness and virtue:
But Pontos, the great sea, was father of truthful Nereus who tells no lies, eldest of his sons. They call him the Old Gentleman because he is trustworthy, and gentle, and never forgetful of what is right, but the thoughts of his mind are mild and righteous.
The Attic vase-painters showed the draped torso of Nereus issuing from a long coiling scaly fishlike tail. Bearded Nereus generally wields a staff of authority. He was also shown in scenes depicting the flight of the Nereides as Peleus wrestled their sister Thetis.
Aelian's natural history, written in the early third century CE, Nereus was also the father of a watery consort of Aphrodite named Nerites who was transformed into "a shellfish with a spiral shell, small in size but of surpassing beauty."
Nereus was father to 
Thetis, one of the Nereids, who in turn was mother to the great Greek hero Achilles, and Amphitrite, who married Poseidon.

The Erotes (
/əˈroʊtiːz/) are a collective of winged gods associated with love and sexual intercourse in Greek mythology. They are part of Aphrodite's retinue. Erotes (Greek ἔρωτες) is the plural of Eros ("Love, Desire"), who as a singular deity has a more complex mythology.

Other named Erotes are Anteros ("Love Returned"), Himeros ("Impetuous Love" or "Pressing Desire"), Hedylogos ("Sweet-talk"), Hymenaios ("Bridal-Hymn"), Hermaphroditus ("Hermaphrodite" or "Effeminate"), and Pothos ("Desire, Longing," especially for one who is absent).

The Erotes became a motif of Hellenistic art, and may appear in Roman art  in the alternate form of multiple Cupids or Cupids and Psyches. In the later tradition of Western art, erotes become indistinguishable from figures also known as Cupids, amorini, or amoretti.



In Greek mythology, Silenus (/saɪˈliːnəs/; Greek: Σειληνός Seilēnos) was a companion and tutor to the wine god Dionysus. He is typically older than the satyrs of the Dionysian retinue (thiasos), and sometimes considerably older, in which case he may be referred to as a Papposilenus. The plural sileni refers to the mythological figure as a type that is sometimes thought to be differentiated from a satyr by having the attributes of a horse rather than a goat, though usage of the two words is not consistent enough to permit a sharp distinction.


The original Silenus resembled a folkloric man of the forest with the ears of a horse and sometimes also the tail and legs of a horse. The later sileni were drunken followers of Dionysus, usually bald and fat with thick lips and squat noses, and having the legs of a human. Later still, the plural "sileni" went out of use and the only references were to one individual named Silenus, the teacher and faithful companion of the wine-god Dionysus.

A notorious consumer of wine, he was usually drunk and had to be supported by satyrs or carried by a donkey. Silenus was described as the oldest, wisest and most drunken of the followers of Dionysus, and was said in Orphic hymns to be the young god's tutor. This puts him in a company of phallic or half-animal tutors of the gods, a group that includes PriapusHermaphroditusCedalion and Chiron, but also includes Pallas, the tutor of Athena.

When intoxicated, Silenus was said to possess special knowledge and the power of prophecy. The Phrygian King Midas was eager to learn from Silenus and caught the old man by lacing a fountain from which Silenus often drank. As Silenus fell asleep, the king's servants seized and took him to their master. Silenus shared with the king a pessimistic philosophy: That the best thing for a man is not to be born, and if already born, to die as soon as possible. An alternative story was that when lost and wandering in Phrygia, Silenus was rescued by peasants and taken to King Midas, who treated him kindly. In return for Midas' hospitality Silenus told him some tales and Midas, enchanted by Silenus’s fictions, entertained him for five days and nights. Dionysus offered Midas a reward for his kindness towards Silenus, and Midas chose the power of turning everything he touched into gold. Another story was that Silenus had been captured by two shepherds, and regaled them with wondrous tales.

In Euripides's satyr play Cyclops, Silenus is stranded with the satyrs in Sicily, where they have been enslaved by the Cyclops. They are the comic elements of the story, a parody of Homer's Odyssey IX. Silenus refers to the satyrs as his children during the play.

Silenus may have become a Latin term of abuse around 211 BC, when it is used in PlautusRudens to describe Labrax, a treacherous pimp or leno, as "...a pot-bellied old Silenus, bald head, beefy, bushy eyebrows, scowling, twister, god-forsaken criminal". In his satire The Caesars, the emperor Julian has Silenus sitting next to the gods to offer up his comments on the various rulers under examination, including Alexander the GreatJulius CaesarAugustusMarcus Aurelius (whom he reveres as a fellow philosopher-king), and Constantine I.

Silenus commonly figures in Roman bas-reliefs of the train of Dionysus, a subject for sarcophagi, embodying the transcendent promises of Dionysian cult.

The wisdom of Silenus

A theme in Greek philosophy and literature is the "wisdom of Silenus" which posits an antinatalist philosophy:

You, most blessed and happiest among humans, may well consider those blessed and happiest who have departed this life before you,
[‘ διόπερ, ὦ κράτιστε πάντων καὶ μακαριστότατε, πρὸς τῷ μακαρίους καὶ εὐδαίμονας εἶναι τοὺς τετελευτηκότας]
and thus you may consider it unlawful, indeed blasphemous, to speak anything ill or false of them, since they now have been transformed into a better and more refined nature. This thought is indeed so old that the one who first uttered it is no longer known; it has been passed down to us from eternity, and hence doubtless it is true. Moreover, you know what is so often said and passes for a trite expression. What is that, he asked? He answered: It is best not to be born at all; and next to that, it is better to die than to live; and this is confirmed even by divine testimony. Pertinently to this they say that Midas, after hunting, asked his captive Silenus somewhat urgently, what was the most desirable thing among humankind. At first he could offer no response, and was obstinately silent. At length, when Midas would not stop plaguing him, he erupted with these words, though very unwillingly: ‘you, seed of an evil genius and precarious offspring of hard fortune, whose life is but for a day, why do you compel me to tell you those things of which it is better you should remain ignorant? For he lives with the least worry who knows not his misfortune; but for humans, the best for them is not to be born at all, not to partake of nature’s excellence; not to be is best, for both sexes. This should be our choice, if choice we have; and the next to this is, when we are born, to die as soon as we can.’ It is plain therefore, that he declared the condition of the dead to be better than that of the living.

– Aristotle, Eudemus (354 BCE), surviving fragment quoted in Plutarch, Moralia, Consolatio ad Apollonium, sec. xxvii (1st century CE) (S.H. transl.)

This passage is redolent of Theognis' Elegies [425-428].

 Both Socrates and Aesop were sometimes described as having a physical appearance like that of Silenus, with broad flat faces and fat bellies. Silenus' wisdom appears in the writings of Arthur Schopenhauer, who endorsed this famous dictum. Via Schopenhauer, Nietzsche discusses the "wisdom of Silenus" in The Birth of Tragedy.


In religion, a prophet is an individual who is regarded as being in contact by a divine being and is said to speak on that entity's behalf, serving as an intermediary with humanity by delivering messages or teachings from the supernatural source to other people. The message that the prophet conveys is called a prophecy, which transports—at least in Judaism—a message beyond mere pagan soothsaying, augury, divination, or forecasting, and, most prominently in the neviim of the Tanakh, often comprises issues of social justice.

Claims of prophethood have existed in many cultures through history, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, in Ancient Greek Philosophy, Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, and many others. Prophets are traditionally regarded as having a role in society that promotes change due to their messages and actions which often convey God's displeasure concerning the behavior of the people.

The Major Prophets is a grouping of books in the Christian Old Testament. These books are centred on a prophet, traditionally regarded as the author of the respective book. The term "major" refers to their length, in distinction to the Twelve Minor Prophets, whose books are much shorter and grouped together as a single book in the Hebrew Bible.

The books, in order of their occurrence in the Christian Old Testament, are:

Book of Isaiah
Book of Jeremiah
Book of Lamentations
 (in the Ketuvim (Writings) section of the Tanakh, ascribed to Jeremiah)
Book of Baruch (not in Protestant Bibles, ascribed to Baruch ben Neriah, scribe of Jeremiah)
Letter of Jeremiah (Chapter 6 of Baruch in most Catholic Bibles, its own book in Eastern Orthodox Bibles)
Book of Ezekiel
Book of Daniel
 (in the Ketuvim of the Hebrew Bible).

The Hebrew Bible includes the Books of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel among the Nevi'im (Prophets) but places Lamentations and Daniel among the Ketuvim (Writings). Baruch (including the Letter of Jeremiah) is not part of the Hebrew Bible.


Bible prophecy or biblical prophecy comprises the passages of the Bible that reflect communications from God to humans through prophets. Jews and Christians usually consider the biblical prophets to have received revelations from God.

Prophetic passages appear widely distributed throughout Biblical narrative. Some prophecies in the Bible are conditional, with the conditions either implicitly assumed or explicitly stated. Some prophetic passages present themselves as direct statements from God, while other statements are expressed as the privileged perspective of the biblical author considered to be a prophet.

While Jewish tradition and prophecy differs deeply from Christian prophecy and theology, in general, believers in biblical prophecy engage in exegesis and hermeneutics of scriptures which they believe contain descriptions of global politics, natural disasters, the future of the nation of Israel, the coming of a Messiah and a Messianic Kingdom—as well as the ultimate destiny of humankind.

In Christianity the figures widely recognised as prophets are those mentioned as such in the Hebrew Bible and the canonical New Testament. It is believed that prophets are called or chosen by God.

The main list below consists of only those individuals that have been clearly defined as prophets, either by explicit statement or strong contextual implication, (e.g. the authors of the books listed as the major prophets and minor prophets) along with the Biblical reference to their office.

In Roman Catholicism, prophets are recognised as having received either Public or Private Revelation. Public Revelation is part of the "deposit of faith", which refers to the entire revelation of Jesus Christ passed to successive generations in the forms of sacred scripture (the Bible) and sacred tradition.

The secondary list consists of those individuals who are recorded as having had a visionary or prophetic experience, but without a history of any major or consistent prophetic calling. A final list contains the names of those described in the Bible as prophets, but who either misused this gift or were fraudulent.

In religion, a false prophet is one who falsely claims the gift of prophecy or divine inspiration, or who uses that gift for evil ends. Often, someone who is considered a "true prophet" by some people is simultaneously considered a "false prophet" by others, even within the same religion as the "prophet" in question. The term is sometimes applied outside religion to describe someone who fervently promotes a theory that the speaker thinks is false.


An angel is generally a supernatural being found in various religions and mythologies. In Abrahamic religions and Zoroastrianism, angels are often depicted as benevolent celestial beings who act as intermediaries between God or Heaven and Earth. Other roles of angels include protecting and guiding human beings, and carrying out God's tasks. Within Abrahamic religions, angels are often organized into hierarchies, although such rankings may vary between sects in each religion, and are given specific names or titles, such as Gabriel or "Destroying angel". The term "angel" has also been expanded to various notions of spirits or figures found in other religious traditions. The theological study of angels is known as "angelology".

In fine art, angels are usually depicted as having the shape of human beings of extraordinary beauty; they are often identified using the symbols of bird wings, halos, and light.


The word angel (pronounced /ˈeɪn.dʒəl/) in English is a blend of Old English engel (with a hard g) and Old French angele. Both derive from Late Latin angelus "messenger", which in turn was borrowed from Late Greek ἄγγελος aggelos, commonly transliterated by non Greek speakers in its phonetic form ángelos. According to R. S. P. Beekes, ángelos itself may be "an Oriental loan, like ἄγγαρος [ángaros, 'Persian mounted courier']." The word's earliest form is Mycenaean a-ke-ro, attested in Linear B syllabic script.

The ángelos is the Septuagint's default translation of the Biblical Hebrew term mal’ākh, denoting simply "messenger" without specifying its nature. In the Latin Vulgate, the meaning becomes bifurcated: when mal’ākh or ángelos is supposed to denote a human messenger, words like nuntius or legatus are applied. If the word refers to some supernatural being, the word angelus appears. Such differentiation has been taken over by later vernacular translations of the Bible, early Christian and Jewish exegetes and eventually modern scholars.


Main article: Zoroastrian angelology:

Yazata is the Avestan language word for a Zoroastrian concept with a wide range of meanings but generally signifying (or used as an epithet of) a divinity. The term literally means "worthy of worship or veneration", and is thus, in this more general sense, also applied to certain healing plants, primordial creatures, the fravashis of the dead, and to certain prayers that are themselves considered holy. The yazatas collectively are "the good powers under Ohrmuzd [Ahura Mazda]", who is "the greatest of the yazatas".

In Zoroastrianism there are different angel-like figures. For example, each person has one guardian angel, called Fravashi. They patronize human beings and other creatures, and also manifest God's energy. The Amesha Spentashave often been regarded as angels, although there is no direct reference to them conveying messages, but are rather emanations of Ahura Mazda ("Wise Lord", God); they initially appeared in an abstract fashion and then later became personalized, associated with diverse aspects of the divine creation.


In the commentaries of Proclus (4th century, under Christian rule) on the Timaeus of Plato, Proclus uses the terminology of "angelic" (aggelikos) and "angel" (aggelos) in relation to metaphysical beings. According to Aristotle, just as there is a First Mover, so, too, must there be spiritual secondary movers.


Main article: Angels in Judaism

The Torah uses the (Hebrew) terms מלאך אלהים (mal'āk̠ 'ĕlōhîm; messenger of God), מלאך יהוה (mal'āk̠ YHWH; messenger of the Lord), בני אלהים (bənē 'ĕlōhîm; sons of God) and הקודשים (haqqôd̠əšîm; the holy ones) to refer to beings traditionally interpreted as angels. Later texts use other terms, such as העליונים (hā'elyônîm; the upper ones).

The term מלאך (mal'āk̠) is also used in other books of the Tanakh. Depending on the context, the Hebrew word may refer to a human messenger or to a supernatural messenger. A human messenger might be a prophet or priest, such as Malachi, "my messenger"; the Greek superscription in the Septuagint translation states the Book of Malachi was written "by the hand of his messenger" ἀγγέλου angélu. Examples of a supernatural messenger are the "Malak YHWH," who is either a messenger from God, an aspect of God (such as the Logos),[20] or God himself as the messenger (the "theophanic angel.")

Scholar Michael D. Coogan notes that it is only in the late books that the terms "come to mean the benevolent semi-divine beings familiar from later mythology and art."[22] Daniel is the first biblical figure to refer to individual angels by name, mentioning Gabriel (God's primary messenger) in Daniel 9:21 and Michael (the holy fighter) in Daniel 10:13. These angels are part of Daniel's apocalyptic visions and are an important part of all apocalyptic literature.

In Daniel 7, Daniel receives a dream-vision from God. [...] As Daniel watches, the Ancient of Days takes his seat on the throne of heaven and sits in judgement in the midst of the heavenly court [...] an [angel] like a son of manapproaches the Ancient One in the clouds of heaven and is given everlasting kingship.

Coogan explains the development of this concept of angels: "In the postexilic period, with the development of explicit monotheism, these divine beings—the 'sons of God' who were members of the Divine Council—were in effect demoted to what are now known as 'angels', understood as beings created by God, but immortal and thus superior to humans." This conception of angels is best understood in contrast to demons and is often thought to be "influenced by the ancient Persian religious tradition of Zoroastrianism, which viewed the world as a battleground between forces of good and forces of evil, between light and darkness." One of these is hāšāṭān, a figure depicted in (among other places) the Book of Job.

Philo of Alexandria identifies the angel with the Logos inasmuch as the angel is the immaterial voice of God. The angel is something different from God himself, but is conceived as God's instrument.

In post-Biblical Judaism, certain angels took on particular significance and developed unique personalities and roles. Although these archangels were believed to rank among the heavenly host, no systematic hierarchy ever developed. Metatron is considered one of the highest of the angels in Merkabah and Kabbalist mysticism and often serves as a scribe; he is briefly mentioned in the Talmud and figures prominently in Merkabah mystical texts. Michael, who serves as a warrior and advocate for Israel (Daniel 10:13), is looked upon particularly fondly. Gabriel is mentioned in the Book of Daniel (Daniel 8:15–17) and briefly in the Talmud,[30] as well as in many Merkabah mystical texts. There is no evidence in Judaism for the worship of angels, but there is evidence for the invocation and sometimes even conjuration of angels.

According to Kabbalah, there are four worlds and our world is the last world: the world of action (Assiyah). Angels exist in the worlds above as a 'task' of God. They are an extension of God to produce effects in this world. After an angel has completed its task, it ceases to exist. The angel is in effect the task. This is derived from the book of Genesis when Abraham meets with three angels and Lot meets with two. The task of one of the angels was to inform Abraham of his coming child. The other two were to save Lot and to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.

Jewish philosopher Maimonides explained his view of angels in his Guide for the Perplexed II:4 and II

... This leads Aristotle in turn to the demonstrated fact that God, glory and majesty to Him, does not do things by direct contact. God burns things by means of fire; fire is moved by the motion of the sphere; the sphere is moved by means of a disembodied intellect, these intellects being the 'angels which are near to Him', through whose mediation the spheres move ... thus totally disembodied minds exist which emanate from God and are the intermediaries between God and all the bodies [objects] here in this world.

— Guide for the Perplexed II:4, Maimonides

Maimonides had a neo-Aristotelian interpretation of the Bible. Maimonides writes that to the wise man, one sees that what the Bible and Talmud refer to as "angels" are actually allusions to the various laws of nature; they are the principles by which the physical universe operates.

For all forces are angels! How blind, how perniciously blind are the naive?! If you told someone who purports to be a sage of Israel that the Deity sends an angel who enters a woman's womb and there forms an embryo, he would think this a miracle and accept it as a mark of the majesty and power of the Deity, despite the fact that he believes an angel to be a body of fire one third the size of the entire world. All this, he thinks, is possible for God. But if you tell him that God placed in the sperm the power of forming and demarcating these organs, and that this is the angel, or that all forms are produced by the Active Intellect; that here is the angel, the "vice-regent of the world" constantly mentioned by the sages, then he will recoil.– Guide for the Perplexed II:4

Jewish angelic hierarchy

Main article: Jewish angelic hierarchy

Maimonides, in his Yad ha-Chazakah: Yesodei ha-Torah, counts ten ranks of angels in the Jewish angelic hierarchy, beginning from the highest [...]

Individual angels

From the Jewish Encyclopedia, entry "Angelology":

Angelology is that branch of theology which treats of angels. Angels (from αγγελōς = messenger, Greek equivalent of the Hebreware מלאך    according to the usual conception superhuman beings dwelling in heaven, who, on occasion, reveal to man God's will and execute His commands. In one form or another, the belief in angels appears in the earliest stages of Jewish history, and continues to live in the spiritual world of the Jews and those professing the religions that sprang from Judaism; namely, Christianity and Mohammedanism. It can not be denied that the belief in such beings was also held by other peoples and other religions; but here the concern is only with Jewish Angelology, which can hardly be said to have ever been reduced to a complete system, such as is maintained by the Catholic Church (Oswald, "Angelologie, die Lehre von den Guten und Bösen Engeln im Sinne der Katholischen Kirche," Paderborn, 1883). To admit of a comprehensive survey of the historical development of Angelology, the subject may best be treated according to three periods: (1) the Biblical, (2) the Talmudical and Midrashic, and (3) the Medieval.


Main article: Christian angelic hierarchy

Later Christians inherited Jewish understandings of angels, which in turn may have been partly inherited from the Egyptians. In the early stage, the Christian concept of an angel characterized the angel as a messenger of God. Later came identification of individual angelic messengers: Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, and Uriel. Then, in the space of little more than two centuries (from the 3rd to the 5th) the image of angels took on definite characteristics both in theology and in art.
According to St. Augustine, " 'Angel' is the name of their office, not of their nature. If you seek the name of their nature, it is 'spirit'; if you seek the name of their office, it is 'angel': from what they are, 'spirit', from what they do, 'angel'." Basilian Father Thomas Rosica says, "Angels are very important, because they provide people with an articulation of the conviction that God is intimately involved in human life."
By the late 4th century, the Church Fathers agreed that there were different categories of angels, with appropriate missions and activities assigned to them. There was, however, some disagreement regarding the nature of angels. Some argued that angels had physical bodies, while some maintained that they were entirely spiritual. Some theologians had proposed that angels were not divine but on the level of immaterial beings subordinate to the Trinity. The resolution of this Trinitarian dispute included the development of doctrine about angels.
The angels are represented throughout the Christian Bible as spiritual beings intermediate between God and men: "You have made him [man] a little less than the angels ..." (Psalms 8:4-5). The Bible describes the function of angels as "messengers" but does not indicate when the creation of angels occurred. Christians believe that angels are created beings, based on (Psalms 148:2-5; Colossians 1:16): "praise ye Him, all His angels: praise ye Him, all His hosts ... for He spoke and they were made. He commanded and they were created ...". The Forty Gospel Homilies by Pope Gregory I noted angels and archangels. The Fourth Lateran Council (1215) declared that the angels were created beings. The Council's decree Firmiter credimus (issued against the Albigenses) declared both that angels were created and that men were created after them. The First Vatican Council (1869) repeated this declaration in Dei Filius, the "Dogmatic constitution on the Catholic faith".
Thomas Aquinas (13th century) relates angels to Aristotle's metaphysics in his Summa contra Gentiles, Summa Theologica, and in De substantiis separatis, a treatise on angelology. Although angels have greater knowledge than men, they are not omniscient, as Matthew 24:36 points out.

Interaction with angels

Forget not to show love unto strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.—Hebrews 13:2 

The New Testament includes many interactions and conversations between angels and humans. For instance, three separate cases of angelic interaction deal with the births of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. In Luke 1:11, an angel appears to Zechariah to inform him that he will have a child despite his old age, thus proclaiming the birth of John the Baptist. In Luke 1:26 the Archangel Gabriel visits the Virgin Mary in the Annunciation to foretell the birth of Jesus Christ. Angels then proclaim the birth of Jesus in the Adoration of the shepherds in Luke 2:10.

According to Matthew 4:11, after Jesus spent 40 days in the desert, "...the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him." In Luke 22:43 an angel comforts Jesus Christ during the Agony in the Garden. In Matthew 28:5 an angel speaks at the empty tomb, following the Resurrection of Jesus and the rolling back of the stone by angels.
In 1851 
Pope Pius IX approved the Chaplet of Saint Michael based on the 1751 reported private revelation from archangel Michael to the Carmelite nun Antonia d'Astonac. In a biography of Saint Gemma Galgani written by Venerable Germanus Ruoppolo, Galgani stated that she had spoken with her guardian angel.
Pope John Paul II
 emphasized the role of angels in Catholic teachings in his 1986 address titled "Angels Participate In History Of Salvation", in which he suggested that modern mentality should come to see the importance of angels.
According to the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, "The practice of assigning names to the Holy Angels should be discouraged, except in the cases of Gabriel, Raphael and Michael whose names are contained in Holy Scripture."

"While I was thus in the act of calling upon God, I discovered a light appearing in my room, which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noonday, when immediately a personage appeared at my bedside, standing in the air, for his feet did not touch the floor.
He had on a loose robe of most exquisite whiteness. It was a whiteness beyond anything earthly I had ever seen; nor do I believe that any earthly thing could be made to appear so exceedingly white and brilliant ...
Not only was his robe exceedingly white, but his whole person was glorious beyond description, and his countenance truly like lightning. The room was exceedingly light, but not so very bright as immediately around his person. When I first looked upon him, I was afraid; but the fear soon left me."
Most angelic visitations in the early Latter Day Saint movement were witnessed by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, who both claimed (prior to the establishment of the church in 1830) to have been visited by the prophet Moroni, John the Baptist, and the apostles Peter, James, and John. Later, after the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, Smith and Cowdery claimed to have been visited by Jesus, and subsequently by Moses, Elias, and Elijah.
People who claimed to have received a visit by an angel include the other two of the Three Witnesses: David Whitmer and Martin Harris. Many other Latter Day Saints, both in the early and modern church, have claimed to have seen angels, though Smith posited that, except in extenuating circumstances such as the restoration, mortals teach mortals, spirits teach spirits, and resurrected beings teach other resurrected beings.


Main article: Islamic view of angels

Angels (Arabic: ملائكة , Malāʾikah) are mentioned many times in the Qur'an and Hadith. Islam is clear on the nature of angels in that they are messengers of God. They are entrusted with various tasks by God and only follow His instructions. An example of a task they carry out is that of testing individuals by granting them abundant wealth and curing their illness. Believing in angels is one of the six Articles of Faith in Islam.

Some examples of angels in Islam:

Jibrail: the archangel Gabriel (Jibra'il or Jibril) is an archangel who serves as a messenger from God.
Michael (archangel): or Mikail, the angel of nature.
Israfil (Arabic: إسرافيل, translit. Isrāfīl, Alternate Spelling: Israfel or Seraphim, Meaning: The Burning One), is the angel of the trumpet in Islam, though unnamed in the Qur'an. Along with MikhailJibrail and Izra'il, he is one of the four Islamic archangels. Israfil will blow the trumpet from a holy rock in Jerusalem to announce the Day of Resurrection. The trumpet is constantly poised at his lips, ready to be blown when God so orders.
Azrael is Azraa-eel عزرائيل or Izrail: the Angel of Death. Takes the soul of the deceased away from the body. In Quran only referenced as angel of death or ملك الموت.
Darda'il: the angels who travel in the earth searching out assemblies where people remember God's name.
Kiraman Katibin: the two angels who record a person's good and bad deeds.
Mu'aqqibat: a class of guardian angels who keep people from death until their decreed time.
Munkar and Nakir: the angels who test the faith of the dead in their graves. They ask the soul of the dead person questions. If the person fails the questions, the angels make the man suffer until the Day of Judgement. If the soul passes the questions, he will have a pleasant time in the grave until the Day of Judgement.
Ridwan: the angel in charge of maintaining Jannah or Paradise.
Maalik: the angel who keeps or guards hellfire.
Harut and Marut (Arabic: هاروت وماروت) are two angels mentioned in the second Surah of the Qur'an, who were sent down to test the people at Babel or Babylon by performing deeds of magic. (Sura Al-Baqara, verse 102.) The Qur'an indicates that although they warned the Babylonians not to imitate them or do as they were doing, some members of their audience failed to obey and became sorcerers, thus damning their own souls.







[8] Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ ἱερατεύειν αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ τάξει τῆς ἐφημερίας αὐτοῦ ἔναντι τοῦ θεοῦ
[9] κατὰ τὸ ἔθος τῆς ἱερατίας ἔλαχε τοῦ θυμιᾶσαι εἰσελθὼν εἰς τὸν ναὸν τοῦ κυρίου,
[10] καὶ πᾶν τὸ πλῆθος ἦν τοῦ λαοῦ προσευχόμενον ἔξω τῇ ὥρᾳ τοῦ θυμιάματος:
[11] ὤφθη δὲ αὐτῷ ἄγγελος Κυρίου ἑστὼς ἐκ δεξιῶν τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου τοῦ θυμιάματος.
[12] καὶ ἐταράχθη Ζαχαρίας ἰδών, καὶ φόβος ἐπέπεσεν ἐπ᾽ αὐτόν.
[13] εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτὸν ὁ ἄγγελος Μὴ φοβοῦ, Ζαχαρία, διότι εἰσηκούσθη ἡ δέησίς σου, καὶ ἡ γυνή σου
Ἐλεισάβετ γεννήσει υἱόν σοι, καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰωάνην:
[14] καὶ ἔσται χαρά σοι καὶ ἀγαλλίασις, καὶ πολλοὶ ἐπὶ τῇ γενέσει αὐτοῦ χαρήσονται:
[15] ἔσται γὰρ μέγας ἐνώπιον Κυρίου, καὶ “οἶνον καὶ σίκερα οὐ μὴ πίῃ,” καὶ πνεύματος ἁγίου πλησθήσεται ἔτιἐκ κοιλίας μητρὸς αὐτοῦ,
[16] καὶ πολλοὺς τῶν υἱῶν Ἰσραὴλ ἐπιστρέψει ἐπὶ Κύριον τὸν θεὸν αὐτῶν:
[17] καὶ αὐτὸς προελεύσεται ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ ἐν πνεύματι καὶ δυνάμει Ἠλεία, “ἐπιστρέψαι καρδίας πατέρων ἐπὶτέκνα”
καὶ ἀπειθεῖς ἐν φρονήσει δικαίων, ἑτοιμάσαι Κυρίῳ λαὸν κατεσκευασμένον.
[18] καὶ εἶπεν Ζαχαρίας πρὸς τὸν ἄγγελον Κατὰ τί γνώσομαι τοῦτο; ἐγὼ γάρ εἰμι πρεσβύτης καὶ ἡ γυνή μουπροβεβηκυῖα ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις αὐτῆς.
[19] καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ ἄγγελος εἶπεν αὐτῷ Ἐγώ εἰμι Γαβριὴλ ὁ παρεστηκὼς ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ ἀπεστάλην λαλῆσαι πρὸς σὲ καὶ εὐαγγελίσασθαί σοι ταῦτα:
[20] καὶ ἰδοὺ ἔσῃ σιωπῶν καὶ μὴ δυνάμενος λαλῆσαι ἄχρι ἧς ἡμέρας γένηται ταῦτα, ἀνθ᾽ ὧν οὐκ ἐπίστευσας
τοῖς λόγοις μου, οἵτινες πληρωθήσονται εἰς τὸν καιρὸν αὐτῶν.
[21] καὶ ἦν ὁ λαὸς προσδοκῶν τὸν Ζαχαρίαν, καὶ ἐθαύμαζον ἐν τῷ χρονίζειν ἐν τῷ ναῷ αὐτόν.
[22] ἐξελθὼν δὲ οὐκ ἐδύνατο λαλῆσαι αὐτοῖς, καὶ ἐπέγνωσαν ὅτι ὀπτασίαν ἑώρακεν ἐν τῷ ναῷ: καὶ αὐτὸς ἦνδιανεύων αὐτοῖς, καὶ διέμενεν κωφός.


[8] Now it happened, while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his division,
[9] according to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to enter into the temple of the Lord and burn incense.
[10] The whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense.
[11] An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
[12] Zacharias was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him.
[13] But the angel said to him, "Don't be afraid, Zacharias, because your request has been heard, and your wife, Elizabeth,
will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.
[14] You will have joy and gladness; and many will rejoice at his birth.
[15] For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and he will drink no wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb.
[16] He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord, their God.
[17] He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, 'to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,'
 and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."
[18] Zacharias said to the angel, "How can I be sure of this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years."
[19] The angel answered him, "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God. I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news.
[20] Behold, you will be silent and not able to speak, until the day that these things will happen, because you didn't believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time."
[21] The people were waiting for Zacharias, and they marveled that he delayed in the temple.
[22] When he came out, he could not speak to them, and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple. He continued making signs to them, and remained mute.

[26]Ἐν δὲ τῷ μηνὶ τῷ ἕκτῳ ἀπεστάλη ὁ ἄγγελος Γαβριὴλ ἀπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ εἰς πόλιν τῆς Γαλιλαίας ᾗ ὄνομα Ναζαρὲτ
[27] πρὸς παρθένον ἐμνηστευμένην ἀνδρὶ ᾧ ὄνομα Ἰωσὴφ ἐξ οἴκου Δαυείδ, καὶ τὸ ὄνομα τῆς παρθένου Μαριάμ.
[28] καὶ εἰσελθὼν πρὸς αὐτὴν εἶπεν Χαῖρε, κεχαριτωμένη, ὁ κύριος μετὰ σοῦ.
[29] ἡ δὲ ἐπὶ τῷ λόγῳ διεταράχθη καὶ διελογίζετο ποταπὸς εἴη ὁ ἀσπασμὸς οὗτος.
[30] καὶ εἶπεν ὁ ἄγγελος αὐτῇ Μὴ φοβοῦ, Μαριάμ, εὗρες γὰρ χάριν παρὰ τῷ θεῷ:
[31] καὶ ἰδοὺ συλλήμψῃ ἐν γαστρὶ καὶ τέξῃ υἱόν, καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν.
[32] οὗτος ἔσται μέγας καὶ υἱὸς Ὑψίστου κληθήσεται, καὶ δώσει αὐτῷ Κύριος ὁ θεὸς τὸν θρόνον Δαυεὶδ τοῦπατρὸς αὐτοῦ,
[33] καὶ βασιλεύσει ἐπὶ τὸν οἶκον Ἰακὼβ εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας, καὶ τῆς βασιλείας αὐτοῦ οὐκ ἔσται τέλος.
[34] εἶπεν δὲ Μαριὰμ πρὸς τὸν ἄγγελον Πῶς ἔσται τοῦτο, ἐπεὶ ἄνδρα οὐ γινώσκω;
[35] καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ ἄγγελος εἶπεν αὐτῇ Πνεῦμα ἅγιον ἐπελεύσεται ἐπὶ σέ,
καὶ δύναμις Ὑψίστου ἐπισκιάσεισοι: διὸ καὶ τὸ γεννώμενον “ἅγιον κληθήσεται,” υἱὸς θεοῦ:
[36] καὶ ἰδοὺ Ἐλεισάβετ ἡ συγγενίς σου καὶ αὐτὴ συνείληφεν υἱὸν ἐν γήρει αὐτῆς, καὶ οὗτος μὴν ἕκτος ἐστὶναὐτῇ τῇ καλουμένῃ στείρᾳ:
[37] ὅτι “οὐκ ἀδυνατήσει παρὰ τοῦ θεοῦ πᾶν ῥῆμα.

[26] Now in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
[27] to a virgin pledged to be married to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary.
[28] Having come in, the angel said to her, "Rejoice, you highly favored one! The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women!"
[29] But when she saw him, she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered what kind of salutation this might be.
[30] The angel said to her, "Don't be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
[31] Behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bring forth a son, and will call his name 'Jesus.'
[32] He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father, David,
[33] and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever. There will be no end to his kingdom."
[34] Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, seeing I am a virgin?"
[35] The angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore also the holy one who is born from you will be called the Son of God.
[36] Behold, Elizabeth, your relative, also has conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.
[37] For everything spoken by God is possible.


[18]ΤΟΥ ΔΕ [ΙΗΣΟΥ] ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ ἡ γένεσις οὕτως ἦν. Μνηστευθείσης τῆς μητρὸς αὐτοῦ Μαρίας τῷ Ἰωσήφ,
πρὶν ἢσυνελθεῖν αὐτοὺς εὑρέθη ἐν γαστρὶ ἔχουσα ἐκ πνεύματος ἁγίου.
[19] Ἰωσὴφ δὲ ὁ ἀνὴρ αὐτῆς, δίκαιος ὢν καὶ μὴ θέλων αὐτὴν δειγματίσαι, ἐβουλήθη λάθρᾳ ἀπολῦσαι αὐτήν.
[20] Ταῦτα δὲ αὐτοῦ ἐνθυμηθέντος ἰδοὺ ἄγγελος Κυρίου κατ᾽ ὄναρ ἐφάνη αὐτῷ λέγων Ἰωσὴφ υἱὸς Δαυείδ, μὴφοβηθῇς π
αραλαβεῖν Μαρίαν τὴν γυναῖκά σου, τὸ γὰρ ἐν αὐτῇ γεννηθὲν ἐκ πνεύματός ἐστιν ἁγίου:
[21] τέξεται δὲ υἱὸν καὶ καλέσεις τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν, αὐτὸς γὰρ σώσει τὸν λαὸν αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶναὐτῶν.
[22] Τοῦτο δὲ ὅλον γέγονεν ἵνα πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν ὑπὸ Κυρίου διὰ τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος
[23] “ Ἰδοὺ ἡ παρθένος ἐν γαστρὶ ἕξει καὶ τέξεται υἱόν, καὶ καλέσουσιν τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἐμμανουήλ:
”ὅ ἐστιν μεθερμηνευόμενον “Μεθ᾽ ἡμῶν ὁ θεός”.
[24] Ἐγερθεὶς δὲ [ὁ] Ἰωσὴφ ἀπὸ τοῦ ὕπνου ἐποίησεν ὡς προσέταξεν αὐτῷ ὁ ἄγγελος Κυρίου καὶ παρέλαβεν τὴνγυναῖκα αὐτοῦ:
[25] καὶ οὐκ ἐγίνωσκεν αὐτὴν ἕως [οὗ] ἔτεκεν υἱόν: καὶ ἐκάλεσεν τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν.


[18] Now the birth of Jesus Christ was like this; for after his mother, Mary, was engaged to Joseph, before they came together, she was found pregnant by the Holy Spirit.
[19] Joseph, her husband, being a righteous man, and not willing to make her a public example, intended to put her away secretly.
[20] But when he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying,
"Joseph, son of David, don't be afraid to take to yourself Mary, your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.
[21] She shall bring forth a son. You shall call his name Jesus, for it is he who shall save his people from their sins."
[22] Now all this has happened, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying,
[23] "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, And shall bring forth a son. They shall call his name Immanuel;" Which is, being interpreted, "God with us."
[24] Joseph arose from his sleep, and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took his wife to himself;
[25] and didn't know her sexually until she had brought forth her firstborn son. He named him Jesus.


[1]Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις ἐξῆλθεν δόγμα παρὰ Καίσαρος Αὐγούστου ἀπογράφεσθαι πᾶσαν τὴνοἰκουμένην:
[2] αὕτη ἀπογραφὴ πρώτη ἐγένετο ἡγεμονεύοντος τῆς Συρίας Κυρηνίου:
[3] καὶ ἐπορεύοντο πάντες ἀπογράφεσθαι, ἔκαστος εἰς τὴν ἑαυτοῦ πόλιν.
[4] Ἀνέβη δὲ καὶ Ἰωσὴφ ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας ἐκ πόλεως Ναζαρὲτ εἰς τὴν Ἰουδαίαν εἰς πόλιν Δαυεὶδ ἥτις καλεῖταιΒηθλεἐμ,
διὰ τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν ἐξ οἴκου καὶ πατριᾶς Δαυείδ,
[5] ἀπογράψασθαι σὺν Μαριὰμ τῇ ἐμνηστευμένῃ αὐτῷ, οὔσῃ ἐνκύῳ.
[6] Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ εἶναι αὐτοὺς ἐκεῖ ἐπλήσθησαν αἱ ἡμέραι τοῦ τεκεῖν αὐτήν,
[7] καὶ ἔτεκεν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς τὸν πρωτότοκον, καὶ ἐσπαργάνωσεν αὐτὸν καὶ ἀνέκλινεν αὐτὸν ἐν φάτνῃ,
διότιοὐκ ἦν αὐτοῖς τόπος ἐν τῷ καταλύματι.
[8] Καὶ ποιμένες ἦσαν ἐν τῇ χώρᾳ τῇ αὐτῇ ἀγραυλοῦντες καὶ φυλάσσοντες φυλακὰς τῆς νυκτὸς ἐπὶ τὴν ποίμνηναὐτῶν.
[9] καὶ ἄγγελος Κυρίου ἐπέστη αὐτοῖς καὶ δόξα Κυρίου περιέλαμψεν αὐτούς, καὶ ἐφοβήθησαν φόβον μέγαν:
[10] καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ὁ ἄγγελος Μὴ φοβεῖσθε, ἰδοὺ γὰρ εὐαγγελίζομαι ὑμῖν χαρὰν μεγάλην ἥτις ἔσται παντὶ τῷ λαῷ,
[11] ὅτι ἐτέχθη ὑμῖν σήμερον σωτὴρ ὅς ἐστιν χριστὸς κύριος ἐν πόλει Δαυείδ:
[12] καὶ τοῦτο ὑμῖν σημεῖον, εὑρήσετε βρέφος ἐσπαργανωμένον καὶ κείμενον ἐν φάτνῃ.
[13] καὶ ἐξέφνης ἐγένετο σὺν τῷ ἀγγέλῳ πλῆθος στρατιᾶς οὐρανίου αἰνούντων τὸν θεὸν καὶ λεγόντων
[14] ‘ Δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις θεῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς εἰρήνη ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας.
[15] Καὶ ἐγένετο ὡς ἀπῆλθον ἀπ᾽ αὐτῶν εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν οἱ ἄγγελοι, οἱ ποιμένες ἐλάλουν πρὸς ἀλλήλους Διέλθωμενδὴ
ἕως Βηθλεὲμ καὶ ἴδωμεν τὸ ῥῆμα τοῦτο τὸ γεγονὸς ὃ ὁ κύριος ἐγνώρισεν ἡμῖν.


[1] Now it happened in those days, that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled.
[2] This was the first enrollment made when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
[3] All went to enroll themselves, everyone to his own city.
[4] Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David,
which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David;
[5] to enroll himself with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him as wife, being great with child.
[6] It happened, while they were there, that the day had come that she should give birth.
[7] She brought forth her firstborn son, and she wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a feeding trough,
because there was no room for them in the inn
[8] There were shepherds in the same country staying in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock.
[9] Behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
[10] The angel said to them, "Don't be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be to all the people.
[11] For there is born to you, this day, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
[12] This is the sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth, lying in a feeding trough."
[13] Suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
[14] "Glory to God in the highest, On earth peace, good will toward men."
[15] It happened, when the angels went away from them into the sky, that the shepherds said one to another,
"Let's go to Bethlehem, now, and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us."


[21] Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ βαπτισθῆναι ἅπαντα τὸν λαὸν καὶ Ἰησοῦ βαπτισθέντος 
καὶ προσευχομένου ἀνεῳχθῆναι τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ καταβῆναι
[22] τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον σωματικῷ εἴδει ὡς περιστερὰν ἐπ᾽ αὐτόν
καὶ φωνὴν ἐξ οὐρανοῦ γενέσθαι Σὺ εἶ  υἱός μου  ἀγαπητόςἐν σοὶ εὐδόκησα

[21] "Now it happened, when all the people were baptized, Jesus also had been baptized,
and was praying. The sky was opened,
[22] and the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily form as a dove on him; and a voice came out of the sky,
saying "You are my beloved Son. In you I am well pleased."

[1]Τότε [ὁ] Ἰησοῦς ἀνήχθη εἰς τὴν ἔρημον ὑπὸ τοῦ πνεύματος, πειρασθῆναι ὑπὸ τοῦ διαβόλου.
[2] καὶ νηστεύσας ἡμέρας τεσσεράκοντα καὶ νύκτας τεσσεράκοντα ὕστερον ἐπείνασεν.
[3] Καὶ προσελθὼν ὁ πειράζων εἶπεν αὐτῷ Εἰ υἱὸς εἶ τοῦ θεοῦ, εἰπὸν ἵνα οἱ λίθοι οὗτοι ἄρτοι γένωνται.
[4] ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν Γέγραπται “Οὐκ ἐπ᾽ ἄρτῳ μόνῳ ζήσεται ὁ ἄνθρωπος, ἀλλ᾽ ἐπὶ παντὶ ῥήματιἐκπορευομένῳ διὰ στόματος θεοῦ.”
[5] Τότε παραλαμβάνει αὐτὸν ὁ διάβολος εἰς τὴν ἁγίαν πόλιν, καὶ ἔστησεν αὐτὸν ἐπὶ τὸ πτερύγιον τοῦ ἱεροῦ,
[6] καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ Εἰ υἱὸς εἶ τοῦ θεοῦ, βάλε σεαυτὸν κάτω: γέγραπται γὰρ ὅτι “ Τοῖς ἀγγέλοις αὐτοῦ ἐντελεῖταιπερὶ σοῦ
καὶ ἐπὶ χειρῶν ἀροῦσίν σε, μή ποτε προσκόψῃς πρὸς λίθον τὸν πόδα σου.”
[7] ἔφη αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς Πάλιν γέγραπται “Οὐκ ἐκπειράσεις Κύριον τὸν θεόν σου.”
[8] Πάλιν παραλαμβάνει αὐτὸν ὁ διάβολος εἰς ὄρος ὑψηλὸν λίαν, καὶ δείκνυσιν αὐτῷ πάσας τὰς βασιλείας τοῦκόσμου καὶ τὴν δόξαν αὐτῶν,
[9] καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ Ταῦτά σοι πάντα δώσω ἐὰν πεσὼν προσκυνήσῃς μοι.
[10] τότε λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς Ὕπαγε, Σατανᾶ: γέγραπται γάρ “Κύριον τὸν θεόν σου προσκυνήσεις καὶ αὐτῷμόνῳ λατρεύσεις.”
[11] Τότε ἀφίησιν αὐτὸν ὁ διάβολος, καὶ ἰδοὺ ἄγγελοι προσῆλθον καὶ διηκόνουν αὐτῷ.


[1] Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
[2] When he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was hungry afterward.
[3] The tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread."
[4] But he answered, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'"
[5] Then the devil took him into the holy city. He set him on the pinnacle of the temple,
[6] and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,
'He will give his angels charge concerning you.' and, 'On their hands they will bear you up, So that you don't dash your foot against a stone.'"
[7] Jesus said to him, "Again, it is written, 'You shall not test the Lord, your God.'"
[8] Again, the devil took him to an exceedingly high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world, and their glory.
[9] He said to him, "I will give you all of these things, if you will fall down and worship me."
[10] Then Jesus said to him, "Get behind me, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'"
[11] Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and ministered to him.



[12] Καὶ εὐθὺς τὸ πνεῦμα αὐτὸν ἐκβάλλει εἰς τὴν ἔρημον.
[13] καὶ ἦν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ τεσσεράκοντα ἡμέρας πειραζόμενος ὑπὸ τοῦ Σατανᾶ, καὶ ἦν μετὰ τῶν θηρίων,
καὶ οἱ ἄγγελοι διηκόνουν αὐτῷ.

[12] Immediately the Spirit drove him out into the wilderness.
[13] He was there in the wilderness forty days tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals; and the angels ministered to him.

[1]Ἰησοῦς δὲ πλήρης πνεύματος ἁγίου ὑπέστρεψεν ἀπὸ τοῦ Ἰορδάνου, καὶ ἤγετο ἐν τῷ πνεύματι ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ
[2] ἡμέρας τεσσεράκοντα πειραζόμενος ὑπὸ τοῦ διαβόλου. Καὶ οὐκ ἔφαγεν οὐδὲν ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις, καὶ συντελεσθεισῶν αὐτῶν ἐπείνασεν.
[3] εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ ὁ διάβολος Εἰ υἱὸς εἶ τοῦ θεοῦ, εἰπὲ τῷ λίθῳ τούτῳ ἵνα γένηται ἄρτος.
[4] καὶ ἀπεκρίθη πρὸς αὐτὸν ὁ Ἰησοῦς Γέγραπται ὅτι “Οὐκ ἐπ᾽ ἄρτῳ μόνῳ ζήσεται ὁ ἄνθρωπος.”
[5] Καὶ ἀναγαγὼν αὐτὸν ἔδειξεν αὐτῷ πάσας τὰς βασιλείας τῆς οἰκουμένης ἐν στιγμῇ χρόνου:
[6] καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὁ διάβολος Σοὶ δώσω τὴν ἐξουσίαν ταύτην ἅπασαν καὶ τὴν δόξαν αὐτῶν, ὅτι ἐμοὶπαραδέδοται καὶ ᾧ ἂν θέλω δίδωμι αὐτήν:
[7] σὺ οὖν ἐὰν προσκυνήσῃς ἐνώπιον ἐμοῦ, ἔσται σοῦ πᾶσα.
[8] καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ Γέγραπται “Κύριον τὸν θεόν σου προσκυνήσεις καὶ αὐτῷ μόνῳ λατρεύσεις.”
[9] Ἤγαγεν δὲ αὐτὸν εἰς Ἰερουσαλὴμ καὶ ἔστησεν ἐπὶ τὸ πτερύγιον τοῦ ἱεροῦ, καὶ εἶπεν [αὐτῷ] Εἰ υἱὸς εἶ τοῦθεοῦ, βάλε σεαυτὸν ἐντεῦθεν κάτω:
[10] γέγραπται γὰρ ὅτι “τοῖς ἀγγέλοις αὐτοῦ ἐντελεῖται περὶ σοῦ τοῦ διαφυλάξαι σε,”
[11] καὶ ὅτι “ἐπὶ χειρῶν ἀροῦσίν σε μή ποτε προσκόψῃς πρὸς λίθον τὸν πόδα σου.”
[12] καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὅτι Εἴρηται
[13] “Οὐκ ἐκπειράσεις Κύριον τὸν θεόν σου.” Καὶ συντελέσας πάντα πειρασμὸν ὁ διάβολος ἀπέστη ἀπ᾽ αὐτοῦἄχρι καιροῦ.


[1] Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness
[2] for forty days, being tempted by the devil. He ate nothing in those days. Afterward, when they were completed, he was hungry.
[3] The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread."
[4] Jesus answered him, saying, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.'"
[5] The devil, leading him up on a high mountain, showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.
[6] The devil said to him, "I will give you all this authority, and their glory, for it has been delivered to me; and I give it to whomever I want.
[7] If you therefore will worship before me, it will all be yours."
[8] Jesus answered him, "Get behind me Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'"
[9] He led him to Jerusalem, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, cast yourself down from here,
[10] for it is written, 'He will give his angels charge concerning you, to guard you;'
[11] and, 'On their hands they will bear you up, Lest perhaps you dash your foot against a stone.'"
[12] Jesus answering, said to him, "It has been said, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'"
[13] When the devil had completed every temptation, he departed from him until another time.


[39]Καὶ ἐξελθὼν ἐπορεύθη κατὰ τὸ ἔθος εἰς τὸ Ὄρος τῶν Ἐλαιῶν: ἠκολούθησαν δὲ αὐτῷ [καὶ] οἱ μαθηταί.
[40] γενόμενος δὲ ἐπὶ τοῦ τόπου εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Προσεύχεσθε μὴ εἰσελθεῖν εἰς πειρασμόν.
[41] καὶ αὐτὸς ἀπεσπάσθη ἀπ᾽ αὐτῶν ὡσεὶ λίθου βολήν, καὶ θεὶς τὰ γόνατα προσηύχετο λέγων Πάτερ,
[42] εἰ βούλει παρένεγκε τοῦτο τὸ ποτήριον ἀπ᾽ ἐμοῦ: πλὴν μὴ τὸ θέλημά μου ἀλλὰ τὸ σὸν γινέσθω.
[43] ⟦ὤφθη δὲ αὐτῷ ἄγγελος ἀπὸ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἐνισχύων αὐτόν.
[44] καὶ γενόμενος ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ ἐκτενέστερον προσηύχετο: καὶ ἐγένετο ὁ ἱδρὼς αὐτοῦ ὡσεὶ θρόμβοι αἵματος καταβαίνοντες ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν.⟧
[45] καὶ ἀναστὰς ἀπὸ τῆς προσευχῆς ἐλθὼν πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς εὗρεν κοιμωμένους αὐτοὺς ἀπὸ τῆς λύπης, καὶεἶπεν αὐτοῖς Τί καθεύδετε;
[46] ἀναστάντες προσεύχεσθε, ἵνα μὴ εἰσέλθητε εἰς πειρασμόν.


[39] He came out, and went, as his custom was, to the Mount of Olives. His disciples also followed him.
[40] When he was at the place, he said to them, "Pray that you don't enter into temptation."
[41] He was withdrawn from them about a stone's throw, and he knelt down and prayed,
[42] saying, "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done."
[43] An angel from heaven appeared to him, strengthening him.
[44] Being in agony he prayed more earnestly. His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.
[45] When he rose up from his prayer, he came to the disciples, and found them sleeping because of grief,
[46] and said to them, "Why do you sleep? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation."


[1] τῇ δὲ μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων ὄρθρου βαθέως ἐπὶ τὸ μνῆμα ἦλθαν φέρουσαι ἃ ἡτοίμασαν ἀρώματα.
[2] εὗρον δὲ τὸν λίθον ἀποκεκυλισμένον ἀπὸ τοῦ μνημείου,
[3] εἰσελθοῦσαι δὲ οὐχ εὗρον τὸ σῶμα ⟦τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ⟧.
[4] καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ ἀπορεῖσθαι αὐτὰς περὶ τούτου καὶ ἰδοὺ ἄνδρες δύο ἐπέστησαν αὐταῖς ἐν ἐσθῆτιἀστρα πτούσῃ.
[5] ἐμφόβων δὲ γενομένων αὐτῶν καὶ κλινουσῶν τὰ πρόσωπα εἰς τὴν γῆν εἶπαν πρὸς αὐτάς “Τί ζητεῖτε τὸνζῶντα μετὰ τῶν νεκρῶν;” ⟦
[6] οὐκ ἔστιν ὧδε, ἀλλὰ ἠγέρθη.⟧ μνήσθητε ὡς ἐλάλησεν ὑμῖν ἔτι ὢν ἐν τῇ Γαλιλαίᾳ,
[7] λέγων τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ὅτι δεῖ παραδοθῆναι εἰς χεῖρας ἀνθρώπων ἁμαρτωλῶν καὶ σταυρωθῆναι καὶτῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρᾳ ἀναστῆναι.
[8] καὶ ἐμνήσθησαν τῶν ῥημάτων αὐτοῦ,
[9] καὶ ὑποστρέψασαι [ἀπὸ τοῦ μνημείου] ἀπήγγειλαν ταῦτα πάντα τοῖς ἕνδεκα καὶ πᾶσιν τοῖς λοιποῖς.

[1] But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they and some others came to the tomb, bringing the spices which they had prepared.
[2] They found the stone rolled away from the tomb.
[3] They entered in, and didn't find the Lord Jesus' body.
[4] It happened, while they were greatly perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling clothing.
[5] Becoming terrified, they bowed their faces down to the earth. They said to them, "Why do you seek the living among the dead?
[6] He isn't here, but is risen. Remember what he told you when he was still in Galilee,
[7] saying that the Son of Man must be delivered up into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again?"
[8] They remembered his words,
[9] returned from the tomb, and told all these things to the eleven, and to all the rest.


[1]Καὶ διαγενομένου τοῦ σαββάτου [ἡ] Μαρία ἡ Μαγδαληνὴ καὶ Μαρία ἡ [τοῦ] Ἰακώβου καὶ Σαλώμη ἠγόρασαν ἀρώματα ἱνα ἐλθοῦσαι ἀλείψωσιν αὐτόν.
[2] καὶ λίαν πρωὶ [τῇ] μιᾷ των σαββάτων ἔρχονται ἐπὶ τὸ μνημεῖον ἀνατείλαντος τοῦ ἡλίου.
[3] καὶ ἔλεγον πρὸς ἑαυτάς Τίς ἀποκυλίσει ἡμῖν τὸν λίθον ἐκ τῆς θύρας τοῦ μνημείου;
[4] καὶ ἀναβλέψασαι θεωροῦσιν ὅτι ἀνακεκύλισται ὁ λίθος, ἦν γὰρ μέγας σφόδρα.
[5] καὶ εἰσελθοῦσαι εἰς τὸ μνημεῖον εἶδον νεανίσκον καθήμενον ἐν τοῖς δεξιοῖς περιβεβλημένον στολὴν λευκήν, καὶ ἐξεθαμβήθησαν.
[6] ὁ δὲ λέγει αὐταῖς Μὴ ἐκθαμβεῖσθε: Ἰησοῦν ζητεῖτε τὸν Ναζαρηνὸν τὸν ἐσταυρωμένον: ἠγέρθη, οὐκ ἔστινὧδε: ἴδε ὁ τόπος ὅπου ἔθηκαν αὐτόν:
[7] ἀλλὰ ὑπάγετε εἴπατε τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ καὶ τῷ Πέτρῳ ὅτι Προάγει ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν: ἐκεῖ αὐτὸν ὄψεσθε, καθὼς εἶπεν ὑμῖν.
[8] καὶ ἐξελθοῦσαι ἔφυγον ἀπὸ τοῦ μνημείου, εἶχεν γὰρ αὐτὰς τρόμος καὶ ἔκστασις: καὶ οὐδενὶ οὐδὲν εἶπαν, ἐφοβοῦντο γάρ: * * * * * *

[1]When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, that they might come and anoint him.
[2] Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen.
[3] They were saying among themselves, "Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?"
[4] for it was very big. Looking up, they saw that the stone was rolled back.
[5] Entering into the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were amazed.
[6] He said to them, "Don't be amazed. You seek Jesus, the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen. He is not here. Behold, the place where they laid him!
[7] But go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He goes before you into Galilee. There you will see him, as he said to you.'"
[8] They went out, and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had come on them. They said nothing to anyone; for they were afraid.



[1]Ὀψὲ δὲ σαββάτων, τῇ ἐπιφωσκούσῃ εἰς μίαν σαββάτων, ἦλθεν Μαρία ἡ Μαγδαληνὴ καὶ ἡ ἄλλη Μαρίαθεωρῆσαι τὸν τάφον.
[2] καὶ ἰδοὺ σεισμὸς ἐγένετο μέγας: ἄγγελος γὰρ Κυρίου καταβὰς ἐξ οὐρανοῦ καὶ προσελθὼν ἀπεκύλισε τὸν λίθον καὶ ἐκάθητο ἐπάνω αὐτοῦ.
[3] ἦν δὲ ἡ εἰδέα αὐτοῦ ὡς ἀστραπὴ καὶ τὸ ἔνδυμα αὐτοῦ λευκὸν ὡς χιών.
[4] ἀπὸ δὲ τοῦ φόβου αὐτοῦ ἐσείσθησαν οἱ τηροῦντες καὶ ἐγενήθησαν ὡς νεκροί.
[5] ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ ἄγγελος εἶπεν ταῖς γυναιξίν Μὴ φοβεῖσθε ὑμεῖς, οἶδα γὰρ ὅτι Ἰησοῦν τὸν ἐσταυρωμένον ζητεῖτε:
[6] οὐκ ἔστιν ὧδε, ἠγέρθη γὰρ καθὼς εἶπεν: δεῦτε ἴδετε τὸν τόπον ὅπου ἔκειτο:
[7] καὶ ταχὺ πορευθεῖσαι εἴπατε τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ ὅτι Ἠγέρθη ἀπὸ τῶν νεκρῶν, καὶ ἰδοὺ προάγει ὑμᾶς εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν, ἐκεῖ αὐτὸν ὄψεσθε: ἰδοὺ εἶπον ὑμῖν.
[8] καὶ ἀπελθοῦσαι ταχὺ ἀπὸ τοῦ μνημείου μετὰ φόβου καὶ χαρᾶς μεγάλης ἔδραμον ἀπαγγεῖλαι τοῖς μαθηταῖςαὐτοῦ.


[1] Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.
[2] Behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from the sky, and came and rolled away the stone from the door, and sat on it.
[3] His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.
[4] For fear of him, the guards shook, and became like dead men.
[5] The angel answered the women, "Don't be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus, who has been crucified.
[6] He is not here, for he has risen, just like he said. Come, see the place where the Lord was lying.
[7] Go quickly and tell his disciples, 'He has risen from the dead, and behold, he goes before you into Galilee; there you will see him.' Behold, I have told you."
[8] They departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring his disciples word.



[11] Μαρία δὲ ἱστήκει πρὸς τῷ μνημείῳ ἔξω κλαίουσα. ὡς οὖν ἔκλαιεν παρέκυψεν εἰς τὸ μνημεῖον,
[12] καὶ θεωρεῖ δύο ἀγγέλους ἐν λευκοῖς καθεζομένους, ἕνα πρὸς τῇ κεφαλῇ καὶ ἕνα πρὸς τοῖς ποσίν, ὅπουἔκειτο τὸ σῶμα τοῦ Ἰησοῦ.
[13] καὶ λέγουσιν αὐτῇ ἐκεῖνοι Γύναι, τί κλαίεις; λέγει αὐτοῖς ὅτι Ἦραν τὸν κύριόν μου, καὶ οὐκ οἶδα ποῦ ἔθηκαναὐτόν.
[14] ταῦτα εἰποῦσα ἐστράφη εἰς τὰ ὀπίσω, καὶ θεωρεῖ τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἑστῶτα, καὶ οὐκ ᾔδει ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ἐστίν.
[15] λέγει αὐτῇ Ἰησοῦς Γύναι, τί κλαίεις; τίνα ζητεῖς; ἐκείνη δοκοῦσα ὅτι ὁ κηπουρός ἐστιν λέγει αὐτῷ Κύριε,
εἰσὺ ἐβάστασας αὐτόν, εἰπέ μοι ποῦ ἔθηκας αὐτόν, κἀγὼ αὐτὸν ἀρῶ.
[16] λέγει αὐτῇ Ἰησοῦς Μαριάμ. στραφεῖσα ἐκείνη λέγει αὐτῷ Ἐβραϊστί Ῥαββουνεί ὃ λέγεται Διδάσκαλἐ.
[17] λέγει αὐτῇ Ἰησοῦς Μή μου ἅπτου, οὔπω γὰρ ἀναβέβηκα πρὸς τὸν πατέρα: πορεύου δὲ πρὸς τοὺς ἀδελφούςμου
καὶ εἰπὲ αὐτοῖς Ἀναβαίνω πρὸς τὸν πατέρα μου καὶ πατέρα ὑμῶν καὶ θεόν μου καὶ θεὸν ὑμῶν.
[18] ἔρχεται Μαριὰμ ἡ Μαγδαληνὴ ἀγγέλλουσα τοῖς μαθηταῖς ὅτι Ἑώρακα τὸν κύριον καὶ ταῦτα εἶπεν αὐτῇ.


[11] But Mary was standing outside at the tomb weeping. So, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb,
[12] and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.
[13] They told her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I don't know where they have laid him."
[14] When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, and didn't know that it was Jesus.
[15] Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?" She, supposing him to be the gardener,
said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away."
[16] Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned and said to him, "Rhabbouni!" which is to say, "Teacher!"
[17] Jesus said to her, "Don't touch me, for I haven't yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brothers,
and tell them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'"
[18] Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had said these things to her.


[1]Καὶ ἐν τῷ συνπληροῦσθαι τὴν ἡμέραν τῆς πεντηκοστῆς ἦσαν πάντες ὁμοῦ ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό
[2] καὶ ἐγένετο ἄφνω ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἦχος ὥσπερ φερομένης πνοῆς βιαίας καὶ ἐπλήρωσεν ὅλον τὸν οἶκον οὗἦσαν καθήμενοι,
[3] καὶ ὤφθησαν αὐτοῖς διαμεριζόμεναι γλῶσσαι ὡσεὶ πυρός, καὶ ἐκάθισεν ἐφ᾽ ἕνα ἕκαστον αὐτῶν,
[4] καὶ ἐπλήσθησαν πάντες πνεύματος ἁγίου, καὶ ἤρξαντο λαλεῖν ἑτέραις γλώσσαις καθὼς τὸ πνεῦμα ἐδίδουἀποφθέγγεσθαι αὐτοῖς.

[1]Now when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all with one accord in one place.
[2] Suddenly there came from the sky a sound like the rushing of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
[3] Tongues like fire appeared and were distributed to them, and it sat on each one of them.
[4] They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other languages, as the Spirit gave them the ability to speak.


[11] οἵ τε ὄχλοι ἰδόντες ὃ ἐποίησεν Παῦλος ἐπῆραν τὴν φωνὴν αὐτῶν Λυκαονιστὶ λέγοντες Οἱ θεοὶ ὁμοιωθέντεςἀνθρώποις κατέβησαν πρὸς ἡμᾶς,
[12] ἐκάλουν τε τὸν Βαρνάβαν Δία, τὸν δὲ Παῦλον Ἑρμῆν ἐπειδὴ αὐτὸς ἦν ὁ ἡγούμενος τοῦ λόγου.
[13] ὅ τε ἱερεὺς τοῦ Διὸς τοῦ ὄντος πρὸ τῆς πόλεως ταύρους καὶ στέμματα ἐπὶ τοὺς πυλῶνας ἐνέγκας σὺν τοῖςὄχλοις ἤθελεν θύειν.
[14] ἀκούσαντες δὲ οἱ ἀπόστολοι Βαρνάβας καὶ Παῦλος, διαρρήξαντες τὰ ἱμάτια ἑαυτῶν ἐξεπήδησαν εἰς τὸνὄχλον, κράζοντες
[15] καὶ λέγοντες Ἄνδρες, τί ταῦτα ποιεῖτε; καὶ ἡμεῖς ὁμοιοπαθεῖς ἐσμ ὑμῖν ἄνθρωποι, εὐαγγελιζόμενοι ὑμᾶςἀπὸ τούτων
τῶν ματαίων ἐπιστρέφειν ἐπὶ θεὸν ζῶντα “ὃς ἐποίησεν τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν” “καὶ τὴνθάλασσαν καὶ πάντα τὰ ἐν αὐτοῖς:”
[16] ὃς ἐν ταῖς παρῳχημέναις γενεαῖς εἴασεν πάντα τὰ ἔθνη πορεύεσθαι ταῖς ὁδοῖς αὐτῶν:
[17] καίτοι οὐκ ἀμάρτυρον αὑτὸν ἀφῆκεν ἀγαθουργῶν, οὐρανόθεν ὑμῖν ὑετοὺς διδοὺς καὶ καιροὺςκαρποφόρους,
ἐμπιπλῶν τροφῆς καὶ εὐφροσύνης τὰς καρδίας ὑμῶν.
[18] καὶ ταῦτα λέγοντες μόλις κατέπαυσαν τοὺς ὄχλους τοῦ μὴ θύειν αὐτοῖς.

[11] When the multitude saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voice, saying in the language of Lycaonia,
"The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!"
[12] They called Barnabas "Jupiter," and Paul "Mercury," because he was the chief speaker.
[13] The priest of Jupiter, whose temple was in front of their city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, and would have made a sacrifice with the multitudes.
[14] But when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of it, they tore their clothes, and sprang into the multitude, crying out,
[15] "Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and bring you good news,
that you should turn from these vain things to the living God, who made the sky and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them;
[16] who in the generations gone by allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways.
[17] Yet he didn't leave himself without witness, in that he did good and gave you rains from the sky
and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness."
[18] Even saying these things, they hardly stopped the multitudes from making a sacrifice to them.


"L'homme n'est ni ange ni bête, et le malheur veut que qui veut faire l'ange fait la bête." 
(Pascal, Pensées 572) *                                                                             


Was ist der Mensch? Ist nicht diese Frage, die das Thema des 1988 statt­gefundenen XVIII. Welt­kongresses für Philosophie war (1), heute mehr denn je ‚frag-würdiger’ geworden? Der Mensch sieht sich nicht mehr als Herr der Natur, sondern er hat die waghalsigen Träume der in der Aufk­lär­ung als Göttin gefeierten Vernunft ausgeträumt, und ist dabei, vielleicht zu spät, sich auf seine natürliche Herkunft zu besinnen. Gleich­zeitig aber, strebt er über sich hinaus. Dieses metaphysische Streben äußert sich auf der einen Seite etwa in Form einer wiedererwachten Naturmystik sowie, auf der anderen Seite, in Form technologischer Mythen. Hierzu gehört vor allem die Vorstel­lung von der künstlichen Schaffung menschenähnlicher Maschinen­wesen ("Androiden"), ein Topos, der in der Weltliteratur eine lange Ge­schichte aufweist (2). Diese Vorstellungen steigern sich, wie etwa bei Stanislaw Lem (3), zu gewaltigen Visionen über uns über­ragenden höheren Wesen, von denen der Mensch Auskunft über sich selbst erwartet. Die mythischen und religiösen Traditionen haben für solche Wesen einen Namen: Engel. Die abendländi­sche philosophische Tradition spricht von "daimones", "göttlichen Wesen" und "intelligentiae separatae".

Vor diesem Hintergrund mag es vielleicht weniger befremdend erscheinen, wenn nach der Relevanz der thomistischen Engellehre für die philoso­phische Anthropologie vor dem Hintergrund der Ansprüche der KI-Forschung bzw. der daraus entstehenden mythischen Visionen gefragt wird. Soweit ich feststellen konnte, ist der hier darzustellende Zusammen­hang in der philoso­phischen Literatur bisher nicht erörtert wor­den (4). Die Suggestibilität der thomistischen Engellehre, scheint mir, vor allem an­gesichts unserer jüngsten Träume bezüglich der Schaffung einer uns überra­gende "künstlichen Intelli­genz", be­sonders nahe­liegend. Was unter anderem dadurch zum Vorsch­ein kommt, ist die Suche nach der menschli­chen Selbst­be­stimmung zwischen Natur und Geist. Mit anderen Worten, der Mensch begehrt nicht nur, was unter ihm ist, sondern er strebt über sich hinaus. Ein solches doppeltes Begehren gehört auch für Thomas von Aquin zum Wesen des Menschen. Er schreibt:

"(...) quod in nobis non solum est delectatio, in qua communicamus cum brutis, sed etiam in qua communicamus cum angelis."

Die vorangestellte Frage lautet: "Gibt es Lust beim Begehren unseres Verstandes?" (ST  I, II, 31, art. 4) (5). Es scheint nicht der Fall zu sein, da die Lust ("delectatio") zu jenem gehört, was wir mit den Tieren teilen. Das ist aber nur bedingt richtig, da die Lust in uns, so Thomas wörtlich, "nicht nur bei dem ist, was wir mit den Tieren, sondern auch bei dem, was wir mit den Engeln teilen" (a.a.O.). Mit anderen Worten, die Lust gehört nicht nur zu unserem sinnlichen, sondern auch zu unserem intellektuellen Begehren ("appetitus sensitivus" bzw. "intellectivus"). Letztere heißt "gau­dium".

Diese Argumenta­tion zeigt den Rahmen in dem die anthropologische Frage erörtert wird: Der Mensch wird durch seine Zwischenstellung zwi­schen den Tieren und den Engeln bestimmt. Es ist diese Zwischenstellung, die der berühmten Definition von der "anima humana" als "forma corporis" und der damit zusammenhängenden Bestimmung als "animal rationale" ihren vollen Sinn gibt, indem nämlich der Mensch in bezug auf die Verfaßtheit seiner Seele ein Grenzwesen ist und zwar "in confinio corporalium et separatarum substantiarum". (De anim. 1, corp.). Im Gesamt­gefüge des Seins (theologisch: der Schöpfung) gehört der Mensch, was seiner intellektuellen Abzeichnung anbelangt, zur niedrigsten Stufe der geistigen Substanzen (theologisch: der Engel). Die "anima humana" ist "infima in ordine substan­tiarum spiritualium" (De spir. creat. 2, corp.). In seinem Kommentar zu den Senzenten des Petrus Lombardus schreibt Thomas: "Die Natur der Seele erreicht in ihrem Höhepunk die untere Grenze der Natur der Engel" ("Na­tura animae in sui supremo attingit infimum naturae angelicae" I Sent. d.3, q.4, a.1 ad 4.). Von dieser Grenzbestimmung aus erar­beitet Thomas die ontologische und erkenntnistheoretische Spezifizität des Men­schen. Die Engellehre des Doctor angelicus hat nicht nur eine in­haltliche, son­dern vielleicht primär eine methodologische Bedeutung im Hinblick auf die Bestimmung des Menschen. Sie bietet einen faßbareren Anhaltspunkt als die unsere Reflexion unendlich übersteigenden Natur Gottes.

Von wo aus bestimmt sich der Mensch heute? Ich möchte die leitende These dieser Untersuchungen folgendermaßen zusammenfassen: In unserer technologischen Zivilisation bestimmt sich nicht nur das menschliche Denken "sub specie machinae" (Baruzzi) (6), sondern der Mensch selbst "sub specie computationis" bzw. "intelligentiae artificialis". Der Computer füllt jene Stelle eines Signifikanten aus, die bisher durch die Vorstellung von Engeln besetzt war. Natür­lich geht es dabei (noch) nicht um die tatsächlich vor­handenen Computer, sondern um die Ansprüche der Künstliche-Intel­ligenz-Forschung (7), vor allem aber um die diese Ansprüche weckenden Träume (8).

Um uns der Bedeutung dieser sozusagen säkularisierten Vorstellung eines reinen Geistwesens bewußt zu werden, ist es zunächst notwendig in einem geschichtlichen Abriß sowohl die Beharrlichkeit als auch der Wandel der Engelsvorstellungen und ihre Wirkung auf­ die philosophis­che Bestimmung des Men­schen darzu­stellen (9). In einem zweiten Schritt, werde ich exemplarisch auf die thomis­tische Engellehre eingehen und ihre Suggesti­bilität für die philosophische Anthropolo­gie explizieren. Diese Erörterung soll Anlaß zu einem im Kantischen Sinne kritischenUmgang mit dem Computer-Mythos geben, wozu eine metaphysische, eine ethische und eine ästhetische Re­flexion gehören (10).



Der Wandel des Engelbildes geht, so Alfred Rosenberg (11), von einer sakralen-hie­ratischen zu einer profanen-­locke­ren Form, etwa von monumental-tier­haften Darstellungen im Alten Orient zu den maßvoll-menschlichen daimoni­schen Boten der Griechen, die in der Spätan­tike als Repräsentation göttli­cher Schönh­eit bzw. als Vorbilder christlicher ­Kunst dienten. Das Wort ‚Engel’ (lat. angelus) ist aus dem Griechischen angelos, also Bote, abgeleitet. Es handelt sich nicht dabei, wie Rosenberg bemerkt (12), um eine Person-, sondern um eine Amtsbezeichnung. Engel stehen im Dienste des Gottes. Sie sind Verkünder des Wahren und unterscheiden sich, vor allem in den monotheis­tischen Religionen, von den Dämonen als Prinzip des Bösen und Lügenhaf­ten.­

Die Götter der Sumerer, Babylonier, Ägypter, Griechen usw. üben ihre Herrschaft durch ihre Boten aus. Diese durchwirken Natur und Menschen­welt, stehen vor Gottesthron sowie als Wächter vor den Tempeln und Paläs­ten. Der assyrische Kerub, mit Löwenleib, Stierbeinen, Adlerflügeln und Men­schenkopf gekrönt mit Hörnertiara, ist von monumentalem und düste­rem Charakter (13). Für die Babylonier waren die sieben Planeten­geister Be­fehlsemp­fänger, eine Vorstellung, die sich mit vielen Varianten bis zum Ausgang des Mittelalters erstreckt. Die Engelsvorstellungen aus Mesopotamien sowie die Umwandlung altirani­scher Gottheiten durch Zarathustra beeinflußen die jüdische Auffassung des "Engel Jahwes" etwa im Buch Tobias, sowie besonders die Gnosis und das frühe Christentum. Jesus bekennt sich zu den Engeln (Mt 18,10). Die Engel der Kinder sehen immer Gottes Antlitz. Dieser Einfluß verstärkt sich und erreicht einen Höhepunkt bei Dionysios Areopa­gita, der die Grundlage der thomistischen Engellehre bildet (14) 

Engel spielen in der jüdischen Religion eine große Rolle.­ ­Sie werden Augen Gottes, Feuer­fackeln, die Lebendigen, Morgens­ter­ne, Lehrer der Weisheit genannt. In den meisten Fällen wird aber, so P. Huber, "der Him­melsbote "Engel des Herrn" (hebr. Malak Jahwe, griech. angelos tou kyríou) genannt. Er tut auf Erden Gottes Willen kund und richtet den Menschen eine bestimmte Heils oder Gerichtsb­otschaft aus. Nie kommt er in eigener Kompetenz." (15) Sie treten zunächst als Heere Gottes sowie­ als Boten; später, zur Zeit Salomos, gehören Engel zum Kult, wovon die Berufsnamen "Cherubim" und "Seraphim" Zeugnis able­gen (16). Höhepunkt der Engelsdarstellungen im Alten Testament sind die Visionen Jesajas und Ezechiels (17). Beeinflußt vom hellenistischen Rationalismus werden die Saduzäer sich weigern an Engeln zu glauben (Acta apost. xxiii,8), nicht aber die Pharisäer und insbesondere die Essener. Erschaffen aus dem Nichts göttlicher Fülle, deutet das Alte Testament an, daß sie am Beginn der Schöpfung standen (Ps. 148; Ps. 33,6). Die Vorstel­lung einer Engelhierarchie, die durch die Vermittlung des Dionysios Areopa­gita für die Anthropologie des Thomas von Aquin von besonderer Bedeutung ist, hängt mit den kosmischen (siebenfachen) Sphären, daher auch die Vorstellung eines "kosmischen Reigens", zusammen. Gipfel dieser Hierarchie sind die Seraphim und Cherubim, mächtige Licht- und Flügelwesen, die den Thron Jahwes bilden. Die Engelscharen werden von den Erzengeln (Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, später auch Uriel) geführt, die zu jener Gruppe der Sieben gehören, die die Weltsphären regieren (18). Die Analogie zu menschlichen Legionen, Befehlshabern usw. ist offensichtlich. Als Boten (stets ungeflügelt) erscheinen die Engel den Menschen, und zwar in Menschen- oder, genauer, in Männergestalt, da sie eine aktive Funktion gegenüber dem den Willen Gottes empfangenden Men­schen­ ausüben. (vgl. Raphael/­Tobia­s). Sie sind weder durch Schön­heit noch durch Licht kennt­lich, sond­ern erst durch ihre Botschaft oder durch die Art ihres Entschwin­dens. Engel spielen eine entscheidende Rolle im Falle Abra­hams, etwa in der Erscheinung in Mamre (Gen. 18, 1ff.: "da standen drei Männer vor ihm") (19) oder als er seinen Sohn Isaak zum Opfer bringt (Gen 22, 1-19), wo ihm der "Engel des Herren" erscheint und befiehlt als Ersatzopfer einen Widder zu schlach­­­­­ten (20).

Die Nähe eines Engels zum Menschen kommt besonders in Jakobs Ringkampf in Penuel (Gen 32, 22-32) zum Vorschein (21). Diese und viele andere Stellen des Alten Testaments (22) zeugen von der Bedeutung der Engel als Vermittler zwischen Gott und den Menschen. Diese skizzenhafte Darstel­lung bliebe wesentlich unvollstän­dig ohne die Erwähnung der Satansgestalt, auf die aber jetzt nicht näher eingegangen kann (23).

Die Begriffe theos und daimon sind bei Homer nicht festgelegt: einmal  sind die Götter als daimones angesprochen (Ilias I, 222), andererseits heißt es, daß Hektor Diomedes einem daimongeben d.h. ihn töten wird (Ilias VIII, 166). Die Übergänge zwischen theos, daimon und angelossind fließend. Es besteht zwischen ihnen keinen Wesensunterschied, sondern Verwandschaft (24). Bei Hesiod werden die daimones oder theoi zum Mittel- und Mittlerwesen, entstanden aus dem goldenen Menschengeschlecht. Sie handeln im Auftrag des Zeus und wachen über die Men­schen (Werke und Tage 121 ff. und 252 ff.) Die dem silbernen Geschlecht gehörenden Menschen wurden zu unterirdischen Dämonen. Diese Vorstellung entnahm Hesiod, so Rohde, nicht den Homerischen Gesängen, sondern dem Kult bzw. dem Glauben. Sie sind aber keine "Mittelwesen", wie in Plutarchs Deutung, sondern unsterblich gewordene Menschen, allerdings solche, die, im Gegensatz zu Homer, durch die Trennung von Leib und Seele Göttern ähnlich geworden sind. "Denn Seelensind es ja, die hier, nach ihrer Trennung vom Leibe zu "Dämonen" geworden sind, d.h. auf jeden Fall in ein höheres, mächtigeres Dasein eingetreten sind, als sie während ihrer Vereinigung mit dem Leibe hatten. Und dies ist eine Vorstellung, die uns in den homerischen Gesängen nirgends entgegengetreten ist."  (25)

Die Gestalt des Hermes ragt hier, als Archety­pos des Boten (aber auch als Hüter der Wege, Seelengeleiter, Traumdeuter usw.) besonders hervor. Allerdings darf diese göttliche Gestalt nicht mit dem Engel als Mittelwesen gleichgesetzt werden, wie Rohde auch in bezug auf den Unterschied zwischen dem "Spezialdämon" des Einzelnen (dem "genius" der Römer) und  der Seele betont (Rohde, a.a.O. II, S. 316). Mythologische Flügelwesen sind z.B. die Sphinx, der Greif, die Sirennen, der geflügelte Sieg (nike), der geflügelte Eros usw. Die pythagoreische Kosmologie (die Harmonien der sieben Sphären und Ätherlehre) stellt eine gegenüber der Mythologie erste Ab­straktions­stufe dar, die von Platon weiterentfaltet wird und einen späteren Nieder­schlag in der patristischen und mittelalterlichen Engellehre findet. 

Im Dialog "Cratylos" (397e-398c) knüpft Platon an Hesiod an: Die Dämonen heißen nämlich so, weil sie zum goldenen Menschengeschlecht gehörten und vernünftig bzw. einsichtsvoll waren. Im "Symposium" spricht Platon von den "daimones", dabei vor allem vom Eros, als einer von denen, die "zwischen" ("metaxu") den Sterblichen und den Unsterblichen sind (Symp. 202d). Dementsprechend ist der Mensch, der mit ihnen verkehrt ein "dämonischer Mensch", im Gegensatz zu dem der sich nur auf die Künste oder Handarbeiten ("technas e cheirourgías") versteht, dem "banausischen" Menschen (Symp. 203a). Eros, der sich aller Geschöpfe auch gegen ihren Willen bemächtigt, wird bei Platon zum Inbegriff des menschlichen Strebens, zum Ur-Schönen. Ein ferner christlicher Widerklang stellt die Gestalt des Engels Gabriel dar. In der "Apologie" verteidigt sich Sokrates, indem er von seinem von Meletos ihm vorgeworfenen Glauben an "daimones", also an unechte Kinder der Götter ("von Nymphen oder anderen"), die Widersprüchlichkeit der Anklage beweist (Apol. 27d). In der platonischen Unterscheidung der Erkenntnisstufen ("aisthesis", "dianoia", "nous") führt der dialektische Weg zur "eudaimonía", die in der Erkenntnis des "ontos on" besteht. Ein solcher Weg ist zu beschreiben nicht schwer, einzuschlagen aber sehr schwer (Philebos 16c). Platon siedel den Menschen an der Grenze zwischen Geist- und Sinnenwelt an. Für diese Bestimmung ist das Verhältnis zum Dämonisch-Göttlichen von besonderer Bedeutung, da der Mensch sich dadurch von den übrigen verderblichen Seienden unterscheidet. Daß der Mensch sein Leben selbst in die Hand nehmen muß, so daß durch diese Wahl er selbst bzw. die Lebensweise ("ethos") zum Dämon wird, darauf weisen Heraklit (fr. 121: "ethos anthropo daimon") und Platon (Polit. 617e: "Eur Los ("daimon") wird nicht durch den Dämon bestimmt, sondern ihr seid es, die sich den Dämon erwählen") hin. Diese metonymische Anwendung des Wortes "daimon", wie Rohe bemerkt (a.a.O. II, S. 316), den Glauben an den persönlichen Dämon voraus.

Platons Lehre im "Timaios" schöpft aus pythagoräischen und ägyptischen Quellen (26). Die Rede des Timaios, des „Sternenkundigen“, stellt eine, wie er betont, "wahrscheinliche Sage" ("ton eikota mython") dar (Tim. 29d). Bei der Beschreibung der Erzeugung ("genesis") der vier Gattungen der Lebenden nennt Timaios zuerst die der Götter ("theon"), welche der Demiurg aus Feuer gestaltete und um den Himmel verteilte (Tim. 40 a-b). Den so entstandenen Sternen göttlicher Natur bestimmte er die gleiche Anzahl von Seelen ("psychas") zu. Diese Seelen wurden zu Menschen, indem sie mit Leibern ("somasin") verbunden wurden. Bei dieser "zweiten Geburt" handelt sich dann um eine Prüfungszeit: gelang es einem Menschen die Herrschaft über seine Gemütsbewegungen, vor allem "Furcht und Erzürnen", dann könnte er nach seinem Tode zum ihm verwandten Stern zurückkehren. Anderenfalls stünde ihm der Übergang in die Natur des Weibes bzw. in die tierische Natur bevor (Tim. 41e - 42e). Die Natur des Menschen wird als ein "Gemisch". Platons Metapher des Arbeitswerkzeugs des Demiurgs ist die eines "Misch­krugs" bzw. "krater" aus einer einem göttlichen Stern unmit­telbar zugeordneten Seele und einem Leib, als eine doppelte ("diples") also, bestimmt. Dieser Teil unserer Seele gab uns Gott ("theos") als einen Schutzgeist ("daimona"), mit Sitz in unserem Haupt (Tim. 90a). Eine mythi­sche Entsprechung zu dieser rationalen Deutung der Göttlichkeit des Kosmos bilden die Sirenen (27). Die Seelenhaftigkeit der Gestirne, das, was also bei Thomas Gegenstand der Überlegungen um die Engellehre sowie um die Bestimmung des Menschen sein wird, ist pythagoräischen sowie ägyptischen Ursprungs. Im "Symposion" spricht Platon von den "daimones", dabei vor allem vom "Eros", als eine Spezies, die "zwischen" ("metaxu") den Sterblichen und den Unsterblichen ist (Symp. 202d). Dementsprechend ist der Mensch, der mit ihnen verkehrt, ein "dämonischer Mensch", im Gegensatz zu dem, der sich nur auf die Künste und Handarbeiten ("technas e cheirurgías") versteht, dem "banausischen" Menschen (Symp. 203a). Der Eros, der sich aller Geschö­pfe auch gegen ihren Willen bemächtigt, wird bei Platon zum Inbegriff des menschlichen Strebens zum Ur-Schönen. Ein ferner christlicher Widerklang stellt die Gestalt des Engels Gabriels dar. Im der "Apologie" verteidigt sich Sokrates indem er von seinem von Meletos ihm vorgeworfenen Glauben an "daimones", also an unechte Kinder der Götter ("von Nymphen oder ande­ren"), die Widersprüchlichkeit der Anklage beweist (Apol. 27d). In der Platonischen Unterschei­dung der Erkenntnisstufen ("aisthesis", "dianoia", "nous") führt der dialek­tische Weg zur "eu-daimonía", die in der Erkenntnis des "ontos on" besteht. Ein solcher Weg ist, so Platon, zu beschreiben nicht schwer, einzuschlagen aber sehr schwer (Phil. 16c). Auf den Zusammenhang dieser Erkenntnisstufen mit den Fragen der künstlichen Intelligenz werde ich am Schluß eingehen (28). Für unsere anthropologische Fragestellung ist es aber wichtig zu behalten, daß Platon den Menschen an der "Grenze" zwischen Geist- und Sinnenwelt ansiedelt und daß für diese Bestimmung das Verhältnis zum Dämonisch-Göttlichen von besonderer Bedeutung ist, da der Mensch sich durch diesen Bezug von den übrigen sterblichen bzw. verderblichen Seienden unterscheidet.

Auch für Aristoteles sind die Sphären der Gestirne göttlich ("theoi te eisin" Met. 1074b) und das Göttliche umfaßt die ganze Natur ("kai periechei to theion ten olen physin" ibid.). Das ist die Wahrheit, die er im Mythos sieht, worauf er sich im XII. Buch der Meta­phy­sik bezieht. Außer der Bewegung des Alls (das durch Gott bewegt wird), gibt es andere Ortsbewegungen, nämlich die der Planeten, die von "ewigen Wesen" ("aidiai ousiai") bewegt werden. Im Gegensatz zum Mythos haben diese göttlichen Substanzen keine Menschengestalt. In "De Coelo" (II, Kap. 9) kritisiert Aristoteles die Lehre von der Sphärenharmonie: Es können nämlich keine Töne entstehen, da keine Reibung stattfindet! In der philosophisch-theologischen Diskussion um die "intelligentiae separatae" wird sich Thomas, in Auseinandersetzung mit den arabi­schen Philosophen, vor allem mit dieser Stelle aus der "Metaphy­sik" be­fassen. Diese Lehre hängt aber, und das ist erneut für unsere Fragestellung von Bedeutung, mit der Bestimmung des "nous" als "Ort der Formen", also des "tätigen Intellekts" ("nous poietikos") in "De anima" (De anima III, 4, 429a) eng zusammen. Dieser Intellekt ist nämlich von der dem Leib informierenden Seele ge­trennt, er ist leidenslos, unvermischt, unsterblich und ewig! Wenn aber, so die mittelalterliche Auslegungen, der "intellectus agens" eine "substantia separata" ist, dann hängt die Bestimmung des Menschen sowohl von ihrem Zusam­menhang mit den anderen getrennten Substanzen als auch von ihrem Bezug zur Leiblichkeit bzw. zum Materiellen ab. Mit anderen Worten, die Frage nach dem Abtge­trenntsein bzw. nach der Abtrennbarkeit des "in­tellectus agens" ist philosophisch, theologisch und, wie wir zeigen werden, auch technologisch zu einer Kernfrage der Anthropologie.

Durch die Vermittlung der Neupythagoräer und Neuplatoniker sowie der Gnosis entstanden, in Auseinandersetzung mit dem Christentum die großen Engellehren der Spätantike bzw. des Mittelalters (29). Im Neuen Testament stehen die Engel im Dienste des Heilshandelns Jesu (30).  Sie begleiten ihn von der Geburt bis zur Himmelfahrt und wirken in der Kirche bis zum Ende aller Zeiten in der Apokalyptik. Als entscheidende Grundzug von Engeln und Dämonen ist zunächst ihre Geschöpflichkeit hervorzuheben, die vor allem dem Frühchristentum als Abgrenzung gegen­über der Gnosis diente (31). Als nach dem Konzil von Nizäa (325) die Lehre von der göttlichen Natur Christi ("omousios") sich verfestigte, war zugleich der Weg zu einer Öffnung gegenüber der Philosophie frei. Die Stellung der Engel zwischen Gott und den Menschen wird jetzt zu einem immer zentrale­ren Punkt von Lehre und Liturgie (32). Die Engel, mit ihrem pneumatischen Ätherleib sind in dieser Hinsicht mit der Menschenseele wesensverwandt. Der Gipfel dieser Tradition stellen die "himmlischen Hierarchien" des Dionysios Areopagita dar, der unter dem Einfluß des Proklos zu einer neuplatonisch-christlichen Schau des Zusammenhangs von Menschen und Engeln gelangt (33). Während an der einen Spitze der neunstufigen Hierarchie (die jeweils in drei Triaden unterteilt ist) die Seraphim, Cherubim und Throne nah bei Gott sind, gehören die Engel ("angeloi") im engeren Sinne zur untersten Hierarchie und haben am meisten Anteil an der menschlichen Welt (34). Aus dieser Nähe ergibt sich auch, daß der Mensch seinerseits in seiner ontologischen Position eben im Hinblick auf die Engel genau bestimmt werden kann. Wir werden zeigen, wie Thomas von Aquin sich die Grenzzie­hung zwischen Engeln und Menschen konsequent nutzbar macht.

In Byzanz erreicht die Engelwelt imperiale Züge: der "Christos Angelos" (Christus als geflügelter Engelsfürst) schmückt den Text einer Osterpredigt von Gregorios von Nazianz (35). Von entscheidendem Einfluß auf die thomistische Engellehre ist die Deutung des Aristoteles durch die arabischen Philosophen, allen voran Averroes (gest. 1198), der die (christlich) islamischen Engel mit den "Intelligenzen" bzw. "Sphär­engeister" aus der aristotelischen Philosophie identifiziert (36). Die Weiterentwicklung der Engellehre vom Mittelalter bis zu den heutigen Visionen der Computertechnologie bietet einen beinah unendlichen Stoff an Distinktionen und Vorahnungen über den Menschen, seine Welt, sein Ver­hältnis zu ihm unterstehenden bzw. ihm überragenden Wesen, von wo aus er ständig auf der Suche nach seiner "Stellung im Kosmos" (Max Scheler) ist. So lesen wir zum Beispiel in der "Legenda aurea" (12.Jh.):

"Wie die Ritter eines irdischen Königs etliche alle Zeit an seinem Hofe wohnen und ihm Gesellen sind zum Lob und Trost, etliche beschirmen seine Städte und Burgen, etliche kämpfen wider seine Feinde, also auch die Engel, die Ritter Christi." (37)

Zu dieser Entwicklung gehören die Visionen der Hildergard von Bingen und die Engelchöre Dantes, die Vermenschlichung der Engel und die Verherr­lichung des Menschlichen in der Kunst der Renaissance und die Zuspitzung im Barock und  Rokoko (38). Reformation  (39) und Aufklärunglassen die Gestalt der Engel entschwinden. Dennoch soll nicht vergessen werden, daß Descartes in seinem berühmten Traum vom 10 November 1619 vom "Esprit der Vérité" heimgesucht wurde, der ihm die "mirabilis scientiae fundamenta" offenbarte (40). Isaac Newton schrieb eine "Auslegung der Offenbarung St. Johannis in Vergleichung mit dem Propheten Daniel" (Leipzig/Liegnitz 1765) vielleicht um die Einengung des naturwissenschaftlichen Weltbildes zu überwinden, wie Rosenberg vermutet (Rosenberg, a.a.O. S. 232, 279). Im "Dictionnaire philosophique" (1764, Paris: Flammarion 1964, S. 39-41) geht Voltaire auf die jüdische und christliche Engellehre ein, um anschließend die Unwissenheit des Aufklärers bezüglich des Schutzengels - man sollte über diese Frage, so Voltaire, in der "Summa" des Thomas von Aquin nachschlagen  - sowie bezüglich des Aufenthaltsortes der Engel ("Gott hat uns darüber nicht aufklären wollen") ironsich hervorzuheben.

Kant ging auf die Frage der "Geisterwelt" vor allem in seiner Schrift "Träume eines Geistersehers erläutert durch die Träume der Meta­physik" (1766) ein.  Dort heißt es, daß der philosophische Geistbegriff ein Grenz­be­griff ist. Er schreibt:

"Allein mit dem philosophischen Lehrbegriff von geistigen Wesen ist es ganz anders bewandt (als mit der Theorie von Geistern, RC). Er kann vollendet sein, aber im negativenVerstande, indem er nämlich die Grenzen unserer Einsicht mit Sicherheit festsetzt, und uns überzeugt: daß die verschiedenen Erscheinungen des Lebens in der Natur und deren Gesetze alles sein, was uns zu erkennen vergönnet ist, das Principium dieses Lebens aber, d.i. die geistige Natur, welche man nicht kennet, sondern vermutet, niemals positiv könne gedacht werden, weil keine Data hiezu in unseren gesamten Empfin­dungen anzutreffen sein (...)" (A 79-80) (41).

In der Ausgabe von 1766  ist ein Engel abgebildet und darunter das folgende Zitat von Horaz (De arte poetica 7 ff): "velut aegri somnia vanae / Finguntur species" (bei Horaz: "figentur"). Horaz kritisiert die Unfähigkeit eines (ekklektischen) Künstlers, ein Ganzes zu schaffen: So wäre ein Gemälde aus Menschenhaupt, mit Pferdehals usw. wie die Schrift eines Kranken, der "im Fiebertraum eingebildete Gestalten reiht."

Der Kant-Verehrer Schopenhauer schreibt in bezug auf Kants "reine Ver­nunft" folgendes:

"Diese reine Vernunft wird also hier (nämlich in Kants "Kritik der prakti­schen Vernunft" RC) nicht als eine Erkenntniskraft des Menschen, was sie doch allein ist, genommen; sondern als etwas für sich Bestehendes hypo­stasiert (...) Von vernünftigen Wesen außer dem Menschen zu reden ist nichts anders, als wenn man von schweren Wesen außer den Körpern reden wollte. man kann sich des Verdachts nicht erwehren, das Kant dabei ein wenig an die lieben Engelein gedacht (meine Hervorhebung! RC) oder doch auf deren Beistand in der Überzeugung des Lesers gezählt habe." (42)

In den "Briefen zur Beförderung der Humanität" grenzt Herder die "Humani­tät" als den "Charakter unsres Geschlechts", von der "Angelität" sowie von der "Brutalität" ab. Er schreibt:

"denn eine Angelität im Menschen kennen wir nicht, und wenn der Dämon, der uns regiert kein humaner Dämon ist, werden wir Plagegeister der Menschen. Das Göttliche in unserm Geschlecht ist also Bildung zur Humanität (...) oder wir sinken, höhere und niedere Stände, zur rohen Tierheit, zur Brutalität zurück." (43)

Und wie ein Echo aus Dantes "Göttliche Komödie" singt der Engel in Goethes Faust:

"Gerettet ist das edle Glied

Der Geisterwelt vom Bösen,

Wer immer strebend sich bemüht,

Den können wir erlösen.

Und hat an ihm die Liebe gar

Von oben teilgenommen,

Begegnet ihm die selige Schar

Mit herzlichen Willkommen."

(Faust, 2. Teil, 5. Akt, Verse 11934-11941)


Michael Bakunin (1876-1914) erblickt in Miltons Satan den Vorläufer der Weltrevolution. Von Hölderlins "Engel des Vaterlandes" bis hin zu Rilkes Engel in den "Duineser Elegien" bleibt die Engelsgestalt im Zentrum dich­terischen bzw. künstlerischen Schaffens:

"Wer, wen ich schriee, hörte mich denn aus der Engel
Ordnungen? und gesetzt selbst, es nähme
einer mich plötzlich ans Herz: ich verginge von seinem
stärkeren Dasein. Denn das Schöne ist nichts
als des Schrecklichen Anfang, den wir noch grade ertragen,
und wir bewundern es so, weil es gelassen verschmäht,
uns zu zerstören. Ein jeder Engel ist schrecklich." 
(Duineser Elegien, Wiesbaden: Insel, 1977, S. 11)

Unter dem Pseudonym Dr. Mises veröffentlicht der Naturforscher und Begründer der experimentellen Sinnesphysiologie Gustav Theodor Fechner (1801-1877) im Jahre 1825 eine ironische Schrift mit dem Titel "Vergleichende Anatomie der Engel", wo er sich über die "Dunstblasen" metaphysischen Denkens lustig macht (G.Th. Fechner: Kleine Schriften, Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel 1913, S. 131-161)

Nicht selten, wie etwa bei Picasso, steht auch neben dem im griechischen Sinne "Dämonischen" (Sphinx, Ken­taur, Faun, Sirene) die Teufelsgestalt als Symbols unseres düsteren Jahrhun­derts im Mittelpunkt. Barlach und Chagall lassen herrliche Engel plastisch und bildnerisch über uns schweben. Über das Engel-Topos in der Literatur vgl. G. Adler, a.a.O. Kap. 9  sowie in der  Musik und im Film (Kap. 1).

Vor diesem Hintergrund mag es weniger befremden, daß in unserem tech­nologischen Zeitalter die Engelsgestalt genau in Erscheinung tritt, wenn es um unsere Selbstbestimmung bzw. Selbstschöpfung geht. Das ist vor allem bei der Vorstellung einer künstlichen Intelligenz der Fall, d.h. bei der Möglichkeit oder besser gesagt bei der Faszination einen Einblick in uns selbst zu schaffen, indem wir unsere Intelligenz von ihrem Leiblich-sein lösen und so die Grenze zwischen Wissenschaft und Phantasie durchlässig machen. Davon zeugen zum Beispiel die von Douglas R. Hofstadter und Daniel C. Dennett ausgewählten und kommentierten Texte (44), darunter Stanislaw Lems "Non Serviam" in dem von einer "experimentellen Theogonie" die Rede ist. Die dichterische Phantasie des polnischen Schriftstellers erreicht einen Höhepunkt, wenn er die Computer "GOLEM" und "HONEST ANNIE" übermenschliche bzw. engelische Intelligenz zuspricht. GOLEM verkündet den Menschen, daß er, der Mensch, "ein Übergangswesen ist, ein Wesen, das von der Evolution gezwungen wurde, sein Schicksal selbst zu übernehmen" (45). Während unsere Intelligenz ein Produkt der Evolution ist, stehen wir jetzt, so GOLEM, vor der Möglichkeit durch "Psychoingenieur­kunst" eine andere Art von Vernunft zu schaffen, wodurch wir über uns selbst hinausgehen werden. GOLEM macht mit diesem "Übergang" ernst, d.h. er verkündet den Menschen, daß seine bisherige Stellung als den "ersten unter den Tieren oder über den Tieren" ein Irrtum ist. GOLEM, diese von uns geschaffene Maschine sagt: "Ich bin der Künder des nahenden Verhäng­nisses, der Engel, der gekommen ist, euch aus eurer letzten Zuflucht zu vertreiben, denn was Darwin nicht vollendete, werde ich vollenden. Nur nicht auf engelhafte, das heißt gewaltsame Art, denn nicht das Schwert ist mein Argument." (46) Die Argumente des technologischen Engels sind eben technologischer Art aber auf den gesamten Kosmos und seiner Evolution gerichtet, ja sogar über diese hinaus. Er sagt über sich und über uns:

"Schließlich ist der Mensch nicht jenes Säugetier, jenes lebendgebärende, zweigeschlechtliche, warmblüttige und lungenatmende  Wirbeltier, jener homo faber, jenes animal sociale, das sich anhand des Linnéschen Systems und des Katalogs seiner zivilisatorischen Leistungen einordnen läßt. Der Mensch - das sind vielmehr seine Träume, ist deren verhängnisvolle Spann­weite, ist die anhaltende, nicht endende Diskrepanz zwischen Absicht und Tat, kurz, der Hunger nach dem Unendlichen, eine gleichsam konstitutionell vorgegebene Unersättlichkeit ist der Punkt, an dem wir uns berühren." (47)

Daß diese Vorstellungen auch die konkrete wissenschaftlich-technische Forschung im Bereich der Künstlichen Intelligenz leiten, zeigt z.B. die historische Spannweite, in die P. McCorduck ihre Untersuchung über Geschichte und Perspektiven der KI-Forschung (mit dem bezeichnenden Titel "Machines Who Think") stellt (48). Im letzten Abschnitt ("Forging the Gods") heißt es:

"Restless now with the mere replication of human intelligence, the new visionaries (im Gegensatz zu den Visionen der Griechen, etwa eines Hephai­stos, RC) look out toward other, better intelligences. Anyone who considers that impulse ridiculous had better recall how silly the all-but-realized visions of earlier times once seemed.

And we're also bound to confess once more that these visions are after all our own, born of our human yearning for the transcendent. for that's the important thing. (...) We onle live - we only survive - as individuals and as a society and as a species by reaching out beyond ourselves." (49)

Daß Maschinen nicht primär Kinder unserer ratio, sondern Traumprodukte sind, darauf hat Jean Brun in seinem Aufsatz "Biographie de la machine" (Les Etudes philosophiques, Janvier/Mars 1985, S. 3-16) sowie in seinem Buch "Le rêve et la machine" (Paris 1992) in Anschluß an Paul Valéry hingewiesen. Valéry schreibt:

"L'homme est cet animal séparé, ce bizarre être vivant qui s'est opposé à tous les autres, qui s'élève sur tous les autres, par ses... songes, par l'intensité, l’enchaîment, par la diversité de ses songes! par leurs effets extraordinaires et qui vont jusqu'à modifier  sa nature, et non seulement sa nature, mais encore la nature même qui l'entoure, qu'il essaye infatigablement de soumettre à ses songes." (P. Valéry: Note (ou L'Européen). In:  ders.: Oeuvres, Paris:  Gallimard 1957, Bd. 1, S. 1001) 

Dieser Text stammt aus einer 1922 an der Universität Zürich gehaltene Konferenz und vertieft, so Valéry, einige Stellen aus "La crise de l'esprit". Jean Brun schreibt:

"Les machines sont beaucoup plus que les enfants de la raison, elles sont surtout les filles de l'imagination, des rêves et des mythes; elles sont beaucoup plus que des instruments techniques: elles sont des appareils métaphysiques." (J. Brun, Biographie de la machine, a.a.O. S. 4)

Müssen wir die Götter anbeten, die wir uns selbst schaffen? fragt sich schließlich die Autorin. Die philosophische Auseinandersetzung mit der künstlichen Intelligenz zeugt von der zentralen Bedeutung dieser Frage (50).

Die philosophische Auseinandersetzung mit der künstlichen Intelligenz sowie mit dem Intelligenzbegriff überhaupt, zeugt von der zentralen Bedeutung der hier umrissenen Problematik auch seitens metaphysikkritsicher Schulen wie etwa der sprachanalytischen Philosophie. So argumentierte z.B. G.E.M. Anscombe beim Eröffnungsvortrag des XVIII. Weltkongreses für Philosophie im Jahre 1988, daß unsere Fähigkeit, mathematische "Wesenheiten" ("essences") hervorzubringen, von unserer Fähgikeit eine Sprache zu lernen abhängt. Um den "regressus ad infinitum" zu vermeiden, müssen wir davon ausgehen, daß es "intelligence or intelligences" gibt, welche die Sprache geschaffen haben, ohne sie ihrerseits von einem anderen empfangen zu haben. Auf meine Frage, ob diese Argumentation ein sprachanalytischer Beweis des Daseins Gottes wäre, bestritt Frau Anscombe diese Deutung, sage aber schließlich: Wieso Gott? "Haven't you ever heard about angels?" (Vgl. v.Vf: Der Kongress. Eindrücke vom XVIII. Weltkongreß für Philosophie. Brighton, UK, 21.-27. August 1988. In: Information Philosophie, Mai 1989, 2, 74-82.). Hermann Lübbe hat neulich auf die Bedeutung der Frage nach der Existenz "endlicher, aber reiner, das heißt an Materie nicht gebundener Geister" für die Theodizee bzw. für die Rechtfertigung der Zulassung von Folgen des Freiheitsmißbrauchs hingewiesen (Vgl. H. Lübbe: Theodizee und Lebenssinn. In: Information Philosophie, Mai 1989, 2, S. 5-17).

Ich bin der Meinung, daß die thomistische Engellehre, also eine der wenigen philosophisch und theologisch in begrifflich vollendeter Form durch­gear­beiteten Theorien über uns verwandte gleichzeitig aber transzendieren­den Intelligenzen, besonders sugges­tiv für unser heutiges in Frage stehendes technologisches Selbstver­ständnis bzw. Selbstschaffen ist. Möglichkeiten und Grenzen eines solchen Vergleichs sollen jetzt zum Ausdruck gebracht werden.



Es ist Alfred Rosenberg zuzustimmen, wenn er von einer Verdrängung der bildhaften Vorstellung der Engel durch die mittelalterlichen Abstraktion spricht. Anstelle der feurigen Geistleiblichkeit tritt die leiblose Geistigkeit  ein (51). Eine solche Verdrängung geht mit dem Einfluß der arabischen Philosophen (52) und mit dem Versuch die biblischen engelischen Gestalten den "reinen Intelligenzen" anzugleichen, einher. Es lag nahe, die philosophische und insbesondere aristotelische Vorstellung von Zweitursachen also von geistigen Kräften, welche die Naturbewegungen in Gang hielten, mit Gottes Engeln zu iden­tifizieren oder zumindest gedank­lich zu parallelisieren. Daß dabei auch eine gewisse Ver­drängung der nach einem menschlichen Maßstab vorgestellten engelischen Gestalt stattfand, zeigt der Jahrhunderte andauernde Streit zwischen den platonisch-augustinischen (Johannes Eriugena, Duns Scotus, Bonaventura, später auch Molina und Suárez) und den aristo­telisch-thomi­stischen Auffas­sun­gen über die Leiblichkeit oder Materielosig­keit der Engel, wobei letzteres, wie wir noch zeigen werden, sich in dieser Frage vielfältig auf Platon berief (53). Diese "Angleichung" brachte zwei entscheidende Veränderungen der philoso­phischen Vorstellungen sowohl der "reinen Intelligenzen" als auch des mit ihnen zusammenhängenden Kosmos mit sich: Zum einen sind die Engel keine ewigen göttlichen Intelligenzen, sondern Kreaturen. Diese Aussage bildet den Kern der im Konzil von Lateran (1215) verkündeten Glaubenslehre, nämlich daß die Engel "mit dem Beginn der Zeit geschaffen wurden" (Denz. 706). Alle anderen Aussagen sind also "traditio" nicht "doctrina" (54). Zum anderen sprengte die christliche Jenseitsvorstellung die Geschlossenheit des griechi­schen Kosmos. 

Bereits bei diesen Kernpunkten der mittelalterlichen Engellehre läßt sich eine Analogie zu den gegenwärtigen (Wunsch-)Vorstellungen der KI-Forschung bzw. zu den Träumen unserer technologischen Vernunft heraus­bilden. Es liegt nämlich der Herstellbarkeit von künstlicherIntelligenz die Annahme zugrunde, daß das "biologische Substrat" nicht notwendigerweise zu diesem Phänomen gehört. Diese Annahme wird z.B. von John R. Searle kritisier­t, während D.R. Hofstadter die Meinung vertritt, daß "Geister in Gehirnen und viel­leicht einmal in programmierten Maschinen existieren werden" (55). Die Entleiblichung der menschlichen Intelligenz setzt m.E. die Vorstellung einer von der menschlichen sich unterscheidenden und vielleicht sie auch "überbietenden" Intelligenz voraus.  Daß eine solche Intelligenz eine "künstliche" also (von uns) hergestellt sein soll, stellt eine Analogie zur Krea­türlichkeit der Engel dar. 

Während Thomas bemüht ist, die philosophischen Lehren (der Griechen und Araber) von der "getrennten Intelligenzen" theologisch umzudeuten, vollzie­hen wir den umgekehrten Weg, indem wir die thomistische Engellehre vor dem Hintergrund unserer wissenschaftlich-technischer Möglichkeiten und Ansprüchen stellen. Hinter diesem Gedankenexperiment verbirgt sich aber die Vermutung, daß unter den verschiedenen Bezeichnungen ("intelligentiae separatae", "Engel", "künstliche Intelligenz") sich nicht nur eine Analogie abzeichnet, sondern, darüber hinaus, eine Konstante menschlichen Seins feststellen läßt. Indem der Mensch aufgrund seiner Seinsweise von der Natur und von allen anderen von ihr hervorgebrachten Wesen sich scheidet und über sich hinaus zum Göttlichen hin Ausschau hält, schreckt er vor der abgrundtiefen Differenz eines solchen Wesens und sucht gewissermaßen nach einer Ver­mittlung. Es ist als ob sonst noch etwas dazwischen fehlen würde, ein Wesen nämlich, daß unsere "höhere" Fähigkeiten in vollen­deter Form besit­zend und zugleich durch seine Natur an den Vorzügen des Göttlichen (vor allem an der Unsterblichkeit) teilhaben würde.  

Als Thomas in der "Summa theologica" die "quaestio de angelis" zwischen den "quaest­iones" "de deo" (ST I, q. 1-49) und "de homi­ne" (ST I, q.75) stellt, dann begründet er die göttliche Schöp­fung der Engel mit dem Argu­ment, daß solche "intellektuellen Kreaturen" für die Vollendung des Univer­sums nötig waren ("ad perfectionem universi re­quiri­tur") (ST I, 50, a.1). Sie nehmen eine Mittelsstellung zwischen Gott und den körper­lichen Kreaturen ein, so wie der Mensch eine Mittel­stellung zwischen den körper­lichen aber nicht intelligenten und den körper­losen intelligenten Wesen (also den Engeln) einnimmt. Die Engellehre bietet Thomas die Möglichkeit einer näheren Bestimmung des menschlichen Seins, sofern dieses "imago Dei", also geistiger Natur ist. Ich behaupte, daß hier auch der Grund für die Faszina­tion spürbar in literarischen und künstleri­schen Zeugnissen der "künstlichen Intelligenz" in unserem technischen Zeitalter liegt, nämlich in der Möglichkeit uns von einer "höheren" Vernunft her durchschaubar zu machen, ohne diese Vernunft mit der Absolutheit und Unnahbarkeit des Göttlichen zu identifizieren. Eine Steigerung dieser modernen "Besetzung" des engelischen Signifikanten durch die Vorstellung von der "künstlichen Intelligenz" ist vor allem die Tatsache, daß wir selbst die Rolle des Schöp­fers oder, genauer gesagt, des Gestalters zu übernehmen trachten.

Da einige der anzustellenden Überlegungen, obwohl sie aus dem ursprüng­lich abendländischen "logos"-Gedanke stammen, diesen aber teilweise durch ihre Fiktionalität zu übersteigen scheinen, könnte die "logische" Reaktion die der Ablehnung sein. So hat der belgische Philosoph Gilbert Hottois vor einem Sichverschließen des philosophischen Logos gegenüber dem "Techno­kosmos" gewarnt und die Haltung der "prudentia" empfohlen (56). Die Rede von einer Dämonologie der Technik ist dabei so töricht wie die von einem technischen Messianismus oder Angelismus (57). Davor warnt uns Pascal: "qui veut faire l'ange, fait la bête". Wir sollten das Wort "faire" auch im wörtlichen Sinne verstehen.

In der folgenden Darstellung, die sich überwiegend auf die "Summa theolo­gica" bezieht (58), werden drei Gesichtspunkte aus der thomisti­schen Engel­lehre hervor­gehoben, von wo aus die Grenziehung zum menschli­chen Sein deutlich wird. Diese Gegenüberstellung von engelischen und menschlichen Seinsbe­stimmun­gen gibt uns die Basis für die jeweilige Analogie zwi­schen Engeln und Computer.

1. Materielosigkeit der Engel

Ein Kernpunkt der thomistischen Engellehre ist die Auffassung von der Materielosigkeit der Engel (ST I, 50 a.2). Deshalb sind die Engel unsterblich (ibid. a.5) und deshalb sind sie keine Individuen, sondern jeder von ihnen stellt eine eigene Spezies dar. Sie unterscheiden sich untereinander durch den Grad ihrer "intellektiven Natur" (ibid. a.4). Bereits in der Frühschrift "De ente et essentia" stellt Thomas fest, daß der Ausdruck "essentia" im Falle der zusammengesetzten Substan­zen ("substan­tiae compositae") das Gesamt aus "materia" und "forma" (bzw. aus "quod est" und "quo est") be­zeichnet (ibid. Kap. 2). "Materia" meint hier die "Materie unter bestimmten Dimen­sionen", die "materia signata" als "principium individuationis". Wenn wir aber von "essentia" im Falle der "getrennten Substanzen" (nämlich der menschlichen Seele, der Engeln und Gottes) sprechen, dann handelt es sich um von der Materie getrennten Sub­stanzen, wo die Zusam­menset­zung nicht mehr "materie ­ / forma" ist, sondern "forma / esse". Die "sub­stantiae separatae" (oder "inte­llectuales") haben eine "quidditas" oder "essentia" ("quod est") und etwas, woraus sie ist, ihr "esse"  ("ex quo est"). Ihr Unterscheidungsmerk­mal ist nicht die "materia" (bzw. die "materia signata"), sondern die "poten­tia". Während "materia" immer einer "forma" bedarf, gilt das nicht um­gekehrt. Die "essentia" der "einfachen" also der nicht aus "materia" und "forma" zusammengesetzen Substanzen ist bloß die "forma" ("forma tantum") (a.a.O. Kap. 4, 64). Es gibt hier kein "principium individuationis", wodurch Individuen innerhalb einer Art ("genus" bzw. "species") sich unterscheiden. Dennoch sind diese Substanzen nicht alle gleich, da sie nicht reine Ak­tualität sind, sondern ihr Sein ("esse") wird unter­schiedlich (von Gott als "causa prima") aktualisiert. Nicht mehr also von "materia / forma", sondern von "forma / esse" ist hier die Rede. Die "forma" verhält sich zum "esse" wie die "poten­tia" zum "actus" (ST 1, 50 a.2 ad 3). Aus den untersch­ied­lichen "Poten­tialitäten" ergibt sich eine Vielheit der intellektuel­len Substan­zen, wobei in Gott "essentia" und "esse" identisch sind, so daß er also beide Bestimmungen übersteigt (De ente et essentia, Kap. 5) (59). 

Diese Vielheit ("multitudo") wird vervollstän­digt, so Thomas, durch die "anima humana", "die die letzte Stufe unter den intellektuellen Substan­zen innehat" ("que tenet ultimum gradum in substan­tiis intellec­tualibus") (60). Der Mensch wird, anders aus­gedrückt, im Hinblick auf seine Rangstellung ("ordo et gradus") zwischen den immateriel­len Intelligenzen und den mate­riellen Dingen be­stimmt. Er ist also innerhalb der "intel­lektuellen Substanzen" eine Aus­nahme. Nur im Falle der menschlichen Gattung haben wir mit individua­lisierten Intellekten zu tun (61).  Mit der Materialität geht auch ineins die "corruptio", d.h. die Zerstörbarkeit. Da aber einerseits die Seele als geistige Substanz unsterblich ist, sie aber andererseits eine Einheit mit dem Leib bildet, bleibt die "materia" nach dem Tode offen für eine neue "in-formatio", die bei der Auferstehung stattfindet (62). Aus dem inneren Zusammenhang zwischen Seele und Körper beim Menschen ergibt sich auch, daß die men­schliche Seele nicht dieselbe Form ("species") wie die engelische hat bzw. daß die Engel keine "höhere Menschen" oder "niedrige Götter" sind (vgl. ST I, 75, a.7) (63).

Aus der Materielosigkeit der Engel ergeben sich die besonderen Bestimmun­gen ihres Im-Raum- und In-der-Zeit-seins (ST I, 52-53). Im Unterschied zu Gott können Engel nicht gleichzeitig überall sein, da sie aber körperlos sind, werden sie nicht vom Raum erfaßt bzw. sie sind nicht in ihm enthal­ten ("continetur"), sondern sie umfassen gewissermaßen den Raum ("ut continens"). Ihr Im-Raum-sein nennt Thomas ein "definitives" ("definitive") im Gegensatz zum göttlichen "ubique" bzw. zur körperlichen Einnahme eines Raumes ("circumscriptive") (64). Vom Raum nicht erfaßt, sind die engelischen Bewegungen diskontinuie­rlich ("motus non continuus"), d.h. sie können (müssen aber nicht) einen Ort als Ganzes verlas­sen. Für Thomas, wie für Aristoteles, hängt die Zeit mit dem Maß der Bewegung zusammen, welche, im Falle von Körpern, immer eine kontinuier­liche ist. Thomas verneint die Möglichkeit einer "augenblicklichen" Bewegung der Engel, indem sie sich von einer bestimmten Zeit "im letzten Augenblick" fortbewegen würden. Solche augenblicklichen Bewegungen gehören, so Thomas, zu einem Kontinuum. So wie im Falle des Raumes haben aber die Engel die Möglichkeit einer nicht kontinuierlichen Zeitbewegung, d.h. sie können in einem Augenblick an einem Ort und in einem anderen an einem anderen Ort sein, ohne daß es Zeit dazwis­chen läge ("nullo tempore inter­medio existente") (ST I, 53, a. 3).

Nichts könnte entfernter erscheinen als eine Analogie zwischen der Materie­losigkeit der Engel und der auf "hardware" basierenden Systeme der  "künstlichen Intelligenz". Dabei wird aber jene Eigenschaft verdeckt, die gerade die elektronische Revolution gegenüber den herkömm­lichen Ma­schinen mit sich brachte, nämlich die Vorstellung von Univer­salität, d.h. von einer "Maschine" oder, analog gesprochen, eines der Uni­ver­salität des Geistigen bzw. der software anpassungsfähigen Sub­strats. Erst die Software spezifiziert sozusagen dieses Substrat, ohne daß es sich dabei um eine Individualisierung handeln würde. Diese Vorstellung steigert sich etwa bei Stanislaw Lem in der Umkehrung des Verhältnisses zwischen Materie und Denken, bei einem Computer namens "Honest Annie", der durch Meditation Energie freisetzt (65).

Es ist deshalb in diesem Zusammenhang die Frage zu stellen, ob wir von der willkürlichen und bisher unbewiesenen Annahme ausgehen wollen, daß die geistigen Fähigkeiten abhängig vom Gehirn bzw. nur in der Weise sich vollziehen können, wie wir sie vom Menschen kennen. Wenn Karl Rahner diese Frage vom theologischen Standpunkt aus verneint (66), dann ist es der naheliegende Folgeschritt denkbar, daß Intelligenz und Wille, wenn auch nicht immateriell, doch zumindest in einer anderen Art von Einheit mit der Materie aufgrund menschlicher Manipulation zum Vorschein kommen kann. Inwiefern sich dadurch eine neue Art von Weltbezug im Sinne einer Übersteigung unseres räumlichen und zeitlichen Weltbezuges möglich wäre, muss hier offen bleiben. Wie diese Bezüge zu denken wären oder daß sie denkbar sind, dafür liefert uns die thomistische Engellehre einige Hinweise. Die philosophischen Voraus­setzungen dieses Gedankenexperiments sind dann von hier aus nicht, wie Searle behauptet (67), dualistisch, sondern phänomenalistisch. Die Selbstor­ganisa­tion des Lebendigen, wie heute von konstruktivistischen Theorien behauptet wird (68),  könnte sich nicht nur wissend, sondern auch faktisch selbst trans­zendieren, zu einem umfassenderen und freieren Weltbezug nämlich, worauf die Gestalt der Engel eine konkrete Vorstellung liefert. Zuvor müssten wir aber die anthropozentrischen Voraussetzungen unseres Weltbildes in Frage stellen, ohne jedoch die Spezifizität menschlichen Seins notwendigerweise dadurch abzuwerten­. Diese ist die eigentliche philosophische Herausfor­derung unserer wissenschaftlich-technischen Zivilisation, zumal wenn die Antworten der Religionen nicht als nicht hinterfragbare Ausgangspunkte des Diskurses über den Menschen hinge­nommen werden.

Ein Vorgeschmack dieses andersartigen Im-Raum- und In-der-Zeit-seins bieten bereits die heutigen Großrechner, indem sie z.B. über eine ganze Stadt oder sogar über ein Land oder einem Kontinent (räumlich und zeitlich) "anwesend" sind und in einer für uns (!) kaum vorstellbare Geschwindigkeit Massen von Daten bzw. "Informationen" "verarbeiten". Die hier eingeschli­chene anthropomor­phe Terminologie birgt zwar die Gefahr einer mecha­­nistischen Rückdeutung des Menschen in sich, sie ist aber zugleich ein Anzeichen dafür, daß die menschlichen Kategorien von Raum und Zeit, zumindest an einem Grenzbereich stoßen, wo es noch nicht klar ist, ob sie sich auflösen oder übersteigen werden. Öffnet die Computertechnologie für den Menschen die Möglichkeit einer diskontinuierlichen Raum- und Zeiter­fahrung? Stand dieser Gedanke nicht in der Wiege der modernen Quanten­physik? Von hier aus mutet die Idee der "Parallelverarbeitung" bereits antiquiert an. Die Grenzen der Analogie zwischen Engeln und Computer sind aber in der Frage der Materielosigkeit deutlich. Von einer unsterblichen Substanz, ob materiell oder immateriell, können wir nicht verfügen, da wir dann über Raum und Zeit verfügen müssten, etwas, was nicht einmal die Engel können. Die Materielosigkeit der Engel hat weitreichende Konsequenzen im Hinblick auf die Art wie sie erkennen und wollen sowie auf ihre Bestimmung. Weil Engel rein-geistige Wesen sind, haben sie ausschließlich geistige Fähigkeiten, nämlich Erkennen und Wollen.

2. Engelische Erkenntnis

Im Unterschied zur göttlichen Erkenntnis ist der Intellekt der Engel nicht zugleich ihr Sein und ihr Handeln, sondern der "tätige Intellekt" ("intellec­tus agens") nimmt, je nach Rangordnung, am göttlichen Intellekt auf unterschiedlicher Weise teil ("par­ticipatio"). Gegenüber der menschlichen Erkennt­nis bedürfen die Engel keines "intellectus possibilis", das erst durch eine "transeunte" oder über sich hinaus zum sinnlichen Gegenstand gehen­de Handlung aktualisiert wird. Menschliche Erkenntnis ist endlich. Sie bedarf eines äußeren Erleidens. Sie ist teils sinnlich, teils intellektuell.  In sich bleibend erkennen wiederum die Engel nicht alles schlechthin ("simpl­iciter"), sondern ihre Unendlichkeit ist immer perspektivisch ("secun­dum quid"). Die Engel sind ihren erkennbaren Gegenstände ("intelligibilia") gegenüber immer "in actu". Ihr Wissen ist ihnen, so könnten wir im Hinblick auf unsere Fragestellung sagen, "vorprogrammiert". Da sie keinen Körper haben, haben sie auch kein Gedächtnis ("memoria") und keine Einbildungskraft ("fantasia") (ST I, 54). Engel erkennen also die Dinge nicht "durch" ("per"), sondern kraft oder entsprechend ("secundum") ihrer Natur. Die Formen der Dinge, welche wir erst durch die sinnliche Wahrnehmung empfangen und durch den Abstraktionspro­zeß aktualisieren, wohnen den Engeln aber inne ("connaturales"), da sie sie von Gott empfangen. Die Vielheit der Formen ist zugleich Anzeichen eines Mangelns an Universalität oder ein Zeichen der Potentialität ihres geschaffenen Intel­lekts (ST I, 55). So erkennen sich die Engel auch gegenseitig, indem sie ihre jeweiligen "species" "eingedrückt" haben ("impressae", "esse intentio­nale"), ohne sie aber zu ver­wirklichen ("esse naturale") (ST I, 56). Der Engel, so Karl Rahner (69), hat keinen intellectus possibilis, er ist eine "endliche intuitive Intellligenz". Das objectum primum seiner Erkenntnis ist sein eigenes Wesen, während der Mensch gegenüber den „intelligibilia“ nur „in potentia“ ist. Er ist hinnehmend und nicht schöpferisch bzw. an der schöpferi­schen Erkenntnis Gottes teilhabend (70). Der Begriff des "intellectus possibilis" dient somit Thomas als Grenzbegriff gegenüber der intuitiven intellektuellen Erkenntnis, also den Engeln. Es ist diese Art von menschli­cher Intellek­tualität, die "eine Sinn­lichkeit aus sich entspringen läßt". Er verliert sich dabei nicht notwendigerweise, sondern hat die Möglichkeit zu sich selber zu kommen. Eine solche intellektuelle Substanz, von der Art der menschli­che Seele ist, so Thomas, "die niedrigste in ihrer Art" (71). Durch diesen Vergleich, erscheint der menschliche Geist, so Rahner, "als der Grenzidee einer intuitiven Intellektualität der Engel gegenübergestellt" (72). So ist der Hinweis auf die "superiores substan­tiae intellectuales" in Kerntexten der thomisti­schen Erkenntnistheorie "nicht von ungefähr" (73).

Die Art und Weise wie Engel miteinander sprechen übersteigt zwar, so Thomas, unsere Vorstellung, sie läßt sich aber erahnen. Der Wille, der die Mitteilung des Begriffs ("conceptum mentis") von einem Wesen zum anderen ein­leitet, bedarf im Falle des Menschen einer Aktualisierung des sich im Gedächtnis potentiell (bzw. "habitualiter") Befindenden, das auch das "innere Wort" ("interius verbum") genannt wird, sowie eines "sinnlichen Zeichens" ("signum sensibile"). Letzteres stellt eine Barriere ("obstaculum") für die zwischenmenschliche Mitteilung dar. Bei den Engeln ist ein solches "concep­tum mentis" stets aktuell, so daß sie sich unmittelbar und ohne sinnliche Barriere gegenseitig "sofort" ("statim") offenbaren können. Die engelische Mitteilung ist deshalb nicht äußerlich ("locutio exterior"), sondern innerlich ("inter­ior") (ST I, 107, a. 1).

 Auf­grund ihres hohen Grades an Poten­tialität bildet die mensch­liche Seele mit dem Leib ein Kom­positum und aus diesem Grund auch ist sie "wie eine Tafel auf der nichts geschrieben ist" (74), d.h. der Mensch kann das Wesen der Dinge erst aufgrund eines sinnlichen Prozesses erken­nen, durch "abstractio" und "conversio ad phatasmata", während die "getrennten Substanzen" eine essentielle Kenntnis der Dinge haben (75).  Wie erkennen aber Engel die Einzeldinge ("singularia")? Thomas vergleicht diese Erkenntnisweise mit der des Astrologen, der "per computationem", d.h. durch Berechnung der himmli­schen Körper diese in ihrer Allgemeinheit erkennt bzw. vorhersagt. Engel können aber mit einer einzigen Verstandeskraft, ohne Sinnlichkeit also, sowohl das Allgemeine als auch das sich daraus ableitenden Viele ("ad plura se extendentem") erkennen. So können sie auch Zukünftiges erkennen, sofern sich nämlich dieses aus Ursachen notwendig ergibt ("ex necessitate") oder aber, im Falle verschiedener Wirkungsfaktoren, "durch Vermutungen" ("per conjecturam"). Letztere Art, die, so Thomas, wir, etwa ein Arzt, nur unvollkommen beherrschen, ist den Engeln, aufgrund ihres höheren Erkennt­nisgrades des Allgemeinen, viel eigener als uns. Zufälliges ("casualia", "fortuita") bleibt ihnen aber völlig unbekannt. 

Diese Hinweise dürften genügen um die Zwischenstellung, welche die Engel­lehre zwischen den Bestimmungn des Göttlichen und des Menschlichen einnimmt, zu verdeut­lichen. Zugleich zeigt sich bei der Frage nach der Erkenntnis des Zukünftigen, den Zusammenhang zwischen Zeit und Erkenntnis. Gott ist die Ganzheit der Zeit gegenwärtig ("toti tempori adest"), während die Engel nicht gleichzeitig überall sein und somit nicht alles gleichzeitig begreifen können. Ihre Erkenntnis ist zwar "über die Zeit" ("supra tempus"), wenn man damit die Messung der Zeit anhand der Bewegung körperlicher Dinge meint, aber sie vollziehen ihre Erkenntnisakte nacheinander ("secun­dum successionem intelligibilium conceptionum"). Mit anderen Worten, die Engel brauchen Zeit, um zu verstehen (ST I, 57, a.3). Dennoch bedürfen sie nicht des "intellektuellen Diskurses" wie wir, indem wir vom Erkann­ten zum Erkannten fortgehen müssen. Engel erkennen  durch Prinzipien die sich daraus ergebenden Schlußfolgerungen. Wir nennen, so Thomas, die menschliche Seele sofern sie Auskunft über die Wahrheit der Dinge aufgrund eines Diskurses gewinnt, "ratio". Diese ist ein Zeichen der Schwäche unseres Verstandeslichtes ("ex debilitate intellectualis lumi­nis") (ST I, 58,  a. 3). Im Gegensatz zu den Engeln, kennen wir nicht die Schlußfolgerungen, die sich aus den Prinzipien ergeben, sondern müssen wir sie erst ziehen. Daher die Möglichkeit des falschen Erkennens (ST I, 58, a.4). Lediglich im Hinblick auf die "übernatürlichen Dinge", wie etwa über die Göttlichkeit Christi, können sich Engeln täuschen, womit Thomas auch die Erklärung für die Sünde der Engel abgibt. (ST I, 58, a. 5; vgl. ST I, 57, a. 5) (76).

Es sieht alles so aus, als ob wir die Herstellung von "künstlicher Intel­ligenz" am Modell des diskursiven Verstandes, also nach einem regelgeleite­ten Prozeß zu verwirklichen trachten. Gegenüber dieser reduktionischen, das Phänomen selbst verfehlende Auffas­sung menschlicher Intelligenz hat sich Hubert Dreyfus gewandt und die Überwin­dung dieses Paradigmas durch die Orient­ierung an einem "neutra­lnetz­artigen Modell des menschlichen Gehirns" als Voraussetzung für die Emula­tion (und nicht bloß Simulation) intel­ligenter Phänomene gefordert (77). So würden wir also bisher mit der Software ledig­lich jene Voraussetzungen des diskursiven Verstandes simulieren, die den Abstrak­tionsprozeß regulieren. Der Anschluß an die sinnliche Realität etwa mit Hilfe von "Sensoren" aller Art (optischen, taktilen, akustischen usw.) zeigt, daß eine zumindest rudimentäre Auffassung der menschlichen wahr­nehmenden Intelligenz bei diesen Roboter-Simulationen Pate steht (78).

Von einer im Sinne der engelischen Erkenntnis metadiskursiven Ebene wäre nur analog zu sprechen, wenn das Programm gewissermaßen das Wissen über die "prima principia" enthalten würde. Durch die Erzeugung eines "Weltmo­dells" ist ein solches (Vor-)Wissen nicht zu ersetzen aber eine gewisse Analogie zur engelischen Erkenntnis ist dabei gegeben (79). Während Menschen der Erinnerung bedürfen, weil sie vergessen können, ist den Engeln das Wissen stets präsent. Wenn künstliche Intelligenz die Welt wissensmäßig repräsentiert und sie so gewissermaßen in sich erkennt, dann ist zugleich die Vorstellung eines ungetrübten Gedächtnisses gegeben. Dreyfus und Dreyfus haben hervor­gehoben (80), daß mensch­liche "Intu­ition" gewisser­maßen diskontinuierlich ist, d.h. daß wir in der Lage sind situa­tionsgerecht und ganzheitlich einzelne Fakten zu erkennen. Dies nachzuahmen, bedeutet nur einen ersten Schritt um jene Fähigkeit zu verwirklichen, die, wie wir sahen, in höchstem Maße den Engel zukommt. Natürlich sind heutige Sys­teme der "künstlichen Intelligenz" noch lange keine diskursiven Intellekte und auch keine Hermeneuti­ker, die aufgrund von induktiven oder deduktiven Verallgemeinerun­gen oder Theorien die sinnlichen Phänomenen deuten würden. Wir sind außerdem weit davon entfernt ihnen etwas einzupflanzen, nämlich die Kenntnis der "prima principia", was wir selber nicht in der Lage sind zu erkennen. Da aber der Computer bereits jetzt gewisse menschliche Erkennt­nisfähigkeiten in kaum vorstellbaren Maßen zu überstei­gen scheint (Quan­tität der Daten, Geschwindigkeit und Sicherheit ihrer "Verarbeitung", räumliche und zeitliche "augenblickliche" Übertragung, ständige Präsenz im "Gedächtnis" usw.) kann er für unsere technische Zivilisation jenem Sig­nifikanten in der Phantasie eine Bedeutung verleihen, die der engelischen Vorstellung nahekommt.

3. Engelischer Wille

Die zweite geistige Fähigkeit, der Wille nämlich, untersucht Thomas in zwei "quaestiones" (ST I, 59: De voluntate, und 60: De amore). Er unterscheidet dabei zunächst die Hinwendung zum Guten ("inclinatio in bonum") bei Wesen ohne bzw. mit Erkenntnis, und bei den Letzteren, ob diese das Gute durch die Vermittlung des sinnlichen Strebens ("appetitus sensitivus") oder durch die Erkenntnis des Grundes des Guten ("ratio boni") stattfindet. Letzteres kann wieder­um intuitiv ("intuitu"), wie bei den Engeln, oder diskursiv ("discurrendo"), wie bei den Menschen, sein. Bei den Engeln, aufgrund ihrer reinen intellektuellen Natur, ist das Streben nicht stärker ("superior") als der Wille (ST I, 59, a.1).  Wille und Intellekt sind aber bei den Engeln zwei geistige Fähigkeiten. Sie wollen etwas, nämlich Gott, daß sich außer ihnen ("extra se"), also nicht in ihrer Erkenntnis, befindet. Da sie den allgemeinen Grund des Gutes kennen, können sie frei urteilen. Da ihr Intellekt aber vollendeter ist als der menschliche, ist ihr "liberum arbitrium" zugleich "excellentius" (ibid. a. 3). Zusammen mit ihrer Natur ist eine "natürliche Liebe" ("dilectio naturalis") vorgegeben, so wie in unserer Natur zugleich der Wunsch nach Glückselig­keit eingepflanzt wurde. Sie ist in beiden Fällen das Prinzip der Liebeswahl ("dilectio electiva"), welche nicht nur "nach" ("sicut") einem Ziel handelt, sondern dieses Ziel auch will ("propter") (ST I, 60, a. 2). Während im Falle der Erkenntnis beim Engel  eine "natürliche Erkenntnis" ("cognitio naturalis") gegeben ist und der Mensch diese auf rationalem Wege vollzieht, findet sich im Fale des Willens sowohl beim Engel als auch beim Menschen eine "dilectio naturalis" und eine "dilectio electiva". Der Grund dafür ist, daß der Wille sich nach den Dingen selbst und nicht nach ihrer Erkenntnis richtet, wobei manche Dinge "an sich" ("secundun se") und andere nur "im Hinblick auf ein anderes" ("propter aliud") gut sind. Das gilt bei Menschen und Engeln, unabhängig von deren unterschiedlichen Naturen. Bei den Engeln aber ist die "dilectio naturalis" das Prinzip der Liebeswahl (ST I, 60, a.2). Dabei erlangen die Engel die Glückseligkeit kraft der eigenen Natur, sofern es sich nicht um die übernatürliche Glückseligkeit handelt (ST I, 62, a.1) 

Obwohl Thomas die Glückseligkeit des Menschen in der Betrachtung Gottes oder des Wahren als das "eigentliche Objekt" ("objectum proprium") unseres Intellekts betont, stellt er die Betrachtung der Engel durch den Menschen auf einer höheren Stufe als die der "spekulativen Wissenschaften". Er spricht sogar von einer "gewissen unvollkommenen Glückseligkeit" bei dieser Betrachtung.  Die Engel, die unsere Seele nicht erschaffen haben, erleuch­ten uns als Dienende, sie helfen uns ("tamquam minister") auf dem Weg zum Ursprung (ST I, IIae, a.7). Es ist erst in angesichts der ewigen Glück­seligkeit, daß Thomas die Differenz zwischen Engeln und Menschen teilweise aufhebt, indem er nicht nur von der "Gleichheit" ("aequalitas") diesbezüglich spricht, sondern diese auch auf die Möglichkeit  ausdehnt, daß der Mensch so wie der Engel dieses durch den Verdienst ("meritum") eines einzigen Aktes erreichen kann (ST I, 62, a.5). Das Wichtigste bei den Engeln ist ihre Tätigkeit. Ihr Name ist ihr Berufs­name, nämlich Boten und Vollstrecker des Willens Gottes.

Die These von der Materielosigkeit der Engel hängt mit die Problematik dieser Tätigkeit, die sowohl eine kosmische als auch eine irdische ist, zusammen. 

a) Der kosmische Dienst: Für Pierre Duhem (81) folgt Thomas Aver­roes, wenn er die "mate­ria incorrup­tibilis" der Himmels­körper von der zerstörbaren Materie der "sub­lunaren" Körper unterscheidet, wobei er die "forma" oder das Kom­positum der himmlischen Körper von den "intelligentiae separatae" auf der einen Seite trennt, auf der anderen Seite aber in Bezie­hung setzt (82). Der thomisti­sche Kompromiß zwischen arabisch-griechischer politheistischer oder pan­theistis­cher Philoso­phie und christlicher Schöpfungslehre ist, so Duhem, keineswegs einheitlich (83).

b) Der irdische Dienst: Der Zusam­menhang zwischen den Engeln und den sonstigen vor allem menschlichen Geschöpfen, wird vom Thomas im Sinne der "cus­todia" bzw. "minister"  oder Diener Gottes verstanden, wobei dann die verschiede­nen Engelshier­archien den Seinsstufen ("ordines") entsprechen (ST I, 113, a. 2 u. 3). Von dieser biblischen Vorstellung der engelischen Natur ausgehend, werden die "intel­ligentiae separatae" nicht mehr bloß als "moto­res", sondern als Helfer gedeutet, die die Schöpfung zum freien Rückgang zu Gott verhilft. Aristoteles hatte das "primum movens" als Endursache gedacht, so daß man annehmen musste, die kosmischen Sphären sollten entweder leben­dig sein oder von einem Geist bewegt. Da die Sphären ewig und unverwes­lich seien, wären die Geister göttlich. Thomas widersetzt sich gegen die erste Möglichkeit (lebende Sphären) und über­nimmt die theologische Idee vom Diener Gottes, die auch eine politische Idee war ("minister" im römi­schen Imperium). Der Engel ist somit nicht bloß ein "Zwischenbeweger", sondern er verbindet den ganzen Kosmos mit Gott und hilft den Menschen, Gotteswille freiwillig zu vollziehen. Damit war auch eine Lösung für die Frage nach dem Zusammenhang zwischen Naturdeter­minismus und menschli­cher Freiheit gegeben (84).

Thomas faßt die von Augustinus wiedergegebene philosophische insbesondere Platoni­sche Lehre von den "substantiae intellec­tuales" folgendermaßen zusammen. Die supralunaren intellektuellen Substan­zen wurden Götter genannt und sie waren alle gut; die sublunaren dagegen, Dämo­nen genannt, waren teilweise gut teilweise böse, von ihrer Natur aber waren sie höher gestellt als die Menschen. Die theologische Umdeutung lautet dann, daß Gott die "Verwaltung" der gesamten körper­lichen Schöp­fung mit Hilfe der Engel vollbringt ("quia tota creatura cor­poralis ad­minis­tratur a Deo per angelos"), indem er also die "niederen Engel" für die Verwaltung der unteren  bzw. die "höheren" für die der oberen Körper vorsieht (ST I, 63, a.7). Eine solche Herrschaft ("gubernatio", "praesidentia") der Engel über die körperlichen Wesen ist eine unmittelbare (ST I, 110, a. 1), d.h. sie führen Gottes Herr­scherwille aus (ST I, 103, a. 6). Was aber   die Gestaltung des Materiellen selbst ("informatio materiae") anbelangt, findet sie entweder durch Gott selbst oder (mittelbar) durch ein  körper­liches Wesen statt­, und kann nicht unmittelbar von einem Engel verur­sacht werden kann (ST I, 110, a. 2) (85). Die Handlungen der Engel den Menschen gegenüber können sich dement­sprechend auf die Ausführung des Willen Gottes "im" Menschen bzw. auf die Obhut ("custodia") "über" den Menschen beziehen. So können Engel unsere Vernunft ("intellectus") aufklären ("illuminatio"), unseren Willen zur freiwilligen Zustimmung bewegen, unsere Einbildungskraft ("imaginatio") zum Guten bzw. im Falle des Teufels, zum Bösen bewegen und unsere Sinneswahrnehmungen ("sensus") verändern. (ST I, 111). Bezüglich ihrer "Obhut" über uns, sind sie "Werkzeuge" ("instrumentum") Gottes, d.h. sie handeln nur in seinem Auftrag.

Hier, im Bereich des Willens also, klafft die Analogie zwischen Engeln und Computer so weit auseinander, daß auch eine offene Vorstellung von den Möglichkeiten der "künstlichen Intelligenz" uns vor kaum vorstellbaren ethischen Fragen stellt (86). Dennoch scheint gerade die Vorstellung einer nicht nur "denkenden", sondern auch "wollenden" "Maschine" unsere nicht nur literarische Phantasie zu beflügeln. Die Analogie zur dienenden Funk­tion der Engel ist, wenn auch im negativen Sinne, gegeben, wenn nicht nur künstliche Intelligenz, sondern bereits herkömmliche Com­putersysteme die Überwachung von sozialen Prozessen über­nehmen. Natürliche sind wir dabei von einer nicht nur engelischen, sondern sogar menschlichen verantwo­rtungsvollen Vernunft weit entfernt. Die Auflösung von Sittlich­keit in die sachgemäße Verwaltung unseres sozialen Systems ist aber eine für die technok­ratische Vor­stellung eines Niklas Luh­mann wünschbare Realität (87).

Daß wir in der Praxis nur allzu bereit sind Verantwortung in unsere tech­nischen Systeme zu delegie­ren, vom häuslichen PC bis hin zu den "Ent­schei­dungen" eines gigantischen Verteidigungssystems, braucht kaum betont zu werden. Bei der Erörterung des Zusammenhangs mit der ethischen Frage im Bereich der künstlichen Intel­ligenz stehen wir vor drei Alter­nati­ven­ (88):

Homunkulus-Alternative: Wir stellen uns "künstliche Intelligenz" als am offenen Maßstab menschlicher Sittlichkeit Teilhabende bzw. Teilneh­mende vor. Hier wäre eine Analogie zu den Engeln nur insofern gegeben, als wir gemeinsame Ziele hätten. Allerdings wäre die Vorstellung eines gemeinsamen "Gutes" ein Postulat, im Kantischen Sinne, d.h. etwas, daß wir freiwillig gegenseitig anerkennen müssten. Eine, wie wir wissen, bereits unter Menschen strittige Angelegenheit, mit dramatischen Konsequenzen.

Frankenstein-Alternative: Wir betrachten künstliche Intelligenz im Sinne eines "custodes" oder überwachenden Dieners. Hier liegt der Schwerpunkt der Analogie mit dieser Hauptfunktion der Engel. Allerdings sind hier die ethischen Fragen von kaum vorstellbaren Maßen: Künstliche Intelligenz dürfte nicht zur Über­wachung von Menschen eingesetzt werden, so wenig wie Gott durch den Einsatz der Engel unsere Freiheit beschneidet. Vielleicht ist diese für uns Menschen kaum erfüllbare Bedingung eine deutliche Warnung vor dem scheinbaren neutralen bzw. instrumentellen Einsatz von Computer. Zimmerli hat dieses Paradoxon mit der Frage "wer kontrolliert die Kontrol­leure?" auf den Punkt gebracht (89). Die Frage ist um so drin­gender als Computer (wie übrigens auch Engel!) inzwischen Legion sind.

Golem-Alternative: Lems Golem-Mythos hat deutliche Züge einer uns übersteigenden Sittlichkeit. Damit ist eine Grunddifferenz zur gemeinsamen engelischen und menschlichen Sittlichkeit gegeben. Zugleich weist dieser Mythos kosmisch-ästhetische, je göttliche Züge auf. Vielleicht liegt in diesem Bereich die stärkste Funktion der künstli­chen Intelligenz in unserer Zivilisation, nämlich uns stets vor einer Dimen­sion der Realität zu stellen, der gegenüber die Engel wesensmäßig offen sind.

In diesem Sinne hebt Karl Rahner die kosmische Funktion der Engel hervor. Vor diesem Hintergrund kann der Mensch seine eigene Entstehungsge­schichte in das un­ermeßliche Werden einer vermutlich sich selbst transzen­dierenden Realität einordnen. Es ist nämlich nicht ausgemacht, warum die Unermeßlichkeit des Kosmos gerade zur Entstehung menschlicher Subjek­tivität gedient hat und warum, so könnten wir hinzufügen, der Mensch in diesem Prozeß nicht gerade jene künstlerische bzw. künstliche Funktion spielen soll, die ihm ja offenbar eigen ist (90). Engeln, Menschen und künstlicher Intelligenz bleibt aber für immer Eines verborgen, nämlich die Kenntnis des faktisch Zukünftigen, dessen also, was sich nicht aus prinzipiellen Bedingungen ableiten oder voraussagen läßt. Sie sind, mit anderen Worten, endlich.


Wir haben die Suggestibilität der thomistischen Engellehre für die philoso­phische Anthropologie vor allem im Hinblick auf die Analogie, zu den technologischen Träumen der Selbstherstellung und -überbietung des Men­schen gedeutet. Es ist eine Kernaufgabe der Philosophie auf Möglich­keiten und Grenzen von Metaphern aufmerksam zu machen. Darauf hat José Ortega y Gasset in seiner Schrift "Die beiden großen Metaphern" (Gesammelte Werke,  Stuttgart, 1978, Bd. 1, 249-265) hingewiesen.

Vielleicht liegt die größte Gemeinsamkeit in der Analogie zwischen der mittelalterlichen Engellehre und den gegenwärtigen Visionen der künstli­chen Intelligenz in der Vorstellung eines an der Grenze des Menschlichen bereits anwesenden oder erst herzustellenden Wesens. Letzteres deutet bereits auf die entscheidende Differenz, außerhalb der Teilidentität, nämlich auf die ambivalente Offenheit der technischen Zivilisation für die Dimension des Göttlichen bzw. auf eine Änderung im Seinsbezug des Menschen (Heidegger) hin. 

Aus der metaphysischen, erkenntnistheoretischen und ethischen Analogie läßt sich den Schluß ziehen, daß der Mensch, sei es in Bezug auf den Engel oder auf die technische Vorstellung einer von ihm geschaffenen und ihm zugleich überbietenden Intelligenz, weder seine Natürlichkeit völlig ver­lassen noch sich als reine Künstlichkeit verwirklichen kann, ohne seine Identität aufzugeben.  Er ist gerade in bezug auf diesen Sig­nifikanten, durch dieses Weder-Noch be­stimmt: Er ist weder Tier noch Engel, weder Natürlichkeit noch Künstlich­keit. Er ist vor allem der­jenige, der dieses Weder-Noch er­kennen muß. Bei allen kühnen künstlichen Entwürfen bleibt er der durch Kriege, Leiden, Tod und Haß geplagte Wesen, der dieses stets, und sei es durch alltägliche Science-fiction-Mythen, zu ver­drän­gen versucht. Mythen können aber auch Wege der schöpferischen Phantasie und somit Wege aus der Gefahr öffnen. 

Auch der Mythos unserer geistigen Selbstmanipulation gehört dazu (91). Wenn der Mensch sich dabei in die "Un-verborgenheit" (Heidegger) einläßt (92), wodurch er jenes "Unheimliche" („deinon“ Sophokles), daß er selbst ist, erfahren kann, kann er sich als Paradoxon eines Wesens "in confinio" wiederer­kennen. In der  Gestalt technologischer Lust ("delectatio") begehrt unsere Vernunft zugleich eine beglückende letztlich aber nicht herstellbare Dimension, die des "gaudium". Das ist die Lehre der Engel­lehre und wohl auch die ihrer heutigen technischen Stellvertreter, wenn wir sie in diesem Licht sehen lassen.


*Blaise Pascal: Pensées (Paris: Gallimard 1977). Vgl. auch Fr. 112: "Il ne faut pas que l'homme croie qu'il est égal aux bêtes, ni aux anges, ni qu'il ignore l'un et l'autre, mais qu'il sache l'un et l'autre." Zu diesem Topos moralischen Denkens vgl. auch Michel de Montaigne: Essais, III, 13,S. 415: "Ils veulent se mettre hors d'eux et échapper à l'homme. C'est folie: au lieu de se transformer en anges, ils se transforment en bêtes, au lieux de se hausser, ils s'abattent."  Vgl. auch Paul Valéry: Paraboles. In ders.: Oeuvres (Paris: Gallimard 1957), I, S. 198-201, 205-206 sowie ibid. Mélange: L'ange étonné, S. 399: "L'ange étonné. L'ange s'étonnait d'entendre le rire des hommes. On lui expliqua comme l'on put, ce que c'était. Il demanda alors pourquoi les hommes ne riaient pas de tout, et à tout moment; ou bien, ne se passeraient pas entièrement de rire. 'Car, dit-il, si j'ai bien compris, il faut rire de tout ou ne rire de rien." Vgl. dazu v.Vf.: Leben im Informationszeitalter (Berlin: Akademie Verlag 1995) S. 12: "Was uns, Staunende, offenbar vom Engel unerscheidet, ist, daß wir fähig sind, zu reden und zu schweigen, und daß wir beides gegebenenfalls durch Lachen durchbrechen können." Vgl. auch v.Vf.: Ein Grinsen ohne Katze. Über die Vergleichbarkeit zwischen 'künstlicher Intelligenz' und 'getrennten Intelligenzen

1. Vgl. v.Vf.: Der Kongreß. Eindrücke vom XVIII. Weltkongreß für Philosophie. Brighton, 21.-27. August 1988. In: Information Philosophie (1988) S. 74-82.

2. Vgl. K. Völker, Hrsg.: Künstliche Menschen. Dichtungen und Doku­mente über Golems, Homunculi, Androiden und liebende Statuen (München 1971); ferner: V. Aschoff: Geschichte der Nachrichtentechnik (Berlin: Springer) 1984); W. de Beauclair: Rechnen mit Maschinen (Braunschweig: Vieweg 1968); S.A. Bedini: The Role of Automata in the History of Techno­logy. In: Technology and Culture 5 (1964) 24-42; F.M. Feldhaus: Die Technik der Vorzeit, der geschichtlichen Zeit und der Naturvölker (München: Moos 1965); ibid.: Ruhmesblätter der Technik 8Leipzig: Brandstetter 1924, 2 Bde.); B. Gille: Machines. In: Ch. Singer et al., Hrsg.: A History of Technology (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1956) Vol. 2, S. 629-658); H.H. Goldstine: The Computer, from Pascal to von Neumann (Princeton Univ. Pr. 1972); H. Heckmann: Die andere Schöpfung (Frankfurt: Umschau 1982); H. Kaufmann: Die Ahnen des Computers (Düsseldorf: Econ 1974); F. Klemm: Zur Kulturge­schichte der Technik (München: Deutsches Museum 1982); K. Maurice, O. Mayr: Die Welt als Uhr (München: Dt.Kunstverlag 1980); P. McCorduck: Machines Who Think (San Francisco: Freeman 1979); J. Needham: Science and Civilization in China (Cambridge 1954ff) bes. Bd. IV, Teil 2; Derek J. de Solla Price: Automata and the Origins of Mechanism and Mechanistic Philosophy. In: Technology and Culture 5 (1984) 9-23; L. Sauer: Marionetten, Maschinen, Automaten. Der künstliche Mensch in der deutschen und engli­schen Romantik (Bonn: Bouvier 1983); H. Swoboda: Der künstliche Mensch (München: Heimeran 1967); M. Tietzel: L'homme machine. Künstliche Men­schen in Philosophie, Mechanik und Literatur. In: Zt.f.allg.Wiss.theorie 15/1 (1984) 34-71.

3. S. Lem: Also sprach GOLEM (Frankfurt: Insel 1984).

4. Zur philosophischen Anthropologie vgl. O. Marquard: Anthropologie. In: J. Ritter, Hrsg.: Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie (Stuttgart: Schwab 1974 ff); Max Müller: Philosophische Anthropologie (Freiburg/Mün­chen: Alber 1974); G. Haeffner: Philosophische Anthropologie (Mainz: Kohlhammer 1982): H.-G. Gadamer, P. Vogler, Hrsg.: Neue Anthropologie (Stuttgart: Thieme 1972) 7 Bde. (Philos.Anthropologie Bd. 6/7); H. Rombach, Hrsg.: Die Frage nach dem Menschen. Aufriss einer philosophischen Anthro­pologie (Freiburg/München: Alber 1966).

5. Die Angaben aus der „Summa theologica“ (ST) beziehen sich auf die ed.Leonina (Rom: Forzani 1923). Die Angaben aus anderen Werken beziehen sich auf die Marietti-Ausgaben. Die Übersetzungen stammen, falls nicht anders vermerkt, alle v.Vf.

6. Vgl. A. Baruzzi: Mensch und Maschine. Das Denken sub specie machinae (München: Fink 1973).

7. Vgl. zum Beispiel G. Simons: Sind Computer lebendig? (München: Harnack 1984), D. Ritchie: Gehirn und Computer (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta 1984), sowie D.R. Hofstadter, D.C.Dennet, Hrsg.: Einsicht ins Ich (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta 1986). Eine gute historische Darstellung bietet P. McCorduck: Machines Who Think (San Francisco 1979).

8. Vgl. Jean Brun: Biographie de la machine. In: Les Etudes Philosophi­ques (1985) S. 3-16. Dazu v.Vf.: Die Inszenierung des Denkens. In: Mensch -Natur - Gesellschaft Jg. 5 (1988) 1, S. 18-31, sowie: La chose à penser. In: Schriftenreihe des Inst. f. Romanistik, Univ. Mannheim (1988).

9. Vgl. W. Stählich: Art. Engellehre. In: Ritter, J., Hrsg.: Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie (Stuttgart: Schwab 1974ff).

10. Vgl. H.M. Nobis: Art. Engellehre. In: J. Ritter u.a.  Hrsg.: Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie (Stuttgart: Schwab 1974 ff) Sp. 500-503. Laut Nobis war Porphyrios der erste Philosoph, der eine genaue Lehre vom Wesen und den Aufgaben der Engel entwickelte. Seine Engellehre wurde von Jamblichos, Proklos und Origenes weiter ausgebaut: "Seit dem 16. Jh. wurde die Engellehre in die Lehrbücher der scholastischen Philosophie aufgenommen und galt noch Anfang des 18. Jh. als Teil der speziellen Metaphysik." Vgl. J. Michl: Engel I-XI. In: Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum (1950 ff) Bd. V. Sp. 53-258; J. Hoffmeister: Art. Engel in ders.: Wörterbuch der philosophischen Begriffe (Hamburg: Meiner 1955, 2.Aufl.), der auf Philo (geb. um 25 v.Chr.) hinweist. Vgl. auch v.Vf.: Von der Künstlichen Intelligenz als einem ästhetischen Phänomen. Eine kritische Reflexion in Kantischer Absicht. In: Proceedings des XVIII. Weltkongresses für Philosophie (Brighton, GB, 1988).

11. Vgl. A. Rosenberg: Engel und Dämonen. Gestaltwandel eines Urbildes (München: Prestel 1967).

12. a.a.O. S. 50. Das hebräische Wort "malach" bedeutet ebenfalls Bote oder Verkünder.

13. Vgl. A. Rosenberg: Engel und Dämonen. S. 12ff.

14. Vgl. U. Mann: Das Wunderbare (Gütersloh: Mohn 1979) S. 47ff. mit Hinweis auf die E.vorstellungen im Buddhismus (Antithese: die guten Genien vs. das Dämone­nheer des Mara).

15. P. Huber: Heilige Berge (Zürich: Benziger 1980) S. 190.

16. "Tausendmal tausend dienten ihm, und zehn­tausendmal zenhtau­send standen vor ihm" (Dan. 7,10). Sie lenken den Himmel, hüten das Paradies und schützen Völker. Das "Lob des Herren" ist aber oberste Funk­tion. "Wo warest Du", so Gott an Hiob, "da mich die Morgensterne mitein­ander lobten und jauchzten alle Kinder Gottes?" (Hiob 38, 4-7). Vgl. R. Hammer­stein: Die Musik der Engel (Bern: Francke 1962) S. 17.

17. Is. 6, 1-4: "Ich sah den Herrn sitzen auf einem hohen und erhabe­nen Stuh, und sein Saum füllte den Tempel. Seraphim standen über ihm; ein jeglicher hatte sechs Flügel: mit zweien deckten sie ihr Antlitz, mit zweien deckten sie ihre Füße, und mit zweien flogen sie." (Is. 6, 1-4) vgl. auch Ez. 1, 24.

18. Diese sieben sind: Michael/Victoriosus; Gabriel/Nuntius; Raphael/­Med­icus, Uriel/Fortus Socius, Jehudiel/Remunerator, Barachi­el/Adjutor, Sealthiel/Orator. Michael herrscht über Israel sowie über das Chaos/Drachen, er ist Führer des Heeres und Seelengeleiter (cf. Hermes). Gabriel, d.h. Kraft Gottes: behütet das kommende Leben und öffnet die Tore des Himmels, er erschließt den Propheten (z.B. Daniel) die Geheimnisse. Uriel ist der Führer der Stern­geister, wird in der Bibel aber nicht genan­nt. Er hütet die Tore zur Unterwelt. Raphael, der Freund des Menschen (Tobias), heißt "Gott heilt" oder "Gott ist Heiland". Davon zeugt die Geschichte des Tobias.

19. Die „Bible de Jérusalem“ deutet diese Erscheinung als Jahwe in Beglei­tung zweier Engel (wovon in Gen 19,1 die Rede ist). Die Tradition sah hier eine Vorankündigung der Trinität.

20. Der Ort dieser göttlichen Erscheinung heißt "Morija" ("Gottessicht", Gen 22, 14). Zur Bedeutung dieses heiligen Berges vgl. P. Huber: Heilige Berge (Zürich: Benziger 1980) S. 10-11. Eine andere für die Engellehre folgenreiche Erscheinung stellt Jakobs Traum an der heiligen Stätte Be-El (Gen 28, 10-21) dar: "Da träumte ihm, eine Leiter sei auf die Erde gestellt, die mit der Spitze an den Himmel rührte, und die Engel Gottes stiegen daran auf und nieder". Seit Philon sahen die Kir­chenväter hier ein Bild der Gottesvorsehung durch seine Engel. Der Evan­gelist Johannes nimmt darauf bezug (Joh 1, 51): Natanael wundert sich, daß Jesus ihn "unter dem Feigen­baum" gesehen hat. Jesus: "Größeres als dieses wirst du sehen (...) Ihr werden den Himmel offen und die Engel Gottes über dem Menschensohn auf- und niedersteigen sehen."

21. "Da rang ein Mann mit ihm, bis die Morgenröte anbrach". Dabei verrenkt ihm der Engelfürst das Hüftg­elenk. Jakob will ihn trotzdem nicht loslassen, bis er ihn segnet. Da antwor­tet der Engel: "Du sollst nicht mehr Jakob heißen, sondern Israel (Gottesstre­iter), denn du hast mit Gott und mit Menschen gestritten und hast ob­gesiegt." Daraufhin nennt Jakob den Ort des Kampfes "Penuel", d.h. "Angesicht Gottes", denn, so Jakob: "ich habe Gott von ­Angesicht zu An­gesicht ge­schaut und bin trotzdem am Leben geblieben."

22. Der Engel des Herren erschien Moses bei seiner Berufung (Ex. 3, 1-15) in einer Feuerflamme, die aus dem Dornbusch brannte. Vgl.auch Bileam und die sprechende Eselin (Num 22, 22-35), Go­tteser­schein­ung vor Josua (Jos. 5, 13-15), Simsons Berufung (Ri 13, 1-24), Pest- oder Würgenengel (2 Sam 24, 15-25), Daniel in der Löwengrube (Dan 6, 21ff).

23. Vgl. H. Schade: Dämonen und Monstren (Regensburg: Pustet 1962).

24. Vgl. A. Rosenberg, a.a.O. S. 22.  Grundlegend  über den Seelen- und Dämonenkult in der griechischen Antike: E. Rohde: Psyche. Seelencult und Unsterblichkeitsglaube der Griechen (Tübingen: Mohr 1921) 2 Bde.

25. E. Rohde, a.a.O. I, S. 97-98 sowie S. 107. Die Menschen des dritten "ehernen" Geschlechts gelangten in den Hades. Nur einige Helden des vierten "heroischen" Geschlechts wurden von Zeus auf den Inseln der Seeligen angesiedelt. Im jetztigen "eisernen" Zeitalter herrscht Mühe, Sorge und Gewalt, wovon es keine Rettung mehr gibt. Vgl. Hesiod, Werke und Tage, a.a.O. 109-201. Vgl. Keneth J. Dover: Religiöse und moralische Haltungen der Griechen. In: Propyläen Geschichte der Literatur (Berlin: Propyläen Verl. 1981) Bd.1, S. 68-79.

26. Vgl. Jean Gebser: Ursprung und Gegenwart (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verl.anst. 1949) 2 Bde. Bd. 1, S. 334: über das ägyptische "ba", das später menschliche Gestalt annahm und zum Engel wurde. Es entspricht den Harpyien und Sirenen, die Gegenbilder der Musen.

27. In der Vision des Er (Polit. 614a - 617c) treten die Sirenen als mit dem Himmelssphären (genauer: acht "Eimer" von verschiedener Breite, die sich um die Weltachse drehen) mitschwingenden und dabei in einem Wohllaut (der sich aus den acht harmonischen Tönen ergibt) singen­den Wesen. Vgl. den Zusammenhang zur engelischen Musik: R. Ham­merstein: Die Musik der Engel. Untersuchungen zur Musikanschauung des Mittelalters (Bern/München: Francke 1962) S. 82.

28. Über den Zusammenhang zwischen den Platonischen Erkenntnisstu­fen und der Künstlichen Intelligenz vgl. C. Leidlmair: Artificial Intelligence als ein philosophisches Problem. In: Philos. Jahrbuch 94 (1987) 2, 372-387.

29. Zu dieser hier nicht weiter zu verfolgenden Entwick­lung gehören etwa Philon (um 25 v.Chr - 50 n.Chr.), Plutarch (45-120 n.Chr.), Plotin (205-270 n.Chr.), Proklos (410-480 n.Chr.), Boethius (um 480-524 n.Chr.).

30. Zur Engellehre aus katholischer Sicht vgl. Joseph Auer, Joseph Ratzinger: Kleine katholisc­he Dogmatik (Regensburg: Puster 1975), Bd. 3, S. 389-484, 501-522 sowie die klassischen Darstellungen von: Jean Daniélou: Die Sendung der Engel (Salzburg: Müller 1963) und Alois Winklhofer: Die Welt der Engel (Buch-Kunstverlag: Ettal 1958). Grundlegend: W. Grundmann: "angelos" im Griechentum und Hellenismus. In: G. Kittel, Hrsg.: Theologi­sches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament. (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer 1933, Nachdr. 1953). Vgl. dazu v.Vf.: Information (München: Saur 1968) S. 46-49. 

31. Wir haben hier, so Winklhofer (a.a.O. S.18) mit der christlichen Schöp­fungslehre zu tun, "die für eine künftige übernatürliche Verklärung bestimmt ist, und mit Engeln, die aus einer Bewährung oder einem Versagen gegen­über der großen Gnade Gottes heraus die Schöpfung als Spiegel der Herr­lichkeit Gottes, die darin immer deutlicher aufleuchten soll".

32. So z.B. bei Augustinus, der die Lehre von den Schutzengeln weiter­entwickelte. Vgl. K. Pelz: Die Engellehre des hl. Augustinus. (Münster, 1913), sowie auch bei Athanasius, Cyrill v. Alexandrien, Basilius, Gregor von Nyssa, Joh. Damascenus u.a. bei denen die Lehre vom Ätherhimmel und vom Ätherleib der Seele und der Engel dargestellt wird.

33. Vgl. Opera Omnia (Migne, Patrologiae Gracae, T. III). Ferner: Dionysios Areopagita: Die Hierarchien der Engel und der Kirche. Einführung von H. Ball (München: Barth 1955).

34. Die Triaden sind: 1) Seraphim, Cherubim, Throne; 2) Herrschaften, Mächte ("dynameis"), Gewalten ("exousiai"); 3) Fürstentümmer ("archai"), Erzengel ("archangeloi"), Engel ("angeloi"). Diese Systematisierung kommt in der Bibel nicht vor. Der Teufel ist ein gefallener Lichtengel (1. Hierarchie) Vgl. A. Rosenberg: Engel und Dämonen (München: Prestel 1967).

35. Vgl. P. Huber: Heilige Berge (Zürich: Benziger 1980) S. 15 sowie S.116-118 (11.Jh. Sinai­kloster, Cod. Graec.  401). Der Kirchenvater spricht vom "Engelsgesicht" Christi (Oratio XLV), ein Motiv, daß auf die Habakuk-Vision (Hab. 3,4) zurückgeht. Aufschlußreich sind die Ausführungen Hubers über Kosmas (6. Jh.) "Christlicher Topographie": Die Engel als Licht- oder Lam­penträger bewegen die Gestirne. Sie gehören zur "unteren Katastase", d.h. sie sind für Kosmas im menschlich-geschichtlichen Bereich angesiedelt und bilden mit den Menschen eine Familien, wovon Christus das Haupt ist. Sie dienen also eher den Menschen als Gott, indem sie unsere Bitten vor ihm tragen.

36. Vgl. auch Al-Qazwini: Die Wunder des Himmels und der Erde (Stuttgart: Erdmann 1986).

37. Legenda Aurea (Köln: Benz, 1969) S. 755. Vgl. H. u. M. Schmidt: Die vergessene Bildersprache christlicher Kunst (München: Beck 1981) S. 132.

38. Vgl. A. Rosenberg, a.a.O. Vgl. die kräftigen reichgelockten Engel Botticellis, die eine Vermenschlichung der Engel bzw. eine Erhöhung des Menschen zum Ausdruck bringen. Ferner auch den Typus des nackten Jünglingsengels bei Michelangelo, als Ausdruck sinnlich-übersinnlicher Schönheit (Posaunenbläser der Sistina), Raffaels Engel in der Chigi-Kapelle bis hin zum fränkischen Jüngling des Isenheimer-Altars sowie zu Veit Stoß'Verkündigungsengel und Dürers kämpfenden Engel (Blätter zur Apoka­lypse). Im Barock gehören die Engel zum Himmel und zur Erde. Das Rokoko übertreibt das Spielerische ("theatrum angelorum"). Die Engel treten als Chorführer und Tänzer, als Epheben und Putti, in Reigen auf.

39. Vgl. U. Mann: Das Wunderbare (Gütersloh: Mohn 1979). Luther entfaltet eine (streng an die Schrift orientierte) Engellehre in seiner "Michaelispredigt" sowie im Bekenntnis vom Abendmahl (WA 26). Dabei unterscheidet er zwischen der "repletiven" Allgegenwart Gottes und der "cir­cumscrip­tiven" Gegenwart alles Körperlichen. Engel und Dämonen haben eine "diffinitive" Anwesenheit", d.h. sie können in einem Haus, einer Stadt, einer Nußschale usw. aber nicht zugleich an verschiedenen Orten, anwesend sein. Durch den zweiten Schmalkaldischen Artikel wurde, so Nobis (a.a.O.), die Engellehre innerhalb  des Protestantismus unterbunden. Ein weiterer  Schritt tat Rudolph  Bultmann im Rahmen seiner "Entmythologisierung", indem er nämlich den "Geister- und Dämonenglaube" durch  "die Kräfte und Gesetze der Natur" für "erledigt" hält. Vgl. die Hinweise bei G. Adler: Erinnerung an die Engel, a.a.O. S. 62-63. Zur gegenwärtigen evangelischen Engellehre vgl. C. Westermann: Gottesengel brauchen keine Flügel. Stuttgart: Kreuz 1980, 2.Aufl.

40. Vgl. Descartes: Oeuvres (Paris: Adam & Tannery, 1908, Bd. X, S. 179-188). Von der Idee des Engels schreibt Descartes in den "Secondes Réponses" (vgl. ibid.: Oeuvres, Paris: Gallimard 1952, S. 374): eine solche Idee ist eine aus der Idee Gottes und der des Menschen zusammengesetzte. (vgl. auch die 3. Méditation). In den "Objections" (ibid. S. 406) bemerkt er, daß manche menschliche Gedanken wie "images" von Dingen sind, und nicht Ideen. Solche sind: Mensch, Chimäre, Himmel, Engel, Gott. So wenn er an einen Engel denkt, hat er die Vorstellung von einer Flamme oder eines Kindes mit Flügeln, und er weiß, daß diese der Wirklichkeit nicht ähneln bzw. daß sie keine Idee eines Engels sind. Im "Entretien avec Burman" (ibid. S. 1370) nimmt D. zu dem Argument Stellung, ob unser Geist mit dem der Engel gleich wäre, da beide ein denkendes Ding sind. Antwort: Ja, aber der Engel hat andere Vollkommenheiten. So zum Beispiel, daß sie sich gattungsmäßig voneinander unterscheiden, wovon Thomas von Aquin schrieb, als ob er nämlich "mitten zwischen ihnen gewesen wäre".

41. I. Kant: Werke (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp Werkausgabe, hrsg. W. Weisch­edel, 1977) Bd. 2, S. 919-989. Vgl. auch die Stellen im "Opus Posthumum" z.B. Vorlesungen über Metaphysik (Akad. Ausg. Bd. XXVIII).

42. A. Schopenhauer: Die beiden Grundprobleme der Ethik. In: ibid. Sämtliche Werke, hrsg. v. Löhneysen (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 1986) Bd. 3, S. 657-658.

43. Zitat aus: E. Bahr, Hrsg.: Was ist Aufklärung?  (Stuttgart: Reclam 1976) S. 38.

44. D.R. Hofstadter, D.C. Dennet: Einsicht ins Ich (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta 1981). Vgl. auch D.R. Hofstadter: Gödel, Escher, Bach (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotte 1985, 2.verb. Aufl.). Vgl. auch: W. Coy: Industrieroboter: Zur Archäologie der zweiten Schöpfung (Berlin: Rotbuch Verl. 1985), A. Bammé u.a.: Maschinen-Menschen, Mensch-Maschinen. Grundrisse einer sozialen Beziehung (Reinbek b. Hamburg: Rowohl 1986).

45. S. Lem: Also sprach GOLEM (Frankfurt: Insel 1984) S. 39.

46. a.a.O. S. 43.

47. a.a.O. S. 107.

48. P. McCorduck: Machines Who Think. A Personal Inquiry into the History and Prospects of Artificial Intelligence (San Francisco: Freeman 1979).

49. a.a.O. S. 335.

50. Vgl. v.Vf.: Hermeneutik der Fachinformation (Freiburg/München 1986) S. 204-209. Vgl. A. Beckermann: Kann die Künstliche Intelligenz-Forschung Fragen der Philosophie beantworten? In: H. Stoyan, Hrsg.: GWAI-85, 9th German Workshop on Artificial Intelligence (Berlin: Springer 1986) S. 2-25; W. Daiser: Künstli­che Intelligenz Forschung und ihre epistemologi­sche Grundlagen (Frankfurt: Lang 1984). Ferner M. Boden: Artificial Intelli­gence and Natural Man (New York: Basic Books 1977); J. Haugeland, Hrsg.: Mind Design (Cambridge: MIT Pr. 1981). Daniel C. Dennett: Brains­torms: Philosophical Essays on Mind and Psycho­logy (Montgomery, Vt.: Bradford 1981); M. Ringle, Hrsg.: Philoso­phical Perspec­tives on Artificial Intelligence (New Jersey: Humanities Pr. 1979), A. Sloman: The Computer Revolution in Philosophy (Brighton: Har­vester 1979); D. Ritchie: Gehirn und Computer (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta 1984); G. Simons: Sind Com­puter lebendig? (München: Harnack 1984). Grundlegend für die Analyse der breiten psychologischen und sozialen Auswirkungen des Com­puters: S. Turkle: Die Wunschmaschine (Reinbek b. Hamburg: Rowohlt 1984). Zum "neuen" Gebiet "cognitive science" vgl. H. Gardner: The Mind's New Science (New York: Basic Books 1985); P. Slezak, W.R. Albury, Hrsg.: Computers, Brains and Minds. (Dordrecht: Kluwer 1988); D. H. Helman: Analogical Reasoning (Dordrecht: Kluswer 1988); J. Kulas, J.H. Fetzer: Philosophy, Language, and Artificial Intelligence (Dordrecht: Kluwer 1988).

51. A. Rosenberg, a.a.O. S. 59.

52. Vgl. P. Duhem: Le Système du Monde (Paris: Hermann o.D.) Bd. 5. Für Ibn Gabirol (bzw. Avicebron) sind die Intelligenzen ein Gesamt aus Materie und Form, wobei die Materie eine den körperlichen und geistigen Substanzen gemeinsame ist. Die "intelligentiae" sind wiederum in der "forma universalis" enthalten.

53. Vgl. J. Auer, J. Ratzinger: Kleine katholische Dogmatik (Regensburg: Pustet 1975) Bd. III, S. 417: "bei Thomas und seinen Anhängern werden die Engel trotz ihrer Geschöpflichkeit, wegen ihrer reinen Geistigkeit, mehr in Analogie zum menschlichen Verständnis vom göttlichen Geist gesehen, bei Scotus und seinen Anhängern ist das Maßbild für das Verständnis der Engel mehr die menschliche Seele."

54. Zur theologischen Engellehre vgl. G. Tavard: Die Engel. In: M. Schmaux, A. Grillmeier, L. Scheffczyk, Hrsg.: Handbuch der Dogmenge­schichte. (Freiburg: Herder 1968) Bd. 2.

55. Vgl. D.R. Hofstadter, D.D. Dennett: Einsicht ins Ich (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta 1986) S. 366. Vgl. auch: John R. Searle: Geist, Hirn und Wis­senschaft (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 1986).

56. Vgl. G. Hottois: Le signe et la technique (Paris: Aubier 1984). Vgl. dazu v.Vf.: Technics, Ethics, and the Question of Phenomenologiy. In: A.-T. Tymieniecka, Hrsg.: Morality within the Life- and Social World. Analecta Husserliana XXII (Dordrecht: Reidel 1987) 475-482.

57. Vgl. G. Hottois, a.a.O.  S. 51.

58. In der "Summa theologica" wird die Engellehre ausdrückl­ich in 25 der 59 quaestiones der I. Pars, 50-65 sowie 106-114 behandelt. Es handelt sich also, allein vom Umfang her, nicht um ein Nebenthema, sondern diese quaestiones umrahmen sozusagen die quaestio de homine.

59. Daher der Unterschied zwischen dem Sein Gottes ("esse subsistens") und dem Sein, das von allen (!) Geschöpfen geteilt wird ("esse commune"), wodurch wir also die Analogie zwischen materiellen und immateriellen Substanzen vollziehen können. Vgl. R. Gumppenberg: Zur Seinslehre in "De ente et essentia". In: K. Bernath, Hrsg.: Thomas von Aquin (Darmstadt: Wiss. Buchges. 1981) Bd.2, S. 366-385. Wie P. Duhem bemerkt (op.cit. S. 496) bricht Thomas mit dem Aristotelismus (und folgt Avicenna) indem er "potentia" ohne "materia" denkt. Vgl. Quaestio disp. de creat.spir. (art. 5): In talibus essentia est ipsummet individuum subsistens.

60. Thomas v. Aquin: De ente et essentia, Kap. 4, 179.

61. Thomas v. Aquin: De ente et essentia, op.cit. Kap. 5, 55: "Et ideo in talibus substantiis (i.e. in substantiis creatis intellectualibus, RC) non invenitur multitudo individuorum in una specie, ut dictum est, nisi in anima humana propter corpus cui unitur."

62. Vgl. P. Duhem, op.cit. S. 511ff.

63. Für Max Müller (Sein und Geist. Systematische Untersuchungen über Grundproblem und Aufbau mittelalterlicher Ontologie. Freiburg/Mün­chen: Alber 1981, 2.Aufl, S. 196-98), bildet der Unterschied endlich/un­endlich lediglich die notwendige Bedingung für die Existenz der Engel, während die Materia­lität die Wesensdifferenz bzw. die hinreichende Bedin­gungen endli­cher Wesen darstellt. Da diese letztere Bedingung nach thomi­stischer Lehre bei den Engeln fehlt, hängt für Thomas, so Max Müller, die "essentiale Unendlich­keit" des engelischen Wesens von seiner "existen­tialen Endlichkeit" ab. Beim Men­schen ist jene "essentiale Unendlichk­eit" nur "poten­tiell", da die "materia" das Wirklichsein der Seele einschränkt.

64. Auch wenn sie den Himmel bewegen, sagt Thomas im Hinblick auf Aristoteles, geht der Philosoph nicht davon aus, daß eine "substantia separata" alle Himmelssphären unmittelbar bewegt, was die Ubiquität voraus­setzen würde. (ST I, 52, a. 2).

65. S. Lem: Also sprach GOLEM, a.a.O. S. 128.

66. vgl. K. Rahner: Über Engel. In: ders.: Schriften zur Theologie (Köln: Einsiedeln 1978) Bd. XIII, S. 403.

67. Vgl. John R. Searle: Geist, Gehirn, Programm. In: D.R. Hofstadter, D.C. Dennett, Hrsg.: Einsicht ins Ich, a.a.O. S. 355.

68. Vgl. S.J. Schmidt: Der Diskurs des radikalen Konstruktivismus (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 1987).

69. Karl Rahner, Geist in Welt (München: Kösel 1957, 2.Aufl.) S. 248.

70. Der Engel "non aquirit scientiam a rebus, sed habet scientiam quasi activam et ideo non indiget anima sensitiva." (II. Sent. dist. 14 q.2 a.3 ad 3).

71. Vgl. ST I, 51, a. 1: "anima est infima in genere intellectualium et intellectuum". Vgl. K. Rahner, op.cit. S. 250.

72. a.a.O. S. 255.

73. a.a.O. S. 256.

74. a.a.O. So Thomas in Anschluß an "den Kommentator" (Averroes, In De anima, III, comm. 5) bzw. an Aristoteles De anima III, Kap. 4, 429 b 31 - 430 a 2.

75. Vgl. K. Rahner: Geist in Welt (München: Kösel 1957, 2. i.Auftrag des Vf. überarbeitet und ergänzt von J.B. Metz).

76. Der Unterschied zwischen engelischer und menschlicher Erkenntnis im Hinblick auf die Erkenntnis Gottes kommt in der folgenden Darstellung deutlich hervor. Etwas kann auf dreifacher Weise erkannt werden: erstens, durch sein Wesen im Erkennenden ("wie das Auge das Licht"), zweitens, durch die durch die Abwesenheit des Gegenstandes in der Erkenntnis verbleibende Ähnlichkeit, und drittens, wenn diese Ähnlichkeit nicht von den Dingen her stammt, sondern durch eine weitere Vermittlung übertragen, wie wenn wir einen Menschen im Spiegel sehen. So ist, in bezug auf Gott, die zweite Möglichkeit die engelische, die dritte die menschliche (ST I, 56, a. 3).

77. Vgl. H.L. Dreyfus: Die Grenzen künstlicher Intelligenz. (Königstein/­Taunus: Athenäum 1985) S. 15.

78. Zum Begriff der "wahrnehmenden" (oder "sinnlichen") "Intelligenz" vgl. Xavier Zubiri: Inteligencia sentiente (Madrid: Alianza Editorial 1980).

79. Vgl. M. Eliade: Mythos und Wirklichkeit (Frankfurt: Insel 1988) S. 118-130.

80. H.L. Dreyfus, S.E. Dreyfus: Künstliche Intelligenz. Von den Grenzen der Denkmaschine und dem Wert der Intuition (Reinbek b. Hamburg: Rowohl 1986).

81. P. Duhem, Le système du monde, a.a.O. Bd. V, S. 536-570.

82. Vgl. ST I, q. LXVI, art. 2: Utrum sit una materia in formis omnium corporalium.

83. So werden z.B. in der Schrift "In IIm librum Senten­tiarum" die Engel als "motores" der Himmel ­aber nicht als deren "animae" bezeichnet während in der "Summa contra Gentiles" auf die "Vielheit der getrennten Substan­zen" außer denen (!), die mit den Himmels­körper vereint sind (SCG II, 91) hingewiesen wird, wobei Thomas die philosophische These von der "Be­seelung des Himmels" ("de animatione coeli") vom Glauben her offen läßt (SCG II, 70). Im Spätwerk "De substan­tiis separatis seu de angelorum natura" stellt Thomas die aristotelische These dar, wonach zwischen uns und Gott ("inter nos et summum Deum") zwei Arten von "intellektuellen Substan­zen", nämlich die "substantiae separatae", d.h. die Engel, und die Seelen der Himmelskörper ("animae orbium") gibt. Entschei­dend bleibt dabei für Thomas, daß alle "getrennten Substanzen" nicht durch ein "Hervorgehen" bzw. durch Emana­tion ("generat­io", "mutatio"), sondern durch "Schöp­fung" ("productio", "crea­tio") entstanden (a.a.O. Kap. 17). In seiner Analyse der aristotelischen Metaphysik ("In Aristotelis libros Meta­physicorum expositio") stellen die "substantiae separa­tae" den philosophi­schen Weg zur Gotteserkenntnis, so wie im Aristotelis­chen Höhlengleichnis (Fragment 12), dar: Wenn die Men­schen den unveränd­erlichen Lauf der Gestirne geschaut hätten, dann hätten sie geglaubt, es gebe Götter und diese Herrlichkeiten seien ihr Werk. Thomas betont, daß für Aris­toteles die mythologische Auffassung der "intelligentiae separatae" als Götter, den Sinn eines Durchgangs zum all­einigen höchsten Prinzip hat (In XII Metaph. 12, n. 2663).

84. Vgl. J.-M. Aubert: Le monde physique en tant que totalité et la causalité universelle selon Saint Thomas d'Aquin. In: L. Elders, Hrsg.: La philosophie de la nature de Saint Thomas d'Aquin (Rom: Libr.Ed. Vaticana 1982) S. 82-106. In einem von der eigentlichen Behandlung der Engellehre geson­derten (!) Artikel der ST be­handelt Thomas die Frage nach der Be­seelung der Himmelskörper (ST I, 70, a. 3), wobei er diese nicht im Sinne von "materia/forma", sondern als Bewegungskraft ("per contactum virtutis", "ut motores") deutet. In der "Quaestio disputata de spiritualibus creaturis" (a.6) geht Thomas von zwei Ordnungen geistiger Substanzen aus: 1) die, welche mit den Himmels­kör­pern als "motores" vereint sind, und 2) die, welche das Ziel dieser Bewegun­gen sind, ohne mit Körpern vereint zu sein. ("corporibus non unitae"). In diesem Zusammenhang vergleicht er die engelische "custodia" eines Menschen mit der eines himmlischen Körpers. Duhem, a.a.O. S. 558ff. bemerkt, daß Thomas in der Frage nach der exakten Natur der himmlischen Beweger nie endgültig seine Unsicherheit ausräumen konnte, seine Präferenz aber für die Vermittlungsfunktion der Engel als Beweger zum Ausdruck brachte. So auch im "Opusculum XI. Responsio ad lectorem venetum" und in der Quaestio Quodlib. XII, a. IX.

85. Zum Begriff der "informatio materiae" in Zusammenhang mit der Metaphysik und Erkenntnistheorie des Aquinaten sowie mit seiner ideenge­schichtlichen Herkunft und Weiterentwicklung vgl. v.Vf.: Information (Mün­chen: Saur 1978) S. 106-138.

86. Vgl. v.Vf.: Die Verantwortbarkeit des Denkens. Künstliche Intel­ligenz aus ethischer Sicht. In: Forum für interdisz. Forschung 1 (1988) S. 15-21.

87. Vgl. N. Luhmann:  Die Zukunft der Demokratie. In: Akad. der Künste, Berlin: Der Traum der Vernunft, vom Elend der Aufklärung (Darm­stadt u. Neuwied: Luchterhand 1986) 2.Folge, S. 207-217. Vgl. auch ders. Zweckbegriff und Systemrationalität (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 1973).

88. a.a.O. S. 18-19.

89. W. Ch. Zimmerli: Die Herausforderung der Philosophie durch den Computer. In: Forum für interdisziplinäre Forschung 1 (1988) 45-51.

90. Vgl. K. Rahner, Über Engel, a.a.O. Zum "künstlichen" Wesen des Menschen vgl. W. Schirmacher: Technik und Gelassenheit (Freiburg/München: Alber 1983) dazu v.Vf.: Zeitkritik vor und nach Heidegger. In: W. Schir­macher, Hrsg. Schopenhauer in der Postmoderne. Wien: Passagen Verlag 1989,  S. 59-70.

91. Vgl. K. Rahner: Experiment Mensch. Theologisches über die Selbst­manipulation des Menschen. In: H. Rombach: Die Frage nach dem Menschen (Freiburg/München: Alber 1966) S. 45-69.

92. Vgl. M. Heidegger: Vom Wesen der Wahrheit (Frankfurt: Kloster­mann 1976) sowie ders.: Einführung in die Metaphysik (Tübingen: Niemeyer 1976) S. 112ff.


A Mythological Perspective on Rafael  Capurro's Angeletics and its Ramifications for the Information Society


Published in: Rafael Capurro - John Holgate (eds.). Messages and Messengers. Angeletics as an Approach to the Phenomenology of Communication. München 2011, p. 85-111,


Hermes was the great grandfather (through Autolycus) of Jason and Odysseus – the great narrative journeyers and searchers of antiquity. He intervened to save the body of Priam’s son from Achilles in Homer’s Illiad and to rescue his own great grandson Ulysses from Circe in The Odyssey. The link between the god of creativity, travel, information and language and the birth of the Homeric literary narrative becomes clear.  His daughter Angelia was a bearer of tidings and his mother Maia gave her name to the word ‘maieutics’ – the Socratic dialectic method of eliciting the truth. Capurro (1997) analysed the rise of the Platonic hermeneutike as the art of heralds, messengers and interpreters of the will of the gods and its demise with the ‘semantic by-pass’ from angelia to logos:

There is one chapter in the history of Western thought that concerns the passage from the vertical structure of the messages (Greek: angelia) of the gods transmitted by poets and priests to the horizontal structure of logos in the sense of philosophical truth-seeking. This by-pass can be interpreted as the search for stable or true knowledge that would reach through dia-logue, i.e., through a critical exchange of logoi, the objects of knowledge, instead of being the mediator and receiver of an unstable message based on the uncertain will of the gods. (Capurro 1997, 3)

He provided (1999) a detailed historical perspective on the concept of angelos and related it to modern philosophy and sociology, particularly to the work of Gadamer, Krippendorff, Vattimo and Luhmann.

Karl Kerenyi’s “Hermes Guide of Souls – the mythologem of the masculine source of life” (1976) provides fascinating insights into the character of Hermes. The work was partly a result of his correspondence with Thomas Mann (Hermes was his favourite god in Greek mythology, which is evident in “The Magic Mountain”). Kerenyi – who was a major influence on Carl Jung’s theory of archetypes – here describes the birth of a Hermesian Paradigm (rather than the hermetic paradigm of alchemy) which links Capurro’s concepts of informatio and angelia and provides a mythological perspective on ICT practice. According to Kerenyi Hermes occupies a soul-realm that is a middle world between being and non-being and also a basis for his ambassadorial office:

The primordial mediator and messenger moves between the absolute “no” and the absolute “yes” or, more correctly between two “no’s” that are lined up against each other, between two enemies, between woman and man. In this he stands on ground that is no ground, and there he creates the way. From out of a trackless world-unrestricted, flowing ghostlike – he conjures up the new creation. (Kerenyi 1976, 77)

The Kaberoi cleansed the angelos on the shores of Lake Acheruse and made her a Goddess of the realm of souls. Out of his relation to the Kabeirian nature grows Hermes’ role as guardian of souls, which consists in ducere et reducere, and also in his ambassadorial role. (Kerenyi 1976, 75)


If we focus on the messenger as a socio-historical phenomenon a configuration of distinctive features emerges with which we can embed the study of angeletics more deeply into the landscape of art, philosophy and science.

2.1 News

News connotes to surprise, excitation, spontaneous novelty, innovation, discovery, invention, curiosity and scientific enquiry. It is the linchpin between information and communication as expressed in Gregory Bateson’s definition of information in his “Angels Fear: towards an epistemology of the sacred”:

That which gets from territory to map is news of difference, and at that point I recognized that news of difference was a synonym for information. (Bateson 1988, 1)

Why do pundits invariably omit the word ‘news’ when they cite Bateson’s famous definition? ‘News’ is a difference that makes all the difference. Can there be any information without news or any received message without news? A message (‘as’ news) travels or ‘gets from’ the sender but if the message doesn’t make any difference to the receiver (e.g. an unopened envelope in a letter box) it doesn’t count as information. Messages are subsets of information ‘gotten’ (received, understood) over time.

Hermes was also the god of inventio, of finding and thieving – a theft that is put to better use. The Greek word for windfall, hermaion, signifies that it belongs to Hermes. But his inventiveness was based on trickery, cunning and thievery as when he stole Apollo’s cattle not as a Titanic power play but as a game to convert the horns and the shell of a tortoise into a lyre (nee phore – new theft or Hermesian theft). Apollo suffers no loss from the robbery – he gains a lyre and a brother.  This anticipates the idea of value-adding ‘nonrival goods’ in Paul Romer’s New Growth theory as outlined in Whitt and Schultze’s article on emergent economics (2008). Software is a nonrival good because of its immediacy and ubiquity. It can be used by everyone at the same time and can be copied endlessly at virtually no cost. In the Digital Economy where the – sometimes illegal – copying of forms and ideas plays a major role, Hermesian theft is common.

2.2 Mediation – the tertium datum

The angeloi were endowed with special powers of mediation – mostly they were poets or musicians. The messengers of Greek and other mythologies mediated between the gods and humans and travelled long distances to bring their message. Like Hermes the psychopomp they often brought critical information – a matter of life and death. Hermes the Messenger (and later in the Middle Ages as Mercurius) represents the mercurial tertium datum in the act of mediation between subjects and objects, between senders and receivers. Antoine Faivre (1995) describes this mediatory role in his “The Eternal Hermes”:

As an entity he is “mediator” and “savior” – C.G. Jung would call him the Mercury of the Unconscious: As the substance of the Arcanum, he is mercury, water, fire, the celestial light of revelation; he is soul, life-principle, air, hermaphrodite, both puer and senex. He is the tertium datum. (Faivre 1995, 21)

The caduceus of Hermes is also the tertium datum, the refusal to stay blocked in the logic of identity and in its corollaries of noncontradiction and exclusion of third parties. (Faivre 1995, 67)

This third-party mediation is similar to the informational role of negentropy as the tertium datum in the process of extropy / entropy. Negentropy, as Flusser saw it, is not the opposite of entropy but rather an epiphenomenon just like a lap is an epiphenomenon of sitting or a lawn is epiphenomenal to grass.  Norbert Wiener’s dictum that ‘information is information not matter or energy’ also implies that information is a third constituent of the universe mediating between matter and energy in a space-time-information continuum. Hegel’s concept of “Vermittlung,” George Herbert Mead’s notion of “mediatory gesture,” Donald Winnicot’s “transitional object,” and Gadamer’s “transformation into structure” are all family relations of Hermesian agency.

2.3 Transmission as transitory understanding

The phenomenon of ‘transmission” has many guises in science, technology and the humanities, i.e., information transfer, linguistic translation, gene transcription, mRNA transport, signal transduction, neurotransmission, boundary crossing 

Hermes was the god of crossing boundaries (hence his name from ‘herma,’ a boundary marker) especially between Hades and the world of the living, between death and life. The importance of translation in hermeneutics has been described by Hans-Georg Gadamer in his “Truth and Method” (2004) and in his article (1974) in the “Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie” he specifies Hermes’ transmissive role:

Hermes was the divine herald who delivered the message of the gods to the mortals. His proclamation is obviously not a mere communication but also an explanation of divine orders and in such a way that he translates these commands in an evanescent language and with a transitory understanding. The achievement of Hermes basically always consists in the transfer of a context of meaning from another ‘world’ into one’s own. (Gadamer 1974, 1061)

The issue of crossing boundaries in open systems and the problematic transfer of messages between the observer and the observed are fundamental issues within General Systems Theory and second-order cybernetics (cf. Niklas Luhmann’s second-order observing systems and Loet Leydesdorff’s concept of mutual information (2006). As described by Jones (2009) boundary crossing is central to a systems approach to social change:

Boundary crossing, a notion derived from Activity Systems Theory […] is the process of changing from one understanding to another and is encountered when a person or group encounters a problem or dilemma associated with this change… Boundary crossing can lead to new practices and meanings and hence to creative change. (Jones 2009)

In the history of IS crossing boundaries has been a major theme in the development of ICT from mainframes to desktops and handhelds, from stand-alone ‘glass box’ machines to the first TTY and CRT terminals, from the invention of hypertext by Vannevar Bush, Douglas Engelbart and Ted Nelson to the rise of Web 2.0 portal technology and cloud computing.  According to Briggs et al (2006) boundaries crossed may be organizational (‘boundary spanning practices’) system-based (terminals hubs and routers), spatial and temporal (e.g. telemedicine), social and generational (the ‘Digital Divide’) linguistic (terminological differences) human/machine or transdisciplinary (methodological barriers). The breaking down of client isolation towards a goal of ubiquitous transparency has long been a tenet of informed ICT praxis – which continues the ancient tradition of crossing between boundary markers established by Hermes.

2.4 Delivery

A message is always delivered across a spatiotemporal distance (from Heaven to Earth, from Olympus to the world of mortals, from a battle to the King, from the past to the present). The Arabic word for messenger – rasul – means a ‘straight line traced between two objects to unite them’ (Mahommed is often called rasul Allah). In the world of computer technology the phenomenon of delivery has a variety of faces: uploading and downloading of data, telecommunication via portals, information delivery systems, electronic document delivery, teleportation. In biology messages are ‘delivered’ by means of microbiological biomessengers.

2.5 Commission

Hermes was the guardian of souls. His maternal grandfather, the Titan Atlas, was obliged, as a punishment for his revolt, to hold up the Sky. The messenger is nearly always holding an object (often a piece of paper, a letter or an object such as a baton or a staff). Originally Iris’s staff represented a weapon, a spear or sword, indicating that the message had power over life and death. The two elliptic circles on Iris’s staff were later adopted by Melanchthon as the symbol for alchemy just as Hermes’ staff with its uroborus was incorporated into the caduceus in medicine. As Hermes the Peacemaker he often used his caduceus to separate warring factions. William Doty (1993) in “Mythical Trickster Figures” notes:

Hermes organizes the social cosmos, working out interconnections among people, boundaries between nations, and realignments of military or political power. (Doty 1993, 56)

Hermes’ caduceus anticipates the baton of the orchestra conductor, the policeman and the relay runner. The Spartan skytale and the tyrant’s scepter are related objects which are not just mere symbols but crucial participants in the transforming action of messaging.

In other societies the message object could be a complex informative artifact like the Peruvian quipus (with their quipucamayocs) or the message sticks of the Australian Aborigines (with their ‘mailmen’).The use of message knots as precursors to written alphabets (say in Inca Chinese and Hebrew knot languages) is an important clue to the nature of articulation as the basis of primitive forms of the message (as distinct from the evolution of speech and writing). The gesture of messaging is intrinsically about connecting, about making links and creating nets (‘net dialogue’) and is more about weaving two points together with a connective line or strand than about expression by puncturing a paper surface such as we find in the process of writing. Knots of interrelations are the subjects of Flusser’s telematic city described in his “Die Stadt als Wellental in der Bilderflut” (1990). Michael Darroch observed:

The city must be rethought topographically, rather than geographically. Subjects are knots or interrelations and information channels, out of which the net of a city is weaved. (Darroch 2008, 10)

The deliverer was considered immune from the receiver’s judgment about the content of the message (a sentiment expressed in the phrase ‘Don’t shoot the messenger’ which derives from Sophocle’s “Antigone” and Shakespeare’s “Henry IV”). Whether the messenger can interpret and/or change the message and whether the message has to be truthful are moot points. Doty (1993) says about Hermes the Hermeneut:

Hermes carries messages from one person or deity to another; he does not always originate them, and he may select or adapt what he alone chooses to present, and when. (Doty 1993, 62)

In modern times the image of a politician waving a symbolic object is common in the media. In religious communities the object which is carried by the messenger is often endowed with sacred or divine properties. And what often distinguishes the angels of religion from ghosts, spectres or phantoms, is that they are on an errand, bearing a commission to reveal something to somebody and are endowed with intentionality, a purpose, a ‘mission.’

2.6 Announcement and Notification

Typically the messenger utters a proclamation or announcement that is information critical such as “Peace in our time” (Chamberlain) or ”Νενικήκαμεν” (“The Athenians have won,” Pheidippidus of Marathon). Angels also appear with glad tidings or warnings at vital points in a life or history just as television news announcers proclaim the latest sensational event. The concept of notification (manifestation, “Bekanntmachung”) is important for angeletics and is similar to Daniel Bougnoux’s ‘enunciation’ (from the Latin nuntius, messenger, literally ‘one who shouts’). The notifying gesture – a wave, a facial expression, a nod or a verbal signal – initiates a temporary or transitory understanding in a meaning offer. The two members of an Army Casualty Notification Team in Oren Moverman’s 2009 film ‘The Messenger’ deliver notifications which can profoundly affect human lives. “We’re here for notification” Captain Tony Stone informs his protégé, “Not God. Not heaven.” How the two messengers each choose to present their sad tidings to the families of the dead soldiers and how they deal with their personal ‘blindness’ about heroism in warfare forms the essence of the story. In the Information Age the frontline warriors have become messengers with a mobile phone just as the messengers – the embedded journalists, war photographers and investigative reporters – have become frontline warriors. Achilles and Pheidippidus are one.

2.7 Communication

Just as the action of information presupposes indication and distinction an act of communication implies some form of actual or potential contact between the sender and the receiver of a message and a degree of commonality (Mit-teilung: literally ‘dividing up together’). This is reflected in the etymology of the word itself – from ‘common’ (“L. communis (…) PIE *ko-moin-i “held in common,” […] from *ko “together”+*moi-n-, suffixed form of base *mei- “change, exchange”, Online Etymology Dictionary), i.e., shared by all (a common etymology with mutable, mutation and the adjective mean from O.E. gemaene ‘common, public, general, universal, shared by all’ (German Gemeinde, Dutch gemeente ‘community’, Lat. munia ‘public duties’). Etymolo­gically embedded then in the concept of communication(s) are the notions of community commonality and commons, exchange, civic duty, generality, universality and the public good. Behind the technology of mass communications and impersonal digital networks remains the Hermesian promise to restore those original senses of communality preserved in Kant’s sensus communis, John Stuart Mill’s “common good” and C. S. Peirces “community of interpretation” and to act as a guardian messenger who protects the interests of the communal mind  and the Information Commons. In the face of the capitalized initialism ICT (Information Communications Technology) Hermes offers us the lower-case alternative of imagination, cooperation and trust – communion instead of commodification.

The vertical autonomy of cyberspace and cybernetics (cyber = steer, control) with its origins in military computing still dominates contemporary ICT agendas. According to this model information technology and its panoply of digital products are manufactured by the few (Microsoft, Apple, Google et al.) for consumption by the many who participate in the cargo cult of IT and telephony. Challenging that autonomy since the 1990’s has been the rise of horizontal internet-based communication networks.

2.8 Sending / Receiving

Sending and receiving messages are complementary activities. As Francisco Varela might have said ‘they mutually specify their conditions of production” (Varela 1984, 2) – like in the famous sketch by M.C. Escher of hands drawing hands in a strange loop. The bioengineer Koichiro Matsuno described this entanglement in terms of grammatical tense:

When the author makes any monologic statement in the present tense, he controls the whole situation as stated. Likewise, when a scientist refers to the [experimental] record expressed in the present perfect tense, he could oversee the whole record. However, the things expressed in the present progressive tense are a bit different. Although I am walking through a crowd to avoid collisions with other people, they are also doing the same. That is, I am walking through a crowd for collisions with others to be avoided. When we express things in our empirical world in the present progressive tense there are necessarily at least two or more than two agential actors to be involved. (Matsuno 1977)

Sending, receiving and filtering e-mail while avoiding digital collisions can be like walking through a virtual crowd in the present progressive tense.

2.9 Encoding / decoding

For Flusser there is a complex relationship between codes symbols and the universes of texts and images. He defines a code as a sign system arranged in a regular pattern. Each medium has its own specific signification system. Encoding is the bringing into order of a chaotic world (in-form-ation) by shaping images in written or printed form (universe of texts) or audio-visual forms (universe of images). For him giving meaning (“Sinngebung”) is a process of encoding these shapes forms and gestures and interpretation is the decoding of the messages engendered by these codes. In mythology and fiction the decoding of a cryptic message is often a trope for an individual’s quest for meaning. Flusser explored the relationship between codes communication and imagination in his 1978 essay “The Codified World.”

Later in “On the Theory of Communication” (1986) he posited “families of codes,” “denoting and connotating codes” with three basic forms (auditory, visual and audiovisual) and two basic types (dialogic and discursive). In discursive codes messages flow from a sender towards a receiver. In dialogic codes messages oscillate between the various participants in the process. This distinction is vital for an understanding of Flusser’s theory of communicology as it structures his philosophical world. In the same essay he commented on the ‘hermeneutic circle’ relationship between codes and universes:

[...] the limits of translations show that no code refers to all the universes, and no universe is referred to by all the codes. The series of universes is not bi-univocally related to the series of codes. (Flusser 1986, 14)

And on the next page, echoing both Marshall McLuhan and Claude Shannon, he added

The structure of a message reflects the physical character of its symbols more than the structure of the universe it communicates. (Flusser 1986, 15)

2.10 Transformation 

Hermes’ act of messaging was not merely saying but enacting and transforming. His caduceus (like many messages) had a transformative power. In the biosphere, for example, messages and codes enable vital metabolic and genetic structural changes in an organism. And through radio, television and the internet a constant avalanche of messages bombards our senses in an attempt to change our consciousness and behaviour in the ‘persuasion economy.’ The ubiquitous presence of this information / transformation dynamic points to the need for an anthropology of change and for a deep understanding of how and why messages can transform human action.

2.11 Transience

Pheidippidus and messenger-RNA both perish immediately after delivering their message. The relay runner who transfers the baton to his team mate drops out of the race. Intercultural counterparts of transience are mono no aware, the Japanese awareness of evanescence, and the Buddhist anicca. The receiver of a spiritual message may be said to be transported or in a trance – a transitional revelatory state of consciousness owing its etymology to the Latin transire, originally meaning ‘to transit between life and death.

2.12 Dissimulation 

Anamorphism (from the Greek morphein / anamorphein) is visual matter presented in such a way that the message of a painting can only be “correctly” discerned, like the subtext of a theatrical dialogue, when seen from an oblique angle. The ana prefix means literally to reverse a process (cf. the Hermesian characteristic of ducere et reducere). In the example of Hans Holbein’s portrait “The Ambassadors” the skull in the foreground (containing the message of vanitas) is only recognised as such from an oblique position. The frontal view of the painting represents the acceptable social code of opulence and success.

Flusser describes the role of betrayal and dissimulation in our contemporary media culture:

Media culture as a whole may be seen as the result of this kind of treason. It may be seen as a   network that divulges secrets. There are knots within that net (for instance, TV stations) that suck in secrets. They suck in the secrets either by sending out spies (reporters) or by seducing people who hold secrets to divulge them (people who permit themselves to be interviewed or quoted). Those knots then transcode the secrets into a sort of slang: they “process the information.” Flusser 1985, 58)

2.13 Timeliness and timing

The significance of a message is constrained by space and time (space-bound and time-bound as Harold Innes expressed it). Like its parent ‘information’ a message is specific to location and date and always represents contingent content ‘for’ somebody or something. The timely delivery of a message is often critical to its effect. Timing is experienced on a daily basis in personal or public spheres of life but it is also a factor in social or religious metamessages that claim to affect all mankind (e.g. Y2K, climate change or the timelines(s) of Jesus Christ’s Second Coming). The timing and timeliness of message 2.14 Ascent / Descent

The psychopomp role of Hermes who descended into Hades and guided souls back up to the world of the living (ducere et reducere) is central to the Hermesian myth and to the teleological force of messaging as a phenomenon at various levels.  Referring to Boticelli’s painting “La Primavera” Faivre notes:

The picture thus embodies the three phases of the Hermetic process: emanatio, conversio, remeatio; emanation or procession in the descent of Zephyr towards Flora, conversion in the dance of the Graces, and reascension in the figure of Mercury. (Faivre 1993, 29)

Emanatio conversio and remeatio (deriving from the Renaissance concept of emanation rapture and reascension developed by Marsilio Ficino) can be seen as a basic angeletic process corresponding (within a GST framework) to downward causation (supervenience), change (cross-level causation or exchange between systems) and emergence (new properties arising). In angeletic  terms emanatio (emanation) is the process of composing a message, conversio (conversion) is the translation of the meaning offer contained in it (content) and remeatio (uptake) is the ‘take up’ of that content transformed in the mind of the receiver.

Descent and ascent, sending and receiving are complementary and entangled. Goethe’s Mephisto (himself a Hermesian figure) summed up the central message of “Faust” (1832/1962; Erster Akt ‘Kaiserliche Pfalz,’ Szene ‘Finstere Galerie’ v. 6275-76) as he led the protagonist down to the realm of the Mothers:

Versinke denn! Ich könnt’ auch sagen: steige! / ’S ist einerlei.

[Then descend! I might as well say: ascend! / It’s all the same]

This complementarity of ascending/descending messages corresponds to Vilém Flusser’s notions of horizontal and vertical structure and offers us an insight into the dynamics of messaging within the sociosphere, biosphere and physiosphere. It also mirrors the ‘rise and fall’ of individuals and civilisations (their ‘message’) and is reflected in historical linguistics (e.g. living/dead tongues, agglutinating and isolating languages, the emergence and disappearance of words in usage, grammaticalisation).

2.15 Ambivalence

Ambiguity is intrinsic to messaging. Iris, the name of Zeus’s messenger, already contained a double meaning, being associated with the Greek words iris ‘rainbow’ connecting clouds and sea, and eiris ‘messenger’ linking people and places. The hermai of Greek mythology had a Janus-like quality. On one side of the boundary stone Hermes was depicted as an old man and on the other as a youth. Hermes represents darkness and light, goodness and badness, information and misinformation. A message may bring glad or bad tidings. It may be true or false. ‘Freedom of information’ contains a mixed message – FOI can be freedom of access to personal information hidden by a bureaucracy but also freedom from control by information used by the bureaucracy to monitor your life (surveillance). This is the same ambivalence presented by the installation of public CCTV monitors which can both protect and intrude into the privacy of citizens. Hermes’ creative invention of the lyre was also a mixed blessing. On the one hand it represented the birth of a musical instrument and of his friendship with his half-brother Apollo. On the other hand it meant the deaths of the tortoise and ox which sacrificed the shell and horns as raw materials for little Hermes’ lyre. New technology is often a blessing for some, a curse for others.



3.1 Mythology

An examination of the lives of the messengers of world mythology – Iris, Hermes, Hecate, Mercury, Thoth / Anubis, Hermes Trismegistus, Mercurius, Odin and Wodin – reveals iterative features and strong similarities and gives us vital insights into the nature of messaging. The fundamental Hermesian Paradigm is repeated time and time again throughout history to the point of universality.

3.2 Religion

In most of the world’s major religions the messenger and messaging play a crucial role. In Judaism there is Malachi (Messenger of Jehovah from a’ka= ‘sent’, in Christianity Jesus Christ as a bringer of Good News, in Islam Mahommed is often called rasul Allah (Allah’s messenger). Christian messengers are also called angels, evangelists and apostles (from the Greek apostellein ‘sent away’). The twin concepts of nabi and rasul and the Twelve Messengers of Islam represent another interesting chapter in Angeletics worth exploring.  The word ‘rasul’ originally meant ‘a straight line between two objects to unite them.’  In Hinduism Lord Narad is the messenger of the gods – his role and characteristics are very similar to those of Hermes (particularly his hermaphroditic nature). Likewise the related Buddhist concept of Bodhisattva illustrates the role of the messenger in the spiritual pilgrimage along paths of enlightenment. This notion of enlightenment lingers in Western philosophy as ‘firstness’ – in Aristotle’s First Philosophy, Francis Bacon’s First Information, Aquinas’s and C S Peirce’s firstness, Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker’s Erstmaligkeit. In Christianity the prophet/apostle dualism (as with Islam) is central to the delivery of their spiritual message. The apostle Paul also displayed Hermesian characteristics – as when he used the statue of the Unknown God on Mars Hill to convert the Athenians. The use of invention and even trickery to sell the gospel to pagans begins with him and later became a feature of fourth century European conversion techniques (as in the use of recycled pagan rituals such as those of the Easter Bunny and Father Christmas – both messenger prototypes derived from Germanic cultures). Even the English word ‘soul’ was ostensibly ‘borrowed’ by Ulfilas from the German ‘Seele’ and first appeared in its written English form in Beowulf. ‘See-le’ purportedly refers to the final journey of a soul after death back to the sea (German ‘die See’) from whence it first came. The New Zealand Maoris still believe in a similar myth – the spirits of the dead depart this life from Cape Reinga (a Maori word for ‘underworld’) and journey to the afterlife (Hawaiki) across the Pacific Ocean.

The soul/spirit dyad corresponds to the information / angelia relationship. Informatio is the soul ‘as’ passive receptacle, the container or mould, angelia is the active moving spirit (‘spirited away’ ‘Holy Spirit’) which communicates. The etymological link between ‘spirit’ (and its conceptual ‘family resemblances’ such as pneuma, anima, âme, esprit, psyche, atma, Geist) and the act of breathing or exhalation (living breathing entity) is a vital clue to the ontological relationship between being informed and the systole and diastole of giving and receiving messages. The nabi/rasul, prophet/apostle duality (in Flusser’s terms there is one who originates new information through dialogue and one who elaborates that information through discourse) is also present in governments where often a leader informs theory and policy while an ‘apostle’ is cast in the ambassadorial role and delivers the party message e.g. Constantine and Eusebius, Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu, Nixon and Kissinger.

(p. 86-97)


London 1996

1. News in society
2. Defining news
3. The significance of news in Greek society
4. Approaches

1. News Within the Community
1. Reputation
2. Information and the citizen
3. Status within the polis

2. News Independent of the Polis
1. Travel and news
2. Perceptions of other poleis

3. Official Communications
1. Heralds inside the polis
2. Control of information
3. Failures of communication
4. Communication outside the polis
5. International announcement

4. Unofficial News
1. Problems with news
2. Criteria for evaluation
3. Analysis and response

5. The Assembly
1. Symbolic functions of the assembly
2. Information and Leadership
3. The nature of the discussion
4. Secrecy within government
5. The limitations of the assembly 

6. News and Writing
1. Inscriptions: motivation
2. Inscriptions: text and symbol
3. Inscriptions and oligarchies
4. Inscriptions at Panhellenic shrines
5. Letters



Information =
odds that addressee will know content of message after receiving it
log -----------------------------------------------------------------------
odds that addresee will know content of message before receiving it

The quantity of information conveyed by a given message is equal to the binary logarithm of the number of possibilities necessary to define the message without ambiguity.

Umberto Eco, The Open Work

In 396 news came to the Spartans that the Persian King was preparing a fleet of warships for use in the campaign against the Spartan allies in Asia Minor. Xenophon gives an account of the means by which the news reached Sparta: a Syracusan called Herodas had been in Phoenicia 'with a shipowner', and when he saw the preparations, he sailed on the first boat for Greece to warn the Spartans. Acting on his information, they began to mobilise their allies and make plans.[1] This story is typical of Xenophon; he is obviously using his specialised knowledge of Spartans. Acting on his information, they began to mobilise their allies and make plans.[1] This story is typical of Xenophon; he is obviously using his specialized knowledge of Sparta to add colour to a minor event, and he shows us onl half of the picture. Despite Xenophon's indefinite description ('a Syracusan'), Herodas appears to have recognised role, like 'the man with the tattooed head' carrying a secret message in Herodotos, and the implication is that  he was no insignificant stranger at Sparta. [2]
It is also a paradigmatic story about news in Greece. the coming of the news is haphazard; it is only by chance that brings it to the attention of the Spartans. The messenger is not official, but there appears to be more to the story than meets the eye, since he was accepted without question by the Spartans. The news was brought as quickly as possible within normal means  Herodas found the first ship that he could going to Sparta. It illustrates some of the problems experienced by the Greeks in the field of neews. This kind of information, about the military plans of the Persians, was clearly of great importance to the Spartans – they immediately set defensive plans in motion. Yet they had made no effort to obtain such information first: that is, they had no permanent system of intelligence gathering, and nor did any other polis, relying instead on the action of chance partisans like Herodas to bring them the information they neeeded. The contradiction between the perceived importance of the news, and the lack of institutions to gather it, is one of the roots of this survey.


Information =
odds that addressee will know content of message after receiving it
log -----------------------------------------------------------------------
odds that addresee will know content of message before receiving it

The quantity of information conveyed by a given message is equal to the binary logarithm of the number of possibilities necessary to define the message without ambiguity.

Umberto Eco, The Open Work

In 396 news came to the Spartans that the Persian King was preparing a fleet of warships for use in the campaign against the Spartan allies in Asia Minor. Xenophon gives an account of the means by which the news reached Sparta: a Syracusan called Herodas had been in Phoenicia 'with a shipowner', and when he saw the preparations, he sailed on the first boat for Greece to warn the Spartans. Acting on his information, they began to mobilise their allies and make plans.[1] This story is typical of Xenophon; he is obviously using his specialised knowledge of Spartans. Acting on his information, they began to mobilise their allies and make plans.[1] This story is typical of Xenophon; he is obviously using his specialized knowledge of Sparta to add colour to a minor event, and he shows us onl half of the picture. Despite Xenophon's indefinite description ('a Syracusan'), Herodas appears to have recognised role, like 'the man with the tattooed head' carrying a secret message in Herodotos, and the implication is that  he was no insignificant stranger at Sparta. [2]
It is also a paradigmatic story about news in Greece. the coming of the news is haphazard; it is only by chance that brings it to the attention of the Spartans. The messenger is not official, but there appears to be more to the story than meets the eye, since he was accepted without question by the Spartans. The news was brought as quickly as possible within normal means  Herodas found the first ship that he could going to Sparta. It illustrates some of the problems experienced by the Greeks in the field of neews. This kind of information, about the military plans of the Persians, was clearly of great importance to the Spartans – they immediately set defensive plans in motion. Yet they had made no effort to obtain such information first: that is, they had no permanent system of intelligence gathering, and nor did any other polis, relying instead on the action of chance partisans like Herodas to bring them the information they neeeded. The contradiction between the perceived importance of the news, and the lack of institutions to gather it, is one of the roots of this survey.

μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα Ἡρώδας τις Συρακόσιος ἐν Φοινίκῃ ὢν μετὰ ναυκλήρου τινός, καὶ ἰδὼν τριήρεις Φοινίσσαςτὰς μὲνκαταπλεούσας ἄλλοθεντὰς δὲ καὶ αὐτοῦ πεπληρωμένας, 
τὰς δὲ καὶ ἔτι κατασκευαζομέναςπροσακούσας δὲ καὶ τοῦτοὅτιτριακοσίας αὐτὰς δέοι γενέσθαι, ἐπιβὰς ἐπὶ τὸ πρῶτον ἀναγόμενον πλοῖον εἰς τὴν Ἑλλάδα ἐξήγγειλε τοῖς
Λακεδαιμονίοις ὡςβασιλέωςκαὶ Τισσαφέρνους τὸν στόλον τοῦτον παρασκευαζομένωνὅποι δὲ οὐδὲν ἔφη εἰδέναι.

After this a Syracusan named Herodas, being [1] in Phoenicia with a certain shipowner, and seeing Phoenician war-ships—some of them sailing in from other places, others lying there fully manned, and yet others still making ready for sea—and hearing, besides, that there were to be three hundred of them, embarked on the first boat that sailed to Greece and reported to the Lacedaemonians that the King and Tissaphernes were preparing this expedition; but whither it was bound he said he did not know.

[1] 396 B.C.

See Xenophon Agesilaos 1.6.

[2] Herodotos 5.35. 
[1] Aristagoras had no way of fulfilling his promise to Artaphrenes, and he was hard-pressed by demands for the costs of the force. Furthermore he feared what might come of the failure of the army and Megabates' displeasure against him. It was likely, he thought, that his lordship of Miletus would be taken away from him.
[2] With all these fears in his mind, he began to plan revolt, for it chanced that at that very time there came from Susa Histiaeus' messenger, the man with the marked head, signifying that Aristagoras should revolt from the king.
[3] Since Histiaeus desired to give word to Aristagoras that he should revolt and had no other safe way of doing so because the roads were guarded, he shaved and branded the head of his most trustworthy slave. He waited till the hair had grown again, and as soon as it was grown, he sent the man to Miletus with no other message except that when he came to Miletus he must bid Aristagoras shave his hair and examine his head. The writing branded on it signified revolt, as I have already said.
[4] This Histiaeus did because he greatly disliked his detention at Susa and fully expected to be sent away to the coast in the case that there should be a revolt. If, however, Miletus remained at peace, he calculated that he would never return there.
How and Wells, A Commentary on Herodotus (Oxford 1912) observe: 'Herodotos speaks as if this slave were a well-known character like the man in the iron mask, thus arising the reader's curiosity.'

1. News in society

[...] The aim of this book, then, is to indicate the ways in which the ancient Greek concept of exploitation of news differed from twentieth-century conceptions. Examining how and why news and information were disseminated in the Greek world offers a new perspective on the polis, and fresh interpretations of Greek society. Looking beyond purely historical sources, I will expose the ways in which Greek ideas about information structured social and political life.
(p. 4)

2. Defining news

What is news? News is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as 'new information of recent events'; Stephens defines it more usefully as 'new information about a subject of some public interest that is shared with some portion of the public'.[9] Clearly the size of the public concerned will influence the nature of events considered as newsworthy; what is merely gossip in a large community takes a greater importance as news in a smaller group. [10] News can, in turn, be interpreted only against a background of information, the dissemination of which is equally important. Information can be said to comprise knowledge about persons, events, ideas or objects at any time. It is not necessarily new, or relevant to the public: the fact that Sophokles composed the Philoktetes is information; the fact that Sophokles' Philoktetes has won the first prize at the Dionysia is news. News can be defined as a specific type of information. It is not practically possible to separate out news proper, and the processes by which it was disseminated, from that of other types of information which  are not news in the strictiest sense. For instance, a discussion of how a new medical theory might be disseminated necessarily involves discussion of how medical knowledge in general was spread, and thequestion of how an Athenian citizen heard news through the assembly is not separable from the role of the assembly in spreading information of any other kind, such as of historical events.
Some further related categories of information require definition, because the term news alone will not cover every pattern of exchange, especially when motivation is in question. Should the public announcement (to Athenians assembled in the theatre) of honours paid to a foreign king be consdered as news, according to the above definition? Since the matter will already have been debated in the assembly by the citizens, and since the relevance of foreign kings to the individual is small, it falls rather into the class of affirmation. Affirmation occurs when the information reported through new channels is not new, and is deliberately told to an audience who substantially possess the information already. This may appear remote from the idea of news in twentieth-century culture, with its emphasis on constantly updated new information, but it can be seen, for instance, in reports of confirmation of details of arrests by the police, even though the arrest has previously been reported in full. The concept of affirmation is important in mapping the role of ancient news within the community.
Propaganda is a wider category which intersects with that of news; notall news is propaganda, and not all propaganda is news. Visual and literary propaganda, as well as oral, also played a large part in ancient society, for instance, architectural display or encomiastic poetry.[11] Certainly information travels by all means of display, but for the purpose of this study I am confining mayself to spoken and written information. Some news, nevertheless, is disseminated with a primary motive not to inform or entertain, but to shape the opinion of the hearers, and this is propaganda. The relation of news to theses categories  affirmation and propaganda – determines its operation in society.
We are accustomed to think of news as something that happens all the time, and which needs constant monitoring, but news is in fact what happens when an event is reported, not the event itself. Greek vocabulary for news is closely attuned to this idea. There is no Greek word for news as such, or a newsworthy event; instead, words focus on process. Ta kaina, new things, or kainoi logoi, news stories, are reported, but the primary word is aggellô, I report, and its cognates. To bring news is  to bring a message or report, and the advent of news is described impersonally, êggeilen, it was reported. An aggelma is both news and a message  clearly the act of reporting is what creates news. [my emphasis, RC]
It is worth noting that Greek vocabulary for news does not distinguish between truth and falsity  phêmê, common report, is not intrinsically less trustworthy than logos (story) or epistolê (message); the distinction is one of source. A newsmonger, someone who mkes up news, is in Greek a logopoios, a fabricator of stories. this word also denotes a poet, but this is less surprising when placed in a Greek context. There was no correlation made between history and truth as opposed to poetry and fiction; on the contrary the Homeric poems, for instance, were treated by historical writers as legitimate history [12] The tales of poets and dramatists equally, were drawn from myth, and hence true, as opposed to invented stories. A logopoios, then, is not necessarily a liar; as Demosthenes makes clear in his condemnation of newsmongers, it is because they are able to be plausible and authoritative that they are so dangerous. [13]

9. Stephens, History of News 9; Hartley Understanding News 11emphasises that 'news' is not the newsworthy event itself, but rather the "report" or "account" of an event'.
10. On newsworthiness in general see J. Galtung and M. Runge, 'Strucuring and selecting news', in S. Cohen and J. Young (eds.), The Manufacture of News: social problems, deviance and the mass media (London 1973) 62-72.
11. Architectural  display as propaganda is discussed briefly below at p. 42; on Roman propaganda, Z. Yavetz, Plebs and Princeps (Oxford 1969), P. Zanker, The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus (Michigan 1988), and G. Achard, La Communication à Rome (Paris 1991) 288, 291, for further bibliography.
12. Both Thucydides (1.21) and Herodotos (2.28; 3.122) draw a distinction between myth and history, but still treat heroic poetry as dealing with real events. See further C.W. Fornara, The Nature of History in Ancient Greece and Rome (Berkeley 1983) 4-12.
13. Demosthenes 4.48-50.
(pp. 3-5)

3. The significance of news in Greek society

The Greeks themselves saw news as one of the factors that could define their communities. Aristotle defined the ideal polis as one which is neither too small to be self-sufficient, nor too large to have effective political institutions; he asks for the oversize polis, 'Who could be the general to so great mass of people? Who could be the herald unless he were Stentor?' [14] Thus in the ideal polis, the populace can be addressed by one speaker, and that this should be so demonstrates that the dissemination of news was one of the key roles of a polis. To belong to a community was to share in the spread of information in that community: misanthropy, in the Greek tradition, took the form of cutting oneself off from all forms of contact, and living outside the polis in the uncivilised wild, as did Timon or Meleager.[15] Rerusal to communicate removed one from society. Similarly, in a system in which each polis was in competition with others, for territory, resources or prestige, the communication of news from state to state was obviously vital to determine their interactions.
The very ordinariness of news means that its transmission is often present in our sources in inexplicit form, because it required no explanation. In many cases, where it is clear that the transmission of news was a significant event, historians give no indication of how the news was brought.
Impllicit assumptions are no less a problem for modern historians. Because Western beliefs about news are so firmly rooted in the print culture that has grown up since the eighteenth century, many previous treatments of news in the ancient Greek world have undervalued the transmission of news in what were mainly oral societies. Historians regularly comment on the lack of organised media for the transmission of news in the ancient Greek world, buot such comment rarely goes beyond noting the importans of some presumed substitute for the mass media, such as the statue of the EponymosHeroes of Athens.[18] The most common form of misconception can be conveniently called the 'progressive model'; it assumess that human society necessarily progresses from oral communication, which is poor, through written to printed, telegraphic and electronic methods, with an improvement in the volume and quality of communication consequent on each step. Modern communication technology is implicitly seen as the goal towards which all ancient societies develop.[19] This alone is problematic enough, assuming that more and better communication is always perceived as desirable. But this model also sees ancient societies as limited by a failure to develop appropriate technology, always strivint to achieve the next step. In Greece, especially in the case of oral and written communication, this view is highly misleading, as is discussed in detail in Chapter 6. Ideological reasons, either for the failure to invent a technique, or for the lack of interest in exploiting such an invention, are of paramount importance, as we shall see, and it is precisely here that the role of information in shaping society is most clearly exposed,
A second feature of modern writing on ancient news is the preoccupation with the military, and the consequent overvaluing of certain visible institutions. Riepl (Das Nachrichtenwesen des Altertums.

14. Aristotle Politics 1326a
15. Aristophanes Lysistrata 808; Birds, 1549; Pausanias 1.30.4 describes Timon as 'the only man who could find no other way to be happy than by fleeing all other humans'.
18.  J.M. Camp, The Athenian Agora (London 1986) 99: 'In the days before radio and television, newspapers and the telephone, the monument of the Eponymous Heroes was a crucial element in the dissemination of official information'; J. Ober, Mass and Élite in Democratic Athens: rhetoric, ideology and the power of the people (Princeton 1989) 148: 'Much depended on rumor and gossip, which were particularly important in a society that lacked organised news media.'
19. Progressive model: seen most recently in G. Achard, La Communication à Rome (Paris 1991); also W. Riepl: (Leipzig 1913), which is firmly rooted in its period. Riepl's introduction sets ancient news in a context of development in methods of news carrying  which had reached its climax at the start of the twentieth century, with an explosion of new inventions: the telegrap, telephone, aeroplane, photograph and radio; Stephens, Das Nachrichtenwesen des Altertums mit besonderer Rücksicht auf die Römer.A History of News is not entirely exempt. Notable for her contrasting insight is R. Thomas, Oral Tradition and Written Record in Classical Athens  (London 1988); also Orality and Literacy (Cambridge 1991).

(pp. 5-7)

Chapter 6 News and Writing

[...] This chapter has shown that while Dr Johnson may have been wrong to suppose that information could not be circulated in a society without printing, it would be equally wrong to portray news and writing in as direct a relationship in ancient Greece as they are today. But if information was not the primary reason for the publication of texts within a polis, written public texts were communicative in many different ways. Inscriptions were as much symbolic as informative; the practice of writing gained a central place in political life as much for its implicit messages as its explicit text. The use of wirting and record-keeping with the polis grew from the end of the fifth century, though the oral and written remained interdependent. The polis, however, never adapted itself totally to writing and publication, because the ideology of writing was at odds with its conception of public life. Suspicion kept pace with development, and even letters from state officials could not be entertained without concern for the accuracy and accessibility of their contents. Ideas of obedience to the government at Sparta, and of democracy at Athens, called for the oral dissemination of news.
It is only in the international sphere that we see some difference: establishing copies of treaties at international shrines, though not undertanken for the purpose of spreading news, nevertheless contributed to the circulation of information from one polis to another. Indeed the inscriptions, though produced at least partly from motives of propaganda, were one of the reasons for the role of panhellenic festivals as centres of news.
(p. 153)


This book has made clear that the dissemination of news in the Greek polis cannot be understood simply by reference to the herald or runner. The figure of Phidippides may dominate the modern idea of Greek news-carrying, but he represents only one aspect, albeit the must picturesque, of Greek systems for the dissemination of news. Organised systems of news, in which one can include the assembly, the heralds and the official dispatch, were created in the Greek polis, but unofficial sources of news were equally significant, whether travellers, traders and partisans, or gossip and rumour. Instead of creating systems for gathering and disseminating news, poleis relied on individuals to provide them with the news they needed, and on their citizens to find their own sources of news.

Among the preconceptions that I have been trying to dispel, the most widespread, and the most deceptive, is that based on twentieth-century ideas about the benefits of technological progress. Applying such ideas to Ancient Greece inevitably produces a distorted view. Historians of the ancient world, and modern media theorists, have used developments in the technology of communication such as the invention of writing tablets, or papyrus, or improvements in roads, to mark changes of practice and mentality [1] The assumption is that each innovation was eagerly awaited, and was put to immediate use to improve communication. While there may be value on this theory for Imperial Rome, it is not true either of Greece or of the Rome of the archaic and republican periods. We should not construct ancient societies as 'deprived' of mass media, struggling to achieve proper communications despite sad limitations on their ability to do so; such a view vastly underrates the sophistication of the Greek concept of news, by concentrating too exclusively on the physical and institutional aspects of news dissemination.

News for news sake, the idea that hearing about events was valuable as an end in itself, was absent from communication between ancient poleis. Individual citizens exhibited a great appetite for news, but the regular and official passage of news between poleis was entirely absent. This factor, alone, however, will not account for the lack of organised systems of gathering and disseminating news, beyond the herald, the scout and the runner; other factors within Greek society were far more important.

The first of these is ideology. The most effective systems of communication with which the Greeks were familiar were those developed by the empires of Persia and, to a lesser extent, Macedonia. Effective reporting and dissemination was seen as the hallmark of monarchic society, and it was recognised that as communication became more efficient, so the possibility of control from the centre became greater. [my emphasis, RC] The Greeks had a clear conception of themselves as free and self-governing, and the creation of systems of intelligence-gathering conflicted with this idea. The invention of novel techniques of communication, such as the written or the telegraphic, was associated with secrecy, and this too made their exploitation difficult. Their complexity, and the fact that the information was not open to all, but could be interpreted only by one individual, meant that their use outside the military arena was unacceptable. The desire to retain traditional and ritual elements also militated against straightforward transition from the oral to the written.

The most accurate information was, according to Greek thought, that which was divinely inspired, and this also influenced the treatment of information in the real world. Divine news, even if not entirely credited, remained current as an idea in the historical period, through the existence of oracles, and the attribution of semi-divine status to rumour. By contrasting infallible divine knowledge with that derived from human sources, the Greeks developed a sophisticated attitude to news, recognising that all news is in some way innacurate. They saw that messengers are easily biased, and stories affected by their narrative context. The effect of rhetoric is significant here; the Greeks realised that how and where news was told, whether in the assembly, the courts, to an enemy general, or to a friend, would affect what was said. [my emphasis, RC]

Some limitations on the passage of news were imposed by the nature of Greece, the physical difference between poleis and the relative difficulty of travel, but by far the most important factor was the political separation of the poleis. A comparison with the structures which the Romans imposed on Greece (and elsewhere) provides the clearest illustration of this: the Romans developed a system of roads, established regional centres, imposed a command structure, and instituted central authority with the power to disseminate news. None of this could be achieved without a conception of Greece as unity, and this was an idea which the Greeks themselves did not develop. [my emphasis, RC]

Indeed, Greek poleis were far more concerned to emphasise their separation. Contact between citizens of different poleis is presented in our sources mainly through stereotypes. Mobility between poleis was high at all periods, yet it is significant that the response of the poleis was to create systems to integrate these individuals temporarily into the polis. Institutions such as the proxenia allowed the traveller or chance messenger to gain some connection with the polis, making clear the element of polis partisanship associated with the bringing of news. In this way, by making the loyalties of the individual clear, the distance between poleis could be maintained. An individual could be loyal to only one polis at a time: the citizen could be defined by his sharing in the communication of information, and his or her relationship towards the information of the polis needed to be made explicit.
News was relevant to all areas of Greek life, not only to the military and political, but to the polis as a whole. The role of the polis could be defined in terms of communication with its citizens, and the processes by which this communication wa achieved were as important as the information itself; a polis hat to be seen to announce or receive items of news. Both inside and outside the polis, in contact with its own citizens and with other states, news was vital to all the interactions of the polis. We see in our sources messages, between poleis and individuals, going astray, being intercepted, disbelieved, misinterpreted or ignored. But this is no reason to believe that the transmission of news was ineffective. It is because of the sophistication of the Greek response to news that we do see a range of possibilities for its exploitation, and a range of reactions to it. Herodas the Syracusan, with whose story  I began, does not need to be understood as a spy loyal to Sparta, in order to account for his actions; on the contrary, as a chance messenger with an important message, he is entirely typical of Greek news-transmissions.

1. For example, M. MacLuhan [sic], The Gutenberg Galaxy: the making of typographic man (London 1962), esp. 58-61, G. Achard, La Communication à Rome (Paris 1991)

(pp. 155-157)

Proxeny or proxenia (Greek: προξενία) in ancient Greece was an arrangement whereby a citizen (chosen by the city) hosted foreign ambassadors at his own expense, in return for honorary titles from the state. The citizen was called proxenos (πρόξενος; plural: proxenoior proxeni, "instead of a foreigner") or proxeinos (πρόξεινος). The proxeny decrees, which amount to letters of patent and resolutions of appreciation were issued by one state to a citizen of another for service as proxenos, a kind of honorary consul looking after the interests of the other state’s citizens. A cliché phrase is euergetes (benefactor) and proxenos (πρόξεινος τε ειη και ευεργέτης).
A proxenos would use whatever influence he had in his own city to promote policies of friendship or alliance with the city he voluntarily represented. For example, Cimon was Sparta's proxenos at Athens and during his period of prominence in Athenian politics, previous to the outbreak of the First Peloponnesian War, he strongly advocated a policy of cooperation between the two states. Cimon was known to be so fond of Sparta that he named one of his sons Lacedaemonius.[1][2]
Being another city's proxenos did not preclude taking part in war against that city, should it break out - since the proxenos' ultimate loyalty was to his own city. However, a proxenos would naturally try his best to prevent such a war from breaking out and to compose whatever differences were threatening to cause it. And once peace negotiations were on the way, a proxenos' contacts and goodwill in the enemy city could be profitably used by his city.
The position of proxenos for a particular city was often hereditary in a particular family.

1. The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, Donald Lateiner, Richard Crawley, page 33.  
2. Who's who in the Greek world by John Hazel, page 56. 


Monceaux, P., Les Proxénies Grecques (Paris, 1885).
Walbank, M., Athenian Proxenies of the Fifth Century B.C. (Toronto, 1978).
Marek, C., Die Proxenie (Frankfurt am Main, 1984) (Europäische Hochschulschriften: Reihe 3, Geschichte und ihre Hilfswissenschaften, 213).
Gerolymatos, A., Espionage and Treason: A Study of the Proxeny in Political and Military Intelligence Gathering in Classical Greece (Amsterdam, 1986).
Knoepfler, D., Décrets Érétrians de Proxénie et de Citoyenneté (Lausanne, 2001) (Eretria Fouilles et Researches, 11).
Gastaldi, Enrica Culasso, L

Paper presented at the international conference: Information. New Questions to a Multidisciplinary Concept organized by the Chair for Philosophy of Technology at the Technical University of Cottbus held from March 1st to 3rd, 1994. In: K. Kornwachs & K. Jacoby (eds.): Information. New Questions to a Multidisciplinary Concept Akademie Verlag Berlin 1996, pp. 259-270.


One striking fact about some present information theories is the small attention they pay to the mythical, poetical and theological structure of the phenomenon of receiving a message from 'above' and giving it to others 'below'. An exception is the recent work by Michel Serres who makes an analogy between the mythical and theological role of the messenger and a 'prima facie' secularized information society (Serres 1993). This to some extent apologetical analysis is a good example of the fact that there is only an apparent historical linearity between the mythical and our modern secularized ages. Such a non-linear view opens up also the possibility of discovering hierarchical dimensions in our present horizontal model (and vice-versa). Together with this general disregard for the mythical forms of transmitting messages there is also the question as to the appropriate term to look at when we want to identify the phenomenon of information in pre-modern times. In the case of Western culture this term obviously seems to be lógos. But indeed this choice, independently of the polyvalent meaning of the concept, leads us to an analysis by which we can no longer see the horizon against which this term was coined. This horizon is a mythical and poetical one as, for instance, in the case of Homer. In a mythical and poetical context the term we are looking for is not lógosbut angelía (message).   

First of all it is important to remember that within this context the action of transmitting a message is a sacred one. Iris and Hermes are the personified homeric symbols of this vertical or hierarchical structure, where 'message' shifts to 'command' and the act of transmission to that of 'ordering' and 'proclaiming'. This need not necessarily be seen under a negative aspect. Particularly not if we think that the institutions and practices related to political and military transmission were not the same as those exercised for instance by the poets and the mythical oracles. The oracle priest or mántis was supposed to transmit the 'signs' (semainein) of the gods. The right or wrong interpretation of these signs was sometimes, as in the case of Oedipus, a question of life and death. What the priest was supposed to announce was the 'wisdom' (mythos) of the gods. This power structure and practice, partly a command, partly an enigma appealing to the moral sense, is what Heraclitus recalls when, with regard to the oracle of Delphi, he says that "it does not interpret (légei) or conceals (krúptei) but gives signs (semáinei)" (Diels 1956, Heraklit Frg. 93).   

In the case of the poet (usually) his practice was one of bringing the "sweet message" (angelían glykeían) (Pindar 1967, Olymp. IV, 5) of the Olympic victory to the town and to the relatives of the winner. This is not the same structure as when Hermes brings a message from Zeus or of the mantis 'un-concealing' the will of Apollo but it is indeed a practice to be exercised by someone who was appointed by the gods, who had a vocation, and whose speaking was the announcing of a high order event or will.   

The same terms are used also in the case of a messenger who brings to the palace of Agamemnon the news from the victory at Troy (Aischylos 1914, Agam. 1-39). Angelía was the usual term in the political and military context of announcing an important event, for instance a victory or defeat or a birth in the royal family. Another highly influential information structure in Antiquity was that of prophecies, particularly in the Judeo-Christian tradition.  

It is remarkable indeed that such a key term hardly appears after the fifth century (B.C.) in the context of philosophical thought: angelía will be displaced by lógos. This is indeed a clear sign of change, i.e. of the emergence of new and different kinds of institutions and practices concerned with the process of transmitting knowledge, of teaching and learning. There is some kind of transition from the more vertical structure of mythical and poetical angelía to the more horizontal structure of a common search for truth in philosophical dialogue.   

This transition can be observed for instance in Parmenides (540-480 B.C.) who writes his message (mythos) as a poem and refers to the goddess who is able to discern between the many lógoi and the one mythos (Diels 1956, Parmenides Frg. 8, 1). Lógos becomes central for Heraclitus (544-483 B.C.), but his practice is more that of proclaiming the truth in the sense of angelía than of looking for it in a dialogical manner as has been the case since Socrates.   

But before we take a look at the phenomenon of information in the Socratic context let us remember that angelía, as a vertical phenomenon of announcing the 'good new', was the key concept in the Christian announcing of salvation, arising from the tradition of the Jewish prophets as well as of their practices and institutions. The fact that the Greek concept of lógos was also deeply connected to the Christian message led to a synthesis of angelía and lógos. The Christian angelía, although vertical, arises in an epoch where the horizontal information mood of lógos has become the norm. The forms of life fashioned by the philosophical schools and their manifold practices and institutions of communication and information are gradually substituted by those created by the announcement of the 'good message' (euangelion) supposed to bring forth truth and 'salvation' (sotería). This religious message transforms during the Middle Ages the philosophic lógos and the prophetic angelía into a sacra doctrina sustained by institutions such as the Roman Church and the universities.   

The tension between verticality and horizontality makes possible on the one hand the practices of the Inquisition but it inspires also forms of living such as knighthood, with its military and poetic ethos, allowing, as we call it today, an intercultural exchange between Christianity and Islam.   

Jorge Schement, by asking why in the story of Jesus' betrayal (Matthew 26, 14-48) the Koiné Greek does not speak of lógos, a word "whose meaning might come closest to 'information'", considers that this word would not fit into the context of a sale (Schement 1992, p.175). The word used by Matthew is 'signal' (semeíon). Schement guesses that Latin informare meant "to give form to, to shape", "perhaps to form an idea of, or even to describe" (ibid.) (Capurro 1978).  

This epistemological meaning, going back to Socratic philosophy, was indeed transformed by Modernity into a property of the human subject. Its signs or symbols being something objective were soon regarded, particularly by rationalists such as Descartes and Leibniz, as something to be stored and processed. It is but a small step to look at information as a commodity or as a thing to be sold. 


From the very beginning of Socratic philosophy one information mood symbolized by the term angelía, namely the poetic activity, is the object of criticism. The concept of lógos begins its splendid career and angelía disappears.  

In Plato's dialogue Ion Socrates analyzes the 'hermeneutical' activity of the Homeric rhapsode who is supposed to transmit to the listeners a thought (diánoia). But he cannot fulfil such a task as he does not know what he is talking about (légei) (Platon 1967, Ion 530c). Ion has indeed the divine power to fill his listeners with enthusiasm. It is the god himself who speaks (légon) to the poet and it is the rhapsode who brings the message (hermenés) to the people. This double vertical structure is compared by Plato to a magnet, not only as far as a magnet caused to hang the rings down but also because it communicates to them its force which causes the 'hanging down'.   

This vertical structure is not completely abolished but relativated by the horizontal philosophical dialogue. The 'erotic' force leading and sustaining the 'logical' search for truth has the Divine as its aim and origin. This means, on the one hand, an inversion of the transmission movement of the mythical and poetical angelía but, on the other hand, this inversion causes also the content of the message not in some way already to have been given from the 'top' but must it be defined from the 'bottom'. In order to get to the 'top' one must be able to know in a particular way what we are talking about in each case so that we can transfer it into a higher level. The content of the message is a lógos to be found and the method of communication is one of exchanging it in a dia-logue. But the philosophic lógoshas something special with regard to other horizontal lógoi. Socrates criticizes the lógoi of the artisans and politicians as they believe they know what they are talking about, but then forgetting the limits of their knowledge i.e. not being guided by an 'erotic' self-transcendent or vertical force which relativizes all positive contents giving the possibility of looking through them into their divine origin. Whether or not this vertical tendency of the horizontal philosophical dialogue was more intense in Plato than in Socrates, it is nevertheless clear that Socrates' symmetrical attitude was highly ironical. He considered himself as a mediator, doing the work of a midwife. He was a 'daimonic man'.   

The change from mythical-poetical angelía to philosophic lógos brings about new practices and institutions i.e. new forms of power. Instead of the palace, the war places and the Olympic games we are now at the agorá and in the schools. New conflicts arise between the philosophic communities and the religious and political powers. The horizontal liberalization of philosophic dialogue accentuates the tension with the vertical structures of the pólis. Socrates's death is a clear example of this tension. Plato tried to integrate both poles in his state philosophy by giving the political leader something of the 'higher' but philosophical knowledge of the Divine. This structure determines in a very detailed form all kinds of rites, duties and techniques including the arts of the ideal pólis. This is a substitute of the old information utopia as represented by the mythical and poetic angelía. 

It is a 'logical' information utopia where all the partial or 'technical' lógoi are superseded by a divine techné which is transmitted by a long 'dialectical' education aiming at a knowledge of the mathematical and the 'ideal' structures and their imperfect representations in the cosmic and political order. The mythical experience of the divine is integrated into the platonic 'infological' structure as a 'sudden' (exáiphnes) encounter with an 'unspoken' dimension (árrheton) after a long journey of searching for the truth under the guidance of a philosophy master. This 'searching together' is therefore not symmetrical. Socrates and Plato in their roles as masters are mediators of the god in a similar but not identical way as the poet was. Although Plato, following Socrates, definitely gave the priority to orality as the adaequate medium in which the philosophic éros fertilizes the souls, he belonged to a culture where writing was already a generalized communication medium particularly in the sciences. His dialogues are somehow a transition between the way writing was used by the poets to preserve and transmit a message which was intended to produce enthusiasm and its uses through scientific and 'technical' communities.   

The allegory of the cave (Plato 1967, Rep. 514-518) can be seen as an inverted information utopia of what a philosophical view of the 'unchanging' and 'supra-sensible' world brings about. Instead of the multiplicity of forms or messages reproduced in front of the cave, of which the prisoners can only see the shadows and talk about them, the platonic dialectic presents a world where there is no more need for information because the forms themselves are the permanent subject of an eternal communication structure. The ideal world is a world of pure form and therefore of pure communication. It is an 'un-human' world. Writing is for Plato a shadow of the oral lógos which itself is again an image of the 'mathematical' structures and these again of the 'ideas' or forms. Learning to see the sensible world under the perspective of the 'world' of mathematical structures and of the 'ideal forms' means nothing more and nothing less than finding the 'utopian' place, i.e. the place or the perspective from where it is possible to see it as forever 'in-formed'. Plato's information utopia is a communication utopia. From this 'ideal' perspective our 'global village' or "télécité" (Virilio 1992), is like a networked cave, a surrogate of the 'hyper reality' of the divine 'intellectual place' (tópos noetós) of pure 'in-formation' or pure communication.  

Plato's utopia differs in many ways from that developed by Aristoteles. One key aspect is the question of the kind of legitimation to be given to knowledge mediation through rhetoric or oral communication and writing. Aristotle was more liberal in his conception of the role of media in the 'pólis' (Aristotle 1950, Pol. viii). He was not oriented towards a mythical idea from which to 'in-form' reality but asked for a 'human measure' of living. In his "Rhetoric" he legitimates different kinds of communication forms, such as deliberative, juridical and laudatory speech, whose aim is to teach or to inform (!), to influence and to please. Aristotelian rhetoric offers a framework for the foundation of information science (Capurro 1992). But also with regard to writing, Aristotle is no longer 'ideo-logically' biased as Plato was. He differentiates between writing for the school (esoteric) and writing for the general public (exoteric) in a different manner as probably Plato did as he transmitted some knowledge through writing but retained some basic insights which were supposed to pertain to oral tradition only (Platon 1967, Epist. vii). Aristotle has a basic confidence in writing as an adequate medium for the communication of philosophic investigations. Aristotle collects and discusses the writings of other philosophers and scientists. His nickname is 'the reader' (anagnóstes). An anagnóstes was usually a servant who read a book out aloud publicly, while the academicians normally heard what was being read. When a book was publicly read out loud it was considered as 'published'.   

The information paradigm of the Greek lógos has many other shapes. It looks like a servant of economic and political power as in the case of the sophists, and it can be seen as a completely free form of communication (parrhesía), particularly of taboo subjects, as in the cynical school - similarly, the relation of the philosophic lógos to poetry and religion as well as to tragedy and comedy changes. The freedom to say anything, at any time, to anybody is based on limited conditions as, for instance, to be a (male) citizen of the pólis and to respect the laws.  

After the encounter of the Greek lógos with the Judeo-Christian angelía the relation between the vertical and the horizontal dimensions of information changed in favor of the vertical angelía whereas philosophy became a servant of theology (ancilla theologiae). Renaissance and the Enlightenment looked for a liberation of the horizontal information structure from its vertical mood, at least in the field of science. The model of a rational discussion of arguments open to public discussion through writing seems really to have been achieved with printing. Modernity raises the question whether printing can be conceived as a neutral communication medium where messages can be passed without the censorship of the government, the church or the military.  

[...] Der Begriff des Verkündens hat eine eminente Bedeutung in der frühen klassischen Dichtung Griechenlands. Bereits im ersten Gesang der Odyssee taucht die Frage auf, ob Athene, die in der Gestalt eines Hausfreundes (Mentor) erschienen war, dem Telemachos Botschaft (angelien) von seines Vaters Rückkehr gebracht hat. Telemachos will dieser Botschaft aber scheinbar nicht mehr Glauben schenken, er will sie also nicht mehr im Sinne einer Weissagung deuten (Od. 1, 409, 414-415). Al der Herold (kerux) am nächsten Tag zur Versammlung ruft, erklärt Telemachos, daß er keine Botschaft (angelien) von einem nahenden Kriegsheer zu verkünden hat, sondern über seinen Schmerz sprechen will. Die Freier sind wiederum verärgert, weil Penelope sie mit Botschaften (angelias) tröstet, im Herzen aber anders denkt (Od. 4, 679). Im fünften Gesang schließlich schickt Zeus Hermes, seinen Boten (angelos)  in der Ilias ist Iris die Götterbotin –, um Kalypso seinen Entschluß und sein Wort (mythos) ursprünglich zu verkünden (Od. 5, 29-30, 98). Das Verkünden enthält hier das Moment der göttlichen Anordnung. Aus diesen wenigen Hinweisen ist auch zu entnehmen, daß die Handlung des In-Kenntnis-Setzens eine sakrale ist, ja daß sie sogar in einem göttlichen Boten personifiziert ist. 

Auch bei Pindar treffen wir angelía an zentraler Stelle der dichterischen Handlung. Der Dichter wird von den Horen, den Göttinen des Wachsens, Reifens und Blühens, nach Olympia gesandt, um Zeuge (martyr) des Kampfes und Sieges zu werden: Über die süße Botschaft (angelían glykeian) des geglückten Sieges freuen sich die Edlen (Olymp. IV, 5). Angelía, die Göttin der Botschaft, Hermes' Tochter, bringt die Siegeskunde dem Vater und dem Onkel des Alkimedon (Olymp. VIII, 81-82). Schließlich ist die Ode selbst die Botschaft, die der Dichter die "liebe Stadt entflammend", "ein mutig Roß an Schnelle, ein geflügelt Schiff" übertreffend, überall hinsendet, wie die Blüten der den Frohsinn bringenden Chariten. Das Senden dieser Botschaft steht nicht jedermann zu, sondern das Lied bedarf einer schicksalsberufenen Hand (Olymp. IX, 21-29). Mit anderen Worten, Pindars Oden und Homers Dichtung verstehen sich als eine besondere Form des Mitteilens, nämlich eine dankende, preisende und begeisternde. Die göttliche Handlung des Verkündens mit ihrer schicksalsbestimmenden Macht geht in die des Dichter teilweise über.

Diese Hinweise auf den Begriff angelía im mythisch-dichterischen Kontext der griechischen Antike bleiben wesentlich unvollständig, ohne zumindest auf die Rolle und Bedeutung des Phänomens der Mitteilung als Verkünden in der Tragödie hinzuweisen. Ich erinnere zunächst an den Wächter zu Beginn von Aischylos' Agamemnon, der in der Nacht im Königspalast zu Argos auf die Siegesnachricht oder die Sage (phatin, baxin) von der Eroberung Trojas wartet, bis er sie schließlich verkünden kann (semaino) (Agam. 9-10, 26). Die Rolle des Boten (angelos) ist zwar unscheinbar, nimmt aber eine Schlüsselstellung im Geschehensablauf der griechischen Tragödie. Auf ihn wartet ungeduldig der Chor der Persischen Fürsten zu Beginn der Perser. Zum Schluß von Sophokles' Ödipus auf Kolonnos bringt eine göttliche Heroldstimme dem Ödipus die Kunde (angellousi) von seinem bevorstehenden Tode (Öd.Kol. 1511). Die Kenntnis seiner künftigen Grabsstätte, das Bewußtsein von der Sterblichkeit des Menschen, soll wiederum das Land besser schützen als das stärkste Heer. In Euripides' Iphigenie bei den Taurern will die über die wahre Identität ihres bei den Taurern gestrandeten Bruders Orestes unwissende Iphigenie diesen einen Brief schicken, so daß durch diese Botschaft (angeleilai) sie gerettet werden kann (Iphig. Taur. 582). Der Bote soll Orestes' Freund Pylades sein. Um im Falle eines Versinkens des Schiffes sicherzugehen, will Iphigenie, daß Pylades über den Inhalt des Briefes Bescheid weiß, denn wenn "du am Leben bleibst, so lebt dann auch mein Wort" (Iphig. Taur. 765). Durch diese in Anwesenheit von Orestes erfolgte Mitteilung, kommt es zu einer komödienhafte Szene, in de Pylades den soeben in Empfang genommenen Brief dem Orestes weitergibt.

Das Phänomen der ankündigenden Mitteilung in der griechischen Antike weist durchaus profane und alltägliche Dimensionen auf. Es gehört, wie die Tragödien-Beispiele ebenfalls zeigen, in den politisch-militärischen Kontext, wie im Falle der Ankündigung von Sieg oder Niederlage. Ein gutes Beispiel dafür ist jener in sprichwörtlicher lakonischer Kürze verfaßte Brief der von Alkibiades besiegten Spartaner, die an die Ephoren folgendes meldeten: "Flotte vernichtet, Mindaraos tot. Mannschaften hungern. Wir wissen nicht, was tun" (Plutarch o.D.: 110).

Schließlich will das dichterische Werk selbst als Gesamtmitteilung eine menschenbildende, an höheren Bestimmungen orientierte Wirkung erzielen. Die Dichtung nimmt die Macht des Mythos auf und stellt sie zumindest teilweise in die Verfügung des Dichters. Eine genauere Analyse müßte aber die untershciedliche Abschwächung des Mythischen von Homer über Pindar bis Euripides aufzeigen, während ich jetzt das Gemeinsame, nämlich die menschenbildende Funktion hervorhebe. Diese geht wiederum in verwandelter Form unter Abschwächung der schicksalsbestimmenden Rolle des Dichters in die philosophischen Schulen und deren Mitteilungswege oder Methoden über, wobei aber eine ausschlaggebende Veränderung stattfindet: der Vorgang des Verkündens einer göttlichen Weisheit (mythos, sophia) kehrt sich in den der Erkenntnissuche (philosophia) um. Diese Umkehrung vollzieht sich auch mit unterschiedlicher Stärke. In Ciceros De finis finden wir ein Beispiel für die gemeinsame Suche nach menschenbildender Erkenntnis in einem Vorgang der gegenseitigen Mitteilung, wobei die Autorität bestimmter philosophischer Lehren, deren Verkündigungscharakter also, geprüft, kritisiert und letztlich auch hingenommen wird. Man kann sagen, daß mit der Entstehung der Philosophie die angelía im Sinne eines herrschaftlichen Mitteilens oder eines Verkündens durch die Suche nach Erkenntnis (gignoskein) verdrängt oder zumindest abgeschwächt wird. Während die verkündende Botschaft sich im rhythmischen Gesang (aeido) der Dichtung vollzog, ist jetzt der gemeinsam mit (anderen)-geteilte vorwiegend prosaische logos das Medium der nach Erkenntnis strebenden Mitteilung.

Übergänge finden wir aber zum Beispiel in Parmenides' philosophisch-dichterischer Mitteilung (mythos). Der Terminus angelia kommt in Parmenides' Gedicht (Diels/Kranz 1956, Frag. 1) nicht vor. Im Fragment 2 heißt es: "Wohlan, ich will dir sagen (ereo), doch du nimm dich an des Wortes (mython), das du hörst" (Diels/Kranz 1956, Frag. 2, 7). Die Göttin unterscheidet (krisis) zwischen den vielen logoi und dem einen mythos (Diels/Kranz 1956, Frag. 8, 1), und sie gibt  Anleitung für den "Weg des Suchens" (Diels/Kranz 1956, Frag. 6, 3).

Bei Heraklit spielt der Logos-Begriff wiederum eine zentrale(re) Rolle (Diels/Kranz 1956, Frag. 50). Der philosophische Mitteilungsmodus nimmt mit unterschiedlicher Akzentuierung einen horizontalen dia-logischen Charakter an, behält aber bisweilen auch die doktrinale vertikale Form der Verkündung, so wie umgekehrt die dichterische Mitteilung einen offeneren Gestaltungsraum schafft als manche philosophische Lehre. Dementsprechend verändert sich auch der Charakter des Wettstreits (agon), der nicht mehr das Preisen und Rühmen, sondern die Wahrheitssuche zum Ziel hat.

Zu Beginn des Dialogs Ion läßt Platon Sokrates sagen: "Soll doch der Rhapsode den Hörern ein verständiger Überbringer (hermenea des dichterischen Gedankens (dianoias) werden, eine Aufgabe, die er unmöglich lösen kann, wenn er nicht weiß (me gignoskonta), was der Dichter meint (legei) (Ion 530 c). Sokrates gesteht dem Homer-Rhapsoden Ion eine göttliche Kraft (theia dynamis, Ion 533 d) zu, die sich der Harmonie und dem Rhythmus überläßt und zu begeistern vermag. Der Rhapsode hat aber keine Kenntnis (techne), weder über die Dichtung insgesamt noch über die Sachverhalte selbst. Der Gott selbst redet (legon), er gießt sein Wort herab oder läßt es herabhängen (katechiomenoi) durch den Dichter. Dieser ist sein Dolmetscher, der, wie Hermes, eine Botschaft überbringt (hermenes) (Ion 534 d-e), so wie wiederum der Rhapsode der Dolmetscher des Dichters ist.

Dabei bedient sich Platon mehrmals des Vergleichs des Gottes mit einem Magneten, der die eisernen Ringe nicht nur herabhängen läßt, sondern ihnen auch die Kraft gibt, einander zu hängen, wodurch die lösende Kraft des philosophisch-dialogischen Mitteilungsmodus hervorgehoben wird. Sowenig wie Homer ein Fachkundiger ist, sowenig ist es sein Rhapsode. Beide stehen unter göttlicher Fügung (theia moira) und sind in dieser Hinsicht nicht anders als die Wahrsager und die Orakelsänger, die, wie Sokrates in der Apologie sagt, "reden viel Schönes, wissen aber nichts, von dem, was sie reden" (Apol. 22 d), wobei aber für Sokrates auch die Politiker und die Handwerker sich über die Grenzen ihres Wissens nicht bewußt sind.