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Ritual and Communication in the Graeco-Roman World

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Eftychia Stavrianopoulou

“Now let Earth be my witness and the broad heaven above, and the down flowing water of the Styx…” (Homer, Mas XV, 36-37): Greek oath-rituals*

Irene Berti

Texte intégral

  • * For epigraphical publications I use the following abbreviations:
    IGT = R. Koerner, Inschriftliche G (...)
  • 1 I will only mention a selection of the most recent studies on oath and perjury: J. Plescia, The Oa (...)

1The aim of this paper is to analyse the ritual of Greek oaths as well as the semantics of the oath-formula itself. Therefore, my emphasis lies on the religious, rather than the legal aspects of Greek oaths. My purpose is to examine the oath as an instrument of ritual communication, rather than trace a history of the oath and its development in ancient Greece, a subject on which there is already a vast literature.1

  • 2 Eustathius, ad B 339; Etym. Magn., s.v. ὅρϰος. See Plescia, o.c. (n. 1), p. 1-2. See also P. Torri (...)
  • 3 Hesiod, Theogony, 793-803.

2The most commonly used Greek word to signify an oath is ὅρϰος, which was already in antiquity related to ἕρϰος, etymologically meaning “fence”, “enclosure” and “that which confines or constrains”.2 Greek oaths had a very strong coercive force, which bound two or more people together, and one or more individuals to the gods. The obligation to keep an oath was felt to be absolute. According to Hesiod, even immortals had to fulfil a sworn oath; even a god who committed perjury could not escape the curse of an oath and was believed to fall asleep and be deprived of his divinity for a number of years3.

  • 4 The clearest evidence for litigants’ oaths is from the Gortynian Law Code: IC IV, 72, 3, 5-9 and 1 (...)
  • 5 Treaty of alliance between Athens and Argos (Thucydides, V, 47, 8); Peace of Nikias (Thuc, V, 18); (...)
  • 6 IG IX l2, 3, 718 (From Khaleion, about the foundation of the colony of Naupaktos; see also Nomima (...)
  • 7 New laws: Andocides, 1, 96-98 (Athenian oath of allegiance to the democratic constitution in 410 B (...)
  • 8 Lycurgus, 1, 79. Oath of the Nine Archonts: Aristotle, Athenaion Politeia, 3, 3; 7, 1; oath for th (...)
  • 9 IG II-III2, 1237; S.D. Lambert, The Phratries of Attica, Ann Arbor, 19982 [1993], p. 161-178, 285 (...)
  • 10 Pausanias, V, 24, 9-11.

3From the beginning of Greek history to the time of the Roman conquest, oaths remained widespread in both the social and political life of the Greeks. Oaths were made during legal processes4 as a guarantee of treaties between poleis5, for the foundation of a new colony in international policy6, to ratify new laws and public contracts,7 upon entering a new office8 as well as a civic division like a phratria,9 and even before taking part in the Olympic games.10

  • 11 The great majority of the examples I analyse in this paper are to be found in Karavites, o.c. (n. (...)

4This paper presents a series of examples of oath-rituals in their historical contexts, spanning from the early archaic Period to the Late Hellenistic Period, and identifies the recurrent elements and their many variants11.

  • 12 See for instance the very interesting article of Faraone, l.c. (n. 1), p. 60-80.

5The Greek oaths, especially the oldest ones, have been often interpreted as rituals implying sympathetic magic.12 I will try to interpret them in terms of interpersonal communication. My purpose is to show that we cannot define one oath-ritual, but rather a variety of oath-rituals. Not only could some ritual elements disappear or be introduced anew, but also the sequences of the ritual could be changed and differently interpreted according to the cultural background of the oath-takers. Thus, the structure of the oath-rituals could always be invested with a new meaning, whose semantics can only be understood if we consider the cultural and historical context in which the oath was taken, as well as the peculiar situation and the intentions of the oath-takers. The semantic of the ritual deeply influenced its performance and determined many ritual variants.

Oaths in Homer’s works

  • 13 Homer, Iliad XXIII, 42.
  • 14 Hom., Odyssey II, 373; 377-378; IV, 252-256.
  • 15 Hom., Il. III, 73; 94; 103-107.
  • 16 Hom., Il. II, 337-341.
  • 17 Hom., Il. VII, 406-412.
  • 18 Hom., Od. V, 177-187; X, 299-301; 342-347; 380-381.
  • 19 Hom., Il. IX, 132-134; X, 274-276; 328-332; XIX, 175-177; 242-268; XXIII, 439-441; 581-585.
  • 20 E.g. Hom. Il. XIV, 271-280; XV, 36-40; XIX, 108.

6Various interesting descriptions of oath ceremonies can be found in Homer’s epics. The heroes of the Iliad and the Odyssey often turned to oaths to substantiate their statements,13 to impose a vow of secrecy,14 to establish the rules of war15 and alliances,16 to protect truces,17 to avert danger18 or resolve issues concerning reputation and honour between leaders of the same faction.19 Even the gods loved to take oaths in order to increase the efficacy of their actions.20

  • 21 Hom., Il. II, 339.
  • 22 The interpretation of the Homeric oaths requires us to keep in mind the poetic nature of the sourc (...)

7In Homer’s works, oaths are always accompanied by a series of symbolic gestures. In some cases, detailed descriptions and the use of technical terms such as συνθεσίαι τε ϰαὶ ὅρϰια,21 which are also frequently found in later inscriptions, allow us to reconstruct the oldest Greek oaths with a fair degree of certainty.22

8In book III of the Iliad, the outcome of the war is uncertain and, notwithstanding the losses that both sides have suffered, neither of the warring factions manages to gain the upper hand. Thus, Hector proposes that the Achaeans and the Trojans agree to resolve the conflict, sparked by a private issue, by means of a duel between Paris and Menelaos.

  • 23 Hom., Il. III, 85-94 (transl. AT. Murray): Ἕϰτωρ δὲ μετ’ ἀμϕοτέροισιν ἔειπε | “ϰέϰλυτέ μευ, Τρῶες (...)

And Hector spoke between the two armies: Hear from me, you Trojans and well-greaved Achaeans, the words of Alexander, for whose sake strife has arisen. The other Trojans and all the Achaeans he asks that they lay aside their fair armor on the bounteous earth, and that he himself between the armies together with Menelaus, dear to Ares, do battle in single combat for Helen and for all her possessions. And whoever wins, and proves himself the better man, let him duly take all the wealth and the woman, and take them home; but we others let us swear friendship and solemn oaths.23

  • 24 Hom., Il. II, 124; III, 73; 105; 256; IV, 155-157.
  • 25 For example, Nomima I, 19 (Halikarnassos, 475/450), 32 (Kyzikos, 6th cent. BC), 62 (Chios, about 5 (...)

9The orkia (pista) temnein formula belongs to the technical vocabulary of oath-taking and recurs frequently in the Iliad in numerous variants24 and also in later inscriptions.25 It is a concise expression that summarises the entire oath ideology. The adjective pista (loyal) stresses the obligation to fulfil given promises, while orkia and slitting refer to the victims of the oath-sacrifice. The victims embody the oath and can therefore be described by pista, an adjective that obviously applies to the stipulated treaties. However, as a treaty without an oath would not have any guarantee of validity, the term also refers to the oath itself. Orkia temnein, therefore, means to take an oath and is practically synonymous with the treaty itself, which is referred to by the adjective pista.

10The metaphorical use of the “cutting oaths phraseology” allows the addition of φιλότητα (friendship and alliance) as an object of τάμωμεν by a form of hendiadys; the phrase can be translated as “swearing oaths of friendship”.

11Homer describes the sacrifice scene in great detail:

  • 26 Hom., Il. III, 103-107 (transl. A.T. Murray): οἴσετε δ’ ἄρν’, ἕτερον λευϰόν, ἑτέρην δὲ μέλαιναν, | (...)

Bring two lambs, a white ram and a black ewe for Earth and Sun, and for Zeus we will bring another; and bring here the mighty Priam, so that he may swear an oath himself – since his sons are reckless and faithless – lest someone by presumptuous act should do violence to the oaths of Zeus.26

  • 27 Hom., Il. III, 245-249.

12The heralds are in charge of providing the wine, the cups for the libation and the sacrificial victims.27 Finally, the ceremony begins:

  • 28 Hom., Il. III, 267-275 (transl. A.T. Murray): ὄρνυτο δ’ αὐτίϰ ἔπειτα ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων, | ἄν δ (...)

Immediately then rose up Agamemnon, lord of men, and Odysseus of many wiles, and the lordly heralds brought together the oath offerings for the gods, and mixed the wine in the bowl and poured water on the hands of the kings. And the son of Atreus drew out with his hand the knife that always hung beside the great sheath of his sword, and cut hair from the heads of the lambs; and then the heralds portioned it out to the chief men of the Trojans and Achaeans. Then Agamemnon lifted up his hands and prayed aloud for them: Father Zeus, who rule from Ida, most glorious, most great, and you Sun, who see all things and hear all things, and you rivers and you earth, and you who in the world below take vengeance on men who are done with life, whoever has sworn a false oath: be witnesses, and watch over the solemn oaths. […]. He spoke, and cut the lambs’ throats with the pitiless bronze; and laid them down on the ground gasping and failing of breath, for the bronze had robbed them of their strength. Then they drew wine from the bowl into the cups, poured it out, and made prayer to the gods who are for ever. And thus would one of the Achaeans and Trojans say: Zeus, most glorious, most great, and you other immortal gods, whichever army of the two will be first to work harm in defiance of the oaths, may their brains be poured out on the ground just as this wine is, theirs and their children’s; and their wives be made to serve other men.28

  • 29 In the Iliad private issues are often inseparable from public issues: Achilles abandons the war ov (...)
  • 30 Hom., Il. III, 105-106; Karavites, o.c. (n. 1), p. 23.
  • 31 As Karavites, o.c. (n. 1), p. 116-117 points out, the choice between the two “field hands” is not (...)

13This scene represents one of the most detailed and well-known descriptions of an oath-ritual. It is interesting to note that the actors responsible for the oath are not the two parties involved in the duel. Notwithstanding the fact that the agreement concerns a duel between Paris and Menelaus, the highest authorities of the two factions, Priam, the King of Troy, and Agamemnon, the head of the Achaean expedition against Troy stipulate the pact. The oath centred on a clash over a woman, but this could not be reduced to a private issue. There was much more at stake than the sole honour of these two men: the destiny of two peoples at war was at stake. This oath was meant to be an important agreement in foreign policy, a diplomatic solution that would end hostilities and set the conditions for peace29. Agamemnon explicitly requested the presence of Priam not only because the Achaeans believed that the young Trojan princes were untrustworthy,30 but because this was a solemn oath. It involved the entire community and the oath had to be pronounced by the highest authorities. Moreover, a witness accompanied both Priam and Agamemnon: Odysseus for the Greeks and Antenor for the Trojans.31 Naturally, as this was to be an oral pact, the presence of human witnesses was as important as the presence of divine witnesses. Therefore, the oath was a public act performed in front of both armies.

  • 32 In III, 295, it is not specified whether the wine is pure or mixed; in IV, 159, the same libations (...)
  • 33 Hom., Il. I, 449; Od. III, 440; 445.
  • 34 For the importance of the hands in the oath-ritual, see infra.
  • 35 See, for example, Hom., Od. III, 446; XIV, 422. The scholion commenting this passage (Schol. Hom., (...)
  • 36 Arnobius, Adversus nationes, 7, 9; F.T. van Straten, Hierà kalá. Images of Animal Sacrifice in Arc (...)
  • 37 LSCG 20, B 17-18 (Marathonian Tetrapolis).

14The ritual sacrifice included the slaughter of three lambs and a libation of wine.32 Prior to the sacrifice, the oath-takers purified themselves with water (v. 270). Washing one’s hands before making a sacrifice was a regular part of the preliminaries to ritual slaughter of any kind.33 The importance of the gesture of touching the victims and shaking hands in the oath-ritual, however, make the washing of the hands a very important symbolic element, so that it is not unreasonable to think that an oath sworn with impure hands would have had less validity that an oath sworn with pure hands.34 The shearing of the victim’s hair (the lambs’ wool in this case) was a common element in Greek sacrifices, although normally the hair or wool was thrown into the fire as a preliminary offering.35 The fact that, in this case, the wool was distributed and held by the participants (v. 273-274) created both a bond between the participants and the sacrificial animal and between the participants themselves. The choice of the sex of the animals corresponds to a widespread Greek tradition (although some exceptions exist) according to which male divinities received the sacrifice of a male animal, while female divinities received that of a female animal.36 Even the colour of the black lamb destined to the Earth is not unusual.37

  • 38 Paus., V, 24, 11.
  • 39 Hom., Il. X, 521; XIII, 442; Kirk, o.c. (n. 32), p. 307-308. See also M. Kitts, l.c. (n. 1), p. 27 (...)
  • 40 Hom., Il. XX, 471-472; See Faraone, l.c. (n. 1), p. 75.

15An apparent aporia has been seen in the fact that although verses 103-104 explicitly state that the three lambs were destined for Zeus, Helios and Ge, it looks as if the animals were not really offered to the gods. The scene in which the animals are slaughtered seems to follow a ritual of its own, which differs from the usual sacrificial forms, whether thysiai or sphagia. Although Agamemnon’s treatment of the lambs resembles an example of sphagion, the rite does not take place in a sanctuary, but in front of an armed community (a condition which could simply have been determined by the fact that two factions were at war) and features neither priests, nor altars or eschara. The sacrificial victims were neither eaten in a communal meal, nor burnt in a destructive sacrifice. We do not know what happened to the lambs after they were slaughtered. Priam took away the lambs provided by the Trojans, but we do not know why, and we have no information at all concerning the fate of the lamb provided by the Achaeans. Pausanias, quoting this passage, explains that it was forbidden to eat the victims of an oath-sacrifice.38 As Kirk has pointed out, the detailed description of the dying animals is completely unparalleled in Homer and the use of the verb aspairein (v. 293, “to gasp”) is restricted to the description of the dying warriors’ last breaths.39 The same can be said for θυμοῦ δευομένους (v. 294), which is used elsewhere in Homer only once, to describe the death of Tros, son of Alastor.40

  • 41 Faraone, l.c. (n. 1), p. 60-80, especially p. 74-75. I do not intend to raise the controversy on t (...)
  • 42 Contact with the object upon which one swears, whether a sacrificial animal, the sceptre as a symb (...)
  • 43 Hom., Il. IV, 158.
  • 44 I use here the terminology of F. Graf, “Milch, Honig und Wein. Zum Verständnis der Libation im gri (...)
  • 45 W. Burkert, Homo necans. Interpretationen altgriechischer Opferriten und Mythen, Berlin/New York, (...)

16The poetic use of expressions normally employed to describe the death of humans for that of lambs creates a metaphorical parallel between the death of the sacrificial animals and the destiny of the perjurers. The anthropomorphisa-tion of the slaughter is not only a clever poetic device to raise the tension of the scene, but also a ritual employing a form of “dramatization” of the curse (Faraone speaks of “sympathetic magic”) in which the throat slitting is a metaphor that anticipates the fate of the perjurers who break the oath.41 The bond between animals and humans, however, is not exclusively symbolic. It is also physical and is represented by the lamb’s wool held in the hands of the humans.42 The use of the expression αἷμά τε ἀρνῶν in book IV to signify this oath, emphasises the importance of blood.43 In this brief, but intensely dramatic scene, Homer’s poetry condenses the first of the two curses, which the oath-takers vow will befall them should they break the pledge. The bond between the sacrificial object and the fate of those swearing the oath is even more explicit in the second execratory rite, in which the ritual action is accompanied by words. At the moment of the libation, when the wine is poured onto the earth, the participants pronounce the curse, which binds the poured wine to the brains of any traitors (v. 300). Wives and children of such traitors will also suffer a terrible fate, being enslaved. The purity of the wine underlines the “anomaly” of the ritual.44 Even in this case, the wine is not explicitly offered to the gods, but is poured onto the ground in what is commonly defined as an “eliminatory rite”.45 It is interesting that the most emotionally intense phase of the ritual involves the entire communities rather than just the two authorities that formulated the conditions of the pact.

  • 46 High intensity rites are performed when the “normal” relation with the divinity is altered, for in (...)

17The two curses, invoked upon themselves by the oath-participants, embody a typical element of oath-rituals and have a twofold communicative function. For the spectators, who identified with the dying animal, the curse exuded an enormous binding power. At the same time, the violence of the ritual and its insistence on cruel details, showing – through substitution (slaughtered lambs and poured wine) – the fate of the perjurer, raised the emotional tension of the ritual, thus bringing about an intense participation which forged yet another bond. In this case, G. Ekroth correctly refers to “high intensity rites”.46 The references to the ritual gestures accompanying the oath are continuous and very complex; every gesture seems to have many meanings. An important sequence of the ritual is certainly the “dramatisation” of the curse.

18The scene described in v. 267-301 serves as a perfect example of the structure of an oath. It contains all elements that are characteristic of Greek oaths even in the post-Homeric age. Its complex structure can be summarised as follows:

19a) Preparatory sequences:

  • v. 267-270: Agamemnon and Odysseus stand up, the wine is mixed and their hands are purified with water;
  • v. 271-275: the shearing of the lambs, whose wool is held by those participating in the ceremony;

20b) Treatise and oath:

  • v. 276-280: invocation of the gods as witnesses to the oath;
  • v. 281-291: treatise clauses;
  • v. 292-294: first execratory ceremony (slitting the throats of the lambs is a type of Drohritus: the fate of the lambs will be that of perjurers);
  • v. 295-301: second execratory ceremony (libation and curse: the pouring of the wine is a metaphor for the scattering of the perjurers’ brains).47
  • 48 See Kirk, o.c. (n. 32), p. 308. The inexorable fulfilment of the curse is explicitly evoked, upon (...)

21Clearly, not all the oaths portrayed in the Iliad are described in such detail. As many ancient and modern commentators have emphasised, the particular importance of the oath portrayed in book III lies in the plot. The oath serves as a prophecy ex eventu: the Trojans did in fact break their oath and the destruction envisaged by the self-curse in v. 300-301 did actually occur, because men and children were killed and women were enslaved.48 The death throes of the lambs in the initial part of the ceremony subtly foreshadow the death of many Trojan warriors on the battlefield. This scene must have instilled a reverential terror and it demonstrated with absolute certainty that breaking an oath would lead to divine vengeance.

22Oath-rituals are also briefly mentioned in many other Homeric passages. Notwithstanding their brief description, the importance of actions and words in ritual communication emerges with great clarity. The oath-ceremony between Achilles and Agamemnon destined to settle the issue of the ownership of Briseis and convince Achilles to return to battle, is apparently resolved by Homer in just a few verses:

  • 49 Hom., Il. XIX, 249-268: … ἄν δ’ Ἀγαμέμνων | ἵστατο• Ταλθύβιος δὲ θεῷ ἐναλίγϰιος αὐδὴν | ϰάπρον ἔχω (...)

And Agamemnon rose up, and Talthybius, whose voice was like a god’s, stood by the side of the Shepard of men holding a boar in his hands. And the son of Atreus drew out with his hands the knife that ever hung beside the great sheath of his sword, and cut the firstling hairs of the boar, and lifting up his hands made prayer to Zeus; and all the Argives sat where they were in silence as was right, listening to the king. And he spoke in prayer, looking up to the broad heaven: Be Zeus my witness first, highest and best of gods, and Earth and Sun, and the Erinyes, that under Earth take vengeance of men, whoever has sworn a false oath, that I never laid hand on the girl Briseis either by way of a lover’s embrace or in any other way, but she remained untouched in my huts. And if anything in this oath be false, may the gods give me many woes, all those that they are used to give to anyone who sins against them in his swearing. He spoke, and cut the boar’s throat with the pitiless bronze, and the body Talthybius whirled and flug into the great gulf of the gray sea to be food for the fishes.49

  • 50 Faraone, l.c. (n. 2), p. 75-76.

23Here, too, if we interpret the handling of the boar as an act of sympathetic magic, like Faraone,50 or, what I find more correct, as a “dramatisation” related to an implied (self-) curse, it is not difficult to understand the pure terror that such a rite would have evoked in the spectators, who would have been horrified, imagining themselves floating about dead in the sea, without proper burial.

  • 51 Hom., Il. IX, 131-134; 273-276.
  • 52 Hom., Il. IX, 174-178. The tradition of drinking to seal an oath is not often encountered in Greek (...)

24In this case, even though the issue of Achilles’ return to battle will have important effects on the outcome of the war, the oath still concerns a private agreement between Agamemnon and Achilles, rather than a public one. Nonetheless, the complexity of the negotiation, preceded by a series of preliminary rites, and concluded with Agamemnon’s oath, is identical. All of the leaders met in Agamemnon’s tent (except for Achilles), in a sort of “Joint Chiefs of Staff Meeting, where they banqueted. Then, as suggested by Nestor, Agamemnon made the first oath (that he would later repeat in front of Achilles) to make up for his offence with the promise to return Briseis, whom he swore had never entered his bed,51 and with various sumptuous gifts. Then, the heralds poured water on the hands of the participants and the wine was distributed (in this case, the wine was certainly mixed with water) both to be drunk and, in part, libated.52 The oath proper took place in the presence of Achilles and other military leaders, in front of the tent, where Agamemnon’s gifts had been laid out. Once again, the presence of an “audience” is fundamental.

25We can summarise the ritual sequences as follows:

26a) Preparatory sequences:

  • v. 249-251: Agamemnon stands up, Talthybius brings a boar;
  • v. 252-254: Agamemnon cuts the hair of the boars, as a preliminary offer (there is no mention of the participants holding the hair);

27b) Treatise and oath:

  • v. 257-260: invocation of the gods, as witnesses to the oath;
  • v. 261-265: oath and malediction;
  • v. 266: first execratory ceremony (Agamemnon cut the boar’s throat);
  • v. 267-268: second execratory ceremony (Talthybius throws the dead boar into the sea);
  • 53 See Hom., Il. XIX, 196-197.

28The slaughtering of the boar is thus preceded, as in book III, by its shearing, a divine invocation, and a curse. Furthermore, the same contradiction as before is evident with the offer to Zeus and Helios followed by the total destruction of the victim, thrown into the sea53.

29The Achaeans conducted their “internal policy” in much the same way as their foreign policy: through oaths. Hints of these oaths, which bound the Achaean princes together, emerge from Nestor’s speech when he reprimands the other Achaean rulers for their wish to abandon the war:

  • 54 Hom., Il. II, 339-341 (transl. A.T. Murray): Πῇ δὴ συνθεσίαι τε ϰαὶ ὅρϰια βήσεται ἡμῖν; | ἐν πυρὶ (...)

What then is to be the end of our compacts and our oaths? Into the fire let us cust all counsels and plans of warriors, the drinking offerings of unmixed wine, and the handclasps in which we put our trust.54

  • 55 Hom., Il. II, 344.

30The terms of the agreement referred to by Nestor are not clear, but they apparently contained the stipulation that the supreme command would be entrusted to Agamemnon55 and that all the parties involved would remain until Troy was captured. Presumably, the compact was solemnized and sealed in the usual way, by slaughtering animals and pouring unmixed wine.

31The technical vocabulary of the oath is interesting: the use of the expression συνθεσίαι τε ϰαὶ ὅρϰια in the passage quoted above indicates that Homer clearly perceived the difference between a pact and an oath. Pacts refer to the contents of agreements, while oaths embody their form, the way in which pacts are made indissoluble, through the ritual. Important elements of the oath-ritual are the libation of pure wine (σπονδαί τ΄ ἄϰρητοι) and the shaking of right hands (δεξιαί).

32Summarising the common elements of these oath-rituals, we have a clear picture of the whole ceremony:

  • the oath-ceremony is preceded by ritual purifications, by pouring water on the hands of the oath-takers
  • a blood sacrifice is mostly present (in the last case the brevity of the reference does not allow any sure conclusion)
  • some of the hair of the sacrificial animals is cut as a preliminary offer and eventually distributed among the participants
  • the sacrifice has a “theatrical” nature and the consequences of the curse are enacted by it
  • the blood sacrifice can be accompanied by a spoken curse, which makes the gesture explicit and clarifies the curse
  • the first execratory ceremony is repeated by a second, different type of offering: in the first case is a libation of wine, in the second case the slaughtered boar is thrown into the sea
  • The pact can be additionally sealed with handclasps
  • The solemnity of the ritual is underlined by the fact that the oath-takers always stand up
  • There is an “audience”
  • 56 Hom., Il. VII, 406-412.

33Along with oath-rituals with sacrifice, we find in Homer also oath-rituals without sacrifice. In a case concerning a truce to bury the dead, the oath proposed by the Trojans and which assured Agamemnon’s acceptance of the truce has been accomplished in a completely different way: Agamemnon simply raised his sceptre and invoked Zeus as a witness.56 The absence of the horkia (pistà) temnein formula, which was customary in sacrificial ceremonies, indicates the conclusion of an agreement without a sacrifice.

  • 57 Hom., Il. I, 233-239.
  • 58 Hom., Il. X, 328-332.
  • 59 Hom., Il. XXIII, 439-441; 581-585.

34In Homer’s works, we often encounter oaths that take place through physical contact with a sceptre or other symbol of power or social position, such as a horse. This appears to be a variant of the oaths that involved slaughtered animals. This type of oath occurs for example, when Achilles backs out of the war,57 when Hector promises the horses of Achilles to Dolon,58 and when Menelaus asks Antilochos to swear upon his horse that he had not won the competition deceitfully.59

  • 60 Aubriot, l.c. (n. 1), p. 99.
  • 61 Aubriot, l.c. (n. 1), p. 93.

35Aubriot suggests that in these cases the oath implied a sort of an “automatic” curse. When Achilles, holding the wooden sceptre, remembers the dryness of the branch that will no longer return to life, he might actually be invoking an implicit curse upon himself, something like “May I so dry up if I lie”.60 In the case of Antilochos’ oath, swearing upon the objects used to perpetrate the fault may represent an extension of the “contamination” of the fault to the perjurer. Moreover, since the instrument of the offence was a horse, Poseidon is witness of the oath61. However, this automatism between gestures and curses is not always self-evident.

  • 62 Hom., Il. XIV, 271-280.
  • 63 Also see Saladino, l.c. (n. 1), p. 105. See also S. Knippschild, “Drum bietet zum Bunde die Hände (...)

36A “divine” variant of this type of promissory oath can be found in the promise that Hera makes, by the waters of the river Styx, by touching the Earth and the sea, and offering the most beautiful of the Charites to Hypnos, if he will put Zeus to sleep so that she can carry out her plans.62 The physical contact with an object that holds sacred powers seems to be the most important element in this type of oath.63

37It is difficult to determine with certainty why one type of oath is chosen over another. Apparently, however, the shortest ritual form was employed when only one party had to make an oath, as in the case of promises. The extended ritual form, on the other hand, seems to have been used for proper agreements, preceded by negotiations, whether public or private.

Oaths during the Archaic and Classical ages

  • 64 Lyc., 1, 79.

38“The power which keeps our democracy together is the oath”, Lycurgus stated, clearly demonstrating that in Late Classical Athens oaths were still considered an essential tool for social cohesion and the maintenance of public order.64 In Athens, although the documentation does not provide any certainty, all public officials, archons, and members of the boule and courts probably had to take oaths.

  • 65 Dem., 23, 67-68. (transl. J.H. Vince): Ἴστε δήπου τοῦθ’ ἅπαντες, ὅτι ἐν Ἀρείῳ πάγῳ, οὗ δίδωσιν ὁ (...)

39Demosthenes describes the solemn oath that prosecutors had to take prior to prosecuting a homicide case in the court of the Areopagus65:

You are all of course aware that in the Areopagus, where the law both permits and enjoins the trial of homicide, first every man who brings accusation of such a crime must make oath by invoking destruction upon himself, his kindred and his household; secondly, that he must not treat this oath as an ordinary oath, but as one which no man swears for any purpose; for he stands on the entrails of a boar, a ram, and a bull.

  • 66 Xenophon, Anabasis II, 2, 8; Plut., Pyrrh., 6, 9; SV III, 545, 1. 9-10; SEG 26, 1306, 1. 55-5 (...)
  • 67 P. Stengel, Opferbräuche der Griechen, Leipzig, 1910, p. 80-85; M.P. Nilsson, Geschichte der grie (...)
  • 68 Faraone, l.c. (n. 1), p. 65-72.

40Once again, the self-curse and contact with the victims seem to be essential elements of the ritual. The triad of sacrificed victims appears to be very common in oath-sacrifices up to the Hellenistic period and especially in the context of international agreements.66 The term tomia, which frequently recurs in the technical language of the oath-sacrifice, has been variously interpreted as meaning “entrails”, “testicles” or “sliced victims”. Those authors who translate tomia as “testicles” suggest that such an oath brought castration upon the perjurer.67 Although this idea fits well with the traditional emphasis in Greek curses on the destruction of both the perjurer and his offspring, Faraone has demonstrated that this is not necessarily so, especially since castration is never clearly spelled out in the Greek sources and is also completely unattested in parallel Near Eastern curses.68 It is far more likely that there was a different semantic meaning at work in this case; the mutilated animals, like the wine and the slaughtered lambs in the mentioned Homeric oath, prefigure the fate of the perjurers, who will be brutally massacred.

  • 69 For a meticulous analysis of rites with butchered animals in Greece and the Near East, see Faraone (...)

41Although tomia are frequent in Greek oath-sacrifices of the Archaic and Classical periods, it is not common for the oath-maker to stand on them.69 As in the Homeric oath-sacrifices, the ritual seems to involve some kind of contact between the oath-makers and the object on which they swore. Demosthenes pointed out that standing upon the tomia was a special addition to the ordinary oath, probably to make the ritual even more solemn and fearful. The centre of this “high-intensity ritual” seems to be the act of touching.

  • 70 Dem., 23, 68.
  • 71 Aeschines, 2, 87.
  • 72 Arist., Ath. Pol., 55, 5; Pollux, VIII, 86.

42The special nature of this oath is also emphasized by the fact that it could only be administered on special days and by specially appointed officials.70 Similar oaths were also taken at the homicide court near the Palladion, where oath-makers apparently cut up the victims themselves, while invoking their own destruction and that of their children if they ever were to commit perjury.71 Another equally solemn oath was sworn by the nine archons, who had to step onto a special rock, upon which the tomia of an unspecified animal had been placed, and swear to act honestly and refuse bribes.72

  • 73 For example, in an Athenian treaty from 465 BC concerning Erythrai (IG I3, 14; see also IGT, 76; (...)
  • 74 Herodot, VI, 67-68. See also Antiphon, 5, 12 (ἁπτομένους τῶν σϕαγίων)

43In any case, frequent allusions to oaths made ϰατὰ ἱερῶν τελείων73 suggest that the bodies of sacrificial animals were often used in oath-rituals. A peculiar variation of this type of oath-sacrifices was to bring the oath-makers into direct physical contact with the carcass or a part of it. Herodotus describes such a scene when he tells the story of the Spartan king Damaratos, who sacrificed a bull to Zeus and forced his mother to hold its intestines (splanchna) in her hands, while swearing on the true identity of his father.74

44The Homeric expression horkia temnein suggests that this use may indeed be very ancient. In a literary fragment, Alcaeus describes the loyalty oath he once swore with Pittacus and which contains one of the first examples of such an oath-ritual in the Archaic Period:

  • 75 Alcaeus, fr. 129 L.-P. (Transl. DA. Campbell): … ὤς ποτ’ ἀπώμνυμεν | τόμοντες.. [….. .]ν . . | μηδ (...)

…since once we swore, cutting […] never to abandon any of our comrades, but either to die at the hands of men who at that time [come against us] and lie clothed in the earth, or else to kill them and rescue the people from their woves…75

45The mutilation of animals is briefly indicated by the present participle τόμοντες, suggesting that the oath-takers themselves had slaughtered the victims while taking the oath. Although Alcaeus doesn’t mention the exact words of the curse, we can infer that some “performed curse” was involved: the oath-takers damned themselves to lie dead on the ground, like the mutilated animals, if they didn’t fulfil their oath.

  • 76 IGT3, 14 (see also IGT, 76; SV II, 1962, 134).

46At times, the victims were burnt following a type of ritual that was also common to other sacrifices, which were often, but not exclusively, chthonic ones. In an Athenian treatise, dated 465 BC, on Erythrai the oath is sworn as ϰατὰ [h]ιερōν [ϰ]αιομένον.76

  • 77 Aeschylos, Seven against Thebes, 43-53.

47“Powerful” oath rituals were also required before going to war. In Aeschylus’ Septem, the Seven swear to conquer Thebes or die in the attempt, while slaughtering their sacrificial victim (a bull) on a shield and touching the blood.77 The use of the present participle underlines the fact that the actions of slaughtering the animal and swearing take place simultaneously, while the repetition of the word phonos appears to connect the killing of the bull to the fate of the oath-takers. A central moment of this ritual is surely that of touching the blood but also the place of the slaughtering (on the shield) transmits an important symbolic message, which, I think, is perfectly parallel to the slaughtering of the lambs in the third book of the Iliad. The gasping lambs of the Iliad and the taureios phonos of the Septem belong to the same semantic category.

  • 78 Euripides, Suppliants, 1189-1202.
  • 79 Euripides, Supp, 1205-1210.

48At the end of Euripides’ Supplices, Adrastus swears, while cutting sphagia, that the Argives will never attack Athens. Adrastus slits the throats of three sheep over a brazen cauldron onto the inner surface of which the text of the oath is etched.78 The knife that is used to kill the animals will be buried between Argos and Athens, so that if Adrastus should pass that place with his soldiers, the knife will reappear and make them flee. Thus, the connection between the slaughtered animals and the fate of the oath-breakers is sufficiently explicit.79 In both cases, the poets appear to describe a scene that must have been very familiar to their contemporaries, so much so that only a few details were necessary to transmit the mental picture. Xenophon describes a similar oath-sacrifice used to seal an agreement between the Greek mercenaries and their Persian ally Arieus:

  • 80 Xen., Anab. II, 2, 8-9 (transl. C.L. Brownson): ταῦτα δὲ ὤμοσαν, σϕάξαντες ταῦρον ϰαὶ λύϰον ϰαὶ ϰά (...)

These oaths they sealed by sacrificing a bull, a wolf, a boar, and a ram over a shield, the Greeks dipping a sword in the blood and the barbarians a lance.80

  • 81 Faraone, l.c. (n. 1), p. 67-68.
  • 82 I will not go into the complex issue on the authenticity of the text, which is preserved on the so (...)

49The use of the shield brings to mind the passage in Aeschylos. Faraone suggests that the shields were laid upside down in order to collect the blood.81 Presumably, the sight of blood or parts of flesh on the inside of a shield constituted a terrifying prophecy for a soldier. Again, we find a variant of the ritual touching of the blood: here it is not a hand which contacts the blood, but a sword. Nevertheless, the symbolic meaning of the message seems to me to be the same. A parallel can be found in the peculiar rite that the Greeks performed in 479 BC, when they swore their oaths at Plataea, by piling their shields on the top of the sphagia.82

  • 83 Herodot, I, 165, 3.
  • 84 Arist., Ath. Pol, 23, 5; Plut., Arist., 25, 1. See also R. Meiggs, The Athenian Empire, Oxford, (...)
  • 85 Hom., Il. XIX, 264-268. See also supra.
  • 86 Meiggs, o.c. (n. 84), p. 45-46; N.G.L. Hammond, Studies in Greek History, Oxford, 1973, p. 330. (...)
  • 87 Diodorus Siculus, IX, 10, 3; R.I. Winton, “The Oaths of the Delian League”, MH 40 (1983), p. 125.

50The oath of the Phocaeans is sworn in a similar situation, facing an imminent Persian invasion. The Phocaeans swore to leave their country rather than to submit to the Persian conquerors.83 This agreement was sealed by a “strong oath”, in which the Phocaeans threw an iron bar (mydros) into the sea swearing that they would not return until the iron bar started floating. The members of the Delian League performed an identical ceremony.84 These ceremonies, which remind us of the Homeric oaths of Achilles and Agamemnon,85 are usually interpreted as typical Ionian rites, which express the eternity of an agreement.86 The idea of the eternal validity of a pact sealed in this manner seems to be confirmed in a passage by Diodorus on the Epidamnii, who swore in a similar manner never to fight amongst themselves again.87

51Although we can not exclude that, occasionally, this meaning may have been implied, the comparison with other oaths, in which the predominant aspects are the intimidating atmosphere and the theatrical performance of the curse, suggests that in this case, too, everything points to an enactment of the curse through a substitute. To throw something into the sea could in this case have been associated with a death in a naval battle – taking in account the peculiar cultural characteristics of the oath-takers (in both cases naval powers). Thus the prophecy of the mydros corresponds very well to the prophecy of the gasping lambs and the blood on the shields.

  • 88 SEG 9, 3: Ἐπὶ τούτοις ὅρϰια ἐποιήσαντο οἵ τε αὐτεῖ μένον[τ]ες οἱ πλέοντες οἱϰίξοντες ϰαὶ ἀρὰς ἐποι (...)

52The complete destruction of a symbolic object, whether a burnt or dismembered sacrificial victim or a piece of metal or other material, seems to be a frequent practice in Greek oath-rituals both in the classic and archaic periods. A very peculiar ritual, which has few parallels in Greece but many in the Near East, thereby revealing its antiquity, is the oath sworn in the so-called “Cyrenean Foundation Decree”, a fourth-century inscription which describes what appears to be the transcription of an oath of the seventh-century Theran colonists:88

  • 89 Transl. of the Greek text by A J. Graham, Colony and Mother City in Ancient Greece, Manchester, 19 (...)

On these conditions they made an agreement, those who stayed here and those who sailed on the colonial expedition, and they put curses on those who should transgress these conditions and not abide by them, whether those living in Libya or those staying in Thera. They moulded wax images and burnt them while they uttered the following imprecation, all of them, having come together, men and women, boys and girls: may he, who does not abide by this agreement but transgresses it, melt away and dissolve like the images, himself, his seed and his property.89

  • 90 For instance, S. Dušanić, “The ὅρϰιον τῶν οἰϰιστήρων and Fourth-century Cyrene”, Chiron 8 (1978), (...)
  • 91 For the relation between the Cyrenean text and other ceremonies implying magic, see A.D. Nock, “A (...)
  • 92 Faraone, l.c. (n. 1), p. 60-65. See also Giorgieri, l.c. (n. 1), p. 422-425.

53There are many interesting aspects of this oath, which involves a conditional self-imprecation and a ritual performance that was officiated over with wax effigies (kolossoi) representing the oath-breakers. This oath has been long considered a fourth-century invention, because of the apparently unparalleled use of the melting kolossoi in Greek rituals of the archaic period.90 Quite on the contrary, the practice was very widespread in both Hellenistic and Roman erotic magic; it was however, employed in very different contexts and never in proper oath-rituals.91 As Faraone has demonstrated, this type of rite may be interpreted as a ritual employing an identification (which he interprets as sympathetic magic) with the victims or the destroyed object, which is, although in different forms, well documented in both Archaic and Classical Greece. Moreover, rituals employing the destruction of wax effigies were widespread in the eastern Mediterranean basin during the Greek archaic period and also appeared in the context of oaths sworn over early international treaties.92

  • 93 See above.

54Thus, the melted wax served the same function as the wine libation in the third book of the Iliad, the tomia frequently found in the oaths of both the Archaic and Classical Periods and the mydros thrown into the water:93 the representation of a curse through a symbolic substitute and the simultaneous affirmation of the irreversible tie created by the oath.

  • 94 Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5), p. 67; D.J. Mosley, “Who Signed Treaties in Ancient Greece?”, PCPhS 7 (196 (...)
  • 95 Hom., Il. III, 297-301.
  • 96 Aristoph., Lysistrata, 237: Νὴ Δία.

55One may find it surprising that the entire population, including women and children, was to attend at oath-rituals. A similar mass participation in oaths can be found in some international treaties of Hellenistic Crete, although the explicit mention of women and children is a unicum.94 Nonetheless, the presence of an emotionally participant “public” that is witness to the oath is rather frequent in Greek sources. For example, at the end of the oath sworn by Agamemnon and Priam, the Trojan and Achaean Princes who witnessed the ceremony repeat the curse.95 A similar procedure can be found in the women’s oath in Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, in which one participant repeats the conditions of the oath and the others simply give their assent at the end.96 Secondary participants did not need to have the political rights necessary to undertake a legally binding agreement. They were simply present to underline the fact that the curse would affect the entire community and that the consequences of perjury were known not only to all the political leaders, but also to the entire population.

  • 97 Dem., 7, 36.

56Even on other less solemn occasions than the foundation of a new colony, the foreign policy of the Greek poleis often turned to oaths. Every treaty and alliance, indeed all interstate relations were based on “faith” (pistis). Although in a society in which non-written law and ancestral traditions were as important as a constitution, the spoken word had a different value than in a modern bureaucratic society, faith was still very little as a foundation for war and peace, duties, tributes and alliances. Thus, a solemn oath was nearly always employed to reinforce “faith”. Indeed, oaths were the juridical basis of every international treaty. A mere promise that was not Supplémented and confirmed by a fitting religious formula was not necessarily considered binding. Philip’s campaign against Thrace during peacetime, for instance, could not be impugned by the Athenians on a legal basis as a violation of the treaties, because the peace negotiations that were being held with Athens in 346 BC had not yet been sealed by an oath. Thus, even if Philip’s strategy was certainly ambiguous, there had not been any formal breach of the peace treaty97. The violation of an oath would not only have brought divine vengeance down upon the perpetrator, but it would also have been a reason for reprisals and war.

  • 98 On the low efficiency of oaths in international politics see R. Lonis, “La valeur du serment dans (...)
  • 99 Thuc, V, 30, 15-20 (Transl. Crawley).

57Thucydides and Demosthenes’ orations reveal how, in the crucial years of the Athenian history (the Peloponnesian War and the war against Philip of Macedonia), the relations between cities were regulated by an extremely complicated system of sworn oaths. These, however, did not prevent sudden changes from occurring in the alliances. In fact, even before a military conflict, the changing of sides led to a true diplomatic stalemate that was not dissimilar to the “cold war” of the late 20th century.98 In this context, the events recounted by Thucydides which took place in 421-420 BC are extremely instructive. Argos, which had hitherto remained neutral, began weaving a network of alliances that threatened the fragile peace between Sparta and Athens. The Lacedaemonians, worried by this turn of events, sent ambassadors to the Corinthians urging them not to drop out of the Spartan alliance to join the Argive one and soliciting them to sign a peace treaty with Athens. The Corinthians, however, claimed that they could not betray the Thracian colonies to which they were bound by far more ancient oaths stipulated during the Potidean Rebellion: “She (Corinth) denied therefore that she committed any violation of her oaths to the allies in not entering into the treaty with Athens; having sworn upon the faith of the gods to her Thracian friends, she could not honestly give them up”.99

  • 100 Thuc, V, 47, 8 (defensive alliance among Argos, Athens, Mantineia and Elis). The text of the treat (...)
  • 101 Thuc, V, 47, 8; V, 18, 9.
  • 102 Thuc, V, 47, 10: ” The oath should be renewed by the Athenians going to Elis, Mantinea and Argos t (...)
  • 103 Thuc, V, 47, 11; “The articles of the treaty, the oaths, and the alliance shall be inscribed on a (...)
  • 104 Thuc, V, 47, 9: “The oath shall be taken at Athens by the Boule and the magistrates, the Prytanes (...)
  • 105 Expressions such as: “having sworn upon the faith of the gods” or “unless the gods or the heroes s (...)

58The many texts of international treaties that Thucydides has transmitted down to us present a homogeneous, albeit very concise structure: the initial description of treaty clauses is immediately followed by an oath. Thucydides does however specify that on certain occasions the pact was sworn according “to the greatest oath of the country”100 and with “full-grown victims”.101 The parties participating in the oath were invited to renew their reciprocal pacts at the most solemn festivity102 and the public area in which the stelae commemorating the pact clauses were to be erected was specified.103 Often, even the names of the authorities in charge of taking the oath for the city are listed.104 What Thucydides never includes is the invocation formulas to the gods and the curses, which were certainly part of the oath, as he was far more interested in the legal aspects of the treaties and their historical consequences, rather than their ritual sequences.105 These treaties reveal a complex bureaucracy and an intense diplomatic activity, but shed absolutely no new light on the ceremonies that accompanied these oaths. Personally, I believe this is simply a limit of these sources, which certainly cannot lead us to exclude the enactment of a ritual ceremony.

Oaths during the Hellenistic period

59The analysis of international treaties stipulated during the Hellenistic Age shows that, far from having lost importance, oaths remained both widespread and common. What can effectively be recognised is a standardisation of the formulae that seems to indicate a refinement of bureaucracy, rather than an impoverishment of the practice of adding an oath to a treaty or of the oath itself.

  • 106 Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5), n° 2.
  • 107 Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5), n° 8.
  • 108 Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5), n° 10.

60In the international treatises of the Cretans, the text of the oath was integrally appended to the text of the treaty. The importance of the act of taking an oath as a means to give value and legitimacy to a treaty is evident in the terminology that often shares the same expression for “treaty” and “oath”: [ἐπὶ τοῖ]σδε συνέθεντο… [ϰαὶ ὅρ]ϰον ὤμοσαν (“on these conditions they agreed … and they swore an oath”).106 At times, the treaty and the oath tend to be identified, as in the agreement between Gortyn and the Arcadians, in which the formula τάδ’ ὤμοσαν immediately following the prescript, introduces the text of the oath and the treaty107 or as in the treaty between Eleutherna and Phaistos, in which the execration formula appears right after the text of the agreement, without any explicit reference to the oath.108

  • 109 Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5), nos 26 (alliance-treaty between Hierapytna and Lyttos); 27 (alliance-treat (...)
  • 110 Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5), nos 59; 74. See also the comments on p. 435-436.
  • 111 Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5), nos 10; 16; 27; 74.
  • 112 Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5), nos 42; 64.

61In general, as the agreements were stipulated between different communities, the oaths of both groups were quoted on the inscription, notwithstanding the fact that both oaths followed the same general scheme.109 There are, however, inscriptions, in which only one of the two oaths appears. Evidently, in these cases, two written copies of the treaty were prepared, one for each city, each of which contained that city’s oath.110 The invocation of divine witnesses – usually the same for both parties – was followed by a brief exposition of the oath-clauses, which summarised the points that were specified in greater detail in the treaty itself. The curse was always part of an oath, even if it often appeared in a brief and rather standardised form. In general, curses were used to invoke both divine benediction (in terms of the fertility of land, women and animals as well as military victories) for those who respected the treaty, and the wrath of the gods on perjurers, which usually took the form of infertility or defeats.111 In some cases, a generic devastation was invoked on the parties and their descendants.112

  • 113 Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5), n° 59; similar formulas can also be found in n°s 26; 33; 60; 61.

62Sometimes the execratory formula was reduced to its minimum terms: εὐορϰίονσι μὲν [ἦμεν π]ολ[λ]ὰ ϰἀγαθά, ἐϕιορϰίονσι δὲ [τὸ] ἐναντίον (“if we remain faithful to the oath may good things come to us, otherwise the contrary”) was the curse of a treaty stipulated in 111-110 BC between Hierapytna and Lato.113

63The references to the performance of the oath-ritual are rare and very brief on account of the type of document: stone stelae were used to remind the parties of the treaty’s main points, not of the rituals that had been celebrated. Nonetheless, it is possible to obtain an idea of the way in which oaths were sworn and the role that oaths played in the treaties of Hellenistic Crete.

  • 114 Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5), nos 6; 31; 60 C 2-4. This type of reference on stone inscriptions is quite (...)
  • 115 Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5), n° 6. The same animals (boar, ram and bull) recur in other oath-sacrifices (...)
  • 116 Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5), p. 66-68, 124-125.

64A number of treaties contained concrete instructions on the ceremony to be accomplished, indicating both the types of sacrificial animals and the type of sacrifice to be employed.114 In a 3rd century BC treaty between Eleutherna and an unknown city, a boar is mentioned and, if the reconstruction is correct, a bull and a ram, too. The text is very fragmentary but it seems to indicate that the victim’s thigh had to undergo special treatment. It may have been completely burnt on the altar.115 The initial ceremony, celebrated when the agreement was sealed, was followed by a yearly “renewal” oath. The young Cretans, who at the end of the ephebie obtained citizenship, swore not only as citizens, but also on all the other treaties that bound their polis to other cities.116

  • 117 IC III, 4, 7 and 8. See also PJ. Perlman, “Invocatio and Imprecatio-. the Hymn to Greatest Kouros (...)
  • 118 IC III, 4, 8, 1. 8-9. See also Perlman, l.c. (n. 117), p. 161-167. Another example can be found in (...)

65Two inscriptions dated in the 3rd century BC from the east Cretan polis of Itanos clarify the practice of the oath of citizenship and the role of the oath in the maintenance of the social and political order in the Hellenistic Period.117 The first inscription instructs the archons and priests of Itanos to compose a new civic oath, which is preserved in the second inscription. Every Itanian who enjoyed full rights as a citizen was required to swear, promising to refrain from treachery, sedition and betrayal of the city. Those who observed the oath would be rewarded with the blessings of children, fruitful lands and fertile flocks, while those who broke the oath would encounter utter destruction. The oath had to be sworn on victims that had just been fully burnt (ϰαθ’ ἱερῶν νεοϰαύ[τ]ων).118

  • 119 Modern authors have not reached agreement on the meaning of πανάζωστοι. A. Brelich, Paides e parth (...)
  • 120 Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5), n° 11 (Malla and Lyttos); IC I, 9, 1 (Dreros, 1. 99-100); IC II, 5, 24 (Ax (...)
  • 121 See Leitao, l.c. (n. 119), p. 130-163.

66It may be inferred that these oaths took place in the context of the festivities to celebrate the entrance of young men into society as adult male citizens. In fact, the entire festivity may, in certain aspects, have had the character of an initiation, as is witnessed by the fact that the soon-to-be adults swore without weapons (πανάζωστοι).119 The ritual context of this type of oath is probably the context typical of initiation rites and may have been characterised by ritual transvestism. We can certainly infer from the linguistic evidence that the ceremony involved a change of clothes. The young men from Malla, Lyttos, Dreros and Axos are referred to, in inscriptions, as “disrobing” (ἐγδυόμενοι), when they take their civic oath120 and in Phaistos the so-called Ekdysia (“Festival of Disrobing”) is likely to have been the occasion on which the youths took their oath of citizenship.121 Like in the case of the Homeric oaths or in the many references to the renewal of international agreements in Thucydides, here, too, the presence of a public seems to be very important. It is in order to secure a great public resonance that these oaths are taken or renewed in the occasion of a public feast.

  • 122 Perlman, l.c. (n. 117), p. 161-167.
  • 123 Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5), nos 11; 32; 50; 55; 61.

67In her comparison between the Hymn to the Greatest Kouros from Palai-kastro and the Itanian civic oath, P. Perlman points out that the many similarities existing between the two texts suggest not only that they both come from the same polis, but also from the same context of civic-oath ceremonies.122 The yearly renewal of the alliances between the Cretan poleis that took place during these festivities was carried out with a public reading of the text of the alliance and followed by the new graduate Ephebes swearing to uphold the alliance oath.123 These festivals may have also provided the opportunity for the graduation ceremony of the community’s Ephebes and the administration of the civic oath to new citizens.

68Certainly, the references to ritual in the inscriptions of this period are generally rare and although this may depend on the type of source we cannot exclude that the use of “dramatising” rituals through the dismemberment of victims, the contact with blood or the melting of wax was abandoned. The mentions of fully burnt animals in the Hellenistic treaties seem to me in any case to refer to the same semantic sphere: the enactment of the curse through the destruction of a substitute.

Conclusions

69The oath-ritual was used to create a special bond between the parties to the oath and the sacred sphere through the invocation of a superhuman force: either the gods or the forces of nature. This bond was considered effective even if the divinities were not expressly invoked.

70The founding element of an oath was based on the irreversible nature of the act, which was made clear by the complete destruction of the sacrificial victim (either through combustion or dismemberment), of an object (melted wax, an animal carcass or a piece of metal thrown into the sea) or the shedding of liquid on to the ground (wine or blood). At the same time, these actions also represented acts of a “theatrical” performance that enacted the destiny of perjurers by evoking their possible death through the use of gestures and words. The curse, which was usually pronounced once the animal had been mutilated or burnt, the wine libated or the wax melted, emphasised and explained the ritual gesture that had just been enacted.

  • 124 Aesch., 1, 114; Herodot, VI, 67-68. Also see the oath of the winner at the Palladion: “the one w (...)
  • 125 Antiph., 5, 12 (ἁπτομένους τῶν σϕαγίων). Also see the oath of the prosecutor at the Aereopagus, in (...)
  • 126 Hom., Il.. VII, 406-412.
  • 127 Aeschylos, Seven against Thebes, 42-48; Xen., Anab. II, 2, 8-9.
  • 128 J. Rudhardt, Notions fondamentales de la pensée religieuse et actes constitutifs du culte dans la (...)
  • 129 Giorgieri, l.c. (n. 1), p. 426-427.

71At times, the dramatic dimension of the ritual was augmented by the physical contact with the sacred objects, whether it be the intestines (splanchnd) or butchered parts (tomia) of the mutilated animal124 or simply the victims,125 the sceptre as a symbol of command,126 or the immersion of hands or swords into the victim’s blood.127 This contact has been interpreted in a “magical” sense: by touching the altar, the sceptre or the victims, individuals entered into contact with the puissance, thereby placing themselves within a universal religious order that enclosed and gave order to society and law, as well as to the forces of nature and reproduction.128 Giorgieri, which follows Faraone in his interpretation of the oath-ceremonies as rituals implying magic, distinguishes between two types of ritual magic in oath-ceremonies: analogical magic (the poured wine symbolising the brain or the cutting of the lambs’ throats whose slow bleeding represented the agony of the dying warrior) or magic through contact (touching the victims or their blood).129 These two forms, however, do not exclude each other and may appear together in the same ritual, providing a dense amount of symbolic meaning that was certainly strongly perceived by the audience. What seems to me indisputable is the communicative intention of setting under the eyes of both the oath-takers and of the public a contact with the sacred, through a sacrificial victim or through a symbol.

72The curses that were invoked against perjurers usually included a violent death and a long agony. Naturally, these were particularly realistic – and therefore undoubtedly efficient – during times of war in which there also was the fear of dying unburied, which was symbolically recreated by throwing the carcass of the sacrificial animal into the sea. Moreover, the infertility of women, land and animals was also explicitly invoked in many curses. The curse against the perjurer (epiorkos) could be counterbalanced by “good wishes” made to those who respected the pact (euorkos).

73Thus, fear was a fundamental effect of the ceremony. In this sense, the harshness of the blood rituals and the violence of the curse also played another role: they functioned as a deterrent. The public also played a fundamental role as a witness and as a guarantor in such an enactment. In fact, the violation of an oath would not only involve the perjurer, but also the entire community to which the perjurer belonged. This was the reason why even women and children were present at the most solemn oaths, such as that for the foundation of Cyrene.

  • 130 Sophocles, Trachiniae, 1181-1188.
  • 131 Eurip., Medea, 21-22.
  • 132 Hom., Il. II, 337-341.
  • 133 SV II, 163.

74Symbolic gestures were essential even in less “spectacular” oaths. In Sophocles’ Trachiniae, the dying Heracles asks his son Hyllus to swear that he will burn him on a pier and marry Iole. The oath, to which Zeus is witness and which is to bring misfortune if broken, was pronounced while shaking (right) hands.130 In Euripides’ Medea the gesture of shaking (right) hands while pronouncing the oath is the ritual that seals the ἐγγύη (engagement)131. In completely different contexts, this gesture can also be found in the Iliad with the same solemn meaning to indicate the sworn oaths that have united the Achaean leaders in the expedition against Troy132 and, in foreign politics, in an alliance-treaty between Athens and Leontinoi in 433-432 BC.133

  • 134 See Aubriot, l.c. (n. 1), p. 93-95; Knippschild, o.c. (n. 63), p. 29-39.
  • 135 See Knippschild, o.c. (n. 63), p. 85-88, for the oaths sworn on the altar or touching the earth.

75By shaking their (right) hands, the two parties sealing the oath established a direct contact without having to turn to a sacrificial intermediary. They become the “sacred object” themselves by putting themselves in each other’s hands and sealing a pact “for life or death”.134 The Homeric oaths that were sworn on the sceptre, or touching the altar or the earth are normally considered variants of these type of oath.135

  • 136 For example, Faraone, l.c. (n. 1), p. 78-79.
  • 137 I do not intend to open here the question of the validity of such an evolutionary approach at all, (...)
  • 138 The difference between the sources also clarifies, I believe, the differences between Greek and Ne (...)

76In general, most modern authors agree that, both in the Homeric Age and in the following period, the complex form of ritual, with sacrifice and enactment of the curse, was not the most common one, but rather that it was reserved for special occasions and solemn oaths.136 Moreover, many scholars tend to believe in an evolution of the oath itself from an “irrational” form, typical for the archaic age, to a more “rational” one, in which the religious or magical aspects are no longer as much in the foreground.137 However, in making these evaluations, we must keep in mind a problem that is intrinsic to the sources. We do not possess the original archival documents for any of the Greek oaths. In the best possible case, the original text and the clauses of the treaty may be preserved in an epigraph. Inscriptions, however, rarely contain references to rites, as these were probably well known and, in any case, only represented an external warranty to the treaty itself.138

  • 139 IG I3, 14 (see also IGT, 76; SV II, 134); Thuc, V, 47, 8 (defensive alliance among Argos, Athens, (...)
  • 140 Antiph., 5, 12 (ἁπτομένους τῶν σϕαγίων); Dem., 59, 60.

77The fact that we often have to refer to secondary sources, reconstructing rituals from poetic references, the speeches of orators and the writings of historians, leads to a series of issues. Naturally, these sources provide most of the information on the details functional within the context of the text in which the oaths occur and which are not necessarily the most important elements of the oath-ceremony. For example, in many treaties on international agreements or important national policy issues, the mention of iera teleia (full grown victims) implies the presence of sacrifices, but we are not able to determine the type of sacrifice that was carried out.139 On the basis of the references provided by Athenian orators of the 5th and 4th centuries BC, we can deduce that the oaths taken in courtrooms by the prosecutor or witnesses were still accompanied by some form of ritual that normally entailed a blood sacrifice.140

78Furthermore, the type of ritual form that was enacted does not seem to depend on the type of agreement that was sealed. Similar rituals appear in vastly different documents and, vice versa, different rituals were used in the same context. The analysis of the available material shows that alliance-treaties between two poleis could be sealed with the same ritual used in a private agreement such as a marriage-promise. Thus, we may exclude the following equations: less solemn occasion = brief oath and more solemn occasion = more solemn oath, as well as private occasion = brief oath and public occasion = more solemn oath. Nonetheless, I believe that the “long” type of oath was more widespread than we would suppose from the scant sources. A comparison between the Greek archaic oaths and the documents from the Near East (in which such rituals are very common) makes clear that last record many of the details that the Greek sources often tended to omit.

  • 141 Pollux, VIII, 105. For the text of this famous oath, refer to M.N. Tod, A Selection of Greek Histo (...)
  • 142 Dem., 59, 78. See also Isaeus, 2, 31-32.
  • 143 Andoc, 1, 126-127.
  • 144 SEG 26, 1306, 1. 55-56.
  • 145 SV III, 545, 1. 2-3.
  • 146 Thuc., V, 23, 4 (Dionysia in Athens, Hyakinthia in Sparta). Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5), n° 11 (feasts (...)
  • 147 Hom., Il. III, 264-266; XIX, 172-177.
  • 148 Priests are mentioned in Dem., 23, 68 (oath of the Areopagus).

79The places in which oaths were sworn and the physical individuals who took the oath varied depending on the occasion. In terms of location, the oath often (but not always) took place in the vicinity of a sacred place, sanctuary or altar. The oath of the Athenian Ephebes, for example, took place at the sanctuary of Aglauros,141 the high priests of the cult of Dionysus swore πρὸς τῷ βωμῷ touching the victims142 and Callias swore to the identity of his son by touching the altar.143 In certain cases, the ceremonies would occur in a place that allowed the participation of a large audience and also public visibility. The treaty of sympoliteia between Teos and Kyrbissos (3rd century BC) was concluded by the sacrifice of a ram, a bull and a boar in the agora144 and the same place was selected to seal the treaty of homopoliteia between Cos and Calymna.145 The oaths that sealed international treaties and which were renewed yearly could be held on special festive occasions. Even in these cases, the reason lies in the vast public that was present and in the solemnity of the context.146 In the Iliad, oaths take place in military camps, between tents, with the sole presence of the Achaean and Trojan leaders.147 There is no mention of altars, permanent cult structures or priests participating in the sacrifice. Although this may have been a particular situation, due to war, it does not seem, in general, that specialized liturgical personnel performed the oath sacrifice.148

  • 149 Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5), p. 67.
  • 150 Mosley, l.c. (n. 94), p. 59-63, with examples from the 5th and 4th cent. BC.

80Similarly, there do not appear to have been any fixed rules concerning the individuals who physically swore international treaties. The Cretan international treaties, for example, seem to have been sworn by all of the citizens,149 while, in other cases, the oath was taken by appointed magistrates or by a representative that swore on behalf of the city.150

81Probably more than one factor determined the form and the performance of an oath-ritual: the type of agreement (public or private), the presence of a public (a few witnesses or the entire civil body), the contingent situation (war or peace).

82The role of oaths was to forge a link between the human word or promise and the divine law thereby making it credible and exerting an external pressure, a coercion that ensured that agreements would not be violated. If the oath was carried out as prescribed, respecting certain rules and using certain expressions, the agreement was considered valid because it had taken place within a recognized frame. The frame, the actors, the performed gestures and the spoken words had a specific function and an enormous importance. Even the lexicon used in sealing an oath, which was based on the technical terminology of “oath-cutting” (temnein, tomia) indicates the importance and the sacred nature of the gesture. Expressions such as spondas kai horkia temnein placed the ritual gestures of the oath “in the limelight”.

83Inside an identifiable structure, the elements of the ritual can vary in a very individual manner, depending on many different factors – the occasion of the oath, the intentions of the oath-takers, the historical context – so that we can easily conclude that not one oath-ritual exists, but rather many historical variants.

84In summary, I believe the Greek oath-ritual was a polycentric ritual, involving many elements, which could all be present, or only in part, depending on the different contexts and on the different variants of oath-rituals being celebrated. Moreover, the same elements could carry more than one symbolic meaning. Thus, for instance, the mydros, which was thrown into the sea, could at the same time visualized the curse (a violent death without proper burial), and also remind the spectators that the pact sealed was intended to be valid forever.

85Some recurring elements seem to be particularly important in an oath-ritual:

86Self-curse. The self-curse involves usually not only the perjurer himself but also his family or his community or both.

87Dramatisation. Mostly it implies a sacrifice or a sacrifice-like procedure: animals are slaughtered, blood or wine is libated on the ground, wax is melted. It is not important what is sacrificed but how. The gesture is a performance of the spoken self-curse and depends strongly upon the type of agreement and the recipient: thus, for example, to bathe a sword in blood has a terrible meaning for a soldier, but it means nothing to a bride.

88Touching. The tomia or the blood of the victims is sometimes touched by the participant in the ritual, in order to be bound together, and to bind themselves to the victims. In this case, touching the victims seems to be an accessory element, something which makes the ritual stronger but does not change its meaning. Sometimes however, the gesture of touching seems to be the “centre” of the symbolic meaning of the ritual, for instance, shaking hands or swearing on the altar. In these cases the gesture seems to imply a sort of “transmission of power” (the sacred nature of the altar, the sceptre, the earth, or even the life itself of the oath-takers) which binds the oath-takers together.

89Sometimes, one element can summarise and include the others: for instance, the self-curse can require some performance or not, the slaughtering of the animals can be preceded or followed by the self-curse, or the self-curse can be implicit and only enacted but not spoken. In some cases it is important to touch the carcass or the pieces of the slaughtered animals, so that we find a combination of the two elements of touching the victims and enacting the self-curse. In other cases, the victims do not seem to be touched, or there are no victims at all, but only the gesture of touching, for instance the altar or the earth, or the hands of the other oath-takers.

90In the majority of cases we do not know enough of the context to say why some elements are preferred to some others. But we can in any case conclude that an oath-ritual always implied a sort of communication, a ritual language whose semantics are strongly influenced by the content, by the senders and the recipients of the message.

Notes

1 I will only mention a selection of the most recent studies on oath and perjury: J. Plescia, The Oath and Perjury in Ancient Greece, Tallahassee, 1970; D. Aubriot, “Formulations possibles du serment et conceptions religieuses en Grèce ancienne”, Kernos 4 (1991), p. 91-103; R. Verdier (ed.), Le Serment I-II, Paris, 1991; P. Karavites, Promise Giving and Treaty Making. Homer and the Near East, Leiden, 1992; C.A. Faraone, “Molten Wax, Spilt Wine and Mutilated Animals: Sympathetic Magic in Near Eastern and Early Greek Oath-ceremonies”, JHS 113 (1993), p. 60-80; V. Saladino, “Aspetti rituali del giuramento greco”, in A. Calore (ed.), Seminari di storia e di diritto antico, 2, Studi sul giuramento nel mondo antico, Milano, 1998, p. 87-106; F. Zuccotti, “II giuramento in Grecia e nella Roma pagana. Aspetti essenziali e linee di sviluppo”, in o.c, p. 1-86; M. Giorgieri, “Aspetti magico-religiosi del giuramento presso gli Ittiti e i Greci”, in S. Ribichini, M. Rocchi (eds), La questione delle influenze vicino-orientali sulla religione greca: stato degli studi e prospettive della ricerca. Atti del Colloquio Internazionale di Roma, 20-22 maggio 1999, Roma, 2001, p. 421-440; M. Kitts, “Not Barren is the Blood of Lambs: Homeric Oath-Sacrifice as Metaphorical Transformation”, Kernos 16 (2003), p. 17-34; see also W. Burkert (in this volume).

2 Eustathius, ad B 339; Etym. Magn., s.v. ὅρϰος. See Plescia, o.c. (n. 1), p. 1-2. See also P. Torricelli, “Sul greco ὅρϰος e la figura lessicale del giuramento”, RAL serie 8, 36 (1981), p. 125-139, who interprets the etymological meaning of the term as a symbolic limit that delineates the cultural, social and existential status that the oath-maker enjoys and which the oath-maker provides as a guarantee of his promise, losing it if he contravenes the oath.

3 Hesiod, Theogony, 793-803.

4 The clearest evidence for litigants’ oaths is from the Gortynian Law Code: IC IV, 72, 3, 5-9 and 11, 46-50; IC IV, 72, 2, 36-45; IC IV, 72, 9, 37-40; compare also IC IV, 47, 16-26. A similar legal procedure was supposed to have been instituted by Solon: “Solon told the accused to swear an oath, when he did not have either a contract or witnesses, and similarly the accuser” (Anecdota Graeca I, p. 242, 20-22, ed. Bekker); in classical Athens, both litigants were required to swear oaths in support of their cases at the preliminary hearing (anakrisis): Pollux, VIII, 117; Demosthenes, 23, 63; 67-68; 71; Antiphon, 6, 5-6; another very popular practice was the oath-challenge: Dem., 39, 3-4; 40, 11. For an excellent study of litigants’ oaths and their legal meaning, see M. Gagarin, “Oaths and Oath-Challenges in Greek Law”, in G. Thür, j. Vélissaropoulos-Karakostas (eds), Symposion. Vorträge zur griechischen und hellenistischen Rechtsgeschichte 1-5 Sept. 1995, Köln, 1997, p. 125-134, who points out that such oaths were usually accepted when no other evidence could be found by the litigants. See also D.C. Mirhady, “The Oath-Challenge in Athens”, CQ 41, 1 (1991), p. 78-83, who argues that the oath-challenge was effectively an alternative method of ending litigations, without proceeding to the dikasterion, and C. Carey, “The Witness’s Exomosia in the Athenian Courts”, CQ 45, 1 (1995), p. 114-119, for the use of oaths in the witnesses’ testimony. The Athenian judges also had to make an oath, swearing that they would judge fairly: Pollux, VIII, 122; Anecd. Graeca I, p. 443, 24-31 (ed. Bekker); for the oath of the Athenian Heliaea, see Dem., 20, 118; 24, 149-151; 55, 63. See also Plescia, o.c. (n. 1), p. 26-27 and D. Asheri, “Gli impegni politici nel giuramento degli Eliasti ateniesi”, RAL 19, serie 8 (1964), p. 281-293.

5 Treaty of alliance between Athens and Argos (Thucydides, V, 47, 8); Peace of Nikias (Thuc, V, 18); decree on asylia between Oiantheia and Khaleion (IG I2, 717; see also Nomima I, 53); see also A. Chaniotis, Die Verträge zwischen kretischen Poleis in der hellenistischen Zeit, Stuttgart, 1996.

6 IG IX l2, 3, 718 (From Khaleion, about the foundation of the colony of Naupaktos; see also Nomima I, 43 and IGT, 49); SEG 9, 3 (Cyrenean foundation oath; see also R. Meiggs, D. Lewis, A Selection of Greek Historical Inscriptions to the End of the Fifth Century B.C., Oxford, 1988, 5 and Nomima I, 41).

7 New laws: Andocides, 1, 96-98 (Athenian oath of allegiance to the democratic constitution in 410 BC); I.Erythrai, 2 (see also Nomima I, 106, decree for the restoration of the democracy). Public contracts: IG XII, 9, 191 (contract between Chairephanes and the Eretrians); ICS, 217 (see also Nomima I, 31, contract for a family of doctors).

8 Lycurgus, 1, 79. Oath of the Nine Archonts: Aristotle, Athenaion Politeia, 3, 3; 7, 1; oath for the Council of Five Hundreds: Arist., Ath. Pol., 22, 2; Plescia, o.c. (n. 1), p. 24-25. See also Arist., Ath. Pol., 55, 5 and Plutarch, Solon, 25, 2. For a commentary on the Aristotelian passages, see P.J. Rhodes, Commentary on the Aristotelian Athenaion Politeia, Oxford, 1981, p. 100-101, 135-136, 263-264. Oaths of other magistrates: IG I3, 3 (Marathon, oath of the sport judges; see also Nomima II, 1 B = IGT, 3); CID I, 9 (Delphi, oath of the officials of the phratry of the Labyadai; see also IGT, 46).

9 IG II-III2, 1237; S.D. Lambert, The Phratries of Attica, Ann Arbor, 19982 [1993], p. 161-178, 285-293.

10 Pausanias, V, 24, 9-11.

11 The great majority of the examples I analyse in this paper are to be found in Karavites, o.c. (n. 1); Faraone, l.c. (n. 1), p. 60-80; Giorgieri, l.c. (n. 1), p. 421-440, and for the Hellenistic period, in Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5). To these authors my paper is much indebted.

12 See for instance the very interesting article of Faraone, l.c. (n. 1), p. 60-80.

13 Homer, Iliad XXIII, 42.

14 Hom., Odyssey II, 373; 377-378; IV, 252-256.

15 Hom., Il. III, 73; 94; 103-107.

16 Hom., Il. II, 337-341.

17 Hom., Il. VII, 406-412.

18 Hom., Od. V, 177-187; X, 299-301; 342-347; 380-381.

19 Hom., Il. IX, 132-134; X, 274-276; 328-332; XIX, 175-177; 242-268; XXIII, 439-441; 581-585.

20 E.g. Hom. Il. XIV, 271-280; XV, 36-40; XIX, 108.

21 Hom., Il. II, 339.

22 The interpretation of the Homeric oaths requires us to keep in mind the poetic nature of the source. A greater or lesser precision in the description of an oath scene is usually determined by the necessity of the verses or the plot, rather than the need to reproduce a clear and juridically precise agreement. The vocabulary used in the description of oaths in Homer’s works is, however, always of a technical nature.

23 Hom., Il. III, 85-94 (transl. AT. Murray): Ἕϰτωρ δὲ μετ’ ἀμϕοτέροισιν ἔειπε | “ϰέϰλυτέ μευ, Τρῶες ϰαὶ ἐϋϰνήμιδες Ἀχαιοί, | μῦθον Ἀλεξάνδροιο, τοῦ εἵνεϰα νεῖϰος ὄρωρεν. | ἄλλους μὲν ϰέλεται Τρῶας ϰαὶ πάντας Ἀχαιοὺς | τεῦχεα ϰάλ’ ἀποθέσθαι ἐπὶ χθονὶ πουλυβοτείρῃ, | αὐτὸν δ’ ἐν μέσσῳ ϰαὶ ἀρηΐϕιλον Μενέλαον | οἴους ἀμϕ’ Ἑλένῃ ϰαὶ ϰτήμασι πᾶσι μάεσθαι. | ὁππότερος δέ ϰε νιϰήσῃ ϰρείσσων τε γένηται, | ϰτήμαθ’ ἑλὼν εὖ πάντα γυναῖϰά τε οἴϰαδ’ ἀγέσθω | οἱ δ’ ἄλλοι ϕιλότητα ϰαὶ ὅρϰια πιστὰ τάμωμεν.” See also ibid., 67-75 and 284-287. In Hector’s promise, only Helen and his possessions are to be given back, and there is no mention of an additional reward, which Agamemnon will demand when the oath is taken before the duel.

24 Hom., Il. II, 124; III, 73; 105; 256; IV, 155-157.

25 For example, Nomima I, 19 (Halikarnassos, 475/450), 32 (Kyzikos, 6th cent. BC), 62 (Chios, about 550 BC).

26 Hom., Il. III, 103-107 (transl. A.T. Murray): οἴσετε δ’ ἄρν’, ἕτερον λευϰόν, ἑτέρην δὲ μέλαιναν, | Γῇ τε ϰαὶ Ἠελίῳ• Διὶ δ’ ἡμεῖς οἴσομεν ἄλλον. | ἄξετε δὲ Πριάμοιο βίην, ὄϕρ’ ὅρϰια τάμνῃ | αὐτός, ἐπεί οἱ παῖδες ὑπερϕίαλοι ϰαὶ ἄπιστοι, | μή τις ὑπερβασίῃ Διὸς ὅρϰια δηλήσηται.

27 Hom., Il. III, 245-249.

28 Hom., Il. III, 267-275 (transl. A.T. Murray): ὄρνυτο δ’ αὐτίϰ ἔπειτα ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων, | ἄν δ’ Ὀδυσεὺς πολύμητις ἀτὰρ ϰήρυϰες ἀγαυοὶ | ὅρϰια πιστὰ θεῶν σύναγον, ϰρητῆρι δὲ οἶνον | μίσγον, ἀτὰρ βασιλεῦσιν ὕδωρ ἐπὶ χεῖρας ἔχευαν. | Ἀτρεΐδης δὲ ἐρυσσάμενος χείρεσσι μάχαιραν, | ἥ οἱ πὰρ ξίϕεος μέγα ϰουλεὸν αἰὲν ἄωρτο, | ἀρνῶν ἐϰ ϰεϕαλέων τάμνε τρίχας• αὐτὰρ ἔπειτα | ϰήρυϰες Τρώων ϰαὶ Ἀχαιῶν νεῖμαν ἀρίστοις. | τοῖσιν δ’ Ἀτρεΐδης μεγάλ’ εὔχετο χεῖρας ἀνασχών•; 291-301: Ἦ ϰαὶ ἀπὸ στομάχους ἀρνῶν τάμε νηέϊ χαλϰῷ• | ϰαὶ τοὺς μὲν ϰατέθηϰεν ἐπὶ χθονὸς ἀσπαίροντας, | θυμοῦ δευομένους• ἀπὸ γὰρ μένος εἱλετο χαλϰός. | οἶνον δ’ ἐϰ ϰρητῆρος ἀϕυσσόμενοι δεπάεσσιν | ἔϰχεον, ἠδ’ εὔοντο θεοῖς αἰειγενέτῃσιν. | ὧδε δέ τις εἴπεσϰεν Ἀχαιῶν τε Τρώων τε• | “Ζεῦ ϰύδιστε μέγιστε ϰαὶ ἀθάνατοι θεοὶ ἄλλοι, | ὁππότεροι πρότεροι ὑπὲρ ὅρϰια πημήνειαν, | ὧδέ σϕ’ ἐγϰέϕαλος χαμάϕις ῥἐοι ὡς ὅδε οἶνος, | αὐτῶν ϰαὶ τεϰέων, ἄλοχοι δ’ ἄλλοισι δαμεῖεν.”

29 In the Iliad private issues are often inseparable from public issues: Achilles abandons the war over a quarrel on the ownership of a female slave and, similarly, the Trojan War is caused by a woman’s abduction.

30 Hom., Il. III, 105-106; Karavites, o.c. (n. 1), p. 23.

31 As Karavites, o.c. (n. 1), p. 116-117 points out, the choice between the two “field hands” is not a casual one. Odysseus was considered a diplomat par excellence (Hom., Il. III, 310), and Antenor represented, among the Trojans, the faction that favoured negotiation (Hom., Il. III, 205-224; VII, 347-364).

32 In III, 295, it is not specified whether the wine is pure or mixed; in IV, 159, the same libations are defined spondai akretoi, which means with unmixed wine. The krater that is mentioned in verse 295 will in this case simply have functioned as a container or may have been used to mix the wine brought by the Greeks with that provided by the Trojans. See G.S. Kirk, The Iliad: A Commentary I, Cambridge, 1985, p. 347.

33 Hom., Il. I, 449; Od. III, 440; 445.

34 For the importance of the hands in the oath-ritual, see infra.

35 See, for example, Hom., Od. III, 446; XIV, 422. The scholion commenting this passage (Schol. Hom., Il. 3.273b, ed. Erbse) indicates that the hair/wool of victims employed in enagizein sacrifices was not thrown into the fire. In this case however, the sacrifice is not a true enagismos, since the victims are not burnt. On the Voropfer refer to G.S. Kirk, “Some Methodological Pittfalls in the Study of Ancient Greek Sacrifice (in particular)”, in J. Rudhardt (ed.), Le sacrifice dans l’antiquité, Geneve, 1981 (Entretiens sur l’antiquite classique, 27), p. 63.

36 Arnobius, Adversus nationes, 7, 9; F.T. van Straten, Hierà kalá. Images of Animal Sacrifice in Archaic and Classical Greece, Leiden, 1995, p. 181-186.

37 LSCG 20, B 17-18 (Marathonian Tetrapolis).

38 Paus., V, 24, 11.

39 Hom., Il. X, 521; XIII, 442; Kirk, o.c. (n. 32), p. 307-308. See also M. Kitts, l.c. (n. 1), p. 27 and 33 who underlines the metaphorical meaning of this association.

40 Hom., Il. XX, 471-472; See Faraone, l.c. (n. 1), p. 75.

41 Faraone, l.c. (n. 1), p. 60-80, especially p. 74-75. I do not intend to raise the controversy on the relation between “religion” and “magic” and the legitimacy of employing the terminology used by Faraone. For further considerations on this issue refer to Faraone himself in l.c., p. 60, n. 3 and p. 77-78. See also H.S. Versnel, “Some Reflections on the Relationship Magic-Religion”, Numen 38 (1991), p. 177-197.

42 Contact with the object upon which one swears, whether a sacrificial animal, the sceptre as a symbol of power or the head of a horse, is a recurring element in Homeric oaths: see for example, HoM., Il. VII, 406-412; XIV, 271-280; XXIII, 439-441; 581-585. See also infra.

43 Hom., Il. IV, 158.

44 I use here the terminology of F. Graf, “Milch, Honig und Wein. Zum Verständnis der Libation im griechischen Ritual”, in Perennitas. Studi in onore di Angelo Brelich. Promossi dalla Cattedra di religioni del mondo classico dell’ Università degli Studi di Roma, Roma, 1980, p. 209-221, who classifies the sacrifices in the two categories of normality (“everyday” sacrifice) and anomaly (sacrifice performed on special occasions, in which the individual or the community is faced with an extraordinary situation, either of a joyous or a disastrous kind). Unmixed wine is very uncommon and seems to have been rather the exception than the rule also in the sacrificial practice.

45 W. Burkert, Homo necans. Interpretationen altgriechischer Opferriten und Mythen, Berlin/New York, 1972, p. 66; id., Griechische Religion der archaischen und klassischen Epoche, Stuttgart, 1977, p. 377.

46 High intensity rites are performed when the “normal” relation with the divinity is altered, for instance, when disasters and misfortune persuade the faithful that there is something wrong with this relation. These special situations demand special actions (G. Ekroth, The Sacrificial Rituals of Greek Hero-Cults in the Archaic to the early Hellenistic Periods, Liège, 2002 (Kernos, Suppl. 12), p. 325-330). On the importance of visible physical displays in such rituals, see also M. Kitts, l.c. (n. 1), p. 30-31.

47 For the analysis of this passage see Giorgieri, l.c. (n. 1), p. 426-427. For the similarities with oriental rites of the Near East and other similar, Homeric and non-Homeric oath-rites refer to Giorgieri, l.c. (n. 1) and Faraone, l.c. (n. 1), p. 60-80.

48 See Kirk, o.c. (n. 32), p. 308. The inexorable fulfilment of the curse is explicitly evoked, upon the breaking of the pact, by Agamemnon: “it was for your death that I swore this solemn oath, stationing you alone before the Achaeans to do battle with the Trojans, since the Trojans have thus struck you, and trodden under foot the oaths of faith. Yet in no way is an oath of no effect and the blood of lambs and the drinking offerings of unmixed wine and the handclaps in which we put our trust” (Hom., Il. IV, 155-159).

49 Hom., Il. XIX, 249-268: … ἄν δ’ Ἀγαμέμνων | ἵστατο• Ταλθύβιος δὲ θεῷ ἐναλίγϰιος αὐδὴν | ϰάπρον ἔχων ἐν χερςὶ παρίστατο ποιμένι λαῶν. | Ἀτρεΐδης δὲ ἐρυσσάμενος χείρεσσι μάχαιραν, | ἥ οἱ πὰρ ξίϕεος μέγα ϰουλεὸν αἰὲν ἄωρτο, | ϰάπρου ἀπὸ τρίχας άρξάμενος, Διὶ χεῖρας άνασχὼν | εὔχετο• τοὶ δ’ ἄρα πάντες ἐπ’ αὐτόϕιν ἥατο σιγῇ | Ἀργεῖοι ϰατὰ μοῖραν, ἀϰούοντες βασιλῆος. |εὐξάμενος δ’ ἄρα εἶπεν ἰδών εἱς οὐρανὸν εὐρύν• | “ἴστω νῦν Ζεὺς πρῶτα, θεῶν ὕπατος ϰαὶ ἄριστος, | Γῆ τε ϰαὶ Ἠέλιος ϰαὶ Ἐρινύες, αἵ θ’ ὐπὸ γαῖαν | ἀνθρώπους τίνυνται, ὅτις ϰ’ ἐπίορϰον ὀμόσσῃ, | μὴ μὲν ἐγὼ ϰούρῃ Βρισηίδι χεῖρ’ ἐπένειϰα, | οὔτ’ εὐνῆς πρόϕασιν ϰεχρημένος οὔτε τευ ἄλλου• | ἀλλ’ ἔμεν’ ἀπροτίμαστος ένὶ ϰλισίῃσιν ἐμῃσιν. | εἰ δέ τι τῶνδ’ ἐπίορϰον, ἐμοὶ θεοὶ ἄλγεα δοῖεν | πολλὰ μάλ, ὅσσα διδοῦσιν, ὅτίς σϕ’ ἀλίτηται ὀμόσσας.” | Ἦ ϰαὶ ἀπὸ στόμαχον ϰάπρου τάμε νηλέϊ χαλϰῷ. | τὸν μὲν Ταλθύβιος πολιῆς ἁλὸς ἐς μέγα λαῖτμα | ῥῖψ’ ἐπιδινήσας, βόσιν ἰχθύσιν.

50 Faraone, l.c. (n. 2), p. 75-76.

51 Hom., Il. IX, 131-134; 273-276.

52 Hom., Il. IX, 174-178. The tradition of drinking to seal an oath is not often encountered in Greek sources and, when it is found, usually refers to foreigners. Herodotus, for example, wrote that the Scyths swore by drinking a mixture of wine and blood after having dipped their weapons into it (Herodot, IV, 70). In the parody of the solemn oath in Aristophanes’ Lysistrata (v. 185-186; 209-210), the women swear on a krater full of wine and then drink from it. See Giorgieri, l.c. (n. 1), p. 433-435, who however, mentions neither the Homeric episode, nor that described in Lysistrata.

53 See Hom., Il. XIX, 196-197.

54 Hom., Il. II, 339-341 (transl. A.T. Murray): Πῇ δὴ συνθεσίαι τε ϰαὶ ὅρϰια βήσεται ἡμῖν; | ἐν πυρὶ δὴ βουλαί τε γενοίατο μήδεά τ’ ἀνδρῶν | σπονδαί τ’ ἄϰρητοι ϰαὶ δεξιαί ᾗς ἐπέπιθμεν.

55 Hom., Il. II, 344.

56 Hom., Il. VII, 406-412.

57 Hom., Il. I, 233-239.

58 Hom., Il. X, 328-332.

59 Hom., Il. XXIII, 439-441; 581-585.

60 Aubriot, l.c. (n. 1), p. 99.

61 Aubriot, l.c. (n. 1), p. 93.

62 Hom., Il. XIV, 271-280.

63 Also see Saladino, l.c. (n. 1), p. 105. See also S. Knippschild, “Drum bietet zum Bunde die Hände”. Rechtssymbolische Akte in zwischenstaatlichen Beziehungen im orientalischen und griechisch-römischen Altertum, Stuttgart, 2002, p. 29-39, 85-88.

64 Lyc., 1, 79.

65 Dem., 23, 67-68. (transl. J.H. Vince): Ἴστε δήπου τοῦθ’ ἅπαντες, ὅτι ἐν Ἀρείῳ πάγῳ, οὗ δίδωσιν ὁ νόμος ϰαὶ ϰελεύει τοῦ ϕόνου διϰάζεσθαι, πρῶτον μὲν διομεῖται ϰατ’ ἐξωλείας αὑτοῦ ϰαὶ γένους ϰαὶ οἰϰίας ὅ τιν΄ αἰτιώμενος εἰργάσθαι τι τοιοῦτον• εἶτ΄ οὐδὲ τὸν τοχόντα τιν’ ὅρϰον τοῦτον ποιήσει, ἀλλ’ ὅν οὐδεὶς ὄμνυσιν ὑπὲρ οὐδενὸς ἄλλου, ατὰς ἐπὶ τῶν τομίων ϰάπρου ϰαὶ ϰριοῦ ϰαὶ ταύρου.

66 Xenophon, Anabasis II, 2, 8; Plut., Pyrrh., 6, 9; SV III, 545, 1. 9-10; SEG 26, 1306, 1. 55-56; Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5), 6.

67 P. Stengel, Opferbräuche der Griechen, Leipzig, 1910, p. 80-85; M.P. Nilsson, Geschichte der griechischen Religion I, München, 19673 [1941], p. 149.

68 Faraone, l.c. (n. 1), p. 65-72.

69 For a meticulous analysis of rites with butchered animals in Greece and the Near East, see Faraone, l.c. (n. 1), p. 65-72.

70 Dem., 23, 68.

71 Aeschines, 2, 87.

72 Arist., Ath. Pol., 55, 5; Pollux, VIII, 86.

73 For example, in an Athenian treaty from 465 BC concerning Erythrai (IG I3, 14; see also IGT, 76; SV II, n° 134) the oath is pronounced ϰατὰ [h]ιερōν [ϰ]αιομένον or, according to a different interpretation, ϰατὰ [h]ιερōν [ϰ]αιομένον; the victims must be “not less than oxen, or else … shall be liable for a fine of 1000 drachmas”. See also Thuc, V, 47, 8 (defensive alliance among Argos, Athens, Mantinaea and Elis). A sacrifice ϰαθ΄ ἱερῶν τελείων can also be found in Andoc, 1, 97, in reference to the oath for the restoration of democracy in 410 and in Dem., 59, 60.

74 Herodot, VI, 67-68. See also Antiphon, 5, 12 (ἁπτομένους τῶν σϕαγίων)

75 Alcaeus, fr. 129 L.-P. (Transl. DA. Campbell): … ὤς ποτ’ ἀπώμνυμεν | τόμοντες.. [….. .]ν . . | μηδάμα μηδ’ ἔνα τὼν ἐταίρων | ἀλλ’ ἢ θάνοντες γᾶν ἐπιέμμενοι | ϰείσεσθ’ ὐπ’ ἄνδρνω οἲνδρων οἲ τότ’ ἐπιϰ.. ην | ἤπειτα ϰαϰϰτάνοντες αὔτοις, | δᾶμον ὐπὲξ ἀχέων ῥύεσθαι.

76 IGT3, 14 (see also IGT, 76; SV II, 1962, 134).

77 Aeschylos, Seven against Thebes, 43-53.

78 Euripides, Suppliants, 1189-1202.

79 Euripides, Supp, 1205-1210.

80 Xen., Anab. II, 2, 8-9 (transl. C.L. Brownson): ταῦτα δὲ ὤμοσαν, σϕάξαντες ταῦρον ϰαὶ λύϰον ϰαὶ ϰάπρον ϰαὶ ϰριὸν εἰς ἀσπίδα, οἱ μὲν Ἕλληνες βάπτοντες ξίϕος, οἱ δὲ βάρβαροι λόγχην.

81 Faraone, l.c. (n. 1), p. 67-68.

82 I will not go into the complex issue on the authenticity of the text, which is preserved on the so-called Acharnae Stele. See P. Siewert, Der Eid von Plataiai, München, 1972, especially p. 5-8, 98-102.

83 Herodot, I, 165, 3.

84 Arist., Ath. Pol, 23, 5; Plut., Arist., 25, 1. See also R. Meiggs, The Athenian Empire, Oxford, 1972, p. 579-582 (Appendix 16); H. Jacobson, “The Oath of the Delian League”, Philologus 119 (1975), p. 256-258.

85 Hom., Il. XIX, 264-268. See also supra.

86 Meiggs, o.c. (n. 84), p. 45-46; N.G.L. Hammond, Studies in Greek History, Oxford, 1973, p. 330. Against, Jacobson, l.c. (n. 84), p. 256-258, who first pointed out the relations that can be seen between this type of oath and ritual dramatisation in Near Eastern agreements; Faraone, l.c. (n. 1), p. 79.

87 Diodorus Siculus, IX, 10, 3; R.I. Winton, “The Oaths of the Delian League”, MH 40 (1983), p. 125.

88 SEG 9, 3: Ἐπὶ τούτοις ὅρϰια ἐποιήσαντο οἵ τε αὐτεῖ μένον[τ]ες οἱ πλέοντες οἱϰίξοντες ϰαὶ ἀρὰς ἐποιήσαντο τὸς ταῦτα παρβεῶντας ϰαὶ μὴ ἐμμένοντας ἢ τῶν ἐλλιβύαι οἰϰεόντων ἢ τῶν αὐτεῖ μενόντω. ϰηρίνος πλάσσαντες ϰολοςὸς ϰατέϰαιον ἐπαρεώμενοι πάντες συνενθόντες ϰαὶ ἄνδρες ϰαὶ γυναῖϰες ϰαὶ παῖδες ϰαὶ παιδίσϰαι• τὸμ μὴ ἐμμένοντα τούτοις τοῖς ὁρϰίοις ἀλλὰ παρβεῶντα ϰαταλείβεθαί νιν ϰαὶ ϰαταρρὲν ὥσπερ τὸς ϰολοσός, ϰαὶ αὐτὸν ϰαὶ γόνον ϰαὶ χρήματα. See also Meiggs, Lewis, o.c. (n. 6), 5, with bibliography. The authenticity as well as the effective antiquity of the oath are the subject of much debate. For recent interpretations see Faraone, l.c. (n. 1), p. 60-62 (with bibliography), P. Vannicelli, Erodoto e la storia dell’alto e medio arcaismo (Sparta-Tessaglia-Cirene), Roma, 1993, p. 131-139; Giorgieri, l.c. (n. 1), p. 422-425.

89 Transl. of the Greek text by A J. Graham, Colony and Mother City in Ancient Greece, Manchester, 19832 [1964], p. 224-226 (Appendix II).

90 For instance, S. Dušanić, “The ὅρϰιον τῶν οἰϰιστήρων and Fourth-century Cyrene”, Chiron 8 (1978), p. 55-76.

91 For the relation between the Cyrenean text and other ceremonies implying magic, see A.D. Nock, “A Curse from Cyrene”, ARW2A (1926), p. 172-173.

92 Faraone, l.c. (n. 1), p. 60-65. See also Giorgieri, l.c. (n. 1), p. 422-425.

93 See above.

94 Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5), p. 67; D.J. Mosley, “Who Signed Treaties in Ancient Greece?”, PCPhS 7 (1961), p. 60-63.

95 Hom., Il. III, 297-301.

96 Aristoph., Lysistrata, 237: Νὴ Δία.

97 Dem., 7, 36.

98 On the low efficiency of oaths in international politics see R. Lonis, “La valeur du serment dans les accords internationaux en Grèce classique”, DHA VI, 4 (1980), p. 267-286.

99 Thuc, V, 30, 15-20 (Transl. Crawley).

100 Thuc, V, 47, 8 (defensive alliance among Argos, Athens, Mantineia and Elis). The text of the treaty is also conserved on an epigraph (with a few differences), see IG I3 83.

101 Thuc, V, 47, 8; V, 18, 9.

102 Thuc, V, 47, 10: ” The oath should be renewed by the Athenians going to Elis, Mantinea and Argos thirty days before the Olympic games; by the Argives, Mantineans and Eleans going to Athens ten days before the feast of the Great Panathenaea”; Thuc, V, 23, 4: “[the treaty] shall be renewed annually by the Lacedaemonians going to Athens for the Dionysia, and the Athenians to Lacedaemon for the Hyacinthia”.

103 Thuc, V, 47, 11; “The articles of the treaty, the oaths, and the alliance shall be inscribed on a stone pillar by the Athenians on the Acropolis, by the Argives in the Agora, in the temple of Apollo; by the Mantineans in the temple of Zeus, in the market place; and a bronze pillar shall be erected jointly by them at the Olympic games now at hand”; Thuc, V, 23, 5: “and a pillar shall be set up by either party; at Lacedaemon near the temple of Apollo at Amyclae and at Athens on the acropolis near the temple of Athena”; see also Thuc, V, 18, 10.

104 Thuc, V, 47, 9: “The oath shall be taken at Athens by the Boule and the magistrates, the Prytanes administering it; at Argos by the Boule, the Eighty and the Artynae, the Eighty administering it, etc.”. Sometimes the names of individual magistrates were written out in full as if they were signatures: for example, Thuc, V, 24, 1. In Thuc, V, 18, 9, a group of 17 citizens swears for each city.

105 Expressions such as: “having sworn upon the faith of the gods” or “unless the gods or the heroes stand in the way” (Thuc, V, 30, 3) show how religious formulas were considered a full part of the oaths, even if they were never fully transcribed.

106 Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5), n° 2.

107 Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5), n° 8.

108 Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5), n° 10.

109 Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5), nos 26 (alliance-treaty between Hierapytna and Lyttos); 27 (alliance-treaty between Gortyn, Hierapytna, and Priansos); 60 (treaty of alliance and isopoliteia between Lyttos and Olus); 61 (treaty of friendship, alliance and isopoliteia between Lato and Olus).

110 Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5), nos 59; 74. See also the comments on p. 435-436.

111 Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5), nos 10; 16; 27; 74.

112 Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5), nos 42; 64.

113 Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5), n° 59; similar formulas can also be found in n°s 26; 33; 60; 61.

114 Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5), nos 6; 31; 60 C 2-4. This type of reference on stone inscriptions is quite rare as it belongs to the phase in which the treaty was negotiated and lost its value once the treaty had been concluded and written. Similar details only exist when the archival copy (which is different from the stone copy and mostly irremediably lost) has been published without any alterations. Also see Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5), p. 77-81.

115 Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5), n° 6. The same animals (boar, ram and bull) recur in other oath-sacrifices: for example, in the case of the homopoliteia-treaty between Cos and Calymna (SV III, 545, 1. 9-10), in a sympoliteia-lreaty between Teos and Kyrbissos (SEG 26, 1306, 1. 55-56) and in the oath between the Greeks and Persians described in Xen., Anab. II, 2, 8-9 (with the addition of a wolf). According to Demosthenes, the oath of the prosecutors at the Areopagos also entailed the sacrifice of a boar, a ram and a bull (Dem., 23, 67-68; see supra).

116 Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5), p. 66-68, 124-125.

117 IC III, 4, 7 and 8. See also PJ. Perlman, “Invocatio and Imprecatio-. the Hymn to Greatest Kouros from Palaikastro and the Oath in Ancient Crete”, JHS 115 (1995), p. 161-167.

118 IC III, 4, 8, 1. 8-9. See also Perlman, l.c. (n. 117), p. 161-167. Another example can be found in a Cretan civic oath from the 3rd or 2nd century BC from Dreros (IC I, 9, 1) that contains a long list of invoked divinities and many maledictions and blessings but proferrs no indications of the ceremony itself.

119 Modern authors have not reached agreement on the meaning of πανάζωστοι. A. Brelich, Paides e parthenoi, Roma, 1969, p. 199-201, translates it as “completely naked”. I prefer the interpretation of D.D. Leitao, “The Perils of Leukippos: Initiatory Transvestism and Male Gender Ideology in the Ekdysia at Phaistos”, ClAnt 14 (1995), p. 133, who, according to Hesych, translates it as “unarmed”. In any case, it seems likely that, in this ceremony, the young new citizens, who had reached the final stage of their initiation into manhood, laid aside their boyhood garments before assuming their warrior costumes. See also R.F. Willetts, Aristocratic Society in Ancient Crete, London, 1955, p. 120-123; Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5), p. 197, especially n. 1185.

120 Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5), n° 11 (Malla and Lyttos); IC I, 9, 1 (Dreros, 1. 99-100); IC II, 5, 24 (Axos).

121 See Leitao, l.c. (n. 119), p. 130-163.

122 Perlman, l.c. (n. 117), p. 161-167.

123 Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5), nos 11; 32; 50; 55; 61.

124 Aesch., 1, 114; Herodot, VI, 67-68. Also see the oath of the winner at the Palladion: “the one who wins his case must cut in pieces the sacrificial flesh” (τέμνοντα τὰ τόμια), Aesch., 2, 87 (transl. C D. Adams).

125 Antiph., 5, 12 (ἁπτομένους τῶν σϕαγίων). Also see the oath of the prosecutor at the Aereopagus, in Dem., 23, 68.

126 Hom., Il.. VII, 406-412.

127 Aeschylos, Seven against Thebes, 42-48; Xen., Anab. II, 2, 8-9.

128 J. Rudhardt, Notions fondamentales de la pensée religieuse et actes constitutifs du culte dans la Grèce classique, Paris, 19922 [1958], p. 211.

129 Giorgieri, l.c. (n. 1), p. 426-427.

130 Sophocles, Trachiniae, 1181-1188.

131 Eurip., Medea, 21-22.

132 Hom., Il. II, 337-341.

133 SV II, 163.

134 See Aubriot, l.c. (n. 1), p. 93-95; Knippschild, o.c. (n. 63), p. 29-39.

135 See Knippschild, o.c. (n. 63), p. 85-88, for the oaths sworn on the altar or touching the earth.

136 For example, Faraone, l.c. (n. 1), p. 78-79.

137 I do not intend to open here the question of the validity of such an evolutionary approach at all, which I find very simplistic.

138 The difference between the sources also clarifies, I believe, the differences between Greek and Near Eastern oaths – often used by modern authors as a comparison – for which we have a primary source, the original archival text preserved on tablets. On the other hand, secondary sources on oaths are extremely rare in the Near East.

139 IG I3, 14 (see also IGT, 76; SV II, 134); Thuc, V, 47, 8 (defensive alliance among Argos, Athens, Mantinaea and Elis); Andoc, 1, 97 (oath for the restoration of democracy in 410).

140 Antiph., 5, 12 (ἁπτομένους τῶν σϕαγίων); Dem., 59, 60.

141 Pollux, VIII, 105. For the text of this famous oath, refer to M.N. Tod, A Selection of Greek Historical Inscriptions, II, Oxford, 1948, 204.

142 Dem., 59, 78. See also Isaeus, 2, 31-32.

143 Andoc, 1, 126-127.

144 SEG 26, 1306, 1. 55-56.

145 SV III, 545, 1. 2-3.

146 Thuc., V, 23, 4 (Dionysia in Athens, Hyakinthia in Sparta). Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5), n° 11 (feasts of Monnitia (?) in Malla and Pythia (?) in Lyttos), 50 (unknown feasts), 59 (feast of Hyperboia in Hierapitna and Theodaisia in Lato).

147 Hom., Il. III, 264-266; XIX, 172-177.

148 Priests are mentioned in Dem., 23, 68 (oath of the Areopagus).

149 Chaniotis, o.c. (n. 5), p. 67.

150 Mosley, l.c. (n. 94), p. 59-63, with examples from the 5th and 4th cent. BC.

Notes de fin

* For epigraphical publications I use the following abbreviations:
IGT = R. Koerner, Inschriftliche Gesetzestexte der frühen griechischen Polis, Köln, 1993; Nomima I-II = H. van Effenterre, F. Ruzé, Nomima. Recueil d’inscriptions politiques et juridiques de l’archaïsme grec, I-II, Paris/Roma, 1994-1995; SV II = H. Bengtson, Die Staatsverträge des Altertums. Zweiter Band. Von 700 bis 338 v. Chr., München, 1975; SV III = H.H. Schmitt, Die Staatsverträge des Altertums. Drifter Band. Von 338 bis 200 v. Chr., München, 1969; ICS = O. Masson, Inscriptions Chypriotes Syllabiques, Paris, 1961.

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Seminar für Alte Geschichte und Epigraphik Marstallhof 4 D – 69117 Heidelberg E-mail:

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