March 12th, 2007


Thermopylae, the Delphic Oracle, and Other Tidbits

Because of the popularity of the movie 300 and the fact that I've now seen it twice and been amused by how Frank Miller represented the history (and, admittedly, appreciated the revalorizing of the myth of Thermopylae), I figured that I would provide the three Delphic oracles that particularly focus on the situation at the Hot Gates. (I just happen to have the collected Oracles on my desk):
"People of Sparta, either your city is destroyed by the Persians or it is not, and Lakedaimon will mourn a dead king of the Haraklid line. For the might of bulls and lions will not stay the enemy in battle; he has Zeus' might. And I say that he will not stop until he has destroyed one of these two." -Q152, Oracle of Delphi to the Spartans, regarding the Persian invasion (481/480 BC) [Herodotus, 7.220.3-4]

"Do not stay; fly to the ends of the earth, leaving your houses and city. For the whole body is unsound; nothing is left. Fire and war destroy it. Many fortresses will be destroyed, not yours alone. Many temples will burn, and blood drips upon their roofs, presaging inevitable evil. Leave the adyton and be ready for woes." -Q146, Oracle of Delphi to the Athenians, regarding the Persian invasion of the Hellas (481/480 BC)

"Pallas cannot appease Zeus with her many prayers. But I shall tell you this immovable decree: all Attica will be taken, but Zeus grants Athena a wooden wall that shall alone be untaken and will help you and your children. Do not await the onset of cavalry and infantry from the continent at your ease, but turn about and leave. You will face them sometime again. O divine Salamis, you will lose many children of men either at sowing time or at harvest." -Q147, Oracle of Delphi to the Athenians, regarding Oracle Q146 (481/480 BC)¹
Other items of possible interest, regarding the battle itself:

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¹ - Source: Fonternrose, Joseph. The Delphic Oracle: Its responses and Operations With a Catalogue of Responses. University of California Press. 1981