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Lecture 4

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Victoria Wohl

Lecture 4 January 18th 2012 Lecture 4 - Men, Gods, Beasts -one of differences b/w mortals and immortals is MORTALITY -> gods live forever BUT humans have to die. -another difference is our limited knowledge -> we can’t know the future & we can’t know what the Gods have planned for us. -Greeks are always questioning the power of the Gods for example in the lIliad Even the Gods don’t know who is going to win the war until Zeus takes out his golden scales. Furthermore, Zeus/Gods can be deceived (i/e during war -> tricked by Here; also had been earlier deceived by Prometheus...but was Zeus really trick? It is kind of implied that he lets himself be tricked by Prometheus so that he can punish mankind afterwards; in Oedipus the king, the oracle says one thing but the characters say/believe another Oedipus the King -explores this difference b/w humans and gods (the limits of human knowledge) -Oedipus doesn’t know who is parents are, who killed his predecessor (Lauis), doesn’t know if Creon is lying to him -don’t know the past (they don’t know Oedipus’ past) or the present (what is caus- ing the plague, if Tiersas is telling the truth) or the future -seek prophets, go to prophets and eyewitnesses to find out what they don’t know Ways Greeks sought out information about the future: -prophecies -different types of prophets: -intimate relationship with god (Cassandra -> Apollo fell in love with her, offered her prophecy BUT she didn’t want to sleep with him so he cursed her and said that no one would ever believe her prophecies) -seers -> technological knowledge that allowed them to analyze the universe and predict the future -kinds of signs: dreams, lighting, sneeze, eclipse, birds (type, direction of movement, where in the sky they are seen), results of sacrifices -example: seers of Troy saw a pregnant hare (Troy) being eaten by eagle (Greece) -One step of sacrifice -> inspect internal organs especially the LIVER; would have seers look at (called Hepatoscopy) -Greeks took these things VERY seriously Lecture 4 January 18th 2012 -Oracles -were ALL over greece for all the different gods -Delphi = most accurate and most famous; the boulder that Kronos swallowed/ vomited up; Religion centre of the greek world. Could ask it any kind of question: civil or personal. -When went to Delphi would consult the priestess of Apollo called “Py- thia”(named after the serpent that lived under Delphi that Apollo had to defeat). Pythia would sit on a chasm and speak nonsense then a priestess would interpret what she would saying. -Scholars of recent times think it was natural gas that was coming up and making her high BUT geological surveys have been done and have come to the conclusion that this is not possible. Another possib- ility was that the Pythia who was chewing laurel -> got her stoned BUT was eventually eliminated. Another theory -> Phythia had nothing to do, it was just smokes and mirrors. Pythia was a young illiterate girl so telling her that she is the vessel of a god would work on her imagination and she would say all this nonsense and then the priestess would just interpret it as she saw fit -answers that were given would be really AMBIGUOUS so it was really hard to interpret => so even if humans try to overcome the limitation to know- ledge by going to oracle BUT still may not be able to interpret the -”know thyself” -> know that you are only a human and your knowledge is limited. Oedipus doesn’t know himself: doesn’t know he is the cause of the plague, doesn’t know that Jocasta is his mother etc. So the play is like a gradu- al process of Oedipus getting to know himself -Structured as a riddle so when the play opens Thebes is suffering from a plague but they don’t know what is causing it. -Oedipus is determined to solve this “riddle”, he is a problem solver -remember when he had come to Thebes it had been tortured by the Sphinx -> if they got it wrong she killed them. He solved his riddle & be- came king. Even his name (oedipus) sounds like “I know”. -Sends his brother in law to Delphi to speak to oracle. Oracle says that murderer of Lauis has not been punished thus the plague -> new riddle = who murdered Lauis -> oedipus says he will solve the problem and curses the murder
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