The Common Oracle of the Milesians and the Argives (Hdt. 6. 19 and 77)
When Herodotus collected it, after 450, the common oracle was circulating in Greece in an environment hostile to Cleomenes, very likely at Argos itself. If, in conformity with Homeric usage, one sees in the ‘Argives’ the Greeks in general, this oracle, violently hostile to Miletus, would at an earlier time have been aimed only at the Milesians themselves, whose suicidal behaviour it stigmatizes. J. B. Bury dated it to the campaign of Aristagoras in Greece. If an oracle had been given at that time, it must have had a rather different form. The text that we know must be more recent. It can scarcely predate the defeat of the Greek fleet at Lade and probably follows rather than precedes the fall of Miletus. The strong emotion that accompanied that news in Greece and the growing menace that the Persians were going to bring down upon her in the following years served to create a climate propitious for the spread of oracles and prophecies that fuelled thoughts and comments. This chapter defends the hypothesis of a single oracle bearing upon a single theme. This is not without consequence for the factual history of Argos. The date of Cleomenes' attack, placed by Pausanias at the beginning of his reign, has been lowered to c.494 because of the synchronism imposed by the oracle. Wells has already shown that, apart from the common oracle, nothing in Herodotus' account tells against an earlier date. His arguments are not all of the same value, but certain amongst them continue to deserve the most serious attention.
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