The Syracusans' Great Oath and other Examples
14 Hierophantic Performances
- Liverpool University Press
The Great Oath, or megas horkos, of the Syracusans was administered in only two occasions, where it was sworn by faithless political schemers of the fourth century bc. This chapter argues that the Syracusans' faith in their peculiar oath ritual was founded on the established power of the hierophantic performance – a highly developed type of effective politico-religious act – and focuses on two perjurers, Callippus and Agathocles. Callippus was a wealthy Athenian and a guest-friend of Dion, Plato's friend and the eventual tyrant of Syracuse. Dion was assassinated by Callippus in 354. According to Plutarch, the megas horkos was occasioned by a fear of conspiratorial tendencies. The chapter places the Great Oath of the Syracusans in a more specifically Sicilian and Greek context by analysing the rite described by Plutarch, assesses the meaning of the megas horkos, and discusses the kind of evidence behind the failed oaths.
oaths, Great Oath, megas horkos, Syracusans, ritual, hierophantic performance, Callippus, Agathocles, Syracuse, Plutarch
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