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HorkosThe Oath in Greek Society$
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Alan Sommerstein and Judith Fletcher

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9781904675679

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781904675679.001.0001

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Hierophantic Performances

Hierophantic Performances

The Syracusans' Great Oath and other Examples

Chapter:
(p.161) 14 Hierophantic Performances
Source:
Horkos
Author(s):

Tarik Wareh

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.5949/liverpool/9781904675679.003.0015

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.

Keywords:   oaths, Great Oath, megas horkos, Syracusans, ritual, hierophantic performance, Callippus, Agathocles, Syracuse, Plutarch

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