Julius Pollux on Inspiration

1 Introduction

Julius Pollux was a second-century rhetorician, whose lexicon, the Onomasticon, was meant to teach readers elegant Attic style. It is only incidentally that this work is also a fantastic source of ancient ideas about ritual, including the mechanics of divine inspiration and divination (Onomasticon 1.15–19). Due to its non-theoretical character, Pollux’ treatment of this issue is an important corroboratory and corrective addendum to Proclus’ philosophical theory of theagogy.

In this translation, I use ‘divine’ and related expressions for all words from the Greek stem mant-, but the latter is not connected to the Greek word for ‘god’ (theos). The much rarer stem thesp– really is connected to theos, however, so that I also translate this as ‘divine’. In other respects, I have attempted to replicate the nuances of the different Greek expressions to the greatest degree possible.

2 Translation

If there is a divinatory spirit/breath (pneuma mantikon) anywhere, the places is called entheos (‘with a god in it’), epipnous (‘breathed upon’), katokhos (‘overpowered’), epitetheiasmenos (roughly, ‘divinized’) or seized (kateilēmmenos) by a god, as is the person using it, who is also called enthousiōn (‘having a god inside’), moved (kekinēmenos) by a god, anabebakkheumenos (‘brought into Bacchic frenzy’), full of a god or being changed (parallatōn) by a god.

You may call the pneuma a divinatory steam (atmos), a daemonic breath (asthma daimonion), a divine gust (theia aura), a divinatory wind or a predictive voice (phōnē proagoreutikē).

The verbs of these things, which are ascribed to the person, are to be overpowered (kataskhethēnai), seized (katalēphthēnai), enthused (‘being entered by a god’), epitheiasai (‘something divine coming upon one’), being brought to Bacchic frenzy (anabakkheusai), being filled (plērōthēnai) by a god; for ‘to be inspired’ (epipneusthēnai) is bad style.

The names of the action are ‘overpowerment’ (katakōkhē), descent of a god (kathodos theou), fit (katabolē, katēbolē), ‘overpowerment’ (katokhē), inspiration (epipnoia), Bacchic frenzy (bakkheia), movement (kinēsis) from a god, seizure (katalēpsis) enthusiasm (‘a god being inside’).

In the same way, there are the adverbs entheōs, epipnōs, katokhōs, enthousiastikōs, theiastikōs, epitetheiasmenōs.

The whole place is called a divinatorium (manteion), an oracle (khrēstērion) or a palace (anaktoron).

The action is called oracle-singing (khrēsmōidēsai) and divining (manteusasthai)—but some of the Attic writers also say manteusai—, proclaiming (aneipein), pronouncing (anaphthenxasthai), foretelling (proeipein), fore-divining (prothespisai)—for the word thespiōidosēsai belongs to dithyrambic poetry—, predicting (proagoreusai), indicating beforehand (promēnysai), showing beforehand (prodēlōsai), teaching beforehand (prodidaxai), giving an oracle (khrēsmodotēsai), speaking an oracle (khrēsmologēsai), ordaining, prophesying (prophēteusai), proclaiming (khrēsai).

The practice is called divination (manteia), oracular saying (khrēsmologion), oracle (logion), speech (phēmē) from a god, foretelling (prorrhēsis), prediction (proagoreusis), oracle-singing (khrēsmōidia), oracle-speaking (khrēsmologia), proclamation (anarrhēsis) or ‘divinament’ (manteuma). And to fulfill (? dialysai) what has been divined (memanteumena), what has been proclaimed (aneirēmena), what has been oracularly foretold (kekhrēsmena), what has been oracularly foresung (kekhrēsmōidēmena), what has been predicted (proēgoreumena), what has been divined (tethespismena).

That from Delphi specificially is called a Pythic oracle (pythokhrēston).

And those who use them are queriers (theōroi, lit. ‘spectators’).

The divinatory art may also be called predictive, oracular (khrēsmologikē).

You may call the one who uses it a prophet, diviner (mantis), oracle-singer (khrēsmōidos) or oracle-speaker (khrēsmologos); for the word thespiōidos belongs to the poets.

By a different kind of usage, you may say that a voice (phēmē) has come from a god, a divinament (manteuma) has come from a god, an oracle (logion) has come, an oracle (khrēsmos) has come down, a divinament (manteuma) was conveyed, the god has proclaimed (aneipen), the god has ordained (aneilen), he pronounced (anephthenxato) non-metrically, in hexametric meter, and the like.

To these, one must add theomanein (‘to be frenzied by a god’), theoklytein (‘to call to/from a god’) and theologein (‘to speak about/to/for a god’).

God-stricken (theolēptos), Phoebus-stricken (phoibolēptos), Nymph-stricken (nympholēptos), Muse-stricken (mousolēptos), or overpowered (katokhos, katekhomenos) by Pan or some other god.