Oracles as Sources of Law and the Reinterpretation of their Political Role in Plato's Laws Articles uri icon



publication date

  • February 2010

start page

  • 7

end page

  • 20


  • 4

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1748-7811

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1748-782X


  • Greek divination had a political as well as a legislative dimension. From archaic times, the lawgiver of a city and other relevant political figures were deeply involved in mantic practices. In the Laws, Plato focuses on the main tasks of a legislator within a political community, in so far as these tasks stem from a deep religious feeling and are preoccupied with oracular procedures. Divine wisdom inspires the legal system of his ideal city in all its aspects, and his lawmaker recalls the first legendary nomothetai, such as Minos (624b). Plato's lawgiver is the heir of a long tradition: his reinterpretation of the role of oracles as sources of law can lead us to a further appreciation not only of the traditional relation between Greek religion and law, but also of his aims when he wrote his last legislative and political utopian project.