Solon's "Theôria" and the End of the City

Classical Antiquity 19 (2):304-329 (2000)
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How are we to understand Solon's departure from Athens "for the sake of theôria" immediately after the introduction of his laws ? Previous accounts have taken theôria to mean "sightseeing," but the goal of Solon's departure-to avoid explaining or changing the laws-is guaranteed by certain religious features of theôria: the theôros plays the role of civic guardian and must not add to or subtract from an oracle he conveys to the city, and during the theôria the city itself must remain pure and avoid disturbances. Solon adapts these features of theôria to establish his laws as a pseudo-oracular discourse, as a purification of the city, and as a permanent civic medium. The beginning of Solon's open-ended journey thus gives ideological finality to the laws at the middle of the city. This reading of Solon's theôria coheres with other instances of the creative adaptation of ritual in archaic Greek politics. It also develops our understanding of the discourse on theôria as regulating the laws that constitute the political sphere



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