Archilochus about Zeus; apparent monotheistic elements

In this post we present and discuss two excerpts from Archilochus, the ancient poet.

From the Stromata (Miscellanies), E’ 127. 1, by Clement of Alexandria

Ancient Greek: “Ὦ Ζεῦ, πάτερ Ζεῦ, σὸν μὲν οὐρανοῦ κράτος. σὺ δ’ ἔργ’ ἐπ’ ἀνθρώπων ὁρᾷς λεωργὰ καὶ θεμιστά, σοὶ δὲ θηρίων ὕβρις τε καὶ δίκη μέλει.”

English: “Zeus, father Zeus, the power of heaven is yours. You observe the actions of people, both violent and legal. But also arrogance and justice between animals interests you.”

From Aelius Aristides’ Orations 45

Ancient Greek: “Ζεὺς ἐν θεοῖσι μάντις ἀψευδέστατος καὶ τέλος αὐτὸς ἔχει.”

English: “Among the gods, only Zeus knows the future without lies, and the end of all things belongs to him.”


NovoScriptorium: Let’s see what we learn from the first excerpt.

Zeus’ paternal status appears again in the text of yet another ancient Greek author. Zeus is also described as the governor of the Sky/Heaven (which contains Earth, the planets and the whole Cosmos, i.e. Zeus is the governor of everything). Zeus is -obviously- considered omnipresent; otherwise it wouldn’t be possible for him to observe all the actions of every living creature. Zeus is -obviously- the ultimate Judge of all creatures, hence he is also evidently considered as interventional. Once again, we learn of Zeus’ aversion towards actions of violence, injustice and arrogance (Hubris).

Let’s now see what we learn from the second excerpt.

Archilochus uses the same ‘technique’ as Homer and Aeschylus do to inform their readers about their deeper beliefs in one and only deity. Even though he appears to speak about ‘many gods’, it is rather clear that only Zeus is a real god for him; only Zeus really knows the future, and only Zeus determines ‘the end of all things’. Combined with the description of Zeus from the first excerpt, and recalling our previous posts (e.g. 1, 2) on the Monotheistic views of other Greek authors, we may speak with certainty that Archilochus belonged to the same Philosophical-Theological circle.

Research-Analysis for NovoScriptorium: Isidoros Aggelos

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