Men in the tribe could not tell you the right thing to do," says Gilbert Murray, "you went to the blessed dead. All oracles were at the tombs of Heroes. They told you what was 'Themis,' what was the right thing to do, or, as religious people would put it now, what was the Will of the God."
The priests and priestesses of these temples were not united into one class, nor did they exercise any power as a class. It was the nobles and free commoners, two classes which, in some cases, merged into one common body of citizens, who constituted the Greek state. In many cases, especially in great city states, the population of slaves and unenfranchised strangers greatly outnumbered the citizens. But for them the state did not exist; it existed for the select body of citizens alone. It might or might not tolerate the outsider and the slave, but they had no legal voice in their treatment—any more than if it had been a despotism.
- "For them the state did not exist." This needs qualification. Cephalus, at whose house the conversation of Plato's Republic is placed, was a resident alien. He was a wealthy man in the best society, and taken as a type of the "happy man." His son, Lysias, was a leading orator. Even in the matter of the slaves: the Old Oligarch, in the "Constitution of Athens," complains that the Athenian slaves had no distinctive dress or manners, and so a gentleman could not even push one of them! In the Republic itself there is a description of the Democratic State, in which the slaves push you off the pavement. Moreover, even during the Peloponnesian War, there was no persecution of aliens and no expulsion of aliens from Athens. They were evidently a loyal and contented class. True, in time of food shortage, the claims of everybody to true citizenship were scrutinized more and more closely; but that was unavoidable.—G. M.