Technopaegnia in Heraclitus and the Delphic Oracles: Shared Compositional Techniques

Published in The Muse at Play: Riddles and Wordplay in Greek and Latin Poetry. Jan Kwapisz, David Petrain, Mikolaj Szymanski (Eds.) by De Gruyter

Since antiquity Heraclitus’ enigmatic style has attracted attention. Aristotle refers to him as dark or obscure (skoteinos), and characterizes one of his sentences as unclear (adelos). Timon of Phlius called him riddler (ai- niktes). In light of Heraclitus’ comment on Apollo’s oracles, “The lord whose oracle is in Delphi neither declares nor conceals, but gives a sign”, modern critics have been a bit more specific when it comes to characterizing Heraclitus’ style; “because Heraclitus himself uses language in precisely this way [i.e. as he he describes the oracle in fragment 93], we may infer that he was deliberately adopting a Delphic mode of discourse”. In one succinct formulation, “one can scarcely miss the Delphic elements in Heraclitus’ own style”. This may be one of the few commonplaces about Heraclitus where there is a unanimity of opinion. Heraclitus speaks in an oracular mode and more specifically a Delphic one.