In this chapter, I will analyze the different meanings attributed to the probably Euripidean (fr. 973 Nauck) quotation μάντις ἄριστος ὅστις εἰκάζει καλῶς, cited twice in the Delphic dialogues. The nature of this specific, external reference, employed with radically divergent aims in two different dialogical contexts, makes this case-study a notable and effective example of Plutarch’s use of intertextuality and intratextuality.
First, I will briefly consider other significant passages in which this maxim also appears (Arrian, An. 188.8.131.52; Appian, BC 184.108.40.206; Cicero, Div. 2.12.5). Then, I will focus on its two instances in Plutarch’s Delphic dialogues and propose a comparative analysis of their different contexts, thus showing the radically divergent roles that the phrase performs. In De def. or. 432C, Lamprias employs Euripides’ verse to prove the irrational character of inspired divination, within the wider framework of his passionate defense of oracular mantic. In De Pyth. or. 399A, instead, the quotation serves the entirely different aim of sustaining the harsh criticism of the Epicurean Boëthus against divination and its gnoseological efficacy.
The aim of this chapter is to show Plutarch’s ability to bend one single authoritative sentence for different philosophical intentions and to prove that this technique challenges the readers to envisage philosophical problems under multiple points of view.