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  • 1 The Queen’s University School of History (Ancient History) Belfast BT7 1NN Northern Ireland
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When seen or presumed in the actions of gods rather than of men, phthonos (‘spite’) has traditionally been regarded as a disturbingly “primitive” form of behaviour, punishing those who have done nothing to deserve punishment (but are simply too successful or prosperous for the deity’s liking), and chiefly manifesting itself in such authors as Herodotus and such genres as Attic tragedy. After the fifth century BC, orthodoxy holds, this gives way to a more enlightened world-view; now spite is confined to humans, and the gods treat humankind more justly. But K. J. Dover once voiced his suspicion that belief in divine phthonos lingered on, and here I try to show that he was right. In the fourth century, divine phthonos itself is still spoken of (by such disparate authors as Aristophanes and Xenophon); and in later writers, from Polybius to Pausanias, the idea of tyche (‘chance’) takes on both the vocabulary and. more important, the substantive role of supernatural phthonos .