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A daimon ( Greek  δαίμων daímōn , plural: daimones ) is a spiritual being in Greek mythology and philosophy (→ demon in religious studies) . The term can refer to a god or to the soul of a dead man; but mostly beings are meant that belong to a class to be distinguished from gods and humans. The daimones mediate between gods and humans. A special concept is that of the “personal” daimon, the personification of a person's destiny. The Roman genius largely corresponds to the Greek daimon .

Homer rarely uses the term. In Homeric usage it is used to denote divine influences that are not ascribed to any particular deity. With Hesiod the daimones appear for the first time as benevolent companions of humans. According to him, they are the secluded souls of the people of the Golden Age :

But now that this generation has sunk fate,
If they are called pious demons of the upper earth,
Good, defenders of woe, guardians of mortal men,
Who are in charge of justice and disdainful transgression,
Wrapped in fog, walking through the earth all around,
Giver of well-being: this was your royal brilliant honorary office.

In Plato's Politeia it is described how the Moiren , the Greek goddesses of fate , connect people to their fate:

The virgin Lachesis speaks , the daughter of necessity [= Ananke ]. One-day souls! Another period of a mortal and death-bringing generation begins with you; you do not redeem your life's doom [= daimon], but you choose your fate. As soon as one has drawn, he chooses a life path with which he will remain married according to the law of necessity. Virtue, however, is masterless; everyone receives more or less from it, depending on whether he holds it in honor or neglects it. The guilt lies with whoever voted. God is to blame for this.

And further:

That [Lachesis] had now sent everyone the genius of the chosen way of life as the protector of his life and the executor of his choice. This genius had now first brought his soul to the cloth and led it under her hand, which drove the vertebra of the spindle, in order to secure the fate that had been drawn by the latter. After he had touched it, he immediately led his soul to the spinning mill of the Atropos in order to make the thread that was woven into it unchangeable. From here he now stepped straight under the throne of necessity.

And in the Phaedo , the daimon accompanies people beyond the threshold of death:

It is said that when a person dies, the daimon of anyone who has been drawn during his life will lead him to the place where souls will be judged.

The daimon appears in Plato as a being belonging to the divine sphere, but not actually divine. Fate can be good or bad, but the determination of fate embodied by the daimon is seen as directed towards the good, similar to the guardian angel in Christianity . So with Menander :

A daimon, a good mystagogue of life, stands next to every human being when he is born ; for one must not believe that there is an evil demon who harms life, or that God is evil, but all good things; but those who are bad according to their character [...] blame the daimon and call him bad, although it is they themselves.

The Daimon is so ambivalent or good, the transformation of Daimones in devilish demons was the one directed against the paganism attributed to directing Christian polemics, on the other hand there was also the idea of two people accompanying Daimones , a good and an evil, and the evil Daimon - the Kakodaimon - then the evil deeds can be attributed. In Plutarch's case, Brutus, the murderer of Caesar, appears one night with a terrible figure who , when asked who or what he is, replies: "Brutus, I am your evil daimon, you will see me at Philippi's !"

Originally separated from the personal daimon is the figure of Agathos daimon , a benevolent deity who was donated to drink after the feast and who was given its own profile, especially in Egyptian Hellenism and Hermetics .

The daimonion of Socrates is a special case . This is not a daimon in the sense of an independent spirit being that a person encounters. Rather, according to the description that Plato puts into the mouth of his teacher Socrates in the Apology , the daimonion is an inner voice that Socrates advises against doing something every time it answers, but never advises him to do anything. Plato's Socrates describes this voice as "something divine and daimonic" and as a "sign of God".



  1. Hesiod, Works and Days 121–126. Translation by Johann Heinrich Voss .
  2. ^ Plato, Politeia 617d-e
  3. Plato, Politeia 620d-e
  4. Plato, Phaedo 107d
  5. ^ Menander, fragment 550, quoted in Martin P. Nilsson: History of the Greek religion. CH Beck, Munich 1950, p. 204.
  6. Plutarch, Vitae parallelae: Dion-Brutus 26:48
  7. ^ Plato, Apologie des Sokrates 31c – d, 40a – c. See Anthony A. Long : How Does Socrates' Divine Sign Communicate with Him? In: Sara Ahbel-Rappe, Rachana Kamtekar (eds.): A Companion to Socrates , Malden 2006, pp. 63–74.