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I am familiar with the usual usage of "look to sb to do sth" but in the following sentences, the meaning does not make sense to me:

'I will no longer be a suppliant for knowledge which the gods withhold. Let them look to it that they do me no wrong. I will do my duty as best I can and if I err upon their own heads be it!'

It sounds weird to me because those (gods) referred to are also the object of the phrase (that they do me no wrong..). A small side-question, the last sentence, does it mean the following: "if I err, in their eyes/in their view, then so be it!"

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  • No, you haven't interpreted that last sentence correctly. He's saying If I do anything wrong / make any mistakes, it will be their fault! There's no reference to who might judge his actions as "errors", and in fact the speaker is being so obviously hostile to "the gods" that he probably wouldn't care about their specific moral code even if it was different to his own. He's just saying he will do his best according to the knowledge he currently has. It's not his fault if he makes some mistakes simply because the gods won't tell him certain relevant things. – FumbleFingers Nov 3 '20 at 13:29
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The cited text, which is very old (Ambrose Bierce, 1890s?), uses a form that's no longer idiomatic. Today, we'd say Let them see to it that they do me no wrong (i.e. - They'd better not treat me unjustly).

see to it (thefreedictionary)
make certain (that)
I want you to see to it that she never comes in here again
This report must be sent to Head Office immediately. Would you see to it for me?

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"it" here is what called "anticipatory object," which means the real object is actually what you have already recognized, "that they do me no wrong."

Thus, you can rephrase it as:

Let them look to that they do me no wrong.

Likewise, there is also anticipatory subject such as:

It is nice that you arrived on time.

In this case, it can be rewrited as :

That you arrived on time is nice.

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  • So it means "Let them depend on themselves to not hurt me"? Because it still sounds a bit weird, one usually does not depend on themselves to do something – John V Nov 3 '20 at 10:02
  • the phrase "look to" has two meanings, one being what you said, the other being "to direct your thoughts or attention to something" – HypnoticBuggyWraithVirileBevy Nov 3 '20 at 10:44
  • right, so it is the first or the other, in that example? Could you please rephrase it a bit so that I can understand clearly? – John V Nov 3 '20 at 11:11
  • I'd say the latter makes more sense in this case – HypnoticBuggyWraithVirileBevy Nov 3 '20 at 11:18
  • So like "Let them focus on not harming me"? Sounds still a bit odd – John V Nov 3 '20 at 11:23

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