The Seer in Ancient Greece

The seer (mantis), knowledgeable within the artwork of divination, operated in historic Greek society via a mixture of charismatic idea and various talents starting from studying the livers of sacrificed animals to spirit ownership. not like the palm readers and mediums who exist at the edge of smooth society, many seers have been hugely paid, good revered, proficient contributors of the elite who performed a vital position within the behavior of way of life, political judgements, and army campaigns. Armies, for instance, by no means went anyplace with no one. This attractive ebook, the single entire research of this attention-grabbing determine, enters into the socioreligious international of historic Greece to discover what seers did, why they have been so commonly hired, and the way their craft served as a doable and worthwhile social practice.

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19 the reply to the question used to be a binary definite or no verdict. the results of the extispicy, even if the god’s solution used to be certain or no, was once arrived at by means of calculating the sum of confident and damaging, favorable and negative, omens from many of the organs. 20 The arrangements for the extispicy ritual appear to have been particularly broad, and that can clarify why they happened just once an afternoon by way of the Neo-Assyrian interval. Did the Greek seer commence with a prayer of invocation, as within the historical close to East, or used to be the Greek ceremony a far less complicated and swifter ritual, as one of the Azande, who with out a lot rite simply placed an easy query to the poison oracle? to pass judgement on from our literary assets, which can abridge the approach, the ritual used to be very simple and will be repeated as much as 3 times in a single day. Xenophon, as pointed out sooner than, even sacrificed sufferers immediately. we haven't any proof that intricate prayers or wide initial rituals of any sort have been conducted, or that the seer had to research any a part of the exta except the liver. The technical features of sacrificial divination were the subject of numerous stud- 18. this can be the implication of Xen. Anab. 6. five. eight. 19. See Starr 1983: 30–106; Jeyes 1980; Starr 1990: Cryer 1994: 168–80. 20. See Oppenheim 1977: 206–27. T h e S e e r i n Wa r fa r e . 161 ies. 21 but the excellence among many of the varieties of sacrifice is all too usually an issue of bewilderment in glossy commentaries and armed forces histories. The expert literature on those technical, but essentially vital, facets of divination has easily no longer reached a wide-enough viewers. One deceptive characteristic of our literary texts is their shorthand of claiming that “someone sacrificed,” even if that somebody be Xenophon or a Spartan king. One could take this to intend that the individual made the sacrifice himself with no seer in attendance, yet normally what the textual content rather capacity is seer performed the sacrifice on behalf of the named person, who stood by way of and watched. there's an unambiguous instance of this example in Xenophon’s Anabasis (2. 1. 9), the place one of many attendants of the Spartan normal Clearchus summons him from a gathering to envision the entrails that have been faraway from a sacrificed animal, “for he [Clearchus] occurred to be carrying out a sacrifice. ” Clearchus evidently used to be sacrificing via a proxy, who summoned him after the entrails have been got rid of. this sort of shorthand is similar to having contributors communicate with no interpreters whilst one occasion doesn't be aware of Greek. (In Xenophon’s Anabasis Cyrus occasionally makes use of an interpreter while talking to Greeks, and infrequently no interpreter is pointed out. the most obvious end is that Cyrus doesn't recognize Greek and that Xenophon doesn't desire to encumber his narrative via declaring an interpreter in each one instance). at any time when the narrative demands precision of expression, Xenophon makes it specific seer is sacrificing for him. 22 So too Spartan kings, we may possibly think, have been observed via seers who played the particular divinatory sacrifice.

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