Ancient Greek Divination by Sarah Iles Johnston

By Sarah Iles Johnston

The 1st English-language survey of old Greek divinatory tools, historic Greek Divination bargains a large but designated therapy of the earliest makes an attempt by means of old Greeks to hunt the tips of the gods.

  • Offers in-depth discussions of oracles, wandering diviners, home made tools of foretelling the longer term, magical divinatory ideas, and lots more and plenty extra
  • Illustrates how the research of divination illuminates the mentalities of historical Greek religions and societies

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Qxd 19/5/08 11:44 AM Page 40 40 Delphi and Dodona Apollo’s bride But it’s hard to ignore the possible sexual connotations of Theon’s phrase as well. Should we understand her as Apollo’s “wife,” and thus understand the prophetic process during which she was “filled by Apollo” as a form of sexual intercourse that led to a “verbal pregnancy”? The early Christians chose to do so. John Chrysostom, a bishop of the fourth and fifth centuries ce, said to his congregation: “The Pythia is a woman who sits on Apollo’s tripod, spreading her legs.

Nonetheless, in spite of Obbink’s and Graf’s efforts, subsequent years have seen relatively few publications on the topic that Eitrem had hoped to revive. R. Dodds’s The Greeks and the Irrational (1951) is still standard reading for classicists and for many outside of the field as well. In the preface, Dodds cautions that his work is not meant to serve as a “history of Greek religion, or even of Greek religious ideas or feelings . . qxd 19/5/08 11:43 AM Page 23 Why Divination? ). ” In other words, we are to look to the title of his book for the theme that binds together his chapters, such as it is: they are all disquisitions on what he understands to be irrational elements in Greek religion.

In each case, myth “explains” the contradiction inherent in the combination of privileged attention and celibacy by presenting Apollo (who like most gods, typically had his way with whomever he desired) as a failed lover, but real divinatory practices spun the combination differently: to be “desired” by Apollo, that is, to be considered an adequate receptacle of his divinatory force, the Pythia had to be pure and therefore had to be celibate. My second observation takes us back to Theon’s comparison of the Pythia to the perfect bride as described by Xenophon.

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