The Seer in Ancient Greece
University of California Press, Jan 7, 2008 - History - 305 pages
The seer (mantis), an expert in the art of divination, operated in ancient Greek society through a combination of charismatic inspiration and diverse skills ranging from examining the livers of sacrificed animals to spirit possession. Unlike the palm readers and mediums who exist on the fringe of modern society, many seers were highly paid, well respected, educated members of the elite who played an essential role in the conduct of daily life, political decisions, and military campaigns. Armies, for example, never went anywhere without one. This engaging book, the only comprehensive study of this fascinating figure, enters into the socioreligious world of ancient Greece to explore what seers did, why they were so widely employed, and how their craft served as a viable and useful social practice.
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Who Is a Seer?
Melampus curing the daughters of Proteus
Clay model of a sheeps liver from Mesopotamia
Boy presenting entrails to an oldman
The Role and Image of the Seer
I2 Grave stele of the seer Cleobulus
Divination as a System of Knowledge
I3 Attack on the house of the Theban oligarch Leontiades
I5 Seer performing sacrifice during a siege
The Art of the Consultation
Divination from the burning of entrails
I8 Female seer holding a liver
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Common terms and phrases
action actually advice Aeschylus Alexander answer Apollo appears argues army asked Assyria Athenian attack attempt authority battle belief birds called century claims classical client command consultation cultural death Delphi discussed divination divinatory dream entrails evidence example explain fact famous favorable function give given gods Greece Greek hand Herodotus historical human important indicate individuals interpretation Italy king knowledge later liver mantis means mentioned nature observation omens oracles particular passage performed perhaps period Persian play Plut Plutarch portents possession possible practice prediction present priest probably prophecy prophetic Pythia question refer religion religious response ritual role sacrifice sacrificed seems seer served signs social society sources Spartan story success suggests surely Teiresias tells texts things thought tion told turn verse victims Xenophon Zeus