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Ancient Greek Divination Hardcover – August 25, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-1405115728 ISBN-10: 1405115726 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (August 25, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1405115726
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405115728
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,059,141 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"It is, in fact, difficult to find fault with this work." (Aestimatio: Critical Reviews in the History of Science, June 2010)

"This is a very accessible volume that explores the complicated roles and methods of divination throughout the Greek world. Johnston successfully elucidates the uses, importance, and pliancy of divination in the ancient world using both Greek and Roman sources. She bravely approaches this inherently vague realm and has created a text that is very useful in its breadth and scope." (Religious Studies Review, June 2010)

"Johnston has made a fine exposition and analysis of a wide variety of ancient evidence, well-supported by current scholarship and her own careful interpretations.” (Bryn Mawr Classical Review, May 2009)

“With Ancient Greek Divination, Johnston makes another outstanding contribution to the study of Greek religion.” (Choice Reviews, May 2009)


"A highly readable and engaging work. The complex and fascinating modes through which the Greeks discerned the will of the gods has never been more accessible to a modern audience. Johnston's sweeping yet detailed discussion will surely be of interest to a generously wide readership."
Derek Collins, University of Michigan

“The most comprehensive, accessible treatment of ancient Greek divination available in English. It will be of interest to both specialists and students. Sarah Johnston brings lucid clarity to the shadowy range of ancient technologies by which the Greeks found messages from their gods.”
Peter T. Struck, University of Pennsylvania

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Timaeus on February 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is truly one of the best books I've read in a long time.

In modern times, divination (tarot reading, astrology and other popular forms) is at best, taken as a form of entertainment, and at worst, a dirty little secret. If people engage in these sorts of things, then they typically have no explanation for how they work, and no interest finding an explanation.

To the ancient Greeks, it couldn't be more different. Their whole religious ethos, of which divination was a part, had deeply esoteric philosophical explanations. Most modern people, and even scholars, have tended to view the Greeks in light of their own modern, post-enlightenment prejudices, and see these ancient people as merely being superstitious or following in the footsteps of some kind of "primitive" understanding of the world. The reality could not be further from the truth. Many brilliant and rational thinkers such as Socrates consulted with, and had belief in the value of oracles.

The Stoics, such as Zeno, came up with the idea of Sympatheia. That is, strings of associations which connected the Gods, certain occurrences and certain symbols regardless of how far apart they were. This was used to explain both divination and magic. In divination, one could foretell the future by the symbols around, and in magic, one could create the future by using the symbols. This Stoic idea of "sympatheia" would later influence the Neoplatonist movement. In truth, the complex theology, ontology and philosophy of the Greeks which imbues reality itself with divine intelligence, beauty and inherent existential purpose puts modern theology and outdated 19th century materialism to shame.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is extremely well researched and presented in a very readable fashion. It is enjoyable as well as extremely useful for insight into ancient Greek magical practices.

There are not enough books like this one that are slowly bridging the gap between hardcore academia and the mainstream reader. This book rides that line very well.

If it is the goal of an author to make a research book entertaining and extremely useful, I believe that this author has achieved that. This book will be one of my mainstays for many years to come.
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Ancient Greek Divination
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