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Academic reference

Oraculum, from Charles Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1867), pp. 836ff. The Delphic oracle leads off the run-down, and gets the most space.

Oracle from Oskar Seyffert's Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1894). Three pages.

Articles and abstracts

Abstract: "Omens and Oracles in Ancient Greece" by Matthew Dillion (for a 1993 conference in Australia). Dillon is dead on:

"While formal oracular practices have received much attention, other divinatory practices need further examination and it will be argued that these too are of crucial significance for an understanding of Greek religious beliefs."

"Philosophy and Divination" from Philosophy Now by Trevor Curnow, author of The Oracles of the Ancient World. Curnow examines some of the ancient philosophical objections to oracles (mostly to divination generally) and compares them to "modern" oracles. He is right to stress the non-predicative role of divination, but I don't find the article satisfying either as classics or philosophy. His use of Cicero is superficial and—like many others—he flattens the great diversity of ancient oracular and divinatory activity until. Similarly, his discussion of the "use" of oracles has no contact with the sorts of things anthropologists have been saying about divination for a half-century or more. At the same time, a philosophy "magazine" isn't the right place to make tight, satisfying arguments. The failing, therefore, may not be Curnow's.

Dodona: Religionsgeschichtliche und historische Untersuchungen zu Entstehung und Entwicklung des Zeus-Heiligtums (Dodona : a religious and historical examination of the sanctuary of Zeus and its development through history). Hamburg dissertation by Martina Dieterle.

PDF: "Due domande oracolari in greco" by G. Messeri Savorelli, R. Pintaudi, ZPE 1996.

Books and reviews

Amazon. The Oracles of the Ancient World: A Comprehensive Guide by Trevor Curnow, Lecturer in Religion at St. Martin's College, Lancaster (April 2004). An alphabetical dictionary of some 300 oracles in 25 countries.

This book has not yet received any reviews online. I asked for and received a review copy on 4/25. I'll be posting a full review soon.

Amazon. Athletes and Oracles : The Transformation of Olympia and Delphi in the Eighth Century BC by Catherine Morgan. No reviews online.

Amazon. Magika Hiera: Ancient Greek Magic and Religion, essays edited by Christopher A. Faraone and Dirk Obbink. Outline and notes on Sampson Eitrem's essay "Dreams and Divination in Magical Ritual" by University of Arkansas student Leigh Fetner. Summaries of the other chapters were commissioned by Daniel B. Levine for his course Women in Ancient Greek Religion.

Amazon. Pilgrims and Pilgrimage in Ancient Greece by Matthew Dillon, treats "pilgrims" to Delphi and other oracles.

Reviewed by Edward Kadletz, Bryn Mawr Classical Review (6/5/05). A critical review, eg.

"The problem of lack of evidence about the pilgrims themselves again forces D. to spend pages describing the games, their dates, rules, prizes, etc., all information better covered elsewhere. The same objection holds true for all the presentations in these chapters."

Amazon. Greek and Roman Necromancy by Daniel Ogden, much concerned with necromantic divination (Princeton UP press blurb)

Reviewed by Sarah Iles Johnston, BMCR 6/19/2002. Stinging methodological criticism.

"And this is what many of the faults in Greek and Roman Necromancy boil down to: O. fails to realize that we cannot treat our scant and highly varied corpus of knowledge concerning ancient religious beliefs and their mythic expressions simply as "evidence" on which to build securely self-consistent pictures of given practices and beliefs. Trying to flesh out the scantness of evidence by adding to the mix further information that is at best only marginally relevant only makes the situation worse."


Scholarly Greek religion bibliography, with excellent coverage on Delphi and Dodona. Compiled by Dr E. J Stafford (University of Leeds) for a Greek religion syllabus.

Ancient Greek Divination a college project by Jillian R. Frechette. The section on Oracles (unframed) is selective, but good. A section on Water draws a synchronic picture of the use of water in greek divination.

LibraryThing: Catalog your books online.

If you enjoy this site you may like this other site by me:

Ancient Astrology and Divination. Annotated guide to over 200 sites about Greco-Roman divination. (This site is a spin-off from it.)

The Wiki Classical Dictionary. New project includes a category for divination and oracles.