The Ancient Oracles


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Making the Gods Speak

Richard Stoneman

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For more than a thousand years, Greeks from all walks of life consulted oracles for guidance received directly from the gods. This colorful and wide-ranging survey encompasses the entire history of Greek oracles and focuses fresh attention on philosophical, psychological, and anthropological aspects of oracular consultation. It also examines how Greek oracles' practices were distinctive compared to those of their neighbors, especially in Egypt, Babylon, and Israel.

Richard Stoneman weaves a fascinating historical tapestry, taking into account the different kinds of oracles (healers, advisors, prophets, and others), their most important sanctuaries, debates about them among ancient thinkers, and Christian attacks on them. Delving into the reasons behind the oracles' enduring position at the heart of Greek culture, Stoneman offers fresh insights into pagan religious practice and the history of Greek intellectual and spiritual life.

Richard Stoneman is honorary fellow, University of Exeter. His most recent book is Alexander the Great: A Life in Legend, published by Yale University Press. He lives in Devon, UK.

"Richard Stoneman has a gift for presenting incisive scholarship in a way that readers can understand both intellectually and emotionally. The Ancient Oracles is a wide-ranging, perceptive and engaging book." - Gillian Clark, author of Christianity and Roman Society

“Richard Stoneman, an expert on Alexander the Great, here turns his attention to a topic dear to Alexander's own heart and mind. Oracles of all sorts and conditions - pagan, Christian, necromantic, oneiromantic, sibylline, riddling, fraudulent - fall under his acute scrutiny. It doesn't take a Delphic priestess to predict that The Ancient Oracles will be a howling success.” - Paul Cartledge, author of Ancient Greece: A History in Eleven Cities

'Stoneman takes the reader on a delightful tour of oracular sites and practices in classical antiquity, and offers along the way comparisons with divinatory rituals in distant places and reflections - his own and those of other thinkers from antiquity to today - on puzzles of predestination, divine possession, the healing power of dreams, suspicions of quackery, and the remarkable persistence of belief in signs from the gods (or God). This is a book to read with pen in hand, to jot down fascinating facts and insights as you go.' - David Konstan, author of The Emotions of the Ancient Greeks

“…..a useful contribution to the on-going debate about the role and place of oracles, especially in how they provoked a series of philosophical and later theological responses.”—Michael Scott, The Anglo – Hellenic Review

“This wide-ranging and fascinating historical tapestry traces the history of Greek oracles, highlighting the theoretical, psychological and anthropological aspects of oracular consultation and offering fresh insights into pagan religious practice.”—Aisha Tayub, Overseas: Quarterly Journal of the Royal Overseas League

“….a highly intelligent, well researched and fascinating study which gripped me to the end.”—Robert Carver, The Tablet

"Students of ancient Greek religion will welcome this journeyman's comprehensive survey of Greek oracular mechanics complemented by discussions of the ancients' theorizing of prophecy and the various problems those theories challenged."—J.C. Hanges, Choice
ISBN: 9780300140422
Publication Date: May 24, 2011
288 pages, 6 x 9
45 b/w illus.
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