The Bottom Line
- Unbiased presentation
- Explains terms
- Incorporates stories
- Would be hard for someone with no Homer
- Chapters are long - it's more like 5 parts
- Explains the significance of major cult centers.
- Contains bibliography, but not so many footnotes or so long a reading list that it intimidates.
- Johnston doesn't keep the separate eras separate because there isn't enough in each era to do so.
- Explains the many contexts in which the services of a mantis would be needed.
- Ploughs through many of the lesser, similar divinatory arts with quick definitions.
- Besides divine inspiration, birds, dreams, fires, liquids, and livers were popular sign-givers.
- Johnston does not evaluate whether or not the prophecies worked.
- Describes the various and conflicting founding myths for the shrines.
- The final sections of the 5th chapter show the progress of magic from respected art to ignominy.
Guide Review - Review of Ancient Greek Divination
The second and third chapters describe the location, practices, founding myths, and other information about the oracles at Delphi, Dodona, Claros, Didyma, and at the healing shrines. The diviners at these sites are divinely inspired or "enthused" (having the god -- often Apollo -- within). The next two chapters describe those diviners who learn their craft and are more or less itinerant. It's among these that magicians are located.
Although Johnston does not suggest that the practitioners were generally charlatans, the fourth chapter summarizes the story, by Lucian, of an Alexander of Abonuteichus, a charlatan who knew the value of a good location and was aware that there's a sucker born every minute.
Although short, Ancient Greek Divination is packed and will reward multiple re-readings.