Cicero on Divination: De Divinatione, Book 1

Cicero on Divination: De Divinatione, Book 1

Cicero on Divination: De Divinatione, Book 1

Cicero on Divination: De Divinatione, Book 1


Divination is a phenomenon common to all human societies, to be defined in its broadest sense as methods by which knowledge is obtained of the future or of anything whose significance cannot be determined by ordinary perception, a means of extending the realm of rationality. In the ancient Mediterranean world divination took many forms, some specific or particularly significant to individual peoples. In the Roman context divinatory techniques were integral to the religious and political life of the state, and contributed to a distinctiveness in Roman religious practice that was commented on by outsiders such as Polybius.

It would be wrong to take De Divinatione in isolation from Cicero's other philosophical works and claim that divination was a topic of particular importance for intellectual discussion in the mid-Wrst century bc, even though various members of the elite produced works on Different aspects of its theory and practice. Nonetheless, the importance of divinatory practices within the state religion and particularly within the wider religious 'market' which resulted from Rome's interactions with the wider Mediterranean

See e.g. the definitions in OED, J. Hastings (ed.), Encyclopedia of Religion and
(Edinburgh, 1908–26), iv. 775 (H. J. Rose), or M. Eliade (ed.), Encyclopaedia of
(New York, 1986), iv. 375 (E. M. Zuesse) and the insightful summary of
W. Burkert in Johnston and Struck 2005: 30.

For a convenient treatment, see New Pauly, iv. 564–77.

See e.g. Scheid 2003: 111–24; Polyb. 6. 56.

See e.g. Rawson 1985: 299–316; Momigliano 1984.

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