(μαντική, sc. τέχνη). The name given by the Greeks to the gift or art of divination. The belief of the ancients that it was possible to find out what was hidden or what was going to happen sprang from the idea that the gods, when implored by prayer, or even when unimplored, graciously communicated revelations to men by means of direct inspiration or through signs requiring interpretation. Hence the ancients distinguished between natural and artificial divination.
Divination is natural when a man receives the supposed inspiration in a dream or in an ecstatic state. The belief in divine inspiration in dreams is of the greatest antiquity, and continued to be held when the natural causes of dreams had been ascertained. The meaning of prophetic dreams cannot, however, always be immediately comprehended; they are mostly symbolical, and therefore require an interpretation. As a guide to this, there arose in the course of time certain rules resulting from experience, which produced a special artthat of interpreting dreamsof which some idea is given by the Ὀνειροκριτικά, on the interpretation of dreams, by Artemidorus (q.v.). Similarly, the dreams obtained by sleeping at holy places (incubatio), which were always considered prophetic, usually needed a priest to interpret them.
The power of more or less clearly seeing in waking hours things concealed from ordinary vision was believed by the Greeks to be a special gift of Apollo. It is from him that Homer makes Calchas receive his revelations, although no mention is made of his being in the ecstatic state usually connected with this kind of soothsaying. At the oracles this state was usually produced by external influences (see Oracula); women were held to be particularly susceptible to them. Besides oracles and persons reputed to be inspired, use [p. 1003]
was made of various collections of older oracular sayings and pretended predictions of prophets and prophetesses of former times, such as the Branchidae of Miletus, the Iamidae of Olympia, the Eumolpidae of Athens, and the Sibyls. Such collections were not only in the possession of States and priesthoods, but also in that of private individuals, called χρησμολόγοι, who drew on their store when paid to do so by those who believed in them, and often also explained the dark sayings. Like the prophets by immediate inspiration, those also were called seers who interpreted according to certain rules the divine signs which formed the subject of the artificial variety of the art of divination.
From the very oldest times special importance was attached to omens of birds (whether in answer to prayer or not), which were discriminated from one another by various rules, with regard partly to the kind of birds, partly to the manner of their appearinge. g. direction (favourable from the right, unfavourable from the left), flight, alighting, singing, and anything else they did. The principal birds consulted were the birds of prey that fly highest and alonethe eagle (the messenger of Zeus), the heron, the hawk, the falcon, and the vulture; in the case of ravens and crows, the cawing was an omen.
Second in importance were the various phenomena of the sky considered as divine signs. Whether thunder and lightning were favourable or not was also decided by the direction, right or left, from which they came. At Sparta, shooting stars were thought to show that the gods were displeased with the kings. Eclipses of the sun and moon, comets, and meteors were signs that inspired terror. Prophesying from the stars, however, did not become known in Greece till the time of Alexander the Great.
In important enterprises, especially in war, recourse was had to an examination of the condition of sacrificed animals or ἱεροσκοπίαoxen, sheep, and also pigs being most frequently the victims. The points observed were: normal or abnormal nature of the entrails, especially the liver, with the gall-bladder, and also the heart, spleen, and lungs. The various kinds of entrails and their abnormal conditions were made the subject of a highly elaborate system, so that no Greek army could dispense with a skilled interpreter of signs. When the omens were unfavourable, the sacrifice was repeated till they were favourable, or the enterprise was postponed. The manner, too, in which animals went to be sacrificed, whether willingly or with reluctance ( Juv.xii. 5, with Mayor's note), was looked upon as an omen, as also the way in which the sacrifice burned on the altar, the burning of the flame itself, the rising or sinking of the smoke, etc. These signs drawn from fire were the subject of πυρομαντεία.
There was, indeed, a general inclination to regard all striking and unusual events as hints from the gods, and to interpret them one's self, or to have them interpreted by skilled seers. From ancient times the chance utterances of others were thought to be prophetic in so far as they applied to the circumstances of the moment. For such omens also the gods were asked. Besides these, lots and dice were used for predictions. There were many other artificial varieties of the art of divination, some of them very strange, which were in special favour in the lower classes of the people and in later times; as, for instance, soothsaying with a sieve suspended by threads, for the purpose of finding out thieves, or remedies for illness, etc., that name being thought the one required, at mention of which the sieve ceased to turn round. As early as Aristotle allusion is made to chiromancy, or palmistry. See Bouch-Leclercq, Histoire de la Divination dans l'Antiquit, 4 vols. (Paris, 1879-82); and the articles Augur; Divinatio; Oraculum; Sibylla; Sortes Vergilianae.