chapter  3
50 Pages

Diviners in the historical narrative

Diviners in the Greek world were known by the generic term mantis (plural: manteis), although for specific types of divination the sources use discrete terminology, such as oneirokrites for an interpreter of dreams. An emphasis in the mythological and historical record on hereditary manteis in many, but not all, parts of Greece, and the pride with which an ancestry of famous diviners was recorded for individual manteis, indicates that many of them learned their art within a family structure, and were part of hereditary professional groups in which divinatory skills were handed down from generation to generation. Diviners of the legendary past such as Teiresias, Orpheus and Polyidos, to name but a few, and to whom Epimenides should be added, differed in important characteristics from historical diviners: they might have lived for several generations, and could foretell the future (and the past in Kassandra's case) and resurrect the dead.