chapter  6
51 Pages

Sacrificial entrails and battlefield sacrifices

Hieroskopia – the examination of the entrails (splangchna) of sacrificed animals – is not found in Homer and is first known, as the evidence of Athenian vases suggests, in the Greek world from the sixth century bc onwards. In the classical period, the examination of the entrails of sacrificial victims was associated particularly with military activity, especially whether to go to war or commence battle. In the Homeric poems, when a sacrifice was made, the entrails of the sacrificed animal were skewered, roasted and eaten as the first part of the sacrificial meal shared with the gods, but were not inspected for the purposes of divination. In the literature of the classical period, the various signs which would be looked for in the entrails seem clear, although divination could also take place from the appearance of the flames to be used to cook the offerings to the gods.