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Divination: from the Pythia to Paul (the octopus)


Admission requirements



Oracles are of all times: the Greek Pythia and the octopus Paul (who predicted the winners of the matches during the World Championship 2010) are just two examples. Ancient man consulted the supernatural on a daily basis: whether it was a good plan to travel, whether a son would be cured of his illness, and whether business would be good. Communities, too, sent delegations to oracles to ask about war and peace and religious decisions. Graeco-Roman oracles have to be studied from various angles if we wish to understand what went on: from the practical role of the agency of the supernatural of daily life to the psychology of divination and crisis. Did ancient man perform riskmanagement or did he believe in luck?

Course objectives

  • Profound knowledge of ancient mentalities, especially religious mentalities, in the Hellenistic and Roman worlds.

  • Use of comparative method; anthropology; social sciences

  • Formulating a worthwhile research question and being able to construct a scientific paper

  • With the use of primary sources (in translation)

  • Discussion and feedback skills


See here.

Mode of instruction


Course Load

  • Total: 280 hours

  • Lectures: 28 hours

  • Compulsory literature: 50 hours

  • Time to write a paper (including reading / research): 202 hours

Assessment method

  • Review 10%

  • Presentation 15%

  • Paper 75%



Reading list

Will be made available during the seminar.


via uSis.

Contact information

E-mail: Dr. K. Beerden