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Selling the FutureThe Perils of Predicting Global Politics$
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Ariel Colonomos

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190603649

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190603649.001.0001

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At the Centre of the World

At the Centre of the World

Oracles, Seers and Prophets

(p.17) 1 At the Centre of the World
Selling the Future

Ariel Colonomos

, Gregory Elliott
Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses the role of oracles in Roman and Greek politics during ancient times and raises some issues and patterns that we also find in our contemporary democracies. Whether in Greece or in Rome, oracles had an important political role. The messages that oracles were said to have spread were used by rulers when expressing some of their intentions; future telling was also a narrative that gave some legitimacy to political decisions. In Rome, Cicero highlighted the need for political rulers to provide an institutional framework for the oracles, otherwise diversity in future telling would have anarchical effects and superstition would have hampered political decision-making. Although oracles are part of centralized institutions, they also form ad hoc networks in myths such as Oedipus or in the Bible, stories in which we see oracles’ networks at work, i.e. a plurality of future tellers that mortals consult and whose words orient their trajectories.

Keywords:   Future, Oracle, Rome, Athens, Oedipus, Prophet, Bible, Cicero, Judaism

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