Luck, Fate and Fortune : Antiquity and Its Legacy
The cultural impulse to try to anticipate the future, and make sense of apparently random events, is irrepressible. Perhaps the most famous of all sites of prediction is the Oracle of Delphi. How the world of antiquity, and particularly the ancient Greeks, tried to foretell the outcome of the present, serves as Esther Eidinow's starting-point for an appraisal of that legacy of forecasting in our own era. Delphi is still invoked when business people discuss future strategy and risk; these is even a strategic planning technique called the "Delphi Method." But the Delphic Oracle is only the best known example of a physical landscape covered by oracular sanctuaries; while across classical literary genres, there are myriad tales - such as that of doomed Oedipus - which wrestle with the cruel vicissitudes of fate and fortune. Exploring notions of destiny related by writers like Homer, Herodotus, and Sophocles, Esther Eidinow discusses ancient augurial theories and methods, including sacrifice, cleromancy (dicing), and astromancy (telling of the stars). She then turns to ideas about moral luck and later Roman use of prophecy for maintenance of the pax deorum. Drawing on modern texts as diverse as the Terminator films and Solitaire's tarot reading in Live and Let Die, the author shows how the the recurring questions "what if?" and "why me?" are a fundamental part of what it means to be human, whether in the ancient past or the present day.
- Hardback | 224 pages
- 145 x 218 x 23mm | 408g
- 15 Apr 2011
- Oxford University Press, USA
- Oxford, England, United States
About Esther Eidinow
Esther Eidinow is Lecturer in Ancient History, Newman University College, Birmingham. She is the author of Oracles, Curses and Risk Among the Ancient Greeks.