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Oracles and diviners

Oracles were known institutional centers committed to vatic practice, as opposed to individual practitioners for hire. The most generally known and commonly used ones were located at Delphi and Dodona. These had the status of being national and even international centers, even though there was as yet no nation of Greece, but there were a great many more scattered over Hellenic territory. States did not hesitate to send delegations to different oracles over the same issue, so that they could compare answers. Oracles that prophesied most successfully became popular and flourished. The least successful oracles were abandoned.

Part of the oracular administration was thus a team of what today would be called political scientists, as well as other scholars, who could perform such feats as rendering an oracle into the language of the applicant. The team also relied on information gleaned from the many visitors. The larger oracles were to a large degree intelligence centers posing as prophets. The cost was covered unknowingly by states and persons eager to make generous contributions to the god. As no one also would steal from a god, the center’s administration included banking and treasury functions as well. Thus, the wealth of an oracle was available for confiscation by kings and generals during a war or other national crisis.

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