Oracles, Curses, and Risk Among the Ancient Greeks

Paperback | August 28, 2013

byEsther Eidinow

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How did ancient Greek men and women deal with the uncertainty and risk of everyday life? What did they fear most, and how did they manage their anxieties? Esther Eidinow sets side-by-side two collections of material usually studied in isolation: binding curse tablets from across the ancientworld, and the collection of published private questions from the oracle at Dodona in north-west Greece. Eidinow uses these texts to explore perceptions of risk and uncertainty in ancient society, challenging previous explanations.In these records we hear voices that are rarely, if ever, heard in literary texts and history books. The questions and curses in these tablets comprise fervent, sometimes ferocious appeals to the gods. The stories they tell offer tantalizing glimpses of everyday life, carrying the reader through theteeming ancient city - both its physical setting and its social dynamics. Among these tablets we find prostitutes and publicans, doctors and soldiers, netmakers and silver-workers, actors and seamstresses. Anxious litigants ask the gods to silence their opponents. Men inquire about the paternity oftheir children. Women beg the gods to help them keep their men. Business rivals try to corner the market. Slaves plead to escape their masters.This material takes us beyond the headlines of ancient history, offering new insights into institutions, activities, and relationships. Above all, individually and together, these texts help us to understand some of the ways in which ancient Greek men and women understood the world. In turn, thebeliefs and activities of an ancient culture may shed light on modern attitudes to risk.

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How did ancient Greek men and women deal with the uncertainty and risk of everyday life? What did they fear most, and how did they manage their anxieties? Esther Eidinow sets side-by-side two collections of material usually studied in isolation: binding curse tablets from across the ancientworld, and the collection of published private...

Esther Eidinow is Reader in Ancient History at Newman University College, Birmingham.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:536 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.07 inPublished:August 28, 2013Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199660662

ISBN - 13:9780199660667

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Table of Contents

List of FiguresAbbreviationsNoteIntroduction1. Exploring uncertainty2. A lapse into unreason3. Individuals and oracles4. The dwelling of the spirit5. A catalogue and summary of published questions by individuals and responses from the Dodona oracle6. Oracles and daily life7. Curses!8. Urban drama9. The best defence10. Business as usual?11. Love and curses12. Curses and riskConclusionNotesAppendicesCatalogue of Binding CursesGlossaryBibliographyIndex LocorumGeneral Index

Editorial Reviews

"Recommended to any anthropologist who seeks an example of a sophisticated application by an ancient historian of insights and methods gleaned from their discipline." --Michael Flower, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, vol. 14 , no. 4