Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Dissemination of Divination in Roman Republican Times – A Cognitive Approach

The Dissemination of Divination in Roman Republican Times – A Cognitive Approach

By Anders Lisdorf

PhD Dissertation, University of Copenhagen, 2007

Introduction: At the climax of the play Casina by the Roman playwright Plautus, there is a scene, where the two slaves Olympio and Chalinus have to reach a decision on which of them gets to marry the beautiful Casina. Today one might expect that the female part be heard in such a case, but Roman times were different, so they choose to decide it like real men: by drawing lots! But that is not all; when Olympio eventually wins the draw, he thanks the gods for the decision. This makes, what was already a strange situation, even more puzzling to the modern reader, since we just heard that the decision was made by the use of a random draw of lots. This is not an isolated funny story from an obscure playwright. Quite the contrary; Plautus was very popular in his time and following centuries and his plays were attended by everyone from the lowest to the highest classes. The scene points to something very central about the ancient Romans, namely that divination pervaded their culture from top to bottom.

The basic question of this thesis follows from this example "why did divination pervade Roman culture through centuries?" I will argue that in order to answer this question a general theoretical model of divination must first be constructed. This will be done by investigating the cognitive basis of divination. The thesis will therefore fall in two parts of more or less equal size, one theoretical the other empirical.

Click here to read this article from the Archive of Religion and Cognition

The Dissemination of Divination in Roman Republican Times – A Cognitive Approach
http://historyoftheancientworld.com/2012/02/the-dissemination-of-divination-in-roman-republican-times-%E2%80%93-a-cognitive-approach/