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This essay is an attempt to test against the Greek evidence the broad assumption of most students of divination that, other things being equal, oracles and diviners want to give clients good news, to tell them what they want to hear or, if not that, what they expect to hear, what they will accept as a reasonable, plausible answer for a god or a god’s intermediary to give. Two related issues that obviously arise are those of how the oracle/diviner could know the client’s wishes and how responsive they could be even where those wishes were known, particularly now that we know that a technique comparable to the ticket oracles of Egypt, requiring a randomly chosen yes/no answer, was one method used at Dodona. Conventions governing the kinds of questions that could be asked and the terms in which they were framed emerge as crucially important. An appendix discusses ‘Two Functions of Divination: Advice and Prediction’. Advice relating to a decision was clearly what was sought from oracles and diviners throughout the Classical and Hellenistic periods, but a shift towards prediction can perhaps be observed in later antiquity.
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