Sortes Homericae

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The Sortes Homericae (Latin for "Homeric lots"), a type of divination by bibliomancy, was the practice of drawing a random sentence or line from the works of Homer (usually the Iliad) to answer a question or predict the future. Socrates is recorded as doing so in prison to determine the day of his execution,[citation needed] and the practice occurred still in the Renaissance era. In the Roman world it co-existed with the various forms of the sortes, such as the Sortes Virgilianae and their Christian successor the Sortes Sanctorum.

Brutus used this practice, which informed him Pompey would lose the battle of Pharsalus.[1] The emperor Marcus Opellius Macrinus is also known to have used it, drawing Iliad 8, 102-3,[2] informing him he would not last long on the imperial throne.


  1. ^ Drawing Iliad 16, 849 - "By the cruel crown of Fate I was undone / And by the rancor of Latona's son.". Latona's son was Apollo, and Apollo was the Republican forces' password on the day of the battle.
  2. ^ "Old man, these tough young fighters are too strong, / And age won't let you hold on very long."


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