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. 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.

Socrates was reported to use this practice to determine the day of his execution. Brutus also is reported to have 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,[2] informing him he would not last long on the imperial throne. However, unlike the Sortes Virgilianae, it didn't have an established status as a concept and practice. There are only three known possible uses of this, separated by centuries and of doubtful authenticity, and of those, two don't involve opening the Iliad at random and randomly choosing a passage, as is established in bibliomancy, and Sortes Virgilianae specifically. Rather, they involve the person dreaming or thinking about the passage, as was the case with Socrates and Brutus, respectively.[3]

References[edit]

  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."
  3. ^ Ziogas, Ioannis (November 2016). "Famous Last Words: Caesar's Prophecy on the Ides of March*". Antichthon. 50: 134–153. doi:10.1017/ann.2016.9. ISSN 0066-4774.

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