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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 September 2006

University of Winnipeg, Canada


The role divination played in allocating, maintaining, and justifying the authority of the senatorial élite in the Republic has been well established. Attention has also been paid to the use made of unofficial forms of divination by ambitious members of the ruling élite in the later Republic, who sought (often successfully) to make themselves pre-eminent before their peers by claiming personal divine attention. What has received less attention in discussions of prophecy and authority is the role the general population of non-élites played in this ideological system which served the interests of the powerful rich, either collectively or individually, at the expense of the less powerful poor. The following seeks to begin to correct this oversight, as discussion of this factor is urgently needed if the observations just identified are to be considered sound. This is simply because authority, the expected reward of élite claims of divine favouritism, can be neither universally shared nor coerced. It must be willingly granted to an individual or segment of society by an authority-lacking majority. Where divination is concerned, the identification of an occurrence as a ‘real' divine message is subjective, and general concession to accept one person's (or one group's) claims about divination as true is a concession of real authority. In short, if élite claims of divine favouritism were made to impress the general population, the general population had to be impressed for the claims to be at all meaningful.

Research Article
Copyright © The Classical Association 2006

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