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On the Intersection of Power and Prediction: Aspects of Divination in

Early China and Greece


Lisa Raphals
University of California, Riverside
This material is part of an extensive comparative study of the roles of divination in the
formative cultures of China and Greece.
1
By divination I mean a delierate search for
understandin! of the hidden si!nificance of events in the future, present or past. "If it #ere
ovious, there #ould e no need to divine.$ %s a set of coherent reasonale technolo!ies for
predictin! "and potentially controllin!$ the future, divination emer!es as a ma&or constitutive
element in oth Chinese and Gree' thou!ht and social practice, ut its importance only e!ins
#ith predictin! the future. (ivination #as also used to interpret the hidden causes or
si!nificance of events, variously understood as the #ill of the !ods, patterns of chan!e, or cosmic
principles. It affected the development of medicine, la#, philosophy, politics, and the history of
science.
)

Recent research stresses the dual aspect of divination, as oth a set of mental attitudes
and a set of social institutions. % series of studies over the past t#o decades have focused on
important sociolo!ical and epistemolo!ical dimensions of divination, oth in anti*uity and in the
present. Reco!nition of the importance of the social role of divination invites many other
*uestions. +hat domains of society #ere under the authority of divination, and #here #ere
diviners in the hierarchy of memers of a society #ho #ield the po#er of decision, such as
'in!s, priests, or &ud!es, The possiility and act of prophecy themselves created important
choices that determined decisions on oth pulic and private matters. It is important to stress the
-normalcy- of oth aspects of divination in civili.ations #here it #as central. It #as not an
isolated mentality, opposed to such -ordinary- social practices as la#, medicine, or
1
This research #as partially supported y fundin! from the /resident0s Research 1ello#ships in
the 2umanities, University of California, the 3ational 4ndo#ment for the 2umanities, and the
%merican Council of Learned 5ocieties.
)
In particular see 6ernant 1789 and Chemla et. al.1777.
1
administration, ut rather a coherent part of social thou!ht "analo!ous, mutatis mutandis, to
consultin! a physician or a stoc'ro'er$.
5ome 2ellenists have applied the methods of anthropolo!y to study the function of Gree'
oracles, and have concluded that their functions #ere less predictive than re!ulatory. In this
vie#, oracles offered #ays to resolve doutful situations and to validate decisions already ta'en
at the community level. Classical studies of the su&ects of Gree' divination ta'e them as 'eys to
chan!in! stress points of Gree' society.
% related *uestion is the relation et#een diviners and political authority. +hat #ere the
political roles of Gree' or Chinese diviners, +hat #ere the tensions et#een divination and
political authority, These *uestions are complicated y a lon!standin! "ut no# chan!in!$
tendency of oth Gree' and Chinese historians to do#nplay the role of reli!ion and ritual in
favor of "on the 2ellenic side$ Gree' rationality and "on the Chinese side$ Confucian humanism.
In a forthcomin! oo' I ma'e that road ar!ument that Chinese and Gree' divination can
e examined in comparale phases of intellectual, social and political or!ani.ation. The first is a
roadly theocratic phase in #hich divinatory activity arises in close connection to royal po#er
and state ritual. (iviners are either officials or military fi!ures, either of royal irth or hi!h
officials #or'in! closely #ith 'in!s. In China this period includes the 5han!, +estern :hou, and
early 4astern :hou, to the ;<th century.
=
In the Gree' #orld this phase is documented in
accounts of le!endary 2omeric manteis and divination in the Iliad and Odyssey. It also includes
the testimonies of 2esiod, the 2omeric 2ymns, and evidence for the rise of oracles in the ;>th
throu!h the ;<th centuries.
9

% second phase is mar'ed y the asence of central political po#er and intense
competition, oth amon! diviners and et#een diviners and other intellectual and textual
specialists. This phase is most mar'ed in +arrin! 5tates China and #ith fifth and fourth century
Greece. It is mar'ed y the relative political independence of diviners. This period sees the
domination of a *uintessentially Gree' mode of divination, oracles, and the rise of a very
=
Chinese #ords are transliterated in /inyin. Translations are my o#n unless other#ise
indicated.
9
4xcept #here other#ise indicated, Gree' texts are referenced accordin! to the Loe Classical
Lirary editions. +ith the exception of terms that are #ell 'no#n other#ise, Gree' terms are
transliterated accordin! to the third edition of the Oxford Classical (ictionary.
)
particular oracle, the pan;2ellenic shrine of %pollo at (elphi. /olitical consultation at (elphi
and the uni*ue reputation of this oracle stands in contrast to the mana!ement and procedures of
more typical Gree' oracles, such as those at (odona and (idyma.
In a third phase, divination a!ain comes under the s#ay of a po#erful and centrali.ed
imperium. The independence of diviners from political authority is compromised or nonexistent,
and divination ecomes an important aspect of the le!itimation of state po#er. I identify this
imperial phase #ith the ?in and 2an dynasties in China, #ith the rise of %lexander in the Gree'
#orld and, of course, Rome.
It should e said that this periodi.ation is not #ithout its prolems, since the nature of the
evidence and source materials is very different. There is si!nificant Chinese evidence for the
first period, ut the Gree' evidence is #ea'er, as the 2omeric poems cannot e ta'en as
historically transparent accounts of divinatory practices. @ur 'no#led!e of archaic Gree'
oracles all comes from oral tradition, via the 2omeric poems, #hich had particular features in the
values and heroic types they portrayed. 5ources are y far the stron!est for the classical period,
#here there is a #ealth of historical accounts in oth Greece and China. @ther prolems arise
for Greco;Roman sources for the third period. 1or example, it is difficult to &ud!e to #hat extent
the decline of oracles in anti*uity #as a real phenomenon. Gree' historical accounts are #ea',
and most evidence comes from accounts not interested in historical narrative.
(espite prolems of evidence, I concentrate on the third period , from mid ;9th to mid
;)nd century Greece and ?in and 2an China. In these periods, divination comes under the s#ay
of a po#erful and centrali.ed imperium in oth ?in;2an China and 2ellenistic Greece and
Rome. Reemer!ent political authority, and ne# uses of divination ased on it, provide oth
advanta!es and disadvanta!es for diviners and also to the private individuals #ho still consult
them. In this period, there is no independence from political authority, and divination a!ain
ecomes an important aspect of the le!itimation of state po#er.
I e!in #ith the imperial uses of divination in ?in and 2an China and 2ellenistic Greece.
These include #hat #e mi!ht e tempted to call state sponsored scientific in*uiry and the
appropriation of divination for political authority and le!itimation. 3ext I touch on the place of
private divination in this complex scenario. +as mantic access constrained y the ne# interest
=
and control of the state, 1inally, I ta'e up a line of ar!ument advanced y some Classicists that
the primary function of oracles "or more roadly, divination$ #as the production of social
consensus, rather than the prediction of the future "or interpretation of the past$, in other #ords,
that consensus #as more important than validity. %lthou!h classicists have turned to
anthropolo!y to try to understand the social roles of divination, that comparative turn has not
extended to China. I conclude #ith a Chinese perspective on this issue.
Divination and the State
In oth ?in and 2an China and 2ellenistic Greece and Rome, divination #as an officially
sanctioned and supported state activity, oth for military purposes and for other state purposes
such as control of the calendar, mana!ement of a!riculture, and le!al administration. (ivination
ecame an important tool for the le!itimation of the ne# imperium and its on!oin! decisions and
policies. @ne form in #hich divination #as used to olster political authority #as in the
inclusion of ne# or ne#ly reinvented cosmolo!ies that underscored the authority of the state.
%nother form of state sponsorship, and control, #as the selective inclusion "or exclusion$ of
divination texts in canonical collections.
Military Divination
In oth China and Greece, distinctive modes of divination #ere used for the decision to
!o to #ar at the state level and attlefield divination in situ.
Greece
Gree' technical divination #as closely connected #ith #arfare. Both le!endary and
historic military diviners #ere trained in #arfare and military command. 1rom the ;<th throu!h
the ;9th centuries, such manteis served a variety of tyrants and 'in!s, sometimes chan!in! their
alle!iances #hen the si!ns #ere unfavorale. 1or example, #hen the tyrant Telys of 5yaris
attac'ed Croton aout ;A1B, his 4lean mantis Callias *uit his service and fled to Croton ecause
he could otain no favorale omens on Telys0 ehalf. Croton !ave him plots of land #here his
descendants lived, even in 2erodotus o#n time.
A
Inscriptions and epitaphs indicate the presence
of military manteis at several important attles, in some cases, stayin! to fi!ht after predictin!
defeat. Cost famous is Ce!istias, the mantis #ho predicted defeat at Thermopylae "9>B$.
<
A
2dt. A.99.
<
2dt 8.)17;))1.
9
Consultations to (elphi on #arfare "and !overnment$ decrease compared to earlier
periods. The topic that dominates consultation is reli!ious cult, the sin!le lar!est topic of
consultation "rou!hly a third of all state consultations$. But this is not to say that military
divination disappeared. Cilitary manteis continued to e employed y the 2ellenistic 'in!s.
In addition to the oracles, %lexander0s io!raphers report several other incidents of
divination for %lexander y the mantis %ristander. %ccordin! to /lutarch, durin! the sie!e of
Tyre in ==1. %ristander performed sacrifices and interpreted the entrails to affirm that the city
#ould e ta'en that month.
8
%ristander reappears durin! the sie!e of Tyre in ==1. %ccordin! to /lutarch, he
performed sacrifices and interpreted the entrails to affirm that the city #ould e ta'en that
month.
>
Immediately after#ard he proceeded to Ga.a, #hen a portent occurred. % lar!e ird
fle# over him and dropped a clod of earth on his shoulder. The ird settled on a atterin! ram
and ecame entan!led in the nets that protected the ropes of the machine. %ristander interpreted
this as a confirmation of his prediction that %lexander should e #ounded and the city reduced.
7
@n the eve of the attle of Gau!amela in ==1, %lexander #as said to have spent the entire
ni!ht #ith %ristander, performin! -mysterious ceremonies- and spha!ia sacrifice. In the
mornin!, his disheartened advisers ur!ed %lexander to attac' y ni!ht, to mas' the actual dan!er
of the attle. Instead, at the start of the attle, %ristander pointed out an ea!le that soared over
%lexander and fle# to#ard the enemy, effectively encoura!in! the army to char!e (arius0
troops.
1B

%ristander disappears from the record after the murder of Cleitus in =)>, ut another seer,
(emophon appears riefly in the accounts of (iodorus and Curtius "ut not in %rrian or
/lutarch$. (emophon #arned %lexander a!ainst attac'in! the to#n of the Calli in =)<, and
#arned of portents indicatin! dan!er from a attle #ound. %lexander re&ected these #arnin!
8
/lut. %lex. )A.1;=.
>
/lut. %lex. )A.1;=.
7
/lut. %lex. )A.9;A.
1B
/lut. %lex. ==.1;=.
A
and led the attac', in #hich he #as dan!erously #ounded.
11

Given the extreme textual prolems and their ultimate insoluility, #hat do #e ma'e of
the prolematic testimonies concernin! the role of oracles and divination in %lexander0s military
campai!ns and self;representation, @ne approach is to stress their hi!hly fictional nature and to
re&ect many of them as unhistorical. %n alternative is to attempt a lar!er vie# of %lexander0s
attitudes to#ard divination. Lo#ell 4dmunds has ar!ued that %lexander0s reli!iosity has een
overloo'ed or underestimated in recent scholarship. %lexander0s devotion to the !ods #as #idely
reco!ni.edD %rrian, for example, refers to him as -the most attentive #ith respect to the !ods-
"tou theiou epimelestatos$.
1)
Codern scholarship often triviali.es this aspect of %lexander0s
character, either y reducin! it to deates aout #hether he elieved himself to e divine "ased
on the interpretation of a fe# historical incidents$ or y representin! his reli!iously motivated
actions as political propa!anda. 4dmunds ar!ues that %lexander0s heroism and emulation of
mythical heroes #ere aspects of a Cacedonian reli!iosity that had more in common #ith ;<th
century or even 2omeric values that #ith the values of ;9th century Greece.
1=
%s he puts itE
-2omeric 'in!ship lived on in Cacedon. The 'in! #as preeminent amon!st the aristocratic
chiefs on account of his o#n #ealth and po#er. 2is po#er consisted in his o#n aretF.-
19
%nd
Cacedonian 'in!ship, li'e 2omeric 'in!ship, #as deeply reli!iousD Cacedonian 'in!s #ere
priests #ho could, for example, purify the army at need.
1A
Cacedonian 'in!s #ere also deeply
involved #ith divination, and retained mantic seers such as %ristander and (emophon as
advisers.
China
Cilitary pro!nostication #as e*ually important in China, ut since #arfare #as
considered a ritual activity of the state, military divination at the state level #as not separate in
'ind from other forms of state ritual divination. The decision of #hether to !o to #ar typically
11
(iod. 18.7=D Curt. 7.9.)8;)7. By contrast %rrian "%na. <.7.1;11.>$ and /lutarch "%lex. <=$
do not mention him.
1)
%rr. %na 8.)>.).
1=
4dmunds 1781.
19
4dmunds 1781, p. =8B.
1A
Curt. 1B.7.11;1).
<
#as ta'en at the state level y the use of turtle and yarro# divination. 1or example, the
Zuozhuan records that in ;<9A (u'e Cu of ?in orders a yarro# divination to determine #hether
to launch a retriutive invasion a!ainst Gin.
1<
%nother account descries a divination in the state
of +ei in ;A<=. %t the time, Chu and :hen! had invaded +ei0s ally 5on!, and Gin had invaded
Chu0s ally ?in "in retaliation for an earlier incursion$. The Car*uis of +ei #as a#ay aidin!
5on!, and in response to a crisis, the +ei official 5un +en.i divined aout #hether to
counterattac', ut as'ed the 'in!0s stepmother (in! Gian! to interpret the crac'sE
. . : , .
: , !"# .
5un +en.i performed turtle divination on #hether to pursue them, and then
presented the crac' to (in! Gian!. Lady Gian! as'ed for the omen. 2e saidE -The
crac' is li'e a mountain suspended. There is a chief leadin! a raid only to mourn
his fi!hters.- Lady Gian! saidE -The chief losin! his fi!hters opposin! andits are
your profit.-
18
The passa!e ends #ith a verification that +ei did counterattac' and captured 2uan! 4r of
:hen!.
%t a much later date, the use of turtle and yarro# divination to predict the rise and fall of
states #as &ustified at a more !eneral level y :hon! Hon! "Un#averin! /ivot$ chapter of
the Liji:

!"#
It is characteristic of him #ho is entirely perfect that he can fore'no#. +hen a
state or family is aout to flourish, there are sure to e luc'y omens, and #hen it
is aout to perish, there are sure to e unluc'y omens. They #ill e seen in the
turtle shell and stal'sD they #ill affect the movements of the four lims. +hen
calamity or happiness is aout to come, the !ood is sure to e fore'no#n y him,
1<
Zuozhuan, Ii 1A.9, p. =A= "cf. Le!!e 1<8$, cf. Ii 1= "Le!!e 1<1$ and Ii 1A.9, pp. =A= and
=<= "Le!!e 1<8;<7$.
18
Zuozhuan, Iian! 1B.A, pp. 78>;87 "cf. Le!!e 998$.
8
and the evil also. 2ence, he #ho is entirely perfect is li'e a 5pirit.
1>
Cilitary divination #as also performed on the attlefield. %ccounts of military divination in the
Zuozhuan, descriptions of the military use of cloud divination and pitchpipes in the Shiji and
Hanshu treatises, and the Ca#an!dui and Hin*ueshan texts on cloud and #ind divination all
attest to the on!oin! importance of these methods. 4vidence from oth the received tradition
and excavated texts attests the use of -oservin! *i- for military and state purposes. Techni*ues
for -+atchin! ?i and Clouds- "wang iyun$%&$ ecame prominent in the 2an, and persisted
into the ?in!.
17
These treatments of cloud *i are more extensive and systematic than the rief
references to cloud *i "yuni$ in +arrin! 5tates texts, either in naturalistic or divinatory contexts.
The 2an texts are closely lin'ed to state and specifically military divination. The Shiji contains a
treatise on the use of pitch pipes in #ind divination.
)B
It descries the six pipes as fundamental to
state decisions, especially in military decisionma'in!. The chapter descries ei!ht directional
#inds, their relation to )> lunar lod!es lod!es "xiu '$, and their domains of activity.
)1

There are also records of the use of turtle and yarro# divination to interpret dreams #ith
state or military implications. 1or example, the Hou Hanshu descries a #oman0s ni!htmare
ein! interpreted to si!nifiy an impendin! armed uprisin! in J)8.
))
The next year, the reel
leader Tian Ron! used turtle divination to decide #hether to surrender to Cen /en! .
)=
Conflicts of Authority
Cilitary divination of this 'ind left the door open for potential cofnlicts of authority
et#een court and military divination and command. (urin! the +arrin! 5tates period, an
emer!ent class of military strate!ists positioned themselves a!ainst diviners in ar!uin! for their
1>
Li&i A=.9a ":hon!yon!$, trans. Le!!e ch. )> sec. )9, p.
17
2ulse#K 1787D Bodde 17>1D Loe#e 17>> rpt. 1779, pp. 171;)1=D 2o /en! Ho'e and 2e
Biao!uan 17>A, Le#is 177B, pp. 1=7;99D 2uan! Hi;lon! and Chan! Chih;ch0en! 177<.
)B
Shiji )AE 1)=7;A9D Chavannes =E)7=;=17.
)1
4ach -lod!e- #as each named y a star #ithin it and each comprisin! some 1= de!rees "du
($ of the circle. 5ee Chen :un!ui 17>B;>7, pp. =BA;>9D 3eedham #ith +an! Lin! 17A< "vol.
)$, pp. =A1;A8D 3eedham 17A7 "vol. =$, pp. ))7;A7D and Ca&or 177=, pp. 89, >9;><, 7);79 and
11>;1)<.
))
Hou Hanshu 1)E AB9.
)=
Hou Hanshu 18E <A>, trans. Bielenstein 17A7, pp. )<f.
>
o#n rationali.ed techni*ues for predictin! victory and defeat. In an atmosphere of decreased
competition, #ith only one Chinese state employin! !enerals, there #as less place, or need, for
such polemics. Cilitary divination found a ne# place in the ritual aspects of the Confuciani.ed
state that developed over the 2an.
There #as a different potential for competition et#een military diviners and other
technical experts under the 2ellenistic 'in!s. @n the one hand, they transformed the process of
#arfare #ith innovations in machinery and tactics, ut they continued to employ diviners at the
hi!hest level. @ne mi!ht say the potential for conflict #as addressed y a distinction et#een
ends and means. (iviners #ere employed to determine #hether victory #as possile at a
particular timeD military en!ineers and strate!ists #ere consulted to rin! it aout. There is also
evidence that oth Chinese and Gree' technical diviners passed their s'ills in linea!es from
father to son, and in a fe# Chinese cases, from father to dau!hter.
State-sponsored Astronoy
China
Chinese state sponsorship of divination did not end #ith #arfare. 4vidence for state
sponsorship of astronomy in the 2an comes from its ureaucracy, from texts and instruments
excavated from toms, and from official 2an records. In 2an ureaucracy, astronomy #as one
of the functions overseen y the Chamerlain for Ceremonials "!aichang$, the foremost of the
3ine Chamerlains "jiu chan!$. The taichang #as in char!e of ceremonies in the Imperial
ancestral temples and the L #orship of 2eaven and 4arth.M
)9
2is suordinates headed several
departments, and included the Grand (iviner "Taiu %&$ and the Grand %strolo!er "Taishilin!
%'($, in char!e of astronomy and astrolo!y. The officials he supervised included officials in
char!e of astronomical oservation "Lingtai cheng )*+ and "ingtang cheng ,-+$ held
lo# ran' as Lassistants.M This parallels the account of the Zhouli, #here the astronomical ureau
#as located in the Cinistry of 5prin! "Chun!uan$, #hich approximately corresponded to the
2an Taichan! ministry.
)A
By the Later 2an, the !aishiling supervised a staff that included
officials devoted to oservin! *i "hou i or wang i$.
)<
In addition to the astronomical ureau,
)9
Hanshu 17%E8)<;8)8.
)A
4erhard 17A8, p. 9<.
)<
Hou Hanshu )AE=A8).
7
there are indirect accounts of emperors conductin! astronomical oservation. There is one
record of emperor Cin! of the Later 2an -mountin! the (ivine Terrace to oserve primeval *i
"wang yuan i$.-
)8
+hether or not the oservations #ere conducted y the emperor or duly
appointed officials, a -divine terrace- #as constructed durin! the 2an and oservations #ere
made durin! the initial month of each season.
)>
?in astrocalendric texts from :hou&iatai and 2an liuren and jiugong divination oards
from 1uyan! attest to the increasin! complexity of astronomical oservation. The occupant of
the :hou&iatai tom seems to have een a petty official of youn! a!e "less than thirty years$, ut
some of the amoo slips uried #ith him seem to e of an official nature. In addition to the
astrocalendric text, there are medical recipes and a calendar that lists all the !an.hi days of the
=9th year of ?in 5hi 2uan!0s rei!n period "the year ;)1=$.
)7
The occupant of the tom at
5han!!udui, 1uyan! #as a far hi!her officialD Iiahou :ao #as the second mar*uis of Ruyin and
a hi!h Chu official. It has ecome a commonplace that the ?in preserved calendric and
divination texts #hen other oo's #ere urned, and the 2an founded academies for the study
and exe!esis of Confucian texts, startin! #ith the #ijing, a transformation of a divination manual.
%strocalendric and meteorolo!ical texts and instruments also appear in the toms of 2an
officials such as Li Can!, the chancellor of Chan!sha and Car*uis of (ai "the occupant of
Ca#an!dui Tom 1$. %lthou!h there is too little evidence to !enerali.e, the presence of
astrocalendric texts and instruments comined #ith other official documents in the toms of lo#
ran'ed and hi!h officials su!!ests state sponsorship of astrocalendric oservation.
2an histories also indicate the official character of astronomy. The -@ffices of 2eaven-
chapter of the Shiji "1)8$ descries oservations of the stars, planets, correlations, and
pro!nostications. %stronomical information appears in accounts of portents and anormal
natural phenomena in three portions of the HanshuE the annals "$enji, Hanshu 1;1)$, the chapter
on astronomy "Hanshu )<, the correlate of Shiji )8$, and the Treatise on the 1ive /hases or
%uxing zhi "Hanshu )8$. Court;sponsored astrocalendric treatises of the Huainanzi and the
)8
Hou Hanshu )E1BB, cf. <7%E))9<.
)>
!aiping yulan >88.=, cf. 2ulse#J 1787, p. 9B.
)7
The tom includes a total of =>8 amoo slips, as #ell as #ood fi!ures, lac*uer#are, and
models of chariots and horses.
1B
Hanshu include technical discussions of astronomical oservation, includin! the lunar lod!es and
diviners0 oards.
=B
% related index of the official character of 2an astronomy comes from
accounts of portents in official 2an sources and their use as moral and political criti*ue of the
throne.
The t#o ma&or foci of Chinese court astronomy and astrolo!y #ere the calendar, #hich
itself #as used for divinatory purposes, and the oservation, recordin! and explanation of
portentsE celestial events such as eclipses, supernovae, planetary con&unctions and comets.
=1
@servations of this 'ind #ere not possile durin! the turmoil of the +arrin! 5tates, and 5ima
?ian himself oserves that only #ith the political order of the ?in and 2an #ere such re!ular
oservations possile.
=)
The focus on calendrics is are also prominent in other court sponsored
texts "such as the Huelin! calendars of the Liji$ and in dayoo's, #hich #ere nonofficial texts
uried in the toms of hi!h officials.
The -@ffices of 2eaven- "Tian!uanshu )*+$ chapter of the Shiji chapter has sections
on pro!nostication y the sun, moon "includin! eclipses of oth$, various stars, and clouds and
mists, as #ell as pro!nostications aout harvests.
==
The section on clouds and mists descries
-oservin! cloud *i- "wang yuni ,&%$.
=9
Clouds are identified y resemlance to the fi!ures
of animals, color and topo!raphical ori!in "arisin! over mountains, rivers, etc.$. The Shiji
passa!e descries clouds y color, si.e and hei!ht, and !ives rules of thum for &ud!in! their
distance, and states that the most important clouds are those #ith the shapes of animals.
=A
The
discussion focuses on color, directions of ori!in, and the identification of types of cloud *i for
military purposes.
-%./01%2/3%45467$$8/9%:;/<%=/
>:?57@A>B?57CA?C:7DE...
F&G.7HI7JKELM>NO7PQER.7
=B
5ee Shiji 1)8E=)1>D Hanshu 77BE 917BD Zhouli juan )8, Biot )E1B>.
=1
(us 17A>, 3a'ayama 17<<.
=)
Shiji )8E 1=9>;97.
==
Shiji )8E 1==1;1=9)D Couvreur =E=>A;9B1.
=9
Clouds and mistsE Shiji )8E1==<;=7 "Chavannes =E=7=;78$D Hanshu $uzhu )<E9=a "trans.
2ulse#K 1787, pp. 9B;97$.
=A
Shiji )8E 1==<D Chavannes =E=7=.
11
The *i of corvee laor is #hiteD the *i of !reat earth#or's is yello#. The *i of
chariots is sometimes hi!h and sometimes lo# ut al#ays continuous. The *i of
cavalry is lo# and spread out. The *i of conscripts is rollin!. If they are lo# in
front and hi!h ehind, there #ill e illness Nin the armyOD if they are s*uare and
hi!h in front and pointed and lo# ehind, there #ill e discontent. . . .
+hen there are small clouds that are clear and #hite, the !eneral is rave ut his
soldiers are slac'. +hen they have a lar!e root at the front ut are frayed in the
distance, one should fi!ht. +hen they are !reen and #hite, and droopin! in the
front, there #ill e victory in attle. +hen they are red in the front and they rise
up, one #ill not e the victor in attle.
=<
The chapter states that soldiers respond to pro!nostication and #ill follo# those #ho can
do it correctly. Cloud divination as descried in the Shiji is ased on formE the cloud *i of
northern ararians resemles the shapes of domestic animals and tentsD that of southern
ararians resemles the shapes of oats and military anners. There are further variations ased
on !eo!raphyE the presence of mountains, #ater, etc.
=8

This picture is amplified y a manuscript from Ca#an!dui, #hich modern scholars have
titled !ianwen ixiang zazhan )%STU or Ciscellaneous /ro!nostications y %stronomy
and ?i Confi!urations&
=>
It lists types of cloud, classified y the names of the fourteen states of
+arrin! 5tates China "startin! #ith Chu$, and y ima!es such as cloth, ox, carria!e, rat, crimson
clothin!, and dra!on, each earin! an illustration "as #ell as the oldest 'no#n pictures of
comets$. The manuscript correlates the cloud ima!es of animals "pi!, horse, ox, etc.$ #ith
military pro!nostications, for example that a city cannot e ta'en "do!$ or that the !eneral of the
army #ill die "pi!$.
There is considerale consistency et#een the representation of clouds and cloud *i in
these t#o texts. By the Later 2an, there are accounts of emperors themselves ascendin! to
oservatories to study the clouds.
=7
In these accounts of cloud *i, the shape of the immediate s'y
=<
Shiji )8E1==8D Chavannes =E=79.
=8
Shiji )8E1=A=D Chavannes =E9B7;91B.
=>
Tian#en *ixian! .a.hanE Ca#an!dui 2anmu #en#u, pp. 1A9;AA, trans. Loe#e 1779, p. 17=D
discussed in Gu Tiefu 178> "trans. 2arper 1787$.
=7
Cin! (i "JA7$E Hou Hanshu ).1B)D :han! (i "J8>$E Hou Hanshu >.=A=D 2e (i "J7=$E Hou
Hanshu 87%.E )A9A.
1)
has ecome an ima!e of the prospects of the state.
In addition, a #ide variety of astronomical, astrocalendric and hemerolo!ical texts and
instruments have een excavated from toms, especially in the territory of #hat #as once the
state of Chu in south China. These include si!nificant ne# astrocalendric instrumentation, #hich
seems to have een developed durin! the ?in;2an imperium. %mon! them are ne# types of
diviner0s oard, complete liu$o sets, and texts descriin! the use of dipper astrolaes and the use
of liu$o./ -chess- oards for divination.
9B
It is temptin! to infer that they #ere someho# an
element of state;sponsored astronomical or hemerolo!ical divination. +e cannot do so ecause
there is sustantial deate aout the exact purpose of placin! these o&ects in toms.
91
Greece
The situation of state sponsored divination in ;9th throu!h ;)nd century Greece is very
different. The ma&or form of state sponsored divination #as not astronomical ut oracular. It is
#ell 'no#n that Gree' political interest in divination, and specifically *ueries to (elphi aout
politics and #arfare, declined durin! this period. In much of the Gree' #orld #e find the same
pattern of decline in oracular consultation and the activities of military manteis. 3onetheless,
(elphi continued to e consulted re!ularly in its other traditional role as an ariter of *uestions
on state reli!ion and ritual.
This period mar'ed the e!innin! of extensive Gree' in interest in astronomy, astrolo!y
and calendrics, ut that interest did not ta'e the form of state sponsorship. Increased contact
after %lexander0s con*uest of /ersia rou!ht Gree's into contact #ith Cesopotamian ideas of the
.odiac and the methods and data of Baylonian astronomy and astrolo!y. These had profound
effects on astronomy and astrolo!ical cosmolo!y. 4arly Gree' interest in astronomy is difficult
to reconstruct. /lato !ives an oscure description of astronomy and cosmolo!y in the !imaeus.
Contact #ith Baylon may have increased alter the /ersian #ars. Baylonian methods may have
9B
Cost of the diviners0 oards or cosmic oards "shi$ excavated to date are from the ?in and
2an periods. The relative asence of these implements efore the ?in may e an artifact of the
archaeolo!ical record, rather than an indication of the state of +arrin! 5tates astrocalendric
technolo!y. 1or revie# of these finds see Li Lin! 177=.
91
% recent survey "1al'enhausen )BB=$ of the contents of toms from Chu su!!ests that
dayoo's and amoo texts #ere uried in the toms of memers of the hi!hest levels of the
elite.
1=
influenced attempts to reform the %thenian calendar aout ;9=), and descriptions of the
constellations y 4udoxus of Cnidus "9B>;=AA$. In addition, various individuals #ere credited
"or lamed$ for rin!in! -eastern- astrolo!y into Greece, includin! the atomist philosopher
(emocritus of %dera "c.9<B;=8B$, Berrosus "=AB;)>B$, a Baylonian priest #ho settled in Cos
and the Baylonian diviner 5udines "fl. c.)9B$. 2ellenistic %lexandria ecame the cradle of
Gree' astrolo!y.
9)
3onetheless, imperial amitions #ithin the Greco;Roman #orld continued to actively
sponsor other forms of political divination. Both /hilip and %lexander consulted court manteis
on military and other matters. %lexander reestalished the oracle at (idyma, and used his
contacts #ith oracles to propa!ate a myth of his divine ori!in and destiny.
Rome
Rome too actively sponsored state au!ury in oth the Repulic and 4mpire. The ;1st
century Roman taste for Gree' culture included oth Gree' 5toicism "#ith its defense of
divination$ and astrolo!y, especially throu!h the advocacy of /osidonius "1)A;AB$, #ho came to
Rome as an amassador in ;>8. Gree' astrolo!y !ained purchase in Rome throu!h the !eneral
reputation of Gree' learnin!, throu!h devices such as the armillary sphere of /osidonius and the
astronomical poem of %ratus "translated y Cicero$.
9=
Rome also had its o#n distinctive modes
of state divination.
In summary, an important difference et#een Chinese and Gree' -imperial- divination
#as their very different relations to centers of political po#er. Chinese divination had a
conspicuously official character and stood at the center of political po#er. Gree' divination, y
contrast, held authority y virtue of its separation from the centers of political po#er, in part
throu!h the physically mar!inal locations of ma&or sanctuaries and the lon!;standin! perceived
neutrality of (elphi. (elphi, (odona, (idyma and %mmon #ere outside the oundaries and
direct control of any one state or party.
9)
5ee Barton 1779, chapter 1, especially pp. )1;)= and =B;=1.
9=
/osidonius0 advocacy of astrolo!yE %u!ustine, (e civitate dei, A.). %ratus "=1A;c.)9A$ of
Cacedonia resided at the courts of the Cacedonian 'in! %nti!onus II Gonatas and %ntiochus I
of 5yria. 2is didactic astronomical poem 'haenomena put into verse an astronomical text of
4udoxus of Cnidus. 1or these developments see Barton 1779, pp. ==;91.
19
State Cosolo!y and "hetoric
+hen diviners predicted the future or unraveled the hidden si!nificance of the past, they
#ere not ma'in! astract 'no#led!e claimsD they #ere actin! #ith the support "or opposition$ of
po#erful interests. %nother political use of divination #as to provide authority and le!itimacy
for rulers and political decisions, includin! the social and political costs of expandin! an empire.
China
Competin! +arrin! 5tates theories of -correlative cosmolo!y- #ere po#erful rhetorical
tools for political purchase that could oth descriptively model and prescriptively le!itimi.e the
ne# imperial order. This #as done y systematic microcosm;macrocosm analo!ies. They used
inary pairs "yin and yan!$ and the five -phases- "wuxingE #ood, fire, earth, metal, and #ater$ to
-correlate- different domains of the cosmos "such as time, space, the contents of the heavens, the
seasons$ #ith human and social reality "the human ody, human !eo!raphy, morality, ehavior,
historical chan!e and the ne# sociopolitical order$. Correlative cosmolo!y e!an to e
systemati.ed in the ;=rd century, startin! #ith the L(shi chuniu "Caster LP0s 5prin! and
%utumn %nnals$ of LP Bu#ei "c. ;)=7$. Its reached a hi!h point durin! the 2an in such texts the
Chuniu fanlu "Luxuriant Gems of the 5prin! and %utumn %nnals$, Huainanzi ";1=7$ and
)ohutong "Comprehensive (iscussions in +hite Ti!er 2all, J 87$.
99

2an discourses on omens also reflect ne# tensions et#een the rulers considered
responsile for the cosmomoral order and the officials #ho prescried it. @n the one hand,
scholar;officials used correlative cosmolo!y to create authority and le!itimacy for the ne# 2an
empire as symols of a unified, centrali.ed state. @n the other, they used correlative cosmolo!y
and omens to critici.e the !overnmentE if not the ruler in propria persona, then those close to him
and in po#er. These theories also entailed stron! claims y officials to oth mantic access and
moral authority. 2an rulers fou!ht these claims y employin! a variety of ma!ical and
divinatory officials to increase their personal access to divine forces.
(ivination provided le!itimacy for 2an rulers in various #ays. The most po#erful
dynastic use of divination #as in the context of ne# cosmolo!ical theories, shored up y
divination, #hich provided -natural- explanations for the estalishment and expansion of the
99
The topic is immense. @f particular interestE Graham 17><, 3ylan 177=, Loe#e 1779, Lloyd
177<, +an! %ihe )BBB. 1or issues in the datin! and authorship of these texts see Loe#e, ed.
177=.
1A
2an dynasty. 1or example, the Hanshu specifies five *ualities that *ualified 2an Gao.u to rule.
The list e!ins #ith his descent from 4mperor Hao and ends #ith his his character and s'ill at
mana!in! suordinates. In the middle are divine si!ns. 2is physio!nomy is extraordinary
"timao duo iyi VWXYZ$ divine si!ns appeared #hen he assumed rule "shenwu you
zhengying [\]^$.
9A
@ther accounts of extraordinary physio!nomy appear else#here in
the Hanshu "of Gao.u and 4mpress LP$ and Hou Hanshu "of 4mpress (en!$. In perhaps the
stron!est case of cosmolo!ical rhetoric, +an! Can! used five;phase cosmolo!y and appeals to
divinatory discourse to &ustify his short;lived Iin dynasty. In a decree of 7 C4 announcin! his
ascent to the throne, he claims that omens indicate that 2eaven has transferred its mandate y
selectin! 4arth as the current phase, replacin! the 1ire of the 2an dynasty. 2e appeals to the
!eneration order of the five phases, in #hich 1ire e!ets 4arth, and himself claims to represent
4arth throu!h descent from the Hello# 4mperor.
9<

%ccounts of dreams, essentially private experiences #hich y their nature cannot e
shared, also served to &ustify political chan!e. 1or example, the Hou Hanshu reports a dream
ascried to 4mpress (en! that predicts and &ustifies her future rule as re!ent. 5imilarly, in
le!endary anti*uity accounts of dreams #ere used to &ustify dynastic chan!e. 1or example, a
premonitory dream of t#o suns fi!htin! in the s'y #as ascried to Coxi, the -dissolute-
concuine of the last 'in! of the Iia dynasty. Coxi "#ho is descried as havin! a man0s mind
and divinatory ailities$ interprets this as a #arnin! that Gie0s mandate to rule #as comin! to an
end. 5use*uently, the noles reel, Gie0s soldiers aandon him, and Tan! estalishes the 5han!
dynasty.
98

But early Chinese cosmolo!y #as also an expression of realpoliti'. 5cholar officials also
used it to define "and circumscrie$ royal po#er, to chan!e social and political institutions, and
to reconfi!ure earlier po#er relations, prominently includin! mantic access. 1ive;phase theory
#as ased on the premise that mantic access #as not the sole prero!ative of rulers. It theori.ed a
ne# direct lin' et#een humanity and heaven. By the 2an, four ma&or social !roups had laid
9A
Hanshu 1BB%E9)11.
9<
Hanshu 77BE9B7A;<, tr. (us vol. =, pp. )AA;A<D Hanshu $uzhu 77%E=A;=<a.
98
Lien(zhuan 8E1aD *uoyu 8.) "Gin 1$, p. )AAD L(shi chuniu 1AE1E)a. 1or discussion see
Raphals 177>.
1<
ne# claims to mantic accessE reli!ious and technical experts, officials, military specialists and the
competin! teachin! linea!es of classical Chinese philosophy.
The opposite side of the coin of usin! divine si!ns to le!itimate authority is usin!
portents to critici.e it. In #hat has ecome the classic survey of this material, +olfram
4erhard ar!ues that many of these accounts of portents #ere inserted for political reasons,
primarily as a method of critici.in! the emperor or more roadly the !overnment as represented
y him.
9>
4erhard notes several pea's in accounts of portents over the course of the 2an, and
ar!ues that ne!ative interpretations of portents #ere directed, sometimes a!ainst the emperor
himself, ut often a!ainst other political actors. 1or example, portents et#een ;17A and ;1>A
are directed, not a!ainst 4mperor 2ui "179;>>$, ut a!ainst the -usurpation- of his mother
4mpress LP. /ortents from ;1>B to ;18B critici.ed not 4mperor +en "187;A8$, ut a series of
revolts y princes. /ortents from 11A to 11B #arned a!ainst the excessive #ars of 4mperor +u
"19B;>8$. @ther pea's in the latter half of the ;1st century refer to the rise to po#er of +an!
Can! and the +an! clan.
97
4erhard uses this evidence to ar!ue that portents #ere a po#erful
political method y #hich officials and moralists #ere ale to exercise institutional chec's upon
the po#er of the emperor.
Het another mode of le!itimacy #as provided y the selective canoni.ation and officially
sponsored study of certain texts and modes of 'no#led!e. 1ive;phase discourse occurs in oth
the textual record and excavated texts. /erhaps most important is the -Treatise on the 1ive
/hases- "%uxing zhi$ from the 2an dynastic history "Hanshu )8$. +ind divination "and its
correlate, divination y pitchpipes$ is also classified in the Hanshu Bilio!raphic Treatise as an
area of 1ive;/hase cosmolo!y. The -(isease- sections of the dayoo's from 5huihudi also use
five;phase correlations.
But in China, the earlier open;ended competition et#een technical shushu specialists
and -Casters- textualists #as completely reconfi!ured y the adoption of Confucianism y the
2an state. Technical specialists continued to practice their expertise at oth the official and
private level, ut official ideolo!y #as dominated y the dominant Confucian school. %t the
institutional level, academies and chairs #ere created for the study of Confucian texts. The
9>
4erhard 17A8, #hich attempts a statistical analysis of the information in all three sources.
97
4erhard 17A8, pp. A8;A>.
18
#ijing #as transformed from a divination manual to a privile!ed form of textual exe!esis distinct
from more limited methods of divination. Bilio!raphic classifications such as the Hanshu
Bilio!raphic Treatise elevated classics "jing$ over Casters texts "zi$, and separated the #i from
other divinatory #or's. Both #ijing exe!esis and divination ecame modes of rhetorical
persuasion #ithin the 2an court, as divination and omen interpretation provided a rhetorical
frame#or' for remonstrance or recommendations on state policy.
Astrolo!y in "oe
%!ain, the Gree' and Roman situations are very different. @racular divination durin!
this period #as used primarily to address *uestions of reli!ious cult. But oracular divination did
not have a stron! en!a!ement #ith, or reliance on, cosmolo!y, eyond elief in the @lympian
pantheon. %lexander0s mythical claims to divine descent and a destiny to con*uer %sia have
nothin! li'e the cosmolo!ical rhetoric of 2an China. Gree' cosmolo!y manifests, not in
imperial amition ut in humoral theories #hose primary domain #as medicine.
1inally, Gree' astrolo!y #as incorporated into Roman politics. %strolo!y entered Rome
as a component of Gree' hi!h culture, ut it #as only ta'en up y elite Romans in the last
century BC4, #hen !enerals e!an to listen to astrolo!ers. The rise of astrolo!y in Rome
coincided #ith the e!innin! of the fall of the Repulic, a coincidence #hich, Tamsyn Barton
ar!ues, #as no accident.
AB
Under the Repulic, the Colle!e of au!urs or haruspices, elements of
an earlier 4truscan tradition #hich had een asored into Roman life, #ere official state
diviners. They #ere in char!e of extispicy, #eather divination and prodi!ies. They #ere
expected to #arn the senate of si!ns of the !ods0 "dis$favor and to advise on ritual action, ut the
po#er of decision #as al#ays held y the senate. The custodians of the oo's of 5iylline
prophecy #ere dra#n from the 5enate itself. The constitution put po#er in the hands of the
senate, and limited the po#er of diviners to set policy.
%strolo!y y contrast #as the province of a ruler #ho held sole po#er. The association
of astrolo!y #ith Roman aristocratic leaders e!ins durin! the turulence of the early ;1st
century. The -portent- of a comet durin! the mournin! for Gulius Caesar #as used to &ustify his
deification y the Roman senate. Caesar0s adopted son @ctavian then used its ima!e, and the
lin'ed ima!es of father and son, to provide le!itimacy to his o#n rule as Caesar %u!ustus.
AB
Barton 1779, pp. =>; 91.
1>
(urin! this period, official diviners #ere effectively replaced y unofficial advisers close to the
ruler. %nonymous colle!e au!urs #ere replaced y famous astrolo!ers and other diviners #ho
increasin!ly focused on the fates of individuals, rather than *uestions of divine approval for a
particular course of action. %strolo!y helped to move the individual and individuali.ed
prediction to the center of the divinatory a!enda. %strolo!y #as suited to monarchy in that
astrolo!ers, unli'e repulican state au!urs, had no oli!ation to report their findin!s pulicly and
could pic' and choose their clients.
%lthou!h %u!ustus had used astrolo!y to le!itimate his position as the first emperor, y
the end of his life, forade private astrolo!ical consultations. Later emperors follo#ed the
pattern set y his successor TieriusE elief in the infalliility of astrolo!y, a 'ind of astrolo!ical
paranoia aout potential rivals to the throne, and strict re!ulation of astrolo!y y la#. These
included decrees annin! astrolo!ers from Rome and Italy and trials of astrolo!ers and their
clients. This period also sa# s'epticism aout astrolo!y, ut it manifested not in politics ut in
philosophical deates aout free #ill and determinism.
A1
In summary, state sponsorship #as an important element that shaped divinatory practice
in China, Greece and Rome, ut that sponsorship too' very different forms. In all three contexts,
divination continued to e an important element of the practice of #arfare, and in interest in the
2eavens. Rulers #ho sei.ed po#er also used it to le!itimate their rei!ns and promote their
imperial amitions. In China these activities #ere lin'ed to state sponsored astronomy,
calendrics, official cosmolo!y, the creation and canoni.ation of certain texts, and the relative
mar!inali.ation of others. In 2ellenistic Greece, interest in astronomy developed, not in the
context of state sponsorship, ut in the private investi!ation of the closely lin'ed disciplines of
astronomy and astrolo!y. Gree' astrolo!y too' a different turn in Rome, #here court astrolo!ers
in the service of monarchs lar!ely displaced the official diviners employed y the senate durin!
the period of the Repulic.
Private Divination and the State
The ne# state uses of of divination in 2an imperial China and Rome coexisted #ith the
on!oin!, and in some cases, expandin! use of personal and private divination. To #hat extent, if
any, did the state attempt to control or curtail the private use of divination,
A1
Cramer 17A<D BouchK;Leclerc* 1>77 and 1>>), vol. 9D .Barton 1779, pp. <);<=D
17
China: Mar#etplace Diviners
In China evidence of nonofficial divination dates ac' to uninscried oracle ones of the
5han! dynasty. There is extensive pre;?in evidence that divination texts reflected ori!ins in the
life of the common people. It includes the use of dayoo's, the #ijing, and the interpretation of
dreams and physio!nomy. The #ijing includes many references to marria!e, childirth, visits to
officials, travel, defense a!ainst andits, and animal husandryD and dayoo's provided
instructions for selectin! auspicious times for a #ide variety of day;to;day activities.
A)

Cost of the divination techni*ues that flourished and expanded durin! the +arrin! 5tates
#ere used durin! the ?in and 2an for oth official and nonofficial purposes. 3onofficial access
to star divination focused on astrocalendric texts. It is unclear to #hat extent diviners0 oards
and liu$o oards #ere used in private capacities, ut the dayoo's contain many
pro!nostications that clearly relate to routine concerns such as travel, usiness, marria!e and
childirth. %lmanac texts and dayoo's #ere used to predict auspicious days and times for a
#ide variety of activities, includin! marria!e, childirth, ma'in! clothes, uildin! pro&ects,
travel, slau!hterin! farm animals, farmin!, and official audiences. Leisure activities and
entertainment #ere also considered su&ects for dayoo' divination, includin! eatin!, drin'in!,
sin!in!, and hi'in! in the mountains. The medical sections of dayoo's also provided methods
to enhance health and lon!evity y identifyin! the cause of an illness from eatin! the #ron! food
at the #ron! time. They also reflected the interests and expectations of oth men and #omen.
Hear divinations of the 'ind found at Baoshan, Tianxin!!uan and +an!shan sou!ht to !ain
divine approval for the consultant0s political success in office in the comin! year. 2istorical
narratives contain many accounts of #i divination and consultation of spirit mediums y
individuals, ut the presti!e and authority of the results #ere closely lin'ed to their association
#ith royalty, !ods and ancestors. In other #ords, nonofficial divination dre# its authority from
state divination, and follo#ed many of the same modes and procedures in miniature. The
exceptions #ere the modes of divination specifically appropriated y the stateE in particular,
astronomy and cosmolo!y.
The activities of the fangshi #arrant more discussion since they straddle the line et#een
official and nonofficial practice. They rose to prominence at the court of ?in 5i 2uan!di in the
A)
Ran!e of the #ijingE Gao 2en! 17>9.
)B
?in and +u (i in the 2an.
A=
But they served private clients as #ell as the state. Because they
tended to come from outlyin! areas, their uprin!in! proaly retained more of local practices
not entirely dissolved y the ne# empire. % fe# examples illustrate this point.
Shiji 1)8, the collected io!raphies of diviners of auspicious days, !ives an account of a
visit to the mar'etplace of Chan!0an y t#o officialsE the palace counselor 5on! :hon! and Gia
Hi ";)B<;1<7$.
A9
Gia Hi steers them to -(iviner0s Lane- "$u si &0$ #here they encounter the
Chu diviner 5ima Gi.hu. It had rained and there #ere fe# peopleD they found him discussin! the
cycles of cosmolo!y, yin and yan!, and !ood and ad fortune #ith a fe# students. Reali.in!
that he #as someone to e rec'oned #ith, they expressed surprise at his occupation and
remar'ed on the lo# status of diviners. 5ima Gi.hu turns the tales on his visitors y in*uirin!
into their o#n values and priorities. 2e defends diviners on several !rounds, includin! their
attention to ritual and the indirect eneficial effects of their activities, includin! social order,
curin! the sic', avoidin! disaster, arran!in! marria!es, and rin! plans to fruition.
AA

%nother example comes from accounts of the 2an (aoist scholar :huan! :un _`
";>= to J1B$, #ho made his livin! as a diviner in the Chen!du mar'etplace.
A<
%fter earnin!
enou!h for his daily needs, he #ould close his shop and teach the Lao.i and :huan!.i.
%ccordin! to his Hanshu io!raphy, he !ave this explanation of his livelihood and activitiesE
abc7defgEhijk7lmnopq"rE s g
qmt7sguqmv7sgwqmx7yz{|e}7~
q7E
(ivination is a lo# occupation, ut even so it can enefit people. If they as'
A=
5ee 3!o 178<.
A9
Shiji 1)8E=)1A;=))B. 1or discussion see Loe#e 1779, pp. 18B;181. 1or translation see
/o'ora 17>8.
AA
4lse#here the Shiji io!raphy of physicians "1BAE)>BA;)>B8$ reports the case of a youn!
female slave #ho had learned fang techni*ues and used them to partially preserve herself a!ainst
a serious "and eventually fatal$ illness. 5he is not a mar'etplace diviner, ut she is a commoner
#ith 'no#led!e of this domain. 1or discussion see Raphals 177> and 2su )BB1.
A<
2e is etter 'no#n y the style name Han Gunpin! . Ban Gu chan!ed his surname to
Han ecause the personal name of the 2ou 2an emperor Cin! (i #as Liu :huan! "r. JA8;8A$.
:huan! :un #as a teacher of Han! Iion! ";A= to J1>$. 5ee 1armer )BB1, pp. 87;>1.
)1
aout thin!s that are #ic'ed or not upri!ht I spea' of enefit and harm in the
lan!ua!e of turtle and yarro#. To a son I spea' in the terms of filialityD to a
youn!er rother I spea' in the lan!ua!e of deferenceD to a a su&ect I spea' in the
terms of loyalty. 4ach accordin! to situation, I lead him to#ard ein! !ood, and
more than half follo# my #ords.
A8
3either 5ima Gi.hu nor :huan! :un report in detail #hat their clients consulted them
aout in any detail. In oth cases, the rhetorical point of the passa!e is to praise the scholar;
diviner and to sho# that these t#o diviners #ere a type of sa!e #ho used the necessity of ma'in!
a livin! to help and improve the people #ho consulted them. 1or purposes of the present
discussion, the point is that these individuals #ere consulted y ordinary people in the
mar'etplace. The visit to -(iviners Lane- y t#o !overnment officials ma'es it clear that the
court #as perfectly a#are of mar'etplace diviners, and not overly interested. There is not at this
point evidence of -paranoia- over the chance of predictive 'no#led!e, especially the prediction
of disasters, underminin! imperial authority y findin! its #ay into the roader population.
The notion of -private divination- raises a several *uestions, ut first a caveat is
necessary. To #hat extent can any divination said to e either non;ritual or private in a modern,
+estern, individualist sense of the term, Car'etplace diviners of auspicious days addressed
private *ueries, ut these #ere not -individual- in the modern +estern sense of the term. %s
:huan! :un0s response attitude to#ard his o#n consultations ma'es very clear, these *ueries
concerned families and !roups, not isolated individual #elfare.
Greece: $he "ise of Individual Consultation
The Gree' evidence for the on!oin! and indeed increased use of private divination is
very different. It includes the on!oin! use of oracular sanctuaries for private *ueries, the ne#
rise of medical oracles associated #ith %sclepius and Trophonius, and the use of the divinatory
spells and ma!ical procedures descried in the Gree' ma!ical papyri. +ithin the ne# imperial
frame#or's of 2an China, %lexandrian Greece and Imperial Rome there is on!oin! evidence of
divination at the individual or local level, #ithout either permission or proscription of the state.
The (elphic oracle distin!uished et#een pulic "daimosion$ and private "idion$ *ueriesE
first y its fee structure and second y the a#ardin! of promanteia, since pulic *ueries #ere in
A8
Hanshu 8).=BA<.
))
most cases not from residents of (elphi. Consultor states had their o#n procedures to ensure the
accurate transmission and re;performance of oracular responses, ut other#ise there #as no
mar'ed difference in oracular procedure and ritual et#een !roup and individual.
Relatively fe# private *ueries to (elphi are preserved, ut other oracles, such as (odona,
(idyma and the oracles of %sclepius, provide more information. There is on!oin! evidence that
individual, at times includin! #omen and slaves, consulted "usually local$ oracles aout
individual prolems. Ritual itself #as a fre*uent topic of consultation for private as #ell as
pulic in*uiries. Gust as a polis mi!ht as' to #hat !od to offer prayer and sacrifice to achieve a
desired result, individuals also as'ed to #hom to pray for on!oin! divine protectionD possessions,
offsprin! and marria!eD cure of diseaseD or even -#hat the consultor has in mind.-
+ith the exception of military divination, #hich had no nonofficial counterpart, there #as
no state sponsorship or proscription to restrict the use of any divinatory techni*ue. That situation
only chan!ed #ith the proscriptions on horoscopal astrolo!y under the Roman 4mpire.
3onetheless, some oracles or techni*ues #ere simply etter suited than others to individual and
local needs, and the !ro#th of medical oracles reflects those priorities.
Cedical oracles, y contrast, #ere focused on *uestions of individual health, dia!nosis
and cure that had no state counterpart. 4ven these nominally individual consultations inherently
involved the #elfare of families ecause -individual- #elfare usually had important
ramifications for others, includin! family, slaves, usiness associates, etc. The *uestion to the
oracle at (odona y a certain 5ocrates is typicalE #hat #or' he should do to etter oth himself
and his linea!e, The *uestion aout individual #elfare is not limited to the #elfare of the
individual. @ther *ueries to (odona on such topics as #hether or #hom to marry, #hether a
#ife #ould ear children "or in one case, a child0s paternity$, and ho# to prosper in usiness all
affected the #elfare not only of the consultor, ut of his livin! family and on!oin! linea!e. In
summary, the Gree' -individual- consultor of oracles or the individual practitioners of the Gree'
ma!ical papyri is also emedded in a net#or' of family and local relations, and the attested
*ueries reflect this.
2oroscopes, and specifically Roman astrolo!y, present a very different situation ecause,
y nature they concern an individual "even if they are used for *ueries aout family or !roup
)=
matters$. 4arly Gree' interest in astronomy and astrolo!y is difficult to reconstruct.
A>
%strolo!y
came to Rome as part of the hi!h culture of Greece. It only ecame of serious interest to elite
Romans as the Repulic e!an to collapse in the first century BC4. %t this point there is
evidence of !enerals ta'in! astrolo!ers0 predictions seriously, includin! personal horoscopes.
%strolo!ers ma'e predictions for /ompey, Crassus, Gulius Caesar, %u!ustus, and all the
emperors. %u!ustus used it as a po#erful tool to le!itimate oth Gulius Caesar and his o#n
position as emperor. But y the end of his he had issued a decree annin! private consultations.
5tartin! #ith Tierius, elief in astrolo!y led to imperial paranoia, and astrolo!y too' on a
political role analo!ous to that of (elphi at an earlier period. But in this case, unli'e China,
elief in astrolo!y and specifically horoscopy led to ans on its private use.
A7
5o if the state dre# on divination for le!itimacy and authority, to #hat extent #as the
persistence of nonofficial, local divination a threat to state authority, 5tate sponsorship implied
state control. Gust as the ?in and 2an courts supported astronomical oservation, they controlled
access to state astrocalendrics, ut had less interest in modes of divination that did not challen!e
their authority.
In ?in and 2an China, Chu toms provide particularly important evidence for the
prevalence and importance of divinatory activity at the nonofficial level. "By contrast, there is a
conspicuous asence of divination materials from the texts excavated from Guodian.$ 2an rulers
on the one hand re&ected the -ararian- traditions of the south in favor of the traditional
authority of turtle and yarro#. Het they made on!oin! use of astrocalendric divination. %s
scholar;officials turned to correlative cosmolo!y to critici.e !overnment rule, emperors
increasin!ly sou!ht out private diviners to advise them.
A>
/lato !ives an oscure description of astronomy and cosmolo!y in the !imaeus. %t some
point it #as informed y Baylonian astrolo!y, ut there is considerale controversy as to #hen
that point first occurred. 6arious ;=rd century individuals #ere credited "or lamed$ for rin!in!
-eastern- astrolo!y into Greece. These include the -atomist- (emocritus of %dera "a youn!er
contemporary of 5ocrates$, Berrosus, a Baylonian priest #ho settled in Cos, and the Baylonian
diviner 5udines. %fter the increased contact rou!ht aout y %lexander0s con*uest of /ersia,
the Gree's asored the data and methods of Baylonian astronomy and astrolo!y. Gree'
horoscopal astrolo!y refined earlier techni*ues and introduced cosmolo!ical innovationsD it #as
not a purely Gree' creation. 5ee Barton 1779, pp. pp. )1;)=.
A7
Barton 1779, pp. =>;<=.
)9
There is an analo!ous conflict in the Roman empire. +hen monarchs sei.ed control of
the Roman Repulic, they advanced private astrolo!ers in lieu of the official diviners of the
5enate. +ith the rise of astrolo!y, individual fate calculation ecame a locus of tension et#een
mantic access and state authority. %u!ustus used portents and horoscopes to estalish his o#n
rule, and suse*uently sou!ht to contain the po#er of others to do the same thin! y proscriin!
private astrolo!y.
Conclusions
In China, Greece and Rome, a centrali.ed empire had important implications for
divinatory practice as a means to political authority. @n the one hand, divination ecame a
po#erful tool of the state oth as a tool for #arfare and administration and as a means to
promul!ate the rhetoric of empire and &ustify imperial authority. But the details #ere very
different, especially in the relation et#een state and private divination.
In China, ne# state divination techni*ues #ere developed for oth civil and military
purposes. /itchpipes #ere used for oth the prediction of harvests and for military
pro!nostications. % cosmolo!y ased on correlations +ind divination, first attested under the
centrali.ed rule of the 5han!, reemer!ed in ne# forms. 3e# state sponsored forms of
instrumentation for the selection of auspicious times appear in the toms of hi!h officials, as do
dayoo' texts of similar purpose. Le!al, administrative and military applications of preexistin!
divination techni*ues also proliferate. /hysio!nomy is an interestin! exception to this trend.
2an thin'ers such as +an! Chon! and +an! 1u descried ho# destiny, character, or ailities
could e read from the ody, ut #e do not see the development of officially sanctioned methods
of physio!nomy for the examination and selection of officials. These developments coexisted
#ith oth private consultations of diviners and the use of divination y scholar;officials to
critici.e the !overnment.
This is a surprisin!ly pluralistic situation, especially compared to Rome. T#o factors
may help account for this difference. @ne is the 'ind, and variety of divination practiced. 2an
China sa# an on!oin! development, or even expansion of a road ran!e of techni*ues that #ere
used for a road ran!e of purposes, oth state and private. Roman divination #as less closely
lin'ed #ith -scientific- developments, in the sense of interest in prediction of events ased on
empirical oservation or in the systemati.ation of 'no#led!e. In Rome y contrast, divinatory
)A
attention increasin!ly #as focused on one techni*ue, horoscopal astrolo!y, as private diviners
eclipsed the official role of state sponsored au!urs. This 'ind of attention do#n!raded the level,
if not the de!ree, of state interest.
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)7