What Was Prophecy in Ancient Greece?

In ancient Greece, prophecy played a significant role in the lives of the people. Prophecy was the art of predicting the future or divining information from the gods or supernatural beings.

It was believed that prophecy could provide insight into important decisions and events that would shape the future. Prophecies were sought by individuals and leaders alike, who would consult with oracles, seers, and other diviners to seek guidance.

The Role of Oracles in Ancient Greece

Oracles were among the most well-known and respected sources of prophecy in ancient Greece. They were typically women who were believed to have been chosen by a deity to receive messages from them. One of the most famous oracles was Pythia, who resided in Delphi and was believed to be able to communicate directly with Apollo, the god of prophecy.

Visitors seeking guidance from an oracle would present gifts and offerings before receiving their prophetic message. The oracle would often enter a trance-like state before delivering her message, which was often cryptic and open to interpretation.

Divination Through Sacrifice

Another popular method of divination in ancient Greece was through sacrifice. Priests or individuals seeking knowledge would sacrifice an animal and then examine its entrails for signs from the gods. The liver was particularly important as it was believed to be linked to one’s fate.

The practice of divination through sacrifice eventually led to a more systematic approach called hepatoscopy, which involved examining different parts of the liver for specific omens.

Seers and Dreams

Seers were individuals who possessed a natural gift for interpreting signs from the gods. They could predict important events such as wars, natural disasters, and political upheavals based on their interpretation of these signs.

Dreams also played an important role in Greek prophecy. It was believed that dreams could provide insight into future events or reveal hidden truths about one’s life. Many Greeks kept dream journals to record their dreams and seek guidance from seers or oracles.


In ancient Greece, prophecy was a vital part of daily life. People sought guidance from oracles, seers, and other diviners to help them make important decisions and navigate the uncertain future.

The methods of divination were varied and often involved complex rituals and interpretation of signs from the gods. Despite the ambiguity of many prophetic messages, they remained an essential aspect of Greek culture for centuries.