The Ancient Library

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The casting of lots is familiar in the Old Testament and the New as a method of ascer­taining divine will.1 In fact, some form of kleromantic divination is to be found in all stages of culture,2 and the efficacy of the process may be based on the magical quality of the instruments, the direct ordinance of God, the arbitrament of a half-personified Fortune, or a recognition of the law of chances. The superstitions of gamblers are evidence of the reverence with which the mystery of an appar­ently arbitrary chance inspires the imagination.

In Greece the choice of the lot selected the champion to meet the mightiest of the Trojans,3 and it played a part in the development of democratic institutions.4 But it is its religious associations rather than its practical use that we must examine. The scholiast on Pindar, Pyth. iv. 337, tells us that the ancients used to divine by lots ; astragali lay ready for the inquirer's use on the holy tables in the temple.5

1 E.g. Joshua vii. 14 ; Jonah i. 7 ; Acts i. 26.

2 Cf. examples, Tylor, Prim. Cutt.2 i. p. 78 foil. ; and references in Frazer, Pausanias, iv. p. 172.

3 Homer, //zWvii. 171 foil.

4 Bouche Leclerq, i. pp. 190-191, where the author classifies the various methods: the casting of pebbles, beans, K\rjpot, astragali, and dice.

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