Chapter

Seneca on Lightning and Divination

Gareth Williams

in The Cosmic Viewpoint

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199731589
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199933112 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199731589.003.0009
Seneca on Lightning and Divination

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Central to Natural Questions 2, on the nature of lightning and thunder, is Seneca's critique of divination by lightning: in particular, he focuses on the Etruscan art of divination, testing it against ‘scientific’ canons of Greco-Roman philosophical thought. In identifying commonality and overlap between the two systems, traditional/religious on the one hand, philosophical/’modern’ on the other, Seneca effects a form of cultural fusion which contributes to the broader phenomenon of (in Andrew Wallace-Hadrill's words) the Roman cultural revolution of the late Republic and early Empire – a revolution which witnessed the rise of the technical/specialist management and application of knowledge at Rome. Book 2 explicitly engages in this larger cultural conversation, but it is also emblematic of a similar merging process between tradition and ‘modern’ rationalism in the Natural Questions generally.

Keywords: lightning; divination; Etruscans; Caecina; Attalus

Chapter.  18177 words. 

Subjects: Classical Literature

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