The conference is sponsored by:

The David A. Gardner ’69 Magic Project in the Council of the Humanities, The Program in the Ancient World, The Program in Hellenic Studies, The Department of Religion at Princeton University and The Catholic University of America.

© Trustees of the British Museum

Sortilege, the practice of making decisions or foretelling the future by casting lots, was both widely practiced and at the same time highly contested in the Mediterranean world of Late Antiquity. While secular and ecclesiastical leaders often expressly prohibited such practices, lot divination proved resilient and even remained vibrant throughout the centuries. The period between 300 and 700 witnessed the creation by inspired individuals of a large and diverse body of divinatory texts that became widely dispersed over the Mediterranean region. The thriving practice of book oracles both competes with and complements the canonical corpora of the area’s major religions. The symposium’s participants will analyze these lot texts in their larger social-historical and religious contexts, especially against the backdrop of the classical Greek and Latin canon and the formation of the major book religions in the Mediterranean basin as well as their evolving bodies of sacred scriptures.

Saturday, November 12

9:00 - 10:30 AM

William Klingshirn, The Catholic University of America “Sortilege and the diviner's profession in late antiquity”

Pieter van der Horst, Universiteit Utrecht, “Sortes biblicae judaicae”

10:45 - 12:15 PM

David Ratzan, Columbia University, “Getting to Yes: the institutional context of economic divination in Roman Egypt”

Laura Nasrallah, Harvard Divinity School “‘I do not wish to be rich’: The “Barbarian” Christian Tatian Responds to Sortes”

1:30 - 3:00 PM

Kevin W. Wilkinson, Fordham University “Missing Link? A Greek Fragment of the Sortes Sanctorum in the Beinecke Library”

Alexander Kocar, Princeton University “Two unpublished Coptic sortes manuscripts from Oxyrhynchus”

3:15 - 4:45 PM

David Frankfurter, Boston University “Sortes, Scribality, and Syncretism: Ritual Expertise and the Great Tradition in Byzantine Egypt”

Franziska Naether, Universität Leipzig “Sortilegi between divine ordeals and ‘secular’ justice. Aspects of Jurisdiction in (ritual) texts from Roman Egypt”

Sunday, November 13

9:00 - 10:30 AM

Salvatore Costanza, Universität Köln “Books of Divination and Books for Divination”

Michael Meerson, Princeton University “The Right to Interpret: Not Everyone’s Homer”

10:45 - 12:15 PM

Randall Stewart, University of Utah “The Enduring Appeal of the Sortes Astrampsychi”

AnneMarie Luijendijk, Princeton University “‘Only do not be of two minds.’ The Role of Doubt in Divination”

Conference Organizers

William Klingshirn, professor and chair of Greek and Latin at the Catholic University of America, is a late Roman historian specializing in the religion and culture of north Africa and western Europe. He has written widely on lot divination and diviners, and is currently writing a book on diviners in late antiquity.

AnneMarie Luijendijk, assistant professor of religion at Princeton University, is a historian of religion and a papyrologist, working on early Christianity. Her new research involves the publication and analysis of a new Coptic miniature manuscript with Christian lot oracles.