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Ancient Greek Seers

In the past, great leaders and the general public didn’t call the psychic hotline to receive predictions on what lied ahead in their future. Instead, they relied on seers, who foretold the future or claimed to possess the power to cure the sick. In this article, you will learn a bit about two Greek seers, Alexander of Abonoteichus and Agias.

Alexander of Abonoteichus

Around 105 AD, Alexander of Abonoteichus earned a reputation as an oracle that gained a following all over the Roman Empire. While there are different portrayals of Alexander, one that stands out is the description given by Lucian of Samosata, who stated that Alexander was responsible for swindling people out of their money. With the help of assistants, he also used “thuggery” as a form of intimidation. Lucien would continue to speak badly on Alexander’s name because of latter’s hatred towards the Epicureans. Lucien looked up to the works of Epicurus.

It was in the Greek town of Abonoteichus that Alexander made his mark. He claimed to have powers to heal the sick and foretell the future. Because of this, he was given many riches and became a prestigious member of society. From Pontus to Rome, he established a following of believers who looked towards him for his ‘connection’ with magic. People paid a visit to Alexander because they felt he was a prophet. He earned the respect of many significant characters that lived during his day.

The serpent served as a symbolic link to his powers. During his oracles, the mouth of his pet snake played a role in his predictions, which he wore around his neck. Over time, he became well known to neighboring regions. Around 150, he erected a temple dedicated to Aesculapius in his native city of Paphlagonia. People came from all over Greece and Italy to hear what he had to say. Many questions were asked of him, and he delivered tens of thousands of replies that dealt with afflictions of the mind, body, and social status. For each answer, he was paid a drachma and two oboli.

Agias

Who placed the mind of Spartan general Lysander at ease before he went out to battle? It was Agies (the Spartan seer) who guided and predicted the commander of the Spartan fleet would gain victory against the Athenians at Aegospotami around 405 BC. There is a theory stated by ancient writers that Agias; prediction of Lysander capturing an entire fleet of the opposition was the cause of victory. Lysander’s success would continue the next year, when he successfully removed Athenian leadership out of the region and brought an end to the Peloponnesian War.

In his honor, statues were erected in Agias’ honor. Pausanias makes mention of a bronze statue of Agias decorating the altar of Augustus, which was located in the marketplace in Sparta. Another statue was constructed in Delphi, depicting both Agias and Lysander. This artifact has been partially recovered and believed to have been the handiwork of Lysander himself.