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Agamemnon: The whole tribe of seers is a curse with its ambition.
Menelaus: Yes, and good for nothing and useless, when among us. (Euripides, Iphigenia in Aulis 520).

"On seeing a soothsayer make public forecasts for money, Demonax said: 'I don't see on what ground you claim the fee: if you think you can change destiny in any way, you ask too little, however much you ask; but if everything is to turn out as Heaven has ordained, what good is your soothsaying?'" (Lucian, Demonax 37).

"Lo que está determinado
del cielo, y en azul tabla
Dios con el dedo escribi├"
de quien son cifras y estampas
tantos papeles azules
que adornan letras doradas,
nunca enga├▒an, nunca mienten;
porque quien miente y enga├▒a
es quien, para usar mal de ellas,
las penetra y las alcanza."
(Calder├"n, La vida es sue├▒o, Escena XIV).

The business of seers or prophets has been thought to be that of judging the signs of what is yet to come:

Their occupation

For example, whether a man will meet death or disease or loss of property, or in time of war, whether he will meet victory or defeat. They often interpreted the will of heaven by explaining dreams, watching the flights of birds, or gazing at the entrails of sacrificed victims.

Other sciences predict too

But as it has been pointed out, this is also what other branches of knowledge do. For medicine also surveys, besides past and present events, also future ones, concerning itself not only with diagnosis but also with prognosis. So does farming too when monitoring the production of the earth in all its phases. And similarly, a general or commander in chief has to make forecasts and predict the outcome of his campaigns, evaluating the future results of all military operations that are his responsibility. This is how things have been, and that is why it has been observed that the general gives orders to the seer and not the seer to the general.

Great influence in some places

It has been said that priests, prophets, and seers, who in the early times also practised music, had sometimes great influence, and because of the magnitude of their undertakings, they could win high esteem, and in some cases, like in Egypt, no king could rule without being a priest.

Some do not believe in them

Some have deemed the seers' dealings to be full of falsehood, considering the sacrifices done by them as unhealthy, and judging those believing that birds can help mankind as utterly foolish. That is why Theseus says:

"As for the birds that fly above my head, I bid them a long farewell." (Theseus. Euripides, Hippolytus 1057).

In a similar way spoke Hector 1 when, because of a bird in the sky, his comrades wished to persuade him not to attack:

"You would have me base my actions on the flight of birds, winged creatures who do not interest me at all. In fact I do not care whether they fly to the right towards the morning sun or to the left into the western gloom." (Hector 1. Homer, Iliad 12.238).

These men think that nothing can be done or known, either by a layman or a seer, if the gods do not wish it to be done or known. And for that reason they find it ridiculous to obey bad or good omens, and they see no point in consulting the prophets, whom they consider worthless. They would not in any way resort to divination, which they deem to be just a way of making a living. But instead they consider sound judgment and discernment as the best of seers, and think that the unsurpassed method consists in addressing the gods directly, ask a blessing, and forget about divination, for whoever has the gods as friends does not need prophecy. And that is also what Hector 1 meant, because he continued:

"Let us instead follow the counsel of Zeus, who governs both mortals and immortals." (Hector 1. Homer, Iliad 12.240).

Instruments of the gods

And yet it has been also said that the minds of the true seers, who are very few though many call themselves prophets, are instruments of the gods, and they do not utter words by themselves, but the gods speak through them. Those who may be thought to be true seers have been compared with great poets, who compose not so much by wisdom and art but by nature and divine inspiration. And it has been said that when the seers are inspired they are enraptured and possessed by the gods, and that is why they succeed in uttering true oracles, but themselves they know nothing of what they say.

False soothsayers

But for most men and women it has always been a most difficult matter to tell the difference between a charlatan and a true prophet. Specially the rich are visited by the false soothsayers, who claim they have accumulated power from the gods. They even offer their services, at a low cost as they say, if their employer wishes to harm anyone, since they claim to control all kinds of spells and enchantments. Or they may also offer him purification for the deeds of injustice he has committed, or forgiveness for his sins, or to deliver him from evil. They claim to be able to do all this through rites and prayers, and strange as it seems, not only individuals may believe them but even powerful states.

Barbarian seers sacrifice human beings

Some barbarian tribes have been reported to sacrifice prisoners of war, which was performed by priestesses who were seers. They met the prisoners throughout the camp, and having crowned them with wreaths, they led them to a raised platform, and cut the throat of each prisoner. From the blood that poured forth into a vessel, some of the seeresses drew a prophecy, while others would split open the body, and from inspecting the entrails, they would utter yet more prophecies.

Barbarian seers put to death

And if as barbaric acts received their due prize, sometimes the seers themselves, accused of being false or worthless, were put to death. The Scythians have been reported to burn their diviners, calling them false prophets when they believed them to have proved to be such. And when a seer was executed for the reason of being an incompetent seer, he did not die alone, for the king ordered to put to death all males in their families, sparing only the females.

It may happen in civilized areas

The seer Calchas, who was said to be the best of bird-diviners, and Tiresias, are both reported to have recommended human sacrifice as a remedy for various troubles, but this absurd custom does not seem to have ever gained the gods' approval.

List of SEERS



Aesacus 1

This is the seer and interpreter of dreams who declared that Paris was to become the ruin of the country and advised that the babe should be exposed. His father was King Priam 1 of Troy and his mother is sometimes called Arisbe and sometimes Alexiroe. Aesacus 1 loved Asterope 1, daughter of the river god Cebren. She was killed by the bite of a serpent, and as he mourned her, Aesacus 1 was turned into a diving bird. Apd.3.12.5; Ov.Met.11.750ff.

Alcander 1

A Molossian seer, son of Munichus (see below), son of Dryas 4, and Lelante. Their home was attacked by bandits, who put fire to their buildings. Zeus, then felt pity for them and turn them into various birds. Alcander 1 was turned into a kinglet. Lib.Met.14.

This is one of the generals among the SEVEN AGAINST THEBES (see also Robe & Necklace of Harmonia 1). He foresaw that all who joined Adrastus 1 against Thebes would perish. He refused at first to join the expedition but was finally forced to go to war. When about to be killed in the war, Zeus saved him by splitting the earth. Amphiaraus vanished for ever and Zeus made him immortal (see SEVEN AGAINST THEBES). Aes.Sev.569; Apd.1.8.2, 1.9.13, 1.9.16, 3.6.2-3, 3.6.6-8, 3.7.2; Cic.ND.2.7; Dio.4.32.3; Hyg.Fab.70, 73; Pau.5.17.7, 8.45.7, 9.5.15; Pin.Nem.9.24, 10.9; Pin.Oly.6.13; Pin.Pyth.8.39ff.; Plu.GQ.23; Stat.Theb.3.470, 7.818ff., 8.1.

Ampycus 1 (Ampyx 4)

Son of Elatus 6. He married Chloris 2 and had by her a son Mopsus 1 (see below), who also was a seer. Hyg.Fab.14, 128.


King of the island he named after himself. Apollo gave him the power of augury. Andros was son of King Anius of Delos, also father of the WINEGROWERS. Ov.Met.13.649.

God of prophecy.


It is said that the MUSES gave Aristaeus his bride Autonoe 2, daughter of Cadmus, and taught him the arts of healing and of prophecy. He discovered the olive and the honey, competing with the latter against the wine of Dionysus 2, even though he joined this god in his Indian War. Yet Zeus, they say, gave the first prize to the wine. When his son Actaeon died he, out of grief, migrated to Sicily. Aristaeus was son of Apollo and of Cyrene, one of the NYMPHS. His children by Autonoe 2 were Actaeon, Macris, Charmus, and Callicarpus. It is said that after dwelling some time near Mount Haemus in Thrace he never was seen again by men and received immortal honours. Aristaeus, who was a seer, was instructed by the Centaur Chiron. Apd.3.4.4; Arg.2.500ff., 4.1131; Cic.ND.3.45; Dio.4.81.1-3, 4.82.6; Hes.The.977; Nonn.5.215, 13.253ff., 13.298; Pau.10.17.3; Vir.Geo.4.318

Asbolus 1

Asbolus 1 is the Centaur and seer who attempted in vain to dissuade his friends from engaging in battle against the LAPITHS at Pirithous' wedding (see also CENTAURS). Ov.Met.12.308; Hes.SH.185.

Asilas 2

A seer and ally of Aeneas in Italy. He was a master at divining from the entrails of sacrificed beasts. Vir.Aen.10.175

Diviner from Mycenae who declared that Troy was destined to be taken in a period of ten years. He advised Agamemnon to sacrifice Iphigenia in Aulis. Calchas' father was Thestor 1, also a seer (see below). Calchas died when he met a wiser diviner than himself, which happened when he met Mopsus 2, after the fall of Troy.


An Acarnanian, seer of Apollo. He established the cult of Apollo Carneus among the Dorians. He was thought to be a Peloponessian spy and was killed by the Heraclid Hippotes 2 (see HERACLIDES). Pau.3.13.4.

Apollo taught her the art of prophecy wishing to gain her favors, but as she refused him Apollo deprived her prophecy of the power to persuade. She warned the Trojans about the WOODEN HORSE.

Crius 2

A seer, in whose house Carneus was worshipped while Sparta was still Achaean. Son of Theocles, a Lacedaemonian. Pau.3.13.3.

Daphne 2

Daughter of Tiresias. Daphne 2 was captured by the EPIGONI after the fall of Thebes, and she was taken to Delphi where she became a prophetess. Dio.4.66.5-6.

Demo 1 (Sibyl 3)

Cumaean Sibyl. No oracle given by her was preserved. A stone urn in the sanctuary of Apollo kept her bones. She could have been the Sibyl that led Aeneas. Pau.10.12.8.

Ennomus 1

Seer and leader of the Mysians, Trojan allies (see TROJAN LEADERS). He was son of Arsinous 1, and was killed by Odysseus during the Trojan War. Apd.Ep.3.34ff.; Hom.Il.2.858; Ov.Met.13.260.

Glaucus 4

King Minos 2 of Crete, father of Glaucus 4, would not let the seer Polyidus 1 depart to Argos until he had taught Glaucus 4 the art of divination. Polyidus 1 taught him on compulsion, and when he was sailing away he bade Glaucus 4 spit into his mouth. Glaucus 4 did so and forgot the art of divination. While Glaucus 4 was still a child, in chasing a mouse he fell into a jar of honey and was drowned but later raised from the dead by Asclepius or Polyidus 1. Glaucus 4's mother was either Crete 1 or Pasiphae. Apd.3.3.1-2, 3.10.3; Hyg.Fab.49


Son of Mastor 2 and soothsayer from Ithaca who warned the SUITORS OF PENELOPE and was an old friend of the House of Odysseus. Hom.Od.2.157ff, 17.68.

Helenus 1 was forced to tell the Achaeans how Troy could be taken (see Trojan War). Helenus 1 was son of King Priam 1 of Troy and Hecabe 1, and became king of Epirus after the Trojan War. He married Achilles' wife Deidamia 1, and later Hector 1's wife Andromache, by whom he had a son Cestrinus. Apd.3.12.5; Apd.Ep.5.10, 6.13; Cic.ND.2.7; Eur.Hec.89; Hom.Il.6.76, 13.593; Hyg.Fab.90; Pau.1.11.1, 10.25.5; QS.8.254; Soph.Phi.606, 1338; Vir.Aen.3.295

Herophile (Sibyl 2)

Herophile became the second Sibyl at Delphi. She prophesied that Helen would be the ruin of both Asia and Europe. She was the daughter of Thedorus, a shepherd from Corycios (a rock on the coast of Asia Minor in Cilicia) and a Nymph. Herophile died near Troy (see also Sibyl 6 Cumaean). Pau.10.12.1-2, 12.6-7.


From Iamus descended the diviners called Iamides. He is a son of Apollo & Evadne 3, daughter of Poseidon & Pitana. Pau.6.2.5; Pin.Oly.6.28ff.


Iapis had powers of divination and music, given by Apollo, and applied curative herbs to Aeneas' wound. He was son of Iasus 4. Vir.Aen.12.391.

Idmon 2

This seer died during the voyage of the ARGONAUTS. Some say he was killed by a boar in the land of the Mariandynians, people inhabiting an area of the southern coast of the Black Sea, but others say he died of disease. Idmon 2 was son of Cyrene, either by Apollo or by Abas 3, son of Melampus 1 (see below). Apd.1.9.23; Arg.2.815ff.; Hyg.Fab.14, 17, 248; Nonn.38.29; Val.1.360, 5.2.

Laocoon 2, like Cassandra, warned the Trojans against the WOODEN HORSE. He and his sons Antiphantes and Thymbraeus 1, were killed by two serpents that Apollo or Athena sent from Tenedos, the island off the coast of the Troad. Laocoon 2 was son of Acoetes 1. Apd.Ep.5.17; Hyg.Fab.135; QS.12.391; SI.1; Vir.Aen.2.214ff.

Lavinia 3

Lavinia 3 is said to have embarked in Delos with the exiled Trojans after having been given by her father Anius to Aeneas as a prophetess and a wise woman. She died of illness at the time when Aeneas was building a city in Italy and some say he called it Lavinium after her. DH.1.59.3.

Maeon 1

This seer was among the Thebans who laid an ambush for Tydeus 2 when he returned from Thebes. Tydeus 2 killed all the fifty armed men who waited for him as he went away from Thebes, except Maeon 1, who later killed himself. He was son of Haemon 1 and Antigone 2 (but see additional notes about him at Antigone 2). Apd.3.6.5; Hom.Il.4.395; Hyg.Fab.72; Stat.Theb.2.693, 3.87.

Manto 1

Seeress, priestess of Apollo and daughter of Tiresias. By Alcmaeon 1 she was mother of Amphilochus 2 and Tisiphone 2. By Rhacius she had Mopsus 2; and by Mincius she became mother of Ocnus 2. Apd.3.7.7; EPIG.3; Hes.Mel.1; Hyg.Fab.128; Pau.7.3.1, 9.33.2, 9.36.2; Stat.Theb.4.463ff., 10.639; Strab.9.5.22, 14.1.27; Vir.Aen.10.191.

Melampus 1

An excellent soothsayer able to understand the language of birds and worms. He was the first to devise a cure by means of drugs and purifications. Son of Amythaon 1, son of Cretheus 1, son of Aeolus 1, son of Hellen 1, son of Deucalion 1, the man who survived the Flood. Melampus 1 became king of Argos. Melampus 1's wife was either Iphianira 1 or Pero 2; by one of them he had children: Abas 3, Antiphates 3, Mantius, Bias 5, Pronoe 3, Manto 3, and Thiodamas 3. Apd.1.9.11-13, 2.2.2; Dio.4.68.3-5; Hdt.2.49; Hes.GE.12; Hom.Od.15.242; Prop.2.4.51-53; Stat.Theb.3.453, 8.279; Vir.Geo.3.550.

Merops 1

This is the seer who taught his grandson Aesacus 1 (see above) the interpretation of dreams. He tried in vain to dissuade his sons from risking their lives in war at Troy. Merops 1 was father of Arisbe, Adrastus 3, Amphius 1, and Clite 2. Apd.3.12.5; Apd.Ep.3.35; Arg.1.975; Hom.Il.2.828ff.

Mopsus 1

Son of Ampycus 1 (see above), also a seer. He is one of the ARGONAUTS and, during the voyage, was killed by a serpent while wandering at the furthest ends of Libya. Yet he was among those who fought against the CENTAURS at Pirithous' wedding, and is also found among the CALYDONIAN HUNTERS. AO.948; Arg.1.80, 4.1502ff.; Hes.SH.181; Hyg.Fab.14, 173; Ov.Met.12.456; Stat.Theb.5.417; Strab.9.5.22; Val.1.384, 3.420.

Mopsus 2

This is the seer (son of Manto 1, daughter of Tiresias) who drove the Carians out of their country. He defeated Calchas in the art of divination. Mopsus 2 was killed in a fight with his half-brother Amphilochus 2 (they killed each other). Apd.Ep.4.19, 6.3; Hes.Mel.1; Pau.7.3.1; Strab.9.5.22, 14.1.27, 14.5.16.


King over the Molossians and a good seer. The whole of his family were attacked by robbers who put fire to their buildings, but before the flames took him Zeus turned him into a sparrow hawk. Father by Lelante of Alcander 1, Megaletor, Philaeus 2, and Hyperippe 3. Munichus was son of Dryas 4. Lib.Met.14.


An Hyperborean, who together with Pagasus 1 and Agyieus, established the oracle of Apollo at Delphi. He was also the first to prophesy there. Pau.10.5.7-8.

King and seer from Salmydessus in Thrace who had lost the sight of both eyes. He is variously alleged to have been blinded by the gods for foretelling men the future; or by Boreas 1 (see WINDS) and the ARGONAUTS because he blinded his own sons at the instigation of their stepmother; or by Poseidon, because he revealed to the children of Phrixus 1 how they could sail from Colchis to Greece (see also ARGONAUTS).

Pholus 1

Pholus 1 was more skilled in prophecy than other CENTAURS. The mountain Pholoe, in eastern Elis near the Arcadian border, was named after him. Pholus 1 let fall one of the poisoned arrows of Heracles 1 on his foot and died. He was son of Silenus and a Meliad Nymph (see also CENTAURS and CONSTELLATIONS). Apd.2.5.4; Dio.4.12.3, 4.12.6-8; Hyg.Ast.2.38; Ov.Met.12.306.

Phrasius 2

Phrasius 2 was a seer, immigrant from Cyprus in Egypt, who prescribed human sacrifices as a remedy for dearth. He was in fact the first to be sacrificed by King Busiris 2 of Egypt, following his own prescription. Apd.2.5.11.

Polyidus 1

Son of Coeranus 1, son of Abas 3, son of Melampus 1 (see above this last name and Glaucus 4). Polyidus 1 is father of Euchenor 2, Manto 2, and Astycratea. Glaucus 4 (son of Minos 2), while he was yet a child, in chasing a mouse fell into a jar of honey and was drowned. On his disappearance his father made a great search, but only Polyidus 1 was able to find him by means of divination. But Minos 2 wanted his son alive, so Polyidus 1, applying an herb to the body of Glaucus 4, raised him from the dead. Apd.3.3.1; Hom.Il.13.663; Hyg.Fab.128; Pau.1.43.5.

Polyphides 2

Polyphides 2 was made a seer by Apollo, and has been called the best of mortals, after Amphiaraus' death (see this name above). Polyphides 2 was son of Mantius, son of Melampus 1 (see above), and father of Theoclymenus 1 (see below). Hom.Od.15.249ff.

Son of Poseidon. An Old Man of the Sea. A seer who knows past, present and future but is reluctant to answer questions. By his art he changed his real figure for a false semblance, but soon returned to his true form.


An ally king of king Turnus against Aeneas in Italy, who also was a seer. He was killed by Nisus 3, one of the participants in the games held by Aeneas in Sicily and the lover of Euryalus 7, another participant in the same games. Vir.Aen.9.325.

Sabbe (Sibyl 4)

A seeress who grew up among the Hebrews in Palestine, though some call her Babylonian and others Egyptian. She was the daughter of Berosus & Erymanthe. Pau.10.12.9.

Scirus 1

Scirus 1 was a seer who came from Dodona at the time of the war between Eleusis and Athens. He was killed in this war, and the place Scirum near Eleusis was named after him. Pau.1.36.4.

Sibyl 1

Sibyl is a surname, but this daughter of Zeus & Lamia 1 is the first woman who chanted the oracles at Delphi. Lamia 1 is daughter of Poseidon. Pau.10.12.1.

Sibyl 5 Samian

Another seeress. Hyg.Fab.128.



This is the seer who warned the Cyclops Polyphemus 2 that a man called Odysseus would rob him of his sight. Telemus is son of Eurymus. Hom.Od.9.509; Ov.Met.13.770.

Theoclymenus 1

This is the seer who, having killed a man in Argos, sought sanctuary with Odysseus' son Telemachus when he was about to sail back to Ithaca. Some say he was son of Polyphides 2 (see above), but others say he was son of Thestor 1 (see below). Hom.Od.15.249ff.; Hyg.Fab.128.

Thestor 1

Thestor 1's daughter Theonoe 1 was stolen by pirates. Having gone in search of her, Thestor 1 came, as a result of shipwreck, to Caria where he reunited with her after going through certain difficult circumstances. Father of Calchas (see above), Leucippe 3, Theonoe 1, and Theoclymenus 1. Hyg.Fab.97, 128, 190.

Thiodamas 3

Son of Melampus 1 (see above) and seer who followed Adrastus 1 in his campaign of the SEVEN AGAINST THEBES. His mother was Iphianira 1, daughter of Megapenthes 2, son of Proetus 1, twin brother of Acrisius, father of Danae. Dio.4.68.3-5; Stat.Theb.8.279.

Tiresias was blinded by Hera for saying that women enjoy the pleasures of love ten times more than men, but was given by Zeus the art of soothsaying which he kept even in the Underworld.


An augur in Turnus' army against Aeneas in Italy, and a truce-breaker. He was killed by Aeneas' soldiers. Vir.Aen.11.429, 12.258ff., 12.460.


A seer and ally of Perses 3 against Aeetes. Val.6.115.


This is the prophetess at Delphi who refused to give an answer to Heracles 1 (see 43, Death of Iphitus 1 at Heracles 1). Pau.10.13.8.

Related sections  

See above.