In preparing to write a novel about more than a few characters who can see the future, it’s been essential to read about the past.
The Seer in Ancient Greece by Michael Attyah Flower, University of California Press, 2009
Michael Attyah Flower has presented a very thorough description of a predominantly obsolete profession – that of seer. Using a wide range of sources from the period of Classical Greece, Mr. Flower weaves a remarkably complete tapestry of the career of those who told the future. There are, as one might suppose, a number of Greek terms throughout the book but the author keeps them clear for the reader.
The details of the craft of the seer, the expectations of potential clients, and the societal climate in which the seer sought employment are all provided in a chiefly coherent manner. A later chapter describes the seer’s role in warfare. The author does not neglect the women who chose this profession, either.
The amount of research that went into this book is obvious and respectable. Where there is scant data, Mr. Flower is honest about speculation. He did not permit the work to wander into hypothesis without at least one historical source to serve as a foundation.
This is not a book about the seers of mythology, such as Teiresias or Melampus, although they are mentioned to make several points about seers in general. The author even takes the time to differentiate between seers and comparable professions, such as priest and magician. After reading The Seer in Ancient Greece, it is easy to imagine how they must have lived and conducted their business. A list of fees and charges is not included nor are precise rituals described.
The timeline chosen the research is before the era I’ve chosen for A Song Heard in the Future. Nonetheless, it is going to prove to be a strong resource for the novel.