Clay model of a sheep’s liver used for instruction in liver divination in a Babylonian Temple School, c. 2000 B.C.
|The ancient world offered up a myriad of ways of telling the future and divining the will of the gods. In second-millennium B.C. Mesopotamia, professional oracle-priests would ritually sacrifice an animal and read the it's entrails (a process called extispicy). The priests chose to inspect and evaluate a sacrificed animal’s liver, which was deemed the location of the soul and number-one site for all internal activity. Divining by inspecting the liver was called hepatomancy.|
In Ancient Rome, a haruspex was a person trained to practice this form of divination. On behalf of the person who brought the animal to the temple, the priests asked the gods a question; the gods inscribed the answer in the entrails. Over the centuries, liver models became popular across the ancient Near East, from Assyria to Babylonia, Anatolia to Cyprus. Rich kings often split up his multiple diviners into groups so they couldn’t conspire to lie to him. It was common for kings to order omens until they got the answer they wanted.|