Divine Intervention


The ancient Greeks and Romans expected their gods to meddle in their affairs and to intervene in their daily lives by answering their prayers and guiding their deeds. They saw proof of divine intervention in natural phenomena, such as earthquakes, storms and the cycle of the seasons; they saw divine deeds in the nature of certain plants and animals – and indeed in the very nature of the landscape. Early stories about Athens, for example, credit the gods with bringing wine-making to the city (as well as the olives gifted by Athena).

To ignore messages from the gods – brought via priests, dreams, the flight of birds, oracles or omens – could risk divine wrath. The Greeks and Romans understood from mythology that the gods had no real concern for humankind. However, they hoped that by acts of respect and piety, such as setting up sanctuaries, temples and shrines, or through small offerings and sacrifices, they might receive some reciprocal favour from the gods.