Greece: Oracle of Delphi

Priestess of Delphi. This painting by John Meier Collier (1850-1934) was painted in 1891. It is in the Public Domain in the United States because it was first exhibited prior to 1923.
Priestess of Delphi. This painting by John Meier Collier (1850-1934) was painted in 1891. It is in the Public Domain in the United States because it was first exhibited prior to 1923. | Source

What is the an oracle?

An oracle is a priest or priestess through which a deity (god) speaks. The term also describes the location from which the person offers their predictions.


What is the oracle of Delphi?

The Oracle of Delphi, also known as Pithia, was the Priestess at the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, Greece. Women of the town of Delphi were selected for this honor. The predictions exposited by the Priestess were said to come directly from the god Apollo.


Apollo and Artemis, Children of Zeus

Apollo and his twin sister Artemis, were the children of the Greek god Zeus. They are believed to have been born on the small island of Delos, which is located near the island of Mýkonos in the Cycladic archipelago.

Where is Delphi located?

Delphi is a town in central Greece with a popluation of approximately 1500 residents. It is located in the Phocis valley at the southwest base of Mount Parnassus. The mountain is believed in Greek mythology to have been sacred to the god Apollo. It is also said to have been the home of the Nine Muses, goddesses who inspired music, singing, and dance.

Traveling to Delphi

My boyfriend and I vacationed in Greece several years ago, We spent a few days on Mýkonos and also took a day trip to Delos.

We took a ferry from the port at Mýkonos Town to Piraeus on the mainland. From the port of Piraeus, we took a train the Athens. While in Athens, we hired a car and driver to take us to the town of Delphi and the ancient Oracle of Delphi.

The Nine Muses

Muse Name
Patronage
Calliope (beautiful voice)
Muse of epic poetry
Clio (proclaimer)
Muse of history
Erato (passionate)
Muse of lyric poetry about love and eroticism
Euterpe (pleasure giver)
Muse of lyric poetry and music
Melpomene (songstress)
Muse of tragedy
Polyhymnia (many songs)
Muse of sacred hymns
Terpsichore (rejoicing in the dance)
Muse of dancing and choral singing
Thalia (flourishing)
Muse of comedy and pastoral poetry
Urania (mountain queen)
Muse of astronomy and astrology
show route and directions
D markerMount Parnassus -
[get directions]

History of the Oracle of Delphi

There was an oracle at the base of Mount Parnassus long before pilgrimages to the Pithia began. A shepherd was herding his goats one day and noticed a fissure (a crack) in the ground. His goats, standing beside this crack in the ground, were acting in an unusual manner.

Accounts differ at this point. The shepherd either fell into the fissure and saw a goddess at the bottom of the chasm, or he merely leaned over and looked down. At any rate, the shepherd breathed in the fumes that were being emitted from the fissure. He began dancing in a crazy manner and was then able to predict future events.

Word of the shepherd who became an oracle soon spread. Many pilgrims traveled to Delphi. Some pilgrims fell into the chasm. Many people suddenly became oracles and were predicting. the future.

It was decided, somewhere around 1400 BC, that there should only be one Oracle of Delphi. A woman in the town was selected for this honor. A three-legged stool was constructed for the woman to sit on. The painting at the beginning of this article shows the woman sitting on the stool, breathing in the fumes being emitted from the fissure.

The god Apollo conquered the area of Delphi, slaying a serpent named Python which was owned by the Earth Mother Gaia. In honor of slaying Python, the Priestess of Delphi was renamed Pythia. A temple was built in Apollo's honor at the site.

A Priestess of Delphi or Pythia—an Oracle of Delphi—speaking the words of Apollo, predicted the future at the Temple of Apollo until approximately 381 AD.

What caused the Oracle of Delphi's predictions?

History tells us that fumes were being emitted from the fissure, the crack in the earth. Scientists have discovered that two earthquake faults intersect directly below the place where the Oracle of Delphi was seated. When eathquake faults intersect, the ground becomes porous, and water and gases can seep in.

Hallucinogenic gases from a nearby spring became trapped in the porous rock. The gases rose to the surface. This is what the shepherd and the early pilgrims breathed. It's what the women who were the Oracle of Delphi for nearly 1800 years breathed. The shepherd, the pilgrims, and the Oracle of Delphi was all high.

Have you ever visited Delphi, Greece?

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Comments 28 comments

fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Daisy...your many history and geographical hubs are always so educational. The energies you expend on research is apparent and appreciated.

I have friends here, who are from Greece originally and of course, go back often to their native country. I've been lucky enough to see all the fabulous photos they bring back and I listen to all their tales of Greece.

You are so fortunate to have actually visited Greece.....must have been quite an experience. UP++


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Paula (fpherj48),

Thanks for reading my Hub and commenting in it. When we were living and working in Sweden several years ago, we were fortunate in that we went on a 10-day vacation to mainland Greece and the islands in the Cycladic archipelago.

There is so much beauty and history in Greece. If you have time, you might like to read my Hubs about both Athens and the Cyclades group of islands.


alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

This is on my list of places to see if I ever visit Greece. Whether you believe in the powers of the oracle or not, it's such an influential concept to Western culture. Voting this Up and Interesting.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Aurelio,

Thanks for reading and commenting in another of my Hubs. I know that you've traveled quite a bit. I hope you do get to add Greece to your list of places visited.

I'm sometimes amazed that we pulled off a trip to Delphi. When we were living and working in Stockholm, Sweden, we decided to go to Greece on vacation. I found a travel agency in Athens, and arranged for the people there to make our major transportation arrangements. Somehow, in my Internet searches, I found a father and son team who took visitors on private tours out of Athens. If it hadn't been for this small family business, I don't think we could have gotten to Delphi.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

AWesome hub Daisy. I really love to read about Greek gods and goddesses as well as their stories about oracles. Great job!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

unknown spy,

It's nice to "see" you again. Thanks for reading and commenting in my Hub. I've written three video Hubs about Greece and have also created a quiz about the country.

Since you like reading about Greek gods and goddesses, you might enjoy reading my article about Athens.


kelleyward 4 years ago

Daisy this is another fantastic hub in your series of geography hubs. Voted up and shared! Kelley


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Kelley,

Thanks so much for reading and commenting in another of my Hubs. I appreciate your continued support.

At the same time that I published this article, I published one about Athens, and I added a video to the Hub about the Cycladic islands that I published last month.


Vellur profile image

Vellur 4 years ago from Dubai

Very interesting, great hub. Voted up.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Nithya (Vellur),

Thanks for reading and commenting in another of my Hubs. I'm glad you enjoyed reading this.


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

Daisy, another interesting Greek hub - amazing to think of the Oracle of Delphi thinking she was predicting the future when she might have just been getting high :o) (without realising it!).

Voted up etc.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Julie,

Thanks for reading another of my articles and commenting in it. The Oracle of Delphi made predictions for tens of hundreds of years. No one knew during all that time that the women who were the Oracle were probably stoned.


Docmo profile image

Docmo 4 years ago from UK

Great hub Daisy - I am sure you've seen my write up on Delphic oracle in my anatomy hub. I love the listing of the muses and their attributes too. Great info!


DS Duby profile image

DS Duby 4 years ago from United States, Illinois

I love mythology especially greek and egyption. You did very good on this article I can't wait to go back and read the others in the series.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Mohan (Docmo),

Thanks for reading and commenting in another of my Hubs. I appreciate your continued support.

You're slipping, Mohan. You didn't hover over the link in the second paragraph that reads *Priestess at the Temple of Apollo,* did you?!?

To whose Hub does that link lead, polymath?


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

DS Duby,

It's nice to meet you. Thanks for reading my article and commenting in it. I'm glad you enjoyed it. After you read the other two articles in the series, you might want to take my Greece quiz.


remaniki profile image

remaniki 4 years ago from Chennai, India

This is wonderful information Daisy. Very interesting too. Sharing and tweeting it. Cheers, Rema.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Rema (remaniki),

Thanks for viewing my video, reading my article, and commenting. Thanks, too, for sharing and tweeting it. I appreciate your support.


midget38 profile image

midget38 3 years ago from Singapore

Daisy, you have reminded me of the Shakespearean Drama, The Winter's Tale, where the oracle became an important voice. Thanks for sharing this, which I share as well.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Michelle (midget38),

Thanks for viewing my video, reading my article, and commenting. Thanks, too, for sharing my Hub.

I had read of the Oracle at Delphi when I was in school. I'm so glad we were able to hire a car and driver to take us to Delphi when we vacationed in Greece several years ago.


Mike Robbers profile image

Mike Robbers 3 years ago from London

There is a story that says that the Great Alexander was displeased by the generality of Pythia's predictions when he met her and he almost kicked her out of the room or something. He was 19 years old and he, more or less, expected something more concrete than Pythia's ambiguities concerning his future victories at war and all..

What a story!

Excellent hub. Voted up.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Mike,

It's nice to "see" you again. Thanks for viewing my video, reading my article, and commenting.

Thanks for including the anecdote about Alexander the Great. I wonder if history would have evolved differently if Pythia's predictions had been more detailed.


DDE profile image

DDE 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Greece: Oracle of Delphi an educational piece of work here and the photos are superb. I enjoyed learning and reading well done!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Devika (DDE),

Thanks for reading my article and posting your comment. I hope you have an opportunity to read the other articles in my series of Greece Hubs.


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 14 months ago from California

Beautiful hub Daisy!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 14 months ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

Audrey,

I'm glad you enjoyed reading my Hub. It was very exciting visiting Delphi.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 14 months ago from Queensland Australia

Thi was all extremely interesting Daisy. I would love to go to Greece one day and visit Delphi among other place.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 14 months ago from Orange County (Southern California) Author

John (Jodah),

Thanks for reading my article and adding your comment. Planning our trip to Greece was an adventure. We were working in Stockholm, Sweden and were given the opportunity to take a 10-day vacation. We both had Greece on our travel bucket lists, so we decided to see if I could make the arrangements with a travel agency in Athens to get us from Stockholm to Copenhagen to Mykonos to Athens.

Somewhere during our trip planning we heard about a tour operator who offered customized day trips. I'm glad we decided to go to Delphi.

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