Greece: Oracle of Delphi
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
Calliope (beautiful voice)
Muse of epic poetry
Muse of history
Muse of lyric poetry about love and eroticism
Euterpe (pleasure giver)
Muse of lyric poetry and music
Muse of tragedy
Polyhymnia (many songs)
Muse of sacred hymns
Terpsichore (rejoicing in the dance)
Muse of dancing and choral singing
Muse of comedy and pastoral poetry
Urania (mountain queen)
Muse of astronomy and astrology
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?See results without voting
More by this Author
Life imitates art, and art imitates life. Read about the "real" pirates of Penzance and Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance.
A country’s capital city is, in most cases, the official seat of government, as defined by law or the country’s constitution. Learn what the capital cities are of the 50 countries in Europe.
The MRI procedure can be very scary and upsetting for an anxious or claustrophobic person. This article offers information and coping methods to help you cope with your anxiety.