After we had experienced that archeological sites were open to visit, we were happy that we could also visit Delphi and the famous oracle. Delphi lies at the slope of Mount Parnassus, North of the Gulf of Corinth. What is the archeological site today was under cover and even had a village on top not so long ago. The villagers had to be convinced to move to a different location before excavations could start.
The myth goes that Zeus decided to establish an oracle at the center of the world. In order to find the suitable location, he let loose two eagles, one flying towards the East and the second towards the West. The two eagles met above Delphi indicating that this was the center of the world and navel of the earth.
Delphi is well known for its oracle, where Pythia, a high priestess of the Temple of Apollo, made here prophecies. She had to be an older woman of blameless life chosen from among the peasants of the area. Pythia sat on a tripod in the sunken adyton (enclosed inner sanctum of the temple) over an opening in the earth where fumes might have put her in a kind of trance. Her ravings were “translated” by the priests of the temple.
The oracle of Delphi initially only gave information once a year on the birthday of Apollo, and later on the seventh day of every month in summer. In winter it took a break for three months.
Before the oracle spoke, it needed an omen: a high priest sprinkled a young goat with ice-cold water. If she stayed calm, the oracle for that day was canceled and those seeking advice had to come back a month later. If the goat winced, it was slaughtered as a sacrificial animal. Now the prophecies could begin.
The Delphic oracle exerted considerable influence throughout the Greek world, and was consulted before all major undertakings including wars and the founding of colonies. One of the famous prophecies we remembered, was the oracle King Croesus requested before he went against the Persian king Cyrus II. He was told that he will destroy a great empire. Croesus referred this prophecy to the Persian Empire, but in the end he destroyed his own when he lost the war and his life.
As we couldn’t ask the oracle any questions, we still don’t know where we will travel to this year. Africa, America or Asia – what would you suggest?
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