Oracles in ancient Greece – definition of a Greek oracle
Prophecy and premonition played a major role in Greek Mythology. The people of Greece traveled far and wide to grasp a piece of the truth or learn of their future. These things could be given to them through prophecies from the gods’ mouthpieces at shrines called oracles. May 27, · An oracle was a gateway to knowing the will of the gods, a cosmic information super highway for understanding what lay ahead. The most famous oracle was the priestess of the temple of Apollo at the sanctuary of Delphi.
In such an environment, it made sense for mortals to find out what the gods had in store. It was here that the practice of oracular consultation came into its own. The most famous oracle was the priestess of the temple of Apollo at the sanctuary of Delphi. Individuals, cities and kings would come from across the ancient world to put their questions about their future plans to the Delphic oracle and wait to receive a response about what the gods thought of them.
But consultants had to be careful how they interpreted the, often unclear, answers of the oracle. The oracle replied that if he went to war, a great kingdom would fall. In north western Greece was the oracular site of Dodona, where consultants wrote their questions on small lead tablets, which still survive today.
In the deserts of Egypt, at the oasis of Siwah, lay the oracle of Ammon, which Alexander the Great make the journey to visit during his conquests. Which one to listen to, however, was another matter! An oracle was a gateway to knowing the will of the gods, a cosmic information super highway for understanding what lay ahead.
So important was this sanctuary and its oracle that Delphi even became known as the omphalos — the belly button — of the ancient Greek world. Delphi became so busy that long queues would form on the certain days of the month on which the priestess could be consulted and, in later times, several oracular priestesses would operate at once. King Croesus of Lydia modern-day south-western Turkey asked the oracle whether or not he should go to war on his neighbouring kingdom.
But Delphi was not the only site of oracular consultation in ancient Greece. In finding their way in life, the ancient Greeks thus how to hack a security system many sources of advice to turn to.
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How did a Greek oracle predict the future?
An oracle was a person (usually a priest or priestess) through whom the gods spoke. Normally they would offer prophecies, and such prophecies were much valued, so the oracles held an esteemed position in Greek society. 67 views. Jul 16, · Definition of an oracle: A Greek oracle can be the god who sends messages about the future, the priest or priestess who receives the messages from the god, or the place where that happens. Delphi and Dodona were famous Greek oracles. The role of The Oracle of Apollo in Greek Mythology and its relevance to Sophocles' Oedipus The King. Name: Course: Technology Institution: Abstract Apollo is seen to actively intervene in Oedipus destiny fulfillment through oracles and significantly in onstage action. Rather than actually punishing him for any kind of offense committed, the god's main purpose appears to impress upon king Oedipus his .
The Oracle at Delphi was an ancient shrine on the mainland of Greece, a cult sanctuary to the god Apollo where for over 1, years, people could consult the gods. The earliest surviving story about the founding of the Delphic oracle is in the Pythian section of the " Homeric Hymn to Apollo ," probably written in the sixth century BCE. The tale says that one of the first tasks of the newborn god Apollo was to set up his oracular shrine.
In his search, Apollo first stopped at Telphousa near Haliartos, but the nymph there didn't want to share her spring, and instead, she urged Apollo on to Mount Parnassos. There, Apollo found the place for the future Delphic oracle, but it was guarded by a fearsome dragon named Python. Apollo killed the dragon, and then returned to Telphousa, punishing the nymph for not warning him about Python by subordinating her cult to his.
To find a suitable priest class to tend the shrine, Apollo turned himself into a massive dolphin and leaped onto the deck of a Cretan ship. Supernatural winds blew the ship into the Corinthian gulf and when they reached the mainland at Delphi, Apollo revealed himself and ordered the men to establish a cult there.
He promised them that if they performed the right sacrifices, he would speak to them—basically, he told them "if you build it, I will come. While most of the priests at Delphi were men, the one who actually channeled Apollo was a woman—an ordinary woman chosen when necessary at the Festival of the Stepteria from the village of Delphi by the Amphictyonic League an association of neighboring states.
The Pythia served for life and remained chaste throughout her service. On the day when visitors came to get her advice, the priests hosia would lead the current Pythia from her secluded home to the Castalia spring, where she would purify herself, and then she would slowly ascend to the temple.
At the entrance, the hosia offered her a cup of holy water from the spring, then she entered and descended to the adyton and took a seat on the tripod. The Pythia breathed in the sweet and aromatic gasses pneuma , and achieved a trance-like state. The head priest relayed questions from the visitors, and the Pythia responded in an altered voice, sometimes chanting, sometimes singing, sometimes in wordplay. The priest-interpreters prophetai then deciphered her words and provided them to the visitors in hexameter poetry.
The Roman historian Plutarch 45— CE acted as the head priest at Delphi and he reported that during her readings, the Pythia was ecstatic, sometimes considerably agitated, bounding and leaping about, speaking in a harsh voice, and intensely salivating. Sometimes she fainted, and sometimes she died. Modern geologists investigating the fissures in Delphi have measured the substances emanating from the crack as a potent combination of ethane, methane, ethylene, and benzene.
Other possible hallucinogenic substances that might have helped the Pythia achieve her trance have been suggested by various scholars, such as laurel leaves probably oleander ; and fermented honey.
Whatever created her connection to Apollo, the Pythia was consulted by anyone, rulers to common people, anyone who could make the journey, provide the necessary monetary and sacrificial offerings, and perform the required rituals. Pilgrims would travel for weeks to get to Delphi on time, mostly by boat. They would disembark at Krisa and climb the steep path to the temple.
Once there, they participated in several ritual procedures. Each pilgrim paid a fee and offered a goat to be sacrificed. Water from the spring was sprinkled on the goat's head, and if the goat nodded or shook its head, that was seen as a sign that Apollo was willing to pass along some advice. The oracle at Delphi was not the only oracle in Greek mythology, but it was the most important and appears in several related tales including that of Herakles who visited and got into a battle with Apollo when he attempted to steal the tripod; and Xerxes who was driven off by Apollo.
The site wasn't always considered sacred—Phocians plundered the temple in BCE, as did the Gallic chieftain Brennus d. The religious sanctuary at Delphi contains the ruins of four major temples, multiple sanctuaries, a gymnasium and amphitheater where the quadrennial Pythian games were performed, and several treasuries where offerings to the Pythia were stored.
Historically, statues of the gods and other works of art were at Delphi, including golden images of two eagles or swans or ravens , plundered from Delphi by Phocian invaders in BCE.
The archaeological remains of Apollo's temple where the Pythia met Apollo were built in the 4th century BCE and earlier temple remnants date to the 6th and 7th centuries BCE. According to the myth, Delphi was chosen because it was the site of the omphalos , the navel of the world. The omphalos was discovered by Zeus, who sent out two eagles or swans or ravens from opposite ends of the earth.
The eagles met in the sky above Delphi, and the location was marked by a conical stone shaped like a beehive. Inside Apollo's temple was a hidden entryway cella in the floor, where the Pythia entered the adyton "forbidden place" in the basement of the temple.
There, a tripod three-legged stool stood over a fissure in the bedrock that emitted gases, the " pneuma ," sweet and aromatic emanations that led the Pythia into her trance. The Pythia sat on the tripod and breathed in the gases to reach an altered state of consciousness where she could commune with Apollo.
And in a trancelike state, she answered enquirers' questions. Some scholars believe that the Delphic oracle was established long before the 6th century, a cult at least as old as the end of the 9th century BCE, and perhaps dated to the Mycenaean period — BCE.
There are other Mycenaean ruins at Delphi, and the mention of slaying a dragon or snake has been interpreted as documenting the overthrow of an older, female-based cult by the patriarchal Greek religion. In later historical references, that story is wrapped into a tale of the oracle's origins: Delphi was established by the earth goddess Gaia , who passed it to her daughter Themis and then to the Titan Phoibe, who passed it on to her grandson Apollo.
There are multiple strands of evidence that a woman-centered mystery cult existed in the Mediterranean region long before the Greeks. A late remnant of that cult was known as the ecstatic Dionysian Mysteries.
The religious sanctuary of Delphi is perched on the south slope of the foothills of Mount Parnassos, where limestone cliffs form a natural amphitheater above the Amphissa valley and the Gulf of Itea.
The site is approached only by a steep and winding path from the shoreline. The oracle was available for consultation one day each month for nine months in a year—Apollo did not come to Delphi in the winters when Dionysus was in residence. The day was called Apollo's Day, the seventh day after the full moon in spring, summer, and fall.
Other sources suggest different frequencies: every month, or only once a year. Share Flipboard Email. Kris Hirst. Archaeology Expert. Kris Hirst is an archaeologist with 30 years of field experience. Her work has appeared in scholarly publications such as Archaeology Online and Science. Twitter Twitter. Updated November 09, The Pythia, who channeled Apollo, served for life and remained chaste throughout her service. Cite this Article Format.