Friday, 28 September 2018

The Oracle of Delphi - Pythia

Dating to 1400 BC, the Oracle of Delphi was the most important shrine in Greece. Built around a sacred spring, Delphi was considered to be the omphalos - the center of the world.
Delphi was inhabited since Mycenaean times (14th - 11th c. B.C.) by small settlements who were dedicated to the Mother Earth deity. The worship of Apollo as the god of light, harmony, and order was established between the 11th and 9th centuries. Slowly over the next five centuries the sanctuary grew in size and importance.

During the 8th c. B.C. Delphi became internationally known for the oracular powers of Pythia.
The ancient people of the Mediterranean had such faith in Pythia's view of the future that no major decision was made without consulting the Oracle of Delphi first. Greek and foreign dignitaries, heads of state, and common folk made the pilgrimage to the Delphi sanctuary, and paid great sums for Pythia's oracles. Since the sanctuary only served the public a few days over nine months out of the year, great sums were paid by the more affluent to bypass the line of pilgrims.
Pythia entered the inner chamber of the temple, sat on a tripod and inhaled the light hydrocarbon gasses that escaped from a chasm on the porous earth. After falling into a trance, she muttered words incomprehensible to mere mortals. The priests of the sanctuary then interpreted her oracles in a common language and delivered them to those who had requested them. The oracles were always open to interpretation and often signified dual and opposing meanings.

In 356 B.C. the Spartans captured the sanctuary of Delphi, and stripped the temples. In 338 B.C. Philip of Macedon defeated the combined armies of the Athenians and the Spartans. In 191 B.C. the sanctuary of Delphi fell into Roman hands. The Oracle of Delphi lost its influence over the next few centuries as Apollo's worship was replaced by a new religion imported from the East: Christianity.