Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The Oracle at Delphi

This week's fascinating programme In Our Time discusses the Delphic Oracle with Paul Cartledge, A G Leventis Professor of Greek Culture at Cambridge University; Edith Hall, Professor of Classics and Drama at Royal Holloway, University of London and Nick Lowe, Reader in Classical Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Visiting and consulting the oracle at Delphi is one of the practices identified by Herodotus functioning to unite the Greeks.

It seems that the experience of visiting the Oracle involved a great deal of expense, travel, bathing in preparation, ascent to the sanctuary and within the sanctuary, descent to an area where the priestess of Apollo (the Pythia) sat on a tripod (itself over a chasm from which gases arose) for consultation. A local citizen of Delphi acted as your sponsor for the visit. Questions might be: How shall I get good children? Shall I be victorious? Shall I marry? Should I attack Troy (Agamemnon)? Questions were often framed so as to achieve the answer the questioner wanted. Answers to questions of supplicants are given in hexameters.  Commentators noted how unusual it was for a female to give voice to a male god (Apollo).

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