The Oracle at Delphi is a piece of architecture that has been of great interest to historians and archaeologists of our time. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this location is that even though it is considered to have a recurring role in various Greek and Roman mythologies, the actual structure is still there and various artifacts related to the structure have been and continue to be found even today. The Greek and Roman mythologies have been reduced to just that, being mythologies, and a study of sites such as the Delphi Oracle have revealed that what we consider as mythologies today were in fact actual theologies for the people in ancient Greece. This paper shall take a look at what the Delphi Oracle stands for and how it came to be such an important part of history.
The Delphi Oracle is so called because it is located at Delphi. This oracle is said to be dedicated to Apollo and it was used as a place of sanctuary and worship. Many artifacts have been found at this location that point to the fact that many different kinds of pottery and bronze artifacts have been found at this location in addition to many high value goods that point to the fact that the oracle at Delphi was a place of worship for a wide range of people (Cook).
According to the myths, a priestess used to reside at the Delphi oracle, called Pythia. Pythia was originally a peasant but she became the priestess or the prophetess when she was intoxicated by the fumes that rose from Python, who was slain by Apollo in battle (Douglas; Fontenrose). This caused Apollo to speak through her and prophesize in the form of riddles. These riddles were then interpreted by the priests and other learned men of the village. The oracle at Delphi was a very popular place for the local people and they used to seek the oracle's council on various issues, including political matters, public policies, as well as personal problems.
This oracle was first built in the 6th century B.C and it has been rebuilt twice after that because it was destroyed each time. The most interesting part about this oracle is its location and position. Throughout the times, Delphi has been a place of political and social significance for Greece. Even though there were many different factions and schools of thoughts that prevailed in Greece during the ages, Delphi has always been seen as the place where the various kinds of people could come together and have a peaceful meeting place. The Amphictyonic league used to meet here. This league is considered to be a very important league of various Greek city-states. The Pythian games were also held at this location. Many people used to visit this site from all over the country and they all used to bring rich gifts. This made the shrine a very wealthy place, the reminiscent of which can still be seen by the various artifacts that have been found here (The Columbia Encyclopedia).
Thus, we find that even though the origins of the Delphi Oracle are rooted in mythology, a lot of evidence of its actual use can still be found today. Various artifacts worthy of museums have been found at this site and it continues to be a place of reverence and respect in Greece. The Roman period, however, was where the importance of this site started declining and the sanctuary slowly fell into decay from then onwards. However, in the minds of the Greeks, it is still a place of great history and people from all over the world visit it to feel the power and importance of this location as it once held in the ancient times.
Cook, A. B. Zeus: A Study in Ancient Religion. 3 vols. in 5. Cambridge University Press, 1940.
Douglas, Norman, Birds and Beasts of the Greek Anthology. London: Chapman & Hall. 1928
Fontenrose, Joseph, Python: A Study of Delphic Myth and Its Origins, New York: Biblo-Tannen, 1974
The Columbia Encyclopedia, “Delphi,” The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.