Why the Oracle of Delphi Still Beguiles

The Oracle at Delphi influenced Greek politics for a millennium. She continues to speak to us today.

King Aigeus in front of the Oracle of Delphi, c. 440-430 BC. Zde (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Phoebus Apollo, the sun god, had a good eye for an inspiring location. According to the Homeric Hymn to him (not by Homer and probably dating from the sixth century BC) Apollo himself chose Delphi as the dwelling for his oracle. In order to establish it there, he first slew a resident serpent, Pytho, which had hitherto protected local deities. Apollo now replaced them. On account of his triumph, his oracle was known alternatively as the Pythian; the priestess through whom he spoke as the Pythia.

The site was not practical: it was not easily accessible to pilgrims who, over a millennium, came from the major cities of Greece and further afield to consult the oracle. It is remote, located on a mountainside below Mount Parnassus. It is prone to earthquakes and rockfalls. But it seems almost luminous in sunlight – appropriate for the temple to the sun god. For these very reasons it is awe inspiring.

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