The Oracle at Delphi: Vessels of the Gods

The priestesses of Delphi played a pivotal role in the religious life of the ancient Greek world, connecting the human to the divine. 

The Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Alamy

The Delphic Oracle, known as the Pythia, was a priestess who channelled prophecies from the ancient Greek god, Apollo. Over 1,000 years, from approximately 800 BC to AD 380, many local women took on this prominent role at the head of the spiritual centre at Delphi. Yet, although the oracular sayings were esteemed by rulers and dignitaries across the Mediterranean, we know little about the lives of the individual priestesses who gave them voice.

The Oracle offered advice on how to deal with matters of importance: the death of a family member or friend; the raising of children; combating plague, famine or illness; whether to go to war or to bring a conflict to an end; how to found a new city or colony. Details of the exact oracular process are fogged by time but, whatever the reality, it was widely believed that the sacred was connected to the profane by the Pythia, as the classicist Michael Scott points out. 

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