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Oracle of Delphos

The Oracle of Delphos was a series of female prophets that have used by ancient Greek people to foretell future events. The Oracle was especially popular during the seventh century BC that is where it appears on the Bible Timeline Poster with World History.

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Oracle of Delphos
Oracle of Delphos

There are varying historical accounts about how the Delphos Oracle came into existence. About 1400 B.C. a Greek herder named Coretas realized that his flock was acting strangely once he took them near a chasm that was close to Mt. Parnassus. As Coretas neared the chasm, he began to feel strange, and he realized that he could see into the past and more importantly into the future. Coretas was puzzled by what was happening to him, but he realized that a strange vapor was coming from the chasm, and he attributed this vapor as the presence of a Greek deity. Coretas told many people in his nearby village about his experience. They started to travel to the chasm to experience the same thing, and some of them lost their lives when they entered into a trance-like a state.

Apparently a few individuals lost control of their mental faculties and fell into the chasm. So the villagers built a tripod over the chasm and elected one person to become a prophet. The first person that was chosen to be an oracle was a young virgin woman from their village. This young virgin woman soon found her a suitor and ran away with him. The villagers established a new set of rules for oracles. All oracles had to be at least fifty years old and dedicated to their duty as a prophetess to the gods.

The oracles of Delphos were also known as Pythia, and they were considered priestesses of the Greek god Apollo. Historians also claim that they served Apollo and Dionysus with some speculation about Poseidon. In time the inhabitants who resided near the Oracle built up a bank, a temple, constructed a sacred spring and formed a shrine near the temple. Once the area near the temple was settled many people from all over Greece began to come to the temple to hear the oracle’s prophesies and revelations.

Religious rites were set up for the adherents of Apollo, who worshiped at the temple near Delphi. The priests and priestesses set up temple rites that had to be followed by the Oracle and visitors to the temple. The Pythia demanded payment for her prophesies. People had paid the Delphi temple in gold, silver and other goods. They also were required to bring animals for the purpose of sacrificing them to the gods. People had to draw lots to see who would go first with seeing the oracles, but individuals who could afford to pay an extremely large amount of money would usually end up being the first in line. The huge amount of money that was being made by this spectacle helped the people of Delphos to start one of the first major banking centers in the world. People asked the oracle about the best time to plant their crops or if they would ever find true love. Rulers and governing officials wanted to know if they would win wars or if disease and famine would ruin their kingdoms and empires.

People visited the oracle from all over Greece and other areas of the world such as Egypt, Rome, Mesopotamia and the Middle East. Scholars had gathered into the area near Delphos to exchange knowledge about the oracle’s interpretation and current affairs or intellectual information. The practice of the Oracle continued for many years up until the 4th century A.D. About this time Christianity had spread far and wide, and it had affected the lives of many Greek people. The Oracle of Delphos and its temple practices conflicted with the Christian belief system, so Catholic leaders had the temple shut down because of its pagan rituals. The Oracle of Delphi was never prophesized again once the temple was finally closed at the demands of the Catholic Church.

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