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Sibylla Delphica by Edward Burne-Jones

Pythia, better known as The Oracle of Delphi was the most important shrine in all Greece. The priestess Pythia was believed to give prophecies which were regarded as the most accurate in Greece. All Greeks respected its independence. It was also said it was the "Center of the World".




Early History

Apollo killed his mother's enemy, a serpent called Python, when it was taking shelter in a shrine at Delphi. Apollo subsequently made this his special shrine and a temple was built in his honor.


Apollo was believed to speak through a priestess, called the Pythia. Initially, the Pythia gave oracles once a year, on Apollo's birthday, but over time the oracle became so popular that prophecies were given much more regularly, with two priestesses being required. The priests of the temple put people's questions to her. The Pythia bathed in a holy fountain, drank water from a holy spring and inhaled fumes from a chasm in the rock on which the temple was built. She then gave her reply while in a trance. The priests interpreted her replies, which were often unclear or had more than one meaning. The Pythia was dressed in white, carried a branch of laurel and sat on a tripod in a sanctum that was closed off from the temple's priests.


Lying at the foot of Mount Parnassus, about a hundred miles north west of Athens, the shrine was built around the Sacred Spring. Delphi was considered to be omphalos (the exact center of the world).

The site of Delphi is located in upper central Greece, on multiple plateaux/terraces along the slope of Mount Parnassus, and includes the Sanctuary of Apollo, the site of the ancient Oracle. This semicircular spur is known as Phaedriades, and overlooks the Pleistos Valley.


The Oracle of Delphi

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