Saturday, August 30, 2014

Greece Has A History of Prophecy.

Temple of Apollo at Delphi

I planned on writing about current times on Mykonos, predicting what might happen if certain things don’t, but decided to defer in consideration of the inauguration this evening of Konstantinos Koukas as the island’s new mayor. After all, it’s only fair to give him a week to whip things into shape. (I’m sure he’s laughing because he has a sense of humor—and will need one for his job.)  Na zesete.

Then I thought to go for humor, something to have you laughing your britches into teabags.  But my son surprised me with the news that his very first published magazine piece appeared Thursday on the front page of Men’s Health—titled “I Was a Weekend Carny.”  Believe me, it’s brilliant and funny.  Just like his father...okay, you’ve just seen about as much comedy as you’re going to get from this Siger today. 

So, out of ideas I turned to the gods for guidance. And they answered: “Go West, young man.”  I assumed of course they were talking to me, for to mega-thousand year old gods I’m just that. :) Then came the reason for all their flattery. They were talking about Delphi.  They wanted me to write about Delphi.

Well, it just so happens I’ll be heading up there (again) as part of my research on my new book for 2015 titled “Deli in Delphi: Hold the pickle.”  Don’t worry, Everett, I’m only foolin’ about the title.

So here’s a bit about Delphi, celebrated as the center of the earth by the ancient world.

It’s approximately one hundred-fifteen miles and a two plus hour drive northwest of the center of Athens.  There are different ways to go, a southern trip across the top of the Peloponnese, and the northern route I plan on taking that has me heading out of Athens on National Highway E75/A1.

Stay on the highway for fifty miles, and you’ll skirt Athens’ affluent northern suburbs and pass though what I recall as wide-open spaces, mountain passages, and a lot of farmland.  Get off at the exit for Thiva (Thebes to some of you) and head south for four miles before turning west on Route 3. Now you’re into the start of the final fifty-five or so miles to Delphi. 

Halfway there connect onto Route 48 at Livadia, a rural farming region’s capital city.  Skiers passing through on their way back and forth to Arachova––Greece’s equivalent of Aspen—rave about Livadia’s souvlaki and grilled meats.


Stop and try some, but don’t overdo it or the gods will be displeased.  Why, you ask?

Because “Nothing in Excess” and two other sage expressions––“Know thyself” and “Make a pledge and mischief is nigh”––are carved upon Delphi’s most celebrated site: The Temple of Apollo, dedicated to its patron God of Light, son of Zeus and Leto, and twin brother to Artemis; and home to the Delphic Oracle and its prophetic visions.

Frankly, I doubt from what I know of the gods’ carryings on, that Apollo or any of his crew had much to do with those carvings.

Ancient Delphi is quite a place. (You reach the archaeological World Heritage Site before the small town of modern Delphi.)  No matter how I might try, there’s no way I could do justice here to the history or continuing spiritual influence of that truly nonpareil place.  Stand along the Sacred Way on the southwest slope of Mount Parnassus, look out upon the Pleistos River Valley, and see for yourself what I’m saying.  Or check it out on Google Earth…only kidding, only kidding.

Delphi’s origins date back to neolithic times.  Though the Oracle held importance in pre-classical Greece—certainly as the nearby Gulf of Corinth grew in commercial importance—it was in Classical Greece after rededication of the Temple to Apollo in the 4th Century BCE that the Oracle attained true prominence in the Greek world and beyond. 

The Plan

A Christian King stamping out pagan practices destroyed the Temple and silenced the Oracle in 390 AD.

Apollo slays Python

Many myths surround Apollo and Delphi, but they all flow from the same premise: Ancient Delphi represented the navel of the mother of earth personified in the god Gaia, and Apollo slew Python, the son of Gaia while he stood guard over his mother’s navel. 

A version I’m particularly fond of has Apollo killing Python for trying to rape Apollo’s mother while he and his sister lay in their mother’s womb.  I like that one because it’s sort of a local boy makes good doing the right thing type of story…what with Apollo and and sister Artemis being born on Delos a mile away from where I’m typing this.

Priestess Pythia Prophecizing

But no matter what the version, at this point in the myth, slain Python ends up in a fissure and vapors released from his decomposing body find their way up into the sanctuary of Apollo to intoxicate the priestess (Pythia) attending the oracle, thereby allowing Apollo to convey his prophesies through her.   

I think I’ll stop now.  After all, Nothing in excess.



  1. It IS a fascinating and impressive place - I am still trying to figure out the meaning of what I was told.

    1. Yes, Stan. "Flee, all is known," can be rather disconcerting. :)

  2. Oh, man, now I'm totally depressed! "Deli in Delphi: Hold the Pickle" sounded like a ... delectable ... book, spicy with a side dish of naughty. You're such a pickle teaser!

    How about, "Drinking in Delphi: A Fuzzy Navel"?

    1. Will miracles ever cease, EvKa? This time you win!

  3. I remember years ago learning about the Oracle of Delphi, and being fascinated with that concept.

    Looking at the defeat of the Oracle in 390 A.D., as you point out, by a Christian king, tells me that this represented historic suppression of women's roles in the real world.

    After all, in the Greek myths, women had powerful roles as goddesses, major and minor. When the polytheistic religion in Greece, was overturned by the patriarchal Christian church, women lost their place in mythology, and probably on earth, too.

    It's interesting to hear about this, something I ponder.

  4. Prophetic dreams appear frequently in Greek literature, from myth to history to ancient inscriptions. Greek religious culture allowed people to believe in the truth of these apparent dreams from the gods. Among religious Greeks, this belief was so strong that people bought dream books and practiced rituals to induce prophetic dreams.