Best of the Week
Most Popular
1. US Housing Market House Prices Bull Market Trend Current State - Nadeem_Walayat
2.Gold and Silver End of Week Technical, CoT and Fundamental Status - Gary_Tanashian
3.Stock Market Dow Trend Forecast - April Update - Nadeem_Walayat
4.When Will the Stock Market’s Rally Stop? - Troy_Bombardia
5.Russia and China Intend to Drain the West of Its Gold - MoneyMetals
6.BAIDU (BIDU) - Top 10 Artificial Intelligence Stocks Investing To Profit from AI Mega-trend - Nadeem_Walayat
7.Stop Feeding the Chinese Empire - ‘Belt and Road’ Trojan Horse - Richard_Mills
8.Stock Market US China Trade War Panic! Trend Forecast May 2019 Update - Nadeem_Walayat
9.US China Trade Impasse Threatens US Lithium, Rare Earth Imports - Richard_Mills
10.How to Invest in AI Stocks to Profit from the Machine Intelligence Mega-trend - Nadeem_Walayat
Last 7 days
US Dollar Gold Trend Analysis - 15th June 19
Gold Stocks “Launch” is in Line With Fundamentals - 15th June 19
The Rise of Silver and Major Economic Decline - 15th June 19
Fire Insurance Claims: What Are the Things a Fire Claim Adjuster Does? - 15th June 19
How To Find A Trustworthy Casino? - 15th June 19
Boris Johnson Vs Michael Gove Tory Leadership Grudge Match - Video - 14th June 19
Gold and Silver, Precious Metals: T-Minus 3 Seconds To Liftoff! - 14th June 19
Silver Investing Trend Analysis - Video - 14th June 19
The American Dream Is Alive and Well - in China - 14th June 19
Keeping the Online Gaming Industry in Line - 14th June 19
How Acquisitions Affect Global Stocks - 14th June 19
Please Don’t Buy the Dip in Nvidia or Other Chip Stocks - 14th June 19
A Big Thing in Investor Education is Explainer Videos - 14th June 19
IRAN - The Next American War - 13th June 19
Boris Johnson Vs Michael Gove Tory Leadership Grudge Match Contest - 13th June 19
Top Best VPN Services You Can Choose For Your iPhone - 13th June 19
Tory Leadership Contest Betting Markets Forecast - Betfair - 13th June 19
US Stock Market Setting Up A Pennant Formation - 13th June 19
Which Stocks Will Lead The Cannabis Rebound? - 13th June 19
The Privatization of US Indo-Pacific Vision - Project 2049, Armitage, Budget Ploys and Taiwan Nexus - 12th June 19
Gold Price Breaks to the Upside - 12th June 19
Top Publicly Traded Casino Company Stocks for 2019 - 12th June 19
Silver Investing Trend Analysis - 12th June 19
Why Blue-Chip Dividend Stocks Aren’t as Safe as You Think - 12th June 19
Technical Analysis Shows Aug/Sept Stock Market Top Pattern Should Form - 12th June 19
FTSE 100: A Top European Index - 12th June 19
Gold Surprise! - 11th June 19
How Forex Indicators are Getting Even More Attention in the Market? - 11th June 19
Stock Market Storm Clouds on the Horizon - 11th June 19
Is Your Financial Security Based On A Double Aberration? - 11th June 19
What If Stocks Are Wrong About Interest Rate Cuts? - 11th June 19
US House Prices Yield Curve, Debt, QE4EVER! - 11th June 19
Natural Gas Moves Into Basing Zone - 11th June 19
U.S. Dollar Stall is Good for Commodities - 11th June 19
Fed Running Out of Time and Conventional Weapons - 11th June 19
Trade Wars Propelling Stock Markets to New Highs - 11th June 19
Best Travel Bags for Summer Holidays 2019, Back Sling packs, water proof, money belt, tactical - 11th June 19
Betting on Next British Prime Minister Tory Leadership Betfair Markets Forecast - 10th June 19
How Can Stock Market Go Up When We’re Headed Towards a Recession? - 10th June 19
If You Invest in Dividend Stocks, Do This to Double Your Returns - 10th June 19
Reasons for the Success of the Dating Market - 10th June 19
Gold Price Trend Analysis - Video - 10th June 19
US Stock Markets Rally Hard – Could Another Big Upside Leg Begin? - 10th June 19
Stock Market Huge Cosmic Cluster Ahead: Buckle Up! - 10th June 19
Stock Market Higher To Go? - 10th June 19
The Gold Price Golden Neckline… - 10th June 19
Gold Price Seasonal Trend Analysis - 9th June 19
The Fed Stops Pretending - 9th June 19
Fed Rate Cuts Soon; Bitcoin Enthusiasts Join Wall Street in Bashing Gold - 9th June 19
1990s vs. 2010s - Which Expansion Will be Better for Gold? - 9th June 19
Gold Price Trend Analysis, MACD, Trend Channels, Support / Resistance - 8th June 19
Gold Surges Near Breakout - 8th June 19
Could Gold Rally Above $3750 Before December 2019? - 8th June 19
5 Big Lies About Precious Metals Investing Exposed - 8th June 19
ADL Predictive Modeling Suggests A Big Move In Silver - 7th June 19
US China Trade War Will Start a Recession, or Worse… - 7th June 19
Land Rover Discovery Sport Brake Pads Expected Life, Worn Pads Dash Warning - 7th June 19
The Post Room Selfies Fun at Meadowhall Sheffield, From Game of Thrones to Desert Island... - 7th June 19
SAMSUNG - South Korean Electronics Giant - Investing in AI Stocks - Video - 7th June 19
Gold Price Rally or New Bull Market? - 7th June 19
Digging into the Rising Gold: Trade Tensions, Recessionary Worries and Dovish Fed - 7th June 19
The Risky Stocks Big Lie That Keeps Many Investors Poor - 7th June 19
Gold and HUI Short-term Strength Is a Strong Call to Action - 7th June 19
Fear Drives Stock Market Expectations - 7th June 19 - Chris_Vermeulen
Next British Prime Minister Tory Leadership Betting Markets - 6th June 19

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

The Market Oracle FAQs (frequently-asked questions)

News Category: Main -> The Oracle of Delphi

Question

Answer

The Oracle of Delphi


The Oracle of Delphi in Greece was the forecasting analyst of ancient times: People came from all over Europe to call on the Pythia (priestess) at Mount Parnassus to have their questions about the future answered. Her answers could determine when farmers planted their fields or when an empire declared war.


The Pythia, a role filled by different women from about 1400 B.C. to A.D. 381, was the medium through which the god Apollo was said to speak.


The centerpiece of Delphi was the temple of Apollo, built with donations from every Greek city-state and from abroad. The base of the temple still stands, with half a dozen of the original columns. On the outside of the base are over 700 inscriptions, most announcing the emancipation of slaves, which was considered a special act of piety to be performed at Delphi. At the far end of the temple is the altar, originally decorated with memorials, ex-votos, statues, and offerings.



Sibyl


The first oracle at Delphi was commonly known as Sibyl, though her name was Herophile. She sang her predictions, which she received from Gaia. Later, "Sibyl" became a title given to whichever priestess manned the oracle at the time. The Sibyl sat on the Sibylline Rock, breathing in vapors from the ground1 and gaining her often puzzling predictions from that. Pausanias claimed that the Sibyl was "born between man and goddess, daughter of sea monsters and an immortal nymph". Others said she was sister or daughter to Apollo. Still others claimed the Sibyl received her powers from Gaia originally, who passed the oracle to Themis, who passed it to Phoebe.



    The Delphic Sibyl was the priestess presiding over the Apollonian Oracle at Delphi, a Greek colony, located in a plateau on the side of Mount Parnassus. She lived on Mount Parnassus and was believed by many to be a prophet. The word sibyl comes (via Latin) from the ancient Greek word (sibulla), meaning "prophetess".

    There were many Sibyls in the ancient world, but the Delphic Sibyl was among the most renowned because of the famous receivers of her advice, who were said to be Aegeus, Cadmus, Herakles, Oedipus, Orestes, Perseus and Xuthus.

    Two places claimed to be the birthplace of this Sibyl, who is traditionally known as the third Sibyl, namely Marpessus in the Troad and Erythrse. There are various names for the Sibyl: Pythia, Herophile and Delphica.Pausanias claimed that the Sybil was "born between man and goddess, daughter of sea monsters and an immortal nymph". Others said she was sister or daughter to Apollo. Still others claimed the Sybil received her powers from Gaia originally, who passed the oracle to Thetis, who passed it to Phoebe.

    According to legend, the Sibyl was visited by Herakles after he slew his wife and children in a fit induced by Hera. The Oracle told him as penance he was required to carry out twelve tasks set by his arch-enemy, Eurystheus, who had become King in his stead.

    According to legend, the Sibyl came from the Troad to Delphi before the Trojan War, "in wrath with her brother Apollo", lingered for a time at Samos, visited Claros and Delos, and died in the Troad, after surviving nine generations of men. After her death, it was said that she became a wandering voice that still brought to the ears of men tidings of the future wrapped in dark enigmas.

    Science and the Sibyl

    There have been occasional attempts to find a scientific explanation for the Sibyl's behaviour. Most commonly, these refer to Plutarch's observation that the Pythia's oracular powers appeared to be linked to vapors from the Castalian Spring that surrounded her, together with the observation that sessions of prophesy would either take place in, or be preceded by a visit to, an enclosed chamber at the base of the temple. It has been suggested that these vapors may have been hallucinogenic gases. In 2001 evidence of the presence of ethylene, a potential hallucinogen, was found in the temple's local geology and nearby springs. Inhalation of ethylene in an enclosed space might well have exposed the Sibyl to sufficiently high concentrations of the narcotic gas to induce a euphoric or trance-like state. [See notes below]



This oracle exerted considerable influence across the country, and was consulted before all major undertakings: wars, the founding of colonies, and so forth. She also was respected by the semi-Hellenic countries around the Greek world, such as Lydia, Caria, and even Egypt. Croesus of Lydia consulted Delphi before attacking Persia, and according to Herodotus received the answer "if you do, you will destroy a great empire." Croesus found the response favorable and attacked, and was utterly overthrown (resulting, of course, in the destruction of his own empire).

The oracle is also said to have proclaimed Socrates the wisest man in Greece, to which Socrates said that if so, this was because he alone was aware of his own ignorance. This claim is related to one of the most famous mottos of Delphi, which Socrates said he learned there, Gnothi Seauton: "know thyself".

Another famous motto of Delphi is Meden Agan: "nothing in excess".

In the 3rd century A.D., the oracle (perhaps bribed) declared that the god would no longer speak there.The temple to Apollo at Delphi was built by Trophonius and Agamedes.

Fault Lines

After investigating the site, archeologists were convinced that these vapours are only a myth, as no evidence for them could be found, and - so the then standard opinion in geology - gaseous emissions from rock only occur in conjunction with volcanic activity. However, recent geological research indicates that the site of the oracle shows young geological faults, and it seems plausible that these emitted in ancient times light hydrocarbon gases from bituminous limestone which do have an intoxicating effect. (de Boer et al., Geology 29 (2001) pp. 707; see e.g. here for a popular science coverage) Other archaeologists believe that the oracle also inhaled fumes of burning bay leaves.


Back to top
[ FAQ index ]