Ancient Greece: The Oracle at Delphi

A10 oracleatdelphi

See an illustrative video clip here


The Greeks consulted the Oracle at Delphi in fear, hoping for reassurance that they would be saved.  The priestess of the Oracle at Delphi was known as the Pythia.  The god Apollo spoke through this Oracle, who had to be an older woman of blameless life chosen from among the peasants .  
The Oracle was considered infallible in prophesying the future, but the message this time was not encouraging. The battle “would bring death to women’s sons”  said the Oracle.  Only “the wooden wall” would save the Athenians.  The maddeningly enigmatic nature of this verdict created panic amongst the Greeks as the Persians rampaged across Greece, burning, looting and laying waste.
Only Themistocles stayed calm.  He argued that the “wooden wall” signified the wooden sides of the fleet of triremes and the Athenians should abandon their homes and wait for deliverance at the forthcoming sea battle at Salamis.  This seemed a perilous course and one that demanded a sacrifice from every citizen.  They would have to abandon their homes to the enemy.
It was a terrifying situation.  The Persian fleet was three times the size of the Greek fleet of triremes, (1,200 Persian warships against 450 triremes) and their land force was gigantic.  However, Themistocles had laid his trap carefully and the Athenians trusted him.  Bravely they abandoned their homes.
The Greek navy lay in wait near the mouth of the Salamis channel.  As bait, Themistocles pretended to be a traitor and fed false intelligence to the Persian commanders, who believed it and immediately sent their warships into the Salamis channel.  It was the perfect place for an ambush. When the ungainly Persian warships entered the channel, they were annihilated by the Greek triremes, and suffered a horrible defeat.  The Persians lost 200 ships, their navy was broken and the safety of their commander was in doubt. Against the odds, the Greeks had won a stunning victory.

22 thoughts on “Ancient Greece: The Oracle at Delphi”

  1. From Oedipus, the Musical. Creon returns from Delphi.

    “Hello Creon, this is Oed, Creon
    It’s so nice to have you back where you belong!
    I got the blues, Creon
    What’s the news, Creon?
    Can we follow what Apollo’s orders were to you?
    I see the crops failing,
    Hear the women wailing –
    The doctors think it’s something that we ate, mate.
    Golly gee, Creon
    Tell us what is to be, Creon
    Creon you’ve been oracling to long!”

  2. Tiresias, if there were a job to be Oracle of … anything, I would apply. I am the simple peasant type, very suggestible,so wide open to predictions from the God Apollo.

    This Oracle obviously came up with goods, and not only on this occasion. It just goes to prove that as far as psychic things are concerned, there is something in it! People who laugh at the idea of accurate predictions are wrong, the Oracle must have come up with other good stuff to be so revered. Unbelievers begone, bring on the mystical predictions.

  3. Xerxes needed his fleet to supply his vast army. Once the fleet was caput, that wiped the huge land initiative out as well. Good thinking.

  4. Wonderful marine video.

    Amazing to think that Delphi had been considered as the centre of the world and the Oracles the word of all wisdom. Am not surprised – having been to Delphi and seen its spectacular position on the side of a slope with the most amazing far-reaching views.

  5. Gosh, all rather amazing stuff and to think I doubted my powers of psychic ability! It just goes to show that we should never ridicule anything we don’t believe in or just don’t understand.

    I too am an older woman, but am not sure I would say I was of blameless life. Nor, would I hope, am I a peasant. I do, however, have the power to see things. I can’t say anything as dramatic as the above has been foretold by me though! Maybe I should predict the downfall of Labour and Gordon Brown – the meteoric rise of Boris Johnson to that of Prime Minister and the reclamation of Britain back from Brussels. That would do me for starters.

    Still not as dramatic as the Oracle at Delphi though, is it.

  6. The Greeks were prepared to sacrifice their homes to fight to protect their democracy. The blood of our soldiers in Afghanistan is not being shed in vain.

    If anyone wishes to get a sense of the huge courage displayed daily by all Afghan forces, see the film “The Hurt Locker”.

  7. Lorraine, who is new to this site, has extremely good ideas! Her idea about having a pool of cars was great, in the Forum her idea about having one day of mutual prayer for all religions was absolutely great, her plea for us all to support our Mayor, whom we respect and trust was great….. Keep on Blogging Lorraine!

  8. Let me give you a reading on Gordon Brown. Let’s see… ( massaging the ball – the crystal ball, that is – and start to chant ) Ahla alibaba mascara matalan… Ooooolaaaaay eee eee …. Ooooolaaaaayyyy eee eee …

    Aaaaah… I can see a man… err… wearing blue suede shoes… blue suede shoes? … err… is it a woman? … walking funny… hand in hand with another funny walking bloke… who is doing an impromptu Samba dance for people with cameras on the street… Queen P… Queen P?… does any of you here know a Queen P?…

    Ooooh… I can see Queenie is wrestling with someone… Elizabeth… Elizabeth?… long moniker… long moniker… let’s see, let’s see… Elizabeth Who Ate All The Pies?… does any of you here know anyone with such a posh name?… Queenie is getting excited… out of breath, that is…

    No good… no good… Queenie is pushing Elizabeth Who Ate All The Pies off a golden throne… he’s off, he’s off… he’s been toppled over… no good… no good… Queenie is sitting tight on the golden throne… a frumpy figure is running into the room… who is this?… I can see this frumpy figure is trying to help Elizabeth lying on the floor with four legs pointing to the ceiling… Frumpy is trying to re-install Elizabeth… no good… no good… The other funny walking bloke has jumped onto Queenie’s lap… just sitting there with Queenie’s arms wrapped around him tightly… Red… Red?… many men with red berets are rushing into the room… cheering… red… red… no good… ooooh, I am feeling dizzy lizzy… dizzy… lizzy…… over… and… out…. POOP!

    Oh, Where am I? Where am I? I need a drink… I need a drink.

    Your reading in print is here:

  9. You have the gift of second sight…. the God Apollo speaks!

    I read on Iain Dale’s blog that Gordon Brown might be unwell and on heavy anti-depressants. The job of PM is onerous and maybe the poor man is buckling under the strain and the pressure of his huge unpopularity. He has hung on too long, he was never suited for the job, what a sad fiasco it has been.

  10. Boris believes we can learn about modern politics from Greek history. Reading the story of Themistocles and the fleet of triremes and how the Greeks abandonned their homes makes me think of how hard people are fighting this very minute so others can be free.

    I was also touched almost to tears today to read of the incredible courage of our armed forces. We should be proud.

  11. “Delphi was considered to be the Omphalos – the center (literally navel) of the world.” (from Melissa’s link).

    That’s interesting… so first the Oracle predicted disaster and then she offered some hope.

    I wonder what would be considered the Omphalos of the world today?

  12. Please let me give you another reading…

    ( Close eyes and start rubbing the ball – the crystal ball – and chant softly… ) Ahla alibaba macaroni mascara matalan… Ahla alibaba macaroni mascara matalan… Ahla… alibaba… ahla… alibaba…( suddenly burst out yodelling loudly ) OOOoooolayyyyyYYyyyOOoolaaaaayyy eee oooo OOoooolayyyyyYYyyyOOlaaayyyy eee oooo ( yodelling dies down gradually… ) Oooolaaaayyy eee oooo… ooolaaayyyy eeee ooooooo….. ee ooo…

    ( Eyes still closed ) Aaaaah…. I can see an empty throne… a plumpy figure clambering onto the chair… just a figure… pinky complexion… blond, blond hair… tousled blond, blond hair… blue, blue eyes… sun kissed lips… thick, sun kissed lips… who is this?… not Frumpy… no… definitely not Frumpy… who is this?… my crystal ball is not updated to HD yet… I can not see clearly… let me… let me… I can just about spot a plump figure… with tousled blond, blond hair… clambering… onto the empty throne… the name… the name… give me a name… the name… B… B?… BB… BB?… Brigitte Bardot??… no?…no?… oh you were stammering?… only one B?… and not dubya B?… I see… I see… only one B… someone famous?… famous… a public figure?… hard… give me a name, give me a name… DIY?… ok, I think I will have to guess myself… ok… a lumpy public figure, tousled blond hair, thick sun kissed lips… thick sun kissed lips… pinky complexion… lumpy… plump… famous… on the box every night… on the box every night?… you mean a laptop?… could be a politician writing his blog… no?… lives in London… in London?… posh area?… no… East End?… East End… likes a drink or two… give me a name… give me the name… Bbbbbb… Baaaa… Baaarrrr… Baaarrrbbbbaaaaaaraaaa…. Windsor… Barbara Windsor?!!!… Ooooh, I’m feeling dizzy lizzy… dizzy lizzy… over and out… POOP!

  13. I feel the ecstasy of the God Apollo upon me…… he speaks through my mouth.

    All is dark…. dark…. the crumpled dwarf rules the land. He is in despair. The people are in despair. Sorrow, anger and grief pervade the land. Deprivation is their lot. The dwarf has gambled wildly….. and lost. The people pay the price.

    The man of the twisted, tricksy mind advises him, but means him harm. Two brothers plot to supplant the dwarf. One has a look of perpetual surprise and the other is clever but weak, so weak. He will not fight. They will fail.

    A woman seeks the throne, and iron is her will. In her eyes burns a fire, almost not sane. She will fight. Her thoughts and plans are paper. They burn in a trice in the fire of reason. She is gone. A pleasant man of the people, bright of mind, but shallow, thinks of the throne. His will is weak. One storm and he is blown away.

    Another man comes to the stage. He is handsome. He is clever. He weathers the storms with courage and guile. His will is strong and he must prevail.

    Except…. there is another. Someone so brilliant in mind and firm of purpose that beside him, all contenders are as dust. There is no-one born of man who can rival this man. The people love him. His blond hair shines like the sun. His charm makes Apollo jealous. He will prevail and take the throne. It is his destiny.

    Thus speaks the Pythia and this is the prediction of the Oracle of Delphi.

  14. The one of whom you speak surely is brilliant of mind and firm of purpose and is already on his way. We hear him now as you speak of him. We too can see his blond hair shining from here and yet he is still far from us. To see this from such a distance (Torquay!) his might must be great. We know this man you speak of. We know who he is. He is so great that he can touch people’s hearts and motivate them at great distances from where he resides. He is ruling only one place at present, and yet his worth has already reached far and wide into every corner of this country in which he lives.

    Already the murmur of voices is heard and a trembling is felt in places where they fear him. They know that to oppose him will cause disruption throughout the country in which he will soon be the leader. The downfall of those in power is only a matter of time. They know that they cannot hope to achieve the greatness that this blond haired Adonis has attained in so short a time.

    Listen. Watch. Wait. He comes soon to lead us. His voice will be carried in the wind to reach all parts of his country. All who hear his voice will be mesmerised and do as he bids them. Shhh, I hear him coming now. Slowly, slowly he is on his way. Listen and you will hear him. Watch and you will see him. Wait, and you will see the great things that this one man will achieve for each and every one of you. That man is the one destined to save us all.

  15. The postal strike could bring us another winter of discontent.I cannot see how anyone will benefit from the strike.Maybe the union,Govetnment,and managers should all be told to wake up and smell the coffee.Small businesses are going to fail if they get no post as they need the cheques.The Government must decide what to do and the managers that harrass the staff must go! As for the unions they have had it good for too long and we do need change!

  16. Great series. No Oracle could predict a glowing future for the PM. I bet he doesn’t even make the next election.

  17. Hello,

    Today’s Telegraph (Monday) says you bet a fiver that Tony Blair won’t be granted his dream to rule over 200 milli-people. That’s half a person, so you would probably have won your bet.

    But if you meant 500 million people you should have written “500M people”. I know that to newspaper editors an error of a thousand million times is small beer, but to an electrical calibration engineer (before I retired) it is rather a lot, and would have got me the sack and probably have got my company crossed off the UKAS register.

    Colin D Campbell
    6 Scalford Drive
    Wollaton Park
    NG8 1EE

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