Pythia (the Oracle of Delphi)

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Portrait of a Priestess By: Joan Breton Connelly
The historical figure referred to as the “Oracle of Delphi,” in ancient writings by Aeschylus, Aristotle, Diogenes, Euripides, Herodotus, Plato, Plutarch, and Sophocles, was the “Pythia,” or “Priestess” of the temple of Apollo at Delphi; located in a cave on mount Parnassus, beneath the caspian Spring. The Pythia was a respectable position for a women among the ancient greeks. Several women were selected to succeed the position of Pythia over the span of the temples practice from 1,400 BC-393 A.D. I will be focussing on one in particular, whose experience changes the requirements of the position. The Pythia was known for her prophetic visions, said to to be inspired by the God Apollo. Ancient from all around Greece would travel to Delphi in hopes to hear a prophecy from the Pythia that be would be reflect favorable on their future. The myth was that the fumes from the Caspian Spring inspired her visions. Three male priests would accompany her, and interpret her hysterical, unintelligible babble to the visitors. Modern historians and scientists theorize that a hallucinogenic gas from a seismic crack in the mountain intoxicated her, and was the cause of her erratic behavior. However, scientist extensive scientific research has been performed on the location and been found contradictory and inconclusive on both sides. There is no documented procedure on how they selected the Pythia, but it is assumed that she was selected upon the death of her predecessor and chosen from a guild of priestesses. She was always a young, respectable virgin, native to the area. Once she was selected she had to leave her family, forfeit her personal identity, and sever all communication with those she’d previously known. The benefits were that she would receive monetary compensation, position, attend public events, and own her property. They also appeared to select women upon aptitude rather than position in society. One Pythia could...
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