Oldest Greek Oracle At Dodona And Zeus Sacred Oak Tree

A. Sutherland - AncientPages.com - Dodona (Greek Dōdōnē) was an ancient Greek town located in Epirus, historical region now shared between Greece and Albania.

Dodona was the ancient seat of the oracle of Zeus and Dione, the mother of Aphrodite, also honored as the wife of Zeus instead of Hera.

It has been inhabited since the Early Bronze Age. It became mainly famous in antiquity as a cultural and religious Zeus shrine and oracle center, where many people traveled from neighboring places to worship Zeus and the goddess Dione, from which the city took its name.

The shrine of Dodona was considered to be the oldest Greek oracle, dating to the second millennium BC, according to the Greek historian Herodotus. This was the place of several remarkable ceremonies.

The shrine of Dodona was considered to be the oldest Greek oracle, dating to the second millennium BC, according to the Greek historian Herodotus. This was the place of several remarkable ceremonies.

The shrine of Dodona was considered to be the oldest Greek oracle, dating to the second millennium BC, according to the Greek historian Herodotus. This was the place of several remarkable ceremonies.

The earliest mention of Dodona is in the Iliad’s Book XVI, where its priests, called by Homer, the Selloi (or Helloi) amde predictions from the rustling of the sacred oak leaves and other sounds. Herodotus, but no earlier writer, mentions priestesses, the givers of the oracles, undoubtedly under some kind of guidance from the god.

In early times, Dodona was the most famous and respected among the oracles where prophecy was given by signs.

Oracle of Zeus at Dodona.

Oracle of Zeus at Dodona. Photo: Wikipedia

In later times, oracles were taken at Dodona from lots, and from the ringing of an iron basin. In front of this basin, there was an iron statue of a boy standing with a whip formed of three chains, from which some buttons hung which touched the basin. If the whip moved in the breeze, the buttons sounded against the basin.

According to a new interpretation, the oracular sound originated from bronze objects hanging from oak branches and sounded with the wind blowing, similar to a ‘wind-chime’, a percussion-like instrument constructed from suspended tubes, rods, bells or other objects, usually made of metal or wood.

Panorama of the theatre of Dodona, the modern village Dodoni and the snow-capped Mount Tomaros are visible in the background.

Panorama of the theater of Dodona, the modern village Dodoni and the snow-capped Mount Tomaros are visible in the background.

Dodona oracle, was usually used to settle more private matters regarding marriage, children or theft, and it was famous, but being rather inaccessible. The site was later replaced by that of Delphi. However, it never lost its reputation, and it was still consulted, also by the states of Athens and Sparta.

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It was in existence in the 2nd century AD and does not seem to have disappeared before the 4th.

There are several archaeological remains at ancient site of Dodona, but perhaps the most representative of all, are the ruins of Dodona’s ancient theatre, which had a capacity of 18,000 and had 55 rows of seats divided in three horizontal sections separated by ten flights of steps.

Dodona’s theatre was one of largest in Greece with its 130 m diameter and dates from the 3rd BC and it was built by Pyrrhus (319-272 BC), the king of Epirus, a Greek general and statesman of the Hellenistic period, who was one of the fiercest opponents of Rome.

The cult and oracle at Dodona remained until 391 AD; later, it ceased to exist as a pagan site; the sacred oak tree was cut down and in the 5th-6th century, Dodona became bishop seat and a Christian Basilica was built.

Following the Slav invasion in the 6th century AD destroyed the ancient site and Dodona was abandoned.

Written by – A. Sutherland AncientPages.com Staff Writer

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