Oldest Greek Oracle At Dodona And Zeus Sacred Oak Tree – Where Oracle of Dodona: Sacred Place Where Gods Spoke To Humans For The First Time

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

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

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 probably the oldest Greek oracle, dating to the second millennium BC, according to the Greek historian Herodotus. It was the place of several impressive ceremonies.

The earliest mention of Dodona is in the Iliad's Book XVI, where its priests, called by Homer the Selloi (or Helloi), made 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 guidance from the god.

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

Later, oracles were taken at Dodona from lots and the ringing of an iron basin. In front of this basin 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.

Oracle of Zeus at Dodona.

Oracle of Zeus at Dodona. Image credit: Marcus Cyron-  CC BY-SA 3.0  

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

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

It existed in the 2nd century AD and did not seem to have disappeared before the 4th.

There are several archaeological remains at the ancient site of Dodona. Still, perhaps the most representative among the ruins is Dodona's old theatre, which had a capacity of 18,000 and had 55 rows of seats divided into three horizontal sections separated by ten steps.

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. Image credit: Onno Zweers  -  CC BY-SA 3.0

Dodona's theatre was one of the largest in Greece, with its 130 m diameter and dated from the 3rd BC. 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. In the 5th-6th century, a Christian Basilica was built in Dodona, and the place became the bishop's seat.

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

Written by – A. Sutherland AncientPages.com Staff Writer

Updated on October 20, 2022

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