Oracles were some of the most important people of the ancient world. These men and women gave advice on all important matters, especially marriage, war and business. Oracles could be both men and women. Here are who were the most famous.
The Oracle of Dodona
The Oracle of Dodona in Ioannina is believed by many scholars to be the oldest in Ancient Greece, and lived in 2000 BC. Although the ancient Greeks believed that oracles spoke with the voice of the Gods, it is unclear which God, Titan, or Being they spoke of.
Some of the earliest records hint at a connection with Gaia, the Earth deity and mother of the Titans. The Oracle of Dodona has also been associated with Rhea, wife of Kronos and mother of Zeus, suggesting some sort of family continuity.
Complicating the situation is the apparent connection between the Oracle of Dodona and the Titaness Dione, who in one version of the often conflicting Greek myths is the mother of Aphrodite according to Homer. Ultimately, not enough information has survived to know more about the Oracle of Dodona
However, she remained an extremely important figure. Odysseus is said to have consulted it regularly, while in the 3rd century, King Pyrrhus of Epirus would build a massive temple complex to Dione, Zeus and Hercules, further honoring the oracle.
The Oracle of Delphi
Most interpretations agree that he spoke with the voice of Apollo, but again there is a connection with Gaia. According to legend, Zeus released the eagles from the east and the west and where they met would be the "sea of ??the world" (omphalos in Greek).
This place was Delphi, and in some myths, Apollo usurps Gaia's authority by killing a huge python that guarded the place. There seems to be a connection between this act and the official title of the oracle "Pythia", with some scholars suggesting that it derives from the Greek word 'pytho' (to rot) but the etymology remains unclear.
That temple existed from 1400 BC until the Byzantine emperor Theodosius outlawed all pagan worship in the late 400s AD. Located on the mountain, Parnassus, the temple of Apollo that still exists today, dates from the 4th century BC and is located at the head of what was known as the Holy Way, which was traveled by pilgrims.
It seems that Pythia was always a woman (many women in later periods), always a native Delphian, and was supposed to have a stoic and measured nature. Pilgrims would make a sacrifice before going to meet her in one of the 9 months of the year that she prophesied.
She would sit atop a tripod, looking out over the waters of the holy Castilian spring, in which she herself is thought to have undergone a spiritual cleansing ritual. During the prophecies she often fell into trances, sometimes violently.
Her prophecies would be vague and open to interpretation, but clearly beneficial, given the fame of the Oracle of Delphi. Very little is known about what was done in the temple, as knowledge passed from one Pythia to another.
The inscriptions in the temple may give us some idea: "Know thyself and nothing more!". Interestingly, her powers may have had a more natural origin. According to Plutarch, who was himself a priest of Apollo, but also a historian and philosopher, Pythia began to have visions of sweet-smelling gases coming out of cracks in the earth.
This claim was largely dismissed as a myth, until a team of researchers found ethylene in the walls of the temple and in the waters of the Castilian spring. This gas is known to cause hallucinations and simultaneously a feeling of euphoria. This is not a universally accepted theory, as some researchers propose a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide as the most likely.
The Voices of the Gods
At that time there was in Epidaurus and the temple of Asklepios, the God of Medicine, the sick would sleep in this temple, hoping to be visited by God himself, without seeking an intermediary, and thus be cured of their illnesses.
So were the Necromanteions, or enigmatic oracles of the dead, who could contact the dead, who gave advice and conversed to some extent with the afterlife. What all this shows is the power these individuals had.
During the Persian conquests of Xerxes, the Athenians consulted two of the oracles of Delphi. They rejected their calls, perceived as a desertion. "Even though everything else will be taken, Zeus, the one who sees everything, will ensure that the wooden wall does not fall." The oracle is thought to have said. The "wooden wall" was built by Themistocles, and that the Athenian fleet would win the day against the Persians at Salamis. Not only could they decide the fate of city-states, kingdoms, and empires, but also the personal lives of people, receiving divine advice on who to marry, when to plant crops, and what business opportunities to pursue.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that during the Greek Golden Age from the 4th to the 6th century, oracles were the most powerful individuals, second only to the greatest ruler and the Gods themselves, a remarkable phenomenon, if you consider that many of them were women in a very patriarchal world of Ancient Greece and beyond / History of Yesterday