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Explore The Most Ancient Oracle of Greece

Explore The Most Ancient Oracle of Greece

The archaeological site of Dodoni, located on the foothills of the imposing Tomaros Mountain, is less than 20 km from Ioannina city. 

The most ancient oracle was well respected in antiquity. Achilles was praying to the Zeus of Dodoni, seeking divine intervention. Odysseus had visited the sanctuary asking for help on how to get back to his home.  

Humble people were flocking to the oracle to seek answers to their usual concerns (e.g. “Am I the real father of my child?”, “Who stole my money?”, “How can I increase my income?” etc.). 

It is suggested that the Mother Earth or a similar female goddess was adored there, before the establishment of Zeus in the area. 

Tomaros is a high mountain with two imposing peaks (at an altitude of 1974 m. and 1812 m.). Ascend on them, is a challenging one.  

The theatre, built on the 3rd century BC, could host up to 18.000 people. During the Roman period, the theatre was transformed into an arena until the 4th century AD when the people changed their beliefs.

There was a myth about the foundation of the oracle, “that two black doves had come flying from Thebes in Egypt, one to Libya and one to Dodona; the latter settled on an oak tree, and there uttered human speech, declaring that a place of divination from Zeus must be made there; the people of Dodona understood that the message was divine, and therefore established the oracular shrine” (from the book Herodotus, The Histories 2.55). 

The worship was held outdoors until the early 4th century BC when they erected the first small temple of Zeus, “the sacred house”. The priests were interpreting the oracles transmitted through the sacred oak leaves’ rustle and the flying of the birds.

King Pyrrhus of Epirus (“Pyrrhic victory” is named after him) contributed in the 3rd century BC to the expansion and the growth of the sanctuary. “Naian Games” were contests held every four years at the stadium of Dodoni to honour Zeus. Although they were not well known, Dodoni area was hosting them for over 600 years (from 3rd century BC to 3rd century AD). In 167 BC, Romans destroyed the sanctuary. Later, in the 4th century AD, Christian churches were built upon the ancient temples.

Alexandra Kakava

Alexandra Kakava

View all posts by Alexandra Kakava

Alexandra is an archaeologist and a qualified advisor on sustainable alternative tourism. She loves to search for unexplored archaeological sites and monuments. She is also keen on learning new languages to communicate with people from various countries.

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