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From Hutton Webster's, Early European History (1917); edited for this on-line publication, by ELLOPOS
I. THE LANDS OF THE WEST AND THE RISE OF GREECE TO ABOUT 500 B.C.
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RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS: ORACLES AND GAMES
ORACLE OF APOLLO AT DELPHI
The Greeks believed that communications from the gods were received from certain inspired persons at places called oracles. The oracle of Apollo at Delphi in Phocis enjoyed the utmost veneration. It lay within a deep cave on the rocky side of Mount Parnassus. Out of a chasm rose a volcanic vapor which had a certain intoxicating power. The Pythia, or prophetess of Apollo, sat on a tripod over the steaming cleft and inhaled the gas. The words she uttered in delirium were supposed to come from the god. They were taken down by the attendant priests, written out in verse, and delivered to the suppliants.
INQUIRIES AT THE ORACLE
The fame of Apollo as the patron of inspiration and prophecy spread throughout Greece and penetrated to foreign lands. Every year thousands of visitors made their way to Apollo's shrine. Sick men prayed for health, childless men prayed for offspring. Statesmen wished to learn the fate of their political schemes; ambassadors sent by kings and cities sought advice as to weighty matters of peace and war. Above all, colonists came to Delphi in order to obtain directions as to the best country in which to settle. Some of the noblest cities of the Greek world, Cyrene and Byzantium, for example, had their sites fixed by Apollo's guidance.
Cf. The Ancient Greece * The Ancient Rome
Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) * Western Medieval Europe * Renaissance in Italy