Dodona, the oldest Greek oracle in antiquity

dodona The oldest oracle in Greece was that of Dodona in Epirus, it was built at the suggestion of a black dove and the faithful received oracles from the rustling of oak leaves. According to the legend mentioned by Herodotus, two black doves started from Thebes, Egypt. One went to Libya where the sanctuary of Ammon Zeus was built and the second landed on an oak tree in ancient Dodona and suggested to the people the establishment of a sanctuary in honor of the ruler of the Olympian gods, Zeus. Until then, the oracle of Dodona was open and dedicated to the goddess Earth.

The priests built a sanctuary in his honor at the foot of the hill and pilgrims gathered in the oracle to receive oracles for the future. The oracles were given by the sacred tree of Zeus, the oak tree, which was in the center of the sanctuary. According to a legend, Zeus lived at the roots of the tree. The believers wrote their question on plates and the priests interpreted the messages sent to them by the god from the rustling of the leaves, from the purring of the birds and from the copper boilers that existed around the sanctuary and gave the oracle. According to mythology, the goddess Athena took a piece of wood from the sacred plant of Dodona and nailed it to the prow of Jason’s ship Argo.

In the early years in the oracle there were only male priests, who slept on the earth to listen to the messages sent to them by the gods and to give answers to the questions of the faithful. In the following years, women priests, the “Peliades”, also participated.

When Pausanias saw the sanctuary of Zeus in Dodona, he described it as a “goddess of value”. In Dodona, the wife of Zeus was not Hera but Dioni, who in Greek mythology belonged to the first generation of gods and represented knowledge and fertility.

zeus-of-dodonaThe approximately 256 objects from the ruins of the oracle of Dodona were transferred from the Museum of Ioannina and the National Archaeological Museum to the Acropolis Museum.

Among them were votives offered to Jupiter, bronze objects and lead plates engraved with questions about trade, property, health, debts, marriage and childbearing.

The exhibits were placed under an oak tree with artificial leaves that had one of the pillars of the Museum as its trunk.

The exhibition described Dodona in the Late Bronze Age and the primitive worship of the goddess Earth and then focused on the worship of Zeus. The purpose was to teach the thousands of foreign and Greek visitors the role and importance of the oldest Greek oracle in antiquity