About Pythia - the Oracle of Delphi, (Sybil)Pythia - the Oracle of Delphi, (Sybil / הפיתיה - אורקל מדלפי, סיביל / بيثيا اوراكل من دلفي، (سيبل) The Delphi Oracle, (Sybil)
Pythia the Delphi Oracle, was the priestess at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, located on the slopes of Mount Parnassus. The Pythia was widely credited for her prophecies inspired by Apollo, giving her a prominence unusual for a woman in male-dominated ancient Greece. The oracle's powers were highly sought after and never doubted. Any inconsistencies between prophecies and events were dismissed as failure to correctly interpret the responses—not an error of the oracle.
The Delphic oracle was established in the 8th century BC. The last recorded response was given in 393 AD, when the emperor Theodosius I ordered pagan temples to cease operation. During this period the Delphic Oracle was the most prestigious and authoritative oracle in the Greek world. The oracle is one of the best-documented religious institutions of the classical Greek world. Writers who mention the oracle include Herodotus, Thucydides, Euripides, Sophocles, Plato, Aristotle, Pindar, Aeschylus, Xenophon, Diodorus, Diogenes, Strabo, Pausanias, Plutarch, Livy, Justin, Ovid, Lucan, Julian, and Clement of Alexandria.
The Delphic Oracle was the means through which worshipers could hear the words of god Apollo, spoken through a priestess (Sybil) Pythia, who was over 50 years old. Pythia was always a woman that was chosen by a male priest of the oracle.
he question was then put to Pythia by the male priest. It has to be mentioned that the only one who could see and communicate with Pythia was this priest- the questioner had no eye contact. The Pythia would answer in a trance, perhaps introduced by the vaporous from a crack in the ground over which she sat on tripod combined with the laurel leaves she was chewing. Her incantations were interpreted by the priest and were almost always ambiguous.
The Priestess of Delphi. The role of Oracle was filled by women, usually called Pythia (a reference to the legend of Apollo killing a dragon named Pytho). The first, around the 7th century BCE, was named Sibyl and thereafter every Oracle was named Sibyl. She sat on the Sibylline Rock to breathe in the vapors that allowed her to make her predications — normally incoherent babbling which had to be interpreted by a priest.
The Sacred Spring of Delphi is in the ravine of Phaedriades. There were two fountains fed by the spring, but they were destroyed. Today scientists believe they have an explanation for the predictions: intoxicating fumes rising from fault lines beneath Delphi. Ethylene, a sweet-smelling gas with a narcotic effect, is in spring water around the site. Inhalation of ethylene, combined with the social expectations of the women, could lead to the euphoric behavior reported in the legends.
Delphic predictions could have considerable influence on the politics and religion around Greece. Most leaders consulted the Oracle of Delphi before any major move and her advice was respected by all involved. That doesn’t mean that everyone understood her, however. Croesus of Lydia went to Delphi before invading Persia and was informed “if you do, you will destroy a great empire.” Croesus assumed this meant he would win, but in fact he would lose — the great empire destroyed was his own.
The Pythia, the oracle at Delphi, only gave prophecies the seventh day of each month, seven being the number most associated with Apollo, during the nine warmer months of the year; thus, Delphi was not the major source of divination for the ancient Greeks. Many wealthy individuals bypassed the hordes of people attempting a consultation by making additional animal sacrifices to please the oracle lest their request go unanswered. As a result, seers were the main source of everyday divination.
The temple was changed to a center for the worship of Apollo during the classical period of Greece and priests were added to the temple organization—although the tradition regarding prophecy remained unchanged—and the apparently always-female priestess continued to provide the services of the oracle exclusively. It is from this institution that the English word, oracle, is derived.
The Delphic Oracle exerted considerable influence throughout Hellenic culture. Distinctively, this female was essentially the highest authority both civilly and religiously in male-dominated ancient Greece. She responded to the questions of citizens, foreigners, kings, and philosophers on issues of political impact, war, duty, crime, laws—even personal issues.
The semi-Hellenic countries around the Greek world, such as Lydia, Caria, and even Egypt also respected her and came to Delphi as supplicants.
Croesus, king of Lydia beginning in 560 B.C., tested the oracles of the world to discover which gave the most accurate prophecies. He sent out emissaries to seven sites who were all to ask the oracles on the same day what the king was doing at that very moment. Croesus proclaimed the oracle at Delphi to be the most accurate, who correctly reported that the king was making a lamb-and-tortoise stew, and so he graced her with a magnitude of precious gifts.[ He then consulted Delphi before attacking Persia, and according to Herodotus was advised, "If you cross the river, a great empire will be destroyed." Believing the response favorable, Croesus attacked, but it was his own empire that ultimately was destroyed by the Persians.
She allegedly also proclaimed Socrates to be the wisest man in Greece, to which Socrates said that, if so, this was because he alone was aware of his own ignorance. After this confrontation, Socrates dedicated his life to a search for knowledge that was one of the founding events of western philosophy. He claimed that she was "an essential guide to personal and state development." This Oracle's last recorded response was given in 393 AD, when the emperor Theodosius I ordered pagan temples to cease operation.