In ancient times, the sacred oracle of Delphi was so influential that famous men from Alexander the Great and Roman emperors consulted the shrine in central Greece before making decisions. On April 16, a modern archaeologist will offer new insights into the mystery surrounding the oracle during a presentation at the Toledo Museum of Art.
John R. Hale, director of liberal studies at the University of Louisville, will discuss recent research confirming ancient descriptions of the sacred oracle of Delphi. His talk, titled “The Delphic Oracle: Modern Science Examines an Ancient Mystery,” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. in the Museum’s Little Theater. The free presentation is co-sponsored by the Archaeological Institute of America-Toledo Society and the Museum.
Ancient Greek and Roman authors describe the sacred site at Delphi as containing unusual geological features and phenomena: a fissure in the rock, emission of sweet-smelling vapor and a sacred spring. The Pythia—the priestess who pronounced the oracles—sat above the fissure where she could inhale the vapor, thus triggering a trance in which she became the medium for the prophecies of the god Apollo.
Most 20th century scholars were skeptical of the ancient traditions. Then, in 1995, an interdisciplinary team began studying not only the archaeology of Delphi, but also related evidence from geology, chemistry and toxicology research. Hale and others on the team were able to validate the ancient sources. The team has gone on to study Greek oracle sites elsewhere in the Aegean and Asia and has found similar geological features.
Hale has been involved in archaeological fieldwork for more than three decades. In addition to studies of ancient oracle sites in Greece and Turkey, he has looked under the sea for lost fleets from the time of the Persian Wars in Greek waters. He has a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and a doctorate from the University of Cambridge in England. His writings have been published in the journal Antiquity, The Classical Bulletin, the Journal of Roman Archaeology and Scientific American.
After the lecture, copies of the new trade paperback edition of Hale’s book, “Lords of the Sea: The Epic Story of the Athenian Navy and the Birth of Democracy,” will be available for purchase and autograph.
… which reminded me … I haven’t consulted the Oracle via the Winged Sandals site lately. Last time I asked whether rogueclassicism would take over the blogosphere, I was told “Blessed is Corinth, but I would rather come from Tenea” . This time, after performing the goat ritual and paying the entry fee, I received the somewhat more vague response that “a crow will show you the answer”. Plenty of room for interpretation here … standard ‘bad omen’ … possible reference to my mother (my father affectionately called her the ‘old crow’) … possible reference to Gladiator (i.e. Russell Crowe) … then there’s the crow in the movie of the same name …