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The Delphic Oracle

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 30 September 2010

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Delphic Oracle, the most important source of prophecies in the ancient world.

In central Greece, on the flank of Mount Parnassus, lies the ruined city of Delphi. For over a thousand years, between approximately 800 BC and 400 AD, this was the most sacred place in the ancient world. Its chief attraction was the Delphic Oracle, which predicted the future and offered petitioners advice.

Travellers journeyed for weeks for a chance to ask the oracle a question. The answers, given by a mysterious priestess called the Pythia, were believed to come straight from the god Apollo. At the height of Greek civilisation the oracle was revered, and its opinion sought in some of the most significant conflicts of the age.

Its activities were documented by historians including Xenophon and Plutarch, and it was regularly depicted in Greek tragedy, most famously Sophocles's masterpiece Oedipus the King.

With:

Paul Cartledge
A G Leventis Professor of Greek Culture at Cambridge University

Edith Hall
Professor of Classics and Drama at Royal Holloway, University of London

Nick Lowe
Reader in Classical Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Producer: Thomas Morris.

  • FURTHER READING

    Michael Scott, 'Delphi and Olympia' (Cambridge University Press, 2010)

    Hugh Bowden, 'Classical Athens and the Delphic Oracle' (Cambridge University Press, 2005)

    Esther Eidinow, 'Oracles, Curses, and Risk among the Ancient Greeks' (Oxford University Press, 2007)

    Michael Attyah Flower, 'The Seer in Ancient Greece' (California, 2008)

    Sarah Iles Johnston, 'Ancient Greek Divination' (Blackwell, 2008)

    Daniel Ogden (ed.), 'A Companion to Greek Religion' (Blackwell, 2007)

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