Dodona: in the Shade of the Sacred Oak TreeDodona, Greece
A free self-guided tour at Dodona which lies in a vale defined by the imposing sight of Mount Tomaros. Dodona was the first oracle of Greece and here Zeus (but not quite the one you think you know) resided in the roots of a sacred oak and answered the questions of the faithful in the company of his beloved wife (again, not the one you think). Can you hear their voices whispering in the wind?
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1. The land loved by ZeusDodona: a site that has it all! Natural beauty, the oldest oracle, Egyptian pigeons, an impeccable pedigree of visitors, respectable athletic games, war, politics, and a connection to the Antikythera mechanism.
2. Priests and magistratesZeus guarded the oracle but even sacred precincts require mortals to run them and take care of everyday business. The prytaneion was the administrative heart of Dodona, while the priests served the needs of the people.
3. The second wifeDodona is far from almost all the major urban centers; so if you were going to walk or ride your donkey all the way up here, you had better know how to ask your questions when Zeus was all ears.
The oldest oracle
The land loved by Zeus“There is a land...with many crops and good meadowland, wealthy in flocks and shambling cattle; therein dwell men rich in sheep and rich in cattle, men beyond number, tribes of mortal men. And there, at its edge, a city is built, Dodona; and Zeus loved it and made it to be his oracle, prized among men.” This is the earliest description of the setting of Dodona, provided by Hesiod, a Greek poet who is generally thought to have been active about the same time as Homer (between 750 and 650 BCE). The oracle of Dodona was considered the most ancient in Greece, and was only supplanted by Delphi due to its great distance from the major classical city-states.
Priests and magistratesFor the supplicants who arrived at the oracle, though, the most important people were the priests and the priestesses, whose duty it was to interpret the divine answers. The priests were barefoot, so as to always be in contact with the earth, and they never washed their feet. They slept on the floor of the sanctuary to encourage revelatory dreams. There were also priestesses; Herodotus preserved three of their names (Promenia, Timarete, Nikandre) but perhaps we should view these as titles, similar to Pythia in Delphi. The priestesses were also called Peleiadae (from the Greek word for dove) because visitors thought that their mysterious words often sounded like the twittering of birds.
How to ask a question from the gods
The second wifeThe lead tablets used by the supplicants to ask their questions reveal the deities worshipped at Dodona. There are thousands of tablets containing many thousands of queries. Initially the visitors submitted their questions orally but later on they wrote them on thin lead tablets, folded or rolled them up carefully, and carved a characteristic sign on the outer surface. The priests received them and pulled a lot with the positive or negative answer of the gods. After the divination assistants unfolded the tablets and erased the question to make way for a new question. Most queries are addressed to Zeus but others concern Apollo, Demeter, Aphrodite, Herakles, or Themis.
Nea Odos has undertaken the study, planning, construction, operation, administration and maintenance of the “Ionian Road” project. A breathtaking project covering a total length of 380klm.
Why take a self-guided tour?
This is a self-guided tour based on the award-winning storytelling concept developed by Clio Muse and the fascinating narratives prepared by our handpicked destination experts.
You can enjoy each multilingual tour by using your smartphone or tablet at your own pace even if you are offline. The interactive map on your screen will guide you step-by-step as you explore all points of interest along your route. Each stop comes with a selection of our signature stories allowing you to tailor the tour experience to your personal interests and schedule.
After downloading Clio Muse app, you can access this tour and activate it any moment you wish and also repeat it any time. To best enjoy our multimedia self-guided tour (comprising maps, video, audio and text) we recommend the use of headphones.