The Oracle of Dodona is the oldest oracle in the entire Hellenistic
world, constructed approximately 1000 B.C. As Hesiodus mentions, Zeus himself
claimed the Oracle as belonging to him. The Selloi comprised the priests and the
prophets of Dodona, at Zeus' service, who remained the divine authority over the
sacred area. The Goddes Gaea, upon appearing as Zeus' Deity, assumed another shape
and was renamed Dione. The Oracle of Dodona differed from the Delphi Oracle since
it provided prophecies derived by a different method. Pythia did not whisper prophecies;
with the breezing air and the soaring birds that would form nests within the sacred
oaktree's branches, the God's prophecies would be conveyed to the sacred oaktree.
Later on, the sounds made from beating a copper vessel that was placed on tripods,
assisted even more. Odysseus, Kreontas, even the God Dionysus, entrusted their
hopes to the swaying air.
The Athletic Games in honor of Naia Zeus took place annually upon the sacred Dodona grounds. These Games included drama competitions, music competitions, chariot games and wrestling.
During the period of King Pyrrus' reign, the Temple of Zeus was reconstructed. In the 2nd century A.D., the Romans proceeded in causing great catastrophes and set fire to the Dodona Temple. In 219 B.C., following the attack and looting of the Dodona Temple by the Aetolians, a period of decline begins. The area was ravaged once again, this time by the Mithradates and Thracians. Thus, at the end of the 4th century A.D., the final end to the Oracle's operation came as a result of the dissemination and establishment of Christianity. The first excavations of the sacred land of Dodona began in 1875 by Mr. K. Karapanos. Mr. S. Dakaris and D. Evagelides, who continued these excavations during the periods 1929 - 1933 and 1950 - 1981. From 1981 onward, excavations are being executed under the auspice of the Archaeology Service. Dodona's archaeological site is comprised of the following monuments: The Temple of Zeus or Sacred House that was originally located outdoors (near the Sacred Oaktree), the Vouleuterion, the Prytaneion (this is where Zeus' priests lived), the Acropolis, the Stadium (this has not been completely excavated) and the Theatre.
The Theatre of Dodona is one of the largest theatres in Greece (18.000 seats) and was built during the 3rd century B.C. It is comprised, as all ancient theatres, of a koilon (spectators' seats), a stage, an orchestra whilst there was also a Doric colonnade. There may possibly also have been a wooden construction in front of the stage. Its walls extend 21 meters in height and are supported by strong towers. Under Roman Rule, the structure was transformed into an arena for animal fights. In the early 60s, the theatre was rebuilt and today comprises a significant visitors' attraction point, which is used to perform theatrical plays primarily during the summer months.
This text is cited May 2003 from the Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs URL below.
Periods: Geometric, Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, Roman
Summary: The major sanctuary of Zeus in northern Greece.
Located S of Lake Pambotis at the foot of Mt. Tomaros, ca. 20 km S of Ioannina, the sanctuary consisted originally of a sacred oak tree, possibly enclosed by a ring of bronze tripods. It developed into a temenos that included several temples, theater, stadium, and a number of stoas. Just above the sanctuary is a refuge acropolis enclosed by fortification walls dating to the 4th century B.C. In the temenos of the sanctuary is a bouleuterion where the delegates of the Epirote League held council.
The sanctuary of Zeus at Dodona, already known in the Homeric epics, was traditionally the home of the earliest oracle in Greece. Early to Late Bronze Age finds have been excavated at the site, but the earliest archaeological evidence for cult activity dates to the 8th century B.C. At this early date the sanctuary consisted of a sacred oak tree (or grove) possibly surrounded by a ring of bronze tripods. At the end of the 5th century B.C. or early in the 4th, the first stone temple was constructed and the sacred oak was enclosed in a stone peribolos wall. During the 4th century, the bouleuterion and 3 temples (probably to Aphrodite, Dione, and Themis) were added, and a fortified refuge was constructed above the sanctuary. Beginning with the rule of King Pyrrhos (297-272 B.C.), who promoted the site as a pan-Hellenic sanctuary, Dodona developed a more monumental character. In the 3rd century B.C. the temenos was enlarged and the theater, Temple of Herakles, and stoas were added. In 232 B.C. Dodona became the center of the newly formed Epirote League. The sanctuary was destroyed by the Aetolians in 219 B.C., but was immediately rebuilt by the League and Philip V with spoils taken from the Aetolians. During the 3rd century a stadium with stone seats was also added to the sanctuary. In 168 B.C. the site was destroyed by the Romans and only slightly repaired before it was again ravaged in 88 B.C. by Mithradates and the Thracians. Although the Naia Festivals and the activities of the oracle continued into the 3rd century A.D., the sanctuary never recovered from the destruction of 168 B.C. and was in a ruinous state already in the 1st century B.C. In the time of Augustus the theater had been converted into an arena and, as at the sanctuary of Artemis Orthia at Sparta, the religious function of the site seems to have been reduced in the Roman period to its tourist appeal. In the 5th or 6th century A.D. a Christian basilica was constructed on the site with reused ancient materials. The Naia Festival (athletic and drama contests) was held every 4 years in honor of Zeus. The earliest attendants were males, the selloi, but were later replaced by priestesses. The oracular responses seemed to have been originally the oral report on sounds caused by the rustling of leaves, cooing of doves, or the ringing of metal tripods, but by the 6th century B.C. applications and occasionally the oracle's responses were written on lead tablets.
Located and 1st excavated by C. Carapanos in 1875. Excavations for the Greek Archaeological Service by D. Evangelidis 1929-32, 1935, 1952-59 and by S. Dakaris 1959-1974.
Donald R. Keller, ed.
This text is cited Jan 2003 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains 64 image(s), bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.
Rectangular building near the Prytaneion. As testified by inscriptions,
its foundation dates back to early 3rd century BC.
The building was restored for the first time in 219 BC after its initial destruction during the invasion of the Aetolians, and for a second time after the invasion of the Romans in 167 BC. Behind the colonnaded portico which formed the facade, two entrances led directly to the auditorium. Its southern part was occupied by seats, delegating the six ionic columns which supported the roof of the auditorium to the northern half of the room. Narrow stairways at the sides led to the upper tiers.
Today only the foundation, an interior column in the southwestern part of the room, an altar and a statue base are preserved.
This text is cited March 2003 from the Foundation of the Hellenic World URL below.
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