gigatos | December 19, 2022


Pythia (M.Greek Πυθία) was the name of the oracle of Delphi”s prophetesses in ancient Greece. The same name was used for all priestesses, regardless of the person, for several centuries. At its most extensive stage, three Pythias were simultaneously employed by the oracle and the temple of Apollo. There were therefore numerous Pythian priests (plural: Pythiai), both at the same time and throughout history. It was therefore a kind of title of office.

The name Pythia was derived from the original name of Delfoi, Pytho. This name was derived by the Greeks from the word pythein (πύθειν, ”to rot”), referring to the rotting body of the Python monster slain by Apollo on the spot.

Initially, those selected for the job had to be young, virgins and free of physical disabilities. Later the practice was changed, as a Thessalian named Ekhekrates is said to have once become so infatuated with a maiden that he raped her. After that, women over 50 were used as fortune tellers, dressed as maidens to commemorate the former practice. At the latest, when Alexander the Great visited the Oracle in 300 BC, the elder Pythia was present.

Plutarkhos says that the Pythian candidates were tested by sprinkling cold water on them. Candidates who got cold sores were rejected. Some Pythias were ordinary peasant girls, while others came from wealthy families and were educated. Some were married and some had children, but presumably the job involved leaving the family when the priestess devoted herself to the service of Apollo. The priestesses remained Apollo”s handmaid for the rest of their lives. They received a salary, housing and maintenance, were exempt from taxation and were allowed to attend public functions. It is thought that the Delphi may have had a profession similar to the Vestal Virgins, whose job it was to look after the temple”s hestia fire, and from whom the Pythias were chosen.

The forecasters also had real names, which were common knowledge. In Greek tradition, the first Pythia was called Femonoe. In later stories, the name even became an archetypal Pythian name. Herodotus mentions a Pythia named Perialla, who was removed from office for taking bribes, and a Pythia named Aristonike, who prophesied to the Athenians just before the sea battle of Salamis. Pausanias mentions a Pythian named Xenokleia, who refused to prophesy to Heracles because he had killed Ifitos. The inscriptions also mention a Pythia named Theoneike.

Depending on usage, the term “Delphic oracle” can refer either to Pythia, more broadly the entire oracle institution with its priests who formulated the prophecies, or to the god Apollo himself, as whose intermediary each Pythia acted when reciting the prophecies.


  1. Pythia
  2. Pythia
  3. ^ wiktionary:Pythoness
  4. ^ Homeric Hymn to Apallo 363–369.
  5. ^ Morgan, C. (1990). Athletes and Oracles: The Transformation of Olympia and Delphi in the Eighth Century BC. p. 148.
  6. a b c Castrén, Paavo & Pietilä-Castrén, Leena: ”Pythia”, Antiikin käsikirja, s. 475. Helsinki: Otava, 2000. ISBN 951-1-12387-4.
  7. a b Sharma, A. K.: Prophecies & Predictions, s. 18–20. Pustak Mahal, 1993. ISBN 8122305512. Teoksen verkkoversio.
  8. a b c Connelly, Joan Breton: Portrait of a Priestess: Women and Ritual in Ancient Greece, s. 74–77. Princeton University Press, 2007. Teoksen verkkoversio.
  9. Le prétendu délire et les outrances prêtées à la Pythie viennent en fait d’une description poétique et fictive imaginée par Lucain dans son poème sur la guerre civile, La Pharsale, livre V, vers 169-174.
  10. Cependant, on note les réserves émises par Robert Flacelière, « Le délire de la Pythie est-il une légende ? », Revue des Études anciennes,‎ 1950, p. 306 et suiv.
  11. Morgan 1990, p. 148.
  12. Hino Homérico a Apolo 363-369.
  13. Faria, Eduardo Augusto de (1850). Novo diccionario de lingua portugueza: O mais exacto e mais completo de todos os diccionarios ate hoje publicados … seguido de um diccionario de synonymos. [S.l.]: Tip. lisbonense de J.C. d”Aguiar Vianna
  14. nrose 1978, pp. 196-227; Maurizio 2001, pp. 38-54.
  15. Piccardi, 2000; Spiller et al., 2000; de Boer, et al., 2001; Hale et al. 2003; Etiope et al., 2006; Piccardi et al., 2008.
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