Monday, May 9, 2016

Ayoola Goodyness Olanrewaju writes

God is God

for all that grace 

poured into the essence of life 
for mere mortals like us
we know we are time
and our lives are not our own...


you stand on the dust that you are
like an immortal waving the keys of heaven
you say you have caught God
and bought him many whips...

and i have checked you
you are still a time like us
whipping an air staked to a rope...

you are just man and no more
not God... Oracle -- Heinrich Leutemann
Heinrich Leutemann
Heinrich Leutemann
Heinrich Leutemann


  1. When Zeus tried to find the center of his Grandmother Earth (Gaia) he sent two eagles flying from her eastern and western extremities, and their flight paths crossed over Delphi (from the same root as “delphys," womb), the location of her omphalos (navel). The navel was later guarded by her son, the drako Python (derived from pythō, "to rot"). While still an infant, because Python had attempted to rape Leto while she was pregnant with Apollo and Artemis, Apollo shot his first arrow at the monster, killing it. Its body fell into a fissure, from which fumes arose from its decomposing body. In atonement, Apollo was forced to flee and spend eight years in menial service before he could be forgiven for killing Gaea's son. Later, before the Trojan War, driven by anger against Apollo, her brother or father (though Pausanias claimed that she was "born between man and goddess, daughter of sea monsters and an immortal nymph"), the prophetic Delphic Sybyl arrived from the Troad, lingered for a time at Samos, visited Claros and Delos, and then returned to the Troad to die after surviving nine generations of men; after her death she became a wandering voice that still delivered tidings of the future wrapped in dark riddles, but she was unconnected to the "oracle of Delphi," the most prestigious and authoritative oracle among the Greeks, as transmitted by the Pythia, the priestess of the Temple of Apollo on Mt. Parnassus; a panhellenic sanctuary, an eternal flame was created in the temple’s inner hestia ("hearth"), when the Greek city states extinguished their own fires after their defeat of the Persians at Plataea in 479 BCE. In many foundation stories, the founding colonists were first dedicated at Delphi. Its entrance was marked by two phrases attributed to Apollo ("know thyself" and "nothing in excess") and an enigmatic "E." The Roman orator Marcus Tullius Cicero claimed that no expedition was undertaken, no colony sent out, and no affair of any distinguished individual carried out without the oracle's sanction, and the Pythia was also esteemed in Lydia, Caria, Egypt, and elsewhere, making her the most world’s most influential woman. The early Christian leaders claimed the oracles were assisted by demons in order to spread idolatry, making the need for a savior even more evident.

  2. One of the city's leading citizens would be chosen priest for life; he would oversee the oracle, conduct sacrifices at other festivals of Apollo, and, after 586 BCE supervise the quadrennial Pythian games held to commemorate Apollo's victory. It was the 2nd oldest and 2nd most important of the four panhellenic games, and unlike the others, it featured “mousikos agon,” musical competitions; the victors were presented with a laurel crown (stephanos) which was ceremonially cut from a tree in the temple by a boy re-enacting Python’s slaying. (After ca. 200 BCE, there were usually two priests.) On non-oracular days, consultants ("those who seek counsel") could ask simple questions, and the priest would draw lots in the form of beans, with one color signifying “yes” and another “no.” The Pythia only gave prophecies during the nine warmest months of the year, since Apollo wintered among the Hyperboreans, far to the north of Thrace where the sun shone all day, his place being filled there by his half-brother Dionysus, whose tomb was within the temple; it is not known if the Pythia participated in the Dionysian rites. Apollo returned on his birthday at the beginning of spring, on the 7th day of Bysios, and on the 7th day of each month thereafter the oracle would undergo purification rites, including fasting, to prepare for her communication with him. The priest would dance on Parnassus' highest point and perform various rites, including sprinkling the temple floor with holy water. Then, her face veiled in purple, the Pythia would be led by two attendant priests to the Castalian Spring, where she would bathe naked to purify herself, then drink the waters of the Kassotis, which was holier because it flowed closer to the temple, and where a naiad possessing magical powers lived. Then, escorted by the hosioi ("holy ones," an aristocratic council of five) and a large entourage of oracular servants, she would proceed to the temple, while the consultants, carrying laurel branches, a sacrificial goat kid, and appropriate fees, approached along the winding Sacred Way; they had already been interviewed by the priest to determine which cases were genuine, and they had been trained how to frame their questions and present their gifts. Successful consultants then drew lots to determine the order of admission, though official representatives of a city-state and those who brought larger donations were given favorable treatment. Each client had to sacrifice a honey cake on the great altar, for cash, the amount fixed according to the person's status (the lowest rate was equivalent to two days' wages of an Athenian juryman). At the temple, the Pythia, wearing a short plain white dress, would remove her purple veil. The kid would be set in front of the altar at the temple fire to Hestia and sprinkled with water; if the kid trembled from the hooves upward it was considered a good omen, but if it did not, the oracle would be cancelled until the next month. (The historian Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus, who was temple priest at the turn of the 1st and 2nd centuries, reported on an oracular consultation despite poor omens, resulting in a hysterical, uncontrollable reaction from the Pythia, who died a few days later.) The goat was slaughtered and its liver and other organs were examined to ensure the signs were favorable, then burned outside on the sanctuary’s main black-marble altar, donated in the 5th century by the people of Chios. Finally, the Pythia would descend into the adyton ("inaccessible") and mount a tripod seat, holding the laurel leaves and a dish of Kassotis water into which she gazed. She also chewed oleander leaves and inhaled their smoke. Nearby was a stone omphalos, flanked by two solid gold eagles, and the cleft from which the sacred pneuma emerged. The process of divination that followed was so physically exhausting that Plutarchus claimed it shortened the Pythia's life.

  3. Often, her pronouncements were vague and ambiguous. According to Herodotus, in 547 BCE, king Croesus of Lydia was told that if he attacked Persia he would destroy a great empire. After an inconclusive battle near the Halys river in central Anatolia, he followed the usual practice of disbanding for the winter; but Kūruš II (Cyrus the Great) kept his own force intact, defeated Croesus in Sardis in 546 BCE, annexed his kingdom, and sentenced him to be burned to death. However, Kūruš felt pity upon his foe and tried unsuccessfully to put out the fire. Croesus, who had extravagantly rewarded the oracle, prayed to Apollo, who caused a violent rainstorm to quell the flames, and he spent the rest of his life serving as a Persian administrator. Also according to Herodotus, when the Persians under Khashayarsha (Xerxes I) invaded Greece in 480 BCE, the oracle told the Athenians, “Far-seeing Zeus gives you, Tritogeneia (Athena) a wall of wood, / Only this will stand intact and help you and your children. / Blessed Salamis, you will be the death of mothers’ sons / Either when the seed is scattered or when it is gathered in.” As many of you complain, poetry may sometimes be difficult to decipher. Some Athenians, including Themistocles, saw the “wall of wood” as a synecdoche for “ships,” while the city’s aristocratic leaders interpreted it as the stockade that protected the acropolis and decided a naval battle would be disastrous. But Themistocles, believing that the oracle’s tone would have been harsher if the Athenians were doomed, persuaded them it would be better to fight than remain passively on the defensive. The Persians would have to march through the narrow pass of Thermopylae, which could be blocked by the Greeks even though they were overwhelmingly outnumbered; to prevent the Persians from bypassing Thermopylae by sea, the Greeks would need to block the straits of Artemisium. The Spartans were hesitant about marching out of the Peloponnesus in order to defend Attica, so Themistocles had to show them that the Athenians were willing to send the entire Athenian to Artemisium, even though that meant conscripting every able-bodied male to man the ships, thus leaving Athens undefended. Over three days, Themistocles’ navy sustained considerable losses against a superior Persian force but managed to avoid defeat; however, the Persian victory at Thermopylae made the defense of Artemisium irrelevant, and the Greeks withdrew to Salamis. The Persians took Athens and advanced against Salamis. Themistocles tricked Xerxes into believing that the Greeks were fighting among themselves and planning to abandon Salamis overnight, and that Xerxes could end the war immediately by blocking the straits. Xerxes accordingly sent his fleet into position and encircled the Greek navy, but was outmaneuvered in the cramped space and suffered a decisive loss, allowing the Greeks to go onto the offensive in 479 BCE and finally defeat the Persian invasion.

  4. Toxicologists have attributed the prophecies to Nerium oleander, which produces symptoms similar to those of epilepsy, the “sacred disease.” Archeological excavations have revealed an underground space under the temple, so the oleander fumes (the "spirit of Apollo") could have come from a brazier in the underground antron and escaped through the chasm in the temple’s floor. Another theory is derived from the temple’s location. Greece lies at the intersection of three separate tectonic plates, and the rift of the Gulf of Corinth is one of the most geologically active sites on Earth, imposing immense strains on nearby fault lines, such as those below Delphi. In the 1980s, as part of a UN survey of active faults in Greece, geologist Jelle Zeilinga de Boer, archaeologist John R. Hale, forensic chemist Jeffrey P. Chanton, and toxicologist Henry R. Spiller investigated Delphi. They found evidence of two major fault lines, one (the Kerna fault) lying north-south, the Kerna fault, and one (the Delphic fault) lying east-west, parallel to the shore of the Corinthian Gulf. The two faults intersect where the adyton was probably located. They also found evidence for underground passages and chambers, and drains for spring water. A bituminous deposit rich in hydrocarbons and full of pitch lies deep beneath the Delphi region, with a petrochemical content as high as 20%; friction created by earthquakes would heat the bituminous layers, resulting in the vaporization of the hydrocarbons which rise to the surface through small fissures in the rock. Spiller pointed out that inhaling even a small amount of ethylene can cause benign trances and euphoric psychedelic experiences as well as physical detachment, loss of inhibitions, the relieving of pain, and rapidly changing moods without dulling consciousness; excessive doses can lead to confusion, agitation, delirium, and loss of muscle coordination. Anesthesiologist Isabella Herb noted that a dose of less than 20% ethylene gas can induce a trance during which a person can sit up, hear questions and answer them logically (though the vocal tone and speech pattern may be affected), and the awareness of hands and feet could be diminished (even to the extent of not feeling being poked poked with a pin or pricked with a knife); when removed from the area, the person would have no recollection of what had happened or what they had said. However, a dosage higher than 20% caused unconsciousness, loss of control over the movement of limbs to the point of wild thrashing, groaning in strange voices, losing one’s balance and repeated falling. All of these symptoms were described by Plutarchus, who associated the Pythia’s oracular powers with the vapors from the Kerna spring waters that flowed beneath the temple. In 2001, water samples from the Kerna spring, originating uphill from the temple, yielded 0.3 parts per million of ethylene, but it is unknown what the concentration would have been in earlier times. Chunks of travertine (calcareous rock formed from mineral spring deposits) were also extracted from the temple, but no trace of ethylene was identified. However, ethylene is extremely light and volatile, so it could have escaped from the rock long ago. The frequent earthquakes in the area were probably responsible for the observed cracking of the limestone and the opening of new channels by which hydrocarbons enter the Kassotis waters but would also cause the amount of emitted ethylene to fluctuate, increasing or decreasing its potency. The decrease of the oracle’s importance after the time of emperor Publius Aelius Hadrianus Augustus (“Hadrian”) may have been related to the significant decline in earthquake activity at the time.

  5. The oldest account of the oracle's origins is the so-called "Homeric Hymn to Delphic Apollo" (ca. 580–570 BCE), which claimed "Cretans from Minos' city of Knossos," whom the Muse had endowed with "honey-voiced singing," were en route to Pylos when Apollo leaped into their "swift ship" in the form of a dolphin ("delphys") and told them to follow him to Krisa, a "place where you will have rich offerings." The Cretans "danced in time and followed," singing paeans to Paiēon (the Mycenaean name for Apollo). Later, in the first century BCE, Diodorus Siculus traced the site’s earlier history, claiming that Coretes, a goatherd, entered a chasm into which one of his goats had fallen before it began acting strangely and, filled with a divine presence, discovered he could look into the past and the future. A shrine was erected there (by 1600 BCE), but after a number of men died in ecstatic frenzy, the villagers chose a single young woman, Phemonoe, to be the first Pythia, since chastity and purity were requirements for union with Apollo. However, Echecrates the Thessalian abducted one of her successors, and the Delphians passed a law that all future oracles would be 50 years or older but would continue to be dressed as a virgin. Each new Pythia was a native of Delphi with good character. If she was married, the priestess ceased all family responsibilities, marital relations, and individual identity. Usually there were three Pythia, with two taking turns giving prophecy and another kept in reserve. In the oracle's heyday, the Pythia were often chosen from influential families and were well educated in geography, politics, history, philosophy, and the arts, but later the role was usually filled by uneducated peasant women, which may explain why the poetic pentameter or hexameter prophecies of the early oracles were later delivered in prose.

  6. The office of the oracle was initially possessed by the goddesses Themis and Phoebe, and the site was sacred to Gaia; later it was sacred to Poseidon. The divination of the earliest oracles at Delphi apparently used egkoimisi (a procedure that involved sleeping in the holy place in order to see a revealing dream). But between the 11th and 9th centuries BCE, Apollo (who may have evolved from the earlier Mesopotamian god Nergal, who had the Akkadian nickname Aplu, “son”) emerged as a new god of prophecy; he walked from Lydia and, after stopping at Tempe, in Thessaly, to pick laurel, he went to Delphi; while grazing his cattle there, the three winged sisters of Parnassus, the Thriae, taught him the art of divination via a kliromanteion (throwing lots into a container and pulling one out, noting its revelatory color and shape). In the 8th century BCE, Apollo seized the temple and expelled the twin guardian serpents of Gaia, whose bodies he then wrapped around the caduceus. Apollo lived within his holy plant, the laurel, and rustled its leaves to give oracles for the future. (Poseidon was mollified by the gift of a new site in Troizen.)

  7. The town started to gain relevance as a shrine and oracle in the 7th century BCE, when architects Trophonios and Agamedes built an important structure there, which was, however, destroyed by a fire. The oracle was highly regarded by the early Romans; in the 6th century, their last king, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, sent a delegation including two of his sons to consult the oracle. Initially under the control of Phocaean settlers based in nearby Kirra (modern Itea), Delphi was reclaimed by the Athenians during the First Sacred War (597–585 BCE). The conflict resulted in the consolidation of the Amphictyonic League, which had both a military and a religious function that revolved around the protection of the temple of Apollo, which, however, was again destroyed by fire in 548 BCE. The Alcmaeonidae, a powerful Athenian clan led by archon Megacles, were exiled in 546 BCE by the popular tyrant Peisistratos (“Pisistratus,” Megacles’ father-in-law) and paid for the rebuilding of the temple. Megacles married again and had two sons, Hippocrates (the grandfather of Pericles) and Cleisthenes, the reformer of the Athenian democracy who overthrew Peisistratos’ son in 508 BC after bribing the oracle to convince the reluctant Spartans to help him. In 449–448 BCE, the Second Sacred War resulted in the Phocians regaining control of Delphi and the management of the Pythian Games. The Alcmaeonid temple was destroyed by an earthquake in 375 BCE. In 356 BCE the Phocians under Philomelos sacked Delphi with Spartan help, leading to the Third Sacred War (356–346 BCE). Philomelos forced the Pythia to agree that he owned the oracle and was free to do what he pleased with it; he plundered the temple and raised a new army of 10,000 mercenaries, defeated the Locrians and Thessalians, but fell off a cliff to his death in 354 BCE fighting against the Boeotians. The Third Sacred War led to the rise of Macedonian power under
    Phílippos II;it also led to the Fourth Sacred War (339 BCE), which culminated in the battle of Chaeronea (338 BCE) that established Macedonian rule over Greece. In Delphi, Macedonian rule was finally superseded by the Aetolians in 279 BCE, when a Gallic invasion was repelled, and ultimately by the Romans in 191 BCE. In 83 BCE a Thracian tribe raided Delphi, burned the temple, plundered the sanctuary, and stole the "unquenchable fire" from the altar, and an earthquake severely damaged the temple the same year. Three years later the city was sacked by Lucius Cornelius Sulla during the Mithridatic Wars, and again by emperor Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus in 66, but the Flavian dynasty of emperors (69-96) contributed to the restoration of the site.
    Early in the 2nd century Hadrian visited the oracle twice and gave the city complete autonomy, but nevertheless it continued to lose importance. After Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus (emperor Constantine the Great) converted to Christianity in 312, he looted several of its monuments, including the Tripod of Plataea, which he used to decorate his new capital at Constantinopolis in 324. Even so, despite the triumph of Christianity, the oracle remained a religious center throughout the 4th century, and the Pythian Games continued until 424 or later, but Theodosius I finally razed the temple in 381. The site was abandoned in the 6th or 7th centuries, though an episcopal list from the the 8th/9th century contained a single “bishop of Delphi.” After the Muslim conquest of the region, the village of Kastri was founded on the site.


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