Ancient Dodona

In the shadows of Mt. Tomaros lie the ruins of the oldest oracle in ancient Greece, with researchers placing its origins as far back as the Bronze Age between 2600 and 1900 BC. It was dedicated to an early deity representing the Earth Mother similar to Gaia or Rhea.

Later, the site chiefly honoured the God Zeus, a change owed to the fact that power over Dodona changed hands quite often due to tribal wars. Inscriptions and artefacts recovered from the site make it apparent that the oracle was visited and controlled exclusively by tribes in the region such as the Thesprotians and Mollosians, though it is still unclear by whom it was founded. Visitors from other regions of Greece only began coming to the site during the 7th century BC, and it quickly became considered to be a sacred source of wisdom, second in significance only to Delphi. Unlike Delphi, the oracle here interpreted the future by the rustling of the leaves of a sacred Oak Tree around which the site was built.

Throughout its history, a theatre, stadium, several temples and public buildings were erected. The infamous King Pyrrus of Epirus greatly expanded the site and made it the capital of the region. During his rule, athletic contests and musical festivals were regularly held at Dodona. Due to the instability among tribes within the area, the site was often attacked. It was partially destroyed by the Aetolian Tribe during the 3rd century BC. King Phillip V of Macedonia had it rebuilt years later. The site suffered the same fate by the hands of the Romans in 167 BC but was later rebuilt by Octavian Augustus in 31 BC. The oracle continued to be consulted until the late 4th century AD when the Christian Emperor Theodosius put an end to all pagan activities at the site.

Today visitors can see a variety of surviving monuments from various periods of time during which the site operated. The theatre and some of the temples are the most well-preserved examples. Artefacts found during excavations at Dodona are now housed in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens and the Archaeological Museum in Ioannina.


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