The ancient Greeks and
Romans believed that it was not wise to anger the gods. They built temples
all over the place. Each temple, no matter how
elaborate, honored only one god. The major gods had lots of temples built in their honor.
Many temples were built
to honor Apollo. He was a favorite god. Apollo was the god of music, reason, and light. Apollo's
chariot brought up the sun each day.
Apollo had other
powers. One was a very special skill - Apollo could see the future. He
had the gift of prophecy.
Many people brought gifts to Apollo, and asked for
advice in exchange. Apollo liked the attention. And the gifts. It was
all very nice, but it was also exhausting.
As the story goes
One day, Apollo decided that
what he needed was an oracle, a wise woman to speak for him. In ancient
times, an oracle was a person who could predict and interpret the future.
Apollo used some magic and
established his oracle in a temple at Delphi. There were many
oracles, or fortune tellers. Apollo's oracle at Delphi
was the most famous.
The predictions made by other
oracles were rather vague. A normal oracle might answer, "Yes, the
frost will be gone, and spring will come, if the gods decree it."
Such an answer was not much help if your question was, "Should I plant
my garden tomorrow?"
oracle had to tell people the truth, and she could not just answer yes or
no. The oracle had to make a truthful statement. It was up to you, the
listener, to figure out what she meant by it. Sometimes people misunderstood
what she was telling them. That was the trouble with oracles, even the best
There is an old story about
Apollo's oracle that went something like this ....
Once upon a time, a long time ago,
a weary king traveled to Delphi to ask
the oracle, "Who will win the battle tomorrow?"
The oracle smiled at him, and
gently answered, "A great king."
The king was very happy to
hear this. He left many gifts for the oracle, and went quickly away to ready
his men for battle, quite
pleased that he had come.
had overlooked in his haste is that more than one king would lead his men to
battle in the morning. An oracle's smile meant nothing.