Discovery of the Oracle of Delphi

WAG 7652


This is part of a group of drawings by British artist and book illustrator Edward Francis Burney, depicting scenes from Greek and Roman history and mythology. The temple of Apollo at Delphi, at the foot of Mount Parnassus, was the home of the priestess Pythia. It was believed that in her trance-like state she could channel prophecies from the Greek god, Apollo. This was allegedly due to intoxicating fumes that allowed Apollo to pass through her. According to the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus, the temple was founded over a crack in the ground, out of which intoxicating fumes escaped. This was allegedly discovered by goatherds when their flocks began behaving strangely and making odd sounds when near the chasm. A goatherd investigated the chasm and was also affected, predicting future events in a possessed state. The site grew in popularity and became the Oracle of Delphi. This illustration depicts its discovery by a goatherd. There was a religious site at Delphi from 800 BC until 393 AD, when the Roman Emporor Theodosius closed all pagan sanctuaries.