Dodona Travel Guide

Dodona

The only thing to do, or see for that matter, at the somewhat isolated Dodona, are the ancient ruins. This archaeological site, steeped in history and mystery, is worthy of the time and effort it takes to visit, and dedicating a whole day is most rewarding.

Said to be the oldest oracle in Greece, the Dodona flourished for well over a millennium, from at least the 8th century BC until the 4th century AD, when Christianity succeeded the cult of Zeus. Homer, in the Iliad, mentions "wintry Dodona," where Zeus's pronouncements, made known through the burbling brook and the wind-rustled leaves of a sacred oak, were interpreted by priests "whose feet are unwashed and who sleep on the ground." The oak tree was central to the cult, and its image appears on the region's ancient coins. Here Odysseus sought forgiveness for slaughtering his wife's suitors, and from this oak the Argonauts took the sacred branch to mount on their ship's prow. According to one story, Apollo ordered the oracle moved here from Thessaly; Herodotus, however, writes that it was locally believed a black dove from Thebes in Egypt landed in the oak and announced, in a human voice, that the oracle of Zeus should be built.

There is a little canteen at the entrance to the site where visitors can get refreshments, but bringing a simple packed lunch—some bread, cheese, olives, and a tomato—is a pleasant alternative. You can sit and listen for whispers from long-forgotten Zeus, father of gods.

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