Τετάρτη, 15 Αυγούστου 2012

Dodoni - temples, oracles, games

Article/Photos: Maria and Konstantina Konstantinoy
Translation: Sofia Drivas
Read this article in greek 

Dodoni is located in the prefecture of Ioannina in Epirus, 22 km southwest of Ioannina, on the slopes of Mount Tomaros. We visited the archaeological site of Dodona and feel we should make a brief historical summary of this sacred place, which is in fact a miniature city, Dodonoupolis. As for the geographical position, the sanctuary of Dodoni is located in the center of a narrow valley on the eastern slopes of Mount Tomaros. Despite the sun and heat of
midday, we were not intimidated during the tour of the archaeological landscape, as a cool breeze came our way, probably due to the particular geographical location our ancestors had chosen!

Following the path that leads to the archaeological complex, the first encounter is with the impressive ancient theater of Dodona. This is one of the largest theaters in antiquity with a capacity of 17,000 spectators, and has withstood the passing of time and remains in very good condition (currently on restoration work), built in the early 3rd century B.C , during the reign of Pyrrhus. The acoustics are unique. It is built in a natural cavity of the soil and includes the basic parts of an ancient Greek theater: The hollow (seats for the audience), the orchestra and the stage. The image of the theater in its present form is the result of changes that followed disasters, usually caused by the Aetolians and Romans. The theater of Dodoni came to its final form in 31 BC, when the Roman Emperor Octavian Augustus, turned it into an arena for animal fights.
Located exactly next to the theater is the ancient stadium of Dodoni. This is a later construction than the theater (late 3rd century BC) and is one of the few stadiums with stone seats. Here the Naian ceremonies took place in honor of Zeus Naiou, probably every 4 years and included both athletic competitions, and drama (in theater).
The next monuments the visitor meets as he continues his sightseeing are the parliament and the Prytaneum which are both constructions of the same building period during the 3rd century B.C. Two sites with political and public character stand there facing one another.

Such a sacred place, of course, could not be lacking religious edifices to honor deities, but all of them had to do with Dodonaio Jupiter, towards whom many ceremonies were held.
We re referring to the temple of Venus (early 3rd century B.C.) daughter of Zeus and Dione, as Homer tells us, who believes she is an Olympian goddess, unlike Hesiod who believes that Venus descends from the titans (born from the foam of the sea mixed with Uranus castrated genitals by his son Kronos).
All this, however, associated with the worship of the goddess Dione, which was connected to the primitive worship of Mother Gaia and preceded the worship of Zeus in the region. Hence, there are two temples in her honor, the old (4th century BC) and the new (late 3rd century BC), as she was worshiped as the wife of Zeus Naiou.
An endeared deity by the people of Dodoni was Themis, goddess of justice to whom they had dedicated a temple in the beguinning of the 3rd century B.C. Mythology also refers to hes as daughter of Uranus and Gaia and also wife of Zeus! In archaeological finds, Zeus Dione and Themis are found as synnaoi gods, which means gods that share the same temple.
The adventurer, globetrotter and beloved Greek hero, Heracles, also has his temple here.
The Doric temple of the early 3rd century BC is under a Christian church built in basilica style.
The temple, makes evident the presence of the new religion, Christianity, with churches built everywhere during the 5th century AD on the ruins of ancient temples.
At the top of the hill we find the acropolis of Dodoni, surrounded by a wall, probably built in the 4th century.

We left for the end of course the famous Sacred House, otherwise known as Temple of Zeus and includes the main sanctuary (temple) and the well known oracle. The fascination and myth surrounding the oracle of Dodoni, attracted steady interest in ancient Greek literature. References to the cult of Zeus at Dodoni, are found in the Homeric epics, works of the 8th century BC. The Myrmidonas hero and protagonist of the Iliad, Achilles, prayed towards Zeus of Dodona, in these words: "Zeus, lord of Dodona, Pelasgian, from afar you are taking care of the snowy mountains of Dodona and close to you live the Selloi the prophets soiled feet, sleeping on the ground. "(Iliad, II)
Apparently Dodoneos cult of Zeus is very old, as evidenced by the adjective Pelasgian, which, although we do not know why it is used by Homer, generally refers to the first Greeks. An even older cult of the area is based on Mother Earth, goddess of nature and fertility, the most ancient goddess of all gods. Later in history, the Elloi or, Selloi arrive at Dodoni and worship Zeus, and Mother Earth, Gaia, becomes Dione the wife of Zeus, so the two cults entwine and coexist. This well known tribe of the Selloi were oracles of Zeys in Dodoni, and interpreted the oracles the god send to them by paying attention to nature (the rustling of the leaves, the flying patterns of the birds...) They lived an ascetic life, disdained caring for their body and slept on the ground, some findings justify this action as they believed the Earth itself gave them oracles.
The bond between Zeus and Dione, gives characteristics to the god of thunder of a chthonic deity (another form of chthonic Zeus is Zeus Meilichios) and connects with the Earth (Dione) and believed that the holy couple lived in the roots of the sacred oak (beech). Homer, at “O” rhapsody of the Odyssey, has Odysseus disguised as a beggar, talking to his shepherd Eumaeus about a visit to the oracle of Dodoni. The aim was to get the oracle from Zeuses tall oak tree , the beech, whether he would ever rturn to his homeland or not. According to legend, the beech, gives oracles with a human voice, or answers questions from visitors, with the rustle of the leaves, revealing the will of Zeus. An impressive part of the narration is when the Argo, the ship of the Argonauts, has the ability to speak as a human, after the goddess Athena placed in the Argo a piece of sacred wood of the beech.


And close to the founding myth of the oracle of Dodona, the oldest in the Greek area. The inquisitive researcher Herodotus tells a story, based on the testimonies of the Egyptians and the priests Dodoneos: two black pigeons (peleiades) flew from Thebes of Egypt and one of them arrived in Libya and founded the oracle of Ammon. The other peleiada arrived at Dodona and sat on the sacred beech, this urged the Dodoneans to start the oracle of Zeus. Because Herodotus is not completely convinced by this version, gives his own interpretation: two women from egupt founded the two oracles. Because, however, they did not speak the Greek language, it seemed to Dodoneos that they spoke like birds so they called these women peleiades. That woman priestess of Dodona later learned the Greek language and gave oracles in greek.

Visiting Dodoni is a great experience, archaeologists are constantly doing excavations in the area and new monuments are still being discovered.
Finds from the area of Dodoni are exhibited in the Archaeological museum of Ioannina.

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