Oracles and Caves

Yulia Ustinova

in Caves and the Ancient Greek Mind

Published in print February 2009 | ISBN: 9780199548569
Published online January 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191720840 | DOI:
Oracles and Caves

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This chapter discusses oracles focused on caves and subterranean chambers, such as the prophetic caves belonging to Pan and the Nymphs, oracles of the dead (at Taenarum, Heracleia Pontica, and elsewhere), the caverns in the valley of Meander (Hierapolis and Acharaca), oracular cults of immortal subterranean daimons (Trophonius, Amphiaraus, Zalmoxis, Rhesus, and Orpheus), and several ancient and important oracular shrines of Apollo (Ptoion, Claros, and most notably, Delphi). The main reasons for location of oracles in caves are sensory deprivation or inhalation of poisonous gases that induced altered states of consciousness required for inspired divination. It is also argued that cave experiences of ordinary Greeks were quite widespread. Prophetic priests, members of sacred embassies, private consultants who applied to various oracles for advice, and individuals who personally experienced in caves altered states of consciousness—all these people knew that descent into caves brought about noetic sensations.

Keywords: prophetic caves; Nymphs; Pan; Apollo; oracles of the dead; Trophonius; Amphiaraus; Zalmoxis; Ptoion; Claros; Delphi

Chapter.  43551 words. 

Subjects: Classical Philosophy

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