Perhaps one of the most famous prophecies uttered by a Pythia, Oracle of Delphi, is that of Croesus’ defeat by the Persian Empire. According to Herodotus, Croesus, the king of the Lydians wanted to know if he should wage war on the fledging Persian Empire. The reply he got was that he would destroy a great empire if he attacked Persia.
Satisfied with this answer, Croesus prepared to invade Persia. Little did Croesus know that the ‘great empire’ referred to by the Oracle was not that of Persia, but his own. The rest, as they say, is history. While the authenticity of this story may be questionable, what is certain is that the Oracle of Delphi did exist.
‘Alexander Consulting the Oracle of Apollo’ (1789) by Louis-Jean-François Lagrenée. (Public Domain)
The Oracle of Delphi
Situated on the south-western spur of Mount Parnassus in the valley of Phocis, Delphi was associated with the Greek god Apollo. According to legend, the hill was guarded by a giant serpent called Python, who was a follower of the cult of Gaia (Earth), for hundreds of years. After killing Python, Apollo claimed Delphi as his own sanctuary.