Marcus Tullius Cicero was a Roman statesman, orator and philosopher, who served as consul in the year 63 BC. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the Roman equestrian order, is considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists, his influence on the Latin language was so immense that the subsequent history of prose, not only in Latin but in European languages up to the 19th century, was said to be either a reaction against or a return to his style. Cicero introduced the Romans to the chief schools of Greek philosophy and created a Latin philosophical vocabulary distinguishing himself as a translator and philosopher. Though he was an accomplished orator and successful lawyer, Cicero believed his political career was his most important achievement, it was during his consulship that the second Catilinarian conspiracy attempted to overthrow the government through an attack on the city by outside forces, Cicero suppressed the revolt by summarily and controversially executing five conspirators.
During the chaotic latter half of the 1st century BC marked by civil wars and the dictatorship of Gaius Julius Caesar, Cicero championed a return to the traditional republican government. Following Julius Caesar's death, Cicero became an enemy of Mark Antony in the ensuing power struggle, attacking him in a series of speeches, he was proscribed as an enemy of the state by the Second Triumvirate and executed by soldiers operating on their behalf in 43 BC after having been intercepted during an attempted flight from the Italian peninsula. His severed hands and head were as a final revenge of Mark Antony, displayed on The Rostra. Petrarch's rediscovery of Cicero's letters is credited for initiating the 14th-century Renaissance in public affairs and classical Roman culture. According to Polish historian Tadeusz Zieliński, "the Renaissance was above all things a revival of Cicero, only after him and through him of the rest of Classical antiquity." The peak of Cicero's authority and prestige came during the 18th-century Enlightenment, his impact on leading Enlightenment thinkers and political theorists such as John Locke, David Hume and Edmund Burke was substantial.
His works rank among the most influential in European culture, today still constitute one of the most important bodies of primary material for the writing and revision of Roman history the last days of the Roman Republic. Cicero was born in 106 BC in a hill town 100 kilometers southeast of Rome, he belonged to the tribus Cornelia. His father possessed good connections in Rome. However, being a semi-invalid, he studied extensively to compensate. Although little is known about Cicero's mother, Helvia, it was common for the wives of important Roman citizens to be responsible for the management of the household. Cicero's brother Quintus wrote in a letter. Cicero's cognomen, or personal surname, comes from the Latin for cicer. Plutarch explains that the name was given to one of Cicero's ancestors who had a cleft in the tip of his nose resembling a chickpea. However, it is more that Cicero's ancestors prospered through the cultivation and sale of chickpeas. Romans chose down-to-earth personal surnames.
The famous family names of Fabius and Piso come from the Latin names of beans and peas, respectively. Plutarch writes that Cicero was urged to change this deprecatory name when he entered politics, but refused, saying that he would make Cicero more glorious than Scaurus and Catulus. During this period in Roman history, "cultured" meant being able to speak both Greek. Cicero was therefore educated in the teachings of the ancient Greek philosophers and historians. Cicero used his knowledge of Greek to translate many of the theoretical concepts of Greek philosophy into Latin, thus translating Greek philosophical works for a larger audience, it was his broad education that tied him to the traditional Roman elite. Cicero's interest in philosophy figured in his career and led to him providing a comprehensive account of Greek philosophy for a Roman audience, including creating a philosophical vocabulary in Latin. In 87 BC, Philo of Larissa, the head of the Academy, founded by Plato in Athens about 300 years earlier, arrived in Rome.
Cicero, "inspired by an extraordinary zeal for philosophy", sat enthusiastically at his feet and absorbed Plato's philosophy. Cicero said of Plato's Dialogues. According to Plutarch, Cicero was an talented student, whose learning attracted attention from all over Rome, affording him the opportunity to study Roman law under Quintus Mucius Scaevola. Cicero's fellow students were Gaius Marius Minor, Servius Sulpicius Rufus, Titus Pomponius; the latter two became Cicero's friends for life, Pomponius would become, in Cicero's own words, "as a second brother", with both maintaining a lifelong correspondence. In 79 BC, Cicero left for Asia Minor and Rhodes; this was to avoid the potential wrath of Sulla, as Plutarch claims, though Cicero himself says it was to hone his skills and improve his p
In modern English, the term cult has come to refer to a social group defined by its unusual religious, spiritual, or philosophical beliefs, or its common interest in a particular personality, object or goal. This sense of the term is controversial and it has divergent definitions in both popular culture and academia and it has been an ongoing source of contention among scholars across several fields of study, it is considered pejorative. In the sociological classifications of religious movements, a cult is a social group with deviant or novel beliefs and practices, although this is unclear. Other researchers present a less-organized picture of cults, saying that they arise spontaneously around novel beliefs and practices. Groups said to be cults range in size from local groups with a few members to international organizations with millions. An older sense of the word cult—covered in a different article—is a set of religious devotional practices that are conventional within their culture and related to a particular figure, associated with a particular place.
References to the "cult" of, for example, a particular Catholic saint, or the imperial cult of ancient Rome, use this sense of the word. Beginning in the 1930s, cults became the object of sociological study in the context of the study of religious behavior. From the 1940s the Christian countercult movement has opposed some sects and new religious movements, it labelled them as cults for their "un-Christian" unorthodox beliefs; the secular anti-cult movement began in the 1970s and it opposed certain groups charging them with mind control and motivated in reaction to acts of violence committed by some of their members. Some of the claims and actions of the anti-cult movement have been disputed by scholars and by the news media, leading to further public controversy; the term "new religious movement" refers to religions. Many, but not all of them, have been considered to be cults. Sub-categories of cults include: Doomsday cults, personality cults, political cults, destructive cults, racist cults, polygamist cults, terrorist cults.
Various national governments have reacted to cult-related issues in different ways, this has sometimes led to controversy. English-speakers used the word "cult" not to describe a group of religionists, but to refer to the act of worship or to a religious ceremony; the English term originated in the early 17th century, borrowed via the French culte, from the Latin noun cultus. The word derived from the Latin adjective cultus, based on the verb colere. While the literal original sense of the word in English remains in use, a derived sense of "excessive devotion" arose in the 19th century; the terms cult and cultist came into use in medical literature in the United States in the 1930s for what would now be termed "faith healing" as practised in the US Holiness movement. This usage experienced a surge of popularity at the time, extended to other forms of alternative medicine as well. In the English-speaking world the word "cult" carries derogatory connotations, it has always been controversial because it is considered a subjective term, used as an ad hominem attack against groups with differing doctrines or practices.
In the 1970s, with the rise of secular anti-cult movements, scholars began abandoning the term "cult". According to The Oxford Handbook of Religious Movements, "by the end of the decade, the term'new religions' would replace'cult' to describe all of those leftover groups that did not fit under the label of church or sect."Sociologist Amy Ryan has argued for the need to differentiate those groups that may be dangerous from groups that are more benign. Ryan notes the sharp differences between definition from cult opponents, who tend to focus on negative characteristics, those of sociologists, who aim to create definitions that are value-free; the movements themselves may have different definitions of religion as well. George Chryssides cites a need to develop better definitions to allow for common ground in the debate. In Defining Religion in American Law, Bruce J. Casino presents the issue as crucial to international human rights laws. Limiting the definition of religion may interfere with freedom of religion, while too broad a definition may give some dangerous or abusive groups "a limitless excuse for avoiding all unwanted legal obligations".
Religion scholar Megan Goodwin defined the term cult when used by laymen as being a shorthand that means a "religion I don't like". A new religious movement is a religious community or spiritual group of modern origins, which has a peripheral place within its society's dominant religious culture. NRMs can be novel in origin or part of a wider religion, in which case they are distinct from pre-existing denominations. In 1999 Eileen Barker estimated that NRMs, of which some but not all have been labelled as cults, number in the tens of thousands worldwide, most of which originated in Asia or Africa. In 2007 the religious scholar Elijah Siegler commented that, although no NRM had become the dominant faith in any country, many of the concepts which they had first introduced have become part of worldwide mainstream culture. Sociologist Max Weber found that cults based on charismatic leadership follow the routinization of charisma; the concept of a "cult" as a sociological classification was introduced in 1932 by American sociologist Howard P. Becker as a
Worship is an act of religious devotion directed towards a deity. An act of worship may be performed individually, in an informal or formal group, or by a designated leader; such acts may involve honoring. The word is derived from the Old English weorþscipe, meaning to venerate "worship, honour shown to an object, etymologised as "worthiness or worth-ship"—to give, at its simplest, worth to something. Worship in Buddhism may take innumerable forms given the doctrine of skillful means. Worship is evident in Buddhism in such forms as: guru yoga, thanka, yantra yoga, the discipline of the fighting monks of Shaolin, mantra recitation, tea ceremony, amongst others. Buddhist Devotion is an important part of the practice of most Buddhists. According to a spokesman of the Sasana Council of Burma, devotion to Buddhist spiritual practices inspires devotion to the Triple Gem. Most Buddhists use ritual in pursuit of their spiritual aspirations. In Buddhism, puja are expressions of "honour and devotional attention."
Acts of puja include making offerings and chanting. These devotional acts are performed daily at home as well as during communal festivals and Uposatha days at a temple. Meditation is a central form of worship in Buddhism; this practice is focused on the third step of the Eightfold Path that leads to self awakening known as enlightenment. Meditation promotes exploration of the mind and spirit. Traditionally, Buddhist meditation had combined samatha and vipasyana to create a complete mind and body experience. By stopping one's everyday activities and focusing on something simple, the mind can open and expand enough to reach a spiritual level. By practicing the step of vipasyana, one does not achieve the final stage of awareness, but rather approaches one step closer. Mindful meditation teaches one to stop reacting to thoughts and external objects that present themselves, but rather to peacefully hold the thought without responding to it. Although in traditional Buddhist faith, enlightenment is the desired end goal of meditation, it is more of a cycle in a literal sense that helps individuals better understand their minds.
For example, meditation leads to leading to kindness, leading to peace, etc.. In Christianity, a church service is a formalized period of communal worship but not occurring on Sunday; the church service is the gathering together of Christians to be taught the "Word of God" and encouraged in their faith. Technically, the "church" in "church service" refers to the gathering of the faithful rather than to the building in which the event takes place. In Christianity, worship is reverent homage paid to God; the New Testament uses various words to express the concept of worship. The word proskuneo - "to worship" - means to bow down. Mass is the central act of divine worship in the Catholic Church; the Congregation for Divine Worship at the Vatican publishes a Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy. Roman Catholic devotions are "external practices of piety" which are not part of the official liturgy of the Catholic Church but are part of the popular spiritual practices of Catholics, they do not become part of liturgical worship if conducted in a Catholic church, in a group, in the presence of a priest.
Anglican devotions are private prayers and practices used by Anglican Christians to promote spiritual growth and communion with God. Among members of the Anglican Communion, private devotional habits vary depending on personal preference and on affiliation with low-church or high-church parishes; the New Testament uses various words translatable as "worship". The word proskuneo - "to worship" - means to bow down to kings. Roman Catholicism, Oriental Orthodoxy, Eastern Orthodoxy make a technical distinction between two different concepts: adoration or latria, due to God alone veneration or dulia, which may be lawfully offered to the saintsThe external acts of veneration resemble those of worship, but differ in their object and intent. Protestant Christians, who reject the veneration of saints, question whether Catholics always maintain such a distinction in actual devotional practice at the level of folk religion. According to Mark Miravalle the English word "worship" is equivocal, in that it has been used to denote both adoration/latria and veneration/dulia, in some cases as a synonym for veneration as distinct from adoration: As St. Thomas Aquinas explains, known as latria in classical theology, is the worship and homage, rightly offered to God alone.
It is the manifestation of submission, acknowledgement of dependence, appropriately shown towards the excellence of an uncreated divine person and to his absolute Lordship. It is the worship of the Creator. Although we see in English a broader usage of the word "adoration" which may not refer to a form of worship exclusive to God—for example, when a husband says that he "adores his wife"—in general it can be maintained that adoration is the best English denotation for the worship of latria. Veneration, known as dulia in classical theology, is the honor and reverence appropriately due to the excellence of a created person. Excellence exhibited by created beings deserves recognition and honor. We see a general example of veneratio
A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures and objects, performed in a sequestered place, performed according to set sequence. Rituals may be prescribed by the traditions including a religious community. Rituals are characterized but not defined by formalism, invariance, rule-governance, sacral symbolism, performance. Rituals are a feature of all known human societies, they include not only the worship rites and sacraments of organized religions and cults, but rites of passage and purification rites, oaths of allegiance, dedication ceremonies, coming of age ceremony or rites and presidential inaugurations and funerals, school "rush" traditions and graduations, club meetings, sporting events, Halloween parties, veterans parades, Christmas shopping and more. Many activities that are ostensibly performed for concrete purposes, such as jury trials, execution of criminals, scientific symposia, are loaded with purely symbolic actions prescribed by regulations or tradition, thus ritualistic in nature.
Common actions like hand-shaking and saying "hello" may be termed rituals. The field of ritual studies has seen a number of conflicting definitions of the term. One given by Kyriakidis is that a ritual is an outsider's or "etic" category for a set activity that, to the outsider, seems irrational, non-contiguous, or illogical; the term can be used by the insider or "emic" performer as an acknowledgement that this activity can be seen as such by the uninitiated onlooker. In psychology, the term ritual is sometimes used in a technical sense for a repetitive behavior systematically used by a person to neutralize or prevent anxiety; the English word ritual derives from the Latin ritualis, "that which pertains to rite". In Roman juridical and religious usage, ritus was the proven way of doing something, or "correct performance, custom"; the original concept of ritus may be related to the Sanskrit ṛtá" in Vedic religion, "the lawful and regular order of the normal, therefore proper and true structure of cosmic, worldly and ritual events".
The word "ritual" is first recorded in English in 1570, came into use in the 1600s to mean "the prescribed order of performing religious services" or more a book of these prescriptions. There are hardly any limits to the kind of actions; the rites of past and present societies have involved special gestures and words, recitation of fixed texts, performance of special music, songs or dances, manipulation of certain objects, use of special dresses, consumption of special food, drink, or drugs, much more. Catherine Bell argues that rituals can be characterized by formalism, invariance, rule-governance, sacral symbolism and performance. Ritual utilizes a limited and rigidly organized set of expressions which anthropologists call a "restricted code". Maurice Bloch argues that ritual obliges participants to use this formal oratorical style, limited in intonation, vocabulary and fixity of order. In adopting this style, ritual leaders' speech becomes more style than content; because this formal speech limits what can be said, it induces "acceptance, compliance, or at least forbearance with regard to any overt challenge".
Bloch argues that this form of ritual communication makes rebellion impossible and revolution the only feasible alternative. Ritual tends to support traditional forms of social hierarchy and authority, maintains the assumptions on which the authority is based from challenge. Rituals appeal to tradition and are continued to repeat historical precedent, religious rite, mores or ceremony accurately. Traditionalism varies from formalism in that the ritual may not be formal yet still makes an appeal to the historical trend. An example is the American Thanksgiving dinner, which may not be formal, yet is ostensibly based on an event from the early Puritan settlement of America. Historians Eric Hobsbawm and Terrence Ranger have argued that many of these are invented traditions, such as the rituals of the British monarchy, which invoke "thousand year-old tradition" but whose actual form originate in the late nineteenth century, to some extent reviving earlier forms, in this case medieval, discontinued in the meantime.
Thus, the appeal to history is important rather than accurate historical transmission. Catherine Bell states that ritual is invariant, implying careful choreography; this is less an appeal to traditionalism than a striving for timeless repetition. The key to invariance is bodily discipline, as in monastic prayer and meditation meant to mold dispositions and moods; this bodily discipline is performed in unison, by groups. Rituals tend to be governed by a feature somewhat like formalism. Rules impose norms on the chaos of behavior, either defining the outer limits of what is acceptable or choreographing each move. Individuals are held to communally approved customs that evoke a legitimate communal authority that can constrain the possible outcomes. War in most societies has been bound by ritualized constraints that limit the legitimate means by which war was waged. Activities appealing to supernatural beings are considered rituals, although the appeal may be quite indirect, expressing only a generalized belief in the existence of the sacred demanding a human response.
National flags, for example, may be considered more than signs representing a country. The flag stands for larger symbols such as freedom, free enterprise or national superiority. Anthropologi
Greek hero cult
Hero cults were one of the most distinctive features of ancient Greek religion. In Homeric Greek, "hero" refers to a man. By the historical period, the word came to mean a dead man and propitiated at his tomb or at a designated shrine, because his fame during life or his unusual manner of death gave him power to support and protect the living. A hero was more than human but less than a god, various kinds of supernatural figures came to be assimilated to the class of heroes; the grand ruins and tumuli remaining from the Bronze Age gave the pre-literate Greeks of the 10th and 9th centuries BC a sense of a grand and vanished age. Copious renewed offerings begin to be represented, after a hiatus, at sites like Lefkandi though the names of the grandly buried dead were hardly remembered. "Stories began to be told to individuate the persons who were now believed to be buried in these old and imposing sites", observes Robin Lane Fox. Greek hero-cults were distinct from the clan-based ancestor worship from which they developed, in that as the polis evolved, they became a civic rather than familial affair, in many cases none of the worshipers traced their descent back to the hero any longer: no shrine to a hero can be traced unbroken from Mycenaean times.
Whereas the ancestor was purely local, Lewis Farnell observed, the hero might be tended in more than one locality, he deduced that hero-cult was more influenced from the epic tradition, that "suggested many a name to forgotten graves", provided Dorians a connection to Mycenaean heroes, according to Coldstream. "Coldstream believed the currency of epic would account for votives in Dorian areas, where an alien, immigrant population might otherwise be expected to show no particular reverence for Mycenaean predecessors". Large Mycenaean tholos tombs that betokened a grander past, were the site of hero-cults. Not all heroes were known by names. Aside from the epic tradition, which featured the heroes alive and in action rather than as objects of cultus, the earliest written reference to hero-cult is attributed to Dracon, the Athenian lawgiver of the late seventh century BC, who prescribed that gods and local heroes should both be honoured according to ancestral custom; the custom was established, there were multiple local heroes.
The written sources emphasise the importance of heroes' tombs and the temenos or sanctuary, where chthonic rites appeased their spirits and induced them to continue to favour the people who looked to them as founders, of whom founding myths were related. In the hero's restricted and local scope he "retained the limited and partisan interests of his mortal life, he would help those who lived in the vicinity of his tomb or who belonged to the tribe of which he himself was the founder," observes Robert Parker, with the reservation that Heracles, with his pan-Hellenic scope was again the exception. Whitley interpreted the final stage, in which hero-cult was co-opted by the city-state as a political gesture, in the archaic aristocratic tumulus surrounded by stelae, erected by Athens to the cremated citizen-heroes of Marathon, to whom chthonic cult was dedicated, as the offering trenches indicate. On the other hand, Greek heroes were distinct from the Roman cult of dead emperors, because the hero was not thought of as having ascended to Olympus or become a god: he was beneath the earth, his power purely local.
For this reason hero cults were chthonic in nature, their rituals more resembled those for Hecate and Persephone than those for Zeus and Apollo: libations in the dark hours, sacrifices that were not shared by the living. The two exceptions to the above were Heracles and Asclepius, who might be honored as either heroes or gods, with chthonic libation or with burnt sacrifice. Heroes in cult behaved differently from heroes in myth, they might appear indifferently as men or as snakes, they appeared unless angered. A Pythagorean saying advises not to eat food that has fallen on the floor, because "it belongs to the heroes". Heroes if ignored or left unappeased could turn malicious: in a fragmentary play by Aristophanes, a chorus of anonymous heroes describe themselves as senders of lice and boils; some of the earliest hero and heroine cults well attested by archaeological evidence in mainland Greece include the Menelaion dedicated to Menelaus and Helen at Therapne near Sparta, a shrine at Mycenae dedicated to Agamemnon and Cassandra, another at Amyklai dedicated to Alexandra, another in Ithaca's Polis Bay dedicated to Odysseus.
These all seem to date to the 8th century BC. The cult of Pelops at Olympia dates from the Archaic period. Hero cults were offered most prominently to men, though in practice the experience of the votary was of propitiating a cluster of family figures, which included women who were wives of a hero-husband, mothers of a hero-son, daughters of a hero-father; as Finley observed of the world of Odysseus, which he reads as a nostalgic eighth-century rendering of traditions from the culture of Dark Age Greece, Penelope became a moral heroine for generations, the embodiment of goodness and chastity, to be contrasted with the faithless, murdering Clytaemnestra, Agamemnon's wife. Where local cult venerated figures such as the sacrificial virgin Iphigeneia, an archaic local nymphe has been reduced to a mortal figure of legend. Other isolated female figures represented priestess-initiators of
God in Christianity
God in Christianity is the eternal being who created and preserves all things. Christians believe God to be both immanent. Christian teachings of the immanence and involvement of God and his love for humanity exclude the belief that God is of the same substance as the created universe but accept that God's divine Nature was hypostatically united to human nature in the person of Jesus Christ, in an event known as the Incarnation. Early Christian views of God were expressed in the Pauline Epistles and the early creeds, which proclaimed one God and the divinity of Jesus in the same breath as in 1 Corinthians: "For if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live. "Although the Judeo-Christian sect of the Ebionites protested against this apotheosis of Jesus, the great mass of Gentile Christians accepted it." This began to differentiate the Gentile Christian views of God from traditional Jewish teachings of the time.
The theology of the attributes and nature of God has been discussed since the earliest days of Christianity, with Irenaeus writing in the 2nd century: "His greatness lacks nothing, but contains all things". In the 8th century, John of Damascus listed eighteen attributes which remain accepted; as time passed, theologians developed systematic lists of these attributes, some based on statements in the Bible, others based on theological reasoning. The Kingdom of God is a prominent phrase in the Synoptic Gospels and while there is near unanimous agreement among scholars that it represents a key element of the teachings of Jesus, there is little scholarly agreement on its exact interpretation. Although the New Testament does not have a formal doctrine of the Trinity as such, "it does speak of the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit... in such a way as to compel a Trinitarian understanding of God." This never becomes a tritheism. Around the year 200, Tertullian formulated a version of the doctrine of the Trinity which affirmed the divinity of Jesus and came close to the definitive form produced by the Ecumenical Council of 381.
The doctrine of the Trinity can be summed up as: "The One God exists in Three Persons and One Substance, as God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit." Trinitarians, who form the large majority of Christians, hold it as a core tenet of their faith. Nontrinitarian denominations define the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit in a number of different ways. Early Christian views of God are reflected in Apostle Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians, written ca. AD 53-54, i.e. about twenty years after the crucifixion of Jesus: for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live. Apart from asserting that there is but one God, Paul's statement includes a number of other significant elements: he distinguishes Christian belief from the Jewish background of the time by referring to Jesus and the Father in the same breath, by conferring on Jesus the title of divine honor "Lord", as well as calling him Christ. In the Acts during the Areopagus sermon given by Paul, he further characterizes the early Christian understanding: The God that made the world and all things therein, he, being Lord of heaven and earth and reflects on the relationship between God and Christians: that they should seek God, if haply they might feel after him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us for in him we live.
The Pauline Epistles include a number of references to the Holy Spirit, with the theme which appears in 1 Thessalonians "…God, the God who gives you his Holy Spirit" appearing throughout his epistles. In John 14:26 Jesus refers to "the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name". By the end of the 1st century, Clement of Rome had referred to the Father and Holy Spirit, linked the Father to creation, 1 Clement 19.2 stating: "let us look steadfastly to the Father and creator of the universe". By the middle of the 2nd century, in Against Heresies Irenaeus had emphasized that the Creator is the "one and only God" and the "maker of heaven and earth"; these preceded the formal presentation of the concept of Trinity by Tertullian early in the 3rd century. The period from the late 2nd century to the beginning of the 4th century is called the "epoch of the Great Church" and the Ante-Nicene Period and witnessed significant theological development, the consolidation and formalization of a number of Christian teachings.
From the 2nd century onward, western creeds started with an affirmation of belief in "God the Father" and the primary reference of this phrase was to "God in his capacity as Father and creator of the universe". This did not exclude either the fact the "eternal father of the universe was the Father of Jesus the Christ" or that he had "vouchsafed to adopt as his son by grace". Eastern creeds began with an affirmation of faith in "one God" and always expanded this by adding "the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible" or words to that effect; as time passed and philosophers developed more precise understandin
An oracle is a person or agency considered to provide wise and insightful counsel or prophetic predictions or precognition of the future, inspired by the gods. As such it is a form of divination; the word oracle comes from the Latin verb ōrāre, "to speak" and properly refers to the priest or priestess uttering the prediction. In extended use, oracle may refer to the site of the oracle, to the oracular utterances themselves, called khrēsmē in Greek. Oracles were thought to be portals through. In this sense they were different from seers who interpreted signs sent by the gods through bird signs, animal entrails, other various methods; the most important oracles of Greek antiquity were Pythia, priestess to Apollo at Delphi, the oracle of Dione and Zeus at Dodona in Epirus. Other oracles of Apollo were located at Didyma and Mallus on the coast of Anatolia, at Corinth and Bassae in the Peloponnese, at the islands of Delos and Aegina in the Aegean Sea; the Sibylline Oracles are a collection of oracular utterances written in Greek hexameters ascribed to the Sibyls, prophetesses who uttered divine revelations in frenzied states.
Walter Burkert observes that "Frenzied women from whose lips the god speaks" are recorded in the Near East as in Mari in the second millennium BC and in Assyria in the first millennium BC. In Egypt the goddess Wadjet was depicted as a woman with two snake-heads, her oracle was in the renowned temple in Per-Wadjet. The oracle of Wadjet may have been the source for the oracular tradition which spread from Egypt to Greece. Evans linked Wadjet with the "Minoan Snake Goddess". At the oracle of Dodona she is called Diōnē, who represents the earth-fertile soil the chief female goddess of the proto-Indo-European pantheon. Python, daughter of Gaia was the earth dragon of Delphi represented as a serpent and became the chthonic deity, enemy of Apollo, who slew her and possessed the oracle; the Pythia was the mouthpiece of the oracles of the god Apollo, was known as the Oracle of Delphi. The Pythia was not conceived to be infallible and in fact, according to Sourvinou-Inwood in What is Polis Religion?, the ancient Greeks were aware of this and concluded the unknowability of the divine.
In this way, the revelations of the Oracles were not seen as objective truth. The Pythia gave prophecies only on the seventh day of each month, seven being the number most associated with Apollo, during the nine warmer months of the year. Many wealthy individuals bypassed the hordes of people attempting a consultation by making additional animal sacrifices to please the oracle lest their request go unanswered; as a result, seers were the main source of everyday divination. The temple was changed to a centre for the worship of Apollo during the classical period of Greece and priests were added to the temple organization—although the tradition regarding prophecy remained unchanged—and the priestesses continued to provide the services of the oracle exclusively, it is from this institution. The Delphic Oracle exerted considerable influence throughout Hellenic culture. Distinctively, this female was the highest authority both civilly and religiously in male-dominated ancient Greece, she responded to the questions of citizens, foreigners and philosophers on issues of political impact, duty, family, laws—even personal issues.
The semi-Hellenic countries around the Greek world, such as Lydia and Egypt respected her and came to Delphi as supplicants. Croesus, king of Lydia beginning in 560 B. C. tested the oracles of the world to discover. He sent out emissaries to seven sites who were all to ask the oracles on the same day what the king was doing at that moment. Croesus proclaimed the oracle at Delphi to be the most accurate, who reported that the king was making a lamb-and-tortoise stew, so he graced her with a magnitude of precious gifts, he consulted Delphi before attacking Persia, according to Herodotus was advised: "If you cross the river, a great empire will be destroyed". Believing the response favourable, Croesus attacked, but it was his own empire, destroyed by the Persians, she also proclaimed that there was no man wiser than Socrates, to which Socrates said that, if so, this was because he alone was aware of his own ignorance. After this confrontation, Socrates dedicated his life to a search for knowledge, one of the founding events of western philosophy.
He claimed that she was "an essential guide to personal and state development." This oracle's last recorded response was given in 362 AD. The oracle's powers were sought after and never doubted. Any inconsistencies between prophecies and events were dismissed as failure to interpret the responses, not an error of the oracle. Prophecies were worded ambiguously, so as to cover all contingencies – so ex post facto. One famous such response to a query about participation in a military campaign was "You will go you will return never in war will you perish"; this gives the recipient liberty to place a comma before or after the word "never", thus covering both possible outcomes. Another was the response to the Athenians when the vast army of king Xerxes I was approaching Athens with the intent of razing the city to the ground. "Only the wooden palisades may save you", answered the oracle aware that there was se