The Priestess Pythia at the Delphic Oracle

In a time and place that offered few career opportunities for women, the job of the priestess of Apollo at Delphi stands out. Her position was at the centre of one of the most powerful religious institutions of the ancient world.

Indeed, there is some evidence to suggest that the Pythia was at the core what we today call a “knowledge economy”. Her role may well have involved the gathering, re-packaging, and distribution of information, with the ultimate intent of providing sound advice on the trivial and not-so-trivial questions of life in the ancient world.

The “Pythia” is the official job title. We know of several women by name who, during the long history of this institution (from ca. 800 BCE to AD 390/91), held that role, including Phemonoe and Aristonike. Indeed, at some stage Delphi became so busy that three Pythias were appointed to serve in the role simultaneously.

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Photo by Tamara Semina, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

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