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Dodona in Epirus
View of the ruins of the temple complex of Dodona
Winged horse, votive offering from Dodona from the third quarter of the 6th century BC BC, now in the Louvre

Dodona (also Dōdōnē , Greek  Δωδώνη Dodoni) was an ancient Greek sanctuary and oracle . It was considered to be the oldest oracle in Greece and after Delphi it was the most important supra-regional oracle in the Greek world.

The Zeus cult associated with the oracle seems to have developed from an older cult from which inexplicable rites of the priesthood were preserved in later times. So it was prophesied from the rustling of an oak sacred to Zeus . In addition, the flight of pigeons was interpreted and questions answered later with the help of lots.

The history of the place is closely linked to the history of the Epirus landscape . The first traces of human civilization can be found from the early Bronze Age . The native inhabitants of the region are said to have been the Pelasgians, who are said to have been ousted by Thesprotern during the first wave of Greek immigration . They were able to defend Dodona in the event of later waves of immigration and may not have lost their rule until the beginning of the 4th century BC. To the Molossians . Thanks to this long-term continuity, traditional rites were initially preserved. The expansion of Dodona into a "modern" sanctuary began after the Molossians came to power. At that time the place became a religious and cultural center of the Epiroten. In the course of the conflicts over the supremacy in Epirus, Dodona was destroyed several times, but the cult site remained until late antiquity .

The archaeological site, some of which is poorly preserved today and has not yet been fully excavated, consists of the remains of several temples and secular administrative buildings. The theater, which was one of the largest of its kind in mainland Greece, is particularly well preserved.

Location and history of Dodona

View of the Tomaros Mountains

Dodona is located in the Greek countryside of Epirus. His oak grove was next to the oracle sites in Delphi , Lebadeia , Abai and Oropos in the Greek motherland as well as Klaros , Didyma and Patara in Asia Minor and Ammonion in the Egyptian oasis Siwa one of the most important oracles in the Greek world. In its supraregional importance it was only behind Delphi in historical times, but claimed to have been the oldest and for a long time the only oracle in Greece. The ancient site is located 15 kilometers southwest of today's Ioannina in a 12 kilometer long and up to 1,200 meter wide valley in the east of the limestone mountain range of Agios Nikolaos-Manoliasas and in the west of the Tomaros Mountains. The valley is swampy, especially when it rains heavily, to which many springs in the Tomaros also contribute. The source of the Louros is located three kilometers south of Dodona . The existence of a second dodona in Thessaly was already discussed in ancient times . These considerations continue to this day, but so far there is no solid evidence of its existence.


In the whole of Epirus only seven sites are known so far, where remains from the early and middle Bronze Age came to light. Dodona is one of these, which speaks for its early importance and favorable location as a settlement area. The earliest finds are dated around 2500 to 2100 BC. Dated. These are shards of handcrafted, thick-walled ceramics. The first bronze finds - nine knives - are made between 2100/1900 and 1600 BC. Dated. Mycenaean ceramic fragments were found from the late Bronze Age , which speak for connections to the Mycenaean cultural area . Further finds suggest connections to Central Europe and Asia Minor . Architectural traces were also found during excavations in 1967. This means that Dodona is one of only four places in Epirus where Bronze Age traces of architecture can be proven. It is still unclear whether these remains from the time between the 13th and 10th centuries BC. Were already in connection with a cult. Above all, however, the finds of axes, which were generally one of the most important votive offerings of the time, and the lack of graves suggest that this was a place of worship and not a settlement.

Finds are largely missing for the so-called dark centuries and the Homeric period. Contacts with regions further away seem to have broken off. There are three models in the scientific discussion that are intended to explain the connection between the Bronze and Iron Ages . First, there is a new beginning of the cult in the 8th century BC. Possible. Second, there was perhaps a cult continuity since the 2nd millennium BC. Third possibility is a cult connection to an earlier cult in the 8th century BC. Chr., Of which memories have been preserved.

Founding myth and earliest mentions

Even among the Greeks, Dodona had a special reputation, as the mythological events around the city speak for. The Pelasgians , who were counted among the mythical indigenous people of Greece, are said to have worshiped their gods whose names have not been handed down in Dodona for a very long time. The founding saga describes a close relationship with ancient Egypt . According to a variant of the founding legend Herodotus heard in Thebes , Egypt , Phoenicians kidnapped two priestesses from Thebes and sold one of them to Libya, where she donated the sanctuary of Zeus Ammon in the Siwa oasis . They sold the other to Dodona, where it is said to have founded the cult of Zeus . In Dodona itself, Herodotus was told that two black pigeons had escaped from Thebes, one of which flew to the Siwa oasis and donated an oracle to Zeus, while the other had come to Dodona. There she sat down on an oak tree and instructed the residents in a human voice to erect a Zeus oracle here. Even Herodotus allegorically interpreted the doves as priestesses. The connection to Egypt, which - as ancient Greek authors emphasized several times since Herodotus - had the much older high culture, is at least an indication of the age, the importance and not least the claim of the oracle as Delphi's greatest competitor, in the reputation of an outstanding oracle to apply in Greece.

The first mention of the oracle in literature, however, is much older than the writing of Herodotus. Already in Homer's Iliad , in which Dodona is mentioned as the only oracle site, Achilles prays :

“Zeus, Pelasgian, living far away, Herr von Dodona, / Where the winter is so rough. There the Selloi, / your seers, lie down on the ground, around you with feet that have never been washed. / As once the word you heard my prayer, / Honor me, and you smote the people of the Achaeans mightily; / So grant me this desire again: / I will stay here at the assembly point of the ships, / But I send my companions with multitudes of myrmidons, / To fight; Give him glory, O thundering Zeus, / And encourage his heart inside so that Hector too / It may know whether he alone knows how to fight / Our henchman, or whether the unapproachable hands / Then only rage when I enter Ares' throng go. "

The invocation of Zeus of Dodona as "Pelasgian" and the mention of barefoot seers are singular in the tradition. The oracle also played a role in the Odyssey . Odysseus is said to have asked the oracle during his wandering:

“He is still gone to Dodona: from high-topped / oak speaks Zeus, the god whose advice he demands to hear, / how he can find his way home to the dear land of his homeland / secretly or that everyone would see him; because he is long gone. "

Other references to Dodona in Greek myth are the speaking and prophecy plank made of Dodonian oak, which was built into the Argo , and the death of Heracles, which is narrated by Sophocles and which was prophesied in Dodona.

Dodona in historical time

A naked youth, possibly Apollo, a Corinthian votive figure with an inscription in the Corinthian-Greek alphabet, donated by a man named Etymokledas, around 540/30 BC Chr.

Probably at the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC In the first wave of immigration of Greek tribes the Thesprotians to Epirus. During the great migration around 1200 BC The Molossians immigrated in BC, but Dodona apparently stayed until the 5th century BC. Thesprotic. During the so-called Dark Centuries, there appears to have been no contact beyond Epirus. Definitive statements cannot be made, however, as this period has hardly been archaeologically investigated. However, the consecration gifts show that the oracle was primarily of regional importance. It wasn't until the late 8th century BC. There seems to have been an increased contact to southern Greece. Due to the long and continuous rule of the Thesproters in Dodona, old customs could be preserved here for a long time, and innovations such as fortified buildings were only adopted late.

Only towards the end of the 5th or beginning of the 4th century BC The city came under the rule of the Molossians. Around the middle of the 4th century BC The Macedonians under Philip II took control of Epirus and thus of Dodona. Above all, Philip's wife Olympias is said to have had a close relationship with the Dodonean Oracle. Shortly afterwards, Epirus came under the control of the Macedonian-friendly Alexander I , a Molossian. The high point of this Molossian period was the reign of King Pyrrhos from the Aiakid dynasty , who, like the Hellenistic rulers of the same time, tried to consolidate his power through an intensive building and cult program. Dodona benefited from this, where he started a brisk construction activity. Almost all buildings of importance go back to his initiative. Valuable gifts were also given to the holy place. This consolidated Dodona's position as the cultural and political center of Epirus.

After the fall of the ruling Aiakids in 232 BC Epirus was ruled democratically. 224/23 BC BC the Epiroten joined the Macedonians, which led to conflicts with their opponents. Dodona, who lived in 219 BC, was particularly affected. Was devastated by the Aitolians under the leadership of their general Dorimachos - the portico was set on fire, many consecration gifts were destroyed and the holy house was also destroyed. A year later, Philip V avenged the destruction of the place by destroying thermos during a campaign and using the spoil to rebuild the sanctuary. During the further conflicts between Macedonians, Aitolians and Romans, Epirus tried to behave neutrally. The Roman invitation to support them led to the breach of the Epirean Covenant. While the Molossians supported the Macedonians, the Thesproters and the Chaonians supported the Romans. After the Romans in 168 BC BC finally triumphed over the Macedonians and punished their allies, Dodona was affected. Since the minting of coins in Epirus ceased as a result of the disputes, Dodona began minting its own coins in order to compensate for a shortage in the supply of coins to the pilgrims, but coins were only used in a period of 20 years up to 148 BC. In that year Epirus became part of the Roman province of Macedonia .

During the First Mithridatic War , the place was 86 BC. BC again - this time by the Thracians  - destroyed. Strabo reports at the turn of the ages that the sanctuary had almost completely disappeared at the time. Nevertheless, the oracle continued as such. Hadrian visited the site in AD 132, and Emperor Julian consulted the oracle in 362. However, the Christian Emperor Theodosius I banned all pagan religions in the late 4th century , and in Dodona the sacred oak was 391 or 392 likes. The ancient oracle site was forever destroyed by the Christians.

The new religion of Christianity also recognized the cultic significance of this place of worship that had existed for more than 1,000 years - Dodona became the bishopric. It is unclear when Dodona lost this position and when the bishop moved to Ioannina, whose stay there has been documented since 879 at the latest. However, it can be assumed that the place was destroyed and abandoned as early as 550 in the course of the Slavic migration . That was the end of the history of the place. Today's parish of Dodoni is located near the sanctuary and has 1,790 inhabitants (2001).

Oracle and worship of gods

Votive tablet with inscription from Dodona: A man named Agathon, son of Echephylos, consecrated this tablet to Zeus in his and his family's name; last third 4th century BC Chr.

The form of prophecy in the sanctuary of Dodona and the development of oracles are not completely certain. The interpretation of the rustling of the holy oak and the flight of the holy doves are reported mainly in literary sources. These techniques all point to heaven, the sphere of activity of the oracle owner Zeus . This contrasts with the finds of several thousand oracle tablets dating from the 5th century BC. BC and be dated afterwards. A large part of these tables are still unedited and unpublished - the formulaic nature of the texts recognized so far suggests that the answers were given by lottery. This oracle technique is also documented for Dodona in literary sources.

The long tradition of the site is recognizable even for later Greeks in the archaic rites that are difficult to explain. Male priests, who were already known by Homer as σέλλοι selloi (also ἕλλοι helloi ), for example, never washed their feet and slept on the floor, which must be regarded as extraordinary, especially in the cool winter months. They were responsible for the rather simple tasks and led a regular life. Apparently, individual Selloi were specialized in certain activities. Philostratos describes the cult site in his work: Ribbons hang from the holy oak, the whole place is covered with sacrificial smoke. He writes about the Selloi :

“[They] actually live from hand to mouth and are not yet leading a cultivated life, but rather say they would not even arrange it that way; for Zeus took pleasure in them because they were satisfied with what the place offered by itself. You are a priest, and one has to hang up the wreaths, the other has to offer prayers, the third is responsible for taking care of the sacrificial cakes, the one here takes care of the grains of barley and the sacrificial baskets, this one sacrifices something, and this one finally won't allow anyone else to do so to skin the sacrificial animal. "

The Selloi were apparently initially responsible for the interpretation of the oak's rustling as well as the flight and cooing of the pigeons, although the basics for the interpretation of the rustling of the oak can hardly be understood today and already puzzled the ancient contemporaries.

In the course of time, albeit relatively late, Zeus got a companion in his sanctuary. Not his later canonical wife Hera , but his first wife Dione became the oracle-giving partner - after all, she was the goddess of wisdom that Zeus had incorporated. This brought three elderly priestesses, who were supposedly in a state of intoxication mainly responsible for the interpretation of the pigeon flight. They were not tied to the old Selloi rites and rather embodied more modern traditions. Philostratus describes them as follows:

“Here the Dodonaean priestesses in solemn and solemn procession; they seem to smell of smoke and drink offerings. "

There are opinions in research that the Dione cult was even the older of the Dodonian cults. If this is the case, however, one must assume that this cult will be temporarily interrupted, since for a long time no cult alongside that of Zeus can be detected. The Selloi are considered to be representatives of a pre-civilization era. The priestesses, on the other hand, embody a higher level of civilization. This also fits in with the priests performing the simpler tasks, while the priestesses carried out more complex tasks, such as the lottery oracle.

Oracle tablets, after K. Karapanos: Dodone et ses ruines. Paris 1878, plate 60, 1

The Losoracle seems to have increasingly displaced the two older techniques since the 5th century BC, but at the latest until the 4th century BC. Under the supervision of the priestesses, small lots in the form of lead tablets were drawn from a pot on which the oracle's answers were written in response to oracle inquiries. With this, Dodona developed from a sign oracle, in which the divine will was interpreted, to a word oracle, in which, according to modern understanding, answers were given randomly. The importance of the oracle in the Greek world is reflected in the many votives found , which came from large parts of the Greek world - in addition to the Greek motherland, especially from southern Italy, but also from Asia Minor  . After a naval victory over the Spartans , for example, the city of Athens donated a bronze ribbon with an inscription , which was possibly attached to a more valuable gift or was hung in the sacred oak. The development of the Losoracle probably went hand in hand with a displacement of the male priests and their pre-Greek rites by the female priesthood. Not infrequently the literary reports and the archaeological finds contradict one another. The ecstasy of the priestesses during the proclamation of oracles, as evidenced by written sources, is hardly compatible with the practically documented oracle proclamation by lots.

Only in Dodona was Zeus Naios venerated. The nickname Νάϊος ( Náios ) is apparently derived from νάειν ( náein , "swim" or "flow"). Accordingly, the Dodonian Zeus is the Zeus belonging to the water . The equation with a prehistoric spring and water god worshiped by Dodona is doubtful, however; a sacred spring at Dodona is first mentioned by Pliny the Elder . A connection to Zeus as a weather god appears more likely. He is to be understood as a rain deity, as the area around Dodona was characterized by flourishing agriculture, which Hesiod and Pindar already highlight. In his honor since the 3rd century BC Every four years a festival in Dodona, the so-called Naia , is held, the wedding of which lasted until the 3rd century AD. In addition to musical agons , these festivals also included rain magic. Over time, the event developed into a national festival with guests from other parts of Greece. After the stadium was built, not only dramatic agonies but also sporting competitions, including horse races, were held.

Archaeological evidence

1: Acropolis; 2: theater; 3: stadium; 4: bouleuterion; 5: house of the priests; 6 and 7: Prytaneion and extension; 8: Temple of Aphrodite; 9: Roman building; 10: Temple of Themis; 11: “Holy House” ( Ἱερά Οἰκία ); 12 and 13: New and old temples of Dione; 14 and 15: Temple and altar of Heracles; 16: Christian basilica; 17: west walls; 18 and 19: New and old west gate

For the first time around 400 BC. A small building was built near the oak. In the second half of the 4th century BC The area of ​​the oak and the house was enclosed by a wall. By the end of the 3rd century BC A small Temenos with high walls and porticos on three inner sides was created. The holy house was expanded to a small temple with a cella and vestibule, and the entrance area was equipped with a propylon . To the east of the oak grove , Dione received a small temple, and later Heracles too . Small temples for Themis and Aphrodite were built west of the oak . During the reign of Pyrrhus , the construction of a bouleuterion , a stadium and a theater began and was completed after the regent's death. A wall and a tower were built on the acropolis, a place of retreat for troubled times was created here. The sacred architecture was in the tradition of Hellenistic architecture. In the course of time, the architectural features increasingly approached those of other cult sites that had been adorned with temples earlier. In Dodona, however, comparatively advanced forms of construction were used, which made Dodona appear more modern than comparable sanctuaries.

Problematic for research, especially for the interpretation of many buildings, is on the one hand the very poor state of preservation of many buildings, on the other hand the very poor publication situation for almost all buildings. There are hardly more than preliminary excavation reports about most of the excavation campaigns, and final reports have so far been completely absent. Many assumptions in research have so far been based on the assumptions of the excavators, which, however, are not infrequently worth discussing.

The architectural history of the sanctuary is divided into three phases. The first phase lasts from the first buildings in classical times (around 400 BC) to the destruction by the Romans in 219 BC. During this phase, the dates are not always certain. The subsequent second phase ends in 168 BC. All other new buildings and conversions come from the third building phase in Roman and early Christian times.

Sacred buildings

The earliest documented sacral architecture in Dodona comes from a comparatively later period. While other oracles and sanctuaries have been around since the Geometric period, but intensified from around 600 BC. In Dodona, this development did not begin until very late, when wood and clay buildings were converted into stone buildings or new ones were erected. This is surprising as it can be assumed that Dodona was one of the oldest important places of worship in Greece. Possibly this is related to the special veneration of Zeus. Elsewhere, too, for example in Olympia, the father of gods was still worshiped in the open air at an altar when other gods, such as his wife Hera , already owned a temple partly made of stone.

The construction of the first cult buildings made of stone seems to have gone hand in hand with the historical development. The more archaic forms of worshiping gods also changed during this time due to the influence of cultural developments in Epirus. A backwardness of the cult and the cult site can obviously not be deduced from this; no buildings were needed in the previous 200 years. The worship of the god in the form of the oak seemed to meet the requirements for an unusually long time.

Deviating from common customs, the entire facility is not oriented to the east, but to the southeast, which may have been due to the landscape.

Temple of Zeus

View of the remains of the surrounding wall of the Temple of Zeus with an oak that was probably planted in the 1980s, summer 2007
View from the back of the temple structure to the foundation walls of the temple and the remains of the surrounding walls, April 2008

The Zeus sanctuary is located in the center of the other cult buildings and can therefore be recognized as the center of Dodona. Oak trees from this time of worship are no longer in the grove . In the first expansion phase of the sanctuary, three of the previously recognized construction phases of the Zeus sanctuary fall. The oldest building was a naïskos of 6.40 × 4.10 m. Today only the bottom layer of the foundation consists of rectangular ashlar stones, from which the east side can still be seen. Since no remains of the (wooden?) Architrave have survived, it is unclear whether it was an Ionic or Doric temple . A cult image bank was also not found. The period between the end of the 5th and first quarter of the 4th century BC The building, which was dated to the 3rd century BC, was not intended to be the place of residence of the god, but only served to receive the consecration gifts.

The second construction phase is characterized by an expansion of the facility. The Naïskos itself was not extended, but rather a large square area was enclosed with walls, which enclosed the holy oak and the entrance area of ​​the Naïskos. The entrance was in the south. The area had a northeast-southwest extension of 13.72 meters. The enclosing walls were built from limestone blocks, the height varies from 1.08 meters on the northeast to 1.50 m on the southwest side of the entrance. The difference in altitude is due to the sloping terrain to the west. That is why the wall connects almost directly to the entrance area of ​​the temple in the west, but extends much further to the east. The oak-oriented entrance of the cult area is not in line with the entrance of the temple. This extension is made around the time between 350 and 330 BC. Dated.

In the third construction phase, the simple Temenos wall was replaced by a larger 19.20 × 20.80 m enclosing peribolos . Three inner sides of the peribolus received porticoes, only the north-east side, occupied by the oak, did not receive a portico. The naïskos remained unchanged from the first phase. The back of the temple, however, now formed part of the surrounding wall. By moving the north wall, the sanctuary of Zeus was enlarged. The south and west sides were rebuilt, while the east side was built on the foundations of the old wall. A little east of the south side was a five meter wide entrance area. The pillars of the inner hall were made of dark sandstone in an Ionic order. This third phase of construction is at the transition from the fourth to the third century BC. BC.

The fourth construction phase of the Temple of Zeus comes from the second expansion phase of Dodona. A conceptual reorganization of the sanctuary did not take place. The scope of the facility remained. The input was measured by a prostyles , 4 x 2 columns comprehensive Propylon highlighted. The colonnaded halls inside have been preserved in their old size. The Naïskos, on the other hand, was replaced by a larger prostylos with 4 × 2 columns large vestibule. The building, made of large rectangular stones, measures 14.40 × 7.10 m. The building is divided into three parts: Pronaos (2.50 × 4.60 m), Cella (5.00 × 4.60 m) and Adyton . The widening of the temple was at the expense of the northeast portico, which was shortened by one column position. The new temple stood in the middle of the north side. As a result, the wider temple and the entrance area were now aligned. The extension of the widening of the temple meant that it protruded four meters above the surrounding wall in the north. The new building after the destruction of 219 BC Is in the end of the 3rd century BC. BC, probably between 219 and 210 BC. Dated.

In the south of the complex there were nine base bases from different architectural periods. They were intended to be used to set up votive gifts.

Dione Temple

The Dione Temple was uncovered in 1958. Only the limestone substructure remains. The ground plan of the prostyle  - 9.82 m in the north-south and 9.35 m in the east-west - is almost square. A transverse wall divides the small temple into two areas, the pronaos in front and the actual cella . They were connected by a door that opened inwards. Only a few remains of the architectural elements were found. The remaining sandstone column remains are columns of the Ionic order. A layer of clay found was interpreted as the remainder of an adobe wall, which was apparently used to save costs for building the walls. Since sandstone pillars were not used in the reconstruction after 219 BC. The first phase of construction of the building must be dated before this year. If it is the Dione Temple, it is dated to the middle of the 4th century BC. BC probably because Hypereides mentions a temple and a cult image of Dione in Dodona. Remnants of the foundation in the western area, the cella, could thus be interpreted as the location of the cult image.

After the destruction, the old temple was not renewed, but replaced by a new building further south-west, which was discovered in 1935 and excavated in 1954. It has a footprint of 9.60 × 6.35 n. The temple was divided into pronaos and cella by a transverse wall . The assignment to Dione is uncertain in both cases. Found fibulae , which were brought here as offerings, at least the attribution to a female goddess at the first temple is very likely. Herodotus already reported the custom of sacrificing fibulae to female deities.

Themist temple

Floor plan of the theme temple
View of the remains of the themed temple, April 2008

The building was excavated in the 1930s. The foundation of large slabs and parts of the euthyntery have been preserved . The ionic prostylos was about 10.30 × 6.25 n in size and was divided into pronaos and cella by a transverse wall. Traces have been preserved parallel to the front of the Naïskos, which are interpreted as an altar surrounded by orthostats . The complex is difficult to date, however, due to the use of sandstone, the structure is dated to before 219 BC. To apply. The temple was initially believed to be the temple of Aphrodite, but was revised by Dakaris in 1967 based on an oracle inscription found. This inscription may suggest a divinely revered triad of Zeus, Dione and Themis . Then the temples of the goddesses would have to flank the temple of Zeus. However, this interpretation is controversial. The development of the temple in the second architectural phase is just as uncertain as the assignment.

Temple of Aphrodite

Floor plan of the Temple of Aphrodite, on the right the Roman building
Remains of both buildings in April 2008

The building was discovered in 1955 and examined a second time in 1967. Only the foundation walls of the temple have been preserved. The substructure consists of relatively small stones and was built relatively carelessly. The 8.50 × 4.70 n large building is divided by a transverse wall. Due to some architectural remains, this temple is likely to be regarded as a Naïskos in the form of an Ante temple , which was built in a Doric shape. Limestone column fragments and sandstone capital fragments help date the period between the end of the 4th and the beginning of the 3rd century BC. The building was assigned to Aphrodite in 1967, when the thematic temple, which had previously been regarded as the temple of Aphrodite, was reinterpreted. Proof of the attribution to Aphrodite are said to be some small finds from the immediate vicinity of the temple - female clay fragments with pigeons held in front of the breast, an attribute of Aphrodite. However, such offerings are also known in connection with other gods, such as Hera and Athena . Since the goddess was very popular in Epirus and was also a daughter of Dione, the assumption of a temple of Aphrodite is justifiable, but the attribution of this temple is ultimately unclear.

The state of the temple after the destruction of 219 BC Chr. Is not examined.

To the northeast of the building, another building from Roman times was found, the meaning of which is unclear.

Temple of Heracles

Ground plan of the Temple of Heracles, traces of the basilica in the north

The building, first excavated in 1921, was examined again in 1929 and again in 1955. The 9.55 m wide, 12.60 m long and southeast-oriented Naïskos was recognized as a Doric prostylus early on , but was initially interpreted as a treasure house . In front of the entrance area there was a terrace-like paving made of three rows of limestone. Directly to the east of the pronaos there was a stone foundation, probably an altar.

However, the assumption of a Heracles cult for Dodona is already controversial. The attribution of the temple was based on a limestone metope found on the temple , which shows the battle of Heracles with the hydra . Based on the metope, the temple can be dated to the third century. If it is a Heraklestempel, one could assume a more precise dating to the time between 297 and 272 BC. As the Aiakiden saw themselves as descendants of Heracles. However, due to the metope, the attribution is very uncertain, the deeds of Heracles could also be depicted in other temples, as the example of the Temple of Zeus in Olympia shows. If this is a Herakles temple, the veneration at this point was made solely for political, not for traditional religious motives and was used solely to demonstrate the power of the Aiakids. For the temple, repairs are to be made to the inner transverse wall for the period after the destruction of 219 BC. Demonstrable.

Remains of the basilica in April 2008

Christian basilica

The temple was partially built over by the Christian church in the northern area. It probably comes from the time when Dodona was briefly the bishopric. Northern parts of the Temple of Heracles and a small part of the older Temple of Dione were included in the construction. The basilica was uncovered during the first excavations, as the temple of Zeus was believed to be here. However, this attribution, based on various artifacts and inscriptions found, was not tenable.

Secular buildings

Compared to other sanctuaries, Dodona was also a straggler when it came to secular buildings, beginning in the 4th century BC. It is fast to catch up, however, and over time much of the buildings commonly found in a sanctuary have been erected. So there was a bouleuterion , a theater, a stadium and a prytaneion . The secular buildings were also based on the common architectural forms of Hellenism. Particular attention was paid to the theater, which was one of the largest in motherland Greece. Compared to the rather small sacred buildings, the secular buildings, especially the Bouleuterion, Prytaneion and the theater, are unusually large.

Priest house

Floor plan of the priest's house

Between the theater and a building whose function cannot be determined is a house that was initially interpreted as a residential building for the priests. The rectangular building measures 17.30 × 10.70 m. The walls were built from stacked, small plate-like stones and adobe bricks. Inside the house, archaeologists found a hearth with ashes and ceramic shards, due to which the house dates back to the 4th century BC. BC, making it one of the oldest buildings in Dodona. The hearth in the center suggests a typological connection to house shapes from the geometric era. The first interpretation of the house as Prytaneion , as a residential building for the priesthood and the Molossian officials, was no longer tenable after the actual Prytaneion was found. The building may also have served as a guest house for high-ranking visitors. In a second construction phase in the Pyrrhic period, the west and south sides were clad with large ashlar stones in order to achieve a better effect in connection with the theater. After the destruction of Dodona by the Aitolians, the building was abandoned.


View of the remains of the Stoa des Bouleuterions (April 2008)
Floor plan of the bouleuterion

The bouleuterion was discovered during excavations in the 19th century, but not yet recognized as a council building. It was not until 1965 that the actual excavations began, which revealed its significance and dating. The large rectangular building with a north-south extension of 43.60 m is 32.50 m wide on the south side and 31.60 m on the north side. The building was erected on a slope - to the north there is a difference in height of eight meters. On the south side of the main building there was a stoa in the Doric style, open on the sides . It could be entered from the south through two doors. Support pillars were erected on the inside of the north and south walls and on the outside of the other two walls. In the northern part of the building there are two rows with three columns each in the interior. Since there are no supporting columns in the south, it is unclear whether only the northern part of the building was covered. In research it is also controversial whether the approximately 20 meter wide area could have been spanned with a cantilever ceiling.

After the destruction in 219 BC The building was rebuilt with an unchanged ground plan. The sandstone columns were, however, by conglomerate columns replaced and the sandstone capitals with capitals of limestone. In the southern part, two more columns were erected as roof supports. A preserved base and the associated capital prove that the structure follows the Ionic order. The building may have had rows of stone seats.

The dating of the first construction phase in the beginning of the third century BC Was based on epigraphic finds - especially coins and small finds - as well as the use of building materials made of sandstone. The interpretation of the building is controversial due to epigraphic finds of political content that were on plinths that were placed in front of the west side of the building. Inside the building there was also an altar from around 200 BC. Chr., Who was consecrated among other things to Zeus Boulaios (the advising Zeus). It can be assumed that the building was used as the central assembly building in Epirus. This is also supported by found clay voting stones, which make political activities recognizable.


The Prytaneion was the residence of the priests of Dodona and the Epirotian civil service. The first excavations took place here as early as the 19th century, due to which the building was recognized as a Prytaneion. Intensive excavations took place in the 1980s and are still going on today.

Years before the building was discovered, an inscription was found in which it was asked whether the servants of Zeus Naios and Dione could build a Prytaneion with a certain amount of money. Since a location was not given in the request and Zeus Naios was named, the construction of such a building can be considered secure. Small finds that speak for an archive function of the building - serving as an archive was one of the functions of such a building - substantiate the assumption.

The construction is dated to about the same time as that of the Bouleuterion. In the western part of the building there is a 12 × 12 m room in which the foundations of seven stone rows of seats have been found. A 17.10 × 12.50 m peristyle in the Doric style was accessible via a passage to the east . An altar from Roman times was found here. After the destruction in 219 BC The building kept its ground plan. In the north of the building an extension with five more, smaller rooms was added. This extension was 33.30 x 7.70 m. Three of the rooms had identical dimensions of 5.20 × 5.5 m. They were initially designed as bedrooms with nine clinics each . A stoa was erected in front of the new building. Much material from before the destruction was used for the new construction and expansion.


With a capacity of around 18,000 spectators, the Dodonas theater was one of the largest in mainland Greece. The building was erected in a hollow at the western end of the valley slope.

Extensive excavations took place in the 1950s, and the orchestra and Skenen buildings were completely exposed . The first construction phase is scheduled for the beginning of the 3rd century BC. Dated. The Koilon with its rows of seats has a maximum diameter of 129 meters. There were 56 or 57 rows of seats in three tiers. The lower tier consisted of 21 rows of seats, the middle of 16 and the upper, less well-preserved, of 19 or 20 rows of seats. Ten star-shaped access stairs divide the lower and middle tiers into nine wedges each. 19 stairs lead to the upper tier, dividing it into 18 wedges. The Orchestra has a diameter of 18.70 m, the Skene is 31.30 × 9.10 m in size. The Skene was particularly affected by the destruction by the Aitolians , so that it was rebuilt or supplemented during the reconstruction.

In Augustan times the theater was converted into an arena.

Peribolos wall

Of the wall that surrounded the sanctuary and separated it from the Acropolis, only part of the east is visible today. The course can only be roughly reconstructed. Coming from the south-east corner of the Acropolis, it ran south. After about 65 meters it is interrupted by the east gate. After about 180 more meters, she turns west, where she meets the entrance gate. The southern part of the wall has not yet been examined.

It was built in two phases. The first phase is dated to the late 4th century, the second phase, in which the wall was moved further east, to the time of Pyrrhus.


The acropolis area was surrounded by a wall, some of which is still up to three meters high. The wall has a length of 750 meters and a width of 3.60 meters. It had three gates and eleven towers. The acropolis covers about 3.5 hectares. It was built with two shells from large limestone blocks, and the interior was filled with rubble stones. The wall was either built during the first construction phase of the peribolos wall or a little earlier.

No real excavations have taken place in the area of ​​the Acropolis to this day. Earlier investigations are said to have found the foundations of several buildings and a cistern .


View of the preserved rows of seats in the stadium on the western theater retaining wall, April 2008
Stadium track, April 2008

As elsewhere, for example in Olympia, Delphi, Nemea or Epidaurus , a stadium was connected to the sanctuary of Dodona , but here in the immediate vicinity of the theater. 21 or 22 rows of stone seats were laid out on the artificially raised retaining wall of the theater. The stadium is dated to the end of the 3rd century BC. BC and was thus only after the destruction of 219 BC. Built in BC. This dating fits in with the importance of the Naia Festival, which was peaking at the time.

Small finds

Bronze sacrificial hammer from the 7th century BC Chr.

Small finds in the form of votive offerings, oracle tablets and other objects are particularly important for the pre-architectural period of Dodona. These finds, mostly from the period between the 8th and 4th centuries BC. BC, consist primarily of bronze tripods and parts of tripods such as griffin protomes , which are generally only preserved in fragments, small bronze statuettes of Zeus and other deities, small votive offerings such as animal figures, cauldron and crater figures, jugs, votive plates, protective weapons as well Beauty accessories.

As a single artefact of particular importance is the so-called " Dodonean ore vessel ", about which information was handed down in the lexicon of the Byzantine scholar Stephanos of Byzantium . Based on ancient authors, he describes two different traditions about this vessel, which was mainly famous for its long-lasting sound.

Finds from the first excavations in particular can be found in several large museum collections, such as the Berlin Collection of Antiquities , the Louvre in Paris and the British Museum in London . Most of the finds are now in the Museum of Ioannina and in the so-called Karapanos Hall in the Athens National Museum .

Exploration and reception

Almost 100 references to Dodona have come down to us from ancient literary sources.

Plan Dodonas from 1878 by Konstantinos Karapanos

The identification of Dodona was a major problem for the ancient scholars of the 19th century. Christopher Lincoln was the first to correctly identify it on September 12, 1832. It was not until the 1880s that inscription finds proved the attribution of Dodona and allayed doubts about the discovery of Lincoln. Last but not least, the aforementioned discussion about a second, Thessalian Dodona contributed to problems. In recent research, however, it is assumed that a second Dodona is rather unlikely. The pioneers of Dodona research were the politician and banker Konstantinos Karapanos and the Polish engineer Zygmunt Mineyko , who began digging in Dodona in 1875. Three years later Karapanos published the results in a two-volume work Dodone et ses ruines in Paris, but withheld Mineyko's share in the result. The finds from these excavations are now kept in various museums around the world, including over 200 pieces from Mineyko's private collection in Berlin, not including coins and oracle tablets, as well as other holdings in Paris, Vienna , London, Oxford , Boston and St. Petersburg available. Karapanos' excavation methods corresponded to those of the time - thus, for example, stratigraphies are missing and no attempt was made to establish overall connections. Likewise, the building allocations from that time are now to be regarded as out of date.

Shortly after the excavations, the walls were buried again by deposits from the Tomaros Mountains, and around 1900 there were hardly any architectural remains to be found. It was not until 1920 that new investigations were carried out by Georgios Soteriades , but these were interrupted again by the Turkish-Greek war . From 1929 to 1959 Demetrios Evangelides was the head of several excavation campaigns. Evangelides recognized the main structures of the settlement and rearranged the earlier results based on his findings. However, he did not offer a comprehensive overview or a critical examination of what was found.

The investigations became particularly detailed when the previous assistant to Evangelis, Sotiris Dakaris , became head of the excavations in 1960 . He regularly published excavation results and undertook to fathom historical connections and reconcile the archaeological and written findings. He also tried to combine the results from Dodona with other findings that were gained in Epirus. Nevertheless, many of his statements were based on speculation, and his view of individual problems changed several times, sometimes for reasons that were not always comprehensible. Many of his claims are also incomprehensible because the artifacts on which the findings are based were not or only inadequately published. Until his death in 1996 he carried out excavation campaigns at irregular intervals. Konstantina Gravani-Latsiki , Chriseis Tzouvara-Souli and Amalia Vlachopoulou-Oikonomou have been directors of the excavations since 1996, which are now regularly published.

Although the publication situation has improved since the 1960s, research on Dodona still suffers from a lack of references to the findings of the archaeological excavations, especially the small finds, as well as to the inscriptions and oracle texts. A series of research like that of other archaeological sites, in which comprehensive reports were published and old excavation results were processed, is still missing for Dodona today.


Web links

Commons : Dodona  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Rosenberger, p. 62.
  2. Dieterle, pp. 8-10.
  3. Dieterle, p. 235.
  4. ↑ However, two knives may only come from the late Helladic period, Dieterle, p. 236.
  5. For the early days see Dieterle, pp. 235–262.
  6. Herodotus 2: 54–2, 57.
  7. Herodotus 2, 56: My own opinion on the matter is as follows. If the Phoinists really kidnapped those women and sold one to Libya and the other to Hellas, then in my opinion the second came to Thesprotien in Hellas - at that time Hellas was still called Pelasgien. Here in captivity she founded a temple of Zeus under a real oak tree, because of course she remembered Zeus, to whose temple in Thebes she had belonged, also in the foreign country. When she had learned the Hellenic language, she set up an oracle and said that her sister had been sold to Libya by the same Phoinists who abducted her. Translated by August Horneffer.
  8. Rosenberger, p. 62.
  9. Homer, Ilias 16, 233–245, translation by Roland Hampe .
  10. See Herbert W .: The Oracles of Zeus , Oxford 1967.
  11. 14, 327-330 = 19, 296-299; Translation by Anton Weiher .
  12. Trachinierinnen 169–172: Deianeira: The misery of Heraclean hardship is coming to an end, he says: it is determined by the gods, as the old oak at Dodona once announced to him through two rock doves. and 1164–1172: Herakles: But I will tell you a younger prophecy that agrees with the older one and is fulfilled like it. I wrote it down when I came to the grove of the Sellen, the mountain tribe of priests who sleep on bare earth. My father's oak announced it with many voices, promising that I would soon find relief from all the hardships that have been imposed on me at the present time; I hope for well-being; but it meant nothing else than my death. translated by Wilhelm Willige, revised by Karl Bayer.
  13. Polybios , Historien IV.67.
  14. Strabo 7,7,10.
  15. For the story see Dieterle, pp. 15–24; Ekschmitt, pp. 13-17.
  16. Daniel Strauch / Christoph Höcker , who wrote the section on the historical development of Dodona in the DNP , and Fritz Graf , who wrote the section on Dodona's oracles in the DNP, contradict themselves in both the historical development and the execution of the oracles.
  17. On the Selloi see Rosenberger, pp. 32–33.
  18. Imagines 2, 33, quoted from Rosenberger, p. 33, complete text on Dodona: The golden dove is still sitting on the oak, which understands prophecies and proclaims the sayings of Jupiter; there is also the ax which the wood chopper Hellos dropped (when he discovered the oracle), from which the Hellen (Sellen) around Dodona take their name. Wreaths hang on the oak because, like the tripod of the Pytho, it proclaims visionary sayings. One goes to ask you something, the other to sacrifice. There is a choir from the (Egyptian) Thebes around the oak, which claims the wisdom of the tree, I believe because the golden bird was lured there. But the interpreters of Zeus, whom Homer recognized as men with bare feet and asleep on the earth, are people who live like that and do not earn a living. Yes, it is said that they would not even bother about it, because Zeus is dear to them, because they are content with what is offered; because they are priests. And one is busy hanging up wreaths, the other is praying, the third has to organize the flatbreads and the fourth takes care of the basket with the sacred barley and another one makes an offering and another does not want a third person to have the hide of the sacrificial animal removed. There are also the Dodonian priestesses with strict demeanor and awe-inspiring figure, for they seem to smell of incense and sprinkling of holy water, and the place itself is steaming with sacrifices and filled with holy voices. And the brazen echo is venerated, which I think puts the hand on the mouth, because in Dodona the ore was consecrated to Zeus and sounded through most of the day until someone spoke and laid his hand on it. , Translation by Franz Dorotheus Gerlach .
  19. Rosenberger, p. 32.
  20. Rosenberg, p. 33.
  21. Part today in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens , inventory number NM 448, a second part in the Berlin Collection of Antiquities .
  22. ^ Fritz Graf: Dodona, Dodone. III Oracle. In: The New Pauly (DNP). Volume 3, Metzler, Stuttgart 1997, ISBN 3-476-01473-8 , Sp. 724-726.
  23. naturalis historia 2,228.
  24. Hesiod: Fragments 134: There is a land of Hellopia / It has a lot of cornland and good meadows, / It is rich in sheep and goats / And in cattle, those who travel by foot. / And people live inside / With many sheep, many cattle, / Even many, innumerable, / Multitudes of mortal people, / And there is a place built on the very edge, Dodona. / Zeus likes him, and he (determined) / That he was his oracle, honored by the people. , translated by Walter Marg ; Pindar N. 4, 51–53: How Thetis Phthia rules, So Neoptolemos Epeiros' wide stretching space, Where, feeding cattle, ridges stretching downwards, starting from Dodona, to the Ionian sea. , translated by Oskar Werner
  25. On Zeus Naios and the Naia games see Dieterle, pp. 40–43.
  26. Dieterle, p. 131.
  27. Dieterle comes to this conclusion when describing the archaeological findings in almost every chapter.
  28. Dieterle p. 104.
  29. Dieterle p. 105.
  30. Dieterle p. 106.
  31. Dieterle p. 107.
  32. on construction phase one of the system, see Dieterle pp. 107-109.
  33. For construction phase two of the system, see Dieterle pp. 111–112.
  34. For construction phase three of the system, see Dieterle pp. 113–116.
  35. For construction phase four of the system, see Dieterle pp. 153–157.
  36. Speech against Euxippus .
  37. On the first phase of the Dione Temple see Dieterle, pp. 117–119.
  38. On the second phase of the Dione Temple, see Dieterle, pp. 157–158.
  39. Herodotus 5:88.
  40. On the theme temple see Dieterle, pp. 119–122. 158.
  41. On the Temple of Aphrodite see Dieterle, pp. 122–125. 158.
  42. For the Temple of Heracles see Dieterle, pp. 126–129. 158.
  43. ^ Daniel Strauch, Christoph Höcker: Dodona, Dodone. In: The New Pauly (DNP). Volume 3, Metzler, Stuttgart 1997, ISBN 3-476-01473-8 , column 724.
  44. Dieterle, p. 131.
  45. On the priest house, see Dieterle, pp. 132-133.
  46. On the Bouleuterion, see Dieterle, pp. 133-137. 159-162.
  47. on the Prytaneion see Dieterle, pp. 139–141. 162-164.
  48. on theater see Dieterle, pp. 141–148. 164-165.
  49. For the Peribolos Wall, see Dieterle, pp. 149–151.
  50. on the Acropolis see Dieterle, pp. 151–153.
  51. On the stadium, see Dieterle, p. 165.
  52. On the Dodonian ore vessel, see Dieterle, pp. 62–65.
  53. For the small finds, see Dieterle, pp. 169–234.
  54. For research see Dieterle, pp. 7–15.

Coordinates: 39 ° 32 ′ 47 "  N , 20 ° 47 ′ 16"  E

This article was added to the list of excellent articles on June 6, 2008 in this version .