Sanctuaries, Oracles, and Theaters

In ancient Greece, people honored the gods in several ways. Throughout Greece there were special places called sanctuaries where people could offer sacrifices, perform rituals, and pray to different gods.

At Olympia, the god Zeus was honored with athletic games and competitions that took place every four years. These events were so important that all of the city-states of Greece would send their top athletes. Wars would be put on hold, and the winners would receive prizes like free food for life. The games were so important, in fact, that the ancient Greeks numbered their years according to which Olympiad had recently taken place. The first Olympic Games were in 776 BC.

Also at Olympia, The massive temple complex of Zeus, and specifically the monumental gold and ivory statue of the god, was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Rituals were performed, and animal sacrifices were made on the altar just outside and in front of the temple.

At the sites of oracles, ancient Greeks could ask a specific god for advice about the future. The most famous oracle, at Delphi, was the site of the Pythia. The Pythia was a mystical woman that spoke the prophesies of the god Apollo.

The Pythia sat on a tripod, suspended over a pit in the earth, in the back of the Temple of Delphi

Travelers from all over the Greek world came to Delphi and left many offerings for Apollo. The city of Delphi was thought to be the geographical center of the ancient world. There was a large stone there called the "omphalos," which means bellybutton. This was thought to be the stone that Kronos vomited up after he threw up Zeus's siblings.

Lastly, the god Dionysus was honored by the staging of plays--both dramas and comedies. Because he was the god of transitions and consequences, theaters were actually considered holy places dedicated to the god. Dionysus was also the god of wine and partying. Groups of people would have feasts, or even bonfire parties in the woods and get drunk in honor of Dionysus.

This is what ancient Delphi looked like-- Notice the Temple of Apollo

Here's a clip showing a traditional staging of the ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus's play Agamemnon. Notice the masks, the beat of the drum, and the way the production looks. How is it different from a modern play?

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