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DODO´NA (Δωδώνη; sometimes Δωδών, Soph. Trach. 172: Eth. Δωδωναῖος), a town in Epeirus, celebrated for its oracle of Zeus, the most ancient in Hellas. It was one of the seats of the Pelasgians, and the Dodonaean Zeus was a Pelasgic divinity. The oracle at Dodona enjoyed most celebrity in the earlier times. In consequence of its distance from the leading Grecian states, it was subsequently supplanted to a great extent by that at Delphi; but it continued to enjoy a high reputation, and was regarded in later times as one of the three greatest oracles, the other two being those of Delphi and of Zeus Ammon in Libya. (Strab. xvi. p.762; Cic. de Div. 1.1, 43; Corn. Nep. Lys. 3.)

The antiquity of Dodona is attested by several passages of Homer, which it is necessary to quote as they have given rise to considerable discussion:

The ancient critics believed that there were two places of the name of Dodona, one in Thessaly, in the district of Perrhaebia near Mount Olympus, and the other in Epeirus in the district of Thesprotia; that the Enienes mentioned (No. 1) along with the Perrhaebi of the river Titaresius came from the Thessalian town; and that the Dodona, which Ulysses visited in order to consult the oracular oak of Zeus, after leaving the king of the Thesproti, was the place in Epeirus (No. 3). With respect to the second passage above quoted there was a difference of opinion; some supposing [p. 1.782]posing that Achilles prayed to Zeus in the Thessalian Dodona as the patron god of his native country; but others maintaining that the mention of Selli, whose name elsewhere occurs in connection with the Thesprotian Dodona, points to the place in Epeirus. (Strab. vii. p.327, ix. p. 441; Steph. B. sub voce Δωδώνη.) There can be no doubt, that the first-quoted passage in Homer refers to a Dodona in Thessaly; but as there is no evidence of the existence of an oracle at this place, it is probable that the prayer of Achilles was directed to the god in Epeirus, whose oracle had already acquired great celebrity, as we see from the passage in the Odyssey. The Thessalian Dodona is said to have been also called Bodona; and from this place the Thesprotian Dodona is said to have received a colony and its name. (Steph. B. sub voce Δωδώνη.

The Selli, whom Homer describes as the interpreters of Zeus, “men of unwashed feet, who slept on the ground,” appear to have been a tribe. They are called by Pindar the Helli; and the surrounding country, named after them Hellopia (Ἑλλοπίη), is described by Hesiod as a fertile land with rich pastures, wherein Dodona was situated. (Strab. vii. p.328; Schol. ad Soph. Trach. 1167.) Aristotle places the most ancient Hellas “in the parts about Dodona and the Achelous,” adding that the Achelous has frequently changed its course,--a necessary addition, since the Achelous does not flow near Dodona. He likewise states that the flood of Deucalion took place in this district, which “was inhabited at that time by the Selli, and by the people then called Graeci, but now Hellenes.” (Aristot. Meteor. 1.14.) We do not know the authority which Aristotle had for this statement, which is in opposition to the commonly received opinion of the Greeks, who connected Deucalion, Hellen, and the Hellenes, with the district in Thessaly between Mounts Othrys and Oeta. (Grote, Hist. of Greece, vol. ii. p. 355.)

It is impossible to penetrate any further back into the origin of the oracle; and we may safely dismiss the tales related by Herodotus of its Egyptian origin, and of its connection with the temple of Thebes in Egypt, and of Zeus Ammon in Libya. (Hdt. 2.54, seq.) The god at Dodona was said to dwell in the stem of an oak (φηγός, the oak bearing an esculent acorn, not the Latin fagus, our beech), in the hollow of which his statue was probably placed in the most ancient times, and which was at first his only temple (ναῖον δ᾽ ἐν πυθμένι φηγοῦ, Hes. ap. Soph. Track. 1167; Δωδώνην φηγόν τε, Πελασγῶν ἕδρανον, ἧκεν, Hes. ap. Strab. vii. p.327; comp. Müller, Archäol. § 52, 2). The god revealed his will from the branches of the tree, probably by the rustling of the wind, which sounds the priests had to interpret. Hence we frequently read of the speaking oak or oaks of Dodona. (Hom. Od. 14.327, 19.296; αἱ προσήγοροι δρύες, Aesch. Prom. 832; πολυγλώσσου δρυός, Soph. Trach. 1168.) In the time of Herodotus and Sophocles the oracles were interpreted by three (Sophocles says two) aged women, called Πελείαδες or Πέλαιαι, because pigeons were said to have brought the command to found the oracle:--

ὡς τὴν παλαιὰν φηγὸν αὐδῆσαί note

Δωδῶνι δισσῶν ἐκ πελειάδων ἔφη.
(Soph. Track. 171.) Herodotus (2.55) mentions the name of three priestesses. (Comp. Strab. vii. Fragm, 2; Paus. 10.12.10.) These female priestesses were probably introduced instead of the Selli at the time when the worship of Dione was connected with that of Zeus at Dodona; and the Boeotians were the only people who continued to receive the oracles from male priests. (Strab. ix. p.402.)

As Delphi grew in importance, Dodona was chiefly consulted by the neighbouring tribes, the Aetolians, Acarnanians, and Epeirots (Paus. 8.21.2); but, as we have already remarked, it continued to enjoy great celebrity even down to the later times. Croesus sent to inquire of the oracle (Hdt. 1.46); Pindar composed a Paean in honour of the Dodonaean god, since there was a close connection between Thebes and Dodona (Pind. Fragm. p. 571, ed. Bölckh; Strab. ix. p.402); Aeschylus and Sophocles speak of the oracle in terms of the highest reverence (Aesch. Prom. 829, seq.; Soph. Track. 1164, seq.); and Cicero relates that the Spartans, in important matters, were accustomed to ask the advice of the oracles either of Delphi, or Dodona, or Zeus Ammon (Cic. de Div. 1.4. 3). The Athenians also seem not unfrequently to have consulted the oracle, which they did probably through their suspicion of the Pythia at Delphi in the Peloponnesian War. Thus, they are said to have been commanded by the Dodonaean god to found a colony in Sicily (Paus. 8.11.12); Demosthenes quotes several oracles from Dodona (de Fals. Leg. p. 436, in Mid. p. 531, ed. Reiske); and Xenophon recommends the Athenians to send to Dodona for advice (de Vect. 6.2). Under the Molossian kings, who gradually extended their dominion over the whole of Epeirus, Dodona probably rose again in importance. The coins of the Molossian kings frequently bear the heads of Zeus and Dione, or of Zeus alone, within a garland of oak.

In B.C. 219, Dodona received a blow from which it never recovered. In that year the Aetolians under Dorimachus, who were at war with Philip, king of Macedonia, ravaged Aetolia, and razed to the ground the temple of the god. (Plb. 4.67.) Strabo, in describing the ruined condition of the towns of Epeirus in his time, says that the oracle also had almost failed (vii. p. 327); but it subsequently recovered, and Pausanias mentions the temple and sacred oaktree as objects worthy of the traveller's notice. (Paus. 1.17.6.) He elsewhere speaks of the oak of Dodona as the oldest tree in all Hellas, next to the Λύγος of Hera in Samos. (Paus. 8.23.5.) The town continued to exist long afterwards. The names of several bishops of Dodona occur in the Acts of the Councils: according to Leake, the latest was in the year 516. Dodona is mentioned by Hierocles in the sixth century (p. 651, ed. Wessel.).

Of the temple of Dodona we have no description notwithstanding the celebrity of the oracle. Indeed the building itself is first mentioned by Polybius, in his account of its destruction by the Aetolians in B.C. 219. He says that when Dorimachus “arrived at the ἱερόν near Dodona, he burnt the Stoae or Colonnades, destroyed many of the dedicatory offerings, and razed the sacred house to its foundations.” (Παραγενόμενος δὲ πρὸς τὸ περὶ Δωδώνην ἱερὸν, τάς τε στοὰς ἐνέπρησε, καὶ πολλὰ τῶν ἀναθημάτων διέφθειρε, κατέσκαψε δὲ καὶ τὴν ἱερὰν οἰκίαν, Pol. 4.67.) From the words περὶ Δωδώνην we may conclude that the ἱερὸν was not within the walls of Dodona. It appears to have occupied a considerable space, and to have contained several other buildings besides the sacred house or temple proper of the god. It was stated by a writer of the name of Demon; that the temple was surrounded with tripods bearing [p. 1.783]caldrons, and that these were placed so closely together, that when one was struck the noise vibrated through all. (Steph. B. sub voce Δωδώνη; Schol. ad Hom. Il.. 16.233.) It appears that the greater part of these had been contributed by the Boeotians, who were accustomed to send presents of tripods every year. (Strab. x. p.402.) Among the remarkable objects at Dodona were two pillars, on one of which was a brazen caldron, and on the other a statue of a boy holding in his hand a brazen whip, dedicated by the Corcyraeans: when the wind blew, the whip struck the caldron, and produced a loud noise. As Dodona was in an exposed situation, this constantly happened, and hence arose the proverb of the Dodonaean caldron and the Corcyraean whip. (Polemon, ap. Steph. B. sub voce Δωδώνη; Suid. s. v. Δωδωναῖον χαλκεῖον; Strab. vii. p.329.) This appears to have been one of the means of consulting the god; and hence Gregory Nazianzen, in describing the silence of the oracle in his time, says, οὐκέτι λέβης μαντεύεται (Or. iv. p. 127c.). Respecting the way in which the oracles were given, there are different accounts; and they probably differed at different times. The most ancient mode was by means of sounds from the trees, of which we have already spoken. Servius relates that at the foot of the sacred oak there gushed forth a fountain, the noise of whose waters was prophetic and was interpreted by the priestesses (ad Virg. Aen. 3.466). On some occasions the will of the god appears to have been ascertained by means of lots. (Cic. de Div. 1.3. 4

The site of Dodona cannot be fixed with certainty. No remains of the temple have been discovered; and no inscriptions have been found to determine its locality. It is the only place of great celebrity in Greece, of which the situation is not exactly known. Leake, who has examined the subject with his usual acuteness and learning, comes to the conclusion, with great probability, that the fertile valley of Ioáinnina is the territory of Dodona, and that the ruins upon the hill of Kastrítza at the southern end of the lake of Ioánnina are those of the ancient city. Leake remarks that it can hardly be doubted by any person who has seen the country around Ioánnina, and has examined the extensive remains at Kastrítza, that the city which stood in that centrical and commanding position was the capital of the district dnring a long succession of ages. “The town not only covered all the summit, but had a secondary inclosure or fortified suburb on the southern side of the hill, so as to make the whole circumference between two and three miles. Of the suburb the remains consist chiefly of detached fragments, and of remains of buildings strewn upon the land, which is here cultivated. But the entire circuit of the town walls is traceable on the heights, as well as those of the acropolis on the summit. These, in some places, are extant to the height of 8 or 10 feet. The masonry is of the second order, or composed of trapezoidal or polyhedral masses, which are exactly fitted to one another without cement, and form a casing for an interior mass of rough stones and mortar. . . . A monastery, which stands in the middle of the Hellenic inclosure, bears the same name as the hill, but although built in great part of ancient materials, it does not preserve a single inscribed or sculptured marble, nor could I find any such relics on any part of the ancient site.” (Leake.)

Our space allows us to mention only briefly the chief arguments of Leake iii favour of placing Dodona at Kastrítza. It was the opinion of the ancient writers that Dodona first belonged to Thesprotia, and afterwards to Molossis. Stephanus B. calls it a town of Molossis, and Strabo (vii. p.328) places it in the same district, but observes that it was called a Thesprotian town by the tragic poets and by Pindar. But even Aeschylus, through calling the oracle that of the Thesprotian Zeus, places Dodona on the Molossian plain (Prom. 829):--

ἐπεὶ γὰρ ἦλθες πρὸς Μολοσσὰ δάπεδα,
τὴν αἰπύνωτόν τ᾽ ἀμφὶ Δωδώνην, ἵνα
μαντεῖα θῶκός τ᾽ ἐστὶ Θεσπρωτοῦ Διὸς.

Hence it would appear that the territory of Dodona bordered on the inland frontiers of Thesprotia and Molossis, and must in that case correspond to the district of Ioánnina. Pindar describes Epeirus as beginning at Dodona, and extending from thence to the Ionian sea (Nem. 4.81); from which it follows that Dodona was on the eastern frontier of Epeirus., That it was near the lofty mountains of Pindus, on the eastern frontier, may be inferred from the manner in which Aeschylus speaks of the Dodonaean mountains (Supp. 258), and from the epithet of αἰπύνωτος attached to the place by the same poet (Prom. 830), aud from that of δυσχείμερος given to it by Homer. (Il. 16.234.) The account of the destruction of Dodona by the Aetolians also shows that it was on the eastern frontier of Epeirus. Polybius says (l.c.) that the Aetolians marched “into the upper parts' of Epeirus)” (εἰς τοὺς ἄνω τόπους τῆς Ἠπείρου), which words appear to be equivalent to Upper Epeirus, or the parts most distant from the sea towards the central range of mountains.

Hesiod, in a passage already referred to (ap. Schol. ad Soph. Trach. 1167; comp. Strab. vii. p.328), describes Dodona as situated upon an extremity in, the district called Hellopia, “a country of cornfields and meadows, abounding in sheep and oxen, and inhabited by numerous shepherds and keepers of cattle;” --a description accurately applicable to the valley of Ioánnina, which contains meadows and numerous flocks and herds. Several ancient writers' state that the temple of Dodona stood at the foot of a high mountain called TOMARUS or TMARUS (Τόμαρος, Τμάρος), from which the priests of the god are said to have been called Tomūri (Τομοῦροι, Strab. vii. p.328; Callim. Hymn. in Cer. 52; Steph. B. sub voce Τόμαρος; Hesych. sub voce Τμάριος; Eustath. ad Od. 14.327, p. 1760, R., ad Od. 16.403, p. 1806, R.). Theopompus relates that there were a hundred fountains at the foot of Mt. Tomarus. (Plin. Nat. 4.1.) Leake identifies Tomarus with the commanding ridge of Mitzikéli, at the foot of which are numerous sources from which the lake of Ioánnina derives its chief supply. He further observes that the name Tomarus, though no longer attached to this mountain, is not quite obsolete, being still preserved in that of the Tomarokhória, or villages situated on al part of the southern extremity of Dhrysko, which is a continuation of Mitzikéli.

The chief objection to placing Dodona near Ioánnina is the silence of the ancient writers as to a lake at Dodona. But this negative evidence is not sufficient to outweigh the reasons in favour of this' site, more especially when we consider that the only detailed description which we possess of the locality is in a fragment of Hesiod, who may have mentioned the lake in the lines immediately following, which are now lost. Moreover, Apollodorus stated that there were marshes round the temple (ap. Strab. vii. [p. 1.784]p. 328). The lake of Ioánnina was known in antiquity by the name of PAMBOTIS (Παμβῶτις λίμνη), which was placed in Molossis. (Eustath. in Hom. Od. 3.189.)

We have already seen that the temple of Dodona was probably outside the city. Leake supposes that the former stood on the peninsula now occupied by the citadel of Ioánnina, but there are no remains of the temple on this spot. (Leake, Northern Greece, vol. iv. p. 168, foll.; respecting the oracle, see Cordes, De Oraculo Dodonaeo, Groningen, 1826; Lassaulx, Das Pelasgische Orakel des Zeus zu Dodona, Würzburg, 1840; Arneth, Ueber das Taubenorakel von Dodona, Wien, 1840; Preller, in Pauly's Real-Enclopädie, art. Dodona; Hermann, Lehrbuch der gottesdienstlichen Alterth. der Griechen, § 39.)

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