A city situated S
of Lake Pambotis at the foot of Mt. Tomaros (mod.
Olytsikas), 22 km S of Jannina. It was famed for its
Sanctuary and its Oracle of Zeus which was greatly Venerated, even more than that of Apollo at Delphi, which
finally took its place. Homer's heroes knew this oracle
and its god. Thus Achilles prays to Zeus when he wishes
to see Patroklos intervene in his stead and drive the Trojans from the ships (Il
. 16.233). He speaks of the Selli,
the prophets of Zeus, who have unwashed feet and sleep
on the ground. In the Odyssey
(14.327) Odysseus is described as having gone to Dodona to consult the priests
of Zeus who interpret the sound the wind makes in the
leaves of Zeus's great oak tree. In the historic period
Herodotos went to Dodona (2.52) and recalls that “the
oracle at Dodona is held to be the most ancient in
Greece.” The cult of Zeus goes back to a period before
Late Helladic III, about 1200. It may have been preceded
by a goddess cult, as elsewhere in Greece (Ge?). Later,
in the 8th c. we find a cult of Zeus and Dione, a female
paredros. Pausanias (10.12.10
) talks about a chtonian
goddess and, while making it quite clear that he believes
none of it, tells how every year at Pothniai in Boiotia
suckling pigs were thrown into the megara, in a sacred
wood consecrated to Demeter and her daughter, and that
the pigs reappeared at Dodona the following year. These
three elements—Zeus, Dione, cult of the oak—make up the Dodonian cult. We have evidence of the sanctuary in
the god's answers, inscribed on thin sheets of lead; a certain number have come down to us. Chiefly under Pyrrhos' influence (297-272) the sanctuary acquired the
form in which it now appears after excavation. It was
torn down by the Aitolians in 219-218, then restored, and
destroyed in 168-167 by the Romans and later, in 88 B.C.
by Mithridates and his Thracians. In the Augustan period
the theater was made into an arena and the emperor
Hadrian visited it about 132. At the end of the 4th c. A.D.
it was again in ruins; the oaks were cut down and a
basilica was put up ca. the 5th or 6th c.
Compared with a sanctuary like Delphi, Dodona clearly did not benefit from the building and beautification
one might expect. Probably its isolated location, far from
Greece proper and from busy thoroughfares, contributed
to this neglect.
Even the travelers who visited it, and later the archaeologists, did not give Dodona the stature it deserved. Excavations carried out since 1944 have revealed the appearance of the sanctuary as well as its history. The
theater, located by all the travelers, has been completely
uncovered and restored. It dates from Pyrrhos' reign.
The cavea measures 21.9 m in diameter, the stone stage
31.2 m, and the orchestra ca. 19 m in diameter. The
cavea was divided into three sections of 21, 16, and 21
rows of seats, giving it a capacity comparable to that of
Epidauros. Ten radiating stairways divide the cavea into
nine bays each for the first and second sections and
18 bays for the third. After the destruction in the 3d c.
the wooden proskenion was replaced by one of stone.
Again destroyed by the Romans, the theater was made
lnto an arena in the Augustan period.
Above the theater and sanctuary is an acropolis ringed
with walls dating from the 4th c. B.C. that have in places
been preserved to a height of 3 m.
The sanctuary is situated to the E, 50 m down from
the acropolis, and is partly surrounded by a wall. Inside
this hieron to the E is a basilica, long mistaken for an
early Temple of Zeus, then three small temples that have
been identified as a Temple of Aphrodite and two of
Dione. Between this group of buildings and the theater
is a quadrangular monument, identified as the bouleutenon. As for the actual Sanctuary of Zeus, known as
Hiera Oikia, it is possible to reconstruct its history, which
is clearly divided into three periods. The first dates from
the 4th c., when the sanctuary consisted of a temenos
with a peribolos wall around it and a sacred oak inside
it, and a small rectangular monument in one corner.
Next, in the Hellenistic period, the temenos was enlarged,
a stoa being put up on three of its four sides. Finally,
about 200 B.C., the small naiskos was rebuilt, becoming
prostyle, while a small propylaea was put up in the axis
of the temple to allow for passage on the S side of the
stoa. The sacred oak remained in the area of the temenos,
close to the E peribolos wall.
F.C.H.L. Pouqueville, Voyage dans la
. . . I (1820); V (1821); C. Diehl, Excursions
archéologiques en Grèce
(1890); A. Philippson & E. Kirsten, GL
(1956) II.1 85-86 (with earlier bibliography); ibid. (1962) 739-48; P. Lévêque, Pyrrhos
S. Dakaris, Δωδώνη Ἱερὰ Οἰκα
1 (1959) 193MIP
; id., Das Tauzenorakel von Dodona . . . Neue Ausgrabungen in Griechenland
, suppl. I in Antike Kunst
; id., in BCH
84 (1960) 746-48MP
Τὸ ἱερὸν τῆς Δωδώνης
16 (1960) 4-40MPI
; H. P.
Drögemüller, Bericht über neure Ausgr. in Griechenland, Gymnasium
68 (1961) 222-26MP
; N.G.L. Hammond, Epirus
; W. Fauth, Kl. Pauly
(1970). s.v. Orakel, cols. 325-27.