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DODONA Epeiros, Greece.

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 Grèce . . . 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 (1957)MP; S. Dakaris, Δωδώνη Ἱερὰ Οἰκα, ArchEph 1 (1959) 193MIP; id., Das Tauzenorakel von Dodona . . . Neue Ausgrabungen in Griechenland, suppl. I in Antike Kunst (1963) 35-49MIP; id., in BCH 84 (1960) 746-48MP; id., Τὸ ἱερὸν τῆς Δωδώνης, Deltion 16 (1960) 4-40MPI; H. P. Drögemüller, Bericht über neure Ausgr. in Griechenland, Gymnasium 68 (1961) 222-26MP; N.G.L. Hammond, Epirus (1967)MP; W. Fauth, Kl. Pauly (1970). s.v. Orakel, cols. 325-27.


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