The world of ancient Greece was rich in spiritualism, faith, mythology, and the ever-present gods and goddesses. The Greeks believed that the gods governed every aspect of their lives. The gods and goddesses were immortal ancients of Greece and ruled on Mount Olympus. In the ancient world, it was believed that fate, destiny, or the gods determined a man's life. As people believed that their future could be revealed, oracles of every kind-personal and political- became a function of Greek society. The most famous being the Delphic Oracles, a site of pilgrimage for Greek and non-Greek alike in search of prophecies about the future.
In Greek mythology, the gods and their offspring created the world and make up the colorful Greek Pantheon, blessing humans with artistry, love, and other gifts. The gods, who were blessed with immortality, superhuman strength, and wisdom, were worshipped and adored by the Greeks. In times of trouble, and on specific days, offerings were made to the gods at their respected temples, which were spread throughout the Greek Empire. Priests and priestesses were in charge of proper ritual conduct, prayers, and libations offered to each assigned deity.
Zeus was considered king of the gods, good luck, and the avenger of murder. Along with Hera, his wife; Diana, the goddess of the hunt; Aphrodite, the goddess of Love; Dionysus, the god of wine; and others, Zeus filled the Greek Pantheon and governed humanity. In addition to being the parents and guardians of the Grecians, the Olympian deities were credited with the mythological tales that would assist children and adults in times of need or that would explain mysteries and set examples for correct moral conduct. The gods' main purpose was to be there to help humans in their lives and share with them a mystical and spiritual relationship.
The magnitude of the importance of gods in the lives of Greeks is demonstrated by the number of sacred precincts that the Greeks erected in dedication to the gods. Temples were where mortals could speak with the gods and appeal to them for help. One of the most famous precincts or sites is the Delphi. At the Temple of Delphi, the god Apollo helped humankind by giving them the gift of foresight. This would be explained to the Greek pilgrims that made the journey to Delphi by Apollo's priestesses through oracles-the telling of the future events. Delphi is where the god Apollo's son, Asclepias, blessed with the gift to heal, would perform his miracles and heal the sick by divine intervention.
When the Olympian god Apollo came to the pre- Greek site of Delphi, a sacred female snake guarded it. Apollo, though magnificent and powerful, was never able to fully recover from the assault that the Pythoness launched on him. From that moment on, in order to preserve the person of the Pythoness, the servants in the Temple of Apollo were women. The fabled throne of prophecy within the sanctuary of Delphi has been called the "navel of the earth." From this seat, vapors were emitted causing enigmatic words that were recorded and interpreted as sayings of Apollo. While in trance, the priestess was believed to become the vehicle for the voice of Apollo, uttering prophecies capable of changing the history of the Greek people.
Aegeus and Jason from the myth of Jason and the Argonauts sought out the Delphic Oracle and had their lives changed. Jason inquired of the Oracle whether he should take on the task of retrieving the Golden Fleece to avenge the death of his father Aeson and take the throne from his uncle, Pelias. The Oracles also warned Pelias that a man only wearing one sandal would turn him off the throne of Iolcus-this man would be Jason. The Oracles encouraged Jason to do this task. Brutus, the founder of the Roman Republic traveled to Delphi to inquire of the Oracles about how he might take power away from Tarquinias and become the ruler of Rome. Oedipus consulted the Delphic Oracle to inquire about who his real father was and was told that he was destined to kill his real father and marry his mother. The Delphic Oracle was consulted as to why Thebes was plagued, revealing that Jocasta and her husband Oedipus were really mother and son.
As the Delphic Oracle was meant to reveal the future for humans as a gift to humans, angry gods and goddesses used the Oracle as a means to give false prophecies out of spite for the individual that had sparked their anger. The Greek gods had a reputation for not only loving their human children but for also intervening and toying with them in sometimes rather cruel and manipulative ways.
During the age of colonization in ancient Greece, in the eighth century B.C.E., there was a rebirth within Greek society. Specifically in the year 776 B.C.E., when the first Olympic games occurred, the flowering of one of the great Panhellenic sanctuaries at Delphi began where the athletes sought the oracles to foresee their outcome at the Games. The revival of these cults brought literature, art, sculpture, and more sacred buildings within the Greek Empire. The Greek religion was expanding and became fuller and more elaborate. Delphi and the oracles and devotion to Apollo began to increase during this period.
The stories of Greek mythology are a part of most Western educational experiences. The stories of the gods serve as cultural, historical, and anthropological lessons that reveal to their audiences the beliefs and practices of spiritualities past.