The Delphian Oracle "Know Thyself" and ??

OK, what did the bloody Oracle have to say besides “Know Thyself”? Uh, English translation is best.

::hoping it isn’t “Know Thy Quotations”::

According to legend, the Oracle also said “To thine own self be true” (the most over-used school motto ever).

The Oracle told Laius (Oedupus’ father) that his son would kill him. The oracle also told Oedipus that he would kill his father and breed his mother’s children. Well, according to Sophocles anyway…


The Oracle told Croesus (I think) that if he fought the Persians, a great Empire would fall. It turned out to be his empire.

I thought that the two sayings carved on some building (probably the temple of Apollo) at Delphi was “Know Thyself” and “Everything in Moderation.” Individually the oracle told a lot of people a lot of things.

But please, the word is Delphic.

And that boys and girls is an example of an amphiboly.

You rang?

When asked who was the wisest of mortals, the Oracle said “Socrates is the most wise” … which Socrates first doubted, and later realized was true, as he was the most wise because he was aware of how ignorant he was.

The Oracle also advised the Spartans to reclaim the bones of Orestes if they wanted to defeat the Tegeans in battle. This advice was hard to follow, as they didn’t know the location of the grave. So they sent a Spartan back to the Oracle to inquire further, and he was told “go where two winds meet, where stroke meets stroke, and where evil rings upon evil.” Licuas (the Spartan) then went to Tegea, where he came across a blacksmith, and realized the winds were the bellows, etc etc, and dug up the bones. This doesn’t strike me as particularly interesting, but the Spartans were no doubt satisfied because they did go on to defeat the Tegeans.

In addition to the question about attacking Persia (mentioned earlier), Croesus also asked how long he would rule, and the Oracle replied that he would rule until a mule was the ruler of the Medians. Herodotus reports the Oracle said “Wait till the time shall come when a mule is monarch of Media; Then, thou delicate Lydian, away to the pebbles of Hermus; Haste, oh! haste thee away, nor blush to behave like a coward”. Croesus took this to mean a long time, because how would a mule ever rule a kingdom? Of course, after the fact, it was clear that the mule referred to Cyrus, King of the Persians, because (un-PC moment ahead …) his parents were of different races, and thus he was a “mule.”

Perhaps because the Persians seemed to be enjoying an unfair advantage thanks to Greeks misunderstanding the Oracle’s words of wisdom, the Oracle finally came out on the side of Athens when she was asked how the city could defend itself against the Persian attack. The reply was to trust the defenses of the “walls of wood” which many believed to mean they should barricade themselves inside the city. However, Themistocles realized (or guessed) that this actually meant to rely on the wooden ships of the navy, which led to the defeat of the Persians at Salamis.

… and according to my old philosophy teacher “Know thyself” (“qnothi se auton” in Greek) means “Be aware that you are a mere mortal and not a god”)

Are you still taking a whiff or two of the Pythonic gases, delphica?