Camillo Miola, The Oracle, 1880, oil on canvas
The J. Paul Getty Museum
The Pythia, a virgin from the local village selected in ceremonies that established her as Apollo’s choice, sits atop the sacred tripod as the Delphic oracle. To the left is the omphalos, regarded as the center of the earth.
The prophetess went to the tripod on the seventh day of each month, the day of Apollo’s birth, nine months of the year, to await the god’s inspiration. Her inspired utterances were later interpreted by a priest. The ancient Greeks considered the Delphic oracle the final authority on almost any matter, whether religious, political or social.