I am happy to have author Marie Savage (Oracles of Delphi) join me today for a little guest post.
Why Delphi and Ancient Greece?
When I’m asked why I chose
Ancient Greece as the setting for a novel and why I chose to weave both romance
and mystery into the book, I often answer with a question of my own: “Have you
ever been to Delphi?”
I’ve been lucky enough to visit
Delphi on numerous occasions, but it only took one trip for me to become
completely captivated by the beauty of the place. Once I’d seen it, once I’d
breathed it in and walked up the Sacred Way, I was hooked. I could no more stop
my imagination from conjuring up stories of the Pythia, the priests, and the
sacred oracle than I could stop breathing. And considering wherever there are
people, there will be romance and wherever there is religion and politics
mixing together there will be mystery and intrigue, I knew the book would have
to have all these elements.
ORACLES OF DELPHI is set in 340
BCE, a time of great change. The glory of Athens and Sparta had faded—even
though Athenians and Spartans at the time would hardly have admitted it—and the
conquests of Philip of Macedon and his son Alexander loomed large. Socially, it
was a time of great upheaval in science and philosophy as new ideas grounded in
the human capacity for rational thinking and apprehending the world through the
senses rather than reliance on the gods for understanding were gaining
adherents. And, given that there were no major wars going on, it was a time of
relative peace and so Althaia and her friends could travel easily.
As a woman and the mother of two
daughters, I wanted to write a female character firmly rooted in her time and
the restrictions she would have to face, but who also showed great spirit and
curiosity about the world. Althaia of Athens must live within the constraints
of her position—she is married off to a cousin to keep her father’s wealth in
the family—and her movement and participation in society is limited. However,
she is educated and headstrong and relies on two unconventional men who give
her a tremendous amount of leeway to study and travel. Theron, her tutor, and
Praxis, her slave, play different roles in her life and I hoped, through their
relationships, to show both Althaia’s vulnerability and her determination. With
the introduction of Nikos, her love interest, I wanted to explore how Althaia
might view the competing interests of honoring her husband and giving into love
In setting up the conflict
between the priests of Apollon and the priestesses of Gaia, I took great
liberties with myth and history—it is historical fiction
, after all. I’ve always been fascinated with the history of
religion and have read a great deal about the early foundations of what we know
today as mere myths. Some scholars have speculated about a time period in which
female “mother earth” goddess cults rooted in fertility and nature motifs were
gradually replaced by male sky and warrior gods who laid down the law and ruled
with the fearsome power of thunder and lightning. Delphi, to me, seemed like
the perfect place to illustrate this transition as the foundational myth says
that the site was originally sacred to Gaia who was the mother of all,
including the Titans and, hence, great grandmother of Apollon who was the son
of Zeus and grandson of Kronos, one of the Titans. Gaia’s oracle at Delphi was
guarded by a serpent which was associated with the Korycian Cave—symbolic of
the womb of the earth. Eventually,
Apollon came along and slew the serpent and claimed the oracle as his own. This
coin illustrates the myth as the tripod of the Pythia is between Apollon and
the serpent: http://www.odysseyadventures.ca/articles/delphi/001.coinCroton.jpg
In ORACLES OF DELPHI, I imagined that
the priestesses of Gaia did not give up so easily and that a remnant of
worshippers remained in Delphi claiming the oracle as their own. Two competing
claims to the power and fame, not to mention wealth, of the oracle seemed to be
the perfect set-up for murder.
today, however, that even Apollon’s power was eventually supplanted in Delphi
and a new god came to be worshipped throughout Greece. Besides the rise of
Christianity and the rise of rationalism, Delphi suffered from another problem—it
seems the Pythia just couldn’t get high enough to channel the god anymore.
Modern scientists speculate that seismological
changes—Delphi sits on two fault lines that intersect almost directly under the
temple—reduced flow or elimination of the narcotic, trance-inducing gas issuing
from the bedrock. The historian Plutarch (c. 46-120 AD), who served as the senior of the two
priests of Apollon in Delphi, described
the smell of the sacred pneuma as sweet and speculated
that the weakening influence of the oracle in his time was caused by the pneuma’s sporadic and weak emissions. (For more on
the geology of Delphi, visit http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/ancient-cultures/daily-life-and-practice/the-oracle-of-delphi%E2%80%94was-she-reallystoned/
or read The Oracle: Ancient Delphi and the Science Behind
Its Lost Secrets by William J. Broad.)
Finally, in 393 AD, when Roman emperor Julian the Apostate tried to revive elements of classical Greek
culture, he consulted Delphi’s famed oracle and in response, the last Pythia
issued this statement:
wrought house has fallen.
shelter has Apollon,
sacred laurel leaves;
fountains are now silent;
It is finished.
In the book, in 340 BCE, I imagine the
earlier period when Gaia’s priestesses finally give way to Apollon and, after
Althaia and her friends solve the murder, the Pythia of Gaia issues her own
Mother Earth has spoken.
oracle is broken.
her sacred servant.
one or one thousand years,
wrought house will fall
And a god
reborn shall reign.
I hope readers of mystery,
romance, and myth enjoy ORACLES OF DELPHI and thank you for hosting me!
is the pen name of Kristina Marie Blank Makansi who
always wanted to be a Savage (her grandmother’s maiden name) rather than
a Blank. She is co-founder and publisher of Blank Slate Press, an
award-winning small press in St. Louis, and founder of Treehouse Author
Services. Books she has published and/or edited have been recognized by
the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), the Independent
Publisher Book Awards (IPPY), the Beverly Hills Book Awards, the David
J. Langum, Sr. Prize in American Historical Fiction, the British Kitchie
awards, and others. She serves on the board of the Missouri Center for
the Book and the Missouri Writers Guild. Along with her two daughters,
she has authored The Sowing and The Reaping (Oct. 2014), the first two
books of a young adult, science fiction trilogy. Oracles
her first solo novel.
For more information visit Kristina Makansi’s website
and the Blank Slate Press website
. You can also follow Krisina Makansi
and Blank Slate Press
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