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Trophonios, a legendary Greek hero who was eventually considered a god-like being, was credited with building the original temple housing the Oracle at Delphi. At a later date, the Oracle at Delphi is said to have ordered the building of an oracle site to be established at Lebadea (known today as the town of Livadia) dedicated to Trophonios. The site would become one of the prominent oracular centers in ancient Greece, and accounts of it survive in the writings of Pausanius.

Those who consulted the oracle at Labadea followed a pattern common in the ancient world. They took up residence at the center for several days, during which they offered sacrifices of various animals. Following the sacrifices, soothsayers were present to read the entrails of the animals (a practice termed extispicy ), specifically determining if Trophonios would receive the inquirer graciously or not. The night before entering the cave where the god dwelled, the person would receive a bath and was anointed with olive oil. The priests then took him to water springs where the water of forgetfulness (for the loss of memory of all that was past) and the water of memory (to recall all that would be seen) were consumed. It is believed that these waters contained doses of hallucinogenic drugs.

The inquirer was taken to the entrance of the cave and supplied with a ladder by which he went down into a room. In the floor was a small opening through which the person entered into the actual oracle space. Here the person had both visionary experiences and encounters with the deity (possibly one of the priests acting as a medium ). Upon his return, the person was seated on the Throne of Memory and questioned as to what had been seen or heard.

The site of the Trophonion oracle is well known, though modern explorers of the area have been unable to locate the entrance to the caves used for divination in ancient times. Some believe that a complex of interconnected caves exist in the area.


Pausanius. Guide to Greece. Translated by Peter Levi. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1971.

Temple, Robert K. G. Conversations with Eternity: Ancient Man's Attempt to Know the Future. London: Rider, 1984.