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The Oracle: Ancient Delphi and the Science…
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The Oracle: Ancient Delphi and the Science Behind Its Lost Secrets (original 2006; edition 2007)

by William J. Broad (Author)

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242987,066 (3.95)2
The Oracle of Delphi would enter into ecstatic union with the god Apollo and bring back his prophecies and counsel for all who came seeking answers. Though the air of magic that surrounds her might cast her as a legend, the Oracle did really exist--and her visions caused her to become the single most influential figure in all of ancient Greece. Eyewitness accounts describe temple practices in detail, claiming that the Oracle breathed in vapors rising from the temple floor. In 1892 French archaeologists unearthed the temple, but could find no evidence that the rocky ground had brought vapors of any kind. Science journalist Broad tells a modern-day detective story that blends history and science to describe how a team of scientists, working from subtle clues scattered throughout the ancient literature, as well as from the latest findings in geology, uncovered scientific evidence to explain the Oracle's powers.--From publisher description.… (more)
Member:strangetrails
Title:The Oracle: Ancient Delphi and the Science Behind Its Lost Secrets
Authors:William J. Broad (Author)
Info:Penguin Books (2007), Edition: Reprint, 320 pages
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The Oracle: Ancient Delphi and the Science Behind Its Lost Secrets by William J. Broad (2006)

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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
This is a great book for people who aren't geologists or archeologists or ancient Greece scholars to read and enjoy and still feel like you understood some of the science behind the scenes. ( )
  acf151 | Jun 18, 2016 |
This is a great book for people who aren't geologists or archeologists or ancient Greece scholars to read and enjoy and still feel like you understood some of the science behind the scenes. ( )
  acf151 | Jun 18, 2016 |
I visited the ruins of the sacred Delphic Oracle a few years ago. It is a truly beautiful place hidden between magnificent surroundings.
Since then, intrigued by all the mysteries surrounding these Classical ruins, I have been looking for a short but relatively complete introduction to what the Delphic Oracle was all about.
I found what I needed in W.J. Broad’s “The Delphic Oracle”. William J. Broad is a science journalist and senior writer at The New York Times. He is a Pulitzer Prize winner and has also been celebrated with an Emmy and DuPont Award.
His book is a slim, popular – scientific, overview of the history of the Oracle since the earliest times, around 1000 BC until it’s destruction by the Christian punks of Saint Constantine.
It also describes the exhumation of the ruins, nearly 20 centuries later, in 1893 , by the members of the French Archeological School and how these people were disappointed not to find the legendary crack, described by Plutarch, in the floor of the holiest of holies. Through that crack, as one well knows, intoxicating fumes (the holy pneuma) would dizzy the Sybil, who would then utter oracular words that the God Apollo spoke through her.
The core of Broad’s book however relates how two scientist, geologist Jelle de Boer ( a specialist in plate tectonic ) and archeologist John Hale, search for and do find the chasm, the geological fault that runs under Apollo’s temple and through which indeed a hallucinogenic vapor, ethylene, a sweet smelling anesthetic that produces euphoria and excites the nervous system, emanated in the heydays of the Oracle.
It is a captivating story in the “Indiana Jones” style and very interesting to see what new insights develop when two scientists, specialists in different fields, work together.
What I did not understand is why Broad in the last chapter of his book starts a rant against scientific reductionism, the position which holds that a complex phenomena, like the Oracle, can be explained in terms of scientific causality.
It is as Broad is scared of having “debunked” the Delphic Myth for us and that for this sin the Chtonic Python would come after him.
So much for a scientific journalist ! ( )
5 vote Macumbeira | Jul 29, 2013 |
I would have been much better off just reading an abbreviated article on the findings of the team at Delphi. That was really the only interesting part of the book to me. It was a very long book to get to a very anti-climactic ending.
However, this is just my taste - if you're very interested in geology, archaeology, or ancient history, you'd probably like this book. ( )
  __Lindsey__ | Apr 17, 2013 |
The Oracle by William J. Broad

This is an enlightening book about the ancient oracle at Delphi and the scientific search to back up what had been written anciently about the famed and influential Oracle. Did she really possess mystical powers? This book takes the reader on a scientific detective journey to seek out the facts behind the stories. The author shares historical information and Dr. De Boer’s quest to use geological facts to piece together the truth about the “Mistress of Apollo”. It took Dr. De Boer many years to find the answers and he involved other scientists, with specialty disciplines, that enhanced his, so they could contribute to the uncovering of the mysteries. What was the pneuma, did it really exist? This is a great recounting of the process of scientific investigation and reasoning.

In the second half of the book there is a detailed discussion about “Reductive Science”, this might bog some readers down, but if you are at all interested in the scientific process- how it works, some of the psychology behind it and a good overview of what could become a research conundrum, it is excellent material which adds to the great scientific discovery story told within the book. ( )
  kaida46 | Sep 7, 2010 |
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"The greatest blessings come by way of madness, indeed of madness that is heaven-sent."

--Socrates on the Oracle of Delphi
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For Tanya, my Oracle
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This book is about a voice from the remote past that has come to question the metaphysical assumptions of our age, to urge us to look beyond the claims of science and reexamine our attitudes toward spirituality, mysticism, and the hidden powers of the mind.
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The Oracle of Delphi would enter into ecstatic union with the god Apollo and bring back his prophecies and counsel for all who came seeking answers. Though the air of magic that surrounds her might cast her as a legend, the Oracle did really exist--and her visions caused her to become the single most influential figure in all of ancient Greece. Eyewitness accounts describe temple practices in detail, claiming that the Oracle breathed in vapors rising from the temple floor. In 1892 French archaeologists unearthed the temple, but could find no evidence that the rocky ground had brought vapors of any kind. Science journalist Broad tells a modern-day detective story that blends history and science to describe how a team of scientists, working from subtle clues scattered throughout the ancient literature, as well as from the latest findings in geology, uncovered scientific evidence to explain the Oracle's powers.--From publisher description.

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Table of Contents:

1. Center of the Universe

2. Doubters

3. Inquisitive Man

4. Sleuths

5. X Marks the Spot

6. Rapture

7. Mystic Clue
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