I sat down under a majestic tree to take refuge from the radiant mid morning sun and the fatigue that suddenly overcame me due to the rather steep uphill walk from the valley below. The sound of the cicadas inundated the air with an ethereal concert. From the top of the ancient stadium the view of the eternal ruins of Apollo’s temple, where the terracotta green hills and the washed out blue mountains gradually give way to the glistening topaz waters of the Gulf of Corinth in the far distance, is breathtaking.
It was in this surreal and still enchanting setting that many of the big decisions of the day (C. 4th century BC) were left to the mastery, magic powers and savvy of the Pythia, Apollo’s priestess.
“Yes, this was the internet hub of the day”, replied an old man who I’m certain was reading my thoughts as they slowly seeped out of my forehead along with the many drops of now uncontrollably hot sweat which now profusely irrigated my face.
“There sat the Sybil and there old and young, rich and, poor, kings and merchants lined up with gifts and homages to ask for advice and for an insight in what the future held for them.” He continued in his heavy eastern European accent as he sat next to me. He curled both sides of his golden Einstein-style mustache with his ageless stout fingers, and methodically from left to right proceeded to wipe his forehead from under a big white straw hat.
I looked at my watch. I only had ten minutes to join the rest of the group down the valley below.
His powerful voice carried by a pronounced eastern european accent wasn’t going to worry about my time restrictions.
“Let me tell you a story that few people know around here.” He pressed on.
“There was a very rich merchant who after travelling the world over many times and having amassed riches and possessions, realized that the days on this earth at his disposal were running short. In growing his business he had somewhat neglected his family and his only son was now living the good life recklessly. The old weary merchant wanted to know from the Oracle what else to give the son so that he would be well prepared and live responsibly after his death and what the future held for him.
He deposited a rich donation of gold and silver and a chest full of rare spices at the foot of the Sibyl and as the vapours rose from the pit so did the heavy words of the Oracle.
“You have traveled the world and acquired richness, and knowledge without studies. And that’s good. Few men will gain that in their life times as you did. You have witnessed and learned from cultures and peoples all over and that’s good for Culture is the gift of the savvy. Knowledge and Culture and Wisdom these are the gifts you must leave your son.
You have the first two but to gain wisdom you must first know yourself.
–Antío (goodbye) —
I looked down the valley below and the group was all there waiting and waving at me to come down.
I never got to ask about the ending of the story for as I turned around the old man was already gone and in the haze I could barely discern his silhouette walking beyond the massive trees.