There’s no room for stories of evil monsters, ghostly ships, or oracles and their priestesses in the cold light of the rational 21st century. The ancient myths and legends that have come down to us are seen as no more than the creation of someone’s overworked imagination.
However, many of these seemingly impossible tales do have a grounding in fact. Even bizarre tales of giant wooden horses and bloodsucking vampires may not be as fantastical as we imagine.
10. The Delphic Oracle
Photo credit: Eugene Delacroix
Over 2,500 years ago, people traveled from all over Greece to hear the advice and prophecies of the God, Apollo, uttered by his priestess at the Oracle of Delphi. The advice came out in ambiguous riddles that had to be interpreted by the listener with the help of assistant priests employed to explain what the priestess’s strange ramblings actually meant.
These tales of feverish trances and bizarre ramblings may appear too strange to contain any truth. But a team of scientists discovered something very interesting when they investigated the ancient site at Delphi.
A geologist studying the rocks found oily limestone under the ruined temple. The temple itself was built over a fault in the rocks, which meant that they could move around and they heated up when they did. This heat allowed gas to escape from the limestone, travel up through the gap in the rocks, and rise to the surface where the priestess was sitting in her windowless room.
A chemist found evidence of ethylene, a gas which can make people feel confused and out of touch with the real world when they breathe it in. This could have caused the trancelike states and confused speech of the priestess as she sat above the crack in the rocks, breathing in the fumes.