Xanthias is one of the male priests or Selloi of the sanctuary. His duties include welcoming visitors, arranging for them to write their questions on the lead tablets, and taking their questions to the priestesses. He also takes care of the sanctuary area; his character is inspired by the character of Ion in Euripides’ play Ion, who serves at the temple of Apollo at Delphi.
Xanthias was born in Thrace and sold into slavery. He has pale skin and red hair; his name means ‘red-head’. There are several slaves called Xanthias in comedies written by Aristophanes. He escaped from slavery and sought safety at the sanctuary. He has tattoos on his body which are found on ancient Greek vase images of people from Thrace.
Xanthias’ original question, about his freedom, was based on a question tablet dating to the middle of the 5th century:
Anthropos, about freedom?
His question to the oracle after he sees his sister Thraitta, is based on a questions dating to the 4th-3rd century BCE:
Whether, by leaving, there will be something else that is good for me, Zeus…?