The Characters


Iolaos is visiting the oracle of Zeus at Dodona to ask a specific question about trade routes. He comes from ‘Libya’, which was how ancient Greeks referred to the whole of the African continent. Iolaos lives in Euesperides (Benghazi, North Africa), but his wife, Nikokrateia, is from Corcyra (Corfu). Iolaos is a wealthy trader: he exports silphium and purple dyed wool to Greek cities and exports amphorae of olive oil, wine, processed meat and fish from Greece, Italy, Sicily, and Corcyra.

Iolaos has been to Dodona many times before for advice about his business and also regularly visits the oracle of Zeus Ammon at Siwa, in Egypt. His wife is travelling with him on this visit to Dodona, because she wants to ask Zeus how to recover from the illness that she believes is preventing her from having a baby. She is accompanied on the journey by her slave Thraitta. The family have travelled across the Adriatic from Kerkyra and then taken a wagon to Dodona. They are wealthy, and Iolaos is planning to stay on the Acropolis rather than in the campsite.

These characters are based on the questions on a single tablet dating to the end of the 4th century BCE:
On one side the tablet has the question:

Should we go to Elina or to Anaktorion… to sell…?

On the back of that question, is the name ‘Iolas’.

On the same tablet is the question:

Nikokrateia asks to which god she should sacrifice in order to successfully recover from her illness?

We have some evidence the visitors to Dodona may have visited the oracle of Zeus Ammon at Siwa, in Egypt because a bronze situla of Zeus Ammon has been found at Dodona.