Scene 1: Welcome
Welcome to the sanctuary of Zeus of Dodona. Here, you are safe: the god will give you guidance.
If you have an offering for the god, take it to the priests’ house there. They will give you a tablet of lead for your question; there are scribes here to help you. Once you have written your question then join the others along this sacred path. See, it leads to Zeus’s Oak.
If you’ve nothing for the god, or if you need food or shelter, the market is through the trees and there’s an area for camping.
You can take your time, pilgrim—Zeus, his tree, and his doves have been here forever; they will outlast us all.
We will write your tablet for you now, if you’d like. I’ll ask Diodoros to do this…
(Looking around, annoyed) Where is he? He must be in the market…
Let me help you. You don’t even need to speak your question aloud, if you prefer not to. All-powerful Zeus doesn’t need to read our questions to help us!
In fact, I have a tablet with just the question for you already written: look, it says ‘Do you prophesy that what I have in mind will work out right?’ Don’t worry—Zeus and the doves will understand.
You can have a look around, while I take your tablet up to the priestess. The marketplace is over there.
Scene 2: An Old Soldier Remembers
In the market.
(The aulos plays.)
(Mutters) Zeus of Dodona, great in strength, accept this sacrifice. (To the pilgrim): It must be your first time here, pilgrim… Yes—that is the sound of the sacrificial procession on the Acropolis. We make our sacrifices there because it is closest to Zeus. If you want to receive the favour of the gods, you must show favour towards them…
You’re probably thinking: what can he possibly know about the gods--he’s just some old man?! But I’ll have you know, I got this injury at Marathon. Yes, I was there. I was a young man then. Facing down the Barbarians! You should have seen them, their armour glittering; a vast army, as far as the eye could see…
It was a special day, a day of wonders. We fought side-by-side with Heroes!
Market stall holder
(Who has heard this story many times before): You saw them didn’t you, Diodoros…
Oh yes—I saw them! Theseus rising up from the ground at Oinoe—I saw him! Echetlus laying about him with his ploughshare—I saw him!
(Breaks off) Some people say they saw Heracles—but that’s a mistake… Believe me, I was there… I know what I saw…
Market stall holder
And the Persians scattered…
(Returns to his memories) And the Persians scattered—we squeezed ‘em on each side, and then overwhelmed ‘em. We got ‘em on the run… Oh I was a young man then…
But afterwards… ingratitude is a terrible thing you know… Would they look after me? Ah no. My neighbour took me to court. Said I was able. Said I didn’t deserve the pension I had been given. (Indignant) When I had fought side-by-side with the Heroes of Athens!
Market stall holder:
But the gods didn’t desert you, did they Diodoros…
They didn’t desert me… Let me tell you… in my hour of need who came to me (hushed whisper) I dreamt I saw a beautiful boy—a real Ganymede—and he said ‘Nikias’ (that was my name then) ‘Nikias… go to Dodona, go to Dodona to ask the god…’
So I came here to ask which god I should pray to—and the doves told me to devote myself to Zeus of the Lightning Bolt, Zeus of Dodona. Now I am Diodoros ‘Gift of Zeus’.
Ooops, look out—there’s Xanthias looking for me… Quick stand in front of me, pilgrim… He’s a hard task master…
Scene 3: Siblings Reunited
Xanthias, is it… is it really you? I thought I saw you from the carriage, when we arrived…
They embrace, with cries of ‘Brother!’ ‘Sister!’ Speaking at the same time they say.
Did you run?
Where did you come from?
They laugh and Xanthias gestures to Thraitta to speak.
It has been so long since we were together. You remember, I was bought by that old woman, Nicarete, who took me to Corinth to work in one of her brothels? I was in despair: I thought it was the end of my life…
Well, one day, I was in the marketplace crying, and Iolaos, he’s my owner now—he saw me and took pity. Paid old Nicarete the price she’d given for me and a bit more—and took me off to be a maid for his wife. Don’t look suspicious: he’s never touched me—loves his wife I think.
He often comes here; but this is my mistress’ first visit. She wants another child, but… she is in need of Zeus’ guidance.
I never thought I would find you here. I almost didn’t come with them… But why are you here? I heard that you had been taken to Samos…
I’ve been here 7 years now: I… I ran away from the man who bought me… he was not a good man, and I could not bear what he asked me to do. I found sanctuary here; devotion to a god is not slavery.
Zeus has been kind to us: it is so wonderful to see you. But my mistress will be looking for me—we are staying up on the hill. (Impulsively) Xanthias—come with us! My master is a kind man: he would take care of you. We could be together.
Thraitta clasps his hands and then turns and runs.
(to himself): I don’t know what to do… (in realisation of the obvious…) I’ll ask Zeus--I’ll ask Zeus about what I should do.
(Then Xanthias sees the pilgrim): Oh there you are! I came to find you, pilgrim. Your question is delivered to the Doves, and they are ready for you. Let’s go to the tree.
Scene 4: The Ritual
By the Sacred Oak.
Welcome pilgrims. Xanthias—we know why you are here. Once you asked us about freedom. Now you ask us about your future fortune.
We offer a libation.
(The priestess pours a libation from a small vessel on to a phiale (flat dish) and then pours it on the ground.)
Zeus of Dodona, great in strength, accept this sacrifice.
(Silence…. The sound of Tibetan bowls begins to ring out. Priestess 2 comes down from the tree. Sound of Tibetan bowls rises to a crescendo. A moment of silence. Then, the wind rustles tree/doves fly up from tree. We hear the sound of the aulos (as from the sacrifice earlier.)
Zeus of Dodona, great in strength.
(Priestess 2 approaches Xanthias and whispers in his ear.)
(Turns to face the pilgrim) I have my answer. Farewell pilgrim.
(Approaches the pilgrim): So, pilgrim… You want to know if what you have in mind—whatever it may be—will come to pass? Are you ready, pilgrim? Are you holding that question in your mind—and we will begin.
Priestess 1 and Priestess 2 repeat the ritual from ‘We offer a libation’.
(Approaches the pilgrim)
- Pilgrim, the answer is … No.
- The answer is ... Pray to Zeus. He hears your question and he will take care of what you need.
- Pilgrim, the answer is yes. Pray to Zeus and it will come to pass.