Dodoni Archaeological Site

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Destination best for: sightseeing, relaxation, archaeological site, historical site, family vacation, off the beaten path
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Dodoni Theatre
Dodoni Theatre

The sanctuary of Dodoni was a major spiritual place in ancient Greece. It was the oldest of the Greek oracles and ancient people traveled great distances in order to consult the priests who foretold the future. Outside the temple of Zeus the priests gathered under the sacred Oak tree and listened to the sound of the leaves as they shivered in the breeze and glimpsed at the future. People from the entire known world would make the pilgrimage in ancient times in order to consult the future-telling Oak tree and to attend cultural festivals that took place regularly at Dodoni.

"The divine couple had their adobe in the Oak-tree, and from the rustling of its leaves and the flight of the doves (Peleiades) that nested in is branches the soothsayers of Zeus, the prophets (Selli), who slept on the ground and never washed their feet so as to be in contact with the earth and draw their oracular powers from it, interpreted the will of the god to mortals." (Dodona," by Sotirios Dakaris.)

The Oracle is located at the foot of the majestic twin peaks of mount Tomaros (1972m and 1816m tall), and while the entire site is sprinkled with ancient ruins, the visually imposing theatre dominates the landscapes. The limestone seats appear weather-beaten and nested in a respectful semicircle between the two enormous retaining walls.

The theatre was host to theatrical plays in ancient Greece, and it was most certainly modified by the Romans at a later date to accommodate their gladiatorial games that required a semi-circular orchestra and some protection of the front row seats from the happenings in the orchestra.

The rest of the Dodoni site is not as visually exciting as the theater since only the rectangular foundations of the buildings remain to outline an enormous complex of temples, hostels, granaries and other buildings. Ask for the free brochure when you get the ticket to make some sense and orient yourself in the ruins.

Dodoni is a complex archaeological site because it remained a vital center from about 2000 BC and flourished well into the Roman times. Thus there are many layers of history that the archaeologists have been excavating.

The site where the ancient oak tree stood The theatre retaining wall ancient Dodoni ruins
Dodoni oak tree oracle The retaining wall of the theater Dodoni archaeological site
column fragment limestone base of a statue  

As a religious sanctuary, Dodoni was adorned with all the riches that ancient people could afford, and excavations have unearthed a multitude of artifacts that date back to archaic times. None of it remains on the site of course. Most of the important findings are housed at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, while some reside in the Archaeological museum at Ioannina, both of which are well worth a visit.

Practicalities

Dodoni is a small archaeological site out of the main path of most tourists. As such, it's a quite place, with few groups and individuals strolling about the ruins. You would need a car to get to Dodoni, which is is about half hour away from the nearest large city, Ioannina. Driving from Parga, Igoumenitsa, and Arta take about 1.5 hours.

Once there, you may buy your ticket at the entrance and move through the marked paths. Tickets cost 2 euro and the site is open 8:00am-3:00pm. The ticket booth closes around 2:30pm, and exploring the site leisurely would take you about an hour (although you could rush through it in half that time.)

There is very little shade so getting there early in the morning is advised. Since there are no amenities inside the archaeological park or anywhere near the entrance, you should bring your own water along. Restrooms are available near the ticket booth at the entrance, so plan to pay them a visit before you venture all the way to the other end of the site. There is a large parking lot with ample space right in front of the entrance, and three small and quiet villages around the site, all of which are within a short driving distance.

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