The Road to Delphi: The Life and Afterlife of Oracles
Publication Date :
1 Jan 2005
An endlessly intriguing topic - exploring the human desire to know the future, and the way this is linked to our passion for riddles and puzzles. The Road to Delphi combines vivid storytelling and perceptive analysis to give a sympathetic and entertaining account of humanity's persistent belief in 'signs'. Michael Wood begins with the oracles of ancient Greece, eagerly consulted in times of need, or at moments of crucial choice. Yet the oracles gave ambiguous answers - it was up to humans to interpret what they said. As with horoscopes today, this allowed the hearers to fit the message to what they wanted, and sometimes, as in the tragic drama of Oedipus and the oracle of Delphi, or the disastrous take of Lydian King Croesus, they could get the answer all too right or horribly wrong. For thousands of years the oracles have spoken, in Europe, in Africa, in the old civilisations of the East, and elsewhere. Wood explores the way such consultations evolved over the years in literature and in popular culture, from the witches in Macbeth to the cryptic confrontations in the works of Kafka or the film The Matrix. He shows, too, how the culture of the oracle still lingers on in the way we accept or 'interpret' authorities - as in the doctor's consulting room - or avidly puzzle out the meaning of astrology columns of the press. Lively, engaging and revealing, full of warmth and humanity, The Road to Delphi is remarkable both for the stories it tells, and for the way it makes us think again about our age-old longing for the certainties we know we can never have.