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Published 7th November 2013 by

The trouble with oracles is that their predictions are rather vague, as a visitor to Apollo's oracle finds out.

One day, Apollo decided that what he needed was an oracle, a wise woman to speak for him. In ancient Greece, an oracle was a person who could predict and interpret the future. That way, he could keep the gifts, but not be bothered with questions.

Apollo used some of his special magic and established his oracle in a temple at Delphi.

There were many oracles, or fortune tellers, in ancient Greece. Apollo wanted his to be the best. He wanted his to be the most famous.

Apollo knew that the predictions made by other oracles were rather vague. A normal Oracle might answer, "Yes, the frost will be gone, and spring will come if the gods decree it." Such an answer was not much help if your question was, "Should I plant my garden tomorrow?"

Apollo made sure his Oracle would not be vague, and that all her answers had to be truthful. It was a good plan. It might have worked, too, only sometimes people misunderstood what she was telling them. And that caused quite a bit of trouble.

For example, a weary king travelled past many oracles to reach Apollo's oracle in Delphi. He knew she could only tell the truth. When he finally arrived, he asked Apollo's oracle, "Who will win the battle tomorrow?"

The Oracle smiled at him, and gently answered, "A great king."

The king was very happy to hear this. He left many gifts for the oracle, and went quickly away to ready his men for battle, quite pleased that he had come.

What he had overlooked in his haste is that more than one king would lead his men to battle in the morning. An oracle's smile meant nothing. That was the trouble with oracles, even the best of them.

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