How “western” were the ancient oracles of the dead?
The ancient world knew of four great Oracles of the dead, Acheron, Avernus, Heraclea Pontica and Tainaron. With what points of the compass might they have been associated? It is easy to make the case that the two of these oracles that are better known today, Acheron and Avernus, had distinctively western affinities, not least because they were located on the western coasts of their respective land-masses. The case is harder to make for Heraclea Pontica, situated on the north coast of Asia Minor, on the (broadly eastern) Black Sea, though it did retain an association with the so-called Cimmerians, otherwise notorious denizens of the West in their mythological tradition. The most challenging case of all, however, is presented by Tainaron. This oracle was located on the extreme southern tip of the Greek mainland, whilst its mythology seemingly links it with the extreme East.
Copyright © 2014 Pandemos. Published version deposited with the kind permission of the publisher.
In: L. Breglia and A. Moleti eds. Hespería: Tradizioni, Rotte, Paesaggi, pp. 211 - 226