The sanctuary at Dodona was a major religious centre of north-west Greece, and was connected with the cult of the Great Goddess of fertility and that of Zeus Dodonaios.
Ancient Greek tradition considered the oracle at Dodona to be the oldest in the ancient Greek world, and archaeological excavations have confirmed that it functioned from the Bronze Age (2600-1100 BC) to the end of the 4th c. AD, when the worship of Zeus was succeeded by Christianity.
In the prehistoric period, and down to the end of the 5th c. BC, worship took place in the open-air, around the sacred couple (Zeus-Dione) lived. The priests of Zeus (hypophites) interpreted the divine will for mortals on the basis of the rustling of the leaves of the tree and the flight of the wild pigeons that nested in its foliage.
From the beginning of the 4th c. BC, buildings began to be erected on the sacred site, such as the Hiera Oikia, which has been identified with the residence of Zeus, the temples of Dione, Heracles, Themis and Aphrodite, and monumental structures, such as the theatre, the stadium, the bouleuterion, the prytaneion and the West Stoa, the ruins of which are still preserved.
The sanctuary of Dodona acquired its final form at the end of the 3rd c. BC, when it regained its position as a preeminent cult-centre.
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