Priestess of Delphi by John Collier.
For ancient Greeks, Delphi was the center of the world: a site sacred to the god Apollo, where all Greeks united to worship. But at its heart was a dark, strange place: the mysterious sanctuary where the priestess of Apollo prophesied.
The priestess, called the Pythia, sat above a chasm in the earth, which belched forth fumes.
She breathed deeply – some believe that the fumes possessed hallucinogenic properties – and slipped into semi-consciousness.
Her prophecies were opaque, often frantic. This was the Oracle of Delphi: the Greeks’ most famous and most feared window into the will of the gods.
It lay in “a cavern hollowed down in the depths” of the hillside, as the historian Strabo reported, underneath the great Temple of Apollo.
Today, the ruins of the Temple sit on the slopes of Mount Parnassus.
It was destroyed by the Emperor Theodosius I, in 390 CE, in an attempt to eradicate the old pagan beliefs.
Few traces of the Oracle remain, but the site is still an eerie one: mist clings to the hills, and you can almost hear the ghosts of Croesus, Nero, and Alexander.
The sun rises behind a bank of clouds on the Greek island of Sifnos in October, 2018.
Sifnos is an island municipality in the Cyclades island group in Greece.
The main town, near the center, known as Apollonia, is home of the island’s folklore museum and library.
The town’s name is thought to come from an ancient temple of Apollo on the site of the church of Panayia Yeraniofora.
Image Credit: Photograph by Louisa Gouliamaki / AFP / Getty
Of all the inventors on this list, this guy may be the one who most deserved to die at the hand of his own invention.
Perillos was a bronze worker who designed a device called the Brazen Bull to be used to painfully execute criminals.
The Brazen Bull was a hollow bull. Prisoners were locked inside and roasted to death by a fire underneath.
The device was even designed to channel the screams of the burning prisoner out of its nose to sound like a bull. Perillos pitched his invention to Phalaris, a tyrant lord of Acragas in Sicily.
After Perillos showed Phalaris the bull, the inventor was put inside and a fire was lit underneath him.
History isn’t clear about if Perillos was pulled out before dying, only to be thrown off a cliff by Phalaris’ men, or if he expired within the bull. Either way, the bull did him in.