Here are a few accounts from Joseph Fontenrose's The Delphic
Oracle, in which he chronicles both historical and improbable oracular
responses. The first three are historical and the second two are not.
Often, the historical responses are merely a sanction of plans ready to be
put into action. Visitors asked questions ranging from the topics of
world domination to mundane household affairs.
Visitor: King Agesipolis of Sparta
Occasion: Argive proposal of a truce when the Spartans are about to
Question: Is it sanctioned not to accept the Argive truce, which they
offer not at a proper time but whenever the Spartans intend to invade?
Response: It is sanctioned not to accept a truce unjustly offered.
Occasion: A sacred snake of Asklepios was carried unobserved in the wagon
which brought Thersandros, uncured of consumption, back from Epidauros to
Halieis, where the snake cured him.
Question: What should they do: take the snake back to Epidauros or let
him stay where he is?
Response: They should let the snake stay there, found a temenos of
Asklepios, make an image of him, and place it in the sanctuary.
Visitor: Isyllos the poet
Occasion: Composition of a paean in honor of Apollo
Question: Is it better that he inscribe the paean?
Response: It is better for both present and future that he inscribe the
Legendary and Quasi-Historical:
Visitor: Envoys of King Croesus of Lydia
Occasion: Croesus' projected war on the Persians
Question: Should I make war on the Persians? And with what army should I
Response: If you make war on the Persians, you will destroy a great
realm. Find the strongest Hellenes and ally yourself with them.
(Croesus made war, not realizing that the realm he would destroy would
be his own).
Occasion and Question: Not stated
Response: You will die at the hand of a dead man, this is the end of your
(The oracle speaks of the centaur Nessus, who before he died from a
poison arrow shot by Heracles, tricked Deianira into accidentally
poisoning her husband Heracles some time later).