I have had an interest in the historical uses of homing pigeons for many years. Historical references on the use of homing pigeons are abundant but precise data seems much harder to come by the further back in history one looks. I have found numerous references that state that homing pigeons were used in antiquity by many civilizations but specific references are had to find. The further back in time I looked the more cryptic the references to the use of homing pigeons become.
According to fable, Zeus gave his daughter Thebe two black pigeons endowed with the gift of human speech. Herodotus (Book II 54-58) has this to say about the origin of the Oracle at Dodona: "The priests of Ammon of (Egyptian) Thebes told me that two Priestesses were carried away from that country by Phoenicians, who, as they heard, sold one in Libya and the other in Greece, and these two women established the first oracles in either place. When I asked how they knew this, they said that the Egyptians has searched diligently for these two women, but in vain, and afterward they had learnt what they now told me. This account I had from the priests at Thebes; but the prophetesses at Dodona say that two black pigeons flew from Thebes of Egypt, one to Libya an the other to Dodona. The second perched on a beech-tree, and uttered human speech admonishing the people of the place to set up an oracle of Zeus; and they, believing it to be a divine revelation, obeyed.
It is suggested that these oracle centers were based on the paranormal abilities of the oracles. Even those who accept the reality of paranormal abilities admit that they are highly unpredictable. This is not to say that oracles never gave advice or utterances on the basis of genuine inspiration.
This thinly disguise story involving “talking” doves flying between the Egyptian oracle center of Thebes and those at Dodona, in Greece, and Siwa, in Libya. This case is based on circumstantial details, as it would have to be, since the oracle centers would have guarded their secret very carefully. The oracle centers would have concealed the fact that they were using homing pigeons so that they could maintain their credibility with the public.
When there are several widely divergent explanations
for a reference it seems that the simplest explanation is most like the correct
one. The simplest explanation is that the priestesses were using homing pigeons
to send and receive information between
In some cases, however, they gave quite specific
information about remote circumstances that in the normal course of affairs
they could not have known about. King Croesus of Lydia (650 – 546 B.B.)
conducted the first known state-sponsored experiment to investigate claims of
the paranormal. Croesus set up what he
thought would be a conclusive test of the Delphic Oracle’s power. He sent his messengers to
The smell has come to me of a hard-shell tortoise
Boiling and bubbling with the lamb’s flesh in a bronze pot:
The caldron underneath is of bronze, and of bronze the lid.
the oracle at Delphi know what Croesus was doing that day in