EPIDAURUS | MAINLAND | CENTRAL GREECE
The pan-Hellenic sanctuary of Delphi, where the oracle of Apollo spoke, was the site of the omphalos, the 'navel of the world'. Blending harmoniously with the superb landscape and charged with sacred meaning, Delphi was indeed the religious centre and symbol of unity of the ancient Greek world
Despite the efforts of the Ministry of Culture, the invasion of cement construction and tourist boutiques in the modern village have wiped out all authentic identity. This is why anyone who knows the area prefers to stay in nearby Arahova. In any case, the only attraction for tourists here is the exceptionally interesting archaeological site of Delphi.
DELPHI IN BRIEF
Perched on the mountain-side at the foot of Parnassos, Delphi − population 2,500 − presents a breathtaking view over the olive groves of Amphissa against a background of the blue Corinthian Gulf and the mountains of the Peloponnese.
DELPHI HISTORICAL INFO
The area’s history begins in 1400 BC and is directly connected to the Oracle of Delphi. Kings, warriors, as well as a multitude of ordinary pilgrims came to Delphi to consult the oracle, the usually obscure pronouncements, with double meanings, of Pythia (the priestess). In exchange they offered up fabulous treasures, and a specific tax, the pelanos. In this way, between the 6th and 4th c. BC, the oracle became one of the wealthiest sanctuaries of the ancient world. A town of 10,000 inhabitants gradually sprang up around it. From the 6th c. a confederation with religious roots was constituted in a military and political association, the renowned Amphictyonic League, which in 582 BC reorganized the Delphic Games, which then took place every four years in honour of the god Apollo. In the 1st c. BC, Delphi was plundered by Romans. After Christianity was established, Constantine the Great stripped the oracle of its precious treasures, while subsequently Theodossios completed its devastation. After the Ottoman domination, German archaeologists, (from 1840) and the French School of Athens (from 1892) instituted extensive systematic excavations in the area, which brought the sacred site of Delphi back to light.
The name of Delphi came from the word “Dirphys” meaning “chasm in the earth”. Originally the fumes emitted from this chasm had caused a shepherd by the name of Kouritas to mumble unintelligible sentences which sounded prophetic. This is how the most ancient goddess Ge or Gaia (Earth) acquired her oracle and her son, the monster Python, became its guardian. According to a later myth, two eagles let loose by Zeus, one from the east and one from the west, met at Delphi and dropped a sacred stone at this spot, known as Navel of the Earth. The sun god Apollo killed Python, for which he was called Pythios or Pythoktonos (Python Killer) and the oracle was dedicated to him. Daphne the mountain nymph, or according to others Sibyl, was the first priestess to pronounce the oracles. Later the prophetess, invariably a woman, was called Pythia from the name of Python. In the innermost shrine of the temple, the sacred tripod was placed over the legendary chasm. After having purified herself in the Castalian spring, the Pythia chewed laurel leaves and, dazed by the fumes, delivered the oracles which the temple’s priests would then interpret.
WHAT TO SEE & DO IN DELPHI
ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE AND MUSEUM OF DELPHI
Tel. 0030 2265082312
Summer 7 am-9 pm, weekends 8:30 am-3 pm, winter 9 am-3:30 pm, weekends 8:30 am-2:45 pm
SANCTUARY OF APOLLO
This very impressive site stands between two cliffs, the Phaedriades, in ancient times called Yambleia and Nauplia in ancient times.
The Sacred Way
A stone-paved road leading to the temple of Apollo. Along both sides, there were votive offerings, statues and treasuries offered by the Greek cities.
Treasury of the Athenians
A restored structure in Doric style dedicated to Apollo by the Athenians to commemorate their vic‐
tory over the Persians at Marathon. It was built with the spoils of the battle.
Temple of Apollo
Erected originally in the 6th c. BC and destroyed by an earthquake in 373 BC, the temple whose ruins we see today was rebuilt with a Doric colonnade all round and finished in 327 BC. The interior consisted of three divisions: the pronaos or first room, the back chamber or inner cell (sekos) and the adyton, the subterranean innermost shrine, where Pythia delivered her prophecies.
At the NW corner of the sanctuary, it has a spectacular view of the site and the Delphic landscape. It was built in the 4th c. BC and repaired in 159 BC, with funds donated by King Eumenes of Pergamon. It is in good condition, seating 5,000 spectators.
Almost 200 m long, but the track for the athletes − then in a straight line − was 178 m or 600 Roman feet. It was built initially in the 3rd c. BC and modified many times. What we see today dates to the end of the 2nd c. BC. It seated over 6,500 spectators for the Pythian Games which took place every four years.
The Castalian Spring
The water of the sacred source comes from a narrow fissure between the two Phaedriades rocks, flowing out just at their base and everybody who came to Delphi purified himself in it.
SANCTUARY OF ATHENA PRONAIA
It is locally called Marmaria and had five buildings: the tholos, the Treasury of Massalia — a fine 6th c. BC building — another treasury, Doric, of the 5th c. BC, of limestone and the two limestone temples of Athena, in Doric style also, one of the 6th c. BC, destroyed in the 4th c. BC and the other of later date. Of greatest architectural interest is the rotunda “tholos” of the 4th c. BC with marble Doric columns. Restoration has conserved three of the twenty columns. Its purpose is still unknown.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM OF DELPHI
Although small, the museum of Delphi has 13 rooms with exhibits of major archaeological value. In the entrance stands the Hellenistic copy of the Navel Stone from the temple of Apollo. Through the room with the Shields, on the right is the room of the Siphnians, dominated by the central Sphinx of the Naxians on an Ionic capital. On the walls, sculpture from the metopes of the Siphnian Treasury. After this, through the rooms of the Kouroi and of the Bull we come back to the room of Shields and turn left into the room of the Athenian Treasury with fragments of the sculptured pediments and metopes from the monument, depicting deeds of Theseus and Herakles. There are then five successive rooms with finds from the temple of Apollo and from the rotunda, until we come to the room of Agias where the imposing Ionic capital of an acanthus with the Three Dancing Girls (4th c. BC) is exhibited. In the next room there is the statue of the beautiful young favourite of the emperor Hadrian, Antinous. The last room contains the most famous statue, of greatest archaeological worth, the Charioteer, an offering by Polyzalos for his victory at the Pythian games of 478 BC. The life-size bronze masterpiece is 1.80 m high and was discovered almost intact in the area of the theatre. Take particular note of the eyes, which are authentic, of magnesium and onyx, and of the perfection of the head and feet.
DELPHI TIPS & INFORMATION
HOW TO GET TO DELPHI
Ideally with your own transport or with an organized semi-private tour run by Athens Insiders.
By intercity bus (KTEL), from Kifissou Station, Athens, Tel. 00302105124913 00302105124911
BEST SEASON TO VISIT EPIDAURUS
All year round.
DELPHI USEFUL TELEPHONES NUMBERS
Delphi Town Hall 00302265082310
Delphi Tourist Police 00302265082220
Delphi Police 0030 2265082222
Delphi Rural Clinic 00302265082307
Delphi Taxis 0030 2265082000