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A few words about Delphoi:
Delphoi (Greek : ΔΕΛΦΟΙ)
is an archaeological site and a modern town in Greece. In ancient times it was
the site of the most important oracle of the god Apollo. Delphi was revered
throughout the Greek world as the site of the ομφαλός (omphalos) stone, the
centre of the universe. In the inner εστία (hestia), or hearth, of the Temple
of Delphic Apollo (Απόλλων Δελφίνιος — Apollon Delphinios), an άσβεστος φλόγα
(eternal flame) burned. After the battle of Plataea, the Greek cities
extinguished their fires and brought new fire from the hearth of Greece, at
Delphi; in the foundation stories of several Greek colonies, the founding
colonists were first dedicated at Delphi (Burkert, 1985, pp. 61, 84).
Delphi is located on a plateau on the slope of Mount Parnassus, adjacent to
the Sanctuary of Apollo, the site of the ancient Apollonian Oracle. This
semicircular spur is known as Phaedriades, and overlooks the Pleistos Valley.
Southwest of Delphi, about 15 km away, is the harbor-city of Kirrha on the
The name Delphoi is connected with δελφός delphus "womb" and may indicate
archaic veneration of an Earth Goddess at the site. Apollo is connected with
the site by his epithet Δελφίνιος Delphinios, "the Delphinian", i.e. either
"the one of Delphi", or "the one of the womb". The epithet is connected with
dolphins (the "womb-fish") in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo Εις Απόλλωνα Πύθιον,
400), telling how Apollo first came to Delphi in the shape of a dolphin,
carrying Cretan priests on his back.
Another legend held that Apollo walked to Delphoi from the north and stopped
at Tempe, a city in Thessaly to pick laurel, a plant sacred to him. In
commemoration of this legend, the winners at the Pythian Games received a
laurel wreath picked in Tempe.
Delphi was the site of a major temple to Phoebus Apollo, as well as the
Pythian Games and a famous oracle. Even in Roman times hundreds of votive
statues remained, described by Pliny the Younger and seen by Pausanias.
When young, Apollo killed the chthonic serpent Python, which lived beside the
Castalian Spring, according to some because Python had attempted to rape Leto
while she was pregnant with Apollo and Artemis. This was the spring which
emitted vapors that caused the Oracle at Delphi to give her prophesies. Apollo
killed Python but had to be punished for it, since Python was a child of Gaia.
The shrine dedicated to Apollo was probably originally dedicated to Gaia and
Erwin Rohde wrote that the Python was an earth spirit, who was conquered by
Apollo, and buried under the Omphalos, and that it is a case of one god
setting up his temple on the grave of another.
The oracle at that time predicted the future based on the lapping water and
leaves rustling in the trees.
The biggest religious phenomenon during this era, which made the biggest
impact on traditions, was undoubtedly the oracle at the sanctuary of Apollo at
Delphi on the southern slopes of Mount Parnassos in Central Greece. In the
last quarter of the 8th Century BC we see a steady increase of artifacts found
at the settlement site in Delphi. Pottery and bronze work and tripod
dedications continue in a steady stream, in comparison to Olympia. Neither the
range of objects nor the presence of prestigious dedications proves that
Delphi was a focus of attention for worshippers of a wide range, but the
strong representation of high value goods are found in no other mainland
sanctuary, certainly encourages that view.
The first oracle at Delphi was commonly known as the Pythia, though her name
was Herophile. She sang her predictions, which she received from Gaia. Later,
"Sibyl" became a title given to whichever priestess manned the oracle at the
time. The Sibyl sat on the Sibylline Rock, breathing in vapors from the ground
2 and gaining her often puzzling predictions from that. Pausanias claimed that
the Sibyl was "born between man and goddess, daughter of sea monsters and an
immortal nymph". Others said she was sister or daughter to Apollo. Still
others claimed the Sibyl received her powers from Gaia originally, who passed
the oracle to Themis, who passed it to Phoebe.
This oracle exerted considerable influence across the country, and was
consulted before all major undertakings: wars, the founding of colonies, and
so forth. She also was respected by the semi-Hellenic countries around the
Greek world, such as Lydia, Caria, and even Egypt. Croesus of Lydia consulted
Delphi before attacking Persia, and according to Herodotus received the answer
"if you do, you will destroy a great empire." Croesus found the response
favorable and attacked, and was utterly overthrown (resulting, of course, in
the destruction of his own empire).
The oracle is also said to have proclaimed Socrates the wisest man in Greece,
to which Socrates said that if so, this was because he alone was aware of his
own ignorance. This claim is related to one of the most famous mottos of
Delphi, which Socrates said he learned there, Gnothi Seauton (Γνώθι Σεαυτόν):
"know thyself". Another famous motto of Delphi is Meden Agan (Μηδέν Άγαν):
"nothing in excess".
In the 3rd century A.D., the oracle (perhaps bribed) declared that the god
would no longer speak there.
From the entrance of the site, continuing up the slope almost to the temple
itself, is a large number of votive statues, and numerous treasuries. These
were built by the various states – those overseas as well as those on the
mainland – to commemorate victories and to thank the oracle for advice
important to those victories. The most impressive is the now-restored Treasury
of Athens, built to commemorate the Athenians' victory at the Battle of
Marathon. The Athenians had previously been given the advice by the oracle to
put their faith in their "wooden walls" – taking this advice to mean their
navy, they won a famous battle at Salamis. Another impressive treasury that
exists on the site was dedicated by the city of Siphnos, who had ammassed
great wealth from their silver and gold mines and so they dedicated the
The Tholos at the sanctuary of Athena PronaiaThe Tholos at the sanctuary of
Athena Pronaia is a circular building that was constructed between 380 and 360
B.C. It consisted of 20 Doric columns arranged with an exterior diamater of
14.76 meters, with 10 Corinthian columns in the interior. The Tholos is
located approximately a half-mile (800 m) from the main ruins at Delphi. Three
of the Doric colums have been restored, making it the most popular site at
Delphi for tourists to take photographs.
The modern Delphi or Delfi or Delfoi is situated west of the archaeological
site. It is passed by a major highway linking Amfissa along with Itea and
Arachova. The two main streets are each one-way and narrow. Delphi also has a
school, a lyceum and a square (plateia). The communities include Chrysso which
in ancient times was Crissa.
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