Greece travel




The Oracle of Delphi in Greece

Delphi in Greece and its oracle was one of the most sacred places in the ancient world. Situated in the breathtaking surroundings by the mythical Mt. Parnassus, where Pan and the nymphs lived, it is still an enchanting site. The ancient Greeks believed that Delphi was the centre of the world  and in the oracle was foretold the future of kings and common men.

DelphiMythology: Although Delphi had been dedicated to many deities before him, Gaea, Themis and Phoebe, Apollo is the god most connected to the place. According to mythology, Apollo killed the monster Python who guarded the site and built the first temple here. He then went away to purify himself from the deed, and the Pythean games were held every eight years to commemorate the event. Later, they were held every four years and were mainly musical competitions. The winner was crowned with a wreath of laurel, since the Laurel was Apollo's special tree.

Delphi had been defined as the canter of the earth by Zeus, who one day let his two eagles fly around the earth and where they met - the centre, Delphi, lay. A stone was put at the point called Omphalos - the Navel - an can still be seen in the museum of Delphi.

Another myth also tells us that it was here the human kind got a second chance. Zeus was sick and tired of humanity, its thievery, lies and treachery, and decided to drown them all in a flood. The good man Deucalion had been warned by his father Prometheus and had built an ark in good time. The flood drowned the earth, but Deucalion and his wife were safe in the ark, and when the water started sinking, they landed on the top of Mt. Parnassos. Deucalion then went to the oracle to ask what to do next, and the oracle told him to throw the earths bones behind him. He then took some stones which he interpreted to be the bones, threw them over his shoulder, and new humans grew out of them.

Deucalion had a son with his wife, and he was to be called Hellen ("Greek"). He, in his turn, became the father of three children. Aeolus, Dorus and Xythos, and the grandfather of Ion and Achaios. These sons would all be the ancestors of the Greek tribes.

Heracles had also come to Delphi, but with a wicked purpose: he wanted to steal the tripod Pythia sat on. He failed, but still a temple was built in Heracles' honour.

Finally Dionysus also had to do with Delphi. He ruled here in Apollo place during the three months the latter was away in the north. Then chaos ruled here, with enraged women, the maenads, tearing wild animals to pieces and everyone in a constant state of drunkenness.

Apollo in DelphiHistory of Delphi: Delphi is mentioned by Homer, who calls it Pytho. There is evidence that there was a cult here in the Mycenaean period.

A temple dedicated to God Apollo stood here in the 8th century BC, if not before. In the 7th century BC the area was already quite full of buildings and statues. In the 6th century BC a big sphinx was made out of marble from Naxos and put here, as well as treasure houses for Athens, Sicyon and Knidos.

It was also now that Delphi had been liberated from the Krisan state, and thus became autonomous. The games and the sanctuary was from then on organised and controlled by the 12 citystates that had formed the Amphictyonic League.

In 528 a terrible fire destroyed the old temple of Apollo. Almost all Greek city-states helped to rebuild it, and in 505 a magnificent new temple stood here.

In the following century the Sifnian treasure house was built, and after the battle of Marathon Athens also built a new one.

In 373BC an earthquake destroyed much of Delphi, including the Apollo temple. Soon, s new collection began among the city states, and in 329BC it was finished. Here, the famous inscriptions "Know yourself", "Keep the measure" and "E" were made. Pythia sat here and told the future through an incomprehensible mumble that was then interpreted by the priests.
This is also where the omphalos, the navel stone, stood as well as Dionysus' tomb.

The theatre was built, but it was during the next century that it was rebuilt of stone by Eumenes II of Pergamon so that the audience would actually have seats, and not just sat on the slopes. It could hold 5000 spectators.
In AD390 the oracle was shut down by emperor Theodosius.
In 1892 French archaeologists started excavating the are, after the ancient village Kastri, that was built on top of it, had been moved.

The Oracle of Delphi

the Chariot of DelphiAt first, the oracle of Delphi could only be consulted once a year, but as its reputation grew more and more pilgrims came, and more days were added to the agenda. During the three months that Apollo was believed to be away, the oracle was silent.
After going through purification rituals and paying a certain tax, the pilgrim that would be allowed to consult the oracle could ask his question to Pythia.
Pythia was a woman from the village Delphi, and in most cases she was a young virgin. We do not know exactly in what state of mind she was, but she was probably under the influence of some sort of narcotic substance. Tradition holds that fumes were coming out of a crack in the ground, but no such crack has been found.
After Pythia had spoken, the priests interpreted her words to the pilgrim. The answers were always vague, and in this way the oracle was almost always right. This gave the priests great political power, and their credibility was discussed even in ancient times. It is said that the fable writer Aesop had called them the "parasites of Apollo" and for this the priests killed him

The museum of Delphi

If you come to Delphi, you should not miss the museum. It has some amazing finds from the area, the most famous being the Omphalos, the statue "The Charioteer" and the two sculptures of Cleobis and Biton.

Getting there: Delphi can be reached by road. Many travel agencies in Athens offer daytrips to the site, but you can also get here on your own. There are several hotels in the area if you want to stay.

"Though killed I killed the killer; but even so he didn't go to Hades, it was I who died"
Riddle from the Delphic Oracle

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