Private Tours in Greece


DELPHI NAVEL OF THE WORLD, APOLLO ORACLE


 

Delphi stands high on the slopes of Mount Parnassus, in the heart of Phocis at the crossroads of important routes of the ancient world. Is one of the most famous cult sites in Greece, renowned throughout the ancient Greek world and beyond as the sanctuary of Apollo and the seat of his oracle.

It was at the end of the Mycenaean period that Apollo, Olympian God and guarantor of universal harmony, is supposed to have overcome the old underworld deities.

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A hymn attributed to Homer tells how, after his birth on Delos Zeus' son came to Delphi, killed the snake Python with his bow and arrow and in accordance with divine law, he went into exile for eight years to atone for the killing of the snake and on his return, he took his place, becoming the god Python, who gave oracles through the intermediary of the Pythia. A festival consisting dramatic and lyric contests were held in the sanctuary theatre, and the stadium was home not only to the athletic games, but also to musical events.

Early in the 6c BC, when the Athenians were the major power in central Greece, they reorganized the Pythian Games at Delphi at which sports and poetic contests were held. This was the heyday of Delphi as a Pan-Hellenic sanctuary attracting pilgrims from all over the Greek world, from Spain to the Black Sea. The sanctuary was maintained by the dues paid by those who consulted the oracle and enriched by offerings from both Greeks and barbarians.

A view of Apollo’s temple at Delphi, built in 373 B.C. with tall Doric columns made up of thick cylindrical stones stacked on top of one another. In its “adyton”, the god’s oracle spoke through the Pythian priestess.

 The main entrance to the sanctuary was at the south-east corner of the built enclosure wall encircling it. From this point visitors followed the Sacred Way leading to the temple of Apollo, which was at the centre of the sanctuary. Agora: The Romans remodeled the agora and added some houses and baths built of brick. Down one side of the agora ran an Ionic portico with shops for the pilgrims. Sacred Way: No vehicles were allowed on the Sacred Way which leads up to the temple of Apollo. Votive offerings: On the right, as one enters, stands the base of the bull of Corcyra (Corfu), a bronze animal offered in the 5c BC. Again on the right is the votive monument of the Arcadians, of the Lacedaemonia, on the left the votive monument of Marathon, which the Athenians decorated with statues by Phidias. The Sacred Way then passes between the foundations of two semicircular structures erected by the Argives. The best preserved was the monument of the King of Argos, built in 369 BC, it was decorated with 20 statues of the kings and queens of Argos. These monuments, what little is left of them, testify to the rivalry between the Greek cities.


The restored Athenian Treasury


Treasuries: The first is the treasury of Sikyon, northwest of Corinth. Beyond stands the wall of the Treasury of Siphnos, which was built in about 525 BC by the inhabitants of the Cycladic island out of the proceeds of its gold mines. The Treasury of Thebes, the Treasury of the Boeotia and a limestone of the omphalos.

The Treasury of the Athenians, which has been reconstructed by anastilosis, is a Doric building in white Parian marble, paid for with part of the booty captured from the Persians at Marathon. It was decorated with sculptures illustrating the Athenians' favorite themes: the battle between the Greeks and the Amazons, the legends about Theses and Heracles (museum).

The south wall of the terrace bears a dedication inscribed in huge letters: "The Athenians to Apollo, after their victory over the Persians". The base and walls of the Treasury bear other inscriptions accompanied by crowns of laurel.



Next the Senate of Delphi (bouleuterion), Further on are the fallen drums of an Ionic marble column,10m high, a gift from the Naxos to Apollo in about 570 BC, the column was surmounted by a sphinx.



Polygonal wall:
The famous polygonal wall retaining the terrace on which the temple of Apollo is built is 83m long, it was built in the 6c BC of huge blocks of random - shaped limestone. The wall is inscribed with more than 800 acts granting slaves their freedom during the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Three columns of Pentelic marble mark the Stoa of the Athenians, it contained the naval trophies captured from the Persians. Temple approach: The sacred Way rises steeply to the level of the temple of Apollo. The huge stone pillar, to the right of the temple facade, bore an equestrian statue of Prusias (2c BC) King of Bithynia in Asia Minor.

Naos Apollona: The portico, in which stood a statue of Homer, was inscribed with the precepts of the Sages of Greece: "Know thyself", "Nothing in excess", etc. The naos at the centre of the temple was furnished with altars and statues: beyond was the crypt (adyton) where the Pythia sat near the omphalos and the tomb of Dionysus.

Theatre: The original theatre dates from the 5c Bc but it was remodeled 200 years later by the Romans who refurbished the orchestra and the stage. The 35 terraces of seats could accommodate 5000spectators who came to watch the "mysteries" re-enacting the struggle between Apollo and the Python as well as to hear recitals in honor of the god. Stadium: which can hold 6500 people.


Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia "The Goddess who Cares"


To the south-east of the sanctuary of Apollo is the sanctuary of Athena Pronaia. The most important buildings in it are the goddess's two temples, dating from the 5th and 4th c. and the Tholos, which was built about 380BC. A jewel of the first half of 380 B.C. the famous Tholos of Delphi is a work by Theodorus of Phocaea in Athena Pronaia’s sanctuary

Delphi according to an ancient myth was at the centre of the earth. It was said to have been discovered by Zeus, who, wishing to find the precise center of the world, let loose two sacred eagles from the ends of the earth. They met above Delphi henceforward known as the “omphalos” or world’s navel. But the legend of Apollo’s victory over Python, serpent-son of Ge (the Great Mother Earth), who stood guard over a rock chasm, the Castalia Spring -the vapors from which inebriated men and enabled them to make prophetic utterances –had deeper significance than others.


The gods still watch over Delphi Silent and invisible or in the form of strange, anthropomorphic clouds.


Few statues have ever acquired so great and well deserved a fame as the bronze charioteer which originally belonged to a larger group which represented a chariot with four horses from which only small fragments survived. Its height is 1.8 m and is made up from six separate cast parts. Dedicated by Polyzalos, tyrant of the Sicilian city of Gela, for his victory in the race at the Pythian Games, probably in 474 BC. it is admired for its superb art. Originally the priestess of the sanctuary was chosen from among the local virgins but later she had to be a woman of over 50 whose life was beyond reproach. Known as the Pythia and later as the Delphic Sibyl, she delivered replies inspired by Apollo in answer to the questions put the pilgrims.

First she drank from Cassotis fountain near the temple which was supposed to bestow the gift of prophecy, then she entered the temple crypt where she breathed the fumes of burning laurel leaves (Apollo's tree) and barley meal. Finally she took her seat on the famous tripod, a sort of three- footed cauldron, near to the omphalos and Dionysus; tomb. The pilgrims (men only) were admitted to the neighboring room where they gave their questions to the priests who passed them on to the Pythia.

She went into a trance, the sounds that she uttered, her posture and her convulsive movements were interpreted by the priests who delivered the oracle couched in ambiguous phrases in hexameter verse. The replies took the form of advise rather than predictions. The Pythia seems to have been well informed in politics, in turn she favored Xerxes during the Persian invasions, then Athens, Sparta and Thebes in the 4c BC, then Phillip of Macedon and Alexander the Great and finally Rome.


When Julian the Apostate (361-363 AD), the last pagan emperor of Rome, sent his quaestor, Oribasius, to consult the Pythia oracle, its utterance was worthy to be its own epitaph. "Go tell the king - the carven hall is felled, Apollo has no cell, prophetic bay. Nor talking spring, his cadenced well is stilled."  It was finally closed in 381 by the Byzantine emperor Theodosius the Great.

  The Oracle


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