Delphi: Wikis


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Archaeological Site of Delphi*
UNESCO World Heritage Site

Delphi Composite.jpg
The theatre, seen from above
Type Cultural
Criteria i, ii, iii, iv, vi
Reference 393
Region** Europe
Inscription history
Inscription 1987  (11th Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.

Delphi (Greek Δελφοί, [ðelˈfi][1]) is both an archaeological site and a modern town in Greece on the south-western spur of Mount Parnassus in the valley of Phocis. In Greek mythology, Delphi was the site of the Delphic oracle, the most important oracle in the classical Greek world, and a major site for the worship of the god Apollo after he slew the Python, a deity who lived there and protected the navel of the Earth. Python (derived from the verb pythein, "to rot") is claimed by some to be the original name of the site in recognition of the Python that Apollo defeated (Miller, 95). The Homeric Hymn to Delphic Apollo recalled that the ancient name of this site had been Krisa.[2] His sacred precinct in Delphi was a panhellenic sanctuary, where every four years, starting in 586 B.C. (Miller, 96) athletes from all over the Greek world competed in the Pythian Games, one of the four panhellenic (or stephanitic) games, precursors of the Modern Olympics. The victors at Delphi were presented with a laurel crown which was ceremonially cut down from a tree in Tempe by a boy who re-enacted the slaying of the Python (Miller, 96). Delphi was set apart from the other games sites because it hosted the mousikos agon, musical competitions (Miller, 95). These Pythian Games rank second among the four stephanitic games chronologically and based on importance (Miller, 96). These games, though, were different from the games at Olympia in that they were not of such vast importance to the city of Delphi as the games at Olympia were to the city of Olympia. Delphi would have been a renowned city whether or not it hosted these games; it had other attractions that led to it being labeled the "omphalos" (navel) of the earth, in other words, the center of the world (Miller, 96-7). In the inner hestia ("hearth") of the Temple of Apollo, an 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.[3]



Delphi(left center) is north of the Gulf of Corinth in central Greece.

The site's of Delphi is located in lower central Greece, on multiple plateaux/terraces along the slope of Mount Parnassus, and includes the Sanctuary of Apollo,the site of the ancient Oracle. This semicircular spur is known as Phaedriades, and overlooks the Pleistos Valley. Southwest of Delphi, about 15 km (9.3 mi) away,is the harbor-city of Kirrha on the Corinthian Gulf.

Dedication to Apollo

The name Delphois comes from the same root as δελφύς delphys, "womb" and may indicate archaic veneration of Gaia, Grandmother Earth, and the Earth Goddess at the site.[4][5] Apollo is connected with the site by his epithet Δελφίνιος Delphinios, "the Delphinian". The epithet is connected with dolphins (Greek δελφίς,-ῖνος) in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo (line 400), recounting the legend of how Apollo first came to Delphi in the shape of a dolphin, carrying Cretan priests on his back. The Homeric name of the oracle is Pytho (Πυθώ).[6]

Another legend held that Apollo walked to Delphi from the north and stopped at Tempe, a city in Thessaly, to pick laurel, a plant sacred to him (also known in English as the bay tree). In commemoration of this legend, the winners at the Pythian Games received a wreath of laurel (bay leaves) picked in the Temple.

The Temple of Apollo, viewed from below the eastern end.
View of the mountain-top stadium of the Delphi sanctuary, used for the Pythian Games. The stone steps/seats at right were added under the Romans.

Delphi became the site of a major temple to Phoebus Apollo, as well as the Pythian Games and the famous prehistoric oracle. Even in Roman times, hundreds of votive statues remained, described by Pliny the Younger and seen by Pausanias. Supposedly carved into the temple were three phrases: γνωθι σεαυτόν (gnōthi seautón = "know thyself") and μηδέν άγαν (mēdén ágan = "nothing in excess"), and Εγγύα πάρα δ'ατη (engýa pára d'atē = "make a pledge and mischief is nigh"),[7] as well as a large letter E.[8] Among other things epsilon signifies the number 5. Plutarch's essay on the meaning of the "E at Delphi" is the only literary source for the inscription. In ancient times, the origin of these phrases was attributed to one or more of the Seven Sages of Greece,[9] though ancient as well as modern scholars have doubted the legitimacy of such ascriptions.[10] According to one pair of scholars, "The actual authorship of the three maxims set up on the Delphian temple may be left uncertain. Most likely they were popular proverbs, which tended later to be attributed to particular sages."[11]

From a late myth that deviates from much older ones, when young, Apollo killed the chthonic serpent Python, named Pythia in older myths, but according to some later accounts his wife, Pythia, who lived beside the Castalian Spring, according to some because Python had attempted to rape Leto while she was pregnant with Apollo and Artemis. The bodies of the pair were draped around his Rod, which with the wings created the caduceus symbolic of the god. This spring flowed toward the temple but disappeared beneath, creating a cleft which emitted vapors that caused the Oracle at Delphi to give her prophecies. Apollo killed Python but had to be punished for it, since she was a child of Gaia. The shrine dedicated to Apollo was originally dedicated to Gaia and then possibly to Poseidon. The name Pythia remained as the title of the Delphic Oracle. As punishment for this murder Apollo was sent to serve at menial tasks for eight years. A festival, the Septeria, was performed annually portraying the slaying of the serpent, the flight, the atonement and the return of the God. The Pythian Games took place every four years to commemorate his victory.[12] Another regular Delphi festival was the "Theophania" (Θεοφάνεια), an annual festival in spring celebrating the return of Apollo from his winter quarters in Hyperborea. The culmination of the festival was a display of an image of the gods, usually hidden in the sanctuary, to worshippers.[13] The "Theoxenia" was held each summer, centred on a feast for "gods and ambassadors from other states".[14]

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 deity setting up a temple on the grave of another.[15] Another view holds that Apollo was a fairly recent addition to the Greek pantheon coming originally from Lydia. The Etruscans coming from northern Anatolia also worshipped Apollo, and it may be that he was originally identical with Mesopotamian Aplu, an Akkadian title meaning "son", originally given to the plague God Nergal, son of Enlil. Apollo Smintheus (Greek Απόλλων Σμινθεύς), the mouse killer[16] eliminates mice, a primary cause of disease, hence he promotes preventive medicine.


Delphi is perhaps best-known for the oracle at the sanctuary that was dedicated to Apollo during the classical period. According to Aeschylus in the prologue of the Eumenides, it had origins in prehistoric times and the worship of Gaia. In the last quarter of the 8th century BC there is a steady increase in artifacts found at the settlement site in Delphi, which was a new, post-Mycenaean settlement of the late 9th century. Pottery and bronze work as well as 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 a wide range of worshippers, but the large quantity of high value goods, found in no other mainland sanctuary, certainly encourages that view.

Apollo spoke through his oracle: the sibyl or priestess of the oracle at Delphi was known as the Pythia; she had to be an older woman of blameless life chosen from among the peasants of the area. She sat on a tripod seat over an opening in the earth. When Apollo slew Python, its body fell into this fissure, according to legend, and fumes arose from its decomposing body. Intoxicated by the vapors, the sibyl would fall into a trance, allowing Apollo to possess her spirit. In this state she prophesied. It has been postulated that a gas high in ethylene, known to produce violent trances, came out of this opening, though this theory remains debatable.[17][18] While in a trance the Pythia "raved" - probably a form of ecstatic speech - and her ravings were "translated" by the priests of the temple into elegant hexameters. People consulted the Delphic oracle on everything from important matters of public policy to personal affairs. The oracle could not be consulted during the winter months, for this was traditionally the time when Apollo would live among the Hyperboreans. Dionysus would inhabit the temple during his absence.[19]

H.W. Parke writes that the foundation of Delphi and its oracle took place before recorded history and its origins are obscure, but dating to the worship of the Great Goddess, Gaia.[20]

The Oracle exerted considerable influence throughout the Greek world, and she 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.

For a list of some of the most noted oracular pronouncements of the Pythia, go to Famous Oracular Statements from Delphi.

The Oracle benefited from the Macedonian Kings. Later it was placed under the protection of the Aetolians. After a brief period the influence of the Romans started to emerge, and they protected the Oracle from a dangerous barbarian invasion in 109 B.C. and 105 B.C. A major reorganization was initiated, but was interrupted by the Mithridatic Wars and the wars of Sulla who took many rich offerings from the Oracle. Invading barbarian invasions burned the Temple, which had been severely damaged by an earthquake in 83 B.C. Thus the Oracle fell in decay and the surrounding area became impoverished. The sparse local population led to difficulties in filling the posts required. The Oracle's credibility waned due to doubtful predictions. When Nero came to Greece in AD 66, he took away over 500 of the best statues from Delphi to Rome. Subsequent Roman emperors of the Flavian dynasty contributed significantly towards its restoration. Hadrian offered complete autonomy. Also Plutarch was a significant factor by his presence as a chief priest. However barbarian raids during the reign of Marcus Aurelius and removal of statues and other riches (in effect looting) by Constantine I caused it to decay. The short reign of Julian could not improve matters. However the Oracle continued until it was closed by emperor Theodosius I in AD 395. The site was abandoned for almost 100 years, until Christians started to settle permanently in the area: they established the small town of Kastri in about AD 600.

The "Delphic Sibyl"

The Delphic Sibyl was a legendary prophetic figure who was said to have given prophecies at Delphi shortly after the Trojan War. The prophecies attributed to her circulated in written collections of prophetic sayings, along with the oracles of figures such as Bakis. The Sibyl had no connection to the oracle of Apollo, and should not be confused with the Pythia.

Buildings and structures

Site plan of the Sanctuary of Apollo, Delphi

Occupation of the site at Delphi can be traced back to the Neolithic period with extensive occupation and use beginning in the Mycenaean period (1600-1100 B.C.). Most of the ruins that survive today date from the most intense period of activity at the site in the 6th century BC.[21]

Temple of Apollo

The ruins of the Temple of Delphi visible today date from the 4th century BC are of a peripteral Doric building. It was erected on the remains of an earlier temple, dated to the 6th century BC which itself was erected on the site of a 7th century BC construction attributed to the architects Trophonios and Agamedes.[22]

Temple of Apollo at Delphi

The 6th century BC temple was named the "Temple of Alcmeonidae" in tribute to the Athenian family which funded its reconstruction following a fire, which had destroyed the original structure. The new building was a Doric hexastyle temple of 6 by 15 columns. This temple was destroyed in 373 BC by an earthquake with a third temple completed on the site by 330 BC. The third temple is attributed to Corinthian architects Spintharos, Xenodoros, and Agathon.[22]

Columns of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, Greece

The pediment sculptures are a tribute to Praxias and Androsthenes of Athens. Of a similar proportion to the second temple it retained the 6 by 15 column pattern around the stylobate.[22] Inside was the adyton, the centre of the Delphic oracle and seat of Pythia. The monument was partly restored during 1938-1300.

Amphiktyonic Council

The Amphiktyonic Council was a council of representatives from twelve Greek tribes that controlled Delphi and also the quadrennial Pythian Games. They met biannually and came from Thessaly and central Greece. Over time, the town of Delphi gained more control of itself and the council lost much of its influence.


The reconstructed Treasury of Athens, built to commemorate their victory at the Battle of Marathon

From the entrance of the site, continuing up the slope almost to the temple itself, are a large number of votive statues, and numerous treasuries. These were built by the various Greek city states — those overseas as well as those on the mainland — to commemorate victories and to thank the oracle for her advice, which was thought to have contributed to those victories. They are called "treasuries" because they held the offerings made to Apollo; these were frequently a "tithe" or tenth of the spoils of a battle. The most impressive is the now-restored Athenian Treasury, built to commemorate the Athenians' victory at the Battle of Salamis. According to Pausanias, 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. Several of the treasuries can be identified, among them the Siphnian Treasury, dedicated by the city of Siphnos whose citizens gave a tithe of the yield from their gold mines until the mines came to an abrupt end when the sea flooded the workings.

Other identifiable treasuries are those of the Sikyonians, the Boetians and the Thebans. One of the largest of the treasuries was that of Argos. Built in the late Doric period, the Argives took great pride in establishing their place amongst the other city states. Completed in the year 380, the treasury draws inspiration mostly from the Temple of Hera located in the Argolis, the acropolis of the city. However, recent analysis of the Archaic elements of the treasury suggest that its founding preceded this.

As a result of these treasuries, through the protection of the Amphictyonic League, Delphi came to function as the de-facto Central Bank of Ancient Greece. It was the abuse of these treasuries by Philip of Macedon and the later sacking of the Treasuries, first by the Celts, and later by Sulla, the Roman Dictator, that led to the eclipse of Greek civilization and the eventual growth of Rome.

Altar of the Chians

Located in front of the Temple of Apollo, the main altar of the sanctuary was paid for and built by the people of Chios. It is dated to the 5th century BC by the inscription on its cornice. Made entirely of black marble, except for the base and cornice, the altar would have made a striking impressions. It was restored in 1920.[23]

Stoa of the Athenians

The stoa leads off north-east from the main sanctuary. It was built in the Ionic order and consists of seven fluted columns, unusually carved from single pieces of stone (most columns were constructed from a series of discs joined together). The inscription on the stylobate indicates that it was built by the Athenians after their naval victory over the Persians in 478 BC, to house their war trophies.[23] The rear wall of the stoa contains nearly a thousand inscriptions; supposedly any slave manumitted in Athens was obliged to record a short biography here, explaining why he had deserved his freedom.

Athletic Statues

Delphi is famous for its many preserved athletic statues. It is known that Olympia originally housed far more of these statues, but time brought ruin to many of them, leaving Delphi as the main site of athletic statues (Miller, 98). Kleobis and Argos, two brothers renowned for their strength, are modeled in two of the earliest known athletic statues at Delphi. The statues commemorate their feat of pulling their mother's cart several miles to the Sanctuary of Hera in the absence of oxen. The neighbors were most impressed and their mother asked Hera to grant them the greatest gift. When they entered Hera's temple, they fell into a slumber and never woke, dying at the height of their admiration, the perfect gift (Miller, 98). The Charioteer of Delphi is another ancient relic that has withstood the centuries. It is one of the best known statues from antiquity. The charioteer has lost many features, including his chariot and his left arm, but he stands as a tribute to athletic art of antiquity (Miller, 98).

Polygonal wall

The retaining wall was built to support the terrace housing the construction of the second temple of Apollo in 548 BC. Its name is taken from the polygonal masonry of which it is constructed.[23]


The gymnasium, which is half a mile away from the main sanctuary, was a series of buildings used by the youth of Delphi. The building consisted of two levels: a stoa on the upper level providing open space, and a palaestra, pool and baths on lower floor. These pools and baths were said to have magical powers, and imparted the ability to communicate to Apollo himself.[23]


The hippodrome of Delphi was the location where the running events took place during the Pythian Games. No trace of it has been found, but the location of the stadium and some remnants of retaining walls lead to the conclusion that is was set on a plain apart from the main part of the city and well away from the Peribolos of Apollo (Miller, 101)

Castalian spring

The mountain-top stadium at Delphi, far above the temples/theater below.
The theatre at Delphi (as viewed near the top seats).
The Tholos at base of Mount Parnassus: 3 of 20 Doric columns.

The sacred spring of Delphi lies in the ravine of the Phaedriades. The preserved remains of two monumental fountains that received the water from the spring date to the Archaic period and the Roman, with the later cut into the rock.


The stadium is located further up the hill, beyond the via sacra and the theatre. It was originally built in the 5th century BC but was altered in later centuries. The last major remodeling took place in the 2nd century AD under the patronage of Herodus Atticus when the stone seating was built and (arched) entrance. It could seat 6500 spectators and the track was 177 metres long and 25.5 metres wide.[24]


The ancient theatre at Delphi was built further up the hill from the Temple of Apollo giving spectators a view of the entire sanctuary and the valley below. It was originally built in the 4th century BC but was remodeled on several occasions since. Its 35 rows can seat 5,000 spectators.[22]


The Tholos at the sanctuary of Athena Pronaia is a circular building that was constructed between 380 and 360 BC. It consisted of 20 Doric columns arranged with an exterior diameter 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 columns have been restored, making it the most popular site at Delphi for tourists to take photographs.

Vitruvius (vii, introduction) notes Theodorus the Phocian as the architect of the Round Building which is at Delphi.

Sibyl rock

The Sibyl rock is a pulpit-like outcrop of rock between the Athenian Treasury and the stoa of the Athenians upon the sacred way which leads up to the temple of Apollo in the archaeological area of Delphi. It is claimed to be where the Sibyl sat to deliver her prophecies.


The site had been occupied by the village of Kastri since medieval times. Before a systematic excavation of the site could be undertaken, the village had to be relocated but the residents understandably resisted. The opportunity to relocate the village occurred when it was substantially damaged by an earthquake, with villagers offered a completely new village in exchange for the old site. In 1893 the French Archaeological School removed vast quantities of soil from numerous landslides to reveal both the major buildings and structures of the sanctuary of Apollo and of Athena Proaea along with thousands of objects, inscriptions and sculptures.[23]

Modern Delphi

Delphi Museum
Delphi Museum
Delphi is located in Greece
Coordinates 38°29′N 22°30′E / 38.483°N 22.5°E / 38.483; 22.5Coordinates: 38°29′N 22°30′E / 38.483°N 22.5°E / 38.483; 22.5
Country: Greece
Periphery: Central Greece
Prefecture: Phocis
Population statistics (as of 2001[25])
 - Population: 3,511
Time zone: EET/EEST (UTC+2/3)
Auto: ΑΜ

Modern Delphi is situated immediately west of the archaeological site and hence is a popular tourist destination. It is on a major highway linking Amfissa along with Itea and Arachova. There are many hotels and guest houses in the town, and many taverns and bars. The main streets are narrow, and often one-way. Delphi also has a school, a lyceum, a church and a square (plateia). The Trans European Footpath E4 passes through the east end of the town. In addition to the archaeological interest, Delphi attracts tourists visiting the Parnassus Ski Center and the popular coastal towns of the region. The town has a population of 2,373 people while the population of the municipality of Delphi, including Chrisso (ancient Krissa), is 3,511.

In medieval times Delphi was also called Kastri and was built on the archaeological site. The residents had used the marble columns and structures as support beams and roofs for their improvised houses, a usual way of rebuilding towns that were partially or totally destroyed, especially after the earthquake in 1580, which demolished several towns in Phocis. In 1893 archaeologists from the École française d'Athènes finally located the actual site[26] of ancient Delphi and the village was moved to a new location, west of the site of the temples.

The Delphi Archaeological Museum is at the foot of the main archaeological complex, on the east side of the village, and on the north side of the main road. The museum houses an impressive collection associated with ancient Delphi, including the earliest known notation of a melody, the famous Charioteer, golden treasures discovered beneath the Sacred Way, and fragments of reliefs from the Siphnian Treasury. Immediately adjacent to the exit (and overlooked by most tour guides) is the inscription that mentions the Roman proconsul Gallio.

Entries to the museum and to the main complex are separate and chargeable, and a reduced rate ticket gets entry to both. There is a small cafe, and a post office by the museum. Slightly further east, on the south side of the main road, is the Gymnasium and the Tholos. Entry to these is free.


Delphi Sights.ogg
A short video showing Delphi's main sights

See also


  1. ^ In English, the name Delphi is pronounced either as /ˈdɛlfaɪ/ or, in a more the Greek-like manner, as /ˈdɛlfiː. The Greek spelling transliterates as "Delphoi" (with an o); dialectal forms include Belphoi - Aeolian form, Dalphoi - Phocian form, as well as other Greek dialectal varieties
  2. ^ Hymn to Pythian Apollo, l. 254-74: Telphousa recommends to Apollo to build his oracle temple at the site of "Krisa below the glades of Parnassus".
  3. ^ Burkert 1985, pp. 61, 84.
  4. ^ Fontenrose, Joseph, The Delphic Oracle: Its Responses and Operations, with a Catalogue of Responses (1978). pp.3-4. "Such was its prestige that most Hellenes after 500 B.C. placed its foundation in the earliest days of the world: before Apollo took possession, they said, Ge (Earth) (Gaia) and her daughter Themis had spoken oracles at Pytho. Such has been the strength of the tradition that many historians and others have accepted as historical fact the ancient statement that Ge and Themis spoke oracles before it became Apollo's establishment. Yet nothing but the myth supports this statement. In the earliest account that we have of the Delphic Oracle's beginnings, the story found in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo (281-374), there was no Oracle before Apollo came and killed the great she-dragon, Pytho's only inhabitant. This was apparently the Delphic myth of the sixth century".
  5. ^ Farnell, Lewis Richard, The Cults of the Greek States, v.III, pp.8-10, onwards. "The earth is the abode of the dead, therefore the earth-deity has power over the ghostly world: the shapes of dreams, which often foreshadowed the future, were supposed to ascend from the world below, therefore the earth-deity might acquire an oracular function, especially through the process of incubation, in which the consultant slept in a holy shrine with his ear upon the ground. That such conceptions attached to Gaia is shown by the records of her cults at Delphi, Athens, and Aegae. A recently discovered inscription speaks of a temple of Ge at Delphi. ... As regards Gaia, we also can accept it. It is confirmed by certain features in the latter Delphic divination, and also by the story of the Python."
  6. ^ Odyssey, VIII, 80
  7. ^ Plato, Charmides 164d-165a.
  8. ^ Hodge, A. Trevor. "The Mystery of Apollo's E at Delphi," American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 85, No. 1. (Jan., 1981), pp. 83-84.
  9. ^ Plato, Protagoras 343a-b.
  10. ^ H. Parke and D. Wormell, The Delphic Oracle, (Basil Blackwell, 1956), vol. 1, pp. 387-389.
  11. ^ Parke & Wormell, p. 389.
  12. ^ Cf. Seyffert, Dictionary of Classic Antiquities, article on "Delphic Oracle"
  13. ^ James Hall, A History of Ideas and Images in Italian Art, pp 70-71, 1983, John Murray, London, ISBN 0719539714
  14. ^ Google books Stehle, Eva. Performance and gender in ancient Greece: nondramatic poetry in its setting, p. 138, Princeton University Press, 1996, ISBN 0691036179, 9780691036175
  15. ^ Rodhe, E (1925), "Psyche: The Cult of Souls and the Belief in Immortality among the Greeks", trans. from the 8th edn. by W. B. Hillis (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1925; reprinted by Routledge, 2000). p.97.
  16. ^ Entry: σμινθεύς at Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon
  17. ^ See Spiller, Hale, and de Boer (2000).
  18. ^ John Roach (2001-08-14). "Delphic Oracle's Lips May Have Been Loosened by Gas Vapors". National Geographic. Retrieved March 8, 2007. 
  19. ^ See (e.g.) Fearn 2007, 182.
  20. ^ Herbert William Parke, The Delphic Oracle, v.1, p.3. "The foundation of Delphi and its oracle took place before the times of recorded history. It would be foolish to look for a clear statement of origin from any ancient authority, but one might hope for a plain account of the primitive traditions. Actually this is not what we find. The foundation of the oracle is described by three early writers: the author of the Homeric Hymn to Apollo, Aeschylus in the prologue to the Eumenides, and Euripides in a chorus in the Iphigeneia in Tauris. All three versions, instead of being simple and traditional, are already selective and tendentious. They disagree with each other basically, but have been superficially combined in the conventional version of late classical times." Parke goes on to say, "This version [Euripides] evidently reproduces in a sophisticated form the primitive tradition which Aeschylus for his own purposes had been at pains to contradict: the belief that Apollo came to Delphi as an invader and appropriated for himself a previously existing oracle of Earth. The slaying of the serpent is the act of conquest which secures his possession; not as in the Homeric Hymn, a merely secondary work of improvement on the site. Another difference is also noticeable. The Homeric Hymn, as we saw, implied that the method of prophecy used there was similar to that of Dodona: both Aeschylus and Euripides, writing in the fifth century, attribute to primeval times the same methods as used at Delphi in their own day. So much is implied by their allusions to tripods and prophetic seats." Continuing on p.6, "Another very archaic feature at Delphi also confirms the ancient associations of the place with the Earth goddess. This was the Omphalos, an egg-shaped stone which was situated in the innermost sanctuary of the temple in historic times. Classical legend asserted that it marked the 'navel' (Omphalos) or centre of the Earth and explained that this spot was determined by Zeus who had released two eagles to fly from opposite sides of the earth and that they had met exactly over this place". On p.7 he writes further, "So Delphi was originally devoted to the worship of the Earth goddess whom the Greeks called Ge, or Gaia (mythology). Themis, who is associated with her in tradition as her daughter and partner or successor, is really another manifestation of the same deity: an identity which Aeschylus himself recognized in another context. The worship of these two, as one or distinguished, was displaced by the introduction of Apollo. His origin has been the subject of much learned controversy: it is sufficient for our purpose to take him as the Homeric Hymn represents him – a northern intruder – and his arrival must have occurred in the dark interval between Mycenaean and Hellenic times. His conflict with Ge for the possession of the cult site was represented under the legend of his slaying the serpent."
  21. ^ Delphi Archaeological Site,
  22. ^ a b c d Temple of Apollo at Delphi,
  23. ^ a b c d e Delphi, Hellenic Ministry of Culture.
  24. ^ Delphi Stadium at
  25. ^ "Δείτε τη Διοικητική Διαίρεση" (in Greek). Hellenic Interior Ministry. Retrieved 2009-09-09. 
  26. ^ (see link)


  • Fontenrose, Joseph Eddy, The Delphic oracle, its responses and operations, with a catalogue of responses, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978. ISBN 0520033604
  • Fontenrose, Joseph Eddy, Python; a study of Delphic myth and its origins, New York, Biblio & Tannen, 1974. ISBN 081960285X
  • Goodrich, Norma Lorre, Priestesses, New York: F. Watts, 1989. ISBN 0531151131
  • Guthrie, William Keith Chambers, The Greeks and their Gods, 1955.
  • Hall, Manly Palmer, The Secret Teachings of All Ages, 1928. Ch. 14 cf. Greek Oracles,www, PRS
  • Herodotus, The Histories
  • Homeric Hymn to Pythian Apollo
  • Manas, John Helen, Divination, ancient and modern, New York, Pythagorean Society, 1947.
  • Parke, Herbert William, History of the Delphic Oracle, 1939.
  • Plutarch "Lives"
  • Rohde, Erwin, Psyche, 1925.
  • Seyffert, Oskar, "Dictionary of Classical Antiquities", London: W. Glaisher, 1895.
  • Spiller, Henry A., John R. Hale, and Jelle Z. de Boer. "The Delphic Oracle: A Multidisciplinary Defense of the Gaseous Vent Theory." Clinical Toxicology 40.2 (2000) 189-196.
  • West, Martin Litchfield, The Orphic Poems, 1983. ISBN 0-19-814854-2.
  • "Ancient Greek Athletics", By Stephen G. Miller. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2004

Further reading

  • Morgan, Catherine, Athletes and Oracles: The Transformation of Olympia and Delphi in the Eighth Century BC, Cambridge [England] ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990. ISBN 0521374510

External links


Geology of Delphi

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel


The archaeological site of Delphi is an UNESCO World Heritage site [1] near the modern village of the same name 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 ἑστία (hestia), or hearth, of the Temple of Delphic Apollo, 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.

Get in

There are many daily buses from Athens, Terminal B Bus Station (metro: Attiki plus a 2km walk OR take the X24 bus from Omonia to Terminal B). The journey takes about 3 hours. Daily times to Delphi from Athens are: 07.30, 10.30, 13.00, 15.30, 17.30, 20.00 Return: 05.30, 09.00 (NOT Sundays), 11.10, 13.30, 16.00, 18.00 Fares in EURO: 13,60 (One way)

Get around

Delphi is small enough that walking is really the only means of transportation required. Taxis however are readily available.

Temple of Apollo in Delphi
Temple of Apollo in Delphi
  • Sanctuary of Apollo
  • Sanctuary of Athena with the Tholos


There is a lot of touristic stuff to buy.

  • Delphi Hotels
  • Fedriades Hotel, 46 V.Pavlou & Friderikis str., Delphi, Central Greece,, +30 22650 82370, [2]. Fedriades Delphi Hotel is situated in the heart of the city of Delphi only 8 km from Arachova and 28 km from Galaxidi and is one of the top Delphi Hotels. It overlooks the magnificent view of the Corinthian Gulf and the olive groves of Itea.  edit
  • Parnassos Hotel, 32, V.Pavlou & Friderikis str, GR - 33054 Delphi | Greece, +30.22650.82321, [3]. Parnassos Hotel is the ideal place to stay all year round at Delphi, just 8 km from Arachova and 28 km from Galaxidi.  edit
Delphi Countryside
Delphi Countryside

Visit the nearby Arachova villages and also Parnassos Mountain during the winter season for skiing. If you have your own car drive up to Galaxidi, a seaside traditional Greek town about 40 minutes away.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

DELPHI (the Pytho of Homer and Herodotus; in Boeotian inscriptions BeXcboi, on coins AaX001), a place in ancient Greece in the territory of Phocis, famous as the seat of the most important temple and oracle of Apollo. It was situated about 6 m. inland from the shores of the Corinthian Gulf, in a rugged and romantic glen, closed on the N. by the steep wall-like under-cliffs of Mount Parnassus known as the Phaedriades or Shining Rocks, on the E. and W. by two minor ridges or spurs, and on the S. by the irregular heights of Mount Cirphis. Between the two mountains the Pleistus flowed from east to west, and opposite the town received the brooklet of the Castalian fountain, which rose in a deep gorge in the centre of the Parnassian cliff. About 7 m. to the north, on the side of Mount Parnassus, was the famous Corycian cave, a large grotto in the limestone rock, which afforded the people of Delphi a refuge during the Persian invasion. It is now called in the district the Sarant' Aulai or Forty Courts, and is said to be capable of holding 3000 people.

I. The Site. - The site of Delphi was occupied by the modern village of Castri until it was bought by the French government in 1891, and the peasant proprietors expropriated and transferred to the new village of Castri, a little farther to the west. Excavations had been made previously in some parts of the precinct; for example, the portico of the Athenians was laid bare in 1860. The systematic clearing of the site began in the spring of 1892, and it was rapidly cleared of earth by means of a light railway. The plan of the precinct is now easily traced, and with the help of Pausanias many of the buildings have been identified.

The ancient wall running east and west, commonly known as the Hellenico, has been found extant in its whole length, and the two boundary walls running up the hill at each end of it, traced. In the eastern of these was the main entrance by which Pausanias went in along the Sacred Way. This paved road is easily recognized as it zigzags up the hill, with treasuries and the bases of various offerings facing it on both sides. It mounts first westwards to an open space, then turns eastwards till it reaches the eastern end of the terrace wall that supports the temple, and then turns again and curves up north and then west towards the temple. Above this, approached by a stair, are the Lesche and the theatre, occupying respectively the north-east and northwest corner of the precinct. On a higher level still, a little to the west, is the stadium. There are several narrow paths and stairs that cut off the zigzags of the Sacred Way.

In describing the monuments discovered by the French excavators, the simplest plan is to follow the route of Pausanias. Outside the entrance is a large paved court of Roman date, flanked by a colonnade. On the north side of the Sacred Way, close to the main entrance, stood the offering dedicated by the Lacedaemonians after the battle of Aegospotami. It was a large quadrangular building of conglomerate, with a back wall faced with stucco, and stood open to the road. On a stepped pedestal facing the open stood the statues of the gods and the admirals, perhaps in rows above one another.

The statues of the Epigoni stood on a semicircular basis on the south side of the way. Opposite them stood another semicircular basis which carried the statues of the Argive kings, whose names are cut on the pedestal in archaic characters, reading from right to left. Farther west was the Sicyonian treasury on the south of the way. It was in the form of a small Doric temple in antis, and had its entrance on the east. The present foundations are built of architectural fragments, probably from an earlier building of circular form on the same site. The sculptures from this treasury are in the museum, as are the other sculptures found on the site. These sculptures, which are in rough limestone, most likely belong to the earlier building, as their surface is in a better state of preservation than could be possible if they had been long exposed to the air. The earlier treasury was probably destroyed either by earthquake or by the percolation of water through the terracing.

The Cnidian treasury stands on the south side of the way farther west. This building was originally surmised by the excavators to be the treasury of Siphnos, but further evidence led them to change their opinion. The treasury was raised on a quadrangular structure, supported on its south side by the Hellenico, and built of tufa. The lower courses are left rough and were most likely hidden. A small Ionic temple of marble with two caryatids between antae stood on this substructure. The sculpture from this treasury, which ornamented its frieze and pediment, is of great interest in the history of the development of the art, and the fragments of architectural mouldings are of great delicacy and beauty. The whole work is perhaps the most perfect example we possess of the transitional style of the early 5th century. Standing back somewhat from the path just as it bends round up the hill is the Theban treasury. Farther north, where the path turns again, is the Athenian treasury. This structure, which was in the form of a small Doric temple in antis, appears to have suffered from the building above it having been shaken down by an earthquake. It has now been rebuilt with the original blocks. There can be no doubt about the identity of the building, for the basis on which it stands bears the remains of the dedicatory inscription, stating that it was erected from the spoils of Marathon. Almost all the sculptured metopes are in the museum, and are of the highest interest to the student of archaic art. The famous inscriptions with hymns to Apollo accompanied by musical notation were found on stones belonging to this treasury.

Above the Athenian treasury is an open space, in which is a rock which has been identified as the Sybil's rock. It has steps hewn in it, and has a cleft. The ground round it has been left rough like the space on the Acropolis at Athens identified as the ancient altar of Athena. Here too was placed the curious column, with many flutes and an Ionic capital, on which stood the colossal sphinx, dedicated by the Naxians, that has been pieced together and placed in the museum.

A little farther on, but below the Sacred Way, is another open space, of circular form, which is perhaps the iXcos or sacred threshing-floor on which the drama of the slaying of the Python by Apollo was periodically performed. Opposite this space, and backed against the beautifully jointed polygonal wall which has for some time been known, and which supports the terrace on which the temple stands, is the colonnade of the Athenians. A dedicatory inscription runs along the face of the top step, and has been the subject of much dispute. Both the forms of the letters and the style of the architecture show that the colonnade cannot date, as Pausanias says, from the time of the Peloponnesian War; Th. Homolle now assigns it to the end of the 6th century. The polygonal terrace wall at the back, on being cleared, proves to be covered with inscriptions, most of them concerning the manumission of slaves.

After rounding the east end of the terrace wall, the Sacred Way turns northward, leaving the Great Altar, dedicated by the Chians, on the left. After passing the altar, it turns to the left again at right angles, and so enters the space in front of the temple. Remains of offerings found in this region include those dedicated by the Cyrenians and by the Corinthians. The site of the temple itself carries the remains of successive structures. Of that built by the Alcmaeonids in the 6th century B.C. considerable remains have been found, some in the foundations of the later temple and some lying where they were thrown by the earthquake. The sculptures found have been assigned to this building, probably to the gables, as they are archaic in character, and show a remarkable resemblance to the sculptures from the pediment of the early temple of Athena at Athens. The existing foundations are these of the temple built in the 4th century. They give no certain information as to the sacred cleft and other matters relating to the oracle. Though there are great hollow spaces in the structure of the foundations, these appear merely to have been intended to save material, and not to have been put to any religious or other use. Up in the north-eastern corner of the precinct, standing at the foot of the cliffs, are the remains of the interesting Cnidian Lesche or Clubhouse. It was a long narrow building accessible only from the south, and the famous paintings were probably disposed around the walls so as to meet in the middle of the north side. Some scanty fragments of the lower part of the frescoed walls have survived; but they are not enough to give any information as to the work of Polygnotus.

At the north-western corner of the precinct is the theatre, one Precinct Of Apollo Hellenique 1897. XVI.

of the best preserved in Greece. The foundations of the stage are extant, as well as the orchestra, and the walls and seats of the auditorium. There are thirty-three tiers of seats in seven sets, and a paved diazoma. The sculptures from the stage front, now in the museum, have the labours of Heracles as their subject. The date of the theatre is probably early 2nd century B.C.

The stadium lies, as Pausanias says, in the highest part of the city to the north-west. It stands on a narrow plateau of ground supported on the south-east by a terrace wall. The seats have been cleared, and are in a state of extraordinary preservation. A few of those at the east end are hewn in the rock. No trace of the marble seats mentioned by Pausanias has been found, but they have probably been carried off for lime or building, as they could easily be removed. An immense number of inscriptions have been found in the excavations, and many works of art, including a bronze charioteer, which is one of the most admirable statues preserved from ancient times.

II. History. - Our information as to the oracle at Delphi and the manner in which it was consulted is somewhat confused; there probably was considerable variation at different periods. The tale of a hole from which intoxicating "mephitic" vapour arose has no early authority, nor is it scientifically probable (see A. P. Oppe in Journal of Hellenic Studies, xxiv. 214). The questions had to be given in writing, and the responses were uttered by the Pythian priestess, in early times a maiden, later a woman over fifty attired as a maiden. After chewing the sacred bay and drinking of the spring Cassotis, which was conducted into the temple by artificial channels, she took her seat on the sacred tripod in the inner shrine. Her utterances were reduced to verse and edited by the prophets and the "holy men" (& oi.). For the influence and history of the oracle see Oracle.

Delphi also contained the "Omphalos," a sacred stone bound with fillets, supposed to mark the centre of the earth. It was said Zeus had started two eagles from the opposite extremities and they met there. Other tales said the stone was the one given by Rhea to Cronus as a substitute for Zeus.

For the history of the Delphic Amphictyony see under Amphictyony. The oracle at Delphi was asserted by tradition to have existed before the introduction of the Apolline worship and to have belonged to the goddess Earth (Ge or Gaia). The Homeric Hymn to Apollo evidently combines two different versions, one of the approach of Apollo from the north by land, and the other of the introduction of his votaries from Crete. The earliest stone temple was said to have been built by Trophonius and Agamedes. This was destroyed by fire in 548 B.C., and the contract for rebuilding was undertaken by the exiled Alcmaeonidae from Athens, who generously substituted marble on the eastern front for the poros specified (see Cleisthenes, ad init.). Portions of the pediments of this temple have been found in the excavations; but no sign has been found of the pediments mentioned by Pausanias, representing on the east Apollo and the Muses, and on the west Dionysus and the Thyiades (Bacchantes), and designed by Praxias, the pupil of Calanias. The temple which was seen by Pausanias, and of which the foundations were found by the excavators, was the one of which the building is recorded in inscriptions of the 4th century. A raid on Delphi attempted by the Persians in 480 B.C. was said to have been frustrated by the god himself, by means of a storm or earthquake which hurled rocks down on the invaders; a similar tale is told of the raid of the Gauls in 279 B.C. But the sacrilege thus escaped at the hands of foreign invaders was inflicted by the Phocian defenders of Delphi during the Sacred War, 356-346 B.C., when many of the precious votive offerings were melted down. The Phocians were condemned to replace their value to the amount of io,000 talents, which they paid in instalments. In 86 B.C. the sanctuary and its treasures were put under contribution by L. Cornelius Sulla for the payment of his soldiers; Nero removed no fewer than 500 bronze statues from the sacred precincts; Constantine the Great enriched his new city by the sacred tripod and its support of intertwined snakes dedicated by the Greek cities after the battle of Plataea. This still exists, with its inscription, in the Hippodrome at Constanti nople. Julian afterwards sent Oribasius to restore the temple; but the oracle responded to the emperor's enthusiasm with nothing but a wail over the glory that had departed.

Provisional accounts of the excavations have appeared during the excavations in the Bulletin de correspondence hellenique. A summary is given in J. G. Frazer, Pausanias, vol. v. The official account is entitled Fouilles de Delphes. For history see Hiller von Gartringen in Pauly-Wissowa, Realencyclopadie, s.v. " Delphi." For cult see L. R. Farnell, Cults of the Greek States, iv. 179-218. For the works of art discovered see GREEK ART. (E. GR.)

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




Proper noun

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  1. A city of ancient Greece.
  2. A programming language based on PASCAL.
  3. A method for obtaining consensus from a group of experts; see Delphi method in Wikipedia.



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