According to tradition, Delphi was the geographical centre of the world, the omphalos (navel).
Dias (Zeus in Latin) released two golden eagles in different directions. At the point where the two birds met, which was Delphi, Dias threw a stone.
The actual stone, which was probably a meteorite, sat in the heart of the Temple of Apollo and was flanked by a pair of golden eagles. The one shown, is a Hellenistic or Roman replica and was found in front of the temple.
The sanctuary of Apollo extends over a series of terraces in the foothills of Mount Parnassus, between two enormous rocks, called the Phaidriades. For many centuries this was the religious and spiritual centre of the ancient Greek world and had been sacred since at least the Bronze Age.
According to legend, the shrine was originally guarded by the she-dragon Python. Apollo, the son of Dias, came from his home atop Mount Olympus to Mount Parnassus to slay the great serpent Python. Python, fleeing from the peak sought safety in the sanctuary of the Earth Mother at Delphi. Apollo relentlessly pursued Python and claimed the site. Peering through the veils of legend and myth we may therefore discern at Delphi is the story of an ancient goddess site being later taken over by a culture whose primary deity was a male god.
The evocative ancient site and the breathtaking mountain scenery surrounding it are inextricably linked and are both awe-inspiring. One can understand why the ancients chose that particular site as a religious and spiritual centre - there is something about the place that makes you understand why for so many centuries it was deemed to be sacred.
We parked near the museum and started making our way towards the Temple of Apollo
on our right and far below the mountain we could see the Temple of Athena Pronea. The sanctuary is the first mark of Delphi visible to people coming from Athens. This sanctuary was particularly important, as people coming to ask for an oracle would first offer a sacrifice at the Athena Pronea, who was considered the guardian of Pythia.
Even though we were planning to visit this site, by the time we had finished with the main site of Delphi and the museum it was getting late, so this visit will have to wait for another time.
The Roman Agora is on the first, lower terrace
this intricate, brick wall is well preserved
From the Roman Agora, continuing up the slope almost to the temple itself, are a large number of treasuries. These were built by the various Greek city states to commemorate victories and to thank the oracle for her advice which was thought to have contributed to those victories. They were called treasuries because they held the offerings made to Apollo.
the treasury of the Sicyonians
of the Boeotians
leading up to the largest treasury, that of the Athenians
which has now been restored, originally built to commemorate the Athenians' victory at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC
After quite a steep climb we reached the Temple of Apollo, god of music, harmony and light which occupied the most important and prominent position in the Delphic Sanctuary, dated to the 4th century BC. In the inner Hestia (hearth) of the temple, an eternal flame burned.
According to the prevailing theory, the famous oracle operated inside the temple. Apollo spoke through his oracle. The sibyl or priestess of the oracle was known as the Pythia: she had to be an older woman of blameless life chosen from among the peasants in the area. She sat on a tripod seat over an opening in the earth. It has been speculated that a gas high in ethylene, known to produce violent trances, came out of this opening. Intoxicated by the vapours, the Pythia would fall into a trance, allowing Apollo to possess her spirit. In this state she prophesised. The Pythia would utter inarticulate cries, which were then turned into equivocal oracles by the priest. People consulted the Delphic oracle on everything from important matters of public policy to personal affairs.
We got a much better view of the Temple as we climbed higher
and reached the theatre which hosted the musical and dramatic contests of the Pythian Games and other religious festivals. The Pythian Games which happened every four years were precursors of the modern Olympics. The victors were presented with a laurel crown which was ceremonially cut from a tree by a boy.