Delphi| Where To Go

Next up for places to go this summer was Delphi. A beautiful place with not enough written about it online.



Temple of Apollo

According to the Greek mythology, Apollo came to Delphi in the guise of a Dolphin and carried on his back the priests of Crete. Another version is that Apollo walked all the way to Delphi from the northern part and he ultimately stopped at the city of Tempe primarily to collect laurel, which was of great spiritual importance to him. Keeping this legend in mind, the champions of the Pythian Games were awarded a wreath of Laurel or Bay leaves found in abundance in the city of Tempe. At the beginning a holy spring flowed all the way to the temple but thereafter vanished underneath. This caused the formation of a cleft, from which vapours started rising which in turn was instrumental in compelling the Oracle of Delphi to make known her prophecies. In the ancient days there was an important temple in Delphi, the one of Phoebus Apollo. It was also the venue for the Pythian Games, named after the Serpent Python that was killed by Apollo during his childhood. However, according to the ancient divine law he deserved to be punished for this act of cruelty, given the fact that the Python happened to be the child of Goddess Gaia. There is not much of a truth in the fact that the Oracle envisaged and foretold the future in observing the natural phenomenon. Far from it, the Oracle of Delphi only counselled on how disasters could be avoided.

Ancient Theatre

The ancient theatre in the archaeological site of Delphi Greece has been built on the same hill as the Temple of Apollo, but it is located further above it. Its situation provided audiences with a great view of the entire sanctuary and the above olive treee valley. Dating back to the 4th century B.C, the theatre was constructed using the limestone of Mount Parnassus. The 35 rows of the theatre could seat nearly 5000 people, though the lower seats were constructed in the Hellenistic and Roman periods. The theatre went through many reformations. However, it has kept its basic structures: the stone seats, a round stage and an orchestra. Today it hosts many ancient plays and other cultural events, mostly in summer.

Sanctuary of Thena Ponea

The Sanctuary of Athena Pronea is located to the southeast of the Temple of Apollo, Delphi. The sanctuary was the first mark of Delphi visible to people coming from the east, before arriving to the Temple of Apollo. This is how came the name Pronea, which means before the Temple. 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. The sanctuary consisted of several altars, temples, two treasuries and the Tholos, a round construction, which was a pretty unusual shape for the ancient Greek architecture. One of the two treasuries was dedicated by the inhabitants of Marseilles as a thank you for a victory over the Etruscans. In front of the treasuries, there was a trophy to commemorate the victory of the Greeks over the Persians. The function of the Tholos is not clear. It could possibly be a cult dedicated to a god or local hero, or it could also be a treasury where statues were kept. The tholos was constructed in the 4th century B.C. by architect Theodorus from Phokea, Asia Minor. It was 13,5 m in diameter encircled by twenty Doric columns on the outer side and ten Corinthian columns on the inner side. Only three of the exterior columns have today been restored. The structure was made of Pentelic and Parian marble and the walls were set with a layer of dark Eleusinian stone. The metopes were showing scenes from the War of Titans. In 373 B.C. a large earthquake made the Phaedriades stones (stones from the cliffs around the ancient site) fall, destroying a large part of the sanctuary. Although there were many efforts for restoration in the years to come, the sacred wars that followed never allowed the reconstruction to finish.

 Castalian Spring

The Castalian Spring is found close to the Oracle of Delphi. In the ancient times, it was believed that this spring had cleansing waters, thus it could cleanse the souls of the visitors to the popular Temple of Apollo, located just 500 meters from it. The spring itself was located between two rocks, the Phaedriades, and, according to the myth, this is the place where god Apollo killed the dragon, Python, who used to torture Apollo’s mother when she was pregnant. The visitors to the oracle of Delphi and the participants to the Pythian Games used to wash their hair before they enter the sacred place and if they were murderers, they washed all their bodies. This spring, which is believed to be older than the temple of Apollo, initially had seven jets with the head of the lions, but only two remain today. The spring is made with a marble lined basin and benches on the sides. The Castalian Spring today is not accessible, unless through a difficult climbing path that needs about an hour walking. Efforts are made over the last years to clean this path and make it easily accessible to visitors.

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