Delphi

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Delphi (Greek Δελφοί — Delphoi) is an archaeological site and a modern town 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 (Ἀπόλλων ΔελφίνιοςApollon Delphinios), 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.<ref>Burkert 1985, pp. 61, 84.</ref>

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[edit] Location

Delphi is located on a plateau on the slope of Mount Parnassus, next to the Sanctuary of Apollo, the site of the ancient Apollonian Oracle. This semicircular spur is known as Phaedriades, and overlooks the Pleistos Valley. Southwest of Delphi, about 15 km away, is the harbor-city of Kirrha on the Corinthian Gulf.

[edit] Apollo

Main article: Apollo
Image:Temple of Apollo at Delphi from below with ivy.JPG
The Temple of Apollo, seen from below
Image:Ancient athletics stadium at Delphi.JPG
View of the stadium of the Delphi sanctuary, used for the Pythian Games. The stone steps on the right were added under the Romans.

The name Delphoi is connected with δελφ delph "hollow" or δελφός delphus "womb" and may indicate archaic veneration of Gaia, Grandmother Earth, an Earth Goddess at the site. Apollo is connected with the site by his epithet Δελφίνιος Delphinios, "the Delphinian", i.e. either "the one of Delphi", or "the one of the womb". The epithet is connected with dolphins (the "womb-fish") in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo (line 400), telling how Apollo first came to Delphi in the shape of a dolphin, carrying Cretan priests on his back.

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 (generally 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 Tempe.

Delphi was the site of a major temple to Phoebus Apollo, as well as the Pythian Games and a famous oracle. Even in Roman times hundreds of votive statues remained, described by Pliny the Younger and seen by Pausanias.

When young, Apollo killed the chthonic serpent Python, and according to some 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 towards 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 Python was a child of Gaia. The shrine dedicated to Apollo was probably originally dedicated to Gaia and then, possibly to Poseidon.

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 god setting up his temple on the grave of another. <ref>Rohde, Psyche, p.97.</ref> 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 Smitheus (the mouse) hints at Apollo's original function as a bringer of sickness (later God of Medicine). If this is true, it is ironic that in the tale of Apollo and Python we have a mouse killing the serpent!

It is a popular misconception that the oracle predicted the future, based on the lapping water and leaves rustling in the trees; the oracle of Delphi never predicted the future, but gave guarded advice on how impiety might be cleansed and incumbent disaster avoided.<ref>"Apollo's proper domain is cultic questions — innovations, restorations and purifications in the cultic sphere." (Burkert 1985:116, section II.8.5 "Oracles"). When famine struck Tegea, in the origin myth of Telephus, the oracle alluded to a desecration in the temple of Artemis, and the infant Telephus was thereby discovered hidden there. Examples could be indefinitely multiplied.</ref>

[edit] Oracle

Main article: Pythia

Delphi is perhaps best-known for the oracle at the sanctuary of Apollo. In the last quarter of the 8th Century BC we see a steady increase of artifacts found at the settlement site in Delphi. Pottery and bronze work and 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 worshippers of a wide range, but the strong representation of high value goods are found in no other mainland sanctuary, certainly encourages that view.

The priestess of the oracle at Delphi was known as the Pythia.

Image:Pythia1.jpg
Delphic Pythia sitting on a tripod, attended by a supplicant. Note the low ceiling that causes the Delphic oracle to stoop, the hollow floor and the barrier that separates Pythia from the supplicant

H.W. Parke writes that the foundation of Delphi and its oracle took place before the times of recorded history and its origins are obscure.<ref>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 noteiceable. 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. 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."</ref>

The Oracle exerted considerable influence throughout the Greek world, and 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

[edit] Treasuries

Image:Treasury of Athens at Delphi.jpg
The 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, is a large number of votive statues, and numerous treasuries. These were built by the various states—those overseas as well as those on the mainland—to commemorate victories and to thank the oracle for advice important to those victories. The most impressive is the now-restored Treasury of Athens, built to commemorate the Athenians' victory at the Battle of Marathon. 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. Another impressive treasury that exists on the site was dedicated by the city of Siphnos, who had amassed great wealth from their silver and gold mines and so they dedicated the Siphnian Treasury.

[edit] Tholos

Image:Delphi 145.jpg
The Tholos at the sanctuary of Athena Pronaia

The Tholos at the sanctuary of Athena Pronaia is a circular building that was constructed between 380 and 360 B.C. 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.

[edit] The "Delphic Sibyl"

Main article: 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 like Bakis. The Sibyl had no connection to the oracle of Apollo, and should not be confused with the Pythia.

[edit] Modern Delphi

In medieval times, parts of Boeotia and Phocis were settled by Arvanites. When they arrived in Greece, having been invited by the Frankish rulers of the area, they built a village directly on the vacated site of Delphi using the marble columns, structures etc. as support beams and roofs for their improvised houses. In 1893 Archaeologists from the École française d'Athènes finally located the actual site <ref>(see link)</ref> of ancient Delphi. The Arvanite village of Kastri was moved from the site of the temples to a new location.

The modern Delphi (or Delfi or Delfoi) is situated west of the archaeological site. It is passed by a major highway linking Amfissa along with Itea and Arachova. The two main streets are each one-way and narrow. Delphi also has a school, a lyceum and a square (plateia). The communities include Chrysso, which in ancient times was Crissa. Population 3,511 (2001).

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

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[edit] References

[edit] External links

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Coordinates: 38°29′N 22°30′Ebg:Делфи ca:Delfos cs:Delfy da:Delfi de:Delphi el:Δελφοί es:Delfos fr:Delphes it:Delfi he:דלפי nl:Delphi (Griekenland) ja:デルポイ no:Delfi pl:Delfy pt:Delfos ro:Delfi ru:Дельфы sk:Delfy sr:Делфи fi:Delfoi sv:Delfi uk:Дельфи yi:דעלפי zh:德尔斐

Delphi

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