Zeus released two eagles from the opposites ends of the world and proclaimed that where those eagles met would be forever known as the centre of the earth. Those eagles met at Delphi.
Delphi, the mystical Oracle of Apollo, is magnificently situated on the slopes of the towering limestone Mount Parnassus and overlooks the olive tree abundant deep valley of the River Pleistos in the provincial unit of Phocis in upper central Greece. Delphi was first occupied in late Mycenaean times, probably around the 15th century BC, and that the Earth Goddess Gaia, the ancestral mother of all life, was venerated at the site. The cult of the Greek God Apollo was established at Delphi in the 8th century BC.
For over 1000 years from 800 BC onwards, Delphi was the spiritual, psychological and geographical centre and symbol of unity of the Ancient Greek world.
Delphi became a focal point for intellectual enquiry as well. A social networking and meeting place where ideas, innovations, inventions, discoveries, activities, and stories were shared. Rulers, Kings, Emperors, Tyrants, Statesmen and Politicians. The who’s who of the Ancient World and Greeks, seeking guidance for establishing new settlements, made the arduous trek to consult the Oracle of Apollo.
The Temple of Apollo is the most important building of Delphi and had been rebuilt several times in ancient times.
The existing ruins belong to the 4th century BC Temple of Apollo, which was the last rebuild of the Temple. The temple has six re-erected columns and originally had 6 Doric columns at each end and 15 Doric columns at each side. The walls of the pronaos or forecourt had approximately 147 inscriptions of aphorisms from the seven sages of Ancient Greece. Known as the Delphic maxims, the aphorisms were between 2 and 5 words and are philosophical and moral messages that are still as relevant today.
The interior of the Temple of Apollo included the inner sanctum or Adyton, which was a sunken area of the temple where the oracles were given by the Pythia (High Priestess). The Pythia was seated on a tripod above a fracture in the earth where 2 fault lines crossed from which hydrocarbon gases, possibly ethylene, were released. Once in a trance-like state, she would voice prophecies by Apollo, which then would have been noted and conveyed to the visitor by the priests.
One of antiquity’s most famous men, Alexander the Great, consulted the Oracle prior to him embarking on his legendary conquests. Unfortunately, the Pythia’s answer to Alexander’s enquiry was considered vague by him and left him incensed. So, in a fit of rage, Alexander stormed into the sacred chamber and dragged the Priestess by the hair out of the temple. He did not let up until she provided him with an appropriate reply. He released her when she screamed “You are invincible my son!”
One of the very last messages (362 AD) was directed to Pagan Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate who wanted to restore the Temple of Apollo. the message is read:
Delphi as an influence ended in the 4th century AD when it was closed by the Christian Roman Emperor Theodosius. The city was abandoned to constant earthquakes and gradually fell into ruins.
Delphi was also famous for being one of the 4 major religious sites in Ancient Greece to hold the Panhellenic games. The other sites were Nemea, Isthmia and Olympia. The Delphi games were known as the Pythian games, in honour of Apollo and were held in the summer every four years (2 years after each Olympic Games). Besides athletic contests and chariot races, music and poetry competitions were held in honour of Apollo, who was the Greek God of the arts.
Delphi was designated in 1987 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
All Text, Images and Content are copyright Steven Sklifas.