Destination Delphi:
The Oracle and Temple Complex

delphi ancient site  greece travel map

Ancient Delphi is one of the top five most important archeological sites in Greece and is situated in an outstanding natural environment held by many to be among the most spectacular of all Greece.

Only a three hour drive from Athens, many classical tours visit Delphi each day but its easy to rent a car and drive to the Delphic Sanctuary oneself.

Independent visitors, in season, will assuredly share the site with their tour-bus borne brethren.

Three hours will acquaint you with the ruins but 6 are required for a thorough exploration. The climate can change in a twinkle and a wind breaker recommended even in August.

The hilly terrain would suggest sensible shoes although paths are well tended.

Left is a photo of the Delphi oracle-temple-theater-arena complex from the air.

The museum fronts the road, the athletic track is far right and the theater and temples center bottom.

The energy here is unique and palpable and tends to evoke the classical past vividly. In ancient times Delphi was considered the center of the world. Delphi rests on the slopes of Mount Parnassos with the sea's Gulf of Corinth visible afar just past the sacred Plain of Itea.

The sanctuary rests within the angle formed by Mt. Parnassos twin Phaedriades or shining rocks so called because they reflect the light and constitute a precipice 900 feet high. The west rock is called Rhodini (roseate) and the east Phleboukos (flamboyant). Those guilty of sacrilege were hurled from their heights.

Brief History of Ancient Delphi

The site was originally sacred to Mother Earth (Ge or Gea) and called Pytho in the time of Homer. It had an oracle whose priestesses were known as Pyhtia and sacrificed near the cave of the son of Mother Earth, the serpent Python.

Later settlers imported from Crete, the cult worship of Apollo Delphinios, an island deity worshiped in the form of a dolphin, and the sites name changed to Delphoi and became the sanctuary of Pythian Apollo. Subsequently other gods became associated with the sanctuary including Dionysos, Athena Pronoia, Leto and Artemis. Also celebrated at Delphoi were the Pythian Games, one of the four great national Greek festivals and held at first every 8 years, but later every 4 years.

This coupled with the fame of its oracle attracted an international following. Competitors and visitors came from far and wide.

The oracle was abolished by Theodosius about 385 AD. Several sacred wars were fought over control of the sanctuary and at one time over 3,000 statues were contained within its precincts. With the dissipation of the Roman Empire and the rise of Christianity its decline was ensured.
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