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kleobis-bitonThe Oracle of Delphi page seven

roman copy or the omphalosThe marble Omphalos (left) that sits at the top of the stairs is a copy of the original found in the crypt (adyton) of the temple of Apollo and consists of a conical block of marble with a sculpted lattice effect on the surface. It was a common symbol throughout the ancient world, both as a grave marker and the image of a matrix (the beginning and end of life on earth). One theory has it that it was also meant to represent the mound of white ash surrounding hot coals and thus insulating the elemental fire. An Archaic tripod and cauldron are also on display.

war spoils - trophiesThe two Kouroi (plural of the Greek 'kouros' and pronounced 'kouri') are especially memorable figures in the museum. They were made in Argos by the sculptor Polymedes, with his name appearing on the bases. They date from the Archaic period, around 600BC, and were votive offerings. These huge twins represent the twins Kleobis and Biton, who, according to legend, were sons of a priestess of Hera, who yoked themselves to their mother's chariot and pulled it (and her) to the temple, a distance of 8km/5miles. One version has it that they died of exhaustion from the effort, another that their mother prayed to Hera in gratitude asking that her sons be rewarded for their devotion and that the goddess responded by having the youths die in their sleep in the temple (a painless death, though rather premature). The figures, which are similar within this genre, have Asiatic/Egyptian stylistic traits and exhibit a pure and elegant symmetry of form, and radiate a certain sunny, peaceful aura of youths that are part-god, part human.

The Hall of the Bull contains cult objects found in 1939 beneath the Sacred Way which had been buried in two pits. It was surmised that the objects had been buried because no longer in use, according to a time-honored Christian custom. A silver bull made from silver sheets fastened to a wooden framework was found there. The horns, ears, hooves and genitals of the bull were gilded, though, which was the custom with representations of sacred, sacrificial animals. There are other such animals depicted in this hall, on hammered gold panels, such as griffins, lions, goats, antelope, as well as a sphinx. These panels were part of a garment of a large statue and reflect the connection of gods with animal attributes.

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