The Greek Cornucopia – Delphi

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog on our trip to Greece. Family and friends who read it thought it did not justify the 3.5 weeks that we spent there and recommended that I split it up and dedicate one post per place that we visited. I have retained the original blog for those of you who want a fast read. With Europe slowly limping back to normal since the COVID 19 lockdown and Greece quite enthusiastic about reopening tourism, there cannot be a better time for me to reminisce about that trip and write about it. Hope you enjoy these posts!

This is the third post of my seven part series on Greece.
The first post covers Thessaloniki, the second Meteora. Olympia was next followed by Crete and Athens. Lastly, you can read all my Thoughts, tips and things that matter in my seventh post.

Delphi – for a meeting with the oracle.
Delphi is a small town with a very important archaeological site that was sacred to the Greeks. It was late afternoon when we got here. We gobbled down a quick lunch and headed straight to the Sanctuary of Apollo. We did not get the opening hours right, so we needed to hurry up.

This sacred site, considered the centre of the earth at one time by ancient Greeks, is where God spoke to his people through a priestess, Pythia the oracle. People carried out pilgrimage from near and far from as early as 8th Century BC to 2nd Century AD. The site was built on a steep hill which itself is found in the picturesque Mount Parnassus region. In its heydays the steep path also called the Sacred Way was a busy place with treasuries of different city-states of Greece containing votives – thanksgiving gifts to Apollo for victories in wars and conquests and even sporting events.

The first thing you see today as you walk up the Sacred Way is the Roman Agora, which actually came into existence much later, probably in the 7th Century AD. It was a place of commerce and business with stores and shops.

Roman Agora
The Roman Agora

The best preserved monument at the Sanctuary of Apollo is the theatre. The Theatre hosted religious festivals and music and drama competitions during the Pythian Games. Like the Olympics then and now, the Pythian Games were held once every four years and is one of the four important sporting events of ancient Greece, the other two being the Nemean and Isthmian Games. The Pythian Games were dedicated to Apollo. A mythical python born out of Gaea, the mother earth and living in Delphi was seen as a threat to humans and therefore slain by Apollo only to invite the wrath of Zeus. To make good, the Pythian Games were held.

The Theatre
The theatre could seat 5000 people (1) and divided into two zones (2) with 35 rows. (3) marks the area meant for the orchestra and (4) the stage

According to myth, to find the centre of the earth, Zeus released two two golden eagles that circled the earth and met at this point. To mark the place, he threw a stone down from heaven. This, The Navel, he said was the centre of the earth.

The Navel
The Sacred Omphalos or The Navel marked the centre of the earth

The Athenian Treasury, another well-preserved monument was where all votives to Apollo from Athenians were kept.

Treasury of Athenians_1
The Athenian Treasury

The famous oracle operated from this very same Santuary of Apollo. Questions were thrown to the priestess who would be in a state of delirium probably from inhaling the vapours that emanated from a sacred chasm here. The unclear sounds uttered by her would be decoded by the priests.

The temple of Apollo

The last thing to see at the site is the Stadium which is located at the highest point of the steep slope. After the uphill walk the breezy air is the next best thing after the stadium that could sit 6500 spectators 🙂

At a short distance away is the Sanctuary of Athena which is open from as early as 7am till 7pm and the entry is free. People coming to Delphi from the east would first find themselves here at the temple that is built in a circular fashion, hence ‘tholos’ which means ’round structure’.

The santuary of Athena_1
The Tholos of Delphi in the Sanctuary of Athena

From here, we went further south to the site of the Ancient Olympics in Olympia.

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