From the Delphi entry in Wikipedia:

Delphi, in legend previously called Pytho, in ancient times was a sacred precinct that served as the seat of Pythia, the major oracle who was consulted about important decisions throughout the ancient classical world. The oracle had origins in prehistory and it became international in character and also fostered sentiments of Greek nationality, even though the nation of Greece was centuries away from realization. The ancient Greeks considered the center of the world to be in Delphi, marked by the stone monument known as the omphalos (navel). The sacred precinct of Ge or Gaia was in the region of Phocis, but its management had been taken away from the Phocians, who were trying to extort money from its visitors, and had been placed in the hands of an amphictyony, or committee of persons chosen mainly from Central Greece. According to the Suda, Delphi took its name from the Delphyne, the she-serpent (drakaina) who lived there and was killed by the god Apollo (in other accounts the serpent was the male serpent (drakon) Python).


Occupation of the site at Delphi can be traced back to the Neolithic period with extensive occupation and use beginning in the Mycenaean period (1600–1100 BCE). In Mycenaean times Krissa was a major Greek land and sea power, perhaps one of the first in Greece, if the Early Helladic date of Kirra is to be believed. The ancient sources indicate that the previous name of the Gulf of Corinth was the "Krisaean Gulf." Like Krisa, Corinth was a Dorian state, and Gulf of Corinth was a Dorian lake, so to speak, especially since the migration of Dorians into the Peloponnesus starting about 1000 BCE. Krisa's power was broken finally by the recovered Aeolic and Attic-Ionic speaking states of southern Greece over the issue of access to Delphi. Control of it was assumed by the Amphictyonic League, an organization of states with an interest in Delphi, in the early Classical period. Krisa was destroyed for its arrogance. The gulf was given Corinth's name. Corinth by then was similar to the Ionic states: ornate and innovative, not resembling the spartan style of the Doric.

Ancient Delphi

Earlier myths include traditions that Pythia, or the Delphic oracle, already was the site of an important oracle in the pre-classical Greek world (as early as 1400 BCE) and, rededicated from about 800 BCE, when it served as the major site during classical times for the worship of the god Apollo.

Delphi was since ancient times a place of worship for Gaia, the mother goddess connected with fertility. The town started to gain pan-Hellenic relevance as both a shrine and an oracle in the seventh century BCE. Initially under the control of Phocaean settlers based in nearby Kirra (currently Itea), Delphi was reclaimed by the Athenians during the First Sacred War (597–585 BCE). The conflict resulted in the consolidation of the Amphictyonic League, which had both a military and a religious function revolving around the protection of the Temple of Apollo. This shrine was destroyed by fire in 548 BCE and then fell under the control of the Alcmaeonids who were banned from Athens. In 449–448 BCE, the Second Sacred War (fought in the wider context of the First Peloponnesian War between the Peloponnesian League led by Sparta and the Delian-Attic League led by Athens) resulted in the Phocians gaining control of Delphi and the management of the Pythian Games.

In 356 BCE, the Phocians under Philomelos captured and sacked Delphi, leading to the Third Sacred War (356–346 BCE), which ended with the defeat of the former and the rise of Macedon under the reign of Philip II. This led to the Fourth Sacred War (339 BCE), which culminated in the Battle of Chaeronea (338 BCE) and the establishment of Macedonian rule over Greece.

In Delphi, Macedonian rule was superseded by the Aetolians in 279 BCE, when a Gallic invasion was repelled, and by the Romans in 191 BCE. The site was sacked by Lucius Cornelius Sulla in 86 BCE, during the Mithridatic Wars, and by Nero in 66 CE. Although subsequent Roman emperors of the Flavian dynasty contributed toward to the restoration of the site, it gradually lost importance. In the course of the third century mystery cults became more popular than the traditional Greek pantheon.

Christianity, which started as yet one more mystery cult, soon gained ground, and this eventually resulted in the persecution of pagans in the late Roman Empire. The anti-pagan legislation of the Flavian dynasty deprived ancient sanctuaries of their assets. The emperor Julian attempted to reverse this religious climate, yet his "pagan revival" was particularly short-lived. When the doctor Oreibasius visited the oracle of Delphi, in order to question the fate of paganism, he received a pessimistic answer:

Εἴπατε τῷ βασιλεῖ, χαμαὶ πέσε δαίδαλος αὐλά,
οὐκέτι Φοῖβος ἔχει καλύβην, οὐ μάντιδα δάφνην,
οὐ παγὰν λαλέουσαν, ἀπέσβετο καὶ λάλον ὕδωρ.

[Tell the king that the flute has fallen to the ground.
Phoebus does not have a home any more, neither an oracular laurel,
nor a speaking fountain, because the talking water has dried out.]

It was shut down during the persecution of pagans in the late Roman Empire by Theodosius I in 381 CE.

Amphictyonic Council

The Amphictyonic Council was a council of representatives from six Greek tribes who controlled Delphi and also the quadrennial Pythian Games. They met biannually and came from Thessaly and central Greece. Over time, the town of Delphi gained more control of itself and the council lost much of its influence.

The sacred precinct in the Iron Age

Excavation at Delphi, which was a post-Mycenaean settlement of the late ninth century, has uncovered artifacts increasing steadily in volume beginning with the last quarter of the eighth century BCE. Pottery and bronze as well as tripod dedications continue in a steady stream, in contrast to Olympia. Neither the range of objects nor the presence of prestigious dedications proves that Delphi was a focus of attention for a wide range of worshipers, but the large quantity of valuable goods, found in no other mainland sanctuary, encourages that view.

Apollo's sacred precinct in Delphi was a Panhellenic Sanctuary, where every four years, starting in 586 BCE athletes from all over the Greek world competed in the Pythian Games, one of the four Panhellenic Games, precursors of the Modern Olympics. The victors at Delphi were presented with a laurel crown (stephanos) that was ceremonially cut from a tree by a boy who re-enacted the slaying of the Python. (These competitions are also called stephantic games, after the crown.) Delphi was set apart from the other games sites because it hosted the mousikos agon, musical competitions.

These Pythian Games rank second among the four stephantic games chronologically and in importance. These games, however, were different from the games at Olympia in that they were not of such vast importance to the city of Delphi as the games at Olympia were to the area surrounding Olympia. Delphi would have been a renowned city regardless of whether it hosted these games; it had other attractions that led to it being labeled the "omphalos" (navel) of the earth, in other words, the center of the world.

In the inner hestia (hearth) of the Temple of Apollo, an 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.

Abandonment and rediscovery

The Ottomans finalized their domination over Phocis and Delphi in about 1410 CE. Delphi itself remained almost uninhabited for centuries. It seems that one of the first buildings of the early modern era was the monastery of the Dormition of Mary or of Panagia (the Mother of God) built above the ancient gymnasium at Delphi. It must have been toward the end of the fifteenth or in the sixteenth century that a settlement started forming there, which eventually ended up forming the village of Kastri.

Ottoman Delphi gradually began to be investigated. The first Westerner to describe the remains in Delphi was Ciriaco de' Pizzicolli (Cyriacus of Ancona), a fifteenth-century merchant turned diplomat and antiquarian, considered the founding father of modern classical archaeology. He visited Delphi in March 1436 and remained there for six days. He recorded all the visible archaeological remains based on Pausanias for identification. He described the stadium and the theater at that date as well as some freestanding pieces of sculpture. He also recorded several inscriptions, most of which are now lost. His identifications, however, were not always correct: for example he described a round building he saw as the temple of Apollo while this was simply the base of the Argives' ex-voto. A severe earthquake in 1500 caused much damage.

In 1766, an English expedition funded by the Society of Dilettanti included the Oxford epigraphist Richard Chandler, the architect Nicholas Revett, and the painter William Pars. Their studies were published in 1769 under the title Ionian Antiquities, followed by a collection of inscriptions, and two travel books, one about Asia Minor (1775), and one about Greece (1776). Apart from the antiquities, they also related some vivid descriptions of daily life in Kastri, such as the crude behavior of the Turco-Albanians who guarded the mountain passes.

In 1805 Edward Dodwell visited Delphi, accompanied by the painter Simone Pomardi. Lord Byron visited in 1809, accompanied by his friend John Cam Hobhouse:

Yet there I've wandered by the vaulted rill;
Yes! Sighed o'er Delphi's long deserted shrine,
where, save that feeble fountain, all is still.

He carved his name on the same column in the gymnasium as Lord Aberdeen, later Prime Minister, who had visited a few years before. Proper excavation did not start until the late nineteenth century after the village had moved.

The Archaeological Site of Delphi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

All pictures are © Dr. Günther Eichhorn, unless otherwise noted.


View Delphi Theater Above
View of Delphi with the theater above the temple of Apollo. (1.5M)
View Sacred Precinct Delphi
View of the sacred precinct of Delphi. (1336k)
View Over Delphi Serpentine
View over Delphi with the serpentine column on the left and the Temple of Apollo on the right. (873k)
Temple Apollo Above
Temple of Apollo from above. (1421k)
Temple Apollo Above
Temple of Apollo from above. (961k)
Temple Apollo
Temple of Apollo. (1389k)
Temple Apollo
Temple of Apollo. (1093k)
Serpentine Column Temple Apollo
Serpentine column with the Temple of Apollo behind it. (1024k)
Treasury Athens
Treasury of Athens. (1249k)
Left Side Theater
Left side of the theater. (1394k)
Right Side Theater
Right side of the theater. (1.6M)
Roman Agora Start Scared
Roman Agora at the start of the Scared Way. (1198k)
Votive Argos
Votive of Argos. (1411k)
Columns Votive Spartans
Columns of the votive of the Spartans. (1450k)
Polygonal Retaining Wall
Polygonal retaining wall. (1.8M)
Columns Stoa Athenians Front
Columns of the Stoa of the Athenians in front of the polygonal retaining wall. (1260k)
Sacred Omphalos Delphi Believed
Sacred Omphalos of Delphi, believed to have been thrown from the sky by Zeus. (1.6M)
Corinthian Capital Finely Carved
Corinthian capital on a finely carved marble column. (1122k)
Gymnasium Next Delphi
Gymnasium next to Delphi. (1429k)

Athena Pronaia Sanctuary at Delphi

Sanctuary Athena Pronaia
Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia. (1.6M)
Tholos Delphi Early 4th
The Tholos of Delphi from the early 4th century BCE. (1454k)
Tholos Delphi
Tholos of Delphi. (1420k)
Tholos Delphi
Tholos of Delphi. (1257k)
Inscribed Stone Next Tholos
Inscribed stone next to the Tholos. (1365k)

Museum in Delphi

Left Side North Frieze
Left side of the north frieze of the Siphnian Treasury, showing the battle of the Olympian Gods against the Giants, children of Gaia. (674k)
Right Side North Frieze
Right side of the north frieze of the Siphnian Treasury, showing the battle of the Olympian Gods against the Giants, children of Gaia. (685k)
Left Side East Frieze
Left side of the east frieze of the Siphnian Treasury, showing the gods and goddesses supporting the Trojans (from left: Ares, Aphrodite, Artemis, Apollo, and Zeus). (757k)
Ares Frieze Holding Shield
Ares on the frieze, holding his shield. (1035k)
Center East Frieze Siphnian
Center of the east frieze of the Siphnian Treasury, showing the gods and goddesses supporting the Achaeans (from left: Athena, Hera, and Demeter). (741k)
Right Side East Frieze
Right side of the east frieze of the Siphnian Treasury, showing the battle between the Trojans (left) and Achaeans (right). (705k)
Sphinx Naxos
Sphinx of Naxos. (637k)
Male Marble Statue
Male marble statue. (803k)
Female Marble Statue
Female marble statue. (853k)
Kleobis Biton Two Archaic
Kleobis and Biton, two Archaic Greek Kouros brothers from Argos, whose stories date back to about 580 BCE. (594k)
Marble Cult Statue Antinoos
Marble cult statue of Antinoos. (582k)
Bronze Statue Charioteer
Bronze statue "The Charioteer". (545k)
Caryatid Siphnian Treasury
Caryatid from the Siphnian Treasury. (659k)
Head Marble Female Statue
Head of a marble female statue from the 4th century BCE. (713k)
Head Marble Male Statue
Head of a marble male statue from late 2nd century BCE, possibly showing consul Titus Quinctius Flamininus. (656k)
Torso Chryselephantine Sculpture Apollo
Torso of the chryselephantine sculpture of Apollo with gold leaf decorations found in an pit on the Sacred Way. (679k)
Plate Showing Apollo 470
Plate showing Apollo, from 470 BCE. (573k)
Bronze Warrior Helmets
Bronze warrior helmets. (680k)

This page contains 42 pictures

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Page last updated on Sat Sep 10 12:29:01 2022 (Mountain Standard Time)

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