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Temple of Apollo, Delphi

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Archaeological Development

Delphi was one of the most prominent oracles in the Ancient World, and people travelled vast distances to consult the oracle. The Temple of Apollo at Delphi was rebuilt in the fourth century on the same foundations as existed in the 6th century [1]. The archaic temple was completed by the Alkmaionids (an Athenian aristocratic family in exile during the tyranny of the Peisistratids); they replaced the limestone on the front entrance of the temple with marble [2]. The rebuilt temple is the one visible today and it was established after a landslide in 373BC [3]. Despite this, it kept the layout and style of the archaic temple which existed before this. [4].

The temple itself is 21.68 metres by 58.18 metres (and 6 x 15 columns) [5]. Compared to other temples, the Temple of Apollo at Delphi is rather long which was due to it housing a longer cella at the end of which the Pythia was [6]. The cella contained the omphalos (the stone signifying the centre point of the world), a laurel tree, a statue of Apollo, and the grave of Dionysus [7].

The front porch had pillars on which maxims of the Seven Wise Men were inscribed [8]. These included phrases like "Nothing in excess" and "Know thyself" [9].
At the entrance there is a small forecourt, and the altar and steps are made of a dark limestone, and even in the foundations of the temple there is no clear trace of the chamber of the oracle [10].

Pausanias reports how there were 4 temples on these foundations and extends the origin of Delphi to before the Olympian gods [11].


The main deity honoured at the Temple of Apollo, Delphi, was obviously Apollo. The Homeric hymn, which dated around late seventh to middle sixth century BC [12], describes how Apollo slew the Python [13].
Thus, Apollo Pythios was heavily associated with Delphi. His nature was one focussed primarily on knowledge, and bringing order to chaos. He was also linked to music, the bow, and, of course, divination [14]. Different to other epithets as it stressed his connection to divination more than his skills at healing and his position as a protector [15].

Earlier versions of the temple also saw the worship of Chthonian deities [16], and even in the fifth century BC there was a cult and sanctuary of Gaia within the main sanctuary of Apollo [17].

Ritual Activity


At Delphi, Apollo was hailed as the “Prince of Sacrificers” or the “Prince of Butchers and Cooks”, at Delphi it was customary that anything left over after the sacrifice be left on the altar to coagulate and form a visceral crust. This was pleasing to Apollo, who by this time had developed a taste for sacrificial leavings.


Dedication of the Acanthus Column

IG II3 4 17Date: Mid-iv BC

. . . dedicated [to Apollo?]. . . decree . . .. . . [of the People?] of the Athenians.[1]

Honours for Charixenos of Aitolia

IG II3 1 1007Date: Ca. 250 BC

. . .. . . sacred recorder . . .. . . for good fortune, the Council shall decide:that the presiding committee allotted to presideat the coming Assembly shall put the matter5 on the agenda and submit the opinion of the Councilto the People, that it seems good to the Council topraise Charixenos son of Kydrion of Aitolia andto crown him with a gold crown according to thelaw for his excellence and love of honour for10 the Athenian People . . ..

Concerning an alliance with the Aitolians

IG II3 1 958Date: Ca. 268–266 BC

. . .. . . ; and the prytany secretary shall inscribethis decree on a stone stele and stand it on the acropolis; and for [the making][of the stele and for the inscription] the board of administrators shall allocate [the expenditure accrued].. . . of Halai, Aristodemos . . .

Decrees of the Aitolians and Amphiktyons follow[1]

Dedication of the religious officials who led the Pythais

IG II3 4 18Date: ca. 330-325 BC

The People of the Athenians dedicated (this) to Apollo.[1]The religious officials who led the Pythais:[2]

col. 1

Phanodemos son of DiyllosVIIIBoethos son of NausinikosV5 Lykourgos son of LykophronVIDemades son of DemeasIIIKlearchos son of NausiklesX

col. 2

Glauketes son of GlaukosIVNeoptolemos son of AntiklesVII10 Kleochares son of GlauketesIHippokrates son of AristokratesIXNikeratos son of NikiasII.[3]

Dedication at Delphi

IG II3 4 19Date: 300-250 BC (?)

In laurel crown The Athenian People at (?) the Pythian Games.[1]


The temple of Apollo also hosted the Pythian games. The word Pyth-, in all its many forms, is closely associated with Apollo. Its original meaning in greek is “rot” or “decay”, but it also refers to Python, and subsequently to Apollo’s killing of Python, and her body being left to rot beneath the earth. This could explain Apollos appreciation for gore and viscera.

The Pythian games were one of the four Panhellenic games, and were held every four years in honor of Apollo.

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Rules and Regulations

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Other Activities

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Historical Significance

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Who used the site, and where did they come from? 

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Select Site Bibliography

Emerson, M. (2007) Greek Sanctuaries: An Introduction (Bristol Classical Press: London)
Middleton, J.H. (1988) 'The Temple of Apollo at Delphi' in The Journal of Hellenic Studies (Vol.9: The Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies) 282-322
Scott, M. (2014) Delphi: A History of the Center of the Ancient World (Princeton University Press)
Spawforth, T. (2006) The Complete Greek Temples (Thames and Hudson Ltd: London)
Tomlinson, R.A. (1989) Greek Architecture (Bristol Classical Press: London)


[1] Tomlinson (1989) 46.
[2] Emerson (2007) 36.
[3] Emerson (2007) 39.
[4] Emerson (2007) 39.
[5] Tomlinson (1989) 84.
[6] Tomlinson (1989) 84.
[7] Emerson (2007) 40.
[8] Spawforth (2006) 171.
[9] Emerson (2007) 40.
[10] Emerson (2007) 40.
[11] Scott (2014) 53.
[12] Scott (2014) 52.
[13] Middleton (1988) 286.
[14] Scott (2014) 53.
[15] Scott (2014) 54.
[16] Middleton (1988) 284.
[17] Scott (2014) 54.


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