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Delphi


Archaeological Development

The Archaeological site of Delphi grew alongside its immense influence that it had on the ancient Greek world. It transformed from a small village into a vast but exquisite landmark for sacred sites within Greek religion all over the Mediterranean.

Excavations of the sanctuary date as further back as the Neolithic era, however the most prominent evidence seems to come from the Mycenaean period (1600-1100 BC). Most of the ruins that survive today are traced back to the 6th c BC, when the site reached its pinnacle. They represent the site's diverse cultural influences that had affected Delphi for nearly a millennium.

Excavations-

The first temple in the sanctuary was built around 7 BCE, which was itself a replacement structure for less substantial religious buildings before. When a fire in 548 BCE destroyed the Doric temple of Apollo, the Alcmeonids reconstructed another Doric temple in 510 BCE (60mx24m, facade: 6 columns, sides: 15 columns). The temple was then destroyed again, this time by an earthquake in 373 BCE. It was replaced with a similar modeled temple in 330 BCE. Marble sculpture was also added alongside Persian shields taken from the Battle of Marathon. In 4 c BCE a theatre was built seating 5,000 spectators and temples to Athena. And in 580 BCE a tools with 13 Doric columns, stoats, a stadium that seated 7,000 spectators and 20 treasuries was implanted.


Gods/Heroes

Delphi was a religious sanctuary dedicated to the god Apollo. It took on its religious significance from around 800 BCE and was originally named Pytho after the snake that Apollo believed to have killed there.

The sanctuary was most famous for holding the home of the Oracle of Apollo which produced mystical predictions and advice for those who seeked it. As mentioned in the Homeric hymn to Apollo, the god slayed the sacred python that was kept at Delphi by Mother Earth, and kept the Oracle for him to communicate with mortals. The Pythia only gave prophecies on the seventh day of each month, seven being the number most associated with Apollo, during the nine winter months of the year.

The temple was changed to a central worshipping site for the god Apollo during the classical period of Greece, priests were added, however the oracular consultation with the Pythia remained untouched.

Even though the sanctuary was mainly centered on the god Apollo, the sanctuary did house temples to Athena.

Ritual Activity

Sacrifice-

Sacrifices were made before the consultation of the oracle.

  • Sacred priests of Apollo and assistants of the Pythia would usually sacrifice a goat at the temple's large altar.

Dedications-

There were 20 treasuries built on the sacred site to house the votive offerings and dedications from Greek city-states all over. Monuments were erected for military victories, e.g. The Spartan commander Lysander erected a monument for his victory over Athens at Aegospotami. Other well-known monuments include the great bronze Bull of Corcyra (580 BCE), ten statues of the Kings of Argos (369 BCE), a gold four-horse chariot offered by Rhodes and a bronze statue of the Trojan Horse by the Argives (413 BCE).


Festivals-

Pythian Games-

Every four years, one of the four Pan Hellenic games, called the Pythian games was held in The Sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi. The games were held between the Nemean and Ishtmian games and was held in the honour of Apollo. It featured competitions for art and dance, it was said to have begun when Apollo defeated Python (earth dragon of Delphi) which caused him to set up the Oracle of Delphi. The games were initially a reminder and a commemoration of Apollo’s victory.

As well as the art and dance competitions, athletic games were also held. In addition, solo singers also accompanied themselves on a kithara to sing hymns to Apollo.

The site and games were managed and run by a council of near-by city states, known as the Delphic amphictiony.


Rules and Regulations

note here any rules and regulations relating to sanctuary use that have been found inscribed in and around the site.

Other Activities

ORACLE OF DELPHI

Historical Significance

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

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Select Site Bibliography

Ananiades, D. Ancient Greece: Temples & Sanctuaries. Toubis, Athens, 2010.
Hornblower, S. The Oxford Classical Dictionary. OUP, Oxford, 2012.
Kolonia, R. Delphi Archaeological Museum. MOCARF, Athens.


Footnotes

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Location

The Sanctuary was located on Mount Parnassus, near the Gulf of Corinth.

According to greek mythology Delphi was considered to be the centre of the world. It was believed that Zeus released two eagles, one to the east and one to the west, and it was Delphi that was the point they met. This 'point' was represented by the omphalos, a dome shaped stone which was placed outside Apollo's temple. It also happened to be the spot where Apollo killed the python.

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Site Plan

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