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Exploring the history of Delphi: the centre of the ancient world


Why was Delphi one of the most important places in the ancient world for so long? Michael Scott’s new book provides the first comprehensive narrative history of Delphi; an extraordinary sanctuary and city, from its founding to its modern rediscovery.

Delphi: A History of the Center of the Ancient World sees Dr Scott, Assistant Professor of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Warwick, cover the whole history and nature of Delphi; from the literary and archaeological evidence surrounding the site, to its rise as a centre of worship and the constant appeal of the oracle despite her cryptic prophecies.

The oracle and sanctuary of the Greek god Apollo at Delphi were known as the "omphalos"- the "centre" or "navel"--of the ancient world for more than 1000 years.

Individuals, city leaders, and kings came from all over the Mediterranean and beyond to consult Delphi's oracular priestess; to set up monuments to the gods in gold, ivory, bronze, marble, and stone; and to take part in athletic and musical competitions.

Scott describes how Delphi became a contested sacred site for Greeks and Romans and a storehouse for the treasures of rival city-states and foreign kings. He also examines the eventual decline of the site and how its meaning and importance have continued to be reshaped right up to the present.

Finally, for the modern visitor to Delphi, he includes a brief guide that highlights key things to see and little-known treasures.

Tom Holland, author of Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West said, “Like the two eagles released by Zeus from opposite ends of the world who then met in Delphi, Michael Scott gets to the heart of antiquity's most celebrated and enigmatic oracle. A vivid and lucid study that reanimates the mentality of those who consulted Apollo more convincingly than any other I have read.”


Michael’s other books include From Democrats to Kings: The Brutal Dawn of a New World from the Downfall of Athens to the Rise of Alexander the Great (Overlook). He has also written and presented a number of ancient history documentaries for National Geographic, the History channel, Nova, and the BBC, including one on Delphi.

Delphi: A History of the Center of the Ancient World is available now through Princeton University Press.

For more information, contact Kelly Parkes-Harrison, Senior Press and Communications Manager,, 02476 150868, 07824 540863

PR48 LH 2nd April 2014