Delphi, Greece – Site of the Oracle
Once upon a time, when the Greek gods roamed the earth, the god of sun and light Apollo slew the serpent Python, who is the son of the earth mother Gaia. In the spirit of Greek mythology, Apollo was punished to do menial service for years before he could return and be forgiven (presumably by his dad Zeus). Humans though were grateful that he killed Python, so they built a temple to commemorate his victory.
This very spot is now the Archeological Site of Delphi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site about 2-2.5 hours away from Athens. It costs modern human €9 to enter includes the museum or €6 for just the site.
Delphi is tucked away in the beautiful mountainous countryside of Greece. We absolutely enjoyed our picturesque journey from Athens to Delphi and back.
The main building – now ruins – in Delphi is Temple of Apollo. It is home of the Delphic Oracle, who is the most important, the most prestigious, the most authoritative Oracle in the Ancient Greek world, called Pythia. Pythia is chosen among the priestess in Apollo temple. Once chosen she leaves all her worldly duties and acts as the voice of the god. She goes into trance and makes prophecies. (It is said that Delphic Oracle predicted the fall of Troy.)
Nowadays researchers theorize that gas emitted in the area inspired Pythia’s possibly hallucinogenic state. As expressed by painter John Collier below.
Imagine ancient pilgrims from all over the place having to climb up the mountain on foot to reach Delphi. No road, no motor vehicle. It was a long and arduous task. They came with specific questions in mind to ask the oracle, and leave with answers they would.
To commemorate the victory of Apollo, people at the time held a game every four years in which athletes from all over the Greek world competed. Does that remind you of the other certain game that we know? Yes, Pythian Games – as they called it – was the second biggest sport festival in Ancient Greece after the Olympic Games, and they were run alternately (each every four years).
One thing that was different though, there was a musical competition! That explains the theatre:
More fun facts:
The distances between Athens to Delphi, Delphi to Olympia, and Olympia to Athens are the same, making them a perfect triangle.
Classical legend asserted that Delphi marked the center of the Earth and explained that this spot was determined by Zeus who had released two eagles to fly from opposite sides of the earth and that they had met exactly over this place.
So Delphi was a pilgrimage site and an Olympic-equivalent site. What a busy place, not to mention all those gods and serpent and magical fortune teller. In my modern human mind, it is a bit hard to comprehend why people had a religious site at a sport stadium or a major sport game at a holy place. It’s like having the Olympic games at Vatican City. Weird much?!
In any way, everything in Delphi existed in respect of the god Apollo – the temples, the games, the oracle speaking on behalf of Apollo. If Athens and the Acropolis is dedicated for Athena, Delphi is dedicated for Apollo.
By a nice coincidence, as a child I had Athena as my favorite Greek goddess and Apollo as my favorite Greek god. So once again things just fall really nicely for little mee :)
So that concludes my series on Athens – Greece! I would be doing series of Rome and Vatican next, though I might interject that with some of my shorter trips in England (by request of a reader). Let me know if you have a request too and I might shuffle things around a bit!