The History of Delphi

ancient delphi tourDelphi is Located on a plateau on the side of Mt. Parnassus above the Gulf of Corinth it is about 100 miles northwest of Athens.

For the ancient Greeks it was the navel of Mother Earth, in other words, the center of the world. If we consider that the known world for most of the people then was from the Black Sea through the Aegean and the Mediterranean to Gibraltar, we understand that this belief was more a realistic observation than an arrogant thought.

The first divinity in Delphi was Gaia, a female figure.She was wife of the sky, mother of the Titans and grandmother of the Olympian Gods. If we also think that the center of the human body is the navel, we understand why the Greeks called Delphi "the navel of the earth ".In Homeric Greek "Delfax" means uterus.

Also The name Delphi is probably derived from Delphinios, a name sometimes used for Apollo because of his supposed connection to dolphins. Greek mythology says that Zeus one day discovered that Delphi was the center of the world, when the two equally fast eagles he left from the top of mount Olympus to opposite directions met there in Delphi. In Greek mythology, like in the Old Testament,we have a deluge. The Titan Prometheus had two children: His son was Defkalion and his daughter Pyrra. Prometheus, whose name stands for the human providence in Greek, advised them, like Noah, to build a ship in which they should keep all species of fauna as a deluge would come and there would be no living soul after it. They followed his advice and after a while the storm came. It was pouring for 9 days and 9 nights non-stop. Everything was flooded. When it finally stopped, they got out of their ship and realized that they were stuck on the top of mountain Parnassus. They felt very lonely and asked their father to advise them on what to do next.He told them to go down to Delphi and consult the oracle of Mother Earth. There, the oracle they were given was advising them to pick up the relics of the ancestors and throw them behind them. They interpreted the relics as the rocks and so they were throwing stones behind them. From the first stone Defkalion threw, as soon as it touched the ground a man emerged, who was named (Hellin-Hellas). This is the origin of our name. Las-Lis =stone in ancient Greek. So Hellin is the man made out of rock. This name was used in the beginning only in central Greece and the first time it was used for all of us was the night before the sea battle of Salamina at 480 BC when during the council of the Greek admirals, the Greek official Aristidis said the following phrase: "The Greek people must be united as one".

Since the beginning of time, the Greeks worshiped here Mother Earth, Pan - god of shepherds, the Nymphs (spring fair ladies), the Muses and predominantly Apollo (the only one, unique). We only have 1 sun in our system, and that is Apollo. He was born on the island of Delos in the Aegean Sea same day with his twin sister Artemis, goddess of hunting and of the moon. Right after his birth Apollo was accepted at Olympus by his father Zeus and the other gods, although he was an illegitimate child of Zeus and the mortal Leto. In order to become master-god of Delphi, Apollo killed with his arrows the sacred snake Python - guardian of the sanctuary of Gaia. The metaphor here is that the sun rays are the arrows of the god in which chase away the darkness and the ignorance. Because of that murder, Apollo is also known at Delphi as "Phithoctonos" (the one who killed the python). Because a god cannot kill in order to get what he wants and thus give the wrong morale example to people, Apollo exiled himself for seven years in the country of the Hyperborean (Distant North) where he worked as a slave. After his exile Apollo came back to Delphi sanctuary in the form of a Dolphin accompanied by Cretans who built the temple of Apollo.

He was worshiped for the following 1500 years. From March until November was the worshiping time of Apollo, while from November until March Dionysus - the god of wine was worshiped there. This way, the sanctuary of Delphi belonged to Apollo the 2/3 of the year and 1/3 to Dionysus. In the same way, the ancient Greeks drank their wine science. That is they mixed 2/3 water and 1/3 wine. So Apollo accepts Dionysus, god of drunkenness of instincts but also of invasions, inspiration and creative passion. So the two gods coexist in Delphi in harmony, completing one another. Also at Delphi worshiped the goddess Athena.

The Tholos at the sanctuary of Athena Pronoia is a circular building that was constructed between 380 and 360 BC. It consisted of 20 Doric columns arranged with an exterior diameter of 14.76 meters, with 10 Corinthian columns in the interior. The Tholos is located approximately a half a mile (800 m) from the main ruins at Delphi.

The Delphic oracle became internationally known for the oracular powers of Pythia, the priestess who sat on a tripod,inhaled ethylene gasses, and muttered incomprehensible words that foretold the future. The Sacred Spring of Delphi is in the ravine of Phaedriades. There were two fountains fed by the spring, but they were destroyed. Today scientists believe they have an explanation for the predictions: intoxicating fumes rising from fault lines beneath Delphi. Ethylene, a sweet-smelling gas with a narcotic effect, is in spring water around the site. Inhalation of ethylene, combined with the social expectations of the women, could lead to the euphoric behavior reported in the legends. Delphic predictions could have considerable influence on the politics and religion around Greece. Most leaders consulted the Oracle of Delphi before any major move and her advice was respected by all involved. That doesn't mean that everyone understood her, however. The meaning of the oracle was ambiguous. Croesus of Lydia went to Delphi before invading Persia and was informed "if you do, you will destroy a great empire." Croesus assumed this meant he would win, but in fact he would lose - the great empire destroyed was his own.

There were many things at Delphi aside from Apollo's sanctuary. An extensive group of buildings are arranged along a path called the Sacred Way through the Parnassus Mountains. There was a theater made of white marble, a stadium that could hold 7,000 people, a gymnasium with covered and open-air race tracks, and the sanctuary of Athena Pronaia. Little remains today, though. The setting is still dramatic and awe-inspiring, but the Greek religious temples and other sacred structures are gone.

The Treasury of Athens from the Temple of Apollo was built around 500 BC and designed to display spoils from the battle of Marathon. Measuring 10m x 6m, cultic objects, votive offerings, and various documents were stored inside. Many city - states erected treasuries around Delphi to house gifts made by the cities to Apollo in appreciation for his oracles and other assistance to them.
Although the power and influence of Delphi was once great, it eventually waned and disappeared once Christianity became the dominant religion of Greece. In 362 AC the Oracle stated that the god would no longer speak there, although some think that she was bribed by Christians to do so, and emperor Theodosius officially closed the temple in 393 AC.

 

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