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Delphi and the Oracle: A Journey in Mystical Greece

Delphi or Delfoi, the Oracle and the Museum

The ancient Greeks believed that Delphi was the navel or center of the Earth. According to the legend, Zeus, the father of gods and men, left free two eagles to define the east and west with their flying and the two birds, having toured the world, met over Delphi.

Delphi tours
Visit Delphi with a private or shared coach tour from Athens

The History of Delphi

delphi in greece

The history of Delphi begins prehistorically and within the ancient Greek myths. The Oracle of Delphi was dedicated to Mother Earth (goddess Gaia) and was guarded by a terrible huge serpent called Python.

God Apollo killed the Python according to mythology. The sanctuary of Apollo was built by the Cretans who arrived at the port of Delphi called Kirra, accompanied by the god in the form of a dolphin. This myth about Apollo survived throughout the years and was depicted in festive representations made in Delphi, the Septiria, the Dolphins, the Thargileia, the Epiphany, and the famous Pythia, which were organized to celebrate the victory of God vs. the serpent and consisted of both musical and athletic competitions. The name Delphi is said to have originated from the ancient Greek word delfis, meaning dolphin.

The Oracle of Delphi

The Oracle was the main magnet for Ancient Greek people. The priestess of the Oracle of Delphi called Pythia was, sitting on a tripod with her head covered with a cloth, and laurel leafs burning at the base of the tripod and would foresee the future or give advice on what action to take based on the will of Apollo. Cities, leaders, and everyday people alike consulted the oracle of Delphi and expressed their gratitude with great gifts and money, also spreading its fame.

The oracle of Delphi was famous all over the world and its launch is lost in the depths of antiquity and myth. It is believed that the Delphic oracle gave decisive predictions about a number of events, such as the flood of Deucalion, the expedition of the Argonauts, and the Trojan War. Moreover, the great role of the Oracle of Delphi in the foundation and development of Greek colonies is undeniable (The History Of The Greeks). The mystical prophecies were expressed in one way or syntax that people were able to give them more than one explanation.

Delphi tours
Visit Delphi with a private or shared coach tour from Athens

The Archaeological Site Of Delphi

delphi greece
Pictures of Delphi

The oldest findings in the Delphi archaeological site date back to the Neolithic period (4000 BC). Within the sanctuary, the archaeologists found a Mycenaean settlement and cemetery.

The traces of habitation are fragmentary and quite rare till the 8th century BC, a period in which the cult of Apollo prevailed and the construction of his sanctuary and oracle begun.

In the late 7th century BC the first temples of Apollo and Goddess Athena were built and were made of stone. Goddess Athena was also officially venerated with the name “Athena Pronaia” and had a sanctuary of her own. According to archaeological and literary evidence, there were other Gods worshiped at Delphi as well, including Artemis, Poseidon, Dionysus, Hermes, Zeus Poliefs, Health, and Eileithyia.

The Emperor Theodosius ordered the closure of the most important ancient temples, including the Delphi and Olympia, as well as the disruption of the Olympic Games, and revolted against illegal all religious ceremonies that were connected with the Greek Twelve Gods. That was the end of Delphi as a religious site.

Delphi was excavated in 1891-93 by French archaeologists.  The discovery of Delphi caused considerable international interest and emotion and the place has become an international center of cultural and artistic events and meetings.
Most of the ruins found today at the Delphi site are witness to the pinnacle of the region which was reached in the 6th c. B.C., and are a testament to the immense and multidimensional cultural influences that hovered over the sanctuary for almost a millennium.

The Museum of Delphi

the charioteer at delphi museum
The Charioteer or Eniochos

The Museum of Delphi is one of the best museums Greece has to offer, as it shelters some very important works of art from ancient Greece.

Most famous among the exhibitions in the museum of Delphi is the Omphalos (or navel of the earth), the frieze from the treasury of the Syphnians, the frieze from the Treasury of the Athenians, the Kouroi Kleovis and Biton, and the Charioteer of Delphi.

The Delphi Charioteer is a bronze statue that has its own room in the new museum of Delphi, as it is considered a masterpiece of the ancient world.  The statue was dedicated in 470 BCE by Polyzalus, the tyrant of Gela in Sicily, who won the race during the Pythian games. The statue was part of a sculptural complex that included four horses, a chariot, and two handlers. While the Charioteer survived almost intact, what was left of the rest of the complex is exhibited in the same room.

Beyond these art masterpieces from ancient Greece, the museum of Delphi houses a plethora of other important artifacts and art from the Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman eras.

Delphi tours
Visit Delphi with a private or shared coach tour from Athens