Welcome to the Oracle, to one of the most important archaeological sites in the world, to a place where everyone learns the true meaning of the word "awe."
Even if you are not the “museum” type, Delphi offers a broad spectrum of activities and wonderful modern facilities. Trekking, climbing, and nature walks are just a few of the many activities that you can enjoy. Delphi has a superb tourist infrastructure, with many restaurants and souvenir shops. Its hotels are both traditional and contemporary in style, and represent both the Greece of tradition and the Greece of 2005, a member of the European Community.
Delphi, The Myth and the History
The myth recounts that at a certain moment Zeus released two eagles, one from the East and the other from the West. At the point where they met, he threw the Sacred Stone, marking the center of the earth - the navel of the world. The cave, where the divinity Gaia (Mother Earth) used to utter her prophecies, was guarded by her son, the serpent Python, and dates from the second millennium BC (Mycenaean period). It was located on the way from the Gulf of Corinth to Central and Northern Greece, in a region then called Pytho. When the god Apollo was an infant, he killed Python, at the same time abandoning Delphi to purify himself. After the purification took place, he returned to Delphi, was crowned, and took over the Oracle, which from then on belonged to him.
Apart from the mythical implications, this act symbolised the introduction of the worship of Delphinios Apollo at Krissa (a town in Phokis, today Hrisso) by the seamen of Knossos. The god became known as Apollo Pythias, and the area was called Delphi from that time on. At first the Oracle was under the strict domination of Krisa; it was liberated in 590 BC, and it is from this date that the true history and fame of Delphi essentially began.
A number of Sacred Wars broke out for control of the Oracle. The Phokians, Amphissans, and even the Athenians vied to avail themselves of its great wealth, interfering with the independence of the priests and the little world that revolved about them. In 191 BC the Romans became masters of Delphi. This was a period of great waves of pillaging raids, but also attempts to revive the Oracle. However, nothing could halt Delphi's decline, and eventually it ceased to be regarded as the navel of the world.
One of the most incredible aspects of the Oracle's vast reach can be demonstrated in its power over the prevailing international law of that time. Its edict affected all of mankind and prohibited, among other things, the pollution of water sources and the tampering or destruction of aqueducts. In an ever more reaching edict, one to be adopted by modern society a great many generations later, was the prohibition of the execution of prisoners of war, something that the modern Geneva Convention would adopt and enforce.
The Archaeological Site
The archaeological site of Delphi, in a terrain that only the gods could have devised, is one of the most important ancient relics of Greece. The magnitude of the Delphi contribution to all of ancient civilization cannot be overstated.
The first excavations here began in 1838 and were completed in 1935. The Sanctuary of Apollo with the Treasuries (buildings where the city-states kept votive offerings and religious vessels), the temples, and the peribolos (enclosure) lie on the south flank of Mt. Parnassos, to your right if you are coming from Arahova. The center of the Sanctuary is dominated by the Doric Temple of Apollo.
The Sacred Way leads to the Temple and is lined with Treasuries, monuments and offerings. Northwest of the Temple is the theater with 5,000 seats, where the Delphic Festivals were held, which had as a central theme the representation of Apollo's victory over the serpent Python. Rather further to the west, and somewhat above the theater, lies the Stadium where the Pythian Games took place every four years.
To the right of the entrance to the Sanctuary is the Kastalian Fountain, where Pythia washed before speaking her prophecies, and on the left and below the road stands the Sanctuary of Athena; finds have shown that it had been dedicated as early as the Mycenaean era to a female deity. The tholos or rotunda, one of the most remarkable architectural constructions of antiquity, stands next to it. It is not known what this building was used for.
The Museum of Delphi is considered among the three most important museums in Greece, together with the ones of the Acropolis of Athens and in Heraklion, Crete. What makes a visit to the Greek Museums in general, this one in particular, an unforgettable experience, is the fact that they usually exist on the very archaeological site(s), thus putting the exhibits in the surroundings in which they were initially established, in close relevance to their cultural and/or religious role.
The first museum of Delphi was built in 1903 on the plans of the French architect Tournaire, and was later incorporated in a larger edifice constructed in 1938. The rearrangement of the exhibition was carried out gradually and was finally completed in 1980. A new room was added in 1974 for the exhibition of the gold and ivory finds from the sanctuary. A project for the further enlargement of the museum, which has improved the display of the finds, as well as the appearance of the building, has already been realized by the Ministry of Culture, with the museum now featuring bioclimatic methods of lighting, windows with “invisible” panes, and trail-blazing fragment preservation and reassembling; for this reason it was kept closed for nearly one year.
This ground floor museum, as already mentioned, is actually an integral part of the sanctuary and, in its 13 Galleries, it houses some very important sculptures from Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic Greece, including the Navel of the World (a Hellenistic or Roman copy of the Sacred Stone); the Sphinx of the Naxians (550 BC); the statue of Antinoos; the statue of Aghias; the group of Thyiads (three colossal female figures portrayed dancing around a flowered column from the Sanctuary of Dionysus); the Metopes from the Treasuries of Sicyon and Athens; the Karyatid and Zephyr from the Treasury of Siphnos; the Head of Dionysus; pottery; more figures and friezes from the various treasuries; the two Kouros statues known as Kleovis and Biton; gold and ivory offerings from the Sanctuary and, above all, the Charioteer of Delphi, now given the luxury of occupying a whole gallery of his own. Actually, the wealth of this museum makes a Guided Tour indispensable.
This model reproduces the Apollo Sanctuary as described by the 2nd century A.D. traveler, Pausanias. The Oracle is surrounded by ancient Wall, which is exactly above the main road. According to researchers, the ancient town used to be around it but it has not been adequately studied and thus, not included in this reproduction.
Positioning of the numerous important monuments in this model has been made according to the latest research on the Sanctuary. On both sides of the Holy road there are reproductions of the ancient well-known offerings, of which only the foundations exist today (Only a wooden offering was found in the sanctuary)