The Archaeological Site of Delphi
Delphi is renowned as the ancient sanctuary which was the home of the Oracle of Delphi which was consulted about vital decisions throughout the ancient classical world. The Greeks considered Delphi the navel of the world and the Oracle had a phenomenal influence in the ancient world, as demonstrated by the rich monuments built there by most of the important ancient Greek city-states.
Oracle of Delphi
The central site of ancient Delphi is located on a plateau along the slope of Mount Parnassus which includes the Sanctuary of Apollo, the location of the ancient Oracle. Delphi is best known for its Oracle, the Pythia, a priestess at the sanctuary dedicated to Apollo. Apollo spoke through his Oracle of Delphi, who was a priestess in an inner sanctum where she sat on a tripod seat over an opening chasm in the earth. Sitting over a crack in the ground, she would become intoxicated by the vapours, and she would fall into a trance, allowing Apollo to possess her spirit. In this trance maintained state, she prophesied.
While in a trance the Pythia “raved” and her ravings were translated and interpreted by the priests of the temple into elegant verse, which often had ambiguity integrated into the answer. It has been speculated that the oracular effects were due to vapours escaping from the chasm in the rock. Today there is a debate as to whether the fumes escaping from the earth were sweet-smelling ethylene or other hydrocarbons such as ethane which is known to produce trances. Others speculate that the priestess used specific plants to inspire her prophecies. Several alternative plant candidates have been suggested including Cannabis, Hyoscyamus, Rhododendron and Oleander.
The Delphic Oracle was consulted before all major undertakings including wars and the founding of colonies. In addition to the Greek states, she also was respected by the Greek-influenced countries around the periphery of the Greek world and later some Roman Emperors. Delphi’s influence eroded with the rise of Christianity across the Roman Empire, although the oracle remained a religious centre until the 4th century.
The Pythian Games were one of the four Panhellenic Games of Ancient Greece. They were held in honour of Apollo every four years at his sanctuary at Delphi. They were held two years after each Olympic Games. The Pythian Games were founded in the 6th century BC and featured competitions for art and dance.
Highlights of the Archaeological Site of Delphi
- Temple of Apollo (Delphi)
- Athenian Treasury
- Stoa of the Athenians
- Theatre at Delphi
- Tholos of Delphi
- Manumission Inscriptions at Delphi
- Delphic Maxims
- Athena Pronaia Sanctuary
- Delphi Archaeological Museum
- The ‘Twins’ of Argos – Photo Gallery
- Charioteer of Delphi – Photo Gallery
- National Archaeological Museum of Athens – Photo Gallery
- Greek Museums
- Do we have an equivalent to the ‘Oracle of Delphi’ in our modern world? Is it Google and other search engines?
- Why did the ancient world need Oracles?
- Why were the ancients critically interested in identifying the navel or centre of the world?
Archaeological Site of Delphi
- Title: Archaeological Site of Delphi
- Date: The Pythia was established by 8th century BC
- Material: Marble, limestone, Stone
- Town: Delphi
- Greek: Δελφοί
- Country: Greece
“Love of money and nothing else will ruin Sparta.”
– Oracle of Delphi
Photo Credit: JOM