Project Description

At the foot of Mount Parnassus in Phocis, Delphi is the site of a Panhellenic sanctuary, where the oracle of Apollo spoke through his prophetess, the Pythia. It also oncludes the Omphalos or “Navel of the World”. Invested with sacred meaning, Delphi was between the 5th to the 4th century BC the true center and symbol of unity of the Greek world.

Greece, it is of course not just its capital city, Athens. I actually spent more time in the other major attractions of mainland Greece than walking on the famous Acropolis. This is again the case today, when I begin my journey to Delphi, once again with an organized tour, definitely handy to visit some remote areas! Delphi is a small village that “lives” only thanks to tourism. With its two main streets lined with restaurants, shops and hotels, one quickly see all of it. However, this small village is still considered the “navel of the world.” In fact, a few kilometers from the city is situated a stunning archaeological site whom visitors from around the world come to admire every year. And now it’s my turn!

Delphi in ancient times had a considerable moral and religious influence. The legend says that the first sanctuary was guarded by a terrible dragon who was terrorizing the country, Pytho. One day, Apollo released two eagles from both ends of the earth and they met at Delphi, which became the center of the world. When Apollo came to Delphi, he killed Pytho, but was sentenced to herding for the King of Thessaly to purify himself from the murder. Since then, the shrine was dedicated to the god Apollo.

Delphi had a very important political role and was a key element of Greek civilization. Its influence stems mainly from its oracle, the Pythia. No political decision was taken without any consultation with the Pythia. At that time and until the Roman conquest, wealth that was heaped on the site was gigantic. It was also coveted, first by the Persians in 480 and by the Gauls in 279 BC. Until the 2nd century AD, the sanctuary was respected. However, it declined during the 3rd century with the disappearance of paganism (pagan religion). It is then during the 19e century that the site reappeared. In 1893, after lengthy negotiations, the village of Delphi was completely moved and a large archaeological site led by the French School of Athens began. Since then, many treasures and wonderful finds were recovered. It is the most visited site in Greece after the Acropolis in Athens and we can understand why once there.

As soon as we arrived, we already feel the magic of the place. We start our tour from the entrance on the bottom of the site and we go through it up to the stadium, which offers a magnificent view of the valley.

The archaeological site of Delphi consists of two sanctuaries: one dedicated to Apollo and a more modest one, reserved for Athena Pronaia. The Marmaria site contains the temple of Athena Pronaia, built in the late sixth century BC. Beside this temple are situated the altars of Zeus and Athena. Inscriptions which were deciphered on these altars mention Hygeia, goddess of health and Ilithyia, goddess of childbirth. Part of these two marble treasures, buildings of with luxurious offerings dating from the fifth and sixth centuries BC, was also retained. Beside this temple is one of the most popular monuments of this site, the “Tholos” dating from 370 BC. The tholos is a circular building with a perfect design. Its marble comes from Athens.

The huge gym dates from 330 BC and served as a training ground for athletes participating in the Pythian Games. This is the largest sports complex in ancient Greece. You can still see the arena for the wrestlers and the round pool. The sanctuary of Apollo is an amazing site. Winding through the sanctuary, the Sacred Way is a path made of stones on each side with spaces to house statues of war heroes. On the Sacred Way are the treasure of Sicyon and a little further the treasure of Sifnos. Going up the Sacred Way, we can admire one of the best preserved buildings of Delphi, the Treasury of the Athenians, built in the fifth century BC. In this treasure were discovered amazing documents, including hymns to Apollo, which can be seen today inside the archaeological museum.

In the middle of the sanctuary was erected the great Temple of Apollo in the fourth century BC. It is here that the Pythia went into a trance. Above is the theater, dating from the same era. It could accommodate 5,000 spectators and the Greeks celebrated the Delphic festivals in honor of Apollo. At the top of the site, we finally reach the stadium where took place the famous Pythian games. There is a lot of people here, but I eventually make my way in just to be disappointed as the stadium does not really reflect the splendor of the rest of the archaeological site. So I go back towards the entrance while enjoying views of the surrounding mountains.

Despite its tourist aspect (like loads of other places in Greece), the archaeological site of Delphi was simply amazing and a very knowledgable tour. It clearly worth the trip from Athens, especially if you are travelling by yourself or even with an organized tour. These often offer tours of several days during which you’ll surely make a stop at Delphi. Yes, these trips are not cheap but they have full benefits (transportation, accommodation, etc.). See for yourself! We then drive to Kalambaka, where we spend the night. Tomorrow, I will visit the Meteora Monasteries!