Delphi - home of the oracle

About Delphi - home of the oracle

At the foot of Mount Parnassos in a spectacular setting lies the Pan-Hellenic sanctuary of Delphi, which had the most famous oracle in ancient Greece. According to mythology, it is here that the two eagles, sent out by Zeus from the ends of the universe to find the navel of the world, met. Delphi was therefore regarded as the centre of the world.The sanctuary of Delphi was for many centuries the cultural and religious centre and symbol of unity for the Hellenic world.

Between the sixth and fourth centuries BC, the Delphic oracle, which was regarded as the most trustworthy, was at its peak. It was delivered by the Pythia, the priestess, and interpreted by the priests of Apollo. Cities, rulers and ordinary individuals alike consulted the oracle, expressing their gratitude with great gifts and spreading its fame around the world.

The oracle was thought to have existed since the dawn of time. It was believed to have successfully predicted events related to the Argonaut's expedition and the Trojan War. It was the oracle's fame and prestige that caused two Sacred Wars in the middle of the fifth and fourth centuries BC. In the third century BC, the sanctuary was conquered by the Aetolians, who were driven out by the Romans in 191 BC. In Roman times, the sanctuary was favoured by some emperors and plundered by others, including Sulla in 86 BC.

The site had been occupied by the village of Kastri since medieval times and this had to be relocated before a systematic excavation of the site could be undertaken, a relocation resisted by the residents. The opportunity to relocate the village was presented when it was substantially damaged by an earthquake, with villagers offered a completely new village in exchange for the old site. In 1893 the French Archaeological School removed vast quantities of soil from numerous landslides to reveal both the major buildings and structures of the sanctuary of Apollo and of Athena Proaea along with thousands of objects, inscriptions and sculptures.

Four areas of the site have been reconstructed to greater of lesser extents. The Treasury of the Athenians was fully reconstructed from its original materials by the original French excavation team under the sponsorship of the Mayor of Athens. The Altar of the Chians was reconstructed in 1959 by the Greek Archaeological Services. The Tholos and Temple of Apollo have been subject to limited reconstructions.

Modern Delphi is situated immediately west of the archaeological site and is a popular tourist destination. It is on a major highway linking Amfissa along with Itea and Arachova. There are many hotels and guest houses in the town, and many taverns and bars. The main streets are narrow, and often one-way.

The Trans European Footpath E4 passes through the east end of the town. In addition to the archaeological interest, Delphi attracts tourists visiting the Parnassus Ski Center and the popular coastal towns of the region.


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