At the foot of Mount Parnassos lies the sanctuary of Delphi, which boasted the most famous oracle in ancient Greece. According to mythology, it was at this point that two eagles met - they had been sent forth by Zeus to find the navel of the world. Hence Delphi became known as the centre of the world and for this reason it also became a cultural and religious centre as well as a symbol of unity for the Hellenic world.
Between the sixth and fourth centuries BC, the Delphic oracle, regarded as the most trustworthy of all the oracles, was at its peak. It was delivered by the Pythia, the priestess, and interpreted by the priests of Apollo. Cities, rulers and ordinary individuals consulted the oracle, expressing their gratitude with great gifts and spreading its fame around the world.
The oracle 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.
Excavations began in the 19th century but it wasn't straightforward in the beginning. 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 arose to relocate the village when it was substantially damaged by an earthquake. 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: the Treasury of the Athenians was fully reconstructed from the original materials by the French excavation team; the Altar of the Chians was reconstructed in 1959 by the Greek Archaeological Services; the Tholos and Temple of Apollo have had limited reconstruction.
Modern Delphi lies immediately west of the archaeological site and is a popular tourist destination on the major highway linking Amfissa with Itea and Arachova. There are many hotels and guest houses in the town, and many tavernas and bars.
The Trans European Footpath E4 passes through the east end of the town.
Where to stay
The characterful Arion Hotel enjoys a panoramic view of the Corinthian Gulf and is a short distance from the classical site of Delphi.
A quaint, family-run hotel close to all local amenities, the Archaeological Site and the Museum.