Sunday, May 19, 2013


We rented a car in Athens and drove 180 km northwest to the beautiful and historically significant hill-side town of Delphi. We stayed at a nice hotel, where we not only had use of a great pool, but we also had this awesome view from our balcony!

Located on the south-western spur of Mount Parnassus in the valley of Phocis, Delphi is mostly a tourist town. Luckily we were there during a quiet period, so we didn't have to fight any crowds. The valley is very beautiful. You see olive trees everywhere, and goats roam the hillsides, watched over by a shepherd. It was so relaxing to sit by the pool and hear the sounds of the goats' bells in the distance.

We didn't spend the entire weekend lounging around the pool, though. We also visited the amazing ruins of Delphi. This was one of the most religiously significant sites in ancient Greece (it was so important that Delphi was known as the Navel of the World; in other words, it was the center of the world). Dating as far back as the 8th century BCE, Delphi housed the Oracle of Apollo. The Oracle was a priestess, and the god Apollo would speak through her while she was in a trance. The Oracle would sit in the Temple of Apollo, the ruins of which you see here. These ruins date back to the 4th century BCE. The temple is built over chasm, and it is thought that ethylene fumes arose from this chasm. Ethylene fumes can cause violent seizures, so it's likely that the priestess' trances were induced from these toxic fumes!

The Temple of Apollo is not the only ancient structure in Delphi, though it is probably the most important. Similar to the Acropolis, there were also administrative buildings, theaters, and other temples surrounding the Temple of Apollo. Here you see the Treasury of Athens, one of many treasuries that were located in Delphi. They were built by various Greek city states to commemorate victories and to thank the oracle for her advice, which was thought to have contributed to those victories. They are called 'treasuries' because they held the offerings made to Apollo; these were frequently a tenth of the spoils of a battle.

If you look hard enough, you can see that there are engravings all over the marble side of the Treasury of Athens.

Inside the Delphi Museum, you can see several of the original metopes (a rectangular architectural element that fills the space between two triglyphs in a Doric frieze), including this one, which I find rather graphic and interesting.

There is also a theater in Delphi. Built in the 4th century BCE, it could hold up to 5000 spectators and gave a phenomenal view of the the Temple of Apollo and the valley below.

There is even a 5th century BCE athletic stadium! The stadium could hold 6500 spectators, and the track was 177 meters/580 feet long and 25.5 meters/83 feet wide.
Chariot races took place in Delphi. This statue, created in 474 BCE, was found near the Temple of Apollo. It was erected to commemorate the victory of a chariot team in the Pythian Games, which were held at Delphi every four years in honor of Pythean Apollo.

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