Delphi Attractions

DelphiDelphi

Delphi, lying on the slopes of Mt Parnassus high above the Gulf of Corinth, is one of the most famous cult sites in Greece, famed throughout the ancient Greek world and beyond as the sanctuary of Apollo and the shrine of his oracle. The site ranks with the Acropolis in Athens, Olympia and the island of Delos as one of the most important sites of the classical period of Greece; and the wealth of ancient remains combines with its magnificent mountain setting to make Delphi one of the high points of a visit to Greece.

Town, Delphi, Greece

The present little town of Delphi, now a concentration of hotels and shops catering for tourists, was established only in 1892, when the village of Kastrí, which had grown up on the site of the temple of Apollo was moved to a new position 1km/.75mi west to allow excavation of the ancient site to proceed.

Sanctuary of Apollo

The Sanctuary of Apollo is approached from the museum on a footpath parallel to the road which runs past the remains of a mosaic pavement belonging to an early Christian basilica to the main entrance to the site. By way of the Roman market we come to the southeast gateway of the sacred precinct, which in the classical period was roughly trapezoid in shape, measuring 200m/656ft from north to south and 130m/427ft from east to west, and surrounded by a plain enclosure wall.
Delphi - Sacred Precinct - Site map Delphi - Sacred Precinct Map

Sacred Way

From the gateway at the Sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi, the Sacred Way leads uphill, first going west, then bending sharply northeast and finally bearing north to end in front of the entrance to the temple of Apollo. The Sacred Way was lined with votive monuments erected by various Greek cities, reflecting the diversity of the political pattern of ancient Greece. The monuments themselves have disappeared, but many of their bases have survived. The series begins on the left-hand side of the Sacred Way with the long narrow base of a monument erected by the Athenians in gratitude for their victory over the Persians at Marathon (which had sculpture by Pheidias). Then followed monuments dedicated by Argos - the Seven against Thebes, the Trojan horse and an exedra with figures of the Epigonoi (descendants of the Seven against Thebes) - and others by Taras in southern Italy. On the right-hand side was a bronze bull dedicated by Korkyra (ca. 480 B.C.), followed by a colonnade built by the Spartans after their defeat of Athens in the naval battle of Aigospotamoi in 405 B.C., standing opposite the Athenian monument in honor of Marathon. In front of the Spartan colonnade was a monument erected by the Arcadians to commemorate their victory over the Spartans at Leuktra in 371 B.C. Beyond it was a semicircular monument erected, like the one on the opposite side of the Sacred Way, by Argos, with figures of kings of Argos.
Between the Sacred Way, just before it crosses the Halos ("Threshing-Floor"), on which cult ceremonies were performed, and the temple of Apollo stand, side by side, the Rock of the Sibyl, the sanctuary of Ge the Earth Mother and the site of a tall Ionic column bearing the figure of a sphinx erected by the Naxians about 560 B.C. The site selected for this monument, immediately south of the temple, its considerable height (12.5m/40ft) and the significance of the sphinx as a spirit of death support the suggestion by Zschietzschmann and Gross that this sphinx marked the mythical tomb of the god Dionysos.
This is the oldest part of the sacred precinct.

Treasuries

Along the next section of the Sacred Way, on the left, are the first of the more than 20 treasuries in which votive offerings were preserved from the weather and from theft - the Doric treasury of Sikyon (ca. 500 B.C.), in the foundations of which can be seen an earlier circular structure, and the Ionic treasury of the island of Siphnos (525 B.C.), considerable remains of which can be seen in the Museum. At the point where the Sacred Way bends northeast stands an omphalos stone set up here some years ago, recalling the ancient belief that Delphi was the central point, the navel (omphalos), of the world, established at the place where two eagles sent out by Zeus from the ends of the earth met one another.

Treasury of the Athenians

The Treasury of the Athenians (built in or shortly after 510 B.C.; re-erected 1903-06) is in the form of a Doric temple in antis. The metopes (copies: originals in the Museum) depict themes from the myths of Theseus and Herakles. Immediately beyond the treasury is the retaining wall, with shallow recesses for votive inscriptions, of the Bouleuterion.

Polygonal Wall

To the rear of the Sanctuary of Apollo is a polygonal wall of the sixth century B.C., covered with ancient inscriptions, supporting the platform on which the temple stands. Against it is built the 28m/92ft long Stoa of the Athenians (after 479 B.C.). Just before the Sacred Way bears north, on the right, are the remains of the Treasury of the Corinthians, which also contained offerings from king Midas of Phrygia and kings Gyges and Kroisos (Croesus) of Lydia (although these had long since disappeared by the time Pausanias visited Delphi in the second century A.D.).
Alongside the next section of the Sacred Way, which runs north in a series of steps, were other votive monuments. The surviving remains include the circular base of the "Serpent Column" of 479 B.C., formed of three intertwined snakes, and, on the esplanade in front of the temple of Apollo, the tripods erected by the Deinomids of Syracuse and the pillar which bore an equestrian statue of king Prusias II of Bithynia. The esplanade is dominated by an altar (partly re-erected) dedicated by the island of Chios and by the six re-erected columns of the temple of Apollo, with a ramp leading up to the entrance at the east end.

Temple of Apollo

All that remains of the Temple of Apollo are the foundations. It was built on the same location three times and featured columns, sculptures and statues inside. At one time the Kassotis spring ran through the temple.

Sanctuary of Apollo Theatre

A flight of steps leads up to the theater at the Sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi.
The theater (fourth century B.C., with later alterations down to the Roman period) could accommodate 5,000 spectators. It lay within the sacred precinct, as did the Lesche (Assembly Hall) of the Cnidians, built against the north wall of the precinct. From the theater there is a very fine view of the sacred precinct, extending down to the Marnaría below.

Stadion

50m/165ft higher than the theater at the Sanctuary of Apollo, under a vertical rock face, is the Stadion, which received its final form in Roman times. Of this structure there survive the tiers of seating and the seats of honor on the north side, the rounded west end (sphendone) and part of the entrance at the east end. The presence of the theater and the stadion is a reminder that the Pythian Games were held at Delphi from 590 B.C. onwards - musical and athletic contests, which included chariot races in the Hippodrome in the valley below.

Castalian Spring

To the east of the sacred precinct at Delphi, in a gorge between the two Phaidriades, is the Castalian spring, with recesses in the rock for votive offerings. Here the faithful purified themselves before making their way to the temple (on a path now barred by the enclosure fence).

Gymnasion

In Delphi, on the opposite side of the road Castalian spring, is a path leading down to the Gymnasion, which consisted of a covered running track 180m/200yd long and a palaistra (training area), and a circular bath 10m/33ft in diameter.

Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia & Tholos

An interesting section of the Delphi site is the Marmariá precinct, with the sanctuary of Athena Pronaia ("Athena in front of the temple" - i.e. the temple of Apollo). Beyond the later temple of Athena (fourth century B.C.) are the circular Tholos (soon after 400 B.C.; partly re-erected), which had Doric columns on the outside and Corinthian columns in the interior, the Ionic Treasury of Massilia (Marseilles), with a beautifully profiled base (ca. 530 B.C.), a Doric treasury (fifth century B.C.) and the older temple of Athena, built about 510 B.C. on the site of a still older building of the early sixth century, later destroyed by a rock fall and in 1905 damaged by a further rock fall. The Doric capitals of the earlier building, with their fine echinus mouldings, can still be seen, as can the capitals and columns, still standing, of the late Archaic temple. To the east of this temple - which, like the other Marmariá buildings, is oriented to the south - are a number of altars, extending towards the east gate of the precinct, which can still be identified. Further excavations are now under way in the southern part of the precinct.
Delphi - Precinct of Athena Pronaia - Site map Delphi - Precinct of Athena Pronaia Map

Delphi Museum

The ruins of the ancient cult site of Delphi are some of the most significant from Greece's classical period. The Delphi Museum holds many of the treasures found at this archeological site.

Popular Pages