Delphi – an audience with The Oracle
Friday – today is the start of my 3 day adventure to Delphi – Kalambaka and Meteora. To say that I am apprehensive is a bit of an understatement. But, it is too late to cancel and what am I going to do anyway? Sit in my room for all this time? Not bloody likely. Up early, some breakfast – weather report says rain in Athens and temperatures should be a bit cooler. Well, that’s something positive for Delphi.
I store my large suitcase in the hotel and wait in reception for my tour. It is around 8.30am and a young lad comes in calling our names – there are five of us so we grab our bags and then proceed to walk down the street to our transport that turns out to be a dirty big coach. There was not enough room outside the hotel to park so he had to park down the street. I find a seat on the bus – more people arrive. The bus is full – about 40 people. The five of us are the only 3 day people – the rest of the group are one dayers – not too sure how this is going to work out. It is time for our guide Effie to introduce herself and our driver – Socrates. I wonder if he will have any words of wisdom for us?
Something tells me that I should have organised a private tour – oh well. A short time later, we stop at a service area where the fakers can get cups of tea/coffee; food and rest rooms. Of course when it is time to leave we have to wait for the late comers wasting more time.
One of the enduring missions of Delphi is to bring together men and women who otherwise remain divided by material interests – so it goes – – –
Ancient Delphi was an important religious sanctuary sacred to the god Apollo. Located on Mt. Parnassus (photo below) near the Gulf of Corinth, the sanctuary was home to the famous Oracle of Apollo who gave cryptic predictions and guidance to both city-states and individuals – but more about that later. According to legend, Zeus released two eagles from opposite ends of the world and when their paths crossed above Delphi it was decided that here was the centre of the earth.
Arriving at Delphi there are so many tour groups. Our guide herds us all together and gives us a talk for about 30 minutes – my inner self is saying just get on with it. She is very knowledgeable but very long winded. I make a mental note to do a little bit of listening as we go along but to mainly do my own thing once we go through the entrance.
We commence our walk up The Sacred Way – this was the main path that guided pilgrims and visitors through the sacred precinct.
Through the Roman Agora and the Votive altars of Athens, Arcadia, Argos and Sparta.
The path was lined with up to 3,000 statues and treasuries built by the city-states to house the people’s offerings. It leads from the entrance to the altar of the Chians and the imposing Temple of Apollo.
Those wishing to consult the oracle – ascended the Sacred Way on the ninth day of each month, sacrificed an animal on the altar situated at the top and were allotted their place in the queue.
It is a longish walk but not uncomfortable – the heavy clouds are starting to disperse – thank you Apollo.
As we journey along the Sacred Way, there is the Kings of Argos monument. The city-state of Argos, which had many kings before it became a democracy, built this monument to house the statues of its kings.
As you can see from the image, the monument is a semi-circular structure consisting of niches which held bronze statues. Although the plan was to house twenty statues, the city-state of Argos was able to erect only ten statues.
Next stop – the Treasury of the Athenians. Built after the Battle of Marathon (490 BC) it was constructed entirely of Parian marble and had a Doric frieze decorated with 30 metopes. Built in the form of a reduced scale temple, it was designed to hold the multitude of Athenian offerings to the Delphi oracle.
The metopes depicted mythological themes of Theseus, Heracles, and Amazons in high relief. It is believed that two Athenian sculptors carved the metopes, each representing a distinct style or generation: one from the Archaic period, and one from the Severe style of classical art (the transition from Archaic to High Classical art). The walls of the treasury were inscribed with various texts, among which are the hymns to Apollo.
This is The Omphalos – otherwise known as the Naval Stone – it is believed to allow direct communication with the gods. It also has an interesting story attached to it – it is said that the titan Cronos devoured his children as soon as they were born due to his mother’s prophecy that he would be overthrown by his own children. Although Cronos managed to devour his first five children, his wife, Rhea, sought Gaia’s help to devise a plan to save the sixth child, Zeus.
As a result, Zeus was hidden in a cave on Mount Ida in Crete and escaped being eaten by his father. In the meantime, Rhea wrapped a stone in swaddling clothes and gave it to her husband, who promptly swallowed it, thinking that it was his son.
When Zeus had grown up, he forced his father to disgorge the contents of his stomach using an emetic. The stone came out first, followed by Zeus’ siblings. When the help of his brothers and sisters, Zeus defeated the Titans and became the new king of the gods. Mmmmmmm – interesting eh?
We are not visiting here – more’s the pity – I would have thought it would have been included with the 3 day tour – but no we are stuck with one dayers and their tour does not include it so we don’t go.
There are many Treasuries along the way – some have signs – some do not. One that is labelled is the Treasury of The Corinthians.
The remains of the Corinthian treasury are not very remarkable, but it appears to have been one of the most splendid monuments in the Delphian sanctuary.
It tells me that the gifts on display were not just from Corinth, though: the Greek researcher Herodotus of Halicarnassus mentions several gifts from Anatolian kings.
The Mermnad kings of Lydia continued this practice. King Gyges sent silver objects and six golden bowls. Ingots of gold, bowls of silver and gold, and a lion of gold, sent by Croesus and originally in the temple itself, were placed in the Corinthian treasury after the big fire of 548 BCE.
Above left – some of the unmarked ruins – I will have to do some web investigations. It’s a shame that there are no markers – oh well – let’s continue. Above right is the Stoa of the Athenians. The southern side of the polygonal wall of the platform forms the north wall of the Stoa. It was constructed 478 BC-470 BC during the early classical period. The one-aisled stoa with iconic colonnade was dedicated by the Athenians after the Persian Wars.
I was hoping that my journey up the Sacred Way would take just one post. Alas – here am I being long winded – it will now be split into two with a third post on the Delphi Museum.