Delphi almost always appears in the itinerary when planning a trip to Greece. For many, it is simply because there is something historic to be seen in Delphi. Unknown to them, it has one of the most interesting and colorful histories in the whole of Greece. In antiquity, Delphi was regarded as the center of the world. In Greek mythology, Zeus determined the center of the world by releasing two eagles from opposite ends of the earth. The exact location where the two birds met was in Delphi.
It is thought that Gaia, the Greek goddess personifying the Earth, was venerated here before Apollo. Gaia’s son Python, a terrible dragon, guarded this site. Apollo claimed this place to be his own when he killed Python by piercing it with his darts.
The main reason for Delphi’s fame is Apollo’s oracle which is said to be so accurate in foretelling the future that people from all over Greece and across the ancient world, including kings and generals, journeyed to Delphi to seek the voice of Apollo. The oracle was consulted for every decision to be made, whether it be waging a war or planting crops. The medium for Apollo’s prophecy to be heard is the Pythia, or the priestess, who goes into a trance as the god supposedly, spoke to her. Her mumbled language was interpreted by the priests who write it down and gives it to the one seeking the answer.
As the reputation of the oracle grew, so did the power of those in authority, and as some historians allege, who controlled the oracle. So much so that Delphi began to rise politically and became a region with immense authority and wealth. Riches began to flow into the treasury as pilgrims make their offering to Apollo. Several structures emerged in Delphi. During its Golden Age, there were about 30,000 monuments erected there. The greatest and most significant is the Temple of Apollo, which houses the famed oracle.
The oracle at Delphi prophesied and answered queries for over a thousand years. As years passed by however, its power was diminished or presumably, the belief in it waned. In 393 AD it was totally abolished by Emperor Theodosius, who made Christianity the official religion of the Byzantine Empire.
Although the Temple of Apollo is the most renowned edifice in Delphi, there are other monuments which are likewise interesting because they have also been a part of Delphi’s glorious past. The Castalian Spring, found between the pairs of cliffs called the Phaedriades, is already part of Delphi’s history and of Greek mythology even before Apollo made it his sanctuary. It is said that Python had his lair beside the Castalian Spring and this is where Apollo vanquished him. The spring is believed to have come into existence when Pegasus, the winged-horse, touched the ground with its hoof. Pilgrims during the ancient times purified themselves in the water of Castalian.
The omphalos stone, the navel of the world, is another reminder that Delphi had once been the center of the world. The stone currently on display in the museum now is not the original stone but a replica.
On your visit (or next visit) to Delphi, may you not only marvel at the impressive structures but also remember that you are in a place which had once been the center of the world, where kings and generals went into pilgrimage, where people believed to be closest to the gods.
When decided to visit Delphi, take a look at Delphi hotels guide, to find a nice accommodation for yourself.
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