Delphi is one of those places that has so much mystery and intrigue about it that you’ve heard or read about since you were a child, and as I walked up the mountain towards the Temple of Apollo I was thinking about what exactly to consult my dear friend the oracle about.
While wandering up the mountain (on very, very slick marble slabs- I saw three people fall!) through the remains of treasuries and market places you really get a sense of what it was like to come here in 586 bce. There were a bunch of blocks that used to hold statues and I could imagine what it would look like, just row after row of statues. Not only do you get a sense of mystery from the history of Delphi itself, but there is also a sense of spirituality placed on the side of this mountain, with lush fields and a view of the sea.
The Temple of Apollo is now just the foundation and a few columns, but it still is enough to imagine the majesty of the temple. The tour guides describe how the people would ask the priest questions, who would relay the messages to the priestesses who would be sitting on a tripod over a hole in the earth and breathe in the gasses (to get them high) and they would have these visions (hallucinations) and answer the people’s questions. The temple had the words “Know Thyself” carved on the pronaos of the Temple. They say this was their way of telling you that you know the answer to your own questions- they’re within you, you’re just asking questions to try to get the answer you want. I was really intrigued by this. I thought it was very fitting that at the Temple of Apollo- the god of light and knowledge- you were encouraged in a way, to just turn around, and find the wisdom within you. Logic at its finest; so I turned away, with my question kept to myself and went on.
After the Temple of Apollo you walk on up to the theatre, which I thought looked a bit small, but when you walk up and around to the top you realize how big, and really amazing it is. On the walk up and around to the top there is a fountain with a faucet where you can drink the water of Apollo. When you stand at the top of the theatre you realize its size, it seats 5,000! Also, you can see down to the Sanctuary of Athena down in the valley, and it is just a spectacular view.
At the very top, on past the theatre is the stadium where games were hosted when cities came to consult the oracle. Apparently you used to be able to take a lap on it, but it’s now completely roped off, and it was my least favorite feature at this site. That may be partially to the face that it was closing and I was herded back down, so I didn’t get to spend much time up there at all.
After we walked back down, we went on around and down through the gymnasium and to the Sanctuary of Athena. It was really, really beautiful. This was my favorite feature. It was just so different looking with the circular shape, as opposed to a rectangular building or temple, and there were almond trees blooming surrounded by lush green hills. It was so beautiful.
Delphi was an amazing part of history and an archaeological site that is full of culture and beauty. There is something for everyone here: hiking, history, culture, philosophy, and nature. So, be sure to check it out… it’s well worth it!
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