Exploring the Historical and Mythical Delphi: The Center of the Ancient Greek World

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Situated at the foot of the beautiful and towering Mount Parnassus, Delphi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site beautifully surrounded by scenic mountains and enveloped with a richly blended Greek mythology and history. I have always been intrigued with this mythical place for 2 reasons: 1. It was considered the center of the world by the Ancient Greeks. 2. People in the ancient world traveled here from all over to know their future and to seek advice from the Oracle, who is known to have produced some prominent and historically significant prophecies.

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Delphi Ruins

This important archaeological site was once forgotten because of an earthquake that buried it underground. A village called Kastri then occupied upon this site until it was destroyed by another earthquake. The villagers ended up moving to a completely new village and archaeologists were able to start their excavation work of this historically significant hidden treasure. I would like to believe that Mother Nature tried to find a way to preserve this extraordinary jewel by burying it underground for us to be able to know and revel in its unique beauty.

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The Sacred Omphalos known as the Navel of the World

According to Greek mythology, Zeus released two golden eagles to find the navel (center) of the world. It was in Delphi that the two eagles met. Zeus then placed a stone on this site to mark the center of the earth. A later myth tells us that in order for Apollo to establish his Oracular temple, he slayed the guardian of this sanctuary, the great serpent Python, right in this very spot.

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The restored Athenian Treasury

As you walk up the sloped walkway that leads to the Temple of Apollo, a number of ruins, statues and treasuries can be found. Treasuries, such as this one, were built by the Greek city states to celebrate their triumphs and to thank the oracle for her advice that contributed to those victories. Offerings made to Apollo were kept in these buildings. The Treasury of Athens was the most impressive and was built to commemorate the victory  at the Battle of Marathon  in 490 BC.

 

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The temple of Apollo dates back from the 4th century BC and has been a sanctuary for thousands of years. This ancient Greek temple is most famous for being the seat of the Oracle of Delphi.

 

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Temple of Apollo

It took me several hours by train and taxi to get here. One thing that fascinated me is how far the ancient Greeks traveled on foot to be here.  The more fascinating thing is how the Delphic Oracle was almost always accurate in her predictions according to the supposed Oracular statements that have survived to this day.

 

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The Stadium of Delphi

The Pythian Games were held in this Stadium in honor of Apollo to celebrate his victory over Python. The Stadium was originally built in the 5th century BC. The Pythian Games was one of the four Pan-Hellenic sporting events and was the precursor to the Olympic Games.

 

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The Ancient Theater in Delphi
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Sweeping views of the valley.

In addition to athletic events, the Pythian Games included competition in musical contests which was held in this theater. It was originally built in the 4th century BC and provides a spectacular view of the valley and the temple.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Roman Times, the agora or marketplace was set up to make money off the pilgrims. It is the first set of ruins in the Sacred Way and once included market stalls converted into chapels as evidenced by embossed crosses seen  today.

 

Delphi Archaeological Museum

The museum complements the site and allows visitors to view important artifacts and sculptures excavated from the ruins. It is open 7 days a week. I recommend seeing the museum first before visiting the ruins as it helps you to better appreciate the grandeur of what was once considered the center of the world.

IMG_1452As we walked on the pathway towards the next temple ruin, we passed by this steady flow of spring water. The locals told us that this was a modern version of the Castalian Spring. Visitors from all over including contestants in the Pythian Games and pilgrims who came to see the Oracle washed themselves and drank water here. The Oracle and the priests also cleansed themselves in the spring water.

About half a mile walk from the Temple of Delphi is The Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia considered to be the gateway to Delphi. The Tholos which is the circular building in the ruin was constructed between 380 and 360 BC.

The historic town of Delphi had its early beginnings as a Mycenaean village from 1500 to 1100 BC that worshipped the Earth Goddess. The worship of Apollo flourished around 1000 BC when it was brought on by a group of people believed to be either from Crete or from the plains of Thessaly. It is a beautifully situated village overlooking the Gulf of Corinth and a valley filled with cypress and olive trees. One of the locals told me that almost each family in the region makes their own olive oil because of the abundant supply of olives.

 

Where to Stay

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The picturesque town of Arachova.

There are several hotel options to choose from in the town of Delphi. There are also nearby towns such as the famous winter destination, Arachova. It is popular among celebrities and ski lovers alike.

Where to Eat

I don’t think you can ever go wrong with any Greek restaurant in the area. Most of them offer panoramic views of the valley and provide you with locally produced olives and quality locally grown wines. I recommend coming to Taverna Vakhos and Iniohos Hotel and Restaurant.

Getting There

The public bus system in Greece is called ΚΤΕΛ (KTEL). To get to Delphi from Athens, head out to KTEL station B, located on 260 Liossion Street. It is best to take a taxi to the bus stop as I was told it is a confusing street to find. There are several tour buses and tour packages available from Athens to Delphi as well.

The route I took was from Meteora. There is a train from Kalambaka train station to Levadia via the OSE train. Upon arriving in Levadia, I took a 45 minute taxi ride to Delphi using the Delphi Taxi company which I arranged a few weeks prior to my trip. My cab driver Kostas was very nice and talked a lot about life in the Delphic region.

 
 

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