At the foot of Mount Parnassos, within the angle formed by the twin rocks of the Phaedriades, lies the Pan-Hellenic sanctuary of Delphi, which had the most famous oracle of ancient Greece. Delphi was regarded as the centre of the world. According to mythology, it is here that the two eagles sent out by Zeus from the ends of the universe to find the navel of the world met. The sanctuary of Delphi, set within a most spectacular landscape, was for many centuries the cultural and religious centre and symbol of unity for the Hellenic world. The history of Delphi begins in prehistory and in the myths of the ancient Greeks. In the beginning the site was sacred to Mother Earth and was guarded by the terrible serpent Python, who was later killed by Apollo. Apollo's sanctuary was built here by Cretans who arrived at Kirrha, the port of Delphi, accompanied by the god in the form of a dolphin. This myth survived in plays presented during the various Delphic festivals, such as the Septerion, the Delphinia, the Thargelia, the Theophania and, of course. the famous Pythia, which celebrated the death of Python and comprised musical and athletic competitions.

The earliest finds in the area of Delphi, which date to the Neolithic period (4000 BC), come from the Korykeion Andron, a cave on Parnassos, where the first rituals took place. The remains of a Mycenaean settlement and cemetery were discovered within the sanctuary, but traces of occupation are rare and very fragmentary until the eighth century BC, when the cult of Apollo was established and the development of the sanctuary and the oracle began. The first stone temples of Apollo and Athena, who was also officially venerated under the name of “Pronaia” or “Pronoia” and had her own sanctuary, were built towards the end of the seventh century BC. According to literary and archaeological evidence other gods were associated with the sanctuary; these included Artemis, Poseidon, Dionysus, Hermes, Zeus Polieus, Hygeia and Eileithyia.

The sanctuary was the centre of the Amphictyonic League, an association of twelve tribes of Thessaly and the Sterea (south-central Greece), with religious and later political significance. The Amphictyonic League controlled the operation and finances of the sanctuary, as it designated its priests and other officials chosen from among the inhabitants of Delphi. In the sixth century BC, under the League's protection and administration, the sanctuary was made autonomous (First Sacred War), it increased its territory and political and religious influence throughout Greece, and reorganised the Pythian Games, the second most important games in Greece after the Olympics, which were held every four years.

Between the sixth and fourth centuries BC, the Delphic oracle, which was regarded as the most trustworthy, was at its peak. It was delivered by the Pythia, the priestess, and interpreted by the priests of Apollo. Cities, rulers and ordinary individuals alike consulted the oracle, expressing their gratitude with great gifts and spreading its fame around the world. The oracle was thought to have existed since the dawn of time. Indeed, it was believed to have successfully predicted events related to the cataclysm of Deukalion, the Argonaut's expedition and the Trojan War; more certain are the consultations over the founding of the Greek colonies. It was the oracle's fame and prestige that caused two Sacred Wars in the middle of the fifth and fourth centuries BC. In the third century BC, the sanctuary was conquered by the Aetolians, who were driven out by the Romans in 191 BC. In Roman times, the sanctuary was favoured by some emperors and plundered by others, including Sulla in 86 BC.

The rise of the Rationalist movement in philosophy in the third century BC, damaged the oracle's authority, yet its rituals continued unchanged into the second century AD, when it was consulted by Hadrian and visited by Pausanias. The latter's detailed description of the buildings and more than three hundred statues has greatly contributed to our reconstruction of the area. The Byzantine emperor Theodosius finally abolished the oracle and the Slavs destroyed the precinct in 394 BC. With the advent of Christianity, Delphi became an episcopal see, but was abandoned in the sixth-seventh centuries AD. Soon after, in the seventh century AD, a new village, Kastri, grew over the ruins of the ancient sanctuary, attracting in modern times several travellers interested in antiquities.


Archaeological research in Delphi began in 1860 by Germans. In 1891, the Greek government granted the French School at Athens permission for long-term excavations on the site. It is then that the village of Kastri was removed to allow for the so-called “Great Excavation' to take place. The Great Excavation uncovered spectacular remains, including about three thousand inscriptions of great importance for our knowledge of public life in ancient Greece. Today, the Greek Archaeological Service and the French School at Athens continue to research, excavate and conserve the two Delphic sanctuaries. Of all the monuments, only the Treasury of the Athenians had enough of its original building material preserved to allow for its almost complete reconstruction. The project was financed by the City of Athens and carried through by the French School in 1903-1906. The Chiot altar, the temple of Apollo and the Tholos were also partially restored. In 1927 and 1930, the poet Angelos Sikelianos and his wife, Eva, attempted to revive the Delphic idea and make of Delphi a new cultural centre of the earth, through a series of events that included performances of ancient theatre.
Site Monuments

Temple of Apollo at Delphi
The temple of Apollo, the most important building in the sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi, dominates the temenos from its central position. This is where the statues and other offerings to the god were kept, and where the cult rituals, including that of divination, took place. Also, here was the chresmographeion, or archive, destroyed in 373 BC, which contained the lists of victors of the Pythian games.
Treasury of the Athenians
The Treasury of the Athenians is one of the most important and impressive buildings of the temenos of Apollo. Standing next to the bouleuterion, seat of the Delphic senate, and opposite the treasuries of the Knidians and the Syracusans, it dominated the Sacred Way. This small building contained trophies from important Athenian victories and other votive objects dedicated to the sanctuary.

The treasury, which was built by the Athenian republic in the late sixth or early fifth centuries BC, is thought to express the victory of democracy over tyranny. A slightly different interpretation, based on Pausanias's description, states that the treasury commemorated the battle of Marathon of 490 BC, when the Athenian army repelled the Persians.
The polygonal wall of Delphi
This remarkable polygonal wall supports the platform on which stands the Temple of Apollo, and defines the area of the Halos, or threshing floor, to the north-west. It was raised in the second half of the sixth century BC, probably after the destruction of the first temple in 548 BC and before the construction of the Alkmaionides temple in 513-505 BC. The fifth century BC Stoa of the Athenians was built against this wall, and traces of it are visible on the wall's surface. Prior to the construction of the wall, the area was leveled and several early Archa?c buildings and treasuries, including the famous apsidal structure, were destroyed or buried under fill.
The Treasury of the Siphnians 
The treasury dedicated by the people of Siphnos was one of the most opulent monuments in the temenos of Apollo. Built near the beginning of the Sacred Way, next to the Treasury of the Sikyonians and opposite that of the Megarians, it housed the precious votive offerings dedicated by the Siphnians to the sanctuary.

According to Herodotus and Pausanias, Siphnos drew great wealth from its gold and silver mines and in the second half of the sixth century BC was the most prosperous of the Greek islands. The Siphnians decided to dedicate the tithe of their profits to Apollo and thus built the treasury. The monument's sculptural decoration is dated on stylistic grounds to 525 BC, or a little earlier, since that year Siphnos was looted by Samians in need of money.
The Stoa of the Athenians
The stoa is among the important votive offerings dedicated to the sanctuary by the Athenians. It occupied a central position, below the great temple, in front of the imposing polygonal terrace wall and opposite the Halos, or threshing floor, where plays honouring Apollo were staged. The stoa was used for storing the war spoils, mostly from naval victories against the Persians, dedicated by the Athenians. 
Ancient theatre of Delphi
 The theatre of Delphi, one of the few theatres in Greece for which we know the exact date and design, is located inside the temenos of Apollo and against the north-east corner of its peribolos, or enclosure wall. This is where the musical contests (song and instrumental music) of the Pythian games and other religious festivals took place, which made this theatre the intellectual and artistic equivalent to the athletic stadium at Olympia.
The Sacred Way
The so-called Sacred Way was the main road leading from the entrance of the temenos to the altar of the Chians and the imposing temple of Apollo. It had a ritual and processional character, since it guided pilgrims and visitors through the sacred precinct. The theopropoi - 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 alloted their place in the queue. The citizens of Corinth, Naxos, Chios and Thebes, and some illustrious individuals, such as Philip II of Macedon, had received promanteia, or right of prior consultation, and so did not have to wait for their turn.
Ancient gymnasium of Delphi
 The remains of the gymnasium are on the steep slope between the Castalian fountain and the temple of Athena Pronaea. This is one of the most complete examples of an ancient gymnasium complex, which included the gymnasium proper, a palaestra and baths.

The gymnasium dates to the fourth century BC, but was rebuilt in the Roman period, when the baths were added to it. Originally it was used exclusively for training athletes. Track and field were practiced inside the gymnasium proper, with events like wrestling, boxing and the pankration taking place inside the palaestra. However, in the Hellenistic period the gymnasium became a centre for intellectual development and housed cultural events, including lectures by orators, sophists, philosophers and poets.
The Castalian fountain
The Castalian spring was the sacred source of Delphi, and its water played an important role in the cult and procedure of the temple and of the oracle. This is where Pythia, the priests and the temple staff washed, and where the water used to clean the temple came from. The theopropoi - those wishing to consult the oracle - were also obliged to wash here in order to purify themselves.

The Castalian spring is located at the foot of the rocky crag Phleboukos (ancient Hyampeia), inside the ravine separating the two Phaedriades. Its waters form a stream, the so-called Arkoudorema, which runs into the Pleistos valley where, according to a myth, the Python had its lair. Water was also channeled to the homonymous fountain situated between the temenos of Apollo and the ancient gymnasium.
Ancient stadium of Delphi
The stadium of Delphi is one of the best-preserved monuments of its kind. It is situated north-west of the theatre, above the sanctuary of Apollo, in the highest part of the ancient city. It was reached in antiquity, like today, by a path winding up from the theatre's left parodos. The stadium is closely connected to the history of the Pythian games, since this is where the athletic events took place.

The original stadium dates to the fifth century BC, as attested by an inscription in the south terrace wall, and had either wooden seats or no seats at all. The existing seats, made of Parnassus limestone - and not of white marble as mentioned by Pausanias, were built in the second century AD by Herodes Atticus, a wealthy Athenian sophist, together with the triumphal arch which decorated the entrance. The latter is a unique feature in ancient Greek stadiums.
The tholos of Athena Pronaia
 The tholos of the sanctuary of Athena Pronaia, clearly visible from above, is perhaps the most characteristic monument at Delphi and the most important building of this small sanctuary. Located between the later temple of Athena and the Treasury of Massalia, this circular building of unknown purpose is a masterpiece of Classical architecture. It is thought to have been connected with chthonic cults, although Pausanians, who saw its ruins in the second century AD, does not refer to it as a temple. 
The votive offering of Daochos
 The votive offering of Daochos is one of the richest and finest private offerings dedicated to the Delphi sanctuary. It stood to the northeast of the temple of Apollo, on an elongated stone base, near the offerings of the Aetolians, the Phoceans and the Deinomenides.

This monument was dedicated by Daochos II of Pharsala who was tetrarch of Thessaly, which he represented as hieromnemon at the Amphictyonic League in 339-334 BC. His dealings with the Delphic sanctuary probably led him to dedicate this monument in honour of his family, several members of which were brilliant athletes and winners at the Delphic games. The monument was probably dedicated around 337 BC. The influence of Philip II of Macedon and a personal acquaintance of Daochos, over both the Delphic amphictyony and Thessaly, homeland of Daochos, was intensifying during this period.
Lesche of the Knidians
 The “Lesche” (club”) of the Knidians is a building known more for the paintings that decorated it and less for its architectural style. The monument was an offering to Apollo, by the people of Knidos, an important city-state in Asia Minor. Knidos enjoyed a high level of civilization and was famous for the progress in Medicine; the city had also numerous colonies in Sicily and in Naucratis at Egypt. When the Persians attacked the cities of Asia Minor, the Knidians decided to construct a defensive moat to protect the city from inland attacks. But, as several accidents took place during the construction, they decided to ask the oracle at Delphi if they should continue; the oracle advised them to stop constructing the moat and promised that Apollo would help them to repel the enemy.

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