Delphi. Ruin in Greece, Europe


Ruin in Greece, Europe

Delphi Photo © Elf-8

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Delphi. Photo by alexcoitus
Delphi, the home of famous oracle in antiquity and one of the most important archaeological sites of Greece, is located 178 km northwest of Athens. Its location on a cliff edge is spectacular and, despite its overt commercialism, it still has a special feel.

Delphi ranges in date from Mycenean times to the early Christian era and is one of the must-see attractions in Greece. The worship of Apollo as the God of light, harmony, and order was established between the 11th and 9th century BC.

During the 8th century BC, Delphi became internationally known for the oracular powers of Pythia—the priestess who sat on a tripod, inhaled ethylene gasses, and muttered incomprehensible words that foretold the future. God Apollo would give his prophecies through the words of Pythia, the high priestess of his temple. The response was then written down and sealed by a priest and given to the inquirer.

Under the protection and administration of the Amphictyony, the sanctuary continued to be autonomous after the First Sacred War (Wikipedia Article) and, as a result, increased its religious and political influence. The Pythian Games were reorganized, the sanctuary was enlarged, and it was enriched with fine buildings, statues, and other offerings.

Under Macedonian, and later Roman rule, the oracle’s role became increasingly domestic, dispensing advice on marriages, loans, voyages, etc. With the spread of Christianity, the sanctuary lost its religious meaning and was closed down by Theodosius the Great.

What to See

Temple of	Apollo -
Temple of Apollo - Delphi. Photo by NekaPearl

Temple of Apollo

The Temple of Apollo (Wikipedia
	Article) that is seen today dates from the 4th century BC. It originally had 6 columns on the front and 15 on the sides, however, only a few of its Doric columns remain standing, but its imposing foundations are still a visible reminder of the temple’s splendor in ancient times. It was home to the famous oracle, in which the Apollo himself counseled his people through the mouth of a high-priestess, Pythia.

The Sanctuary of Athena

The Sanctuary of Athena is located to the southeast of the Temple of Apollo. The central area of the sanctuary is occupied by three buildings - a Doric treasury made of marble on a limestone foundation, the fine Aeolian Treasury of Massalia of Parian marble and the Tholos. Backed by a valley of olive trees, the Tholos is the most picturesque spot at Delphi. The sanctuary was very important, as people coming to ask for an oracle would first offer a sacrifice at the Athena Pronea, who was considered the guardian of Pythia.

Ancient Theatre

Originally built in the 4th century BC, but the visible ruins date from the Roman imperial period. Its location provided audiences with a great view of the entire sanctuary. The 35 rows of the theater could seat nearly 5,000 people. Today it hosts many ancient plays and other cultural events, mostly in summer.

Ancient Stadium

It is located northwest of the theater, above the sanctuary of Apollo, in the highest part of the ancient city. This stadium was built in the 5th century BC and underwent remodeling in the 2nd century AD, at the expense of Herodes Atticus, who added the stone seats and arched entrance. Around 6,500 spectators could fit in the stadium to enjoy events such as the Pythian and Pan-Hellenic games that were held here.

Archaeological Museum

The Archaeological Museum of Delphi displays some of the finest works of art in Greece as it chronicles the history and importance of Delphi from the 15th century BC to the 4th century AD. The rich collections of the museum consist of beautiful marble statues, sculptured works, coins and other finds from that time. The highlights are the Charioteer, a well-preserved, bronze statue and the Sphinx of Naxos.

Delphes, théâtre et temple
	d'Apollon - Delphi
Delphes, théâtre et temple d'Apollon - Delphi. Photo by hamadryades


For the ancient Greeks, Delphi was the center of the world. According to Greek mythology, Zeus released two eagles from opposite ends of the Earth and they met in the sky above Delphi. Impaling one another with their beaks, they fell to the ground on the very center of the world. A stone, the Omphalos, marks the spot that the ancients considered to be the navel of the world. The one that stands in this spot today is a replica, the original being on display in the museum of Delphi.


It is easily accessible from Athens or Patras as a day trip. A good map is very useful for touring the ancient ruins of Delphi, as labels aren't always clear and the site is quite widespread. To avoid crowds, the best time to visit is early morning, lunchtime, and the last hour or two before closing.

Getting there

Delphi is connected to Athens (3 hours), Thessaloniki (Wikipedia
	Article) (4 ½ hours) and Patras (2 hours) daily with KTEL bus service. The travel agencies offer day trips and overnight trips to Delphi, some of them combined with Meteora. If you don’t like the idea of booking a tour or to depend on the bus schedule, then you can rent a car. It takes about 3 hours to drive between the capital city and Delphi - the road is spectacular as it climbs the mountains.

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Author: Ayda. Last updated: Sep 22, 2014


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