Greece - Delphi
Delphi is one of the most important archaeological sites of Greece, and accordingly, it seems to appear in the itinerary of every traveler who is attracted to the oracle that influenced affairs in the known world for over a thousand years.
Located amidst breathtaking scenery in central Greece, Ancient Delphi is the site of the Sanctuary and Oracle of Apollo, the most important sacred site in ancient Greek religion. Nearby is the Sanctuary of Athena, which includes the Tholos pictured above. The archaeological site also includes the excellent Delphi Museum.
The legend speaks for Delphi, the most important shrine of Greece, that it was the center of the world, because it was in this place that the two eagles met, when Zeus let them free, one from the east and the other from the west.
The oracle at first belonged to the goddess of earth Gaia and it was after Apollo slew her child, the serpent Python, that it became his shrine.
Another legend tell us that Apollo transformed into a dolphin and guided a Cretan ship at the place, ordering the sailors to build there his shrine (the Greek word for dolphin is delphis, from which the shrine took its name - Delphi).
Delphi became very important during the seventh century BC, when it was the main center of the Amphictionic League.
In 585 BC, the tyrant Kleisthenes of Sikyon liberated Delphi from the town of Krissa and the come Kirra, which was levying exorbitant dues and even robbed the visitors who came to their port, in order to consult the oracle.
With the help of Amphictionian League (Athenians, Thessalians), he blockaded the port with the Sikyonian navy and after strenuous resistance which lasted ten years, conquered and totally destroyed Kirra (first sacred war 595-585 BC).
Kleisthenes build a new treasury and reorganized the Pythian games in a splendid manner, as a four year celebration, like the ones at Olympia (from a single musical contest he added chariot races, wrestling, running, etc.). The temple was taken under the protection of the League, now also called the Delphic Amphictionia.
When the Persians invaded Greece, Xerxes sent a big force to Delphi (September of 480 BC), in order to plunder the place. When this was learned by the Delphians, they tried to remove the treasures of the shrine, but it was forbidden by the god.
The sacred arms, which were kept hanging in the inner cell of the temple and it was a great sacrilege to touch them, they were found lying outside the door of the cell, as if the god interfered to arm the defenders.
When the Persians climbed and reached the temple of Athena Pronaea, a thunderstorm burst with intense lighting and rain and α great thunder was heard from two crags, suddenly detached from the Phaedriades. Huge masses of rocks rolled down from Parnassos and loud cries came from the temple of Athena. The rocks falling upon the Persians, caused great destruction and the surviving army left in panic, pursued, as afterwards they said, by two superhuman in size warriors. The Delphians later confirmed that the two warriors were, the heroes Phylacos and Autonous, whose shrines were near by. The whole Greece learned that Apollo intervened and saved the sanctuary.
In 356 BC, the Phokaeans occupied the place and stole its treasures until king Phillip of Macedon, ten years later in 346 BC, freed the place.
The detailed events are as follows: the Thebans accused the Phoekaeans in the Amphictionic league, that they took a big territory from the shrine. The league founded them guilty and ordered them to pay a big fine.
The Phokaeans, who could not pay, took the arms, selecting as their leader the bandit Philomelos, who captured Delphi and killed the majority of the priests. To justify his actions ordered the Pythia to tell the oracle, that it was destined all these thing to happen. When Pythia refused, she was forced into the tripod and as she was frightened by the blades of the soldiers, said:
"you are permitted to do as you want".
After this, Philomelos stole the treasury of Delphi. With the money (worth of sixty million Attic drachmas at the time), he build a mercenary army and bribed many leaders of Greek cities. The Amphictionic League made war on them, which lasted ten years.
In the second year of the war, Philomelos committed suicide falling into a ravine to avoid his capture.
His place took his brother Onomarchos, who fought king Phillip in many hard battles and won, but at the end in Orchomenos was defeated by Phillip and again in the great battle of Paghasitikos gulf. Six thousand Phokaeans were killed during the battle and another three thousand captured, they were thrown into the sea to drawn, the punishment for sacrilege.
Alexander the Great violated the sacredness of Delphi and forced the Pythia to give the oracle he wished.
In 279 BC, the Galatians invaded Greece and they came near the gates of Delphi, which was saved from stones and rocks thrown from the Phaedriades place and they were forced to retreat.
During the Roman occupation the sanctuary was hurt but also benefited by the various emperors.
General Sulla plundered the place to pay the expenses for the siege of the Athens.
Augustus and Hadrian supported Delphi and Herodes Atticus rebuild the stadium.
Nero took away to Rome, 500 statues.
Constantine the Great also transported to Constantinople the most beautiful works.
Emperor Theodosius closed the oracle and forbade the ancient worship.
When Julian the Apostate trying to bring back the Greek religion and consulted the sanctuary, which gave him through Pythia the following oracle:
"Tell to the king that the carven hall is fallen in decay;
Apollo has no chapel left, no prophesying bay,
No talking spring. The stream is dry that had so much to say."
Both the invading Goths and Slavs plundered Delphi, which had the misfortune of many earthquakes.
In 1891 to 1893 AD, Delphi was excavated and came to light the Theater, the stadium, the temple of Apollo, the treasuries and all other buildings, together with 6000 inscriptions from statues