Saturday, 30 August 2008

Sunctuary of Delphi (part 1)

The Sanctuary of Delphi is in a part of ancient Greece called Phokis, north across the Gulf of Corinth from Olympia and the Peloponnese. It was easily accesible from the Peloponnese by sea, and from the east (Veotia, Attica, Chalkis, Eretria) by road-the same road Oedipus took when he left Delphi after consulting the oracle-and it stood close to the north-south route that ran from the Peloponnese to Thessaly. It did not stand, like Olympia, on flat ground, but rose steeply from the precipitous slopes of Mount Parnassos.It faces south; springs crevices, and rocks around.

Like Olympia, it was not under the control of a major settlement but developed on the margins of established powers; so it was essesntially neutral. It was this character of neutrality that allowed Delphi and Olympia to become significant interurban sanctuaries, where poleis (cities) and elite individuals could compete in shows of strangth and wealth on an equal footing.

The Greeks themselves thought that Delphi was the center of the earth, and Pindar described it as the shared heart of Hellas (Greece). Legebd had it that Gaia (Mother Earth, the first prophetess) resided here with her son Python, the snake.; hence, the games here were called the Pythians games, and the priestess who delivered the oracles was known as the Pythia. It was only after Apollo had killed Python that he was able to take over from Gaia, and the sanctuary became his. However, even in the periods of greatest development of Apollo's sanctuary, a small area was always left uncluttered and revered: Python's Cave, Sibyl's Rock, and the spring called Cassotis.

(to be continued in part 2)

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