A journey to the centre of the world – Greece

I guess no trip to Greece could ever be complete without a trip to the UNESCO World Heritage site that is Delphi.

Ancient Delphi sits on a slope of Mount Parnassos overlooking a spectacular lush valley filled with cypress and olive trees. The views over the valley are just breathtaking! 


While wandering up the mountain through the remains of treasuries and market places you really get a sense of what it was like to come here back in the day.

There were a bunch of blocks that used to hold statues and I could imagine what it would look like, just row after row of statues. Not only do you get a sense of mystery from the history of Delphi itself, but there is also a sense of spirituality placed on the side of this mountain, 

Sanctuary of Apollo, Delphi,  was a significant place for the ancient Greeks. For them, it was the center of the world. 

Delphi is said to have been founded by Zeus, who determined it to be the centre of the world. Mythology holds that Zeus released two eagles at opposite ends of the world and they flew to meet here, in ancient Delphi. A stone, the Omphalos, marks the spot that the ancients considered to be the navel of the world.


The sacred island of Delos may be the birthplace of Apollo, but Delphi was his home and the most important shrine for those who worship him as god. 

Delphi was also the home of the famous Oracle as well as of numerous deities, gods and goddesses. As such, Delphi was also a significant spiritual center of the ancient Greek world. 

But even today, pilgrims flock to ancient Delphi to soak in its mysticism. They say that people who visit Delphi would feel the presence of gods. 

Did we feel the power of the Greek gods ?

Maybe we were tired, feeling  stupidly hot and bothered or simply overwhelmed by the bus loads of Japanese tourist around us, but we didn’t feel the presence of gods in Ancient Delphi or the sense of mysticism it supposedly vibrates.

But then, being completely fair we did not come to be spiritually mystified. We came to witness what remains of the centre of the ancient world. And impressive it is!

At the centre of this awe inspiring place was the home of the Oracle whose famed peaked between 6th and 4th centuries BC. 

 Rulers, royalties and ordinary people of ancient Greece and other countries flocked to Delphi to consult the Oracle called Pythia. 

No important decisions on matters of state or simple affair were made without a nod from the Pythia, who channeled the spirit of Apollo for advice.

The Romans invaded Delphi in 191 BC, plundered the Sanctuary and shipped a lot of its treasures to back toRome. 

The oracle’s influenced started to dwindle and was completely removed by a Christian roman emperor in 4th century AD.


Sadly The Temple of Apollo is now just the foundation and a few columns, but it still is enough to imagine the majesty of the temple.


Being the cheeky budget travelers, we listened in to the the tour guide from the cruise line describing how the people would ask the priest questions, who would relay the messages to the priestesses who would be sitting on a tripod over a hole in the earth and breathe in the gasses and  they would have these vision, to answer the people’s questions. 


 The temple had the words “Know Thyself” carved on the pronaos of the Temple. They say this was their way of telling you that you know the answer to your own questions,  they’re within you, you’re just asking questions to try to get the answer you want. I was really intrigued by this. I thought it was very fitting that at the Temple of Apollo, god of light and knowledge you were encouraged in a way, to just turn around, and find the wisdom within you. 

The Sacred Way is lined with a large number of treasuries given by various Greek city states. These treasuries were built to commemorate important battle victories and contained offerings made to Apollo. The treasuries were also in part built to thank the oracle for her advice, which was thought to have helped win these battles.

The most impressive treasury on site is the reconstructed Athenian Treasury. This small, Doric columned building was built to commemorate the Athenians’ victory at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC.


As we climb the mountain we come across the well-preserved theatre that hosted performances of plays, poetry and music during the great festivals that were periodically held at Delphi, every 4 years the same of the olympics.

It was originally built in the 4th century BC, but the ruins visible today date from the Roman imperial period. Its 35 rows can accommodate around five thousand !


Making our way up to the viewing area above the top row gave us a magnificent views of the sanctuary and valley below.


At the very top, on past the theatre is the stadium where games were hosted when cities came to consult the oracle. Apparently you used to be able to take a lap on it, but it’s now completely roped off.


Ancient Delphi is probably my favourite out of all the archaeological sites I visited,  I was fascinated by the mythical stories. These inspiring ruins and the stunning setting adds to the allure of Delphi, a site that should not be missed on any visit to this lovely country.

Next up for us, and probably we should visited before the site was the fascinating archaeological museum,  which  many of the treasures that came from all corners of the ancient Greek world as votive offerings to Apoll, These gifts used to be stored in specially built treasuries near Apollo’s temple. ( I’ve seen one of theose) 


 A visit to the museum will really make ancient Delphi come to life, and you will have a much better understanding of the ruins and all the wonderful history they witnessed.


For our nightly stop off we headed about 15km down the road onto the coast and into the marina in the market town of Itea, (N38.431503 E22.421293)


The town has a long waterfront and a small harbor, so there is no shortage of restaurants with a sea view, with a warm September  evening and a cooling sea breeze, the whole population seems to be out and about, walking, chatting, eating and drinking. 


A typical Mediterranean lifestyle. What an experience.

Paul.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *