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Origins and location[ edit ] Delphi among the main Greek sanctuaries Delphi is located in upper central Greece, on multiple plateaux along the slope of Mount Parnassusand includes the Sanctuary of Apollo, the site of the ancient Oracle.
This semicircular spur is known as Phaedriadesand overlooks the Pleistos Valley. In myths dating to the classical period of Ancient Greece BCZeus determined the site of Delphi when he sought to find the centre of his "Grandmother Earth" Gaia.
He sent two eagles flying from the eastern and western extremities, and the path of the eagles crossed over Delphi where the omphalosor navel of Gaia was found. Apollo was said to have slain Pythona "drako" a serpent or a dragon who lived there and protected the navel of the Earth.
Pottery and bronze as well as tripod dedications continue in a steady stream, in contrast to Olympia. Neither the range of objects nor the presence of prestigious dedications proves that Delphi was a focus of attention for a wide range of worshippers, but the large quantity of valuable goods, found in no other mainland sanctuary, encourages that view.
The victors at Delphi were presented with a laurel crown stephanos which was ceremonially cut from a tree by a boy who re-enacted the slaying of the Python. Delphi was set apart from the other games sites because it hosted the mousikos agon, musical competitions.
Delphi would have been a renowned city whether or not it hosted these games; it had other attractions that led to it being labeled the "omphalos" navel of the earth, in other words, the centre of the world. After the battle of Plataeathe Greek cities extinguished their fires and brought new fire from the hearth of Greece, at Delphi; in the foundation stories of several Greek colonies, the founding colonists were first dedicated at Delphi.
In commemoration of this legend, the winners at the Pythian Games received a wreath of laurel picked in the Temple.
Delphi became the site of a major temple to Phoebus Apolloas well as the Pythian Games and the famous prehistoric oracle. Even in Roman times, hundreds of votive statues remained, described by Pliny the Younger and seen by Pausanias.
Carved into the temple were three phrases: However, ancient as well as modern scholars have doubted the legitimacy of such inscriptions.
Most likely they were popular proverbs, which tended later to be attributed to particular sages. A festival, the Septeria, was held every year, at which the whole story was represented: The culmination of the festival was a display of an image of the gods, usually hidden in the sanctuaryto worshippers.
Myths indicate that Apollo killed the chthonic serpent PythonPythia in older myths, but according to some later accounts his wife, Pythiawho lived beside the Castalian Spring. Some sources say it is because Python had attempted to rape Leto while she was pregnant with Apollo and Artemis.
This spring flowed toward the temple but disappeared beneath, creating a cleft which emitted chemical vapors that caused the Oracle at Delphi to reveal her prophecies.
Apollo killed Python but had to be punished for it, since she was a child of Gaia. The shrine dedicated to Apollo was originally dedicated to Gaia and shared with Poseidon.
Erwin Rohde wrote that the Python was an earth spirit, who was conquered by Apollo, and buried under the Omphalosand that it is a case of one deity setting up a temple on the grave of another.
Oracle of Delphi[ edit ] Main articles: Pythia and Delphic Sibyl Delphi is perhaps best known for its oracle, the Pythiathe sibyl or priestess at the sanctuary dedicated to Apollo.
According to Aeschylus in the prologue of the Eumenidesthe oracle had origins in prehistoric times and the worship of Gaeaa view echoed by H. She had to be an older woman of blameless life chosen from among the peasants of the area.
Alone in an enclosed inner sanctum Ancient Greek adyton - "do not enter" she sat on a tripod seat over an opening in the earth the "chasm". According to legend, when Apollo slew Python its body fell into this fissure and fumes arose from its decomposing body.
Intoxicated by the vapours, the sibyl would fall into a trance, allowing Apollo to possess her spirit. In this state she prophesied. The oracle could not be consulted during the winter months, for this was traditionally the time when Apollo would live among the Hyperboreans.
Dionysus would inhabit the temple during his absence.
It has been speculated that the ancient writers, including Plutarch who had worked as a priest at Delphi, were correct in attributing the oracular effects to the sweet-smelling pneuma Ancient Greek for breath, wind or vapour escaping from the chasm in the rock. That exhalation could have been high in the known anaesthetic and sweet-smelling ethylene or other hydrocarbons such as ethane known to produce violent trances.
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