Greece is the destination that no traveler should miss. It has everything: incredible gastronomy, a lot of history, a lot of culture and archaeological sites only comparable with those of Egypt. One of them is in Delphi and not in vain has UNESCO declared this place Heritage.
We have all heard of oracle of delphi at some point, is that so? Divinations, future readings, omens…. In addition to these stories from Antiquity or precisely because of them, the truth is that it is a destination that you cannot miss.
Nowadays the city is located on one of the slopes of Mount Parnassus, very close to the famous site of the oracle and the sanctuary of Apollo, close to the town of Kastri and only 15 km from the Gulf of Corinth.
In ancient times, its location between mountainous foothills made it difficult to access, so there were three ways to enter it: from Anfisa, from Crisa and from Boeotia. It was one small city highly defended by its own geography, but a wall had also been built for it.
The place is known to have been a holy shrine even before the ancient Greeks. Homer said that the foundation of the oracle is the work of Apollo, who wanted to found one near Mount Parnassus, liked the place very much and built the temple. Of course, before he took care of cleaning the place of snakes and monsters, attracting priests among the Cretans and organizing everything. Or so they say.
The truth is that, at the beginning, the city of Crisa dominated the oracle and the sanctuary, but in the end, next to the sanctuary, another city began to take shape that, at a certain point, demanded to take over it: Delphi. Over time Delphi was more important than Crisa and its port and it became a mighty city - state. The priests of the sanctuary were chosen from the local lineage who were supposed to be of Doric origin, and also their rulers.
There was no democracy here or anything like that. The government of Delphi was a theocracy because everything passed through the temple and its worship. The land was worked by slaves and the priests received gifts and donations from wealthy kings and merchants who consulted the oracle. Nothing that is unknown to us. The oracle was then super famous so when it caught fire in 548 BC it was decided to build it with greater splendor.
Later the Persians would arrive, the destructive earthquakes, some forced occupation since the treasures of the temple were very attractive to many, some looting and finally Nero who took hundreds of statues, divided the lands among his soldiers and abolished the oracle. It lasted a little longer with Adriano's help but in the end Theodosius I banned pagan worship in 385. With the arrival of Christianity it was being forgotten and neglected.
Archaeological excavations began in the XNUMXth century at the hands of the Germans and we owe them many of the impressive finds and current excavations that continue at the hands of the French School of Athens.
What to see in Delphi
The archaeological site has two sanctuaries, one dedicated to Athena and the other to Apollo and other sports buildings. When you arrive directly from Athens the first thing you see is the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia, before the Temple of Apollo. Outside the wall the settlement of Delphi extends, but inside the walls is where Tholos is, today the symbol of the island, and what remains of the three temples dedicated to the goddess.
There are two older temples dating from the middle of the 500th century and 373 BC The third temple that is made of limestone was destroyed by an earthquake in XNUMX BC The sanctuary also includes the altars to Zeus, Athena Ergane, Athena Zosteria, Eileithyia and Hygeia and there are also the remains of two buildings dedicated to the worship of local heroes who drove the Persians from the island, Autonos and Phylakos.
In relation to this historical fact there is also a memorial, a statue of emperor Hadrian and a building known as the "house of the priests." To the northwest of the sanctuary of Athena is the gym, arena and bathrooms. Up the hill there used to be a spring, the sacred spring of Delphi that travelers frequented to drink and purify themselves before consulting the oracle.
The heart of the place however is the Sanctuary of Apollo, surrounded in turn by a wall with a main entrance in the southeast. From here the Sacred Way or path that reaches the Temple of Apollo starts, which is where the priestess is saying her predictions. On the sides there are artificial terraces with monumental walls with porticoes and many monuments dedicated to rich people and Greek gods.
All of these are monuments, some of which are very beautiful, which indicate the artistic level of the different moments and the wealth of those who commissioned it as thanks to the oracle. There are even some bronze or silver, excellent marble, and they are very luxurious.
This place is really something impressive and complete and in activity it must have been wonderful. Think that further up the temple there was a theater where music and theater competitions were held and even higher still there were a stadium for athletics tournaments. Fantastic! Add up the remains of the cemeteries of the classical and roman periods that are outside and around the sanctuaries and you will spend a lot of time walking, taking photos and imagining.
How can you get to Delphi? The modern city of Delphi is on the road that connects Amfisa with Itea and Aráchova. Tourists come from all over the world because the archaeological site is very close. In him is the Archaeological Museum of Delphi with all its treasures. Delphi it's just over two hours from Athens by car. As Delphi is still in a difficult area to access you can only get there by road and the best thing is to take advantage of the trip to know other places, for example Meteora and its monasteries.
You can rent a car or go by bus. The Athens - Delphi route is covered with six services a day. Buses leave from Terminal B on Liossion Street in Athens from 7:30 am to 8 pm. Allow about three hours of travel.