Once upon a time Zeus wanted to know where the center of the universe was, so he sent an eagle flying west, and another flying east. Eventually they met, and that place was declared center of the universe. To mark the spot Zeus through a cone shaped rock onto the spot. The rock was the navel stone, because it marks the middle of the universe, just like the bellybutton marks the middle of a person. (Hey, it’s the Ancient Greeks’ story, not mine.) At the middle of the universe they built Delphi. (The stone in front is a replica of the navel stone.)
This became the god Apollo’s town. I kind of think Apollo as the “catch-all god”. He was the god of the sun, medicine, plague, music, poetry, art, knowledge, archery, and fortune telling. And Delphi is his town!
Up on the hill is a huge complex dedicated to the guy. One of the first things you see is a series of stores that were built for pilgrims coming to visit Delphi. This is where you could buy those last-minute offerings.
Next were a bunch of treasuries from different Greek cities. Currently, they have the Athens’ treasury restored. It was the most important, because Athens was the largest and richest city. They also had a special area set aside just to show off items they had gotten when they beat the Persians in the Battle of Salamis. It was really one of those, “Don’t mess with us, or we’ll do to you what we did to them” kind of displays.
Delphi also has some of the oldest writings in history. This stone is basically a FastPass for all residents of a city. The city had given a great gift to Delphi, so the priests decided to give them all priority when they came to see the Oracle.
A little further up the mountain is the temple to Apollo. What made this temple different is that it is where the Oracle of Delphi did her work. An elderly woman was voted into the position, she’d hang out in the back room of the temple above a crack in the ground, chewing on laurel leaves, and rubbing the navel stone. People would send their questions for the Oracle via the priests (normal people were not allowed in the temple). The Oracle would respond to the question with a series of screeches, and the priest would interpret the answer back to the people. I would call this method totally fool proof!
A little further up was an amphitheater, after all Apollo was the god of music and poetry. And at the top is a stadium, this was used for the Pythian Games. They were a lot like the Olympic games, only in honor of Apollo. They did take place on different years than the Olympic Games. The speculate that this was because there was a call for a cease fire in all of Greece for the 6 weeks or so leading up to any games. This means it gave a time where all wars had to stop for a while. This way the people knew they’d always have a war break coming up.
I didn’t make it to the very top (as you can tell by the super zoomed in picture above), because that was a lot of walking that my little ankle just wasn’t going to be happy with. But it looked cool from other pictures I saw!
After that we headed to Delphi Museum. Here we saw the Sphynx and The Twins; they are great examples of the Egyptian influence on Greece.
They also have some of the only examples of ivory and gold statues. (The ivory part has turned black due to a fire.) Most of the temple statues would have been made with these materials. You can say what you want about the Ancient Greeks, but you can’t say they were cheap!
They also have some of the earliest lyrics ever written, and they think there are some notes on here as well. Musicians have tried to figure it out, but the best they can get is that it was a slow song.
Finally, we saw a bronze statue called the Charioteer. Originally, he was standing in a chariot being pulled by horses, all in bronze. It’s amazing that even this much survived so many years, as almost everything got looted over the years.
They found so many complete items in Delphi because it had all been buried. One great thing about this museum is that they have pictures of when the items were dug up. It was big news then, and we’re still showing up to look at it!
We had lunch in the Delphi city proper before hitting the road back to Athens. We also stopped at the mountain town of Arachova for bathrooms, shopping, and pictures.
I will now need to take an interlude from writing as I have to go to an “Authentic Greek Dinner” with my group. Please hold. (Imagine elevator music here, might I suggest “The Girl from Ipanema”?)
Okay, I’m back! A mere three hours later. On our way to the restaurant we took a drive around the town to see it all lit up. Acropolis Hill was particularly lovely!
For dinner we had so many appetizers… like six different dishes, and THEN the main course! I got the leg of lamb. I was not expecting to get the whole leg, but apparently portion sizes are huge here! And then we finished off with baklava. I have been really remiss about taking food pictures, and I’m sorry about that; usually I eat half the food and then realize I should have taken a picture. By then it’s a carnal mess that no one wants on the internet.
I need to head off to bed pretty soon, I have an early meeting time tomorrow; I’m heading out on a boat to visit three of the Greek Islands. I know, I know… it’s a tough life.