7 September 2022. The Delphi Archaeological Museum (Part 1).
Last night’s sleep at our Airbnb, Delphic Horizons, was completely restful. I can’t recommend this provider enough for their accommodations and hospitality. A couple of us had a light breakfast from the well-stocked larder. I would like to have tried the olives from our host’s father’s trees, but I just couldn’t see breaking into a jar just to nab a couple for myself. After packing and cleaning up (and making sure that we had water!), we were ready to head out to the Delphi site. However, our first stop was to a BP gas station on the way so that Michael P. could pick up smokes.
There was no available auto parking at the museum, so Paul and Michael P. dropped Aaron and I off at the entrance path and took the SUV back towards Delphi to find a parking space. The tour buses hadn’t yet arrived (thank the Gods), so even though the smallish parking lot was filled there really weren’t that many people in the museum.
We purchased our tickets in the foyer of the museum (I believe that you can also buy them at the entrance to the sanctuary). The ticket is good for both the museum and the sanctuary. We recommend that you plan to arrive EARLY before the tour buses start to show up. Hit the museum first, as it will become crowded much faster than the sanctuary itself (and good luck taking decent photos after the crowds start pouring through the doors, buckaroos).
Delphi allegedly derives its name from the Delphyne (Δελφύνη), a female snake (or drakaina) who was a servant of the earth mother, Gaea (Γῆ or Γαῖα). The earliest known reference for this tale is the ca. 6th century BCE Homeric Hymn To Pythian Apollo. The story changed at some later point so that it was a male snake (or drakon – yes, this is the origin of the word “dragon”) named the Python (Πύθων). The snake was slain by Apollo so that He could take over the site. And it was from this snake that the oracle of the sanctuary derived her name, Pythia (Πυθία). The worship of Gaea at Delphi may date to the Bronze Age as evidenced by the remains of a Mycenaean structure uncovered just north of the Temple of Apollo. This sacred site has ancient roots.
The sanctuary site itself is said to be sacred according to the myth promulgated by Hesiod that Delphi was the landing place of a stone that had been vomited up after having been swallowed by the brood-devouring Titan, Kronos (Κρόνος), in place of His infant son, Zeus (Ζεύς or Διός). The substitution was a trick played upon the Titan by His wife, Rhea (Ῥέα), who was tired of having Her swaddling children treated like dolmades. Called the omphalos (ὀμφαλός), or navel stone, it was said to have been displayed in the adyton of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi near the place that Pythia sat. Another story has it that Zeus sent two eagles crisscrossing the earth to find its exact center, and where their paths crossed, He set the navel stone. I don’t know about you, but of the two, I prefer Hesiod’s tale of a divine spew.
“[G]reat Kronos the wily was beguiled by the deep suggestions of Earth, and brought up again His offspring, vanquished by the arts and might of His own son, and He vomited up first the stone which He had swallowed last. And Zeus set it fast in the wide-pathed earth at goodly Pytho under the glens of Parnassus, to be a sign thenceforth and a marvel to mortal men.”Hesiod, Theogony (lines 467-500)
The first two rooms of the museum are dedicated to the most ancient archaeological finds, including late Bronze Age Mycenaean cult and votive figures, and an assemblage of votive bronzes dating to the Greek Dark Ages.
Above, Bronze Daedelic kouros statue from Crete (ca. 620 BCE). A large bronze votive shield (late 8th century BCE).
Room 3 held archaic kouroi statues of the brothers Kleobis (Κλέοβις) and Biton (Βίτων) produced by the city of Argos. The statues may also represent the sacred Dioskouri (sons of Zeus) who were important cult figures in their own right, and the origin of the Roman Castor and Pollux.
I had thought that I could summarize the trip to the Delphi Archaeological Museum in one go. However, as per usual, I’ve gotten carried away in my descriptions and rabbit holes. Therefore, I’m going to break this phase of the trip into two posts, leaving yet another post to discuss the Delphic sanctuary itself. Is this too much? Too little? I’m writing this a full seven months after the trip, and I still get excited when I think back on what we saw, so hopefully my enthusiasm is infectious rather than a cause of narcolepsy.
— Να εχεις μια ωραια μερα. —