Delphi (Part 2)

7 September 2022. The Delphi Archaeological Museum (Part 2).

Continuing on through the museum from where we left off on the last post, we entered Room 4, where the gold and silver artifacts found during the sanctuary excavations are displayed. Frankly, I’m surprised that anything survived at all, given how often the sanctuary was looted, even by “civilized” armies (e.g., Romans – looking at you, Sulla). The remains of chryselephantine statues (below) show signs of fire. Which means that looters are sometimes so dumb that they forget to loot first, then burn.

Chryselephantine statues of Apollon (above) and His sister Artemis (right). Their mother, the lady Leto, is also present, but I failed to take a photograph of Her. (6th century BCE)
A silver and gilt sculpture of a bull which still had traces of the hollow wooden core on which it was mounted. The sculpture is roughly 2.5 m in length. (6th century BCE)
You may ask yourself “How do they know that it’s a bull? Cows have horns, too, after all. Well, the ancient Greeks gilded the lily for you, as it were (see above).

In Room 5, the visually stunning Sphinx of Naxos (below) rises up on a truncated ionic column. The original stood 12.5 meters (41 feet) tall! Not exactly designed to survive the region’s earthquakes. This room also contains architectural elements from the Knidian Treasury and the Siphnian Treasury. There are also some surviving architectural elements of the Lesche of the Knidians, which was a renowned meeting place at the sanctuary primarily because of two famous paintings by Polygnotus the Thasian that it once held. The Lesche was almost totally destroyed.

Knidian Treasury (L to R, below): Reconstruction drawing, head of an entrance Caryatid, monumental door frame, architectural element depicting part of a Gigantomachy frieze.

East pediment of the Siphnian Treasury depicting the attempted theft of the Pythian tripod by Herakles (center right) who is looking back at Zeus (center) and Apollon (center left) as They attempt to stop him.
Frieze of the east pediment of the Siphnian Treasury showing the Gods sitting in judgment of the Trojan War.
Frieze of the east pediment of the Siphnian Treasury showing the battle between Achilles and Memnon during the Trojan War.
Caryatid from the porch of the Siphnian Treasury.
Reconstruction of the Siphnian Treasury.
Frieze of the Siphnian Treasury depicting Achilles (R) with Gorgon shield and Memnon (L).
Painted terra cotta architectural elements from the Lesche of the Knidians.

Room 6 contains statuary and architectural elements from the archaic and classical versions of the Temple of Apollo. I took a few select photos of some interesting pieces (below, clockwise from upper L): Marble akroterion of the Goddess Nike from the archaic temple, the Goddess Athena from a Gigantomachy scene on the west pediment of the archaic temple, Apollo seated on the oracular tripod from the east pediment of the classical temple, Dionysos as the central figure amongst a grouping of Thyiads from the west pediment of the classical temple, and a freestanding statue of Apollo.

Sculptural elements from the east pediment of the archaic Temple of Apollo (clockwise from L, below): central grouping of horses pulling Apollo’s chariot flanked by korai (left) and kouroi (right, out of shot), north end of the pediment showing a lion devouring a stag, south end of the pediment showing a lion devouring a bull.

Room 7 contains architectural pieces from the 5th century BCE Treasury of the Athenians (which we will see when we head up to the sanctuary). I took few pictures here as so much of the material was fragmentary. However, I did want to capture this metope of the battle between Theseus and the minotaur. The plaque shows what the sculpture would have looked like when new.

Room 8 contains, among other things, the structural blocks from the Athenian Treasury which were carved with songs of praise to Apollo. Those were shown in the previous Delphi post. One other treasure found in this room is the rather famous Attic kylix depicted below.

White kylix of a myrtle-crowned Apollo pouring a libation from a phiale (480-470 BCE). Photo credit: Copyright © Aaron Dye.

Room 9 (and later Room 10) has items excavated from the sanctuary of Athena Pronaia, including structural pieces of the tholos temple. Below are two delightful pieces of bronze work from the sanctuary that caught my eye. The incense burner may have been used in rituals, whereas the aulos player was probably a votive offering.

Bronze incense burner (ca. 460-450 BCE).
Side view of bronze incense burner.
Aulos player (ca. 500- 490 BCE).
Entablature of the tholos of Athena Pronaia with a section of the guttering and lion downspout surviving.

In Room 10 may be found architectural elements (sculptural entablatures) of the tholos of Athena Pronaia (ca. 380 BCE).

Room 11 has a number of free-standing sculptural elements, the most impressive of which is the Column of the Dancers depicting Thyiads, the nymph worshippers of Dionysos. The omphalos stone shown in the previous Delphi post is also found in this room.

The base of the Column of the Dancers (above). Paul is photographing the top of the column (right) which contains the dancing Thyiads, the nymphs of a sacred spring on Mount Parnassos.

The descriptive card for the Column of the Dancers. Sorry that it’s a bit off. It’s hard to get the angles correct on some of these shots on the fly.
A parting shot of the Dancers and the Omphalos. Pole dancers and go-go boys. Must be the Dionysian period of the Delphic calendar.

Room 12 has more free-standing sculptures, including the 2nd century BCE circular altar stone of the tholos of Athena Pronaia (see three views of this, below), a frieze of the Twelve Labors of Herakles, and one of the best-preserved statues of Antinoös in existence.

Below are photos of the Twelve Labors of Herakles from the proscenium of the sanctuary theatre.

Above, pedestal of the monument of Aemilius Paullus commemorating the Roman victory over King Perseus of Macedon at the Battle of Pydna (67 BCE). Statue of either Plutarch or Plato, right.

Below and right is the marble statue of Antinoös (Ἀντίνοος), ca. 130-138 CE. There are holes drilled in his hair that once accommodated a gilded wreath of laurel leaves. Paul insisted that I make sure to get a shot of the ass that captivated a Roman emperor. All I can say is that Hadrian had excellent taste. While we were in this room, the hordes of bus tourists finally began to catch up with us. A fellow US citizen who sounded like he was from Texas, after dismissively sizing up the young God, asked why the Greek sculptors made their subject’s dicks so small. Talk about putting the ugh in “ugly American.” Time to move on.

We got into Room 13 before the crowds moved in, and managed to take some decent photographs of one of the most famous statues of antiquity, the Charioteer of Delphi (ca. 475 BCE). This statue had the privilege of being the only full-sized Greek bronze known to have survived from antiquity until the Artemision Bronze of Poseidon or Zeus was discovered in 1926. The Charioteer owed its survival to being buried in an ancient landslide, while the Artemision Bronze was shipwrecked.

Front, side, and rear views of the Charioteer. The photos below provide a reconstruction of how the statue fit into the overall original assemblage.
Bust of Herakles, dated to ca. 1st century CE.

One of the Texans wandered into the Charioteer gallery and asked their tour guide what that stuff was hanging from the statue’s hand. I had had enough close contact with stupidity at this point and so rolled my eyes and moved on to Room 14, the final display, before I heard the guide’s reply. One of the items I felt moved to photograph was a bust of an older Herakles who looked rather world weary. I can relate. We exited the museum, hit the WC, and made ready to climb to the sanctuary.

— Να εχεις μια ωραια μερα. —

One response to “Delphi (Part 2)”

  1. […] covered the origins of the Delphi sanctuary in my last post, but I thought that I’d add just a bit more here. The name of Apollo Delphinios, or Delphic […]

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