Delphi (Part 4)

7 September 2022. The Delphic Sanctuary (Part 2)

In my last post, we had made it as far as the Sacred Way just below the Temple of Apollo. The bus crowds were hot on our heels, having made their obligatory run through the archaeological museum before heading to the sanctuary itself. Fortunately, we were still far enough ahead to get some decent photos of the site before our vistas were spoiled by the crowds. I should note that this was pretty much how things happened in ancient times, too. Delphi was one of the most popular places to visit by people from around the Mediterranean in the age of Classical Greece – especially on the nine days of the year when the Pythia was available to prophesize.

Map of the Delphic Sanctuary. Copyright © Tomisti, permission granted under Creative Commons.

MAP KEY:  1.Temple of Apollo. 2.Altar of Apollo (Altar of the Chians). 3.Halos.      4.Bouleuterion. 5.Prytaneion. 6.Theatre. 7.Sanctuary of Dionysus. 8.Sanctuary of Gaea. 9.Sanctuary of Neoptolemos. 10.Lesche of the Knidians. 11.Stoa of the Athenians. 12.Stoa of Attalus. 13.West Stoa. 14.Treasury of the Athenians. 15.Treasury of the Siphnians. 16.Treasury of the Sicyonians. 17.Treasury of the Aeolians. 18.Treasury of the Boeotians. 19.Treasury of the Knidians. 20.Treasury of the Korinthians. 21.Treasury of the Kyrenians. 22.Treasury of the Megarians. 23.Treasury of the Potidaeans. 24.Treasury of the Thebans. 25.Rock of Delphic Sibylla. 26.Column of Prusias II. 27.Column of Aemilius Paullus. 28.Column of Naxians. 29.Serpent column of Plataeae. 30.Daochos votive or Monument of Thessalians. 31.Monument of Krateros. 32.Chariot of Rhodians. 33.Exedra of the Kings of Argos. 34.Exedra of the Epigons. 35.Votive altar of Taras. 36.Votive altars of Athens, Arcadia, Argos and Sparta. 37.Bull of the Korkyrans. 38.Temenos Wall. 39.Roman Agora. 40.Sacred Road. 41.Road to the Stadium.

Above left, looking north from the Sacred Way to the Temple of Apollo. The white columns belong to the Stoa of the Athenians (map key No. 11). Above right, the Sacred Way leading up to the Altar of Apollo/Altar of the Chians and the Temple of Apollo.

The Altar of Apollo, west end (map key No. 2). The stone block behind the bent tree is the base of the Column of Aemilius Paullus (map key No. 27).
Altar of Apollo/Altar of the Chians, east end (map key No. 2). The ancient dedication text of Chios can be seen in the horizontal white block under the “blue” marble stone.

Left, partial replica of the Tripod of the Plataeans (map key No. 29). Original base of Plataean tripod is the small square between base of the Chariot of the Rhodians (left side of left photo) and the replica Plataean tripod. Right, the base of Tripod of the Krotonians (unnumbered on map).

Trying to find online descriptions of some of these dedications can be a frustrating exercise. Such is the case with the Tripod of the Krotonians. However, I dug around and found a reference to it in a doctoral thesis. “Remains of a limestone base and a marble inscription from a tripod dedication by the Krotoniates were found east of the temple of Apollo at Delphi (Jacquemin & Laroche, 1990, pp. 301-311, figs. 2-9; Rougemont, 1991, p. 163; Jacquemin, 1999, p. 320, no. 126; IGDGG II, pp. 152-153, no. 42; see figure 48). The tripod was over five meters high and three and a half meters in diameter (Rougemont, 1991, p. 163). The base of the tripod is believed to have had a sculptural group of Apollo and the python by Pythagoras of Rhegion (Jacquemin, 1991, p. 196). The tripod was a victory monument after the destruction of Sybaris in 510 BCE, and dedicated ca. 411 BCE (Jacquemin & Laroche, 1990, 321-22; Rougemont, 1991, p. 163).”

FOUNDERS IN GREEK SOUTHERN ITALY AND SICILY [The University of British Columbia (Vancouver), Doctoral Dissertation]. P. 189.
Replica Tripod of the Plataeans looking west toward the Altar of Apollo/Altar of the Chians and the Temple of Apollo. Photo taken from just east of the base of the Chariot of the Rhodians. The base of Tripod of the Krotonians is the round structure, lower left corner.

Left, the Column of Prusias II (map key No. 26) being inspected by Paul and Michael P. (Aaron appears to be photographing the approach to the Temple of Apollo). Located immediately to the east (behind the Column as pictured) are the bases for the Tripods of the Deinomenids (above, unnumbered on map).

After passing the various votive dedications, we came to the “main event” – the great Temple of Apollo at Delphi. What we are seeing are the remains of the third and final iteration of the structure as a sanctuary of Apollon. A Mycenaean era temple may have existed on or near the site, possibly dedicated to the Earth Mother, Gaia/Ge. This temple, dedicated to Apollo, was first built in the 7th century BCE. It was then rebuilt after a fire in the 6th century BCE. The second temple was destroyed by an earthquake in 373 BCE and had to be restored. It was rededicated in 330 BCE. This final temple was destroyed by Christians in 390 CE after the Roman Emperor Theodosius I outlawed Pagan religious practices.

The entrance ramp to the Temple of Apollo (map key No. 1).
Looking south perpendicular to the entrance (left) to the Temple of Apollo.
Many writers mention the porous marble that was used to construct the columns of the final temple. This explains the poor preservation of the remaining columns. But why was poor quality marble used for such an important sanctuary? Was this due to the near constant warfare which was occurring between the various city-states in the 4th century BCE? Or did an ancient contractor skimp on the quality and pocket the difference?

Pythia of Delphi, 440–430 B.C.E. Berlin Museum

The photos above provide views of the exposed adyton of the temple. Photo left shows a tilted floor block with a circular series of holes that may describe the location of the tripod of the Pythia. It is here that fumes allegedly arose from a crack in the earth to inspire the Pythia’s prophesies. The photos on the right show this same floor section looking south from above (photo top) and the side (photo bottom).

The Temple of Apollo, looking southeast from the area of the proscenium of the theatre on the hillside above.
Walking west along the north side of the Temple of Apollo brings us (above) to the Offering of Krateros (map key No. 31). Heading north up a somewhat dilapidated staircase (right) you come to the theatrical district of the sanctuary. On this climb I picked up a small branch of laurel leaves that was laying on the steps. Never turn down a gift from Apollo.
I’ll admit to stumbling on these – very uneven – steps.
At the top of those stairs, hang a right (east) to go to the theatre. Btw, the trunk of that cypress tree next to the stairs was worn smooth by the hands of thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of visitors.
The theatre of Delphi (map key No. 6). The Sanctuary of Dionysos (map key No. 7) is located at the far end of the theatre. A slideshow of the theatre is given below. I’m not certain why I neglected to take photos of the two temples of Dionysos. I guess I need to add that to a punchlist for my next visit.
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The boys went on up the hill to look at the Stadium, home of the Pythian Games. I, on the other hand, was beat, so I sat this one out, drank the last of my water, and watched the busloads of tourists making the climb up the hillside (photo above). I rummaged around and took some photos of the ancient drainage system (photo left). I’m a chemical engineer, not a civil engineer, but curiosity is curiosity.

I climbed up there with none of my minders in sight. Dumb? Maybe. But it was interesting.
A somber reminder that this area is prone to wildland fires.

After the boys got their fill of what they said was a spectacular view of the site from the Stadium, we made our way down the hill and exited the sanctuary. It was an amazing experience, but I was exhausted and out of water. Plus, the crowds were making it impossible to take decent photos.

We stopped at the restrooms and the gift shop (Michael P. found some kittens to oo and ah over), and then walked down the hill to the Kastalian Spring. In ancient times, visitors to the sanctuary would first visit the spring to purify themselves. I wasted no time laving its cold, fresh water over my poor, overheated head. I drank my fill of its water, filled my water bottle, and two sample bottles to take home, and gave thanks to the Nereids.

This is a new free-flowing spigot for the Kastalian Spring.
The original Kastalian Spring house.

After this we walked back up to the museum. Michael P. and I sat in the shade while Paul and Aaron went back to the outskirts of Delphi to get the SUV. They swung by and picked us up, and then we headed east to find a spot to pull off so that we could make a quick stop at the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia. As I mentioned in a previous post, religious activities have taken place at this site since the Mycenaean Bronze Age.

Everyone but Paul was knackered, and the path down to the sanctuary was heavily eroded from a previous rainstorm. So, we gathered at an overlook slightly above the sanctuary and took a few shots before climbing back into the SUV and heading off. Our next stop: the Korykian Cave on the slopes of Mount Parnassos.

The tholos of Athena Pronaia at Delphi.
One last shot of the splendor that is Delphi.

— Να εχεις μια ωραια μερα. —

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