Dramatic Delphi

Sunday 14 July 2013

Positioned in the foothills of Mount Parnassos, historic Delphi was traditionally believed to be the geographical  centre of the world – the meeting point of two eagles dispatched by Zeus. For many centuries it was also the religious and spiritual centre of the ancient Greek world and the Delphic oracle was consulted by visitors from across a wide region. 

Theatre and temple set high on the hillside
Who doesn't love a 3D model?
Today visitors of all nationalities form an orderly line behind the rope cordons and obey the rules signposted everywhere – don’t touch this, don’t climb on that, no smoking, don’t remove any artifacts, no flash photography. Hot and bored guards are ready to crack down on any misbehaviour.

Having spent the last 6 weeks in Turkey where you can roam freely over almost all ancient sites it comes as a bit of a shock to have to keep behind a rope cordon. The theatre feels empty and cold without people sitting in the seats and testing the acoustics from all the different levels. The agora and gymnasium need exploring, the temple is a place to stand on and admire close up the huge columns reaching into the sky. Walls with interesting rock shapes scream out to be touched and tombs just have to be peered into. We arrived at 8am and had a lovely morning there but it did feel quite clinical after our rough and ready rambles over Turkish sites.

Treasuries - small temple shaped buildings built by Greek city states as a thank you for the oracles advice

Well preserved polygonal retaining walls of the Temple of Apollo

Stadium - 6500 spectators, 177m long, 25.5m wide - now at danger from rockfalls
The beautiful Tholos which originally had 20 columns
It is a spectacular setting, built on terraces overlooking a vast unspoilt gorge. At €9 for the combined ticket for the site and museum it was well over our ‘attraction budget’ but we couldn’t drive by and not see it. Excavated first in 1893 by the French Archaeological School many precious artifacts unearthed at the site are beautifully displayed in the museum. 

Demigod Antinoos who died before adulthood from drowning in the Nile

No photographic posing allowed - so sneaky (and cheeky) walk by rear shot will have to do!
Lovely lion freize
Bronze Charioteer of Delphi
The Temple of Apollo is believed to be situated over a sacred chasm emitting vapours which were inhaled by Pythia – an older woman of blameless life chosen from amongst the peasants of the sea - who would become the oracle. She would enter a state of delirium and her incoherent rantings would be translated by the priests and relayed to those seeking advice.  Over time earthquakes, changes in beliefs and some dubious predictions brought about the demise of the oracle and it was closed in AD 395. Shame - she could have perhaps given this lady walking around today in a very dubious outfit some wardrobe advice – not sure the mini-toga / baseball cap / trainers look is a good one!

When in Rome...?


  1. It's a shame you weren't allowed to roam freely but you managed to get some fantastic shots. I love the one of the Tholos and I rather liked the less than conventional view of those stone statues!

    Made me long to visit Greece again.


  2. We've just did a drive-by of the Temple of Poseidon in Sounion and from what we could see of that it's the same situation. The acropolis in Athens looked to be surrounded by scaffolding and cranes. Makes us long for the 'up close and personal' sites in Greece, free to roam, free of crowds and most free to visit too.

  3. I think it was at Delphi in about 1974, that I decided I wanted to be an archaeologist.

    1. It's quite an inspirational place and such a beautiful setting. Even the views from the site are protected from developments that would detract from the beauty of it. I can see why you would have come to that decision.