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DELPHI Phokis, Greece.

North of the Gulf of Corinth, with the twin peaks, the Phaidriades, above it and the valley of the Pleistos river below, the city (altitude 500-700 m) is superbly situated on the slopes of Mt. Parnassos (2459 m). From there it overlooks the meeting of the roads coming from the passes of Arachova to the E and Bralo to the W, which link the Peloponnese to the Greek mainland.

History: At the beginning of the 3d millennium the city of Krisa grew up on the sea coast, on the edge of the fertile plain formed by the deposits of the Pleistos. Removed ca. 1600 B.C. to the Kriso spur, the city was destroyed at the time of the Dorian invasion. Delphi itself was settled no earlier than the Late Bronze Age: the original city, called Lykoreia, was in the region of the Korykian cave. Mycenaean Delphi, “rocky Pytho,” was sacred to Athena, Gaia, who spoke oracles through the mouth of a prophetess, and very probably also to Poseidon, Dionysos, the sacred stones (the Omphalos, the Stone of Kronos), and the hero Pyrrhos-Neoptolemos. An avalanche of rocks and mud destroyed the city at the end of the Late Bronze Age.

Delphi became prosperous once again by the 8th c. when the first archaeological evidence of the cult of Pythian Apollo appears. According to the Homeric Hymn, the god seized the Earth oracle by slaying the female dragon that guarded the prophetic spring (Kassotis). Purified of this murder by a sojourn in the valley of Tempe, Apollo spoke his oracles in the Sanctuary of Gaia through a Pythia who sat on a tripod fastened on the edge (stomion) of a chasm (chasma ges) from which issued an inspiring vapor (pneuma). Its first priests were Cretans from Knossos who disembarked at Kirrha; they introduced the cult of Apollo Delphinios (dolphin), brought with them the old wooden idol (xoanon) and probably gave Pytho the name Delphi. Toward the middle of the century Trophonios and Againedes built the first ashlar temple. The sanctuary acquired considerable treasure, arousing the envy of Kirrha, which proceeded to levy dues on the pilgrims. In the course of the first Sacred War (600-586), Kirrha was destroyed (590) by the Amphictyony, a regional association of 12 tribes (from central Greece, Attika, Euboia, the NE Peloponnese) who previously had been grouped around the Sanctuary of Demeter at Thermopylai and probably at this time chose Delphi as the second federal sanctuary. The Ainphictyony reorganized and presided over the Pythian Games, held every four years in the third year of each Olympiad, and added the chariot race. At this time Delphi became truly the “navel of the world”: the oracle played an important moral role in colonization, and its fame spread as far as the barbarians. In 548, the temple having been destroyed by fire, the sanctuary was enlarged to its present size and the temple rebuilt by the Athenian family, the Alkmaionidai, with funds collected throughout the Greek world, even from Egypt. Offerings and treasure piled up. Miraculously saved from a Persian raid (480), Delphi received tributes following the Persian Wars (treasury of the Athenians after Marathon, the colossal Apollo of Salamis, golden tripod of Plataia, portico of the Athenians, golden stars of the Aiginetans, trophy of Marinaria, etc.) and minted silver coins. During the second Sacred War (448-446), the Phokians, with the support of Athens, seized the sanctuary, but it was restored to Delphi with the aid of Sparta.

The 4th c. was another golden age for architecture (Temple and Tholos of Athena Pronaia; gymnasium; treasuries of Thebes and Kyrene stadium). The Temple of Apollo, which was ruined in 373, was rebuilt under the guidance of the naopes with funds provided by Delphi, the cities of the Amphictyonic League (which levied a poll tax—epikephalos obolos—on their citizens), and the other Greeks. The building accounts were inscribed on stelai. Philip of Macedon took advantage of the endless quarrel between Delphi and Phokis (third Sacred War, 356-346) and between the Amphictyony and the Lokrians of Amphissa (fourth Sacred War, 340-338) to establish his dominion in Greece and occupy the Phokians' two seats in the Ainphictyonic League. At his instigation silver staters were minted at Delphi; on one side they showed Apollo with the Omphalos and on the other Demeter, veiled.

In 278 the Aitolians repulsed a Gallic invasion (the victory was commemorated by Soteria) and exercised hegemony over the League. The kings of Pergamon showed a pious interest in the sanctuary: Attalos I, having conquered the Gauls in Asia Minor, built a collection of monuments (a portico decorated with paintings, groups of statues, an oikos, a vaulted exedra); Euinenes II and Attalos II gave funds for the schools, for the completion of the theater, and the organization of the Euinenia and Attalaia. In 191 the Romans took the place of the Aitolians as masters of Delphi (the Romaia were instituted at this time). In spite of this powerful protection the sanctuary gradually declined; it was plundered by the Maides of Thrace in 91 and by Sulla in 86. Augustus reorganized the Amphictyony and it was probably in his reign that Delphi instituted a cult of the emperors in the Tholos of Athena. In A.D. 51 Galenus sought Claudius' aid in repopulating the impoverished, half-deserted city. Nero carried off 500 statues, but Doinitian restored the temple. A priest of Apollo from 105 to 126, Plutarch strove to revive the weakened religious life of the city, as did Hadrian and Antoninus later. Herodes Atticus covered the stadium with stone tiers, and in about 170 Pausanias visited the sanctuaries, finding them already dilapidated but still rich in works of art. These, however, were later plundered by Constantine and Theodosius, whose edict of 381 dealt the cult of Apollo its coup de grace. A Christian settlement was built on the ruins.

Institutions: The Amphictyony met twice a year, in the spring (the month of Bysios) and autumn (Boucatios). Each meeting, or pyle, entailed two sessions, one at Thermopylai, the other at Delphi. Consisting of 24 hieroinnemons (two to each people), who if need arose were assisted by pylagorai, the council could in emergencies hold a plenary session (ecclesia) which was open to all the citizens of the Amphictyonic cities. The Amphictyony organized the Pythian Games and, together with Delphi, administered the sanctuary.

Under an oligarchic constitution, political rights being reserved for the demiurges, Delphi was governed by a yearly college of nine (?) prytaneis (the archon eponymus being probably one of them), a Boula, or council, of 15 members in charge during six months, and a popular assembly (ecclesia). The city was responsible for the oracle; it recruited the Pythia, the two priests of Apollo, the two (?) prophets, the five hosioi; collected the consulting taxes (pelanos); assigned the privilege of the promantie (consultation priority); and organized the consultations.

The Oracle: Originally, usual consultations took place only once a year on the seventh day of the month of Bysios (February-March); then at an undetermined time they became monthly (the seventh of each month). The oracle could be questioned every day in special consultations, if the signs were favorable, by those whose cities were officially represented at Delphi by a proxenus. The suppliant first paid the pelanos and provided victims for the preliminary sacrifice and the sacred table, then, following the order fixed by protocol and the drawing of lots, was led into the megaron, in the rear of which was a gap in the stone floor through which the surface of Mt. Parnassos could be seen. This was the place of the oracle (adyton, manteion, chresterion). Here were the tripod, set over the mouth of the prophetic cleft or chasma ges, the Omphalos, the sacred laurel, the suppliants' waiting chamber, Dionysos' tomb, and the golden statue of Apollo. Purified at Castalia, having drunk the water of the Kassotis and chewed laurel leaves, the Pythia, assisted by a prophet and some hosioi, took her place on the tripod and under the influence of the pneuma gave the oracle, either in words or by cleromancy (drawing of lots).

The Monuments: These are in two zones, one E (the Sanctuary of Athena, the gymnasium) and the other W (Sanctuary of Apollo, stadium) of the Kastalian Fountain (altitude 533 m) that gushes forth from the two Phaedriades, Phlemboukos and Rhodini. Traces of two fountains can still be seen, one at the spring itself, cut in the rock, the other (6th c.) built at the edge of the ancient road.

The Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia, in the area called Marmaria, stands on a terrace that was enlarged several times. In the 4th c. the terrace measured about 150 m E-W and 50 in at most N-S. The main entrance is to the E not far from the trophy (now gone) dedicated to Zeus after the defeat of the Persians (480). Beyond altars consecrated to Athena (Pronaia, Zosteria, Ergane, Hygieia), Eileithyia, and Zeus (Polieus, Machaneus) are six monuments oriented S: the Temple of Athena, a Doric peripteral (6 x 12 columns) building of tufa, was built about 500 on the site of a 7th c. temple erected over the Mycenaean sanctuary; it was in ruins in Pausanias' time. The Doric treasury, of unknown origin (c. 480) and the Aiolic treasury of Massalia, later known as the treasury of the Massaliots and the Romans (after the capture of Veii in 394?); both of them, of marble and distyle in antis, were decorated with sculptures. About 390-380, with the “money of the sacrilegious ones” who had massacred suppliants in the sanctuary, the archaic two-cella Temple of Arteinis and Athena (6th c.) was replaced by the Doric limestone temple and marble Doric tholos (with Corinthian interior); the tholos was very likely consecrated to all the gods of Marmaria and later was assigned to the cult of the Roman emperors. The hoplotheca (for arms consecrated to Athena) and the Heröon of Phylakos near the sanctuary have not been identified. The gymnasium (4th c., rebuilt in Roman Imperial times) is on two terraces, one above the other, one bearing the covered portico (xystos) 177.55 in long; the other, the palaestra with its pool. Nearby was a Sanctuary of Deineter and the Heröon of Autonoos (not identified).

The Sanctuary of Pythian Apollo is surrounded by a trapezoidal enclosure wall (195 in maximum N-S, 135 m maximum E-W) of the 6th c. (repaired in the 5th and 4th c.). Its artificial terraces (altitude: 538-601 in approximately), which form tiers on the steep mountainside are linked by the Sacred Way. It was enlarged in the 3d c. when the W portico (Aitolian? 74 m long) and terrace of Attalos I to the E were added. It overflowed with works of art (at least 100 statues lined the first 35 m of the Sacred Way) of marble, bronze, ivory, gold, and silver (offerings of Croesus listed by Herodotos; archaic chryselephantine statues discovered in 1938 underneath the Sacred Way; golden tripod from Plataia, etc.). These were votive offerings commemorating not only Greek victories over the barbarians (Messapii, Persians, Gauls, etc.) but also victories of Greeks over Greeks. “Treasuries” abound at the first turning of the Sacred Way: those of the Sikyonians (ca. 500), Siphnos (ca. 525; admirable sculptures), Thebes (370), Athens (post-490: fine sculptures; Syracuse, “Etruscan” treasury, etc.). Passing in front of the Rock of the Sibyl and the bouleutenon (6th c.), the Sacred Way crosses the “threshing floor,” the ancient meeting-place of the ecclesia not far from the prytaneum, where the prytanes gathered. The sphinx of the Naxians and the Treasury of Corinth (end of 7th c.) stand close by the Portico of the Athenians in which were kept the bronze prows and flax cables taken from the pontoon bridge that Xerxes threw over the Hellespont. Many statues were perched on the crest of walls (20 Apollos of the Liparaians), on pillars (the Messenians, Paulus Aemilius, the kings of Pergainon, Prusias), on columns or the two-columned monuments typical of Delphi (Charixenos, the Lykos-Diokles family, etc.); they formed a “crown of bronze” over the sanctuary whose splendor dazzled the invading Gauls. The Sacred Way leads up to the Altar of Chios (6th c., repaired in the 3d and 1st c.) and the temple piazza. The latter is bounded to the N by the ischegaon (4th c., rebuilt in Roman Imperial times) and to the S by the great polygonal wall (6th c.), which is covered with over 700 inscriptions, most of them records of emancipation of slaves. The 4th c. temple, which is Doric peripteral with 6 x 15 columns, was rebuilt after 373 on the consolidated and enlarged foundations of the one before it (end of the 6th c.). In the pronaos, among other things, were the Maxims of the Seven Sages engraved on hems, and in the megaron, the Altar of Hestia, the common hearth of all Greeks, that of Poseidon, and the adyton of the oracle described above. The prophetic Fountain of the Earth and the Muses, Kassotis, part of which was incorporated in the foundations of the archaic temple, was moved for reasons of safety N of the piazza, which was ringed with offerings: the Apollos of Salamis and Sitalcas, both colossal; the tripod of Plataea, the chariot of the Rhodians (4th c.), the Column of the Dancing Maiden (end of the 4th c.), the Family of Daochos of Thessaly (by Lysippus), the chariot of Polyzalos of Gela (whence the “Charioteer,” ca. 475), etc. The upper region was taken up by the theater (3d-2d c.) with its 5,000 seats, the lesche (club) of the Cnidians (5th and 4th c.), the Stone of Kronos, and the Temenos of Neoptolemos at the edge of a sacred grove. At the top of the site, a few minutes' walk from the sanctuary, is the stadium. Its 7,000 seats and 178 m of track were used for the Pythian gymnastic contests as well as musical contests before there was a theater. Chariot races were held in the hippodrome down in the plain (not found).

The excavations at Delphi have yielded one of the richest collections of epigraphic material. The museum houses the most important finds, in particular a fine collection of sculpture.


A. Tournaire, Fouilles de Delphes: Relevcés et Restauration (1902)PI (hereinafter Fouilles de Delphes = FD); E. Bourguet, Les ruines de Delphes (1914)PI; G. Daux, Pausanias à Delphes (1936)P; P. de La Coste-Messelière et G. de Mirè, Delphes (1943)PI.

History: E. Bourguet, De rebus delphicis imperatoriae aetatis (1905); L'administration financière du sanctuaire pythique (1905), amended by G. Roux, q.v.; G. Daux, Delphes au II et au Ie siècle avant notre ère (1936); P. de La Coste-Messelière, Au musée de Delphes (1936)PI; L. Dor et al., Kirrha (1960)MPI; G. Roux, “Les comptes du IVe siècle et la reconstruction du temple d'Apollon,” RA (1966) 245ff; id., “Problèmes delphiques d'architecture et d'épigraphie,” RA (1969) 47-56; id., “Les prytanes de Delphes,” BCH 94 (1970) 117-32; Cl. Vatin, “Damiurges et Épidamiurges à Delphes,” BCH 85 (1961) 316-66; id., “Les empereurs du IVe s. à Delphes,” BCH 86 (1962) 229-41.

Oracle & Cults: P. Ainandry, La mantique apollinienne à Delphes (1950)I; H. W. Parke & D.H.W. Wormell, The Delphic Oracle (1956); J. Fontenrose, Python (1959); id., The Cult and Myth of Pyrrhus at Delphi (1960); W. Fauth, “Pythia,” RE XXIV (1963); G. Roux, Delphi (1971)MPI.

Monuments: 1. Marmaria: R. Demangel & G. Daux, FD: Les temples de tuf; les deux trésors (1923), cf. BCH 63 (1939) 220-31; Demangel, FD: Topographie du sanctuaire (1926); J. Charbonneaux & K. Gottlob, FD: La tholos (1925), cf. BCH 64-65 (1940-41) 121-27; 76 (1952) 141-96; G. Roux, “Pausanias . . . et les énigmes de Marmaria à Delphes,” REA 67 (1965) 48-52P; J. P. Michaux, FD: Le temple de calcaire (en préparation).

2. Gymnasium: J. Jannoray, FD: Le gymnase (1953).

3. Fountain: A. K. Orlandos, “La fontaine . . . à Delphes,” BCH 84 (1960) 148-60PI.

4. Sanctuary of Apollo: J. Audiat, FD: Le trésor des Athéniens (1933); J. Bousquet, BCH 64-65 (1940-41) 128-45; id., FD: Le trésor de Cyrène (1952); P. de La Coste-Messelière, “Le socle marathonien de Delphes,” RA (1949) 522-32; id., “L'offrande des Tarentins ‘du bas,’” RA (1942-43) 5-17; id., “Topographie delphique,” BCH 93 (1969) 730-58; P. Amandry, FD: La colonne des Naxiens et le portique des Atheniens (1953); E. Hanson, “Les abords du tresor de Siphnos,” BCH 85 (1961) 387-433; J. Pouilloux et G. Roux, Enigmes à Delphes (1963): contains the only complete plan of the sanctuary now published; J. P. Michaux, FD, Le trésor de Thèbes (1973).

Terraces, etc.: E. Bourguet, “Le char des Rhodiens,” BCH 35 (1911) 457-71; F. Courby, FD: La terrasse du temple (1915-27); A. Plassart, “Eschyle et le fronton est du temple,” REA (1940) 293-99; P. Amandry, “Notes . . . d'architecture delphique,” BCH 70 (1946) 1-17; 73 (1949) 447-63; 78 (1954) 295-315; 93 (1969) 1-38; G. Roux, “La Terrasse d'Attale Ie,” BCH 76 (1952) 141-96; Delphi (1971) 88-134MPI; L. Robert, “De Delphes à l'Oxus,” CRAI (1969), 416-57.

North Region: J. Pouilloux, FD: La réigion nord du sanctuaire (1960); L. Lerat, “Fouilles à Delphes,” BCH 85 (1961) 316-66.

Theater: G. Roux, Delphi (1971) 162, n. 309.

Epigraphy: List of published volumes in R. Flacelière, FD III, 4, 178 (1954); A. Plassart, FD III, 5: Inscriptions du temple (1970). Un Corpus des Inscriptions de Delphes (in preparation).

Sculptures, Bronzes, miscellaneous objects: P. Perdrizet, FD: Monuments figurés, petits bronzes . . . (1908)I; Th. Homolle, FD: Art Archaïque (1909); P. de La Coste-Messelière & Ch. Picard, Sculptures de Delphes (1926)I; P. de La Coste-Messelière, FD: Sculptures des temples (1931); id., Sculptures du trésor des Athéniens (1957); F. Chamoux, FD: L'Aurige (1955); id., “Un portrait de Flamininus,” BCH 89 (1965) 214-24; J. Marcadé, “Sculptures inédites de Marmaria,” BCH 79 (1955) 379-406I; Marcadé & P. Bernard, “Sur une métope de la tholos,” BCH 85 (1961) 447-73I; P. Amandry, “Rapport sur les statues chryséléphantines de Delphes,” BCH 63 (1939) 86-119I; id., “Statuette d'ivoire d'un dompteur de lion,”I Syria 24 (1944-45) 149-74; id., “Plaques d'or de Delphes,” AthMitt 77 (1962) 35-71I; Ch. Le Roy et J. Ducat, FD: Terres cuites architecturales (1967), additional bibliography in P. Amandry, “Recherches à Delphes (1938-1953),” Acta congressus Madvigiani (1958) 325-40; J. F. Crome, “Die goldene Wagen der Rhodier,” BCH 87 (1963) 209-28I; id., “Die Marmor-Standbilder des Daochos-Weigeschenks,” Antike Plastik 8 (1968) 33-53PI; Cl. Rolley, FD: Les statuettes de bronze (1969)I.


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