The Oracle of Delphi

Photo of the headdress of an archaic chryselephantine female

When you first reach the top of the archaeological site of the Oracle of Delphi and look back down, you get a sensation that perhaps you might be looking at Machu Picchu, that Incan citadel set high in the Andes Mountains in Peru. But this is the highlands of Greece and perhaps you are staring at one of the greatest marvels of man’s accomplishments. You realize that the Oracle of Delphi shrine was built in 1400 B.C. some 2800 years before Machu Picchu was built in 1450 A.D.

The view of the Oracle of Delphi site

But let’s go back a bit further to yesterday when we first arrived in Delphia. We had left the port city of Nafpaktos, a wonderful little town where we enjoyed our all-too-short visit.

By late afternoon we were driving the narrow coastal road by bus and headed toward our next stop—Delphi. The way to Delphi was along a winding, narrow road the followed the Gulf of Corinth. I doubt if there were more than one hundred yards of straight road at any one point and before long the twisting road added a new dimension by rising higher and higher into the mountains. Our bus driver was amazing and I heard a few of my fellow passengers exclaim that they hadn’t looked out the window since we began climbing!

The twisting and turning finally ended as the sun was nearly set when we reached our hotel in Delphi, the home of the ruins of the Tholos Temple. For our harrowing journey, we were rewarded with a spectacular sunset.

Our hotel, the Amalia, is situated about 2,000 feet high in the mountains. It is a massive complex, but the rooms are wonderful and ours very comfortable and had a magnificent view of the valley below that we had just trekked up by bus. Outside our hotel window was a blackbird that seemed to have an endless repertoire of delightful songs.

Click on the below to hear the magical sounds of the Delphi blackbird:

Today is Sunday and after being away from home for so long and having our schedules dictated, it just seems just like any other day. Today could be Wednesday and I wouldn’t know or care as I am really enjoying this vacation.

Today on our schedule is a visit to the excavated site where the Oracle of Delphi was widely credited for her prophecies inspired by being filled by the spirit of the god in the 8th century BC.

After breakfast (all of them on this tour have been massive, buffet-style with a great selection of food), we toured that excavated site of Delphi and the nearby Archaeological Museum, perched on the slopes of Mount Parnassos. It is amazing and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as being considered one of the most important places in Greek history.

It is raining today but we brought an umbrella and we walked and walked, even climbing the massively long set of stairs to the excavated stadium (above) at the top of the hill. It is truly a very stunning setting and the ancient ruins are remarkable if not inspirational.

Delphi is famous as the ancient sanctuary that grew rich as the seat of Pythia, the oracle was consulted about important decisions throughout the ancient classical world. Moreover, the Greeks considered Delphi the center of the world, as represented by the stone monument known as the Omphalos of Delphi. It occupies an impressive site on the south-western slope of Mount Parnassus, overlooking the coastal plain to the south and the valley of Phocis. We walked the Sacred Way to the imposing 4th century Temple of Apollo, site of the most important oracle in the classical world.

By lunchtime, we had walked or climbed the entire grounds of this massive site. The rain continued to fall as we worked our way to the nearby Delphi Archaeological Museum that housed the artifacts which had been unearthed in the adjacent excavations.

The marble Sphinx of the Naxians from 560 B.C.

Above and below, the famous Charioteer

Below, the head of an archaic chryselephantine statue of Apollo from the 6th century BC.

Above, Cleobis and Biton, made of marble in 600 B.C.

When we left the museum the rain had subsided, and we were soon headed for a restaurant named Topatrikomas, where I ate cooked rooster and these absolutely wonderful butter noodles. This dish, although I was reluctant to try it at first, is the house specialty, and was recommended by our guide. I was not sorry for ordering it and thoroughly enjoyed the taste and tenderness of the rooster.

Above and below, views from our dining table in the Topatrikomas restaurant.

After lunch, we boarded the bus and were traveling back toward Athens, but on a different route than whence we began our journey here. We made one more stop at a village, Naflion, where all signs are in Greek and awfully hard to understand, before our final push to Athens where we arrived in the late afternoon.

Our journey to Delphi offered amazing views of the highlands of Greece. The remarkable scenery and the equally remarkable archeological ruins of the Oracle of Delphi gave us a hands-on lesson in the history of this place that we had only read about in books.

We have travelled extensively with a tour group called Gate 1 and although this is not a paid endorsement for this company, I can highly recommend their services. Their prices are outstanding as is their overall agenda. The guides they use are top-notch and the food they serve, well, it is regional and wonderful.

Most assuredly you have read or heard about the Oracle of Delphi. A visit here will add not only to your understanding of Greek and human history but will add a very large drop in the bucket.

 

 

All photographs are the copyright of Jim Jackson Photography. Please contact me for authorization to use or for signed, high-resolution copies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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