What the Oracle at Delphi Tells Us

We hop on a tour bus to Delphi, home of Temples to Apollo and Athena.  The tour guide tells us all about Greek history, from ancient times to the present day, on the three-hour drive to Delphi. image View of Tholos of Athena and Temple of Athena ruins. At our first stop at Delphi, we fill our water bottles at a fresh mountain spring. IMG_5900 Lisa drinks from same water source where ancient people purified themselves before heading to the sacred places of Apollo and Athena. On the lower slopes of the hill, we see the ruins of treasuries built by Greek city-states  to commemorate battle victories and thank the Delphic Oracle. image Treasury later converted to Christian basilica. image Treasury of Athens. image Rocks falling from these cliffs during an earthquake covered bronze and marble statues that 19th century archaeologists discovered. Delphi dates back to 1300 BC, pre-Classical times when Mycenae ruled what is now the country of Greece. This was long before city-states like Sparta and Athens came to power.  Several myths focus on this spot. Zeus sent two eagles, one from the west and one from the east, to find the center of the earth. Their paths crossed at Delphi, and it became known as omphalos or navel of  Gaia, mother earth. Gaia was worshiped here in archaic times (pre-Classical). The name “delphi” is related to “delphys ” meaning womb. Earthy. Maternal. Also,  Apollo, god of war, slayed Pytho the dragon (son of Gaia), here. The Pythian Games, pre-curser to the ancient Olympics, celebrated Apollo. In addition to games, visitors enjoyed plays at the theatre. image Mary in front of  theatre seats. In ancient times, kings traveled to these mountains to ask questions of the Delphi oracle.  To answer their questions, the sybil (a blameless older woman) would breathe toxic fumes coming from a crack in the earth beneath the Temple of Apollo. She answered in ecstatic speech that could not be easily understood, but the priest interpreted her words and provided answers. image Our first view of the Temple to Apollo. IMG_5862 The names of slaves who built the temples are engraved on this wall. image The Temple to Apollo and the place where the sibyl received answers from the fumes. We’ve had enough of the war god, so we visit other ancient ruins. Down the hill, we see the rows of marble stones, remnants of the Paleastra, a gymnasium which once had a stoa (columned porch), pool, and baths. IMG_5848 Paleastra ruins. We discover that our tour is not scheduled to visit the Athena Temple. So we take it upon ourselves to take a short side trip down the hill. We visit the area dedicated to the goddess. In ancient times, people would stop here first to clear their minds and prepare to speak with oracle. IMG_5877 We approach along a path bordered by yellow and purple flowers. image Tholos of Athena, partially reconstructed. image IMG_5893 Another feline friend patrols the perimeter of the Athena area. Only a few tourists are here. We enjoy the serenity of the valley. We head back to the archeology museum to see its amazing collection of artifacts from this site. image Sculpture that once marked the omphalos, birthplace of the world. image Bronze face mask of Athena, gold braids and pendant. image Caryatid (female figure as column) from the Siphnian treasury. image Bronze charioteer, possibly a victor in the Pythian Games. IMG_5904 Athena, Hera, and Demeter from the frieze of the Tholos of Athena. image This “Column of the Dancers” stood 30-feet high, an offering to the gods, but archeologists don’t know specifics. In these colored terracotta roof pieces from Greece’s Classical Age, we see the origins of Catalan modernista and French art nouveau design. IMG_5934 IMG_5937 IMG_5938 image On the bus ride back to the city, we stopped at a mountain village for artisanal craft shopping. We see the snow-covered Mount Parnassus, home of the muses and sacred mountain of Dionysus, through the clouds. IMG_5951 Mount Parnassus over village roofs. Oh, what do we ask the oracle? We ask what the future holds for us, and she tells us: “You will be happy together forever.” Refreshed by nature and by spirit, Las Chicas return to Athens in time for sunset over the Acropolis. image

© 2015 by Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds. All rights reserved.

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