Among the most beautiful
places on earth...
Sanctuary of Athena: Tholos
Perched dramatically on a
cliff overlooking a valley that leads to the Gulf of
Corinth, ancient Delphi is steeped in history and
mythology. According to legend, Zeus released several
eagles at the far ends of the universe which, by their
converging flight, determined Delphi to be the earth's
center. In the 6th and 7th centuries BC, the Oracle of
Delphi after purifying in and drinking from the
Castalian Fountain, went into a trance and doled out her
cryptic advice to the leaders of the world.
and ancient history aside, I find Delphi a particularly
fascinating place. I discovered the same fascination on my
prior trip to Delphi in 2003.
There's something about being in Delphi, particularly at the
Tholos (large picture above), that defies logic or
description. I sense an energy or maybe it's just some perception
of all that has come before us through the three
thousand years of human civilization here.
Temple of Apollo view from the
Tuesday November 21st
picked us up around 9AM for the scenic drive northwest from
Athens along the Gulf of Corinth. Arriving just before noon, we
began our climb at the base of the Sacred Way (first picture
above). Passing by the Treasury of the Athenians (second picture
above) and the Stoa of the Athenians, we arrived at the Temple
of Apollo, seat of the Oracle (third picture above and first
picture below). Proceeding further up the cliff, the well
preserved 5000 seat Theatre provided a dramatic view of the
Temple of Apollo and the valley beyond (large picture top of
page right and fourth picture above). The overall lighting and
sun rays seen in the fourth picture above may give some sense of
being at Delphi. Notice in the third and fourth pictures above
and in the large picture top of page right how the cleared area
down the hill and to the left is always lit up. That's the Marmaria location with the Sanctuary of Athena and the Tholos.
upward to the top of the cliff we arrived at the Stadium,
nestled in a quiet pine grove (second picture above). Reversing
direction on the Sacred Way we headed back down and to the
right toward the Delphi Museum which holds many of the treasures
found in the 19th century excavation of the ancient city. The
finely detailed bronze Charioteer, circa 500BC, is almost perfectly preserved
(third picture above). In the foreground of the fourth picture
above is the Omphalos, or navel, which marked the mythological
center of the earth. In the background is the top section of
the 13 meter "Column of the Dancers" from the 4th century BC.
museum we drove down to the Marmaria Sanctuary of Athena area,
with a quick stop to drink some water originating from the Castalian
picture above). There is a long walkway (second picture above
with ancient Delphi on the cliff in the background) past the
gymnasium heading toward the temples of Athena Pronaia (third
picture above), the Tholos (fourth picture above and large
picture top of page left) and the Shrine of Athenia Pronaia
(first picture below). The Tholos is a mystery in many ways.
Dating from the 4th century BC, there are no inscriptions and
nowhere in literature is there any hint of its origin or
purpose. Its multi-colored marble came from
Attica and its concentric columns were placed using a
mathematically complex set of ratios based on the golden
number. Incredibly, we had the entire Sanctuary of Athena area
to ourselves throughout our visit.
Leaving Marmaria, we ate a late
Greek lunch in the modern city of Delphi at the Cekacia Tavern
overlooking homes on the cliffs, the misty valley and the Gulf
of Corinth (second picture below). Driving southeast, we
stopped on the way back to Athens at the Hosios Loukas
monastery with its many mosaics and scenic location
overlooking the Elekonas peaks and fertile valley (third and
fourth pictures below).
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