Delphi 11/06

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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.

Mythology 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 Theatre

Tuesday November 21st

Our driver 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.

Continuing 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.

Leaving the museum we drove down to the Marmaria Sanctuary of Athena area, with a quick stop to drink some water originating from the Castalian Fountain (first 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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