I selected Galaxidi as a port of call as it was a bus ride away from Delphi and looked to be nicer than Itea, the larger commercial port a few miles further into the bay.
The bus from Galaxidi left at about 10 am from the town square right outside a cafe which served as the ticket office and bus stop. The journey, with a change in Itea took just under an hour.
Delphi was the centre of the ancient world. Zeus apparently set two eagles off from opposite ends of the earth and they met at Delphi, simple as that. It was also the home to the Oracle Pythia, famed throughout the ancient world, although I am unclear as to whether the eagles or Pythia came first.
Apparently the Oracles used to inhale fumes from the ground, enter a trance – like state and talk gibberish; luckily a priest was on hand to interpret the gibbering, and collect the offerings of course!
The name Pythia may have been the first Oracle’s name but came to be more of a title used by the incumbent oracles who were possibly ‘in residence’ from about 1400 BC. The first writen reference to Delphic Oracles is from Homer, dated to about 580 BC. He recounts how Apollo appeared in the form of a dolphin (hence Delphi) to a ship full of Creatans and promised them ‘rich offerings’ if they followed him.
As the home of the Oracle Delphi gained considerable importance and prestige. The Greek city states were lining up to build treasuries and temples and dedicate statues to Apollo; the crowning glory of Delphi was the magnificent Temple of Apollo, where the Oracle issued the prophesies.
The site is impressive and the engineering required to level terraces to support the monumental buildings is amazing. One of the Treasuries, the Treasury of Athens, which was built to commemorate the Battle of Marathon in 490BC, was constructed of imported marble, dragged up the mountain. The remains have been reconstructed and give a bit of a feel for the place.
Above the Athenian Treasury was the massive Temple of Apollo and overlooking that was the amphitheatre with stunning views across the Temple to the valley beyond. Higher still was the Stadium, an athletics venue, with seating on one side only, giving onto the valley again. If you got bored of the athletes or orators you could just look at the view!
The site itself looked as though it could do with some TLC, a bit of weed killing wouldn’t have gone amiss but despite that you could still get a sense of the awesome spectacle of the place, walking up the steep paths, flanked by statues and over-shadowed by buildings, each more impressive than the last until you reached the Temple. Only the plinths on which the statues we placed are left now, the statues that were found are in the museum, but with a bit of imagination you can see them in place. Some of the plinths still bear inscriptions and in the museum were slabs from the temple walls inscribed with the words of songs and musical notes above them.
Over the centuries the riches of Delphi were plundered but some items avoided detection, the bronze Charioteer being one. Aparently it was buried by an earthquke in 373BC and was never found by the looters.
Although the remains of ancient Delphi were a little tired, visiting was a fantastic experience.
The new town of Delphi is set up for the tourists but is quite nice to wander around while waiting for the bus back at 5.30 pm, also giving us time for lunch as well.
Delphi was really easy to reach and well worth the visit,