Sunday, 8 February 2009

Delphi- Apollo Temple. Oracle of Pithia

The shrine at Delphi was the workshop of one--Apollo. Delphi is an impressive archeological site, located near the Gulf of Corinth on the route to central Greece at the foot of the twin peaks of Mt. Parnassos. The ruin of the Temple of Apollo dominates the site, and is surrounded by a theater, a stadium and numerous tributes and monuments contributed by city states and kings. Unlike Athens or Corinth, Delphi was not a residential city; it was a religious and political (the two were really not to be separated) shrine.
From his temple Apollo dispensed his divine guidance through the Oracle to the many pilgrims seeking his wisdom in matters of war, worship, love, and business. The seekers (men only, no women allowed) paid a fee, sacrificed a sheep, goat or boar, went to a waiting room, and submitted their question on a leaden tablet to a priest. Then a priestess, a devout local village woman over 50 years of age called a Pithia, sat on a three legged stool over a hole in the temple floor and inhaled fumes from below until she went into a trance. A priest would interpret the sounds she made to the pilgrim in cryptic verse. The prophecies were frequently equivocal and always obscure, but they were also authoritative and sometimes determined the course of empire.

How old is Delphi? In mythology, almost as old as time. The story is that Zeus released two eagles at the ends of the earth, one in the East and the other in the West. Where they collided and fell to the ground, Zeus marked as the center of the world with a sacred stone, "the navel of the earth." Originally the Oracle was dedicated to Mother Earth (Gaia) and guarded by her son, the serpent Python. Hera, one of Zeus's wives, in her jealousy sent the serpent in pursuit of Leto, another wife of Zeus, while she was pregnant with Apollo. Leto fled to the island of Delos and escaped. After he was born and while yet a child, Apollo came from Crete in the form of a dolphin (i.e., Delphi) and slew the serpent, took over the Oracle and the worship of the Delphinos Apollo was established. Apollo was a superstar among the gods and the Romans did not change his name. He was the son of Zeus, the lord of light, truth, intelligence, healing and the arts. As he was also the god of prophecy, Delphi was his most impressive shrine.

The French School of Archeology began excavating Delphi in 1892 and celebrated a century of digging in 1992. Archeologists found a stone on-site with a hole through it and three small holes for a stool where Pithia sat to breathe the vapors.

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