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Delphi more than any other place seems to symbolize the true significance of ancient Greece in all in its phases. Each one of the various ruins that are scattered around the great temple of Apollo is like a hymn in his praise. The whole owes its glory to the famous Oracle of Apollo which functioned even up to 300 A.D. It was famed for its honesty and wisdom and had a great influence not only on the religion and moral conduct of the individuals but also on that of the state and was consulted before any great enterprise was undertaken.
Apollo, the god of Light, to whom all was known had the power to enlighten all who asked, and his mantic power was unsurpassed.
He was the most glorious and beautiful of all the gods and the Greeks, even today, say “he is a real Apollo” when they speak of someone exceedingly handsome. He is the god of music and the beloved leader of the Nine Muses. His symbol is the lyre and he wears a crown of laurels in his hair. Daphne the lovely wood nymph, inspired such a passion in him that he pursued her trying to gain her affections. In her fright, Daphne south protection near her father, the river god Peneus who transformed her into a laurel tree. Since then, Apollo considered the laurel his favorite tree and awarded, as a prize to poets and musicians, a crown made of its leaves.
The Ruins of Delphes.
The temple of Apollo in Delphes.
Mythology also tells us that at Delphi Apollo slew the terrible Python, the monster serpent that devastated the whole vicinity. Every three years, the Pythian Games were held there in his honor to commemorate this great victory. At first, there were contests in music and in singing but later, the festival included games and contests of all kinds with a wreath of bay leaves as a prize.
People from all parts of the world came to Delphi, where Pythia, the priestess of Apollos temple gave out mysterious oracles which were believed to come from the god himself. Pythia sat on a Tripod over a chasm for which the vapors issued and chewed on bay leaves.
When she became delirious from the fumes, she would utter incoherent phrases which the priest of the god, who knew everything that went on in all Greece interpreted into prophesies suitable to the occasion both individuals and states sought the approval of the oracle for every important enterprise.
The countless pilgrims to the shrine left untold wealth there which was used to enhance the magnificence of Delphi. One of the greatest contributions to the political development of the times had its origin here. The Delphic Amphictyony, a league of twelve states, had as its objective at first the protection of the temple and Oracle of Delphi. In time it developed into a Panhellenic Council, a sort of League Of Nations to which the various cities resorted in order to protect their right. A permanent council served to arbitrate in the quarrels between the states and even between individuals and their decisions often to avert evil.
In time, Delphi came to represent the center of the earth and a huge oval stone with two golden eagles, one on each side, was erected there to represent the Earth’s navel. The eagles, according to mythology set out from Mt. Olympus- the dwelling place of the gods and after flying in opposite directions around the earth, met at this spot.
Here, too, was the fountain of Castalia believed to be the source of poetic inspiration for all who were fortunate enough to bath in it. Nearby is the great temple of Apollo and all around are the ruins of the palestrae, gymnasiums, tanks or pools where the athletes bathed, porticoes, storerooms, alters, pedestals from the countless statues, the famous treasuries built in the shape of tiny temples with two columns at the facades supporting a small stoa , with a room at the rear where the private treasures of individuals and the valuable offerings of the pilgrims were deposited for safekeeping- a sort of fore-runner of the modern bank . There were also chambers in which the meeting of councils and the magistrates who had charge of the affairs at Delphi were held a large public square was filled in ancient times with the offering to Apollo and there were platforms from which the athletes began their contests. Finally, there was the theater where the musical and dramatic contests took place.
These ruins lie in a surrounding of such natural beauty that even today they inspire us with the desire to revive the magnificence of that great epoch, at least from an artistic point of view. Some years ago, festivals were held at the Delphi but unfortunately the war brought a stop to these noble endeavors, but we feel sure that those who so warmly inspire them will one day be able to continue their efforts.
Illustrated edition dedicated to the Grecian Civilazation.
Year V. Period III. Supplements 18-25
Dir. Z. A. Macatounis- Athens 1949
Pesmazoglou St. 1a
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