Delphi: Shaping the Future of the Past

Delphi is just a small town built into the hillside under Mount Parnassus – home to the Muses – and overlooking the Gulf of Corinth. It’s three hours drive from Athens and even at the height of the tourist season you can escape the crowds here.

Gulf of Corinth view from Delphi P1010130
View of the Gulf of Corinth from Delphi

But in antiquity, it was the home of the Pythian Oracle, the most famous prophet in Greece. Cities, kings and ordinary people came from all over Greece, from all over the known world to consult the Oracle in the sanctuary of Apollo before taking important decisions. They brought rich offerings and sought advice about getting married, going on a travel, founding a colony or going to war. And the Oracle gave them famously ambiguous replies.

The navel of the world
The navel of the world

The most famous of these was Croesus, the legendary king of Lydia, the richest man of his time. Contemplating war with Persia, Croesus sent for advice to Delphi.

“If you go to war, a great empire will fall,” came the cryptic reply.

Croesus thought he understood. He went to war… and a great empire fell.


The temple of Apollo
The temple of Apollo
⇒ In 480 B.C., the Persian army, having forced the Pass of Thermopylae, turned towards Delphi: Xerxes wanted the treasures of Apollo, in particular, the rich offerings left by Croesus. 
According to Herodotus, the Delphians consulted the Oracle asking if they should bury or take away the treasure. The god replied that he was very well take care of his own; upon which the locals left the god to it and fled the town. Only a handful of men remained with the Oracle and from the sanctuary of Apollo they watched the Persian army arrive. Nothing but a miracle was going to save Delphi now... 
Did it? 
You'll find the answer in: The Arms of Apollo 
⇒ Γνῶθι σεαυτόν, Know thyself is one of the better known aphorisms of Delphi - it was carved into the temple of Apollo. But there was 147 of these aphorisms, originally attributed to Apollo, later to the Seven Sages of Greece: Delphic Maxims

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