Delphi a brief history

In an­cient Greek his­tory and mythol­ogy, Del­phi was re­ferred to as the ge­o­graph­i­cal cen­ter of the world, its navel. Ac­cord­ing to the an­cient Greek myth, Zeus set two ea­gles free to find the cen­ter of the world. They soared through the skies west­ward and east­ward and their paths crossed in Del­phi.

The first ev­i­dence of habi­ta­tion in the area sur­round­ing Del­phi dates back to the Myce­naean era (C14th-C11th B.C.). At the time, the main deity wor­shipped was Earth. From the 11th to 9th cen­tury B.C., the wor­ship of Apollo was es­tab­lished in Del­phi.

Ac­cord­ing to the myth, Apollo took up res­i­dence there after he slew the dragon-like Python, which guarded the Earth god­dess’s or­a­cle. After his sub­li­ma­tion, Apollo re­turned to Del­phi and es­tab­lished his wor­ship at the or­a­cle which ex­ists in his honor to this day.

Apollo, the god of pu­rifi­ca­tion and div­ina­tion, es­tab­lished the ini­tial forms of his faith at Del­phi. He taught peo­ple the im­por­tance of «mea­sure» and be­came the most moral and peace­ful ex­pres­sion of the Greek spirit and cul­ture. At the renowned Or­a­cle of Del­phi, the Gods’ will was dic­tated through the Priest­ess Pythia.

Dur­ing the 8th and 7th cen­turies B.C., the areas of the sa­cred precinct of Del­phi were con­fig­ured. To­ward the end of the 7th cen­tury B.C., the first two stone tem­ples were built, ded­i­cated to Apollo and Athina. At the be­gin­ning of the 6th cen­tury B.C., Del­phi joined the Am­ph­ic­ty­ony, a union of city-states with com­mon po­lit­i­cal goals, which served to pro­tect the tem­ple from con­quest.

In time, the Del­phic Am­ph­ic­ty­ony at­tained ju­ris­dic­tion over the tem­ple of Apollo and in 528 B.C. once again or­ga­nized the Pythian Games, which took place every four years in honor of Apollo, to com­mem­o­rate the god’s vic­tory against Python.

Through the Am­ph­ic­ty­onic Coun­cil, Del­phi com­mu­ni­cated the ideals of friend­ship, broth­er­hood and peace­ful co­ex­is­tence of all peo­ple. These ideals have re­mained cen­tral to what is today re­ferred to as the Del­phic Ideal.

From the 6th to the 4th cen­tury B.C., the sanc­tu­ary at Del­phi thrived. The tem­ple was dec­o­rated with of­fer­ings and ded­i­ca­tions to Apollo from Greek cities and in­di­vid­u­als. Pil­grims would ar­rive from all over the an­cient world to ask for con­sul­ta­tion and prophecy for im­por­tant is­sues of state and for per­sonal mat­ters. The pil­grims would wash them­selves clean at the Kastalia Spring, pay a kind of tax (the pelanon) and sac­ri­fice an an­i­mal at the altar of Apollo.

This article is republished courtesly from the your guide for Delphi, the “Navel of the Earth”.