Come daddle and dawdle with me.
Are any of you watching the “Race across the World” on BBC Two? Five couples are racing from London to Singapore, on a limited budget, with no smartphone, no credit card, and a limited budget. The route is up to them, but they have to check in at a few points along the way, and planes are disallowed. First stop is Delphi.
If you are watching the series, you won’t actually have seen many of the delights of Delphi, just a quick glimpse of what they missed as they raced off to the next checkpoint.
But not to worry; I’m going to fill that gap with a pictorial wander around the archaeological site. No rush: we’ll dawdle not dash.
Delphi is perched on the slope of Mount Parnassus, placed at the navel of the world by the Ancient Greeks with the help of Zeus who identified the centre of the world. Other myths, and many of the artefacts found during excavations, suggest that this was a site of worship long before then. The area is now best known for Apollo and the Oracle, and for the stadium that hosted the pre-Olympic games.
It’s a large site, with no accessible routes for those who have mobility issues, I’m afraid. We’ll walk and trip our way along cobbled paths and clamber a fair few steps along our way. Be sure to bring water with you.
The first significant ruin that we walk through is the Monument to Egospotamos, with some walls and pillars left for us to admire and exercise our imagination. There was a young visitor there who seemed to have visualised it as the stadium and went for more energetic exercise.
Now we move further along the Sacred Way, past a couple of treasuries, to the spot where we discover the omphalos, the marker of the navel of the earth.
Just above this we have the reconstructed Treasury of Athenians, which was dedicated to their victory at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC and used to house the votive offerings made by them to this sanctuary of Apollo.
It was reconstructed from 1903–1906, with further renovation carried out in 2004. The metopes, some of which depict the Battle of Marathon, are copies, whilst the originals can be seen in the neighbouring Archaeological Museum of Delphi.
As we wander on, we get a view up to the remains of the massive Temple of Apollo.
This is believed to be the remains of the sixth temple of Apollo, which was finished in 320 BC. Its predecessors suffered from fire and earthquake, and also from general wear and tear on vulnerable building materials: it is believed that the first was made of daphne (laurel), and the second of bees wax and feathers. What we see now gives us an idea of the scale and glory of this site as a whole.
Next stop, a bit further up the hill, is the theatre. Originally built in the 4th century BC, and remodelled a few times since, it housed 27 rows of seats in the lower area, and another 8 in the upper, with room for around 4,500 spectators.
A fair walk up above the theatre takes us to the Stadium. It was built initially in the 5th century BC, but the version visible here now is from the 2nd century AD, when Herodes Atticus remodelled it to include stone seating and an arched entrance. It seated 6500 spectators, around a track that measured 177 by 25.5 metres. Sadly, this part of the site is susceptible to landslides and access is often refused to visitors, as was the case on my recent visit.
So now it is time to wander back down, pretty much following our route up, but with a chance to gaze down at the tremendous views into the valley. Before we leave, though, let me show you a painting that gives a possible view of Delphi in its heyday.
There is still more to see in this area, but time for a break. There’s a small cafe at the museum, and I’ll be back to take you on the rest of the tour in a week or two. Aντίο για τώρα – see you soon!
Copyright Debbie Smyth, 12 March 2019
Posted as part of Jo’s Monday Walks