I recently took you on a photographic saunter around the main archaeological site of Delphi, and promised to collect you from the cafe for some more exploration. I hope you haven’t put on too much weight while sitting there waiting for me.
Time to move on! Grab your water and we’ll take a short walk down the road to another great site, that is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The road can be busy and the footpath is narrow, so take care. We’ll stay on the left for now, as we’ll pass the Castalian Spring, where visitors to Delphi used to stop for refreshment and cleansing, and where Pythia and the priests cleansed themselves before the oracle-giving ceremony. There is a newer water fountain by the road now, for modern tourist refreshment, and access to the spring itself was not obvious to me. However, it certainly used to be open as I had a wash there back in 1975.
Now we’ll cross the road and make our way to the place ahead where several buses are waiting for their groups to return. There is an entrance here to the Athena Pronaia Sanctuary, and the Tholos of Delphi. The quick route down has a locked gate at the top, but turn right and there is a long path that leads you there; and it really is worth making this detour. In fact, the Tholos is apparently the most photographed structure in Delphi.
Athena Pronoia was worshiped for her many attributes, including the goddess of peace, of war, of arts, of trade and agriculture, of labour and was also popular with those expecting a child.
The sanctuary is believed to have been small when first built in around 600 BC, with just one temple and an altar. It developed over the years and acquired treasuries, extra temples and altars, plus a pedestal supporting the trophy of Delphi. Two of the smaller temples were dedicated to Hygieia and Eileitshyia, deities for childbirth.
A Tholos is a circular temple. The one here was constructed between 380 and 360 BC. It consisted of 20 Doric columns arranged in a circle with an exterior diameter of 14.8 metres, with another 10 columns, this time Corinthian-style, in the interior. The exterior columns supported an eight-arched roof, plus metopes and triglyphs galore.
Much of this site is now left to our imagination, but three columns of the Tholos have been reconstructed and it makes an impressive sight.
Copyright Debbie Smyth, 25 March 2019
Posted as part of Monday Walks