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The Oracle of Delphi page four

The site of Delphi

aerial viewThe oldest part of the site is in the Marmaria, a narrow strip of land on the southern slope of Parnassos, where the Sanctuary of Athena is found. She was worshipped as Athena Pronaia/Proneia (Guardian of the Temple). It was occupied during Neolithic times (5000-3000BC) and a Mycenean settlement was found in this area in 1922. This part of the larger Delphi site was dedicated to the Olympian gods, particularly Athena, but, like the Apollonian shrine, was first dedicated to the Earth Mother, with remains from sacrifices found there. Athena superceded her in the Classical Age.

The Temple of Athena Pronoia dates to the 6th century BC on the site of a 7th century edifice. The temple was damaged by rockfall in 480 BC and completely destroyed by earthquake in 373 BC. Fifteen remaining columns had been unearthed before a landslide destroyed all by three. This spot experienced 3000 years of continuous religious focus, from Neolithic to Roman times.


another view of the tholosancient delphi greeceThe Tholos Temple (L & R) was built in the early 4th century on another site sacred to the Earth Mother. The round shape resembles that of Mycenaean sacrificial pits.

This temple was 13.5meters/45 feet in diameter and was erected on a triple platform, with twenty slender outer columns, the inner colonnade built with Corinthian columns, and the floor laid in geometric patterns of Pentellic and Eleusinian marble.Above the outer columns are reliefs depicting a battle of the Amazons.


the sacred Kastalia springThe New Temple of Athena Pronoia has a portico of six columns of the Doric order. The Gymnasium, first built in the 4th century BC, was rebuilt by the Romans., and is arranged of different levels due to the lay of the land. A covered colonnade is on the top level, which is known as the Xystos. This is where athletes practiced in bad weather, with a parallel track out in the open. The Palaestra is on the lower level, and divinded into a colonnaded court, the Baths, and a series of douche baths. The hot baths to the north of the court were added by the Romans.

The Kastalian spring (left) is situated in the ravine between the two Phaedriadhes, at 538meters. There are actually two springs, the one closer to the road being the older one, built during the Archaic period and not found again until 1958. The later spring was carved out of the rock and dates to Hellenistic times, and this is the site of the Kastalian Fountain.

Apollo was said to have planted a laurel cutting from the Vale of Tempe here. This area too was a place of cult worship of the Earth goddess, evidenced by the base of a statue of her. Pilgrims to the Delphic shrine had to purify themselves here, the washing of the hair an important part of the ritual, but murderers had to bath their entire bodies.

The Roman poets acribed poet inspiration to the waters, and the present-day fountain dates to Roman or Hellenistic times. A fascade of seven marble pilasters ornaments the spring with four niches presumably for votive offerings. In the biggest niche is a column drum from an altar of a Byzantine chapel. The water was channeled into a long reservoir 9 meters by 1 meter which fed seven jets which in turn fell into a rectangular court (9 meters by 3 meters) reached by stone steps .The water overflowing the fountain plunges down the ravine to join the waters of the Pleistos River far below. An Archaic fountain house near the road was discovered in 1957. The Pythian Sanctuary is an area with many monuments besides the temple itself. A wall encloses the precinct, with several gates in it. It is trapezoidal in shape and measures around 183meters by 128meters. The walls date from the 6th, 5th, and 4th centuries BC. This is a terraced area, necessitated by the steepness of the slope, with separate platforms for each building.

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