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Delphi was considered to be the centre of the world by the Ancient Greeks and was a religious sanctuary dedicated to the god Apollo. There is a story that Zeus released two eagles that flew in opposite directions around the world and they both met at the location where Delphi is now; thus creating the myth that Delphi is the center of the world.


Delphi was located on Mt. Parnassus near the Gulf of Corinth. It is believed to have first been settled between 1500-1100 BCE, in the Mycenaean period.



Delphi was home to the most influential religious sanctuary in all of Greece, the Temple of Apollo. The Temple of Apollo was the site of the most famous religious figure in Ancient Greece, the Oracle of Delphi. Delphi was also the host of the Pythian Games, similar to that of the Olympic and Isthmian Games.

The Oracle:

The oracle of Delphi- the Pythia- was a young, virgin, priestess that was selected to be the interpreter of the god Apollo. Travelers came from all around Greece and beyond to seek prophecies on the future of their lives or actions. The original oracle was that of the goddess Gaea, whom had the serpent Python there to accompany the oracle. Apollo was believed to have slain Python and taken the oracle for himself. The site of the oracle was believed to have been chosen by chance. A goat shepherd happened upon the location when he noticed his goats were acting very strangely around this chasm in the earth that was leaking gases. When he came near to the chasm he began to feel the “power of the divine and began telling futures to come.” As many others began to visit the chasm, many of the people would fall into the chasm to their deaths, thus an oracle was chosen to be the one person to harness the power of the chasm and tell futures and prophecies to those who sought it. The Pythia had to be a beautiful, young, virgin girl who would inhale the fumes from the chasm, entering a trance, and interpret the message from Apollo. The priests that accompanied the Pythia  would then interpret the incomprehensible mutterings of the Pythia and tell it to the one or ones who sought the prophecy. In order to receive a prophecy from the oracle, you had to first go on certain days of the year that the Pythia operated and offer a pelanos or pie and a goat would be sacrificed. The Oracle at Delphi would act as some sort of tourist attraction in the ancient world. People from all over the ancient world would t ravel to seek the wisdom of the oracle. This created plenty of revenue for delphi and caused the city to have a lot more business.


Lycurgus Consulting the Pythia (1835/1845), as imagined by Eugène Delacroix.

The Pythian Games:

The Pythian Games began some time between 591 and 585 BCE. These games were initially only held every 8 years as a festival that would celebrate and commemorate the god Apollo and how he slayed Python. The games would feature religious ceremonies with the single event where solo singers would compete by singing a hymn, while playing a kithara, to Apollo. Around the year 600 BCE, the Amphictyonic League went to war with the Phokians. This dispute became known as the first sacred war. With the aid of great powers Delphi would claim victory after ten years had passed. After the victory of the First Sacred War, Delphi changed its festival. The festival was now called the Pythian Games. The games were later held every 4 years and held more musical events, along with athletic events that were later incorporated to imitate the Olympic games themselves. Eventually drama competitions would also be added to the list of events held at the Pythian games.  The victors of each completion would receive a crown of laurel or bay leaves. The Pythian Games were second only to the Olympic Games.

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