Delphi: The Navel of the Ancient World
Roughly 2 hours away from Athens lies Delphi. This ancient town where people sought advice is a mystical place that could very well be the setting for an Indiana Jones film (Archaeology department take note). Walking down its slope and looking out on to the valley, it isn’t hard to picture the setting. With the help of 3-d mapping and a few Hollywood films one can almost see and smell the everyday life here.
Delphi was considered the center of the world by ancient Greeks. The Delphic oracle was visited by statesmen and leaders of all types. Some would come from far away to listen to the oracle’s predictions. The story goes that Zeus let two eagles fly from each side of the earth. When they met it was in Delphi. The navel of the world. Originally belonging to Gaea, the primordial deity that spawned the rest of the Gods and titans, it was protected by Python, her serpent like child. That is, until Apollo killed the serpent and founded his own cult there. The cult of Apollo.
Thus, the precursor to the Olympic Games, the Pythian Games, were abolished in favor of the latter. Beginning in 582 BCE, they were held every 4 years. Some of the original temples and the theater are still visible today.
Excavations have yielded significant discoveries. Namely that the history of Delphi goes back in time. All the way to the Mycenean times in 15 BC. It is argued that it was the Myceneans themselves who brought the cult of Apollo to the fore.
Delphi is one of the most visited archaeological sites in Greece, despite having a smaller surface area than most others. The reason for that is simple. This site was the most sacred place in Greece. It decided the fates of many and as such was revered.
It is imbued with a special kind of aura. Even though, little of it is left, there is no question that Delphi is a one of a kind experience.