Delphi, navel of the universe

Delphi, navel of the universe

Submitted by alvin on Tue, 2016-12-06 16:36 Temple  of Apollo When our driver-cum-guide Dmitri asked me as to what place in Greece I want to see most, I replied unhesitatingly “Delphi”. He was surprised and asked me the reason. I told him that as an admirer of Greek history, I am curious to see the place whose prophecies changed many events in the world.  Dmitri said that whenever ancient Greeks and Romans had to take decisions on very important matters they sought to hear the words of the gods in the form of oracles. Greeks believed that God Apollo would speak through the priestess Pythia from his temple in Delphi. I added that in 440 BC when Socrates came to Delphi the oracle he heard was “there is no other person wiser than you in Athens” and when Emperor Nero came to Delphi, Pythia said, “Your presence here outrages the god you seek. Go back. The number 73 marks the hour of your downfall!”   King Nero was so angry that he got the priestess burnt alive. But alas, the prophecy came true! An exhibit outside the Museum Athenian Pronaia   The driver said that it is better to go to Delphi and continue our conversation during the two and a half hour journey the next day. We set out from our Hotel in Athens after breakfast. Delphi is located on the southern slope of Mount Parnassus in Central Greece, surrounded by high cliffs.   Greeks believed it to be the centre of the earth- the navel of the universe. This the reason why Oracle of Delphi was so precious. As we approached Delphi, we saw a hill on which was scattered the ruins. I could not but help muttering that the ruins very much look like those in Hampi. We stopped the car and entered the archaeological site. The centre of attraction in Delphi is the Temple of Apollo, which has been rebuilt many times and the present one dates to 4thCentury BC. Only very few pillars remain now of what once was a magnificent temple. We were told that in this temple, Pythia would sit on a three legged stool and after inhaling some sort of smoke she would take questions from oracle seekers and answer them. The temple was totally destroyed in 390 CE. On the way to Apollo temple, we saw a large number of statues, and numerous small buildings. We were told that these buildings were treasuries built by many Greek city states to commemorate war victories and to thank the oracle for her advice which contributed to them. These buildings held rich offerings made to Apollo; these were frequently a "tithe", or tenth of the spoils of a battle. The most impressive treasury monument is the now-restored Athenian Treasury, built in Doric style to commemorate the victory at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC.  The platform of this treasury has an inscription on its south face which mentions this victory. Talking about marathon, we were told that Delphi was very famous for the Pythian Games held every four years and that this was the precursor to the modern Olympic Games. Located in front of the Apollo temple is the Sanctuary of Chians, built in the 15th century. This is built entirely of black marble. Further up the hill is the ancient Theatre from where one can get a spectacular view of the entire ruins and the valley below. It was originally built in the 4th century BC but was remodelled several times, once for Emperor Nero’s visit.  The theatre was used for musical concerts which was a part of Pythian Games. Athenian Treasury Author  in the theatre Panoramic view of Mount Parnassas Polygonal Wall Castillian Spring   Further up the hill is the stadium which was originally built in 5thcentury but remodelled many times.  Meant for Pythian Games it can seat about 6500 spectators.  As we returned to the exit gate, we saw a sign board showing Castilian Spring. This spring was meant for pilgrims to the temple have a wash and to quench their thirst. There are two fountains here which were fed by the springs and they survive even now. Close-by is the Archaeological Museum.   The village of Delphi is situated about half a kilometer from the Archeological site and has a population of about 30,000. On our way back to Athens, we stopped at a place called Arachovas which has a number of shops and restaurants to cater to the tourists who go to Delphi. Our driver mentioned that this town is very famous for its Cheese and Yoghurt. We stopped at a shop and purchased earthen pots of thick creamy Yoghurt. At once I was reminded of pots of Yogurt sold by villagers on the banks of Krishna river in Kolhar in Bagalkot district in Karnataka! Delphi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Author: Dr.Guruprasad joined the prestigious Indian Police Service (IPS) in 1976. Before that he worked for a short while in Steel Authority of India as Management Trainee and Canara Bank, Bangalore as Vice Editor of the Bank’s house magazine. During his 35 years of Police Service, Dr.D.V.Guruprasad worked as Superintended of Police of districts, Commissioner of Police, Hubli-Dharwad, Head of State Intelligence, Head of CID, Head of Police Recruitment