Adapted from Eyewitness Travel Guide, Greece


Site Plan of Delphi



  • site had been covered by the modern village of Kastri

  • in 1892, French archaeologists purchased the right to excavate Delphi
    • at a cost of 500,000 gold francs

  • Kastri was relocated
    • but the villagers were not happy
    • at first, excavations took place under the protection of an armed force


Discovery at Delphi of the ‘Charioteer’, one of the few surviving bronze statues
from the classical era; note that one of the excavators is standing on the statue’s base; the bronze is now in the museum at Delphi
(from Roland and Françoise Etienne,
The Search for Ancient Greece, Thames & Hudson, p. 105)

  • Zeus is said to have loosed two eagles from opposite sides of the round (but flat) Earth at the same time

  • they flew towards each other at the same rate of speed and came together over what is now Delphi

  • hence Delphi was called the omphalos (‘navel’) of the earth

  • a sculpted omphalos, partially preserved in the modern museum, was placed at the site

  • Apollo had to kill a snake/dragon on the site to claim it as his own
    • corpse rotted (pytho = ‘I rot’)
    • Apollo’s priestess was called the ‘Pythia’

  • ‘Delphi’ comes from Greek word for ‘dolphin’
    • Apollo turned himself into a dolphin and jumped aboard a ship to obtain priests for his temple

  • visitors posed a question, Pythia leaned over a tripod and babbled nonsensical syllables, a priest converted the babbling into poetic answer
    • answers were often ambiguous, misleading
    • hence the god of the oracle was called Apollo Loxias (’Apollo the Slanted One’)
    • evidence for hallucinogenic gases is scant at best


  • leads to Temple of Apollo

  • lined with thousands of statues and treasuries


Discovery of the Statue of Antinoos (now in the museum)


  • housed the lavish gifts and money given to the oracle by city-states
    • was this a form of bribery?

  • those that are intact have been reconstructed

  • ancient Greek word for ‘treasury’ was thesauros


  • said to be the place where the first Pythia uttered her oracles

  • ‘Sibyl’ is a generic name for prophetess

  • name comes from woman whom Apollo loved
    • he gave her the gift of prophecy
    • but she stopped loving him
    • he offered her a parting gift
    • she scooped up two handfuls of sand and asked to live as many years as the number of grains of sand she held
    • she still lives, but keeps getting older and older


  • built after Athenian naval victory over Persians in 478 B. C.
    • to house war trophies

  • columns were single pieces; not built from drum sections

  • rear wall has thousands of inscriptions
    • one tale says every slave set free in Athens had to record his short biography here


  • visible ruins are from 4th century B. C.
    • 6th century temple once stood on site

  • upright columns have been reconstructed


  • paid for and built by inhabitants of the island Chios

  • built 5th century B. C.

  • made of black marble

  • restored in 1920


  • built in 4th century B. C.

  • seated 5000


  • one of the best preserved ancient stadia

  • seated 7000

  • site of Pythian Games
    • begun in 582 B. C.
    • held once every four years
    • one of the four ‘crown’ games
    • winners received crown of laurel
    • developed from earlier poetry/musical festival held once every eight years

  • present structure dates from Roman times


  • southeast of Delphi (across the road)

  • sacred to Athena

  • remains of 4th century and 6th century temples to Athena

  • in between is the tholos with three rebuilt columns (1938)
    • from the 4th century
    • purpose unknown
For a Web site with tons of information about Delphi, go to Odyssey—Adventures in Archaeology