Almost everyone who was anyone in the ancient world sent gifts to Delphi. The remains of those dedications and of the sculpture that adorned the splendid buildings are some of the finest works that survive from classical antiquity. The star of the museum, with much of a room to himself, is the famous 5th-century-B.C. Charioteer of Delphi, a larger-than-life bronze figure that was originally part of a group that included a four-horse chariot. The wealthy Sicilian city of Gela dedicated this near-monumental work to honor its tyrant Polyzalos and his chariot victory here. It's an irresistible statue: Don't miss the handsome youth's delicate eyelashes shading wide enamel-and-stone eyes, or the realistic veins that stand out in his hands and feet. The graceful charioteer makes earlier statues on view here, such as the kouroi (monumental youths) Kleobis and Biton, look like stolid muscle-bound hulks. That's not far from the truth: According to Herodotus, the lads pulled their mother's cart to the Temple of Hera after the oxen fell ill. As they reached the temple, the boys collapsed -- earning both good deaths and immortal fame.
Although the charioteer is the star of the collection, he's in good company here. Wealthy patron King Croesus of Lydia contributed the massive silver-plated bull, flanked by delicate gold and ivory dedications. Each of the museum's rooms has a specific focus, such as sculpture from the elegant Siphnian and Athenian treasuries; pedimental sculpture from the Temple of Apollo; works from the Roman period (including a marble sculpture of the Epicene youth Antinous, the beloved of the emperor Hadrian); and a rich array of bronze dedications.
You could spend hours here, but allow yourself at least 1 hour. If you need a break, a cafe and gift shop is located just outside the museum.
Eggs and Eagles -- At the museum, don't miss the 4th-century-B.C. marble egg, a copy of the yet older omphalos (egg) that symbolized Delphi's unique position as the center (or navel) of the world. According to legend, when Zeus wanted to determine the earth's center, he released two eagles from Olympus. When the eagles met over Delphi, Zeus had his answer. It's easy to see why the ancient Greeks thought that Delphi, straddling a cleft in the rocky slopes of the majestic Parnassus mountain range and looking out over the Corinthian Gulf, was so spectacular that it must be the center of the universe. You may still see eagles in the sky above Delphi, but more often than not, the large birds overhead are the less-distinguished Egyptian vultures.
- © Frommer's 2013
- Very Highly Recommended 2010
- tel: 22650/82-312
- Summer Mon 11am-7pm, Tues-Fri 8am-7pm, Sat-Sun and holidays 8am-3pm; winter daily 9:30am-3pm. (Be sure to check these hours when you arrive in Delphi, as they can change without warning)
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