The Sanctuary of Apollo is immediately beyond and just above the museum. The less-well-known Sanctuary of Athena on the lower slopes of Parnassus is a 10-minute walk past the museum. The Castalian Spring is between the two sanctuaries. If you can't visit everything, spend your time at the Sanctuary of Apollo, stroll to the Castalian Spring, and then cross the Delphi-Arachova Road to take a peek down at the Sanctuary of Athena. When you see hatless visitors in sling-back sandals huffing and puffing here, you'll be glad to have good shoes, a sun hat, and a bottle of water.
As you enter the Sanctuary of Apollo, you'll be on the marble Sacred Way, walked by visitors for thousands of years. The road runs uphill past the remains of Roman stoas and a number of Greek treasuries, including the restored Athenian treasury. Cities built these small, temple-like buildings at Delphi for several reasons: to impress their neighbors and to store riches and works of art dedicated to Apollo. Take a close look at the treasury walls: You'll see countless inscriptions. The Greeks were never shy about using the walls of their buildings as bulletin boards.
So many recent visitors were bent on adding their names to the ancient inscriptions that the Greek archaeological service no longer allows visitors inside the massive 4th-century-B.C. Temple of Apollo, which was built after the 7th- and 6th-century-B.C. temples were destroyed. In antiquity, one of the three Pythian priestesses on duty gave voice to Apollo's oracles from a room deep within the temple. That much is known, although the details of what precisely happened here are obscure. Did the priestess sit on a tripod balanced over a chasm, breathing in the hallucinatory fumes that may well have escaped from fissures in the rocks the temple rested on? Did she chew various herbs, including the laurel leaf sacred to Apollo, until she spoke in tongues, while priests interpreted her sayings? Perhaps wisely, the oracle has kept its secrets.
From the temple, it's a fairly steep uphill climb to the remarkably well-preserved 4th-century-B.C. theater and the stadium, which was extensively remodeled by the Romans. Events in the Pythian festival took place in both stadium and theater. In 1927, the Greek poet Angelos Sikelianos and his wife attempted to revive the ancient contests. Today, the theater and stadium are used most summers for the Festival of Delphi which has, on occasion, featured exceptionally nonclassical pop music.
Keep your ticket as you leave the Sanctuary of Apollo and head along the Arakova-Delphi road toward the Sanctuary of Athena (also called the Marmaria, which refers to all the marble found here). En route, you'll pass the famous Castalian Spring, where Apollo planted a laurel he brought from the Vale of Tempe. Drinking from the spring inspired legions of poets in antiquity; now, poets have to find their inspiration elsewhere, as the spring is off-limits, purportedly to allow repairs to the Roman fountain facade. (Once an antiquity is closed in Greece, it often stays closed quite a while.) Above are the rose-colored cliffs known as the Phaedriades (Bright Ones), famous for their reflection of the sun's rays.
North of the Castalian Spring, a path descends from the main road to the Sanctuary of Athena, the goddess of wisdom who shared the honors at Delphi with Apollo. Because the remains here are quite fragmentary, except for the 4th-century-B.C. gymnasium, you might want to wander about and enjoy the picturesque ruins without trying too hard to figure out what's what. The round 4th-century tholos with its three graceful Doric columns is easy to spot, though no one knows why it was built, why it was so lavishly decorated, or what went on inside. You can easily spend all day at Delphi; at the least, allow 3 hours and try to give yourself time to sit in a bit of shade and take in the view.
- © Frommer's 2013
- Very Highly Recommended 2010
- tel: 22650/82-313
- Sanctuary of Apollo, Castalian Spring, and Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia
- Summer Mon 8am-7pm, Tues-Fri 8am-7pm, Sat-Sun and holidays 8am-3pm; winter daily 9:30am-3pm. (Check hours as soon as you arrive at Delphi, as they can change without warning)
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