Delphi, Greece Delphi was a particularly prominent religious city in Greece. Myths and legends have established Delphi as an extremely important place during ancient times. In an ancient myth, Zeus released two eagles from opposite directions, and they eventually met in Delphi, thus indicating that Delphi was the center of the world, an occasion consequently marked with a stone known as the omphalos (Britannica 979). Therefore, the people of the ancient Greek world perceived Delphi to be a place of special significance to the gods. Since Delphi was of such importance to the ancient gods, the people made it a place of prominence in the Greek world. Delphi was occupied with monuments and statues, making it a significant Greek cultural center. It also contained a stadium and theatre, and hosted the Pythian Games. “In Greek history the chief significance of Delphi was that it provided a meeting place for the inhabitants of the innumerable particularistic city-states. As an international sanctuary it helped to foster a spirit of Panhellenism, to which the Panhellenic Pythian games contributed” (Fine 678). Thus Delphi was a city-state of considerable international significance. Delphi was located on the southern slope of Mount Parnassus in the district of Phocis and approximately six miles from the Gulf of Corinth (Legon 118 and Britannica 979). It stands at an elevation of about 2,000 feet (Broneer 69). Modern day Delphi was previously called Kastri and is relatively close to the location of ancient Delphi (Legon 118). Delphi was important as early as the 1100 B.C. and eventually became an international Greek shrine (Legon 118). Having been established as the center of the ancient world, Delphi became a place of significant construction projects. It is perhaps most famous for the temple of Apollo, the Greek god of the sun, whose temple is “the oldest and most influential religious sanctuary in ancient Greece” (Legon 118). In addition to holding Apollo’s primary temple, Delphi is significant because the temple contained the famous prophet, or oracle, which influenced many aspects of Greek society (Legon 118). The oracle, Pythia, was often consulted, dealing with political, social, and economical issues. It became extremely popular and well-known among the ancient world. Influencing much of the Greek-speaking world, the oracle’s utterances held considerable weight, being considered not only for private matters, but also on state affairs and national policy (Britannica 979). Delphi became a considerable power in the ancient world largely because of the oracle, as rulers from many surrounding areas consulted it and based their actions on its counsel (Broneer 70). It was the oracle that spoke forth supposed wisdom, giving advice that the Greeks would take very seriously. “The oracle messages were spoken by a priestess seated on a golden tripod, who uttered sounds in a frenzied trance; they were interpreted to the questioner by a priest, who usually spoke in verse” (Columbia 772). Since people would allow the words of the oracle to dictate their future actions, Delphi would receive gifts from foreign leaders in appreciation for it, thus allowing Delphi to amass significant wealth (Broneer 70). As time passed, Delphi’s significance dwindled. It was no longer considered the center of the world, as foreign powers invaded. The great Temple of Apollo, which was first build during the 6th century B.C., was destroyed and rebuilt multiple times (Columbia 772). John V.A. Vine summarizes the various destructions and rebuildings of the temple: “The original small temple was burned about 548 B.C. The second temple, for which members of the Athenian Alcmaedonidae family were the chief contractors, was completed in 510 B.C. This building, of which Euripides gives a partial description in his Ion, was destroyed by an earthquake in 373 B.C. The new temple, although often damaged, survived until its destruction by Arcadius about 400 A.D.” (Fine 678). Not only did the Temple of Apollo face difficulties, but the entire city-state of Delphi faced significant hardships in early Roman times. Delphi was struggling to survive amidst earthquakes, holy wars, and times of international turmoil. Not only did Nero allegedly loot about five hundred statues, but also “with the spread of Christianity, the old pagan sanctuary of Delphi fell into decay” (Britannica 979). The decreasing significance of Delphi was undoubtedly impacted by the growing popularity of Christianity and the dispersion of the gospel message. “In 390 A.D., Theodosius I, in the name of Christianity, silenced the oracle forever” (Fine 678). Thus we are able to see the direct effect of the spread of Christianity in subduing ancient Greek religion. The temple of Apollo, as well as the rest of the city, declined in importance as people did not put as much value on worshipping the ancient Greek gods. It was also during this time that the popularity and importance of the oracle dramatically declined (Columbia 772). Delphi has since become a popular site to visit in Greece. Excavations on Delphi were performed in 1892 by the French Archaeological School in Athens, revealing a large, irregular rectangular temple sanctuary (Broneer 70). Excavations included Apollo’s great temple as well as a chamber of the Delphic oracle (Britannica 979). The primary components of the excavations are the Sanctuary, whose principle building is the Temple of Apollo, and an area called “Marmaria” to the east (Broneer 70, 71). Other things that have been recovered include the Sacred Way, Castalian Spring, Treasury of the Massilians, Corycean Cave, and many other treasures. It is through the discoveries of such excavations that we are able to appreciate the tremendous artistic and cultural contributions of the ancient Greek city-state of Delphi. Works Cited Broneer, Oscar T. Collier’s Encyclopedia, vol. 8. New York: Collier’s, 1996. Fine, John V.A. The Encyclopedia Americana International Edition, vol. 8. Danbury, CT: Grolier Inc., 1999. Lagasse, Paul, editor. The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th edition. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000. Legon, Ronald P. “Delphi.” The World Book Encyclopedia 2002 Edition, volume 5. Chicago: World Book, Inc., 2002. The New Encyclopedia Britannica, volume 3, 15th edition. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 1998.