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Dr J's Audio-Visual Resources for Classics

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Castalian Spring

Corycian Cave and Environs

Marmara at Delphi

The Delphi Museum Gallery

Mount Parnassos

Up the Sacred Way

The Stadium at Delphi

The Temple of Apollo

The Theater at Delphi


Dr. J's Illustrated Temple of Apollo
at Delphi

IMG0068MID.jpg (9333 bytes)The temple as it survives dates only to the fourth century BC, but the foundation is original to an earlier version from the sixth century, which replaces an even older seventh century version. There would have been two rows of Ionic columns forming an interior colonnade within the Doric peripteral temple (6 X 15 columns). The pedimental sculpture described by Pausanias has never been found.
IMG0069MID.jpg (9405 bytes)Ancient authors admired the sixth century temple and honored it with their art: Euripides' Ion is set in front of the temple of Apollo; Orestes comes to this very temple in his flight from the Furies in the third play of Aeschylus' Oresteia; and Pindar actually wrote his Hymn to Apollo while sitting inside on an iron chair. It is recorded that the Greek maxim "Know thyself" was etched into one of the interior walls.
9414MID.jpg (10008 bytes)The stylobate and many pavement stones have been replaced on the 3-step blue limestone foundation. Nobody knows the arrangement of the adyton, or inner shrine that housed the sacred tripod of Apollo and the sacred chasm from which spewed forth sacred godly emanations. When the French excavated, they bore down to the bedrock without finding the secret chamber wherein the priestess would have become inebriated with the spirit of Apollo. Arguments abound about that too: some say the priestess chewed laurel leaves (sacred to Apollo) to become god-inspired; de-mystifiers suggest that a fumarole since closed by an earthquake vomited forth intoxicating fumes from the earth's center. This last idea might not be so far-fetched, since the Earth Goddess Gaia was worshipped here, too.
North17MID.jpg (9282 bytes)The oracle was very wealthy and very powerful, and, some would argue, very corrupt. First, the oracle gave answers to questions concerning military escapades in riddles. For example, the Lydian King, Croesus, might not have been so satisfied with the news that "a great empire would fall" after his battle with the Persians had he known that great empire would be his own. Secondly, how hard is it to forecast military defeat or victory if you are the confidant of all interested parties - all of whom have divulged their military secrets to you?
IMG0070MID.jpg (7252 bytes)On the east side of the Temple of Apollo lies the Great Altar, or the Altar of the Chians, originally dedicated by the population of the island of Chios (after their successful stand against the Persians) and restored in 1920 by their modern descendants. Unfortunately, this is not a picture of the altar - the oldest bichromatic (black and white) building found anywhere; this is just the stone ramp leading from the altar to the east entrance of the temple.
9405MID.jpg (12104 bytes)9404.jpg (2482 bytes)These reconstructed 4e columns tower over the site. Note the bird sitting atop the only fully reconstructed column (right). We can only imagine the commanding presence this temple must have enjoyed, completely surrounded by such columns and perched on the very precipice of Mt. Parnassos, surrounded by hundreds of votives...
North18XMID.jpg (7336 bytes)IMG0048.jpg (8999 bytes)Coming out of one of the drains that run underneath the Temple of Apollo (in '95 and '98). Although the French archaeologists failed to find the secret chamber where the Pythia communed with Apollo, this passageway allowed us to hide ourselves within the bowels of the temple. Probably against the rules, but well worth the risk. While we were inside, a tourist group from Britain gathered around the Temple and posed the Oracle a question. It was really hard to resist answering ...so we didn't!  
north19MID.jpg (2873 bytes)In the pitch-black drain, I took this over-exposed flash photo of a lifting block. The builders threaded a rope through this horse-shoe tunnel drilled into the rock in order to move it into position. This was a tight spot - the drain is a rectangular space not wide enough for any turning or shifting of position (not for the claustrophobic!) and certainly not wide enough to juggle camera and flashlight!

copyright 2001 Janice Siegel, All Rights Reserved
send comments to: Janice Siegel (jfsiege@ilstu.edu)

date this page was edited last: 08/02/2005
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