(See also Delphic oracle; Pythian Games). Delphi, one of the four great panhellenicsanctuaries (the others are Isthmia, Olympia, Nemea), is on the lower southern slopes of Parnassus, c.610 m. (2,000 ft.) above the gulf of Corinth.
Before 300 bce
There was an extensive Mycenaean village in the Apollo sanctuary at the end of the bronze age; the area was resettled probably during the 10th cent., and the first dedications (tripods and figurines) appear c.800. The settlement was probably relocated after the first temple was built (late 7th cent.). The first archaeological links are with Corinth and Thessaly. The 6th cent. Homeric hymn to Apollo says Apollo chose Cretans for his Delphic priests, and early Cretan metal dedications have been found, but Cretan material could have come via Corinth, and Cretan priests may have been invented because Crete was distant i.e. this is a way of stressing the end of local domination. The first Pythian Games were held in either 591/0 or 586/5.
The sanctuary, for which our main literary evidence is Pausanias 10, consisted of a temenos enclosed by a wall. Inside it were the monuments dedicated by the states of Greece to commemorate victories and public events, together with about twenty ‘treasuries’ (the oldest are those of Cypselid Corinth (see Cypselus; Periander); Sicyon, c.560; Cnidus, c.550; and Siphnos, c.525), a small theatre, and the main temple of Apollo to which the Sacred Way wound up from the road below. The Persian Wars were architecturally celebrated with special panache, and heroes like Miltiades were commemorated more assertively here (Pausanias 10. 10) than was possible back at democratic Athens. The first temple was destroyed by fire in 548 bce; debris, including many votives (notably chryselephantine statuary), was buried under the Sacred Way. This destruction led to an architectural reorganization of the temenos. The great new temple was constructed in the late 6th cent. with help from the Alcmaeonids, and was itself destroyed by earthquake in 373. A new temple was built by subscription. The physical organization of the Delphic oracle is controversial.
Delphi was attacked by the Persians in 480 and by the Gauls in 279 bce, but suffered little damage. Excavations were begun by French archaeologists in 1880, when the village of Kastri was moved from Delphi to its present site some way away. Apart from the revelation of the main buildings of the enclosure and the remains of numerous buildings (such as the base of the Serpent Column and Lysander's victory-monument for Aegospotami), there have been notable finds of sculpture: the metopes of the Sicyonian building and the metopes of the Athenian treasury, the frieze of the Siphnian treasury, pedimental sculptures of the ‘Alcmaeonid’ temple, the bronze Charioteer, and the remnants of? Lysippus (2)'s memorial for a Thessalian dynast (the ‘Daochos monument’). Below the modern road and the Castalian Spring are public buildings (palaestra, etc.), the mid-7th-cent. temple of Athena Pronaia, the 4th-cent. tholos, and the treasury of Massalia (c.530), in the area called the Marmaria, where there are also boulders which have fallen from the rocks above (the Phaedriades).
The affairs of the sanctuary were administered by an ancient or ostensibly ancient international organization, the Delphic amphictiony. Influence at Delphi could be exercised in various ways and (mostly) via this amphictiony: by imposing fines for religious offences, by declaring and leading Sacred Wars, and by participation in prestigious building projects. Thus from the age of Archaic tyranny to the Roman period, Delphi (like other pan-Hellenic sanctuaries but more so, because of its centrality and fame) was a focus for interstate competition as well as for contests between individuals (see Pythian Games). The four Sacred Wars are therefore only the moments when such competition flared up into overt military clashes. But even ‘conventional’ wars like the Peloponnesian Wars had a religious aspect: Sparta's foundation of Heraclea (4) Trachinia during the Archidamian War was arguably an attempt to increase Sparta's influence in the amphictiony. And at all times in Greek history, control of Thessaly was desirable because Thessaly had a built-in preponderance of amphictionic votes. In the 3rd cent. bce the power of Aetolia was linked to its possession of Delphi, and significantly Rome's first alliance with a Greek state (212 or 211) was with Aetolia.
Delphi was also a polis (IACP no. 177).
Finally, Delphi had military importance as a place of muster in central Greece (e.g. Thuc. 3. 101).
After 300 bce
New Hellenistic powers used patronage of Delphi to gain legitimation; the Aetolian Confederacy certainly, and perhaps Attalus I of Pergamum, made dedications promoting their victories against the Gauls as pan-Hellenic services (see Soteria). The appropriation (168 bce) by the victorious L. Aemilius Paullus (2) of a monument destined for King Perseus (2) announced de facto Roman domination of the sanctuary. Although Augustus reformed the amphictiony (mainly to serve the interests of Nicopolis (3)) and Domitian repaired the temple ( ce 84), the only emperor to take a real interest in Delphi was Hadrian, who held the city's archonship twice, toyed with enlargement of the amphictiony (ending up instead founding the Panhellenion), and sponsored building (Syll3 830); c (καθηγεμών) of Roman Delphi's beautification in a debated passage of Plutarch (De Pyth. or. 409c) is Hadrian or the author himself, a Trajanic priest of Apollo, is debated. A regional Greek interest in the cult endured into the 3rd cent. ce, but international attention was now confined largely to tourism and the Pythian Games. Delphi was still a ‘sacred city’ (ἱερὰ πόλις) under Constans (Syll3 903d); the steps in the installation of Christianity remain obscure.
Fouilles de Delphes (1902– ) (multi-vol. publication of French excavations).Find this resource:
Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique Suppl. (1977).Find this resource:
G. Rougemont and others, Corpus des inscriptions delphiques (1977– ) 1.Find this resource:
G. Daux, Delphes aux II e et I e siècles (1936).Find this resource:
R. Flacelière, Les Aitoliens à Delphes (1937).Find this resource:
G. Roux, L'Amphictionie, Delphes et le temple d'Apollon au IV e siècle (1979).Find this resource:
H. J. Schalles, Untersuchungen zur Kulturpolitik der pergamenischen Herrscher (1985), 104 ff. (Attalids).Find this resource:
J.-F. Bommelaer, Guide de Delphes: Le SiteFind this resource:
J.-F. Bommelaer, Le Musée (1991).Find this resource:
C. Morgan, Athletes and Oracles (1990).Find this resource:
C. Morgan, in N. Marinatos and R. Hägg (eds.), Greek Sanctuaries: New Approaches (1993), 27–32.Find this resource:
S. Swain, Historia, Zeitschrift für alte Geschichte 1991, 318 ff. (Hadrian).Find this resource:
M. Maass, Das antike Delphi (1993).Find this resource:
J. Davies, in S. Hornblower (ed.), Greek Historiography (1994), ch. 7.Find this resource:
H. Bowden, Scripta Classica Israelica 2003, 67 ff.Find this resource:
S. Hornblower in I. Malkin and others (eds.) Greek and Roman Networks in the Mediterranean (2009), 39 ff.Find this resource:
M. Scott, Delphi and Olympia (2010).Find this resource:
Further bibliog.: E. Østby in N. Marinatos and R. Hägg (eds.), Greek Sanctuaries: New Approaches (1993), Greek Sanctuaries, 203 ff.Find this resource: