Facts About Delphi

Whether you're taking a tour with us or not and would like to learn more details about the popular sites in Delphi and it's outskirts feel free to use this resource.


The temple of Apollo at Ancient Delphi

The village of Delphi is built near the archaeological site, 2,5 km S.E. from the town of Amfissa and has 1.499 residents. In order for the visitor to extensively explore the archaeological site he or she needs to dedicate at least one day.

The site is positioned in an amphitheatric manner and has a hypsometric difference of 200 meters (656 feet). It is surrounded by tall vertical rocks called 'Fedriades Stones'. Here you will find ruins of the Temple of Apollo, traces of the 'Sacred Way' and ruins from the treasures of various cities. The Athenian Treasury is preserved in a good condition. At the site of Delphi you will also see the Castalian Spring, the ruins of the Gymnasium and the ruins of the Temple of Athena Pronaia which is one of the most important sanctuaries of Delphi. The Museum of Delphi which is constituted of 13 rooms contains a collection of art such as: ceramics, figurines, sculptures, bronze weapons, tools and signs from the Prehistoric times up until the Roman Times.

Delphi was considered by the ancients to be the navel of the world and the holiest of all the holy sites. Delphi gathers the region's historical and archaeological interest. The archaeological area of the Oracle of Delphi was revealed with the excavations that began by the French Archaeological Faculty in 1860. The archaeological discoveries show that the region was inhabited from as early as 1400 B.C. The history of the ancient city of Delphi is linked to the history of Apollo's sacred sanctuary and of his Oracle.

In the beginning, the rulers of Delphi were the Phocians of Crissa. In 590 B.C., Delphi along with the help of many Greek cities, declared the first Holy War on Crissa and destroyed them. From that day on Delphi becomes the centre of Amphictyony and of the Greek cities. In 582 B.C., the Games begin, known as 'the Pythian Games', which are held every four years. During Delphi's long and brilliant history of many centuries, the city was repeatedly destroyed (in 480 B.C. by the Persians, in 355 B.C. by the Phocians and in 279 B.C. by the Gauls). In 86 B.C. the sanctuary was plundered by Roman General Sylla and later on by a lot of Roman emperors including Nero who removed 500 richly carved statues and transported them to Rome.

In the early 2nd century AD the sanctuary enjoyed a brief period of renewed interest on the part of the philhellenic emperor Hadrian, who undertook some building. In AD392 we reach the end of the Oracle of Delphi with the decree of Byzantine emperor Theodosius, who banned the ancient religion and adoration of statues. Theodosius also prohibited the celebration of the Pythian Games.

Museum of Delphi

The famous statue of the charioteer at the Delphi museum
The museum of Delphi contains a collection of sculptures and architectural remains of an importance second only to those of the Athenian Acropolis. Just inside the entrance stands the Omphalos or 'navel' stone. This is a Hellenistic or Roman copy of the stone that was believed to have marked the place above which Zeus' eagles met establishing the sanctuary of Delphi as the center of the earth. There are 13 rooms of exhibits all on the ground floor. In one of the rooms there is a scale model that reconstructs the Sanctuary of Apollo in a triumph of limestone whites, blue marble, gold and terracotta. The colossal Sphinx of Naxos was presented by the wealthy citizens of the island of Naxos in 560 BC. It stands 7.5ft high and once had its place atop a column reaching over 33ft in height. The most famous of the museum's exhibits is a life-size bronze statue of the Charioteer. This statue was commissioned by a Sicilian tyrant named Polyzalos to commemorate a chariot victory in the Pythian Games in 478 BC.

Oracle of Delphi

The high priestess Pythia at ancient Delphi

The Oracle of Delphi was the most important oracle of ancient Greece in Phocia. It was established in the 8th century B.C. near the Castalian Spring. According to mythology a dragon named Python guarded the area and was killed by Apollo. Since then Apollo the Pythian was worshiped at Delphi. A temple was built in honor of Apollo. The first priests came to Delphi all the way from the island of Crete. In the beginning the prophecies were done with a draw from a pot. The prophecy of each draw depended on the shape and color of the item.

There were also other ways of prophecy: one was called 'eghimiseos' meaning the one that is in a state of sleep. It is said that with this practice of 'fortune-telling' the visitor would sleep near the sanctuary and god would speak to him in his dreams.

Eventually a woman named Pythia (from the dragon Python) became high priestess of the Delphic oracle and passed on her name to every woman that became a high priestess of the Delphic oracle. According to legend Pythia (each Pythia was over 50 years old) was seated on a tripod over a chasm and inhaled the gases from which they flowed while chewing bay leafs.

Because the priests could not understand what she was saying - the answers were often imprecise and ambiguous. Over the centuries the Pythias proved highly accurate in their predictions and won renown as oracles not only with the Greeks but also with people all over the Mediterranean world, including Romans and Egyptians, who frequently consulted her.

Castalian Spring

The Castalian Spring at ancient Delphi
Before entering the Sacred Precinct it is believed that everyone visiting Delphi for religious purposes including athletes were required to purify themselves in the clear but icy waters of the Castalian spring (this process principally involved the washing of their hair). The Oracle Pythia would also wash here before making her pronouncements. The visible remains of the fountain date either from the late Hellenistic or the early Roman period. A number of niches in the surrounding rock once held the votive offerings left for the nymph Castalia to whom the spring was dedicated. It is said that the British romantic poet Lord Byron once plunged into the spring inspired by the belief that the waters would enhance the poetic spirit.

Marmaria Precinct

The Tholo monument at ancient Delphi
Southeast of the Temple of Apollo a path leads to the Marmaria Precinct or "marble quarry" where the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia can be found. At the Sanctuary's entrance stand the ruins of a 4th century BC temple dedicated to Athena. At the far end of the sanctuary are the remains of an earlier temple to the goddess which was built around 510 BC. Between the two temples stands the Marmaria's most remarkable and most photographed monument: the circular Tholos. The purpose of this structure is still unknown. The rotunda dates from the start of the 4th century BC and was originally surrounded by 20 columns. Three of these columns were re-erected in 1938. They stand to provide some hint of the building's former beauty.

The Ancient Stadium

The well preserved ancient stadium of Delphi
This is one of the well-preserved ancient stadiums in Greece. Almost 200m (656ft) long and partly hewn out of the rocks above the main sanctuary it held 7000 spectators who gathered for the track and field events every four years during the Pythian Games. The present structure is made entirely of limestone and dates from the Roman times. The best preserved seats are the backed benches on the north side made for the presidents of the games and the honored guests.

The Monastery of Hosios Loukas

The monastery of Hosios Loukas

It was built (first half of the 11th century) on the west slope of Mt. Helikon, below the acropolis of ancient Stirion. The monastery of Hosios Loukas (Hosios means "saint" in Greek) is considered to be perhaps the most important monument during the mid-Byzantine time of the Hellenic land. Ten centuries have past since its foundation and it has played a leading role in the historical adventures of the region, gaining the favor of emperors and dignitaries in the Byzantine years. During the period of the Frank-siege the monastery shifted to the possession of the catholic monk battalion and endured the catastrophic fury and pillage of the Catalanese and Turks.

In 946, when Hosios Loukas was roughly 49 years old, he established himself on a slope that was full of greenery and had an enchanting atmosphere (today that is where the monastery is situated). He built himself a cell, a small chapel in order to pray and also a beautiful garden where he grew his own vegetables. His fame spread out through the mainland and many followers came. With them and with the economic help of his many admirers, generals and other dignitaries of the State, he began the construction of the church of Saint Barbara. He did not succeed in seeing it complete. In November of 952 he foresaw his death and on 7 February of 953 Hosios Loukas died. He lived 56 years, 7 months and 8 days. His student Grigorios buried him in his cell.

After his death, rumors that his relics were miraculous made large crowds of believers flee to the monastery in order to be cured. Hosios Loukas made numerous miracles not only during his life, but also after his death where hundreds and thousands of ill people, pilgrims and beggars came to seek help at his grave and would be cured. But apart from that Hosios Loukas also had a prophetic ability. He had foreseen many things, some of which are: the raid of the Bulgarians, Crete's release from the Arab possession, his death etc. The love and deep respect that the Christians had for him is therefore justified. The release of Crete, which he had foreseen in 942, came true about 28 years later in 961. This played a major role in increasing the respect to his memory from all Christianity and particularly from the reigning Constantinople.

Mountain Town of Arachova

The picturesque mountain town of Arachova

Arachova is a picturesque town which is located on the footstep of mount Parnassus which rises at 2,457 meters (8,061 feet). Arachova's climate is relatively cool but usually dry in the summertime, rainy in autumn and has a heavy winter that lasts a lot of months. One can find in the area of Arachova alpine meadows at big altitudes, naked rocks and an extraordinary forest full of endemic firs.

The Corycian cave is not only part of a fable, but was known to the ancient world and to its writers. Ancient Greek historian Pausanias visited the Corycian cave in the 1st century and reported that it was one of the most notable caves he had ever seen. Thick stalactites hang from its ceiling and as you walk towards the inside of the cavern, a great number of stalactites create something that looks like a work of "abstract art". The Corycian cave is likely to have existed from prehistoric times. This site can be found 10km away from Arachova towards mount Parnassus.

Arachova is famous for its rural, veterinary activities and for the high quality products that it produces. The idea of biological and ecological products, that is to say the products that are produced in a natural way or from pure natural materials is not something new for the Arachovites. This has been a way of living for them for a lot of centuries and is proved by their longevity.

Some of Arachovas famous products are:

  • Honey – made from the wildflowers of mount Parnassus
  • Formaela cheese – one of the most famous gastronomical products of Arachova. It is cheese that has the origin of its name guaranteed in the European Union, and is produced only in the region of Arachova. It is prepared in a unique way.
  • Olive Oil
  • Marmalade