A Visit to the Oracle

By Elizabeth Lauderdale and Christina Mashishi

We started our day in Delphi by making our way to the Kastalian Spring where Emma gave us some background on how one would prepare for a visit to the oracle.

People hoping to ask the oracle for guidance would ritually cleanse themselves at the Kastalian spring before proceeding through the sacred way in the sanctuary of Apollo.

Along the sacred way are many monuments that were set up in antiquity to commemorate victories in battle, athletic and musical competitions, and tithes to the oracle. Professor Salowey mentioned how the walls in several parts of the site were a perfect example of polygonal masonry. One piece of irregular stone was cut and a piece of lead was fitted to it and used to cut the next piece so that the many pieces all fit together.

Example of polygonal masonry

Emma continued her presentation on the oracle Pythia at Apollo’s sanctuary. She explained its mythical origins as well as the probable scientific reasonings behind the Pythia’s visions. We also had a reenactment of what a visit to the oracle might have been like.

Besides being a religious site Delphi was also a highly political site. Rulers would often consult the oracle on new laws or about going to war. Since they relied on it so much it is likely that the priests that interpreted the oracle’s words may have engaged in corrupt behavior or been bribed by certain powerful people to interpret them a certain way.

Next, we identified some of the monuments along the sacred way using our guidebooks and the spolia, the remains that are still on the site. These identifications rely heavily of the writings of the Roman traveler Pausanias, who visited Delphi in the second century CE and left detailed descriptions of the things he saw on his travels.

Finally, we made our way up to the temple of Apollo and the theatre above it, where we could look out over the entire sanctuary.

We also met some furry friends along the way! : )

After lunch we visited the archeological museum of Delphi. The works below are some of the pieces we saw that were particularly interesting.

The Sphinx at Naxos would have been at the top of a huge column in the Sanctuary, looking down on those who neared the temple.
The Charioteer is remarkable as an example of a full, nearly untouched, bronze statue. Up close you can still see his implanted glass eyes and his eyelashes.
This Kylix of Apollo depicts him with a lyre and pouring libations from a kylix while a crow, possibly a representation of one of his lovers, looks on.
This is a statue of Antinous, the lover of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, who was greatly honored by the emperor after his death.

After visiting the museum we met up again in the evening for a lovely dinner at a restaurant in Arachova. Tomorrow our road trip continues and we will be going to Olympia!

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