Delphi: the Earth’s Navel

Located on the Southwestern part of Mount Parnassos in central Greece is the ancient city of Delphi, famous for its oracle and the Temple of Apollo, among other features. In the ancient times, the site was a major area of worship for Apollo, the god of the sun and music. In Greek mythology, it is said that Apollo slew Python, a dragon dwelling at the center of the earth, located at Delphi. Hence, Delphi has been named the “omphalos tis gis,” or the “navel of the earth,” as it was considered by the ancients.

Inside the Delphic temple was the seat of Pythia, priestess at the Temple of Apollo and the most famous oracle in ancient Greek history. Inscribed in the temple are several statements including the famous “gnothi seauton,” or “know thyself.” Aside from the temple, Delphi’s ancient site includes a theater, gymnasium, the Athena Pronoia Sanctuary, a restored Athenian treasury, and the Tholos, a circular building with three restored Doric columns. Among other sights, the Tholos is the most popular monument on Delphi’s grounds.

In addition to hosting the most celebrated oracle in ancient times, Delphi was also a major center for athletics. Athletes from around Greece would gather at Delphi every four years to compete in the Pythian Games, one of four PanHellenic games which included the Nemean, Isthmian, and the most popular of all time, Olympic games.

After having been raided by Romans, what was left of the site, including temples, statues, and art, were later destroyed by Christians in an attempt to override ancient Greek practice. Delphi then became the site of Kastri, a village that was destroyed in an earthquake and then relocated, making way for excavations that lead to the discovery of the ancient grounds and various artifacts. Today, the remains of Delphi are one of Greece’s more popular tourist attractions.