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Ancient Greece – the Sanctuary of Apollo
Posted In: Ancient Civilizations  9/14/11
By: Yona Williams

The ancient Greeks were known for building great temples and central Greece was home to one of the most significant of sacred sites – the Sanctuary of Apollo located at ancient Delphi. This is where the infamous Oracle was found, which had a connection to the Greek god Apollo, who was believed to have spoken through the mouths of high priestesses. In this article, you will learn more about the myth and history of the ancient Greek attraction.

The ancient Greeks viewed Delphi as the center of the world. There is a Greek myth that says Zeus released two eagles from opposite ends of the earth and the birds met in the sky – right above Delphi. The birds impaled one another with their beaks and fell to the ground in what the Greeks would called the absolute center of the world. The Omphalos (or 'naval stone') was used to mark the site. A copy of this monument is stored at the Delphi Museum.

Before Apollo entered the picture, the serpent Python (the son of the Greek goddess Gaia (also known as Mother Earth) served as the ancient guardian of Delphi's Castalian Spring. Ancient tales say that killed Python and claimed the spring for himself. He is believed to have founded the oracle of Delphi to become a "glorious temple to be an oracle for men."

The history of the site shows that priests from Crete brought the cult of Apollo to central Greece during the 8th century BC. Many people of this time worshipped Apollo as the form of a dolphin.  Throughout time, it was thought that Apollo lived at the center of the world and because of this, endless pilgrimage were made to the city.

The Oracle of Delphi was a place that attracted kings, military leaders, and individuals of all walks of life. They came to ask the advice of Apollo as to the path they should follow when it came to matters of war, politics, love, and relationships. After a question was asked, a sacrifice was made and a priestess would say cryptic messages that a priest would translate.

Over the years, the number of people visiting the temples greatly increased. Many treasuries were constructed since the 6th century in the Sanctuary of Apollo to hold offerings made by pilgrims to the temple. But, in 393 AD, the Emperor Theodosius abolished the oracle of Delphi and made Christianity the official religion of the Byzantine Empire. The people started to ignore the temples and eventually, the materials of the site were plundered to make way for new buildings.

Today, the Temple of Apollo in Delphi dates back to the 4th century BC. Two earlier temples were constructed on the site, but the first was lost to fire in 548 and an earthquake destroyed the second. Some remnants of both ancient temples, such as wall blocks and sculptures, have been preserved.


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