Monday, September 22, 2014

Delphi Greece

Karla had a classics professor at Washington University in St. Louis (Dr. Susan Rotroff) who does most of her work in the Ancient Agora in Athens. We asked for a recommendation of archaeological sites to visit in Greece, and besides the obvious sites in Athens, she suggested Delphi and Mycenae as her favorite archaeological sites throughout Greece. As I mentioned before, we spent three months in Greece without a car. We decided to rent a car from the Athens airport for a three day trip to Delphi and Mycenae (and ended up taking a side trip to the town of Napflio).  It was nice for me to rent a car and have the freedom to take a drive. I appreciated getting to see the countryside and exploring a bit more of Greece.  The traffic was heavy around Athens, but I found the drivers to mostly be logical and the driving conditions were not bad compared to other countries that I have traveled in such as Jordan or the Dominican Republic.

Driving through the countryside, we observed many small solar panel installations.  I was surprised to see these disbursed across the landscape as they were not near any particular use of the energy. I wonder if these solar panel sites are set up similar to disbursed agriculture where the land owner decided to install solar panel to produce energy to sell to Athens.

Delphi is a great mountainous site that overlooks an agricultural valley. You can see all the way down to the Gulf of Corinth in the Ionian Sea as well. Visiting this site, made me realize how much I appreciate and miss the mountains.

The Archaeological Site of Delphi is a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) site that was listed on the World Heritage registry in 1987. The description of the site states that this is a PanHellenic sanctuary with international fame. 

Its remnants represent some of the foremost events of art and architecture. The sanctuary, which combines in a unique manner the natural and historical environment, is related to numerous, key events of Greek history that have an impact on the progress of civilization. Quoted from the UNESCO plaque at the site.

This site has been used since the Mycenaean period starting around 1600 BC. The frequency of artifacts increased in the 8th century BC showing an increase in activity on this site and it was considered the navel of Gaia.

The Theater at Delphi is an ancient structure whose first form is not known and thought to have been made of wooden seats.  The first stone built theater at this site was constructed in the 4th century BC which could seat 5,000 people. It went through many periods of abandonment and rebuilding. The Romans restored the theater in 160 BC and the modern theater was restored using stones from Mount Parnassus. On May 1927, this theater was used during the Delphic Festival for a performance of an ancient Greek tragedy.  This was the first time in Modern Greek history that a theater was reused.

The Temple of Apollo was the site where the Oracle of Delphi once stayed. One hypothesis is that ethylene gas was emitted at a vent in this location which caused the oracle to have violent trances.

The Treasury of Athens was a built to hold the offerings to Apollo in recognition of the advice given by the oracle for the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC.

The Stadium was built in the 5th century BC and could seat 6,500 people. This is the upper most main archaeological site at Delphi. There was an insect outbreak going on in the pine trees when we visited which can be seen by the brown color to the foliage around the stadium.

The Temple of Athena is located downhill (and below the modern road) from the main set of structures associated with Delphi.

I found it interesting that they had plumbed major water sprinklers around the site which I assume was for fire protection in this Mediterranean climate.

In AD 1893 the French Archaeological School located and conducted the first modern excavations of the archaeological site of Delphi.  In the Middle Ages the town of Kastri was built on the archaeological site. After excavation on the site started, the town was relocated to the west.

The Delphi Archaeological Museum is a great modern museum that was remodeled in AD 1999. It houses the Sphinx of the Naxians which used to stand below the Apollo Temple Terrace and was discovered in AD 1861 and dates to about 570 BC – 560 BC.

We stayed at the Pithos Rooms (which was highly ranked on Trip Adviser) in the city of Delphi. The hosts were extremely friendly and helpful.

We could see snow-capped mountains from our third floor balcony. This area is known for its winter sports as well as its archaeological site.

We got a recommendation for a local playground from the owners of the Pithos Rooms that was a short walk outside of town away from the archaeological site. On our walk we found an open field with bee boxes which was nice to see.

The Delphi Archaeological Site was one of the most amazing archeological sites that I have been to and a large part of that was its great natural setting on the mountain slope overlooking the agricultural valley with distant views to the Gulf of Corinth and the surrounding snow-covered mountains. The depth of history that has occurred at this site also leaves one in awe. 

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