The Temple of Apollo at Delphi
Spintharus, The Temple of Apollo at Delphi, around 5th century BC, limestone and Parian marble
The Temple of Apollo at Delphi, located at what’s now Phocis, Greece, doesn’t look too impressive. It is, after all, composed of several broken columns and a bunch of weathered down rocks on the floor. What can this site possibly tell us about any aspects of Greek mythology?
To answer this question, we need to look at the temple from the literature. According to Pausanias, the famous Greek traveler in the time of Roman empire, there were five successive stages of the temple: the first stage when the temple was a hut built with branches of bay tree, which might be related to the myth of Daphne, who changed herself into a bay tree to avoid Apollo’s pursuit. The second stage temple was built, rather weirdly, with beeswax and wings of the birds. Even more bizarre was the construction of the third temple, which was said to be built with bronze by none other than the god of craftsmen himself. And Hephaestus building this temple is not the only strange thing about it, as it was said that the third temple’s succession to the fourth one was caused by the third temple falling into a giant hole in the ground.
It should be obvious from the presence of gods such as Hephaestus and weird building material like bird wings that the above succession of temples was likely only partly true to the actual history with parts being made up in later times, much like Greek myth. That can also explain branches of bay tree, one of Apollo’s symbols, being used to build the first temple in this succession. This is further strengthened by the fact that the first three temples might be built prior to the introduction of Apollo and the oracle to the region and might not be Apollo’s temple then.
The fourth temple was built with the first arrival of Apollo to the region. It was built by Trophonius and Agamedes, two famous architects in Greek mythology, out of rocks. According to myth, the construction was started with the slaying of Python, the monster serpent. Interestingly, the Homeric hymn mentioned a nameless female dragon, who would be named Delphyne, the female counterpart of Python instead of Python himself. Although the relationship between the monster Delphyne, Python and Typhon is rather confusing and might explain why there were several different versions of the monster that Apollo slayed here. After the temple was built the two architects asked Apollo for rewards for their work, Apollo then promised them “the best of all gifts”, or so he said. That was, however, not exactly the case…
After three days the architects were dead in a strange way: they brought their mother to pray to Hera for the gifts. And in return, Hera caused them both to die. A quite weird story even for Greek mythology. Apollo’s oracle, famous in many tales from the Greek mythology, was also introduced during this stage. This fourth temple was later burnt.
The fifth temple, one whose remnants could still be seen today as a rather weary site, was designed by Spintharus with limestone and Parian marble, and was believed to be finished at around the fifth century BC. And dating done the remaining sites roughly correlated with this age, at around 550 BC. So although Trophonius and Agamedes were often credited and associated with the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, the one we see today was actually built by a different person. And there ends the succession of the five temples, from prehistoric time to ancient Greece.
The Temple of Apollo in Delphi, which was probably the most ornate architecture on this site, was situated on a platform of the Southern slopes of Parnassos mountain half way up the hillside.Archaeologists believe that many temples were once built on the site. The first ones were probably made of wood. But they have disappeared. One theory is that they were destroyed by fire:A temple of the 7th century BC burned down in 548 BC and was replaced by a larger structure around 525 BC, which was destroyed in 373 BC.
Inside the temple there are many statues, including statues of Poseidon, Zeus and Apollo.Inside the temple, there is also a section called cella, which is a hestia (or hearth). Pindar called it the common hearth of all the Greeks. The Temple of Apollo at Delphi is quite long compared to the other temples, due to the fact that it accommodates a longer cella, at its end is the Temple of Pythia. In the cella are the stones symbolizing the center of the world, a laurel tree, a statue of Apollo and the tomb of Dionysus. The far end of the cella led to the most sacred part of the temple----the adyton, which was divided into the oikos (waiting room) and the andron.
Apollo is one of the Olympian deities as well as an oracular god. Many temples were built for Apollo. The Temple of Apollo was the first temple located in Delphi serving as a sanctuary for the god of Apollo. In this temple, there is a mysterious delphic oracle served by the highest priestess. The following article is about to address some current architectural evidence about the Temple of Apollo.
A geological survey of the Temple of Apollo in Delphi shows that the site of the temple is located on a fault cross and emits steam.
Due to the existence of Delphi’s oracle, the site is around 2000 years old for a religious center.. The rulers of Greece and Rome flocked to seek advice on private and political affairs. The oracle was originally a holy relic of the earth goddess Gaia; later, a temple was dedicated to the Greek god Apollo. Finally, in 392 AD, the oracle was banned by the Roman Christian emperor. One of Greek writer said that he served as high priest of the temple. In his document, he demonstrated how the oracle works. A local woman said that she entered a trance in a small room called adyton. What’s interesting is that these trances can cause an illusion and even lead to death.
These steam emissions become a secret thing that intrigues many archaeologists, but nothing has been discovered for a long time. However, Several years ago, a geologist called Luigi Piccardi pointed out that this mythical chasm may have been caused by a rupture from major earthquakes
Later, there are more new discoveries showing that a fault passes through the famous Delphi Fault just right below the temple, and this cross caused by rupture makes the bituminous limestone more permeable to natural gas and groundwater. In a word, researchers speculate that these earth movements will heat up the stone and create some hydrocarbon gases, just like what it mentioned in the document, a mysterious smell. Moreover, they reported that the coming spring water contained methan which makes things more interesting and explainable about the illusion and sudden delirium.
Delphi is the central part of Greece; it is seen as the origin of religion, and the bellybutton of the ancient world. There stands a ruined temple: the Temple of Apollo. Apollo is one of the most famous gods in Olympic myths, so people who believe in him built a lot of temples for him in the world. Among those temples, the Temple of Apollo in Delphi is the first one and there are many stories about this temple. In this article, I will talk about the myths behind this temple and Apollo.
The earliest description of the Temple of Apollo in Delphi comes from the Hymn to Apollo. However, it does not provide too many details about this temple. Apollo leaves Olympia to find a place to build his temple in human’s world. In Delphi he settles down his temple. Then he kills a dragoness called Delphyne nearby. This is not the most well-known one and the dragon in this story is totally different in other tales. Another version is related to Hyginus. Hera asks Python, a male serpent sometimes viewed as an ancient dragon, to prevent Leto from giving birth to Apollo and his sister. After Apollo grows up, he kills Python to get revenge in the temple of Gaia in Delphi. But Apollo’s slew of Python is an act of conquest to another god and Zeus punishes Apollo to stay here to hold the Pythian Game to expiate himself. What is more, Python is the guard of the oracle of Gaia but Apollo kills this monster and appropriates Gaia’s temple to himself. Generally, humans often view this slew as the light against dark and Apollo with no doubts is people’s hero save them from the monster.
Moreover, another noted thing is the Delphi oracle. The woman who can predict the future and convey Apollo’s answer to humans is called Pythia. The image of Pythia is a picture of a woman sitting on a tripod in a room full of a special smog. She always goes to the same room to receive the oracle from Apollo. And this is the point that brings nowadays people with doubts to the truth of the oracle. Although the oracle may not be true, Greece people see this as the instruction of God.
The Temple of Apollo in Delphi now is a group of relics, but in the late Bronze Age it was found, people view this temple as their belief and religion forms. These stories about Apollo and the temple may not be true, but the spirit and reverence to Apollo continues. This temple is the evidence and some oracles actually bring humans some delightments even today. There are three inscriptions in stone: know yourself, nothing too much and make a pledge and destruction is near are still set people thinking.
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