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Sacred Places – Delphi, Greece

Delphi, with a population of 1,500, is one of the most beautiful and impressive landscapes in Greece and the center of the world, according to ancient myths. It is located at the foot of the Parnas Mountains.

Located just north of Corinth Bay, which makes a deep, blue cut in mainland Greece, Delphi is the most revered place in Greece. Here is the most famous oracle of the ancient world. Due to the central position and spiritual preference, it was believed that Delphi was the navel of the earth, omphalous, a belief sustained by the myth of the two bits left by Zeus to fly from the two ends of the earth. The point on the ground corresponding to the point where they met in the air, Delphi, was designated as the center of the earth and marked with a conical stone.

For almost 1,000 years, until the oracle was overthrown in the 4th century AD, people came from all over Greece and further on the water, or where to ask the Apollo oracle about business, marriages, cultivation of land, colonial enterprises and others. Apollo responded to these requests through his priest, Pythia, who was a peasant from the area who was supposed to be over 50 years old and to lead a spotless life. In Apollo’s temple she entered the trance and spoke a series of seemingly incoherent words. These were then interpreted by a priest who translated them into verses and communicated the answer of the questioner.In ancient Greece, there were other oracles, like Dodona, in the northwest, for example. Through this oracle, Zeus communicated the answers to the questions that were addressed to him through the rustle of the sacred oak leaves, but Delphi was the most prominent among the kings and emperors, such as Cresus of Lidia (nowadays in Turkey), Alexander the Great, the conqueror of Macedonia and the famous Roman Emperor Nero. One of the reasons for the prestige of this temple was undoubtedly its natural setting. No other place in Greece displays so many beautiful natural elements. The Apollo Templar Temenos (the sacred territory) was built on a cliff-top of 900-foot rocky cliffs called the “Bright Shining” Phaedriades, because they shine in the light of sunrise and sunset as ravenous volcanoes covered with an incandescent lava crust.

From a deep cleft in the rock spring forth the clear waters of the Castalian spring, famous since antiquity because it inspires the poets. Below the sanctuary, a deep and wide gorge with pressurized crowns of green-silver olive trees extends to the bay’s waters.The entire land dominated by the rocky peaks of the Parnass Mountains, is prone to storms with suddenly bursting electric discharge, when Zeus “thunders with sparkling hand,” as well as earthquakes and landslides. Oars and eagles rotate over the rocks, and the countless bees and crickets make the landscape vibrate for life.

Delphi is the kind of place that makes the modern theory called Geea – namely that the earth is a living organism – seems very plausible. It is natural, therefore, that before being dedicated to Apollo, Delphi was consecrated to Geea, the goddess of the earth. The legend says that the sanctuary, called Pytho, was guarded by a huge pc snake called Python, a creature in Apollo, the god of light, reason and civilized arts, and patron of music, medicine and archery, came to the sanctuary, killed Python and installed his own Priest, Pythia.

Over time, the prestige of Apollo’s oracle increased, and at the end of the seventh century BC this is reflected in the multitude of constructions, whose ruins are still visible today. Kings and state-states wanting to honor Apollo or express gratitude, as well as demonstrate their wealth, built monuments, statues, and small “temple-shaped” “treasuries” that sheltered precious gifts. King Cresus, for example, sent a gold lion to Delphi weighing a quarter of a ton and placed it on a white gold pyramid of 117 bricks.

The statues and treasuries were strewn along the sacred path, which rose upward toward Temenos, to Apollo’s great temple, where the oracles were spoken. Nowadays there are a few columns left in the temple that the weather brings slowly to their natural state, and the foundations are exposed to sight. Its size and position, which offers wide views of the Leistos Gorge, are overwhelming.

The Greek Traveler Pausanias, who visited Delphi at the end of the 2nd Century AD. says that several temples have been built in this place. There were bay leaves, beeswax and feathers, bronze and finally stone. This stone temple burnt in 548 BC. and was immediately rebuilt but collapsed in an earthquake in 573 BC The ruins of the temple that were later built are what is seen today.Above the temple there is a very well preserved amphitheater, and in the uppermost part a stadium. It was used for phytic games, a festival which after 582 BC was held every four years. The entire sacred area, measuring 300/140 yards, must have been a sparkling display of marble and bronze. It is known that Nero has stolen over 500 statues, but still there are 3,000 left.

Beyond this wealth, the heart that gave life to this ensemble was the oracle. It affected the existence of many men and women and the destinies of the state-cult. The pilgrims arrived here, impressed by the grandeur of the natural frame and the richness of the place, would be more affected by the encounter with Pythia, for in her voice was the god Apollo himself.Such a spiritual encounter requires the observance of a elaborate preparatory ritual. Although the sources provide only a fragmented picture of the procedure, it seems that Pythia, the priestess and the applicants, had to be purified in the waters of the Castalian spring. Then, to find out whether it was good for the god to speak through Pythia’s mouth, a goat of sacrifice was sprinkled with cold water. If it was trembling, perhaps a reference to the trance state of Pythia was a good sign and the question could be addressed to the oracle.However, the seeds of creation, cast by Angelos and Eve, have not fallen on the ground. In the late 1960s, the idea of an international theater festival reborn at the initiative of the Greek government and became reality. Today, the festival takes place regularly, with bands arriving from Europe and other parts of the world to feature classical summer productions.Even in winter, when Apollo was said to leave the sanctuary for three months to go “in the Hippocratic Boreans,” somewhere in the north, thousands of modern pilgrims arrive at Delphi. They do not come in or on foot, but on the bus, not to ask questions, but to admire the mountains and the valley, the ancient temple, the stadium and the amphitheater, and even the Christian monasteries in the area: to permeate the spirit of the goddess Geea to Apollo and Christ, all of which coexist in harmony.

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