The temple is the most popular site at Delphi - try to get here early to beat the tour groups coming in from Athens.
On the sun-warmed southern slopes of Mount Parnassos lies the world-famous temple of Apollo. If you searched the entirety of Greece, it would be hard to find a more spectacular location for an ancient landmark. Standing proud beneath sharp rocky peaks and commanding a stunning view of the valley below, this was certainly a fitting location for a temple of one of the most important Greek gods.
An Eternal Drama
Apollo was worshipped as the god of music and truth and, most importantly, of the sun. According to Greek mythology, Hera, queen of the gods, flew into a jealous rage when she discovered that the goddess Leto was pregnant by her husband Zeus with Apollo and Artemis. Hera sent the mighty serpent Python to ruthlessly pursue Leto so that she could never give birth in the sunlight. Many years later, when Apollo was fully grown, he set out to avenge his mother’s plight, and eventually slayed Python within the sacred shrine to Gaia at Delphi. As punishment for this sacrilege (rather hypocritical given his involvement in the saga), Zeus ordered Apollo to found and preside over the “Pythian games”, which were to take place every four years.
These games began in the 6th century BC and continued until at least 424 AD, and were a forerunner of the Olympic Games. Apollo gradually succeeded Gaia as Delphi’s most important deity, and the temple as we see it today was built in 330 BC. It was here that the famous Oracle at Delphi, known as Pythia, made her prophecies with the aid of some convenient chemical vapours emerging from a cleft in the rock within the temple. These days, only the foundations of the temple remain, together with some impressive Doric columns, but the colourful mythology and spectacular setting continue to capture the imaginations of thousands of visitors each year.
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