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Visiting the Oracle at Delphi

Updated on November 30, 2007
Ruins at Delphi
Ruins at Delphi

Legend has it that Zeus released 2 eagles from the opposite ends of the Earth and where they met became known at the center of the world. That place was Delphi, and though perhaps not really the center of the world, it was a place that played an important role in ancient Greek history.

Aside from these mythical origins, the Oracle at Delphi was certainly a real and important place. Located up on the south side of Mt. Parnassus, the sanctuary is only ruins now. The Delphi Oracle was quite a complex of buildings, besides the theatre of the Oracle itself. There were many temples and shrines at Delphi, as well as the treasuries for the surrounding city-states. It was a sign of prosperity and status to have one's treasury located at Delphi. No major decision was made in Greece without consulting the Oracle, particularly in matters of economics and politics.

How the Oracle Worked

People wishing to gain a glimpse of the future from the Oracle, would give their questions to the priests of the temple, who would then give them to the priestesses of Apollo (known as the Pythia). The Pythia sat upon a tripod in the centre of the temple, and "inhaled fumes from the earth" in order to speak directly to Apollo. They would then provide a cryptic message in response. The message was given back to the priests who translated it for the petitioner.

What's at Delphi Today

Today, the oracle is a ruin but still no less appealing to visitors. Located on the side of Mount Parnassus, the oracle site is made up of many sets of ruins, such as the sanctuary of Apollo, the theatre, the Sacred Way, the Athenian Treasury and the temple of Pronaia Athena. The Castelian spring where visitors would wash themselves before consulting with the oracle is still there, and still running with clear water.

Though the site is only ruins, there are many columns still standing and enough has remained intact to engage the imagination to see what the complex must have been like so many hundreds of years ago. It is a site filled with too much history and myth to even describe.

Travel Details

You can get to Delphi by bus from the Greek capital of Athens, taking about 3 hours. The town of Delphi itself has many amenities, including quality hotels if you chose to stay overnight in the area. The ruins themselves are within walking distance of the town.

Nearby Delphi is the 11th century monastery of Osios Lukas, another historical site worth visiting.


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    • teeray profile image

      teeray 10 years ago from Canada

      Awesome article, Terri! That is also a great pic you selected.

    • The Good Cook profile image

      The Good Cook 10 years ago

      This is really excellent!

    • Guru-C profile image

      Cory Zacharia 10 years ago

      Dear Terri, I found this article fascinating!