Delphi is both an archaeological site and a modern town in Greece on the south-western spur of Mount Parnassus in the valley of Phocis. Delphi was the site of the Delphic oracle, the most important oracle in the classical Greek world, and became a major site for the worship of the god Apollo after he slew Python, a dragon who lived there and protected the navel of the Earth. Python (derived from the verb pythein, “to rot”) is claimed by some to be the original name of the site in recognition of Python which Apollo defeated. The Homeric Hymn to Delphic Apollo recalled that the ancient name of this site had been Krisa.

Apollo’s sacred precinct in Delphi was a panhellenic sanctuary, where every four years, starting in 586 BCathletes from all over the Greek world competed in the Pythian Games, one of the four panhellenic (or stephanitic) games, precursors of the Modern Olympics. The victors at Delphi were presented with a laurel crown (stephanos) which was ceremonially cut from a tree by a boy who re-enacted the slaying of the Python. Delphi was set apart from the other games sites because it hosted the mousikos agon, musical competitions. These Pythian Games rank second among the four stephanitic games chronologically and based on importance. These games, though, were different from the games at Olympia in that they were not of such vast importance to the city of Delphi as the games at Olympia were to the area surrounding Olympia. Delphi would have been a renowned city whether or not it hosted these games; it had other attractions that led to it being labeled the “omphalos” (navel) of the earth, in other words, the center of the world. In the inner hestia (“hearth”) of the Temple of Apollo, an eternal flame burned.

After the battle of Plataea, the Greek cities extinguished their fires and brought new fire from the hearth of Greece, at Delphi; in thefoundation stories of several Greek colonies, the founding colonists were first dedicated at Delphi.

Delphi Museum

The Delphi Archaeological Museum is at the foot of the main archaeological complex, on the east side of the village, and on the north side of the main road. The museum houses an impressive collection associated with ancient Delphi, including the earliest known notation of a melody, the famous Charioteer, golden treasures discovered beneath the Sacred Way, and fragments of reliefs from the Siphnian Treasury. Immediately adjacent to the exit (and overlooked by most tour guides) is the inscription that mentions the Roman proconsul Gallio. Entries to the museum and to the main complex are separate and chargeable, and a reduced rate ticket gets entry to both. There is a small cafe, and a post office by the museum. Slightly further east, on the south side of the main road, is the Gymnasium and the Tholos. Entry to these is free.

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