«In the sanctum of Apollo there is a mystery which surpasses us…»


G. Seferis, “Delphoi”, Dokimes

The crucial contribution of the “most sincere” and “most illustrious” delphic oracle to the social and political life of the ancient Greek world for more than a millenium resulted in its establishment in the collective memory of mankind as one of the places  where the humanistic  ideals marking the European spirit have been created. 

 

From the 8th century B.C. Delphi  acquired a significant role through the process of offering oracles related to the foundation of Greek colonies throughout the Mediterranean basin and thus through the spread of the conquests of the Greek civilization in the West, with most important feature the spread of the Greek alphabet. At the same time, the oracle aided the Greek city-states  in taking decisions for their survival and flourishment, such as those related to the transition of the regime to more democratic forms, to the validation of institutions relative to the undertaking of responsibility from the community, the proclamation of wars, the establishment of peace, the introduction of new cults etc. The institutionalization of expiation from the crime of murder and the abolition of the customary revenge, the institution of debate,  i.e. the active  participation of the citizens at the Assembly of Sparta, the validation of the democratic reforms of Cleisthenes and the links  between the sanctuary of Delphi and the well-known Delphic  maxims “Know thyself” and “ Do nothing in excess “ declare the clear  intentions of the delphic priests to enhance personal responsibility, freedom of will and tolerance as supreme values.  Man is hence responsible and undertakes the cost of his decisions and actions, free from the obsessions of a dark bigotry. Within this religious climate, with its high spirituality, the establishment of the institution of Amphictyony is fully understood; the Amphictyonywas the religious confederation of neighbouring tribal groups aiming at their harmonious cohabitation and the peaceful resolution of their differences during the entire period  of function of the oracle. Despite the fact that already in the 15th century an insignificant village, Kastri, took the place  of the sanctuary, and although the ancient remains were  completely covered, Delphi continued to exist  in the memory of the Philhellenes, who didn' t cease  to look for the sanctuary which calmed down for centuries the agonies of mankind, whereas the mysterious Sibylla, despite her final departure from the oracle, continued to inspire incessantly the artistic creation. The masterpieces  of ancient Greek sculpture which were revealed during the Great Excavation at the end of the 19th century, such as the Charioteer, Antinoos and the Delphic humn to Apollo reinforced the so far invisible picture of Delphi and brought back to the central stage the most revered sanctuary. 
The cultural trust of Delphi inspired Angelos Sikelianos, a lyricpoet of the 20th century and one of the first visionaries of the European Unity, to conceive the delphic Idea, i.e. the creation of an institution of worldwide solidarity, which could guarantee international truce. From 1987 onwards Delphi belong to the sites of world  cultural heritage protected under the auspices of UNESCO.

 

Athanasia Psalti
Director of the Ephorate of Phocis

translation: Dr. Aphrodite Kamara

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They told about us

"Τα ίδια χαμογελαστά πρόσωπα μας δείχνουν τον δρόμο για τα σημαντικά εκθέματα..." 
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 Το "Βήμα" Πολιτισμός (01/04/201​2)