The Story of Delphi Apollo
The Story of Delphi Apollo
Present day ruins of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Taken from Google. My own photos are long lost.
In it’s prime, once inside the sanctuary, The Sacred Way, bristling with hundreds of votive offering statues led the visitor past war monuments and treasure houses up a ramp to the Temple of Apollo.
Reconstruction of temple complex showing Sanctuary of Apollo and The Sacred Way Leading through it.
(Images borrowed from the internet – for larger scene reference only).
The entire complex extended far further up and down the slope of Mount Parnassus:
[by Jean-Claude Golvin]
Perched on the side of Mount Parnasus; Delphi was regarded as the center, navel or ‘omphalos’ of the ancient western world for well over a thousand years.
It was the prime destination for pilgrimage – much as Mecca is for Muslims today. As such, a broad spectrum of peoples converged from all over The Aegean and far-off lands. Their shared knowledge gave an informed influence to the Oracle prophecies, thereby enhancing the mystical power of the sanctuary.
Recent knowledge of how it appeared is based on surviving ‘epigraphic’ accounts from ancient Greek authors and travelers,
together with interpretations from architectural remains.
HERRON ‘DELPHI APOLLO’ PAINTING INFORMATION
My own evolving desire to bring Delphi back to life through Apollo is based on various reconstructions and descriptions of The Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Bear in mind that it is a surreal artists impression based on historical information.
The surrounding features in my painting are derived from different periods in Delphi’s rich history and the mythological extracts are subjectively characterized. I have illustrated archeological aspects selected from a breadth of time in order to illustrate the story of the temple. The columns are of the old Doric order. These remained so throughout. The Archaic pediment shown is not the one that faced the statues illustrated. This pediment is the most familiar one and scant reference remains of the later pediment that would have actually been there while those statues stood proud. The paving stones, based on my own experience on visiting the site, are a later Roman addition.
Included in this blog are interesting additional comments from Dr Elena C. Partida [see introductory quote] who has honoured me with her help regarding the accuracy of the information that I have provided.
[Note that the following images are purely for informative reference and deliberately not sharp compared to the original]
The story begins:
It is told in Greek mythology that the titan Kronos\Cronos devoured his children as soon as they were born, due to his mother’s prophecy that he would be overthrown by his own children. After Kronos swallowed his first five children, his wife, Rhea, sought Gaia’s advice to save the sixth child, Zeus. Rhea wrapped a stone in swaddling clothes and gave it to her husband, who swallowed it, thinking that it was his son. Meanwhile, Zeus was hidden in a cave on Mount Ida in Crete and escaped being eaten.
When he had grown up, Zeus forced his father to disgorge the contents of his stomach using an emetic mixture of mustard and wine to cause vomiting. The stone came out first, followed by Zeus’ siblings. When the help of his brothers and sisters, Zeus defeated the Titans and became the new king of the gods.
According to Greek legend, Delphi was fixed as the center of the world after Zeus released two eagles, one to fly west and the other to fly east. They met in the sky above the site.
Zeus marked the spot with the stone as the ’omphalos’ or ‘navel’ of the earth.
“That brightest of stars appeared, Eosphoros, that most often heralds the light of early-rising Dawn” —Odyssey 13.93
In later Greek mythology The Sun was personified as the god Helios, brother of the goddesses Selene, The Moon, and Eos – the titan Goddess of Dawn who rose from her home at the end of Oceanus to herald her brother [shown here], beginning the process of morning. Thus Eos, preceded by the Morning Star – Aphrodite (Venus), is seen as the genetrix of all the stars and planets. Helios, Selene and Eos were also common Greek words for sun, moon and dawn. The tears of Eos are considered to have created the morning dew.
Earlier accounts are of Apollo shooting an arrow across the sky and following it in his four-horsed sun chariot, with Helios the passenger. That is, until Apollo’s son, Phaeton, took it for a joyride and met with a lightning bolt from grand-dad for messing with the order of things. Once again placing an apologetic Apollo in front of an angry Zeus, only to resign the reigns to Helios. As such, it was first Apollo and then Helios, crowned with the shining aureole of the sun or a Hoplite helmet, who drove a chariot across the sky each day. [The equivalent of Helios in Roman mythology was Sol, Latin for Sun.] Helios may have been The Sun, but Apollo was always identified as the God of Light.
The four horses pulling the Chariot were named Pyrios, Aeos, Aethon and Phlegon.
‘This should not be perceived by the readers as a fantastic scene, The Sun driving a chariot was a popular theme, known from reliefs excavated throughout Greece. The horses of Sun and Selene appear also in the sculptural decoration of the Parthenon. Celebrated is the monumental pillar surmounted by the chariot of the sun, dedicated by the people of Rhodes just a few meters to the east of Apollo temple … A small relief-fragment representing Helios-Apollo and Hermes adds to our knowledge of the cult of Sun at Delphi already before the Hellenistic age and illuminates a further guise of Apollo.” – Dr Elena C. Partida
Apollo/Apollon was the son of Zeus and the Titan Leto and the twin brother of Artemis (Diana) – goddess of the hunt. The god of light, art, music and justice, he was the most widely worshiped of the Greek gods. Depicted in art as the archer or carrying a lyre, flute or laurel branch. Although Hermes invented the three-stringed lyre as a gift for Apollo, some say it was Apollo who added more strings to it. Apollo is depicted as charioteer and archer, while the colossus holds a lyre and within the temple I show a statue of the god holding a laurel branch and bow. As for his association with the laurel, it is said that while Apollo pursued Daphne, she implored Zeus to make her disappear from sight. Her prayers were heard and she was turned into a laurel tree. That was all that remained of her, but Apollo broke a branch from the tree and placed it on his head declaring: “Since you cannot be my bride, you shall at least be my tree. My hair, my lyre, my quiver shall always be entwined with you, O laurel.” [Apollo. Ovid, Metamorphoses 1.557]
Ophiucus – Formerly referred to as Serpentarius meaning “serpent-holder,” is one of the 88 constellations and is found northwest of the center of the Milky Way. It has a few mythical connotations, being attributed to the stories of Apollo, Herakles/Hercules and Asclepius.
In this case it represents Apollo wrestling with the Python to take control of the oracle at Delphi.
[Shown in relation to the constellations of Scorpio and Libra.]
On the colossus statue base I have liberally used artistic license to include the name Delphi written in Greek. Adding a contrived relief carving within a personalized dolphin motif that represents a ship with the five sailors that became the initial five wise sages.
According to legend, Apollo was born on the mysterious ‘floating’ island of Delos and grew to adulthood in just four days.
A jealous Hera had requested of Gaia that Leto find no firm land to give birth, while she sent a monstrous Drakon-serpent named Python to first hound Leto and later to dispose of the boy and his sister. According to some the creature was born from the rotting slime left behind by the Great Deluge. The Homeric Hymn to Apollo–and some ancient Greek art–equates her with Ekhidna (Echidna), a half-woman, half-serpent drakaina. With the help of a hundred arrows or one arrow through the eye (depending on who tells it) the young Apollo slew Python on landing. As Python was a child of Gaia, the Earth goddess, Zeus was obliged to make Apollo oversee Pytho for 8 years as a consolation. The site of Pytho was an important oracle of on Mount Parnassus. Python had been ordered by Gaia to guard the sacred oracular tripod and also spoke the prophecies.
To leave the island, Apollo transformed himself into a dolphin and caused a great storm on the sea. He then threw himself on the deck of a Cretan ship sailing from Knossos in Crete to Pylos in the Peloponnesus, now in distress. Still as a dolphin (for humans could not comprehend his true nature) he spoke to the merchant sailors, convincing them to bring their ship into the Crissaean Gulf.
“I sprang upon the ship in the form of a dolphin, pray to me as Apollo Delphinius; also the altar itself shall be called Delphinius …” [Apollo to the Cretan sailors. Homeric Hymn to Pythian Apollo 493]
Having reached the mainland, Apollo buried Python deep beneath The Omphalos stone left by Zeus.
(Though I am not sure how he carried the body as a dolphin. Perhaps it was sent back for? Cue Hermes.)
I have placed a version of the stone at the center of my composition even though it did not actually stand there. The original stone of the omphalos may have been decorated in high relief and had an oval shape. It is possible that it was covered by a mesh of wool cloth and it was kept in the adyton beside the tripod. Pausanias described a woolen cloth wound around the stone bound in precious stones designed in the shape of a mermaid, while two gilded eagles were fixed on top of it. I have not illustrated this, but based mine on one of two versions to be found at Delphi today.
On landing, Apollo appointed the Cretan sailors as the sanctuary’s first priests and these new servants to Apollo dutifully named the city “Delphi” – after their theophony. These five original sages of Greece were Solon, Bion, Thales, Pittacus and Chilon.
‘Some of their mottoes were engraved in the vestibule of the temple.’ – EP
‘Although Gaia was superseded, her cult not only persevered at Delphi but was systematically continued/maintained.’ – EP
The memory of Python was preserved in the naming of Pythos, The Pythia and The Pythian Games, which were held in Delphi between the Olympic games.
My daughter, Noa Delph (as it is her painting), shouts for your attention as she leads the viewer toward the happenings within.
THE 9 MUSES DEDICATED TO APOLLO:
Daughters of Zeus and the Titan, Mnemosyne (Memory).
They are the guiding spirits to inspiration in the arts.
Polymnia is the youngest of the muses. Her name means ‘many songs’. The muse of sacred poetry, sacred hymn and eloquence as well as agriculture, geometry, meditation, mime and pantomime. A pensive and meditative woman, she is the one who blesses writers with enduring fame and is most often depicted holding a finger to her mouth.
Here she is the first to notice you and silence your recent thoughts.
Euterpe ’s name is Greek for ‘good’, ‘well’ and ‘to please’ – used to mean ‘rejoicing well’ or ‘delight’. Initially the ‘Giver of Pleasure’, later poets assigned her to music. In late Classical times she was named muse of lyric poetry and was depicted holding a flute. Some attributed the “aulos” (or double-flute) to her.
Calliope ; whose name means ‘beautiful’ or ‘fair voice’ or ‘face’ (interpretations vary) is the eldest and most distinguished of the nine Muses and was initially identified with philosophy. She is the Muse of eloquence and epic or heroic poetry and the mother of great poets and musicians. Her emblems are a stylus and wax tablets, sometimes with a roll of paper or a book. Mythology states that Calliope and King Oeagrus of Thrace were the parents of Orpheus. Alternate versions say she was the mother of Rhesus, king of Thrace, or the mother of Linus, inventor of melody and rhythm. She also bore Apollo two sons, Hymen and Lalemus. In recent times hers was the name given to a musical instrument fitted with steam whistles and played from a keyboard.
Terpsichore is the muse of dance and the dramatic chorus, and later of lyric poetry. Hence the word terpsichorean, pertaining to ‘dance’. She is usually represented holding a lyre or a plectrum. According to some traditions, she is the mother of the Sirens with the river-god Achelous. Terpsichore delights her disciples with the good things to be attained from education, choral dance and song. Those who have honoured her in dances are dearest to her.
Thalia presided over comedy and pastoral, merry and idyllic poetry. Hence her smile. She also favoured rural pursuits and is often represented holding a shepherd’s staff or a wreath of ivy or wrapped in ivy. I have depicted her dispensing flower petals that waft off her hand from the energy emanating from within the temple. Her name is also used to refer to one of the three Graces or Charities. Thalia is worshiped because the fame of those whose praises she sings flourishes and lasts for long periods.
Clio is the Muse of historical and heroic poetry. She was credited for introducing the Phoenician alphabet into Greece. Whereas. In fact: ‘The alphabet was actually introduced by Greek merchants. Commerce in the Mediterranean (incl. the Phoenician shores) flourished, as evidenced from bronze artefacts of foreign style/workmanship unearthed at Delphi and other Greek sites, which also endorse the exchange of products and craftsmen in antiquity.” – EP
Her attribute is usually a parchment scroll (as shown here), a set of tablets or a chest of books.
Her name means ‘proclaimer’ because her songs bestow everlasting glory upon those praised by her.
Erato , whose name Erato means ‘lovely’, is usually depicted with a lyre; is the muse of mimicry, hymns and lyric poetry, particularly love and erotic poetry. Erato is so named because she turns those who follow her into men who are desired and worthy to be loved. She is particularly fond of the poets of love.
In the Orphic hymn to the Muses, it is Erato who charms the sight and inspires everybody.
Melpomene is the Muse of tragedy. Her name loosely translates to ‘choir’ and she is named because of her chanting which charms and inspires her listeners. She is usually represented with a tragic mask, the club of Hercules or a sword.
Urania is the Muse of astronomy, astrology and Universal order and keeps her eyes towards the sky. She is represented with a globe in her left hand and a peg in her right hand, and is dressed in a cloak embroidered with stars. Urania means ‘heavenly’ and she is so named because she raises her disciples to heavenly heights. Among her other talents is the foretelling the future by the position of the stars. Those who are most concerned with philosophy and the heavens are dearest to her.
The Muses resonate in our time within the words ‘music’, ‘amusement and ‘musings’.
From the terrace before the temple one views the famous inscribed maxims:
“Know Thyself ”
“Nothing in Excess”.
I have shown these as they would have been depicted in ancient Greek. There was no spacing between words.
Socrates (named the wisest man in the ancient world in Delphi) spoke of Self-Knowledge as The Only Real Path to True Understanding. A proud citizen of Athens, the very same city that sentenced Socrates to death for impiety and the corrupting of youth, or more succinctly, for being too critical of those in power. One of Socrates’ most noted dictums from his trial was; “The unexamined life is not worth living”. [Plato’s Apology]
The wise counsels at Delphi are also believed to preserve balance and harmony, which are the basic conditions of health. ‘and precisely what Apollo propounded/propagated’ – EP
And similarly, by bringing the same kind of consonance and agreement among the sounds, the harmony of music is created, just as the balance between the fast and the slow – appropriately combined – produces its rhythm. All these agreements, in both medicine and music, although the works of Love, are ruled by Apollo, who has been called Musagetes (Leader of the Muses) on account of his musical and inspiring gift.
The Words ‘Nothing in Excess’ are dedicated to Dionysis, the winter god of the sanctuary, who was represented on the western pediment of the temple.
To seek the favour of the gods, questioners were expected to bring animals to sacrifice. A priest sprinkled water on the animal, and if it shook its head upon receiving the droplets, the visitor could proceed to the Oracle. If, however, the animal didn’t react, the pilgrim had to turn around and come back to try again later. Often the priests bought time, to find out more information, by dripping cold water when they wanted the animal to react, and warm water when they didn’t. [The sacrifice was later cooked, with certain parts reserved for the gods, others for the priests, and the rest for other attendees.]
Only those of sacred intent and training were allowed within the adyton (lit. no entry) or sacred chamber. Petitioners stood with great gratitude and sobriety just outside the adyton in an ante room, where the smells and sounds of the earth’s center could nevertheless be closely appreciated. The final approach to the oracle led downward into a sunken space below the level of the temple floor, where the visitor would be confronted by a gold statue of Apollo. ‘The cult statue would be standing in the cella; no room for it in the adyton.’ – EP.
Inside, a constant fire burned that was attended by the women of Delphi. This eternal flame was carried off to light other temples.
’This fire had been lit by Apollo and never put out. We are in the course of investigating the potential natural causes of such everlasting flames in various sites.’ – EP
[Many Chimaera or eternal flames worldwide have scientifically been attributed to ground fissures and gas leaks.]
I have merged many aspects that would have been segregated into the same scene, using artistic license to depict them together in a visual story; including the egg-shaped omphalos stone that marked the burial site of Python or sacred navel of the world. ‘Or the grave of Dionysus. The location of the omphalos is still under dispute’ … ‘the omphalos exhibited in the museum of Delphi is NOT the one traditionally believed to have stood in the adyton. This one is theoretically restored (a)in the opisthodomus of the temple (less probable), (b)on top of the acanthus column (even less probable), (c) in the area outside the temple of Apollo (much more probable). Another omphalos was recovered, to be associated with the adyton’. – EP
The painting may be a homage to Apollo, but the perspective lines, certain index fingers and some prominent cracks in the paving lead the viewer to the Pythia sitting on her tripod within the temple.
THE ORACLE OF DELPHI
“Stranger, if pure of soul, enter into the sanctuary of the god of purity, having but touched the sacred stream.
For lustration is an easy matter for the good. As for the wicked man, not the whole ocean with its waves could wash him clean.”
The Pythia (or Sybil) was classically a young virgin chosen, not for her religious training, nor for her position in a familial lineage, but for her simplicity and depth of feeling. For her time as the prophetess she lived as a celibate in a sisterhood of Delphic women who tended the eternal sacred fire in the temple, and was cared for as a vessel awaiting the divinity. This communication with the divinity was a luminous, lightning-exchanged meeting of heaven and earth, an epiphany of awe and inspiration. She would answer in a trance, perhaps induced by the vapours from a crack in the ground.
‘A mixture of vapours emanated from the famous chasm, which we are currently systematically investigate in collaboration with geologists and toxicologists’.
After a ritual preparation, including a bathe in the Castalian Spring, The Pythia sat on tripod over, it was said, the vapours emanating from the decaying Python; long buried by Apollo beneath the Omphalos. Combined with the laurel leaves she was chewing or burning, it triggered her natural capabilities of responding to exposure to Earth’s sacred breath, the ‘pneuma’ and listening to Apollo. ‘Plutarch enlightened us about what the pneuma really was, its odour and significance for the process.’ – EP
An ordinary person could detect the smell of the gas without passing into an oracular trance.
Once the Pythia was fully ecstatic and possessed, a Prophetes relayed to her the questions of petitioners, to which the Pythia, opened up to the son of Zeus, raved responses. These ravings were interpreted by the Prophetes, and passed back to the questioner. The interpretations of her incantations by the priests and were almost always ambiguous. ‘not fortuitous; has to do with Greek philosophy’ -EP.
The answer to this ambiguity ultimately lay with the receiver having to know themselves.
“Oracle” is rooted in the Latin oraculum,the Hellenic word for oracle is mantike.
Mantike shares etymological ground with ‘manna, manic, mantic, and mantis’ (as in praying mantis, and mantis is the ancient Hellenic word for an inspired seer, also known as ‘prophetes’).
There are numerous well-known tales of oracle interpretations that changed the course of history.
THE TEMPLE OF APOLLO
“The temple had three incarnations, in the Doric, Ionic and Aeolic order, as betrayed by physical remains, although the legend alludes to six. The first was destroyed by fire, and the second Archaic temple was destroyed by an earthquake in 373 BC” _ EP
It was rebuilt with the help of all of the Greek city states on the same Alcmaeonid plan: six columns on each end and fifteen columns down the sides. ie. archaic proportions.
Temple Pediment – ‘We know for a fact that the subject-matter of this pedimental composition was the arrival of Apollo at Delphi, escorted by his sister Artemis and their mother Leto, and framed by korai and kouroi (i.e. maidens and boys) tentatively identified as members of an aristocratic Athenian family, the Alkmaeonidai, who funded part of the temple building. Shaun prefers to highlight that archaic pediment, even though he knows that the Alkmaeonid temple had been replaced by the time the bicolumnar monument and the pillar were erected. It had been re-built in the 4th century BC with roughly the same layout and a different sculptural program, nevertheless also glorifying Apollo and Dionysos. Perhaps the archaic pediment with the prophet-god represented as driving his quadriga (four-horse chariot) appeals to the artist more directly.” – EP
It is known that ancient reliefs and statues were often painted. I stopped myself many times about this while painting. Supposing something in me does not like the fact that they were painted. My shameful prejudice against that certain gaudiness.
“… I am investigating polychromy on architecture … Sometimes we must conduct thorough research just to reveal that things should not be taken for granted. A colouring technique practised in one case does not entail that this was universally applied. Advanced scientific methods can help us reach a safe conclusion. Until then, caution is mandatory in the domain of restorations.” – EP
The reference I used for the sphinxes seen on the edge of the temple pediment is actually the Sphinx of Naxos which sat on a 20m high pillar elsewhere in the sanctuary and was not connected with the Temple of Apollo.
The sketch I did on my first visit to the Delphi Museum in 2002 – [remarked on it that it was yet another sphinx missing its nose]. I found it to be the best reference to an ancient Aegean sphinx that I could find. As sphinxes did stand where I put them, along the roof edge. Along with lion drainage spouts.
Pilgrims line the procession in my depiction.
‘The order of the queue was determined by lot (by totally democratic means.), unless the sanctuary had granted the privilege of promanteia, that is, priority in receiving an oracle, to a certain group or an individual. Inscriptions are very eloquent in this respect. ‘ EP
Hoplite soldiers. Added for atmospheric and time or ethnic indication. The classic ‘Hoplite’ armour style I show altered greatly after the Gauls invaded. As a result of outcomes during this invasion the Greek city states changed battle tactics; resulting in the ‘Thureophoros’ combatant replacing the Hoplite in the Third and Second Century BC.
Nike – An offering/ex-voto of the Messenians of Naupactos (an ancient naval station not far from Delphi). The goddess Nike (meaning Victory) heralded triumph.
Positioned before the entrance of the temple is a stele supporting an equestrian statue that was originally erected in the sanctuary by the Aetolian League honoring Prusias II, king of Bythnia ‘for his virtue and the benefactions he bestowed upon them,’ according to a surviving inscription.
A large votive bronze Palm tree stood among the statues. Cimon of Athens erected the statue at Delphi as a monument to the victory of the Delian League at the Battle of the Eurymedon (469/466 BC). As well as being an icon of the league, it was also seen as a sacred sign of Apollo, for it is told he was born under a palm tree.
The bicolumnar Monument to Aristaineta represents the successful Aetolian woman with her son and parents. ‘ As inferred from the pertinent inscription, Aristaineta from Aetolia together with members of her family were represented on top of an epistyle supported by two Ionic columns.’ – EP
The Aetolians played a dominant role at Dephi for some time after fending off an attack on the city by the Gauls in 279 BC. Thereafter individual Aetolians dedicated increasingly ornate and immense dedications in the sanctuary.
[The annihilation of Brennus’s Gallic invaders at the hands of various Greek City States and ‘divine intervention’ of earthquakes, rockfalls, snow and thunder at Delphi makes for a fascinating read – Elena Partida adds that “during the battle they ascribed rock-falls to divinities and giant mythical heroes, who intervened to rescue the oracle by throwing boulders”.]
While doing my research it was unclear to me whether the colossal Apollo Sitalcas holding a lyre was of marble or bronze so I combined both. If it was entirely of bronze then regard the pale bits as oxidized.
“Golden lyre, rightful joint possession of Apollo and the violet-haired Muses,
to which the dance-step listens,
the beginning of splendid festivity,
and singers obey your notes whenever, with your quivering strings,
you prepare to strike up chorus-leading preludes.
You quench even the warlike thunderbolt of everlasting fire. And the eagle sleeps on the scepter of Zeus, relaxing his swift wings on either side … King of birds…” Pindar
ANIMALS DEDICATED TO APOLLO
In the Iliad Homer called the “God with the silver bow/ protector of Chryse” Sminthean Apollo, which has been translated as Mouse Apollo or as Apollo, the Lord of the Mice. Ancient Greeks believed that Apollo had the ability to send, or stop famines and epidemic diseases. Often with mice. It is assumed by some that Apollo was invoked to save cities from mouse infestation.
Mice symbolize Illusion, charm, scrutiny and attention to detail.
Roe Deer. Apollo is often represented with a Roebuck. A deer was given as a loving gift by Apollo to Cyparissus; who accidentally killed his pet. The boy’s grief was such that Apollo transformed him into a Cyprus tree, classically seen as a symbol of mourning. They symbolize purity of purpose, walking in the light, love, kindness, gracefulness, sensitivity, nimbleness, meekness, longevity and wealth.
I have includes three small cicadas among the floating flower petals. The cicada is held responsible for enchanting the muses themselves towards music as they rose to the sun and Apollo each morning.
Hawk is the Messenger of Apollo. Apollo transformed Daedalion into a hawk, when he cast himself off Mount Parnassus to commit suicide. Subsequently, hawks were associated with him. They are representatives of the soul, recollection, cleansing, observation, clarity, discrimination and inspiration.
Apollo had an important, albeit tumultuous relationship with crows. The greek word for crow, corone, comes from the name of Apollo’s mistress, Coronis. According to the version of this story told by Appolodorus, although Coronis and Apollo had been lovers, she left him to marry a mortal, Ischys. The crow, then white, brought news of the marriage to Apollo who became so incensed he burned the bird’s feathers and then burned Coronis to death. In other versions Coronis is herself turned into the black crow and it’s possible the Greeks saw a mated pair of crows as a representation of the forbidden love between Coronis and Ischys. This may be one of the earliest stories of a woman marrying below her class for love. Crow is universally the messenger of The Seer, communication with the underworld, wisdom and death. I decided to depict the black, as opposed to white crow out of concern that it may perhaps have looked nondescript enough to the unfamiliar to be confused for a chicken or dove.
When Apollo entered the world, sacred swans circled the island seven times for it was the seventh day of the month.
“But I seem to you more common than the swans regarding prophecy, which when they sense that it necessary that they die, they sing in the interval before death, indeed, at that time, especially and most beautifully do they sing, rejoicing that they are about to go to the divine, the very thing they serve. And men, because of their own fear of death, they both slander the swans and they say that the swans lament their death singing because of pain, and they do not consider that no bird sings when in hunger or cold or during any other pain it undergoes, nor does the nightingale, the swallow, nor the hoopoe, which they say laments singing because of its pain. But these do not appear to me to sing because they are pained, nor do the swans, but I think, since they are prophetic, being from Apollo, and foreknowing the good things in Hades they sing and rejoice during that day more than in the time before. I myself think I am a co-laborer of the swans and a priest of the same god, and I have the gift of prophecy from my master not worse than theirs, nor do I think I am freed from a life more melancholy than theirs.“ – The Swan Song of Socrates, Written just before his death – hence the expression relating to last words. Swans are associated with grace, balance, innocence, faithfulness, poetry and sincerity.
Apollo was worshiped as Apollo Lykaios ‘of the wolf’. This may be because his mother Leto sometimes took the form of a she-wolf, though several scholars have speculated that the wolf represents Apollo’s darker and destructive aspect. Leto was a goddess of womanhood and motherhood, and thus the birth of Apollo and Artemis are significant to the Leto myth. The legend says that Leto was in labour for days to deliver the twins Artemis and Apollo – this is related to wolves’ difficult delivery of their young. The journey that Leto took from the Hyperboreoi to Delos took twelve days, which is the time it took for wolves to deliver their young in Greek mythology. The Wolf is the pathfinder, loyalty, stability, intuition, thought, learning, perseverance and success.
Apollo took the form of a dolphin in his quest to claim Delphi, named in homage to the dolphins who were the link between this and the netherworld. They symbolize kindness, play, a saviour, a guide, swiftness, intelligence, communication, breath, control and awareness of tone.
Individual paths have psychologically followed our sun, the stars, basic wisdom’s, words, music, art, desire, lessons from animal behavior and a subconscious reliance on higher selves, guardian angels, goddesses and gods; or whatever form our combined minds place greater thoughts in the need to identify with them.
Anyone who has danced freely, spoken poetically, contemplated the essence of being, or played an instrument with grace and beauty knows the feeling of Apollo and loves the same divinity as the Oracle.
Except for a brief moment in it’s astonishing ancient history, during a time of invasion, the “eternal fire” was kept burning continuously for almost 1600 years, regularly re-lighting other temples in the land and sparking the sacred fires of new colonies.
Escaping Persian and suffering Gallic invaders’ approaches on it’s treasures, Delphi came under the influence first of Macedonia, then of the Aetolian League (290-190 BC) before yielding to the Romans in 189 BC. Roman general Sulla plundered Delphi in 86 BC and in AD 66 Emperor Nero took 500 bronze statues from the sanctuary to decorate one of his villas. Though later restored by Emperor Hadrian, within a century or two the oracle was silent. After being further plundered by later invaders, Delphi went into decline until ordered to close by emperor Theodosius I in 395 AD. ’ (He closed all sanctuaries, regardless of oracles) ‘ – EP
The arrival of the new God of Christianity signaled the death knoll of the ancient Greek oracle shrines. Delphi was gradually stripped and abandoned to the elements; crumbling and buried by earthquakes and landslides. In time, Christians started to settle permanently in the area. A village by the name of Kastri was established on the site in about 600 AD. [Untold archeology from ancient sites has been recycled into later buildings.] After lengthy deliberation, in 1893 the village was moved to a new location nearby when the site was first excavated by French archeologists. Delphi continues as a prime destination for pilgrimage from far and wide.
‘Nothing in Excess’
I would like to thank: Dr Elena C. Partida, – Archaeologist MA, PhD/Art Historian. Curator of Delphi Antiquities – Site and Museum, for her appreciation of the project and insight as to my aims, kind letters with invaluable information, supplements to the text and general encouragement towards accuracy. For assistance with both my first 2008 release and the latest 2018 version.
And my utmost respect goes to the many scholars, writers and craftsmen that were inspired to visualize The Pantheon or reconstruct Delphi before me.
Shared below is some feedback received after previous internet exposure of the 2008 version of my then Homage to Apollo at Delphi.
Feel free to add a comment.
Thank you for your interest.