All my life I’ve wanted to visit Greece and indulge my passion for ancient history, archaeology and mythology. When my husband first broached the subject of marking our 40th anniversary (in 2013) with a vacation, it came to mind immediately. Thus, we embarked on the trip of a lifetime! Come along for the ride.
This is a continuing series. See other chapters HERE.
Part V: Delphi,
Thermopylae and Kalambaka
Sept. 12, 2013
[Day Three of Four, Classical Greece Bus Tour]
Day Three Itinerary:
In the morning, visit the archaeological site and museum at Delphi. Break for lunch. Depart for Kalambaka,
stopping at Thermopylae along the way. (This was cancelled and added to the next day’s excursion.) Dinner and overnight stay.
Of all the archaeological sites we visited, Delphi was the most rugged. This was the one place we didn’t make it all the way to the top, as I wasn’t feeling well that day. Greece is a tough tour in general (everything is situated on mountains!), especially for those of us with arthritis and over 50, but absolutely worth it! Nonetheless, we did get most of the way up, only missing the theatre at the very top. The tour guide assured us it was similar to Epidaurus, which we had explored the day before.
Delphi is another on the list of World Heritage Sites. Located on Mt. Parnassus near the Gulf of Corinth, the sanctuary was home to the famous Oracle of Apollo which gave cryptic predictions and guidance to both city-states and individuals. Although it dates back to 1500 BC, it’s pinnacle as the centre of the ancient world was in the 6th to 4th century BC.
First glimpse of Delphi.
Athena Pronaia Sanctuary,
about 800m from the main site, at the foot of Mt. Parnassus:
Look up; look waaay up!:
The Treasury Building.
One of the most well-preserved edifices, about halfway up:
The Temple of Apollo,
home of the famous Oracle:
The famous Oracle Stone, aka Stone of Pythia (Priestess).
Originally, it lay flat on the ground. According to legend, she sat on a tripod, inhaled mysterious vapours and went into a trance, whereupon she made her predictions. Speculation is, the tripod fit into the three holes on the left and the vapours came up through the hole on the right.
The Delphi Museum holds many interesting artifacts:
Gold was used profusely in Ancient Greek culture,
as evidenced by this collection, excavated at Delphi:
Antinous had been part of the entourage since the age of 12 and died mysteriously, during a trip to Egypt, when he was only 21. There are three scenarios about Antinous’ death; some believe he accidentally fell into the Nile and drowned. Others claim he was murdered by opponents of Hadrian. It is also said that he committed suicide to save Hadrian from death. According to an oracle, Hadrian would die, unless another man sacrificed himself, instead. After Antinous’ death, Hadrian founded the town of Antinopolis on the spot the dead body was found. He also declared Antinous a god and commanded the creation of statues all over the empire. This one was excavated at Delphi in 1893, found standing up.
Statue of Twins Kleobis and Biton
In Greek mythology, the twins were from Argos, the sons of Cydippe, a priestess of Hera. Cydippe was travelling to a festival in Hera’s honour, but the oxen which were to pull her cart were overdue. Her sons, Kleobis and Biton, pulled the cart the entire way (45 stadia, or 8.3 km/5.1 miles). Cydippe, impressed with their devotion to her and her goddess, prayed to Hera, asking her to give her children the best gift a god could to a mortal. Hera ordained that the brothers would die in their sleep, and after the feast the youths lay down in the temple, slept and never woke. So, with divine assistance, the brothers, through their death, gained immortality and eternal recognition for the respect and love they had shown their mother. To honor the two men, their fellow citizens sent these two dedicated statues to Delphi. Inscriptions on the base of the statues identify them, and also identify Polymedes of Argos as the sculptor: something which was very unusual at such an early date.
Acanthus Column, aka Dancers of Delphi,
depicting three women. it has been suggested that the dancers are the three daughters
of Cecrops I (the first king of Attica, an autochthonous half-serpent) and of Aglauros.
Scale model of Ancient Delphi, housed in the museum:
By this time, we are were all ready for lunch. Our tour operator took great care to find excellent restaurants.
Hospitality and food are intrinsic to Greek culture.
About 80 km (50 miles) northeast, lay the area of Thermopylae, which is primarily known for the battle that took place there between the Greeks (including the Spartans) and the Persians. Here is located the memorial to Leonidis, King of Sparta who led the attack and perished there. Erected in 1955, the monument features a bronze statue of Leonidas, with a sign underneath, which reads “ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ”
(“Come and take”). This is what the Spartans said when the Persians asked them to put down their weapons, before the battle began. On the right and left, there are marble figures of the personified Taygetos, which is the highest mountain in the Peloponnese and the personified Evrotas which is a river flowing through the whole district of Laconia.
After that brief photo op, we climbed back on the bus for the long drive to Kalambaka.
Most of us took a much-needed nap!
Coming next: Kalambaka and The Hanging Monasteries of Meteora
What’s the most incredible place you have been?
Looking forward to your comments!