On the southern slopes of Mount Parnassus, located to the northwest of Athens
and where there are actually ski areas, are the modern and ancient cities of
Delphi. The Temple of Apollo at Delphi is located in the ancient city that is
an archeological site and has been a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site since
1987. This temple at Delphi is central to the entire site, and arguably the
most important of the imposing ruins that are found here. There are few vacation
packages on mainland Greece that do not visit this spot, and day tours can easily
be booked from Athens. These are the most comfortable and efficient ways to
visit. If you're on a budget, there are several buses a day from Athens, and
the schedules are quite reliable.It is possible to find a guide, if you want
one, once you arrive at the location.
Most people think of the Delphi Temple as an oracle, and this is indeed what it was. More than one temple of Apollo was built in Greece, as he was one of the most important of all the ancient Greek deities. The son of Zeus, he was a many-faceted god—variously the god of the sun, archery, medicine, music, poetry, and much more. But he was primarily known as a prophetic or oracular god, and the Delphi temple dedicated to him was a place of prophecy. He was, in fact, the patron of all of Delphi, which was considered by ancient Greeks to be the center of the world and was the primary sanctuary of the great god.
The god Apollo was born on the island of Delos, just next to Mykonos. When he set out to make his way in the world, he came upon Delphi and considered it the ideal location for the erection of his Delphi Temple and the establishment of his cult. It was already occupied by the snake god Pythos, whom Apollo defeated but continued to revere. He named his priestess, Pythia, after him, and she presided over the Temple of Apollo and became its oracular voice. The site of the imposing archeological ruins are set dramatically on the mountainside, and the ruins of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi are centrally located and most presente a truly awesome sight to visitors.
It was the wealthy King Croesus who determined that the Temple of Apollo at Delphi was the most reliable oracle in the world. He sent emissaries to all the important oracles in the ancient world (including Egypt, Turkey, Italy, and elsewhere in Greece) and the most favorable response came from the Delphic oracle.
The history Temple of Apollo begins sometime around the seventh century BC, when it was first built along Doric lines. It was rebuilt after a fire in the sixth century BC. Destroyed by an earthquake in 373 BC, it was rebuilt for a third time in 330 BC. It was this structure that decayed into the ruins we see today, with only the foundation and several of the Doric columns remaining. They are nonetheless imposing, towering over the other ruins spread down the mountainside beneath the grand theater. These are made of porous limestone, a soft material that contributed to the decay of the temple. While little is known of the interior, reconstructive drawings are considered accurate as the remaining foundation gives an idea of where the original 38 columns, with statues supporting a grand classical frieze and pediment, once stood.