Exploring Ancient & Modern Delphi

Exploring Ancient Delphi

Me at Ancient Delphi

The ancient site of Delphi was supposedly created when Zeus sent out two eagles from both sides of the earth. The eagles supposedly met above Delphi. The Greeks built a temple for the god, Apollo, and for his oracle here. In the past, people from all over Greece, and many other countries, came to Delphi to seek information or advice from the Oracle.

The Oracle of Delphi was a woman and was only available to offer advice for nine days of each year. She sat on a tripod-like stool inside the Temple of Apollo above a fissure in the ground. Gases came up through the fissure and the Oracle would breath these in. Supposedly she was receiving messages from the god Apollo. She was really just hallucinating and saying crazy things. The priests at Delphi interrupted what she said and then passed this information on to the person who asked the question.

Theatre at Delphi

Theatre at Delphi

Stadium at Ancient Delphi

Stadium at Delphi

During the nine days when people were waiting to see the Oracle, there were shows in the theatre. There were also sporting events held at the stadium that were supposedly better than the ancient Olympic games.

At ancient Delphi today, one of the grandest monuments is a sculpture of three bronze snakes wrapped around each other. Only part of this column of snakes can be seen today. The snakeheads and the golden tripod that was on the top are missing. This monument at Delphi is a replica because the original was stolen and taken to Istanbul. I saw the original in the Hippodrome when we were in Istanbul.

Replica Snake Column at Delphi

Replica Snake Column at Delphi

Snake Column In Istanbul

Snake Column In Istanbul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exploring Modern Delphi

Delphi from Above

Delphi from Above

My family and I were in the town of Delphi, Greece for five days during Orthodox Easter. Easter is one of the most important holidays in Greece. On Good Friday after dark, the whole town walked through the streets with many candles and a giant cross with Jesus Christ on it. A marching band, followed by a priest, led the people through the streets. We watched from the sidewalk.

On Easter Sunday in early May, my family and I hiked from the centre of Delphi to the top of the mountain that Delphi is located on. The paths zigzagged up the mountain and it took us about 2½ hours to get to the top. Near the top, my dad, my sister and I climbed out on to a big rock that dropped off about 300 meters. My mother did not come because she was scared of falling off. Thousands of years ago, non-believers of Christianity were thrown off this rock to their deaths.

Locals Roasting Lamb

Locals Roasting Lamb

On Easter Sunday, before and after the hike the townspeople were roasting whole lambs on spits in the streets. Alex thought this looked gross and I thought it looked creepy. In the evening, there was dancing to celebrate Easter in front of the church that we got to watch with the locals. The teenagers were setting off fireworks and firecrackers all night, which was annoying because I could not sleep. Overall, I really enjoyed staying in Delphi and visiting the ancient site.

 

 

Dad, Alex & Me - Throwing Rock

Dad, Alex & Me – Throwing Rock

Ancient Delphi

Ancient Delphi

Temple of Apollo Close Up

Temple of Apollo Close Up

Locals Dancing on Easter

Locals Dancing on Easter

Exploring Ruins of Ancient Greece – Olympia

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The Original Olympic Track 

The most important cultural and spiritual holiday on the Ancient Greek calendar, the Olympics, was a ginormous ceremony. Held every 4 years from 700 BCE to 393 CE, these ceremonies celebrated athleticism and paid tribute to the Gods. Over 50000 athletes and citizens would gather to celebrate. The Olympic games grew so important that time was eventually marked by the Olympics – called Olympiads.

 

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Platform for Judges on the Track

During these Olympic games a variety of different events were held: javelin, discus, running and wrestling were few of many. The Greeks also invented an event called “free for all”, which was basically an early gladiatorial performance. Two athletes would fight to the death with only two rules – no eye poking and no biting. For the most part, the Olympics were for men. Unmarried women were only permitted to compete in one event; an event dedicated to Hera.

 

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Temple of Zeus with Reconstructed Column

The Greeks glorified the human body and so the male athletes competed in the nude. All male participants, and eventual trainers of the male athletes, had to be naked. The rule about nudity of the trainers was created when one of the trainers was found to have been a female who had pretended to be a male. From that point on, all people involved – except spectators – were obligated to be undressed. Nearly 1200 years after their creation, the Christian Emperor Theodosius III ended the Olympics because he considered the games a pagan celebration.

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Columns in the Temple of Hera

 

As the Olympics weren’t just a celebration of sport but also of the Gods and Goddesses, there were many temples and shrines on the site that honored the Gods. The temples of Zeus and Hera were amongst the biggest. The grand temple of Zeus was constructed of imported white marble from Paros. It would still be erect today, if Theodosius III had not knocked it down after he ended the Olympic games. The remains of the columns can be seen scattered near and around its original base. This temple, also once held the legendary 13-meter tall marble statue of Zeus that is now considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Unfortunately, this statue was stolen, and like the Athena Parthenos, was carted off to Constantinople where it disappeared into the ravages of time. The temple of Hera is older then that of Zeus, but was created with the porous local stone before the Greeks were able to move marble over large distances. Because Hera’s temple was made of a lighter stone, it degraded overtime but fortunately parts are still standing and visible today.

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Matt and I on the Starting Line, Olympic Track

Unfortunately, we were only able to spend about 1½ hours at the site itself, as it was a very, very rainy day. Luckily, the rain had stopped for a bit, and Matthew and I got to run on the remains of the original 200-meter Olympic running track. It was amazing to run on such an old and important track and to imagine myself participating in the 200-meter finals over 2500 years ago. Also, as I stood under my umbrella, in front of the temple of Zeus, I wondered where the great statue of the king of the gods was today. Maybe it had been broken up into pieces, or bought by a very wealthy collector, but I doubt that we will ever know what really happened.

I highly enjoyed visiting the ancient site of Olympia, running on the first Olympic track ever and exploring its very old ruins. The experience I had was definitely worth being soaked through and muddy by the end of the visit.

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Arch that Athletes Would Take to Enter the Track

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Triangular Column Outside the Temple of Zeus that Survived

Exploring Ruins of Ancient Greece: Mycenae

View of Mycenae

View of Mycenae

Mycenae, the civilization that followed the Minoans but essentially founded Greece. Accredited with creation of the Greek language, influence future myths and production of magnificent structures, some of which can still be seen today. In a mere 400 years, from 1600 BCE to 1100 BCE, the Mycenaean civilization thrived and conquered most of modern Greece. We were lucky enough to visit the archeological site of Mycenae.

 

 

Remains of the old town and view

Remains of the old town and view

This site houses the most popular set of ancient Mycenaean ruins in Greece, receiving 1000s of tourists every day. We left for our adventure through these 3500 year old ruins early in the morning on a free shuttle. As there was no local bus running to the site and it happened that there was a half marathon on the day we visited, there were free shuttles leaving Argos to transport runners to the starting line. We happily hopped on one, pretending, horribly I might add, that we were actually planning to run the race. I was surprised that we weren’t turfed from the bus instantly, as our acting skills are terrible.

 

The Lion Gate

The Lion Gate

We arrived at the Mycenaean site by 8:15 – only a few minutes after it had opened, and because it was early we were some of the first visitors. We were able to enjoy the most impressive parts alone, whereas my mom, who had visited the year before, had said that there were thousands of other tourists at that time.

All that can bee seen today are the remains of a fortress, the ruins of a small town and many tombs of the Mycenaeans. The main entrance to the ruins has been nicknamed the Lion Gate. Probably the most recognizable part of the entire site, this famous gate is known for the depiction of two lionesses standing in a heraldic pose, just above the lintel. It was amazing to take pictures of this gate with no one else in the background, unlike all of my mom’s photos from last year. The first area along the path after the gate was Grave Circle A, where Heinrich Schliemann found the supposed “Death Mask of Agamemnon”, which is now housed in the National Museum of Greece. It has recently been proven unlikely that this mask actually belonged to this particular King of Mycenae, as Agamemnon was supposedly alive 300 years earlier then the mask dates, and is now also thought that he was probably no more then a myth.

Tholos dome

Tholos Dome

After exploring the graves, we continued to wander through the fortress, seeing the remains of the castle, the cistern and the artisan’s workshops. We had the chance to see some half-worked chips of ivory, gold, semi-precious and precious stones from about 1300 BCE that had been used by the artists in these workshops. Our last stops in Mycenae were the tholos tombs. Shaped like beehives on the inside, these grand burial sites for royalty rivaled the Egyptian pyramids. The builders used stones with an average weight of 10 tones, whereas the pyramids stones are a maximum of 5 tones. The doors alone were about 8m x 5m x 1m, with lintels of over 125 tones – in other words – ginormous! As the space was shaped like a cone, the acoustics in these tombs were amazing. Even by stepping on the ground a sound would be created that was incredibly loud, and echo for a long time.

A fortress of the ages, Mycenae was one of my favourite places in Greece, along with Olympia. Stay tuned for my exploration of the place where the first Olympic games were held.

Pieces of gold jewelry found in Grave Circle A

Pieces of gold jewelry found in Grave Circle A

Grave Circle A

Grave Circle A

Grave Circle A - Close Up

Grave Circle A – Close Up

"The Death Mask of Agamemnon", found in Grave Circle A

“The Death Mask of Agamemnon”, found in Grave Circle A – National Museum of Greece

Golden Bull found in Grave Circle A

Golden Bull found in Grave Circle A

Entrance to Tholos Tomb

Entrance to Tholos Tomb

 

 

 

 

The Magnificent Parthenon

Heading Up to the Parthenon at the Gates

Heading Up to the Parthenon at the Gates

While we were in Athens, my family and I visited the great Parthenon. The Parthenon is a temple to the goddess Athena, the patron god of Athens. The Parthenon was built between 447 BCE to 432 BCE. It took the workers 15 years to finish the magnificent Parthenon. The workers used 22 000 tons (49280000 pounds) of white marble to build this structure. The Parthenon was built to show the wealth and power of Greece and to show respect to the goddess Athena.

The Parthenon is located on the Acropolis and is known as its crowning jewel. The Acropolis can be seen from anywhere in the city of Athens because it’s a small mountain in the centre and is the tallest thing in Athens by 100 meters. The Parthenon has 8 columns on each end and 16 columns on each side. The Parthenon does not have one straight line in the whole building. The columns bulge out in the center by five centimeters. The portico is a bit curved and the stairs are also curve down at the sides. The reason for this is to create an illusion so that from ground level below the Parthenon looks straight.

Portico with Remaining Few Marbles

Portico with Remaining Few Marbles

There use to be many sculptures above the columns all the way around the Parthenon. In the 19th century when the Turkish ruled Greece, Lord ‘Sticky Finger’ Elgin from England took many of the marble sculptures above the front and back entrances. These taken sculptures are now housed in the British Museum and are called the Elgin Marbles. There used to be a 13-meter statue of Athena made of gold and ivory called the Athena Parthenos inside the Parthenon. Unfortunately, this statue was supposedly stolen by the Turks and disappeared in Constantinople.

The Parthenon - End View

The Parthenon – End View

The Parthenon was used first as a Greek temple. Over the centuries, it was used as a Christian church and a Muslim mosque. It was partly destroyed in the 17th century when the Arabs stored gunpowder in the centre of the temple of Athena. Of the eight hundred canon shots shot at the Parthenon, one hit the gunpowder storage area causing a ‘big bang’. During the 20th and 21st centuries, the government of Greece has been trying to restore the Parthenon. The first restoration work in the 20th century did not work out because the restorers used metal clamps that corroded the original marble and destroyed it. Nowadays, the restorers use a titanium mix that does not corrode the marble. This is important so that the ruins remain in good shape in the future. There was a lot of equipment for fixing the Parthenon while I was there, but I still extremely enjoyed seeing it.

The Parthenon - Up Close

The Parthenon – Up Close

Alex & I with the Parthenon in the background

Alex & I with the Parthenon in the background

Parthenon - View from the Modern Olympic Stadium

Parthenon – View from the Modern Olympic Stadium

Acropolis from the Window of the Acropolis Museum

Acropolis from the Window of the Acropolis Museum

Parthenon - View from the Modern Olympic Stadium

Parthenon – View from the Modern Olympic Stadium