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The Temple of Apollo

Situated at the center of the site, the temple of Apollo is the most important monument of it. The temple housed the statues of the god as well as numerous votive offerings. It is here that took place various celebrations and the ritual of oracle giving. In the inner part of the temple there was the “chresmographeion”, that is to say the archives, which listed all the winners of Pythian games; these archives were lost for ever in 373 A.D., during the collapse of the temple.

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Ancient myths state that the earliest temple of Apollo was but a hut made of bay rims; later on another one was build, made of bee-wax and feathers, whereas the next one had been constructed of bronze. The first stone made temple was the fourth one; according to tradition it was made of porous stone and its architects, Trofonios and Agamedes were assisted to their work by Apollo himself. A fire in 548 b.C. destroyed the temple. So a new, bigger one took its place; it was financed by several city- states but also by foreign leaders. The work was accomplished in circa 510 b.C., with the assistance of Alkmaeonides, a famous noble Athenian family. The temple, made of porous stone was peristyle, constructed in Doric style, with six columns at the façades and fifteen at the sides. The façade was made of marble, as well as the architectural sculptures which had been created by Antenor a famous sculptor of the epoch. The eastern pediment presented the arrival of Apollo, his mother Leto and his sister Artemis (Diana) to Delphi. The western pediment depicted the Gigantomachy, but only a few sculptures have survived: the goddess Athena, the figure of a defeated giant and parts of two horses.

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An earthquake destroyed the temple in 373 b.C; financed again with contributions from entire Greece, it had been reconstructed in the same dimensions some years later and was completed only in 330, as the third sacred war had delayed the progress of works. This temple is the one surviving today at the archaeological site. It is an excellent sample of the Doric style and was constructed by the architects Spintharos, Xenodoros and Agathon. As the previous one it is peristyle with six columns at the end and fifteen at the sides; it also has a prodomos and opisthodomos in antis, whereas three Ionian- style colonnades with eight columns each, divide the niche in three parts. The “adyton”, that is to say the place where Pythia gave the oracles, to which only some of the priests had access, is placed at a lower level. The pediments were of Parian marble and had been sculpted by the Athenian sculptors Praxias and Androsthenes. The eastern pediment presented Apollo surrounded by the Muses and the western Dionysus with the Maenads. Little information, coming from ancient writers, is available about how the interior of the temple looked like. Thus, we know that some of the walls were inscribed with famous proverbs as “know thyself” and “nothing in excess”; we also know that the temple housed several ritual symbols, an image of Homer, the altar of Poseidon; the statue of Apollo and the “omphalos” were found in the “adyton”.

Today the temple has been restored and parts of the pediments of both the earlier and of the most recent temple are displayed in the Archaeological Museum of Delphi.
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