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The Archaeological Museum of Delphi

The Archaeological Museum of Delphi is one of the most important and interesting museums of Greece. It presents the long history of the site, famous throughout antiquity for the temple and oracle of Apollo. The collections of the museum depict in the best way the ritual, cultural and social activities of the sanctuary from the 8th century b.C. that it was established until the Byzantine times when it declined.

The actual Museum is a fully renovated building covering some 2.300 m2 with 14 halls and a lot of repositories. The museum has also a workshop for the conservation of finds and the restoration of mosaics, as well as a coffee bar and a shop with souvenirs and books about the site and the monuments. The Museum offers facilities for the access of handicapped persons (ramps and elevator). A ramp and relative electric mechanisms are also available inside the Museum, to the Room of the Charioteer. The Museum is under the supervision of the 10th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities of the Greek Ministry of Culture.

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The first building that housed the museum at the beginning of the 20th century was financed by the Greek businessman Andreas Syngros and designed by the French architect Tournaire; the museum had only two rooms which housed the finds of the “major excavation” that the French Archaeological Institute carried out since 1892. In the years between the two World Wars the museum was restored and extended and opened again in 1938. During the German occupation of Greece most of the finds, especially sculptures were hidden, so that they were not carried off Greece. The museum was again renovated and extended in 1950s’; the renovation followed the new concepts about museums and the space and new buildings were designed by the famous Greek architect Patroklos Karantinos. During this renovation the Museum underwent several modifications both of the interior and of the exterior space; several additions were also done. The museum was extended anew in 1979 and in the 1990s’.  Every change was aiming at a better display of the exhibits and always resulted in a continuous enrichment of the museum with new finds.

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The permanent exhibition of the Archaeological Museum of Delphi presents the history of the Delphic sanctuary and oracle from the 2nd millennium b.C. up to the Late Roman period. The exhibits are displayed by chronological order and by context, in groups of finds coming from the same sanctuary or building. Through the votive offerings of wealthy people and of entire cities, the visitor is able to reconstitute the history of the site and the periods of flourish and decline. The exhibition highlights the art of the Archaic period, mostly the marble and metal offerings and architectural parts. Very important finds as the Charioteer are displayed separately. Explicit texts, maps and reconstructions give to the visitor a clear idea of the original place of the exhibits and the original context of the site.

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Exhibition Units

The first two rooms of the museum house the votive offerings and other finds dated in the early period of the sanctuary, both before the establishment of the cult of Apollo and of the transitional period to the new cult. The earliest finds, Mycenaean statuettes and Minoan stone rhyta, are followed by tripods, the first offerings to the new god, Apollo. The Bronze Age is also represented by shields from Cyprus, Phoenician bowls, Phrygian and Syrian fibulae. A series of votive male statuettes complete the exhibits in the first room.

The second room houses all the bronze votive offerings dated in the 8th and 7th centuries b.C.; there are also displayed several animal figurines, jewellery and helmets. But the masterpiece of this room is the small bronze “daedalic kouros”, a statue announcing the great achievements of the sculpture of the next centuries.

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Room III contains finds dated in the early Archaic period. The most important exhibit here is the complex of the twin kouroi. There are also displayed several bronze artifacts and tools, as well as the porous stone frieze coming from the Treasure of Sicyonians.

The most important exhibits of room IV are the golden and ivory votive offerings from Eastern Greece that were found at the Sacred Way. A silver bull and the Apollonian Triad complete the unit of this room.

Room V is dedicated to the Treasury of the Siphnians. The display is almost complete, as there are presented architectural parts and several samples of the plastic decoration; among them one can see the frieze, the eastern pediment, the Κaryatides and jamb doors and lintel. This room also houses the Naxian Sphinx and several architectural parts from other buildings of the Sanctuary.

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Several architectural parts from the temple of Apollo, along with the sculptural decoration of the pediments of the Archaic and Classical temples make up the content of Room VI.

The finds from the Treasury of the Athenians are found in rooms VII and VIII. In room VII there are displayed the frieze and metopes; two surviving acroteria presenting Amazons on horseback, parts from the pediments and inscriptions with hymns to Apollo, incised in a later period, are found in room VIII.

Room IX is dedicated to the 5th century b.C.; here there are displayed samples of sculptural and terracotta painted decoration which come from the treasuries of the sanctuary of Athena Pronaea; the Treasury of Massalia and the Doric Treasury. The room also houses acroteria from other buildings as well as waterspouts and antefixes from both sanctuaries. In prominent position in this room there are displayed three bronze statues coming from the pit of the Sacred Way; a female statue of “peplophoros” holding a censer, a man playing flute and a complex of two athletes. Finally, the female head coming from the sanctuary of Athena Pronaea announces the transition to the art of the 4th century b.C.

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Room X is exclusively kept for the Tholos, the characteristic circular building of the sanctuary of Athena Pronaea. Several architectural parts and features of the sculptural decoration of the monument are displayed here, the most important among them being the Doric and Corinthian capitals, the metopes and the two friezes.

The Hellenistic period is represented by the Complex of Daochos displayed in room XI. Here one will also see the Omphalos, the famous symbol of Delphic cult; this latter is placed next to the bristly column with the dancing girls. A few Late Classic and Hellenistic statues complete the image of the votive offerings of the period.

Room XII starts with the frieze of the votive offering of Aemilius Paulus and continues with several exhibits dated in the Roman period. Some Late Hellenistic and Roman exhibits as the circular altar coming from the temple of Athena Pronaea, the statue of Antinoos, the portrait of Flamininus and several samples of Roman metalwork complete the exhibits of this room.

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The next room (Room XIII) is dedicated to the bronze complex of the Charioteer, one of the most famous, important and easily recognizable artwork of antiquity, the most precious jewel of the Museum.

Finally, the last room of the museum (Room XIV) illustrates the last period of the sanctuary; inscriptions and portraits of Roman emperors are displayed side by side with architectural parts and oil lamps with Christian symbols indicating the transition to the new religion.
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