And from there you went speeding swiftly to the mountain ridge, and came to Krisa beneath snowy Parnassus, a foothill turned towards the west: a cliff hangs over it from above, and a hollow, rugged glade runs below. There the lord Phoebus Apollo resolved to make his lovely temple
In myths dating to the classical period (510-323 BC), the site of Delphi was believed to be established by Zeus when he sought to find the centre of “Grandmother Earth” (Ge, Gaea, or Gaia). He sent two eagles flying from the eastern and western extremities, and their flights crossed over Delphi where the omphalos, or navel of Gaia, was found.
Earlier myths include traditions that Pythia, or the Delphic oracle, was already the site of an important oracle in the pre-classical Greek world (as early as 1400 BC0; rededicated, it served as the major site during classical times for the worship of the god Apollo after he slew Python, a ‘dragon’ who lived there and protected the navel of the Earth. The Homeric Hymn to Delphic Apollo (above) recalled that the ancient name of this site had been Krisa. Others relate that it was named Pytho and that Pythia, the priestess serving as the oracle, was chosen from their ranks by a group of priestesses who officiated at the temple. While in a trance the Pythia raved – probably a form of ecstatic speech – and her ravings were ‘translated’ by the priests of the temple into hexameter verse. People consulted the Delphic oracle on everything from important matters of public policy to personal affairs.
Apollo’s sacred precinct in Delphi was a panhellenic sanctuary, where every four years, starting in 586 BC, athletes from all over the Greek world competed in the Pythian Games. These were one of the four panhellenic games which were precursors of the modern Olympics. The victors at Delphi were presented with a laurel crown (stephanos) which was ceremonially cut from a tree by a boy who re-enacted the slaying of Python. Delphi was set apart from the other games sites because it also hosted the mousikos agon, musical competitions.
In the inner hestia (hearth) of the Temple of Apollo, an eternal flame burned. After the battle of Plataea (479 BC), the Greek cities extinguished their fires and brought new fire from the hearth of Greece at Delphi. Also, in the foundation stories of several Greek colonies, the founding colonists were first dedicated at Delphi.
The oracle could not be consulted during the winter months, for this was traditionally the time when Apollo would live among the Hyperboreans. Dionysus would then be honoured in his place.
The wider world (1)
‛η δε Πανδωρα μετα της Σοφιας ελθων εις τας Δελφους μεμνηται πολλα καλα. παλαι ποτε ‛η νεανις Πανδωρα ειδε και τον αυτον ‛ηλιον και τας αυτας πετρας. και αναβασα εις το ‛ιερον δωρα φερων τοις ‛ιερευσι η˛τησε τυγχανειν της Πυθιας. ‛οι δε ‛ιερης ηρωτησαν δια τι ηλθε.
“In this place I am minded to build a glorious temple to be an oracle for men, and here they will always bring perfect hecatombs, both those who dwell in rich Peloponnese and the men of Europe and from all the wave-washed isles, coming to question me. And I will deliver to them all counsel that cannot fail, answering them in my rich temple.” (Homeric Hymn to Delphic Apollo)
ελθων – after going
μεμνηται – remembered
καλος – fine
παλαι ποτε – a long time ago
νεανις – youthful, young woman
‛ο ‛ηλιος – sun
‛η πετρα – rock
αναβασα – after climbing
το ‛ιερον – temple
‛ο ‛ιερευς – priest
η˛τησε – asked
τυγχανειν – to meet (+ gen.)
‛η Πυθια – Pythia (priestess of Apollo)
δια τι – why
The wider world (2)
‛η δε Πυθια αει εστι νεανις, ‛ως ‛η Πανδωρα μεμνηται. επειτα δη ηρωτησε περι της του δεσποτου εκδημιας. τελος δε ‛η Πυθια απεκρινατο ‛οτι ‛η Πανδωρα αυτη ‛ευρησει τον χρησμον. και ‛η Πανδωρα εγελασε επι του Απολλωνος αγγελματος. μακρα μεν ην ‛η εις τας Αθηνας ‛οδος, τελος δε ηλθον εις τον οικον.
‛ο δεσποτης – master
‛η εκδημια – journey
τελος δε – eventually
απεκρινατο – replied
‛οτι – that
‛ευρησει – will find
‛ο χρησμος – response
εγελασε – laughed
το αγγελμα – message
Olympia, a sanctuary of Zeus and Hera in Elis on the Peloponnese, is famous for having been the site of the Olympic Games in classical times. Below the distinctive conical Hill of Kronos, the Olympic Games were held every four years throughout classical antiquity. The first formal Olympic Games in 776 BC were in honour of Zeus; the games then continued for 1200 years until they were stopped in 393 AD by the Christian emperor Theodosius I. The poet Pindar wrote victory odes for 14 of the Olympic winners.
Creatures for a day! What is a man?
What is he not? A dream of a shadow
Is our mortal being. But when there comes to men
A gleam of splendour given of heaven,
Then rests on them a light of glory
And blessed are their days. (Pindar – Pythian 8)
The classical period, between the 5th and 4th centuries BC, was the golden age of the site at Olympia. A wide range of new religious and secular buildings and structures was constructed. For example, the Temple of Zeus was built in the middle of the 5th century BC. Its size, scale and ornamentation was beyond that of anything previously constructed on the site: the seated statue of Zeus by Phidias became one of the wonders of the ancient world. Further sporting facilities, including the final layout of the stadium, and the hippodrome (for chariot-racing) were also constructed.
The wider world (3)
‛ο τε Φιλιππος και ‛ο Θεοδωρος επορευθησαν προς την Ολυμπιαν. ‛ο δη Θεοδωρος εβουλετο ‛οραν το σταδιον και βαλλειν τον δισκον εν τη˛ παλαιστρα˛. και δη ‛ο Φιλιππος εχρηματισε. ‛ο γαρ Φειδιας ενενοησε αγαλμα του Διος νεον.
Many are the sights to be seen in Greece, and many are the wonders to be heard; but on nothing does Heaven bestow more care than on the Eleusinian rites and the Olympic games. The sacred grove of Zeus has been called from of old Altis, a corruption of the word “alsos,” which means a grove. (Pausanias)
επορευθησαν – travelled
εβουλετο – wanted
‛οραν – to see
βαλλειν – to throw
‛ο δισκος – discus
εχρηματισε – did business
ενενοησε – had in mind
το αγαλμα – statue
‛ο Ζευς (gen. Διος) – Zeus
The wider world (4)
‛ο δε Θεοδωρος εθαυμαζε το μεγεθος το του ‛ιερου, ενεργον δη ην. και ‛ο πατηρ ετυχε των φιλων. ‛οι μεν φιλοι αυτον η˛τησαν ωφελειν ελεφαντα εισκομιζειν εκ της Συριας, το γαρ αγαλμα χρυσελεφαντηλεκτρον εσται. ‛ο εις τον Μιλητον πλους εστι μακρος, ‛ο δε Φιλιππος ‛ωμολογησε.
το μεγεθος – size
ενεργος – busy
ετυχε – met
η˛τησαν – asked
ωφελειν – to help
εισκομιζειν – to import
‛ο ελεφας – ivory
χρυσελεφαντηλεκτρος – gold, ivory and electrum
‛ο πλους – journey by sea
‛ωμολογησε – agreed
Reputed to be the birthplace of Apollo’s son Asclepius the healer, Epidaurus was known for its sanctuary situated about five miles (8 km) from the town, as well as its theatre. The cult of Asclepius at Epidaurus is attested in the 6th century BC, when the older hill-top sanctuary of Apollo Maleatas was no longer spacious enough.
The Asclepeion at Epidaurus was the most celebrated healing centre of the classical world; the place where ill people went in the hope of being cured, so effectively the first hospital. To find the right cure for their ailments, they spent a night in the enkoimeteria, a big sleeping hall. In their dreams, the god himself would advise them what they had to do to regain their health. Found in the sanctuary, there was a guest house with 160 guestrooms. There are also mineral springs in the vicinity which may have been used in healing.
The Tholos behind the temple of Asclepius, built between 360 and 320 BC, was considered one of the most beautiful buildings in Greece. Like the stunning theatre, it was designed by Polycleitus. Below the floor a triple circular wall with narrow entries and blocked passages seems to have been a labyrinth connected with the god’s cult, and perhaps the home of sacred snakes.
The wider world (5)
‛ο τε Ξανθιας και ‛ο Θεοδωρος επανηλθον εις τας Αθηνας. εν δε τουτω˛ ‛ο Φιλιππος ηλθε προς την Επιδαυρον. την κεφαλην εβαρυνετο και ηλπισε φαρμακον προ του πλου. αφικομενος δε εις το ‛ιερον ειδε πολλους ανθρωπους νοσουντας. ‛οι μεν την κεφαλην εβαρυνοντο, ‛οι δε επυρεσσον.
εν δε τουτω˛ – meanwhile
την κεφαλην εβαρυνετο – had a headache
ηλπισε – hoped
‛ο φαρμακος – cure
αφικομενος – after reaching
‛ο ανθρωπος – person
νοσουντας – feeling ill
‛οι μεν… ‛οι δε – some… others
επυρεσσον – had a fever
The wider world (6)
‛ο δε Φιλιππος το πρωτον ‛ικετευσε τον τε Απολλωνα και τον Ασκληπιον, τοτε δη καθευδε εν τω˛ ‛ιερω˛. και της νυκτος ονειροπολει πολλα ‛α τοις ‛ιερευσι ειπε. ‛οι δε εκριναν τους ονειρους και δη εδοσαν τα φυλλα. ‛οι ‛ιερης παρη˛νεσαν τω˛ Φιλιππω˛ λουειν προ του πλου.
το πρωτον – first
‛ικετευσε – prayed to
καθευδε – slept
της νυκτος – during the night
ονειροπολει – dreamed
‛α – which
εκριναν – interpreted
εδοσαν – gave
το φυλλον – herb
παρη˛νεσαν – advised
λουειν – to bathe
These Ionians to whom belongs the Panionion [meeting place of the Ionian League] had the fortune to build their cities in the most favourable position for climate and seasons of any men whom we know: for neither the regions above Ionia nor those below, neither those towards the East nor those towards the West, produce the same results as Ionia itself, the regions in the one direction being oppressed by cold and moisture, and those in the other by heat and drought.
Believed by some to be the birthplace of Homer, and certainly that of Herodotus (quoted above), the west coast of what is now Turkey played a prominent role in Greek history.
According to Greek tradition, the cities of Ionia were founded by colonists from the other side of the Aegean. Their settlement was connected with the legendary history of the Ionic people in Attica, which claims that the colonists were led by Neleus and Androclus, sons of Codrus, the last king of Athens. In accordance with this view the ‘Ionic migration’, as it was called, was dated by them 140 years after the Trojan War, or 60 years after the return of the Heracleidae into the Peloponnese.
The victories of the Greeks during the Persian War and the liberation of Thrace, Macedon, and Ionia from the Persian Empire had the effect of enfranchising their kinsmen on the other side of the Aegean; and the battle of Mycale (479 BC), in which the defeat of the Persians was to a large extent owing to the Ionians, secured their emancipation. Thereafter they became the dependent allies of Athens (as members of the Delian League), though still retaining their autonomy; this they preserved until the peace of Antalcidas in 387 BC once again placed them (as well as the other Greek cities in Asia) under the nominal control of Persia.
The wider world (7)
‛ημερων δε ου πολλων αφικοντο εις την Ναξον ‛ου ‛ο Φιλιππος ειδε τα πλοια στρογγυλα. και μετα αλλον πλουν μακρον ‛ραιζει. εθαυμαζε δη τον τε της Μιλητου λιμενα και τας κοσμιας ‛οδους. εμισθωσατο δωματιον, επειτα ιχθυν ησθιε και επινε οινον. αυριον γαρ τευξεται των Συριων εμπορων. ‛η δε ‛ηλιου δυσις ην καλλιστη.
Miletus was a colony of Athens and therefore traditionally held especially dear by the mother city. The audience of Phrynichus’ tragedy Sack of Miletus (which reflected the Persian conquest of the city during the Ionian Revolt) was moved to tears; the poet was fined ὡς ὑπομνήσας οἰκεῖα κακά, ‘for reminding familiar misfortunes’. As a result, it was decreed that no play on the subject should be produced again (Herodotus 6. 21).
‛ημερων ου πολλων – within a few days
τα πλοια στρογγυλα – merchant ships
μετα (+ acc) – after
‛ραιζει – feels better
‛ο λιμην – harbour
κοσμιος – ordered
εμισθωσατο – hired
το δωματιον – room
τευξεται – will meet
‛ο εμπορος – merchant
‛η δυσις – setting
The wider world (8)
‛οι μεν Συριοι εμποροι πολλου η˛τησαν τον ελεφαντα, συνεβαλον δε δια χρονου. ‛ο Φιλιππος και επριατο παιγνια τοις παισι. τη˛ δε ‛υστεραια˛ ενοστησε προς τας Αθηνας. ‛υπολειπων δε τας νησους ειδε το τε Σουνιον και δη το του Ποσειδωνος ‛ιερον. τελος δε ‛ηκουσι εις τον λιμενα Πειραια ενεργον. και ‛η Αγαπη και ‛ο Θεοδωρος και ‛η Χλοη προσεδοκησαν.
πολλου η˛τησαν – demanded a lot (for)
συνεβαλον – made a deal
δια χρονου – eventually
επριατο – bought
τα παιγνια – toys
ενοστησε – set off home
‛υπολειπων – leaving behind
ενεργος – busy
προσεδοκησαν – waited for (him)
Suppose the city of Sparta were to be deserted, and nothing left but the temples and the ground-plan, distant ages would be very unwilling to believe that the power of the Lacedaemonians was at all equal to their fame. And yet they own two-fifths of the Peloponnese, and are acknowledged leaders of the whole, as well as of numerous allies in the rest of Greece. But their city is not built continuously, and has no splendid temples or other edifices; it rather resembles a group of villages like the ancient towns of Greece… (Thucydides)
Sparta was a prominent city-state, situated on the banks of the Eurotas River in Laconia, in south-eastern Peloponnese. It emerged as a political entity around the 10th century BC, when the invading Dorians subjugated the local, non-Dorian population. Around 650 BC, it rose to become the dominant military land-power in Greece. At its peak around 500 BC the size of the city would have been some 20,000 – 35,000 free residents, plus numerous helots and perioikoi (“dwellers around”). At 40,000 – 50,000 it was one of the largest Greek cities; in comparison, however, according to Thucydides, the population of Athens in 431 BC was 360,000 – 610,000.
Sparta was unique in ancient Greece for its social system and constitution, which completely focussed on military training and excellence. Its inhabitants were classified as Spartiates (Spartan citizens, who enjoyed full rights), mothakes (non-Spartan free men raised as Spartans), perioikoi, and helots (state-owned serfs, enslaved non-Spartan local population). Spartiates underwent the rigorous agoge training and education regime, and Spartan phalanges (battle lines) were widely considered to be among the best. Spartan women enjoyed considerably more rights and equality with men than elsewhere in the classical world.
Given its military pre-eminence, Sparta was recognised as the overall leader of the combined Greek forces during the Persian Wars. Between 431 and 404 BC, Sparta was the principal enemy of Athens during the Peloponnesian War, from which it emerged victorious, though at great cost of lives. Sparta’s defeat by Thebes in the Battle of Leuctra in 371 BC ended Sparta’s prominent role in Greece. However, it maintained its political independence until the Roman conquest of Greece in 146 BC. Thereafter it underwent a long period of decline, especially in the Middle Ages, when many Spartans moved to live in nearby Mystras.
Sparta was the subject of fascination in its own day, as well as in the west following the revival of classical learning. This love of or admiration for Sparta is known as Laconism or Laconophilia.
The wider world (9)
εν δε τη˛ Σπαρτη˛ ‛ο τε Λεων και ‛η γυνη Χιλονις φροντιζουσι του παιδος Αριστωνος. ‛ο δε μαλιστα ‛επτα ετων εστι και δη ολιγον ‛υστερον της αγωγης μεθεξει. ταχυς μεν βαδιστης εστι, ου δε ισχυροτατος. ‛ο Λεων γυμναζει τον Αριστωνα ακοντιζειν. ‛αμα ‛ομου φροντιζει του αγωνος του των επικουρων.
So let each man bite his lip and abide firm-set astride upon the ground, covering with the belly of his broad buckler thighs and legs below and breast and shoulders above; let him brandish the massy spear in his right hand, let him wave the dire crest upon his head; let him learn how to fight by doing doughty deeds, and not stand shield in hand beyond the missiles. Nay, let each man close the foe, and with his own long spear, or else with his sword, wound and take an enemy, and setting foot beside foot, resting shield against shield, crest beside crest, helm beside helm, fight his man breast to breast with sword or long spear in hand. (Tyrtaeus)
‛η γυνη – wife
φροντιζουσι – are concerned about (+ gen)
μαλιστα ‛επτα ετων – nearly seven
ολιγον ‛υστερον – soon
‛η αγωγη – agoge (Spartan state education system)
μεθεξει – he will join
βαδιστης – runner
ισχυρος – strong
γυμναζει – trains
ακοντιζειν – to throw a javelin
‛αμα ‛ομου – at the same time
επικουρος – ally
The wider world (10)
εν δε τουτω˛ ‛η Χιλονις τους ιχνευμονας εχουσα παρηλθε την Ορθιαν προς το ‛ιερον το της Ειλειθυιας. ψυχρον δη ην το ‛ιερον. ευχετο δε παιδα αλλον και δωρα εφερε. τοτε δη εδραμε σταδια πολλα παρα τω˛ ποταμω˛. και ολιγω˛ ‛υστερον αναστρεφουσα εξητασε ‛Ειλωτας τινας εν αγροις πονουντας.
‛ο ιχνευμων – ferret
εχουσα – with (lit. = having)
παρηλθε – went past
‛η Ειλειθυια – Ilithyia (goddess of childbirth)
ψυχρος – cold
εδραμε – ran
παρα – beside (+ dat)
‛ο ποταμος – river
ολιγω˛ ‛υστερον – a little later
αναστρεφουσα – after turning back
εξητασε – checked on
‛ο ‛Ειλως – helot (enslaved Messenian made to work for Sparta)
πονουντας – working