On the fourth day of our sojourn in Greece we visited Delphi (Home of Apollo), 118 miles northwest of Athens. I first visited Delphi located on the slopes of Mt. Parnassus and overlooking the Gulf of Corinth sixteen years ago. I was struck then by the mystical/spiritual atmosphere of the place and wondered if seeing it a second time would bring those same numinous (“having a strong religious or spiritual quality; indicating or suggesting the presence of a divinity”) thoughts and feelings. It did!
Dating back to 1400 BC, Delphi was regarded as the omphalos (the center, literally “navel,” of the earth); legend has it that when Zeus released two eagles at opposite ends of the earth, they met at Delphi. Built around a sacred spring, people came to Delphi from all over Greece and beyond to have their questions about the future answered by the Pythia, the priestess of Apollo. Her answers, usually cryptic, could determine the course of everything from when a farmer planted his seed, to when an empire declared war. Here, at Delphi, scholars, too, would gather for intellectual enquiry. In its heyday, Delphi became a showcase of art treasures; an attempt on the part of the Greek states to keep the Oracle on their side (today, we call it “lobbying”).
According to Greek mythology, the Oracle at Delphi prophesied that Oedipus would kill his father then marry his mother. Despite his father’s attempt to kill the young boy, Oedipus grew up to do just as the Oracle predicted. In the end, his mother hanged herself and Oedipus blinded himself—the quintessential Greek tragedy that still resonates and one that captured the mind of Freud in a later day.
Delphi’s Oracle came to an end in the 4th century AD when “Christian” Rome prohibited what they called a pagan practice. Pagan? Perhaps it may have been pagan, but I heard “distant footsteps echo through the corridors of time” at Delphi. I heard more than an echo. I heard (both during the first visit and in the second) a voice . It was not the voice of the Pythia, nor the voice of an Unknown God, and perhaps it wasn’t a voice at all. Perhaps it was what the Psalmist felt so long ago when he wrote (Psalm 73:21) “My soul was in a ferment and I was pricked in the reins of my heart.” So it was, for me, at Delphi.
|Sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi|
|The Wonder of Delphi|