A comprehensive narrative history of the ancient world's center, from its founding to its modern rediscovery
The oracle and sanctuary of the Greek god Apollo at Delphi were known as the "omphalos"—the "center" or "navel"—of the ancient world for more than 1,000 years. Individuals, city leaders, and kings came from all over the Mediterranean and beyond to consult Delphi's oracular priestess; to set up monuments to the gods; and to take part in competitions.
In this richly illustrated account, Michael Scott covers the history and nature of Delphi, from the literary and archaeological evidence surrounding the site, to its rise as a center of worship, to the constant appeal of the oracle despite her cryptic prophecies. He describes how Delphi became a contested sacred site for Greeks and Romans and a storehouse for the treasures of rival city-states and foreign kings. He also examines the eventual decline of the site and how its meaning and importance have continued to be reshaped.
A unique window into the center of the ancient world, Delphi will appeal to general readers, tourists, students, and specialists.
Classicist and ancient history scholar Scott (From Democrats to Kings) examines the center of the ancient Greek world, Delphi, which held an important yet fragile cultural position for centuries. Remembered today primarily for its oracle, Delphi was visited by pilgrims from near and far to ask questions of the Pythia, the priestess who received divine messages. Exposure to other peoples made Delphi a center for information, and its position along trade routes caused the city, and its sanctuary, to flourish. Scott pieces together the beginnings of the oracle through accounts given in various stories, but asks bigger questions in the process for ex-ample, why did Greek society work to retrospectively explain Delphi's roots? He continues by investigating into the structure of the community (the appointed council, the Amphictyony) and the political intricacies involved, and he ends by giving an account of site excavations in the 20th and 21st centuries. Scott's passion and expertise are readily apparent, and though it may be somewhat dry for general readers, the book should prove to be an enjoyable resource for scholars and students. Additionally, prospective visitors to the modern site of Delphi will be interested in Scott's brief guide, which is included at the back of the book.