Delphi: “Know Thyself” [γνῶθι σεαυτόν]

After a recent viewing of 300, the small group of us studying ancient languages and philosophy expected our field study trip to Delphi to look something like the first 1:03 of this: 

I think that it is safe to say that we all were pleased that it didn’t. Because it would have been more than a little terrifying to be greeted by such a creature. Instead, we looked out our windows of the mini coach bus to as view after stunning view of mountainous Greece drifted by.

The snow-capped mountain belongs to limestone Parnassus

The snow-capped mountain belongs to limestone Parnassus

We arrived at our destination with the sun and 60 degree Fahrenheit weather there to welcome us to this ancient site. Myth says that Zeus once sought to locate the center of the world (for what reason? who knows.) and set loose to eagles to accomplish the task (naturally). The eagles crossed paths over a stone identified as Gaia’s (Mother Earth) navel and thus the center of the world; Delphi.  In addition, the location of the Oracle of Delphi where people would travel across country to receive answers to their questions; but more on that later.

line of caterpillars that literally made one of our professors jump in fear.

line of caterpillars that literally made one of our professors jump in fear.

Also there to greet us was this line of caterpillars. Clearly something mystical was at work here to produce such a creepy phenomenon. However, upon further research (as in looking it up on Wikipedia) it turns out the little critters were marking their trail to food.  But watch out! They will most likely give you an allergic reaction.

To begin our walk up the hill of the archaeological site, we saw ruins of a Roman Forum built in the era of the Emperors Nerva and Trajan along with treasuries dotting the way. Treasuries held the material riches that would be sacrificed. Naturally the most impressive one was the Athenian Treasury. Looks pretty good for being over 2400 years old, right? Originally built in 490 BC to commemorate the Battle of Marathon and was reconstructed much much much later for our viewing pleasure.

Athenian Treasury

Athenian Treasury

Making our way through the winding paths, we found our way to the place that brought people from all areas of Greece: The Temple of Apollo. If you are wondering how the heck Apollo came into to the picture, you are in luck because it is story time. A great dragon named Python once occupied this same land Zeus deemed the center of the world (apparently Gaia felt that her belly button needed protecting). Having nothing better to do, Apollo slew the beast and the people then built a temple in his honor. Here the Oracle of Delphi resided. Young maidens were chosen to be the mouthpiece of the god Apollo. Once a year the Oracle would provide prophecies. She would enter into a trance and speak in cryptic hexameter from the first person of Apollo to give the questioner their answer. Of course the answers would be vague and ambiguous and interpreted to mean whatever you wanted to hear. Carved into the front of the temple were several maxims, one (the most famous) being “γνῶθι σεαυτόν” translated to “know thyself” with a disputed meaning. Here I challenge you to reflect on that phrase to see what interpretation is reveals itself to you.

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And so we turn some corners and arrive at the Theatre. It’s thirty-five rows of seating are carved into the side of the hill were constructed in the 4th century BC. A visitor even graced us with song as his voice bounced of the marble and filled the valley.



the Stadium

the Stadium





And then we come to the Stadium at the end of the Sacred Way. But nothing too exciting there; just your usual games of races etc.




Everything (from temple, to theatre, to stadium) in this once thriving location points to a cathartic experience in order to better understand oneself and what lays ahead.





A short distance from the main sanctuary was the “poster child” of Delphi known as the Tholos located in the sanctuary to Athena Pronoia (Athena of Forethought). A round building was constructed around 380 BC and is beautiful on the edge of the mountain.

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After a trip to the museum, we settled in the town of Delphi were we had time to explore. We didn’t wander long before we found our way to the cliff-side to enjoy fresh air, green grass, wild almonds, and gorgeous mountain sites as we perched on boulders. Words cannot describe how wonderful it was to soak in the privilege of gazing upon such beauty in ancient wonders — both man-made and natural — and give thanks .

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Almond Tree

Almond Tree

I don’t think that I could have been more pleased with a trip. Delphi was gorgeous in more aspects than purely Classical. I suggest it to anyone travel in Greece. It’s not everyday that you have your breath taken away by an archaeological site, olive groves from a bird’s eye view, and caterpillars participating in a conga line. Goodbye Delphi, I will always remember our beautiful weekend together!


Sanctuary of Delphi

from a cfe window

from a cafe window


Sanctuary of Athena Pronoia

“The Study of philosophy is not that we may know what men have thought, but what the truth of things is. ”

― Thomas Aquinas

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