DELPHI – Archaeological Museum

The archaeological Museum of Delphi, one of the most important Museums in Greece, houses findings and artefacts that indicate Delphi’s political and religious power. A small museum was originally built in 1903, a larger one was built in 1938,  new rooms and sectors were added in 1974, and recently a full restoration of the interior of the Museum took place.

The archaeological museum of Delphi has some unique exhibits that were decorating the Sanctuary of Apollo and some good reconstructions of the old buildings. Worthwile to see the rare photos of the excavations by the French archaeological school of Athens.

In 13 rooms the Archaeological Museum contains finds from the site and important sculptures from the Archaic, Classic and Hellenistic Era, including the famous Omphalos, the Sphinx of Naxos, the Statue of Antinoos, the fragments and friezes of the Metopes of the Athenian Treasury, the head of Dionysus, two Kouros’ statues and above all, the renowned “Iniochos” of Delphi, the bronze “Charioteer of Delphi”.

In the vestibule you see a Roman omphalos stone, carved with a net-like pattern.

  • Room 1:features the Tripod, used by the Pythia when she communicated with Apollo.
  • Room 2: Pieces of armoury, mostly Archaic bronze shields of immense size, which were actually used in the ancient years, in Greece.
  • Room 3: Findings from the Treasury of Naxos. The friezes depicting scenes from the Greek Mythology dominate this room.
    • In the center the sphynx of the Naxians (ca. 550 B.C.)
    • A Karyatid from the Treasury of the Siphnians (ca. 525 B.C.),
    • The friezes from which are displayed on the walls:
    • The pediment (Herakles stealing the Pythia’s tripod),
    • The east frieze (assembly of the gods and Trojan War),
    • The north frieze (Gigantomachia) and
    • The west frieze (Judgment of Paris, being one of the reasons of the Trojan War).
  • Room 4: Kleobis and Viton,(ca. 600 B.C.; height 2.16m), two massive Kouros Archaic figures. The Twins Kleovis and Viton cannot be missed, due to their size; the Twins of Argos or Dioskouroi, as they are known, peer down all visitors who stand across them. They are sculptures of the transitional time between the Dedalic to Archaic Art.
  • Room 5: votive offerings of the 7th – 5th c. BC. a life-size bull of silver and gold, ivory & gold statues of Apollo and his sister Artemis. Impressive collections of jewelleries, items used by the Pythia, are also between the exhibits.
    These new finds, offerings from eastern Greece and Asia Minor, are of particular importance, since they include examples of ivory and gold sculpture. Previous famous works of Pheidias in the Parthenon in Athens and the temple of Zeus at Olympia, were destroyed and are known only from literature.
  • Room 6: Metopes from the Treasury of the Athenians, including Theseus and Antiope, Herakles and the Arcadian hind.
  • Rooms 7 and 8: Remains of the Archaic temple of Apollo. In particular (Room 7) the east pediment, depicting the coming of Apollo to Delphi.
    To the right of this is an acroterion from the temple in the form of a winged Victory.
  • Room 10: (to the right): Architectural fragments from the Tholos in the sanctuary of Athena Pronaia, including part of the entablature, with carved metopes, and semi-columns from the interior with Corinthian capitals (soon after 400 B.C.).
  • Room 11: Statue of Agias (350 BC; probably by Lysippos); the acanthus column with 3 korai or Thyades (350 BC); head of a philosopher (ca. 280 BC.).
  • Room 12: bronzes; marble statue of Antinoos, the Emperor Hadrian’s favourite (AD. 2nd c.) depicting an athlete and his attendant (460 BC.); circular altar with the figure of a girl (ca. 310 BC.; head of Dionysos (4th c. BC.).
  • Room 13: The absolute protagonist of the museum is, is the Charioteer of Delphi, the statue of Iniochos, who occupies one room on his own. The famous bronze statue of Sotades of Thespiai, dedicated by the Sicilian tyrant Polyzalos in thanks giving for a victory in the chariot race at the Pythian Games in 478 or 474 B.C. In adjoining cases are fragments of the chariot and horses.

Iniochos is the highlight of the Delphi museum. Iniochos in Greek means the man who holds the reins and the metal statue of Iniochos depicts a Charioteer of the Delphic Area. The statue was found in Delphi, part of a bigger complex consisting of a chariot with four horses, of which only fragments were found. The statue is 180cm tall and consists of six different parts. It was dedicated to God Apollo by the Tyrant Polyzalos, after his victory at the Pythian Games in 478 BC.
The detailed craft of the statue impresses both archaeologists and visitors. The details on the face and the body give the impression that the statue is actually moving, in a chariot race. His eyes, made of onyx, captivate the visitors. Wherever you stand in the room you can see the Iniochos watching you.
The statue of Iniochos is so perfectly created that it depicts the composure and self command on the “charioteer”, allowing the visitor to imagine how the Chariot would look during the race. next to the statue, there is a graphic showing how the complex was in full scale.

Pythia was the lady priestess delivering the prophecies.

At the beginning, when there was only one priestess Pythia, the prophecies were given once per year, on the 7th day of the Vitsios month (end of February beginning of March). Later, the oracles were pronounced on the 7th day of the 9 months, except for the 3 winter months.

Before the delivery of the oracle, a special ritual took place. While the Pythia cleansed herself at the Castalia Spring, the priests sacrificed an animal to the God. Then, the Pythia sat on the Holy Tripod, in the middle of the temple, called the Adyton, burned leaves of laurel, chew laurel, drunk water from the Castalia spring, and inhaled the methane gas that was coming from a crack on the earth below the tripod. The methane gas caused hallucinations and the Pythia was ready to communicate with god. She was mumbling different sounds, while in another room, the priests of Apollo, wrote down the words of the oracle.
The prophecies were the words of the God, ambiguous and always with double meanings .

Recent evidence proves that natural gas was evaporating from chasms on the rocks where the temple was located, being the reason of the hallucinations. This resulted in loosening the lips of Pythia and her vague and hardly interpreted omens. Plutarch was the first who had noticed the gases but no one before had ever elaborated on the issue.

At the height of the Delphic Oracle there were three Pythias. Even today, the name Pythia remains synonymous to ambiguity and riddles.