Delphi: A History of the Center of the Ancient World PDF

Delphi: A History of the Center of the Ancient World PDF Very, very interesting account of Delphi and its oracle I fear most would find it too academic I am completely fascinated by Delphi I liked it. There was quite a lot of information in this book on a fascinating subject However, the writing is a bit dry I enjoyed learning the history of this site, and am glad I read the book I would recommend this to some people who are interested in the subject matter, but not to the general public. 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 thanyears 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 competitionsIn 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 reshapedA unique window into the center of the ancient world, Delphi will appeal to general readers, tourists, students, and specialists My theory this book is a doctoral thesis The topic is interesting, the facts are detailed and fascinating, but the text presupposes a high level of knowledge and is written in pretty dense prose It s a slog, but I found the details and ideas presented interesting enough to keep chipping away at it Despite having 422 pages, the text is actually 290 pages That s how extensive the notes and index are, plus a brief textual guided tour of the site But it felt like reading a book of 422 pages My theory this book is a doctoral thesis The topic is interesting, the facts are detailed and fascinating, but the text presupposes a high level of knowledge and is written in pretty dense prose It s a slog, but I found the details and ideas presented interesting enough to keep chipping away at it Despite having 422 pages, the text is actually 290 pages That s how extensive the notes and index are, plus a brief textual guided tour of the site But it felt like reading a book of 422 pages.The biggest problem is that the text assumes a great deal of knowledge from the reader in Greek Roman, etc history and archaeology Many Greek and Latin terms are given without translation, and major historical figures to someone familiar with the era are given no introduction or context Even technical terms like the archaic and classical periods for Delphi are thrown around without any explanation as to when those periods are or why there is a distinction between them.Other major beef pictures and portrayals are not dated or contextualized I also wish the pictures had beenbig picture There are some watercolors of what it might have looked like, but they re hard to imagine Also, some major topics of discussion have no portrayal at all, such as a view from the Athena temple that is the popular tourist vision of Delphi But I have no idea what that picture is.My guess is that the central thesis of this project is looking at the dedications statues, inscriptions, etc placed around Delphi s religious structures and how those dedications show an attempt to re cast history by the person group who dedicated it The discussions of how groups used statues to effectively re write history is fascinating, but it s also incredibly detail oriented about who purchased what, where the materials came from, inscription text, etc That s the main slog Similarly, I found the historical context to be very shallow, only enough to justify the author s theory about a particular dedication I would have liked areader friendly general view of Delphi This is a textbook supplement, not something you re going to curl up with at the fireplace However, hardcore nerds and history buffs can probably get through the minutiae, especially if you have some background in Greek history.I hope the author attempts this subject again with apop culture version because occasionally, the author s personality comes through with really great turns of phrase and a really nuanced perspective But his voice is usually buried underneath wordy, convoluted academic speak Main exception the chapter about the modern re discovery of Delphi, which I found really enjoyable An enjoyable and comprehensive account of Delphi from its origins to the present Although it disappeared from view at the close of the Classical era for 800 years, in both its modern and ancient incarnations Delphi seems remarkably adept at absorbing huge amounts of other people s money the French paid handsomely for the privilege of excavating it in the late 19th century The book follows the remarkable story of how Delphi negotiated the massive shifts in politics over its 1000 year active h An enjoyable and comprehensive account of Delphi from its origins to the present Although it disappeared from view at the close of the Classical era for 800 years, in both its modern and ancient incarnations Delphi seems remarkably adept at absorbing huge amounts of other people s money the French paid handsomely for the privilege of excavating it in the late 19th century The book follows the remarkable story of how Delphi negotiated the massive shifts in politics over its 1000 year active history I particularly liked the way the book s Delphi POV cast a refreshingly different take on important events in Greek history from the development of Democracy in Athens, to the Peloponesian War, to the rise of Alexander the Great, and then throughout the Roman period, Delphi was always close to the centre of events It even raised statues commemorating the early Christian emperors, before it was finally closed down This book is a pretty fascinating read, although as others have remarked the language is rather dry and at times boring The writer is too much of a scientist, and too little of a storyteller The history of the ancient Delphi is exciting and fascinating and that s why I in no way regret reading the book The book tells the story of Delphi in chronological order I summarize and give some of my thoughts on the lecture Chapter 1 gives an impression of how the Oracle of Delphi worked and wh This book is a pretty fascinating read, although as others have remarked the language is rather dry and at times boring The writer is too much of a scientist, and too little of a storyteller The history of the ancient Delphi is exciting and fascinating and that s why I in no way regret reading the book The book tells the story of Delphi in chronological order I summarize and give some of my thoughts on the lecture Chapter 1 gives an impression of how the Oracle of Delphi worked and what rituals surrounded it The fact that the Oracle was active only 9 days a year was a big surprise to me, as was the fact that during the winter months Apollo was on holiday and that another Greek god, Dionysus, took his place as it were for me it raises questions about the relationship between these two Olympic gods Also an eye opener was that the Oracle did not really answer questions about the future she was not as much a seer as an ancient management consultant , as Scott puts it The Oracle actually stimulated wise decision making in difficult matters instead of blind belief My thoughts on this visiting the Oracle from distant places in the Greek world in itself already gave the time to think things over, apart from the answer that the Pythia would give By analogy when you go on a pilgrimage to Santiago, you would be crazy not to visit the Cathedral and the grave of St Jacob once you got there but the true learning happens on the road It s a pity the author hardly makes use of these kinds of modern parallels and analogies, to make his accountvivid and understable for modern readers Chapter 2 discusses the origins of the Delphi Oracle It presents the different ancient myths of the god Apollo and how he came to be Apollo Pythios Important is the account in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo 6th c B.C Other accounts include those of Alcaeus, the tragic writers Aeschylus and Euripides, and Ephorus The myths appear products of their own times 7th to 5th c B.C , in which the oracle had already become an incredible successful phenomenon Chapter 3 makes clear that the Oracle was often used regarding colonisation issues Before taking on the adventure, a Greek city would go to Delphi to visit the colonisation god Apollo The Oracle was used by city states and individuals, by Greek tyrants and Eastern kings All these people brought donations and made offerings tripods, kettles, shields, statues, etc Delphi became a rich and wealthy settlement, but still small and relatively unprotected My thoughts on this the great richness sacred Delphi gathered reminds me of the Catholic Church, and manyparallels with Catholicism can be drawn And by that I do not only mean the material wealth as a result of a multitude of offerings and donations and the building of great monuments and shrines, but also as told in Chapter 5 the spiritual richness, consisting of several cults and numerous saints , so that everybody can have their own religious experience and devotion As Delphi grew and gained popularity, the number of gods and heroes that were venerated increased with the amount of visitors Chapter 4 tells the story of the birth of the Amphictiony, the religious alliance of cities that from now on guarded and protected the Delphic Shrine They were also the founders of the Pythian Games 591 590 B.C The combination of oracle shrines and games made Delphiandattractive for visitors to come In this period the first Temple of Apollo was built Famous Athenians like Solon and Cleisthenes visited the Delphic Oracle and asked advice But the most famous story concerns the Lydian King Croesus Croesus doubted whether he should take up arms against the Persian Empire The Oracle answered that if he did, he would destroy a great army Croesus was already imagining the defeat of the Persian army, but unfortunately the Pythia had meant his own Around 570 B.C the people of Naxos donated one of the most famous monuments to the Delphic Shrine, a giant marble Sphinx It also became popular to build large treasure houses, in which stunning golden and silver gifts could be stored Chapter 5 is about the destruction of the Shrine by fire in 548 B.C The Amphictiony, who undertook the rebuilding project, made the new Shrine larger andspectacular The project was finished not until 506 B.C In this period the Oracle became involved in the rivalry between two powerful aristocratic families from Athens the Alcmaeonids and the Peisistratids The Alcmaeonids increased by large donations their influence in Delphi during the second half of the 6th century Peisistratus on the other hand, much unlike other Greek tyrants, never made any donations It s intriguing that, whenever the Spartans in these years visited the Oracle, the Pythia ordered them in clear language to liberate Athens from its tyrant How easy the Oracle could be manipulated or even bribed is a question that reoccurs and fascinates.In this period Delphi becameandinternational Accordingly Delphi became a place where an increasing number and variety of gods, goddesses and heroes was venerated as Athena, Dionysus, Gaea, the Muses, Heracles, etc The inhabitants of the isle of Sifnos donated one of the most exuberant treasure houses Delphi had ever seen Other cities did not want to stay behind, and thus began a weird competition in years to come to build even larger andabundant monuments During the Persian Wars 490 479 B.C Delphi seems to have had a pro Persian mindset Why that should have been the case does not become clear to me from the storyline Famous is the answer the Pythia gave to the Athenians, that they should trust their wooden walls Themistocles, the Athenian general, concluded that the Athenians should use their mighty fleet to beat the enemy Chapter 6 recounts how after the Persian Wars Delphi really became the centre of the Greek world Every city wanted to commemorate their role in the battle by means of a monument Delphi became the place to write history, but also the place to re write it some cities collaborated with the Persians but now presented themselves as victors This process of rewriting history by means of art is a really exciting one Meanwhile the Pythian games were expanded with painting, dancing and acting The poet Pindar became famous with his victory odes and hymns In this period Athens dominated the Greek world In Delphi they also had a lot of influence During the Pelopponesian War between Athens and Sparta 431 404 B.C Delphi stood on the side of Sparta and the Peloponnesian Bond The Athenians were very disappointed about this In Athenian tragedies and comedies of this period we find a lot of sarcasm towards oracles in general The Spartans started to build great monuments in Delphi to overclass those built earlier by their Athenian enemies.Chapter 7 shows that the Delphic community was very dependent on the oracle, and therefore easy to manipulate the Spartan general Lysander wanted the Pythia to proclaim that the king should be appointed by election and not by descendence so that he could be king hemself Where Lysander did not succeed, another Spartan, king Agesilaus, successfully manipulated the Oracle to receive support for his attack on Argos In the year 373 B.C Delphi was hit by a huge earthquake The temples of Apollo and Athena were destroyed It took the oracle a century to recover In 356 B.C the inhabitans of Phocis in a feud with Thebe decided to take hold of the Delphic shrine They were driven out by Philippus of Macedonia, who was celebrated as liberator and who soon gained power over Greece.Chapter 8 is about the changes after the death of Alexander the Great Philippus successor His empire fell apart and in his place came Hellenistic monarchs, who had absolute power and did not need such things as oracles They also didn t make any donations to the shrine, so that it lost its prominent position The oracle was now taken over by the Aetolians from the north of Greece , who would control the oracle forthan a century Chapter 9 shows that the decline of the Oracle went on in the 2nd century B.C The Delpians wished to be liberated from their Aetolian rulers At last freedom was brought by a Roman victor Flaminius The Romans reformed the Amphictiony and the Delphians fared well under that The Roman conqueror guaranteed independence for Delphi and freedom for Greece Some Greek cities, like Corinth, turned against Rome and were punished with destruction Delphi survived and became ironically the place where Roman victories over Greece were celebrated In the first century B.C Roman general Sulla plundered the Delphic Shrine, and barbarian tribes did the same afterwards Chapter 10 is about the remarkable renaissance Delphi made through during the age of Augustus Emperor Augustus reformed the Amphictiony, which he imagined to be the great council of Greece In reality the organ never had been a representation of all Greek city states By this reform in fact based on a Roman misunderstanding Delphi regained its high position The Delphians honoured the Roman Emperors by means of statues in the shrine of Apollo Claudius was the first Emperor who showed a permanent interest in Delphi The Delphians made sure this high attention was never lost, by erecting momuments that showed their connection with the Emperor Nero was the first Roman emperor to actually visit Delphi He plundered the shrine and took around 500 statues to place them in his Golden House The Flavian Emperors Titus and Domitian followed the example of Claudius Domitian copied the Pythian games by introducing the so called Capitoline Games in Rome A famous inhabitant of Delphi was the Greek Roman writer Plutarch, who became a priest of Apollo in the sanctuary In his treatises he discusses interesting issues like why was the mysterious letter E attached to the Appolo temple and from where does the Pythia get her inspiration From Plutarchs writings it becomes clear, that Delphi had become a popular destination for tourists like it still is today and a place for religious pilgrimage a great amount of festivals was held there , but also a place full of history and commemoration.Chapter 11 starts with the happy relationship between Delphi and Emperor Hadrian Hadrian soon visited the Oracle and introduced the cult of Antinoos, his deceased gay lover and declared god Delphi honoured the Emperor for bringing peace to the universe Hadrian dreamt of a united Greece and founded the so called Panhellenion in the year 131 Delphi would again be the centre of the Greek world Delphi also gained a reputation as a place for philosophical discussions, thanks to a unique combination of history, oracle, philosophical heritage and games in sports and music The priesthood of Plutarch and the spreading of his writings helped this reputation a lot In his Description of Greece another important writer, Pausanias, presents us what he wished to see in Delphi the picture of a united Greece He focusses largely on the stories, places and monuments that underlined the panhellenic thought, promoted by Hadrian But Pausianias didn t reach his literary goals His book wasn t read much in antiquity From 180 A.D onwards the Pythian games were copied to different cities around the Roman Empire and served to honour the Emperor Apollo the god behind the Pythian Games was suitable for this, as his Roman equivalent Sol Invictus the Invincible Sun was the guardian god of the emperors When Emperor Constantine and his succcessors turned to christianity, their statues were still placed in the pagan sanctuary of Delphi In 365 A.D Delphi as the whole of Greece was shaken by a heavy earthquake again The christian Emperors Valens and Valentinus came to help, and were therefore venerated by a monument Chapter 12 makes clear, that the pagan days of Delphi were not that suddenly cut off, and that the transition to christianity in fact took place in asubtle and gradual manner In years to come three christian basilicas were built The christian community that inhabited Delphi did not destroy the sanctuary of Apollo but they also made no efforts at all to conserve it What fascinates me most about this period is the intermingeling of pagan and christian elements, as can be seen in the iconography We have examples of Christ crushing a snake just like Apollo Also the battle of St George with the dragon has a clear connection with the myth of Apollo, beating Pytho In the beginning of the 7th century Delphi finally was destroyed and abandoned The story does not continue until 1436 A.D., when the Italian mercant Cyriacus of Ancona visited the spot The village was then known as Castri and the inhabitants seemed to know nothing of its glorious past It s a wonderous thing that such an important past can be ignored and forgotten for so long After centuries in which the desire to discover the ancient Greek world in general and Delphi in particular grew, in 1892 finally the excavation began It would become a turning point in the history of archeology A thoroughly enjoyable and readable chronological account of this fascinating place, from earliest times, through its heyday, to the Roman era and its decline and eventual excavation I visited Delphi on a school trip to Greece in 1986, and it has fascinated me ever since My favourite memory is getting up early to climb the hill above the site and watch the sunrise paint the rocky hillside in gold A magical place. This sweeping overview tells you everything you want to know about Delphi and the myth surrounding the Oracle The author places Delphi in its proper historical context with enough background on the Greek world at large to understand how such an institution could become such a pivotal political player and pawn. This is a very interesting and comprehensive account of Delphi from its earliest days through the present, written in the sort of flat, artless prose that suggests an adapted dissertation Parts of the book were really fascinating, driven by the sheer propulsiveness of the historical role of the site Other parts drag interminably, particularly the cataloging of archaeological digs that makes up the epigraph Overall, I came away fascinated by the role that Delphi played in the wider culture of This is a very interesting and comprehensive account of Delphi from its earliest days through the present, written in the sort of flat, artless prose that suggests an adapted dissertation Parts of the book were really fascinating, driven by the sheer propulsiveness of the historical role of the site Other parts drag interminably, particularly the cataloging of archaeological digs that makes up the epigraph Overall, I came away fascinated by the role that Delphi played in the wider culture of antiquity, and how the success and usefulness of the oracle came not from definitive predictions of the future, but through responses that encouraged further discussion and political debate before taking action I also was shocked to learn that the Pythia really only took consultations for a handful of days in the year one day a month for nine months of the year It s clear that the purpose of the oracle is to slow down and inject some deliberation into decision making, not to offer a shortcut answer I think that really turns on its head the modern concept of what an oracle would be like Also fascinating is the Amphictyony the counsel of poleis that partially governed the shrine and its interplay with the city of Delphi The political structures that surround an institution that lasted over a thousand years were both pliable and yet remarkably consistent This book is worth reading for even a handful of insights into topics like this Interestingly, while some readers thought the book a little dry, mainly because it presupposes a decent knowledge of ancient Greek history and culture going into it, I thought it was a little on the pop culture side Early chapters seemedthematic, exploring what went on at Delphi and the art and architectural styles on display at the sanctuary, but it quickly transitioned into chronological narrative and ran with that format for the majority of the text That s great for putting things in Interestingly, while some readers thought the book a little dry, mainly because it presupposes a decent knowledge of ancient Greek history and culture going into it, I thought it was a little on the pop culture side Early chapters seemedthematic, exploring what went on at Delphi and the art and architectural styles on display at the sanctuary, but it quickly transitioned into chronological narrative and ran with that format for the majority of the text That s great for putting things in context, and much needed for the newcomer to the subject, but it makes it harder to draw out thematic patterns across time, leaving such discussions somewhat patchwork over a series of chapters Nevertheless, not a bad read by any means.6 out of 10

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