Delphi, Greece


About fifty years ago I caught a bus from Athens to Delphi and found a hotel with occasional hot water for six dollars a night. The Greeks considered Delphi to be the center of the world and the sanctuary for both Apollo and Dionysus, so for me it was a "must see" venue. The archeological site was busy with day trippers from Athens, but that night I found a hole in the fence near the ancient stadium and had the place to myself. The clear night and a full moon made walking about the stylobate among the broken columns of Apollo's temple easy. I remember thinking there are no gods in this place anymore. The same was true the next day at the nearby Castalian Spring, where the contestants in the Pythian Games and pilgrims stopped to cleanse themselves; it is also here that the Pythia and the priests cleansed before performing their sacred duties. After the cleansing they would proceed  to the entrance of the sacred place and continue up the Sacred Way to the temple, passing the large number of votive statues, and numerous treasuries. The treasuries are my focus.



The treasuries were built by several of the Greek city states to commemorate victories or to thank the oracle for her advice which may have contributed to the victories. These buildings  also held the  offerings made to Apollo; often a "tithe" or tenth of the spoils of a battle. The most complete is the restored Athenian Treasury, built to commemorate their victory at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC.


athenian   reath
                      The Athenian Treasury reconstructed   The Athenian Treasury reproduction. Notice the bas-relief  metopes showing Athenian warriors defeating Persian warriors and the statue of Athena, their patron goddess, on the left.  


The Siphnian Treasury was dedicated by the city of Siphnos (modern island of Sifnos west of Delos and Paros) whose citizens gave a tithe of the yield from their silver mines until the mines came to an abrupt end when the sea flooded the workings.

A reproduction of the Siphnian Treasury.  A portion of the frieze is shown (right).




        The frieze relief shows a Gigantomachy: Giants battle with the Olympian gods. In the Delphi Museum.




The Treasury of Cyrene (located near  present-day Shahhat, Libya) was probably the last treasury to have been built within the sanctuary of Apollo. It was oriented towards the Temple of Apollo. Its date of construction is estimated at ca. 334–322 B.C. It was constructed at the eastern part of the precinct, supported by a base (crepis) made of limestone and consisting of three steps. The elevation of the treasury was made of two kinds of marble with provenance from Paros and Mount Pentelikon. It was built in the Doric order, distyle in antis, with a vestibule and a cella. The antae were provided with semi-columns on their interior side. The building was covered by a marble roof, the sima of which was decorated..


One of the largest of the treasuries was that of Argos. Built in the late Doric period, the Argives took great pride in establishing their place amongst the other city states. Completed in 380 BC, the treasury draws inspiration mostly from the Temple of Hera located in the Argolis, the acropolis of the city.  Other identifiable treasurie remanin  are those of the Sikyonians, the Boeotians (The foundations remains of Boeotian Treasury, located towards the southwestern end of the Sacred Way.) and the Thebans. None of these have been reconstructed, not are there individual drawings.

Here are links to other entries about Delphi: 

The Charioteer of Delphi

The Apollo Kylix

The Delphi Museum