“In this place I am minded to build a glorious temple to be an oracle for men, and here they will always bring perfect hecatombs, both they who dwell in rich Peloponnesus and the men of Europe and from all the wave-washed isles, coming to question me. And I will deliver to them all counsel that cannot fail, answering them in my rich temple”.
Homeric Hymn to Pythian Apollo
According to one of the Homeric Hymns to Apollo, the god was born on the island of Delos in Cyclades. He was looking for a place to settle until finally he arrived at Mount Parnassus. There are many and different mythological interpretations about Apollo choosing Delphi. According to one, the site was dedicated to Mother Earth (Gaia) and was guarded by the terrible serpent Python, who was later killed by Apollo. Another aspect supports that Apollo's sanctuary was built by Cretans who arrived at the port of Delphi, accompanied by the god in the form of a dolphin. This myth survived in plays presented during the various Delphic festivals, such as the famous Pythia, which celebrated the death of Python and comprised musical and athletic competitions.
The Temple of Apollo at Delphi was probably the most magnificent structure on the site and dominates the temenos from its central position. This is where the statues and other offerings to the god were kept. Also, here was the “chresmographeion”, or archive, destroyed in 373 BC, which contained the lists of victors of the Pythian games. Tradition has it that the first temple of Apollo was a hut made of laurel tree branches; the second one was made of wax and bees' wings; the third one was made of bronze; and the fourth one was made of poros stone by the mythical architects Trophonius and Agamedes with the aid of Apollo around the 7th c. B.C. It was rebuilt after a fire in the 6th c. B.C.. and was named the "Temple of Alcmeonidae" This temple was also of the Doric order and had 6 columns at the front, and 15 columns at the sides. This temple was rebuilt again for the third time by the architects Spintharos, Xenodoros, and Agathon after a huge earthquake. The cella was divided into three naves by two colonnades of eight Ionic columns each. The divination ceremony took place in the adyton, or inner shrine, an underground chamber where only the priests interpreting Pythia's words had access. The sculptures that adorned its pediment were the creation of Athenian sculptors Praxias and Androsthenes. Little is known of the arrangement of the temple's interior; ancient writers mention that the walls of the pronaos were inscribed with aphorisms of the seven sages, such as 'know thyself', 'everything in moderation' and the letter E. There was a bronze effigy of Homer and an altar of Poseidon, and, in the «adyton», a statue of Apollo and the «omphalos».