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 more than 1000 years. 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 in gold, ivory, bronze, marble, and stone; and to take part in athletic and musical competitions. This book provides the first comprehensive narrative history of this extraordinary sanctuary and city, from its founding to its modern rediscovery, to show more clearly than ever before why Delphi was one of the most important places in the ancient world for so long.
In this richly illustrated account, Michael Scott covers the whole history and nature of Delphi, from the literary and archaeological evidence surrounding the site, to its rise as a center of worship with a wide variety of religious practices, 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 reshaped right up to the present. Finally, for the modern visitor to Delphi, he includes a brief guide that highlights key things to see and little-known treasures.
A unique window into the center of the ancient world, Delphi will appeal to general readers, tourists, students, and specialists.
Michael Scott is assistant professor of classics and ancient history at the University of Warwick. His books include From Democrats to Kings: The Brutal Dawn of a New World from the Downfall of Athens to the Rise of Alexander the Great (Overlook). He has also written and presented a number of ancient history documentaries for National Geographic, the History channel, Nova, and the BBC, including one on Delphi. His website is www.michaelscottweb.com.
"[D]eftly combines literary and material evidence. . . . Overall, Scott offers a broad and well-documented history of the Delphic oracle, including an (excellent) epilogue on how the site was rediscovered at the end of the 19th century."--Barbara Graziosi, Times Higher Education
"[O]f absorbing interest. . . . I doubt whether there's a single archaeological report or relevant inscription, however obscure, that has escaped his notice, and no other scholar known to me keeps one so constantly conscious of the realities . . . that leave him with the nagging question: 'What motivated the continuation of settlement in this otherwise rather difficult physical habitat clinging to the mountainside?'. . . [Scott's] final chapters give the fullest and most vivid general account of Delphi's slow excavation over the past century that I've seen. . . . Scott's narrative never falters."--Peter Green, London Review of Books
"Judicious, measured and thorough . . . Mr. Scott, like Pausanias before him, is a handy companion to what remains--and what we can only wish was still to be seen."--Brendan Boyle, Wall Street Journal
"Scott's passion and expertise are readily apparent. . . . An enjoyable resource for scholars and students. Additionally, prospective visitors to the modern site of Delphi will be interested in Scott's brief guide, which is included at the back of the book."--Publishers Weekly
"Tells you everything there is to know about Delphi."--Sam Leith, Spectator
"A traveler on a typical ten-hour flight to Greece from the United States will find this book to be a valuable and entertaining companion."--About.com Greece Travel
"The story is told clearly and engagingly."--Peter Jones, Literary Review
Table of Contents:
Prologue: Why Delphi? 1
Part I: Some are born great
1: Oracle 9
2: Beginnings 31
3: Transformation 51
4: Rebirth 71
Part II : Some achieve greatness
5: Fire 93
6: Domination 119
7: Renewal 139
8: Transition 163
Part III: Some have greatness thrust upon them
9: A New World 183
10: Renaissance 203
11: Final Glory? 223
12: The Journey Continues 245
Epilogue: Unearthing Delphi 269
Guide: A Brief Tour of the Delphi Site and Museum 291