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by Archaeology Newsroom

Delphi and Greek religion

Myth, closely intertwined with Delphi, has been perfectly nourished by the surrounding landscape. The first oracles were delivered by Mother-Earth, who was then ousted by Apollo, the symbol of divine light and order. The original myth gradually developed and was enriched since all desired that even through an oracle their past and traditions be derived from or be related to Delphi. All the known ways of prophesying had been used in Delphi, finally however the oracle given by Apollo through Pythia was the one that prevailed. Although in all Apollo’s oracles men were the vehicles of the god, in Delphi, where matriarchy was deeply rooted, a woman had been chosen as the god’s medium. Every Pythia, which was a title not a name, had to be over fifty years of age, illiterate and naive, so as to deliver the foretelling through inarticulate cries, which were later interpreted by the priests. The two major gods in Delphi were Dionysus representing matriarchy and Apollo representing patriarchy who managed to set aside his brother but not to replace him altogether. Apollo by establishing the purification -after a judgement of the oracle — introduced the idea of justice in customary law. A number of feasts were celebrated in Delphi, some dedicated to certain sacred events, others to the god. Pytheia, the most famous and popular feast, was celebrated every four years (originally eight), and had a distinct musical character, since music was a characteristic property of Apollo. Finally, the important institution of Amphictyony, that has been often successfully compared to the United Nations, was introduced for the first time in Delphi.