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A Day with the Oracle and Leonidas

After spending much time admiring the hustle and bustle of Athens, and before flying off to enjoy the enchanting beauty of the Cyclades (Greek islands in the Aegean), we set off to tour the Greek countryside to gain a further understanding and appreciation for the link between Greek history and the mythological and legendary stories found within her culture.

On Day 1 of our tour, we visited the renowned Oracle of Delphi and the Battlefield of Thermopylae.


Greece Tourist Traps

* What’s a tour without tourist traps? Fortunately here in Greece, they come with excellent Greek coffeegelato and Paprika-flavored Pringles. Add the very fresh Greek countryside air to the mix and you have a hell of a great time!



Greece Tourist Traps

* Continuing on the awesome Greek souvenir window-shopping. Too bad these were kinda pricey, otherwise I would have gotten a couple.


Greece Tourist Traps

* Beautiful Orthodox Byzantine icons on display. The ones depicting angels are particularly badass!


Greek gentlemen

* Gentlemen enjoying the national pastime of debating politics and socializing over Greek coffee.


Thebes

* Along the two and a half hour trip to Delphi, we passed by the ancient city of Thebes. Once the chief rival of Athens, Thebes is famous for being the birthplace of Hercules, and was once ruled by a number of legendary Greeks among whom are Cadmus, who introduced the original Greek and Phoenician alphabet, and Oedipus, the tragic king who killed his father and married his mother.


Oracle of Delphi

* An artist’s reconstruction of what Delphi would have looked like back in antiquity (with credit to Google Images). The Via Sacra would have started in the lower right area of the photo, leading all the way up to the Temple of Apollo where the Oracle is located. On the way, one would pass by all these mini-temples which are actually Treasuries containing offerings from the various Greek city-states.


Spartan Monument of Egospotamos

* The start of our ascent (and tour) to the Temple of Apollo is the area known as the Spartan Monument of Egospotamos, used by the Spartans to honor Apollo. In relation to the reconstructed image of Delphi (above), this structure is the one on the lower right; hence the beginning of the Via Sacra.


Via Sacra Delphi

* The Via Sacra or Sacred Way was the path going up to the Temple. In ancient times, this would have been filled with people praying, sacrificing animals to the gods, and selling objects of religious significance. Being holy to all Greeks and thus neutral ground, it wasn’t strange to see blood-enemies praying side-by-side.


Navel of the Earth

* Along the Via Sacra lies this ant-hill looking stone which the Greeks believed was the Ompahlos or Navel of the Earth. Its presence here meant that the Greeks considered Delphi to be the Center of the World; the same way Christians and Jews consider Jerusalem to be the Center of their World, with the Dome of the Rock’s Foundation Stone, as the Omphalos.


Delphi Treasury of Athens

* The Treasuries were built by the various Greek city-states to commemorate victories, to pay tribute to the Oracle and to serve as housing for their offerings to Apollo. Pictured above is the Treasury of Athens, built to commemorate their victory against the Persians in the Battle of Marathon.


Treasury of the Corinthians Delphi

* All that’s left of the Treasury of the Corinthians is this solitary column and some fallen pieces of stone. Still, these provide for an excellent photo op!


Oracle of Delphi

* Monicca and I horsing around the ruins; doing our best "Greek statue" pose!


Temple of Apollo Delphi

* The Temple of Apollo was one of the most glorious in antiquity. Being the home of the most important Oracle in Classical Greece and the center of worship for one of the most important gods, Apollo, the Temple was the ultimate destination of many a pilgrimage, similar to Mecca for Muslims and Jerusalem for Christians and Jews today.


Temple of Apollo Delphi

* The writer having one of his moments of appreciation over his smallness relative to history and the universe.


Temple of Apollo Delphi

* All that remains of this glorious structure are a bunch of standing pillars and the outline of the floor of the temple. The temple was finally destroyed and oracle silenced in 395 AD under orders from the Christian emperor Theodosius I, who wanted to remove all traces of paganism from the Roman Empire.


Temple of Apollo Delphi

* Still it was great to actually see and experience the exact area were the Oracle used to be. Think of all the prophecies that were foretold here; all the important philosophers, kings, priests and warriors who came here seeking answers; all the events that came to past because of decisions made here. I’m proud to be able to add the Oracle of Delphi to my List of Holy Sites that I have visited and prayed on, in my lifetime.


Thermopylae

* An hour away from Delphi is the legendary battlefield of Thermopylae. I got giddy recounting the various scenes of warfare, dismemberment, decapitation and plain manliness in the movie 300, that I just wanted to jump out of the bus and stab something, like a tree or piece of stone, as our bus pulled up to the monument. (good thing I didn’t coz that would have been weird).


Thermopylae Leonidas

* Translating to "Hot Gates", Thermopylae was where Leonidas and his band of 300 Spartans held the Persian King Xerxes and his massive army of Immortals, magicians, trolls and orcs at bay for three days! To commemorate such a massive feat of awesomeness, the Greeks built this towering statue of Leonidas, ready to thrust his spear against anything that dare forget that, THIS IS SPARTAAAAA.


Thermopylae Leonidas

* Side view of Leonidas’ monument with some dashing gentleman reclining so matter-of-factly, like a boss.


Thermopylae Leonidas

* Of course I had to pick a fight against Leonidas! Why die of old age, sickness or some boring old cause, when you can die speared by a towering naked golem warlord aka the MOST GLORIOUS DEATH EVER!! Inscribed under the statue are his legendary words, “Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here obedient to their laws we lie.”  

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