Mapping across time and space Project #1 The Buildings of Delphi

Group #1: The Buildings of Delphi

(Logan Bonney, Angela Cao, Mario Gionnazzo, Abigail Moses, Ashley Urrutia)

Please click here to see the TimeMapper Visualization of the Buildings of Delphi

Nestled in a bucolic valley of the Greek countryside, the sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi was an important pan-Hellenic site. Before the sanctuary was dedicated to Apollo, it was dedicated to Ge, mother earth. Delphi housed many significant temples, treasuries, and monuments kept by some of the most prominent city states of the Greek world. The site housed the influential oracle Pythia, whose prophetic declarations were sought by influential leaders before they made important decisions like going to war. Delphi was also the site of the Pythian Games, wherein a year-long truce among the cities allowed the Amphictyonic League to focus on preparing for the games.

Due to its status as a hub of Greek religious and political gatherings, Delphi acted as a stage upon which rival powers displayed their might through lavish gifts to Apollo and the construction of grand monuments, temples, and treasuries. These structures, built to advertise the wealth of their donor cities, reflected the competition that existed amongst the cities.  They also represented competitions among the Gods.  The style, position, dedicator, and who it was dedicated to showcased the diachronic changing of power and politics in the Aegean.  For example, in the building of treasuries Greek powers jostled for prime real estate within the sanctuary to win Apollo’s favor and display their power and wealth in the most conspicuous locations. Areas along the sacred way were coveted, and rival polities constructed their treasuries close to one another, begging comparison with their neighbors. The city state of Thebes built its treasury opposite of a group of Spartan statues on the other side of the sanctuary. The Thebans intended for their large, simply crafted treasury to be compared with the lavish spartan statues near the sanctuaries gates. The Siphnian Treasury was built next to the Sikyonian on a natural incline of the terrain so that it looked over its neighbor and could be seen from outside of the sanctuary. Since there was limited space, treasuries were relatively small, causing there to be little differentiation in the size of each structure. Since polities were unable to construct treasuries which were physically bigger than their neighbors they displayed their wealth and power through ornate column groupings and elaborate metopes. In some cases treasuries were intentionally built with austere facades to represent the no-frills piety of their donor state.

The Timemapper software showed how the buildings fit together and allowed a more comprehensive look at the progression of the site from the Geometric through the Hellenistic periods.  We found the most helpful feature was the temporal separation of the buildings, which allowed us to look at phases of the site.  This is contrasted with maps, which don’t have the fluidity necessary to model changing political rivalries.  Utilizing the software, we could see building patterns and trends such as the rise of military dedications in the first half of the fifth century, which we could then tie to the Persian wars and showed the changing nature of Greekness and the tension between polis and larger alliances.

Bibliography

Michael Scott, Delphi and Olympia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010)

Delphi. Coastal Carolina University Ashes2Art, n.d. Web. <http://www.coastal.edu/ashes2art/delphi2/index.html>.

Vandenberg, Philipp. Mysteries of the Oracles: The Last Secrets of Antiquity. London: Tauris   Parke Paperbacks, 2007.