D E L P H I , the “navel of the Earth”
By Yiοla Argyropoulou-Papadopoulou
professor of the Faculty of Philosophy
of the University of Athens.
Mythological and historical retrospective
Delphi, at the South West part of Parnassus, were in ancient times a very important political, cultural and religious center, a symbol of the unity of ancient Hellenism for many centuries, and they became the seat of the famous Oracle of god Apollo.
The site was originally called Delphi – an ancient Greek word meaning “womb, belly” – because of its shape or because the mother-goddess Gaea (earth) was worshiped there during Mycenaean times. Also, the name “Delphi” refers to Delphi, who was a son of Poseidon or Apollo, and brother of Parnassus. Delphos had invented the art of divination by examining the viscera of the sacrificed animals, and Parnassus by the way the birds were flying.
In Delphi, according to Mythology, the two eagles who sent Zeus from the ends of the universe, one from the East and the other from the West, met to find the center of the world. The history of Delphi is lost in the depths of prehistory and the myths of ancient Greeks.
According to tradition, there was initially a sanctuary devoted to the female goddess of the earth, whose guard was the monstrous snake of Python, son and protector of the goddess of the Earth. Apollo, son of Zeus, left Mount Olympus in order to kill Python and conquer this beautiful and sacred place. This god of light, grace, music and art, defeating Python, offered the Greeks the triumph of defeating the primitive instinct, prompting them at the same time to create artifacts in all areas of music, sculpture and writing. After the Python massacre, Apollo was self-exiled to be self-punished and purified. He then returned, transformed into a dolphin and guiding a boat with Cretan sailors, which arrived at Kirra, a port of Delphi. The sailors also stayed in Delphi, built the sanctuary of Apollo and became his priests. Apollo was officially crowned as a lord and protector of Delphi, at the point where the Python massacre took place, the highest god Zeus threw the sacred rock, a huge white egg-shaped stone, so Delphi became known at the end of that time world as the “navel of the Earth”.