Delphi,, an ancient city of central Greece on the south slope of Mount Parnassus. It grew around the Delphic oracle, the most famous and most consulted in Greece. According to one legend, it was here that the god Apollo killed a great dragon named Python that lived in a cave thought to be the center of the world. The Pythian Games were later held near Delphi every four years to celebrate Apollo's victory.
From about the seventh century B.C. a priestess called Pythia was believed to speak for Apollo. She sat on a golden tripod placed over a cleft in the rock from which arose sulfurous vapors. When asked a question, she went into a frenzied trance and uttered strange words and sounds that were interpreted by attending priests. The advice was always vague and ambiguous, and at times caused much confusion. For example, King Croesus of Lydia inquired whether it would be wise for him to move against Cyrus the Great. The answer was, "If you cross the Halys River, you will destroy a great empire." Thinking that this meant he would be victorious, Croesus attacked and met a crushing defeat. It was his own empire that was destroyed.
Pilgrims from all parts of the Mediterranean area came to consult the oracle, and it was customary for them to leave gifts for the upkeep of the temple. The seizure of the temple by the city-state of Phocis in 356 B.C. touched off the Sacred War, a 10-year conflict among the city-states. Attendance at the temple of the oracle dwindled when the Christian Era began, and in 390 A.D. Emperor Theodosius of the Eastern Roman Empire closed it because it encouraged pagan beliefs.
A small village called Dhelfoí that was situated among the ruins of ancient Delphi was moved to a new location nearby when excavation began in 1892. The ruins of a temple, a theater, and a number of monuments were uncovered. A museum houses many of the art objects found.