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Pythia (Priestess of the Oracle) sitting on a tripod, attended by a supplicant


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Lisarow High School Senior Ancient History

File :Sparta Stop-Press

Teacher : Carnovale


Delphic Pythia (Priestess of the Oracle) sitting on a tripod, attended by a supplicant.

(person seeking information or knowledge)

Note the low ceiling that causes the Delphic oracle to stoop, the hollow floor and the barrier that separates Pythia from the supplicant.



Sparta And Apollo

Apollo spoke through his oracle, who had to be an older woman of blameless life chosen from among the peasants of the area. The sibyl or prophetess took the name Pythia and sat on a tripod seat over an opening in the earth. When Apollo slew Python, its body fell into this fissure, according to legend, and fumes arose from its decomposing body. Intoxicated by the vapors, the sibyl would fall into trance, allowing Apollo to possess her spirit. In this state she prophesied. She spoke in riddles, which were interpreted by the priests of the temple, and people consulted her on everything from important matters of public policy to personal affairs.

The ancient city of Amyklai was situated some 5 kilometres south of Sparta. It was inhabited from the Bronze Age and remained the capital of a dynasty that ruled from Archaic times until the First Messenian War (743 - 724 B.C), when if was conquered by the Spartans. On the hill of Agia Kiriaki one can see the remains of the Archaic sanctuary of Apollo, which at one time boasted an enormous statue of the god seated on the altar - tomb of Hyakinthos, a pre -  Hellenic divinity, in whose honour were held the Hyakinthia, on of the most important Spartan religious festivals.

Amykles (It evolved into the 5th town that made up Ancient Sparta.)

is one of the oldest towns of antiquity, one of the most important archaeological sites marking the distant past. It is located near the village which today bears the same name, 5 km. from Sparta, in an area that had been inhabited since prehistoric times. It evolved into the Sanctuary of Iakinthos and Apollo Amykles, the most important religious centre of the Spartans, which has also been known as the "Throne" of Apollo.

The sanctuary of lakinthos (Hyacinthus) and Apollo evolved into the most important place of worship of the Lacedemonians. The lakinthia, (Hyacinthia) a three-day festival during which a sacred cease-fire applied, was held around the sanctuary.

On the first day, dedicated to mourning the death of vegetation, the faithful sacrificed in honour of lakinthos. On the second day they held festivities in honour of Apollo, with the participation of all the inhabitants, including the slaves. On the third and last day games and sacrifices were conducted, and a tunic, woven by the women of Sparta, was offered to the god.

in Greek legend, a young man of Amyclae in Laconia. According to the usual version, his great beauty attracted the love of Apollo, who killed him accidentally while teaching him to throw the discus; others related that Zephyrus (or Boreas) out of jealousy deflected the discus so that it hit Hyacinthus on the head and killed him. Out of his blood there grew the flower called hyacinthos, the petals of which were marked with the mournful exclamation AI, AI (“Alas”). The flower was also said to have sprung from the blood of Ajax, the son of Telamon.

The death of Hyacinthus was celebrated at Amyclae by the second most important of Spartan festivals, the Hyacinthia, in the Spartan month Hyacinthus. Probably an early summer festival, it lasted three days, the rites gradually passing from mourning for Hyacinthus to rejoicing in the majesty of Apollo. This festival was clearly connected with vegetation and marked the passage from the youthful verdure of spring to the dry heat of summer and the ripening of the grain.



Hyacinthus was undoubtedly a pre-Hellenic god. The precise relation that he bore to Apollo is obscure, but he was eventually assimilated to Apollo's cult. Certain aspects of his own cult suggest that he was an underworld vegetation deity whose death was mourned like that of Adonis.

The Temple of Apollo

  • The Greeks and the Spartans in particular had a great affection for the god Apollo

  • He was the god of the sun and his temple at Delphi was the main temple in Greece for divine advice before Greek individuals or city-states began any enterprise.

  • The other major temple to Apollo in the Greek world was the tiny Ionian island of Delos in the Aegean

  • Recent geological discoveries – (November 2007) indicate that a “Fault Line” crack occurred at the temple of Apollo at Delphi.

  • Methane gas and flames seeped through the earth along this fault near the Temple of Apollo.

  • This temple was famous for foretelling the future.

  • In 373 BC a major earthquake hit Delphi

  • In 371 BC Spartan military and political power was destroyed once and for all at Leuctra by Epaminondas and the Thebans


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