Museum Delphi

The museum in Delphi, together with the National Museum in Athens and the Archaeological Museum in Olympia, belongs with no doubt to the top three of the Greek museums. In all three cases, this is partly due to the central role played by the shrines at Delphi, Olympia and Athens (Acropolis) in the religious life of the educated Greek, the Hellenized barbarian or the well-educated Roman. During all periods of antiquity, these three places  attracted the attention and inspired the visitor to lavish gifts to the deity. In Delphi we see not only architectural remains of the great temple of Apollo and the treasure houses where the Greek cities displayed their most beautiful votive gifts, but also the most beautiful Greek statues imaginable.

Kleobis and Biton, two sons of the priestess of Hera of Argos, who, through their mother’s intercession, received the finest gift a human can get – death! The two young men had pulled the oxcart to the sanctuary in the heat of the day, whereupon their mother was to be taken to the temple. The grateful and super proud mother (who was praised by all women for the strength, beauty and sacrifice of her sons) asked the god to reward the boys (who had fallen asleep exhausted against a pillar) with the best a man can happen. The boys never got up again!
The statues (made around 530 B.C.) show the transition between the still very early Daidalian sculpture style and the purely archaic kouroi.

Two archaic bronze statues, decorated with gold fittings. The right head forms part of a seated statue, of which parts of the feet remain. Some gold fittings of the throne and clothing have been preserved.


The famous Charioteer, who has a room to himself, remains of what was once a much larger sculpture group. The man shown here, one of the very few surviving Greek bronze statues dating from about 475 B.C., was the Charioteer who originally stood on top of Polyzalos’ chariot. Some pitiful fragments remain of the horses and the chariot, and from the young man who holds the horses by the bridle. The charioteer himself still has the reins in his hand and wears a band around his hair that characterizes him as the winner. The boy’s eyes are inlaid with onyx and magnesium to avoid the dead look of pure bronze eyes. The oft-criticized length of the body may be an attempt to counteract the optical distortion that would occur if one were seen from below on top of a chariot on a pedestal. The statue was dedicated by a Greek aristocrat from Sicily to give his victory in the Pythian Games of 478 or 474 extra glamor


Not discussed by Pausanias, because probably already fallen down in his time, was the so-called Sphinx of the Naxians, an archaic Sphinx, in the 6th century B.C. consecrated by the Naxians and placed on top of a more than 10 m high Ionic column. Some parts of the original Sphinx are missing, such as the tail and parts of the wings, which have been partially completed. The Sphinx has some characteristic archaic traits, including the vague “archaic smile” that plays the woman’s face around the lips.

An absolute masterpiece is the statue of Antinous, the close friend of Emperor Hadrian, who drowned in the Nile at an early age, after which the broken emperor had temples built all over his empire for the deified young man. This statue shows a somewhat melancholic Antinous, with a circle of small holes around his head, in which a (golden?) leaf wreath was once attached. Parian marble, approx. 130 AD.

The 'acanthus monument' in its original location.

A special monument, the object of scientific discussion for decades, is the acanthus column (almost 11 meters high, and with a pedestal even 12.50 m) with the three ‘dancers’ which was diagonally opposite the corner of the great temple of Apollo placed right next to the ‘court of Neoptolemos’ (no. 32 on the map). The column was probably founded around 330 B.C.  and collapsed or knocked down in the second century B.C. The pedestal (2.10 x 1.80 m.), with the abbreviation ΠΑΝ (after the wealthy merchant Pankrátes, who acted as an intermediary in numerous construction activities in Delphi), is still preserved in situ. In a study from year 2000 by the French school in Athens (led by G. Thibault and F. Martinez), all 260 fragments of the monument were scanned and virtually assembled, resulting in a reliable reconstruction, using the famous’ omfalos’

The monument consisted of a 9 meter high acanthus stem, rising from an impressive pedestal, with the roots of acanthus leaves at set distances. On top, where the flower should be, we see three young girls wearing a polos on their heads, a headgear with a strongly religiously charged meaning. In the new French reconstruction, the three girls stand under a giant bronze tripod, which contained (an imitation of) the “omfalos”. The famous “navel” was a (unworked) sacred stone kept in the most sacred of the temple at Delphi, covered with a net of tufts of wool, flanked by two golden eagles. The navel indicated the exact center of the earth, scientifically determined by Zeus: he made two eagles fly from the western and eastern edges of the earth to the center, and where they intersected (so in Delphi) it had to be center.


Under the premise that this is an Athenian monument, the three girls have been interpreted as the three daughters of King Cekrops, who are vaguely associated in a Euripides tragedy with the place from which Athenian missions left for Delphi.

The 'omfalos'

An extraordinary monument in Delphi had a strong Roman flavor, the monument in honor of Aemilius Paullus’ victory over the Macedonian kings at the battle of Pydna in 168 B.C. The battle was the end of a decades-long battle between the Macedonian kings (Philippos V and later his son Perseus) and the growing Roman Empire, that tolerated no competition and wanted to break the Macedonian hegemony over Greece at all costs. Because of the uneven terrain, the Macedonian phalanx (virtually unbeatable, due to the meter-long spears the Macedonians used, as long as they could keep the ranks closed) was at a great disadvantage to the Roman legions, this brought the Romans to victory in a huge bloodbath. The Macedonian king Perseus was captured and taken to Rome in chains, while dozens of Macedonian cities were razed to the ground and Macedonia became a Roman province. Aemilius Paullus’ triumphal procession in Rome took take days, because the amount of bronze and gilded statues that was stolen alone was so great that it lasted a full day to parade them through Rome. From this point on, the Romans would gradually be overloaded by Greek art and literature, changing Rome itself forever.

The oracle had predicted that the army that started the battle would lose, reason for both Aemilius Paullus and King Perseus to wait long. A horse or mule from the Roman camp broke free and ran towards the Macedonian camp, after which Perseus thought the Romans had started the battle and attacked. On the monument in Delphi we see battle scenes on four sides with clearly recognizable Romans (with oval shields) and Macedonians (with round shields), while the broken out horse has also been given a place in the narrative. This monument in Delphi is the first typical Roman battle scene on a preserved monument, with recognizable soldiers fighting instead of an allegorical representation (typically Greek) of e.g. Gods vs. Giants or Lapiths versus Centaurs. The rectangular frieze measures 6.50 x 0.30 m., It was placed on top of a meter-high pillar, originally intended for a statue of King Perseus, and on top once stood an equestrian statue of Aemilius Paullus himself. The reason that Pausanias does not mention the monument will certainly have to do with the fact that from that moment on, the Greeks also had to walk on the leash of the Romans, like obedient vassals: that was just not the image he wanted. to have

Detail of a huge painting showing the triumphal procession of Aemilius Paullus.

A special place, more or less behind the acanthus monument, against the slope, is the so-called Daochos monument, as this has largely been preserved. The pedestal, with the names of the people depicted written on it, and small poems to praise their deeds. From right to left we see several relatives of the originator of the group of nine, ancestors and relatives of a certain Daochos (II), the delegate from the city of Pharsalos in Thessaly to the Amphiktyonian council in the years 337-333 B.C. on the right, the eldest, Aknonios, the son of Aparos, with on the far right probably the divine helper of the family, is depicted in the reconstruction as a zither playing Apollo. To the left of Aknonios are his sons Agias, Telemachos and Agelaos, then Daochos II, the son of Agias, magistrate of the Thessalian League, his son Sisyphos, who achieved many successes on the battlefield. Only the feet of the seventh image have been preserved, Daochos son of Sisyphos. Pausanias’ reason for ignoring this monument may be that it is too much of a private matter without further interest, or it was destroyed in his time.


The inscriptions on the base are listed below.

Ἀκνόνιος Ἀπάρου, τέτραρχος Θεσσαλῶν, ‘Aknonios, the son of Aparos, tetrarch of the Thessalians.’


Πρῶτος Ὀλύμπια παγκράτιον, Φαρσάλιε, νίκαις | Ἀγία Ἀκνονίου, γῆς ἀπὸ Θεσσαλίας, | πεντάκις ἐν Νεμέαι, τρις ​​Πύθια, πεντάκις Ἰσθμοῖ · | καὶ σῶν οὐδεὶς πω στῆσε τρόπαια χερῶν ‘Man from Pharsalos (a town in Thessaly), having won the pankration first in Olympia, Agias, the son of Aknonios, from the land of Thessaly, (you won) five times in Nemea, three times the Pythian Games and five times on the Isthmos; no one has ever erected a victory monument at the expense of your poor.’


Κἀγὼ τοῦδε ὁμάδελφος ἔφυν, ἀριθμὸν δὲ τὸν αὐτὸν | ἤμασι τοῖς αὐτοῖς ἐχφέρομαι στεφάνων | νικῶν μουνοπάλην · Τυρσηνῶν δὲ ἄνδρα κράτιστον | κτεῖνα, ἐθέλοντος ἑοῦ · Τηλέμαχος δὲ ὄνομα ‘I am his full brother, and have achieved the same number of crowns in the same time, as the winner in wrestling; I killed the strongest man of the Etruscans at his own request. The name is Telemachos.’ Apparently in a duel he killed his opponent on the battlefield.


Οἵδε μὲν ἀθλοφόρου ῥώμης ἴσον ἔ (ι) χον, ἐγὼ δὲ, | σύγγονος ἀμφοτερῶν τῶνδε, Ἀγέλαος ἔφυν, | νικῶ δὲ στάδιον, τούτοις ἅμα, Πύθια παῖδας · | μοῦνοι δὲ θνητῶν τούσδ ’ἔχομεν στεφάνους ‘They were alike in their prize-raising power, but I am the brother of these two, Agelaos; I won the stadium race, at the same time as the two of them, at the Pythian Games for children; we are the only mortals to have that honor (namely three brothers at the same time with prizes).’


Δάοχος Ἀγία εἰμί, πατρὶς Φάρσαλος, ἁπάσης | Θεσσαλίας ἄρξας, οὐ βίαι, ἀλλὰ νόμωι | ἑπτὰ καὶ εἴκοσι ἔτη · πολλῆι δὲ καὶ ἀγλαοκάρπωι | εἰρήνηι πλούτωι τε ἔβρυε Θεσσαλία ‘I am Daochos, the son of Agias, my homeland is Pharsalos and I have reigned over all Thessaly, not by force but by law, for twenty-seven years; Thessaly then flourished in long and fruitful peace and prosperity.’


Οὐκ ἔψευσε σε Παλλὰς ἐν ὕπνωι, Δαόχου υἱὲ | Σίσυφε, ἃ δ ’εἶπε, σαφῆ θῆκεν ὑποσχεσίαν · | ἐξ οὗ τὸ πρῶτον ἔδυς περὶ τεύχεα χρωτὶ | οὔτ ’ἔφυγες δηίους οὔτε τι τραῦμ’ ἔλαβες ‘Pallas Athena did not deceive you in your dream, Sisyphos, son of Daochos, but what she said she made visible, her promise; for since you first put the armor on your body, you have not run from an enemy or been wounded.’


Αὔξων οἰκείων προγόνων ἀρετὰς τάδε δῶρα | στῆσεμ Φοίβωι ἄνακτι, γένος καὶ πατρίδα τιμῶν, | Δάοχος εὐδόξωι χρώμενος εὐλογίαι, | τέτραρχος Θεσσαλῶν, ἱερομνήμων ἀμφικτυόνων ‘In order to enhance the glory of his own ancestors, he prepared these gifts for Lord Apollo, honoring his family and country, Daochos offered a glorious prize speech, he was tetrarch of the Thessalians.’