Delphi votive-gifts

Apart from the treasure houses on the sanctuary, Delphi had numerous individual votive offerings, often intended to show the giver’s gratitude to the gods, but equally to serve as a means of propaganda. Some of these gifts are still visible, or at least the remains of them. Some of the most famous are shown here, some praised by Pausanias, others hushed by him.


Plataea’s tripod counts – from a nationalist point of view – as one of the more important monuments in Delphi. Dedicated by the Allied Greeks after they finally repelled the invasion of the Persians (479 BC), it consisted of a bronze base of three revolving snakes, on which stood a golden tripod. According to Herodotus, the Greeks set aside one-tenth of the loot as a votive offering for Apollo, and built the monument. The bronze base was made of melted  Persian weapons, while the golden tripod was made of Persian weapons also . he base featured an epigram of Simonides, after which the names of the 31 allied Greek cities were listed.

The tripod itself was in 379 B.C. taken from its base by the rebellious Phokians and melted to use the gold to recruit  mercenaries for the Holy War,  the base was still there in the time of Pausanias. It would have been taken in 324 A.D.  to Constantinople by Emperor Constantine the Great to decorate the horse track. In that city the base was still standing until about 1700, partly buried in the ground, while now the bottom part has been preserved plus one of the snake heads. It is unknown how exactly the tripod and the bottom part were attached. It is certain that Pausanias’ interest in the monument is closely related to his “nationalist” interest. In Delphi, remains of the pedestal on which the snake column once stood are visible.

All photos shown are from Wikipedia

Victorymonument Aetolians

The Aetolian League was a confederation of Aetolian tribes and other cities in central Greece, believed to have been established to counter the influence of Macedonia and the Achaean League. Although the other Greeks saw the Aetolians no more than barbarians, the union at the end of the 3rd century B.C. covered all of Greece (except Athens). The Aetolians at first behaved as loyal allies of the Romans in their war against Philip V of Macedonia, but joined the Seleucid king Antiochus III in their annoyance against the Roman interference with Greece.  After being defeated, the League lost much of its power and became a puppet of the Roman Senate.
In 273 B,C. it were the troops of the Aetolian Federation who played a leading role in the battle against the enormous Celtic army that had invaded Greece in an attempt to conquer Delphi. Pausanias, who uses  many pages for a description of the struggle of “united Greece” against the barbarians, describes the horrific war crimes committed by these Celts, but also mentions a monument of victory in Delphi erected by the Aetolian League, Lady Aetolia, seated on a stack of celtic shields. This monument, although completely lost, can be reconstructed by through the coins from the Aetolian Federation where we see a monument of a woman in amazon clothing, with the typical Aetolian cap (kaunia) worn by Alexander the Great on her head. This cap was was taken from abroad by Alexander and made a hit. It is remarkable that one coin puts a winged Nikè on her hand, yet another coin does not. Below right: Lady Aetolia with her typical hat.
A second monument to the Aetolians in honor of the same victory was placed next to the great altar of Chios, a group of statues consisting of Artemis, Athens, two Apollo and their chief generals. (Paus. 10.15.2)

The invasion of the Celts in Greece, discussed at length by Pausanias, was almost as famous in ancient times as the invasion of the Persians two hundred years earlier. In honor of the Greeks’ victory over the barbarians, the Aetolians in Delphi organised the Soteria (Liberation Festival) in 278 B.C., an annual festival for which dozens of cities were officially invited. In many cases, either the invitation or formal acceptance has been preserved. For example, we can read in a decision by the city of Kos that the city decided to annually deliver a cow with gilded horns as a sacrifice for Apollo Pythios in Delphi, while at the same time instituting a sacrifice on Kos in which the entire population was deemed to be wearing wreaths celebrate day. It is clear from this invitation that many details that we find at Pausanias, such as the divine help in the defense of the sanctuary, immediately in 278 B.C. were part of Aetolian propaganda. Also, the invasion was clearly aimed at Delphi, the weapons of the defeated Celts were exposed in the temple, while Apollo killed the survivors almost to the last man. A personal intervention by Apollo (an epiphany, supernatural appearance) is mentioned.


Monument Krateros

Υἱὸς Ἀλεξάνδρου Κράτερος τάδε τὠπόλλων[ι]
ηὔξατο τιμάεις καὶ πολύδοξος ἀνήρ·
στᾶσε, δ’ ὃν ἐμ μεγάροις ἐτεκνώσατο καὶ λίπε παῖδα,
πᾶσαν ὑποσχεσίαν πατρὶ τελῶν Κράτερος·
ὄφρα οἱ ἀίδιόν τε καὶ ἁρπαλέον κλέος ἅγρα,
ὦ ξένε, ταυροφόνου τοῦδε λέοντος ἔχοι·
ὅμ ποτε, Ἀλ[εξάν]δρωι τότε ὅθ’ εἵπετο καὶ συνεπόρθει
τῶι πολυαιν[ήτωι τ]ῶιδε Ἀσίας βασιλεῖ
ὧδε συνεξαλάπαξε, καὶ εἰς χέρας ἀντίασαντα
ἔκτανεν οἰονόμων ἐν περάτεσσι Σύρων.

Alexandros’s son, Krateros, promised this to Apollo, an honored and glorious man; his son, whom he begot in his palace and left as a child, composed it, Krateros, thereby fulfilling every promise to his father, hoping that the hunt for this bull-killing lion may have eternal and attractive fame for him. For when he followed Alexander and destroyed everything together with him, with that much-praised king of Asia, he defeated him and killed him when he fell into his hands in the land of the sheep-bearing Syrians.

The Monument of Krateros, general and confidant of Alexander the Great, erected as fulfillment of a promise by his son of the same name. Krateros directly behind the temple of Apollo. He had a group of statues designed of a lion hunt, in which Alexander got into trouble and was saved only by the well timed intervention of Krateros. While today only the enormous niche can be seen where Krateros immortalized his act with the we inscription (text on the left) on the back wall, it is possible to get an idea of ​​the group from texts by Plutarch and Pliny. The original group of sculptures is – according to Plutarch and Pliny – created by Lysippos and Leochares, the court sculptors of Alexander.

Below left, a column base from Messene (now in the Louvre) may have been inspired on the group and been used as an example for the reconstruction. We see Alexander (with lion skin) with a raised axe attacking a lion, who just shifts his attention to Krateros who comes riding on horseback.

Below right,  other scholars compare this (with more justice, since the inscription states that the lion “fell into his hands”, which is not a good fit for a rider) with a mosaic from Pella.

The fact that Pausanias does not mention Krateros’ votiv gift probably has to do with his dislike of the Macedonians, whom he has always seen as strange rulers.

Column of Prousias

King Prousias II of Bithynia (182-149 B.C.), like his father Prousias I, spent much of his time playing off the pretenders to the throne of the Seleucids, as well as making war against his chief opponents, the kings of Pergamon. His father Prousias I has been fairly successful in the various conflicts for power, connecting with the Romans at the right time. Prousias II, nicknamed “the Hunter” allied with Pergamon in the fight against King Pharnaces I of Pontus and Mithridates of Armenia. However, later (156-154 B.C.) he attacked Pergamon, only to be defeated by Eumenes. Forced to make heavy payments, he became known as the “king-beggar” until his son Nicomedes rebelled and deposed him.

The inscription on the monument (βασιλέα Προυσίαν, βασιλέως Προυσία, τὸ κοινὸν τῶν Αἰτωλῶν, ἀρετᾶς ἕνεκεν καὶ εὐεργεσίας τᾶς ἐς αὐτούς, King Prousias, son of King Prousias, consecrated the Aetolian League, because of his excellence and the benefits he showed them) shows that the honored was Prousias II, and that the Aetolian League erected the monument.

Map right, Asia Minor after the Peace of Apamea (188 BC). Source: Wikipedia

Also see the archeological museum of Delphi