Introduction: Delphi

Some Greeks considered Delphi to be the middle point of the world. Lying on the south side of Mount Parnassus, the sanctuary had good access to the sea through the harbor of Kirrha, and attracted many individuals and communities to its oracle. In the Archaic and Classical periods, there was a rich tradition of oracles relating to official transactions, including the colonial foundations, law-giving advice on going to war, or establishing cults. Characteristic for Delphi are the "treasuries" (depositories) and the enormous number of official inscriptions and dedications that lined the "Sacred Way" and celebrated the major events in Greek history. In the history of Delphi, the Persian attack of 480 BC and the attack of the Gauls in 279 BC are noteworthy.

Official dedications begin in the 7th Century BC and commemorate victories at the festivals. The origin of the dedicators indicates the wide area of contact that Delphi enjoyed. Dedications from as far as Marseille (in the west) and from Chios, Cnidos and Lydia (to the east) have been found. The Greek colonies demonstrated their connection to the Motherland by setting up inscriptions at the sanctuary. The earliest treaties date to between 800 and 700 BC. Thereafter we find references to alliances from different areas of the Greek world and even from Lydia, including, for example, one from the middle of the 6th Century between Lydia and Sparta. So too, do we find a record of the Great Greek Alliance against the Persians. The interregional contracts of the earliest period have a particular meaning for Greek colonization, including the contract between the founder of Cyrene and the settlers of Thera.

The origins of official dedications changed dramatically during and after the Classical Age, expanding especially to include the coast of Asia Minor. The Aetolians claimed a special importance at the site, a claim that is reflected in the high number of official dedications during the 3rd Century BC. During the 2nd Century BC, the growing power of Rome may also be found in the number of dedications, as it became politically expedient for dependent states to show their loyalty toward their new protector. Many Greek leagues and city states set up copies of their alliances and treaties at Delphi, though there are no such alliances involving states outside of Greece itself. Texts referencing many different Mediterranean cities were also set up at Delphi, including communities in southern Italy, Asia Minor, Crete, Egypt and Phaselis. When the Macedonian king solidified his hegemonial position in Greece in 338 BC, political representation concentrated on his person.

The very few monuments that Roman commanders set up to commemorate victories were focused on sanctuaries. Aemilius set up a monument at Delphi to commemorate his victory over the Macedonians and did so at a time when the Aetolians were the leading anti-Macedonian state in the Greek world and were in control of Delphi. The wide extent of the Roman Empire is recognizable in the inscriptions set up at Delphi, in particular the decree relating to piracy mentions Rome, Rhodes, Cyrene, Alexandria, Pamphylia, Macedonia, Lycaonia, Cilicia and Cyprus. Official representation was now in the hands of Rome and the sanctuary was filled with statues and monuments dedicated to Rome's representatives in Greece. Unlike the kings of the Hellenistic period, Romans clearly did not feel they had to legitimize themselves in reference to other opponents.

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