22 Jul2008

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“It’s all Greek to me” is what the rest of the world says when they don’t understand something, and it was the same way I felt when attempting to read something in Greek. But much to my amusement, it seems that the Greeks, when faced with a similar situation, say “it’s all Chinese to me”…. hahaha. I kid you not. :) That little bit of trivia came from our wonderfully engaging, erudite and professional chauffeur/driver/guide for a day trip to Delphi, some 200+ kilometers northwest from Athens. Delphi was quite literally considered the center of the world by ancient Greeks (something about Zeus releasing birds from the edge of the earth and they met over Delphi, hence, the conclusion that this was the it place). On a craggy steep mountainside, the Sanctuary of Apollo was built, and it was here that the head honchos and big kahoonas from around the region trekked to have their fortunes confirmed…

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The view from the sanctuary is impressive, though at first glance, one wonders why it was built in such a rocky and steep location. The nearby valleys have some trees but you wouldn’t describe it as being lush. My most ridiculous thought while climbing up HUNDREDS of steps was how the heck did they get sufficient water supplies to flush their toilets. In it’s heyday around 800 years before Christ, or some 2800+ years ago(!), the sanctuary of Apollo was besieged by pilgrims who wanted to have their fortunes told. A better write-up on the history is here.

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We really thought the chauffeur narrated version of the area’s history was much more interesting than the ones in the guidebooks, so I will repeat the gist of it here. All those thousands of years ago, folks felt that the oracles at Delphi were the mouthpieces of the god Apollo. So a couple of these really old lolas (and ugly ones at that, so they wouldn’t be kidnapped by rich tyrants from the neighboring lands), dressed only in black, were the ones who received the visitors, heard their requests for their fortunes, then the ugly black clad lolas headed to Apollo’s temple and a few hours or days later, returned with the “answers” to their questions. In the meantime, the folks asking for answers, built little “treasuries” filled with gold and other goodies to “pay” for their fortune telling sessions. When the leader of a nearby kingdom wanted to wage war on another kingdom, he first came to Delphi to find out if he would win… The scale model in the photo above is a depiction of the temple of Apollo and other surrounding buildings, theaters, treasuries, etc. at Delphi at its peak… The remains of the site are what we toured that day…

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Only a few columns remain from the full temple or structure in the scale model up top. Nevertheless, the site is still awe-inspiring and yet the cynic in me was thinking… whoa, those ugly old dudettes were the smartest ladies on the planet!

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Imagine, for just one phrase “one will win the war” without even specifying by name who will win it, they got a marble treasury worth of goodies, including gold, gems, silks, supplies etc?! Did they pull the wool over everyone’s eyes or what???

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And the treasuries took weeks or months to build so everyone would just hang around and would probably buy their equivalent of banana que from the nearest vendor, adding to the economic activity in the area…

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They also probably sold tickets to plays and poetry recitals at this vertigo-inspiring theatre behind Apollo’s temple…

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…and best of all, a few hundred more steps up the mountain, you reach this stunning sports stadium with bleachers where the ugly old ladies had athletes of all sorts running around buck naked slathered in extra virgin olive oil. Now those mommas clearly had it good. :) And it ended when some disgruntled king got the wrong prophecy or prediction and he came back and wiped them all out. Or at least that was the short amusing version of a very long and complicated history of Delphi…

Note: Several of these photos were taken by The Kid…

 

COMMENTS:

  1. Mila says:

    LOL, I enjoyed reading this paraphrased and annotated version of the oracles of Delphi. Nowadays, you go to Quiapo to give your bit of gold to lolas and some lolos across the church, get your fortune told, and buy some banana que in case your fortune isn’t quite what you want it to be.

    Jul 22, 2008 | 2:21 pm

     
  2. dee says:

    Hahahaa, this is a very amusing read! :) You really have a way with words MM… and a good sense of humor.

    Jul 22, 2008 | 3:26 pm

     
  3. Vanessa says:

    Yeah, oracle-reading is indeed the best gig in town. ;-)

    Jul 22, 2008 | 7:26 pm

     
  4. kreez says:

    that was a funny gist of history MM. I must say the view is simply breathtaking this will definitely be on our list of must go to places when we visit Greece in September.

    Jul 22, 2008 | 7:37 pm

     
  5. Gini says:

    This is a funny read, MM..truly enjoyed your humorous way with words…you got a gift. I don’t know how I will do though with my “fear of heights” because just “looking down” at your pictures is making me feel dizzy hehehe. Just like I did when I looked down the Grand Canyon…cold & clammy.

    Jul 22, 2008 | 8:53 pm

     
  6. arlene says:

    ya, people do say the same thing differently, depending on where in the world they are. We say “beating around the bush”, a malaysian friend’s version is “running around the coconut tree”

    Jul 22, 2008 | 9:00 pm

     
  7. fried-neurons says:

    If I had a time machine I would go to Delphi and ask the oracle what tomorrow’s winning Mega-Millions lottery numbers would be. :)

    Jul 23, 2008 | 1:22 am

     
  8. Apicio says:

    They weren’t all that specific, they reputedly foretold Croesus (yes, same as rich as Croesus guy) that “a great army will be defeated” which turned out to be the the greatest bum steer of all history.

    And since it came up (and tippy toeing ever so carefully around misogyny), did you notice the unusual proportion of mustachioed women round those Mediterranean parts?

    Jul 23, 2008 | 5:15 am

     
  9. Connie C says:

    It is also said that the lolas hid beneath/behind the altars and listened to the pilgrims’ prayers/mumblings which helped in the prophecies. The ugly lolas in black sure knew how to do their homework.

    Jul 23, 2008 | 7:37 am

     
  10. pia says:

    A bit of trivia about the expression “it’s all Greek to me”– In Act I, Scene 2 of the Bard’s Julius Caesar, Casca said, ” … those that understood him smiled at one another and shook their heads; but, for mine own part, it was Greek to me.” Some say the expression originated from lines in the tragedy, but there are those who also say it was an expression already in use during Shakespeare’s time. Either way, it’s fascinating how lines like these are still used in everyday conversation.

    Jul 23, 2008 | 11:25 am

     
  11. MarketFan says:

    Is that Apollo on the 4th pic? ha ha ha

    Jul 23, 2008 | 12:07 pm

     
 

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