The Sanctuary of Athena

Ancient Delphi was composed of a number of areas, and the second most important – after the Sanctuary of Apollo – was the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia.

Ge or Gaia was originally worshipped in this part of Greece, and Athena is generally considered to have been her successor, brought in by the Greek tribes. She was worshipped in number of different ways, including the goddess of peace and also of war, of arts and of trade and agriculture, of labour and also those undergoing childbirth.

Development of the site

Being a minor sanctuary, in around 600 BC there was only one temple and an altar. After the destruction of the area a new temple was built together with a tholos. Other structures were added to this part of ancient Delphi over the years.

Tholos, Delphi
Tholos 11 from area of temple 12
plan of Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia

1 East Gateway This was the main entrance to the site, and is still in use today.

2 & 3 Temples of Phylacos Here you can see polygonal foundations of two temple structures. They have their entrances in the south, and both contain a pronaos and cella. As they are both situated on the same terrace, they are thought to be a small sanctuary dedicated to Phylacos.

Herodotos, the Greek historian, describes how when the Persians attacked ancient Delphi in 480 BC, Phylacos together with another local hero successfully resisted the attack by pretending to be a giant.

4 Altar This is a large rectangular altar dating from the 6th C BC.

5 Altars of Hygieia and Eileithyia These altars are by the precinct wall are dedicated to Hygieia the goddess of childbirth, and Eileithyia, a deity who also protected women during childbirth.

6 Altars There are a number of altars in this area, some to Athena in her various guises, and some archaic of unknown origin.

view of Tholos, Delphi with columns
Looking down on Tholos 11 and temple 12

7 Temple of Athena Archaeologists have identified the remains of two temples here. The first one was built around 650-630 BC, and is one of the earliest temples in Greece. A later Doric temple was built around 500 BC. This building was destroyed either in 480 BC by the Persians, or in the great earthquake of 373 BC.

8 & 9 Treasuries Two treasuries built of Parian marble. 8 is a Doric structure. 9 was dedicated by the city of Massalia (Marseilles, southern France) in the late 6th C BC. This structure is Aeolic, the column capitals have palm designs.

10 Pedestal A large rectangular pedestal which supported the trophy of Delphi. This was in honour of having driven back the Persians in 480 BC.

view of treasuries, Delphi
Treasuries 8 9 and Tholos 11

11 Tholos In spite of this being the most famous structure in the whole of the ancient Delphi site, no one really knows its purpose. The name of its architect was Theodoros of Phokis. A total of 20 Doric columns were placed in a circle to support the roof. Three of these columns and a section of the frieze have been restored.

12 Limestone temple This was built in the early 4th C BC. It may have been a replacement for the temple of Athena destroyed in the the earthquake of 373 BC.

13 This square structure has been given many names over the years – a house of priests, a temple, a workshop, even a restaurant. So it’s probably safe to conclude that no one really knows…

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