Greece - Delphi: Temple of Apollo and Altar of the Chians
The Temple of Delphic Apollo, as it survives, dates only to the fourth century BC, but the foundation is original to an earlier version from the sixth century, which replaces an even older seventh century version. The temple was home to the Oracle of Apollo. The Oracle was wealthy, powerful and, some would argue, very corrupt. It was consulted before all major undertakings from wars to the founding of colonies, providing answers in the form of riddles that allowed for multiple interpretations. The prophesies were channeled through a priestess, known as the Pythia. Some say the priestess chewed laurel leaves (sacred to Apollo) to become god-inspired; naysayers suggest that a fumarole since closed by an earthquake leaked forth intoxicating fumes from the earth's center. This last idea might not be so far-fetched, since the Earth Goddess Gaia was worshipped here, too.
The temple was first built around the 7th c. B.C. by the two legendary architects Trophonios and Agamedes. It was rebuilt after a fire in the 6th c. B.C.., also of the Doric order with 6 columns at the front and 15 columns at the flanks, and named the "Temple of Alcmeonidae" in tribute to the noble Athenian family that oversaw its construction with funds form all over Greece and foreign emperors. This temple was destroyed in 373 B.C. by an earthquake and was rebuilt for the third time in 330 B.C. by Spintharos, Xenodoros, and Agathon, architects from Corinth. The sculptures that adorned its pediment were the creation of Athenian sculptors Praxias and Androsthenes. It was built to similar proportions and size as the Alcmeonidae version of the temple, with a peristasis of 6 and 15 columns along the short and long edges respectively. The temple's foundations survive today along with several Doric columns made of porous stone and limestone which is fairly soft material, and have allowed for the temple's advanced decaying. Nobody knows the arrangement of the adyton, or inner shrine that housed the sacred tripod of Apollo. When the French excavated, they bore down to the bedrock without finding the secret chamber where the priestess was said to become inebriated with the spirit of Apollo.
On the east side of the Temple lied the Great Altar, or the Altar of the Chians, dedicated by the people of the siland of Chios, in the 5th century B.C., after their successful stand against the Persians. The monument was made of black marble, except for the base and cornice which were of white marble, resulting in an impressive color contrast. The altar was restored in 1920 by the Chian's modern descendents. Pictured here is the stone ramp leading from the altar to the east entrance of the temple.