Sunday Sojourn – Delphi
Happy Sunday everyone! Today, it’s Tim (T.E.) Taylor’s turn to take you a-travelling, this time, to Delphi.
Hi Jennifer, many thanks for inviting me onto your blog.
The place I’d like to talk about today is Delphi, in central Greece. It is a unique place, with an astonishing combination of natural beauty, artistic splendour, deep mystical significance and layer upon layer of history.
As some readers will know, Delphi was the home of the most celebrated oracle of the ancient world. It was thought to be the centre, the ‘navel’ of the world, sacred to the god Apollo, who was believed to speak through his priestess, the Pythia, as she writhed in a trance induced by hallucinogenic fumes emanating from a crack in the earth beneath the temple. Her pronouncements were trusted not only by the Greeks but by people from other cultures who would come many hundreds of miles to consult the oracle. As is the way with oracles, the Pythia’s verdicts were notoriously ambiguous and open to misinterpretation, perhaps most famously by king Croesus of Lydia: on being told by the oracle that he would ‘destroy a great empire’ he invaded the neighbouring Persian empire and was utterly defeated, losing his own empire in the process.
Delphi was one of very few places where the notoriously fractious Greeks came together in relative peace. Here they conducted their rivalry not through warfare but by seeking to outdo each other in their lavish gifts to the shrine, thanking the God when his prophecies had helped them achieve success (typically in battle against each other!). As a result, the site serves as a physical monument to history of Greece and the wider ancient world from 800 BC till its final decline in the fifth century AD.
I’ve only been to Delphi once, and a good while ago, but it’s a visit I’ll never forget. It is half way up a mountain, overlooked by towering precipices, with breathtaking views right down to the sea. Though the ancient buildings are mostly in ruins now, there is enough still standing to give you a feel for how the place must have looked in its heyday. I defy anyone not to be enchanted by the place!
Delphi plays a pivotal role in my novel, Zeus of Ithome, which follows the real-life struggle of the Messenian people in southern Greece to end three centuries of enslavement by Sparta. The central character, Diocles, a young Messenian runaway ‘helot’ slave travels there to seek guidance from the oracle on how his people may win their freedom. He receives the Pythia’s pronouncement in the temple of Apollo and later narrowly escapes capture by Spartans who recognise his helot clothing. The oracle’s advice is typically obscure, but while he is in Delphi Diocles meets the (historical) Theban general Epaminondas and discovers for the first time that there are others in Greece who feel it is time that the power of Sparta was broken. This meeting will set in train a chain of events that will eventually take Diocles back to Messenia to begin his revolt in earnest.
More info on Zeus of Ithome: http://www.tetaylor.co.uk/zeus-of-ithome
Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/timtaylornovels
Amazon links: http://authl.it/4yo
Tim (T. E.) Taylor was born in 1960 in Stoke-on-Trent. He studied Classics at Pembroke College, Oxford (and later Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London). After a couple of years playing in a rock band, he joined the Civil Service, eventually leaving in 2011 to spend more time writing.
Tim now lives in Yorkshire with his wife Rosa and divides his time between creative writing, academic research and part-time teaching and other work for Leeds and Huddersfield Universities.
Tim’s first novel, Zeus of Ithome, a historical novel about the struggle of the ancient Messenians to free themselves from Sparta, was published by Crooked Cat in November 2013; his second, Revolution Day in June 2015. Tim also writes poetry and the occasional short story, plays guitar, and likes to walk up hills.