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Delphi Museum Review
Visiting this museum is essential to understanding the site and sanctuary's importance to the ancient Greek world, which considered Delphi its center (literally—look for the copy of the omphalos, or Earth's navel, a sacred stone from the adytum of Apollo's temple.) The museum is home to a wonderful collection of art and architectural sculpture, principally from the Sanctuaries of Apollo and Athena Pronoia. Curators have used an additional 15,000 square feet of museum space, opened in 2004, to create contextual, cohesive exhibits. You can now view all the pediments from Apollo's temple together and new exhibits include a fascinating collection of 5th-century BC votives.
One of the greatest surviving ancient bronzes on display commands a prime position in a spacious hall, set off to advantage by special lighting: the Charioteer is a sculpture so delicate in size (but said to be scaled to life) it is surprising when you see it in person for the first time. Created in about 470 BC, the human figure is believed to have stood on a terrace wall above the Temple of Apollo, near which it was found in 1896. It was part of a larger piece, which included a four-horse chariot. Scholars do not agree on who executed the work, although Pythagoras of Samos is sometimes mentioned as a possibility. The donor is supposed to have been a well-known patron of chariot racing, Polyzalos, the Tyrant of Gela in Sicily. Historians now believe that a sculpted likeness of Polyzalos was originally standing next to the charioteer figure. The statue commemorates a victory in the Pythian Games at the beginning of the 5th century BC. Note the eyes, inlaid with a white substance resembling enamel, the pupils consisting of two concentric onyx rings of different colors. The sculpture of the feet and of the hair clinging to the nape of the neck is perfect in detail.
Two life-size Ionian chryselephantine (ivory heads with gold headdresses) from the Archaic period are probably from statues of Apollo and his sister Artemis (she has a sly smirk on her face). Both gods also figure prominently in a frieze depicting the Gigantomachy, the gods' battle with the giants. These exquisitely detailed marble scenes, dated to the 6th century BC, are from the Treasury of the Siphnians. The caryatids (supporting columns in a female form) from the treasury's entrance have been repositioned to offer a more accurate picture of the building's size and depth. The museum's expansion also allowed curators to give more space to the metopes, marble sculptures depicting the feats of Greece's two greatest heroes, Heracles and Theseus, from the Treasury of the Athenians. The museum also has a pleasant outdoors café (weather permitting).
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