The Great Wisdom from Ancient Greece

“Know thyself”. That is the great wisdom inscribed at the Temple of Apollo in Greece.  Apollo was the God of music, harmony and light and occupied a prominent position in the Delphic Sanctuary.  It is at this temple in Delphi, Greece, where Pythia, the famous oracle uttered these words in 4th century BC.

Getting there

Delphi is located on the slopes of Mount Parnassus near the Gulf of Corinth in Greece.  It is a UNESCO world heritage site and is an important destination to learn about the ancient Greek culture and history.  I took a day tour from Athens as a part of my backpacking tour of Italy, Greece and Egypt while still in college. Athens is approximately 180 kilometers away from Delphi.   

The Temple of Apollo

Apollo was the God of music, harmony and light and occupied a prominent position in the Delphic Sanctuary.  The oracle of Pythia operated inside the temple of Apollo. The temple was rebuilt for the third time in 4th century BC.  The temple’s roof and pedimented columns were sculpted by Athenian artists out of porous marble.  The east pediment is adorned by the figure of Apollo, while the west pediment depicts the figure of Dionysus.  The temple survived till AD 390 when the Roman emperor destroyed most of the structure in the name of Christianity. 

There are several ancient structures nearby which are worth exploring.  They are the theatre of Delphi and the ruins of the Treasury of the Athenians. In addition, Delphi Archeological Museum is halfway between the ancient site and the city of Delphi.  The museum has a wonderful collection of friezes and sculptures from the ancient sites.

The Great Wisdom of the Oracle of Pythia

There are three Delphic maxims inscribed in stone at the temple of Apollo.  “Know Thyself”, “Nothing in Excess” and “Surety Brings Ruin”.  These maxims are timeless and still retain their potency in the age of Virtual Reality and Mars Exploration. 

Timeless Wisdom

The wisdom of “Know thyself” is so profound that simply knowing who we are and what makes us click in this world can prevent us from entering troubled relationships, unfulfilling careers, and wasteful education in unsuitable fields.  Simply knowing who we are as human beings and our special place in this world is enough to propel us to do great things. 

“Nothing in excess” or “everything in moderation” is another wisdom that can keep us healthy and well if followed sincerely.  And finally, if we realize that the only thing that is permanent in this world is change itself then we have understood the meaning of “Surety Brings Ruins”.  There is no such thing as surety, and we have to constantly adapt and reinvent ourselves and find our place in this world.

Image Credit:  By Helen Simonsson – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

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