“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.
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
The temple of Apollo was built and rebuilt a few times. It 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. Unfortunately, most of the temple structure was destroyed by the Roman Emperor in AD 390. 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
The oracle of Pythia operated inside the temple of Apollo. Apollo was the God of music, harmony and light and occupied a prominent position in the Delphic Sanctuary. There are three Delphic maxims inscribed in stone at the temple. “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.
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 it is futile to offer surety or guarantee for transitory things, we could avoid potential failures. If we understand that the only thing that is permanent in this world is change itself then we have understood the meaning of “Surety Brings Ruins”.
Image Credit: By Helen Simonsson – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22625764