In the immediate aftermath of Philip’s victory over Athens, his conquest of mainland Greece, and his conclusion of the Fourth Sacred War over Delphi, Philip’s allies continued to dedicate at the sanctuary: Daochus, a Thessalian, erected a statue group of his entire family in the Apollo sanctuary near the cult area of Neoptolemus. The temple construction also continued, indeed its organization became more professional with the instigation of a new level of financial oversight in 337 BC in the form of the tamiai (treasurers). At the same time, Philip reinforced the importance of Delphi in Greek affairs by making it one of the sanctuaries in which his Hellenic league would be based, and through which it would act. This league, which only Sparta refused to join, sought to unify Greece under Philip and to work in tandem with the one thing that had always worked best to unify the Greek city-states: an attack on Persia. Philip even returned to the Delphic oracle to ask if he would conquer the Persian king.1

Yet in July 336 BC, just before setting out on his campaign and while celebrating the marriage of his daughter, Philip was murdered. Later sources commented that the Pythia had foreseen the event: her reply to Philip’s inquiry about conquering Persia had been “the bull has been garlanded, the end is come, the sacrificer is at hand.” Just who the “sacrificer” was, and why, was as much a matter of debate in the ancient sources as it is in modern scholarship. Some point to the involvement of Philip’s (recently) ex-wife, Olympias, the mother of Alexander the Great. Centuries later, Olympias, using the name she had used as a little girl, Myrtale, was even said to have dedicated the sword used to kill Philip in the sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi. Yet whoever was responsible for Philip’s death, it marked yet another sea change in the tide of Greek history, one the sanctuary authorities at Delphi were quick to respond to. The Amphictyonic accounts for autumn 336 BC contain a space meant to read “para Philip-pou” (“from Philip”) but at the last minute the stone cutters managed to squeeze “para Alexandrou” into the space instead.2

As a result of Philip’s murder, however, Greece was once again plunged into a period of high tension and instability. Alexander assumed the Macedonian throne and leadership of Greece, with only a short window of time in which to make his authority clear. Delphi’s position in this period was complex. No Delphic oracles addressed to Alexander can, according to the still preeminent volume on the Pythia by Herbert Parke and Donald Wormell, be classed as genuine, but rather seem to be later creations to suit Alexander’s future achievements.3 So, the famous story—that Alexander went to the oracle, like Philip, to ask about his campaign against Persia, but arrived on a nonconsultation day, forced the Pythia to prophesize for him, to which she replied “boy, you are invincible,” a response Alexander was happy to take and promptly left for Asia—is unlikely to be historical. Indeed it bears (a little too much) remarkable resemblance to the consultation by the Phocian general Philomelus during his occupation of Delphi in the Third Sacred War.4

At the same time, however, it does seem that Alexander was both suspicious and respectful of Delphi. He did not dedicate there (although his generals did), and this personal avoidance of Delphi stands in stark contrast to his expensive dedications at Olympia and his use of the Olympic games for the announcement of his achievements and commands. He may have held his first session of the Amphictyonic council at their other sanctuary near Thermopylae rather than at Delphi, and is said to have always dealt with embassies to him from sanctuaries in the order Olympia, Ammon (in Egypt), Delphi, Corinth, Epidaurus (see maps 1, 2). Nevertheless, Delphi seems also to have been one of the sanctuaries in which Alexander planned to construct a temple (costing fifteen hundred talents). As well, Delphi is portrayed as having been supportive of Alexander when Thebes rebelled against him, a rebellion that ended in the total destruction of Thebes by Alexander and his forces. At the time of the rebellion, the roof of the Theban treasury at Delphi was said to have become stained red with blood.5

Yet, just as Alexander seems to have shown a mix of respect and disregard for Delphi, the city of Delphi itself may not have been wholly pro-Alexander either. Indeed, it may well have been attempting to keep the good will of all sides, particularly through the awarding of civic honors (proxenia). In 335/4 BC, the year after Philip was murdered and Alexander was struggling to assert his authority, the city of Delphi offered collective promanteia to the people of Aetolia in northern Greece (see map 2). Aetolia was, despite being an ally of Philip at Chaeronia in 338 BC, now little less than a confirmed enemy of Alexander and Macedon (it sided with Thebes against Alexander). As such, the city of Delphi seems to have engaged in a serious, and potentially dangerous, game of, at best, hedging its bets over the future of Macedonian ascendancy, and, at worst, taking an openly rebellious stance against Macedon.6

Such an independent strategy continued through the rest of the 330s and 320s, with the city of Delphi awarding proxenia to Thessalians, Aetolians, and Macedonians.7 In 324–23 BC, however, as resistance to Alexander grew in Greece following the proclamation of his exiles decree (at Olympia), the stance of the Amphictyony seems to have hardened against Macedon. At the meetings of the Amphictyony in 324–23, the representatives of Alexander were “not seated.” At the same time, money that had been voted by the Amphictyony in 327/6 BC to purchase gold crowns to honor Alexander’s mother, Olympias, was, by 324–23, diverted to other uses and the crowns never purchased.8 In contrast, in the aftermath of Alexander’s death, Delphi once again sought to position itself as a friend to all in an uncertain world, even extending its first (surviving) proxeny decree to a citizen of Phocis, Delphi’s territorial neighbor and (recent) military overlord who were still paying the heavy fine for their occupation of the sanctuary during the Third Sacred War.9

At the same time as Delphi was playing the odds creating (and denying) relationships with Macedon and Aetolia in the 330s BC, Athens was demonstrating its independence once again at Delphi. The city had suffered under Philip and, as a result, boycotted the Pythian games at Delphi because of Macedonian involvement with the sanctuary. Yet Athens now celebrated its return to competition at the Pythian games with statues and precious dedications in honor of its victors, and as active dedicators in the Athena sanctuary. Crucially, it was perhaps the Athenians who dared to cut off access to the not-long-dedicated statue group of Philip’s ally, the Thessalian Daochus, with their own dedication of a high acanthus column topped by dancers and a copy of the sanctuary’s holiest of holies: the omphalos, marker of the center of the world (see fig. 1.3).10 This bold statement did not, however, mean that Athens exerted the kind of influence at Delphi it had done in the early fifth century: in 332 BC, its failure to pay a fine on behalf of its athletes who had cheated at Olympia was taken up by the oracle at Delphi, with the result that the Athenians were instructed by the Pythia to set up six golden statues of Zeus at Olympia as recompense.11

The Greek world was re-formed fundamentally by Alexander’s conquests, but it was subsequently torn apart by Alexander’s death in 323 BC. He left no adult male heir, but a host of competing generals and a pregnant (foreign) wife. The resulting power struggle lasted for the remainder of the century and saw Alexander’s empire carved up into numerous new kingdoms, his mother Olympias and his young son eventually killed, and his generals beginning their own dynasties in his place. Delphi was not immune to these seismic events and the uncertainty they created. It is to this period at the end of the fourth and beginning of the third centuries BC that a number of watchtowers have been dated; constructed across the landscape around Delphi, they ensured their users the ability to survey (not to mention control) the valley east and west of Delphi. Who built and used these towers, and why, is uncertain, but it is not without importance that such a surveillance/defensive network came into operation at this unstable time in Greek history.12

Despite the apparent dangers in traversing the wider landscape around Delphi at this time, the ritual use of the Corycian cave seems to have continued unabated. Indeed, it is during the end of the fourth century BC, and particularly during the third, that a number of inscriptions (some on elaborate marble bases and some cut directly into the rock of the cave) were set up in honor of Pan and the Nymphs, including one in the third century BC by a patrolman from the Phocian city of Ambryssus who seems to have been tasked with keeping watch in this area of the Parnassian mountains.13

Moreover, despite the fact that Herbert Parke and Donald Wormell have argued that in the fifty years after Alexander’s death, there is no evidence for the oracle’s being consulted on anything but local matters, it is clear that the sanctuary was not abandoned in this period.14 The building of the new stadium, for example, continued through to its completion c. 275 BC (see plate 1, figs. 0.1, 0.2). Equally the Phocians, so long damned by their actions during the Third Sacred War, seem to have returned to the sanctuary to dedicate for victory in the Pythian games and in thanks for victory on the battlefield. The sanctuary, it seems, was also becoming something of a subject for study. Just as Aristotle had written a study of the constitution of the Delphic polis earlier in the century, now, at the end of the fourth century BC, the first books specifically about the vast numbers of Delphic dedications seem also to have appeared. In fact, as knowledge and interest in Delphic dedications spread, dedicators were becoming more and more sophisticated in their manipulation of the dedicatory landscape within the sanctuary. The Orneates of the Argolid, at the end of the fourth century BC, dedicated a statue group to a military victory they had won back in the sixth century BC, which had now become an important part of their civic identity. To make it look like this dedication had been at Delphi all the time, and thus a marker which the Orneates could point to as symbolic of their long-term importance and affinity with Delphi, the monument was sculptured in an archaic style, reminiscent of that from the sixth century, and placed in an area of the Apollo sanctuary that had been popular in the early fifth century for military dedications.15 Delphi had become a place studied for its history, but was also, at the same time, a place that offered the perfect story board through which to retell history.

We have great difficulty reconstructing a history of oracular consultation in the centuries after Alexander’s death, with some of the stories of consultations memorably labeled by Herbert Parke and Donald Wormell as “sanctimonius humbug.” In many cases oracles said to have been given to the Hellenistic kings who came to Delphi seem to be simple rehashings of oracles given to the tyrants and kings before them. In any event, many scholars have argued that Hellenistic monarchs were not interested in a decision-making mechanism like the oracle. After all, they alone, and not a complex civic system of government, now called the shots. In fact we hear that rulers like Demetrius Poliorcetes (Demetrius “the Beseiger”) in Athens, were themselves treated as oracles.16 Yet the oracle continued to be useful to many Hellenistic city-states, particularly in providing them with a rich and varied historical record (as it did for Messenia), or in securing a grant of sacred protection (asylia) for their sanctuaries, or indeed in the process of founding new sanctuaries.17 In one case, it also continued to be the bearer of bad tidings. The Locrians, who abandoned, after a thousand years, the tradition of sending to Troy human tribute (in the form of Locrian maidens) as a recompense for the rape of Cassandra by the lesser Ajax, were beset by disasters in the first part of the third century BC. They returned to the Pythia, who informed them that there was nothing to do but resume sending human tribute, and to continue this indefinitely.18

More importantly, across the Mediterranean to the west, there was another society whose leaders continued to engage with the oracle throughout the third century BC: that of Rome (see map 1). It is reported in the ancient sources that Rome’s first consultation at Delphi dated back as far as its last king, Tarquinius Superbus; and we know that two centuries later, Rome consulted Delphi during the fourth century BC in regard to its military expansion into northern Italy; and that its victorious generals, like Camillus, even vowed dedications to Delphi during that time. In the late fourth and early third centuries BC Rome was back to consult Delphi during the course of the Samnite Wars, when it was told by the Pythia to put up statues of the bravest and wisest of the Greeks in the Roman forum. Delphi seems to have been involved also in the Roman efforts to bring the cult of Magna Mater to Rome, and Ovid reports that the Pythia was involved as well in the transfer of the cult of Asclepius to the city.19

In time, Rome would come not only to consult the oracle, but to “free” Delphi—and Greece—from its “oppressors,” and eventually (not to mention ironically), to turn Greece into the Roman province of Achaea. But such a fate was far from the minds of Delphians at the beginning of the third century BC because a much closer power was in the process of taking over the sanctuary, the Aetolians, the same group to which Delphi had offered a collective grant of promanteia as part of their rebellious stance against Macedon in the 330s BC. The Aetolians were a koinon, a grouping of tribes in northern Greece. They were, like their Macedonian neighbors, something of an enigma to the southern Greeks, who would have had a hard time understanding their dialect and cultural priorities, and who would have considered them something of a backward federation. But, despite this reputation, and despite the fact that the Aetolians had had little to do with Delphi during the last thirty years of the fourth century BC (despite them being awarded promanteia by the Delphians), by 290 BC, they controlled the sanctuary to the extent that they could ban the ruler of Athens, Demetrius Poliorcetes, from attending the Pythian games (he set up his own in Athens instead).20

In the years immediately after 290 BC, that control only strengthened. An Aetolian governor was installed at Delphi along with a garrison of soldiers, and though Aetolia was never a member of the Amphictyony per se, it came to control enough of the members to ensure it could control the council. By 280 BC, Aetolian control over Delphi was strong enough to precipitate a war to free Delphi in the spirit of the four Sacred Wars already fought over the sanctuary during its history. The king of Sparta rallied a group of city-states to repel the Aetolians, claiming that the sacred land around Delphi, which should not be cultivated, had been occupied. The force perished miserably and, with it, the cultivation of sacred land as a cause for war. The Aetolians erected a victory offering in the Apollo sanctuary at Delphi in honor (ironically) of their victory. It was the Aetolians’ first civic offering at Delphi.21

But the following year, in 279 BC, Greece faced a much bigger threat: an invasion of Gauls from the North. At first it seemed their advance was unstoppable. The Macedonian king was killed in battle, and the Gauls reached Thermopylae. Fighting their way past this narrow gateway into central Greece, they headed to Delphi. The Greek army was in tatters, and the only people who stood against them as they approached Delphi were a small contingent of combined Phocian, Amphissan, and Aetolian forces: at most a few thousand men.22

The ancient sources are quick to make this standoff over Delphi echo that of the Persian invasion and attack on Delphi two hundred years before. The Delphians, just as they did then, were said to have consulted the oracle on what to do, and, just as then, were told to leave everything as it was. As the Gauls began their attack, they were met, just as the Persians had been, with earthquakes, thunderbolts, and rockslides. Some of the same mythical heroes, like Phylacus, who defended the sanctuary against the Persians appeared again alongside the Aetolian forces, and were joined by a range of other heroic figures associated with the sanctuary including Neoptolemus. The priests of Apollo from the Delphic temple proclaimed joyfully that even Apollo, Athena, and Artemis had joined in the fray.23

Some of the ancient sources indicate that the Gaulish leader, Brennus, despite this divine onslaught, was still able to penetrate the Delphic defenses and enter the temple of Apollo itself. There, the ancient historian Diodorus Siculus claims, Brennus was unimpressed by all the wooden and stone images, contenting himself with carrying off gold—gold that was, as a result, it was later said, cursed and that brought misfortune and death to anyone who handled it.24 Whether or not Brennus made it into the temple, by the end of the day of their attack, the Gauls had been beaten back, and that night, Delphi was covered in snow. Now in unfamiliar territory and difficult conditions, the Gauls made easy prey for local Phocian raids. Brennus was eventually wounded and the Gauls withdrew. Soon after, the Greek forces, including the main Aetolian army, were able to regroup and comprehensively defeat the Gauls in battle and repel the invasion for good.

Most of the ancient sources for this invasion are late, and none are from before the second century BC. But we can be more confident in the nature and importance of this victory thanks to the inscriptional evidence dating from soon after 279 BC. In spring 278, the island of Cos expressed votive thanks to the gods for saving Delphi, and in the following years, a number of decrees showered honors and rewards on individuals who had given information leading to the recovery of the sacred money belonging to Apollo, presumably that taken by the Gauls. Soon after, Gaulish shields were hung on the metopes of the temple of Apollo on the sides opposite where the Persian shields had been hung (and rehung) by the Athenians.25 The desired symmetry of the two victories against the Persians and the Gauls, separated as they were by almost exactly two hundred years, was complete.

The Phocians, in thanks for their role in saving Delphi, were given back their seats on the Amphictyonic council (which they had lost to Philip of Macedon after the Third Sacred War), and their ongoing fine to Delphi (which they had in all probability stopped paying many years before) was officially canceled. In response they seem to have dedicated a statue in the sanctuary. But the real winners were the Aetolians themselves. Their occupation of Delphi had never been sanctioned, indeed they had been attacked by the Greeks for it. However, now they were no longer Delphi’s occupiers, but its saviors. This victory, this defense of Delphi, confirmed their right to occupy the sanctuary, and more importantly, confirmed them once and for all as defenders of Greece, and thus Greek. The Aetolians seem to have received their own seat on the Amphictyonic council and been recorded in the subsequent attendance records of the Amphictyonic meetings as second only to the presiding Thessalians.26 But they also ensured their victory was represented among the growing monumental history book of Delphic dedications. Stretching out from the west side of the Apollo sanctuary is Delphi’s biggest single structure bar the temple of Apollo, the West Stoa, occupying a 2,000 square meter terrace (see plate 2). Its origins are uncertain, and scholars have been unable to precisely date its construction. Yet, it is certain that in the years immediately after 279BC, this structure became a focus for the commemoration of the Aetolian victory over the Gauls. On the back wall of the stoa was inscribed in large letters a dedication from the Aetolians offering to Apollo armor taken from the Gauls, which seems to have been displayed on long planks of wood attached to the stone back wall.27

The stoa, coupled with the hanging of Gaulish shields on the west and south faces of the temple Apollo, was not the end of Aetolian commemoration. A statue of the personification of Aetolia was erected at the west end of the Apollo temple. The female Aetolia sat triumphantly atop a carved set of Gaulish weapons and was accompanied by not only a further statue elsewhere on the temple terrace, but also, according to Pausanias, a monument with statues of all the Aetolian chiefs as well as a special monument dedicated to the general Eurydamus.28

How did the Delphians feel about this renewed (and now largely accepted, especially by the Amphictyony) imposition of Aetolian control over their sanctuary? On the one hand, of course, they and the sanctuary would benefit hugely from such a backer (and controller), especially in terms of investment in the sanctuary and its games. But the Delphians’ record of offering proxenia during the course of the third century BC gives a hint of a different story. Four hundred people were awarded proxenia by the city of Delphi during that time, and only thirteen of those were Aetolian (six of which were awarded before the Aetolian victory against the Gauls in 279 BC). It could be argued that Aetolians didn’t need grants of proxenia, such was their involvement with the sanctuary. But, on the other hand, it seems that the city of Delphi worked awfully hard to maintain its own relationships with a number of other parts of the Greek world at the same time.29

The 270s BC, as a result of the saving of Delphi from the Gauls, was a decade filled with renewed focus on Delphi as, once again, the symbol of Greece’s freedom from invasion. It is not surprising that several previous dedicators to the sanctuary saw this as a fitting time in which to return and update their monuments. The Athenian statue base, originally dedicated after Marathon, and that ran along the southern flank of the Athenian treasury, was extended in the aftermath of this new victory to include new figures paying homage to Delphi’s new rulers. The Chians returned to their great altar in front of the Apollo temple not only to repair it after almost two hundred and fifty years of use, but also to reinscribe their rights to promanetia (see fig. 1.3). And at the end of the century, inscribed steles relating to their ambassadors to Delphi were also erected as close as possible to the altar. Alongside these individual revamps, the sanctuary seems to have undergone a series of rearticulations. To the south of the central open space just below the temple terrace (known as the aire and thought to be used for religious festivals), a series of previously dedicated monuments were repositioned along a newly created pathway, which in turn led to a new flight of steps leading directly to the aire performance space (see plate 2).30 The greatest change, however, at Delphi, during these years was in its festival calendar. The saving of Delphi required a new festival celebration, and the Soteria (quite literally “the saving”) was created in response. Performed annually in the autumn, this new festival mirrored the athletic and musical contests held during the Pythian games, in addition to competitions for tragedies and comedies. Its creation also heralded the probable final completion of the new stadium at Delphi high above the temple, and ushered in a new era of popularity for Delphic games and festivals (see plate 1, figs. 0.1, 0.2).31

And yet, despite this outpouring of celebration, renovation, and innovation at Delphi, it would have been impossible not to notice Delphi’s more lackluster place in a changing wider Greek world during this period and over the next thirty years. Many scholars have noted that while the Aetolian dedications, both public and private individual offerings, continued to flow at Delphi, most of the Hellenistic kingdoms and their ruling monarchies were dedicating not at Delphi, but at Apollo’s other well-known sanctuary on the island of Delos, the place of his birth, as well as at sanctuaries like those on Samos (see map 2). The Ptolemies of Egypt were absent from Delphi, so were the Seleucids, so too the kings of the Black Sea, as well as Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, despite his constant campaigns against the Romans. The Greek cities of the Western Mediterranean—so long the dependable stalwart of Delphic dedications and oracular consultation—were also largely absent at this time.32 Walking around the sanctuary in the middle of the third century BC, it must have felt like Delphi had in some way slipped from being an international sanctuary to a regional one, and this was, to some extent, the reality. It was no longer a sanctuary whose independence was jealously guarded in peace treaties and fought over in sacred wars. It was now a sanctuary under the increasingly strong control of the Aetolians, which meant that dedicating great monuments at Delphi no longer served predominantly to glorify the dedicator as much as it glorified the owners of the sanctuary.33Coupled with the fact that this was now a world in which monarchical rule already had much less use for a conflict-resolving mechanism like the Delphic oracle and thus less reason to come to Delphi—as well as a world in which many of the traditional dedicators no longer had the money or reason to put up expensive votive offerings—a contraction in Delphi’s appeal was, in reality, unavoidable.

But the story is not one of total decline. Several city-states continued to dedicate, particularly in order to celebrate their victories in the Pythian games or to honor particular Aetolians (e.g., Abydos, Clazomenai, Cnidus, Cyzicus, Elatea, Boeotia, Eretria, Megara, and Erythrai near Thermopylae), as well as particular associations like the Pylaioi (thought to be linked with the Amphictyony’s other sanctuary of Demeter at Anthela). In the second quarter of the century, one king, Dropion of Paeonia, a region above Macedon in Thrace, was attracted to dedicate at Delphi first a statue of his grandfather and subsequently a statue portrait of the head of a bison.34 In 260 BC the Aetolians celebrated their latest victory over the Archarnians with a new victory monument, representing victorious Aetolian generals alongside Apollo and Artemis.35 Athens too had recovered from the banning of its ruler from competing in the Pythian games in 290 BC and was now in a much closer relationship with the sanctuary: not only had it updated its statue group monument to victory against Persia, which lay alongside its treasury (which also began in this period to be used as a notice board for recording Athenian victories in the Pythian games), but the Delphic Amphictyony had publicly granted ateleia (exemption from oracular consultation taxes) and asylia (religious sanctuary) to the Dionysiac artists of Athens. In addition, the close connection between Athens and Delphi was symbolized by the synchronization of the worship of Apollo Patroos and Apollo Pythios in Athens during the course of the century, rendering Apollo Pythios the paternal god of the Athenians.36 Rome also returned to dedicate during the First Punic War (when it was itself fighting the Gauls in northern Italy), with one of its generals, Claudius Marcellus, copying the act of his predecessor Camillus in the previous century and sending a golden mixing bowl to Delphi as a symbol of the plunder taken in the battle.37

Despite growing Aetolian control over the sanctuary (the Aetolians took over from the Thessalians as president of the Amphictyony in this period), and despite their developing military power, particularly in contrast to that of Macedon, the Aetolians seem to have been keen to avoid confrontation on the international stage. They avoided any conflict with Macedon, refused to take sides when Pyrrhus of Epirus turned his attentions from Rome to invade Macedon in 274 BC, and despite a possible alliance with Athens in the 260s, seem to have kept clear of a resurgent Macedon’s attempts, following the defeat of Pyrrhus’s invasion, to take control of Athens and much of central Greece during the 260s.38 Yet from 262 BC, there was also a significant shift in Aetolian attitudes at Delphi toward a much more public degree of control over the sanctuary, a move not perhaps unwelcomed by the local Delphians who must have been excited by the prospect of some stability after so much change. In 243 BC, the Aetolians felt confident enough in their position to relaunch the Soteria festival not simply as an annual Delphian festival, but as their own festival dedicated to Zeus Soter. Scholars often refer to “Aetolian audacity” in this period, both at Delphi as they took over more and more of what had traditionally been Amphictyonic and Delphic business, and also on the international stage as Aetolia started to exercise greater dominance at sea and become more aggressive on land.39

In autumn 242 BC the first Aetolian Soteria festival was celebrated at Delphi in honor of Zeus Soter and Apollo. The Aetolians had proclaimed the festival isoPythian—equal to the Pythian games—and changed the timing of its celebration so that it coincided with the Pythian games to produce, in effect, one large and long festival. In the years preceding this new celebration, the sanctuary at Delphi seems to have been spruced up considerably. More work was done to the stadium, and inscriptions record that twenty-three contractors undertook to complete about forty different projects around the Delphic complex, from clearing plant growth around the gymnasium and stadium to plowing and leveling the competition surfaces and fixing wooden seating apparatus.40 The Aetolians also seem to have asked other cities in the Greek world to recognize their new festival. We have surviving inscribed records of affirmative replies from five cities including (perhaps predictably) Athens and Chios, but also Tenos, another Cycladic city, and Smyrna. Chios was so keen on the idea that their inscription also records that they immediately picked three individuals to be sent to represent them at the celebrations (and no doubt to admire their still new-looking altar).41

In response to this new phase of Aetolian domination at Delphi, individual Aetolians seem to have been encouraged to dedicate increasingly ornate and immense dedications in the sanctuary. In fact, they began an entirely new artistic and architectural style for individual dedications at Delphi. The Aetolian Aristaineta was the first to erect a statue resting on a piece of architrave that was supported by two columns, a style that would prove to be the Aetolian monument style of choice. It was soon followed by a statue of the Aetolian general Charixenus in a similar fashion atop two columns.42 The power of the Aetolians over the sanctuary in this period is indicated by the fact that a number of these dedications from individuals (in particular those of Aristaineta and Charixenus) began to encroach on what had hitherto, throughout Delphi’s history, been the open, almost reserved, space around the Chian altar in front of the temple. But individual Aetolians also chose to honor other rulers of the Hellenistic world (even though they had ignored Delphi). Lamius the Aetolian, for example, erected a long line of statues to the Egyptian royal family (the Ptolemies).43

The sanctuary was not, however, playing host only to Aetolians in the second half of the third century BC. Cities in Western Locris also dedicated (even if one of their dedications was a statue in honor of an Aetolian), as well as cities in Boeotia and Epirus. Yet by far the most striking dedication in this period—not only in its form, size, and extravagance, but also in the identity of its dedicator—was the stoa of Attalus (see plate 2, fig. 1.3). King Attalus I of Pergamon in Asia Minor was the first of the Attalid dynasty, which was in turn the only Hellenistic dynasty to pay close attention to Delphi at this time. Erected between 241–26 BC, this stoa summed up the way in which Delphi was now more at the mercy of the rulers of the Greek world than it had ever been. It broke through the eastern boundary wall of the Apollo sanctuary on the level of the temple terrace, something not done by any dedication (apart from the monumental west stoa) since the walls had been constructed in the second half of the sixth century BC; and, in fact, this was something that would never be done again. The stoa was accompanied by its own terracing wall to ensure a large courtyard space outside it, and completed with a monumental offering just in front of the stoa, as well as a statue base in the courtyard terrace.44

The Amphictyony were clearly keen to keep the Attalids on their side. In 223–22 BC they issued a law, inscribed in the sanctuary, that no other dedications were to be put within the Attalid stoa complex except those from the Attalids themselves.45 Why was Attalus, and the Attalids, so keen to dedicate at Delphi when the other Hellenistic ruling families had snubbed it? Partly it was to do with cultural identity. The Attalids modeled themselves on Athenian artistic and architectural supremacy. They built in Athens and copied Athens in Pergamon, so it was only natural that they should dedicate where once Athens had been so dominant. Yet it was also to do with current politics. Attalus was an ally of the Aetolians, and would be fighting his own war against the Gauls in the period 238–27 BC, a war that eventually brought him mastership of much of Asia Minor. As a result it was natural for Attalus to turn to Delphi, place of his allies’ victory against the Gauls (and its celebration), and in particular to create a monument that demonstrated his newfound power (by breaking through the boundary wall), and mirrored the west stoa that was (or had been turned into) the Aetolians’ own monument to victory over the Gauls after 279 BC.46

In 239 BC, Antigonus II, king of Macedon, died at the age of eighty. He had been a fearsome warrior, and the Aetolians had shied away from open conflict with Macedon despite their growing power and authority during his lifetime. But with his death, there was a rush to capitalize on a vulnerable Macedonian kingdom, particularly by the Aetolians. In the period 239–229, the so-called war of Demetrius eventually ended with a marked increase in Aetolian power, including the usurpation of Thessaly (traditionally an ally of Macedon) to Aetolian control. As a consequence, the year 226 BC marked the apogee of Aetolian dominance at Delphi and in mainland Greece. Aetolia had fifteen representatives on the Amphictyonic council that year, and even the Delphians set up a statue in their sanctuary to one of the Aetolian generals. The Aetolians, it seems, through the Amphictyony, also saw fit to extend the protection enjoyed by Delphi to other sanctuaries. Surviving Amphictyonic decrees attest to the granting of asylia to the sanctuary of Dionysus at Thebes, to the festivals and sanctuary of Apollo Ptoios (the same sanctuary that had, in the mid-sixth century BC, operated as a replacement for Delphi while its temple renovation was under way), and to another sanctuary in Boeotia.47

The other outcome of the war was that the city of Athens regained its independence, which had been lost to Antigonus II in 268 BC. As a result, the 220s saw a renewed closeness between Athens and Delphi. There was a steady stream of proxeny decrees between Delphians and Athenians, indicating regular Athenian consultations with the oracle and interactions with the sanctuary. More interestingly, the Athenians seem to have returned to the sanctuary once again to update a previous dedication. This time their focus was on the statues of Eponymous and Marathon heroes that had been erected at the southeastern entrance to the sanctuary in 460 BC, where they had been spatially opposed, at the end of the Peloponnesian War, by Spartan monuments (see plate 2, fig. 6.2). The Athenians extended this now centuries-old dedication to include statues of the new tribes it had established in Athens in honor of its own recent rulers and those of the Hellenistic monarchies whom it was impossible to ignore.48 Once again, a Delphic dedication had been rearticulated to keep pace with current events.

Yet Aetolian dominance was to be short-lived. In 221 BC a more effective king, Philip V, came to the throne in Macedon, and just a year later, the Aetolians found themselves at the receiving end of a new campaign to “free” Delphi, the likes of which had not been seen since 280 BC. The campaign—the War of the Allies—did not change Delphi’s status, which remained resolutely under Aetolian control, but now much nearer the Aetolian front line than it had been. A warning bell had been sound, and Delphi was once again much more open to outside influence and interest, symbolized by the fact that Sicyon, a member of the Achaean league (an alliance resembling the Aetolian league but mainly centered in the Peloponnese), which had fought against Aetolia during the war, was able to consult the Delphic oracle in 213 BC on how to bury the recently deceased Achaean general Aratus, and to which Delphi not only replied but proclaimed him a hero. Likewise, it is a sign of how much Delphi had been reopened to the wider world that in 211BC, the city agreed to act as a proxenos for visitors from Sardis in Asia Minor wishing to consult the oracle (rather than the normal practice in which it was the responsibility of an individual Delphian who was known to those wishing to consult the oracle to act as proxenos) because, as the inscription records “the men of Sardis have not been able to come to the oracle for a long time.”49

Yet just as this War of the Allies came to an end, a player critical in the future history of Delphi and Greece appeared back on the scene: Rome. Rome was once again engaged in conflict with Carthage in the Second Punic War (218–201 BC), during which it sent numerous questions to the Pythian oracle. Quintus Fabius Pictor, for example, was sent to consult Delphi on the proper ritual by which to secure victory in 216 BC. Delphi duly responded with a traditionally mysterious set of instructions, added to which was a request that they return and thank Apollo (in the form of a costly dedication) when the situation improved. In 207 BC, after a resounding victory over the Carthaginians, the Romans returned to Delphi with gifts and were greeted by another oracle who indicated they could soon expect an even greater victory.50

Yet Roman interest was not only in the West. Increasingly, Rome was also being drawn into affairs in the eastern Mediterranean. In fact, its consultations at Delphi during the Second Punic War marked the last official civic consultation of the Delphic oracle by the Romans, presumably because it made no sense to consult an oracle belonging to what was increasingly becoming an enemy to be conquered.51 The process by which Rome came to see Greece as its enemy, however, was a complicated one. Philip V of Macedon, buoyed by his recent successes against the Aetolians, formulated a plan for much greater Mediterranean domination which led him to make an alliance with Carthage, which was still in bitter conflict with Rome. As a result, the kingdom of Macedon was now an enemy of Rome, and Aetolia, in its weakened state, saw an opportunity to bolster its position. In September 212 BC, Aetolia concluded an alliance with Rome against Philip V of Macedon (unsurprisingly, Attalus of Pergamon also joined), in what became known as the First Macedonian War. Yet, more surprisingly, the combined forces of Aetolia and Rome did not swiftly bring an end to Philip’s plans. In fact, the Aetolians were so worried about their ability to hold on to their “capital”—Delphi—that troops from as far away as Messenia in the Peloponnese (another Aetolian ally) had to be sent twice in 207–206 BC to Delphi for its protection.52

In the final analysis, it was actually fear of losing Delphi that pushed the Aetolians to desert their Roman allies and sue for peace directly with Philip in 206 BC, for which they were forced to give up large areas of territory. At Delphi, it was once again time for a delicate and diplomatic game of ensuring good relations with all the major players as an uncertain future lay ahead. The surviving inscriptions reveal the city of Delphi returning to its game of giving honors to both Aetolia and her enemies, but also indicate that the city increasingly had to take over what had been Amphictyonic and therefore Aetolian responsibilities as Aetolian control and interest in the sanctuary slackened in the face of an increasingly stiff fight for its own survival.53 By this time, Delphi had been under the Aetolian thumb for almost a century, the longest period in its history without independence. But freedom was, once again, just around the corner.


Plate 1. A watercolor reconstruction of the ancient city and sanctuaries of Delphi with main areas labeled (aquarelle de Jean-Claude Golvin. Musée départemental Arles antique © éditions Errance) 1 Parnassian mountains. 2 Stadium. 3 Apollo sanctuary. 4 City of Delphi. 5 Castalian fountain. 6 Gymnasium. 7 Athena sanctuary.


Plate 2. A watercolor reconstruction of the Apollo sanctuary at Delphi with main structures labeled (aquarelle de Jean-Claude Golvin. Musée départemental Arles antique © éditions Errance) 1 Theatre. 2 Cnidian lesche. 3 Stoa of Attalus. 4. Temple of Apollo. 5 Temple terrace. 6 West Stoa. 7 Naxian Sphinx. 8 Roman baths. 9 Athenian treasury. 10 Aire. 11 Athenian stoa. 12 Corinthian treasury. 13 Cyrenean treasury.14 Roman house. 15 Cnidian treasury. 16 Theban treasury. 17 Siphnian treasury. 18 Sicyonian treasury. 19 Argive statues. 20 Post-548 BC sanctuary boundary wall. 21 Roman agora.


Plate 3. A watercolor reconstruction of the Athena sanctuary at Delphi with main structures labeled (aquarelle de Jean-Claude Golvin. Musée départemental Arles antique © éditions Errance) 1 Fourth century BC temple of Athena. 2 Tholos. 3 Treasury of Massalians. 4 Doric treasury. 5 Sixth century BC temple of Athena. 6 Altars.


Plate 4. The Priestess at Delphi as painted by John Collier 1891 (© John Collier, Britain 1850–1934, Priestess of Delphi 1891, London oil on canvas, 160.0 x 80.0 cm, Gift of the Rt. Honourable, the Earl of Kintore 1893, Art Gallery of Southern Australia, Adelaide).


Plate 5. The remains of a Chryselephantine (gold and ivory) statue dedicated in the Apollo sanctuary at Delphi, and subsequently buried in the sanctuary (Museum at Delphi).


Plate 6. The Delphi Charioteer (Museum at Delphi).


Plate 7. A view of Castri/Delphi painted by W. Walker in 1803 (© Benaki Museum).


Plate 8. The still very visible remains of a rockfall at Delphi in 1905 at the temple of Athena in the Athena sanctuary (© Michael Scott).

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