Delphi: A History of the Center of the Ancient World

Michael Scott. Princeton Univ, $29.95 (448p) ISBN 978-0-691-15081-9
Classicist and ancient history scholar Scott (From Democrats to Kings) examines the center of the ancient Greek world, Delphi, which held an important yet fragile cultural position for centuries. Remembered today primarily for its oracle, Delphi was visited by pilgrims from near and far to ask questions of the Pythia, the priestess who received divine messages. Exposure to other peoples made Delphi a center for information, and its position along trade routes caused the city, and its sanctuary, to flourish. Scott pieces together the beginnings of the oracle through accounts given in various stories, but asks bigger questions in the process—for ex-ample, why did Greek society work to retrospectively explain Delphi’s roots? He continues by investigating into the structure of the community (the appointed council, the Amphictyony) and the political intricacies involved, and he ends by giving an account of site excavations in the 20th and 21st centuries. Scott’s passion and expertise are readily apparent, and though it may be somewhat dry for general readers, the book should prove to be an enjoyable resource for scholars and students. Additionally, prospective visitors to the modern site of Delphi will be interested in Scott’s brief guide, which is included at the back of the book. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/10/2014
Release date: 03/01/2014
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