Experiences at the centre of the world: meaning and monumentality at Delphi (c. 570-400 BCE)

Round, Charlotte Louise (2021) Experiences at the centre of the world: meaning and monumentality at Delphi (c. 570-400 BCE). PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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In the ancient Greek mind, Delphi was the centre of the world, and it has been the focus of fascination and study for centuries. However, though we may have a wide array of textual and material evidence for the sanctuary, we still lack a full understanding of how it was experienced and understood by its ancient visitors. This is not a problem specific to Delphi: it is difficult to reconstruct experiences in most ancient sites given how few first-hand accounts survive from antiquity. The overarching question that this thesis will ask is, therefore, how visitors from around Greece would have seen, understood, and experienced Delphi, and how that experience contributed to social, political, cultural, religious and mythical identities. This thesis will examine the sanctuary of Apollo c. 570-400 BCE, corresponding to the period of Delphi’s greatest prestige.

Experience is a subjective and fluid concept, and traditional methodologies struggle to engage with it. This thesis therefore will take a holistic approach to the sanctuary, creating a methodology based on the material evidence, the landscape and topography, the sensorial landscape, literary accounts of visiting the sanctuary, and culturally mnemonic memories of the, theories of movement, pilgrimage and spatial analysis, and taking inspiration from diverse media such as tour guides and early travel literature. This thesis will look at the messages and meanings of selected key monuments and spaces, and how these evoke specific emotional responses, questions of identity, political and social contexts, and engage with the visitor specifically. This thesis will examine several key sections: the gateway area, the treasury-dominated corner of the Sacred Way, the approach to the temple, and the temple platform itself. Within those, this thesis will examine specific themes that are visually prominent in the spaces: triumphalism through victory monuments, timocracy through treasuries, mythology through the depiction of and evocation of mythological themes, and divine presence through sacred architecture. To do this, this thesis examines a single monument as a case study in each chapter: the Aegospotami monument, the Athenian Treasury, the Naxian Sphinx, and the temple to Apollo. This allows the reader to move through the space at Delphi in the same way an ancient visitor would. By considering experiential approaches to Delphi both holistically and in terms of discrete sections, themes and perspectives, this thesis hopes to provide a more nuanced understanding of Delphi, as well as a framework for future experiential study of ancient sanctuary spaces.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Bradley, Mark
Gallou, Chrysanthi
Keywords: Delphi, archaeology, classics, Greece, sanctuary of Apollo
Subjects: C Auxiliary sciences of history > CC Archaeology
D History - General and Old World > DF Greece
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of Humanities
Item ID: 65088
Depositing User: Round, Charlotte
Date Deposited: 18 Jan 2024 09:18
Last Modified: 18 Jan 2024 09:18
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/65088

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