If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content
Current time:0:00Total duration:5:14

Video transcript

sitting here overlooking the sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi makes it really clear to me why the Greeks believed that the gods dwelt on a mountain well we have this glorious view I feel on top of the world it makes sense the Greeks practice their religion in places called sanctuaries that became complexes of many buildings this is one of the most important Panhellenic sanctuaries what that means is that it was not controlled by one city-state but it was a place that Greeks came from numerous city-states from all over Greece therefore Panhellenic across Greece the sanctuary at Olympia is another example of a Panhellenic sanctuary now of course in that case Greeks from all over came to compete in athletic games but Olympia also had an Oracle that is a priestess who had a connection to the gods but here at Delphi this was perhaps the single most important sanctuary because here although there were games there were musical competitions and there were sporting competitions this was the place with the single most important Oracle that is with the priestess who could help decide major political and even private issues the priest is here Delfy the Oracle was called the Pythia and she made her pronouncements she answered questions from the temple that were looking at now when she did this she was seated behind a curtain we believe she was seated on a tripod and over a kind of chasm that went into the earth and according to traditions that go back at least to the ninth century this was a way that she connected directly to the god Apollo right away that Apollo could speak through her and so we're in a space that is entirely sacred to the god Apollo so according to the ancient reports we have the way this would work is somebody of high stature with significant wealth or political power would come with a very specific question often a yes-or-no question they would give it to one of the priestesses assistants and that would then be read to the priestess who was behind a curtain she would make a pronouncement which would then be interpreted so that it could be understandable by the assistant priests so as a Panhellenic sanctuary as a sanctuary for all reeks this was a place where one could really show off the wealth and the power of your city-state the primary way that city-states could do that was by building Treasuries now Treasuries were often small buildings they weren't peripheral that as we normally think about a Greek temple as having columns all around it instead they had columns in the front and they were mostly storehouses for objects that were being offered dedicated to the God it's important to remember I think that Greek religion was transactional that people gave gifts to the gods and in turn the gods favored them this might be booty that was taken in war it might be the result of some other kind of good fortune but there's no question that that transactional aspect was important you wanted to give as much as you could to the sanctuary of Apollo in order to stay in Apollo's good graces and so when visitors came to the sanctuary they walked up what was called the Sacred Way and they passed by numerous Treasury buildings built by numerous Greek city-states or what the Greeks called the polis now you can imagine how competitive this was because each city-state was showing off against the other right we can look down at the reconstructed Treasury built by the city-state of Athens that's a great example just beside it we believe that there had once been a huge pile of booty that they had taken from the Persians at the Battle of Marathon right which they won against great odds and so you really could understand why they would thank the gods for that victory it's one of the larger Treasuries and it's in a very prominent place just below the Athenian Treasury is a smaller Treasury which was according to reports the most lavishly decorated of all the Treasuries here this belonged to the small island of Sifnos in the south of the Aegean Sea and the syph nians were especially wealthy because they have gold and silver mines so they could afford to build a really lavish Treasury the Treasuries are stacked up over each other it's such a steep space well you found your way back and forth to go up to the very top of the sanctuary where we see the theater well most sanctuaries had a theater the most famous probably the theater at Epidaurus which was an important sanctuary for healing this is a good reminder that theater was connected to religious practice and it's interesting to note to the form of the theater we have the actors on the bottom and the seats rising up above built into the hillside imagine sitting in that theater looking down half the actors to this amazing view of the temple and the valley beyond