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Central Greece | Fokida

Delphi Archaeological Museum

The Museum of Delphi is considered among the three most important museums in Greece, together with the ones of the Acropolis of Athens and in Heraklion, Crete. What makes a visit to the Greek Museums in general, this one in particular, an unforgettable experience, is the fact that they usually exist on the very archaeological site(s), thus putting the exhibits in the surroundings in which they were initially established, in close relevance to their cultural and/or religious role.
The Delphi Museum first opened its doors tο the public in 1903; in the more than 100 years that have elapsed since then, it has been recognized as one of the most important museums in Greece. It has undergone many renovations during this time and four different exhibitions, each reflecting the scientific concepts and artistic standards as they evolved through the 20th century. The quality of the exhibits, though, has always been the main advantage of this Museum.

According to Rosina Colonia, (Delphi Ephorate of Antiquities) “… the Delphi exhibits speak for themselves: they have the power to command respect and captivate the visitor, inviting him or her to admire them, and leaving this visitor with the memory of their charm and the enigma surrounding them. Even though the exhibits on display today constitute no more than a small but representative part of the dedications seen by Pausanias at Delphi, and an even smaller part of the many more that inundated the sanctuary during the years of its heyday, they indisputably continue to delight people with their wealth, variety and beauty. …Delphi has been included in archaeology textbooks, it has adorned art books; some of the Delphi finds, such as the Treasury of the Siphnians, are landmarks in the history of ancient Hellenic art, while others, even though more than one hundred years have elapsed since they came to light, continue to be a focal point of scholarly discussions even today, owing to unanswered questions regarding their identity and interpretation. But above all, they still chaim the broad public who flock, like ancient pilgrims, to admire the monuments of Delphi”. (Quotation ©: John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation)


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The Siphnian Treasury: The North side of the frieze (The Gigantomachy - Hall V)

The Siphnian Treasury was the first building entirely of marble in Mainland Greece. It was built in the Ionic order, and was the first such building to appear in Delphi. We know with certainty that it was built just before 524 BC., when Siphnos was attacked and plundered by Samians fleeing the revenge of Polycrates, tyrant of Samos, against whom they had revolted. This historical event is reported by Herodotos, was prophesized by Pythia to the Siphnians and marked the end of the golden age of Siphnos as a gold and silver mining economy.

The building was equipped with columns with bands with astragals, palmettes and lotus leaves, rosettes, spirals, It featured rows of marble lion's heads around the roof, architectural sculptures on the facade, frieze, pediments and acroteria.

Two korae were carrying the front of the roof of this prostyle temple-formed treasury, bedding the way for the kores in Erechtheion on the Acropolis of Athens, later called Karyatids. Not much of this treasury has been preserved, although archaeologists, based on the remains, know exactly how the building used to look like; the east pediment, the only one surviving, is decorated with the figure of Hercules trying to steal the prophetic tripod from Apollo and Zeus trying to intervene. The treasury was also one of the first Greek buildings to utilize falling and reclining figures to fill the corners of the pediment. The sculptural friezes that run around the building depict various scenes from Greek Mythology. The Southern side depicts scenes that support the East side, where the gods sit watching the Greeks raid the village of Troy. The West side shows the story of the Judgment of Paris, depicting three chariots groups (each attributed to Athena, Aphrodite, and Hera). The north side displays the Gigantomachy, to which this page is allocated.


The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


In Greek mythology, the Giants were the children of Gaia or Gaea, who was fertilized by the blood of Uranus, after being castrated by his son Cronus.

Cronus secured his power by re-imprisoning or refusing to free his siblings, the Hecatonchires (the Hundred-Armed ones) and Cyclopes (the Round-faced ones), and his (newly-created) siblings the Giants, in Tartarus. Afterwards, Cronus and his Titans lost the battle to his son Zeus.

Gaea, incensed by the imprisonment of the Titans in Tartarus by the Olympians, incited the Giants to rise up in arms against them, end their reign, and restore the Titans' rule. Led on by Alcyoneus and Porphyrion, they tested the strength of the Olympians in what is known as the Gigantomachia or Gigantomachy. The Olympians called upon the aid of Heracles after a prophecy warned them that he was required to defeat the Giants. Heracles slew not only Alcyoneus, but dealt the death blow to the Giants who had been wounded by the Olympians. (Info from Wikipedia)

Since the north side of the Treasury looked out over the Sacred Way, pilgrims ascending toward the temple could admire the representation of the Gigantomachy with the narrative style given to it by the artist. Even though the figures of the adversary camps are all mingled together, and the action develops on many levels, the whole scene is cohesive and recognizable with the chariots and figures of the gods moving to the right and those of the Giants in the opposite direction. Beside each figure, inscriptions with the names of the adversaries supplement the narration of this multi-figured mythical battle that will not be found again in a similarly monumental form until the altar of Pergamon. The names of the Giants, written in the local Phocian dialect, also contribute to the dramaturgy of the scene, expressing the barbarous, military and rude personality of their owners: Biatas (Violent), Eriktypos (Thunderous), Hyperphas (Reviler), Tharos (Insolent), Ephialtas, Astartas and Megiator (Giant?).

Here we show the full frieze depicting the Gigantomachy. In the following photos we'll concentrate on various details of this frieze.
The beginning of the North frieze, depicting the Gigantomachy.

The beginning of the North frieze, depicting the Gigantomachy.


The north frieze on the Treasury of the Siphnians. The beginning of the scene from the battle between the gods and the Giants (Gigantomachy). Hephaestus is bending over the bellows in his blacksmith's shop, obviously preparing the weapons of Zeus. In front of him the two goddesses, Hestia and Demeter, are seen.
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


Here we show again the beginning of the scene from the battle. Hephaestus is bending over the bellows in his blacksmith's shop, obviously preparing the weapons of Zeus. In front of him the two goddesses Hestia and Demeter move against two Giants who are holding up their spears.
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


The two Giants attacking the godesses Hestia and Demeter
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


The heads of the Giants confronting Hestia and Demeter (Detail)
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


Bottom part of the clothing of one of the Giants confronting Hestia and Demeter (Detail)
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


Continuation of the frieze: Behind the two Giants there follows Dionysus , fighting a Giant. Between the Giant and Dionysus, Themis is driving Dionysus' chariot pulled by two lions. The latter are attacking a Giant. (This attack is better visible in one of the following photos.)
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


Dionysus, having descended from his chariot driven by Themis, is brandishing his bronze spear against a Giant. (Detail)
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


Dionysus' head, with a part of a spear preserved in front of his beard (Detail)
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


Dionysus' characteristic nebris, the skin of a panther (Detail)
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


Continuation of the frieze: To the left we see the Giant fighting against Dionysus, visible also in the previous photo. To the right we see the two lions attacking a Giant. To the right of the doomed Giant, Apollo and Artemis, the twin children of Leto's, are shooting arrows at three Giants carrying shields (not all of them visible). In front of them, the Giant with a crest on his helmet is looking backwards panic-seized, fleeing in order to avoid the fate of his fellow-fighter. On the ground we can also see a Giant who has fallen dead.
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


The lions attacking one of the Giants (Detail)
The hind legs of the lion in the foreground are broken (and lost) from the middle of the thigh down to the paws, which are visible at the bottom of the frieze. The two hind lion legs visible belong to the lion in the background, which, nevertheless, has lost its head but the end of its nose and jaw. Its front leg claws can be seen grabbing the Giant, the left one by his shoulder, passing from the back of its victim, the right one by his armpit, passing from the front of the Giant's chest. The Giant is desperately trying to remove the right lion paw with his left hand. The lion that has already immersed its teeth to the right side of the Giant's waist has grabbed the Giant by his thigh and his pelvis.
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


The lion devouring one of the Giants (Detail)
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


This is the full scene including what is missing in the previous photo. Apollo and Artemis shooting arrows at three Giants carrying shields, while, in front of them, the Giant with a crest on his helmet, named Tharos, is looking backwards panic-seized, fleeing in order to avoid the fate of his fellow-fighter. On the ground can be seen a Giant who has fallen dead.
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


Apollo and Artemis shooting arrows (Detail)
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


Apollo and his twin sister Artemis (Detail)
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


The heads of Apollo and his twin sister Artemis (Detail)
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


The Giant Tharos, with a crest on his helmet, panic-seized, fleeing (Detail). The photo is focussed on the coloring of the Giant's shield, proof that the minimalistic white color of the ancient Greek sculptures is only due to the long time of their exposure to the elements of nature.
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


The fleeing Giant Tharos
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


The inside of the shield and the arm holding it of the fleeing Giant
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


The Giants confronting Apollo and Artemis (Detail)
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


The continuation of the Frieze after the lost part: Two horses from the chariot of Zeus (which has not been preserved) and two attacking Giants. In front of them, in the foreground. Aphrodite is bending down to deliver the coup de grace to a fallen Giant.
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


The heads of the two Giants attacking Zeus' charriot (Detail)
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


Aphrodite is bending down to deliver the coup de grace to a fallen Giant. (Detail)
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


Aphrodite' s head and frisure (Detail)
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


Aphrodite's frisure (Detail)
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


Aphrodite's face (Detail)
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


Behind Aphrodite, Athena has already vanquished a kneeling Giant and is battling a standing adversary. To the right, the legs of a fallen Giant are seen.
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


A god (of uncertain identity) rushes into battle with his shield and spear, stepping over the body of a dead Giant .
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


The face of the dead Giant in the previous photo (Detail)
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


The left arm of the god of unknown identity holding the shield. On its inside, a wide band (orchanon) holding the shield on the god's arm (Detail)
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


The head and torso of the god of uncertain identity (Detail)
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


The face of the god of uncertain identity (Detail)
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


The left foot of the god of uncertain identity stepping over a dead opponent (Detail)
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


Hermes follows wearing the conical pilos, characteristic of Arcadian shepherds, and attacks two Giants with his sword.
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


The Giants attacked by Hermes (Detail)
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


The last episode in the Gigantomachy, Ares, god of war, is in the front ranks of the struggle of the Olympian gods against the Giants, the fearsome and violent sons of Gaea (Earth). He stands out among all the other gods owing to his panoply and the power of his fury. He is trampling on a fallen Giant whom he has struck in the chest with his bronze spear. The spear has not survived but it has already pierced his adversary's shield. A particularly dramatic feeling in the scene is created by the fact that the doomed Giant is exchanging glances with the god at the moment Ares kills him. The cheek-pieces of the latter's Attic helmet are decorated with rams' heads. The last Giant in the scene, armed with a shield and a helmet bearing an enormous crest, is attacking the god with his sword.


credit: © of the text: John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


The Giant attacked and killed by Ares facing the god some moments before receiving the final blow (Detail)
The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy

The north frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians: The Gigantomachy


The decorative sculpted upper part of the frieze (Detail)

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