Gorgon, Gigantomachy of Delphi

Gorgon, Gigantomachy of Delphi

Siphnian Treasury

The Siphnian Treasury was a building at the Ancient Greek cult centre of Delphi, erected to host the offerings of the polis, or city-state, of Siphnos. It was one of a number of treasuries lining the "Sacred Way", the processional route through the Sanctuary of Apollo, erected to win the favor of the gods and increase the prestige of the donor polis. It was one of the earlier surviving buildings of this type, and its date remains a matter for debate, with the most plausible date being around 525 BC. [1] Until recently it was often confused or conflated with the neighbouring Cnidian Treasury, a similar but less elaborate building, as the remains of the two had become mixed together and earlier theoretical reconstructions used parts of both. [2]

The people of Siphnos had gained enormous wealth from their silver and gold mines in the Archaic period (Herodotus III.57) and used the tithe of their income to erect the treasury, the first religious structure made entirely out of marble. The building was used to house many lavish votive offerings given to the priests to be offered to Apollo.

The Treasury fell to ruins over the centuries, although it stood for much longer than many other monuments, probably due to its decoration which was venerated by the following generations. Currently, the sculpture and a reconstruction of the Treasury are to be seen in the Delphi Archaeological Museum.


First museum Edit

A first, rather small museum was inaugurated on 2 May 1903 to celebrate the end of the first great archaeological campaign of French excavations and to exhibit the findings. The building was designed by the French architect Albert Tournaire, financed by a trust established by the Greek banker and philanthropist Andreas Syngros. Two wings framed a small central building. The arrangement of the collection, designed by the director of the archaeological expedition, Théophile Homolle, was inspired by the view that the architectural parts and sculptures should be put "in context". Thus, parts of the main monuments of the site were reconstructed with plaster. [3] Yet, the exhibits took every inch of available space, making the exhibition look pretty crammed. Furthermore, the museographic approach lacked any chronological or thematic arrangement. The quality of the exhibits themselves was thought to be self-explanatory. The first exhibition was thus destined more to the pleasure of the eyes than to any educational purpose.

Subsequent phases Edit

Despite the admiration it inspired to the Greek and international community, already in the 1930s the museum was becoming too small to accommodate new findings or the increasing number of tourists. [2] In addition, its arrangement (or, rather, the absence of it) and the plaster restorations were being increasingly criticized. Finally, its entire appearance was criticized as a little too "French" in a period which insisted on "Greekness." The construction of a new building was launched in 1935. The new museum was representative of the architectural trends of the Interwar period and was accomplished in 1939, including a new arrangement of the objects by the Professor of Archaeology at Thessaloniki, Constantinos Romaios. The reorganisation of the Archaic collections was entrusted to the French archaeologist Pierre de La Coste-Messelière, who discarded the plaster restorations of significant artefacts, including that of the Siphnian Treasury, which had become one of the principal attractions. The antiquities were presented in a chronological order, listed and labelled. [4]

However, this arrangement was only briefly in use. The outbreak of World War II constituted a major threat to the antiquities which were put into storage. Part was kept at Delphi in the ancient Roman tombs or in specially dug pits in front of the museum. The most precious objects (the chryselephantine objects, the silver Statue of a Bull discovered three months before the outbreak of war, and the Charioteer were sent to Athens in order to be stored in the vaults of the Bank of Greece. They remained there for ten years. The charioteer was on display in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens until 1951. The region of Delphi was at the heart of the combat zone in the Greek civil war and the museum was not reopened until 1952. For six years, visitors could view the arrangement that had been envisioned in 1939. However, the museum proved insufficient and it was necessary to undertake a new phase of construction, completed in 1958. [5]

The renovation of the museum was entrusted to the architect Patroklos Karantinos and the archaeologist Christos Karouzos was sent from the National Archaeological Museum of Athens to rearrange the collection, under the supervision of the ephor of Delphi, Ioanna Constantinou. Karatinos created two new exhibition halls and modified the structure to allow more natural light into the building. The arrangement of the collection remained chronological, but a greater focus was placed on the sculpture, with statues increasingly separated from their architectural contexts. The museum reopened its doors in 1961. [6] and soon became one of the most visited tourist attractions in Greece: in 1998, it received more than 300,200 visitors, almost as many as the National Archaeological Museum of Athens in the same period (325,000 visitors). [1] [6]

Current Museum Edit

Between 1999 and 2003, the museum underwent yet another phase of renovations, carried out by the Greek architect Alexandros Tombazis. These included the construction of a new facade in a contemporary style and a new hall for the charioteer. The rest of the museum was re-designed in a modern style and adjusted to facilitate the circulation of visitors. A new lobby, a large cafeteria and a gift shop were also created. [2] The collection was rearranged in order to reconcile the need to display the main attractions of the museum effectively and the wish to present the latest theories and discoveries of archaeological and historical scholarships. An effort was also made to illustrate hitherto neglected exhibits like the classical facade of the Temple of Apollo. The museum opened its doors once more for its centenary. [7]

The collections of the Delphi Archaeological Museum are arranged chronologically in fourteen rooms.

Rooms 1 & 2 Edit

The first two rooms are devoted to the most ancient objects. The exhibition starts with Mycenaean finds, particularly clay figurines, among which a significant female figure seated on a three-legged chair, which has been viewed as a precursor of the later tripods. The majority of the exhibits, however, are bronze votive offerings, dating to the 8th and 7th centuries BC, including bronze tripods and cauldrons with decorative elements inspired by mythical creatures, such as griffins, as well as bronze figurines of warriors. The items displayed date to the late Geometric and early Archaic periods.


The history of the temple was related by Pausanias in his Description of Greece of the 2 nd century CE:

[9] They say that the most ancient temple of Apollo was made of laurel, the branches of which were brought from the laurel in Temple. This temple must have had the form of a hut. The Delphians say that the second temple was made by bees from bees-wax and feathers, and that it was sent to the Hyperboreans by Apollo.

[10] Another story is current, that the temple was set up by a Delphian, whose name was Pteras, and so the temple received its name from the builder… The story that the temple was built of the fern (pteris) that grows on the mountains, by interweaving fresh stalks of it, I do not accept at all.

[11] It is no wonder that the third temple was made of bronze, seeing that Acrisios made a bedchamber of bronze for his daughter, the Lacedaemonians still possess a sanctuary of Athena of the Bronze House, and the Roman forum, a marvel for its size and style, possesses a roof of bronze. So it would not be unlikely that a temple of bronze was made for Apollo…

[13] The fourth temple was made by Trophonius and Agamedes the tradition is that it was made of stone. It was burnt down in the archonship of Erxicleides at Athens, in the first year of the fifty-eighth Olympiad (548/47), when Diognetus of Crotona was victorious. The modern temple was built for the god by the Amphictyons from the sacred treasures, and the architect was one Spintharus of Corinth. [3]

Pausanias did not mention that the reconstruction after the 548/47 fire was paid for and directed by members of the Athenian Alkmaeonid family who had been forcibly exiled from that city by the tyrant Peisistratos. From Herodotos’ Histories:

As the Alkmaeonids were considering every strategy they could think of against the Peisistratids, they accepted a contract from the Amphityons to build the temple at Delphi, the same one that is there now [as of the mid-fifth century BCE], but which had not yet been built at that time. [3] And since they were not only quite wealthy but also distinguished in their lineage, the temple they constructed turned out more beautiful in all respects than the original plan required for example, whereas the agreement had called for them to use tufa as the building material, they built the façade of Parian marble instead. [4]

The Alkmaeonid temple, completed by about 511 at the latest, was of the Doric order, with a six by fifteen column peristyle (surrounding colonnade). The sculpted decoration of its pediments was the work of the Athenian sculptor Antenor. The east pediment depicted Apollo’s arrival at Delphi in triumph on his four-horse chariot. The west pediment depicted the battle between gods and giants (gigantomachy).This temple was destroyed during the strong earthquake of 373 BC. [1]

The ruins of Pausanias’ "modern temple" are what we see today. Inaugurated in 330 BCE (43 years after the earthquake), it was also of Doric order, on the same footprint as its predecessor, and made of marble-coated porous stone. Its roof and pedimental decorations, sculpted by the Athenian artists Praxias and Androsthenes, were made of Parian marble. The east pediment was adorned by the figure of Apollo flanked, by his mother Leto, his sister Artemis, and the Muses. The west pediment depicted the god Dionysos among his female votaries, the Thyiades. Persian shields taken as booty by the Athenian’s from the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC were attached to the temple’s metopes along with Gallic shields, spoils of the repulse of Gauls during the 279 BC invasion. [1]

The construction costs of this iteration of the temple were defrayed by contributions from various cities and individuals. Much of the stone from the Alkmaeonid temple was reused, and replacements for the broken pieces was purchased from the Corinthians and ferried across the Corinthian Gulf to the town of Kirra before being hauled up the mountain to Delphi. [5]

Inscribed on a column in the pronaos (the porch before the temple’s cella), according to ancient writers, were three of the Delphic maxims of the Seven Sages: ΓΝΩΘΙ ΣEΑΥΤΟΝ (KNOW THYSELF), ΜΗΔΕΝ ΑΓΑΝ (NOTHING IN EXCESS), and ΕΓΓΥΑ, ΠΑΡΑ ΔΑΤΗ (SURETY BRINGS RUIN) [6] as well as the enigmatic Delphic symbol “Ε”. [1]

The temple survived until AD 390, when the Roman emperor Theodosius I silenced the oracle by destroying the temple and most of the statues and works of art in the name of Christianity. [7] The site was completely destroyed by zealous Christians in an attempt to remove all traces of Paganism. [7]

The ruins of this temple decay at a faster rate than some of the other ruins on the Southern slopes of Mount Parnassos. This is mostly due to the use of limestone, a softer material, along with porous stone. [8]


The name "Gigantes" is usually taken to imply "earth-born", [6] and Hesiod's Theogony makes this explicit by having the Giants be the offspring of Gaia (Earth). According to Hesiod, Gaia, mating with Uranus, bore many children: the first generation of Titans, the Cyclopes, and the Hundred-Handers. [7] But Uranus hated his children and, as soon as they were born, he imprisoned them inside of Gaia, causing her much distress. And so Gaia made a sickle of adamant which she gave to Cronus, the youngest of her Titan sons, and hid him (presumably still inside Gaia's body) to wait in ambush. [8] And when Uranus came to lie with Gaia, Cronus castrated his father, and "the bloody drops that gushed forth [Gaia] received, and as the seasons moved round she bore . the great Giants." [9] From these same drops of blood also came the Erinyes (Furies) and the Meliai (ash tree nymphs), while the severed genitals of Uranus falling into the sea resulted in a white foam from which Aphrodite grew. The mythographer Apollodorus also has the Giants being the offspring of Gaia and Uranus, though he makes no connection with Uranus' castration, saying simply that Gaia "vexed on account of the Titans, brought forth the Giants". [10]

There are three brief references to the Gigantes in Homer's Odyssey, though it's not entirely clear that Homer and Hesiod understood the term to mean the same thing. [11] Homer has Giants among the ancestors of the Phaiakians, a race of men encountered by Odysseus, their ruler Alcinous being the son of Nausithous, who was the son of Poseidon and Periboea, the daughter of the Giant king Eurymedon. [12] Elsewhere in the Odyssey, Alcinous says that the Phaiakians, like the Cyclopes and the Giants, are "near kin" to the gods. [13] Odysseus describes the Laestrygonians (another race encountered by Odysseus in his travels) as more like Giants than men. [14] Pausanias, the 2nd century AD geographer, read these lines of the Odyssey to mean that, for Homer, the Giants were a race of mortal men. [15]

The 6th–5th century BC lyric poet Bacchylides calls the Giants "sons of the Earth". [16] Later the term "gegeneis" ("earthborn") became a common epithet of the Giants. [17] The first century Latin writer Hyginus has the Giants being the offspring of Gaia and Tartarus, another primordial Greek deity. [18]

Though distinct in early traditions, [19] Hellenistic and later writers often confused or conflated the Giants and their Gigantomachy with an earlier set of offspring of Gaia and Uranus, the Titans and their war with the Olympian gods, the Titanomachy. [20] This confusion extended to other opponents of the Olympians, including the huge monster Typhon, [21] the offspring of Gaia and Tartarus, whom Zeus finally defeated with his thunderbolt, and the Aloadae, the large, strong and aggressive brothers Otus and Ephialtes, who piled Pelion on top of Ossa in order to scale the heavens and attack the Olympians (though in the case of Ephialtes there was probably a Giant with the same name). [22] For example, Hyginus includes the names of three Titans, Coeus, Iapetus, and Astraeus, along with Typhon and the Aloadae, in his list of Giants, [23] and Ovid seems to conflate the Gigantomachy with the later siege of Olympus by the Aloadae. [24]

Ovid also seems to confuse the Hundred-Handers with the Giants, whom he gives a "hundred arms". [25] So perhaps do Callimachus and Philostratus, since they both make Aegaeon the cause of earthquakes, as was often said about the Giants (see below). [26]

Homer describes the Giant king Eurymedon as "great-hearted" (μεγαλήτορος), and his people as "insolent" (ὑπερθύμοισι) and "froward" (ἀτάσθαλος). [27] Hesiod calls the Giants "strong" (κρατερῶν) and "great" (μεγάλους) which may or may not be a reference to their size. [28] Though a possible later addition, the Theogony also has the Giants born "with gleaming armour, holding long spears in their hands". [29]

Other early sources characterize the Giants by their excesses. Pindar describes the excessive violence of the Giant Porphyrion as having provoked "beyond all measure". [30] Bacchylides calls the Giants arrogant, saying that they were destroyed by "Hybris" (the Greek word hubris personified). [31] The earlier seventh century BC poet Alcman perhaps had already used the Giants as an example of hubris, with the phrases "vengeance of the gods" and "they suffered unforgettable punishments for the evil they did" being possible references to the Gigantomachy. [32]

Homer's comparison of the Giants to the Laestrygonians is suggestive of similarities between the two races. The Laestrygonians, who "hurled . rocks huge as a man could lift", certainly possessed great strength, and possibly great size, as their king's wife is described as being as big as a mountain. [33]

Over time, descriptions of the Giants make them less human, more monstrous and more "gigantic". According to Apollodorus the Giants had great size and strength, a frightening appearance, with long hair and beards and scaly feet. [34] Ovid makes them "serpent-footed" with a "hundred arms", [35] and Nonnus has them "serpent-haired". [36]

The most important divine struggle in Greek mythology was the Gigantomachy, the battle fought between the Giants and the Olympian gods for supremacy of the cosmos. [37] It is primarily for this battle that the Giants are known, and its importance to Greek culture is attested by the frequent depiction of the Gigantomachy in Greek art.

Early sources Edit

The references to the Gigantomachy in archaic sources are sparse. [39] Neither Homer nor Hesiod mention anything about the Giants battling the gods. [40] Homer's remark that Eurymedon "brought destruction on his froward people" might possibly be a reference to the Gigantomachy [41] and Hesiod's remark that Heracles performed a "great work among the immortals" [42] is probably a reference to Heracles' crucial role in the gods' victory over the Giants. [43] The Hesiodic Catalogue of Women (or the Ehoia) following mentions of his sacks of Troy and of Kos, refers to Heracles having slain "presumptious Giants". [44] Another probable reference to the Gigantomachy in the Catalogue has Zeus produce Heracles to be "a protector against ruin for gods and men". [45]

There are indications that there might have been a lost epic poem, a Gigantomachia, which gave an account of the war: Hesiod's Theogony says that the Muses sing of the Giants, [46] and the sixth century BC poet Xenophanes mentions the Gigantomachy as a subject to be avoided at table. [47] The Apollonius scholia refers to a "Gigantomachia" in which the Titan Cronus (as a horse) sires the centaur Chiron by mating with Philyra (the daughter of two Titans), but the scholiast may be confusing the Titans and Giants. [48] Other possible archaic sources include the lyric poets Alcman (mentioned above) and the sixth-century Ibycus. [49]

The late sixth early fifth century BC lyric poet Pindar provides some of the earliest details of the battle between the Giants and the Olympians. He locates it "on the plain of Phlegra" and has Teiresias foretell Heracles killing Giants "beneath [his] rushing arrows". [50] He calls Heracles "you who subdued the Giants", [51] and has Porphyrion, who he calls "the king of the Giants", being overcome by the bow of Apollo. [52] Euripides' Heracles has its hero shooting Giants with arrows, [53] and his Ion has the chorus describe seeing a depiction of the Gigantomachy on the late sixth century Temple of Apollo at Delphi, with Athena fighting the Giant Enceladus with her "gorgon shield", Zeus burning the Giant Mimas with his "mighty thunderbolt, blazing at both ends", and Dionysus killing an unnamed Giant with his "ivy staff". [54] The early 3rd century BC author Apollonius of Rhodes briefly describes an incident where the sun god Helios takes up Hephaestus, exhausted from the fight in Phlegra, on his chariot. [55]

Apollodorus Edit

The most detailed account of the Gigantomachy [57] is that of the (first or second-century AD) mythographer Apollodorus. [58] None of the early sources give any reasons for the war. Scholia to the Iliad mention the rape of Hera by the Giant Eurymedon, [59] while according to scholia to Pindar's Isthmian 6, it was the theft of the cattle of Helios by the Giant Alcyoneus that started the war. [60] Apollodorus, who also mentions the theft of Helios' cattle by Alcyoneus, [61] suggests a mother's revenge as the motive for the war, saying that Gaia bore the Giants because of her anger over the Titans (who had been vanquished and imprisoned by the Olympians). [62] Seemingly, as soon as the Giants are born they begin hurling "rocks and burning oaks at the sky". [63]

There was a prophecy that the Giants could not be killed by the gods alone, but they could be killed with the help of a mortal. [64] Hearing this, Gaia sought for a certain plant (pharmakon) that would protect the Giants. Before Gaia or anyone else could find this plant, Zeus forbade Eos (Dawn), Selene (Moon) and Helios (Sun) to shine, harvested all of the plant himself and then he had Athena summon Heracles.

According to Apollodorus, Alcyoneus and Porphyrion were the two strongest Giants. Heracles shot Alcyoneus, who fell to the ground but then revived, for Alcyoneus was immortal within his native land. So Heracles, with Athena's advice, dragged him beyond the borders of that land, where Alcyoneus then died (compare with Antaeus). [65] Porphyrion attacked Heracles and Hera, but Zeus caused Porphyrion to become enamoured of Hera, whom Porphyrion then tried to rape, but Zeus struck Porphyrion with his thunderbolt and Heracles killed him with an arrow. [66]

Other Giants and their fates are mentioned by Apollodorus. Ephialtes was blinded by an arrow from Apollo in his left eye, and another arrow from Heracles in his right. Eurytus was killed by Dionysus with his thyrsus, Clytius by Hecate with her torches and Mimas by Hephaestus with "missiles of red-hot metal" from his forge. [67] Athena crushed Enceladus under the Island of Sicily and flayed Pallas, using his skin as a shield. Poseidon broke off a piece of the island of Kos called Nisyros, and threw it on top of Polybotes (Strabo also relates the story of Polybotes buried under Nisyros but adds that some say Polybotes lies under Kos instead). [68] Hermes, wearing Hades' helmet, killed Hippolytus, Artemis killed Gration, and the Moirai (Fates) killed Agrius and Thoas with bronze clubs. The rest of the giants were "destroyed" by thunderbolts thrown by Zeus, with each Giant being shot with arrows by Heracles (as the prophecy seemingly required).

Ovid Edit

The Latin poet Ovid gives a brief account of the Gigantomachy in his poem Metamorphoses. [69] Ovid, apparently including the Aloadae's attack upon Olympus as part of the Gigantomachy, has the Giants attempt to seize "the throne of Heaven" by piling "mountain on mountain to the lofty stars" but Jove (i.e. Jupiter, the Roman Zeus) overwhelms the Giants with his thunderbolts, overturning "from Ossa huge, enormous Pelion". [70] Ovid tells that (as "fame reports") from the blood of the Giants came a new race of beings in human form. [71] According to Ovid, Earth [Gaia] did not want the Giants to perish without a trace, so "reeking with the copious blood of her gigantic sons", she gave life to the "steaming gore" of the blood soaked battleground. These new offspring, like their fathers the Giants, also hated the gods and possessed a bloodthirsty desire for "savage slaughter".

Later in the Metamorphoses, Ovid refers to the Gigantomachy as: "The time when serpent footed giants strove / to fix their hundred arms on captive Heaven". [72] Here Ovid apparently conflates the Giants with the Hundred-Handers, [73] who, though in Hesiod fought alongside Zeus and the Olympians, in some traditions fought against them. [74]

Location Edit

Various places have been associated with the Giants and the Gigantomachy. As noted above Pindar has the battle occur at Phlegra ("the place of burning"), [75] as do other early sources. [76] Phlegra was said to be an ancient name for Pallene (modern Kassandra) [77] and Phlegra/Pallene was the usual birthplace of the Giants and site of the battle. [78] Apollodorus, who placed the battle at Pallene, says the Giants were born "as some say, in Phlegrae, but according to others in Pallene". The name Phlegra and the Gigantomachy were also often associated, by later writers, with a volcanic plain in Italy, west of Naples and east of Cumae, called the Phlegraean Fields. [79] The third century BC poet Lycophron, apparently locates a battle of gods and Giants in the vicinity of the volcanic island of Ischia, the largest of the Phlegraean Islands off the coast of Naples, where he says the Giants (along with Typhon) were "crushed" under the island. [80] At least one tradition placed Phlegra in Thessaly. [81]

According to the geographer Pausanias, the Arcadians claimed that battle took place "not at Pellene in Thrace" but in the plain of Megalopolis where "rises up fire". [82] Another tradition apparently placed the battle at Tartessus in Spain. [83] Diodorus Siculus presents a war with multiple battles, with one at Pallene, one on the Phlegraean Fields, and one on Crete. [84] Strabo mentions an account of Heracles battling Giants at Phanagoria, a Greek colony on the shores of the Black Sea. [85] Even when, as in Apollodorus, the battle starts at one place. Individual battles between a Giant and a god might range farther afield, with Enceladus buried beneath Sicily, and Polybotes under the island of Nisyros (or Kos). Other locales associated with Giants include Attica, Corinth, Cyzicus, Lipara, Lycia, Lydia, Miletus, and Rhodes. [86]

The presence of volcanic phenomena, and the frequent unearthing of the fossilized bones of large prehistoric animals throughout these locations may explain why such sites became associated with the Giants. [87]

In art Edit

Sixth century BC Edit

From the sixth century BC onwards, the Gigantomachy was a popular and important theme in Greek art, with over six hundred representations cataloged in the Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC). [89]

The Gigantomachy was depicted on the new peplos (robe) presented to Athena on the Acropolis of Athens as part of the Panathenaic festival celebrating her victory over the Giants, a practice dating from perhaps as early as the second millennium BC. [90] The earliest extant indisputable representations of Gigantes are found on votive pinakes from Corinth and Eleusis, and Attic black-figure pots, dating from the second quarter of the sixth century BC (this excludes early depictions of Zeus battling single snake-footed creatures, which probably represent his battle with Typhon, as well as Zeus' opponent on the west pediment of the Temple of Artemis on Kerkyra (modern Corfu) which is probably not a Giant). [91]

Though all these early Attic vases [92] are fragmentary, the many common features in their depictions of the Gigantomachy suggest that a common model or template was used as a prototype, possibly Athena's peplos. [93] These vases depict large battles, including most of the Olympians, and contain a central group which appears to consist of Zeus, Heracles, Athena, and sometimes Gaia. [94] Zeus, Heracles and Athena are attacking Giants to the right. [95] Zeus mounts a chariot brandishing his thunderbolt in his right hand, Heracles, in the chariot, bends forward with drawn bow and left foot on the chariot pole, Athena, beside the chariot, strides forward toward one or two Giants, and the four chariot horses trample a fallen Giant. When present, Gaia is shielded behind Herakles, apparently pleading with Zeus to spare her children.

On either side of the central group are the rest of the gods engaged in combat with particular Giants. While the gods can be identified by characteristic features, for example Hermes with his hat (petasos) and Dionysus his ivy crown, the Giants are not individually characterized and can only be identified by inscriptions which sometimes name the Giant. [96] The fragments of one vase from this same period (Getty 81.AE.211) [97] name five Giants: Pankrates against Heracles, [98] Polybotes against Zeus, [99] Oranion against Dionysus, [100] Euboios and Euphorbos fallen [101] and Ephialtes. [102] Also named, on two other of these early vases, are Aristaeus battling Hephaestus (Akropolis 607), Eurymedon and (again) Ephialtes (Akropolis 2134). An amphora from Caere from later in the sixth century, gives the names of more Giants: Hyperbios and Agasthenes (along with Ephialtes) fighting Zeus, Harpolykos against Hera, Enceladus against Athena and (again) Polybotes, who in this case battles Poseidon with his trident holding the island of Nisyros on his shoulder (Louvre E732). [103] This motif of Poseidon holding the island of Nisyros, ready to hurl it at his opponent, is another frequent feature of these early Gigantomachies. [104]

The Gigantomachy was also a popular theme in late sixth century sculpture. The most comprehensive treatment is found on the north frieze of the Siphnian Treasury at Delphi (c. 525 BC), with more than thirty figures, named by inscription. [105] From left to right, these include Hephaestus (with bellows), two females fighting two Giants Dionysus striding toward an advancing Giant Themis [106] in a chariot drawn by a team of lions which are attacking a fleeing Giant the archers Apollo and Artemis another fleeing Giant (Tharos or possibly Kantharos) [107] the Giant Ephialtes lying on the ground [108] and a group of three Giants, which include Hyperphas [109] and Alektos, [110] opposing Apollo and Artemis. Next comes a missing central section presumably containing Zeus, and possibly Heracles, with chariot (only parts of a team of horses remain). To the right of this comes a female stabbing her spear [111] at a fallen Giant (probably Porphyrion) [112] Athena fighting Eriktypos [113] and a second Giant a male stepping over the fallen Astarias [114] to attack Biatas [115] and another Giant and Hermes against two Giants. Then follows a gap which probably contained Poseidon and finally, on the far right, a male fighting two Giants, one fallen, the other the Giant Mimon (possibly the same as the Giant Mimas mentioned by Apollodorus). [116]

The Gigantomachy also appeared on several other late sixth century buildings, including the west pediment of the Alkmeonid Temple of Apollo at Delphi, the pediment of the Megarian Treasury at Olympia, the east pediment of the Old Temple of Athena on the Acropolis of Athens, and the metopes of Temple F at Selinous. [117]

Fifth century BC Edit

The theme continued to be popular in the fifth century BC. A particularly fine example is found on a red-figure cup (c. 490–485 BC) by the Brygos Painter (Berlin F2293). On one side of the cup is the same central group of gods (minus Gaia) as described above: Zeus wielding his thunderbolt, stepping into a quadriga, Heracles with lion skin (behind the chariot rather than on it) drawing his (unseen) bow and, ahead, Athena thrusting her spear into a fallen Giant. On the other side are Hephaestus flinging flaming missiles of red-hot metal from two pairs of tongs, Poseidon, with Nisyros on his shoulder, stabbing a fallen Giant with his trident and Hermes with his petasos hanging in back of his head, attacking another fallen Giant. None of the Giants are named. [118]

Phidias used the theme for the metopes of the east façade of the Parthenon (c. 445 BC) and for the interior of the shield of Athena Parthenos. [119] Phidias' work perhaps marks the beginning of a change in the way the Giants are presented. While previously the Giants had been portrayed as typical hoplite warriors armed with the usual helmets, shields, spears and swords, in the fifth century the Giants begin to be depicted as less handsome in appearance, primitive and wild, clothed in animal skins or naked, often without armor and using boulders as weapons. [120] A series of red-figure pots from c. 400 BC, which may have used Phidas' shield of Athena Parthenos as their model, show the Olympians fighting from above and the Giants fighting with large stones from below. [121]

Fourth century BC and later Edit

With the beginning of the fourth century BC probably comes the first portrayal of the Giants in Greek art as anything other than fully human in form, with legs that become coiled serpents having snake heads at the ends in place of feet. [122] Such depictions were perhaps borrowed from Typhon, the monstrous son of Gaia and Tartarus, described by Hesiod as having a hundred snake heads growing from his shoulders. [123] This snake-legged motif becomes the standard for the rest of antiquity, culminating in the monumental Gigantomachy frieze of the second century BC Pergamon Altar. Measuring nearly 400 feet long and over seven feet high, here the Gigantomachy receives its most extensive treatment, with over one hundred figures. [124]

Although fragmentary, much of the Gigantomachy frieze has been restored. The general sequence of the figures and the identifications of most of the approximately sixty gods and goddesses have been more or less established. [125] The names and positions of most Giants remain uncertain. Some of the names of the Giants have been determined by inscription, [126] while their positions are often conjectured on the basis of which gods fought which Giants in Apollodorus' account. [127]

The same central group of Zeus, Athena, Heracles and Gaia, found on many early Attic vases, also featured prominently on the Pergamon Altar. On the right side of the East frieze, the first encountered by a visitor, a winged Giant, usually identified as Alcyoneus, fights Athena. [128] Below and to the right of Athena, Gaia rises from the ground, touching Athena's robe in supplication. Flying above Gaia, a winged Nike crowns the victorious Athena. To the left of this grouping a snake-legged Porphyrion battles Zeus [129] and to the left of Zeus is Heracles. [130]

On the far left side of the East frieze, a triple Hecate with torch battles a snake-legged Giant usually identified (following Apollodorus) as Clytius. [131] To the right lays the fallen Udaeus, shot in his left eye by an arrow from Apollo, [132] along with Demeter who wields a pair of torches against Erysichthon. [133]

The Giants are depicted in a variety of ways. Some Giants are fully human in form, while others are a combination of human and animal forms. Some are snake-legged, some have wings, one has bird claws, one is lion-headed, and another is bull-headed. Some Giants wear helmets, carry shields and fight with swords. Others are naked or clothed in animal skins and fight with clubs or rocks. [134]

The large size of the frieze probably necessitated the addition of many more Giants than had been previously known. Some, like Typhon and Tityus, who were not strictly speaking Giants, were perhaps included. Others were probably invented. [135] The partial inscription "Mim" may mean that the Giant Mimas was also depicted. Other less familiar or otherwise unknown Giant names include Allektos, Chthonophylos, Eurybias, Molodros, Obrimos, Ochthaios and Olyktor. [136]

In post-classical art Edit

The subject was revived in the Renaissance, most famously in the frescos of the Sala dei Giganti in the Palazzo del Te, Mantua. These were painted around 1530 by Giulio Romano and his workshop, and aimed to give the viewer the unsettling idea that the large hall was in the process of collapsing. The subject was also popular in Northern Mannerism around 1600, especially among the Haarlem Mannerists, and continued to be painted into the 18th century. [137]

Historically, the myth of the Gigantomachy (as well as the Titanomachy) may reflect the "triumph" of the new imported gods of the invading Greek speaking peoples from the north (c. 2000 BC) over the old gods of the existing peoples of the Greek peninsula. [138] For the Greeks, the Gigantomachy represented a victory for order over chaos—the victory of the divine order and rationalism of the Olympian gods over the discord and excessive violence of the earth-born chthonic Giants. More specifically, for sixth and fifth century BC Greeks, it represented a victory for civilization over barbarism, and as such was used by Phidias on the metopes of the Parthenon and the shield of Athena Parthenos to symbolize the victory of the Athenians over the Persians. Later the Attalids similarly used the Gigantomachy on the Pergamon Altar to symbolize their victory over the Galatians of Asia Minor. [139]

The attempt of the Giants to overthrow the Olympians also represented the ultimate example of hubris, with the gods themselves punishing the Giants for their arrogant challenge to the gods' divine authority. [140] The Gigantomachy can also be seen as a continuation of the struggle between Gaia (Mother Earth) and Uranus (Father Sky), and thus as part of the primal opposition between female and male. [141] Plato compares the Gigantomachy to a philosophical dispute about existence, wherein the materialist philosophers, who believe that only physical things exist, like the Giants, wish to "drag down everything from heaven and the invisible to earth". [142]

In Latin literature, in which the Giants, the Titans, Typhon and the Aloadae are all often conflated, Gigantomachy imagery is a frequent occurrence. [144] Cicero, while urging the acceptance of aging and death as natural and inevitable, allegorizes the Gigantomachy as "fighting against Nature". [145] The rationalist Epicurean poet Lucretius, for whom such things as lightning, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions had natural rather than divine causes, used the Gigantomachy to celebrate the victory of philosophy over mythology and superstition. In the triumph of science and reason over traditional religious belief, the Gigantomachy symbolized for him Epicurus storming heaven. In a reversal of their usual meaning, he represents the Giants as heroic rebels against the tyranny of Olympus. [146] Virgil—reversing Lucretius' reversal—restores the conventional meaning, making the Giants once again enemies of order and civilization. [147] Horace makes use of this same meaning to symbolize the victory of Augustus at the Battle of Actium as a victory for the civilized West over the barbaric East. [148]

Ovid, in his Metamorphoses, describes mankind's moral decline through the ages of gold, silver, bronze and iron, and presents the Gigantomachy as a part of that same descent from natural order into chaos. [149] Lucan, in his Pharsalia, which contains many Gigantomachy references, [150] makes the Gorgon's gaze turn the Giants into mountains. [151] Valerius Flaccus, in his Argonautica, makes frequent use of Gigantomachy imagery, with the Argo (the world's first ship) constituting a Gigantomachy-like offense against natural law, and example of hubristic excess. [152]

Claudian, the fourth-century AD court poet of emperor Honorius, composed a Gigantomachia that viewed the battle as a metaphor for vast geomorphic change: "The puissant company of the giants confounds all differences between things islands abandon the deep mountains lie hidden in the sea. Many a river is left dry or has altered its ancient course. robbed of her mountains Earth sank into level plains, parted among her own sons." [153]

Various locations associated with the Giants and the Gigantomachy were areas of volcanic and seismic activity (e.g. the Phlegraean Fields west of Naples), and the vanquished Gigantes (along with other "giants") were said to be buried under volcanos. Their subterranean movements were said to be the cause of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. [154]

The Giant Enceladus was thought to lay buried under Mount Etna, the volcano's eruptions being the breath of Enceladus, and its tremors caused by the Giant rolling over from side to side beneath the mountain [155] (the monster Typhon [156] and the Hundred-Hander Briareus [157] were also said to be buried under Etna). The Giant Alcyoneus along with "many giants" were said to lie under Mount Vesuvius, [158] Prochyte (modern Procida), one of the volcanic Phlegraean Islands was supposed to sit atop the Giant Mimas, [159] and Polybotes was said to lie pinned beneath the volcanic island of Nisyros, supposedly a piece of the island of Kos broken off and thrown by Poseidon. [160]

Describing the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, which buried the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum, Cassius Dio relates accounts of the appearance of many Giant-like creatures on the mountain and in the surrounding area followed by violent earthquakes and the final cataclysmic eruption, saying "some thought that the Giants were rising again in revolt (for at this time also many of their forms could be discerned in the smoke and, moreover, a sound as of trumpets was heard)". [161]

Names for the Giants can be found in ancient literary sources and inscriptions. Vian and Moore provide a list with over seventy entries, some of which are based upon inscriptions which are only partially preserved. [162] Some of the Giants identified by name are:

The Temple of Apollo

The Temple of Apollo stands in the centre of a level area supported by a huge retaining wall built from limestone polygonal masonry, known as the Ischegaon (“that which retains the earth”). Earth was brought from the Parnassus Valley to build it in the sixth century BC.

Around 800 inscriptions are visible on the wall. They are decrees emanated by the city and the Amphictyony, and acts granting the freedom of slaves. The most ancient history of the sanctuary and the myths surrounding it are told by Pausanias, who recounts that the first temple built on the site was a hut made from laurel branches, brought from the Vale of Tempe the second was made from beeswax and feathers and the third from bronze, by the gods Hephaestus and Athena.

The fourth temple, the first of the historical age and the earliest with archaeological evidence, was built from tuff by the architects Agamedes and Trophonios in the VIIth century BC and destroyed by a fire in 548 BC. Few traces have survived, offering little information about the original structure. Many cities and foreign rulers contributed to the construction of a new, larger building on these ruins.

A particularly important role was played by the Alcmaenonids, an aristocratic Athenian family exiled from the city by the tyrant Peisistratus. The marble and tuff statues of the pediments are attributed to the Athenian sculptor Antenor and depicted Apollo’s arrival at Delphi (east) and a gigantomachy (west), some of which have survived and are displayed in the Museum. This temple was destroyed by an earthquake in 373 BC.

The last temple was financed by a new fund established by the Amphictyony and built by the architects Spintharos, Xenodoros, and Agathon. It was completed in 327 BC, following an interruption of ten years due to the sacred war against the Phocians. The costs of the work were inscribed on the stone, making it a unique document of a great construction site of the period. The ruins visible today belong to this final temple.

© Photo credits by Alun Salt under CC-BY-2.0

The building retains the plan of the preceding temple, from which several elements were salvaged, including the columns, which were set in the new foundations. It is a classic example of a Doric hexastyle peripteral temple (6 x 15 columns) built from limestone and tuff, with stuccoed tuff columns resting on a mighty artificial substructure on which the crepidoma was set.

The temple was accessed by a ramp. The Parian marble sculptures of the pediments were the work of the Athenian sculptors Praxias and Androsthenes and once again depicted the epiphany of Apollo, Dionysus and the Maenads. The metopes of the frieze were adorned with the shields of the Persians defeated at Marathon and those of the Gauls captured following their attempted sack of the sanctuary in 279 BC (the traces of one of the shields are visible on a metope on the north side).

According to ancient sources, the architrave of the entrance to the sanctuary was carved with the maxims of the Seven Sages, including the famous ΓΝΩΘΙ ΣΕΑΥΤΟΝ (gnothi seauton): “know thyself”. The cella, peristasis, pronaos and opisthodomos housed works of art, giving the building the dual role of temple and museum, as was common in the greatest Greek sanctuaries.

The far end of the cella led to the most sacred part of the temple, the adyton, which consisted of an underground room divided into two smaller rooms, the oikos (waiting room) and the andron.

This was the centre of the oracle, where, the tripod on which the Pythian sat was located next to the omphalos – the stone symbolising the centre of the world – and above the Chasma Ghes, the “cleft in the Earth” that emanated the vapours that inebriated the prophetess, sending her into a trance. The oracle was consulted in this room.

Do you want to know more about Delphi and the history of Greece?

Check out our guidebook to Ancient Greece, with detailed history and Past & Present images of the Acropolis, the Parthenon, Delphi and all the greatest historical and archaeological sites of Ancient Greece.

2) Pace Yourself

Delphi is a lot bigger than you think it is and built on a steep hill. If you really want to see most of the site and enjoy the staggering vistas, budget 4 hours at least to see Delphi. I suppose you could run through it quickly and just see some parts but you wouldn’t have time to start mentally piecing all the ruins together. It’s hard to approach a large archaeological like Delphi, which contains almost no complete buildings, and immediately grasp the scale. It’s pretty rewarding to sit at different vantage points and imagine the ancient city.

Reconstruction of Upper Delphi

I was hoping that things would begin to cool in early September but it was still incredibly hot in Delphi. Since there is very little shade, try to go first thing in the morning or in the afternoon (3-8pm) like we did. Take breaks, wear a hat and drink lots of water.


In Greek and Roman Mythology, the Giants, also called Gigantes, were a race of great strength and aggression, though not necessarily of great size. They were known for the Gigantomachy (Gigantomachia), their battle with the Olympian gods for supremacy of the cosmos. Historically, the myth of the Gigantomachy (not to be confused with the Titanomachy) may reflect the "triumph" of the new imported gods of the invading Greek speaking peoples from the north (c. 2000 BCE) over the old gods of the existing peoples of the Greek peninsula. For the Greeks, the Gigantomachy represented a victory for order over chaos—the victory of the divine order and rationalism of the Olympian gods over the discord and excessive violence of the earth-born chthonic Giants. More specifically, for sixth and fifth century BCE Greeks, it represented a victory for civilization over barbarism.

Archaic and Classical representations show Gigantes as man-sized hoplites (heavily armed ancient Greek foot soldiers) fully human in form. According to Hesiod in his Theogony, the Giants were the offspring of Gaia (Earth), born from the blood that fell when Uranus (Sky) was castrated by his Titan son Cronus. Later representations (after c. 380 BCE) show Gigantes with snakes for legs. In later traditions, the Giants were often confused with other opponents of the Olympians, particularly the Titans, an earlier generation of large and powerful children of Gaia and Uranus.

In the Odyssey, Homer has Giants among the ancestors of the Phaiakians, a race of men encountered by Odysseus, Their ruler, Alcinous, compares the Giants to the Cyclopes, saying they are "near kin" to the gods. Homer compares them to the Laestrygonians, who "hurled. rocks huge as a man could lift." Surprisingly, however, Homer does not mention anything about the famous Gigantomachy.

Bacchylides portrays the giants as arrogant and victims of their own hubris. Pindar describes the Giants as excessively violent and provides some of the earliest details of the Gigantomachy. He says it took place on the plain of Phlegra (the ancient name for Pallene -modern Kassandra) and has the legendary seer Teiresias prophesying that the Giants would be killed by Heracles "beneath his rushing arrows." He tells us that Porphyrion, the king of the Giants is overcome by the bow of Apollo. These events are recalled in Euripedes play "Heracles." In the play, Heracles' son Ion has the chorus describe seeing a depiction of the Gigantomachy on the late sixth century BCE Temple of Apollo at Delphi, with Athena fighting the Giant Enceladus with her "gorgon shield", Zeus burning the Giant Mimas with his "mighty thunderbolt, blazing at both ends", and Dionysus killing an unnamed Giant with his "ivy staff". Apollonius of Rhodes describes how the sun god Helios takes up Hephaestus, exhausted from the fight in Phlegra, on his chariot.

Apollodorus provides the reason for the war between the giants and the Olympians. Although he mentions the theft of Helios' cattle, he suggests a mother's revenge as the actual motive for the war, saying that Gaia bore the Giants because of her anger over the Titans defeat and imprisonment.

The vanquished Giants were said to be buried under volcanoes and to be the cause of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. In his Metamorphoses, Ovid says from the blood of the Giants came a new race of beings in human form. According to Ovid, Earth [Gaia] did not want the Giants to perish without a trace, so "reeking with the copious blood of her gigantic sons", she gave life to the "steaming gore" of the blood soaked battleground. These new offspring, like their fathers the Giants, also hated the gods and possessed a bloodthirsty desire for "savage slaughter".

From the sixth century BCE onwards, the Gigantomachy was a popular and important theme in Greek art, with over six hundred representations cataloged.

4 AgimatFilipino Mythology

The Agimat, also known as the Anting-Anting, is probably one of the few mythological items you can own. The Agimat is a folk amulet from the Philippines that&rsquos said to bestow mystical powers upon its wearer, and its power is said to be renewed on Good Friday. The Agimat is said to have a multitude of powers, ranging from invisibility to the ability to survive in the wild for days on end to freedom from all pain and danger.

The Agimat is such a pervasive belief in some regions that people who own the amulet will often attempt to injure themselves on Good Friday in order to test out their newfound &ldquopowers.&rdquo Some, however, say that the Agimat isn&rsquot something that needs to be tested&mdashthe act of being a good person alone will save you so long as you hold it.

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