Delphi was a town of ancient Greece, site of a renowned oracle of the god Apollo, situated on the slope of Mount Parnassus, in Phocis (now Fokís Department), about 9.5 km (about 6 mi) inland from the Gulf of Corinth. Considered by the ancient Greeks to be the center of the earth, Delphi was once the site of an oracle of the earth goddess Gaea. According to mythology, Apollo defeated the monstrous serpent Python, which guarded Gaea, and expelled her from the shelter, which he then shared with the god Dionysus. The Delphic priests developed a complex ritual, centered on a chief priestess called Pythia. Her utterances were regarded as the words of Apollo, and private citizens and public officials alike consulted the oracle. The Sacred Way to the temple was lined with structures housing rich offerings given by Greek cities.
The town of Delphi was at first a dependency of the Phocian city of Crisa. Phocis later joined the Amphictyonic League, which was formed to defend the temple to Apollo and which supported the Pythian Games near Delphi. When Phocis levied tribute on pilgrims to the oracle, the league destroyed Crisa in the first of the Sacred Wars, which were from 595 to 586 B. C. In 480 BC a Persian attack on Delphi failed because of an earthquake, attributed to Apollo. In the second Sacred War, which was at 448 BC, Athens assisted Phocis in regaining control of Delphi, which it had lost in the first war. The Phocians were defeated in 346 B. C. by King Philip II of Macedonia in the third Sacred War. By the end of the century the Aetolian League controlled Delphi. The wealth of the town made it a frequent target for attack, including a raid by Gauls in 279 B. C. After the Roman conquest of Greece, and especially after the spread of Christianity, Delphi declined. The Romans, notably by the Emperor Nero, confiscated much of its art and treasure. The oracle, however, continued until A. D. 390.
The village of Kastrí eventually occupied the site of the town. In 1891 Kastrí was relocated and renamed Dhírfis (Delphi), and in 1892 excavation of the site began. Discoveries include temples, the Great Altar, the stadium and theater, the ancient town wall, and the treasury building, the walls of which are inscribed with famous musically notated hymns to Apollo. The site contains more than 4000 inscriptions, valued for modern knowledge of ancient Greece.