The ancient Greek city of Delphi is located in the Phocis Valley on the southwestern slope of Mount Parnassus. According to legend, the god Apollo killed the serpent Python, who pursued his mother and guarded the entrance to the oracle's sanctuary.
In addition, Delphi was the so-called navel of the Earth. Another legend tells that Zeus sent two eagles to search for the center of the Earth, one flew to the west and the other to the east. They met in Delphi, on this place they put an omphalus - a conical stone, which also marked the entrance to the temple of Apollo.
It was in this sanctuary that the Pythia lived - a priestess famous for her predictions. Before starting to predict, she bathed in the Kastalsky spring, put on golden-woven clothes, chewed laurel leaves and sat on a tripod, where visions visited her. According to legend, the predictions were associated with fumes rising from a rocky crevice.
There are many versions of what these gases were. Often reference is made to the records of Plutarch, who for several years was the Delphic High Priest. According to his stories, the fortuneteller drew inspiration from the hot steam rising from a source flowing under the temple building.
In 1892, excavations by French scientists began in Delphi. Oddly enough, they did not find a crevice under the Temple of Apollo and did not find ways for the penetration of vapors. However, modern researchers have found two deep faults under the sanctuary, which fully confirms the legend. Among other things, de Beer's expedition discovered deposits of limestone tuff containing bubbles of ethane and methane, which have a weak narcotic effect. These gases are still gradually emitted near the source, but in ancient times they could be immersed in a trance in large quantities.
The predictions were last recorded in AD 393. after which the Christian Roman emperor Theodosius I ordered the closure of all pagan sanctuaries.
In addition to the predictions, Delphi became famous for the Pythian Games, which were held every four years, it was the second most important competition after the Olympic ones. They began to be held in honor of the patron saint of the arts - the god of beauty and sunlight, Apollo, who defeated Python. Competitions included athletic and artistic competitions.