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Delphi

A History of the Center of the Ancient World

Michael Scott

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Princeton University Press
04 January 2016
The oracle and sanctuary of the Greek god Apollo at Delphi were known as the omphalos --the center or navel --of the ancient world for more than 1000 years. Individuals, city leaders, and kings came from all over the Mediterranean and beyond to consult Delphi's oracular priestess; to set up monuments to the gods; and to take part in competition
By:   Michael Scott
Imprint:   Princeton University Press
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 216mm,  Width: 140mm,  Spine: 28mm
Weight:   482g
ISBN:   9780691169842
ISBN 10:   0691169845
Pages:   440
Publication Date:   04 January 2016
Audience:   General/trade ,  College/higher education ,  ELT Advanced ,  Primary
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Michael Scott is associate professor of classics and ancient history at the University of Warwick. He has written and presented a number of ancient history documentaries for National Geographic, the History channel, Nova, and the BBC, including one on Delphi. For more information, go to .

Reviews for Delphi: A History of the Center of the Ancient World

Engaging. . . . What elevates this book above standard scholarly accounts is its holistic view and its concern with why the oracle has had such influence not only in the ancient past but also in the modern period. --Sara Forsdyke, Common Knowledge [This book] is an excellent 'biography' of the Delphi and should be read by those who are interested in understanding the site's historical context. --Renee M. Gondek, Religious Studies Review A reliable, well-informed, and highly readable account based on the author's considerable knowledge of the site and the archaeological campaigns that have brought it back into the light. . . . [A] fine and lucid book. --Craige B. Champion, The Historian Well written and enjoyable to read. . . . A brief guide for those touring the site and its surroundings in the appendix makes this book a knowledgeable travel companion for all those visiting Delphi for the first time. --Julia Kindt, European Review of History [A] thoroughly researched, highly readable, insightful, enjoyable, and comprehensive tour of one of the ancient world's most fascinating sites. --Guy Maclean Rogers, American Historical Review [T]here is much to commend in this new history, which deserves to be widely read. --Hugh Bowden, Anglo-Hellenic Review Scott's erudition is balanced by a lively style, making for a thoroughly readable work. Copies endnotes, bibliography, and illustrations (including eight in color) accompany the text, as does a brief guide to the site's museum. --Choice [A] comprehensive and sympathetic history. . . . Scott puts it beautifully: both as an idea and an historical conundrum, Delphi ensures we keep the ground 'insecure' beneath our feet. --Bettany Hughes, BBC History Magazine Excellent. . . . The more important question for [Scott] is not how the oracle functioned, but why it endured as an institution for over a thousand years. For the scholar who wants to see the full range of evidence and possible interpretations--a rounded view--this approach is particularly useful. --Daisy Dunn, History Today This is an engaging tribute to a site that enjoined its visitors to know themselves--a demand that, in turn, requires us to know the Greeks. --Alex Clapp, Ekathimerini The oracle is not the main concern of this fine, scholarly book. Although you can hardly write about Delphi without writing about the Pythia, Scott's interest is much more in the site itself, the way it developed from a couple of buildings on a mountainside into the elaborate sanctuary of the classical period and beyond. . . . Because Delphi was the focus of so much ancient attention, this rich but remote archaeological site gives us a keyhole view of the history of the ancient world as a whole, as cities are founded and proclaim their existence to the international community; as cities fall and find their monuments encroached on, buried or pecked at by prophetic crows; as dedications to commemorate victories over foreigners at Salamis give way to trophies of victories over other Greeks; as the Spartans inscribe their name on a gift of Croesus and hope no one will notice. --James Davidson, The Guardian I don't think there can be much about Delphi's history that Dr. Scott has missed out on in this book. I needn't have worried that only one book on the subject wouldn't be enough to give me enough information for my visit. I wanted the definitive book and as far as I'm concerned I picked the right one. --Tales from A Tour Guide The story is told clearly and engagingly. --Peter Jones, Literary Review A traveler on a typical ten-hour flight to Greece from the United States will find this book to be a valuable and entertaining companion. --About.com Greece Travel Tells you everything there is to know about Delphi. --Sam Leith, Spectator Scott's passion and expertise are readily apparent. . . . An enjoyable resource for scholars and students. Additionally, prospective visitors to the modern site of Delphi will be interested in Scott's brief guide, which is included at the back of the book. --Publishers Weekly Judicious, measured and thorough . . . Mr. Scott, like Pausanias before him, is a handy companion to what remains--and what we can only wish was still to be seen. --Brendan Boyle, Wall Street Journal [O]f absorbing interest. . . . I doubt whether there's a single archaeological report or relevant inscription, however obscure, that has escaped his notice, and no other scholar known to me keeps one so constantly conscious of the realities . . . that leave him with the nagging question: 'What motivated the continuation of settlement in this otherwise rather difficult physical habitat clinging to the mountainside?'. . . [Scott's] final chapters give the fullest and most vivid general account of Delphi's slow excavation over the past century that I've seen. . . . Scott's narrative never falters. --Peter Green, London Review of Books [D]eftly combines literary and material evidence. . . . Overall, Scott offers a broad and well-documented history of the Delphic oracle, including an (excellent) epilogue on how the site was rediscovered at the end of the 19th century. --Barbara Graziosi, Times Higher Education One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2014Shortlisted for the 2015 Runciman Award, Anglo-Hellenic League One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2014 Shortlisted for the 2015 Runciman Award, Anglo-Hellenic League [D]eftly combines literary and material evidence... Overall, Scott offers a broad and well-documented history of the Delphic oracle, including an (excellent) epilogue on how the site was rediscovered at the end of the 19th century. --Barbara Graziosi, Times Higher Education [O]f absorbing interest... I doubt whether there's a single archaeological report or relevant inscription, however obscure, that has escaped his notice, and no other scholar known to me keeps one so constantly conscious of the realities ... that leave him with the nagging question: 'What motivated the continuation of settlement in this otherwise rather difficult physical habitat clinging to the mountainside?'... [Scott's] final chapters give the fullest and most vivid general account of Delphi's slow excavation over the past century that I've seen... Scott's narrative never falters. --Peter Green, London Review of Books Judicious, measured and thorough ... Mr. Scott, like Pausanias before him, is a handy companion to what remains--and what we can only wish was still to be seen. --Brendan Boyle, Wall Street Journal Scott's passion and expertise are readily apparent... An enjoyable resource for scholars and students. Additionally, prospective visitors to the modern site of Delphi will be interested in Scott's brief guide, which is included at the back of the book. --Publishers Weekly Tells you everything there is to know about Delphi. --Sam Leith, Spectator A traveler on a typical ten-hour flight to Greece from the United States will find this book to be a valuable and entertaining companion. --About.com Greece Travel The story is told clearly and engagingly. --Peter Jones, Literary Review I don't think there can be much about Delphi's history that Dr. Scott has missed out on in this book. I needn't have worried that only one book on the subject wouldn't be enough to give me enough information for my visit. I wanted the definitive book and as far as I'm concerned I picked the right one. --Tales from A Tour Guide The oracle is not the main concern of this fine, scholarly book. Although you can hardly write about Delphi without writing about the Pythia, Scott's interest is much more in the site itself, the way it developed from a couple of buildings on a mountainside into the elaborate sanctuary of the classical period and beyond... Because Delphi was the focus of so much ancient attention, this rich but remote archaeological site gives us a keyhole view of the history of the ancient world as a whole, as cities are founded and proclaim their existence to the international community; as cities fall and find their monuments encroached on, buried or pecked at by prophetic crows; as dedications to commemorate victories over foreigners at Salamis give way to trophies of victories over other Greeks; as the Spartans inscribe their name on a gift of Croesus and hope no one will notice. --James Davidson, The Guardian This is an engaging tribute to a site that enjoined its visitors to know themselves--a demand that, in turn, requires us to know the Greeks. --Alex Clapp, Ekathimerini Excellent... The more important question for [Scott] is not how the oracle functioned, but why it endured as an institution for over a thousand years. For the scholar who wants to see the full range of evidence and possible interpretations--a rounded view--this approach is particularly useful. --Daisy Dunn, History Today [A] comprehensive and sympathetic history... Scott puts it beautifully: both as an idea and an historical conundrum, Delphi ensures we keep the ground 'insecure' beneath our feet. --Bettany Hughes, BBC History Magazine Scott's erudition is balanced by a lively style, making for a thoroughly readable work. Copies endnotes, bibliography, and illustrations (including eight in color) accompany the text, as does a brief guide to the site's museum. --Choice [T]here is much to commend in this new history, which deserves to be widely read. --Hugh Bowden, Anglo-Hellenic Review [A] thoroughly researched, highly readable, insightful, enjoyable, and comprehensive tour of one of the ancient world's most fascinating sites. --Guy Maclean Rogers, American Historical Review Well written and enjoyable to read... A brief guide for those touring the site and its surroundings in the appendix makes this book a knowledgeable travel companion for all those visiting Delphi for the first time. --Julia Kindt, European Review of History A reliable, well-informed, and highly readable account based on the author's considerable knowledge of the site and the archaeological campaigns that have brought it back into the light... [A] fine and lucid book. --Craige B. Champion, The Historian


  • Commended for Choice Magazine Outstanding Reference/Academic Book Award 2014.
  • Short-listed for Choice 's Outstanding Academic Titles 2014
  • Short-listed for Choice Magazine Outstanding Reference/Academic Book Award 2014
  • Short-listed for Runciman Award 2015
  • Short-listed for Runciman Award, Anglo-Hellenic League 2015
  • Shortlisted for Choice Magazine Outstanding Reference/Academic Book Award 2014.
  • Shortlisted for Runciman Award 2015.

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