Peter Jones

Omphalocracy

Delphi: A History of the Center of the Ancient World

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Princeton University Press 422pp £19.95 order from our bookshop

Sibyls: Prophecy and Power in the Ancient World

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Overlook Duckworth 240pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

Anyone who has visited Delphi, the ‘navel’ (omphalos in Greek) of the ancient world, will be aware of the numinous quality of its dramatically mountainous surroundings. Until the late 19th century, however, what is now a much-excavated site was in fact the village of Castri, and distinctly lacking in numen, or divinity. From Cyriac of Ancona in 1436 to the first excavators in 1892, just over two hundred people were recorded as having gone there. In July 1936 alone there were 165 visitors, in July 1990 77,900, and now there are over two million a year.

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