Sunday, March 24, 2013


Dated to 590-580 BC, this is actually the most ancient Greek hippodrome, and it is second in importance after the –today lost- hippodrome at ancient Olympia. It is at Delphi that have competed with their chariots prominent political leaders, such as Kleisthenis, tyrant of Sikyon, and the tyrant of Syracuse, Hieron. Also, renowned Charioteer, the bronze statue in the Delphi Museum, has most probably taken part and was victorious in the chariot race during the 474 BC Pythian Games.

The Delphi hippodrome, a monument sought by archaeologists for over two centuries, was revealed just a year ago by Professor of Classical Archaeology Panos Valavanis. The Professor gave a talk about this extremely important find last Thursday, at the Athens University, facing a big audience.

“ ‘Gonia’, the site suggested for the Delphi hippodrome, at the west end of the olive grove, nearly 1.5 km northeastern of Itea, running parallel and being adjacent to the Kefali mountain range, between the Aghioi Anargyroi and Gla hills, satisfies every physical precondition for a hippodrome and agrees with the data offered by ancient sources. Besides, this site belongs to the sacred land of Delphi and it is in immediate contact with the Sanctuary, a most important point for the symbolic association of the distant athletic installation to the worship center of the Sanctuary”, said Prof. Valavanis.

“Back in 2005, in a book whose title was “The archaeological sites of Parnassis”, I happened to read an article by civil engineer Nikos Arapopoulos on the Itea antiquities. It is in there I found a rather hesitant mention of the possibility that the ancient hippodrome at Delphi could be located at the “Gonia” site. This was the starting point of my research. The author told me that he had copied this information from an older book on Itea’s history, written by the obstetrician gynecologist Demetrios Kolovos, whom I was then unable to contact. I abandoned the hippodrome question and the pursuit of the initial source of information”, Professor Valavanis stated.

The pursuit “revived” almost a year ago, in April 2012, as he was climbing the Aghioi Anargyroi hill, north of Itea’s cemetery. He then came in view of “Gonia”, a flat area surrounded by the Kefali mountain grange and the two hills of Aghioi Anargyroi and Gla. Prof. Valavanis pointed that both sites, which rise and dominate the field, bear traces of prehistoric installation.

Carrying on with his lecture, Prof. Valavanis took his audience by surprise when he revealed the name of the person who first located the new site of the till now unidentified monument. “Five days ago, having already finished my paper, after many unsuccessful tries I get at last Mr Kolovos on the phone. The 85 years old physician told me that the idea of placing the hippodrome at the “Gonia” site as mentioned in his book comes from “Amfissa’s History”, a book by journalist and printer Theocharis Melissaris, originating in Amfissa himself. The book was written in 1923. Disposing of such an archaeological piece of information that gets copied and survives for almost a hundred years in books written by history researchers while it is not taken to advantage by archeologists, it is strange indeed”, he stressed.


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