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Delphi: A History of the Center of the Ancient World (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – 25. Februar 2014

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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"

"[T]here is much to commend in this new history, which deserves to be widely read."--Hugh Bowden, "Anglo-Hellenic 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] 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"

One of "Choice"'s Outstanding Academic Titles for 2014
Shortlisted for the 2015 Runciman Award, Anglo-Hellenic League

"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"


"Like the two eagles released by Zeus from opposite ends of the world who then met in Delphi, Michael Scott gets to the heart of antiquity's most celebrated and enigmatic oracle. A vivid and lucid study that reanimates the mentality of those who consulted Apollo more convincingly than any other I have read."--Tom Holland, author of "Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West"

"Learned and elegant, Michael Scott's "Delphi" offers an in-the-round study of the heart of ancient Greece, a focus of religion, art, athletics, intrigue, and treasure so potent that it still gives us an adjective for enigmatic--'Delphic.' Scott's irresistible narrative brings it all back to life."--Barry Strauss, author of "Masters of Command: Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, and the Genius of Leadership"

"Few scholars know the history of ancient Delphi as intimately as Michael Scott does. Apollo's injunction to 'know yourself' is as hard to obey now as it was in ancient times, but readers seeking enlightenment will surely be encouraged to learn that the unsettling Delphic effect is good for them. On a more earthly plane, they will find Scott's expert guidance to the site and its museum invaluable."--Paul Cartledge, author of "After Thermopylae: The Oath of Plataea and the End of the Graeco-Persian Wars"

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Amazon.com: 3.9 von 5 Sternen 23 Rezensionen
32 von 38 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen This is a textbook supplement; presupposes a lot of historical and archaelogical knowledge 28. April 2014
Von Kochava - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
My theory: this book is a doctoral thesis. The topic is interesting, the facts are detailed and fascinating, but the text presupposes a high level of knowledge and is written in pretty dense prose. It's a slog, but I found the details and ideas presented interesting enough to keep chipping away at it. Despite having 422 pages, the text is actually 290 pages. That's how extensive the notes and index are, plus a brief textual "guided tour" of the site. But it felt like reading a book of 422 pages.

The biggest problem is that the text assumes a great deal of knowledge from the reader in Greek (Roman, etc) history and archaeology. Many Greek and Latin terms are given without translation, and major historical figures (to someone familiar with the era) are given no introduction or context. Even technical terms like the archaic and classical periods for Delphi are thrown around without any explanation as to when those periods are or why there is a distinction between them. This is a major failing in the text, in my opinion. Terms are art have specific definitions for a reason, and I completely miss that reason.

Other major beef: pictures and portrayals are not dated or contextualized. I also wish the pictures had been more big-picture than details. There are some watercolors of what Delphi might have looked like, but they're hard to imagine. Also, some major topics of discussion have no portrayal at all, such as a view from the Athena temple that is the "popular tourist vision" of Delphi. But I have no idea what that picture is. This left me annoyed.

My guess is that the central thesis of this project is looking at the dedications (statues, inscriptions, etc) placed around Delphi's religious structures and how those dedications show an attempt to re-cast history by the person/group who dedicated it. The discussions of how groups used statues to effectively re-write history is fascinating, but it's also incredibly detail-oriented about who purchased what, where the materials came from, inscription text, etc. That's the main slog. Similarly, I found the historical context to be very shallow, only enough to justify the author's theory about a particular dedication. I would have liked a more reader-friendly general view of Delphi. This is a textbook supplement, not something you're going to curl up with at the fireplace. However, hardcore nerds and history buffs can probably get through the minutiae, especially if you have some background in Greek history.

I hope the author attempts this subject again with a more "pop culture" version because occasionally, the author's personality comes through with really great turns of phrase and a really nuanced perspective. But his voice is usually buried underneath wordy, convoluted academic-speak. Main exception: the chapter about the modern re-discovery of Delphi, which I found really enjoyable.
39 von 47 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
2.0 von 5 Sternen Delphi for Dummies 12. April 2014
Von Diotima - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
"Delphi" (2014) adds to the author's previous book "Delphi and Olympia" (2010) which started off as the author's PhD. Presumably there was a supervisor to keep that work focused and then - prior to publication - an editor or proof-reader.

There are some phrases in "Delphi" which an editor really ought to have eliminated, such as "playing hardball" (p 85), "bitten the bullet" (p 105) and "dodge the bullet" (p 145), and the novel "short window of time" (p 164). The cliché "catch-22" (p 242) is (mis)used with reference to Delphi when "hedging its bets" (p 165) might have been better reused.

The Siphnians are tautologically described as being a "get-rich-quick, nouveau riche island community" (p 106) ... "ushering in an era of building über-rich [sic] treasury structures" (p 108).

The author refers to "the apogee of Aetolian dominance at Delphi" (p 178) when he probably meant "zenith" - i.e. the highest point rather than the most distant.

The author calls the present-day sacred way "an anathema because this zigzag path dates only to the very last phases of Delphi's ancient life..." (p 293). An anachronism perhaps, but hardly "an anathema".

It's the small mistakes which are significant because they may be symptoms of great errors less apparent.

The author refers to "the Egyptian god Isis" (p 1) who was, of course, a goddess.

Plate 4 is a reproduction of "The Priestess at Delphi". The caption is copied directly from the website of the Art Gallery of South Australia. But the author describes the location, wrongly, as the "Art Gallery of Southern Australia".

According to the author (p 107), "In the frieze, at the north of the [Siphnian] building alongside which visitors would most often pass, they copied the new [Apollo] temple's pedimental sculpture and carved a Gigantomachy scene in exquisite relief...". Well, not exactly: although the Gigantomachy was on the north façade of the building, the Siphnian pedimental sculptures were above the entrance on the west side. (See "Delphi and Olympia" p 64, Fig. 3.8 and "Delphi" Figure 5.2.)

The author's "favorite" section of the Gigantomachy is that of "the lion sinking his teeth into the fighters." (p 298). Actually, there are two lions yoked together - one salient (which is badly damaged) and the other rampant guardant - which draw the chariot of the goddess Themis. They both attack just the one giant.

The author gushes over "The Delphi charioteer... resplendent as he is in bronze, silver, and precious metals..." (p 123) and advises "Notice also the rich and expensive detailing of the charioteer's face: the inlaid teeth, eyes, and eyelashes, all in expensive and precious materials." (p 300). But it's difficult to see "the inlaid teeth" because the statue's mouth is as good as closed! Perhaps the author was thinking of the Riace warrior (A) bronze statue which does have its mouth open and which John Boardman in his "Greek Sculpture: The Classical Period" (p 64 Fig 38) confirms has "copper on lips and nipples, silver on teeth, eyes inlaid." As for the charioteer, Boardman writes (p 60 Fig 34): "The eyes were inlaid with glass and stone, silver for the head-band pattern, copper on the lips." There is no mention of "inlaid teeth"!

According to the author (p 120), supposedly following Herodotus, there was "a giant statue of Apollo six meters high, a trireme in his hand, placed on the temple terrace directly facing the great Chian altar and temple front." But Herodotus (8.121) actually says that the Greeks "made a man's image twelve cubits high, holding in his hand the figure-head of a ship". So it was just "the figure-head of a ship" not a complete trireme. (See also the description by Parke and Wormell (Vol. I p 176): "For Salamis a bronze statue thrice life size with the figurehead of a ship in its hand was dedicated.")

This is probably good enough for an undergraduate doing Ancient History 101 but one does expect something less slovenly from a person with a PhD.

I bought the book from The Book Depository in the UK.

Had I previously encountered the author's "From Democrats to Kings" (2009) I would never have contemplated buying "Delphi".


"Great Moments in Greek Archaeology" (ISBN 978-0892369102) published by The J. Paul Getty Museum (2007) for an authoritative description of "Delphi: The excavation of the great oracular centre" (pp 134-157).

"Games and Sanctuaries in Ancient Greece: Olympia, Delphi, Isthmia, Nemea, Athens" by Panos Valavanis (ISBN 978-0892367627) published by The J. Paul Getty Museum (2004) with its superb photographs, maps, historic plans and elevations (mostly in colour). Now reduced in price from $45.00 to around $25.00.

"The Delphic Oracle" (1956) by Herbert William Parke and Donald E W Wormell which is in two volumes: Volume I gives "The History"; Volume II gives "The Oracular Responses" (in Greek but not in translation). It is not available as a paperback reprint.
22 von 26 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen It's a gas 10. Mai 2014
Von j a haverstick - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
So many of the ancients said. The priestess sits above a cleft in the rock and delivers her prognostications under the influence of vapors seeping from below. Then again, maybe not, since excavations of the late 19th cent showed no such formation. I always wondered, anyway, how anyone would remain coherent or even functioning adequately on a 24 hour bender! Though, as Scott remarks, the store was only open a few days a year. (Ps, Peter Green's excellent review in July's LRB takes the ancient sources as correct.)

Scott delivers a history of Delphi's life from the end of the Greek dark ages to the late Romans and the part it has played in our own imaginations. He is completely versed in the classical and Roman sources. I spent a day there with my wife six or seven years ago. What with the roads, sidewalks and tour busses, I didn't find the local geography as stunning as Scott's practiced eye does. The remains, however, are as evocative as the Acropolis.I picked up the excellent and wonderfully illustrated guide published by the Greek government (Photios Petsas, "Delphi, Monuments and Museum"- available from Amazon for about $12. I agree with the reviewer who remarked that the illustrations in Scott's book are not totally helpful. With Scott's book, it's all you'll ever need). It's true that an aquantance with ancient history is necessary to read the book easily. In fact, if you don't have it, skip this book. But if you have that and are at least a neophyte Greekfreak or aging classics major like me, you'll want this book. For me, a 71 yr-old classics student and sometime teacher on the subject, it served as a focal point to review the whole of ancient history. That was the great value of the book for me. It makes you think on not only the site, but the whole of Greek history. Kind of a Cliff Notes on ancient history with a focus one vary important aspect. So I got a detailed history Delphi plus a review.

It's in the contemporary mode, you might say. It 'deconstructs' Delphi by telling us (not only) the "facts", the archeology and the ancient accounts, but the part or role the site has played in the minds and sensibilities of folks through the centuries. It is a good reminder that buildings and monuments ( I thought here of the recent discussion of the "meaning" of the Parthenon friezes) whether Delphi, the Washington monument or an old Quaker meeting house are more than piles of limestone and marble bearing their own meanings. What they are depends a lot on who we are.
3 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen a good factual introduction 16. August 2014
Von parmenides - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
This is a book about Delphi aimed at laymen with a good (albeit elementary) knowledge of the history of antiquity. Its good features:

1) it is a complete journey cause it starts from foundation through archaic, classical, hellenistic, greco-roman and finally christian times

2) it ends with a discussion of how the site was excavated; some nice details there for that

3) it contains lots of factual information for laymen who want to enlarge/complete their Delphi knowledge


1) the text is very elementary when it comes to analysis: for example, it mentions Hadrian, Marcus Aurelios and, in general, the
Antonine emperors and how they supported Delphi. But what is missing is the very essential discussion; why did they do it, how
Rome became hellenized and the tip of this hellenization was the tip of its glory; how Delphi's evolution was in accord
with the cultural evolution of the empire; the downfall of Rome through its easternization and the fall of the greco-roman civillization and how and why these reflect on the fortunes of Delphi and so on; there is factual information but little in terms of analysis; as such it is a very introductory text

2) similarly one could grab Heraclitus saying: "the oracle does not reveal or confuse but INDICATES" in order to discuss how
this function agrees with the general hellenic and western attitude of realism as opposed to supernatural revelation.

3) even as an introductory text it has a very important flaw (that makes me wanting to ...withdraw it and republish with
this information in): WHERE ARE the delphic maxims? I cannot imagine how after all this hard work from Mr Scott in preparing this large book, there is not an appendix with ALL the delphic maxims; if you cannot offer this to your readership,
what is the point of writting a book about Delphi I wonder!

So overall, Mr Scott has done a reasonably good job introducing Delphi to persons with knowledge of antiquity who want some specialized
factual knowledge; but for those who want to understand not just the bones and flesh but also the soul of the Oracle and its organic relation to cultural dynamics and the western outlook this book falls short and cannot help them much.

So 5 stars for introduction, 4 stars for in depth knowledge. I wonder however, if there are scholars capable of writing a
5 star book about Delphi within present academia. In conclusion, the book offers a nice overview of Delphi history.
2 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Lots of information in a VERY badly-edited book. 12. Dezember 2014
Von M.E.Anderson - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
The author is a professor and this is published by Princeton! I think the information was good and useful, though it was written in a very sludgy way that required great focus to get through.

Princeton needs a better editor than whoever edited this! The grammar is so annoying that I actually stopped reading it and decided just to keep it for reference. For instance, the editor, who needs to learn how to diagram sentences as we did in the past, didn't seem to know that a dependent clause at the beginning of a sentence must be followed by a main subject that agrees with the subject of the clause. This and other very elementary grammar errors were to be found on practically every other page of the book. PRINCETON! I trusted you! I suppose one could also argue that the author himself should know better, but unfortunately it is possible to become a respected specialist in these times without knowing how to write correctly. Sigh.
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