I visited the Sanctuary of Delphi from Assassin’s Creed Odyssey in real life and felt like I had been there before


I have just returned from a two week vacation in Greece, a beautiful sunny land of gods and mythical heroes. However, I did not follow in the footsteps of these legends, having spent most of the trip sweating uncontrollably from eating gyros. But I did find time to soak up some history between bites of pork and tsatziki-stuffed pita, including a visit to the famous sanctuary of Delphi.

If you are an Assassin’s Creed Odyssey fan, you know this place very well. Considered the center of the world by the ancient Greeks, this sacred enclosure located on the slopes of Mount Parnassus housed the Pythia, a divine oracle. It is one of the most popular archaeological sites in Greece, and I had the chance to visit it twice; first with a guide, then explore at leisure.


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Immediately, I felt like I had been there before. Having spent a lot of time in Odyssey’s recreation of Delphi in its heyday, it was striking how familiar it all felt. Ubisoft’s army of artists have done an amazing job capturing the geography, terrain, and distinctive atmosphere of the actual location. Admittedly, I’m a little ashamed that my first thought upon entering this incredible and historically significant place was “it’s like a video game I once played”, but I couldn’t get rid of that feeling. . It only got stronger as I wandered the slopes, weaving between the ruins, running my hands over the smooth marble, and getting away from the creepy Mediterranean bugs that were flying straight towards my face. Not very heroic, I know.

I also took lots of photos and then used Odyssey’s in-game photo mode to recreate them. First, this beautiful view of the sanctuary from above. You can see the famous theater in the foreground – overlooking the great Temple of Apollo – where the ancient Greeks gathered to attend plays, poetry readings and philosophical lectures. The game’s distant landscape is much more rugged and jagged than the rolling foothills of the actual location, but otherwise the view is remarkably similar.

Here is an overview of the theater from the ground floor. Carved into the side of a mountain, with seats made from local limestone, it could accommodate an audience of around 5,000 people at the time. They still put plays, concerts and other events there, which would have been cool to see. Alas, I only encountered hordes of slow-moving, wet-fronted tourists. The theater was remodeled by the Romans, which is why the performance of the play is slightly different from it.

It is one of the most emblematic buildings of Delphi: the Athenian Treasury. In the glory days of the sanctuary, this thing would have been stuffed with all sorts of expensive and luxurious treasures offered to Apollo. It was also used to store loot from successful battles, including the Battle of Marathon. It is one of the few buildings still standing on the site today. Odyssey’s recreation gives you a good idea of ​​what it would have looked like before it was ravaged by time.

Here is an overview of the remains of the metopes that adorn the treasury. These stone squares represent the adventures of Hercules and Theseus. They were found scattered around the site when Delphi was excavated, and there is some debate as to the order in which they were meant to be. Odyssey restores them to their former glory and also gives you an idea of ​​the color of these buildings. Even if I to know ancient Greek statues have been painted (which Odyssey accurately depicts), I still see them as white and pristine in my stubborn mind’s eye.

Another view of the Athenian Treasury, from behind this time. This gives you an idea of ​​just how dramatic the landscape around Delphi is: though the game fails to capture the staggering scale and beauty of the actual location. You can totally understand why the ancient Greeks thought this part of the world was sacred. This is one area where it becomes apparent that Odyssey’s depiction of Greece, fantastic as it is, has been significantly condensed and scaled down to fit into a video game.

The Temple of Apollo is the most famous building in Delphi. It was in its heyday, and it still is today thanks to these iconic columns. This is the first thing you notice when approaching the sanctuary from afar, and seeing them immediately brings you back to classical Greece. Not much remains of the temple today aside from its foundations, but in Odyssey you get a startling glimpse of what the structure might have looked like when the Pythia still plied her trade.

The Charioteer of Delphi is one of the most important archaeological finds at the site – and a star attraction at the Delphi Museum. This ancient bronze sculpture depicts a victorious chariot racer and was unearthed in 1896. The real thing has an eerie, haunting beauty, which Odyssey’s recreation doesn’t quite capture. He looks a bit clunky in-game, unfortunately. Still, it’s nice to see the statue in situ near the Temple of Apollo, with its long-extinct horses still intact, gilded and glorious.

This coiled bronze column was built to commemorate the Greek defeat of the Persian Empire in the Battle of Plataea. It was originally located in Delphi, but was moved to Constantinople by Constantine the Great. The column on display at Delphi today is a replica, although the original stone plinth still exists. This object has a long, fascinating, and complicated history that spans over 2,500 years, and Odyssey lets you see it in its original form, topped with three serpent heads.

The entrance to the Temple of Apollo and the most photographed spot in Delphi. Every second of the day, someone stands in front of him and poses for a photo. I tried to get one straight for the article, but there was never a hole in the endless sea of ​​tourists. Still, it gives you a good idea of ​​what those remaining columns would have looked like when they still had a building to support. I wonder why they reduced the stone ramp in the game though.

If you didn’t know this rock had historical significance, you could easily walk right by it. But this unassuming outcrop is arguably one of the most mythologically significant places in the sanctuary. It is claimed that this is where Sibyl, the first oracle, received her powers from Gaia, the Earth Goddess. Odyssey’s depiction of the rock isn’t entirely accurate, but I appreciate its inclusion nonetheless. Glad my guide pointed it out. Otherwise, I would have unknowingly walked past.

This is the Stoa of the Athenians, a structure called a portico located near the Temple of Apollo. In Odyssey, it’s littered with shields, weapons, and ship’s heads, reflecting its real purpose as a place to store and display the spoils of war. They were offerings to Apollo, but also a way for the Athenians to show everyone how good they were at winning battles. Such parades. It once had a wooden roof, but all that remains standing today are these ruined remains.

And finally, here is the famous Sphinx of Naxos. Today it is in the museum at Delphi (where I took my picture) but it once stood on a 41ft column in the sanctuary itself, which is where it is in Odyssey . The sphinx was created by the islanders of Naxos, one of the richest islands in the ancient Greek world. They offered it to the shrine and received special access to the Pythia as a reward. Money and influence got you a long way back then. Some things never change.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (and the series in general) gets a lot of details wrong and takes artistic license with gleeful abandon. But even so, it’s unbeatable for making you feel like you’re stepping back into history. Being familiar with the in-game depiction of Delphi definitely enhanced my experience of visiting the actual location. Playing it implanted a strong, vivid image of what the shrine might have looked like in my brain, which filled in the blanks between the ruins. The feeling of having been there before was palpable with every step I took, and I did not see the faded remains of Delphi: I saw the square.

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