Bronze cauldron and tripod

Geometric tripod with integrated cauldron (reconstruction).
Bottom: Bronze ring - shaped handle with spirals
© Ephorate of Antiquities of Phocis, Ministry of Culture and Sports

Tripods were very special objects for the cult of Apollo, related to the prophetic powers of Pythia. Divination was possible only when the Pythia was seated on the sacred tripod, which supposedly connected her to the powers of the underworld. Thus, possession of the tripod corresponded to the control over the oracle itself. 

According to the myth, Hercules went to the oracle of Delphi in order to ask how he could be expiated from the murder of Iphitos.  The oracle did not want to give him an omen, which fuelled the rage of the hero who then grabbed the tripod. A fight ensued between Hercules and Apollo which ended with the intervention of Zeus. Ancient Greek vase painters were particularly fond of this myth, which was also depicted on the eastern pediment of the Treasury of the Siphnians. 

In Homer's poetry there are frequent mentions of tripods. They appear to be precious gifts for  the guests, as in the case of the Phaeacians, who offered a cauldron and a tripod to Odysseus. 

Our guest has already packed up the clothes, wrought gold, and other valuables which you have brought for his acceptance; 
let us now, therefore, present him further, each one of us, with a large tripod and a cauldron. We will recoup ourselves by the levy of a general rate; for private individuals cannot be expected to bear the burden of such a handsome present.
                                                                   Odyssey, 13.10-15 [tr. S. Butler]

At the end of the Geometric period an innovation was introduced: the tripods were detached from the large bronze cauldrons, which were subsequently placed on them.  A distinctive specimen of an intact tripod is displayed in the Museum: on a fine, bronze base standing on cast legs and ending in ox hooves, lies a large globular cauldron. At intervals on its lips stem heads of griffins and lions, as well as winged female figures, possibly sirens. These creatures originate from the Middle East, whereas the technique of casting followed by hammering alludes also to oriental workshops.  
Apart from the tripod, in the Museum of Delphi are exhibited also parts of cauldrons with elaborate handles, resembling bulls' busts, sphinxes and griffins. 

Text - Translation: Dr. Aphrodite Kamara, Historian