The Corycian Cave

The geological formation with limestone and schist plaques in different directions is probably the reason why the region of Delphi has so many caves. The largest one is the Corycian cave, dated to the Pleistocene and situated at a distance of 11 klms from Delphi, lying at a height of 1,360 meters. It is surrounded by a fir tree forest. According to Pausanias' description, a winding path led up to the cave, in which traces of habitation dating to the Neolithic period have been discovered. The Corycian cave was dedicated to Pan and the Corycian Nymphs. It is here, perhaps, that Apollo seduced the Corycian Nymph, according to the myth. Apollodorus, on the other hand, mentions that this nymph gave here birth to her son, Lycorus. Others, however, attribute its name to the stalactites inside the cave, which look like sheepskins (coryces). The cave has two main chambers, and continues to a great depth with a narrow tunnel. The first chamber reaches 50 meters in height and it measures roughly 90 x 60 meters. It is full of stalactites with some stalagmite complexes on the sides. One of these, called Table, has a quite broad top surface and is supposed to have been used by the multitudes of pilgrims for deposing their offerings. The archaeological research of the cave, which was carried out in 1970-71 by Pierre Amandry, yielded thousands of finds, mainly pottery, as well as over 25,000 animal shanks, probably related to some kind of divination. During the Persian attack of 480 B.C. the inhabitants of Delphi resorted to the cave in order to protect themselves, because the narrow and difficult to locate entrance of the cave could easily evade the attention of the invaders.

Text-Translation: Dr. Aphrodite Kamara, Historian