Delphic Festivals

In the 20th century, the poet Angelos Sikelianos, who delved into the ancient Greek spirit, conceived the idea of creating in Delphi a universal intellectual nucleus, capable of reconciliating the world's nations (the «Delphic Idea»). To that end, Sikelianos, with the assistance and financial help of his wife, Eva Palmer-Sikelianos, lectured extensively and published studies and articles. At the same time, he organized the «Delphic Festivals» at Delphi. Apart from staging performances of ancient plays, the «Delphic Idea» included the «Delphic Association», a worldwide association for the fraternization of the nations and the «Delphic University», which aspired to unify the traditions of all countries into one ecumenical myth.

The first Delphic Festival began on the 9th of May 1927 and lasted three days. It included ancient drama plays performed by amateur actors (Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus), athletic competitions in the nude, concerts of byzantine music, lectures and folk art exhibitions. The festival was repeated on the 1st of May 1930, with a performance of Aeschylus' tragedy The Suppliants. The interpretation of the tragedy aspired to a revival of ancient drama teaching, but the accompanying music was composed in the Byzantine style. The costumes were created by Eva Sikelianos herself, based on folk art models.
The events were attended by numerous scholars, artists and journalists from all over the world. The invitees responded with enthusiastic comments and articles although some criticism was expressed as well.
Despite the fact that the Delphic Festivals greatly promoted tourism and the diffusion of folk art in Greece and abroad, they were discontinued, because the Sikelianos couple, who had undertaken almost all of the expenses, was financially drained. Angelos Sikelianos had refused any state subvention. However, this first attempt at resuscitation of ancient drama within archaeological sites instigated further similar efforts at a later date, such as the, now world-famous, Festival of Epidaurus, which was inaugurated in 1955.

The European Cultural Center of Delphi
In certain ways, the vision of Angelos Sikelianos has survived in the modern “European Cultural Center of Delphi”, which was founded in 1977 at the instigation of Konstantinos Karamanlis, prime minister of Greece at the time. According to its statute, the E.C.C.D aspires to «develop the common cultural elements which unite the peoples of Europe». The E.C.C.D organizes or hosts a number of cultural activities and events as well as seminars, conferences and educational programmes related to ancient Greek culture as well as to the idea of peace and fraternity among the nations. Integral part of the E.C.C.D. is the Museum of the Delphic Festivals, housed in the home of Angelos and Eva Sikelianos at Delphi. It includes photographic and printed material from the Delphic Festivals, costumes from the ancient drama performances, the famous loom belonging to Eva Sikelianos, manuscripts by the poet and other objects.

International Delphic Council
In 1983, Mr. J. Christian Β. Kirsch established the "Musica Magna International” at Munich, aiming at restoring the Delphic Festivals. This initiative was backed by Federico Mayor Zaragoza, Director-General of UNESCO. In 1994, 100 years after the revival of the Olympic Games, representatives from 20 nations and from all 5 continents responded to the invitation of the founder of the contemporary Delphic movement, during the inaugural conference of the “International Delphic Council” (IDC) in Berlin. The establishing assembly of the International Delphic Council took place on the 15th of December 1994 at the Schoenhausen Castle in Berlin.
The IDC is the supreme authority of the Delphic Movement. Its members are the National Delphic Councils (NDC) as well as VIPs from the arts, culture, education, finance, associations and institutions. The IDC Administrative Committee is the Executive Board. Following the model of Classical antiquity, it is called Amphictyony and it is composed of 12 elected members. The most important duty of the IDC is to reinforce the Delphic Movement and to organize international Delphic Competitions (some of which are addressed to Youth), in order to contribute to the understanding between peoples and cultures worldwide. The competition includes the following categories: Musical Arts, Visual Arts, Literature, Fine Arts, Social Arts, Architecture & Ecology. Winners receive a medal, a lyre and a laurel wreath.

Text: Dr. Kleopatra Ferla, Historian
Translation: Dr. Aphrodite Kamara, Historian