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Ancient sacred caves
Οn Mt. Parnassus, a refuge for the Delphians, sacred to nymphs and Pan, named after Corycia.
- Corycian Cave: Perseus Encyclopedia
- Corycian: Perseus Lookup Tool, text search
Above Delphi was the celebrated cave called Corycium (to Korukion
antron), distant, according to Leake, about 7 miles from the city, to the northeastward,
and about the same distance to the north-west of Arakhova. The usual way from
Kastri to the heights of Parnassus leads past the Stadium, and then turns more
to the west than the ancient path, which ascended the mountain immediately above
the city. The ancient way was an astonishing work. It was a zigzag path, consisting
of more than a thousand steps cut out of the hard rock, and forming an uninterrupted
flight of steps to the highlands above. There are still considerable remains of
it, but it is now seldom used, as the modern path is easier. It takes about two
hours to reach the highlands of Parnassus, which are divided by hills and mountain-summits
into a number of larger and smaller valleys and ravines, partly covered with forests
of pine and fir, and partly cultivated as arable and pasture land. This district
extends about 16 miles in a westerly direction from the foot of the highest summit.
It formed the most valuable part of the territory of Delphi. Leake describes it
as a country of pasture, interspersed with firs, and peopled with shepherds and
their flocks, and remarks that he occasionally passed fields of wheat, barley,
and oats all yet green, though it was the 27th of July, and the harvest in the
plains of Boeotia had been completed a month before.
The Corycian cave is situated in the mountain on the northern side
of the valley. It is thus described by Leake: - We ascended more. than half-way
to its summit, when a small triangular entrance presented itself, conducting into
the great chamber of the cavern, which is upwards of 200 feet in length, and about
40 high in the middle. Drops of water from the roof had formed large calcareous
crystallizations rising at. the bottom, and others were suspended from every part
of the roof and sides. The inner part of this great hall is rugged and irregular;
but after climbing over some. rocks, we arrived at another small opening leading
into a second chamber, the length of which is near 100 feet, and has a direction
nearly at a right angle with the outer cavern. In this inner apartment there is
again a narrow opening, but inaccessible without a ladder; at the foot of the
ascent to it is a small natural opening. Pausanias says (x. 32. § 2) that there
were 60 stadia from Delphi to a brazen statue, from whence it was: easier to ascend
to the cavern on foot than on a horse and mule; and, accordingly, Leake supposes
the statue to have stood at the foot of the mountain, since the distance from
thence to Delphi is nearly that mentioned by Pausanias. The latter writer remarks
that this cave is larger than any of the other celebrated caverns which he had
seen, and that a person can proceed a very long way through it even without a
torch. He adds that it was sacred to Pan and the Nymphs, which is also attested
by other ancient writers, and is confirmed by an inscription found in the cave.
(Strab. ix. p. 417; Aesch. Eum. 22; Bockh, Inscr. No. 1728; Raikes, in Walpole's
Collection, vol. i. p. 314.). Pan and the Nymphs were regarded as the companions
of Dionysus, whose orgies were celebrated upon these heights. When the Persiras
were marching upon Delphi, the inhabitants took refuge in this cave (Herod. viii.
36), and it has been used for the same purpose by the inhabitants of Arakhova
in recent times.
According to Ulrichs, the Corycian cave is now called Sarantauli by
the peasants, from its being supposed to contain 40 chambers (from saranta, tessarakonta
This extract is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited June 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
- Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD)
This grotto on Mt. Parnassos (altitude 1360 m), 2 1/2 hours' walk from Delphi, owed its name to its "knapsack" shape (korykos). Described by Pausanias (10.32.2), it was sacred to Pan and the nymphs (dedication of a peripolarkos of Ambrysos engraved on the rock to the right of the entrance) and no doubt also to Dionysos (mention of the Thyads, the Delphic bacchantes, in a second, barely legible, rock inscription), whose biennial festival (Trieteris) was celebrated by torchlight by the Thyads of Delphi and Athens on the plateau close by. Excavations by the French School of Athens (1970) have shown that the grotto, which had two chambers (the first some 70 m long), was consecrated to the cult from the Neolithic Age. Another Korykian Cave was in Cilicia, near the town of Korykos.
G. Roux, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites,
Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Jan 2003 from
Perseus Project URL below, which contains bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.
On the way from Delphi to the summit of Parnassus, about sixty stades
distant from Delphi, there is a bronze image. The ascent to the Corycian cave
is easier for an active walker than it is for mules or horses. I mentioned a little
earlier in my narrative1 that this cave was named after a nymph called Corycia,
and of all the caves I have ever seen this seemed to me the best worth seeing
... But the Corycian cave exceeds in size those I have mentioned, and it is possible
to make one's way through the greater part of it even without lights. The roof
stands at a sufficient height from the floor, and water, rising in part from springs
but still more dripping from the roof, has made clearly visible the marks of drops
on the floor throughout the cave. The dwellers around Parnassus believe it to
be sacred to the Corycian nymphs, and especially to Pan. From the Corycian cave
it is difficult even for an active walker to reach the heights of Parnassus. The
heights are above the clouds, and the Thyiad women rave there in honor of Dionysus
and Apollo (Paus. 10.32.7).
- Perseus: Pausanias, Description of Greece, Phocis and Ozolian Locri