Mount Párnitha or Parnassos. North west of Athens.
|Light:||None, bring a powerful torch.|
|Dimension:||A=1,370 m asl, L=60 m, W=26 m, H=12 m.|
|Guided tours:||Self guided.|
Jennifer Larson (2001):
Greek Nymphs: Myth, Cult, Lore,
380 pp. Oxford University Press. Korykian Cave p 234.
T R Shaw (1992): History of Cave Science, p 8 refers to Strabo and other writers. P 176 refers to Pliny who c 77AD [in] Nat Hist Bk 31 Ch 20 describes the stalagmites in this cave.
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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This cave is on the marked E4 European long distance trail and is about a 4 hours walk from Dhelfi, Delphi or Delfi, now known as Apóllonos. It can also be reached by car as a tarmac road goes near the entrance. The best approach on foot is by track and foot path from the chapel of Ayía Triádha: a map showing local landmarks (labelled in Greek), superimposed on a topographical map, is posted just behind the church.
The cave was excavated by some French archaeologists in 1969. Their 30 day investigation produced a tremendous number and range of objects from all periods of antiquity: a rare Neolithic male figurine, Mycenean shards, bone flutes, iron and bronze rings, miniture bronze statutes, 50,000 terra cotta figurines from the classical period and 24,000 astragoloi, or "knucklebones" (used for astragolomancy, or "prophecy by knucklebones").
In the 5th Century, the local people took refuge in the cave from the Persians (Herodotus, 8.36) in more recent times from the Germans in 1943, and during the Greek War of Independence. Famous visitors include King Otto and Queen Amalfia who made a royal tour with 100 torchbearers!
Pan's Cave is steeped in legends. In ancient times is was a place of worship to the god Pan. The name Corycian is from the nymph corycia. In poetry the Muses are sometimes called Corycides or the Corycian Nymphs. It is said that during the winter months the governing gods at Delphi celebrated Orgiastic rite at the cave with the local women acting as nymphs.
The cavern itself is enormous, about 60 m long, 26 m wide and 12 m high, so a powerful torch is necessary to explore this gloomy and forbidding place. Just inside the entrance they are some ancient inscriptions and further in there is a rock with a circular hollow. Is this the sacrificial altar of the gods? Large stalagmites at the end of this chamber, separate it from the second chamber. Hidden by large stalagmites is a way through into a third smaller chamber and the end of the cave.
It is described as another highly evocative spot for lovers of classical ghosts and it is from here that Menader got the idea as a setting for one of his plays.
Text by Tony Oldham (2002). With kind permission.