Abstract

Historical data are fundamental to the understanding of the seismic history of an area. At the same time, knowledge of the active tectonic processes allows us to understand how earthquakes have been perceived by past cultures. Delphi is one of the principal archaeological sites of Greece, the main oracle of Apollo. It was by far the most venerated oracle of the Greek ancient world. According to tradition, the mantic proprieties of the oracle were obtained from an open chasm in the earth. Delphi is directly above one of the main antithetic active faults of the Gulf of Corinth Rift, which bounds Mount Parnassus to the south. The geometry of the fault and slip-parallel lineations on the main fault plane indicate normal movement, with minor right-lateral slip component. Combining tectonic data, archaeological evidence, historical sources, and a reexamination of myths, it appears that the Helice earthquake of 373 B.C. ruptured not only the master fault of the Gulf of Corinth Rift at Helice, but also the antithetic fault at Delphi, similarly to the Corinth earthquake of 1981. Moreover, the presence of an active fault directly below the temples of the oldest sanctuary suggests that the mythological oracular chasm might well have been an ancient tectonic surface rupture.

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