Sykia has been referred to poetically as the “poet’s haven” not just because of its beauty, but also literally, because many an eminent men and women of the letters and the arts have been born or moved to live here.
Of these, the most famous one abroad is the poet Angelos Sikelianos, who lived here for about 20 years. In 1916 with his first wife, the American Eva Palmer, he completed the construction of a villa, a building with a unique architecture, in his property in Sykia. This beautiful house has Byzantine and Venetian architectural elements and is protected by the Greek state.
Sikelianos wrote on national history, religious symbolism, and universal harmony in poems such as The Light-Shadowed, Prologue to Life, Mother of God, and Delphic Utterance. His plays include Sibylla, Daedalus in Crete, Christ in Rome, The Death of Digenis, and Asklepius. He was the first twentieth-century Greek poet to be a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature. In May 1927, with the support of his wife, Eva Palmer-Sikelianos, Sikelianos held the Delphic Festival as part of his general effort towards the revival of the “Delphic Idea”. Sikelianos believed that the principles which had shaped the classic civilisation, if reexamined, could offer spiritual independence and serve as a means of communication among people. The event consisted of Olympic contests, a concert of Byzantine music, an exhibition of folk art as well as a performance of Prometheus Bound. It became very successful and despite lack of state assistance, it was repeated the following year. The revival was then permanently abandoned due to the excessive costs of organizing it. In honour of the memory of Angelos and Eva Sikelianos, the European Cultural Centre of Delphi bought and restored their house in Delphi, which is today the Museum of Delphic Festivals.
Eva Palmer-Sikelianos, the first wife of poet Angelos Sikelianos, made Sykia her home for 20 years. was an American woman notable for her study and promotion of Classical Greek culture, weaving, theater, choral dance and music. Palmer’s life and artistic endeavors intersected with numerous noteworthy artists throughout her life. She was both inspired by or inspired the likes of dancers Isadora Duncan and Ted Shawn, the French literary great Colette, the poet and author Natalie Barney and the actress Sarah Bernhardt. She would go on to marry Angelos Sikelianos, a Greek poet and playwright. Together they organized a revival of the Delphic Festival in Delphi, Greece. Embodied in these festivals of art, music and theater she hoped to promote a balanced sense of enlightenment that would further the goals of peace and harmony in Greece and beyond. Palmer’s artistic endeavors and support of the Delphic Idea came in a period of time between world wars. In her latter years she would witness from afar the rise of Nazism, Hitler and WWII. It would seem as though their efforts had been all for naught. They were not the first to attempt a revival of the spirit of Delphi in Greece and they would not be the last. The Delphic Idea lives on in modern times through the International Delphic Council. Much of the same ideals and principals are embodied in these modern efforts of music, dance and athletics.