Page images

sent also to Amphiaraus, Trophonius, and the Milesian Branchidæ. The above-mentioned are the oracles which Crosus consulted in Greece: he sent also to the Libyan Ammon. His motive in these consultations, was to form an idea of the truth of the oracles respectively, meaning afterwards to obtain from them, a decisive opinion concerning an expedition against the Persians. .


[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

doves, according to Statius, one flew to Libya, to pronounce the oracles of Jupiter; the other staid at Dodona : of which the more rational explanation is, that two females established religious ceremonies at the same time, at Dodona, and in Libya; for, in the ancient language of the people of Epirus, the same word signifies a dove and an old woman. At the same place also was an oak, or, as some say, a beech tree, hallowed by the prejudices of the people, from the remotest antiquity.

The oracle of Trophonius's cave, from its singularity, deserves minuter mention. He, says Pausanias, who desired to consult it, was obliged to undergo various preparatory ceremonies, which continued for several days: he was to purify himself by various methods, to offer sacrifices to many different deities; he was then conducted by night to a neighbouring river, where he was anointed and wasbed; he afterwards drank of the water of forgetfulness, that his former cares might be buried; and of the water of remembrance, that he might forget nothing of what he was to see. The cave was surrounded by a wall; it resembled an oven, was four cubits wide, and eight deep: it was descended by a ladder; and he who went down carried with him cakes made of honey; when he got down, he was made acquainted with futurity. For more particulars concerning this oracle, consult Montfaucon, Voyage de Jeune Anacharsis, in which the VOL. I.


XLVII. He took this method of proving the truth of their different communications. He settled with his Lydian messengers, that each should consult the different oracles, on the hundredth day of their departure from Sardis, and respectively ask what Croesus the son of Alyattes was doing: they were to write down, and communicate to Cresus, the reply of each particular oracles. Of the oracular answers in general we



different descriptions of antiquity, concerning this and other oracles, are collected and methodised. See also Van Dale. Of the above, a classical and correct description may also be found in Glover's Athenaid.

Amphiaraus was one of the seven warriors who fought against Thebes: he performed on that occasion the functions of a priest, and was supposed, on that account, to communicate oracles after his death. They who consulted him, were to abstain from wine for three days, and from all nourish. ment for twenty-four hours. They then sacrificed a ram before his statue, upon the skin of which, spread in the vestibule, they retired to sleep. The deity was supposed to appear to them in a vision, and answer their questions.

The temple of Branchidæ was afterwards, according to Pliny, named the temple of the Didymean Apollo, It was burned by Xerxes, but afterwards rebuilt with such extraordinary magnificence, that, according to Vitruvius, it was one of the four edifices which rendered the names of their architects immortal. Some account may be found of this temple in Chishull's Asiatic Antiquities.-T.

63 Reply of each particular oracle.]— Lucian makes Jupiter complain of the great trouble the deities undergo on account have no account remaining; but the Lydians had no sooner entered the temple of Delphi, and proposed their questions, than the Pythian 04 answered thus, in heroic verse:

I count the sand, I measure out the sea; .
The silent and the dumb are heard by me:
E’en now the odours * to my sense that rise,)
A tortoise boiling with a lamb supplies, .
Where brass below and brass above it lies.)


of mankind. “As for Apollo,” says he, “ he has undertaken a troublesome office: he is obliged to be at Delphi this minute, at Colophon the next, here at Delos, there at Branchidæ, just as his ministers choose to require him: not to mention the tricks which are played to make trial of his sagacity, . when people boil together the Aesh of a lamb and a tortoise; so that if he had not had a very acute nose, Cræsus would have gone away, and abused him.”—T.

64 Pythian.]—The Pythian Apollo, if we may credit the Greeks themselves, was not always upon the best terms with the Muses.- Lowth on the poetry of the Hebrews. .

Van Dale, in his book de Oraculis, observes, that at Delphi the priestess had priests, prophets, and poets, to take down and explain and mend her gibberish : which served to justify Apollo from the imputation of making bad verses; for, if they were defective, the fault was laid upon the amanuensis.—Jortin.

In the notes of Hemsterhusius, editor of Lucian, the Lydian is interpreted Midas, but it evidently alludes to this anecdote, . and to Cræsus. See Tertullian also, Apolog. c. 22.

* In oraculis autem quo ingenio ambiguitates temperent in eventus sciunt Cræsi, sciunt Pyrrhi. Cæterum testitudinem, decoqui cum carnibus pecudis Pythius eo modo renuntiavit quo supra diximus; momento apud Lydiam fuerat.

XLVIII. They wrote down the communication of the Pythian, and returned to Sardis. Of the answers which his other messengers brought on their return, Cræsus found none which were satisfactory. But a fervour of gratitude and piety was excited in him, as soon as he was informed of the reply of the Pythian; and he exclaimed, without reserve, that there was no true oracle but at Delphi, for this alone had explained his employment at the stipulated time. It seems, that on the day appointed for his servants to consult the different oracles, determining to do what it would be equally difficult to discover or explain, he had cut in pieces a tortoise and a lamb, and boiled them together in a covered vessel of brass.

XLIX. I have before related what was the answer of the Delphic oracle to Croesus: what reply the Lydians received from Amphiaraus, after the usual religious ceremonies, I am not able to affirm; of this it is only asserted, that its answer was satisfactory to Crosus.

L. Croesus, after these things, determined to conciliate the divinity of Delphi, by a great and magnificent sacrifice. He offered up three thousand chosen victims 65; he collected a great num


65 Three thousand chosen victims.]—This appears to be a prodigious number; but, as Larcher observes, Theodoret


ber of couches decorated with gold and silver", many goblets of gold, and vests of purple; all these he consumed together upon one immense pile, thinking by these means to render the deity more auspicious to his hopes: he persuaded his subjects also to offer up, in like manner, the proper objects for sacrifice they respectively possessed. As, at the conclusion of the above ceremony, a considerable quantity of gold had run together, he formed of it a number of * tiles. The larger of these were


reproaches the Greeks with their sacrifices of hundreds of thousands.

See the account of Solomon's Sacrifice. 2 Chron. vii. 5. the magnificence of which is beyond all parallel. · Then the king and all the people offered sacrifices before the Lord.

And king Solomon offered a sacrifice of twenty and two thousand oxen, and an hundred and twenty thousand sheep.

66 Couches decorated with gold and silver.]-Prodigal as the munificence of Cræsus appears to have been on this occasion, the funeral pile of the Emperor Severus, as described by Herodian, was neither less splendid nor less costly. He tells us, that there was not a province, city, or grandee throughout the wide circuit of the Roman empire, that did not contribute to decorate this superb edifice. When the whole was completed, after many days of preparatory ceremonies, the next successor to the empire, with a torch, set fire to the pile, and in a little time every thing was consumed. ---T.

* In the Book of Numbers ch, xvi. we find that in the rebellion of Korah, two hundred and fifty men who were in the act of offering incense were consumed by fire. Aaron was ordered to take the censers of these men, and make of them a broad plate for the covering of the altar.

G 3


« PreviousContinue »