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Since we have spoken of these gods, we should not omit to mention both the antiquity and the incredible nature of the shrine, and, in a word, the peculiar phenomenon of The Craters,1 as they are called. The myth relates that this sacred area surpasses all others in antiquity and the reverence paid to it, and many marvels there are reported by tradition. [2] For first of all there are craters which are not at all large in size, but they throw up extraordinary streams of water from a depth beyond telling and have very much the nature of cauldrons which are heated by a strong fire and throw up boiling water. [3] Now the water that is thrown up gives the impression of being boiling hot, but this is not known for certain because of the fact that no man dares touch it; for the amazement caused by the spout of water is so great that men believe the phenomenon to be due to some divine power. [4] For not only does the water give out a strongly sulphurous smell but the yawning mouth emits a mighty and terrifying roar; and what is still more astonishing than this, the water neither pours over nor recedes, but has a motion and force in its current that lifts it to a marvellous height. [5] Since so divine a majesty pervades the sacred area, the most sacred oaths are taken there and men who swear falsely are immediately overtaken by the punishment of heaven; thus certain men have lost their sight when they depart from the sacred precinct. [6] And so great is the awe of the deities of this shrine, that men who are pressing claims, when, for instance, they are being overborne by a person of superior dignity, have their claims adjudicated on the strength of the preliminary examination of the witnesses supported by oaths taken in the name of these deities. This sacred area has also been recognized for some time as a place of sanctuary and has been a source of great aid to luckless slaves who have fallen into the hands of brutal masters; [7] for if they have fled there for refuge, their masters have no power to remove them by force, and they remain there protected from harm until their masters, having gained their consent upon conditions of humane treatment and having given pledges, supported by such oaths, to fulfil their agreements, lead them away. [8] And history records no case, out of all who have given slaves such a pledge as this, of a violation; so faithful to their slaves does the awe in which these gods are held make those who have taken the oath. And the sacred area, which lies on a plain meet for a god, has been appropriately embellished with colonnades and every other kind of lounging-place.—But let what we have said suffice for this subject, and we shall return to the narrative at the point where our history broke off.

1 The Greek word means "Mixing Bowls." These geysers near Mt. Aetna are mentioned by Vergil (Verg. Aen. 9.585) and described at length by Macrobius Sat. 5.19.15 ff.

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