This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
Theon, taking up the subject, said, “But these matters have actually undergone great changes and innovations, whereas you know that many of the oracles here have been given out in prose, and those that concerned no unimportant matters. For, as Thucydides1 has recorded, when the Spartans consulted the god about their war against the Athenians, his answer was a promise of victory and power and that he himself would come to their aid, bidden or unbidden ; and in another oracle that if they would not allow Pleistoanax to return from exile, they should plough with a silver ploughshare.2 “When the Athenians sought advice about their campaign in Sicily, he directed them to get the priestess of Athena at Erythrae ; the name which the woman bore was ‘Quiet.’3 [p. 309] “When Deinomenes of Sicily asked advice about his sons, the answer was that all three should rule as despots ; and when Deinomenes rejoined, ‘To their sorrow, then, O Lord Apollo,’ the god said that he granted this also to Deinomenes, and added it to the response. You all know, of course, that Gelo, while he was despot, suffered from dropsy ; and likewise Hiero from gall-stones ; and the third, Thrasybulus, became involved in seditions and wars, and it was no long time before he was dethroned. “Then there was Procles, the despot of Epidaurus, who did away with many men in a cruel and lawless manner, and finally put to death Timarchus, who had come to him from Athens with money, after receiving him and entertaining him with much show of hospitality. The body he thrust into a basket and sank in the sea. All this he accomplished through Cleander of Aegina, and nobody else knew anything about it. But later, when his affairs were in sad confusion, he sent here his brother Cleotimus to ask advice in secret concerning his flight and withdrawal to another country. The god therefore made answer that he granted Procles flight and withdrawal to the place in which he had bidden his friend from Aegina deposit the basket, or where the stag sheds his horns. The despot at once understood that the god ordered him to sink himself in the sea or to bury himself in the earth (for stags, whenever their horns fall off, bury them out of sight underground4) ; but he waited for a short time, and then, when the state of his aflairs became altogether desperate, he had to leave the country. And the friends of Timarchus seized him, slew him, and cast forth his dead body into the sea. [p. 311] “Most important of all is the fact that the decrees through which Lycurgus gave form and order to the Spartan constitution were given to him in prose. “Now Herodotus and Philochorus and Ister, men who were most assiduous in collecting prophecies in verse, have quoted countless oracles not in verse ; but Theopompus, who has given more diligent study to the oracle than any one man, has strongly rebuked those who do not believe that in his time the prophetic priestess used verse in her oracular responses. Afterwards, wishing to prove this, he has found to support his contention an altogether meagre number of such oracles, indicating that the others were given out in prose even as early as that time.