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The old city of Lebadeia stood at the mouth of a wild gorge, probably on the eastern bank of the Hercyna, about ten minutes north of the modern town, while the grove of Trophonius was on the western bank (Strabo 414; Paus. ix. 37. 5, with Frazer, v. 196 f.).

The legend of Trophonius is the common folk-tale of the Clever Thief (cf. ii. 121 β; for his end cf. i. 31. 3 n.). Trophonius appears to have been originally the chief local god of Lebadeia (Paus. i. 34. 2); later, in accordance with a common tendency of Greek religion as it became systematized, he was degraded into a hero. On inscriptions he is sometimes distinguished from and sometimes identified with Zeus Basileus: Strabo (l. c.) speaks of an oracle of Zeus Trophonius, and Livy (xlv. 27) of a temple, yet Pausanias (ix. 39. 5) distinguishes Zeus Basileus and Trophonius. Cicero seems to identify Trophonius with Mercury (de Nat. Deor. iii. 22. 56). His statue by Praxiteles had the appearance and attributes of Aesculapius, particularly the snake, perhaps the earliest representation of the god (cf. Paus. ix. 39. 3). Pausanias (l. c.) describes the way of consulting the oracle from his own experience. The inquirer had first to live some days in the shrine of ‘Agathos Daemon’ and Tyche, to eat sacrificial meats and wash in the water of the Hercyna, and to sacrifice a ram. Then at night he was taken to the springs of Lethe and Mnemosyne, to drink forgetfulness of the past and memory for the revelations to come. Thence the priests took him to a vaulted cave on the hill; from the upper chamber he climbed down a small ladder into a pit some six feet across and twelve feet deep, bearing honey-cakes in his hands to appease the chthonian deity. There, lying on his back, he worked his way feet foremost through a small opening into the inner shrine and returned in the same way afterwards. While still bewildered and under the influence of the deity, the priests placed him on the chair of Mnemosyne, and asked him what he had seen and heard. His answer was interpreted and versified (Paus. iv. 32. 5) by the priests. For Trophonius cf. Farnell, Greek Hero Cults, pp. 21, 245-6, and for Amphiaraus ib. pp. 58-62.

Ἄβας: cf. ch. 33 n.

πρῶτα ὡς ἀπίκετο: brachylogy for ‘he visited Thebes first and when he was come there’; cf. i. 17. 2.

Ἰσμηνίῳ: cf. i. 92. 1 n.; v. 59.

ἱροῖσι = ἐμπύροισι: ‘burnt sacrifices’; in Thebes omens were taken from the flame or the ashes of the victim burnt ( Soph. Oed. Tyr. 21μαντείᾳ σποδῷ”). So the Iamidae (ix. 33. 1) took auspices at the altar of Zeus at Olympia; cf. Pind. Ol. viii. 2.

κατεκοίμησε ἐς Ἀμφιάρεω. Amphiaraus was consulted by sleeping in his shrine on the skin of a sacrificed ram (Paus. i. 34. 5). Mys probably visited not his most famous shrine near Oropus (Paus. i. 34) but one near Thebes. Amphiaraus, probably originally a chthonian deity, became in legend an Argive hero, one of the Seven against Thebes. The earth was said to have swallowed him up, by some at Harma (Paus. l. c.; ix. 19. 4), by others at a place between Potniae and Thebes, where there was a shrine (Paus. ix. 8. 3). This would seem to be the place meant here, since the offerings made by Croesus to Amphiaraus were transferred to the temple of Ismenian Apollo at Thebes (i. 52), and the refusal to permit Thebans to consult the oracles reads like a taboo against natives. Strabo expressly tells us (404) that the oracle of Amphiaraus was brought to Oropus from Cnopia in the Theban territory, and this may have happened just after H. wrote (cf. Frazer, v. 31). In any case the usages would seem to have been similar. We may compare the oracle of Calchas at Drium in Apulia (Strabo 284) and of Faunus (Virg. Aen. vii. 81 f.; Ovid, Fast. iv. 649). Amphiaraus was consulted chiefly by the sick; grateful patients cast gold or silver coins into the sacred spring (Paus. i. 34. 4); for parallels cf. Frazer, ad loc. Plutarch (Arist. 19; Mor. 412) says that Mardonius' envoy to Amphiaraus was a Lydian, and that the vision vouchsafed to him foretold that Mardonius should be slain by a stone.

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hide References (9 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (9):
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.34.2
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.34.4
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.34.5
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 4.32.5
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.37.5
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.39.3
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.8.3
    • Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannus, 21
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 7.81
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