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[517] βόθρονἔνθα, ‘dig a pit a cubit's length this way and that,’ i. e. in length and breadth. For ὅσον τε see on Od. 9.322. The use of the βόθρος, in lieu of the “βωμός”, was common in the cult of the gods of the nether world. So Lucian, Necyomant. 9, speaking of an oracle of the dead at Babylon, says, “βόθρον τε ὠρυξάμεθα καὶ τὰ μῆλα ἐσφάξαμεν καὶ τὸ αἷμα περὶ τὸν βόθρον ἐσπείσαμεν”. Such oracles of the dead (“νεκυομαντεῖα, ψυχομαντεῖα”) were especially common in places where clefts in the ground, dark tarns of unknown depth, hot springs, or mephitic exhalations seemed to suggest a means of passage to or from the under-world. One of the oldest was near the Acherusian lake in Thesprotia (Pausan. 1.17.5; Hdt.5. 92); another was in the Arcadian Phigalea (Pausan. 3. 17. 8); a third near Cape Taenarus, “πὰρ χθόνιον Ἀίδα στόμα, Ταίναρον ἐς ἱερὰν ἐλθών” ( Pind. Pyth.4. 44). The Italian and Asiatic Greeks had two such oracles at Cumae and Heraclea. Pausanias speaks of the rites performed before a descent into the cave of Trophonius in Lebadea, in words that recal the present passage ( Paus.9. 39) “ἐν δὲ τῇ νυκτὶ κάτεισιν ἕκαστος ἐν ταύτῃ κριὸν θύουσιν εἰς βόθρον”.

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  • Commentary references from this page (3):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 5.92
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.39
    • Pindar, Pythian, 4
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