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Trophonius

Τροφώνιος) and Agamēdes (Ἀγαμήδης). The sons of Erginus of Orchomenus, legendary heroes of architecture. Many important buildings were attributed to them, among others the Temple of Apollo at Delphi (Strabo, p. 421), that of Poseidon at Mantinea (Pausan. viii. 10, 2), the thalamos of Alcmené in Thebes (ib. ix. 11, 1), the treasuries of Augeas in Elis (Schol. ad Nubes, 508), and Hyrieus in Boeotian Hyria (Paus.ix.37.4). In the last named they inserted one stone so cleverly that it could be easily removed from the outside and the treasure stolen by night. But on one occasion, when Agamedes was caught in the trap laid by Hyrieus to discover the thief, Trophonius, to save himself from being betrayed as his brother's accomplice, cut off the head of Agamedes. Being pursued, however, by the king, he was swallowed up in the earth at Lebadea, and by the command of Apollo a cult and an oracle were dedicated to him as Zeus Trophonius.

The oracle was situated in a subterranean chamber, into which, after various preparatory rites, including the nocturnal sacrifice of a ram and the invocation of Agamedes, the inquirers descended to receive, under circumstances of a mysterious nature, a variety of revelations, which were afterwards taken down from their lips and duly interpreted. The descent into the cave, and the sights which there met the eye, were so awe-inspiring that the popular belief was that no one who visited the cave ever smiled again (Athenaeus, 614 A; cf. Nubes, 508); and it was proverbially said of persons of grave and serious aspect that they had been in the cave of Trophonius—a phrase that has passed into modern literature as a classic allusion.

According to another story the brothers, after the completion of the Delphic temple, asked Apollo for a reward, and he promised they should have on the seventh day the best thing that could be given to man; and on that day they both died a peaceful death (Cicero, Tusc. i. 114; Consolatio ad Apoll. 14).

hide References (2 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.37.4
    • Cicero, Tusculanae Disputationes, 1.114
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