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AGYRTAE (ἀγύρται), wandering beggars or collectors of alms (from ἀγείρειν), mostly but not always claiming a religious character. They were of various kinds. Some told fortunes by drawing lots, which might be either shaken out of an urn (Hor. Sat. 1.9, 30) or drawn out of it by a boy (Tibull. Eleg. 1.3, 11); the lots themselves being small plates of metal inscribed with ambiguous phrases to which any interpretation might be given (Orell. on Hor. l.c.). Others carried about wooden tablets called ἀγυρτικοὶ πίνακες (Plut. Comp. Aristid. et Cat. 3) or σανίδες, with verses inscribed upon them from which oracles could be derived. Others again, who may be called the mendicant friars of antiquity, carried, either on their shoulders or on beasts of burden, images of their respective deities, and collected alms in their name. They were connected with the worship of Isis (Suid. s. v. ἀγείρει), the Delian divinities, Opis and Arge (Hdt. 4.35), and especially Cybele, the great mother of the gods ; whence they were called μητραγύρται (Aristot. Rh. 3.2.10, with Cope's notes ; Clearchus, ap. Ath. xii. p. 541 e; Antiphanes, fr. 153, 154, 158, Meineke. The form μηναγύρτης is doubtful; in Antiph. 154 it may be a mistake for μητραγύρτης, and cf. Liddell and Scott, s. v.). They were, generally speaking, persons of the most abandoned character, γένος μιαρώτατον (Antiph. 158). They undertook to inflict some grievous bodily injury on the enemy of any one who paid them for such services; and also promised, for a small sum of money, to obtain forgiveness from the gods whom they served for any sins either of the man himself or his fathers (Plat. Rep. ii. p. 364 b). For other references to Plato, see Ruhnken on Timaeus, s. vv. ἀγείρουσαν and ἐπαγωγαί: and for the passages from post-classical authors, K. F. Hermann, Gottesd. Alterth. § 42, n. 13.

These mendicant priests came into Italy, but [p. 1.94]at what time is uncertain, together with the worship of Isis, Cybele, and other strange deities. Their begging was under strict supervision, and limited to a few days (Cic. de Leg. 2.1. 6, 40); nor would any Roman have anything to do with them (Dionys. Halic. Ant. 2.19).

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hide References (3 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (3):
    • Aristotle, Rhetoric, 3.2.10
    • Herodotus, Histories, 4.35
    • Cicero, De Legibus, 2.1
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