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.
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
, with Cope's notes ; Clearchus, ap. Ath. xii. p. 541 e;
153, 154, 158, Meineke. The form
is doubtful; in Antiph. 154
it may be a mistake for μητραγύρτης,
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.
: 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]
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.
, 40); nor would any Roman have anything to do with them (Dionys.