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ORA´CULUM (μαντεῖον, χρηστήριον). In the vast and varied system of practical religion which prevailed in Greece, oracles took the foremost place. An oracle, in the sense in which the word is here used, is some special locality supposed to be chosen by a supernatural power (god, hero, or shade of the dead) as an abode from which he might give answers to his worshippers. (The answer itself is also known as an oracle, alike in Greek, Latin, and English.)

Difficult as it is to trace the exact steps by which the oracular system of Greece was formed, it is not difficult to see the general causes which produced it. The Greeks were, excepting the Hebrews, the most sincerely religious race of antiquity; but they differed from the Hebrews in this, that their imaginative powers were far more vivid, but their moral sense was less strong. Hence, while the deep connexion of religion and morality increases steadily in the Greek mind from Homer through Aeschylus and Pindar to Socrates, it is always overshadowed by a set of feelings and conceptions which had not a moral but a naturalistic origin. The early Pelasgian (to take the most ancient of the Greek races) would look with a mixture of trembling and inquiry upon the great features of nature which surrounded him,--the mountains, the rivers, the woods; and while he instinctively personified the rowers inherent in these (even before they had well-defined names) and deprecated their anger, he would naturally think that their will was ascertainable through some external feature, motion or sound, especially through any that might be more than usually subtle and recondite. Places of impressive aspect would be to him centres of religious awe. The two most ancient and powerful of the Greek oracles, Dodona and Delphi, were unquestionably created by the operation of this feeling; and it will [p. 2.278]be well to begin with an account of these two, before approaching those of later origin and inferior importance.

The Oracle of Dodona in Epirus.--Here Zeus himself, the supreme god, was believed to give messages to men through the rustling of the leaves of a lofty oak. We must suppose something notable in the special tree; but the region round about Dodona, besides being mountainous, is said to be the most stormy in the whole of Europe (Mommsen, Delphika, p. 4), and would be calculated to excite the primitive feelings of the supernatural in a high degree.

We can trace the oracle of Dodona up to a time of extreme primitiveness, when, it is probable, no other oracle existed in Greece, and before any of the refinements of experimental divination had been systematised. It is first mentioned in one of the most touching passages in Homer, that in which Achilles, before sending out his friend Patroclus to the battle, prays for his safe return. The invocation runs as follows (Hom. Il. 16.233-235):-- “ Ζεῦ ἄνα, Δωδωναῖε, Πελασγικέ, τηλόθι ναίων,
Δωδώνης μεδέων δυσχειμέρον. ἀμφὶ δὲ Σελλοὶ
σοὶ ναίουσ᾽ ὑποφῆται ἀνιπτόποδες, χαμαιεῦναι:

“O king Zeus, Dodonaean and Pelasgian, thou who dwellest afar off, ruler of Dodona the place of wintry storms; and round about thee the Selli thy interpreters dwell, they of unwashed feet, whose couch is on the bare ground . . . . .” Achilles, it is plain, addresses Zeus in these terms because he was believed to stand in a nearer relation to men at Dodona, through his oracle, than elsewhere; but also the passage appears to intimate a difference between the Zeus of Dodona and that more familiar Zeus who quarrelled with Hera on Olympus. And we have other reasons for thinking that the Zeus whom the Pelasgi worshipped in those remote times was something far vaguer than the Zeus of Homer. In the first place, we have the distinct affirmation of Herodotus (2.52): “In early times the Pelasgi, as I know by information which I got at Dodona, offered sacrifices of all kinds, and prayed to the gods, but had no distinct names or appellations for them, since they had never heard of any.” Herodotus goes on to say that the names of the gods were introduced from Egypt, and that the oracle of Dodona sanctioned their use; statements which are open to criticism. In the next place, Zeus at Dodona was worshipped under a peculiar name, Zeus Naïus (Ναΐος), the exact meaning of which is uncertain; and with him was worshipped a goddess, Dione, whose name (as Bouché--Leclercq suggests) is probably the feminine of Zeus. When the worship of Dione was introduced, we do not know; the first mention of it appears to be in Demosthenes (c. Meid. p. 531.53; de F. L. p. 437.299): but Strabo (vii. p.329) tells us that she had a common temple with Jupiter; the researches of Carapanos at Dodona show that votive tablets were dedicated to her jointly with Zeus; and the meaning of her name and antiquity of her worship are testified by the two quaint verses ascribed by Pausanias (10.12.5) to the early priestesses of Dodona: “ Ζεὺς ἦν, Ζεύς ἐστι, Ζεὺς ἔσσεται, μεγάλε Ζεῦ.
Γᾶ καρποὺς ἀνίει, διὸ κλῄζετε μητέρα γαῖαν.

Though Dione is not mentioned here, it is difficult not to think that she is identical with the earth (γᾶ) mentioned in the second line; and if so, Zeus and Dione are symbolical of heaven and earth.

We may then in all probability look upon the oracle at Dodona, in its original form, as. dedicated to a Zeus who symbolised, simply,. Heaven, and the power that dwells therein; and either from the first, or at all events at a very early date, a goddess symbolising the Earth, Dione, was associated with him. Such a worship must have been very different from the elaborate mythology which afterwards prevailed; and it will be observed that the ceremonial described by Homer is no less simple and primitive. The interpreters of Zeus are the “Selli with unwashed feet, whose couch is on the bare ground;” and if one is to take the account in the Odyssey as not far removed in time from that in the Iliad, we must suppose that they listened, as they lay, to the rustling of the oak-leaves; for in that poem (14.327-8, 19.296-7) Ulysses is said (in a feigned story) to have gone to Dodona to hear the counsel of Zeus “out of the lofty foliaged oak:” “ τόν δ᾽ ἐς Δωδώνην φάτο βήμεναι, ὄφρα θεοῖο
ἐκ δρυὸς ὑψικόμοιο Διὸς βουλὴν ἐπακούσαι.

Further, these Selli appear to have been originally not a caste of priests, but a tribe: Aristotle (Meteor. 1.14) speaks of them as such, and brings them into close connexion with the original Hellenes. It is therefore probable that they are the same as the Helli mentioned by Pindar, and that their district in those early times was called Hellopia; for “at the end of Hellopia,” says Hesiod (Fragm. ap. Schol. Sophocl. Trach. 1169), “is the city of Dodona, which Zeus chose to be his oracular seat, and where he lived in the trunk of an oak-tree (ψηγοῦ).”

So far the accounts of Dodona testify to a native origin, and to great rudeness of character. But the next step in its history brings it into contact with a foreign country; namely, Egypt. Herodotus, who gives the account referred to (2.54-57), professes it to be a narrative of the foundation of the oracle. Few will think this probable: but it may very well mark a period when the oracle received a more systematic form, and, above all, when the institution of priestesses began. These are not mentioned by Homer; and though they might have risen from a native source, there is no improbability in their foreign derivation. The priests at the Egyptian Thebes, then, told Herodotus that “two of the sacred women were once carried off from Thebes by the Phoenicians, and they had learnt that one of them had been sold into Libya and the other into Greece; and these women were the first founders of the oracles in the two countries.” The Dodonaean story, also told to Herodotus, is the exact counterpart of the above, except that the women are represented as doves. “Two black doves,” said the priestesses of Dodona, “flew away from the Egyptian Thebes, and, while one directed its flight to Libya, the other came hither: she alighted on an oak, and sitting there began to speak with a human voice, and said that on the [p. 2.279]spot where she was, there should henceforth be an oracle of Zeus . . . . The dove which flew to Libya bade the Libyans to establish there the oracle of Ammon.” The correspondence between these narratives, current in localities so distant from one another as the Egyptian Thebes and Dodona, is too great to have come by chance; and when we find from Strabo (vii. Fragm. 1 and 2) that the words for “old woman” and for “dove” in the Molossian language are similar, and from Sophocles (Trachin. 171-2) and Pausanias (10.12.5) that the priestesses at Dodona were actually called “doves,” all objection to the Dodonaean story, on the ground of the seeming miracles, surely vanishes. And it is a further confirmation that Herodotus (2.57) tells us that the Dodonaean oracle resembled in character that at Thebes; to which may be added that Strabo (vii. Fragm. 1) tells us that the oracles of Dodona and Ammon were similar. Moreover, the quaint verses of the Dodonaean priestesses, quoted above from Pausanias, must remind us (longo intervallo) of the celebrated inscription on the temple of the veiled Isis.

It will then appear that at a certain early period of the Dodonaean oracle, an important change took place owing to Egyptian influence; a change which at any rate involved the appointment of priestesses. It is possible that the worship of Dione was introduced at the same period, and so Strabo seems to imply (vii. p. 329): but this is altogether uncertain. When priestesses were once introduced as ministrants of the oracle, the male interpreters of the divine will sank into the background. Sophocles indeed (Trach. 1167) speaks of the Selli: but the passage applies to remote antiquity.

Herodotus seems to have met with none; and they are ignored by Plato (Phaedr. 244 B). Strabo, however (ix. p. 402), tells us that, owing to a certain tragical occurrence, men and not women communicated the divine messages to Boeotians; though all other nations received them from the priestesses. At the same time the priestesses were under the control of a council of men; and Carapanos has found at Dodona inscriptions bearing the name and title of the president (ναίαρχος) of this council, and of one of its officers (προστάτης). (Carapanos, Dodone, pp. 50, 56.) Strabo tells us that the priests referred to by Homer were called τομοῦροι, and that some affirmed this to be the true reading in Hom. Od. 16.403, in place of θέμιστες.

Certain changes in the method of divination employed by this oracle must now be noted. The original method was by the interpretation of sounds (viz. the rustling of leaves); but in Plato's time we find (Plat. Phaedr. 244 B) that the priestesses, like those at Delphi, prophesied in a state of divine frenzy. This might be a direct imitation of Delphi; but the imitation would probably be disguised by an intermediate stage, dream-inspiration. Lycophron tells us (ap. Eustath. ad Iliad. 16.233) that this mode of divination existed at Dodona; and it would be quite natural for the priests or priestesses to listen to their rustling oak-tree by preference at night (and Homer's word χαμαιεῦναι suggests this). Again, we learn from Cicero (Divin. 1.43, 76) that divination by lots was practised at Dodona; it was an ill omen, he tells us, for the Spartans before Leuctra, that a monkey overturned the vessel in which were the lots that they had sent to the oracle. In later times brazen vessels were used to produce sounds of prophetic import: a circle of such vessels was suspended, which being moved by the wind struck against one another: for the same purpose a present was made by the Corcyraeans of a metal basin with a statue of a man placed over it, in the hand of which was a brazen scourge of three thongs, from which small bones (ἀστράγαλοι) were suspended, which being moved by the wind struck against the basin. (Steph. Byz. s. v. Δωδώνη: Suidas, s. v. Δωδωναῖον χαλκεῖον: Philostr. Imag. ii. p. 830; Strabo, vii. Fragm. 3.) This “Corcyraean scourge” was seen in the early part of the 2nd century B.C. by Polemon the geographer (cf. L. Preller, Polemonis periegetae fragmenta, Lips. 1838). At a still later date we have mention of a marvellous fountain at Dodona, which kindled torches when applied to it, and whose murmurings had also a prophetic quality (Plin. Nat. 2.228; Serv. ad Aen. 3.466).

No mention has been made above of a mode of divination which, in times when Dodona had fallen into decay, was thought to have been formerly practised there; namely, by the observation of the flight of doves. Dionysius of Halicarnassus (1.15) mentions this; as also Strabo (vii. Fragm. 1), who however regards it as a misinterpretation of the fact that the priestesses were called “doves.” And a misinterpretation it was, no doubt, and one which would very naturally be caused by the original narrative of the foundation of the oracle in Herodotus; or by the expression δισσῶν πελειάδων in Soph. Trach. 172. But it had a hold on the imagination of the Roman poets, which was increased by the fact that Dione, spoken of by Homer as the mother of Aphrodite (Il. 5.371), was afterwards identified with Aphrodite herself (Theocr. Idyll. 7.116; Ovid. Art. Am. 3.3, 769; Fast. 2.461, 5.309), to whom doves were particularly sacred, whence Servius (Serv. ad Aen. 3.466) actually speaks of the oracle as dedicated “Jovi et Veneri,” and in the Clementine Homilies (4.16, 5.13) Dodone is used as synonymous with Aphrodite. But all these are late and inaccurate representations, and receive no support whatever from any author contemporary with the period when the oracle was flourishing.

A curious phrase may here be mentioned, with which Ephorus (ap. Macr. Saturn. 5.18, 8) tells us the oracles emanating from Dodona always terminated--“Sacrifice to Achelous:” the origin and exact meaning of the injunction is unknown.

Dodona, though the most ancient of the oracles (as Hdt. 2.52 says, and as everything leads us to believe) was of course very inferior in political importance to Delphi, during the historical period. Croesus consulted it (Hdt. 1.46), but was dissatisfied with its answer. The Athenians were unfortunately encouraged by it in their Sicilian expedition (Paus. 8.11.6; Suidas, s. v. Ἀννίβας). On the other hand, it proved itself incorruptible to the bribes of Lysander, when he wished to make himself king of Sparta (Plut. Lysand.); and it may be [p. 2.280]that Delphi had shown itself less scrupulous (though it also is said to have refused the bribe), for we find that Agesilaus, when meditating his expedition into Asia, gave a most marked preference to Dodona over Delphi (Plut. Apophth. Lacon. Agesil. 10). Demosthenes in the Meidias (l.c.) appeals to the two as equal authorities; in the de Falsâ Legatione (l.c.), however, he refers to Zeus and Dione, but not to Apollo. We read of honours paid by the Athenians to the oracle of Dodona at a still later date (Hyperid. pro Euxenippo, § 35). The discoveries of Carapanos prove that the official documents of the Epirotic assembly were kept in the temple of Dodona (Dodone, pp. 48-68). But in B.C. 219, Dorimachus, the Aetolian general, razed the temple to the ground, and in B.C. 167 the Roman general Paulus Aemilius devastated and ruined Epirus. The oracle never recovered these blows. Seneca (Herc. Oet. 1623) speaks of it as deserted. Hadrian appears from the inscriptions to have been a benefactor to Dodona (Carapanos, op. cit. p. 171), and probably even rebuilt the temple; but the restoration, to judge both from probability and from the testimony of Lucian (Icaromen. 24), had little vitality; and the oracle may be said to have died under the destructive invasion of Dorimachus.

The actual site of Dodona, which long had been unknown, was discovered in the year 1876 by a Greek explorer, Il. Constantin Carapanos, in the valley of the Tcharacovitza, about eleven miles south-west of the town and lake of Janina. Bp. Chr. Wordsworth, however, had already fixed upon the same spot (Greece, p. 249). The foundations of the temple and of the sacred enclosure were laid bare; and numerous inscriptions on leaden tablets render this one of the most important antiquarian discoveries ever made. Out of the mass of the votive tablets one inscription of more than ordinary historical interest may be quoted here: that in which the distracted Corcyraeans beg the oracle to tell them “to what god or hero they must pray and sacrifice, in order to agree together for the common good.”

It will suffice just to mention the fact that a line of Homer (Hom. Il. 2.750) mentions another Dodona in Thessaly, which has been by some supposed to be the original of the Epirotic oracle. The supposition, however, is otherwise entirely unsupported, and may be discarded without any great risk of error.

Special works on Dodona are given at the end of this article.

The Oracle of Delphi.

The site of Delphi--the victorious rival of Dodona, and the centre of Greek religion--has never been in the same doubt as the site of Dodona. The remains have never been so completely covered; and the natural features of the place--the rocky wall of the Phaedriades overhanging the town, the fountain of Castalia issuing from a great cleft in this wall, the double peak in which the rocks culminate, and the Corycian cave on the heights above leading to the summit of Parnassus--are too striking and have been too well described by ancient authorities for their identity to be mistaken. But for a complete account of the geography of Delphi reference must be made to the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geoqraphy (art. DELPHI). Anyone who considers the position of Delphi in relation to the Peloponnesus, Boeotia, and Attica, will see how great an advantage it had in its situation; which, without being absolutely under the rule of any of the chief Greek states, was yet at no great distance from any of them, and was at once isolated and accessible.

If the Iliad were to be taken as a poem composed in its entirety as it stands, we should be compelled to say that Delphi was at least as ancient as even Dodona. For in the ninth book, vv. 404-5, Achilles speaks of it, under the name of Pytho, as a proverb for wealth; he would not barter his life, he says, for all that is contained within the stone threshold of Apollo at Pytho: “ οὐδ̓ ὅσα λάϊνος οὐδὸς ἀφήτορος ἐντὸς ἐέργει
Φοίβου Ἀπόλλωνος Πυθοῖ ἐνὶ πετρηέσσῃ.

It is impossible that such wealth can have arisen in any other way but that in which history tells us that the temple of Delphi did grow rich; namely, by the gifts of those who consulted the oracle. Hence the oracle of Delphi was in full vigour when the ninth book of the Iliad was written. But that book was probably not part of the original Iliad; the arguments of Grote on this point (Hist. of Greece, vol. ii. pp. 240-246) are almost impossible to controvert. (See also Jebb, Homer, pp. 155-170.) And if Apollo, when the greater part of the Iliad was written, had been so distinctly the Pythian god as the 9th book implies that he was, it is scarcely possible that more trace of the connexion should not be found in the poem. It is true that in the Odyssey (8.79)-82) there is one mention of the Pythian oracle; but the passage is no doubt later than the Iliad generally, and may be much later. On the whole, in spite of the assumption of the tragedians that the Delphic oracle was the source of spiritual guidance to Greece from the remotest past, the probability is that it was still in its infancy when the greater part of the Iliad was written. It must be particularly noticed that the word Delphi does not occur either in the Iliad or in the Odyssey.

To trace the rise of the oracle is a problem of equal interest and difficulty. The persistent tradition among the Greeks was, that it had first been an oracle of the Earth (γαῖαψα): so say Aeschylus (Eumen. 1, 2) and Euripides; the latter even speaking of a certain conflict for possession between Earth and Apollo (Iph. in T. 1249, and 1261-1283). It is clear how the rocky chasm at Delphi, in which the oracle was believed to reside, would suggest the notion of Earth as a supernatural power; and though it may be less clear to us why a close association should have been thought to exist between Earth and Themis (i. e. Law or Right Order), as Aeschylus (l.c., and compare Prom. 209) intimates, still there is a meaning in such alliance. In those dim early ages, the divine agent would receive various names, as chance or the character of the speaker might direct; and hence we may consider it a part of the same tradition, that Night (Νὺξ) was sometimes thought to take the place of Earth. (Plut. de Sera Numinis Vindicta, 100.22; Argum. Pind. Pyth.) But how and why did the transition from these vague powers to the [p. 2.281]clearly conceived and radiant god, Apollo, take place? It would be idle to affirm positively; but it seems better here to desert our oldest authority, Aeschylus, who (Eumen. 6, 7) makes a certain Titaness, Phoebe, the intermediary; which sounds like a poetical contrivance. There is really more support for, and more probability in, the view which regards Poseidon as the intermediary. This is practically affirmed by Pausanias (10.5.3, and 24.4), by Pliny (7.203), and others; the mention of Poseidon in connexion with Delphi by Aeschylus (Eumen. 27) and Euripides (Eur. Ion 446) adds strength to this view; still more does the fact that he had an altar in the Delphic temple itself (Pausan. l.c.); and it is plain how Poseidon in his quality of Earthshaker (ἐννοσίγαιος) would naturally be thought of as a more personal power than the abstract Earth, especially as the region about Parnassus suffers from earthquakes. The proximity of the sea, again, would suggest Poseidon as the presiding deity; and the name Delphi furnishes another ground. But this brings in some intricate points.

What is here affirmed is this: that when men first desired to personify the Delphic divinity (more than by the vague terms Earth or Night), Poseidon was the deity first selected. The dolphin (δελψὶς) would manifestly be a symbol of Poseidon; and consequently an altar with the figure of a dolphin sculptured on it (δέλψειος βωμός, Hymn. ad Pyth. Apoll. 319) would mark the first site of the city of Delphi, and would be the reason for the name of that city. And when afterwards the votaries of the more youthful, more splendid Apollo--the god to whom the prophetic art was assigned--succeeded in expelling the rude and ungraceful Poseidon (who was not specially believed to be a prophet) from the oracular seat, the altar would still bear its symbol, the dolphin, and legends drawn from that symbol would be invented appropriate to the victorious deity. Whereas, if the worship of Apollo came to Delphi without the previous worship of Poseidon, it is not easy to say why there should be any connexion between Apollo and the dolphin. It is true, we find the temple of Apollo Delphinius at Athens (Plut. Theseus); but that is likely to be named after Delphi, as the temple of Apollo Pythius (in the same neighbourhood) after Pytho. And we find that at Anticyra, close by Delphi, Pausanias (10.36.4) saw a temple of Poseidon with a statue of the god, in which he was represented as setting one foot on the back of a dolphin; which, though it may be a mere accident, yet in such a locality suggests a reminiscence of an old tradition. If Delphi had been a large city, we might have expected more evidence than we have; but for at long time it was but small: hence all the earliest records speak of Pytho, the district, not of Delphi, the town. The meaning of the name Pytho, and of the celebrated legend of Apollo, on his advent, slaying the dragon Python, are difficult points; it may even be that some conflict between Apollo and his predecessors is shadowed out by the legend (Eur. Iph. in T. l.c.).

Whatever may be thought of the claims of Poseidon, the principal fact is, that the Delphic oracle had a complex, and not, like the Dodonaean oracle, a simple origin. The aspect of the place had from immemorial time suggested that a power of divine prophecy was inherent in it; and this in the course of ages was taken possession of by that god, Apollo, in whom the chief prophetic power had been believed to dwell, even before any definite oracular seat was assigned to him. Two currents of strong religious feeling met, and produced the most powerful religious influence that Greece knew.

And there were yet other currents of feeling, and passionate aspirations, which imprinted on the Delphic oracle its exact form. The peculiar influence of the oracle was exerted through the frenzy of the Pythian prophetess. The god was believed to mould her accents, to speak with her voice; an awe-striking phenomenon! much more than when the devout inquirer listened to the rustling of leaves or to the rattling of bronze basins. Such inspiration was a novelty; it may have been imitated afterwards, and the idea of it was always attached to those impalpable personages, the Sibyls (Verg. A. 6.44 sqq.), one of whom, Herophile, was said to have been closely connected with Delphi (Paus. 10.12). But at Delphi it was more than an idea: and whatever may have been the exact date or manner in which it arose, there can be little doubt that it was but one form of that religious exaltation which prevailed so strongly in central Greece in the early times, and which sent the Bacchanals to wander and rave on the heights of Parnassus itself (Eur. Ion 714-718; Iph. in T. 1243, 4). Indeed, this identification of the Pythian with the Bacchic frenzy, this close alliance between Apollo and Dionysus, has the authority both of Aeschylus and Euripides, according to Macrobius, Saturn. 1.18; who quotes from Aeschylus the line κισσεὺς Ἀπόλλων Καβαῖος (? Βακχεῖος or Σαβαῖος) μάντις, “the ivy-crowned Apollo” (fr. 383), and from Euripides, Δέσποτα ψιλόδαψνε Βάκχε, Παιὰν Ἄπολλον εὔλυρε (fr. 480). Conversely, Euripides attributes prophetic power to the Bacchic enthusiast: τὸ γὰρ βακχεύσιμον καὶ τὸ μανιῶδες μαντικὴν πολλὴν ἔχει (Bacchae, 298, 9). We must indeed not quite go the length of these expressions; no doubt there was a difference between the worship of Apollo and the worship of Dionysus, between the Pythia and the Bacchante; but it is important to notice the resemblance too. Delphi and the region round were full of memorials of Dionysus (Plut. Quaest. Graec. 12; Paus. 10.33.5); but the traditions do not go so far as to make Dionysus the actual possessor, at any period, of the Delphic oracle.

Conjointly with these religious causes of the Pythian frenzy must be noticed a physical cause supposed by all the later writers on the subject to have co-operated or even to have been the leading agency in the matter. This was an exhalation from the cavernous chasm over which the tripod, or prophetic seat, was placed. Now, an attentive examination of the evidence will show that in all probability this supposed exhalation was a mere product of the imagination. Had it been a real smoke or gas, it is incredible that no mention of it should be found in those descriptions of the temple and shrine which Aeschylus and Euripides have given us. Whereas even the later writers generally speak of it as something abstract and impalpable: Strabo [p. 2.282](9.3.5) calls it πνεῦμα ἐνθουσιαστικόν: Cicero (de Divin. 1.36) calls it terrae vis. Plutarch, who uses the word ἀναθυμίασις to denote it, does indeed treat it as material; but the single sensible quality which he ascribes to it is one unlike a natural product of the earth: he says that a ravishingly sweet smell was sometimes perceived by visitors to the oracle to proceed from the shrine (Defect. Orac. 50). These worthy persons had doubtless not inquired if the burning myrrh to which Euripides refers (Ion, 89) had been used more freely than usual.

It is of course not to be questioned that Aeschylus and Euripides believed that an influence, causing prophetic frenzy, did ascend from the Delphic chasm. But the materialising of that influence, so as to make it definitely sensuous, was the work of a later day. The story of Diodorus (16.26) and others, that the oracular power was first made known by the fact that some goats, on approaching the chasm, became intoxicated in a marvellous way--an intoxication which the goatherd afterwards experienced--forms a natural transition to the more material view. Pausanias, who when recounting this story uses the very material word ἀτμὸς to describe the influence (10.5.3), afterwards (10.24.5) says that it is the water of the fountain Cassotis, flowing through the chasm, which “makes the women prophetic.”

Special solemnities accompanied the promulgation of an oracle. Not on every day could a consultant inquire of the god. Plutarch tells us (Quaest. Graec. 9), on the authority of Callisthenes and Anaxandrides, that originally only one day in the year was assigned for these deliverances, the 7th of the month Bysius (our March). This is hard to believe of any historical period; and even the after-regulation of which he speaks, permitting consultation once a month, seems hardly adequate. We may suppose, in practice, more frequent possibilities of consultation, though by what rule we do not know. That there were unlucky days (ἀποφράδες) when no consultation was permissible, is clear from the anecdote about Alexander seeking to force the Pythia to reply on such a day (Plut. Alex. 14). (Her involuntary cry, “My son, thou art invincible,” was seized on by him as a true answer.) But a powerful and friendly state, seeking to consult the oracle, would hardly be left very long without an opportunity of doing so. No doubt there were distinctions made, the knowledge of which is quite lost to us. The 7th of the month Bysius was, it may be observed, regarded as the birthday of Apollo.

Three days before the day of oracular utterance, the Pythia is said to have begun her preparation for the solemn act by fasting and bathing in the Castalian spring (Schol. ad Eur. Phoen. 223). This last statement has been doubted, but hardly with good reason; at all events to bathe in the fountain of Castalia would seem to have been a duty for all who either asked for or who assisted in giving out the oracular reply (Eur. Ion 94-101; Phoen. 222-225; Pindar, Pind. P. 5.39, and compare 4.290; Heliod. Acth. 2.26). It is just possible that the fountain of Cassotis, which flowed through the actual shrine (Pausanias, l.c.), may have been included under the term Castalia; but it is not likely; and the remains of a rockhewn bath are still to be seen near the Castalian spring. The Pythia herself was chosen from among the virgins of Delphi (Eur. Ion 1323); she was not allowed to marry, and in early times was always a young girl; but after the Thessalian Echecrates had seduced a Pythia, women above fifty were selected for the office, though they were still dressed as young maidens. (Diod. l.c.). How strictly these rules were kept, we do not know. In early times there was but one Pythia; later on there were two, and even a third if need were (Plut. Defect. Orac. 8); then again in Plutarch's time a single prophetess sufficed for the reduced clientèle of the oracle.

When the day arrived, the various consultants determined by lot their precedence in inquiring; except in the case of certain favoured individuals or states, to whom in return for special services a right of precedence (προμαντεία) had been accorded; as, e. g. to Croesus and the Lydians (Hdt. 1.54), the Lacedaemonians (Plut. Per. 21), and to Philip of Macedon (Demosth. Phil. iii. p. 119.32). That a certain payment was made to the oracle, appears from the fact that ἀτέλεια as well as προμαντεία was granted to the Lydians. But, however propitious in itself the day might be, it was necessary that the omens should be taken before the votary could actually put his question to. the god. IN the earliest times it is probable that the flight of birds would furnish an augury (cf. Hymn. ad Herm. 540); but in the historical times a sacrifice was invariably offered,--a goat, an ox, a sheep, or a wild boar (Eur. Ion 229; Plut. Defect. Or. 49). Extraordinary pains were taken to see that the victim was sound in all respects. An ox was fed on barley, a wild boar on chick-peas, to see whether they ate them with appetite; water was poured on the goats, and it was necessary that they should tremble all over (and not merely move the head, as in other sacrifices) for the omen to be good.

If the omen were not good, to consult the oracle was dangerous; nor was this a mere idle fancy; for Plutarch (Defect. Orac. 51) records one such case in which the Pythia (overwrought doubtless in the highest degree by the imaginations connected with her office) leaped from the tripod, fell into convulsions, and within a few days died.

But if the omens were good, the Pythia, after burning laurel leaves and flour of barley (Plut. Pyth. Orac. 6), or perhaps myrrh (Eur. Ion 89), in the never-dying flame (Aesch. Choeph. 1036) on the altar of the god, and dressed in a costume which recalled that of Apollo Musagetes (Plut. ib. 24), mounted the tripod, the three-legged stool, which was suspended over the chasm. Close beside her was a golden statue of Apollo (Paus. 10.24.4). What are we to say about the state of frenzy into which she then fell? Was there true uplifting of the spirit in it, and a mixture of real inspiration? Was the question put to her understood by her, and did her mind, however fienzied, really attempt an answer? Or was she in any degree instructed beforehand? Or was the whole an exhibition of pure raving nonsense? None of these elements would probably be wholly absent; it is but human nature that [p. 2.283]the inferior should have predominated; but the higher are not quite to be excluded. Of course, the general history of the oracle must guide our opinion.

By the side of the Pythia stood the prophet (Hdt. 8.36; Plut. Defect. Orac. 51), whose office was to interpret her vague and wild cries, and put them into ordered language. His proximity, it may be noted, is clear proof that there was not really any intoxicating vapour in the shrine; else he must inevitably have been infected as well as the Pythia. Sometimes more than one official of this sort attended (he seems to have been called “prophet” or “priest” indifferently--the latter is the general term in the inscriptions discovered at Delphi), but no doubt the duty would be discharged by only one at one time. The determination of those who were to serve was made by lot (Eur. Ion 416), the whole number of the noble families of Delphi being apparently eligible. Besides these prophet-priests, another band of functionaries must be noticed--the “Saints” (ὅσιοι), of whom there were five in number, chosen from the most ancient families of Delphi who claimed to be descended from Deucalion (Plut. Quaest. Graec. 9). The victim sacrificed at the time of the appointment of a ὅσιος was called ὁσιωτήρ. It is not quite certain that these “Saints” were not identical with the “priests,” “Saints” and “priests” being alike distinguished from the “prophets” ; but in any case the two (or three) classes assisted each other in the whole cycle of duties pertaining to the oracle. Three names of these Deucalionic families are known to us: Cleomantids, Thracids (Diod. 16.24; Lycurg. c. Leocr. § 158), and Laphriads (Hesych. sub voce). (It has been ingeniously conjectured that the “Saints” were a remnant of old forms of worship, anterior to the arrival of Apollo at Delphi.)

Before proceeding to characterise, as far as can be done, the final upshot of these elaborate schemes of divine guidance, a few minor points may be noted. The responses of the oracle, as delivered to the consultant by the prophet, were at first always in hexameters. It was said that this metre was invented by the first Pythia, Phemonoe; but Dodona set up a rival claim: no doubt both were wrong. The verses, composed on the spur of the moment, were often rough enough; nevertheless, when the oracle betook itself to prose, many regretted the change. Plutarch wrote a treatise in which he tried to make the best of the matter; but it must be admitted, that the main cause of the change, the decline in the dignity of the questions which the oracle was called on to solve (seeing that it no longer had high points of government to deal with), might well excite the regret of its votaries (Plut. Pyth. Orac. 28).

It is implied in various ways, and especially in the accusation against the Pythia Perialla (of having been bribed by king Cleomenes), that the Pythia was not a mere idle instrument in the matter, but really directed, in part, the answers. Some have thought that there were means of divination at Delphi independent of the Pythia; but, in spite of the ἔμπυρα (Eur. And. 1213) and the dreams (Iph. Taur. 1263), all oracular utterances in historical times seem to have been derived from prophetic frenzy. The presence of the ὀμψαλὸς or sacred stone in the temple served to put the oracles under the highest guarantee, that of Zeus himself; who, it was believed, had determined this stone to be the earth's centre by sending from the remotest east and west a pair of eagles; they met in this point (Pindar, Pind. P. 4.131; 4.3).

What, in fine, was the good or ill of the Delphic oracle? The general impression that we receive from history is, that it acted for good; and that in the freedom of its own action and the freedom of action of its consultants, it had a great advantage, enabling the Greek race to combine the sense of religious mystery in a rare degree with individual energy; but that it failed, when the Greek race had reached a certain degree of development, in guiding and controlling power. The causes that produced this failure were: the non-reality of the creed of Apollo, whereby intelligent minds were alienated; the attempt on the part of the oracle to be wiser than it could be, and the consequent. recourse to evasion and deception; and the lack (not the entire absence) of positive moral force. In private life, it had various beneficent functions, of which the chief perhaps was the aid that it gave in the manumission of slaves. [LIBERTUS]: the advice which it gave to individuals could not probably, except where the moral principle involved was clear (e. g. Herod, 6.86), rest on any sure ground.

In treating of the oracle in its public aspect, the idea that it had any extraordinary prophetic power, or second sight, must be laid aside; not. that there are not some things in the history that may puzzle us as regards this, especially the first oracle given to Croesus; but the second. oracle to Croesus, being plainly an evasion, demolishes the effect of the first oracle. The miraculous defence of Delphi against the Persians (Hdt. 8.37-39) is one of the best. attested of heathen miracles; the similar defence against the Gauls (Paus. 10.23.3 sqq.) has less evidence: but in the first case a natural explanation is open to us; the second is more frankly legendary.

The real good which the oracle did, and especially in the earlier days, lay in the courage which it imparted through the supernatural blessing of which it was believed to be (and perhaps was) the minister. Sincerity of intention, and the belief in a presiding divine power, were elements of value which, on the whole, it. impressed strongly on society. Whether we can rely or not on the statements that it supported the great legislators, Lycurgus and Solon (Hdt. 1.65; Plutarch, Plut. Sol. 148), it. unquestionably directed and encouraged the colonising spirit of the Greeks. The most remarkable instance of this is the case of Cyrene, the foundation of which appears to have been. entirely due to the Delphic oracle (Hdt. 4.150-159): “King Apollo sends thee,” are the words of the oracle to Battus (ib. 155). But Syracuse (Suid. s. v. Ἀρχίας), Crotona (Strabo vi. p.262), Rhegium (ib. p. 257), Magnesia (Athen. 4.173 e), and probably Metapontium (Strabo vi. p.264), are also instances in point; and the remark which Herodotus makes (5.42) that Dorieus did not consult the oracle in his colonising effort shows how exceptional [p. 2.284]such a case was. There is indeed some likelihood in the supposition that the Delphic oracle had, through its numerous correspondents, real information of the state of foreign countries, such as a private individual could not possess (this is one explanation of the successful reply to Croesus, Hdt. 1.47); if so, force would be added to its spiritual encouragement. In the internal relations of Greeks to each other, the oracle was not faultless in its directions, yet sometimes beneficent: e. g. we read (Thuc. 1.103) that it sent word to the Lacedaemonians to spare the captive Helots at Ithome; on the other hand, it countenanced the futile and rapacious attempt of Cylon (Thuc. 1.126). It is not said that the Amphictyonic council (whose laudable intention to promote peace among Greeks had so little result) was founded from Delphi; but it had close connexions with the oracle (Strabo ix. p.420; Paus. 10.8.1; Aeschin. de Fals. Leg. § 121). Undoubtedly, however, the most important act of the Delphic oracle, as regards the internal affairs of the Greek states, was the command which it issued to Sparta to liberate Athens from the despot Hippias; a command issued to an unwilling but dutiful agent, and successfully carried out (510 B.C.). Few deeds in the world's history have been more fruitful of great consequences; but it was too great a service to be rewarded with gratitude. The Athenians declared that the Pythia had been bribed (Hdt. 5.63), and falsely attributed their own liberation to Harmodius and Aristogeiton. The 6th century B.C., in which the last-named event was one of the closing scenes, is that which shows Delphi at the height of its power. It begins with the first Sacred war, in which Delphi was delivered from the rival pretensions and aggressions of Cirrha and Crissa; yet the severity exercised towards those cities is a blot on its fair fame. In the middle of the 6th century the great gifts of Croesus were made; shortly after which (548 B.C.) the temple at Delphi was burnt down, but rebuilt with great splendour by the Alcmaeonidae. Inside this temple the sayings of the seven wise men (of which γνῶθι σεαυτόν, “know thyself,” is the most famous) were inscribed (Paus. 10.24.1).

The Persian wars show, though almost imperceptibly, a turn in the tide of greatness of Delphi. The oracle perhaps knew too much about the power of the Persians; at all events its tendency was to counsel submission, or, what was tantamount, inactivity. This was the effect of its utterances to the Cnidians (Hdt. 1.174), to the Argives (Hdt. 7.148), and to the Cretans (Hdt. 7.169, 171). But such advice was not given through mere cowardice; and in the romantic history of the Persian war, few things are more interesting than the clash of sentiment between the fiery and resolute Athenians and the timid but clear-sighted oracle (Hdt. 7.140-143). The counsel that was hammered out, as it were, between these two contending (but not hostile) forces--the counsel that the Athenians should betake themselves to their “wooden walls” --was in fact the very best that could have been given; though, had it failed, the oracle would have no doubt sheltered itself under the ambiguity of the term.

The disastrous Peloponnesian war marks the first point in Greek history in which the Delphic oracle sinks below the level required by the situation. Not that it was unnatural, or wholly wrong, for it to support the Spartans (Thuc. 1.118, 123); but it had no real command over the combatants. The authority of Aelian (Ael. VH 4.6) is hardly sufficient for what we would gladly believe, that at the end of the war the oracle pleaded on behalf of Athens. After the beginning of the 4th century B.C. its influence falls. Agesilaus (Plut. Apophthegm. Lacon. Agesil. 10) set it below Dodona; and Epaminondas seems not to have consulted it when Messina was made a state (Paus. 4.27, § § 3-6): though he made it gifts after the battle of Leuctra, as Lysander had done at the close of the Peloponnesian war (Plut. Lysander).

As the first Sacred war ushered in the highest fame of the Delphic oracle (B.C. 600-590), so the second Sacred war (B.C. 357-346) marks the beginning of the definite decline, alike of Greece and of Delphi; for it introduced Philip of Macedon into Central Greece. Nor only that; but it was marked by the dispersion of the vast Delphian treasures seized by the Phocians. In the preceding century, such a sacrilege would have been impossible. And though neither Philip nor Alexander intended harm to Delphi, yet the enormous conquests of the latter dispersed the Greek race over many lands, and (what was perhaps of still greater moment) transferred the centre of public interest and of power away from Greece altogether. With the saying of Demosthenes, 7 Πυθία ψιλιππίζει, and the exclamation extorted by Alexander from the Pythia, “My son, thou art invincible,” the public career of the Delphic oracle may be said to close.

Yet it must not be dismissed without one word more. When it declared Socrates “the wisest of men,” it not only uttered the most remarkable of its deliverances, but also transmitted the sign of its great authority to a moral power that was far to transcend its own, and gave the greatest of its vital impulses exactly when its own apparent force was beginning to wane.

For the names of special works on Delphi, see the end of this article.

On the Oracular System generally.

Delphi and Dodona stand apart. These having been treated of, the occasion is the best for some general remarks on all the oracles.

It must not be forgotten that oracles were only the most highly organised form of the general effort to obtain supernatural knowledge and power; that isolated diviners, unconnected with any oracle, abounded throughout Greece; that modes of divination by sacrifice, the flight of birds, the casting of pebbles, were known and practised in all quarters; and that, even when diviners united into a college, there was no oracle, properly speaking, unless the place itself through some known feature, as a tree or a rocky cleft, co-operated. For lack of this, the college of diviners at Telmessus in Lycia cannot be held to constitute an oracle (Hdt. 1.78). A scarcely less necessary feature of an oracle was that it should have an organised body of ministers. This is sometimes wanting in a so-called oracle, but never in an oracle of importance. Without priests and sacrifice, there could be no solemnity of approach to the [p. 2.285]divine power. In an oracle, the intercourse between God and man was thought to be at its highest.

A curious incidental fact is the excessive abundance of oracles in Boeotia, their entire absence from Attica. The Attic temperament was too keen-witted, seemingly, for an oracle to be able to flourish under its close inspection; though, at a distance, the Athenians were very reverential to oracles. On the other hand, the Boeotians were not content unless they had a divinity close by.

The fact that Apollo, not Zeus, is the god who generally presides over oracles, must be noted and understood. It was not meant in disparagement of Zeus. Zeus was so great, that the human mind could not come in immediate contact with him; an intermediary was necessary; and such was Apollo. But what Apollo declared, Zeus had first conceived and intended. (Aesch. Eum. 19, 616-618.) Yet this idea was not invariable, for the most primitive oracle, Dodona, belonged to Zeus simply; and two others will immediately be described.

The chief distinction of class between oracles, as respects the method by which the prophecy was procured, was this: some were called artificial, in which signs of future events were derived from external appearances intellectually interpreted; others natural, in which, either through dreams or through a prophetic frenzy, the divine intention was implanted directly in the mind of the seer, and uttered by him (or generally by her) in involuntary phrases. Dodona originally belonged to the first class, Delphi to the second. But Dodona, as has been said, resorted afterwards to the method of inspiration. Oracles of Apollo may be generally assumed to have some tinge of the prophetic frenzy, though often softened down. Oracles to which the sick resorted, generally made use of dreams (cf. Tertull. de Anim. 46); the patient slept a night in the temple (incubatio).

The two most important oracles, after Delphi and Dodona, are the oracle of Zeus Ammon in Libya, and that of Apollo at Branchidae. Those who wish to know the experiences of a consultant of the minor oracles may refer to the discourses of Aelius Aristides (an abstract is given by M. Bouchdé--Leclercq, vol. iii. pp. 299-307).

The oracles will now be set down according to their several classes.

Oracles of Zeus (other than Dodona).

1. Oracle of Zeus at Olympia. This is an instance of a true and very ancient oracle, slowly metamorphosed under the influence of a system of divination which had grown up under the shelter of the oracle, but yet was not strictly oracular. Pausanias saw at Olympia an enclosure sacred to Zeus the Thunderer (Ζεὺς Καταιβάτης), close to the great altar; and also an altar dedicated to Earth, and another to Themis, close by the mouth (στόμιον) of a hollow chasm. Here we have something that sounds like the primary form of the Delphic oracle; perhaps a still nearer reminiscence of Dodona. But a family of priestly diviners, the Iamidae, whose origin is far removed in the legendary past, in which their first father Iamus was said to have been a son of Apollo (Pindar, Pind. O. 6.47-121), introduced methods of divination unknown to the earliest times; by the observation of the entrails of victims (Hdt. 1.59; 8.134) and of the flames of sacrifices (Pindar, Pind. O. 8.4); and the true oracle gave way before the new-comers. With the Iamidae were joined the Clytiades (Paus. 6.17.6). The divination, according to these rites, was performed before the altar of Zeus Olympius (Pindar,. Olymp. 6.118, 119). Yet the oracle did not cease to be called an oracle; Sophocles (Oed. Tyr. 900) assigns to it a high dignity; and the change was perhaps not distinctly recognised by most. From what Strabo says (viii. p. 353), and Lucian. Icar. 24, we conclude that it was hardly consulted at all on ordinary occasions, in the historical period; this impression is, however, removed by the interesting story in Xen. Hell. 4.7. 2

2. Oracle of Zeus Ammon, in an oasis of Libya, in the north-west of Egypt. This oracle came immediately after Delphi and Dodona in importance and fame; and there is this point of great, interest about it, that it was in all probability founded by Egyptians, and then refined and humanised through the Greek inhabitants of Cyrene. Two distinct national cults united to produce it.

Zeus, in this oracle, was represented as having a ram's head (κριοπρόσωτος, Hdt. 4.181, 2.42). Such a representation cannot rationally be supposed to have had any origin but one; namely, in the Egyptian Thebes, where the chief god, Ammon (Amun), was also represented with a ram's head. The derivation of the oracle of Ammon from the Egyptian Thebes has already been spoken of in treating of Dodona; and though the story of captive Egyptian women, given by Herodotus, could not fairly be expected to have left any trace recognisable by modern research, the other parts of the account of Herodotus do receive confirmation from recent discoveries very remarkably. What Herodotus says (2.42) is, that the inhabitants of the oasis of Ammon were descended from a joint colony of Egyptians and Ethiopians, and he implies that the Egyptians were from Thebes, and gives a fanciful story why the Thebans and other Egyptians gave their chief god (whom he calls Zeus) a ram's head. Now, R. Lepsius (in the Zeitschrift für aegyptischen Sprache und Alterthumskunde, 1877, pp. 8-23) has shown from the monuments that it was precisely under the Ethiopian dynasty that the god Ammon of Thebes (Amun) was first represented with a ram's head, he having been previously depicted with a human head surmounted by two large feathers; and that it was under a king of that dynasty, Teharqou (692-664 B.C.), that the oasis of Ammon was colonised and the oracle founded, a short time before the colonisation of Cyrene by the Greeks. This fixes the origin of the Ammonian oracle very precisely, and entirely in accordance with Herodotus.

The Cyreneans embraced the worship of Zeus Ammon with eagerness, and extended it among their kindred in Greece, the Spartans and Thebans (Paus. 3.18.2; 9.16.1). Nevertheless, there was always some little hesitation among the Greeks in identifying this deity absolutely with their own Zeus. The ram's head [p. 2.286]naturally stood in the way; and hence sometimes only the ram's horns were attributed to him, the head and face being those of a man, and this would appear to have been the case in a statue of him at Megalopolis in Arcadia (ἄγαλμα Ἄμμωνος, κέρατα ἐπὶ τῆς κεφαλῆς ἔχον κριοῦ, Paus. 8.32.1). We may hope, and perhaps believe, that it was so also in the statue of Ammon dedicated in a temple of the god at Thebes by the poet Pindar (Paus. 9.16.1). Pindar completely identifies Ammon with Zeus (Pyth. 9.89), and, as we learn from the Scholiast on that passage, addressed to him a hymn, hailing him as “master of Olympus” ; which hymn was engraved on a pillar by Ptolemy the First, king of Egypt, and seen by Pausanias (l.c.). On the other hand, in Plato, Ammon is always Ammon, never Zeus. Few more quaint stories are preserved than the complaint of the Athenians to this oracle as to their own military failure in spite of their splendid sacrifices; while the Lacedaemonians, who troubled themselves little about those things, won their battles ([Plato], Alcib. 2.148, 149). It is scarcely necessary to say that Alexander the Great identified Ammon with Zeus.

We know but little of the methods of divination employed at this oracle; but from Diodorus (17.50, 51) we gather that one was, to carry the statue, flashing with emeralds, in solemn procession, and judge by the changing appearances which it presented: 80 priests joined in this ceremonial. The spring of water in the oasis must have furnished another means; for when the oracle had fallen into decay, the priests provided themselves with a supply of water from it, which they carried about and sold as possessing qualities of divination (Juv. 6.553-555). The oracle had been nearly deserted long before Juvenal's time (cf. Strabo xvii. p.814).

Oracles of Apollo (other than Delphi).

The oracles of Apollo will here be taken in a geographical order: namely, first, those in Boeotia and the neighbouring parts (Phocis and Euboea); next, those in Asia Minor and the adjacent islands; lastly, the few (of which Delos is the most important) scattered elsewhere.

But it is necessary to say, in a few words, the order in which these oracles actually grew. The peculiarity of the case is, that the oracular impulse first came to birth in Greece, while the worship of Apollo (as appears from the legends, from Homer, and from general considerations) originated on the coasts of Asia Minor. The prophetic god was separated from the chief oracular seats. But gradually, the worship of Apollo crossed over the Aegean; and, at Delphi, found the seat that fulfilled all that the imagination required. Then, the centre having been found, the oracular impulse was flashed back over the Aegean; and created on the Ionian coasts those oracular seats which could not have originated there, but which were resorted to and honoured, as soon as their pretensions were understood.

1. Oracle at Abae

Oracle at Abae, in the N.E. of Phocis. This oracle is first mentioned in the 6th century B.C., when Croesus included it among the seven oracles which he tested as a preliminary to his intended inquiry concerning the expediency of making war on Cyrus. It was therefore an oracle of distinction, though it proved unequal to satisfying the test imposed by Croesus (Hdt. 1.46, 47). It pretended to great antiquity. Shortly before the Persian wars it received from the Phocians a great number of shields and other booty won in battle from the Thessalians, an equal number being sent to Delphi. After the battle of Thermopylae, the Thessalians determined to take their revenge; they led a Persian army into Phocis, and destroyed among other places the temple of Abae (Hdt. 8.33). Pausanias (10.35.2) tells us that the Greeks passed a resolution to leave in their ruins all temples that had been destroyed in this invasion, as a memorial of undying hatred. But this cannot have been carried out here: it must be inferred from Sophocles (Oed. Tyr. 899) that the temple of Abae was fully existent in the latter half of the 5th century B.C. Moreover, we find it predicting victory to the Thebans before the battle of Leuctra (Paus. 4.32.5): in spite of which, those same Thebans burnt it, and 500 Phocians in it, in the Sacred or Phocian War (B.C. 346). And though the town of Abae, at the end of that war, was exempted from the ruin that fell on the rest of Phocis (Paus. 10.3.2), the temple and oracle were irretrievably gone. Centuries afterwards, Hadrian built a smaller temple close by, and the Romans, from a feeling of piety towards Apollo, allowed the people of Abae to govern themselves. (Paus. 10.35.2.)

2. Oracle of Tegyra

This lay not far from Abae, but just within the Boeotian frontier. Plutarch tells us that it flourished chiefly in the Persian wars, when it had a high priest Echecrates (Pelopid. 16), and promised the Greeks the victory over the Persians (Defect. Orac. 5). Tegyra was on one occasion declared by the Pythia herself to have been the birthplace of Apollo (Plutarch, Pelopid. 16; Defect. Orac. 5; Steph. Byz. s. v. Τεγύρα).

3. Oracle of Mount Ptoon, near Acraephia, in the territory of Thebes

Mythology affirmed that Tenerus, son of Apollo and Melia, was the first prophet here (Strabo ix. p.412). More interesting is it to know, on the same authority, that Pindar sang of this oracle. When Mys the Carian was sent by Mardonius to consult it, at the time of the Persian wars, the prophet answered him in the Carian language, so that the Thebans who accompanied him could not write down the reply, and Mys was obliged to do this himself (Hdt. 8.135). This oracle also was consulted by the Thebans before Leuctra (Paus. 4.32.5), but was destroyed in the general ruin of the Theban territory by Alexander (Paus. 9.23.3). In the time of Plutarch the whole district was desolate (Plut. Defect. Orac. 8).

4. Oracle of Apollo Ismenius, south of Thebes

This was the national sanctuary of the Thebans, and oracles were given here, as at Olympia, by inspection of the entrails of victims (Hdt. 8.134) and by the shape of altar-flames (Soph. Oed. Tyr. 21). A stone at the entrance of the temple was pointed out as the seat on [p. 2.287]which Manto, the daughter of Tiresias, had prophesied. In this oracle a boy of good family and handsome appearance was selected yearly as priest and termed δαφνηφόρος (laurel-bearer); and if in more than usually good position, dedicated a tripod before his year of office was over. (Paus. 9.10, § § 2-4; and compare Pindar, Pind. P. 11.7-10.) Herodotus saw three such tripods, inscribed with ancient Cadmean characters (5.58-61). One was inscribed with the name of Amphitryon, and Pausanias (l.c.) says that it was dedicated on behalf of Heracles, and was the most remarkable of all the tripods he had seen. Possibly it was from this collection that a yearly tripod was sent to Dodona (Strabo ix. p.402). Before the disastrous conflict with Alexander, the Thebans are said to have asked of this oracle the meaning of a certain cobweb in the temple of Demeter, and to have received an ambiguous answer (Diod. 17.10).

5. Oracle of Apollo Spodios, also at Thebes

Here divination by voice-omens was practised, as at Smyrna. (Paus. 9.11.5.) This oracle, like the last, was of course destroyed by Alexander.

6. Oracle of Hysiae, at the foot of Cithaeron, near Attica

The temple was unfinished: the mode of inspiration was by drinking from a sacred well. (Paus. 9.2.1.)

7. Oracle of Eutresis, between Thespiae and Plataea, in the neighbourhood of Leuctra

(Steph. Byz. s. v. Εὔτρησις: Schol. ad Il. 2.502.)

8. Oracle of Apollo Didymaeus, usually called the oracle of the Branchidae, in the territory of Miletus

This oracle was, as has been intimated, the fourth in importance of all in the Grecian world; and the legends respecting its foundation are highly picturesque. (Conon. Narrat. 33; Varr. ap. Lutat. ad Stat. Thebaid, 8.198.) The antiquity of it has, however, been much doubted, and C. W. Soldau (in the Zeitschrift für Alterthumswissenschaft, 1841, pp. 546-584) endeavours to show that it was founded somewhere about the last quarter of the 7th century B.C. But his arguments, though highly ingenious, hardly seem to countervail these two facts: first, that Herodotus calls it “an oracle founded in ancient time” (μαντήϊον ἐκ παλαιοῦ ἱδρυμένον, 1.157); and, secondly, that Pharaoh-Necho (who died in B.C. 601) sent to Branchidae, “as an offering to Apollo,” his military dress (Hierod. 2.159), which he would hardly have done to a quite recent institution. It is true that it is suggested that the temple was more ancient than the oracle; but no one supposes that the family of the Branchidae were more ancient than the oracle; and their arrival (in the person of the head of the family, Branchus) could hardly have been a fact unknown to Herodotus if it had taken place only a century and a half before his own time. Branchus is probably a mythical person; the only argument to the contrary being the obscure reference in Diogenes Laertius (1.3, 5 [72]), in which he is set side by side with the sage Chilon as a person of brief terse speech.

The oracle, however, is quite unmentioned by Homer or the Homeric hymns, and various points in the myths of its foundation indicate that it was an offshoot from Delphi; to which conclusion the reference in Strabo (xvii. p.814) also leads. But at the beginning of the 5th century B.C., the sentiments of the Delphic oracle towards Branchidae were the reverse of friendly (Hdt. 6.19). It was the oracle chiefly consulted by the Aeolians and Ionians of Asia Minor; and it was one of the seven selected by Croesus to answer his test question; and though it appears not to have solved his puzzle satisfactorily, he gave it, says Herodotus (1.92), “offerings, as I learn, equal in weight and similar to those which he made to Delphi.” This, under all the circumstances, may be doubted; but Croesus must have been liberal to the Branchidae, to render such a statement possible.

The meaning of the word Didymaeus (Διδυμαῖος or Διδυμεύς) is not quite certain; but if we accept the statement of Stephanus of Byzantium (s. v. Δίδυμα) that the temple and oracle were dedicated to Zeus and Apollo, “the twin Apollo” (i. e. twin with Zeus) seems the natural interpretation: though “twin with Artemis” cannot be discarded as impossible, if Διδυμεὺς has this meaning. In any case, if Stephanus be right, such a dedication suggests an oracular foundation (cf. Aesch. Eum. 19), and goes some way to show that the oracle is coeval with the temple.

Of the constitution of the oracle of Branchidae only a few traces are left. As its name implies, it was administered by a sacerdotal family, and this appears further from its later history; for in the unfortunate close of the history of the Branchidae, far away in the Sogdiana, we find them preserving their cohesion and identity. Other families are also mentioned in connexion with this oracle, especially the Evangelides (cf. Conon. Narrat. 44); but what their relation to it exactly was we do not know. Perhaps they only entered on the scene after the Branchidae had disappeared. Though Strabo (l.c.) describes this oracle as similar to Delphi, in the fact of its replying by words and not by signs, we cannot certainly infer that it had a tripod and a prophetess in the early times; though it had in the times of Iamblichus (de Myst. 3.2). But it had a sacred spring more marvellous than Castalia, which rose in the promontory of Mycale, then (it was said) dived under the sea and reappeared near the temple of Apollo (Paus. 5.7.5; and cf. Euseb. Psraep. Ev. 5.15).

The Branchidae failed in patriotism (Schol. Aristoph. Pl. 1002; Zenob. 5.80); yet the impression which the few stories that have come down to us about them leave, is not wholly unfavourable. When we find the historian Hecataeus proposing to take the treasure of their temple, and to derive thence a fund for repelling the Persians (Hdt. 5.36), their coolness for the Greek cause, if not admirable, is intelligible. About the beginning of the 5th century B.C. a catastrophe overwhelmed them. Darius, after capturing Miletus, burnt their temple (Hdt. 6.19, 20) and, we must infer, appropriated its treasures; and when the historian goes on to say that Darius “carried away the Milesians to Ampe on the Tigris,” we should suppose that the Branchidae were at any rate among those carried off. But a different story was current in Greece in later days; namely, [p. 2.288]that it was Xerxes, not Darius, who carried away the Branchidae; that they voluntarily surrendered their treasures to him, bargaining for a safe home in Persia, since they dared not dwell among the Greeks, and that they were accordingly settled in Sogdiana (Curtius, 7.23; Aelian, ap. Suid. s. v. Βραγχίδαι: Strabo xi. p.518, xiv. p. 634; Plut. de ser. num. vindicta, 12); and Strabo says, finally, that it was Xerxes who burnt their temple. Amid this contradictory evidence, it is impossible for us now to decide how the case lay; but the easiest supposition is, that Herodotus was not aware of the exact place to which the Branchidae were transported, and that on this point the four later historians are right; that the four historians, on the other hand, are mistaken in saying that Xerxes had anything to do with the matter (since Herodotus could hardly have erred here); and that the story of the treachery of the Branchidae was the exaggerated shape which the sense of their want of patriotism took in the minds of after-generations. Be that as it may, the final upshot, as reported by the four above-named historians, was tragical. Alexander the Great, in his wild arrogance regarding himself as the avenger of the past wrongs of Greece, slew the descendants of the Branchidae, in their peaceable remote retreat in Sogdiana.

The oracle of Apollo Didymaeus, no longer the oracle of the Branchidae (though still sometimes called so), revived from the ruins in which the Persians had left it; though how soon, we do not know. In the time of Alexander we find it under the direction of the authorities of Miletus (cf. O. Rayet, Rev. Archéol. 1874, ii. pp. 106, 107); the priests were chosen annually by lot from among the principal families of the city (cf. C. I. G. 2884, 2881): the chief of the priestly body was called στεφανηφόρος, “crownbearer,” and it seems possible that he combined with his religious office, either sometimes or always, the position of chief magistrate of the city, for we find him in one case admitting certain persons to citizenship (O. Rayet, p. 108); besides these, there was a prophet, also annually ordained. The temple had been rebuilt, but on a scale so grand that the roof was never put on (Strabo xiv. p.634). The oracle flattered Alexander, and after him Seleucus Nicator, from whom it received gifts; and from this time onwards it rapidly became rich. In the year 74 B.C. it was pillaged by pirates, yet Strabo in his visit still found it in a condition of great magnificence. It seems (like the other Asiatic oracles) to have been less affected by a decline in prestige than the oracles in Greece proper; and the Roman senate included it among those religious institutions which it was legally permissible to endow with inheritances (Ulpian, Fragm. 22.6). It shared in the oracular revival of the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D., but after the death of Julian fell irretrievably into ruin.

9. Oracle of Claros

This was situated north of Miletus, near Colophon. It was said to have been founded by Cretans under Rhacius, who were joined afterwards by a Theban colony sent out under the auspices of the Delphic oracle, at an extremely early date. Manto, daughter of Tiresias, was among the Thebans; she married Rhacius, and their son was the prophet Mopsus, from whom the prophets of Claros may have traced their descent; but this is doubtful, (Paus.n. 7.3, § § 1, 2.) In later times, the prophets were generally taken from Miletus (Tac. Ann. 2.54). The oracle at Claros had its centre in a cave with a beautiful clear pool in it, near a sacred wood, in which, it was said, there were no serpents (Aelian, Ael. NA 10.49). We hear but little of this oracle in early times: Alexander was said to have been encouraged by it in a design he had of rebuilding Smyrna (Paus. 7.5.1). A prophet, who drank the sacred water, was the revealer of the divine will (Tac. l.c.) and pronounced oracles in verse, answering the questioner without even having heard the question. The cynic philosopher Oenomaus of Gadara (in the 2nd century A.D.) was, however, by no means impressed with the truthfulness of the replies (Oenom. ap. Euseb. Praep. Evang. 5.2). Germanicus consulted this oracle, which was said to have prophesied his death (Tac. l.c.); it was sometimes consulted by letter (Ovid, Ov. Fast. 1.20); and it was patronised by Apollonius of Tyana (Philostr. Vit. Apoll. 4.1) and Alexander of Abonotichos (Lucian, Pseudom. 29). Inscriptions prove that its fame extended even to Britain. Porphyry (ad Aneb. p. 3) and Iamblichus (Myst. 3.11) speak of it, but after that time it is unmentioned.

10. Oracle of Patara, in Lycia

The story (not of course likely to be approved of at Delphi) was that Apollo spent six months of the year here (the winter time) and the six summer months at Delos. (Tzetz. ad Lycophr. 401; Servius ad Verg. A. 4.143: cf. Hdt. 1.182.)

11. Oracle at Cyaneae, in Lycia

(The town is mentioned in Pliny, 5.101.) Here was an oracle of Apollo Thyrxeus (perhaps = θυραῖος: cf. Tertull. de coron. mil. 354), near which was a well, into which any one looking saw “all that he desired” (πάντα ὁπόσα θέλει, Paus. 7.21.6).

12. Oracle at Seleucia, in Cilicia

(cf. Steph. Byz. s. v. Σελεύκεια). Here Apollo was invoked as “Sarpedonius” (from the neighbouring promontory, dedicated to the hero Sarpedon). The people of Palmyra, in the height of their pride under Zenobia, asked this oracle if they could conquer the empire of the East. It is not surprising that they were repelled (Zosim. 1.57). It would seem that this is the oracle called by Strabo the oracle of Artemis Sarpedonia (14.5.9).

13. Oracle at Hybla, near Magnesia

(cf. Ath. 15.13). Possibly the true name of this oracle is Hylae (Paus. 10.32.6). It seems from its situation to be the same as that of Hiera Kome, mentioned in Liv. 38.13.

14. Oracle at Gryneia or Grynium

The principal oracle among the Aeolic cities of Asia Minor. (Strabo xiii. p.622; Verg. Ecl. 6.72; Aen. 4.345; Paus. 1.21.7; Athen. 4.149 d; Hecat. Fragm. 211.) The town itself is mentioned in Herodotus (1.149), and appears from Strabo to have been dependent on Myrina; and as Myrina sent tribute to Delphi (Plut. Pyth. Orac. 16), the Grynean oracle was no doubt an offshoot from Delphi. (For an instance of a consultation of this oracle, cf. C. I. G. [p. 2.289]

15. Oracle of Apollo Napaeus (Ναπαῖος

Near Methymna in Lesbos. (Steph. Byz. s. v. Νάπη; Schol. Arist. Nub. 144; Macrob. 1.17, 45: cf. Strabo ix. p.426.)

16. Oracle of Apollo Actaeus and Artemis at Adrastaea, in the north of the Troad

Strabo xiii. p.588.)

17. Oracle at Zeleia, in the north of the Troad (Tzetz

ad Lycophr. 315.)

18. Oracle at Chalcedon

(Dion. Byzapt. Anaplus Bospori, Fragm. 67: cf. C. I. G. 3794).

19. Oracle of Delos

The singularity of this oracle is why it should not have existed in times when oracles were most important. It appeared to have every advantage; the Homeric hymn to the Delian Apollo (v. 81) shows that from the first it was designed to be an oracle; the island itself had the highest celebrity for its sacredness, and the religious ceremonials with which it was honoured were scarcely surpassed in Greece: yet an oracle it was not. When one asks why this was, the answer must be conjectural. Probably the reason was, that it lay out of the reach of those Greek races who had the disposition suitable for originating oracles (the Boeotians and Phocians), and was peculiarly under the thumb of that race (the Athenians) which was devoid of any such disposition. Under some circumstances, it might have been a religious centre for the Ionians and Aeolians of Asia Minor; but they probably found the seavoyage a deterrent, and they had their own highly celebrated oracles (see above) derived from Delphi. Not till the 2nd century B.C. is any reference made (outside the brief allusion in the Homeric hymn) to an oracle in the island, Then Zeno of Rhodes speaks of the Rhodians having inquired of this oracle (cf. Diod. 5.58). But Virgil (Aen. 3.90-93) gave it a far higher reputation; though, considering the looseness of the Roman poets in such points, his reference has hardly any historical authority. The satirical allusion in Lucian (Bis accus. 1) is, however, real evidence; and in a still later age Julian consulted it (Theodoret. Hist. Eccles. 3.16). When one asks whether the oracle, such as it was, was situated in the temple near the sea-shore or on the top of Mount Cynthus, in the really ancient shrine discovered by M. Lebègue (Récherches sur Delos), the testimony of Himerius (Orat. 18.1) seems to decide the point in favour of the latter. The story that Apollo spent the six summer months of the year at Delos, has already been referred to under the head of the Oracle of Patara.

20. Oracle at Abdera

(Pindar, ap. Tzetzes, Lycophr. 445.)

21. Oracle of Apollo Deiradiotes, at Argos

This is stated to have been an offshoot from Delphi (Paus. 2.24); but in one point the ceremonies differed remarkably from those of Delphi: the priestess once a month sacrificed a lamb during the night, and tasted the blood, in order to obtain the prophetic ecstasy. This appears to show that the oracle had a higher antiquity than belonged to its Delphic origin, and was in the first instance an oracle of the dead. It was kept alive by the patriotism of the Argives, always mindful of their primaeval renown, and was still active in the time of Pausanias.

22. Oracle of Apollo Lycius, also at Argos

The prophetess is said to have warned Pyrrhus, just before his death (Plut. Pyrrh. 31). Pausanias, however, does not mention this oracle and some doubt consequently attaches to it. Except the two at Argos, there was no oracle of Apollo in Peloponnesus: the neighbourhood of Delphi overpowered minor establishments.

23. Oracle of Daphne, near Antioch in Syria

A very late oracle, and of no good repute. The prophetic fountain had here the name of Castalia, and a bay-tree grew close by. Hadrian obtained fiom this oracle a prophecy that he should be emperor; but on his becoming such in reality, he destroyed the fountain, lest any one else should draw from it a similar augury. Julian attempted to restore it, but the temple was burnt down (accidentally, it seems) during the struggle which he waged against the Christians, and this practically meant the end of the oracle. (Strabo xv. p.750; C. I. G. 1693; Sozom. Hist. Eccles. 5.19; Amm. Marcell. 22.12, 8.)

Oracles of other Gods.

Oracles of other divinities.

Though the overwhelming prestige of Apollo, as the revelar of the will of his father Zeus to men, tended to exitinguish the prophetic function of other divinities in the eyes of their adorers, it could not quite succeed in doing so. To be a god, and not to be able to predict the future, was to fall so seriously beneath the divine level, that the worshipper of Athene or Hermes would never admit that the object of his worship was reduced so low. Hence, scattered through Greece, though few in number by comparison, were the oracular seats of the other supernatural powers of the upper or nether world; the rites by which they were approached being sometimes of a very singular nature.

The Earth, as has appeared already, was to the primitive populations almost the chief discloser of the future (thus, originally, at Delphi). The oracle of Earth (γαῖα) at Aegira in Achaia, mentioned by Pliny (28.147), may be a mistake of that writer (cf. Paus. 7.25.13); but at Patrae, not far from Aegira, Earth, associated with Demeter (i. e. Γῆ μήτηρ) and Persephone, gave oracles respecting the sick. A mirror was let down by a rope into a sacred well, so as to float upon the surface. Prayers were then performed and incense offered, whereupon the image of the sick person was seen in the mirror either as a corpse or in a state of recovery. (Paus. 2.24.1.)

A vague tradition of an oracle of the Nymphs called Sphragitides existed on Mount Cithaeron (Plut. Arist. 11; Paus. 9.3.9). A tradition of an oracle of Poseidon Hippios, at Onchestus in Boeotia, is preserved in the Homeric hymn to Apollo (230-238), with which compare Paus. 9.26.5, and, as emphasising the word Hippios, Hom. Il. 19.405-417. An oracle of Ino-Pasiphae, who seems to represent the moon, existed in Laconia between Oetylus and Thalamae; the revelation being made through dreams (Paus. 3.26.1). The other oracle of this deity mentioned by Pausanias, at Epidaurus Limera, seems hardly rightly so called [INOA]

There was an oracle of Pluto and Core (Persephone) at Acharaca, between Tralles and Nysa, in Asia Minor, in the basin of the Maeander. A large grove, a temple, and a cave called the [p. 2.290]Charonium, were the seat of the oracle. “The sick resort thither, and live in the village near the cave, among experienced priests, who sleep at night in the open air and direct the mode of cure by their dreams. The priests invoke the gods to cure the sick, and frequently take them into the cave, where they remain in quiet without food for several days. Sometimes the sick themselves observe their own dreams, but apply to the priests to interpret them. To others the place is interdicted and fatal.” (Strabo xiv. p.650, abridged.) The singular ceremony which Strabo proceeds to narrate has no direct bearing on the oracle. There appears to have been an oracle of Pluto at Eana in Macedonia (cf. L. Henzey, Mission archéol. de Macédoine, Inscr. N, 120).

An oracle of Dionysus existed at Amphicaea or Amphicleia, in Phocis, to the north of Parnassus. Like the oracle at Acharaca, its function was limited to the cure of the sick, and its mode of operation was by dreams interpreted by an inspired prophet (Paus. 10.33.11). Another oracle of Dionysus was at Satrae in Thrace, and the prophets were called Bessi (Hdt. 7.111). The oracles, however, were given by a prophetess, “as at Delphi, and are not more recondite,” says Herodotus. The oracle of Dionysus in Thrace, mentioned by Pausanias (9.30.9), may perhaps be the same as the one just mentioned.

Oracles of Pan were to be found at Troezen (Paus. 2.32.6), and in the cave at Paneas, one of the principal sources of the river Jordan (C. I. G. 4539); the oracles were given through dreams. An oracle of Aphrodite existed at Paphos in Cyprus, and was consulted by Titus (Tac. Hist. 2.3, 4). An oracle of Hera Acraea (i. e. the goddess of the hill-tops) was between Lechaeon and Pagae, on the gulf of Corinth (Strabo viii. p.380).

Hermes, from his close connexion with Apollo, was a god that might be expected to give oracles: this power, however, in the Homeric hymn to Hermes, 552 sqq., is only accorded to him in a limited degree by the more exalted deity. He had an oracle at Pharae in Achaia, where his altar stood in the middle of the market-place. Incense was offered there, oil lamps were lighted before it, a copper coin was placed upon the altar, and after this the question was put to the god by a whisper in his ear. The person who consulted him immediately left the market-place. The first remark that he heard made by any one after leaving the marketplace was believed to imply the answer of Hermes (Paus. 7.22.2). This mode of oracular disclosure was so much associated with Hermes that he received the name of Κλεηδόνιος from it; as we learn from an inscription found at Pitane, near Smyrna (Le Bas et Waddington, Voyage archéol. 5.1724a). Hence it is probable that the Κληδόνων ἱερὸν at Smyrna, mentioned by Pausanias (9.11.7), was an oracle of Hermes.

Athene, the goddess of rational valour, had scarcely any oracles; though Plato, identifying her with the Egyptian Neith, says that she introduced into Greece “prophecy and medicine” (Plato, Tim. p. 24 C). Characteristically enough, the only oracle attributed to her is to the effect of “Help thyself, and heaven will help thee.” (Zenob. Cent. 5.93; Diogenian. Cent. 8.11; Suidas, s. v. τὴν χεῖρα: cf. Babr. 20.)

Oracles of Heroes.

Asclepius (Aesculapius) lies almost half-way between gods and heroes; still he may be more properly reckoned among the latter. And the oracular seats where he was believed to instruct men are of peculiar interest, because they furnish the meeting-point between religion and science, as those were conceived in the classical Greek world. For, on the one hand, he was thought of as the god of healing, the son of Apollo, begotten by Apollo that he might heal bodily sicknesses (Menand. Rhet. Epidict. p. 327 Olympiod. Vit. Plat. p. 4, 42); in whose temples the sick would spend a night in hope of being miraculously relieved by the morning (Paus. 2.27.2). This aspect of him had a tendency to gain ground; to Aeschylus (Aesch. Ag. 1022) and Pindar (Pind. P. 3.96) he is a faulty man; Aristophanes (Plutus, 662 sqq.), with all his mockery, treats Asclepius as a god. But, on the other hand, Asclepius was the legendary father of a crowd of descendants, the Asclepiadae, who, in whatever degree they considered religious communications important for success in the healing art, had genuinely scientific qualities (Plato, Rep. iii. p. 405 sqq.; MEDICINA). These two phases of the doctrine and practice connected with the name of Asclepius were so intermingled, that they cannot now be separated. Epidaurus was the chief seat of the religious worship; there Asclepius had a temple and a grove, and a magnificent gold and ivory statue, and innumerable votive tablets on the walls attested the cures wrought on sick persons by the method of incubation (Paus. 2.26, 27), But at Cos the medical school culminated, and there Hippocrates, the first great light of medical science, lived and wrote. Yet Epidaurus and Cos were not hostile to one another, and we read of an embassy sent by the Epidaurians to the Asclepius of Cos (Paus. 3.23.6). We must assume that in the generality of the shrines of Asclepius (of which nearly a hundred are reckoned: cf. Th. Panofka, Asclepios und die Asclepiaden, pp. 271-361) the religious element, the prophecy by dreams and incubation, greatly outweighed the scientific. It is a question of much interest why, in view of the paucity of oracles of ordinary gods, other than Apollo, so remarkable an exception should be found in the case of Asclepius. The theory was (Menand. Rhet. and Olympiod. l.c.) that Apollo committed to Asclepius this part of his functions; but it is impossible to suppose that persons erecting a temple to Asclepius had any clear theory of delegation. No doubt the truth is, that the worship of Asclepius was antecedent to the worship of Apollo, and his emblem, the snake, had an origin quite distinct from the Apolline worship; and his affiliation to Apollo was a device of the worshippers of Apollo, in order that they might appropriate a power that they could not expel. At Pergamus, another great seat of Asclepius, the celebrated physician Galen, starting from pure faith in the oracular cures, taught himself principles of more exact medical science. In the year 293 B.C. the Sibylline books commanded the Romans to “seek Asclepius at [p. 2.291]Epidaurus.” They did so, and brought away a mysterious serpent; then, on the spot where this serpent disappeared, they built a temple to Asclepius (Aesculapius). Oracles were given there through dreams, and miracles performed (C. I. G. 5977, 5980). Serapis was joined with Aesculapius in the worship at this temple (Suet. Cl. 25). This also was the case at Pergamus. F. A. Wolf (Vermischte Schriften, pp. 382 sqq.) endeavours to show that mesmerism was used in the curative rites of Asclepius; but the experiences of Aelius Aristides hardly bear this out.

Oracles of Heracles. One was at Hyettus in Boeotia (Paus. 9.36.6); another at Bura, in Achaia. Those who consulted it prayed and put their questions, and then cast four dice painted with figures, and the answer was given according to the position of these figures (Paus. 7.25.6). Another oracle of Heracles was at Gades (D. C. 77.20). Like Asclepius, Heracles was almost to be reckoned as a god; had he been merely the Greek son of Zeus and Alcmena, this would not have been so: but he was identified with foreign deities, such as Melkart.

Oracle of Trophonius at Lebadea. One of the most celebrated of the Greek oracles, and in a place of sombre and impressive aspect, in Boeotia. There were different versions of the legend of Trophonius: the most dignified (found in Plut. Consol. ad Apoll. 14) tells us that Trophonius and Agamedes built the temple of Delphi, and, upon desiring a reward of the god, he told them that he would give them one on the seventh day; on which day they were found dead. Apollo made Trophonius a prophet; and the Boeotians were bidden to consult him at Lebadea on the means to put an end to a drought that afflicted the land. A swarm of bees led them to the sacred cave, and the oracle was established (Paus. 9.40, 1, 2). The rites necessary before consulting it were complicated and terrifying. First, the consultants had to purify themselves by spending some days in the sanctuary of the good spirit and good luck (Ἀγαθοῦ Δαίμονος καὶ ἀγαθῆς Τύχης); to live soberly and purely; to abstain from warm baths, but to bathe in the river Hercyna; to offer sacrifices to Trophonius and his children, to Apollo, Cronos, king Zeus, to Herb who holds the reins (Heniocha), and to Demeter Europe, who was said to have nursed Trophonius; and during each of these sacrifices a soothsayer examined the entrails of the victim. On the last night, the consultant had to sacrifice a ram to Agamedes. Only in the event of all the signs being favourable was admission to the cave granted. If it were granted: two boys, 13 years old, led the consultant again to the river Hercyna, and bathed and anointed him. The priests then made him drink from the well of.Lethe, that he might forget all his former thoughts, and from the well of Mnemosyne, that he might remember the visions he was about to receive. They showed him an ancient statue of Trophonius, which he adored; led him to the sanctuary, dressed him in linen garments, with girdles and a peculiar kind of shoes (κρηπῖδες); and bade him descend a ladder into the cave. Close to the bottom was an opening into which he put his foot; some invisible power then drew his whole body through the opening. In each hand he held a honeycake to appease the subterranean deities. The vision then seen by him was carefully remembered, and told to the priests on his remounting to the light; and when he had recovered from his fears, the priests informed him of the meaning of the oracle. (Paus. 9.39.3 sqq.: cf. Philostr. Vit. Apoll. 8.19.) But the vision sometimes left men melancholy for a long time. Epaminondas consulted this oracle just before the battle of Leuctra, and received from it the shield of Aristomenes, the Messenian hero (Paus. 4.32, § § 5, 6). It preserved a certain reputation even down to the time of Plutarch (de Orac. Defect. 5), though Sulla had plundered it. It was much consulted by the Romans (Origen, c. Celsus, vii. p. 355). Lebadea is the origin of the modern Livadia.

Oracle of Tiresias at Orchomenus. (Plut. de Orac. Defect. 44.)

Oracles of Amphiaraus. Thebes and Oropus (on the Euripus) contended for the honour of possessing the spot in which the hero Amphiaraus was swallowed up by the earth. Hence there were two oracles at which he was invoked: one between Thebes and Potniae, the other in a narrow valley close to the sea, between Oropus and Psaphis (Strabo, 9.1.22). The first was the one consulted by Croesus; it was among the seven to which he proposed his test question, and it was even said to have given an answer not altogether wrong (Hdt. 1.46, 49). Hence the Thebans possessed the golden shield and spear presented by Croesus (Hdt. 1.52) to this oracle; they placed these gifts, however, not in the temple of Amphiaraus, but in the temple of Apollo Ismenius. Moreover, the Thebans would not themselves consult this oracle; they affirmed that the hero was their ally, and that they would not disturb his impartiality (Hdt. 8.134). This looks like a pretext to cover a feeling of hostility; Amphiaraus had fought against the Thebans. Pausanias (9.8.2) tells us that the grass round this temple, and the columns of it, were the scene of a perpetual miracle; cattle would not crop the one, nor birds settle upon the other: doubtless as a proof of the genuineness of the tradition attached to the spot. The oracles were given through dreams to persons sleeping in the temple (Hdt. 8.134): they had to prepare themselves for this incubutio by fasting one day, and by abstaining from wine for three days (Philostr. Vit. Apoll. 2.37).

At the other oracle, that of Oropus, were two sacred wells and an altar of elaborate workmanship (Paus. 1.34, § § 2 sqq.). It was especially consulted by the sick, who had to purify themselves and sacrifice a ram; on the skin of which they afterwards slept in the temple. The means of recovery was then supposed to be intimated to them in dreams. If they recovered, they had to throw some pieces of money into the well within the sanctuary. The sacred ground alleged to belong to this oracle was the subject of a curious controversy, which occasioned the speech of Hyperides pro Euxenippo.

Oracle of Hemithea, at Castabos in the Carian Chersonese. (Diod. 5.62, 63.)

Oracle of Mopsus, otherwise called the oracle of Amphilochus, at Mallos in Cilicia. The two rival seers, Mopsus and Amphilochus, had slain [p. 2.292]each other, and their oracles, which were adjacent, had great celebrity in times succeeding the commencement of our era, and one of the most curious stories connected with oracles is told of that of Mopsus by Plutarch (de Orac. Defect. 45. See also Paus. 1.34.3; Lucian, Pseudom. 28; Tertullian, de An. 46; D. C. 72.7).

Oracles of Calchas and Podalirius, on Mount Drion, in South Italy (Daunia). The character and ceremonial of these oracles were similar to each other, and also to the oracle of Amphiaraus at Oropus (see above). (Strabo vi. p.284.)

Oracle of Protesilaus, at Elaeus, in the Thracian Chersonese. This oracle is not mentioned till the 3rd century A.D. by Philostratus (Heroic. 2.6), and probably was of recent date then.

Oracle of Autolycus (an Argonaut, and not the celebrated thief) at Sinope. (Strabo xii. p.545.)

Oracle of Odysseus, in Aetolia. (Tzetz. ad Lycophr. 799.)

Oracle of Menestheus, the companion of Aeneas, near Gades, in Spain. (Strabo iii. p.140.)

Oracles of Neryllinus, in the Troad, and of Proteus at Parium (Athenagor. Supplic. pro Christ. 26). The oracles are said to have been localised in statues.

The oracle which Alexander of Abonotichos endeavoured to found in the age of the Antonines can hardly be reckoned among the number, as it died with him.

Oracles of the Dead.

It was thought that at certain places, where deep openings were seen in the solid earth, the shades of the dead could rise from their subterranean abode, and give answers to the living. Such a place was called νεκυομαντεῖον or ψυχοπομπεῖον. The most ancient oracular seat of this kind was near lake Aornos among the Thesprotians. (Hdt. 5.92.7; Diod. 4.22; Paus. 9.30.3.) Periander, the sage and tyrant, had recourse to this. Another celebrated Greek, Pausanias the Spartan king, sought relief for his troubled spirit at Phigalia in Arcadia, by summoning the shade of Cleonice (Paus. 3.17, § § 8, 9). Taenarus, in the south of Laconia, presented in its cave another such oracular seat; thither the slayer of Archilochus, the poet, was sent by the Delphic oracle (Plut. de sera num. vind. 17). Heraclea on the Propontis was another seat of the kind (Plut. Cim. 6). As at other oracles, sacrifice was necessary before the shade could be moved to appear; and also prayers (Hom. Od. 11.23-37).

Italian Oracles.

Generally speaking, Oracles, in the sense of special places where divine answers were given to men, were not known to the Italian nations. Their modes of divination were different. (Of course, such oracles as those of Calchas and Podalirius mentioned above, or that of Aesculapius at Rome, were of Greek origin.) Yet if we could trust the poets, there were true oracular seats of Faunus at Albunea (Verg. A. 7.81 sqq.) and on the Aventine (Ovid, Ov. Fast. 4.650 sqq.). Virgil was so imbued with Greek models that his historical authority on such a point is very small. That of Ovid is better; but on the whole there is no sufficient proof of anything f that can be called an oracular seat of Faunus. It is noticeable, that while Virgil makes his oracle complete by bringing in a priest, this essential mark of a fixed place of revelation is absent in Ovid. Moreover, in the somewhat similar passage, Fast. 3.295 sqq., Numa sacrifices, not to Faunus, but to the fountain; and certainly here it can hardly be thought that an oracular seat of Faunus is indicated. Similarly, the tradition preserved by Dionysius of Halicarnassus (1.14), that at Tiora Matiene, one of the aboriginal cities of Italy, a woodpecker used to perch on a wooden column and pronounce oracles given by Mars, cannot be considered as evidence of a real historical oracular seat.

But the temples of Fortune at Praeneste and Antium were real oracles, and the only instances in Italy. The story of the foundation of the Praenestine oracle is told by Cicero, de Div. 2.41, 85. A noble Praenestine, Numerius Suffucius, was bidden by a dream to cleave open a rock; upon his doing so a large number of wooden “lots” (sortes) fell out, inscribed with antique characters. At the same time honey flowed out of an olive-tree near; and at the bidding of the haruspices, the olive-tree was carved into a wooden box, and the lots were enclosed in it. This took place near an image of the infant Jupiter, who was represented (with Juno) as sucking the breast of Fortune (who must be regarded, not as in our sense of the word, but as Primigenia, the origin of life. The Romans borrowed this characterisation of Fortune: cf. Liv. 29.36, 34.53). Once a year, in the month of April, a two-days' festival was held at Praeneste in honour of Fortune and Jupiter, the box was opened, and a child drew out the lots at random (Cic. l.c.; Kal. Praenest. iii. Id. April). See, for further mention of the “lots” of Praeneste, Propert. 2.32, 3; Suet. Tib. 63, Domit. 15; Strabo v. p.238.

The temple of Fortune at Antium has been made famous by Horace (Od. 1.29, 1). Two sister Fortunes were represented, and were said to give the oracles by bending their heads (Macr. 1.23, 13: compare Suet. Calig. 57, and Ernesti's note on the passage). Martial calls them veridicae sorores (5.1, 3).

At Caere (Liv. 21.62) and Folerii (Liv. 22.1) there appear also to have been “lots” fiom which omens were derived.

On the Roman oracles, Niebuhr, Hist. of Rome, vol. i. p. 508, &c.; Hartung, Die Relig. der Römer, vol. i. p. 96 (besides Bouché--Leclercq's work mentioned below), may be consulted.

Egyptian and Syrian Oracles.

A brief mention may be made of these, in so far as they touch Greek or Roman history.

The connexion of Serapis with Asclepius has been already mentioned. But the oracles of Serapis himself at Alexandria (Tac. Hist. 4.81-84; Suet. Vesp. 7; Dio Chrysost. Orat. xxxii.), at Canopus (Strabo xvii. p.801), and probably at Memphis (see Bouch& acute;--Leclercq, vol. iii. pp. 385-6), had great fame. So had the oracle of Apis at Memphis (Diog. Laert. [p. 2.293]8.90; Amm. Marcell. 22.14; Plin. Nat. 8.46; Dio Chrysost. Orat. 32.13), and of Isis at Philae (C. I. G. 4894-4947).

Of Syrian oracles, that of Heliopolis (Baalbek) is mentioned by Macrobius (Macr. 1.23, 13, and 1.17, 66), that of Hierapolis by Lucian (Dea Syr. 36): in each of these the Sun was the revealing deity. At Nicephorium on the Euphrates an oracle of Zeus is mentioned in the Augustan history (Hadrian, 2); how far the oracle was Greek, how far Syrian, is uncertain. It will suffice to mention the oracles at Apamea (D. C. 78.8 and 40), at Gaza (Steph. Byz. s. v. Γάζα, and Act. Bolland. Februar. iii. p. 654), and Aphaca (Zosim. 1.58). A reference to the singular story related by Gregory of Nyssa respecting the oracle at Neocaesarea in Pontus (Greg. Nyss. iii. pp. 915, 916, Migne) may conclude this article.

The most complete work on the subject of oracles is Bouch&-acute;Leclercq's Divination dans l'Antiquité (Paris, 1879-1882). Great use of this work has been made in the present article; the whole subject is elucidated by it in a very remarkable manner. The author's proofs of his views are sometimes rather scattered, and there are some inaccuracies in the quotation-references in the notes. His disposition is to be somewhat too severe on the Delphic oracle; and his views respecting the origin of the Peleiades at Dodona, and the antiquity of the oracle of Branchidae, have not been followed in this article. His work, however, must always be an authority.

Other works on oracles that may be mentioned are Wachsmuth, Hellen. Alterthum. ii. p. 585, &c.; Klausen, in Ersch and Gruber's Encyclop. s. v. Orakel; A. Maury, Histoire des Religions de la Grèce antique, vol. ii. ch. xiii. Paris, 1857; K. F. Hermann, Lehrbuch der griechischen Antiquitäten, ii.2 (1858), § § 37-41; E. Curtius, Die Hellenische Mantik (Gòttingen, 1864); L. H. de Fontaine, De divinitatis origine et progressy, Rostock, 1867; and an interesting essay by F. W. H. Myers, in Hellenica, pp. 425-492, London, 1880, since republished among the author's essays.

On Dodona specially, the important works of C. Carapanos (Mémoire sur Dodone et le Culte de Jupiter Naios, 1877, and Dodone et ses ruines, Paris, 1878) take the first place. Besides these, may be mentioned Cordes, de Oraculo Dodonaeo, Gròningen, 1826; J. Arneth, Ueber das Taubenorakel orakel von Dodona, Wien, 1840; L. von Lassaulx, Das Pelagische Orakel des Zeus zu Dodona, Wùrzburg, 1840; L. Preller, Dodona, 1842, in Pauly's Real-Encyclop. ii. pp. 1190-1195; F. D. von Gerlach, Dodona, Basel, 1859; G. Perthes, Die Peleiaden zu Dodona, Merseb. 1869; H. R. Pontow, Die Orakelinschriften von Dodona, in Fleckeisen's Neue Jahrbùicher fùr Philologie, for 1883, pp. 305-360. This last work is, it will be seen, subsequent to the discoveries of M. Carapanos.

On Delphi specially, it is impossible to quote a quarter of the works written during this century. But these may be mentioned: C. F. Wilster, De Religione et Oraculo Apollinis Delphici, Hafniae, 1827; H. Piotrowski, De gravitate Oraculi Delphici, Lipsiae, 1829; R. H. Klausen, in Ersch und Gruber's Encyclopàdie, s. v. Orakel; D. Hüllmann, Wùrdigung des Delphischen Orakels, Bonn, 1837; W. Gòtte, Das Delphische Orakel, &c., Leipzig, 1839; L. Preller, art. Delphi, 1842 (Pauly's Real Encyclopàie, ii. pp. 909-919); J. Kayser, Delphi, Darmstadt, 1855; P. Foucart, Mémoire sur les Ruines et l'histoire de Delphes, Paris, 1865; A. Mommsen, Delphika, Leipzig, 1878.

Other works on oracles in general, and the particular oracles, will be found referred to in the above-mentioned treatise of Bouch&-acute;Leclercq.


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