After Pelopidas had lain down to sleep in the camp, he thought he saw these maidens weeping at their tombs, as they invoked curses upon the Spartans, and Scedasus bidding him sacrifice to his daughters a virgin with auburn hair, if he wished to win the victory over his enemies. The injunction seemed a lawless and dreadful one to him, but he rose up and made it known to the seers and the commanders.
Some of these would not hear of the injunction being neglected or disobeyed, adducing as examples of such sacrifice among the ancients, Menoeceus, son of Creon, Macaria, daughter of Heracles; and, in later times, Pherecydes the wise man, who was put to death by the Lacedaemonians, and whose skin was preserved by their kings, in accordance with some oracle; and Leonidas, who, in obedience to the oracle, sacrificed himself,1
as it were, to save Greece;
and, still further, the youths who were sacrificed by Themistocles to Dionysus Carnivorous before the sea fight at Salamis2
for the successes which followed these sacrifices proved them acceptable to the gods. Moreover, when Agesilaüs, who was setting out on an expedition from the same place as Agamemnon did, and against the same enemies, was asked by the goddess for his daughter in sacrifice, and had this vision as he lay asleep at Aulis, he was too tender-hearted to give her,3
and thereby brought his expedition to an unsuccessful and inglorious ending.
Others, on the contrary, argued against it, declaring that such a lawless and barbarous sacrifice was not acceptable to any one of the superior beings above us, for it was not the fabled typhons and giants who governed the world, but the father of all gods and men; even to believe in the existence of divine beings who take delight in the slaughter and blood of men was perhaps a folly, but if such beings existed, they must be disregarded, as having no power; for only weakness and depravity of soul could produce or harbour such unnatural and cruel desires.