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They say that the seat of the oracle is a cave that is hollowed out deep down in the earth, with a rather narrow mouth, from which arises breath that inspires a divine frenzy; and that over the mouth is placed a high tripod, mounting which the Pythian priestess receives the breath and then utters oracles in both verse and prose, though the latter too are put into verse by poets who are in the service of the temple. They say that the first to become Pythian priestess was Phemonoe; and that both the prophetess and the city were so called1 from the word pythésthai,"2 though the first syllable was lengthened, as in athanatos, akamatos, and diakonos.3 Now the following is the idea which leads to the founding of cities and to the holding of common sanctuaries in high esteem: men came together by cities and by tribes, because they naturally tend to hold things in common, and at the same time because of their need of one another; and they met at the sacred places that were common to them for the same reasons, holding festivals and general assemblies; for everything of this kind tends to friendship, beginning with eating at the same table, drinking libations together, and lodging under the same roof; and the greater the number of the sojourners and the greater the number of the places whence they came, the greater was thought to be the use of their coming together.

1 i.e., "Pythia" and "Pytho."

2 "To inquire of the oracle." Other mythologers more plausibly derived the two names from the verb pythesthai, "to rot" (note the length of the vowel), because the serpent Python, slain by Apollo, "rotted" at the place.

3 But in "diakonos" it is the second syllable that is long; and Homer does not use the word. For his uses of the first two with long a see (e.g.) Hom. Il. 6.108, 5.4

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load focus English (H.C. Hamilton, Esq., W. Falconer, M.A., 1903)
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