The Ancient Library

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sanctuary, from which arose cold vapours, which had the power of inducing ecstasy. Over the cleft stood a lofty gilded tripod of wood. On this was a circular slab, upon which the seat of the prophetess was placed. The prophetess, called Pythia, was a maiden of honourable birth; in earlier times a young girl, but in a later age a woman of over fifty, still wearing a girl's dress, in memory of the earlier cus­tom. In the prosperous times of the oracle two Pythias acted alternately, with a third to assist them. In the earliest times the Pythia ascended the tripod only once a year, on the birthday of Apollo, the seventh of the Delphian spring month Bysios. But in later years she prophesied every day, if the day itself and the sacrifices were not unfavourable. These sacrifices were offered by the supplicants, adorned with laurel crowns and fillets of wool. Having pre­pared herself by washing and purification, the Pythia entered the sanctuary, with gold ornaments in her hair, and flowing robes upon her ; she drank of the water of the fountain Cassotis, which flowed into the shrine, tasted the fruit of the old bay tree standing in the chamber, and took her seat. No one was present but a priest, called the Prfiphetf.s, who explained the words she uttered in her ecstasy, and put them into metrical form, generally hexameters. In later times the votarie's were contented with answers in prose. The responses were often obscure and enigmatical, and couched in ambiguous and metaphorical expressions, which themselves needed ex­planation. The order in which the appli­cants approached the oracle was determined by lot, but certain cities, as Sparta, had the right of priority.

The reputation of the oracle stood very high throughout Greece until the time of the Persian wars, especially among the Dorian tribes, and among them pre-eminently the Spartans, who had stood from of old in intimate relation with it. On all important occasions, as the sending out of colonies, the framing of internal legislation or reli­gious ordinances, the god of Delphi was consulted, and that not only by Greeks but by foreigners, especially the people of Asia and Italy. After the Persian wars the influence of the oracle declined, partly in consequence of the growth of unbelief, partly from the mistrust excited by the partiality and venality of the priesthood. But it never fell completely into discredit, and from time to time its position rose

again. In the first half of the 2nd century A.D. it had a revival, the result of the newly awakened interest in the old reli­gion. It was abolished at the end of the 4th century a.d. by Theodosius the Great. The oldest stone temple of Apollo was attributed to the mythical architects, Trophonlus and Agamedes. It was burnt down in 548 b.c., when the Alcmseonldse, at ! that time in exile from Athens, undertook to rebuild it for the sum of 300 talents, partly taken from the treasure of the temple, and partly contributed by all countries inhabited by Greeks and stand­ing in connexion with the oracle. They put the restoration into the hands of the Corinthian architect Spintharus, and carried it out in a more splendid style than was originally agreed upon, building the front of Parian marble instead of limestone. The groups of sculpture in the pediments represented, on the eastern side, Apollo with Artemis, Leto, and the Muses; on the western side, Dionysus with the Thyiades and the setting sun; for Dionysus was worshipped here in winter during the imagined absence of Apollo. These were all the work of Praxlas and Androsthenes, and were finished about 430 B.C. The temple was, on account of its vast extent, a hypsethral building; that is, there was no roof over the space occupied by the temple proper. The architecture of the exterior was Doric, of the interior Ionic, as may still be observed in the surviving ruins. On the walls of the entrance-hall were short texts written in gold, attributed to the Seven Wise Men. One of these was the celebrated " Know Thyself." In the temple proper stood the golden statue of Apollo, and in front of it the sacrificial hearth with the eternal fire. Near this was a globe of marble covered with fillets, the OmphtilSs, or centre of the earth. In earlier times two eagles stood at its side, representing the two eagles which fable said had been sent out by Zeus at the same moment from the eastern and western ends of the world. These eagles were carried off in the Phocian war, and their place filled by two eagles in mosaic on the floor. Behind this space was the inner shrine, lying lower, in the form of a cavern over the cleft in the earth. Within the spacious precincts (pSrlMl6»\ stood a great number of chapels, statues, votive offerings and treasure-houses of the various Greek states, in which they de­posited their gifts to the sanctuary, es­pecially the tithes of the booty taken in

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