The Ancient Library

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an altar an eternal fire, which was fed only with fir-wood. (Aesch. Choeph. 1036 ; Pint. De El ap. Delpk.) The inner roof of the temple was covered all over with laurel garlands (Aesch. Eum. 3.9), and upon the altar laurel was burnt as incense. In the centre of this temple there was a small opening (xao-jua) in the ground from which, from time to time, an intoxicating simke arose, which was be­lieved to come from the well of Cassotis. which vanished into the ground close by the sanctuary. (Pans. x. 24. § 5.) Over this chasm there stood a hfgh tripod., on which the Pythia-, led into the temple by the prophetes (Trpo^rTj.s), took her seat whenever the oracle was to be consulted. The smoke rising from under the- tripod affected her brain in such a manner that she fell into a state of delirious intoxication, and the sounds which she uttered in this state were believed to contain the revelations of Apollo. These sounds were care­fully written down by the prophetes, and afterwards communicated to* the persons-, who had; come id con­sult the oracle-.. (Diod.. xvi. 26 ; Strabo, ix. p. 419, &c. ; Plut. de Def.}

The Pythia (the Trpa^ris) was always a native of Delphi (Eurip. Ion., 92),, and when she had once entered the service of the god, she never left it, and was never allowed to marry. In early times she was always a young girl ; but after one had been seduced by Echccrutes the Thessalian, the Del-phians made a law that in future no one should be elected as prophetess who had not attained the age of fifty years.; but in remembrance of former days the old woman was always dressed as a maiden. (Diod. I. c.) The Pythia was generally taken from some family of poor country-people. At first there was only one Pythia at a time ; but when Greece was in its most flourishing state, and when the number of those who came to.consult, the oracle was very great, there were always two Pythias who took their seat on the tripod alternately, and a third was kept in readiness- incase some accident should happen to either- of the two others. (Plut. Quaest. Graec. c. 9.) The effect of the smoke on the whole mental and physical constitution is said to have sometimes been so great, that in her deli­rium she leaped from the tripod, was thrown into convulsions, and after a few days died. (Plut. de Orac. Def. c. 51.)

At first oracles were given only once every year, on the seventh of the month of Bysius (pro­bably the same as TlvOios, or the month for con­sulting), which was believed to be the birthday of Apollo (Plut. Quaest. Gr. c. 9), but as this one day in the course of time was not found sufficient, certain days in every month were set apart for the purpose. (Plut. Alex. 14.) The order, in which the persons who came to consult were admitted, was determined by lot (Aesch. Eum. 32 ; Eurip. Ion, 422) ; but the Delphian magistrates had the power of granting the right of HpQuavreia, i. e. the right of consulting first, and without the order being determined by lot, to such individuals or states as had acquired claims on the gratitude oJ the Delphians, or whose political ascendancy seemed to give them higher claims than others. Such was the case with Croesus and the Lydians (Herod. i. 54), with the Lacedaemonians (Plut. Per. 21), and Philip of Macedonia. (Demosth. c. Phil. iii. p. 119.) It appears that those who consulted the oracle had to pay a certain fee, for Herodotus States that the Lydians were honoured with



by the Delphians. The Pythia always spent three days, before she ascended the tripod, in preparing herself for the solemn act, and during this time she fasted, and bathed in the Castalian well, and dressed in a simple manner ; she also burnt in the temple laurel leaves and flour of barley upon the altar of the god. (Schol. ad Eurip. Plioeru 2:30 ; Plut.. de Pyili. Or. c. 6.) Those who con­sulted the oracle had to sacrifice a goat, or an ox, or a sheep, and it was necessary that these victims should be healthy in body and soul, and to ascer­tain this they had to undergo, a peculiar scrutiny. An ox received barley, and a; sheep chick-peas, to see whether they ate them with appetite ; water was poured over the goats,, and if this put them into a thorough tremble the victim was good. (Pint, de Or. Def. 49.) The victim which was thus found eligible was called dffiurrip. (Plut. Quaest. Gr. 9.) , Wachsmuth (HeLlen. Alt. ii. p. 588,2.d ed.) states that all who came to consult the oracle-wore laurel-garlands surrounded with ribands of wool ; but the passages from which this opinion is derived, only speak of such persons as came to the temple as suppliants.. (Herod, vii. 14 ; Aesch. Ckoeph. 1035.)

The Delphians, or mose properly speaking the noble families of Delphi, had the superintendence of the oracle. Among the Delphian aristocracy, however, there were five families which traced their origin to Deucalion, and from each of these one of the five priests, called cxtlol, was taken. (Eurip. Ion, 411 ; Plut. Quaest. Gr. c. 9. ) Three of the names of these families only are known, viz. the Cleomantids, the Thracids (Diod. xvi. 24 ; Lycurg. c. Leocrat. p. 158), and the Laphriads. (Hesych. s. v.)

The oVzoi, together with the high priest or pro­phetes, held their offices for life, and had the con­trol of all, the affairs of the sanctuary and of the sacrifices. (Herq& viii. 136.) That these noble families had. an ijnmense influence upon the oracle is manifest fr.onij numerous instances, and it is not improbable thatt they were its very soul, and that it was they who, dictated the pretended revelations of the god. (See-especially, Lycurg. c. Leocrat. p. 158 ; Herod, vii. 141, vi. 66 ; Plut. Pericl. 21 ; Eurip. Ion, 1219, 1222, 1110.)

Most of the oracular answers which are extant, are in hexameters, and in the Ionic dialect. Some­times, however, Doric forms also were used. ( iv. 157, 159.) The hexameter was, according to some accounts, invented by Phemonoe, the first Pythia. This metrical form xvas chosen, partly because the words of the god were thus rendered more venerable, and partly because it was easier to remember verse than prose. (Plut. de Pytli. Or. 19.) Some of the oracular verses had metrical defects, which the faithful among the Greeks accounted for in an ingenious manner. (Plut. I. c. c. 5.) In the times of Theopompus, however, the custom of giving the oracles in verse seems to have gradually ceased ; they were henceforth generally in prose, and in the Doric dialect spoken at Delphi. For when the Greek states had lost their political liberty, there was little or no occasion to consult

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the oracle on matters of a national or politic;1 nature, and the affairs of ordinary life, such as tin-sale of slaves, the cultivation of a field, marriages, voyages, loans of money, and the like, on which the oracle was then mostly consulted, were litth calculated to be spoken of in lofty poetical strain:

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