Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
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The place where the oracle is delivered, is said to be a deep hollow cavern, the entrance to which is not very wide. From it rises up an exhalation which inspires a divine frenzy: over the mouth is placed a lofty tripod on which the Pythian priestess ascends to receive the exhalation, after which she gives the prophetic response in verse or prose. The prose is adapted to measure by poets who are in the service of the temple. Phemonoë is said to have been the first Pythian prophetess, and both the prophetess and the city obtained their appellation from the word Pythesthai, to inquire, (πυθέσθαι). The first syllable was lengthened, as in the words ἀθάνατος ἀκάματος διάκονος.

[Note][The establishment of cities, and the honour paid to common temples, are due to the same feelings and causes. Men were collected together into cities and nations, from a natural disposition to society, and for the purpose of mutual assistance. Hence common temples were resorted to, festivals celebrated, and meetings held of the general body of the people. For friendship commences from and is promoted by attending the same feasts, uniting in the same worship, and dwelling under the same roof. The advantages derived from these meetings were naturally estimated from the number of persons who attended them, as also from the number of places from whence they came.] 9.3.6

Although the highest honour was paid to this temple on account of the oracle, (for it was the most exempt of any from deception,) yet its reputation was owing in part to its situation in the centre of all Greece, both within and without the isthmus. It was also supposed to be the centre of the habitable

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earth, and was called the Navel of the earth. A fable, referred to by Pindar, was invented, according to which two eagles, (or, as others say, two crows,) set free by Jupiter, one from the east, the other from the west, alighted together at Delphi. In the temple is seen a sort of navel wrapped in bands, and surmounted by figures representing the birds of the fable. 9.3.7

As the situation of Delphi is convenient, persons easily assembled there, particularly those from the neighbourhood, of whom the Amphictyonic body is composed. It is the business of this body to deliberate on public affairs, and to it is more particularly intrusted the guardianship of the temple for the common good; for large sums of money were deposited there, and votive offerings, which required great vigilance and religious care. The early history of this body is unknown, but among the names which are recorded, Acrisius appears to have been the first who regulated its constitution, to have determined what cities were to have votes in the council, and to have assigned the number of votes and mode of voting. To some cities he gave a single vote each, or a vote to two cities, or to several cities conjointly. He also defined the class of questions which might arise between the different cities, which were to be submitted to the decision of the Amphictyonic tribunal; and subsequently many other regulations were made, but this body, like that of the Achæans, was finally dissolved.

At first twelve cities are said to have assembled, each of which sent a Pylagoras. The convention was held twice a year, in spring and autumn. But latterly a greater number of cities assembled. They called both the vernal and the autumnal convention Pylæan, because it was held at Pyle, which has the name also of Thermopylæ. The Pylagoræ sacrificed to Ceres.

In the beginning, the persons in the neighbourhood only assembled, or consulted the oracle, but afterwards people repaired thither from a distance for this purpose, sent gifts, and constructed treasuries, as Crœsus, and his father Alyattes, some of the Italians also, and the Siceli (Sicilians). 9.3.8

But the wealth, being an object of cupidity, was guarded with difficulty, although dedicated to sacred uses. At present, however, whatever it might have been, the temple at

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Delphi is exceedingly poor. Some of the offerings have been taken away for the sake of the money, but the greater part remain there. It is true that the temple was once very opulent, as Homer testifies; Nor all the wealth, which the marble threshold of Phœbus Apollo, the Archer, (Aphetor,) [Note] contains in the rocky Pytho. [Note] The treasuries indicate its riches, and the plunder committed by the Phocians, which gave rise to the Phocic or Sacred war, as it was called. It is however supposed that a spoliation of the temple must have taken place at some more remote period, when the wealth mentioned by Homer disappeared; for no vestige of it whatever was preserved to later times, when Onomarchus and Phayllus pillaged the temple, as the property [then] removed was of a more recent date than that referred to by the poet. For there were once deposited in the treasuries, offerings from spoils, bearing inscriptions with the names of the donors, as of Gyges, of Crœsus, of the Sybaritæ, of the Spinetæ on the Adriatic, and of others also. It would be unbecoming to suppose [Note] that modern and ancient treasures were confounded together: other places pillaged by these people confirm this view.

Some persons, however, understanding the word Aphetor to signify treasure, and the threshold of the aphetor the repository of the treasure under-ground, say, that this wealth was buried beneath the temple, and that Onomarchus and his companions attempted to dig it up by night; violent shocks of an earthquake caused them to fly out of the temple, and desist from their excavation; thus others were impressed with a dread of making similar attempts.

Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 9.3.4 Str. 9.3.7 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 9.3.11

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