Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
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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. 9.3.9

Of the shrines, the winged shrine [Note] is to be placed among fabulous stories. The second is said to have been the workmanship of Trophonius and Agamedes, but the present shrine [Note] was built by the Amphictyons. A tomb of Neoptolemus is shown in the sacred enclosure. It was built according

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to the injunction of an oracle. Neoptolemus was killed by Machæreus, a Delphian, when, as the fable goes, he was seeking redress from the god for the murder of his father, but, probably, he was preparing to pillage the temple. Branchus, who presided over the temple at Didyma, is said to have been a descendant of Machæreus. 9.3.10

There was anciently a contest held at Delphi, of players on the cithara, who executed a pæan in honour of the god. It was instituted by Delphians. But after the Crisæan war the Amphictyons, in the time of Eurylochus, established contests for horses, and gymnastic sports, in which the victor was crowned. These were called Pythian games. The players [Note] on the cithara were accompanied by players on the flute, and by citharists, [Note] who performed without singing. They performed a strain (Melos), [Note] called the Pythian mood (Nomos). [Note] It consisted of five parts; the anacrusis, the ampeira, cataceleusmus, iambics and dactyls, and pipes. [Note] Timosthenes, the commander of the fleet of the Second Ptolemy, and who was the author of a work in ten books on Harbours, composed a melos. His object was to celebrate in this melos the contest of Apollo with the serpent Python. The anacrusis was intended to express the prelude; the ampeira, the first onset of the contest; the cataceleusmus, the contest itself; the iambics and dactyls denoted the triumphal strain on obtaining the victory, together with musical measures, of which the dactyl is peculiarly appropriated to praise, and the use of the iambic to insult and reproach; the syringes or pipes described the death, the players imitating the hissings of the expiring monster. [Note]



Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 9.3.4 Str. 9.3.8 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 9.3.12

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