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says, that, on the cessation of oracles, a Pythoness
so excessively tormented by the vapour, and suffered such violent convulsions, that all the priests ran away, and she died soon after.
Pausanias describes the ceremonies that were practiced for consulting the oracle of Trophonius. Every man that went down into his cave, never laughed his whole life after. This gave occasion to the proverbial saying concerning those of a melancholy air : “ He has consulted Trophonius.” Plato relates, that the two brothers, Agamedes and Trophonius, having built the temple of Apollo, and asked the god for a reward what he thought of most advantage to men, both died in the night that succeeded their prayer. Pausanias gives us a quite different account. In the palace there built for the King Hyrieus, they so laid a stone, that it might be taken away, and in the night they crept in through the hole they had thus contrived, to steal the king's treasures. The king observing the quantity of his gold diminished, though no locks nor seals had been broken open, fixed traps about his coffers, and Agamedes being caught in one of them, Trophonius cut off bis head to prevent his discovering him. Trophonius having disappeared that moment, it was given out that the earth had swallowed him on the same spot; and impious superstition went so far as to place this wicked wretch in the rank of the gods, and to consult his oracle with ceremonies equally painful and mysterious.
Tacitus thus speaks of the oracle of the Clarian Apollo : Germanicus went to consult the oracle of Claros. It is not a woman that delivers the oracle there, as at Delphos, but a man chosen out of certain families, and always of Miletum. It is sufficient to tell him the number and names of those who come to consult him; whereupon he retires into a grot, and having taken some water out of a well that lies hid in it, he answers you in verses to whatever you have thought of, though this man is often very ignorant.
Dion Cassius explains the manner in which the oracle of Nymphea, in Epirus, delivered its responses. The party that consulted took incense, and having prayed, threw the incense into the fire, the flame pursued and consumed it. But if the affair was not to succeed, the incense did not come near the fire, or if it fell into the flame, it started out and fled. It so happened for prognosticating futurity, in regard to every thing that was asked, except death and marriage, about which it was not allowed to ask any questions.
Those who consulted the oracle of Amphiarus, lay on the skins of victims, and received the answer of the oracle in a dream. Virgil attests the same thing of the oracle of Faunus in Italy. A
governor of Cilicia, who gave little credit to oracles, and who was always surrounded by unbelieving Epicureans sent a letter sealed with his signet to the oracle of Mopsus, requiring one of those answers that were received in a dream. The messenger charged with the letter brought it back in the same condition, not having been opened ; and informed
him, that he had seen in a dream a very well made man, who said to him · Black' without the addition of even another word. Then the governor opening the letter, assured the company, that he wanted to know of the divinity, whether he should sacrifice a white or black bull.
In the temple of the goddess of Syria, when the statue of Apollo was inclined to deliver oracles, it deviated, moved, and was full of agitations on its pedestals. Then the priests carrying it on their shoulders, it pushed and turned them on all sides, and the high-priest, interrogating it on all sorts of affairs, if it refused its consent, it drove the priests back ; if otherwise, it made them advance.
Suetonius says, that, some months before the birth of Augustus, an oracle was current, importing, that nature was labouring at the production of a king, who would be master of the Roman Empire; that the Senate in great consternation, had forbid the rearing of any male children who should be born that year, but that the senators whose wives were pregnant, found means to hinder the inscribing of the decree in the public registers. It seems that the prediction, of which Augustus was only the type, regarded the birth of Jesus Christ, the spiritual king of the whole world; or that the wicked spirit was willing, by suggesting this rigorous decree to the Senate, to depose Herod; and by this example, to involve the Messiah in the massacre that was made by his orders of all the children of two years and under. The whole world was then full of the coming of the Messiah. We see by Virgil's fourth eclogue, that he applies to the son of the Consul Asinius Pollio the prophecies which, from the Jews, had then passed into foreign nations. This child the object of Virgil's flattery, died the ninth day after he was born. Tacitus, Suetonius, and Josephus, applied to Vespasian the prophecies that regarded the Messiah.
ORACLES OFTEN EQUIVOCAL AND OBSCURE.
The oracles were often very equivocal, or so obscure that their signification was not understood but after the event. A few examples, out of a great many, will be sufficient.
Cræsus, having received from the Pythoness, this answer, that by passing the river Halys, he would destroy a great empire; he understood it to be the empire of his enemy, whereas he destroyed his own. The oracle consulted by Pyrrhus, gave him an answer, which might be equally understood of the victory of Pyrrhus, and the victory of the Romans his enemies.
Aio te Æacida, Romanos vincere posse.
The equivocation lies in the construction of the Latin tongue, which cannot be rendered in English. The Pythoness advises Crcesus to guard against the mule.* The king of Lydia understood nothing of the
* This answer of the oracle brings to our recollection the equally remarkable injunction of a modern seer to Sir William Windham, which is related in the memoirs of Bishop Newton. ". In his younger years, when Sir William was abroad upon his travels, and was at Venice, there was a noted fortuneoracle, which denoted Cyrus descended from two different nations, from the Medes by Mandana his mother, the daughter of Astyages; and by the Persians by his father Cambyses, whose race was by far less grand and illustrious. Nero had for answer from the oracle of Delphos, that seventy-three might prove fatal to him, he believed he was safe from all danger till age, but, finding himself deserted by every one, and hearing Galba proclaimed emperor, who was seventy-three years of age, he was sensible of the deceit of the oracle.
St. Jerome observes, that, if the devils speak any truth, by whatever accident they always join lies to it and use such ambiguous expressions, that they may be equally applied to contrary events.
teller, to whom great numbers resorted, and he among the rest; and the fortune-teller told him, that he must beware of a white horse. After his return to England, as he was walking by Charing-Cross, he saw a crowd of people coming out and going in to a house, and inquired what was the meaning of it, was informed that Duncan Campbell, the dumb fortune-teller lived there. His curiosity also led him in, and Duncan Campbell likewise told him that he must beware of a white horse. It was somewbat extraordinary that two fortune-tellers, one at Venice and the other in London, without any communication, and at some distance of time, should both happen to hit upon the same thing, and to give the very same warning. Some years afterwards, when he was taken up in 1715, and committed to the Tower upon suspicion of treasonable practices, which never appeared, his friends said to him that his fortune was now fulfilled, the Hanover House was the white horse whereof he was admonished to beware. But some time after this, he had a fall from a white horse, and received a blow by which he lost the sight of one of his eyes."