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The Student's Mythology A Compendium of Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Assyrian, Persian, Hindoo, Chinese, Thibetian, Scandinavian, Celtic, Aztec, and Peruvian Mythologies

Page: 36

She then spoke prophetic words, which were carefully noted by the attendant priests. The oracles were sometimes in verse, but more commonly in prose; in the latter case they were immediately versified by poets employed for that purpose.

Many remarkable oracles are recorded by Herodotus as having been delivered at Delphi, but as a general thing the answers were ambiguous, and so cautiously worded as to seem true, whatever might be the event. Such was the answer given to Crϫsus, king of Lydia, when he consulted the oracle concerning the result of his expedition against the Medes. The Pythia told him that by crossing the river Halys he would ruin a great empire, but as she did not say what empire, whether his own or that of his enemies, the oracle could not fail of being fulfilled. There is no doubt that the Pythia was often influenced by persuasion or bribes, and many illustrious persons were accused of having bought the oracles they desired.

The temple of Apollo at Delphi was enriched by the offerings of different princes, and the surrounding nations vied with one another in the magnificence of their gifts. The building was destroyed by fire in the year 548 B. C., but was soon rebuilt. Xerxes, after having forced the [184] pass of Thermopylæ, sent a detachment of his army to plunder the treasures of Delphi. The expedition was unsuccessful, owing, as the Delphians asserted, to a manifest interposition of the deity. Afterwards, Philome´lus, a Phocian general, seized these treasures to pay his troops. He is said to have carried off, in gold and silver, a sum equal to ten million dollars. Still later Delphi was threatened by the Gauls, under their king Brennus. According to Pausanias, the city and temple were saved by Pan, as we have seen in the account given of that god; but others declare that the invaders possessed themselves of great booty. Sylla also plundered Delphi, and Nero took from it, at one time, no less than five hundred statues of bronze.

The temple was finally dismantled by Constantine the Great, who adorned his Hippodrome with the sacred tripods.

No traces are known to exist of the cavern whence issued the sacred vapor, but some have thought it might be discovered by searching in the central part of the ruins of the ancient city.


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