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GREECE-RELIGION.

Treasures of gold and silver and sculpture and painting were cast in profusion into the

divine thesaurus, until the shrine became rich beyond estimate. In times of turbulence and

war the eyes of the irreligious were cast longingly towards the accumulated treasures in

the house of Apollo, and more than once the profane hand of expediency was laid upon them.

The Delphic responses were obtained through the lips of a priestess called the PYTHIA. She

was chosen from the women of Delphi, and was especially consecrated to her sacred office.

Once every month she purified herself by fasting and ablutions. She chewed laurel leaves,

bathed in and drank from the Castalian spring. Then she went into that part of the temple

where the fissure in the native rock still gave forth its vapor. She seated herself on the

tripod, and was soon intoxicated with the gas. Then she fell down in a swoon. She uttered

wild exclamations in her delirium, and these were caught up by the attending priests and

wrought into oracular-generally ambiguous-responses to the inquiries which had been

propounded. As a rule the answers were rendered in hexameter verse, but in later times the

priests, grown less careful, gave back the reply in prose.

In these conditions were laid the foundations of the priestly lore which was cultivated at

Delphi. It was the business of the college to know the actual state of affairs, not only

in Greece, but, as far as practicable, in all the surrounding nations. By such

information the priests could know, and did know, beforehand the kind of inquiries which

would arise out of the political and social conditions of the country. They accordingly

busied themselves in framing and answering supposititious questions, and in this line of

work acquired not a little skill. In the ordinary affairs of politics and war they were

very well prepared to give intelligent advice, or even to predict with approximate

certainty the natural course of events. When, however, it came to the actual domain of

prophecy and to matters of which the priest could know no more than another, he had

necessary recourse to fraud, and this he found in the construction of ambiguous responses-

couplets which could be made to read both ways in the light of the denouement. Thus

Croesus was told that if he crossed the Halys he would destroy a great