UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.
kingdom. Whose kingdom? His own, or that of Cyaxares? The former, as it proved; the
latter, as it was hoped. Thus was the credit of Apollo and his priests maintained against
the hazard of contingency.
There were, however, those among the witty Greeks who fathomed and derided the double
utterances of Delphi. The comic poets found the Apollonian ambiguity a precious morsel.
They imitated the style, of the confused priest, and made him the butt of profane mirth.
Aristophanes introduces the leather-seller Cleon and a sausage-maker, and the decision of
a squabble between them is thus oracularly rendered:
"Moreover, when the eagle in his pride, With crooked talons and a leather hide, Shall
seize the black and blood-devouring snake,' Then shall the woeful tan-pits quail and
quake; And mighty Zeus shall give command and place To mortals of the sausage-selling
race: Unless they choose, continuing as before, To sell their sausages for evermore."
The satire was all the keener for being in the exact vein of the Delphic utterances. But
despite the sharp darts that were thus leveled against them, the Delphic priesthood held
their own for many centuries, and did not perceptibly wane in their influence over the
public mind until after the establishment of the Roman Empire.
Of scarcely less importance than the oracles were the MYSTERIES of the Greeks. These were
rites celebrated in secret orders, and intended to gratify a higher grade of religious
aspirations than could be satisfied by the popular faith. The orders were open only to
those who could establish by satisfactory proofs the previous rectitude and purity of
their lives. To such the promise of a calmer and more elevated frame of mind, a deeper
hope of present peace and future immortality, was held forth on condition of entering the
mysteries. Every pure Greek might aspire to membership in one of the sacred orders. Even
women were admitted with the men to equal participation in the new life of holiness and
To attain the highest rank in one of the mysteries, the candidate had to pass three
degrees. He was first initiated; then, after a season of probation, advanced to a second
1 Meaning a sausage!