Oracles From Antiquity
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Oracles dated from the highest antiquity, and flourished in the most remote ages. The word signifies the response delivered by a deity or supernatural being to a worshiper or inquirer, and also the place where the response was delivered. These responses were supposed to be given by a certain divine afflatus, either through means of mankind, as in the orgasms of the Pythia, and the dreams of the worshiper in the temples ; or by its effect on certain objects, as the tinkling of the caldrons at Dodona, the rustling of the sacred oak, the murmuring of the streams; or by the action of sacred animals, as exemplified in the Apis or sacred bull of Memphis, and the feeding of holy chickens of the Romans. These responses, however, had always to be interpreted to the inquirer by the priesthood. It is probable that all the Egyptian temples were oracular, although only a few are mentioned by Herodotus, as the oracles of Latona in the city of Buto; those of Hercules, Mars, Thebes, and Meroe. Oracles were also used by the Hebrews. The Grecian oracles enjoyed the highest reputation for truthfulness, and the most renowned of all was the Delphic Oracle. Sacrifices were offered by the inquirers, who walked with laurel crowns on their heads, and delivered sealed questions ; the response was deemed infallible, and was usually dictated by justice, sound sense, and reason, till the growing political importance of the shrine rendered the guardians of it fearful to offend, when they framed answers in ambiguous terms, or al-lowed the influence of gold and presents to corrupt the inspirations. There were numerous other oracles in Greece and in Asia Minor, and written ones existed of the prophecies of celebrated seers. Those of the Sibyls or prophetic women enjoyed great popularity.