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CHAP. XLVI.

OF ORACLES.

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HE ORACLES of the ancients were deemed

predictions, and mysterious declarations of the will of the gods. It may, with a kind of certainty be admitted, that the natural bent of the mind of man to search into futurity, gave rise to this institution.

To whatever cause, however, the origin may be ascribed, the institution of Oracles became general, among the idolatrous nations, and increased over the face of the whole earth.

Not to mention other nations, the Oracles of the Ægyptians and Greeks were numerous, especially of the latter people ; at least we have a more full account of them.

The Oracle of Dodona, a city of Epirus in Greece, was sacred to Jupiter. 'The Oracle of Jupiter Hammon was also of ancient date, and famous in Lybia. The Oracle of Apollo, at Heliopolis, was of great note. The Oracle also of Apollo at Delphi, if not the most ancient, was the most celebrated of all Greece, infomuch that it was called the Oracle of the whole earth.

And,

And, indeed, fo established was the character of these oracular declarations, that the enacting laws, the reformation of government, also peace or war, were not undertaken by states or princes; but even in the more common concerns of life, no material business was entered upon, without the sanction of the Oracle.

Each Oracle had its priest or priestess, who delivered out the answers of the gods.' These answers, for the most part, were in verse, and couched under such mysterious terms, that they admitted of a double interpretation ; infomuch, that whether the prediction was completed, or the expectation of the fupplicant disappointed, the Oracle was clear from blame.

The Oracle of Apollo at Delphi, being in the greatest reputation, was resorted to from all parts. The priestess of Apollo was named Pythia, from the serpent Python, killed by that gcd, as is before mentioned.

The offerings to the gods, on these applications, were liberal, according to the ability of the supplicant, or the importance of the answer required; and, it is said, the temple and city of Delphi especially, was, by these means, filled with immense treasure.

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The principal Oracle of the Ægyptians was at Memphis, a royal city of Ægypt, where they erected an altar, and worshipped their god Apis, under the figure of an ox. His wife Isis had also worship, and her priests were called Ifiaci.

CHAP. XLVII.

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OF THE SYBILLINE ORACLES.

T

HE Sybilline Oracles were certain women,

whom the ancients believed to be endued with the gift of prophecy. They are said to be ten in number, and were famous in all lands. They had no fixed residence, but travelled into different countries, and delivered their predictions in verse, in the Greek tongue. One of these Sybils, named Erythræa, or Cumæa, from Cuma, a city in the Ionian fea, according to Virgil, came into Italy, and was held in the highest esteem by the Romans, who confulted the Oracle of the Sybil on all occasions that related to the welfare of the republic.

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CHAP. XLVIII.

OF AUGURY.

AUGURY, or the art of divination by birds,

the meteors of the heavens, or the entrails of beasts, was held in the highest veneration by the idolatrous nations. The Jews were not free from idolatry in the time of Mofes; and we read also in the sacred writings, that Saul, being vexed in fpirit, applied to the Seers, or persons skilled in the knowledge of futurity.

But not to go so far back, Romulus and Remus consulted the Auguries, before they built Rome ; and the foundation of that city was determined by the flight of birds. Numa established a college of Augurs, and confirmed his regulation of the Roman state by their sanction.

It appears also in the history of that people, that no national concern was entered upon, without first consulting the Auguries; and, according to the propitious or bad omen, they made peace or war, and appointed magistrates. Indeed, the Augurs, and their declarations, were held in so high regard by the Romans, that whoever contemned them, was accounted impious and profane. To conclude, divination, or the spirit of prediction, made a con-, siderable part of the pagan theology, especially among the Romans, those lords of the world, who fell into the general delusion, and adopted almost all the gods of every people they subdued.

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CHAP. XLIX.

OF, DEMI-GODS OR HEROES.

TH

THE title of bero was given by the Greeks to

those who had made themselves famous. A demi-god was a man descended of a god, or goddels, by a mortal; of which there were great numbers. Æneas, Ulysses, Hercules, Theseus, Achilles and Jason, were the most celebrated.

Æneas was a Trojan prince, son of Anchises and the goddess Venus. He is memorable for his grateful care of his aged father, whom he bure through the flames of Troy upon his shoulders, at the hazard of his life, and that of his son Ascanius, a child, who was obliged to cling to his garments to escape them. Arriving in Italy, he married Lavinia, the daughter of Latinus, king of the La

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