Oracle of Trophonius at Lebadea. One of the most celebrated of the Greek oracles, and in a place of sombre and impressive aspect, in Boeotia. There were different versions of the legend of Trophonius: the most dignified (found in Plut. Consol. ad Apoll. 14) tells us that Trophonius and Agamedes built the temple of Delphi, and, upon desiring a reward of the god, he told them that he would give them one on the seventh day; on which day they were found dead. Apollo made Trophonius a prophet; and the Boeotians were bidden to consult him at Lebadea on the means to put an end to a drought that afflicted the land. A swarm of bees led them to the sacred cave, and the oracle was established (Pausan. ix. 40, 1, 2). The rites necessary before consulting it were complicated and terrifying. First, the consultants had to purify themselves by spending some days in the sanctuary of the good spirit and good luck (Agathou Daimonos kai agathes Tuches); to live soberly and purely; to abstain from warm baths, but to bathe in the river Hercyna; to offer sacrifices to Trophonius and his children, to Apollo, Cronos, king Zeus, to Herb who holds the reins (Heniocha), and to Demeter Europe, who was said to have nursed Trophonius; and during each of these sacrifices a soothsayer examined the entrails of the victim. On the last night, the consultant had to sacrifice a ram to Agamedes. Only in the event of all the signs being favourable was admission to the cave granted. If it were granted: two boys, 13 years old, led the consultant again to the river Hercyna, and bathed and anointed him. The priests then made him drink from the well of.Lethe, that he might forget all his former thoughts, and from the well of Mnemosyne, that he might remember the visions he was about to receive. They showed him an ancient statue of Trophonius, which he adored; led him to the sanctuary, dressed him in linen garments, with girdles and a peculiar kind of shoes (krepides); and bade him descend a ladder into the cave. Close to the bottom was an opening into which he put his foot; some invisible power then drew his whole body through the opening. In each hand he held a honeycake to appease the subterranean deities. The vision then seen by him was carefully remembered, and told to the priests on his remounting to the light; and when he had recovered from his fears, the priests informed him of the meaning of the oracle. (Pausan. ix. 39, § 3 sqq.: cf. Philostr. Vit. Apoll. viii. 19.) But the vision sometimes left men melancholy for a long time. Epaminondas consulted this oracle just before the battle of Leuctra, and received from it the shield of Aristomenes, the Messenian hero (Pausan. iv. 32, § § 5, 6). It preserved a certain reputation even down to the time of Plutarch (de Orac. Defect. 5), though Sulla had plundered it. It was much consulted by the Romans (Origen, c. Celsus, vii. p. 355). Lebadea is the origin of the modern Livadia.
This text is from: A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890) (eds. William Smith, LLD, William Wayte, G. E. Marindin). Cited July 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
Demeter Europa was the nurse of Trophonius.
There is also a sanctuary of Apollo (Paus. 9,39,4).
(Paus. 9,39,4). It is the first time that a sanctuary of that name is mentioned (Ekd. Athinon, Pausaniou Periegissis, vol. 5, p. 249, note 3).
If you go up to the oracle, and thence onwards up the mountain, you come to what is called the Maid's Hunting and a temple of King Zeus (Paus. 9,39,4).
On the bank of the river there is a temple of Hercyna, in which is a maiden holding a goose in her arms (Paus. 9,39,3).
The most famous things in the grove are a temple and image of Trophonius (Paus. 9,39,4).
By the side of the river (Herkyna) is the tomb of Arcesilaus, whose bones, they say, were carried back from Troy by Leitus (Paus. 9,39,3).
Yetius (= Rain-god).
The image they say was made by Daedalus.
In a second temple are images of Cronus, Hera and Zeus (Paus. 9,39,4).
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