Plutarch, Moralia. The E at Delphi

LCL 306: 206-207

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Plutarch’s Moralia

Λιβίας τῆς Καίσαρος γυναικὸς ὀνομαζόντων, τὸ δὲ 386χαλκοῦν Ἀθηναίων· τὸ δὲ πρῶτον καὶ παλαιότατον τῇ δ᾿ οὐσίᾳ ξύλινον ἔτι νῦν τῶν σοφῶν καλοῦσιν, ὡς οὐχ ἑνὸς ἀλλὰ κοινὸν ἀνάθημα πάντων γενόμενον.”

4. Ὁ μὲν οὖν Ἀμμώνιος ἡσυχῇ διεμειδίασεν, ὑπονοήσας ἰδίᾳ τὸν Λαμπρίαν δόξῃ κεχρῆσθαι, πλάττεσθαι δ᾿ ἱστορίαν καὶ ἀκοὴν ἑτέρων πρὸς τὸ ἀνυπεύθυνον. ἕτερος δέ τις ἔφη τῶν παρόντων ὡς ὅμοια ταῦτ᾿ ἐστὶν οἷς πρῴην ὁ Χαλδαῖος ἐφλυάρει ξένος, ἑπτὰ μὲν εἶναι τὰ φωνὴν ἰδίαν ἀφιέντα τῶν γραμμάτων, ἑπτὰ δὲ τοὺς κίνησιν αὐτοτελῆ καὶ ἀσύνδετον ἐν οὐρανῷ κινουμένους ἀστέρας· εἶναι Bδὲ τῇ τάξει δεύτερον τό τ᾿ εἶ τῶν φωνηέντων ἀπ᾿ ἀρχῆς καὶ τὸν ἥλιον ἀπὸ σελήνης τῶν πλανήτων· ἡλίῳ δ᾿ Ἀπόλλωνα τὸν αὐτὸν ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν πάντας Ἕλληνας νομίζειν. “ἀλλὰ ταυτὶ μέν,” ἔφη, “παντάπασιν ἐκ πίνακος καὶ πυλαίας.”

Ὁ δὲ Λαμπρίας ἔλαθεν, ὡς ἔοικε, τοὺς ἀφ᾿ ἱεροῦ κινήσας ἐπὶ τὸν αὑτοῦ λόγον. ἃ μὲν γὰρ ἐκεῖνος εἶπεν, οὐδεὶς ἐγίγνωσκε Δελφῶν· τὴν δὲ κοινὴν καὶ περιηγητικὴν δόξαν εἰς τὸ μέσον προῆγον, οὔτε τὴν ὄψιν ἀξιοῦντες οὔτε τὸν φθόγγον ἀλλὰ τοὔνομα μόνον τοῦ γράμματος ἔχειν τι σύμβολον.

(5.) “ἔστι γάρ, ὡς ὑπολαμβάνουσι Δελφοί,” καὶ1 τότε2 προηγορῶν Cἔλεγε Νίκανδρος ὁ ἱερεύς, “σχῆμα3 καὶ μορφὴ τῆς πρὸς τὸν θεὸν ἐντεύξεως, καὶ τάξιν


The Ε at Delphi

naming the golden Ε the Ε of Livia, Caesar’s wife, and the bronze Ε the Ε of the Athenians, while the first and oldest one, made of wood, they still call to this day the Ε of the Wise Men, as though it were an offering, not of one man, but of all the Wise Men in common.”

4. Ammonias smiled quietly, suspecting privately that Lamprias had been indulging in a mere opinion of his own and was fabricating history and tradition regarding a matter in which he could not be held to account. Someone else among those present said that all this was similar to the nonsense which the Chaldean visitor had uttered a short time before: that there are seven vowels in the alphabet and seven stars that have an independent and unconstrained motion; that Ε is the second in order of the vowels from the beginning, and the sun the second planet after the moon, and that practically all the Greeks identify Apollo with the Sun.a “But all this,” said he, “has its source in slate and prateb and in nothing else.”

Apparently Lamprias had unwittingly stirred up the persons connected with the temple against his remarks. For what he had said no one of the Delphians knew anything about; but they were used to bring forward the commonly accepted opinion which the guides give, holding it to be right that neither the appearance nor the sound of the letter has any cryptic meaning, but only its name.

(5.) “For it is, as the Delphians assume,”—and on this occasion Nicander, the priest, spoke for them and said, “the figure and form of the consultation of the god, and it holds the

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.plutarch-moralia_e_delphi.1936