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Plutarch’s Moralia

καὶ ἀπαξιοῦντα τὴν κακίαν πῇ δὲ πάλιν αὖ προσιέμενον, ὥσπερ εἰ βασιλεύς τις ἢ τύραννος Fἑτέραις ἀποκλείων θύραις τοὺς πονηροὺς καθ᾿ ἑτέρας εἰσδέχοιτο καὶ χρηματίζοι. τοῦ δὲ μετρίου1 καὶ ἱκανοῦ καὶ μηδαμῇ περιττοῦ πανταχῇ δ᾿ αὐτάρκους, μάλιστα τοῖς θείοις2 πρέποντος ἔργοις, εἰ ταύτην ἀρχὴν3 λαβὼν φαίη τις ὅτι τῆς κοινῆς ὀλιγανδρίας, ἣν αἱ πρότεραι στάσεις καὶ οἱ πόλεμοι περὶ πᾶσαν ὁμοῦ τι τὴν οἰκουμένην ἀπειργάσαντο, 414πλεῖστον μέρος ἡ Ἑλλὰς μετέσχηκε, καὶ μόλις ἂν νῦν ὅλη παράσχοι τρισχιλίους ὁπλίτας, ὅσους ἡ Μεγαρέων μία πόλις ἐξέπεμψεν εἰς Πλαταιέας (οὐδὲν οὖν ἕτερον ἦν τὸ πολλὰ καταλιπεῖν χρηστήρια τὸν θεὸν ἢ τῆς Ἑλλάδος ἐλέγχειν τὴν ἐρημίαν), ἀκριβὲς4 ἂν οὕτω5 παράσχοι τι6 τῆς εὑρησιλογίας. τίνος γὰρ ἦν ἀγαθόν, ἐν Τεγύραις ὡς πρότερον εἶναι7 μαντεῖον, ἢ περὶ τὸ Πτῷον ὅπου μέρος ἡμέρας ἐντυχεῖν ἔστιν ἀνθρώπῳ νέμοντι; καὶ γάρ τοῦτο δὴ τοὐνταῦθα8 πρεσβύτατον ὂν χρόνῳ τε καὶ Bδόξῃ κλεινότατον ὑπὸ θηρίου χαλεποῦ δρακαίνης πολὺν χρόνον ἔρημον γενέσθαι καὶ ἀπροσπέλαστον ἱστοροῦσιν, οὐκ ὀρθῶς τὴν ἀργίαν9 ἀλλ᾿ ἀνάπαλιν λαμβάνοντες· ἡ γὰρ ἐρημία τὸ θηρίον ἐπηγάγετο μᾶλλον ἢ τὸ θηρίον ἐποίησε τὴν ἐρημίαν. ἐπεὶ δὲ τῷ θεῷ δόξαν οὕτως ἥ θ᾿ Ἑλλὰς ἐρρώσθη πόλεσι καὶ τὸ χωρίον ἀνθρώποις ἐπλήθυνε, δυσὶν ἐχρῶντο

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Obsolescence of Oracles

who in one way turns away from wickedness and disavows it, and again in another way welcomes its presence; just as if some king or despot should shut out bad men at certain doors and let them in at others and have dealings with them. Now moderation, adequacy, excess in nothing, and complete self-sufficiency are above all else the essential characteristics of everything done by the gods; and if anyone should take this fact as a starting-point, and assert that Greece has far more than its share in the general depopulation which the earlier discords and wars have wrought throughout practically the whole inhabited earth, and that to-day the whole of Greece would hardly muster three thousand men-at-arms, which is the number that the one city of the Megarians sent forth to Plataeaea (for the god’s abandoning of many oracles is nothing other than his way of substantiating the desolation of Greece), in this way such a man would give some accurate evidence of his keenness in reasoning. For who would profit if there were an oracle in Tegyrae, as there used to be, or at Ptoüm, where during some part of the day one might possibly meet a human being pasturing his flocks? And regarding the oracle here at Delphi, the most ancient in time and the most famous in repute, men record that for a long time it was made desolate and unapproachable by a fierce creature, a serpent; they do not, however, put the correct interpretation upon its lying idle, but quite the reverse; for it was the desolation that attracted the creature rather than that the creature caused the desolation. But when Greece, since God so willed, had grown strong in cities and the place was thronged with people, they

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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.plutarch-moralia_obsolescence_oracles.1936