THE COMMENTARY GAZETTE
The setting is the Greco-Persian Wars , 480 B. C., Xerxes I has crossed over the Hellespont, from Asia into Europe, with a mighty host, defeated the Greeks at the Battle of Thermopylæ, and divided his forces in to two columns advancing in to Greece, one of these columns were to gather the vast treasure at the Temple at Delphi. On approaching the Temple complex, the attendants were in a panic.
Herodotus: The Histories (Book VIII Chapters 36 – 39)
(36) Now when the Delphians heard what danger they were in, great fear fell on them. In their terror they consulted the oracle concerning the holy treasures, and inquired if they should bury them in the ground, or carry them away to some other country. The god, in reply, bade them leave the treasures untouched- “He was able.” he said “without help to protect his own.” So the Delphians, when they received this answer, began to think about saving themselves. ….. All the Delphians quitted the city, except sixty men and the Prophet.
37) When the barbarian assailants drew near and were in sight of the place, the Prophet, was named Aceratus, beheld, in front of the temple, a portion of the sacred armor, which it was not lawful for any mortal hand to touch, lying upon the ground, removed from the inner shrine were it was wont to hang. Then went he, and told the prodigy to the Delphians who had remained behind. Meanwhile the enemy pressed forward briskly, and had reached the shrine of Athens Pronaia, when they were over taken by other prodigies still more wonderful than the first. Truly it was marvel enough, when warlike harness was seen lying outside the temple, removed there by no power but its own; what followed, exceeded in strangeness all prodigies that had even before been seen. The barbarians had just reached in their advance the chapel of Athens Pronaia, when a storm of thunder burst suddenly over their heads – at the same time two crags split off from Mount Parnassus, and rolled down upon them with a loud noise, crushing vast numbers beneath their weight-while from the temple of Athens there went up the war-cry and the shout of victory.
38) All these things together struck terror into the barbarians, who forthwith turned and fled. The Delphians ,seeing this, came down from their hiding places , and smote them with great slaughter…..These men , on their return, declared ( as I am told ) that besides the marvels mentioned above, they witnessed also other supernatural sights. Two armed warriors, they said of a stature more than human, pursued after their flying ranks, pressing them close and slaying them.
(39)These men, the Delphians maintain , were two Heroes belonging to this place-by name Phyacus and Autonoü-each of whom has a sacred precinct near the temple; …. The blocks of stone which fell from Parnassus might still be seen in my day; they lay in the precinct of Pronaia, where they stoped, after rolling through the host of the barbarians…..
Note : Heroes at that time were considered demigods, with shrines dedicated to them.
TITLE: The Histories
BY: Herodotus of Halicarnassus (Translation: George Rawlingson)
CONTRIBUTOR: Cade Pomeraan