Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 447 pages of information about Tacitus.

Such considerations held him balanced between hope and fear; but 2 ultimately hope prevailed.  Some people believed that his longing to get back to Queen Berenice[205] fired him to return.  True, the young man’s fancy was attracted by Berenice, but he did not allow this to interfere with business.  Still his youth was a time of gay self-indulgence, and he showed more restraint in his own reign than in his father’s.  Accordingly he sailed along the coasts of Greece and Asia Minor, and, skirting the seas which lay upon his left, reached the islands of Rhodes and Cyprus, whence he made a bolder crossing to Syria.[206] On his way he conceived a desire to visit the temple of Venus at Paphos,[207] which is famous among all the inhabitants and visitors.  It may not be tedious to give here a short account of the origin of this worship, the ritual of the cult, and the shape—­unparalleled elsewhere—­in which the goddess is depicted.

According to an old tradition the temple was founded by King 3 Aerias, and some people maintain that the goddess bears the same name.  A more modern version states that the temple was consecrated by Cinyras,[208] on the spot where the goddess landed when the sea gave her birth.  The method of divination,[209] however, according to this account, was imported from elsewhere by the Cilician Tamiras, and an arrangement was made that the descendants of both families should preside over the rites.  Later, however, it seemed wrong that the royal line should have no prerogative, so the descendants of the foreigner[210] resigned the practice of the art which they had themselves introduced, and now the priest whom you consult is always of the line of Cinyras.  They accept any victim that is offered, but males are preferred.  They put most faith in kids’ entrails.  Blood must not be poured on the altar, at which they offer only prayers and fire untainted by smoke.  Although the altars stand in the open air they are never wetted by rain.  The goddess is not represented in human form; the idol is a sort of circular pyramid,[211] rising from a broad base to a small round top, like a turning-post.  The reason of this is unknown.

Titus inspected the temple treasures and the offerings made by 4 various kings, and other curiosities which the Greek passion for archaeology attributes to a dim antiquity.  He then consulted the oracle first about his voyage.  Learning that the sea was calm, and that no obstacles stood in his way, he sacrificed a large number of victims, and put covert questions about his own fortunes.  The priest, whose name was Sostratus, seeing that the entrails were uniformly favourable, and that the goddess assented to Titus’ ambitious schemes, returned at the moment a brief and ordinary reply, but afterwards sought a private interview and revealed the future to him.  So Titus returned to his father with heightened hopes, and amid the general anxiety of the provinces and their armies his arrival spread boundless confidence of success.

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Tacitus: The Histories, Volumes I and II from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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