More from Lives of the Necromancers (1834) by William Godwin. See Orpheus for an introduction to Godwin and the book.
Alexander the Paphlagonian
“At about the same time with Apuleius (note: the Numidian writer in Latin, circa 124 – 170 AD) lived Alexander the Paphlagonian, of whom so extraordinary an account is transmitted to us by Lucian (note: also alive during the events he recorded, circa 125 – 180 AD). He was a native of an obscure town, called Abanotica, but was endowed with all that ingenuity and cunning which enables men most effectually to impose upon their fellow-creatures. He was tall of stature, of an impressive aspect, a fair complexion, eyes that sparkled with an awe-commanding fire as if informed by some divinity, and a voice to the last degree powerful and melodious. To these he added the graces of carriage and attire. Being born to none of the goods of fortune, he considered with himself how to turn these advantages to the greatest account; and the plan he fixed upon was that of instituting an oracle entirely under his own direction. He began at Chalcedon on the Thracian Bosphorus; but, continuing but a short time there, he used it principally as an opportunity for publishing that Aesculapius, with Apollo, his father, would in no long time fix his residence at Abanotica…
… coming to Pella in Macedon, [he] found that the environs of this city were distinguished from perhaps all other parts of the world, by a breed of serpents of extraordinary size and beauty. Our author (Lucian) adds that these serpents were so tame, that they inhabited the houses of the province, and slept in bed with the children. If you trod upon them, they did not turn again, or shew tokens of anger, and they sucked the breasts of the women to whom it might be of service to draw off their milk. Lucian says, it was probably one of these serpents, that was found in the bed of Olympias, and gave occasion to the tale that Alexander the Great was begotten by Jupiter under the form of a serpent.
The prophet bought the largest and finest serpent he could find, and conveyed it secretly with him into Asia. When he came to Abonotica, he found the temple that was built surrounded with a moat; and he took an opportunity privately of sinking a goose-egg, which he had first emptied of its contents, inserting instead a young serpent just hatched, and closing it again with great care. He then told his fellow-citizens that the God was arrived, and hastening to the moat, scooped up the egg in an egg-cup in presence of the whole assembly. He next broke the shell, and shewed the young serpent that twisted about his fingers in presence of the admiring multitude. After this he suffered several days to elapse, and then, collecting crowds from every part of Paphlagonia, he exhibited himself, as he had previously announced he should do, with the fine serpent he had brought from Macedon twisted in coils about the prophet’s neck, and its head hid under his arm-pit, while a head artfully formed with linen, and bearing some resemblance to a human face, protruded itself, and passed for the head of the reptile. The spectators were beyond measure astonished to see a little embryo serpent, grown in a few days to so magnificent a size, and exhibiting the features of a human countenance.
Having thus far succeeded, Alexander did not stop here. He contrived a pipe which passed seemingly into the mouth of the animal, while the other end terminated in an adjoining room, where a man was placed unseen, and delivered the replies which appeared to come from the mouth of the serpent. This immediate communication with the God was reserved for a few favoured suitors, who bought at a high price the envied distinction. The method with ordinary enquirers was for them to communicate their requests in writing, which they were enjoined to roll up and carefully seal; and these scrolls were returned to them in a few days, with the seals apparently unbroken, but with an answer written within, strikingly appropriate to the demand that was preferred.—It is further to be observed, that the mouth of the serpent was occasionally opened by means of a horsehair skilfully adjusted for the purpose, at the same time that by similar means the animal darted out its biforked tongue to the terror of the amazed bystanders.”
(Note: Alan Moore is an enthusiastic worshipper of Glycon, although Moore equally enthusiastically admits that Glycon was probably just a puppet.)
Bonus ancient Greek charlatan/prophet/immortal/time traveller
“Herodotus tells a marvellous story of one Aristeas, a poet of Proconnesus, an island of the Propontis. This man, coming by chance into a fuller’s workshop in his native place, suddenly fell down dead. As the man was of considerable rank, the fuller immediately, quitting and locking up his shop, proceeded to inform his family of what had happened. The relations went accordingly, having procured what was requisite to give the deceased the rites of sepulture, to the shop; but, when it was opened, they could discover no vestige of Aristeas, either dead or alive. A traveller however from the neighbouring town of Cyzicus on the continent, protested that he had just left that place, and, as he set foot in the wherry which had brought him over, had met Aristeas, and held a particular conversation with him. Seven years after, Aristeas reappeared at Proconnesus, resided there a considerable time, and during this abode wrote his poem of the wars of the one-eyed Arimaspians and the Gryphons. He then again disappeared in an unaccountable manner. But, what is more than all extraordinary, three hundred and forty years after this disappearance, he shewed himself again at Metapontum, in Magna Graecia, and commanded the citizens to erect a statue in his honour near the temple of Apollo in the forum; which being done, he raised himself in the air; and flew away in the form of a crow.”
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