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.