Instead of that, however, it soon proved that the effect of this
atrocious treachery was exactly the contrary of what its perpetrators
had expected. The knowledge of the facts became gradually extended among
the people of Rome and it awakened a universal indignation. The party
who had been originally opposed to Ptolemy's cause seized the
opportunity to renew their opposition; and they gained so much strength
from the general odium which Ptolemy's crimes had awakened, that Pompey
found it almost impossible to sustain his cause.

At length the party opposed to Ptolemy found, or pretended to find, in
certain sacred books, called the Sibylline Oracles, which were kept in
the custody of the priests, and were supposed to contain prophetic
intimations of the will of Heaven in respect to the conduct of public
affairs, the following passage:

_"If a king of Egypt should apply to you for aid, treat him in a
friendly manner, but do not furnish him with troops; for if you
do, you will incur great danger."_

This made new difficulty for Ptolemy's friends. They attempted, at
first, to evade this inspired injunction by denying the reality of it.
There was no such passage to be found, they said. It was all an
invention of their enemies. This point seems to have been overruled, and
then they attempted to give the passage some other than the obvious
interpretation. Finally they maintained that, although it prohibited
their furnishing Ptolemy himself with troops, it did not forbid their
sending an armed force into Egypt under leaders of their own. _That_
they could certainly do; and then, when the rebellion was suppressed,
and Berenice's government overthrown, they could invite Ptolemy to
return to his kingdom and resume his crown in a peaceful manner. This,
they alleged, would not be "furnishing him with troops," and, of course
would not be disobeying the oracle.

[...]
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