The Sybils

Sibylline Oracles ~ Sibylline Books

Sibylline Books

The Persian Sibyl


The Libyan Sibyl


The Hebrew Sibyl


The Delphic Sibyl


The Cumaean  Sibyl


The Erythraean Sibyl


The Samian Sibyl


The Hellespontine Sibyl


The Phrygian Sibyl


The Tiburtine Sibyl

The word sibyl is derived from the Greek word sibylla, meaning prophetess. The Sibyls of early antiquity, who are known  through legend prophesized at holy sites, generally under the influence of a particular deity. Later in antiquity, sibyls wandered from place to place.

The earliest Greek writer known to mention a sibyl isHeraclitus.

The Sibyl, with frenzied mouth uttering things not to be laughed at, unadorned and un-perfumed, yet reaches to a thousand years with her voice by aid of the god."

Roman writers refer to Sybil's by names that refer to the location of their shrine.


A gold mine for students of Classical mythology and early first millennium Jewish, Gnostic and Christian beliefs.

The Sibylline Oracles are a fascinating blend of mysticism, spirituality, philosophy and history emanating from the depths of antiquity. They were widely referenced by the early Church Fathers, and in spite of their pagan content, almost attained Canonical status.

The Sibylline Oracles are like a first draft of the Biblical Book of Revelation, and have many of the same characteristics as the prophecies of Nostradamus.

...an enigma still waiting to be solved.



Sibylline Oracles or Sibylline Books

Pseudo-Sibylline Oracles

The original Sibylline Books were zealously guarded scrolls written by priestesses in the Etruscan and pre-Christian Roman Era as far back as the 6th Century BC. These were the first Sibylline Books purchased by King Tarquin from the Cumean Sybil. They were for the most part destroyed during a Roman Civil War in 83 BC.

The second Sibylline Books were fragmentary remains of the first Sibylline Books along with a collection assembled under Augustus Cesar . They survived for several centuries until it was reportedly destroyed by Roman General Flavius Stilicho , [At one point virtual ruler of Rome]

Copies, and fragments of some Sibylline works were preserved and have found their way into Christian Apocryphal Literature. Some genuine Sibylline verses from the first books are preserved in Phlegon of Tralles' Book of Marvels (2nd century AD).

The extant collection known as the Sibylline Oracles , also known as the pseudo-Sibylline Oracles are a collection that was composed in various times and places from the mid second century BC to the 5th century AD.

In places the oracles are believed to have undergone extensive editing, and re-writing for the exploitation of various political and religious agendas.

Cumaean Sibyls

 The Priestess of Apollo

 

Somewhere between  534 and 510 BC,  Shortly after the founding of the City of Rome, an old woman arrived incognita in Rome. She came to the King with a proposition to sell him nine books in Greek hexameters for three hundred pieces of gold. The king couldn't believe his ears. Nor his eyes. "Books? What books?" !

"I want to sell you nine books, They contain the destiny of the world."
The king still could not believe his ears. "The what?" he asked.
"The future of the world," she told him in simpler terms. "My books contain the destiny of the world."
"Even so," said the king. "The price seems too high..."


Weeks later -- for the old woman made the long journey all the way from Rome to Cumae, which is on the north hook of the Bay of Naples, and back again,  she presented herself again at the audience chamber of King Tarquinius Superbus
"What now?" he asked.


"I offer you six books for sale," she answered.
"How much?" he asked.

"I told you. Three hundred pieces of gold."
"Too much."


Some time later, for the old woman was not as young as she used to be, and the roads between Cumae and Rome are very long roads in any century, she presented herself again at the court of King Tarquin.
"I can offer you three books," she told the king.
"How much?" he inquired.
"Same price. Three hundred pieces of gold," she said.
"What happened to the other six," he asked.
"I burnt them," she said.


King Tarquin bought the three remaining books, which the Old woman claimed contained the Worlds destiny, for three hundred pieces of gold, from the old woman. She was the original Cumaean Sibyl . The name of the Cumaean sibyl was Amalthaea.


Then he asked her to rewrite, or to have reconstituted, the other six books.
"No," was her reply.


After he had read his three books, he asked her again. "No," she repeated.
Rome subsequently went on to be a kingdom and later a republic. Rome expanded for Centuries and finally collapsed.

The books were stored in a closely guarded vault beneath the temple of Jupiter in Rome they were consulted by the Pagan college of priests . Julius Caesar gave a copy of the Books to his high priests, who were the only public servants permitted to read them . {Priestesses--by Norma Lorre Goodrich }

 

The books were preserved until a disastrous fire swept through Rome in 83 BC, during a Roman Civil War.  These were the first Sibylline Books

 

Afterwards, the Senate under Augustus Caesar sent envoys to various oracles to collect similar prophecies, along with fragmentary remains of the first Sibylline Books they assembled a collection that became the second Sibylline Books.

They survived for several centuries until it was reportedly destroyed by Flavius Stilicho , a Roman General of German decent. [At one point virtual ruler of Rome] Copies, and fragments of some Sibylline works were preserved and have found their way into Christian Apocryphal Literature

 

The Cumaean Sibyl located near the Greek city of Naples, whom Virgil's Aeneas consults before his descent to the lower world (Aeneid book VI: 10).  It was she who supposedly sold to Tarquinius Superbus, the last king of Rome, the original Sibylline books .

"She changes her features and the color of her countenance; her hair springs up erect, her bosom heaves and pants, her wild heart beats violently, the foam gathers on her lips, and her voice is terrible." And when she was possessed, Virgil added, "She paces to and fro in her cave and gesticulates as if she would expel the gods from her breast."  The Aeneid of Virgil

 

One of the Sibyl's peculiarities, was that when consulted she would write her predictions on leaves and lay them at the edge of her cave, from which they were blown hither and yon by the wind and often confusedly mixed up, making them all but unintelligible to their readers, {Sounds like the Quatrains of Nostradamus }.

The Cumaean Sibyl was held in high esteem by early Christians, she was considered a prophet of the birth of Christ, because theVirgil's 4th Eclogue appears to contain a Messianic prophecy by this Sibyl. Michelangelo also prominently featured the Cumaean Sibyl in his Sistine Chapel paintings.



 

The Delphic Sibyls

Delphi is located 110 mi. northwest of Athens and is situated on a steep mountain slope that descends into the Pleistos Valley. There were a number of Sibyls who bore the title "The Delphic Sybil" derived from this locale.

Soon after becoming Emperor of Rome in 54 AD, Nero murdered his own mother, then went on vacation. When he visited the Oracle at Delphi, the Soothsayer screamed at him

"Your presence here outrages the god you seek. Go back, matricide! The number 73 marks the hour of your downfall!"


Nero was infuriated and had the Delphic Sibyl buried alive in the cavern, along with the temple priests after their hands and feet had been chopped off. Nero thought the number 73 would be his age at death. He was only 30 years old then, so he did not worry about it. The number actually related to Servius Sulpicius Galba, [ruled 68 -69 AD] who was 73 years old when he succeeded Nero in 68 AD.

Before he became Roman Emperor Hadrian [ruled 117-130 AD] visited the Delphic Oracle and drank from the sacred fountain Kassotis. And believed that he learned firsthand of his destiny. Upon becoming Emperor he ordered the fountain to be plugged up to prevent anyone else from getting the same idea from the same source. Emperor Julian had the well unblocked removed during his reign (361-363 AD) because he believed it should be available to everyone.

"Through the Oracles of Apollo, the greater part of civilization had come into being because they had revealed the will of the gods in the sphere of politics, as well as religion, which they regulated wisely for those who kept their advice." Roman Emperor Julian
 


Heraclitus wrote, "The god of Delphi neither revealeth, nor concealeth, but hinteth."
 

While most of this oracle advice was ambiguous, She also gave exact answers on occasion.Croesus, King of Lydia [6th century BC was concerned about the threat posed byCyrus the Elder, King of Persia and Babylon Seeking divine counsel, King Croesus tested several of the best known psychics of his time.

The Delphic Oracle was the only one whom correctly answered the test question posed by Croesus... "What was King Croesus engaged in at the moment of the query (which was on the hundredth day since they had departed from Sardis)? She answered

 "I can count the sands and I can measure the Ocean, I have ears for the silent,and know what the dumb man meaneth. Lo, on my sense there striketh the smell of shell-covered tortoise, boiling now in fire with the flesh of lamb in a cauldron, brass in the vessel below and brass the cover of it."



The messengers reported the answer, which was completely correct and satisfactory to Croesus. The king then made a huge sacrificial offering to Apollo and presented the Oracle with many priceless gifts. He asked,

  1.  "Whether Croesus should march against the Persians, and if so, whether he should join himself with any army of men as his friends." The Oracle replied,
  •  "After crossing the Halys, Croesus will destroy a great empire."
  1. Croesus also inquired if he would have a long reign, to which the Pythia answered
  • "Nay, when a mule becometh king of Medes, flee, soft-soled Lydian, by pebbly Hermus, and stay not, nor feel shame to be a coward."
  1. Finally, he asked about his deaf-mute son
  • The Oracle replied: "Son of Lydia, ruler of men, Croesus, thou prince of fools, desire not to hear in thy halls the voice long prayed for of a son speaking. He will speak first on a day that is not propitious.."

The answers did not please Croesus, but since it seemed impossible for a mule to be king.  Croesus crossed the river Halys to invade Cappadocia, but withdrew to his own capitol at Sardis after a fierce battle . Croesus then disbanded his army, but Cyrus followed him with the Persian army and besieged Sardis, which fell.

Croesus did indeed destroy a great empire --- his own.

A "mule" did become monarch of Media insofar as Cyrus was born of mixed parentage, as are mules; his mother was a princess of Media, and his father was a Persian.

The final prophecy was fulfilled when a Persian soldier attacked Croesus without recognizing him. Croesus' deaf-mute son suddenly cried out, "Man, do not kill Croesus!" The Delphic Sybils endured until 390 AD, when Emperor Theodosius{394-395} closed the temple; his successor, Arcadius { 395-408}, , demolished it.
 

The Delphic Sibyl has sometimes been confused with thePythia, who gave prophecies at the Delphic Oracle.



The Persian Sibyl

The Persian Sibyl was said to be prophetic priestess , she is said to have foretold the exploits of Alexander the Great.The Original Persian Sibyl, by name Sambethe, was reported to be of the daughter in law of  Noah. Variant traditions list her name as Sabba, Sambethe, Noegla, Oliva, Naaltamiki ...
 
 
"O the great Joy that I had when I escap’d the great Destruction, when my Husband with me, and his Brothers, and Father, and Mother, and their Daughters-in-law, suffer’d much by being long toss’d by the Flood! .... for when the World was drowned, and only one Man of worth was left in his wooden House, swimming on the Waters with the wild and tame Beasts, that the World might replenish again by them; I was his Daughter-in-Law, and of his Blood. "   Discourses on the Secret Sciences and Mysteries in Accordance with the Principles of the Ancient Magi and the Wisdom of the Kabalistic Philosophers -Comte de Gabalis 

According to the Sibylline Oracles the wives of Noahs sons - Shem, Ham and Japheth endured incredibly long lives, living for many centuries. Each subsequent generation they coexisted  with received their prophetic visions . 

The Hebrew Sibyl

The Hebrew Sibyl , and the Persian Sybil may have been one and the same. She is believed by some to have been the author of several of the extant Twelve Sibylline oracles, not the Greco-Roman Sibylline books, which were lost in antiquity, but rather writings dating from Second Century  BC up till the Fifth Century AD.   Some Oracles also identify this Sybil as the daughter in law of Noah.



The Libyan Sibyl

The Libyan Sibyl has been identified as the prophetic priestess presiding over an ancient Zeus Amon oracle at the Siwa Oasis in the Egyptian Desert of . This oracle was consulted by Alexander after his conquest of Egypt.


Euripides mentions the Libyan Sibyl in the prologue to his tragedy Lamia. The mother of the Libyan Sibyl was Lamia, meaning Serpent or Medusa. In an ancient Description of Greece, the sibyl names her parents ...

 

I am by birth half mortal, half divine;
An immortal nymph was my mother, my father an eater of corn;
On my mother's side of Idaean birth, but my fatherland was red
Marpessus, sacred to the Mother, and the river Aidoneus. (Pausanias 10.12.3)
 



Some Greek legends state that she was the daughter of Zeus and Lamia , a Libyan queen loved by Zeus. Euripides mentions the Libyan Sibyl in the prologue of the Lamia. The Greeks further state that she was the first woman to chant oracles, she lived most of her life in Samos.  She may be one and the same as the Samian Sybil.


The Samian Sibyl

The Samian Sibyl's oracular site was at the Isle of Samos.  She is said to have prophesied the Birth of Jesus, although this is most likely a later interpolation by medieval Christian monks

 

“The Rich One shall be born of a pure virgin.”  



The Erythraean Sibyl

The Erythraean Sibyl, mentioned by Plato, was based in a town  Erythrae, in Asia Minor. She is said to have predicted the Trojan War and prophesized to the Greeks who were moving against Ilium both that Troy would be destroyed and that Homer would write falsehoods.

The word acrostic was applied to the Erythraean Sibyl prophecies , which were written on leaves and arranged so that the first letters of the leaves always formed a word.

What makes The Erythraean Sibyl important to Christians is her prediction of Christ, given in the form of a cryptic poem which formed the words,   'Ihsous Xristos Qeou uios spthr, which means, "Jesus Christ the Son of God, the Saviour." See  "City of God City of God (Penguin Classics) Paperback – December 30, 2003




The Hellespontine Sibyl

The Hellespontine, Trojan or Phrygian Sibyl resided at the Apollonian oracle at Dardania.

The sibylline collection at Gergis was attributed to the Hellespontine Sibyl and was preserved in the temple of Apollo at Gergis. Thence it passed to Erythrae, where it became famous.


The Phrygian Sibyl
The Phrygian Sibyl appears to be another name for the Hellespontine Sibyl.


The Tiburtine Sibyl
To the classical sibyls of the Greeks, the Romans added a tenth, the Tiburtine Sibyl, whose seat was the ancient Etruscan town of Tibur.


The Pseudo-Tiburtine prophecy, dated ca 380, with additions