The Cumaean Sibyl was the priestess presiding over the Apollonian oracle at Cumae, a Greek colony located near Naples, Italy. The word sibyl comes (via Latin) from the ancient Greek word sibylla, meaning prophetess. There were many sibyls in different locations throughout the ancient world. Because of the importance of the Cumaean Sibyl in the legends of early Rome as codified in Virgil's Aeneid VI, and because of her proximity to Rome, the Cumaean Sibyl became the most famous among the Romans. The Erythraean Sibyl from modern-day Turkey was famed among Greeks, as was the oldest Hellenic oracle, the Sibyl of Dodona, possibly dating to the second millennium BC according to Herodotus, favored in the east.
The Cumaean Sibyl is one of the four sibyls painted by Raphael at Santa Maria della Pace (see gallery below). She was also painted by Andrea del Castagno ( Uffizi Gallery, illustration right), and in the Sistine Ceiling of Michelangelo her powerful presence overshadows every other sibyl, even her younger and more beautiful sisters, such as the Delphic Sibyl.
There are various names for the Cumaean Sibyl besides the "Herophile" of Pausanias and Lactantius 's "Deiphobe, daughter of Glaucus": "Amaltheia", "Demophile" or "Taraxandra" are all offered in various references.or the Aeneid
The story of the acquisition of the Sibylline Books by Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, the semi-legendary last king of the Roman Kingdom, or Tarquinius Priscus, is one of the famous mythic elements of Roman history.
Centuries ago, concurrent with the 50th Olympiad, not long before the expulsion of Rome's kings, an old woman "who was not a native of the country"arrived incognita in Rome. She offered nine books of prophecies to King Tarquin; and as the king declined to purchase them, owing to the exorbitant price she demanded, she burned three and offered the remaining six to Tarquin at the same stiff price, which he again refused, whereupon she burned three more and repeated her offer. Tarquin then relented and purchased the last three at the full original price, whereupon she "disappeared from among men".
The books were thereafter kept in the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill, Rome, to be consulted only in emergencies. The temple burned down in the 80s BC, and the books with it, necessitating a re-collection of Sibylline prophecies from all parts of the empire (Tacitus 6.12). These were carefully sorted and those determined to be legitimate were saved in the rebuilt temple. The Emperor Augustus had them moved to the Temple of Apollo on the Palatine Hill, where they remained for most of the remaining Imperial Period.
The Cumaean Sibyl is featured in the works of various Roman authors, including Virgil (the Eclogues, the Aeneid), Ovid (the Metamorphoses ) and Petronius (the Satyricon ).
The Cumaean Sibyl prophesied by “singing the fates” and writing on oak leaves. These would be arranged inside the entrance of her cave, but if the wind blew and scattered them, she would not help to reassemble the leaves and recreate the original prophecy.
The Sibyl was a guide to the underworld (Hades), whose entrance lay at the nearby crater of Avernus. Aeneas employed her services before his descent to the lower world to visit his dead father Anchises, but she warned him that it was no light undertaking:
Trojan, Anchises' son, the descent of Avernus is easy.
All night long, all day, the doors of Hades stand open.
But to retrace the path, to come up to the sweet air of heaven,
That is labour indeed.— Aeneid 6.126-129.
The Sibyl acts as a bridge between the worlds of the living and the dead (cf. concept of liminality). She shows Aeneas the way to Avernus and teaches him what he needs to know about the dangers of their journey.
Although she was a mortal, the Sibyl lived about a thousand years. She attained this longevity when Apollo offered to grant her a wish in exchange for her virginity; she took a handful of sand and asked to live for as many years as the grains of sand she held. Later, after she refused the god's love, he allowed her body to wither away because she failed to ask for eternal youth. Her body grew smaller with age and eventually was kept in a jar (ampulla). Eventually only her voice was left (Metamorphoses 14; compare the myth of Tithonus, the lover of Eos, who was also granted immortality but not eternal youth).
Virgil may have been influenced by Hebrew texts, according to Tacitus, amongst others. Constantine, the Christian emperor, in his first address to the assembly, interpreted the whole of The Eclogues as a reference to the coming of Christ, and quoted a long passage of the Sibylline Oracles (Book 8) containing an acrostic in which the initials from a series of verses read: Jesus Christ Son of God Saviour Cross.
In the Middle Ages, both the Cumaean Sibyl and Virgil were considered prophets of the birth of Christ, because the fourth of Virgil's Eclogues appears to contain a Messianic prophecy by the Sibyl. In it, she foretells the coming of a saviour, whom Christians identified as Jesus.This was identified by early Christians as such—one reason why Dante Alighieri later chose Virgil as his guide through the underworld in the Divine Comedy . Similarly, Michelangelo prominently featured the Cumaean Sibyl in the Sistine Chapel among the Old Testament prophets, as had earlier works such as the Tree of Jesse miniature in the Ingeberg Psalter (c. 1210).
The famous cave known as the "Antro della Sibilla" was discovered by Amedeo Maiuri in 1932, the identification of which he based on the description by Virgil in the 6th book of the Aeneid, and also from the description by an anonymous author known as pseudo-Justin. (Virg. Aen. 6. 45–99; Ps-Justin, 37). The cave is a trapezoidal passage over 131 m long, running parallel to the side of the hill and cut out of the volcanic tuff stone and leads to an innermost chamber, where the Sibyl was thought to have prophesied.
A nearby tunnel through the acropolis now known as the "Crypta Romana" (part of Agrippa and Octavian's defenses in the war against Sextus Pompey) was previously identified as the Grotto of the Sibyl. The inner chamber was later used as a burial chamber during the 4th or 5th century AD (M. Napoli 1965, 105) by people living at the site.
Some archaeologists have proposed an alternative cave site as the home of the Sibyl. A tunnel complex near Baiae (part of the volcanically active Phlegraean fields) leads to an underground geothermally-heated stream that could be presented to visitors as the river Styx. The layout of the tunnels conforms to the description in the Aeneid of Aeneas' journey to the underworld and back.
Publius Vergilius Maro, usually called Virgil or Vergil in English, was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He composed three of the most famous poems in Latin literature: the Eclogues, the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid. A number of minor poems, collected in the Appendix Vergiliana, were attributed to him in ancient times, but modern scholars consider his authorship of these poems as dubious.
The Aeneid is a Latin epic poem, written by Virgil between 29 and 19 BC, that tells the legendary story of Aeneas, a Trojan who fled the fall of Troy and travelled to Italy, where he became the ancestor of the Romans. It comprises 9,896 lines in dactylic hexameter. The first six of the poem's twelve books tell the story of Aeneas' wanderings from Troy to Italy, and the poem's second half tells of the Trojans' ultimately victorious war upon the Latins, under whose name Aeneas and his Trojan followers are destined to be subsumed.
In Greek and Roman mythology, Misenus (Μισηνός) was a name attributed to two individuals.
The Erythraean Sibyl was the prophetess of classical antiquity presiding over the Apollonian oracle at Erythrae, a town in Ionia opposite Chios, which was built by Neleus, the son of Codrus.
Avernus was an ancient name for a volcanic crater near Cumae (Cuma), Italy, in the region of Campania west of Naples. Part of the Phlegraean Fields of volcanoes, Avernus is approximately 3.2 kilometres (2.0 mi) in circumference. Within the crater is Lake Avernus.
Cumae was the first ancient Greek colony on the mainland of Italy, founded by settlers from Euboea in the 8th century BC and soon becoming one of the strongest colonies. It later became a rich Roman city, the remains of which lie near the modern village of Cuma, a frazione of the comune Bacoli and Pozzuoli in the Metropolitan City of Naples, Campania, Italy.
The sibyls were prophetesses or oracles in Ancient Greece. The sibyls prophesied at holy sites. A sibyl at Delphi has been dated to as early as the eleventh century BC by Pausanias when he described local traditions in his writings from the second century AD. At first, there appears to have been only a single sibyl. By the fourth century BC, there appear to have been at least three more, Phrygian, Erythraean, and Hellespontine. By the first century BC, there were at least ten sibyls, located in Greece, Italy, the Levant, and Asia Minor.
The Sibylline Oracles are a collection of oracular utterances written in Greek hexameters ascribed to the Sibyls, prophetesses who uttered divine revelations in a frenzied state. Fourteen books and eight fragments of Sibylline Oracles survive, in an edition of the 6th or 7th century AD. They are not to be confused with the original Sibylline Books of the ancient Etruscans and Romans which were burned by order of the Roman general Flavius Stilicho in the 4th century AD. Instead, the text is an "odd pastiche" of Hellenistic and Roman mythology interspersed with Jewish, Gnostic and early Christian legend.
The Tiburtine Sibyl or Albunea was a Roman sibyl, whose seat was the ancient Etruscan town of Tibur.
The Sibylline Books were a collection of oracular utterances, set out in Greek hexameters, that, according to tradition, were purchased from a sibyl by the last king of Rome, Tarquinius Superbus, and were consulted at momentous crises through the history of the Republic and the Empire. Only fragments have survived, the rest being lost or deliberately destroyed.
The Delphic Sibyl was a woman who was a prophet associated with early religious practices in Ancient Greece and is said to have been venerated from before the Trojan Wars as an important oracle. At that time Delphi was a place of worship for Gaia, the mother goddess connected with fertility rituals that are thought to have existed throughout the ancient Mediterranean world. As needed to maintain the religious tradition, the role of sibyl would pass to another priestess at each site.
The Cimmerian Sibyl, by name Carmentis, was the prophetic priestess presiding over the Apollonian Oracle at Cimmerium in Italy, near Lake Avernus.
In Roman literature, Erichtho is a legendary Thessalian witch who appears in several literary works. She is noted for her horrifying appearance and her impious ways. Her first major role was in the Roman poet Lucan's epic Pharsalia, which details Caesar's Civil War. In the work, Pompey the Great's son, Sextus Pompeius, seeks her, hoping that she will be able to reveal the future concerning the imminent Battle of Pharsalus. In a gruesome scene, she finds a dead body, fills it with potions, and raises it from the dead. The corpse describes a civil war that is plaguing the underworld and delivers a prophecy about what fate lies in store for Pompey and his kin.
A katabasis or catabasis is a journey to the underworld. Its original sense is usually associated with Greek mythology and Classical mythology more broadly, where the protagonist visits the Greek underworld, also known as Hades. The term is also used in a broad sense of any journey to the realm of the dead in other mythological and religious traditions. A katabasis is similar to a nekyia or necromancy, where someone experiences a vision of the underworld or its inhabitants; a nekyia does not generally involve a physical visit, however. One of the most famous examples is that of Odysseus, who performs something on the border of a nekyia and a katabasis in book 11 of The Odyssey; he visits the border of the realms before calling the dead to him using a blood ritual, with it being disputed whether he was at the highest realm of the underworld or the lowest edge of the living world where he performed this.
The Golden Bough is one of the episodic tales written in the epic Aeneid, book VI, by the Roman poet Virgil, which narrates the adventures of the Trojan hero Aeneas after the Trojan War.
Eclogue4, also known as the FourthEclogue, is the name of a Latin poem by the Roman poet Virgil.
Eclogue 4, also known as the Fourth Eclogue, is the name of a Latin poem by the Roman poet Virgil. Part of his first major work, the Eclogues, the piece was written around 40 BC, during a time of brief stability following the Treaty of Brundisium; it was later published in and around the years 39–38 BC. The work describes the birth of a boy, a supposed savior, who once of age will become divine and eventually rule over the world. During late antiquity and the Middle Ages, a desire emerged to view Virgil as a virtuous pagan, and as such, early Christians, such as Roman Emperor Constantine, early Christian theologian Lactantius, and St. Augustine—to varying degrees—reinterpreted the poem to be about the birth of Jesus Christ.
When writing the Aeneid, Virgil drew from his studies on the Homeric epics of the Iliad and the Odyssey to help him create a national epic poem for the Roman people. Virgil used several characteristics associated with epic poetry, more specifically Homer's epics, including the use of hexameter verse, book division, lists of genealogies and underlying themes to draw parallels between the Romans and their cultural predecessors, the Greeks.
The Sibilla Cumana is a painting by the Italian Baroque painter Domenicho Zampieri (Domenichino) housed in the Capitoline Museum in Rome, Italy.
The Golden Bough is a painting from 1834 by the English painter J. M. W. Turner. It depicts the episode of the golden bough from the Aeneid by Virgil. It is in the collection of the Tate galleries.