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place in the history of the internal affairs of Rome, and formed, for a long period, a political engine of such power, that it may be useful to give some account of their origin.
The Roman Legend, as it stood in ancient annals, ran thus.1
In the reign of Tarquinius, an aged woman, of foreign aspect,2 presented herself before the King with nine3 books, containing, she said, divine oracles. These she offered to sell for a vast sum. Tarquinius laughed at her as one in dotage. Thereupon she placed a brazier on the ground and burned three of the volumes before his eyes, and then asked if he would give the same price for the remaining six. Much more then did Tarquinius laugh, exclaiming that she was mad outright. The woman, upon the spot, burned three more, and then calmly requested him to buy the three which remained at the same price. The King, amazed and awed withal by her perseverance and firmness, paid the sum originally demanded. The aged woman departed from his presence and was never seen nor heard of more.
The books thus acquired were called the Libri Sibyllini, because they were supposed to contain the predictions of one or more Sibyls, i. e., female prophetesses. They were deposited in a stone chest, under ground, in the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, and were committed to the charge of inspectors or commissioners chosen from among the patricians, whose duty it was to consult them when authorised by the Senate. Recourse was had to their assistance when any sedition broke out in the State; when any grievous disaster had happened either at home or abroad; or when any unheard of prodigies disturbed the minds of men. The number of commissioners was originally two, who were styled duumviri sacrorum or duumviri libris adeundis. In the year B.C. 368, a bill was brought in by the tribunes to encrease the number of commissioners from two to ten, with the condition annexed, that onehalf of these should be plebeians." This measure, after great opposition, was carried the following year, and continued in force until the dictatorship of Sylla, by whom the number was further augmented to fifteen.
The books remained in safety until the year B. C. 83, when they
1 See Varro ap. Lactant. I. 6. Dionys. A. R. IV. 62. Aul. Gell. I. 19. Plin. H. N. XIII. 13. 2 The above authors all agree that the books were brought to Tarquinius Superbus, except Varro, who names Tarquinius Priscus. Suidas says loosely, that the books came to Rome in the time of Tarquinius Priscus, or of the
consuls, (vid. Σιβυλλαι; Ηροφίλης) Γυνή τις οὐκ ἐπιχωριά Dionys. “ Anus hospita
atque incognita," Gell. "Sibyllam," Plin. The account of Varro will be noticed below. According to Pliny, Solinus, and Suidas, there were originally only three books, of which two were burned. 5 Dionysius says, that Tarquin consulted the augurs as to the propriety of purchasing the books. There are sundry other trifling discrepancies, but the story, in its important features, is the same in all. 6 Livy gives no account of the origin of the Sibylline books. He mentions them, for the first time, 111. 10, where he simply remarks, "libri per duumviros aditi,' without any explanation Liv. VI. 37. 8 Liv. VI. 42.
were destroyed in the conflagration which consumed the temple of Capitoline Jove. The Senate, upon the restoration of the shrine, nominated three ambassadors, who were enjoined to visit the cities of Italy and Greece, and especially to pass over to Erythrae in Asia, for the purpose of collecting any Sibylline oracles which might be preserved either in sanctuaries or by private individuals. In this manner about a thousand lines were procured and brought to Rome.1 hen Augustus entered upon the duties of the high priesthood, he commanded that all books of prophecies, resting upon no sufficient authority, of which upwards of a thousand were in circulation, should be brought together and burned. He then directed his attention to the Sibylline verses preserved by the State, and took great pains to separate the genuine from such as were deemed spurious. The former were transcribed by the pontifices, and deposited in two gilded cases in the Temple of Palatine Apollo.3 A fire, in the time of Julian the Apostate, nearly destroyed this second edition of the Sibylline verses, and all writings of this description which remained were finally swept away by an edict of the emperor Honorius. The compilation, now extant, under the name of "Sibyllina Oracula," is well known to be a forgery.
We proceed to make a few observations on the personages who bore the name of Sibyls. The word ßuλλ is usually considered as a compound of 6105, a dialectic form of 0805 (or, perhaps, ▲105,) and βουλη, and will thus signify one who declares the counsel of the gods." Some authors consider this appellation as common to all inspired women; an opinion at variance with the fact, that those who have written upon the subject usually speak of the number of Sibyls as definite; and Pausanias specifies certain prophetesses who did not receive any such title. The most important passage in the works of the ancients now extant, with regard to Sibyls, is a quotation from Varro, given by the Latin Father Lactantius, in the first book of his "Divine Institutions." According to the statement of the most learned of the Romans, there were ten Sibyls.
1. Persica. 2. Libyssa. 3. Delphica. 4. Cumaa (of Cumæ in Italy.) 5. Erythræa, who is said to have prophesied to the Greeks that Troy would fall, and that Homer would write falsehoods. 6. Samia. 7. Cumana, by name Amalthea, whom others call Herophile or
Fenestella quoted by Lactant. I. 6. and Dionys. as above. 2 Tacit. Ann. VI. 12. Suet. Octav. XXXI. Dion. LIV. 17. Tiberius made a similar clearance see Dion. LVII. 18. 3 Ammianus, XXIII. 4 The principal authorities for the remarks which follow, are Varro ap. Lactant. 1. 6. Pausan. X, 12. Ælian, V. H. XII. 35. Servius on Virg. 11. 444, 445. VI. 36. 72. 321. Suidas, as above, and Salmasius, Ex. Plin. p. 52. 5 Salmasius objects to this derivation, but it is more reasonable than the one proposed by himself. 6 e. g. Varro and Serv. Virg. Æ. III. 445. 7 Thus Varro says that there were ten; Pausanias and Ælian recognise four; others assign different numbers. 8 X. 12. 9 That is of Cyme (Kuun) in Æolis.
Demophile, who brought the books to Tarquinius. 8. Hellespontica, born in the Trojan territory, in the village of Marpessus, near the town of Gergithium, who is said to have lived in the times of Solon and Cyrus. 9. Phrygia, who prophesied at Ancyra. 10. Tiburs, by name Albunea, worshipped at Tibur, as a goddess, on the banks of the Anio, in whose stream her image is said to have been found grasping a book.-So Varro.-Besides these, we hear of a Hebrew, a Chaldæan, a Babylonian, an Egyptian, a Sardian Sibyl, and some others.
This long catalogue may, however, be considerably curtailed. the first place, it seems certain that the Cumæa, the Cumana, the Erythræa, and the Hellespontica were one and the same. Aristotle (in admirandis) speaks of a subterranean cavern shewn at Cumæ, in Italy, the abode of the prophetic Sibyl, who lived to a great age, being a native of Erythræ. Servius tells how Apollo promised to the Erythræan Sibyl that she should live as many years as there were grains in a handful of sand, provided that she quitted Erythræ and never again beheld her native soil. But she forgot to ask for an extension of the period of youth, and when, on retiring to Cumæ, she became worn out and decrepit and yet could not die, her former fellow-citizens sent to her in pity a letter sealed with the chalk of Erythræ: so soon as she looked on this she expired. The same legend is partially narrated by Ovid, Met. XIV. 130 seqq.
The identity of the Erythræa and the Cumaa is thus established, and that of the Cumaa (Italian) and Cumana (Æolian) needs almost no proof, for, with the exception of Varro, they are distinguished from each other by scarcely any ancient authority. Cumæ, in Italy, was said to have been partly colonized from Cyme (Kuun), in Æolis, and the adjectives Cumaa and Cumana are used by the poets indifferently, while Erythræ being on the borders of Æolis, the confusion of epithets, becomes easily explained. But, according to the accounts preserved by Pausanias, the Erythræa was the same with the Samia and the Delphica, and manifestly with the Hellespontica also; and, in all probability, with the Phrygia, and the Sardiana of Ælian.
Again, Suidas informs us that the Chaldæan Sibyl was by some called the Hebrew and by others the Persian, while Pausanias affirms that the Hebrew Sibyl was by some called the Babylonian, and by others the Egyptian. According to these views, the list of Varro will be thus reduced.
(1.) Persica; otherwise Hebræa; Chaldæa; Babylonia; Egyptia :
1 Others read Mermessus. 2 Virg. Æ. VI. 321.
(2.) Cumæa; otherwise Cumana; Erythræa; Samia; Delphica ; Hellespontica; (and, probably, Phrygia; Sardiana.)
(3.) Libyssa. (4.) Tiburs.
Nay, the process might be pushed still farther, for Justin Martyr assures us that the Cumæan and Babylonian Sibyls were the same; and Lactantius, that the Erythræan declared, in the preface to her oracles, that she was born at Babylon: hence, we might conclude, that (1) and (2) were identical, and we should thus have, one Sibyl for Asia, one for Africa, and one for Europe.
It was generally believed among the Romans, that the Cumaan Sibyl was the authoress of their prophetic books,1 and Varro supposes that she in person offered them to King Tarquin. If the conclusion at which we arrived above is correct, this will not involve any contradiction to the statement, which he appears to have made elsewhere,3 that they were composed by the Erythræan. That they were supposed to be in some way derived from Erythræ, seems certain from the circumstance mentioned above, that the ambassadors sent forth, after their destruction, for the purpose of recovering what had been lost, were specially enjoined to visit Erythræ.
The names of these ladies are involved in almost hopeless confusion. The most outstanding is Herophile, which, according to Pausanias, was the appellation of the oldest of all the Sibyls. He adds that there was a second Herophile, namely, the Erythræan Sibyl, and in this he is followed by Suidas. Herophile, in Eusebius,5 is the Samian; in Solinus, the Delphian;6 in Varro, the Cumana, which is an additional argument to prove that these are all the same. Varro, however, gives two other names for the Cumana, Amalthea and Demophile. The Cumæa, again, is, by Virgil, called Deiphobe; by Servius, Phemonoë;8 by Hyperochus himself, a native of Cuma, Demo.9 In Suidas, the Samian is Phyto, the Cumana both Amalthea and Herophile.
The Hebrew, Chaldæan, or Persian Sibyl is generally named Sabbé or Sambethé, the daughter of Berosus and Erymanthe.
We may conclude this dissertation with the words of Salmasius, one of the most learned men that ever lived,
"Nihil est quod æque diverse prodiderint antiqui scriptores, quam Sibyllarum ætatem, patriam, nomina."
1 Serv. Virg. Æ. VI.36. 2 Varro, in Lactantius, expressly affirms that the Cumana brought the books to Tarquin. Servius twice (Æ. VI. 6, & 72.) states that Varro attributed them to the Erythræa. 4 According to the Greeks, the daughter of Jupiter and Lamia, the daughter of Neptune. See Pausan. 5 Chron. Olymp. XVI. 6 The editions of Solinus give Erythraea, but Salmasius says that Delphica is in the MSS. 7 Herophile is mentioned by Clem. Alex. Strom. I. 304. 323. 8 Virg. A. 111.445.-on VI. 26, he calls her, along with Virgil, Deiphobe. 9 See Pausan. Hyperochus considered Demo different from and later than the Erythræan Herophile.
The general plan of this, the most difficult of the elegies of Tibullus, is, at first sight, so indistinct, that it may be useful to point out the connection of the different parts.
1...18. The exordium, addressed to Apollo, the god of prophecy and divination, invoking him to descend with lyre and song, in order to grace and sanctify the induction of Messalinus into the priesthood, and to enable him rightly to interpret the mysterious language of the sacred books.
19...22. The Sibyl, whose oracles these books contain, prophesied in person to Æneas when he arrived in Italy.
24...38. A parenthetic digression, describing the appearance, in that remote age, of the spot upon which the walls of the eternal city were afterwards reared.
39...66. The prediction of the Sibyl addressed to Æneas, in which she shadows forth the future glories of his race.
67...82. The poet resumes. But the evil omens foretold by other Sibyls, (71...78. a parenthesis, in which some of the more striking prodigies are described) and which we have, in our own times, witnessed, are now past and gone, and may Phoebus avert all evil consequences, and grant us prosperity in all time coming.
83...100. The husbandman is called upon to rejoice at this cheering prospect, and a description is introduced of the festival which will be celebrated by the swain.
101 to the end. The feelings and conduct of the rustic lover on the occasion of such a solemnity naturally leads the poet to speak of his own passion, and he calls upon Nemesis to spare "the holy band," that he may have vigour and spirit to sing the glories of Messalinus and his
1. (Phœbe.) The worship of this god was introduced from Greece, and it would appear that Italy had no native deity possessing the same attributes, for while Zeus was identified with Jovis-pater or Jupiter, Hera with Juno, Pallas Athene with Minerva, Hermes with Mercurius, Ares with Mars, Hephaestus with Volcanus, Artemis with Diana, &c., the name of Phoebus Apollo was not subjected to any such process of assimilation. He, probably, first became known in consequence of the celebrity of the Delphic oracle, whose fame had extended to the nations of central Italy at a very early period. The first temple of Apollo was built B.C. 428, in the Flaminian Meadow,2 and, up to the time of Cicero, was the only one in Rome.3 The ludi Apollinares were instituted B.C. 212, during the course of the second Punic war, in obedience to the injunctions of the Marcian prophecies confirmed by
1 Liv. I. 56. Herod. I. 167. 2 Liv. III. 63. IV. 25. 29. 3 Asconius in orat. in toga candida p. 91. ed. Orell.