Sibyl: A prophetess of classical legend


A prophetess of classical legend, who was supposed to prophesy under the inspiration of a deity. The name is now applied to any prophetess or woman fortune-teller. There were a number of sibyls, and they had their seats in widely separate parts of the world-Greece, Italy, Babylonia, Egypt, etc. Plato mentions only one, viz., the Erythraean--identified with Amalthea, the Cumaean Sibyl, who was consulted by Aeneas before his descent into HADES and who sold the Sibylline Books to Tarquin; Martianus Capella speaks of two, the Erythraean and the Phrygian; Aelian of four, the Erythraean, Samian, Egyptian, and Sardian; Varro tells us there were ten viz., the Cumaean, the Delphic, Egyptian, Erythraean, Hellespontine, Libyan, Persian, Phrygian, Samian and Tiburtine.

How know we but that she may be an eleventh Sibyl or a second Cassandra?-- Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel, iii. 16.

The medieval monks "adopted" the sibyls, as they did so much of pagan myth; they made them twelve, and gave to each a separate prophecy and distinct emblem:

1. The Libyan: "The day shall come when men shall see the King of all living things." Emblem: a lighted taper.
2. The Samian: "The Rich One shall be born of a pure virgin." Emblem: a rose.
3. The Cuman: "Jesus Christ shall come from heaven, and live and reign in poverty on earth." Emblem: a crown.
4. The Cumaean: "God shall be born of a pure virgin, and hold converse with sinners." Emblem: a cradle.
5. The Erythraean: "Jesus Christ, Son of God, the Savior." Emblem: a horn.
6. The Persian: "Satan shall be overcome by a true prophet." Emblem: a dragon under the sibyl's feet, and a lantern.
7. The Tiburtine: "The-Highest shall descend from heaven, and a virgin be shown in the valleys of the deserts." Emblem: a dove.
8. The Delphic: "The Prophet born of the virgin shall be crowned with thorns." Emblem: a crown of thorns.
9. The Phrygian: "Our Lord shall rise again." Emblem: a banner and a cross.
10. The European: "A virgin and her Son shall flee into Egypt." Emblem: a sword.
11. The Agrippine: "Jesus Christ shall be outraged and scourged." Emblem: a whip.
12. The Hellespontic: "Jesus Christ shall suffer shame upon the cross." Emblem: a cross.

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