Sibyls

Plato speaks of only one (the Erythraean); Martian Capella says there were two, the Erythraean and the Phrygian; the former being the famous “Cumaean Sibyl;” Solinus and Jackson, in his Chronologic Antiquities, maintains, on the authority of AElian, that there were four—the Erythraean, the Samian, the Egyptian, and the Sardian; Varro tells us there were ten, viz. the Cumaean (who sold the books to Tarquin), the Delphic, Egyptian, Erythraean, Hellespontine, Libyan, Persian, Phrygian, Samian, and Tiburtine.

The name of the Cumaean sibyl was Amalthaea.

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

Sibyls.
The mediaeval monks reckoned twelve Sibyls, and gave to each a separate prophecy and distinct emblem:

(1) The Libyan Sibyl: “The day shall come when men shall see the King of all living things.” Emblem, a lighted taper.

(2) The Samian Sibyl: “The Rich One shall be born of a pure virgin.” Emblem, a rose.

(3) The Cuman Sibyl: “Jesus Christ shall come from heaven, and live and reign in poverty on earth.” Emblem, a crown.

(4) The Cumean Sibyl: “God shall be born of a pure virgin, and hold converse with sinners.” Emblem, a cradle.

(5) The Erythraean Sibyl: “Jesus Christ, Son of God, the Saviour.” Emblem, a horn.

(6) The Persian. Sibyl: “Satan shall be overcome by a true prophet.” Emblem, a dragon under the Sibyl's feet, and a lantern.

(7) The Tiourtine Sibyl: “The Highest shall descend from heaven, and a virgin be shown in the valleys of the deserts.” Emblem, a dove.

(8) The Delphic Sibyl: “The Prophet born of the virgin shall be crowned with thorns.” Emblem, a crown of thorns.

(9) The Phrygian Sibyl: “Our Lord shall rise again.” Emblem, a banner and a cross.

(10) The European Sibyl: “A virgin and her Son shall flee into Egypt.” Emblem, a sword.

(11) The Agrippine Sibyl: “Jesus Christ shall be outraged and scourged.” Emblem, a whip.

(12) The Hellespontic Sibyl: “Jesus Christ shall suffer shame upon the cross.” Emblem, a cross.

This list of prophecies is of the sixteenth century, and is manifestly a clumsy forgery or mere monkish legend. (See below, Sibylline Verses.)

The most famous of the ten sibyls
was Amalthaea, of Cumae in AEolia, who offered her nine books to Tarquin the Proud. The offer being rejected, she burnt three of them; and after the lapse of twelve months, offered the remaining six at the same price. Again being refused, she burnt three more, and after a similar interval asked the same price for the remaining three. The sum demanded was now given, and Amalthaea never appeared again. (Livy.)

Sibyl.
The Cumaean sibyl was the conductor of Virgil to the infernal regions. (Æneid, vi.) Sibyl. A fortune-teller.

“How they will fare it needs a sibyl to say.” —The Times.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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