Friday, June 6, 2014

Cumaean Sibyl

The Cumaean Sibyl – A Priestess

Cumaean Sibyl 1
Cumae, an ancient city of Magna Graecia situated on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea was the first Greek colony on the mainland of Italy. It was the seat of the Cumaean Sibyl which was founded by Euboean Greeks.

These Greeks used a local variant of the Greek alphabet; the Euboean alphabet which later developed into the Latin alphabet and became the world’s most widely used phonemic script. It was first adopted and modified by the Etruscans in 800 to 100 BC and later by the Romans in 300 -100 BC.

 The Cumaeon Sibyl was known to be a priestess who presided over the Apollonian oracle at Cumae, the first Greek colony situated near Naples, Italy. Sibyl word is derived from the ancient Greek word sibylla which means prophetess.

It is said that there are many sibyls in different areas throughout the ancient world and due to the importance of the Cumaean Sibyl in the legend of early Rome as in Virgil’s Aeneid VI and also due to her proximity to Rome, the Cumaean Sibyl came to be very popular among the Romans.

Powerful Dominating Presence

Cumaean Sibyl 2
The Cumaean Sibyl is perhaps one of the four sibyls painted by Raphael at Santa Maria della Pace and was painted by Andrea del Castagno and also in the Sistine Ceiling of Michelangelo. Her powerful presences dominates every other sibyl even her more beautiful and younger sisters like the Delphic Sibyl.

There are several other names for the Cumaean Sibyl besides the Herophile of Pausania and Lacantius or the Aeneid’s Deiphobe, daughter of Glaucus, Amaltheia, Demophile or Taraxandra which are all portrayed in different references.

Rock/Sanctuary Carved from Huge Rock

According to Herodotus, the Erythraean Sibyls from modern day Turkey was famed among the Greeks and was the oldest Hellenic oracle while the Sibyls of Dodona most probably dating to the second millennium BC was favoured in the east.

Cumaean Sibyl 3
Cumae was considered to be one of the major oracles of the ancient Greeks and Romans.The cave of the popular prophetess, the Cumaean Sibyl had been carved from a huge rock along the seaside. Along with the description of archaeological excavations discovered there are impressive quotations from Virgil’s Aeneid which are carved on marble tables.

According to the epic, these ancient texts relate about what the Aeneas and the men accompanying him felt and what the ancient people felt when they approached the cave of the prophetess.

Owned Nine Books of Prophecies

The earliest of the Sibyls was believed to be residing at Cumae and according to traditions, owned nine books of prophecies. When the Roman King Targuin was interested in purchasing her books, he was hesitant due to her high price she had quoted.

Cumaean Cave
It was said the Sibyl threw three of these books into the fire and double the price which was once again not accepted and she ended throwing in three more books into the fire. Finally the king was forced to buy the remaining left over three books from her at a price four times high as the original nine.

 The Cumae is most famous as the seat of the Cumaean Sibyl and her sanctuary is presently open for tourist.

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