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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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(Σιβύλλα, commonly derived from Διὸς βουλή, Doric Σιὸς βόλλα , will of Jupiter), in Grecian and Roman mythology, etc., one of a class of inspired virgins who were believed to reveal the decrees of the gods, and to whom altars were not unfrequently erected. The earliest sibyl was reared by the Muses themselves, and her verses were composed in hexameters, probably by the priests, who at a later period sold collections of such oracles. The number of sibyls is sometimes fixed at four, and again at ten. The former list includes the Erythraean, the Samian, the Egyptian, and the Sardian (Aelian, Var. Hist. 12, 35) sibyls; the latter embraces,

1, the Babylonian, named Sabba or Sambethe, living in the days of Noah, and married to one of his Soans (she foretold the Tower of Babel, Alexander's march of conquest, the advent of Christ, etc.);

2, the Libyan, a daughter of Jupiter and Lamia, the original sibyl, from whom, all the others obtained the title;

3, the Delphian, born in the Temple of Apollo, and living long anterior to the Trojan war, which she foretold (there was an elder Delphian, who was a daughter of Zeus and Lamia, and also a younger Delphian [Pausan. 10, 12, 1]);

4, the Italian or Cimmerian, soon after the Trojan war;

5, the Erythrean, before the fall of Troy (here, too, we find an elder and a younger one, who is called Herophile [Strabo, 14, 645]); 6, the Samian, belonging to the time of Numa;

7, the Cumaean, who was the most noted of them all (she was consulted by Aeneas before he descended. into the lower world [Ovid, Metam. 14, 104; 15, 712, etc.; Virgil,; Aeneid, 6, 10]; she wrote her predictions on leaves, which she arranged in the morning, but then left exposed to the winds; she is stated to have attained to the age of a thousand years);

8, the Hellespontian or Trojan, who lived in the 6th century B.C., and was buried in a temple of Apollo at Gergithum;

9, the Phrygian; and,

10, the Tiburtine, whose name was Albunea. Pausanias also mentions a Hebrew sibyl of the name of Sabbe, who is called a daughter of Berosus and Erymanthe. All these sibyls are more or less identified with each other, and their respective oracles cannot be determined. Modern researches have shown that the belief in sibyls cannot well be traced back to historical personages, but must instead be assumed to have sprung from the observation of natural phenomena, such as sounds heard in caverns, forests, etc. The belief was afterwards employed to serve the purposes of deceivers, statesmen, etc. See Bernhardy, Griech. Lit. 2, 249 sq.; Herrmann, Gottesdielstl. Alterthumer Griechen, § 37; Klausen, Aeneas, 1, 201 sq.; Muller [Otfried], Dorier, 1, 339; and Fabricii Bibl. Gr. tom. 1. (See SIBYLLINE ORACLES).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Sibyl'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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