A Sibyl (from a Gk. word of uncertain derivation) was an old prophetess. Acc. to tradition, the earliest was at Erythrae in Asia Minor (or at Marpessus, near Troy) and spoke of Helen and the Trojan war (ca. 1200 BC); next, say some, is the Sibyl of Cumae in Campania, It. (late 6th c. BC); the Cumaean Sibyl is often identified with the Erythraean. The next Sibyl was assoc. with Delphi, Greece. Sibyls were connected with many different places. All their old prophecies, in verse form, were apparently in Gk. Collections of them (called Sibylline Books) were lost or destroyed, some in Rome ca. 82, when the Capitol burned, and the rest ca. 400 AD. Jewish and Christian adaptations (called Sibylline Oracles) were mainly for propaganda. The 1st Jewish adaptation was probably made in Alexandria, Egypt, in the 1st half of the 2d c. BC. Some Christian writers, with Hermas apparently the 1st, speak of Sibyls and their oracles; some Christians were suspected of coining oracles for their own purposes. Fragments of oracles speak of a reign of peace and happiness; the coming of Christ, the Messiah; and eschatological details. See also Apocrypha, B 4, C 5; Roman Religion, 2.
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