Sir Guerrino, I see you are not so smart as I thought; who ever told you such piece of infomation? I was called 'Cumaean' by the Romans for I was born in a town in the countryside whose name is Cuma: before I was sentenced to this place I lived in the world one thousand two hundred years. If not with relation to the Holy Mary, the reason for that may also be found in the persecutions carried out by early-Christian followers against the Greek and Roman deities, whose temples and shrines were ravaged after the fourth century A. A safe den, against the growing threat by the new emerging religion.
The Cumaean Sibyl and the Apennine Sibyl: we just saw that a close link existed between them, so much so that in ancient maps the Lakes of Pilatus, at the very core the Apennine Sibyl's kingdom, bore the same name as the Cumaean prophetess' magical lake: the Lake of Avernus. Yet, this is not the only lineage up to an ancient Sibyl we can spot today.
Another ancestral link does exist to another classical Italian Sibyl: the Tiburtine oracle. Beside the Cumaean, there is another classical Sibyl as to whom a sort of connection to the Apennine Sibyl might be highlighted: the Tiburtine Sibyl. In early-Christian times, the Tiburtine Sibyl was known for the prophecy and legend of the nine suns: a visionary dream made by a hundred Roman senators at the same time, which the Sibyl explained as a succession of historical ages from the Roman empire to the advent of Christianity, future wars and finally the end of the world.
The legendary account was copied in dozens of manuscripts across Europe. Could all that refer to the cliff of Mount Sibyl? The surmise is truly fascinating. However, we must stick to facts at least literary ones and there is no evidence of any direct connection between Mount Sibyl and the Apennines mentioned in the Tiburtine oracle's nine- sun legend. So, the Apennine Sibyl is not the Tiburtine one if we want to explore a more promising connection, we will have to study the story of the Cumaean. And yet, there is no doubt that by this focus on the oracular Apennines we have shown that in antiquity those lofty mountainous ridges in Italy were considered as a pure and unblemished place: a convenient location for oracles and prophetical responses, as we will also see in the next paragraph.
However, this does not imply any direct link to the Apennine Sibyl. As a matter of fact, and as attested in an excerpt from Servius Marius Honoratus, the Tiburtine Sibyl just had her shrine in Tibur modern Tivoli : a place whose picturesque setting with waterfalls and ravines, encircled by high mountains, has beguiled not only ancient Roman, but also scores of Grand Tour travellers starting from the sixteenth century and as far as our contemporary era.
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Nemora alta citatis incubuere vadis: fallax responsat imago frondibus, et longas eadem fugit umbra per undas. How beautiful beyond human art the enchanted scene! Nowhere has Nature more lavishly spent her skill. Anio himself — marvellous to believe — though full of boulders below and above, here silences his swollen rage and foamy din, as if afraid to disturb the Pierian days and music-haunted slumbers of tranquil Vopiscus]. But this had nothing to do with the Apennine Sibyl, hidden in her den in the Sibillini Range area, a very different mountain and natural setting.
For the first time ever, I will show here the full text of the excerpt, with pictures of the Historia Augusta's oldest manuscript ninth century , written in a beautiful carolingian script.
The Oracle of Cumae
After having asked an oracular response about the fortunes of his lineage in Comagena, a Roman outpost at the frontier with the Noricum Danube region , Emperor Claudius moves to another oracle. Likewise, when he asked about his descendants: "Neither a goal nor a limit will I set for their power". For Romans, Italy's mountainous backbone appears to be a special place, as we have already seen for the Tiburtine Sibyl, who in the legend of the nine suns tells the senators to move with her to the Apennines so as to render her oracular response in a fit, unblemished location.
Nobody knows: the text provides no further clues, and it might just convey a reference - for instance - to the Tiburtine Sibyl. Yet, it is undeniable that the ancient tale found in the Historia Augusta is a confirmation of the fact that the Apennines were a magical place.
A most convenient abode for a Sibyl of the Apennines. The ritual vigil of a Roman Emperor: Suetonius and the Apennines We have shown in previous paragraphs that the Apeninnes in Italy have something to do with classical Sibyls Cumaean, Tiburtine and oracular shrines Historia Augusta. We can even retrieve a further quote which goes in that same direction: a quote from first-century Latin writer Suetonius, the author of the celebrated work The Twelve Ceasars.
In his work, Suetonius recounts the life and deeds of Aulus Vitellius Germanicus Augustus, who reigned as an Emperor after the short- lived Galba and Otho: his rule lasted for nine months only to the end of 69 A. And he probably knew well that this mountainous chain was a peculiar place. When his legions defeated his rival-Emperor Otho, who finally committed suicide by stabbing himself with a knife, he actually selected the Apennines for a special night of revelling and celebration.
With equal bad taste and arrogance, gazing upon the stone inscribed to the memory of Otho, he declared that he deserved such a Mausoleum, and sent the dagger with which his rival had killed himself to the Colony of Agrippina, to be dedicated to Mars. He also held a ritual vigil throughout the night on the heights of the Apennines. Finally he entered the city Rome to the sound of the trumpet, wearing a general's mantle and a sword at his side In Appennini quidem iugis etiam pervigilium egit.
Urbem denique ad classicum introiit paludatus ferroque succinctus Again, for ancient Romans the Apennines seemed to be a special place for rites and celebrations. Which mount or valley did Aulus Vitellius exactly select to carry out his vigil?
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Nobody knows. But sure enough the Apennines had a special attractiveness for oracles, shrines and ritual, devotional practices. The Apennine Sibyl was about to come. In the name of the Sibillini: the "Tetrica rupes" After having considered the role of the Apennines in the sibilline tradition, let's consider a specific portion of it, whose name bears the veritable stamp of a Sibyl: the Sibillini Mountain Range.
But what was the name of the Sibillini in ancient times? The same name 'Tetricus' for the Sibillini Range is also mentioned by Silius Italicus, a Roman consul and poet who lived in the first century A. But what does Varro mean by 'Mount Fiscellum'? So Pliny, in the above excerpt - which is most probably corrupt - seems to confuse the River Nera which actually originates in the Sibillini Range with the River Velino 'Avens' , flowing in and out the Lake of Piediluco, and whose source is found in the area of Mount Terminillo, together with a number of sulphurous springs.
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Thus the 'Fiscellus Mons' should be better identified with Mount Terminillo. In addition, no reference to the peak we know today as Mount Vettore can be found at this late Medieval age. If we jump further ahead in time, we find another clue dating back to it's the astounding map contained in Vatican manuscript n. Nonetheless, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries all the maps of the region show an isolated Mount Sibyl only, with no reference to a Mount Vettore nearby, nor to any larger massif surrounding the renowned peak.
Somewhere along the way, a Sibyl has magically appeared, giving her legendary name to a whole Italian mountainous region: an amazing occurrence that still needs to undergo further investigation and research.
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The Sibylline books were composed in Greek hexameter and the college of curators was always assisted by two Greek interpreters. This new Sibylline collection was deposited in the restored temple. They were examined and copied and remained there until about AD This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or part without the express written permission of AncientPages. Milton S.
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