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                                                       The Sibyls
Capela Sixtina Sibyls Sistine Chapel fresco depicting the Cumaean Sibyl

A category of prophetesses of the ancient world, which gave oracles in a state of ecstasy. These prophetesses, lived according to legend, in remote caves and nearby springs. Sometimes they described them as the priestesses of Apollo, or as his favored, women or daughters. The early Greek writers mention one and only Sibyl, which they place her in Asia Minor. She was known as the Erythraean Sibyl, as according to tradition, she was born in the Erythrae (or Marpessos), near Troy, which had red ground. According to Pausanias Sibyl is the same person as Herophile, she who had predicted the Trojan war. In the years that followed, another cases reported as Sibyls. The Latin writer Marcus Terentius Varro referes ten Sibyls, especially the Cumaean Sibyl (from Cumaea a greek colony in Italy), the Libyan Sibyl, the Delphic, the Persian, the Cimmerian, the Samian, the Erythraen, the Hellespontine, the Phrygian and the Etruscan Tiburtine.  

The most important of the Sibyls in Roman mythology was the Cumaean, which was known also as Demo, while some others say that she is the same person with the Cumaean Sibyl Deiphobe.


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According to tradition, when the Apollo asked Sibyl it to choose a gift, she asked to live as many years as the grains of the sand she held in her handful. However, she failed to ask for continued youth, with the result of aging and shrinking ceaselessly. Trimalchio, a hero of Petronius claims in the relative novel "Satyricon" that he had seen Sibyl in Cumaea. When the children asked «Sibyl, what do you want;», she used to answer «I want to die». In the age of Pausanias, however, appeared in Cumaea a faced urn that allegedly contained the ashes of Sibyl.

According to the legend, Sibyl was presented to Tarquinius the Proud, the last king of Rome to sell him a collection of books containing oracles. The sibyl prophesies that have survived are newer works (the older may belong up to the 2nd century. BC), with Christian influences. In the position where was placed the ancient Cumaea at Campagnia in Italy there exists the so-called cave of the Cumaean Sibyl, where she was allegedly resided.

The Suidas lexicon refers that the Erythraean Sibyl was also called Samian. Pausanias confirms that
Erythraean Sibyl has lived the greater part of her life in Samos.

The Samian Sibyl known as Phyto, or better Foito , from the greek world foitos which indicates the
wandering, especially the mind's. Modern researchers of the Samos island consider that her house was in the cave of Panagia Spiliani monastery which probably is also the cavern of Pythagoras, according to the testimonies of the neoplatonic philosopher Porphyry.

Interesting is the reference of Symeon Metaphrastes (the largest of the Byzantine historians), which says that Samian Sibyl existed when the city of Byzantium was built, the famous ancient colony of the Megarians, which was converted by Constantine the Great into the capital of the empire, after having rebuilt , and was called Constantinople .        




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