The term Sibyl refers to alleged prophetesses consulted in ancient Greece and Rome. They apparently prophecized in a mental state of ecstasy, under the temporary possession of Apollo. The Oxford Classical Dictionary notes that
Originally the Sibyl seems to have been a single prophetic woman, but by the time of Heraclides (1) Ponticus… a number of places claimed to be the birthplace of Sibylla, traditions concerning a number of different Sibyls began to circulate, and the word came to be a generic term rather than a name.¹
Ten Sibylline oracles have been recorded by history. The best known Sibyl is said to have resided in a cave at Cumea, near Naples—The Cumean Sibyl.
These prophetic works were taken to Rome, where they were guarded by two nobles. Extended volumes of Sibylline books survived into the 4th century CE.
¹ “Sibyl” in The Oxford Classical Dictionary: Oxford University Press 1996, 2000 CD ROM version.
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