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Prophecy - Greece And Rome

god oracles greek sibylline

In ancient Greece and Rome oracles abounded. The primary meaning of the word oracle is "the response of a god to a question asked of him by a worshipper." The word also indicates the college of priests who manage an oracular shrine or the shrine itself. Since there were many gods in the Greco-Roman world, there were many shrines, several of which were widely known. In each shrine the god was consulted in fixed procedures, and in the most primitive oracles the god revealed answers by means of the casting of lots, by observation of signs, the rustling of leaves in a sacred tree, the marking or entrails of victims sacrificed upon the altar of a god, or the movement of objects tossed into a spring. At healing oracles such as that of Asclepius at Epidaurus, the consultant slept in the shrine and received a vision after having performed preliminary sacred rites. At the most important oracles, the god spoke through a male or female intermediary who had spent hours in purification. At Delphi, for example, the Pythian priestess of Apollo drank from the sacred spring and chewed laurel leaves before taking her seat on the tripod in the temple, from which she in a trance heard the questions asked of her by the pilgrims to the shrine. Her responses were probably incoherent to the questioner, but a priest of the temple translated her utterances into understandable language. It was customary for the consultants to present questions in writing, and responses would be returned in written form. Many gods gave oracles at their shrines, but Apollo was the most famous and was considered an oracular god. He had important shrines at Delphi, Didyma, and Claros, as well as in Boeotia, Troas, and Lycia. Zeus was also an oracular god, with shrines at Dodona and Olympia.

For those seeking freedom from pain and disease, prophetic incubation was practiced among the Greeks and Romans, who believed that sleeping within the precincts of a temple would result in revelations, visions, and freedom from sickness. Speaking in dreams was common to all the gods, but only some were believed to be aroused by specific acts to give responses or perform certain functions. In the second century C.E. Pausanias described the emotional experience received by the devotees at the oracle of Trophonius as they descended into the earth and visited the god. Incubation was used especially at the temples for bringing about cures. At Epidaurus the cure was effected mainly by faith healing; however, in the Orations of Aelius Aristides (117–187 C.E.) and in later inscriptions, medical prescriptions were revealed. The great oracles were Greek, but there were also oracles in Syria, Egypt, and Italy. The oracle of Ammon at Siwa, although an Egyptian deity who was worshipped in Nubia, Syria, and Libya, was known to the Greeks in the seventh century B.C.E. and became so famous in the Greek world that it rivaled Delphi and Dodona. Ammon was portrayed on Greek coins with the head of Zeus and the curling horns of Ammon.

Prophets and prophetesses played a significant role in Greek literature from the time of Homer. The mythological blind prophet Tiresias was an infallible source of information for the Greeks and appears frequently in Greek tragedy. Most memorable is his warning in Sophocles' Oedipus Rex to Oedipus, king of Thebes, that he was the land's pollution. In this drama the prophet Tiresias spoke the truth about Oedipus, who did not believe him. Yet the prophet's words—"God within, reckon that out, and if you find me mistaken, say I have no skill in prophecy"—provide the denouement of the tragedy, as the angry Oedipus begins his painful search for the truth about himself. The female prophetess Cassandra has a significant role in the Agamemnon of Aeschylus, when she, speaking with the chorus, predicts the death of Agamemnon at the hands of his wife, Clytemnestra. She also sees her own death, soon to come. Cassandra is an example of a prophet who was disbelieved, though she spoke the truth, because Apollo had placed this curse upon her, since she had refused his love. The significance of prophecy in Greece can be well documented from a study of Greek tragedy.

In Italy various prophetic sites provided the petitioner with numerous types of responses. The sibyl, a prophetess usually associated with Rome and Cumae, spoke from various localities and was known as early as the Greek philosopher Heraclitus (c. 540–c. 480 B.C.E.). At first she was a lone female prophet, but later her name, Sibylla, was made plural (Sibylle), and she flourished in various parts of the world. Ancient authors speak of different numbers of sibyls. Marcus Terentius Varro's naming of ten sibyls has been generally adopted. The ten sibyls resided in Persia, Libya, Delphi, Cumae in Italy, Erythrae, Samos, Cumae in Aeolia, Marpessa, Ankara, and Tiburtis. Of all the sibyls the Cumaean Sibyl in Italy is the most famous and was immortalized in Virgil's Aeneid. To learn of his fate in Italy, Aeneas was advised by Helenus to seek out the sibyl at Cumae: "When you have sailed here and have arrived at the city of Cumae and the divine lakes and Avernus resounding with its forests, you will see the frenzied prophet who sings the fates from the depths of the cliff and commits her signs and symbols to leaves. Whatever songs the maiden has written down, she arranges them in order and leaves them set apart in the cave." (Aeneid 3:441–446).

Noted historians of the Roman republic reported that one of the sibyls offered nine volumes of her prophecies to Tarquin the Second, who refused the high price she asked. She then burned three of the books and asked the same price for the rest. Tarquin again refused but finally bought the last three, since the sibyl had burned all but these. The sibyl then disappeared, and her books were preserved and were called the Sibylline Verses. These prophetic books were reverenced by the Romans, and a college of priests was in charge of safeguarding them in the temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill. When the Capitolium was burned in 83 B.C.E., the Sibylline Verses were destroyed. Verses were sought in Greece to replace those destroyed. Although eight books of Sibylline Verses remain, they were probably composed in the second century C.E. by Christians. The Renaissance humanist Guillaume Postel wrote a commentary on Virgil's fourth eclogue often referred to as the "Messianic Eclogue," in the preface to which he indicated that if the eclogue were read as "Sibylline Enthusiasm," which he equated to the most divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it would be worthy of the bishop of Clermont, to whom Postel dedicated the work. In his commentary he wrote that from the judgments of Janus, the sibyls, and the holy men of the Gentiles, among whom he included Job, prophecies developed in a continuous tradition. He argued that the final age of the Cumaean song, which all antiquity awaited, depended upon the instauration of a golden age that also had been proclaimed by the sacred vow of the sons of Shem under Christ.

In both Greece and Rome ordinary people in the historical period were sometimes inspired to prophecy. In Greek those inspired people were called chēsmōdoi and in Latin vates. In De divinatione (Concerning divination) Cicero (106–43 B.C.E.) notes that Romulus did not establish the city of Rome until the auspices were taken and that Romulus, the parent of the city, was said to be the best augur. In Rome a college of augurs took the signs, usually from the flight of birds. Observations were taken before every public action. Cicero also indicated that the knowledge of augury came from the Etruscans. In De divinatione he identifies two methods by which "souls were aroused without reason and knowledge, by their own movement, spontaneous and free; one was raging, the other dreaming; the augurs believed that the divination of fury was contained especially in the Sibylline Verses." They selected ten men from the state to interpret the Sibylline Verses. Virgil was considered a vates in subsequent centuries not only because of his so-called Messianic Eclogue but because of his Aeneid, the grand epic of Rome, which detailed the great glory that was to come to this small settlement on the Tiber. It seems worth noting that perhaps the greatest Roman authors, Cicero in prose and Virgil in poetry, understood the significance of prophecy in the lives of men and in the life of the state.

Among other significant oracles in Italy was the oracle of the dead at Avernus, a deep lake near Puteoli. Because of its great depth, the dark woods that surrounded it, and the offensive exhalations that Avernus spewed forth, this spot was considered by the ancients the entrance to the underworld. It was to Avernus that the Cumean Sibyl led Aeneas so that he might enter the underworld, meet his father, and learn his fate and that of his offspring. At Tibur there was an incubation oracle of Faunus. The goddess Fortuna had an oracular shine at Praeneste, where a boy would throw billets of oak wood (sortes) on which sentences had been inscribed. These randomly tossed billets might provide the consultant with advice for his own situation.

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about 7 years ago

thghtjfesgjkhtr this information SUCKS