Saturday, September 29, 2018

A naked mural in the Sibyl's town

OLD TESTAMENT PSEUDEPIGRAPHA WATCH (SORT OF): 2,200-year-old Mural Featuring Naked Servant Discovered in Italian Tomb. Colorful pictures found in ancient necropolis of Cumae, near Naples, suggest the settlement was either tragically unhip or its elites had a taste for retro (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz premium).

This is a notable discovery in its own right, but my interest is in its location in Cumae. Regular readers will be aware that there is an ancient Jewish and Christian literature called the "Sibylline Oracles." It adopts the pagan prophetess from Greek and Roman traditions, the Sibyl, and attributes lots of biblical-themed oracles in Greek hexameter verse to her.

These Sibylline Oracle, which we file for convenience under Old Testament pseudepigrapha, are inspired by the original pagan oracles attributed to the Sibyl. Alas, nearly all of the latter are lost. Various stories have most of them perishing in fires.

There were quite a few Sibyl traditions associated with various locations. The most prominent one for the Classical Romans was the Sibyl of Cumae. This article gives some background on her along with the information on the newly discovered mural.
While sibyl oracles were common as dirt in the ancient world, the Cumaean version reached prominence in the ancient circles of Rome possibly less because of clarity or accuracy in prophecy, and more because of proximity.

No less an ancient authority than Virgil described a visit by the Trojan royal Aeneas to the “dread Sibyl” of Cumae. Aeneas was son of Aphrodite and ancestor to Rome founders Romulus and Remus, so he had responsibilities. ...
For many past PaleoJudaica posts on the Sibylline Oracles (mostly the Jewish and Christian ones), see here, here, here, here, here, here, and links.

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