Saturday, September 12, 2020

The Sibylline Books and the Saecular Games

NUMISMATICS: Coins of the Ludi Saeculares and Rome’s Millennial Games (Steve Benner, CoinWeek).
Even though the origins may go back as far as the fifth century BCE, the first celebration of the Saeculares games was in 249 BCE during the First Punic War. Due to a series of portents, the Sibylline books (a collection of oracular prophecies) were consulted, and it was decided by a group of priests called the quindecemviri that they should sacrifice to the underworld deities for three consecutive nights and hold games including chariot races. The Romans also had to swear to hold the Games every 100 years. As promised, the games were held again in 149 BCE during the Third Punic War. It was really at this time that the celebration became a regular centennial event.
The Roman Ludi Saeculares (the decemcentennial celebrations of the anniversary of Rome's founding) were inspired by interpretation of the Sibylline Oracles during the Punic Wars. And some cool coins were minted to go with the celebrations.

To be clear, these Sibylline Oracles are the original Roman ones, which are almost entirely lost today. But they inspired derivative Sibylline Oracles composed by Christians and Jews. The latter have come up now and then at PaleoJudaica.

For past posts and background on the Sibylline Oracles, see here, here, here, and links. Cross-file under Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Watch and Punic Watch.

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