Apocrypha: Pseudo-Sibylline Oracles 10



Introduction, 1, 2. The first Cæsars, 3-46. The mighty warrior, 47-61. The guileful king 62-87. The king of wide sway, 88-100. The dreadful and contemptible king, 101-125. The three kings, 126-130. The royal destroyer of pious men, 131-153. The princes famed for filial devotion, 154-161. The peaceful king, 162-183. The venerable king, 184-189. Another warrior king, 190-204. The Celtic warrior, 205-210. The king with the name of a sea, 211-227. The three rulers, 228-242. The wise and pious king, 243-270. The king that sought to rival Hercules, 271-289. Period of Roman dominion, 290-303. The twentieth king, 303-314. The short-lived king, 315-320. The ruler from the East, 321-328. The wily ruler from the West, 329-344. The youthful Cæsar, 345-354. A time of woes, 356-368. Only those who honor God attain happiness, 369-373. The Sibyl’s prayer, 374-382.


BUT come now, hear of me the mournful time
Of sons of Latium; and first of all
After the kings of Egypt were destroyed,
And the like earth had downwards borne them all,
5 And after Pella’s townsman, under whom
The whole East and the rich West were cast down,
Whom Babylon dishonored, and stretched out
For Philip a dead body (not of Zeus,
Of Ammon not true things were prophesied),
10 And after that one of the race and blood
Of king Assaracus, who came from Troy,
Even he who cleft the violence of fire,
And after many lords, and after men
To Ares dear, and after the young babes,
15 The children of the beast that feeds on sheep,
And after the passing of six hundred years
And decades two of Rome’s dictatorship,
The very first lord, from the western sea,
Shall be of Rome the ruler, very strong
20 And warlike, the initial of whose name
Begins the letters, and fast binding thee,
O thou of goodly fruit, he shall be full
Of man-destroying Ares; thou shalt pay

[1. This book is in great part a reproduction of the material of the fifth book, and in portions, as, for example, the first fifteen lines, a direct appropriation of the language found at the beginning of that book.

16. Six hundred.–Comp. book xi, 360.

18. The very first.–This differs from book v, 16-18, in making Augustus rather than Julius Cæsar the first imperial ruler.]


The outrage which thou willing didst force on;
For he, great soul, shall be the best in wars;
25 Before him Thrace and Sicily shall crouch,
With Memphis, Memphis cast headlong to earth
By reason of the wickedness of rulers
And of a woman unenslaved who falls
Under the spear. And laws will he ordain
30 For peoples and put all things under him;
Having great fame he shall wield scepter long;
For no short time shall he last nor shall ever
Be other greater scepter-bearing king
35 Than this one, o’er the Romans, not one hour,
For God did lavish all things upon him,
And also in the noble earth he showed
Great marvelous seasons, and with them showed signs.
But when a radiant star all like the sun
40 Shall shine forth out of heaven in the mid days,
Then shall the secret Word of the Most High
Come clothed in flesh like mortals; but with him
The might of Rome and of the illustrious Latins
Shall increase. But the mighty king himself
45 Shall under his appointed lot expire,
Transmitting to another royal power.
But after him a man, a warrior strong,
Wearing the purple mantle on his shoulders,
Shall bear rule, and with his initial be
50 Numbers three hundred, and he shall destroy
The Medes and arrow-hurling Parthians;
And he himself by his power shall subvert

[25-30. Identical with book v, 22-27, excepting the word spear in line 29.

39. Star.–The star of Bethlehem. Matt. ii, 2, 9.

41. Word.–The Logos, as in John i, 1.

50. Three hundred.–Designating Tiberius, as in book v, 30.]


The high-gate city; and again shall come
Evil to Egypt and the Assyrians,
55 And to the Colchian Heniochi,
And to those by the waters of the Rhine,
The Germans dwelling o’er the sandy shores.
And he himself shall ravage afterwards
The high-gate city near Eridanus
60 Which is devising evils. And then he
Shall forthwith fall down, struck by gleaming iron.
And afterwards shall rule another man
Weaving guile, and the initial of his name
Will show the number three; and he much gold
65 Shall gather; and with him there shall not be
Satiety of wealth, but plundering more
Recklessly he’ll put all things in the earth.
But peace shall come, and Ares shall desist
From wars; and he shall make known many things
70 In divination of the greatest things,
Inquiring for the sake of means of life;
Yet there shall be on him the greatest sign:
From heaven down on the king while perishing
There shall flow many little drops of blood.
75 And many lawless things will he perform,
And put around the neck of Romans pain
Trusting in divination; and the heads
Of the assembly he will also slay.
And famine shall seize Cappadocians,
80 And Thracians, Macedonians, and Italians.

[55. Heniochi.–A Sarmatian tribe, near Colchis.

59. City.–Cremona seems intended, but the writer has here apparently confused Tiberius with Vespasian, who destroyed this city by fire.

64. Three.–The letter {Greek G}, denoting Gaius, or Caius Cæsar, commonly called Caligula, a monster of wickedness.]


And Egypt shall alone feed numerous tribes;
And the king himself beguiling secretly
Shall craftily destroy the virgin maid;
But her the citizens in tearful grief
85 Shall bury; and against the king they all
Holding wrath shall abuse him craftily.
While strong Rome blossoms the strong man shall perish.
And again there shall rule another lord
Of the number of twice ten; and then shall come
90 Unto the Sauromatians and to Thrace
And the Triballi, famed for hurling darts,
Wars and sad cares; and Roman Ares shall
Tear all in pieces. And a fearful sign
Shall there be when this man shall rule the land
95 Of the Italians and Pannonians;
And there shall be at the mid hour of day
Dark night around them and then from the heaven
A shower of stones; and thereupon the lord
And vigorous judge of the Italians
100 Shall go in Hades’ halls by his own fate.
Again another fearful man shall come
And dreadful, numbering fifty; and from all
The cities many noblest citizens
Born to wealth he shall utterly destroy,
105 A dreadful serpent breathing grievous war,
Who sometime stretching forth his hands shall make
An end of his own race and stir all things,
Acting the athlete, driving chariots,

[89. Twice ten.–Represented by Kappa, initial of Claudius (Klaudios) Comp. book v, 36.

101-114. This description of Nero is nearly identical with that of book v, 39-49.]


Putting to death and daring countless things;
110 And he shall cleave the mountain of two seas,
And sprinkle it with gore. And out of sight
Shall also vanish the destructive man;
Then making himself equal unto God
Shall he return, but God will prove him naught.
115 And while he rules there shall be peace profound
And not the fears of men; and from the ocean
Flowing, and cleaving by Ausonia,
Shall come untrodden water; and around
Looking with anxious care he will appoint
120 His very many contests for the people,
And he himself an actor will contend
With voice and cithara, and sing a song
Along with harp-string; later he will flee
And leave the royal power, and perishing
125 Illy will he repay the harm he wrought.
After him three shall rule and two of them
Shall have the number seventy by their names,
And in addition to these shall be one
Of the third letter; and one here, one there,
130 Shall perish by strong Ares’ sturdy hands.
Then shall a mighty ruler of men come,
Destroyer of the pious, strong-minded man,
Spear-wielding Ares, whom seven times the tenth
Shall point out clearly; he shall overthrow
135 Phœnicia and destroy Assyria.
A sword shall come upon the sacred land
Of Solyma even to the utmost bend
Of the Tiberian sea. Alas, alas,
Phœnicia, O how much shalt thou endure,
140 Grief-laden with thy trophies tightly bound,

[126-131. Comp. book v, 50-53.]


And every nation shall upon thee tread.
Alas, alas, to the Assyrians
Shalt thou come and shalt see young children serve
Among unfriendly men and with the wives,
145 And every means of life and wealth shall perish;
For on thee God’s wrath causing grievous woe
Shall come, because they did not keep his law,
But served all idols with unseemly arts.
And many wars and fights and homicides,
150 Famines, and pestilences, and confusion
Of cities shall be. But the reverend king
Of mighty soul shall at the end of life
Himself fall by a strong necessity.
Then shall two other chief men, cherishing
155 The memory of their father, great king, rule,
And in contending warriors glory much.
And (one) of these shall be a noble man
And lordly, whose name shall three hundred hold;
Yet he shall also fall by treachery,
160 Not in the warring companies stretched out,
But struck in Rome’s plain by the two-edged brass.
And after him a powerful warlike man
Of the letter four shall rule the mighty realm,
Whom all men on the boundless earth shall love,
165 And then shall there be over all the world
A rest from war. Yet all, from west to east,
Shall serve him willingly, not by constraint,
And cities shall be under his control
And of themselves be subject. For to him
170 Shall heavenly Sabaoth much glory bring,
The imperishable God who dwells on high.

[154. Two other.–Titus and Domitian, who seem to be also the ones designated by three hundred and four in the lines immediately following.]


And then shall famine waste Pannonia
And all the Celtic land, and shall destroy
One here, another there. And there shall be
175 For the Assyrians, whom Orontes laves,
Structures and ornament and what may seem
Yet greater anywhere. And the great king
Shall have a fondness for these and love them
Above the others far (and there are many);
180 But he himself shall in mid breast receive
A great wound, and seized at the end of life
Craftily, by a friend, in hallowed house
Of the great royal hall shall he fall down
Wounded; and after him shall be a ruler
185 Numbering fifty, venerable man,
Who above measure shall destroy from Rome
Many inhabitants and citizens;
But he shall rule few; for in Hades’ halls
For a former king’s sake he shall wounded go.
190 But then another king, a warrior strong,
Who has three hundred for initial sign,
Shall bear rule and lay waste the Thracians’ land
Which is much varied, and he shall destroy
The powerful Germans dwelling by the Rhine
195 And the Iberians that shoot the arrow.
Moreover, there shall be unto the Jews
Another greatest evil, and with them
Bedewed with murder shall Phœnicia drink;
And the walls of the Assyrians shall fall
200 By many warriors. And again a man
Destroying life shall waste them utterly.

[179. The reading of the Greek text of this line is corrupt and doubtful.

185. Fifty.–Designating Nerva.

190. Another.–Trajan. Comp. lines 190-210 with book v, 58-65.]


And then shall threatenings of the mighty God,
Earthquakes, and great plagues be on every land,
Untimely snow-storms, and strong thunderbolts.
205 And then the great king, mountain-roaming Celt,
Shall for the toil of Ares not escape
A fate unseemly, hastening eagerly
After the strife of battle, but worn out
Shall he be; foreign dust shall hide his corpse,
210 But dust that of Nemea’s flower has name.
And after him another shall arise,
A silver-headed man, and of the sea
Shall be his name, and of four syllables,
Ares himself first of the alphabet
215 Presenting. Temples he shall dedicate
In all the cities, watching o’er the world
By his own foot, and bringing gifts away,
Both gold and amber much will he supply
For many; and magicians’ mysteries
220 All will he from the sanctuaries keep;
And what is much more excellent for men
Will he place . . . ruling . . . thunderbolt;
And great peace shall be when he shall be lord;
And he shall be a minstrel of rich voice
225 And a participant in lawful things,
And a just minister of what is right;
But he shall fall, unloosing his own fate.
After him three shall rule, and the third late
Shall rule, three decades keeping; yet again

[211. Another.–Hadrian, Greek {Greek ?Adriano’s}, a word of four syllables.
Comp. book v, 65-71, and viii, 66-83.

222. Will he place.–Lacuna in the original text here leaves it impossible to complete the sentence, or even indicate the thought with any certainty.

228. Three.–The Antonines. See book v, 72, and viii, 85.]


230 Of the first unit shall another king
Bear the rule; and another after him
Shall be commander, of tens numbering seven;
And their names shall be honored; and they shall
Themselves destroy men marked by many a spot,
235 Britons and mighty Moors and Dacians
And the Arabians. But when the last
Of these shall perish, fearful Ares then,
He that before was wounded, shall again
Against the Parthians come, and utterly
240 Shall he destroy them. And then shall the king
Himself fall by a treacherous wild beast
Training his hands–excuse itself of death.
And after him another man shall rule,
In many wise things skilled, and he shall have
245 Himself the name of the first mighty king
Of the first unit; and he shall be good
And mighty; and for the illustrious Latins
Shall this strong one accomplish many things
In memory of his father; and forthwith
250 Shall he adorn the walls of Rome with gold
And silver and ivory; and he shall go
Within the market places and the temples
With a strong man. And sometime direst wound
Shall shoot up like ears in the Roman wars;

[230. First unit.–A, here denoting Antoninus Pius.

232. Tens numbering seven.–O, Greek initial of Verus ({Greek Ou?h~ros}).

235. Moors.–The Mauri, or Mauritanians, on the northwestern coast of Africa.

236-242. The statements of these lines are inexplicably obscure. Dire war was carried on with the Parthians under command of L. Verus, but the statements of lines 240-242 are not applicable to any of the Antonines, either literally or metaphorically.

246. First unit.–Designating Aurelius-that is, Marcus Aurelius.]


255 And he shall sack the whole land of the Germans,
When a great sign of God shall be displayed
From heaven, and shall for the king’s piety
Save men in brazen armor and distress;
For God who is in heaven and hears all things
260 Shall wet him with unseasonable rain
When he prays. But when these things are fulfilled
Of which I spoke, then with the rolling years
Shall also the renowned dominion cease
Of the great pious king; and at the end
265 Of his life, having then proclaimed his son
Succeeding to the kingdom, he shall die
By his own lot and leave the royal power
Unto the ruler with the golden hair,
Who with two tens in his name, born a king
270 From the race of his father, shall receive
Dominion. This man with superior powers
Of mind shall grasp all things; and he shall rival
Great-hearted overweening Hercules,
And be the best in mighty arms and have
275 The greatest fame in chase and horsemanship;
But he shall live in peril all alone.
And while this man is ruler there shall be
A fearful sign: there shall be a great mist
Then in the plain of Rome, so that a man

[256. Great sign.–The marvelous thunder-storm, by aid of which the emperor and his army gained a great victory over the Quadi, and which the
Romans ascribed to Jupiter Tonans, who heard Aurelius’s prayer, but
which the Christians of his army affirmed was in answer to their own

265. Son.–Commodus, who succeeded him.

269. Two tens.–Represented by {Greek K}, Greek initial of Commodus, specially
famous for his skill with the bow and other arms, and boasting himself to
be a rival of Hercules.]

280 May not discern his neighbor. And then wars
Shall come to pass along with mournful cares,
When the king himself, exceeding mad with love,
And weakly, shall come in the marriage-bed
Shaming his youthful offspring, infamous
285 For inconsiderate wedding-songs impure.
And then, in helpless loneliness concealed,
The mighty baneful man held under wrath
Shall in a bath-room suffer evil plight,
Man-slaying Ares bound by treacherous fate.
290 Know then the fatal lot of Rome is near
Because of zeal for power; and by the hands
Of Ares many in Palladian halls
Shall perish. And then Rome shall be bereft
And shall repay all things, which she alone
295 Before accomplished by her many wars.
My heart laments, my heart within me mourns;
For from the time when thy first king, proud Rome,
Gave good law to thee and to men on earth,
And the Word of the great immortal God
300 Came to the earth, until the nineteenth reign
Shall have been finished Cronos shall complete
Two hundred years, twice twenty and twice two,
With six months added; then the twentieth king,
When smitten with sharp brass he with the sword
305 Shall in thy houses pour out blood, shall make
Thy race a widow, having in his name

[288. Bath-room.–Commodus was assassinated by suffocation in a bath room.

300. Nineteenth.–That is, the nineteenth reign reckoning from Augustus. Comp. line 303.

302. This computation is obviously erroneous, for Commodus was assassinated A. D. 192, to which if we add the thirteen years of Augustus before the date of our era we have only two hundred and five years.]


The letter which the number eighty shows,
And burdened with old age; but he shall make
A widow of thee in a little time,
310 When many warriors, many overthrows,
And murders, homicides, and deadly feuds
And miseries of conquests there shall be,
And in confusion many a horse and man
Shall, cleft by force of hands, fall in the plain.
315 And then another man shall rule, and have
The sign of his name in the number ten;
And many sorrows shall he bring to pass,
And groans, and he shall plunder many men;
But he himself shall be short-lived and fall
320 By mighty Ares, struck by gleaming iron.
Another, numbering fifty, then shall come,
A warrior roused up by the East for rule;
A warlike Ares he shall come to Thrace;
And he shall flee thereafter and shall come
325 Into the land of the Bithynians
And the Cilician plain; but brazen Ares
The life-destroyer shall with speedy stroke
Utterly spoil him in the Assyrian fields.
And then again there shall rule craftily
330 A man skilled in fraud, full of various wiles,
Roused up by the West, and his name shall have
The number of two hundred. And again

[307. Eighty.–Represented by {Greek P}, initial of Pertinax, who was sixty-seven years old when made emperor and lived only eighty-seven days thereafter.

316. Ten.–{Greek I}, here referring to Julianus (Didius Julianus), who after the murder of Pertinax made the highest bid for the empire, but reigned only sixty-six days.

321. Fifty.–{Greek N}, designating Niger, who claimed the empire on the death of Pertinax and was supported by the East, but being repeatedly defeated by the troops of his rival, Severus, he fled for Parthia, but was overtaken and slain.

232. Two hundred.–Represented by {Greek S} and designating Septimius Severus.]


Another sign: he shall contrive a war
For royal power against Assyrian men,
335 Raise a whole army and subject all things.
And he shall rule the Romans with his might;
But there is much contrivance in his heart,
Impulse of baleful Ares; serpent dire,
And violent in war, who shall destroy
340 All high-born men upon the earth, and slay
The noble for their wealth, and, robber like,
Stripping all earth while men are perishing,
He shall go to the East; and all deceit
Shall be to him . . .
. . . . . . .
345 Then shall a youthful Cæsar with him reign
Having the name of a puissant lord
Of Macedon, by the first letter known;
Bringing in broils around him he shall flee
The hard deception of the coming king
350 In the bosom of the army; but the one
Who rules by his barbaric usages,
A temple-guard, shall perish suddenly
Slain by strong Ares with the gleaming iron;
Him even dead shall people tear in pieces.
355 And then the kings of Persia shall rise up;
And . . . Roman Ares Roman lord.

[347. First letter.–Alexander Severus is denoted, his name reminding the writer of Alexander the Great of Macedon.

352. Temple-guard.–Heliogabalus (or Elagabalus) seems to be here referred to, who was in early youth trained as a priest In the Temple of the Sun at Emesa, and who, after he was made emperor, was wont to wear his pontifical dress and tiara as high-priest of the sun. But he came before, not after, Alexander Severus.

355. Kings of Persia.–The dynasty of the Sassanidæ, or kings of the later Persian Empire, founded by Ardechir Babegan, commonly called Artaxerxes.]


And Phrygia shall with earthquakes groan again
Wretched. Alas, alas, Laodicea;
Alas, alas, sad Hierapolis;
360 For you first once the yawning earth received.
Of Rome . . . immense Aus . . .
All things as many . . .
Shall wail . . . while men are perishing
In the hands of Ares; and the lot of men
365 Shall be bad; but then by the eastern way
Hastening to look down upon Italy,
Stripped naked he shall fall by gleaming iron,
Acquiring hatred for his mother’s sake.
For seasons are of all sorts; each holds back
370 The other . . . gleaming and this not at once all know;
For all things shall not be (the lot) of all,
But only those shall be for happiness
Who honor God and shun idolatry.
And now, Lord of the world, of every realm
375 Unfeigned immortal King–for thou didst put
Into my heart the oracle divine–
Make thou the word cease; for I do not know
What things I say; for thou art in me he
That speaketh all these things. Now let me rest
380 A little and put from my heart aside
The charming song; for weary is my heart
Foretelling with divine words royal power.

[360. The verses which follow are so fragmentary that no certain meaning can be made out of them. Lines 365-368 appear to refer to the death of Alexander Severus.

374-382. Comp. conclusion of books xi and xiii.]


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