Apocrypha: Pseudo-Sibylline Oracles 12

milton s. terry

BOOK XIV.

CONTENTS OF BOOK XIV.

Warning against the lust of power, 1-14. The bull-destroyer, 16-22. The man known by the number one, 23-27. Two rulers of the number forty, 28-34. Young ruler of the number seventy, 115-55. Ruler of the number forty, 66-61. Wolf from the West, 62-65. Ruler known by the letter A, 66-73. Three kings of haughty soul, of the numbers one, thirty, and three hundred, 74-93. King known by the number three, 94-98. The old king of the number four, 99-101. Wars and woes on various peoples, 102-120. The venerable king of the number five, 121-134. Two kings of the numbers three hundred and three, 115-147. The king of many schemes, 148-159. King of the number three hundred, 160-172. King like a wild beast, of the number thirty, 173-188. Ruler of the number four, 189-200. Great sign from heaven, 201-205. Ruler out of Asia, of the number fifty, 206-216. Ruler out of Egypt, 217-223. The man of potent signs and the peaceful king of the number five, 224-245. Many tyrants and the holy king known by the letter A, 246-261. Burning and restoration of Rome, 262-271. Woo for various Greeks, 272-278. The fratricide, 279-283. The fierce king of the number eighty and the terrors of his time, 284-508. Many obtain royal power, 309-312. Three kings and their destruction, 313-329. Many spearmen, 330-335. God’s judgment on the shameless, 336-343. Rome’s wretched plight and the last race of Latin kings, 344-358. Egypt and her prudent king, 359-375. The Alexandrians, 376-381. Fearful nameless woe, 382-398. The Sicilians, 399-406. The lion and lioness, 407-418. The dragon and the ram, 419-425. Second war in Egypt, 426-433. Destructive slaughter, 434-447. The Messianic era, 448-468.

BOOK XIV.

O MEN, why do ye vainly think on things
Too lofty, as if ye immortal were?
And ye are ruling but a little time,
And over mortals all desire to reign,
5 Not understanding that God himself hates
The lust of rule, and most of all things hates
Insatiate kings fearful in wickedness,
And over them he stirs up what is dark;
Wherefore, instead of good works and just thoughts,
10 Ye all choose for your garments purple robes,
Desiring wretched fights and homicides
Them God imperishable who dwells in heaven
Shall make short-lived, destroy them utterly,
And overthrow one here, another there.
15 But when there shall a bull-destroyer come

[1. This book is the most obscure and inexplicable of the entire collection. Its date and authorship are quite uncertain. After the opening lines against the lust of power (1-14) there appears to be an allusion to the closing part of the preceding book; but the writer goes on to designate a long succession of emperors and conquerors, giving the initial letter of most of the names, as in previous books, and otherwise describing them, yet so inconsistently with what we know of history as to leave it impossible to identify with any certainty the individuals and events intended. Ewald has attempted to identify most of these names with known characters of Roman and Byzantine history (Abhandlung, pp. 99-111), but the results of his study have commanded no following, In the following notes we insert for the benefit of the reader his more plausible conjectures, but with no conviction that they represent the persons intended by the author.

15. Bull-destroyer.–That is, the lion mentioned in book xiii, 221, symbolizing Odenatus.]

(1-12.)

Trusting in his own might, thick-haired and grim,
And shall destroy all, he shall also tear
Shepherds in pieces, and no victory
Shall be theirs unless soon, with speed of feet
20 Pursuing eagerly through wooded glens,
Young dogs shall meet in conflict; for a dog
Pursued the lion which destroys the shepherds.
And then there shall be a lord confident
In his might, and named with four syllables,
25 And shown forth clearly from the number one;
But him shall brazen Ares quickly slay
Because of conflict with insatiate men.
Then shall two other princely men bear rule,
Both of the number forty; and with them
30 Shall great peace be in the world and to all
The people law and right; but them in turn
Shall men with gleaming helmet, needing gold
And silver, impiously put to death
For these things, catching them by their deft plans.
35 And then again a dreadful lord shall rule,
Young, fighting hand to hand, whose name shall show
The number seventy, life-destroying, fierce,
Who to the army basely shall betray
The people of Rome, slain by wickedness
40 Because of wrath of kings, and he shall hurl

[18. Shepherds.–Chiefs of the various tribes and nations whom Odenatus subdued.

21. A dog.–Mæonius, the assassin of Odenatus. Comp. book viii, 208.

24. Four syllables.–Aureolus.

29. Both . . . forty.–Macrianus, father and son of same name. But from this point onward the identification of the persons intended is purely conjectural and uncertain.

37. Seventy-Represented by O, and possibly denoting the Achaian pretender, Valens.]

(13-30.)

Down every city and hut of the Latins.
And Rome is no more to be seen or heard,
Such as of late another traveler saw;
For all these things shall in the ashes lie,
45 Nor shall there be a sparing of her works;
For hurtful he himself shall come from heaven,
God the immortal from the sky shall send
Lightnings and thunderbolts upon mankind;
And some he will destroy by lightnings burned,
50 And others with his mighty thunderbolts.
And Rome’s strong children and the famous Latins
Shall then the shameless dreadful ruler slay.
Around him dead the dust shall not lie light,
But he shall be a sport for dogs and birds
55 And wolves, for he a martial people spoiled.
After him, numbering forty, there shall rule
Another, famous Parthian-destroyer,
German-destroyer, putting down dread beasts
That kill men, which upon the ocean’s streams
60 And the Euphrates press continuous on.
And then shall Rome again be as before.
But when there comes a great wolf in thy plains,
A ruler marching onward from the West,
Then shall he under powerful Ares die
65 Being cleft asunder by the piercing brass.
And o’er the very mighty Romans then
Shall there rule yet again another man
Of great heart, from. Assyria brought to light,
Of the first letter, and he shall himself
70 By means of wars put all things under him,

[67. Parthian-destroyer.–Macrinus (M = 40).

62. Wolf.–Reference, perhaps, to Quintilius, the brother of Claudius.

66-73. Aurelian.]

(31-54.)

And by his armies at once power display
And lay down laws; but him shall brazen Ares
Quickly destroy by treacherous armies falling.
After him three of haughty heart shall rule,
75 One having the first number, one three tens,
And the other with three hundred shall partake,
Cruel, who gold and silver in much fire
Shall melt in statues of gods made with hands,
And to the armies they, equipped for war,
80 Will, for the sake of victory, moneys give,
Dividing many costly things and goods;
And in like manner, striving eagerly
After power, they shall barm disastrously
The arrow-shooting Parthians of the deep
85 And swift Euphrates, and the hostile Medes,
And the soft-haired warlike Massagetæ
And Persians also, quiver-bearing men.
But when the king shall his own fate unloose
Leaving unto his sons more fit for arms
90 The royal scepter and entreating right,
Then they, forgetful of their father’s words
And having their hands all prepared for war,
Shall rush in conflict for the royal power.
And then another lord, of the third number,
95 Shall rule alone, and smitten by a sword
Shall quickly see his fate. Then after him
Shall many perish at each other’s hands,
Being very valiant for the royal power.
Moreover a great-hearted one shall rule

[74. Three.–Their names beginning with A, L (A = 30), and T (= 800), the reference might be to Achilleus, whom the people of Palmyra invested with the purple, and Lollian and Tetricus, who, however, belonged to the western provinces.]

(55-78.)

100 The very mighty Romans, an old lord,
Of the number four, and manage all things well.
And then upon Phœnicia shall come war
And conflict, when there shall come nations near
Of arrow-shooting Persians; ah, how many
105 Shall before men of barbarous speech fall down!
Sidon and Tripolis and Berytus
The loudly-boasting shall behold each other
Amid the blood and bodies of the dead.
Wretched Laodicea, round thyself
110 Thou shalt a great and unsuccessful war
Stir up through the impiety of men,
Ah, hapless Tyrians, ye shall gather in
An evil harvest; when in the day-time
The sun that lighteth mortals shall withdraw,
115 And his disk not appear, and drops of blood
Thick and abundant shall flow down from heaven
Upon the earth. And then the king shall die,
Betrayed by his companions. After him
Shall many shameless leaders still promote
120 The wicked strife and one another kill.
And then shall there a reverend ruler be,
Of much skill, with a name that numbers five,
Confiding in great armies, whom mankind
Will fondly love because of royal power;
125 And having the good name he shall thereto
Add by good deeds. But while he reigns there shall
‘Twixt Taurus and snow-clad Amanus be
A fearful sign. From the Cilician land
A city new and beautiful and strong

[101. Four.–Possibly denoting Diocletian.

113-117. Comp. book ii, 21; iii, 991-1002; xii, 72-74.

122. Five.–The letter E, denoting Eugenius.]

(78-100.)

130 Shall by the deep strong rivers be destroyed.
And in Propontis and in Phrygia
Shall there be many earthquakes. And the king
Of great renown shall under his own lot
By wasting deadly sickness lose his life.
135 And after him shall rule two lordly kings,
One numbering three hundred, and one three;
And many shall he utterly destroy
In defense of the seven-hill city Rome,
And for the sake of powerful sovereignty.
140 And then shall evil to the senate come,
Nor shall it from the angry king escape
While he holds wrath against it. And a sign
Shall then appear to all men upon earth;
And fuller shall the rains be, snow and hail
145 Shall ruin field-fruits o’er the boundless earth.
But they shall fall in wars, slain by strong Ares
In behalf of the war for the Italians.
And then again another king shall rule,
Full of devices, gathering all the army,
150 And for the sake of war distributing
Money to those with brazen breastplate clad;
But thereupon shall Nilus, rich in corn,
Beyond the Libyan mainland irrigate
For two years the dark soil and fruitful land
155 Of Egypt; but all things shall famine seize
And war and robbers, murders, homicides.
And many cities shall by warlike men
Be thrown down headlong by the army’s hands;
And he, betrayed, shall fall by gleaming iron.

[136. Three hundred.–Represented by T, and, according to Ewald’s conjecture, here designating Theodosius by his Latin initial. Three.–{Greek G}, initial of Gratian.]

160 After him one whose number is three hundred
Shall rule the Romans, very mighty men;
He shall stretch forth a life-destroying spear
Against the Armenians and the Parthians,
The Assyrians and the Persians firm in war.
165 And then anew shall a creation be
Of splendidly built Rome with gold and amber
And silver and ivory in order raised;
And in her many people shall abide
From all the East and from the prosperous West;
170 And the king shall make other laws for her;
But then shall death destructive and strong fate
In turn receive him in a boundless isle.
And there shall rule another, of ten triads,
A man like a wild beast, fair-haired and grim,
175 Who shall be a descendant of the Greeks.
And then a city of Molossian Phthia
Feeding much, and Larissa shall be bent
Down on Peneus’s overhanging brows;
And then too in horse-feeding Scythia
180 Shall be an insurrection. And dire war
Shall be hard by the waters of the lake
Mæotis at streams by the utmost mouth
Of the fount of watery Phasis on the mead
Of asphodel; and there shall many fall
185 By powerful warriors. Ah, how many men
Shall Ares with strong brass receive! And then,

[160. Three Hundred.–If the T of line 136 could represent Theodosius, this would most naturally refer to Theodosius the Younger, whom Gratian invested with the purple.

173. Ten triads.–A, initial of Leo, who was acknowledged emperor of the East in A. D. 457.]

(126-146.)

Having destroyed a Scythian race, the king
Shall die in his own lot unloosing life.
And yet another of the number four
190 Shall rule thereafter, openly made known
A dreadful man, whom all Armenians,
Who drink the best ice of the flowing stream
Araxes, and the Persians of great soul
Shall fear in wars. And between Colchians
195 And very strong Pelasgi there shall be
Wars, fights, and homicides. And those who hold
The cities of the land of Phrygia
And those of the Propontis, and make bare
From out their scabbards the two-edged swords,
200 Shall smite each other through sore impiousness.
And then shall God to mortal men display
From heaven a great sign with the rolling years,
A bat, the portent of bad war to come.
And then the king shall not escape stern fate,
205 But die by hand, slain by the gleaming iron.
After him, numbering fifty, there shall rule
Again another coming out of Asia,
A dreadful terror, fighting hand to hand;
And he shall set war on Rome’s stately walls,
210 And among Colchians, and Heniochi,
And the milk-drinking Agathyrsians
By Euxine sea, at Thracia’s sandy bay.
And then the king shall not escape stern fate,
And they will tear in pieces his dead corpse.

[189. Four.–{Greek D}, representing, as Ewald suggests, Dreskyllas, another form of the name Threskyllas.

203. A bat.–The Greek work is {Greek fa’lkh}. Can it mean a falcon?

206. Fifty.–N, initial of Nepos, emperor in A. D. 474.]

(147-169.)

215 And then, the king slain, man-ennobling Rome
Shall be a desert, and much people perish.
And then again one terrible and dread
From mighty Egypt shall rule, and destroy
Great hearted Parthians and Medes and Germans,
220 And Agathyrsians of the Bosporus,
Iernians, Britons, and Iberians
That bear the quiver, bent Massagetæ,
And Persians thinking themselves more than men.
And then a famous man shall look upon
225 All Hellas, acting as an enemy
To Scythia and windy Caucasas.
And there shall be a dread sign while he rules:
Crowns altogether like the shining stars
Shall from heaven in the south and north appear.
230 And then shall he bequeath the royal power
To his son whose initial letter heads
The alphabet, when in the halls of Hades
The manly king in his own lot shall go.
But when the son of this man in the land
235 Of Rome shall rule, shown by the number one,
There shall be over all the earth great peace
Much longed for, and the Latins will love him
As king because of his own father’s worth;
Him, eager to go both to East and West,
240 The Roman people shall against his will
Retain at home and in command of Rome,
For among all there is a friendly heart

[217-223. The reference is unknown, and the allusions of the rest of the book defy even the ingenuity of Ewald to make even plausible.

227. Comp. lines 126-128 above, and book xi, 30, 81; xii, 93, 94, 277, 278.

236. Great peace.–Comp. book iii, 940; xi, 105; xii, 223.]

(170-191.)

Felt for their royal and illustrious lord.
But baneful death shall snatch him out of life,
245 Short-lived, abandoned to his destiny.
But others afterwards again shall smite
Each other, powerful warriors, carrying on
An evil strife, not holding kingly power,
But being tyrants. And in all the world
250 Shall they bring many evil things to pass,
But chiefly for the Romans till the time
Of the third Dionysus, until armed
With helmet Ares shall from Egypt come,
Whom they shall surname Dionysus lord.
255 But when the famous royal purple cloak
A murderous lion and murderous lioness
Shall rend, together they shall grasp the lungs
Of the changed kingdom; then a holy king,
Whose name has the first letter, pressing hard
260 For victory, shall cast down hostile chiefs
To be the food of dogs and birds of prey.
Alas for thee, O city burned with fire,
O powerful Rome! How many things must thou
Needs suffer when all these things come to pass!
265 But the great far-famed king shall afterward
Raise thee all up again with gold and amber
And silver and ivory, and in the world
Thou shalt in thy possessions foremost be,
Also in temples, market-places, wealth,
270 And race-grounds; and then shalt thou be again
A light for all, even as thou wast before.
Ah, wretched Cecropes and Cadmeans

[266, 267. Comp. lines 166, 167 above, and book xii, 218; xiii, 88.

272. Cecropes . . . Cadmeans . . . Laconians.–Named respectively for Athenians, Thebans, and Spartans.]

(192-215.)

And the Laconians, who are situate
Around Peneus and Molossian stream
275 Thick grown with rushes, Tricca and Dodona,
And high-built Ithome, Pierian ridge
Around the summit of Olympian mount,
Ossa, Larissa, and high-gate Calydon.
But when God shall for mortals bring to pass
280 A great sign, day dark twilight round the world,
Even then to thee, O king, the end shall come,
Nor is it possible that thou escape
A brother’s piercing dart against thee hurled.
And then again shall rule a life-destroyer,
285 A fiery eagle from the royal race,
Who shall of Egypt’s offspring take fast hold,
Younger, but than his brother much more strong,
Who has for his first sign the number eighty.
And then the whole world shall for honor’s sake
290 Bear in its lap the soul-distressing wrath
Of the immortal God; and there shall come
On mortal men, the creatures of a day,
Famines and plagues and wars and homicides,
And an incessant darkness o’er the earth,
295 Mother of peoples, and relentless wrath
From heaven, and disorder of the times,
And earthquake shocks, and flaming thunderbolts,
And stones and storms of rain and squalid drops.
And the high summits of the Phrygian land
300 Feel the shock, bases of the Scythian hills
Feel the shock, cities tremble, and all earth
Trembles at the cliffs of the land of Greece.
And many cities, God being very wroth,

[286. Fiery eagle.–Comp. book iii, 769.

293. Comp. book xii, 149, 150; xiii, 140, 141.]

(216-240.)

Shall fall prone under burning thunderbolts
305 And with bewailings, and to shun the wrath
And make escape is not even possible.
And then the king shall by a strong hand fall,
Struck as if he were no one by his men.
After him of the Latins many men
310 Wearing the purple mantle on their shoulders
Shall be again raised up, who shall by lot
Desire to lay hold on the royal power.
And then upon the stately walls of Rome
Shall be three kings, two having the first number,
315 And one the eponym of victory
Bearing as no one else. They shall love Rome
And all the world, concerned for mortal men;
But they shall not accomplish anything;
For God has not been gracious to the world
320 Neither will he be gentle with mankind,
Because they have done many evil things.
Therefore to kings shall he a mean soul bring
Still worse than that of leopards and of wolves;
For harshly seizing them with their own hands,
325 Like feeble women who are idly slain,
Shall men in brazen breastplate utterly
Destroy the kings together with their scepters.
Ah, wretched lofty men of glorious Rome,
Trusting in false oaths ye shall be destroyed.
330 And then shall many masters with the spear,
Men rushing not in order furious on,
Take away offspring of the first-born men

[314. Three kings.–Could these be, as Ewald (p. 111) propounds, Anastasius (Byzantine emperor, A. D. 491-518) and the infamous and insolent Harmatius Achilles and Basiliscus, the usurpers who preceded him, the last name being supposed to be equivalent to the Latin Victorinus?]

(241-262.)

In their blood. . . . Therefore thrice
Shall the Most High then bring on dreadful doom,
335 And all men with their works shall he destroy.
But into judgment yet again shall God
Cause them to come that have a shameless soul,
As many as determined evil things;
And they themselves are fenced in, falling one
340 Upon another, and given over there
Into that condemnation of wickedness.
. . . . . . .
All one by one, yet a brilliant comet
. . . . . . .
Of much to come, of war and battle strife,
But at the time when one about the isles
345 Shall gather many oracles that speak
To strangers of fight and of battle strife,
And grievous harm of temples, he shall bid
One in great haste to gather in Rome’s halls
For twelve months wheat and barley in abundance,
350 And this most quickly. And in wretched plight
The city shall be those days, and straightway
Shall it again be prosperous not a little;
And rest shall be when that rule is destroyed.
And then the last race of the Latin kings
355 Shall be, and after it again shall grow
Dominion, children and the children’s race
Shall be unshaken; for it shall be known,
Since of a surety God himself is king.
There is a land dear, nourisher of men,
360 Situate in a plain, and round it Nile

[333. Thrice.–Comp. line 386 below.

342, 343. Comp. book viii, 252-254.

359-361. Comp. book viii, 58-61.]

(263-285.)

Marks off the boundary and separates
All Libya and Ethiopia.
And Syrians short-lived, one from one place,
Another from another, from that land
365 Shall snatch away all movable effects;
A great and careful lord shall be their king,
Training up youth and sending off for men,
And planning something fearful about those
Most fearful, above all he shall send forth
370 A powerful helper of all Italy
The lofty-minded. And when he shall come
Unto the dark sea of Assyria
He shall despoil Phœnicians in their homes,
And fastening evil war and battle dire
375 Shall be one lord of the two lords of earth.
And now will I for Alexandrians sing
Their grievous end; alas, barbarians
Shall possess sacred Egypt, land unharmed,
Unshaken, when wrath from the gods shall come.
. . . . . . .
380 . . . making winter summer,
Then shall the oracles be all fulfilled.
But when three youths in the Olympian games
Shall conquer, and thou shalt bid them that know
The oracles that call on God to cleanse
385 First by the blood of sucking quadruped,
Thrice therefore shall the Most High then bring on
A fearful lot, and be shall over all
Brandish the mournful long spear; then much blood

[366-362. The Greek text is here corrupt and the sense uncertain.

376. Comp. book viii, 66-68,98, 99.

380, 381. Comp. book viii, 281, 282.

386. Thrice.–Comp. line 333 above, and book viii, 226, 226.]

(285-304.)

Barbarian shall be poured out in the dust
390 When the city shall be plundered utterly
By inhospitable strangers. Happy he
Who is dead, also happy any one
Who is without a child; for he who once
Was leader surnamed for them that are free,
395 Far-famed in song, no longer in his mind
Revolving earlier plans, shall place their neck
Under a servile yoke; such slavery,
Cause of much weeping, shall a lord impose.
And then straightway an army of Sicilians
400 Ill-fated shall come, carrying dismay,
When a barbarian nation shall again
Come suddenly; and the fruit, when it grows,
They from the field shall sever. Upon them
Shall God the lofty Thunderer bestow
405 Evil instead of good; continually
Shall stranger pluck from stranger hateful gold.
But now when all shall look upon the blood
Of the flesh-eating lion and there comes
Upon the body a murderous lioness,
410 Down from his head will be the scepter cast
Away from him. And as in friendly feast
In Egypt when the people all partake,
They perform valiant deeds, and one restrains
Another, and among them there is much
415 Shouting aloud; so also shall there be
Upon mankind the fear of furious strife,
And many shall be utterly destroyed
And others kill each other by hard fights.

[401. Comp. book iii, 657.

408. Lion.–Comp. book xi, 287; xiii, 221.]

(305-326.)

And then one, covered with dark scales shall come;
420 Two others shall come acting in concert
With one another, and with them a third
A great ram from Cyrene, whom before
1 spoke of as a fugitive in war
Beside the streams of Nile; but in no wise
425 An unsuccessful way do all complete.
And then the lengths of the revolving years
Shall be exceeding quiet; yet again
Thereafter shall a second war for them
In Egypt be stirred up, and there shall be
430 A battle on the sea, but victory
Shall not be theirs. Ah, wretched ones, there shall
A conquest of the famous city be,
And it shall be a spoil of war not long.
And then men having common boundaries
435 Of much land shall flee wretched, and shall lead
Their wretched parents. And they shall again
Having great victory light on a land,
And shall destroy the Jews, men staunch in war,
Wasting by wars far as the hoary deep,
440 On both sides, fighting in the foremost ranks
For father-land and parents. And a race
Of trophy-bearing men shall for the dead
Be reckoned. Ah, how many men shall swim
About the waves! For on the sandy beach
445 Many shall lie; and heads of golden hair
Shall fall beneath Egyptian winged fowls.
And then for the Arabians mortal blood

[419. Dark, scales.–Comp. book xiii, 215.

422. Ram.–Comp. he-goat of book xiii, 227.

443. The text is corrupt and doubtful here.]

(326-347)

Shall go in quest. But when wolves shall with dogs
Pledge in a sea-girt island solemn oaths,
450 Then shall there be the raising of a tower,
And the city that suffered very many things
Men shall inhabit. For deceitful gold
Shall no more be nor silver, nor acquiring
Of the earth, nor much-laboring servitude;
455 But one fast friendship and one mode of life
With cheerful soul; and all things shall be common
And equal light among the means of life.
And wickedness shall sink down from the earth
Into the vast sea. And then near at hand
460 Is come the harvest-time of mortal men.
There is imposed a strong necessity
That these things be fulfilled. And at that time
There shall not any other traveler say,
In this conjecturing, that the race of men
465 Though perishable shall ever cease to be.
And then a holy nation shall prevail
And hold the sovereignty of all the earth
Unto all ages with their mighty sons.

[448, 449. Comp. book xiii, 38, 39.

459, 460. Comp. book ii, 208.

461, 462. Comp. book iii, 721-724.

466-468. Comp. book iii, 58-60; viii, 223-226.]

(348-361.)

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