Apocrypha: Pseudo-Sibylline Oracles 5

milton s. terry



Introduction, 1, 2. Rome’s first emperors, 2-733. Grief of the Sibyl, 74-76. Inundation of Egypt, 77-84. Oracle against Memphis, 85-100. Idolatry and woes of Egypt, 101-147. Woes on various cities of the East and of Asia Minor, 148-169. Woe on Lycia, Phrygia, and Thessaly, 110-185. The vile and fearful king, 186-209. Oracle against Rome, 210-241. Lamentation over Egypt, 242-272. Britons and Gauls, 273-280. Ethiopians and Indians perish by conflict of the stars, 281-291. Doom of Corinth, 292-308. Oracle against Rome, 309-334. The blessed Jews, 335-345. The heavenly Joshua, 346-350. Lovely Judea, 351-382. Woe on western Asia and Ephesus, 383-398. God’s wrath on the wicked, 399-410. Woes on Smyrna, Cyme, Lesbos, Corcyra, Hierapolis, and Tripolis, 411-434. Doom of Miletus, 433-439. Prayer for the land of Judah, 440-446. Wretched Thrace, Hellespont, and Italy, 447-463. Divine judgment and majesty, 464-484. Wars and woes of the last time, 485 517. Appeal to the wicked city, 518-555. Messianic day, 556-580. Fall of Babylon, 581-600. Woes of Asia, Crete, Cyprus, and Phœnicia, 601-615. Vast armies in Egypt, Macedon, and Asia, 616-624. Destruction of the Thracians, 625-629. Mankind made few by woes, 630-639. Final darkness, 640-648. Ruin of Isis and Serapis, 649-660. The temple in Egypt, 661-676. Sin and doom of the Ethiopians, 677-687. Battle of the constellations, 688-711.


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,
The very first lord shall be, who shall sum
Twice ten with the first letter of his name;

[1. Next to the third, this fifth book is the longest in our present collection of oracles. It is clearly a composite of Jewish and Christian material, and as the three Antonines are referred to in line 72, we cannot suppose that the book in its present form existed prior to the middle of the second century of the Christian era.

5. Pella’s townsman.–Alexander the Great.

9. Not true things.–In this parenthetic way the Sibyl declares that the popular traditions of Alexander as having sprung from Zeus or from Ammon were proven untrue.

11. Assaracus.–Ancestor of Æneas.

14. Babes.–Romulus and Remus.

16. The very first lord.–First in the line of Cæsars or emperors. This Sibylline writer, as well as Suetonius, the Roman historian, begins the list {footnote p. 113} with Julius Cæsar, who is designated by the numerical value of the initial letters of his name. The Greek letter Kappa (K) stands for twenty, and Iota (I) stands for ten.]


In wars exceeding powerful shall he be;
And he shall have the initial sign of ten;
20 And in like manner after him to reign
Is one who has the alphabet’s first letter;
Before him Thrace and Sicily shall crouch,
Then Memphis, Memphis cast headlong to earth
By reason of the cowardice of rulers
25 And of a woman unenslaved who falls
Upon the wave. And laws will he ordain
For peoples and put all things under him;
But after a long time shall he transmit
His power unto another, who shall have
30 Three hundred for his first initial sign,
And of a river the beloved name,
And the Persians he shall rule and Babylon;
And then shall he smite Medians with his spear.
Then shall one rule who has the initial sign
35 Of the number three. And then shall be a lord
Who shall for first initial have twice ten;
And he shall come to Ocean’s utmost water
And by Ausonia cleave the refluent tide.

[21. First letter.–Alpha, initial of Augustus.

25. Woman.–Allusion to Cleopatra of Egypt. Her falling upon the wave is ambiguous, and probably the text is an error. In the parallel in book xii, 29, the reading is under the spear.

30. Three hundred.–Represented by the letter T, the initial of Tiberius, as well as of the river Tiber.

35. Three.–The letter {Greek G}, Greek initial of Caius (Gaios) Cæsar, commonly known as Caligula.

36. Twice ten.–As in line 16, but here designating Claudius (Greek, Klaudios).]


And one whose mark is fifty shall be lord,
40 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,
Putting to death and daring countless things;
45 And he shall cleave the mountain of two seas
And sprinkle it with gore; but out of sight
Shall also vanish the destructive man;
Then, making himself equal unto God,
Shall he return; but God will prove him naught.
50 And after him shall three kings be destroyed
By one another. Then a great destroyer
Of pious men shall come, whom seven times ten
Shall point out clearly. But from him a son,
Whom the first letter of three hundred proves,
55 Shall take the power. And after him shall be
A ruler, of the initial sign of four,
A life-destroyer. Then a reverend man
Of the number fifty. Next, succeeding him
Who has the first mark of the initial sign
60 Three hundred, shall a Celtic mountaineer,
Into the strife of battle pressing on,

[39. Fifty.–The letter N, here denoting Nero, and Nerva in line 58.

45. Mountain of two seas.–Isthmus of Corinth, which Nero attempted to open to the two adjoining bodies of water.

50. Three kings.–Galba, Otho, and Vitellius.

52. Seven times ten.–This number is denoted by the Greek {Greek O}, initial of the Greek form of the name of Vespasian ({Greek Ou?espasiano’s}).

54. Three hundred.–Here denoting Titus.

56. Four.–The letter A, initial of Domitian.

60. Three hundred.–Here denoting Trajan, who was of Spanish origin, and so reckoned by the Sibyl as a “Celtic mountaineer,” not accurately, but in a loose, general way as a Western.]


Escape not fate unseemly, but shall be
Worn weary unto death; him foreign dust,
But dust that of Nemea’s flower has name,
65 Shall hide a corpse. And after him shall rule
Another man, with silver helmet decked;
And unto him shall be the name of a sea;
And he shall be a man the best of all
And in all things discreet. And upon thee,
70 Thou best of all, above all, dark-haired one,
And upon thy shoots shall be all these days.
After him three shall rule; but the third one
Shall at a late time hold the royal power.
Worn out am I, thrice-miserable one,
75 Sister of Isis, to lay up in heart
An evil message, and an inspired song
Of oracles. First Mænades shall dart

[64. Nemea’s flower.–Nemea in Argolis was the spot where biennial games were celebrated by the Greeks, and the victors were crowned with parsley, the Greek name of which is selinon. The emperor Trajan died in Selinus, a city of Cilicia, in Asia Minor; hence the allusion of the Sibyl.

67. Name of a sea.–The Adriatic (or Hadriatic), from which it is apparent Hadrian is referred to.

72. Three.–The three Antonines, namely, Antonius Pius, M. Aurelius, and I.. Verus. This last named, being only seven years old at the time of his adoption, was thought by the Sibyl to be likely to come late to the throne. Comp. book viii, 85.

75. Sister of Isis.–The Sibyl, who elsewhere (book iii, 1028) represents herself as a daughter-in-law of Noah, here assumes to be sister or friend ({Greek gnwsth’}) of the Egyptian goddess Isis, sadly prophesying the doom of Egypt, and especially of Memphis.

77. First.–Lactantius seems to have had this passage in mind when he says: “First of all, Egypt shall stiffer punishment for her foolish superstitions, and will be covered with blood as if with a river.” Div. Inst., vii, 15 [L., 6, 786]. Mænades.–A name applied to the priestesses of Bacchus, who were wont to work themselves into mad frenzy, and are here named as avenging furies, fit to execute judgment. Comp. line 651.]


Around thy much-lamented temple’s steps,
And thou shalt be in evil hands that day
80 When the Nile some time shall fill the whole land
Of Egypt even to sixteen cubits deep;
It shall wash all the land, and water it
For mortals; and the pleasure of the land
Shall be still and the glory of her face.
85 Memphis, thou most shalt over Egypt wail;
For of old ruling mightily the land
Thou shalt become poor, so that out of heaven
The Thunderer shall himself with great voice cry:
“O mighty Memphis, who didst boast of old
90 O’er craven mortals greatly, thou shalt wail
Full of pain and all-hapless, so that thou
Thyself shalt the eternal God perceive
Immortal in the clouds. Where among men
Is now thy mighty pride? Because thou didst
95 Against my God-anointed children rave,
And didst urge evil forward on good men,
Thou shalt for such things suffer penalty
In some like manner. No more openly
For thee shall there be right among the blessed;

[78. Thy much-lamented temple. The temple of Isis is referred to.

79. Evil hands. Allusion perhaps to the tearing in pieces of Pentheus by the hands of his mother and aunts, to whom Bacchus made him appear as a wild beast.

81. Sixteen cubits.–The elevation of the Nile, in the vicinity of Memphis, is about twenty-three feet, according to Humboldt, which would be equivalent to the ordinary estimate of sixteen cubits. It is interesting to note that the famous piece of statuary in the Vatican, representing the Nile as a reclining human figure, has the childlike forms of sixteen genii climbing about it, as if to represent the sixteen cubits of the usual annual overflow.

85. Memphis.–Ancient capital of lower Egypt. Comp. line 243.

95. God-anointed children.–The Jewish people. Comp. Psa. cv, 16; Hub. iii, 13.]


100 Fallen from the stars, thou shalt not rise to heaven.”
Now these things unto Egypt God bade me
Speak out for the last time, when men shall be
Utterly evil. But they labor hard,
Evil men evil things awaiting, wrath
105 Of the immortal Thunderer in heaven,
Worshiping stones and beasts instead of God,
And also fearing many things besides
Which have no speech, nor mind, nor power to hear;
Which things it is not right for me to mention,
110 Each one an idol, formed by mortal hands;
Of their own labors and presumptuous thoughts
Did men receive gods made of wood and stone
And brass, and gold and silver, foolish too,
Without life and dumb, molten in the fire
115 They made them, vainly trusting such things. . . .
Thmois and Xois are in sore distress,
And smitten is the hall of Heracles
And Zeus and Hermes (king). And as for thee,
O Alexandria, famed nourisher
120 (Of cities) war shall not leave, nor (plague) . . .
For thy pride thou shalt pay as many things
As thou before didst. Silent shalt thou be
A long age, and the day of thy return . . .
. . . . . . .
No more for thee shall flow luxurious drink . . .
. . . . . . .

[100. Comp. Isa. xiv, 12,13; Matt. xi, 23.

116. Thmois and Xois.–Cities of Egypt, the former mentioned by Herodotus (ii, 166), the latter by Strabo (xvii, 1, 19).

117. Heracles.–Son of Zeus, as was also Hermes, and these deities are thus naturally associated in the Sibyl’s thought with their halls or temples of worship in Egypt. The corruption in the Greek text of this passage is indicated by the lacunæ visible in the translation.]


12 5 For there shall come a Persian on thy dale,
And like hail shall he all the land destroy,
And artful men, with blood and corpses. . . .
By sacred altars one of barbarous mind,
Strong, full of blood and raging senselessly,
130 With countless numbers rushing to destruction.
And then shalt thou, in cities very rich,
Be very weary. Falling on the earth
All Asia shall wail on account of gifts
Crowning her head with which she was by thee
135 Delighted. But, as he himself obtained
The Persian land by lot, he shall make war
And killing every man destroy all life,
So that there shall remain for wretched mortals
A third part. But with nimble leap shall he
140 Himself speed from the West, and all the land
Besiege and waste. But when he shall possess
The height of power and odious reverence,
He shall come, wishing to destroy the city
Even of the blessed. And a certain king
145 Sent forth from God against him shall destroy
All mighty kings and bravest men. And thus
Shall judgement by the Immortal come to men.
Alas, alas for thee, unhappy heart!
Why dost thou move me to declare these things,
150 The painful rule of Egypt over many?
Go to the East, to races of the Persians
Who lack in understanding, and show them

[125. A Persian.–The allusion is uncertain. According to the scholium found in a Paris codex, he is one who is to be associated with the coming of antichrist. Much in the description corresponds to what is said of Nero in lines 39-49 above.

144-147. A Messianic passage quoted by Lactantius, Div. Inst., vii, 18 6, 796].]


That which is now and that which is to be.
The river of Euphrates shall bring on
155 A deluge, and it shall destroy the Persians,
Iberians and Babylonians
And the Massagetæ that relish war
And trust in bows. All Asia fire-ablaze
Shall to the isles beam brightly. Pergamos,
160 Revered of old, shall perish from its base,
And Pitane among men shall appear
All-desolate. All Lesbos shall sink deep
Into the deep, and thus shall be destroyed.
Smyrna, whirled down her cliffs, shall wail aloud,
165 She that was once revered and given a name
Shall perish utterly. Bithynians
Shall over their own country, then reduced
To ashes, wail, and o’er great Syria,
And o’er Phœnicia that bas many tribes.
170 Alas, alas for thee, O Lycia;
How many evils does the sea contrive
Against thee, mounting up of its own will
Upon the painful land! And it shall dash
With evil earthquake and with bitter streams
175 On the rough Lycian land that once breathed perfume.

[156. Iberians.–Those north of Armenia, and between the Euxine and Caspian Seas, are probably intended; but they, as well as the Massagetæ mentioned in the next line, were in no contact with the Euphrates. The Massagetæ were east of the Caspian, in Scythia.

161. Pitane.–A city on the east coast of Mysia, southwest of Pergamos.

162. Lesbos.–Large island near the coast of Mysia.

164. Smyrna.–Well-known city on the coast of Lydia, distinguished for its commerce in ancient and modern times.

170. Lycia.–Province on the southern coast of Asia Minor, having Phrygia to the north.]


And there shall be for Phrygia fearful wrath
Because of sorrow for which Rhea came,
Mother of Zeus, and there continued long.
The sea shall overthrow the Centaur race
190 And barbarous nation, and beneath the earth
Shall tear away the Lapithæan land.
The river of deep eddies and deep flow,
Peneus, shall destroy Thessalian land,
Snatching men from the earth. Eridanus
185 (Pretending once to bear the forms, of beasts).
Hellas thrice wretched shall the poets weep,
When one from Italy shall smite the neck
Of the isthmus, mighty king of mighty Rome,
A man made equal to God, whom, they say,
190 Zeus himself and the august Hera bore
He, courting by his voice all-musical
Applause for his sweet Songs, shall put to death
With his own wretched mother many men.
From Babylon shall flee the fearful lord
195 And shameless whom all mortals and best men
Abhor; for he slew many and laid hands
Upon the womb; against his wives he sinned
And of men stained with blood had he been formed.

[177. Rhea.–Comp. book iii, 165-182.

179. Centaur race.–Fabulous race in Thessaly, represented as half man and half horse.

181. Lapithæan land.–The mountainous parts of Thessaly, so called from a fabulous people, the Lapithæ, who are said to have once dwelt there.

185. The Greek text is here corrupt, and the words in parentheses are conjectural.

187. One from Italy.–Another picture of Nero (comp. lines 39-49) who is here represented as the author of the Roman war which resulted in the overthrow of Jerusalem and the temple.]


And he shall come to monarchs of the Medes
200 And Persians, first whom he loved and to whom
He brought renown, while with those wicked men
He lurked against a nation not desired
And on the temple made by God he seized
And citizens and people going in,
205 Of whom I justly sang the praise, he burned;
For when this man appeared the whole creation
Was shaken and kings perished–and yet power
Remained among them, and they quite destroyed
The mighty city and the righteous people.
210 But when the fourth year a great star shall shine,
Which alone shall the whole earth overpower
Because of honor, which was first assigned
To lord Poseidon; then a great star shall come
From heaven into the dreadful sea and burn
215 The vasty deep, and Babylon itself,
And the land of Italy, because, of which
There perished many holy faithful men
Among the Hebrews and a people true.
Thou shalt be among evil mortals made

[210. Fourth year.–Perhaps in allusion to the time, times, and dividing of time (three and a half years) in Dan. vii, 25, a symbolic number for a period of woe.

213. To lord Poseidon.–Reading doubtful. Some MSS. read, Poseidon who is in the sea. Mendelssohn proposes the Homeric phrase, {Greek E?nuali’wj a?ndreïfo’nth} the man-slaying, warlike one.

213, 214. Star . . . into the . . . sea.–Comp. Rev. viii, 8; xvi, 3. This passage is an apocalyptic prophecy of judgment to come on Rome, and is so interpreted by Lactantius, Div. Inst., vii, 15 [L., 6, 790].

215. Babylon.–Here used as a symbolic name for Rome.

219. Thou.–Direct address to Rome.]


220 To suffer evils, but thou shalt remain
All-desolate whole ages by thyself
Hating thy soil; for thou didst have desire
For sorcery, adulteries were with thee
And lawless carnal intercourse with boys,
225 Thou evil city, womanish, unjust,
Ill-fated above all. Alas, alas!
Thou city of the Latin land, unclean
In all things, Mænad having joy in snakes,
Over thy banks a widow shalt thou sit
230 And the river Tiber shall lament for thee,
His consort thee, who hast a blood-stained heart
And impious soul. Didst thou not understand
What God can do, and what he doth devise?
But thou saidst, “I’m alone, and me no one
235 Shall sack.” But now shall God, who ever is,
Thee and all thine destroy, and in that land
No longer shall thy ensign yet remain,
As of old, when the mighty God received
Thy honors. Stay, O lawless one, alone,
240 And mixed with burning fire inhabit thou
In Hades the Tartarean lawless land.
And now again, O Egypt, I bewail
Thy blind delusion; Memphis, first in toils,
Thou shalt be filled up with the dead; in thee
245 The pyramids shall speak a ruthless sound.

[221. This line is in substance repeated in the codices and editions of the Greek text, but is so evidently a corruption that we omit the repetition from our text.

223, 224. Cited by Clement of Alex., Pæd., ii, 10 [G., 8, 616].

229. Widow.–Comp. Lam. i, 1.

242. Again, O Egypt.–Comp. lines 74-100.]


O Python, who wast justly called of old
The double city, be for ages silent,
So that thou mayest cease from wickedness.
Reckless in evils, treasury of toils,
250 Much-wailing Mænad, suffering, dire ills,
Much-weeping, thou a widow shalt remain
Through all time. Thou didst full of years become
While thou alone wast ruling o’er the world;
But when the white dress Barea round herself
255 Shall put on over that which is defiled,
Would that I neither were nor had been born
O Thebes, where is thy great strength? A fierce man
Shall slay the people; but thou, wretched one,
Grasping thy dusky dress shalt wail alone,
260 And thou shalt make atonement for all things
Which thou aforetime with a shameless soul
Didst perpetrate. They also shall behold
A mourning on account of lawless deeds.
And a mighty man of the Ethiopians
265 Shall overthrow Syene; by their might

[246. Python.–This name seems to be here applied to Memphis as a symbolical name, equivalent to “oracle city,” in allusion to the famous Delphic oracle in Greece.

250. Mænad.–A raving priestess of Bacchus, Comp. lines 77 and 228.

254. White dress.–According to Alexandre, the nomad population of Barca, in the northern part of Africa, were wont to put on a white garment over their sunburned and filthy bodies when about to go into battle.

257. Thebes.–The ancient and famous capital of Upper Egypt, as Memphis was of Lower. The fierce man of this line and the mighty man, of line 264 are both understood by Alexandre to refer to antichrist, but it is better perhaps to understand this whole passage as apocalyptic in the broad, general way, and so no particular person known in history need be supposed.]


Shall swarthy Indians occupy Teucheira.
Pentapolis, a man of mighty, strength
Shall burn thee whole. All-tearful Libya,
Who shall explain thy follies? And Cyrene,
270 Of mortals who shall pitiably weep
For thee? Thou shalt not even to the time
Of thy destruction cease thy hateful wail.
Among the Britons and among the Gauls,
Rich in gold, Ocean shall be roaring loud
275 Filled with much blood; for evil things
Did they unto God’s children, when a king
Of the Sidonians, a Phœnician, led
A mighty Gallic host from Syria;
And he shall slaughter thee, thyself, Ravenna,
280 And unto slaughter shall he lead the way.
O Indians and great-hearted Ethiops,
Together fear; for when with these the course
Of Capricorn and Taurus in the Twins
Shall wind about the middle of the heaven,
285 Virgo then rising, and about his front
Fastening a belt the sun shall lead all heaven,
There shall be moving downwards to the earth
A mighty conflagration high in air,

[266. Teucheira.–Doubtful reading.

273-280. In these verses the Sibyl foretells punishment on the Britons and Gauls, who are supposed to have furnished soldiers for the legions led by Vespasian against the Jews. These last are to be understood by “God’s children” in line 276. The Phœnician king is Vespasian, who led his forces out of Ptolemais in Syria to carry the war into Galilee. See Josephus, Mars, iii, vi, 2, 3, and Tacitus, Hist., iv, 39; v, 1. Ravenna, the great naval station of the Romans on the Adriatic, comes in for its share of the curse, for it was a chief city of Cisalpine Gaul, and was naturally associated with the military operations of Rome in the time of the Cæsars.

282-291. Comp. the war of the constellations in lines 690-711 below.]


And a new nature in the warlike stars,
290 ‘so that the whole land of the Ethiops
Shall perish in the midst of fire and groans.
And weep thou, Corinth, the destruction sad
Which is ill thee; for when with pliant threads
The Fates three sisters, spinning shall aloft
295 Lead him who flees by guile against the voice
Of the isthmus, until all shall look at him
Who once cut out the rock with ductile brass,
He also shall destroy and smite thy land,
As it hath been appointed. For to him
300 God gave strength to accomplish that which could
No earlier of all the kings together.
And first with sickle cleaving off the roots
From three heads he shall give food in excess
To others, so that kings unclean shall eat
305 The flesh of parents. For unto all men
Slaughter and terrors are laid up in store
because of the great city and just people
Saved through all time, whom Providence held high.
O thou unstable one and ill-advised,

[294. Fates.–These, according to popular mythology, were three sisters, named Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos, who are continually spinning out the destiny of mortals. Clotho, it was said, held the distaff, Lachesis spun out the thread of existence, and Atropos cut it off.

295. Him who sees.–The reference seems to be to Nero and his cleaving the isthmus (comp. lines 45 and 188). His return from the East as antichrist was a superstitious apprehension prevalent for some time after his death.

303. Three heads.–Comp. Dan. vii, 8, 24; 2 Esdras xi, 23; xii, 22. Hippolytus, de Christo et Antichristo, lii [G., 10, 772].

307. City … people.–Jerusalem and the Jews.

209-334. A prophetic curse against Rome as the greatest source of misery to men.]


310 By evil fates surrounded, for mankind
Both a beginning and great end of toil,–
Of suffering creation and of part
Restored again,–thou leader insolent
Of evils, and for men a great curse, who
115 Of mortals wished for thee? Who has not been
Embittered from within? Cast down ill thee
A king his honored life lost. Evilly
Hast thou disposed all things and washed away
All that is fair, and by thee have been changed
320 The world’s fair folds. In strife with us perhaps
Thou hast brought forward these unstable things;
And how dost thou say, “I will thee persuade,”
And “If in any thing thou blame me, speak?”
There was once among men the sun’s bright light
325 The prophets’ common ray being spread abroad;
Speech dripping honey, fair drink for all men,
Appeared and grew, and day arose on all.
Because of this, thou narrow-minded one
Leader of greatest evils, both a sword
330 And grief shall come in that day. For mankind
Both a beginning and great end of toil,–
Of suffering creation and of part
Restored again,–hear, O thou curse of men,
The bitter oracle intolerable.
335 But when the Persian land shall keep away
From war and plague and groaning, in that day
A race divine of blessed heavenly Jews

[335. Persian land.–All western Asia, which the Roman and other wars destructive to the Jews had long ravaged, and which was also often visited with pestilence. In the midst of this land, namely, at Jerusalem, the re- stored Jewish race, according to the Sibyl, are to dwell in peace and glory.

337. Heavenly Jews.–This line is cited by Lactantius, Div. Inst., iv, 20 [L., 6, 516].]


Shall offer prayer, who shall dwell round about
God’s city in mid portions of the land,
340 And even as far as Joppa building round
A great wall they shall carry it aloft
Unto the gloomy clouds. No more shall trump
Sound battle–din nor by a foe’s mad hands
Shall they be cut off; but they shall set up
345 Their trophies for an age of evil men.
And one shall come again from heaven, a man
Preeminent, whose hands on fruitful tree
By far the noblest of the Hebrews stretched,
Who at one time did make the sun stand still
350 When he spoke with fair word and holy lips,
No longer vex thy soul within thy breast
By reason of the sword, rich child of God,
Flower longed for by him only, goodly light
And noble branch, a scion much beloved,
355 Pleasant Judea, city beautiful,
Inspired by hymns. No more shall unclean foot
Of Greeks keep revel round about thy land,
Who held within their breast a lawless mind;
But thee shall glorious children honor much
360 [And be expert in songs and holy tongues],
With sacrifices of all kinds and prayers
Honored of God. All who endure the toils
Of small affliction and the just shall have

[338. Shall offer prayer.–This reading, {Greek eu?’ksetai}, as in book xiii, 206 (Greek text, 153), Rzach now prefers to the {Greek e?’ssetai} of the MSS., and his own former conjecture of {Greek a?rðh’setai}, shall he raised up.

346-350. In this passage the Messiah is conceived as both Moses and Joshua coming down out of the heavens. The allusions are to Moses stretching out his hands with the wonder-working rod (comp. Exod. vii, 17-20, and xvii, 9-12), the rod that put forth buds and fruit (Num. xvii, 8), and Joshua commanding the sun to stand still (Josh. x, 12).]


More that is altogether beautiful;
365 But the wicked, who to heaven sent lawless speech,
Shall cease their speaking one against another,
And hide themselves until the world be changed.
And there shall be a rain of gleaming fire
From the clouds; and no more shall mortals reap
370 The fair corn from the earth; all things unsown
And unplowed, until mortal men shall know
The Lord of all things, the immortal God
Always existing, and no more revere
Mortal things, neither dogs nor vultures’ nests,
375 And what things Egypt taught to magnify
With dumb months and dull lips. But all these things
The holy land of the only pious men
Shall bring forth, from the honey-dripping rock
A stream and from a spring ambrosial milk
380 Shall flow for all the just; for in one God,
One Father, who alone is glorious,
Having great piety and faith they hoped.
But why does the wise mind grant me these things?
And now thee, wretched Asia, piteously
385 I mourn and the race of Ionians
And Carians and Lydians rich in gold.
Alas, alas for thee, O Sardis; and alas
For Trallis much beloved; alas, alas,
Laodicea, city beautiful;
390 Thus shalt thou be by earthquakes overthrown

[376-380. These lines are cited by Lactantius, Div. Inst., vii, 42 [L., 6, 811]; comp. Joel iii, 18.

383-398. The Sibyl here pronounces woe on several well-known provinces and cities of Asia Minor, all which have been repeatedly shaken by earthquakes. Especially interesting is the mention of the famous temple of Artemis (Diana) at Ephesus. Comp. Acts xix, 24-28.]


And ruined, and be also changed to dust.
And to Asia gloomy. . . .
Artremis’ temple fixed at Ephesus . . .
By chasms, and earthquakes come headlong down
395 Sometime into the dreadful sea, is storms
Overwhelm ships. And up-turned Ephesus
Shall wail aloud, lament beside her banks,
And for her temple search which is no more.
And then incensed shall God the imperishable,
400 Who dwells on high, hurl thunderbolts from heaven
Down on the head of him that is impure.
And in the place of winter there shall be
In that day summer. And to mortal men
Shall then be great woe; for the Thunderer
405 Shall utterly destroy all shameless men
And with his thunders and with lightning-flames
And blazing thunderbolts men of ill-will,
And thus shall he destroy the impious ones,
So that there shall remain upon the earth
410 Dead bodies more in number than the sand.
For Smyrna also, weeping her Lycurgus,
Shall come unto the gates of Ephesus
And she herself shall perish even more.
And foolish Cyme with her inspired streams
415 Cast down by hands of godless men unjust
And lawless, shall to heaven not so much
As a word utter; but she shall remain
Dead in Cymæan streams. And then shall they
Together weep, awaiting evil things.

[396-398. These lines are cited by Clem. Alex., Cohort., iv [G., 8, 141].

414. Cyme.–Situated some fifteen miles north of Smyrna. Its rough populace (line 420) is said by Strabo (xiii, iii, 6) to have been ridiculed for their stupidity.]


420 Cyme’s rough populace and shameless tribe,
Having a sign, shall know for what they toiled.
And then, when they shall have bewailed their land
Reduced to ashes, by Eridanus
Shall Lesbos be forever overthrown.
425 Alas, Corcyra, city beautiful,
Alas for thee, cease from thy revelry.
Thou also, Hierapolis, sole land
With riches mixed, what thou hast longed to have
Thou shalt have, even a land of many tears,
430 Since thou wast angry towards a land beside
Thermodon’s streams. Rock-clinging Tripolis,
Beside the waters of Mæander, thee
Shall by the nightly surges under shore
God’s wrath and foresight utterly destroy.
435 Take me not, willing, to the neighboring land
Of Phœbus; sometime shall a thunderbolt
Dainty Miletus from above destroy,
Because she seized on Phœbus’ crafty song
And the wise care and prudent plan of men.
440 Father of all, be gracious to the land
Of Judah, well fed, fruit-abounding, great,

[423. Eridanus.–Usually understood as a mythical name of the river Po; but in this passage it is apparently intended as the name of a destructive sea-god. Comp. Hesiod, Theog., 338.

425. Corcyra.–City on an island of the same name off the coast of Epirus, identical with the modern Corfu.

427. Hierapolis.–Phrygia, not far from Laodicea and Colossæ.

431. Thermodon.–River of Pontus, emptying in the Euxine, Tripolis.–Northwest of Hierapolis, on the Mæander.

437. Miletus.–Said to have been founded by, and named after, a son of Phœbus (that is, Apollo; see note on book iv, line 5), and hence called land of Phœbus, as in this passage. According to Strabo (book xiv, i, 6), the Milesians invoke Phœbus as the dispenser of health and healer of diseases.]


In order that thy judgments we may see.
For thou, O God, in kindness didst regard
This land first that it might appear to be
445 Thy gracious gift unto all mortal men
And to hold fast what God put in their charge.
The works thrice wretched of the Thracians
I yearn to see, and wall between two seas
Trailed in the dust along beneath the mist,
450 Even like a river for the swimming fish.
O wretched Hellespont, sometime a child
Of the Assyrians shall throw a yoke
Across thee; battle of the Thracians comes
And shall despoil thy strength. And there shall rule
455 Over the land of Macedonia
A king of Egypt, and a barbarous clime
Shall waste the strength of captains. Lydians,
And the Galatians, and Pamphylians
With the Pisidians, all equipped for war
460 Shall in a mass bring evil strife to pass.
Thrice wretched Italy, then shalt remain
All-desolate, unwept, in blooming land
By deadly sting to perish utterly.
And sometime high in the broad heaven above
465 Like thunder-roaring shall God’s voice be heard.

[447. Works . . . of the Thracians.–Reference probably to the wall, mentioned in next line, built by Miltiades across the isthmus of the Thracian Chersonese. See Herodotus, book vi, 36.

452. Assyrians.–Here put for Persians, who occupied the Assyrian territory. The reference is manifestly to Xerxes, who bridged the Hellespont, as described by Herodotus, book vii, 34-36.

456. King of Egypt.–Lysimachus seems to be referred to, and is thought of as being Egyptian because of his marriage with Ptolemy’s daughter. The provinces of Asia Minor named in lines 457-459 were all involved in the wars of Lysimachus.]


And the unwasting flames of the sun himself
Shall be no more, nor shall the brilliant light
Of the moon again be in the latest time,
When God shall bc the ruler. And dark gloom
470 Shall be o’er all the earth, and blinded men
And evil beasts and woe; that day shall be
A long time, so that men shall see that God
Himself is Lord, the overseer of all
In front of heaven. And then will he himself
475 Not pity hostile men, who sacrifice
Their herds of lambs and sheep and calves and goats
And bellowing golden-horned bulls, offering them
To lifeless Hermæ and to gods of stone.
But let the law of wisdom be your guide
480 And the glory of the righteous; lest sometime
The imperishable God incensed destroy
Each race of men and shameless tribe of life,
It doth behoove them faithfully to love
The Father, the wise God who ever is.
485 In the last time, at the turning of the moon,
There shall be raging through the world a war
And carried on with cunning, and in guile.
And from the limits of the earth shall come
Fleeing and pondering sharp things in his mind,

[478. Hermæ.–statues surmounted with ahead of Hermes, the god of arts and of traffic. They were numerous in Athens and Rome, and many specimens are to be seen in the museums of Europe.

480-484. Cited by Lactantius, de Ira Dei, xxiii [L., 7, 144].

488-490. Reference to Nero, here conceived as returning from his flight beyond the Euphrates (see book iv, 156) and embodying the traits of the vile king described in Dan. viii, 23-25. This passage is quoted by Lactantius, de Morte Persec., ii [L., 7, 197], and he says that some persons of his own time understood it of Nero, who was supposed to be still living in Nero distant region whither he had been secretly conveyed.]


490 A matricidal man who every land
Shall overpower and over all things rule,
And see all things more wisely than all men;
And that for whose sake he himself was slain
Shall he seize forthwith. And he shall destroy
495 Many men and great tyrants and shall burn
All of them, as none other ever did,
And he shall raise up them that are afraid
For emulation’s sake. And from the West
Much war shall come to men, and blood shall flow
500 Down hill till it becomes deep-eddying streams.
And in the plains of Macedonia
Shall wrath distil and give help from the West,
But to the king destruction. And a wind
Of winter then shall blow upon the earth,
505 And the plain be filled with evil war again.
For fire shall rain down from the heavenly plains
On mortals, and therewith blood, water, flash
Of lightning, murky darkness, night in heaven,
And waste in war and o’er the slaughter mist,
510 And these together shall destroy all kings
And noblest men. Thus shall be made to cease
Then the destruction pitiable of war.
And no more shall one fight with swords or iron
Or even darts, which things shall not again
515 Be lawful. But wise people shall have peace,
Who were left, having made proof of wickedness,
That they might at the last be filled with joy.

[493. That for which he perished, and which the returning Nero would again seize, was the sovereignty.

501-503. The exact import of these lines is quite unintelligible, except that by various concurring forces the Nero antichrist is to be destroyed.]


Ye matricides, leave off your impudence
And evil-working boldness, who of old
520 provided lawlessly lewd couch with boys,
And placed as harlots maidens pure before
In brothels by assault and punishment
And by much-laboring indecency.
For in thee mother with her child did hold
525 Unlawful intercourse, and daughter was
With her own father wedded as a bride;
And in thee kings have their ill-fated mouth
Polluted, and in thee have wicked men
Found couch with cattle. Be in silence hushed,
530 Thou wicked city all-bewailed, possessed
Of revelry; for by thee virgin maids
Shall care no longer for the fire divine
Of sacred wood that fondly nourisheth;
Before thee was a much-loved house of old
535 Extinguished, when I saw the second house
Cast headlong down and overwhelmed with fire
By an unholy hand, house ever flourishing,
God’s watchful temple, brought forth of his saints
And being always indestructible,
540 By the soul hoped for and the body itself.
For not without the rites of burial
Shall one praise God out of the unseen earth,
Nor did wise workman make a stone by them,
Nor had he fear of gold, cheat of the world

[518. Infanticides.–The Romans are thus addressed, as if they were conceived in the Sibyl’s mind as so many Neros. Comp. line 490.

532. Fire divine.–This was kept burning in the temple of Vesta at Rome, and attended by six virgin priestesses known as Vestal virgins. The safety of the city was believed to depend on keeping this fire ever burning.

534. Loved house.–The temple in Jerusalem, laid waste first by the Chaldeans (2 Kings xxv, 8-11) and a second time by the Romans under Titus.]


545 And of souls, but the mighty Father, God
Of all things God-inspired, did he revere
With holy offerings and fair hecatombs.
But now an unseen and unholy king
With multitude great and with men renowned
550 Rose into power and cast his dwelling down
And let it go unbuilt. But he himself
When he set foot on the immortal land
Destroyed the ground. And such a sign no more
Was wrought upon men, so that it appeared
555 That others the great city should destroy.
For there came from the heavenly plains a man,
One blessed, with a scepter in his hand,
Which God gave him, and he ruled all things well,
And unto all the good did he restore
560 The riches which the earlier men had seized.
And many cities with much fire he took
From their foundations, and he set on fire
The towns of mortals who before did evil,
And he did make that city, which God loved,
565 More radiant than stars and sun and moon,
And he set order, and a holy house
Incarnate made, pure, very fair, and formed
In many stades a great and boundless tower
Touching the clouds themselves and seen by all,
570 So that all holy and all righteous men
Might see the glory of the eternal God,
A sight that has been longed for. Rising sun

[548. Unholy king.–The reference seems to be to Nero, under whom was begun the Jewish war which ended in the destruction of the temple. Comp. lines 187-209 above.

556-580. A Messianic passage depicting the ideal period of future glory, a golden age to come.

664-565. Cited by Lactantius, Div. Inst., vii, 24 [L., 6, 809].]


And setting day hymned forth the praise of God.
For there are then no longer fearful things
575 For wretched mortals, nor adulteries
And lawless love of boys, nor homicide
Nor tumult, but a righteous strife in all.
It is the last time of the saints when God
Accomplisheth these things, high Thunderer,
580 Founder of temple most magnificent.
Alas, alas for thee, O Babylon,
For golden throne and golden sandal famed,
Kingdom of many years and of the world
Sole ruler, who wast great in olden time
585 And city of all cities, thou no more
Shalt lie in golden mountains and by streams
Of the Euphrates; thou shalt be laid low
By rout of earthquake. But the Parthians dire
Caused thee to stiffer all things. Hold thou fast
590 Thy unknown speech, impure Chaldean race;
Ask not nor be concerned how thou shalt lead
The Persians or how thou shalt rule the Medes;
For on account of thy supremacy,
Which thou hadst, sending hostages to Rome
595 And serving Asia, thou that formerly
Didst also think thyself a queen, shalt come
Unto the judgment of antagonists,

[581. Babylon.–Here put for Ctesiphon on the Tigris, the metropolis of the Parthian Empire. This empire was one of the great powers of the East, and, after long conflict with the Syrian king, spread its dominion over western Asia, and very successfully resisted the Romans until the third century of our era.

594. Hostages to Rome.–A little while before the beginning of the Christian era the Parthian king Phraates sent four of his sons to Rome, and the Roman writers speak of them as hostages to Augustus. See Rawlinson, Sixth Oriental Monarchy, chap. xiii.]


Because of whom thou hast suffered baneful things;
And thou shalt give instead of crooked words
600 Bitter vexation to the enemies,
And in the last time shall the sea be dry
And ships no longer sail to Italy,
And Asia the great then, all-hapless, shall
Be water, and then Crete shall be a plain.
605 And Cyprus shall endure great misery
And Paphos shall bewail a dreadful fate,
So that even Salamis, great city, shall
Be seen to undergo great misery;
And now the dry land shall be fruitless sand
610 Upon the shore. And locusts not a few
Shall utterly destroy the Cyprian land.
Looking at Tyre, doomed mortals, ye shall weep.
Phœnicia, dreadful wrath remains for thee,
Until thou to a worthless ruin fall,
615 So that even Sirens truly may lament.
In the fifth generation, when the ruin
Of Egypt has ceased, it shall come to pass
That shameless kings shall be together joined,
And races of Pamphylians shall encamp
620 In Egypt, and in Macedonia
And in Asia and among the Libyans
Shall in the dust be a world-maddening war
Exceeding bloody, which the king of Rome
And rulers of the West shall make to cease.
625 When wintry storm shall drop down like the snow,
While frozen are great river and vast lakes,
Forthwith a barbarous race shall make their way

[615. Sirens . . . lament.–Terrible indeed must be a destruction which moves the cruel Sirens to lamentation.

616-624. This passage seems to refer to the series of wars in Europe, Asia, and Egypt which put an end to the Greek domination of the Orient.]


Into the Asian land and shall destroy
The race of dreadful Thracians, hard to quell.
630 And then shall mortals feeding lawlessly
Devour their parents, being by hunger worn,
And shall gulp down the entrails. And wild beasts
Shall devour from all houses table-food,
And they and birds all mortals shall devour.
635 The ocean with dead bodies shall be filled
From the river and be red with flesh and blood
Of the foolish ones. Then thus a feebleness
Shall be on earth, so that of men the number
May be seen and the measure of the women,
640 And the dire race shall wail for myriad things
At last when the sun sets to rise no more,
But to remain submerged in Ocean’s waves;
For it beheld the wickedness unclean
Of many mortals. And a moonless night
615 Shall be a fame around the mighty heaven,
And no small mist shall hide the world’s ravines
A second time; then afterwards God’s light
Shall guide the good men, who sang praise to God.
Isis, thrice wretched goddess, thou alone
650 Shalt on the waters of the Nile remain,
A Mænad out of order on the sands
Of Acheron, and no longer shall remain
Remembrance of thee over all the earth.
And also thou, Sarapis, who art placed
655 On many glistening stones, a ruin vast
Shalt thou in thrice unhappy Egypt lie.
But those whom love of Egypt led to thee

[649. Isis.–Comp. lines 75-84 above.

654. Sarapis.–Another Egyptian deity, like Isis, and having many attributes of Osiris.]


Shall all lament thee badly; but who put
Imperishable reason in their breast,
660 And who praised God, shall know thee to be naught.
And sometime shall a linen-vested man,
A priest, say: “Come, let us raise up of God
A beautiful true temple; come, let us
The fearful law of our forefathers change,
665 Because of which they did not understand
That they were unto gods of stone and clay
Making processions and religions rites.
Let us turn our souls, giving praise to God
The imperishable, who himself is Father,
670 The everlasting One, the Lord of all,
The true One, the King, life-sustaining Father,
The mighty God existing evermore.”
And then shall there a great pure temple be
In Egypt, and the people made by God
675 Shall into it their sacrifices bring.
And to them God shall give life incorrupt.
But when the Ethiopians, forsaking
The shameless tribes of the Triballians,
Shall cultivate their Egypt, they will then
680 Begin their baseness, that the later things

[673. Temple.–Commonly supposed to refer to the Jewish temple at Leontopolis in Egypt. See Josephus, Wars, vii, x, 2, 3; Ant., xiii, 3. Alexandre, however, controverts this explanation, and maintains that this writer, being subsequent to the closing of the temple at Leontopolis and the abolishing of its worship by order of the Roman emperor (Josephus, Wars, vii, x, 4), could not have thus spoken of this temple, nor prophesied its overthrow by Ethiopians. Hence the plausible supposition that the entire passage about a temple in Egypt is a poetical amplification of the prophecy of Isa. xix, 18-22.

678. Triballians.–These were a powerful and savage tribe near the Danube in Europe (comp. book xii, 91), and are here strangely associated with the Ethiopians. But probably both names are here used symbolically, like Gog and Magog in book iii, 193.]


May all occur. For they shall overthrow
The mighty temple of the Egyptian land;
And God shall rain down on the earth dire wrath
Among them, so that all the wicked ones
685 And all without sense perish. And no more
Shall there be any sparing in that land,
Because they did not keep that which God gave.
I saw the threatening of the shining Sun
Among the stars, and in the lightning flash
690 The dire wrath of the Moon; the stars travailed
With battle; and God gave them up to light.
For long fire-flames rebelled against the Sun;
Lucifer treading upon Leo’s back
Began the fight; and the Moon’s double horn
695 Changed its shape; Capricorn smote Taurus’ neck;
And Taurus took away from Capricorn
Returning day. Orion would no more
Abide his yoke; the lot of Gemini
Did Virgo change in Aries; no more shone
700 The Pleiads; Draco disavowed his zone;
Down into Leo’s girdle Pisces went.
Cancer remained not, for he feared Orion;
Scorpio down on dire Leo backwards moved;
And from the Sun’s flame Sirius slipped away;
705 And the strength of the mighty Shining One
Aquarius kindled. Uranus himself
Was roused, until he shook the warring ones;
And being incensed he hurled them down on earth.
Then swiftly smitten down upon the baths
710 Of Ocean they set all the earth on fire;
And the high heaven remained without a star.

[688-711. Comp. lines 282-291 and book viii, 261. Also Lactantius, Div. Inst., vii, 16 [L., 6, 192].]


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