Tiburtine Sibyl

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The Tivoli Falls. Etching by George Loring Brown
Vision of Augustus and the Tiburtine Sibyl in: Schedelsche Weltchronik , 1493

The Tiburtine Sibyl is one of the ten sibyls differentiated by the Roman writer Varro according to lactance , each with a geographical epithet . It became one of the most famous interpretations of pagan seers in the Western Middle Ages .

The surname of the Sibyl is said to indicate Tibur (now Tivoli), a city near Rome. However, there is hardly any direct reference to a Sibyl especially in this place in Greek and Roman sources from antiquity . Lactant gives this Sibyl of Tibur another nickname, Albunea . This can be attributed to a nymph of this name who was also worshiped by Tibur for oracles in ancient times . or generally as a reference to the sources long known there as Albulae Aqua

Even today you can find a temple district in Tivoli with two temples at the waterfalls of Anio . Even if the rectangular temple is traditionally referred to as the Temple of the Sibyl , it is unclear which temple was actually dedicated to the Sibyl.

Like all sibyls, the Tiburtine Sibyl arose from myth and legend of antiquity. Nevertheless, the figure of the medieval Tiburtine Sibyl has only the name and a few characteristics in common with the seers and Sibylline books of antiquity.

In the Middle Ages, the “most distinguished diviner” , known as the Tiburtine Sibyl , was next to the Sibyl of Erythrai one of the most famous pagan prophetic seers among scholars and among the people , because, according to legend , she interpreted a dream vision for the pagan emperor Augustus, inspired by Christianity .

According to this legend, the courtiers wanted to worship the Emperor Augustus as a god. Because he was uncomfortable with it, he had the Sibyl of Tibur come, who showed him an apparition in heaven on the very day of Jesus Christ's birth, a beautiful woman with child who was sitting on an altar. The Sibyl told the emperor that this child was bigger than him. Thereupon the emperor fell on his knees and adored the child.

The legend is known as the founding legend of the Roman basilica Santa Maria in Aracoeli and is first described in the Legenda aurea . As the “Vision of Augustus and the Sibyl”, it was extremely popular through its frequent pictorial representations in churches until the late Middle Ages and was also included in the numerous salvation mirrors and world chronicles in popular language.

Other earlier interpretations of the figure of the Tiburtine Sibyl are texts with political prophecies that were widespread from the 11th century under her Latin name Sibylla Tiburtina . These pretended to predict the role of the empire in an expected apocalyptic world judgment.

In the Renaissance , the prophetic expectation of God of all sibyls was emphasized more generally , as a group of seeing women. However, there is z. For example in the Raphael Rooms there is a smaller representation of their legend of Augustus' vision.

In Gothic and Renaissance art , based on the Varro list, a number of sibyls are represented, often together with an often equal number of prophets from the Old Testament, including a seer who can be identified as a `` Tiburtine Sibyl '', e.g. . B. in Ulm a Gothic half-sculpture in the choir stalls of the cathedral, as one of ten sibyls, in the total work of art with numerous ancient scholars and prophets.

As a single representation in connection with the interpretation of the vision of Augustus, it can be seen especially in the late Gothic epoch. B.

It is not included in what is probably the best-known depiction of Sibyls in the Renaissance fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican .


  • Thomas Blisniewski : Emperor Augustus and the Sibyl of Tibur. A picture of the Master of Glorification Mariae in the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum - Fondation Corboud. In: Cologne Museum Bulletin. Reports and research from the museums of the City of Cologne (3) 2005, pp. 13–26
  • Hannes Möhring : The world emperor of the end times. Origin, change and effect of a thousand-year prophecy (= Middle Ages research. Volume 3). Thorbecke, Stuttgart 2000, ISBN 3-7995-4254-X , pp. 17–53 ( digitized version ) (on the medieval versions of the Tiburtine Sibyl).
  • Arianna Pascucci: L'iconografia medievale della Sibilla Tiburtina. Liceo classico statale "Amedeo di Savoia", Tivoli 2011, ISBN 978-88-97368-00-7 , online
  • The review of the book Nel segno della Sibilla Tiburtina , 2013 [1]

Web links

Commons : Tiburtine Sibyl  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Excerpt from the divine instructions , 5th chapter. In: Des Lucius Caelius Firmianus Lactantius writings . Translated from Latin by Aloys Hartl. Munich 1919 (Library of the Church Fathers, 1st row, Volume 36).
  2. See e.g. B. Albunea , in: Wilhelm Vollmer: Dictionary of Mythology . Stuttgart 1874, p. 25.
  3. See e.g. B. Ovid , Fasti 2,389.
  4. See e.g. B. albulus . In Karl Ernst Georges: Comprehensive Latin-German concise dictionary. Hannover 1913 (reprint Darmstadt 1998), Volume 1, Col. 290.
  5. See: JE Wannenmacher: Review of: Holdenried, A .: The Sibyl and her Scribes. Manuscripts and Interpretation of the Latin Sibylla Tiburtina c. 1050-1500. Aldershot 2006 . In: H-Soz-u-Kult, April 11, 2007.
  6. ^ So the Schedelsche Weltchronik : Das fiveft Alter , XCIII verso.
  7. Legenda Aurea Cap 6 de nativ. Domini.
  8. Speculum Humanae Salvationis or Speculum Humane Salvationis .
  9. E.g. in the Schedelsche Weltchronik from 1493.
  10. See in particular E. Sackur: Sibyllinische texts and research . Halle 1898, reprint Turin 1963 and A. Holdenried: The Sibyl and her Scribes: Manuscripts and Interpretation of the Latin 'Sibylla Tiburtina' c. 1050-1500 . Ashgate, 2007, ISBN 978-0-7546-3375-4 .