Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

A prophetess of the god Apollo who formed a similar function to the Oracles in predicting the future, usually in an enigmatic and ambiguous form. There were anything up to 12 sibyls in the ancient world, the most famous being Amalthaea at Kume (Cumae), near modern Naples. According to Livy (59BC-AD17), Amalthaea maintained all her prophecies in nine books which she offered to Tarquin the Proud, king of Rome (616BC-578BC). He refused to pay the price she asked, so Amalthaea burned three of the books and a year later offered the remaining six at the same price. Again he refused and again she burned three. A year later he bought the final three at the full price. These became known as the Sibylline Books, and remained Rome's primary source of consulting the Gods until destroyed in a fire in 83BC. Wolfwinter (1972) by Thomas Burnett Swann is the story of the sibyl Erinna. [MA]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.