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and his friend Justin who cited them, if he had been able. It ought however to be observed, that some persons, of at least as much learning and as much judgment as he, have suspected the genuineness of the Cohortatio.
The Sibylline oracles seem to have been all, from first to last, and without any one exception, mere im- . postures.
We have a collection of them in eight books, which abound with phrases, words, facts, and passages taken from the LXX. and the New Testament, and are a remarkable specimen of astonishing impudence, and miserable poetry.
It was a pleasant conceit of Possevin, in his Apparatus sucer, that a choice ought to be made of passages froin these oracles, with proper notes, which might be used in schools. It would greatly perplex any inan of learning to make a choice where all is so bad; he would be like Buridan's ass, between two bundles of musty hay.
Is. Vossius, the patron of Sibylline Oracles, forged, as he pretended, by divinely inspired Jews, would yet have given them up as bad compositions, and void of all elegance. Siquis, says he, Graccos qui supersunt Jud'eorun consulut versus, prorsus illos similes fuisse inveniet, ac fuere veterum Christianorum carmina, que, si unum et alterum excipias, istiusmodi sunt, ut Scaliger sibi in sterquilinio versari videretur, quotiescunque ad ea legen:la se conferret. De Sibyll. c. 9.
This is true enough: Nor does he attempt to defend the present collection. Qure olim a Patribus Christianis lecta fuere, et etiumnum supersunt et leguntur oracula, longe a me abest ut omnia ea ejusdem generis et auctoritatis esse existimem, ac fuere cu de quibus hactenus sumus locuti. In his
quippe quæ Christi nutivitatem præcessere Sibyllinis,
ea solum continebuntur, quce er Prophetarum scriptis depromta essent vuti-na. At vero in illis, quie vulgo leguntur, ea quoque occurrunt, que non ab aliis, quam ab dis, potuerunt conscribi, qui centum et viginti demum annis Christo fuere posteriores. And he concludes that the old oracles were enlarged and interpolated by Christians. c. 8.
Mention is made by various writers of a Sibyl, who prophesied before the Trojan war, and from whom Homer took many lines, and particularly this prophecy, 11. 7. 307.
Νυν δε δ Αινείαο βίη Τρώεσσιν αναξε,
Και σαϊδες σαίδων, τοι κεν μετόπισθε γένωνται. Which Virgil thus imitates, and accommodates to his own plan:
Hic domus Æneæ cunctis dominabitur oris,
Et nati natorum, et qui nascentur ab illis. Others have said that Homer hinself was endued with a prophetic spirit when he wrote those lines. 0. thers have observed a great affinity of style between Homer and the Sibylline verses, and thence have concluded that the poet was a plagiary *. Strange! that men of letters could talk at this idle rate. Of all the ancient poets, llomer, who has a great simplicity, is perhaps the most easy to be imitated in point of bare diction and versification, and many persons are capable of closely copying him, or some other poet, as to style and numbers, who have no bright genius or invention, and are incapable of composing an elegant poem: but after all, the Sibylline oracles are just as
• Clemens Alexandrinus charges Homer with taking verses from Orpheus and Muszus, instead of suspecting that these were later writers, under false names, who pillaged Homer. Strom. vi. p. 738.751,
like Homer, as the Epistolce Obscurorum Virorüm are like Cicero's Epistles to Atticus.
Homer's prophecy is indeed remarkable, and might afford some observations not quite so childish as those above mentioned. may conjecture,
1. That the poet went to Troy, i. e, to the region so called, and carefully surveyed the place, and the country about it; and indeed in his Ilias, he paints and describes *, as one who knew every spot of ground:
2. That the residue of the Trojans, after the departure of the Greeks, assembled together, and settled in their own country, under Æneas :
3. That when Homer came to Troy, a prince reigncd there who was descended from Æneas, and might be his grand-son :
4. That this prince treated Homer kindly, and gave him some memoirs and informations concerning the Trojan chiefs, and particularly concerning his own ancestor :
5. That therefore Homer frequently celebrates Æneas as the son of a goddess, a warrior of great bravery, and of an amiable character, and one much favoured and beloved by the gods : he also mentions some particularities concerning him, as that Priamust did not love and honour him according to his deserts :
6. That Homer lived at least ninety years after the Trojan war.
The most ancient writer who speaks of the Sibyl is Heraclitus, about 500 years before Christ, after which
"Εσι δέ τις προπάροιθε πόλεως ειπεία κολώνη. ΙΙ. Β. 8ΙΙ.
II. N. 460.
she and her predictions are mentioned by Aristophanęs, Plato, Aristotle, and who not.
The sum of the judgment which Fabricius, after a diligent examination, formed upon this subject is as follows:
I. Nothing is more uncertain than what is related of the number of Sibyls, whether there was one or more.
II. Concerning the Sibyls, sume think that they were inspired of God; others thut they were possessed by evil spirits; others that they were assisted by a strong imagination and enthusiasm, and a kinil of natural divination ; to which must be added a fourth opinion, that these orgcles were ali fraud and hum'ın imposture, and that if any of them were ever fulfilled, it was by hazard,
III. It seems an assertion too confident, to ascribe all the prophecies of the Sibyl and of other Pagans to knwery or chance, and it is more reasonable to suppose, that sometimes there might be something preternatural in the
IV. In the time of Cicero, there were some Sibylline orucles which weere Acrosţiehs, and which, as Cicero observes, were the labour of a plodding impostor, and not the prophecy of an inspired person,
V. The Romans had Sibylline oracles in the time of their kings, which were kept with greit care in the capitul, and consulted afterwards upon important occasions. They were burned with the capitol, A. U. C. 670. and the Rumuns got a new collection from various places.
VI. This second collection was burnt by Stilicho in the time of Honorius.
VII. Besides these collections, there were other Sibylbine orucles made and handed about from time to time. VIII. In Virgil's fourth Eclogne ; Ultima Cumæi venit jam carminiş ætas :
Carmen Cumæum probably means Hesiod's poem, as Probus thinks, and ultima ætas is the same as prima, and means the Saturnian times, and the golden age : Or, ultima ætas means the last, the iron age ; and then venit is fuit, præteriit is passed and gone. Virgil took nothing here from the Sibylline Oracles.
IX. Our present collection contains not the books which were offered to Tarquin;
X. Nor the second set of oracles which were brought to Rome;
XI. Nor those oracles which were received by the Pagans.
XII. Nothing contained in it ought to be admitted as made before the birth of Christ, unless we can find as ancient vouchers for it.
XIII. There are in this collection some lines which the author took from old Pagan Oracles, from Homer, Orpheus, and other poets :
XIV. But much is taken from the Old and New Testament.
XV. It contains not all the Sibylline Oracles, of which the fathers made use, but it has the greater part of them.
XVI. These oracles were forged in the first, second, and third centuries, not by Pagans, or Jews, but by heretics or orthodox Christians; not by the fathers, but by some unknown persons.
XVII. There was no law which made it a capital crime to read these Sibylline oracles.
Such is the sentiment of Fabricius, who would have granted that there is not extant one Sibylline oracle, upon which we can depend as upon a prophecy fairly uttered before the event, and plainly accomplished. I see not why we should have a more favourable opinion of those which are lost.