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(kyo͞o`mē), ancient city of Campania, Italy, near Naples. According to Strabo, it was the earliest Greek colony in Italy or Sicily, and it seems to have been founded c.750 B.C. by Chalcis. The area has yielded earlier non-Greek archaeological finds. Cumae founded a number of colonies and grew to be a great power. It repulsed Etruscan and Umbrian attacks, but fell in the late 5th cent. B.C. to the Samnites. Cumae supported Rome in the 2d cent. B.C. and adopted Roman culture; ultimately its inhabitants became Roman citizens. As neighboring cities rose to power, Cumae declined, although it did not disappear until the 13th cent. A.D. There are extensive Greek and Roman ruins, and the cavern where the famed Cumaean Sibyl (the priestess of Apollo mentioned by Vergil) uttered her prophecies may still be seen.
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Cumae (Italy)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Dating to the ninth century BCE, Cumae is an ancient city in southern Italy not far from Naples. It was founded originally as a Greek colony, and it became the center of a Greek-speaking nation in the region. In the second century BCE, the area was absorbed by Rome.

On the Italian Peninsula, Cumae was most famous as the home of a priestess of Apollo known as the Cumaean Sibyl (prophetess). The Sibyl lived in a cave and wrote her prophecies down on leaves, which she placed at the mouth of the cave. Followers collected these, and many bound them together to form books.

The most famous story of the Sibyl comes from the sixth century BCE, during the reign of Tarquin II (r. 535–510 BCE) of Rome. The Sibyl left her cave and brought nine volumes of her prophecies to Tarquin. She offered these for sale at what seemed too high of a price. When Tarquin refused her offer, she burnt three of the volumes and offered the surviving six volumes at the same price. Tarquin again turned down her offer. She then burnt three more volumes and offered the surviving volumes at the same price. Tarquin’s curiosity now got the best of him, and he bought the remaining Sibylline Prophecies.

These books became prized possessions of the Roman government to be consulted on important occasions, the somewhat enigmatic text being open to a variety of interpretations. The books were partially destroyed in a fire in 83 BCE, and the remainder survived until another fire claimed them in 405 CE.

Cumae continued to play a role on the Peninsula until it was destroyed and subsequently abandoned in 1205. The most prominent feature of the city was its Acropolis with its temple dedicated to Apollo, the remains of which were discovered in 1817. The Sibyl’s cave, with its 60-foot-high ceiling and 375-foot entranceway, was one of several that transversed the city’s Acropolis. Lost for many years, it was rediscovered in 1932. Today the Sibyl’s cave is one of a set of ancient sites included in the Cumae Archeological Park.


Fiego, G. Consoli. Cumae and the Phlegraean Fields. Naples: Mary E. Raiola, 1927.
Monteiro, Mariana. As David and the Sybils Say: A Sketch of the Sibyls and the Sibylline Oracles. Edinburgh/London: L. Sands & Co, 1905.
Temple, Robert K. G. Conversations with Eternity: Ancient Man’s Attempts to Know the Future. London: Rider, 1984.
Toker, Cyril. The Sibylline Books. Ponte Vedra Beach, FL: Cumaean Press, 1989.
The Encyclopedia of Religious Phenomena © 2008 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



an ancient Greek colony in Italy, on the coast of Campania. It was founded in the mid-eighth century B.C. by colonists from the island of Euboea. Cumae was the principal center for the diffusion of Greek culture among the Etruscans, Romans, and other Italian nationalities. The city attained considerable prosperity and power in the early fifth century B.C. A famous cave with the oracle of the prophetess Sibyl was located near the city. Conquered by the Romans in 338 B.C., Cumae subsequently received the status of a Roman municipium. During the rule of the Roman Empire, the city declined as a result of the development of the harbor of Puteoli. Under Emperor Augustus’ rule (from 27 B.C. to A.D. 14), Cumae was known as Colonia Julia. It was destroyed in the sixth century A.D. during Byzantium’s wars with the Ostrogoths.


Gabrici, E. Cuma, vols. 1–2. Rome, 1913–14.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.