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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.

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.



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.
References in periodicals archive ?
Aeneas had requested that the Sibyl of Cumae not write her carmina ("songs") on leaves to be scattered by the wind but rather to recite them aloud (Aeneid 6.
Some specific chapter topics include the Aeneid and Greek epic, Dante's Vergil in limbo, the critical reception of the Aeneid, the innocence of Italy the Aeneid, and Vergil and the sibyl of Cumae.
So, on the basis we're unlikely to find the Sybil of Cumae wandering down Old Hall Street, I think I'll stick my own neck out and make a very cautious prediction: no rise in rates until next year.
The story is old-school mythology, with the goddess Diana displeased with her adherents in the city of Cumae, ordering two lovers sacrificed annually to a monster until a faithful swain offers to replace them.
The three books of Elegies, written in the favorite meter of Latin love poets, speak of many serious subjects, and include a striking poem reflecting on the ruins of ancient Cumae as symptomatic of the transitory nature of all human existence.
The Sibyl of Cumae, wooed by Apollo, was offered a year of life for every grain of sand she could gather in one hand.
In The Waste Land-which, it should be noted, originally opened with an epigraph not from chapter forty-eight of the Satyricon by Petronius but Joseph Conrad's The Heart of Darkness--encounter several seers: The Sibyl of Cumae, Tiresias, and "Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyant," to name just three, each of whom formerly had transcendent perspective but now has only limited perception tempered by the knowledge of what it was like to see and understand everything.
In Larry Levis's poem "Elegy with A Thimbleful of Water in the Cage," the poet's friend tells of the Sibyl of Cumae, granted eternal life but without youth, withering smaller with age, but protected in a bird's cage, passed down generation to generation, even into the recent past.
The accountant's report on the daily activities on Trimalchio's estate at Cumae (53.
It follows the lengthy odyssey of Aeneas after the fall of Troy to Italy where at Cumae Aeneas is granted the privilege of visiting his father in the underworld.
Presumably, the girl became Sybil in response to the greatest alteration of the plot that her entrance entailed, for her name suggests her namesake of Cumae, who, when asked what she wished for, said: "I wish to die.