Zonaras 7.11 Part I: Knowledge Purchased Unwillingly, Sold Illegally

Superbus buys the Sibylline Books; Marcus Acillius executed

“Tarquinius Superbus handed the prophecies of the Sibyl down to the Romans unwillingly. For a certain prophetess, whom the Romans called the Sibyl, came to Rome bearing either three or nine books, which she gave Tarquinius the chance to purchase as explained their importance. When he paid no heed to her, she burnt either one or three of the books. When Tarquinius again dishonored her, she burnt the same portion of the remaining books. As she was about to burn the rest, the augurs compelled Tarquinius to purchase the remaining books, which he purchased for the same price which he would have paid for the full number of books. He then entrusted them to the guardianship of two senators. Because they did not entirely understand what was written, they sent to Greece and paid two men there to study and interpret the texts. The nearby inhabitants, wishing to know what was explained in the books, bought off Marcus Acillius and transcribed some of the text. Once the crime of Marcus was detected, he was put into a leather sack and thrown into the sea. Subsequently, this was the prevalent punishment used against patricides, so that neither the land, nor the water, nor the sun would be polluted by their deaths.”

Τοὺς δὲ τῆς Σιβύλλης χρησμοὺς ῾Ρωμαίοις καὶ ἄκων προσεποιήσατο. γυνὴ γάρ τις θεόμαντις, ἣν Σίβυλλαν ὠνόμαζον, ἐς τὴν ῾Ρώμην ἐλήλυθε βιβλία τρία ἢ ἐννέα φέρουσα, καὶ ταῦτα πρίασθαι τῷ Ταρκυνίῳ ἐδίδου καὶ τὴν τιμὴν τῶν βιβλίων ὡρίσατο. ἐκείνου δὲ μὴ προσεσχηκότος αὐτῇ, τὸ ἓν ἢ τὰ τρία τῶν βιβλίων κατέκαυσεν. ὡς δ’ αὖθις ὠλιγώρει αὐτῆς ὁ Ταρκύνιος, κἀκ τῶν λοιπῶν ὁμοίως διέφθειρε. μελλούσης δὲ καὶ τὰ ἔτι λοιπὰ καταφλέξειν, ἠνάγκασαν αὐτὸν οἱ οἰωνισταὶ τὰ γοῦν σωζόμενα πρίασθαι. καὶ ὠνήσατο ταῦτα ὅσου τὰ πάντα κτήσασθαι ἔμελλε, καὶ δύο βουλευταῖς ἀνδράσι φυλάσσειν παρέδωκεν. ὡς δ’ οὐ πάνυ τῶν γεγραμμένων συνίεσαν, εἰς τὴν ῾Ελλάδα στείλαντες δύο ἄνδρας ἐκεῖθεν μισθοῦ ἤγαγον τοὺς ἀναγνωσομένους ταῦτα καὶ ἑρμηνεύσοντας. οἱ δὲ περίοικοι μαθεῖν ἐθελήσαντες ὅ,τι ποτὲ τὸ διὰ τῶν βιβλίων εἴη δηλούμενον, τὸν ἕτερον τῶν φυλασσόντων αὐτὰ Μάρκον ᾿Ακίλλιον χρήμασιν ἀναπείσαντες μετεγράψαντό τινα. γνωσθέντος δὲ τοῦ ἔργου ὁ Μάρκος βύρσαις δύο συρραφείσαις ἐμβληθεὶς κατεποντώθη, ὃ ἐξ ἐκείνου μετέπειτα κατὰ τῶν πατροκτόνων ἐπεκράτησε γίνεσθαι, ἵνα μήτε ἡ γῆ μήτε τὸ ὕδωρ μήτε ὁ ἥλιος μιανθῇ αὐτοῦ θνήσκοντος.

2 thoughts on “Zonaras 7.11 Part I: Knowledge Purchased Unwillingly, Sold Illegally

  1. My wife fell in love with a certain house. We went to see the owner, earnest money in hand. He made a cup of coffee for himself and didn’t offer me one. We knew we would be able to sell our current home quickly; he doubted it and refused to do business with us. Three months later our house was sold and the load approved. That house was still for sale. My wife still really wanted it. I told her the story about Tarquinius Superbus and the Sibyl. This time he offered me a cup of coffee! We paid $5,000 less than we originally offered. it does pay to be a mythologist!


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