"«Nam Sibyllam quidem ..." comments of Fabrizio Frosini

Friday, January 23, 2015
«Nam Sibyllam quidem Cumis ego ipse oculis meis vidi in ampulla pendere, et cum illi pueri dicerent: Σίβυλλα τί θέλεις; respondebat illa: ἀποθανεῖν θέλω.» ************************************************************************************************************************ - It is quoted by T.S. Eliot in 'The Waste Land' (1922) - - - The quote refers to the mythic Cumaean Sibyl who bargained with Apollo, offering her virginity for years of life totaling as many grains of sand as she could hold in her hand. But, after spurning his love, he allowed her to wither away over the span of her near-immortality, as she forgot to ask for eternal youth. - The Satyricon tells of the misadventures of a former gladiator through the Roman Empire in the first century A.D. Only fragments of the story still exist. The scene Eliot quotes occurs during a feast at the villa of a wealthy buffoon named Trimalchio. - Sibyl of Cumae was a prophetess in service to Apollo and a great beauty. Apollo wished to take her as his lover and offered her anything she desired. She asked to live for as many years as there were grains in a handful of dust. Apollo granted her wish, but still she refused to become his lover. In time, Sibyl came to regret her boon as she grew old but did not die. She lived for hundreds of years, each year becoming smaller and frailer, Apollo having given her long life but not eternal youth. - When Trimalchio speaks of her in the Satyricon, she is little more than a tourist attraction, tiny, ancient, confined, and longing to die. - - Secondo la leggenda, Apollo le aveva promesso di esaudire qualunque suo desiderio in cambio del suo amore; ella gli chiese di poter vivere altrettanti anni quanti erano i granelli di sabbia che poteva tenere nella sua mano. Trascurò, tuttavia, di domandare al dio anche l'eterna giovinezza, che Apollo le offrì in cambio della sua verginità. In seguito al rifiuto la Sibilla Cumana iniziò ad invecchiare e a rinsecchire fino ad assomigliare ad una cicala e a essere appesa in una gabbia del tempio di Apollo, a Cuma. In queste condizioni la Sibilla aveva un solo desiderio: la morte..
Fabrizio Frosini
Gaius Petronius Arbiter (c.27 - 66 AD) , 'Satyricon', XLVIII.
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