The Sybil’s Prophecy… or Augustus’ (Christian?) Vision

April 7, 2014 / Art & Archaeology
Rome, Italy

Interested in taking a few walks through Rome, from either the comfort of your armchair or in person next time you’re here?!

ItalianNotebook is proud to promote “A Walk with the Emperors” by Mott Groom, in which the Emperors are your tour guides. Get some ancient gossip from Suetonius, as well as opinions from Virgil, Horace, Cicero, Pliny, and Tacitus! Other writers chime in too, such as Dante, Goethe, Gibbon, Shakespeare, and Machiavelli!

Available on Amazon, iTunes, and Barnes&Nobles.

The following is a passage from the book…

Occupying the northern summit of the Capitoline Hill is the 11th century Church of S.Maria in Aracoeli. It was originally erected in the 8th century on top of what was once the Citadel or Arx which included the Temple of Juno Moneta.

Bright goddess! The next day set you on your temple, where high Moneta lifts her slope sublime. Now Concordia, look kindly on the people of Latium, since consecrated hands have established our worship.
Ovid, Fasti

This was the place that Augustus consulted with the Sybil whether he should accept the deification the Senate was urging him to take.


While the Sybil prophesied, the Christian legend re-worked the Roman legend and says that Augustus saw the heavens open and the Virgin Mary appear holding the Christ child in her arms. This vision supposedly convinced Augustus not to accept the Senate’s offer of deification while he lived.

Early Church teachings combine the story of the appearance of the Virgin to Augustus with Virgil’s 4th Eclogue…

Now too returns the virgin,
Saturn’s rule returns
a new begetting now descends from heaven’s height.
O chaste Lucina, look with blessing on the boy
whose birth will end the iron race at last and raise a golden (bough) through the world.
Virgil, Eclogue IV

Whether Virgil intended that the “boy who would be born” would be the son of Antony and Octavia has been disputed for centuries. Emperor Constantine contended that the boy who would be born was Jesus Christ. Constantine actually translated Virgil’s Eclogue into Greek as part of his attempt to strengthen the Christian church.

An interesting aside? …nine hundred years after the reign of Constantine, the poet Dante too believed that Virgil had prophesied the coming of Christ. Dante thus felt that Virgil was a fitting guide to lead him through the Inferno to Paradise in the Divine Commedy…

Today’s note is just one of many similar Ancient Roman tidbits found in “A Walk With the Emperors: A Historic and Literary Tour of Ancient Rome,” available on Amazon, iTunes, and Barnes&Nobles.


Photo courtesy of Ricardo André Frantz, many thanks! (CC-SA-3.0)


by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

8 Responses to “The Sybil’s Prophecy… or Augustus’ (Christian?) Vision”

  1. Allan Mahnke

    Many thanks! That sounds like a fascinating book. It’s true that it is nearly impossible to read the 4th Eclogue and not be reminded of the Hebrew prophetic literature for those raised on those writings, even if Vergil would have said something like the Latin equivalent of, “Hunh?”

  2. Giuseppe Spano
    Giuseppe Spano

    if we read with discernment, we must question,that in which we put faith……

  3. Jane Aker

    Thank you for introducing me to Mott Groom and his fascinating book, A Walk With The Emperors. After years of reading about, and visiting Rome – I can’t wait to see it again with fresh thoughts, insights,and enthusiasms. Thank you!

  4. I can’t help wondering why Italian Notebook is promoting this particular book. Although it has an interesting approach to ancient Rome, it is VERY sloppily written: all kinds of errors of spelling, grammar and punctuation. Even the translations from ancient Roman writers have those kinds of errors. Where are copy editors when you need them?

    • Judith Testa – Because some people are so busy re-writing history, they can’t seem to get it out fast enough, never mind the errors and deceptive spins.

      • GB

        CR, wow, that’s quite a bold claim. Judith was speaking about typo and grammar errors (for which I take full responsibility). You seem to hold that there is…
        a) one or more factual (not typo) errors,
        and that
        b) said error or errors was/were done intentionally “to re-write history” and for “deceptive spins.”

        I think the right thing to do would be to validly back up both those claims please, or leave an apology for having made an unfounded accusation. I would like to think that ItalianNotebook is a place where we can have friendly and rational conversation even when we disagree with each other, much like a group of friends would in conversation over a meal together. Let’s keep ourselves to that standard please.

    • GB

      Hi Judith, we’re promoting this book because we think it’s interesting and we feel that the ItalianNotebook readership will enjoy learning about it (it also happens to be written by a friend and ItalianNotebook reader, so that’s kind of fun).
      As for the the typos and punctuation errors, I take full responsibility for them! I was not able to cut and paste the text directly from Mott’s book, but had to re-type the entire section. Any grammar errors are mine, so thanks in advance for pointing them out!


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