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  • Sibilla Erithea Babilonica: Papsttum und Prophetie im 13. Jahrhundert
  • David Burr
Sibilla Erithea Babilonica: Papsttum und Prophetie im 13. Jahrhundert. By Christian Jostmann. [Monumenta Germaniae Historica: Schriften, Band 54.] (Hannover: Hahnsche Buchhandlung. 2006. Pp. xviii, 549. E60,00.)

Jostmann's subject is a prophecy claiming to be that of the Erythrean Sybil, uttered at the request of the Greeks during the Trojan war, and he provides the fullest study of this vaticinium produced to date. He begins with a careful historiography of modern scholarship on the work, from the first critical edition by Charles Alexandre in 1856 to recent work by Sabine Schmolinsky, Paul Alexander, and others. Jostmann's survey in this chapter leads him to a basic question about the unity of the text: Should one see a work like the longer version of the Erithrean oracle as a text belonging to a specific time written by one or more authors with a specific intention, or should one see it as "a progressively growing conglomerate of prophecies" in which over time many people with different attitudes and goals might have a hand? He suggests that the manuscript history of the work might provide an answer to this question, and thus in the following chapter he turns to that subject, adding a short excursus in which for comparison he addresses the manuscript history of the Verba Merlini.

The result of this examination is, in Jostmann's words, that "the textual history of the Erithrean Sybil is simpler than one might have expected considering the great number of manuscripts."There are, nonetheless, not only a longer and shorter version of the prophecy but two redactions of each. We know that one redaction of the shorter version (K1) was in circulation during the 1240s, while one redaction of the longer version (L1) can be traced to 1249.We also know that K1 is older than L1. (In the appendix, he presents editions of K1, K2 and L2.We must still go to Holder-Egger for an edition of L1.) On the whole, though, the textual history of the work tells us little unless it is bolstered by the reception history, and that is where Jostmann now turns, dealing at length with Alexander Minorita, Matthew Paris, and the pseudo-Joachite Expositio super Sibillis et Merlino, then more briefly with other matters. Here again, he cannot trace the work back earlier than the thirteenth century.

That brings Jostmann to the fourth and longest section, an extended commentary on the entire work which leads to the conclusion that the vaticinium stems from the 1240s, and from the pen of a Latin writer in Italy. Recourse to [End Page 336] a hypothetical Greek or Syrian prototype is unnecessary once we recognize that the shorter version is the older one and that it is masterfully constructed in three parts. The first presents world history from the Trojan war to the fourth crusade, seen as a continuing battle between Greeks and Latins; the second presents church history from incarnation to eschaton, tracing the battle against Islam, heresy, and Antichrist; while the third deals with the Hohenstaufen and their eschatological role. We have here several battles, all part of the same great religious struggle.

The shorter version was produced in 1241 and the longer in 1249. (Jostmann suggests a precise historical occasion for each.) Far from being the product of some wild-eyed, hitherto-undiscovered group of Joachites, the vaticinium is written from the standpoint of the papal court. Jostmann even has some ideas on who in the curia might be prime candidates for authorship. [End Page 337]

David Burr
Blacksburg, Virginia


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