Uit: I, Claudius
“This is a confidential history. But who, it may be asked, are my confidants?
My answer is: it is addressed to posterity. I do not mean my great-grandchildren, or my great-great- grandchildren: I mean an extremely remote posterity.
Yet my hope is that you, my eventual readers of a hundred generations ahead, or more, will feel yourselves directly spoken to, as if by a contemporary: as often Herodotus and Thucydides, long dead, seem to speak to me. And why do I specify so extremely remote a posterity as that? I shall explain.
I went to Cumae, in Campania, a little less than eighteen years ago, and visited the Sibyl in her cliff cavern on Mount Gaurus. There is always a Sibyl at Cumae, for when one dies her novice-attendant succeeds; but they are not all equally famous. Some of them are never granted a prophecy by Apollo in all the long years of their service. Others prophesy, indeed, but seem more inspired by Bacchus than by Apollo, the drunken nonsense they deliver; which has brought the oracle into discredit. Before the succession of Deiphobe, whom Augustus often consulted, and Amalthea, who is still alive and most famous, there had been a run of very poor Sibyls for nearly three hundred years. The cavern lies behind a pretty little Greek temple sacred to Apollo and Artemis–Cumae was an Aeolian Greek colony. There is an ancient gilt frieze above the portico ascribed to Daedalus, though this is patently absurd, for it is no older than five hundred years, if as old as that, and Daedalus lived at least eleven hundred years ago; it represents the story of Theseus and the Minotaur whom he killed in the Labyrinth of Crete. Before being permitted to visit the Sibyl I had to sacrifice a bullock and a ewe there, to Apollo and Artemis respectively. It was cold December weather.
The cavern was a terrifying place, hollowed out from the solid rock, the approach steep, tortuous, pitch-dark and full or bats. I went disguised, but the Sibyl knew me. It must have been my stammer that betrayed me. I stammered badly as a child and though, by following the advice of specialists in elocution, I gradually learned to control my speech on set public occasions, yet on private and unpremeditated ones, I am still, though less so than formerly, liable every now and then to trip nervously over my own tongue: which is what happened to me at Cumae.”
Robert Graves (24 juli 1895 – 7 december 1985)
Derek Jacobi als Claudius in de BBC-serie uit 1976