Lex Terentia: Authorizing Restoration of the Sibylline Books

(PROPOSED NOT RATIFIED)

BACKGROUND:

Princeps Senatus, as you know, this year the civitas has started to focus upon the Sacra Publica with renewed interest. We have inaugurated our first altar for the civitas, and Sacra Publica, Sarmatia, and Brittania are both actively working to establish their own similar altars. Further, now vote upon restoring the Collegium Pontificum! 

The Decemviri sacris faciundis, the priestly ancient collegia that tended to the sibylline books was a fundamental part of the Sacra Publica. When these books were destroyed in the third century AD, we lost a critical tool of communication between the civitas and the divine. A tragedy! 

We need the messages of the Gods more than ever as we embark upon restoring the Sacra Publica. Yes, we have much evidence on the old traditions. But we also lack much evidence. Historically mindful estimated guesses to “fill in the blanks” in the evidence is the only way forward. Yet, we must check with the Gods that such mortal and, therefore, potentially flawed guesses are correct. We can confirm with a simple “yes” or “no” response if our course of action is right through auspices facilitated by our augures. Though we cannot ascertain more detailed Godly instructions. Here modern sibylline books take a role.

The sibylline books were restored even in ancient Rome. So we have clear instructions from antiquity that this action is possible and how to go about doing it. The ancient books were kept in the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitol, and, when the temple burned in 83 BC, they were lost. The Roman Senate sent envoys in 76 BC to replace them with a collection of similar oracular sayings from respected oracles of the time. 

Since June I have started my own search for such oracles. My search led me to the Greek restorationist community. Several names were referred to me. But one stood out above the rest. A British expatriate, Mr. O’Del. He moved to modern Delphi in Greece in the early 2000s. There he has meditated on the Gods daily. He has devoted his entire life to the Gods and lives in Greece fulltime. He was featured in a popular documentary I Still Worship Zeus (2004). He is, in my opinion, the closest thing the modern world has to an ancient oracle as sought by the ancient Senate in 76 BC.

After four weeks of attempting to contact Mr. O’Del I finally succeeded. He was initially reluctant to help us due to our Roman nature as his Hellenic focus. Yet after explaining and showing him the work we were doing, he seemed genuinely impressed. This resulted in him offering to create three new sibylline books for a total of a minimum of 1400 lines of prose. He was clear in describing this project being one of considerable work. He stated it would take approximately 140 separate ceremonies and subsequent ocular meditations at Delphi and around Greece over a period of 5-10 months. Mr. O’Del was generous in offering to do all this work at cost as a gift to the Roman Republic. The material cost of offerings and any travel for nearly a year of ocular readings was quoted at $500.00. 

Considering this was a private project and one that had risk associated with it, I did not approach the Roman Republic to bear this cost. Instead, I approached our sacerdotes privately. The project was warmly received by all six sacerdotes who responded. With much gratitude, Sacerdos P. Iunius Brutus agreed to fund $250 of the cost. Similarly, Consul Sex. Decius Mus, Tribune Spurius Gallonius Catulus, and I contributed $83. 1/4 of the payment was made to Mr. O’Del after these donations were received. The agreement is that after the completion of each of the three books, 1/4 more is released to Mr. O’Del.

Mr. O’Del has communicated periodically over this time. Usually, once a week providing updates. He claims to spend must of his time without internet access in the spring and summer traveling in the wilderness of Greece reflecting on the Gods. Based on his regular but periodic communication, this seems to indeed be the case. I am pleased to report that he has completed the first book of 511 lines of prose. I must also say it is beautifully written. I would share the first book with you all; however, considering our ancestors did not widely circulate this book, I am reluctant to do so now. To allow the Senate to examine and verify the work, I am happy to send the first book to our Princeps Senatus and Consules for examination. 

In this Lex, I seek to have the Senate officially take the first steps towards restoring the sibylline books and the Decemviri sacris faciundis for our sacra publica.

CONTENT OF LEX:

I. The Senate authorizes the work performed by Mr. O’Del in Achaia et Macedonia Provincia to be included in the works regarded as the restored sibylline books to be considered the sacred equivalent to those purchased on behalf of the Roman people by Rex Lucius Tarquinius Superbus in the sixth century BC and to those restored books gathered in the first century BC by the ancient senate.

II. Acceptance of each book as sacred is to only be granted upon auspices conducted by a Consul or Praetor with the assistance of an augur of the Respublica.

III. The books are to be the property of the Roman Republic Cultural group and their content only to be accessible to those individuals authorized by the Senate and any future Collegium Pontificum or priestly college created by the senate to tend to the restored books.

IV. The content of the books are to be transcribed onto physical scrolls which are to be regarded as sacred and property of the Gods and held in the trust of the Roman Republic Cultural Group Inc., upon auspices conducted by a Consul or Praetor with the assistance of an augur of the Respublica.

V. Upon auspices described in II and IV, the Senate authorizes 1000 denarii being transferred to citizen P. Iunius Brutus, and 332 denarii being transferred to citizens, Sex. Decius Mus, Spurius Gallonius Catulus and Ti. Terentius Varro. This is to recognize the material costs born by these citizens in securing these books for the Respublica. This denarii shall come from the treasury of the Senate.

V. This lex is to approved by a majority of the centuries responding in the comitia centuriata and the senate. Upon which it takes effect immediately. It may only be descended by majority resolution by both the comitia centuriata and senate. Further, if a Collegium Pontificum or other priestly college dedicated to the books exists and is recognized by the senate, these priestly groups must authorize rescinding of this lex.

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