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American Philological Association

The Development of the Decemviri Sacris Faciundis Author(s): Aline Abaecherli Boyce Reviewed work(s): Source: Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, Vol. 69 (1938), pp. 161-187 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/283175 . Accessed: 10/03/2012 06:15Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected]

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Vol. lxix]

Decemviri Sacris Faciundis



Development of the Decemviri Sacris FaciundisALINE ABAECHERLI BOYCEANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN

The early traditions of the duumviri and the Sibylline Books bear the marks of both legend and history. Sifted from the accounts of the origin of the libri and from other traditions of the regal period, the following statements can be regarded as true. 1. There were oracular statements current in Italy in the regal period.' 2. One of the Tarquins, like other kings in antiquity, was interested in oracles.2 3. Oracles were stored in the Capitoline temple in the form of compiled libri and inscriptions.3 4. There were OiXaKes in whose care these treasures were entrusted.4 These statements, substantiated individually by a variety of evidence, when taken together demonstrate a strong possibility of state control over such oracles as came into the king's hands in the later regal periodHerodotus 1.167 attests relations between Caere and Delphi. It is inconceivable that oracles were unknown in S. Italy as well as in Etruria. The earlier books of Dionysius of Halicarnassus contain many references to oracular sayings in Italy (1.19 (cf. Macrob. 1.7.28); 1.23-25; 1.40; 1.49; 1.55; 1.66; 3.67; 7.68; 8.37). For many of these Dionysius cites his authorities. 2 Dion. Hal. 4.62 (cf. Tarquin's interest in the meaning of the prodigy in 4.59-61); Lact. Inst. Div. 1.6. The appointment of the guardians is in strong contrast to the first indifference of Tarquin to the libri. I do not insist on the truth of the details of the story, however. 3 Serv. ad Aen. 6.72 (Begoe); Lact. Inst. Div. 1.6.12-13; cf. Tibull. 2.5.69-70 (Albunea); see also Wissowa in Pauly-Wissowa, R.E. II, 194, s.v. Begoe and I, 1337, s.v. Albunea. The libri called fatales, whether the whole collection or separate books, belong here. On the character of the collection see G. Bloch, in Daremberg-Saglio, Diet., "duumviri s. f.," 11.1.434. For an oracle from Dodona, recorded as an inscription and kept in the temple of Jupiter, see Dion. Hal. Ant. Rom. 1.19; cf. Macrob. 1.7.28. 4 Dion. Hal. Ant. Rom. 4.62; 6.17. Dionysius speaks of their duty as a 4vXaKi. These men, like the pontifices and augurs of this period (J. B. Carter, "The Reorganization of the Roman Priesthoods at the Beginning of the Republic," Memoirs Amer. Acad. in Rome I [1917], 9-17 were merely advisors to the king. Under the Republic they became a senatorial commission with certain sacerdotal privileges, e.g., appointment for life.


Aline A baecherli Boyce


of Roman history. That the libri Sibyllini were part of the organization which centered in the temple of the Capitoline Triad has been held before.5 Attention has been called, furthermore, to a parallel and contemporary situation in Athens, where oracles were kept on the Acropolis and came under the control of whoever happened to be in power.6 In Athens the ruler himself might be "very strictly versed in oracles."7 In Athens the exegete Onomacritus was banished for tampering with the oracles of Musaeus,8 and at Rome, one of the quXaKEs, whose name has come down to us, doubtless erroneously, as M. Atilius, was condemned to death and drowned for betraying Sibylline lore.9 Under the republic betrayal of the oracles, which could be made public only at the command of the senate, was serious, but did not carry a death penalty.10 The punishment of M. Atilius has an Etruscan quality which fits the tradition ascribing the appointment of 4)vXaKES the libri for to the Tarquin dynasty." A characteristic of the regal tradition is the absence of ritual functions in the duties of the guardians of the books, so far as the records go. On the other hand, the fact that under the republic the duties of the duumviri and the decemviri sacris faciundis were chiefly the recommendation and performance of ritual has been taken as an indication that the libri were not oracular, and that the term Sibyllini was applied to them only late in the republic, when the Romans first came to look upon prodigies as signs for the future as well as indications of5 F. Altheim, A History of Roman Religion, trans. H. Mattingly (New York, Dutton, 1937), 240-242. 6 Altheim,. op. cit. (see note 5), 240-242; Herod. 5.90.7 Herod. 5.93. 8 Herod. 7.6.

9 Dion. Hal. Ant. Rom. 4.62; Val. Max. 1.1.13; Zonaras, 7.11. 10Cic. De Div. 2.54; Dio 39.15.2. For a thorough discussion of the subject see H. Diels, Sibyllinische Blitter (Berlin, Reimer, 1890), 6-20. n Cf. the drowning of prodigies on the recommendation of the haruspices: Livy 27.37; 31.12; Iul. Obs. Lib. Prod. 22 [81]; 25 [84]; 27a; 32 [92]; 34 [94]; 36 [96]; 48 [108]; 50 [110].

Vol. Ixix]

Decemviri Sacris Faciundis


divine wrath requiring propitiation.12 That the term Sibyllini was late can safely be accepted; but that there was no oracular quality to the books before the second Punic War is contradicted by records of the preceding time which cannot be thrown out unconditionally,13 and by the composite nature of the12 W.


Wandel und Herkunft

der Sibyllinischen

Bucher in Rom

(Leipzig diss., 1933). 13In 496 during a famine the books were consulted and it was learned oIrrobTovS

and Kore) ol xpfaofol EtXacraaoOaL roviS Neovs (Demeter, Dionysus, The vow by Postumius which follows KeXeovowtv (Dion. Hal. Ant. Rom. 6.17).

clearly shows that the honors promised the gods were conditioned by a return of prosperity in the future! In 461 the duumviri, consulting the books, warned against impending external and internal danger: pericula a conventu alienigenarum praedicta, ne qui in loca summa urbis impetus caedesque inde fierent; inter cetera monitum, ut seditionibus abstineretur iroXeiOwfva&XXooe0viv (Livy 3.10.7); ebpr . . .r'v TO r6XLV, a&pEL 7rapeXO6v,rwv eLs rT reTiXo, &'ywv bir&p &apaTro&oLr/oi KaraXeTar v xpiv a&pXopYvrPjv 6& TOVvrprs roVs a\XXo?OveIs roXiSov Tariats c/sXtos, e?EXabvovTas

Kat (K rjS Tr6XEWS 0eois TrapaLrovi,evovs Ovarats re Kal ebXaes &roTpi,tat ra beiLva' To the year 348 Kal KpeTrrovS goovrat r&v iX6pCov(Dion. Hal. Ant. Rom. 10.2).

must now be assigned the original circumstances of a secular oracle recorded by Phlegon, Hadrian's freedman (L. R. Taylor, "New Light on the History ofthe Secular Games," A.J.P.TraCs

LV [1934],OuvvP'ijKaLs,


rCv -yap avui,iaxov/eraT3aaXXo.LieVfPKalL



IpA.evAvrcov KOLVCWVoV pioj

a'XXia TrVKva



i 2tvuXXka iXpplojuitarflev

rtreXeaOeffteLo r ioe Oewptuv rTOVTWYov Trora'yrlecrO0aL

ros a(f>earTras Aarivovs.

F. Jacoby, Die Fragmente der Griechischen Historiker

(Berlin, Weidmann, 1927), iiB, 1189. For 293 the purpose for which the libri were consulted should be noted: libri aditi, quinam finis aut quod remedium eius mali (pestilence) ab diis daretur. inventum in libris Aesculapium ab Epidauro Romam arcessendum (Livy 10.47). Yet it has been argued (Hoffman, op. cit. [see note 12]) that the interest of the libri in the destiny of Rome received its first impulse in the Second Punic War, as the result of the embassy of Fabius Pictor to Delphi in 216 (Livy 22.57; 23.11). An interest in oracles was consequently manifested for the first time by the decemviri when they received as valid the Marcian oracle which advised the introduction of the ludi Apollinares. (Is this incident not rather an illustration of the manner in which the decemvirifunctioned as censors of oracles and the way in which the libri were formed?) This interest is said to have been revealed again in the oracle relating to Magna Mater (Livy 29.10). A comparison of the evidence for 293 with the oracle from Delphi in 216 will bring out significant resemblances. Compare the expressed purpose for theconsultation of the libri in 293, quinam finis aut quod remedium eius mali ab diis daretur, with the quest of Fabius in 216: quibus precibus suppliciisque deos Can possent placare, et quaenam futura finis tantis cladibus foret (Livy 22.57.5).


Aline Abaecherli Boyce


surviving fragments of the oracles, which implies a long tradition and history behind them.14 It must never be forgotten, moreover, that the oracles were made public only in special cases,l5 and probably did not even appear in the records of the pontifices, whence they might have found their way into the writings of the annalists; whereas the ritual of the decemviri usually was not only an open and public affair, but was participated in by the populus.l6 Lastly, we must distinguishwe say that there was more interest in

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