The manuscripts that embodied the secrets of human destiny,
the work of the sibyls or prophetesses of the ancient world.
According to the historian Tacitus (ca. 55120 C.E.), these
books were first preserved in the Roman Capitol. When it
burned down, the previous leaves were preserved and removed
to the temple of Apollo Palatinus. Their subsequent fate is enshrouded
in mystery, but it would seem that the Cumean books
existed until 339 C.E., when they were destroyed by the consul
Augustus sent three ambassadorsPaulus Gabinus, Marcus
Otacillius, and Lucius Valeriusinto Asia, Africa, and Italy to
collect whatever could be discovered of the Sibylline Oracles in
order to replace those that had been lost or burned.
The books are of two kinds the books of the elder Sibyls,
(that is, of the earlier Greek and Roman times) and those of the
later Sibyls, which are falsified and disfigured with numerous
interpolations. Of the latter, eight books in Greek and Latin
are still said to exist.
Those preserved in Rome had been collected from various
places, at various times, and contained predictions of future
events couched in the most mysterious of symbolic languages.
At first they were permitted to be read only by descendants of
Apollo, then later by priests, until their care was entrusted to