But more significant still was the order of the Sibylline books in 206 B.C. for the introduction of the worship of the Magna Mater(see Great Mother Of The Gods) from Pessinus and her ultimate installation on the Palatine in 191 B.C.: the door was thus opened to the wilder and more orgiastic cults of Greece and the Orient, which at once laid hold on the popular mind.
In the crisis of the second Punic War (205 B.C.), when the Romans lost faith in the efficacy of their own religion to save the state, the Senate, in compliance with an oracle in the Sibylline books to the effect that the foreign foe could be driven from Italy if the Idaean Mother (Cybele) were brought from Pessinus to Rome, sent ambassadors to the town, who obtained the sacred stone which was the symbol of the goddess and brought it to Rome, where the worship of Cybele was established.
But when Greek deities were introduced into Rome on the advice of the Sibylline books (in 495 B.C., on the occasion of a severe drought), Demeter, the Greek goddess of seed and harvest, whose worship was already common in Sicily and Lower Italy, usurped the place of Ceres in Rome, or rather, to Ceres were added the religious rites which the Greeks paid to Demeter, and the mythological incidents which originated with her.
Her festival at Rome, the Floralia, instituted 2 3 8 B.C. by order of the Sibylline books and at first held irregularly, became annual after 173.
In the year 12 B.C. Augustus sought out and burned a great many spurious oracles and subjected the Sibylline books to a critical revision; they were then placed by him in the temple of Apollo Patrotis on the Palatine, where we hear of them still existing in A.D.
These officials, at the command of the senate, consulted the Sibylline books in order to discover, not exact predictions of definite future events, but the religious observances necessary to avert extraordinary calamities (pestilence, earthquake) and to expiate prodigies in cases where the national deities were unable, or unwilling, to help. Only the interpretation of the oracle which was considered suitable to the emergency was made known to the public, not the oracle itself.
His crowning sin (recorded by the poet alone) was the destruction of the Sibylline books - a sin worthy of one who had decked his wife in the spoils of Victory, the goddess who had for centuries presided over the deliberations of the senate.
Such celebrations must be distinguished from those which were ordered, like the earlier lectisternia, by the Sibylline books in special emergencies.