Properly any stem, stalk, or straw of grain, or blade of grass (Varr. L. L.
v. 31.38). In two passages it is generally explained as a synonym of the praetor's rod (vindicta
) laid upon the slave's head in manumissio
(Plaut. Mil. Glor.
iv. 1, 15; Pers. v. 175
Conington on the latter passage has pointed out that the ordinary use of festuca
would suit these two places equally well; so that, after all, the traditional
rendering may be a mistake. Plutarch says that one of the lictors threw stubble (κάρφος
) on the manumitted slave (De Ser. Num. Vind.
550 B); and the words lictor iactat
seem to imply something of this kind
rather than touching with a staff. Possibly both ceremonies accompanied the act of
manumission, the praetor applying the vindicta
with his own hand, the
lictor throwing the stubble. See Manumissio