The Latin name for a bundle of rods, tied together by a red strap, and enclosing an axe,
with its head outside. The fasces were originally the emblem of the king's absolute authority
over life and limb, and as such passed over to the high magistrates of the Republic. In the
city, however, the latter had to remove the axe and to lower the rods in the presence of the
popular assembly as the sovereign power. The lowering of the fasces was also the form in which
the lower officials saluted the higher. The king was preceded by lictors bearing twelve
fasces, and so were the consuls and proconsuls. The proconsuls, however, were, since the time
of Augustus, only allowed this number if they had actually been consuls previously. The
dictator had twenty-four fasces, as representing the two consuls, and his magister equitum
had six. Six was also the number allotted to the proconsuls and
propraetors outside the city, and in the imperial age to those proconsuls who had provinces in
virtue of their having held the prae
Lictor with Fasces. (From a bas-relief in the Museum of Verona.)
torship. The praetors of the city had two, the imperial legates administering
particular provinces had five fasces. One was allotted to the flamen Dialis
(from or after B.C. 42) to the Vestal Virgins. Fasces crowned with bay were, in the republican
age, the insignia
of an officer who was saluted as Imperator. During the
imperial age, this title was conferred on the emperor at his accession, and soon confined
exclusively to him. The emperor was accordingly preceded by twelve fasces
The lictors held their fasces over the left shoulder; but at funerals, the
fasces of a deceased magistrate, and his arms, were carried reversed behind the bier.
The fasces appear to have been in later times
Fasces on Consular Coins.
made of birch (betulla
, Pliny , Pliny H. N. xvi. 75
), but earlier of the twigs of the elm (Plaut.
Asin. ii. 3, 74
; iii. 2, 29
). They are said to have been derived from Vetulonia, a
city of Etruria (Sil. Ital. viii. 485; cf. Livy, i. 8
); but for this
there is no real authority (cf. Schwegler, Röm. Gesch.
i. 278, 581,
The next illustration, taken from the consular coins of C. Norbanus, contains, in addition
to the fasces, the one a spica
, and the
other a prora, caduceus
, and spica.