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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 and (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 laureati. 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, 671).

The next illustration, taken from the consular coins of C. Norbanus, contains, in addition to the fasces, the one a spica and caduceus, and the other a prora, caduceus, and spica.

hide References (2 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 16.75
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 8
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