previous next


VICUS (akin to οἷκος), a term used in different applications.

1. In the earliest times the various Italian nations appear to have lived, not in towns, but in cantons (pagi), consisting of an indefinite number of vici or homesteads, with one common place of shelter (arx or castellum) in time of war, sometimes itself called pagus. The term pagus fell out of use, being replaced by more precise names, but vicus continued to denote a hamlet or similar group of buildings, attached to a town; hence the word is often translated “village.” Cf. the Lex Rubria and Lex Julia in C. I. L. 1.205, 206.

2. In towns the word vicus means “a street” or “quarter” (cf. Varro, L. L. 5.145: “in oppido vici a via, quod ex utraque parte viae sunt aedificia” ). Strictly speaking, it seems to have denoted a block of buildings bounded by the streets (plateae) and the alleys (angiportus), but it was doubtless used with some latitude (Jordan, Top. Roms, ii. p. 80). Cf. vicus Tuscus, &c.

3. According to tradition, Servius Tullius divided the city of Rome into four tribes, each subdivided into vici, while the country tribes were divided into pagi; and when Augustus in B.C. 8 redivided the city into fourteen regions, each region was still subdivided into vici (Suet. Aug. 30; D. C. 55.8). It is not always possible to separate our information as to the earlier vici from that which bears upon the later ones; but there is no reason to believe that any important changes were made; and perhaps Mommsen is right in regarding the redivision as mainly intended to organise better the worship of the Lares Compitales. The vici in the different regiones varied in number: the total under Augustus was, according to Pliny (Plin. Nat. 3.66), 265: under Constantine there must have been at least 307. The vici were administered by magistri vicorum (vico magistri), elected, four for each vicus (cf. the basis Capitolina in C. I. L. 6.975, ib. 445 ff.), from the commons, mostly liberti: it is probable that the four took turns to act as magister. Hadrian fixed the number of magistri vicorum at 48 for each region, irrespective of the number of vici; and this is the number which we find in the Notitia of the time of Constantine (Jordan, 2.541 if.).

Besides the oversight of the drains and fountains and a general police supervision under the aediles, the chief duty of the magistri vicorum consisted in providing for the worship of the Lares Compitales, at the sacella usually erected at the crossways. These formed part of the popular religion, and were maintained by the collegia compitalicia: but they acquired increased importance after Augustus added to. the two Lares Compitales the Genius Augusti (Suet. Aug. 31), fixed the festival, which previously had been feriae conceptivae, for two days in May and August (probably the Kalends), and granted the magistri the privilege of appearing in the toga praetexta attended by two lictors. (Cf. Marquardt, 3.200; Ascon. in Pis. p. 7.) The Compitalia were probably identical with the Laralia (cf. Mommsen, C. I. L. i. p. 393); but quite distinct from the Paganalia.

Our information as to the distribution of the vici among the regiones is mainly derived from two descriptions of Rome under Constantine, the earlier (A.D. 334) commonly called the Notitia, the later (A.D. 357) the Curiosum urbis Romae regionum xiv.: the former was at one time ascribed (in an interpolated form) to a nonexistent scholar P. Victor; the latter with as. little reason to Sex. Rufus.


hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: