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ACCENSI properly “supernumeraries,” from accenseo (the other derivations given by Varro, Ling. Lat. 6.89, Mull., are impossible and absurd). The word is used in four senses.

1. Livy (1.43, 7) adds to the fifth class of citizens in the Servian classification a century of accensi (in his accensi, cornicines, tubicinesque, in tres centurias distributi); and Cicero, in a fragmentary passage (de Rep. 2.22, 40), writes quin etiam accensis velatis, liticinibus, cornicinibus, proletariis .... Lange corrects Livy, reading in his accensis, and takes accensi to be the general name for the fifth class, accepting also the earlier correction in II. centurias (approved by Sir G. C. Lewis). This has the advantage of bringing the total number of centuries (193 instead of 194) into harmony with the statements of Dionysius and Cicero, and giving an odd number instead of an even one. Whether Livy was mistaken, or his text is corrupt, may be doubtful; but the view that accensi denotes the whole of the fifth class can hardly be disputed. The alternative hypothesis of Niebuhr, that the accensi were those citizens who possessed between 12,500 and 7000 asses, while those possessing between 7000 and 1500 were called velati, has but slight support, and is generally abandoned.

2. As a military term, accensi denotes the reserve-soldiers, who, at the time when each soldier had to find his own arms, could provide themselves with nothing better than sticks and stones. Besides serving as light infantry, they would add force to the impact of the phalanx by pressing on from behind. From their lack of defensive armour they were known as velati; but when any heavy-armed soldiers were killed or wounded, the accensi took their places, and used their armour and weapons (Varro, L. L. 7.56; Paul. D. s. v. ad scripticii). They were also called ferentarii, probably as Cato says (ap. Paul. D. l.c.) quod tela ac potiones militibus pugnantibus ministrabant; not as Varro suggests, qui ea modi habebant anna quae ferrentur, ut jaculum. (Corssen, Krit. Beitr. p. 178, suggests a wholly different derivation.) After B.C. 352, when soldiers received pay from the state, the accensi provided themselves with better weapons; but we find even on the Column of Trajan a soldier armed with stones alone. At this later stage the term rorarii was in use for the light-armed slingers, while the accensi denoted the proletarii who were ad legionum censum adscripti. The term accensi was also used to denote the attendants on the cavalry, who held their spare horses (Paul. D. s. v. pares equi; Varr. L. L. 5.82), and the orderlies of the centurions (Fest. s. v. optio: optio qui nunc dicitur, antea appellabatur accensus; is adjutor dabatur centurioni a tribuno militum).

3. The magistrates who were attended by lictors had also supernumerary attendants (accensi), who did not bear the fasces, but were ready to replace a lictor if occasion should arise. So long as the custom lasted that the two colleagues were preceded by the fasces on alternate days, an accensus attended on the one penes quem fasces non erant. There is no sufficient reason to assume with some that these attendants were always chosen from the class of accensi; in later times they were generally the freedmen of the magistrates whom they served. (Cic. ad Q. fr. 1.1, 4, 12; in Verr. 3.67, 157; ad Att. 4.6, 12, and often in inscriptions.) Among the duties of an accensus was to summon the people to the comitia (Varr. L. L. 6.88): [p. 1.6]the accensus of the consul, and afterwards of the praetor, also proclaimed the third, the sixth, and the ninth hour of the day in the comitium.

4. On inscriptions of the time of the Empire mention is made of accensi velati, who formed a college of 100 members, charged with the superintendence of the public roads. They consisted largely of knights and high officials, and were exempt a tutelis et curis (Frag. Jur. Rom. Vat. § 189: cf. Mommsen in Annali dell' Instit. Arch. 1849, p. 209). It is probable that they derived their name and functions from the centuria accensorum velatorum, mentioned above, who may have had charge of the communications of the army in the field (Marquardt, Staatsr. 2.319).


hide References (2 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 7
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 43
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