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CEL´ERES according to Livy (1.15, 8), a body-guard of 300 chosen by Romulus to attend him in peace and war. Livy leaves it uncertain whether they were cavalry or infantry; according to some accounts (cf. Dionys. A. R. 2.13, 16, 29), they were infantry, while according to others (id. 2.64) they included both, or were only cavalry. The last view is that which has been usually taken, and it has been regarded as confirmed by the meaning of the name, derived ἀπὸ τῆς περὶ τὰς ὑπουργίας ὀξύτητος, as Plutarch says (Rom. 26). Some identify them with the equites: it is an objection to this view that the third tribe, the Luceres, could not have been added before the time of Tullus Hostilius (cf. Schwegler, Röm. Gesch. 1.583); and that the equites were only raised to 300 after the addition of this tribe. Niebuhr's theory which identifies the celeres with the patricii is of all views the least tenable; but it is impossible to frame any satisfactory explanation in the fragmentary and contradictory condition of our authorities. Perhaps it is best to reject altogether Livy's. definition of them as constituting a body-guard, and simply regard them as the cavalry, with Mommsen.

It has been commonly supposed that the celeres were under the command of a tribunus celerum, who stood in the same relation to the king as the magister equitum did in a subsequent period to the dictator. But Mommsen (Hist. 1.78, note) has shown that the authority for this view is late and quite untrustworthy, and that the tribuni celerum were three in number, bearing the same relation to the cavalry as the three tribuni militum to the infantry. (Lyd. de Mag. 1.14; Pompon. de Orig. Jur. in Dig. 50, tit. 2, s. 2, § § 15, 19; Dionys. A. R. 4.71; cf. Becker, Handbuch der Römisch. Alterth. vol. ii., part i., p. 338.)

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  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 15
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 8
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