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FASTI Fas signifies divine law: the epithet fastus is properly applied to anything in accordance with divine law, and hence all those days upon which legal business might, without impiety (sine piaculo), be transacted before the praetor, were technically denominated fasti dies, i.e. lawful days. (For the classification of the days of the year, cf. DIES) Varro and Festus derive fastus directly from fari (Varr. L. L. 6.2; Festus, s. v. Fasti), while Ovid (Ov. Fast. 1.47) may be quoted in support of either etymology.

The sacred books in which the fasti dies of the year were marked, were themselves denominated fasti; the term, however, was employed in an extended sense to denote registers of various descriptions, and many mistakes have arisen among commentators from confounding fasti of different kinds. It will be useful, therefore, to consider separately the two great divisions, which have been distinguished as Fasti Sacri or Fasti Kalendares, and Fasti Annales or Fasti Historici.


For nearly four centuries and a half after the foundation of the city a knowledge of the calendar was possessed exclusively by the priests. One of the pontifices regularly proclaimed the appearance of the new moon, and at the same time announced the period which would intervene between the Kalends and the Nones. On the Nones the country people assembled for the purpose of learning from the Rex Sacrorum the various festivals to be celebrated during the month, and the days on which they would fall. (Macrob. 1.15.) In like manner all who wished to go to law were obliged to inquire of the privileged few on what day they might bring their suit, and received the reply as if from the lips of an astrologer. (Cic. pro Muren. 11, 25.) The whole of this lore, so long a source of power and profit, and therefore jealously enveloped in mystery, was at length made public by a certain Cn. Flavius, scribe to App. Claudius Caecus (Liv. 9.46; Plin. Nat. 33.17; Gel. 6.9; V. Max. 2.5), who, having gained access to the pontifical books, copied out all the requisite information, and exhibited it in the forum for the use of the people at large. From this time forward such tables became common, and were known by the name of Fasti. They usually contained an enumeration of the months and days of the year; the Nones, Ides, Nundinae, Dies Fasti, Nefasti, Comitiales, Atri, &c. [CALENDARIUM], together with the different festivals, were marked ia their proper places: astronomical observations on the risings and settings of the fixed stars and the commencement of the seasons were frequently inserted, and sometimes brief notices annexed regarding the introduction and signification of certain rites, the dedication of temples, glorious victories, and terrible disasters. In later times it became common to pay homage to the members of the imperial family by noting down their exploits and honours in the calendar, a species of flattery with which Antonius is charged by Cicero (Philipp. 2.34, 87. See also Tac. Ann. 1.15).

It will be seen from the above description that these fasti closely resembled a modern almanac ( “Fastorum libri appellantur totius anni descriptio,” Festus); and the celebrated work of Ovid may be considered as a poetical Year-book or Companion to the Almanac, having been composed to illustrate the Fasti published by Julius Caesar, who remodelled the Roman year. All the more remarkable epochs are examined in succession, the origin of the different festivals explained, the various ceremonies described, the legends connected with the principal constellations narrated, and many curious discussions interwoven upon subjects likely to prove interesting to his countrymen; the whole being seasoned with frequent allusions to the glories of the Julian line. The work however is incomplete, and deals only with the first six months of the year.

Several specimens of fasti, more or less perfect, on stone and marble, have been discovered at different times in different places. Mommsen arranges them in the following order:--

  • 1. Calendarium Pincianum, engraved about B.C. 30, because Aug. 28 is not noted as feriatus, a character given to it in B.C. 29, but the feriae on Sept. 23, the birthday of Augustus, are inserted.
  • 2. Allifanum, of the same date.
  • 3. Tusculanum, dating from before B.C. 20, because it does not recognise the festival of Mars, in that year assigned to May 12.
  • 4. Venusinum, probably belonging to B.C. 28.
  • 5. Sabinum, after B.C. 19, as it notes the festival of the Augustales, Oct. 12, but earlier than the next, because the birthday of Augustus is fastus, not feriatus.
  • 6. Maffeianum, after B.C. 8, because it assigns ludi circenses, instituted in that year for the birthday of Augustus, but before A.D. 3, because it does not note festivals established in that year.
  • 7. Esquilinum, of the same date.
  • 8. Feriale Cumanum, after the adoption of Tiberius in A.D. 3.
  • 9. Praenestinum, between B.C. 2 and A.D. 10.
  • 10. Vallense, between A.D. 7 and A.D. 14.
  • 11. Astiense, before A.D. 14.
  • 12. Vaticanum, during the reign of Tiberius (A.D. 14-34).
  • 13. Amiterninum, after A.D. 16, but probably before A.D. 19.
  • 4. Pighianum, between A.D. 31 and A.D. 37.
  • 15. Antiatinum, in A.D. 51.
  • 16-19. Cc. Farnesianum, Urbinas, Romana duo, without any certain indications of date, but probably not later than 15.

Mommsen further argues that it was quite natural that all these calendars should have been engraved while the Julian system was not generally familiar, and that they should all belong to Rome or the surrounding towns, because they were of little use except to those who lived in the capital, or visited it frequently. At a later date calendars were published in manuscripts, two of which are extant. Those mentioned above are all fragmentary, except the Cal. Maffeianum. One of the most remarkable, though one of the least entire, is that known as the Kalendarium Praenestinum or Fasti Verriani. Suetonius, in his short treatise on distinguished grammarians (100.17), tells us that a statue of Verrius Flaccus, preceptor to the grandsons of Augustus, stood in the lower part of the forum [p. 1.829]of his native town, Praeneste, near the Hemieyelium, on which he had exhibited to public view the fasti, arranged by himself, and engraved on marble slabs. In the year 1771 the remains of a circular building were discovered in the immediate vicinity of the modern Palestrina, together with several fragments of marble tablets, which were soon recognised as forming part of an ancient calendar; and upon further examination no doubt was entertained by the learned that these were the very fasti of Verrius described by Suetonius. An Italian antiquary, named Foggini, continued the excavations, collected and arranged the scattered morsels with great patience and skill; and in this manner the months of January, March, April, and December, to which a very small portion of February was afterwards added, were recovered; and, although much defaced and mutilated, form a very curious and useful monument.

Some of the above, with others of more recent date, are given in the Corpus Inscriptionum of Gruter, in the 11th vol. of the Thesaurus Rom. Antiqq. of Graevius; in the work of Foggini, entitled Fastorum anni Romani a Verrio Flacco ordinatorum Reliquiae, &c., Romae, 1779; and in Jac. Van Vaassen, Animadverss. ad Fastos Rom. Sacros fragmenta, Traj. ad Rhen. 1795: to which add Ideler's Handbuch der mathematischen und technischen Chronologie, Berlin, 1826. But earlier editions are practically superseded by Mommsen's very exact publication and full discussion in the Corpus Inscr. Lat. vol. i. pp. 293-411. Cf. also Bp. John Wordsworth's Fragments and Specimens, pp. 266-271, with the notes.

Before quitting this part of our subject, we may make mention of the Calendarium Rusticum Farnesianum, or, as it is now more commonly called, the Menologium Rusticum Colotianum, now in the Museum at Naples (engraved in Daremberg and Saglio, vol. i. p. 836). This Rural Almanac is cut upon four sides of a cube, each face being divided into three columns, and each column including a month. At the top of the column is carved the appropriate sign of the zodiac; then follows the name of the month, the number of the days, the position of the nones, the length of the day and night, the name of the sign through which the sun passes, the god under whose protection the month was placed, the various agricultural operations to be performed, and a list of the principal festivals. Take May as an example:-- MENSIS

(See Morcelli, Opera Epigraphica, vol. 1.77; and Mommsen, C. I. L. vol. 1.358.)

II. FASTI ANNALES or HISTORICI. Chronicles such as the Annales Maximi, containing the names of the chief magistrates for each year, and a short account of the most remarkable events noted down opposite to the days on which they occurred, were, from the resemblance which they bore in arrangement to the sacred calendars, denominated fasti; and hence this word is used, especially by the poets, in the general sense of historical records. (Hor. Sat. 1.3, 112; Carm. 4.13, 13, 3.17, 7.)

In prose writers fasti is commonly employed as the technical term for the registers of consuls, dictators, censors, and other magistrates, which formed part of the public archives. (Liv. 9.18; Cic. pro Sest. 14, 33: compare Cic. Philipp. 13.12, 26; Tac. Ann. 3.17, 18.) Again, when Cicero remarks in the famous epistle to Lucceius (ad Fam. 5.12), “Etenim ordo ille annalium mediocriter nos retinet quasi enumeratione fastorum,” he means that the regular succession of events meagrely detailed in chronicles fixed the attention but feebly, and was little more interesting than a mere catalogue of names. (Compare ad Att. 4.8.)

A most important specimen of fasti belonging to this class, executed probably in the last year of the reign of Augustus, has been partially preserved. Three or four fragments of it were known to the Italian scholars of the 15th century. But in the years 1546-7, several more important fragments of marble tablets were discovered in excavating the Roman Forum, and were found to contain a list of consuls, dictators with their masters of horse, censors with the lustra which they closed, triumphs and ovations, all arranged in regular succession according to the years of the Catonian era. These had evidently extended from the expulsion of the kings to the death of Augustus, and, although defective in many places, have proved of the greatest value in chronology. The different pieces were collected and arranged under the inspection of Cardinal Alexander Farnese, with the assistance of Michel Angelo, and deposited in the Capitol, where they still remain. From this circumstance they are generally distinguished as the Fasti Capitolini. A facsimile of all up to that time collected was published by Piranesi at Rome in 1762. In the years 1816-1818, other fragments of the same marble tablets were discovered in the course of a new excavation in the Forum. These were published with instructive dissertations. A most careful edition of the whole is given by Henzen in the Corpus Inscr. Lat. vol. i. pp. 415-464.

[W.R] [A.S.W]

hide References (11 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (11):
    • Cicero, For Lucius Murena, 11
    • Cicero, Philippics, 13.12
    • Tacitus, Annales, 1.15
    • Tacitus, Annales, 3.17
    • Tacitus, Annales, 3.18
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 33.17
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 9, 46
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 9, 18
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 6.9
    • Ovid, Fasti, 1
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 2.5
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