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FASCES were rods bound together by a red thong in the form of a bundle, and containing an axe (securis) in the middle, the iron of which projected from them. See the following cut, from a relief at Rome. These rods were carried

Fasces. (From the original in the Capitol at Rome.)

by lictors before the superior magistrates at Rome, and are often represented on the reverse of consular coins. The following cuts give the reverses of four consular coins; in the first of which we see the lictors carrying the fasces on their shoulders; in the second, two fasces, and between them a sella curulis; in the third, two fasces crowned with laurel, with the consul standing between them; and in the fourth, the same, only with no crowns around the fasces.

Fasces on Consular coins.

The next two cuts, taken from the consular coins of C. Norbanus, contain in addition to the fasces--the one a spica and caduceus, and the other a spica, caduceus, and prora.

Fasces on Consular coins.

The fasces appear to have been in later times made of birch (betulla, Plin. H. ,N. 16.75), but in earlier of the twigs of the elm (Plaut. Asin. 3.2, 29; 2.3, 74). They are said to have been derived from Vetulonia, a city of Etruria (Sil. Ital. 8.485; cf. Liv. 1.8); but for this there is no real authority (cf. Schwegler, Röm. Gesch. 1.278, 581, 671). Twelve were carried before each of the kings by twelve lictors; and on the expulsion of the Tarquins, one of the consuls was preceded by twelve lictors with the fasces and secures, and the other by the same number of lictors with the fasces only, or, according to some accounts, with crowns round them. (Dionys. A. R. 5.2.) But P. Valerius Publicola, who gave to the people the right of provocatio, ordained that the secures should be removed from the fasces, and allowed only one of the consuls to be preceded by the lictors while they were at Rome. (Cic. de Rep. 2.31; Valer. Max. 4.1.1.) The other consul was attended only by a single accensus [ACCENSUS]. When they were out of Rome, and at the head of the army, each of the consuls retained the axe in the fasces, and was preceded by his own lictors. (Dionys. A. R. 5.19; Liv. 24.9, 28.27.)

When the decemviri were first appointed, the fasces were only carried before the one who presided for the day (Liv. 3.33); and it was not till the second decemvirate, when they began to [p. 1.827]act in a tyrannical manner, that the fasces with the axe were carried before each of the ten. (Liv. 3.36.) The fasces and secures were, however, carried before the dictator even in the city (Liv. 2.18): he was preceded by twenty-four lictors, and the magister equitum by six.

The praetors were preceded in the city by two lictors with the fasces (Censorin. de Die Natal. 24, 3; Cic. de Leg. Agr. 2.3. 4, 93); but out of Rome and at the head of an army by six, with the fasces and secures, whence they are called by the Greek writers στρατηγοὶ ἑξαπελέκεις. (Appian, App. Syr. 15; Plb. 2.24.6, 3.40.9, 106.6.) The proconsuls also were allowed, in the time of Ulpian, six fasces (Dig. 50, 16, 14). The tribunes of the plebs, the aediles and quaestors, had no lictors in the city (Plut. Quaest. Rom. 81; Gel. 13.12), with the exception of the aedile who acted as judex quaestionis inter sicarios (Cic. Cluent. 53, 147); but in the provinces the quaestors pro praetore were permitted to have the fasces (Cic. pro Planc. 41, 98).

The lictors carried the fasces on their left shoulders, as is seen in the coin of Brutus given above; and when an inferior magistrate met one who was higher in rank, the lictors lowered their fasces to him. This was done by Valerius Publicola, when he addressed the people (Cic. de Rep. 2.31, 53; Liv. 2.7; V. Max. 4.1.1); and hence came the expression submittere fasces in the sense of to yield, to confess oneself inferior to another (Cic. Brut. 6, 22).

When a general had gained a victory, and had been saluted as Imperator by his soldiers, his fasces were always crowned with laurel. (Cic. Att. 8.3, § 5, de Div. 1.28, 59; Caes. Civ. 3.71.) [LICTOR]


hide References (18 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (18):
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 8.3
    • Appian, Syrian Wars, 3.15
    • Polybius, Histories, 2.24.6
    • Polybius, Histories, 3.106.6
    • Polybius, Histories, 3.40.9
    • Cicero, On the Agrarian Law, 2.3.4
    • Cicero, For Plancius, 41
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 3, 36
    • Caesar, Civil War, 3.71
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 24, 9
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 28, 27
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 8
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 2, 7
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 2, 18
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 3, 33
    • Cicero, De Republica, 2.31
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 13.12
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 4.1.1
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