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A lictor (possibly from la, ligare, "to bind") was a
Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Laz ...
civil servant who was an attendant and
bodyguard A bodyguard (or close protection officer/operative) is a type of security guard #REDIRECT Security guard#REDIRECT Security guard A security guard (also known as a security inspector, security officer, or protective agent) is a person employed ...
to a
magistrate The term magistrate is used in a variety of systems of governments and laws to refer to a civilian officer who administers the law. In ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– ...
who held ''
imperium In ancient Rome, ''imperium'' was a form of authority held by a Roman citizenship, citizen to control a military or governmental entity. It is distinct from ''auctoritas'' and ''potestas'', different and generally inferior types of power in t ...

imperium
''. Lictors are documented since the
Roman Kingdom The Roman Kingdom, also referred to as the Roman monarchy, or the regal period of ancient Rome, was the earliest period of Roman history The history of Rome includes the history of the Rome, city of Rome as well as the Ancient Rome, civili ...
, and may have originated with the
Etruscans The Etruscan civilization () of ancient Italy The history of Italy covers the Ancient Period, the Middle Ages and the modern era. Since classical times, ancient Phoenicians, Magna Graecia, Greeks, Etruscan civilization, Etruscans, and Celts ha ...
.


Origin

The Lictors were instituted by Rome's first king,
Romulus Romulus () was the legendary founder Founder or Founders may refer to: Places *Founders Park, a stadium in South Carolina, formerly known as Carolina Stadium * Founders Park, a waterside park in Islamorada, Florida#In popular culture, Islamora ...
, who appointed 12 lictors to attend him. Livy refers to two competing traditions for the reason that Romulus chose that number of lictors. The first version is that 12 was the number of birds that appeared in the
augury Augury is the practice from ancient Roman religion Religion in ancient Rome includes the ethnic religion of Ancient Rome that the ancient Romans, Romans used to define themselves as a people, as well as the religious practices of peoples br ...

augury
, which had portended the kingdom to Romulus. The second version, favoured by Livy, is that the number of lictors was borrowed from the Etruscan kings, who had one lictor appointed from each of their 12 states.


Eligibility

Originally, lictors were chosen from the
plebs In ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A historian ...
, but through most of Roman history, they seemed to have been
freedmen A freedman or freedwoman is a formerly enslaved person who has been released from slavery, usually by legal means. Historically, enslaved people were freed by manumission (granted freedom by their captor-owners), abolitionism, emancipation (gr ...

freedmen
.
Centurion A centurion (; la, centurio , . la, centuriones, label=none; grc-gre, κεντυρίων, kentyríōn, or ) was a position in the Roman army The Roman army (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is ...

Centurion
s from the
legions
legions
were also automatically eligible to become lictors on retirement from the army. They were, however, definitely
Roman citizen Citizenship Citizenship is a relationship between an individual and a state to which the individual owes allegiance and in turn is entitled to its protection. Each state determines the conditions under which it will recognize persons as its ...
s, since they wore
toga The toga (, ), a distinctive garment of ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest histori ...
s inside Rome. A lictor had to be a strongly built man, capable of physical work. Lictors were exempted from military service, received a fixed salary (of 600
sesterces The sestertius (plural sestertii), or sesterce (plural sesterces), was an ancient Roman In historiography, ancient Rome is Roman people, Roman civilization from the founding of the Italian city of Rome in the 8th century BC to the collaps ...
, in the beginning of the Empire), and were organized in a corporation. Usually, they were personally chosen by the magistrate they were supposed to serve, but it is also possible that they were drawn by lots. Lictors were associated with
Comitia Curiata The Curiate Assembly (''comitia curiata'') was the principal assembly that evolved in shape and form over the course of the Roman Kingdom The Roman Kingdom, also referred to as the Roman monarchy, or the regal period of ancient Rome, was th ...

Comitia Curiata
and, probably, one was originally selected from each
curia Curia (Latin plural curiae) in ancient Rome referred to one of the original groupings of the citizenry, eventually numbering 30, and later every Roman citizen was presumed to belong to one. While they originally likely had wider powers, they came ...

curia
, since there were originally 30 curiae and 30 lictors (24 for the two
consul Consul (abbrev. ''cos.''; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the powe ...
s and six for the sole
praetor Praetor ( , ), also pretor, was the granted by the government of to a man acting in one of two official capacities: (i) the commander of an , and (ii) as an elected ' (magistrate), assigned to discharge various duties. The functions of the magi ...
).


Tasks

The lictor's main task was to attend as bodyguards to magistrates who held ''
imperium In ancient Rome, ''imperium'' was a form of authority held by a Roman citizenship, citizen to control a military or governmental entity. It is distinct from ''auctoritas'' and ''potestas'', different and generally inferior types of power in t ...

imperium
''. They carried rods decorated with
fasces Fasces ( ; ; a ''plurale tantum A ''plurale tantum'' (Latin for "plural only"; ) is a noun that appears only in the plural The plural (sometimes abbreviated An abbreviation (from Latin ''brevis'', meaning ''short'') is a shortened form of a ...

fasces
and, outside the ''
pomerium The pomerium or pomoerium was a religious boundary around the city of Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan ...

pomerium
'', with axes that symbolized the power to carry out
capital punishment Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is the state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ' ...

capital punishment
.
Dictatorial A dictator is a political leader who possesses autocracy, absolute power. A dictatorship is a state ruled by one dictator or by a small clique. The word originated as the title of a Roman dictator, Roman dictator elected by the Roman Senate, R ...
lictors had axes even within the ''pomerium''. They followed the magistrate wherever he went, including the
Forum Forum (plural forums or fora) may refer to: Common uses * Forum (legal), designated space for public expression in the United States *Forum (Roman), open public space within a Roman city **Roman Forum, most famous example *Internet forum, discus ...

Forum
, his house, temples, and the baths. Lictors were organized in an ordered line before him, with the primus lictor (the principal lictor) directly in front of him, waiting for orders. If there was a crowd, the lictors opened the way and kept their master safe, pushing all aside except for Roman matrons, who were accorded special honor. They also had to stand beside the magistrate whenever he addressed the crowd. Magistrates could only dispense with their lictors if they were visiting a free city or addressing a higher status magistrate. Lictors also had legal and penal duties; they could, at their master's command, arrest Roman citizens and punish them. A
Vestal Virgin In ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A historian ...
was accorded a lictor when her presence was required at a public ceremony. The degree of
magistrate The term magistrate is used in a variety of systems of governments and laws to refer to a civilian officer who administers the law. In ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– ...
's
imperium In ancient Rome, ''imperium'' was a form of authority held by a Roman citizenship, citizen to control a military or governmental entity. It is distinct from ''auctoritas'' and ''potestas'', different and generally inferior types of power in t ...

imperium
was symbolised by the number of lictors escorting him: *
Dictator A dictator is a political leader who possesses absolute power. A dictatorship A dictatorship is a form of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state. In the ...
: 24 lictors outside the pomerium, 12 inside. The latter rule was ignored beginning with the dictatorship of
Sulla Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix (; 138–78 BC), commonly known as Sulla, was a Roman general A general officer is an officer of high rank in the armies, and in some nations' air forces, space forces, or marines Marines or naval infan ...
*
Emperor An emperor (from la, imperator The Latin word "imperator" derives from the stem of the verb la, imperare, label=none, meaning 'to order, to command'. It was originally employed as a title roughly equivalent to ''commander'' under the Roma ...
: originally 12 lictors, after Domitian 24 lictors * Rex and
Consul Consul (abbrev. ''cos.''; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the powe ...
: 12 lictors *
Proconsul A proconsul was an official of ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose wo ...
: 11 lictors *
Magister equitum The , in English Master of the Horse or Master of the Cavalry, was a Roman magistrate appointed as lieutenant to a Roman dictator, dictator. His nominal function was to serve as commander of the Roman cavalry in time of war, but just as a dictato ...
: 6 lictors *
Praetor Praetor ( , ), also pretor, was the granted by the government of to a man acting in one of two official capacities: (i) the commander of an , and (ii) as an elected ' (magistrate), assigned to discharge various duties. The functions of the magi ...
: 6 lictors, 2 within the pomerium *
Propraetor In ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A historian i ...
and
Legatus A ''legatus'' (anglicised Linguistic anglicisation (or anglicization, occasionally anglification, anglifying, or Englishing) is the practice of modifying foreign words, names, and phrases to make them easier to spell, pronounce, or understand ...

Legatus
: 5 lictors *
Curule aediles Aedile ( ; la, aedīlis , from , "temple edifice") was an elected office of the Roman Republic. Based in Rome#Monarchy.2C republic.2C empire, Rome, the aediles were responsible for maintenance of public buildings () and regulation of public festiv ...
: 2 lictors *
Quaestor A ( , ; "investigator") was a public official in Ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest ...
: 0 lictors in the city of Rome, but quaestors were permitted to have fasces in the provinces. *Judge: 1 lictor Sometimes, lictors were ascribed to private citizens on special occasions, such as funerals or political reunions, as a show of respect by the city.


Lictor curiatus

The ''lictor curiatus'' (plural ''lictores curiati'') was a special kind of lictor who did not carry rods or ''fasces'' and whose main tasks were religious. There were approximately 30 of them, serving at the command of the ''
Pontifex Maximus The (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation w ...
'', the high priest of Rome. They were present at sacrifices where they carried or guided sacrificial animals to the altars.
Vestal Virgin In ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A historian ...
s, '' flamines'' (priests), and other high-ranking priests were entitled to be escorted and protected by ''lictores curiati''. In the Empire, women of the royal family were usually followed by two of this kind of lictor. The ''lictores curiati'' were also responsible to summon the ''
Comitia Curiata The Curiate Assembly (''comitia curiata'') was the principal assembly that evolved in shape and form over the course of the Roman Kingdom The Roman Kingdom, also referred to as the Roman monarchy, or the regal period of ancient Rome, was th ...
'' (the Public Assembly) and to maintain order during its procedures. File:Junia31.jpg, Head of ''Libertas'', and on the reverse a consul flanked by two lictors on a
denarius The denarius (, dēnāriī ) was the standard Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *, the capital city of Italy *, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *, the people of ancient Rome *', shortened to ''Romans'', a ...
File:Comic History of Rome p 068 A Lictor is sent to arrest Publiliu Volero.jpg, A Lictor is sent to arrest Publilius Volero (''The Comic History of Rome'' by .)


See also

*
Cursus honorum The ''cursus honorum'' (; , or more colloquially 'ladder of offices') was the sequential order of public offices held by aspiring politicians in the Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the cla ...
*
Praetorian Guard The Praetorian Guard (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power o ...


References


External links


Livius.org: Lictor
{{Ancient Rome topics Ancient Roman titles Articles needing expert attention from March 2012