Roman Conquest of Italy
 


Developments at Rome


Collegium Fetialium


Linked pages:  Collegium FetialumSpolia OpimaTemple of Jupiter Feretrius


Linked pages:  Collegium Fetialum;     Fetial Rites



Two views of a cippus (1-50 AD) from the Clivus Palatinus in Rome (now in the Antiquarium Palatino),

which carries an inscription (CIL VI 1302) that can be translated as:

Ferter Resius, king of Aequicola, who first devised the fetial rites, later learned by the Roman people

C 2004 Ministero per i Beni e le Attivita Culturali, Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici del Lazio

Collegium Fetialium in the Regal Period

Foundation of the College of Fetials

According to Dionysius of Halicarnassus (ca. 7 BC), the collegium fetialium was the seventh of the eight priestly colleges to be founded by Numa Pompilius (traditionally 715-672 BC) .  He noted that:

  1. “These [priests] may be called in Greek εἰρηνοδίκαι (arbiters or judges of peace).  They are chosen men, from the best families, and exercise their priestly office for life.  [Although] it was Numa who instituted this holy magistracy among the Romans, ... I cannot say whether he took his example from:

  2. the Aequicoli, according to the opinion of some, [including the commissioner of the cippus illustrated above]; or

  3. the city of Ardea, as Gellius [probably Cnaeus Gellius, in a now-lost work written in the 2nd century BC] writes.

  4. It is sufficient for me to state that, before Numa's reign, the collegium fetialium did not exist among the Romans”, (‘Roman Antiquities’, 2: 72: 1-2).

Dionysius recorded that the peace-loving Numa instituted this college:

  1. “... when he was on the point of making war on the people of Fidenae, who had raided and ravaged his territories, in order to see whether they would come to an accommodation with him without war; and that is what they actually did, being constrained by necessity”, (‘Roman Antiquities’, 2: 72: 2-3).

Thus Dionysius believed that Numa had established the fetial college specifically so that it might take some sort of responsibility for a convention of war that was already in use by other nearby communities.

Dionysius did not spell out the rituals that the fetials actually followed at Fidenae on this occasion, but he did explain more generally that:

  1. “... if others violate their treaties with the Romans, it is [the fetials’ duty] first to go as ambassadors and make a formal demand for justice, and then, if the others refuse to comply with their demands, to sanction war”, (‘Roman Antiquities’, 2: 72: 4). 

John Rich (referenced below, 2011, at p. 190) observed that Dionysius’ account of the fetials carrying out a judicial function and perhaps playing a direct part in the determination of policy, underlined by his description of them as the arbiters or judges of peace, is almost certainly over-stated: their role was more probably confined to the performance of rituals associated with decisions taken elsewhere on matters of war and peace.   More important for our purposes is the fact that Dionysius  believed that Numa had instituted the fetial college in order that they might represent the Romans in a ritual demand for justice from Fidenae, on pain of war.

Fetials and the War with Alba under King Tullus Hostilius

As we shall see, a number of our surviving sources record that, ear;y in the reign of Numa’s successor, Tullus Hostilius (traditionally 672-642 BC), a series of raids and counter-raids between the Roman and the Alban peasants escalated into outright hostilities between the two states.  The fetials appeared in two different roles in the surviving accounts of these hostilities:

  1. according to Dionysius, they played a part in the Romans demand from restitution from Alba, on pain of war; while

  2. according to Livy, they were responsible for solemnising a treaty between Rome and Alba.

Demands for Restitution

News of these raids and counter-raids reached Cloelius, the ruler (sometimes king) of Alba and Tullus at about the same time, and each of them reacted by demanding restitution from the other, on pain of war.  The earliest reasonably complete surviving account of these events is by Diodorus Siculus, who, according to John Rich (referenced below, at pp. 206-7), probably wrote the earliest part of his history of Rome  soon after 60 BC.  This part of Diodorus’ work is now lost, but an unknown source preserved the following fragment:

  1. “While Tullus Hostilius was king of the Romans, the Albans ... claimed that the Romans had seized part of their territory.  They duly sent ambassadors to Rome to demand justice and, should the Romans ignore their demands, to declare war.  However, Hostilius ... gave orders that his friends should receive the [Alban] ambassadors and invite them to be their guest, while he would avoid any meeting with them.  [Instead], he sent men to the Albans to make similar demands of them: he did this in accordance with an ancient custom, since [the Romans of those] times were extremely concerned that the wars that they waged should be just ones ... But by good fortune, his ambassadors to Alba were the first to be refused justice, and they therefore declared war for the 30th day following.  Thus, when the Alban ambassadors [eventually managed to present] their demands [to Tullus], they received the answer that, since the Albans had been the first to refuse to make restitution, the Romans had [already] declared war upon them.  Such, then, was the reason why these two peoples, who enjoyed mutual rights of marriage and of friendship, entered into hostilities with each other”, (‘’Library of History’, presumed fragments of 8: 25).

John Rich (referenced below, 2011, at p. 211) argued that at least some parts of this account:

  1. “... can be traced [back to] Cato, in a fragment preserved by Festus. ... The story may well have entered the tradition with the first Roman historian, Fabius Pictor.”

He observed that the relevant (but now-fragmentary) entry in Festus’ epitome of the lexicon of the Augustan grammarian M. Verrius Flaccus related to the use of the word ‘oratores’ (literally, orators) to mean ‘gentes qui missi ...” (people who are sent, presumably as envoys).  Festus (and thus, presumably Flaccus) quoted a passage by Cato from  Book 1 of his ‘De Origines’ (ca. 150 BC):

  1. propter id bellum coepit.  Cloelius praetor Albanus oratores misit Romam cum … ”, (‘De verborum significatu’, p. 196 L).

  2. ‘For that reason war began.  Cloelius, the Alban praetor, sent orators to Rome with …’’ (translation by John Rich, as above).

In other words, Diodorus might well have drawn on Cato or his source(s) when he recorded that the Albans and the Romans each sent envoys to demand ‘justice’ from the other.  As far as we can tell from what survives, Diodorus did not mention a role for the fetials in connection with the Roman demand, although, as John Rich (referenced below, 2011, at  p. 211, note 104) suggested, this might be hinted at in his statement that Tullus acted in accordance with an ancient custom in order to ensure that the war he was about to declare could be represented as a just war. 

Livy also followed this tradition of competing demands for ‘justice’, on pain of war: while Tullus delayed the Alban envoys at Rome:

  1. “... the Romans had [already sent envoys to Alba] res repetiverant (seeking restitution) and, being denied it by the Alban leader, had made a declaration of war, to take effect in 30 days”, (‘History of Rome’, 1: 22: 5).

Livy  explained that Tullus then dismissed the Alban envoys, ordering them to:

  1. “Tell your king that the Roman king calls the gods to witness [that the Albans] first spurned the Roman demand for res repetentes (restitution) and dismissed its envoys, so that they [i.e. the gods] may call down upon the guilty nation [i.e. the Albans] all the disasters of this war”, (‘History of Rome’, 1: 22: 7).

In other words, once the Albans had ignored the Roman demand for restitution, the Romans were free to declare a just war against them, confident that the gods would take their side.  Livy did not mention the fetials in this context: as we shall see, he dated their involvement in ritual demands for restitution to the reign of Tullus’ successor. 

As we have seen, Dionysius believed that the fetials’ college had been instituted in the reign of Tullus’ predecessor, Numa, precisely so that they could demand restitution from Fidenae.  Thus, in his account of these later hostilities with the Albans, Dionysius recorded that Tullus:

  1. “... sent to Alba some Romans of distinction, duly instructed as to the course they should pursue, together with the fetials, to demand satisfaction from the Albans for the injuries the Romans had received”, (‘Roman Antiquities’, 3: 3: 3).

This is Dionysius’ only mention of the fetials in the reign of Tullus, and it seems to me that he might well have added it as an afterthought.

Proxy War Between the Horatii and the Curiatii

Both Dionysius and Livy recorded that, soon after Rome’s declaration of war on Alba:

  1. Cluilius died in mysterious circumstances  and was replaced by Mettius Fufetius; and

  2. Tullus and Mettius Fufetius then agreed to resolve their differences by combat between two sets of triplets: the (probably Roman) Horatii and the (probably Alban) Curiatii.

It seems that this agreement was ritually solemnised prior to the contest: for example, according to Dionysius:

  1. “...  when the armies had camped near one another, ... they first offered sacrifice and swore over the burnt offerings that they would accept whatever fate the outcome of the combat between the [respective champions] should allot to them and that they would keep inviolate their agreement... Then, after performing the rites that religion required, both the Romans and Albans laid aside their arms and left their [respective] camps to watch the combat ...”, (‘Roman Antiquities’, 3: 18: 1-2).

However, Dionysius made no mention of fetial involvement in this ritual. 

According to Livy, this agreement took the form of:

  1. “... a foedus (treaty) ... between the Romans and the Albans, which provided that the nation whose citizens should triumph in this contest should hold undisputed sway over the other nation.  Tradition has it that this foedus, which is the oldest of which we know, was made as follows: ...”, (‘History of Rome’, 1: 24: 3-4).

Livy then embarked on a detailed account of the fetial ritual that used in the solemnisation of the treaty (discussed in detail in the linked page on fetial ritual).  At is climax, the fetial who had been designated as:

  1. “... the pater patratus cried:

  2. ‘Hear, Jupiter; hear, pater patratus of the Alban people: hear people of Alba: the Roman people will not be the first to depart from these terms, as they have been publicly rehearsed ... and clearly understood.  If, by public decision, they should... [do so] with malice aforethought, then, on that day, may you, Jupiter, strike the Roman people as I shall now strike this pig: and may you strike with greater force, since your power and your strength are greater’. 

  3. When he had said this, he struck a pig with saxo silice (a flint stone).  The Albans then pronounced their own forms and their own oath, by the mouth of their own dictator and priests”, (‘History of Rome’, 1: 24: 8).

Livy had not mentioned the fetials in his narrative before this point, although their prior existence is clearly implicit in this account.  John Rich (referenced below, 2011, at p. 194) argued that:

  1. “... there is no reason to doubt that [this] fetial treaty ritual, performed with pig and flint stone, was of great antiquity, and was in regular (although perhaps not exclusive) use in the early and middle Republic for the solemnisation of treaties following authorisation by the Senate and people.”

Livy’s comment that this was the oldest treaty in Roman memory is odd, since this was not the first treaty to appear in his narrative: he had already recorded that:

  1. Romulus had struck a treaty with the Sabine king Tatius (1: 13: 4) and renewed the Romans’ treaty with Lavinium (1: 14: 3);

  2. Numa had opened his reign by striking treaties with all Rome’s neighbours (1: 19: 4); and

  3. a treaty between Rome and Alba was apparently still in force when the dispute under discussion here erupted (1: 23: 7): according to Dionysius (‘Roman Antiquities’, 3: 3: 1), it had been struck by Romulus. 

It seems, therefore, that what Livy meant was that, in Roman tradition, the treaty that Tullus struck with Mettius Fufetius was the first to be solemnised using the fetial ritual.

Fetials and the War with the Latins under King Ancus Marcius

Dionysius recorded that, at the start of the reign of Tullus’ successor, Ancus Marcius (traditionally 642-616 BC):

  1. “... the Latins ... sent bands of robbers from each of their cities into the Roman territory on their borders ... When ambassadors sent by the king demanded that they give satisfaction to the Romans according to the treaty between them, they claimed that:

  2. they had no knowledge of the robberies ...; and

  3. in any case, since they had made the treaty with Tullus, ... it had been terminated by his death. 

  4. Marcius, therefore, compelled by this response by the Latins, led out an army against them”, (‘Roman Antiquities’, 3: 37: 2-4).

Strangely, Dionysius did not associate the fetials with this demand for restitution following the violation of the Latins’ treaty with Rome.


Livy also recorded that, early in Ancus’ reign:

  1. “... the Latins [whom he subsequently referred to as the Prisci Latini], with whom a treaty had been made in the time of Tullus,  ... raided Roman territory and returned an arrogant answer when called on by the Romans to make restitution, ... ”, (‘History of Rome’, 1: 32: 3).

However, in Livy’s account, Ancus decided that, since his grandfather, Numa:

  1. “... had instituted religious observances in peacetime, he himself should now establish ceremonies of war, and wars should be not only waged but also declared by some ritual.  He therefore copied from the ancient people of the Aequicoli the rule (ius) that the fetials now have, by which restitution is sought (quo res repetuntur)”, (‘History of Rome’, 1: 32: 5).

Thus Livy believed that Numa had established the fetials’ college specifically so that they might take some sort of responsibility for a convention of war that was already in use by the Aequicoli.  In this account, the Roman version of this convention was known as the ius fetiale, and it prescribed that the Romans  could only wage war legitimately after they had tried and failed to secure restitution from the offending city.


Livy then embarked on a generalised account of the role of the fetials in formally demanding restitution (described in the linked page on fetial rites).  

Livy’s account culminated in a strange  passage in which the general was merged with the specific in a rather confusing way: when no satisfactory restitution was offered:

  1. “It was customary for the fetial to carry a cornet-wood spear, iron-pointed or hardened in the fire, to the bounds of the other nation and, in the presence of not less than three adult men to say:

  2. ‘Since:

  3. the peoples of the Prisci Latini and the men of the Prisci Latini have been guilty of acts and offences against the Roman People of the Quirites; and

  4. the Roman People of the Quirites has commanded that war be made on the Prisci Latini, and the Senate of the Roman People has approved, agreed, and voted a war with the Prisci Latini;

  5. I therefore and the Roman People declare and make war on the tribes of the Prisci Latini and the men of the Prisci Latini ...’

  6. Having said this, he would hurl his spear into their territory. This is the way in which, at that time, restitution was sought from the Latins and war was declared, and the custom has been received by later generations”, (‘History of Rome’, 1: 32: 13-14).

Another fragment of Diodorus’ work, which is known from a work of the Byzantine John Tzetzes (12th century AD), contains a reference to this spear-rite:

  1. “The Roman and Latin nations would never march to a war undeclared.  Rather, they would throw a spear before the foreign land as an open declaration of their enmity.  Only then would the war begin against that foreign nation.  That is what is said by Diodorus and everyone [else] writing about Latin affairs”, (‘Chiliades’, 5: 555-61, reproduced as ‘’Library of History’, presumed fragment 8: 26).

Diodorus again made no reference to any fetial involvement in this rite.  However, Aulus Gellius (2nd century AD) cited an earlier authority whom he called ‘Cincius’, who apparently followed the same tradition as that followed by Livy:

  1. “Cincius writes in his third book, ‘De Re Militari’, that the fetial of the Roman people, when he declared war on the enemy and hurled a spear into their territory, used the following words:

  2. ‘Since:

  3. the Hermundulan people and the men of the Hermundulan people have made war against the Roman people and have transgressed against them; and

  4. the Roman people has decreed war with the Hermundulan people and the men of the Hermundulans;

  5. I therefore and the Roman people declare and make war with the Hermundulan people ... ‘“, (‘Attic Nights’, 16: 4)

John Rich (referenced below, 2011, at p. 204) observed that Cincius is usually though to have written in the 1st century BC.  However, there is no basis upon which to determine whether his testimony was written before or after that of Diodorus,  However, he argued (at p. 205, note 78) that:

  1. he must have been the antiquarian called Cincius whom Livy cited at ‘History of Rome’, 7: 3: 7 (see also Edward Bispham and Timothy Cornell, in T. J. Cornel, referenced below, Volume 1, at p. 181) ; and

  2. he might well have  been Livy’s immediate  source for the passage under discussion here. 

However, as John Rich (referenced below, 2011, at p. 204 and note 80) observed:

  1. “No satisfactory explanation has yet been given for the name Hermunduli, assigned to the enemy people in Cincius’ version.”

Fetials and the Just War in the Regal Period

Dionysius described the fetials’ functions in the regal period, beginning with the fact that:

  1. “It is their duty:

  2. to take care that the Romans do not enter upon an unjust war against any city in alliance with them; and

  3. if others violate treaties that they have agreed with them:

  4. to go as ambassadors and make formal demand for justice; and

  5. only then, if the others refuse to meet their demands, to sanction war”, (‘Roman Antiquities’, 2: 72: 14).

As we have seen, Dionysius believed that King Numa had established the fetial college when the Fidenates had raided Roman territory, specifically so that fetials could go to Fidenae in order to obtain some form of restitution, thereby avoiding war.

Two other passages discussed above explicitly recorded an archaic ius fetiale (fetial law or rule) on the preliminaries of war:

  1. Cicero (in ca. 54 BC) recorded that King Tullus had:

  2. “... established the ius by which wars should be declared and, having devised it most justly, gave it fetial religious sanction, so that any war that had not been announced and declared (denuntiatum indictumque) should be considered unjust and impious”, (‘On the Republic, 2: 31).

  3. Livy recorded that King Ancus Marcius had:

  4. “... copied from the ancient people of the Aequicoli the ius that the fetials now have, by which res repetuntur (restitution is sought) [before resorting to war]”, (‘History of Rome’, 1: 32: 5).

Writing in late 44 BC, Cicero observed that:

  1. “... a fair code of warfare has been drawn up, in full accordance with religious scruple, in the fetial iure of the Roman people.  From this, it can be understood that no war is just unless it is:

  2. waged after a [failed] demand for rebus repetitis (the return of property [in restitution]); or

  3. denuntiatum ante (threatened in advance) and indictium (formally declared)”, (‘On Duties’, 1: 36, based on the translation by John Rich, referenced below, 2011, at p. 212).

From these examples, we might reasonably assume that Cicero’s second summary of this ius fetiale reconciled two traditions for the circumstances in which war could be declared with fetial sanction:

  1. in one tradition, Numa (according to Dionysius) or Ancus (according to Livy) had copied a convention of war that was in use by Rome’s neighbours, including the Aequicoli, the Roman version of which was knwon as the a ius fetiale, according to which, war could only be waged legitimately after fetials had been unable to secure restitution from the offending city; while

  2. in the other, Tullus (according to Cicero) had devised a ius fetiale, according to which, war could only be waged legitimately after a formal announcement of hostile intent, followed by a formal act of declaration.

John Rich (referenced below, at pp. 211-2) argued that the tradition on which both Cato and Diodorus relied evidently provided the basis for a record by Cicero (ca. 54 BC), according to which, Tullus had:

  1. “... established the rule by which wars should be declared and, having devised it most justly, gave it fetial religious sanction, so that any war that had not been declared and announced should be considered unjust and impious”, (‘On the Republic’, 2: 31]).

This differs from the testimony of both:

  1. Dionysius of Halicarnassus, who (as we have seen) had the rule devised by Tullus’ predecessor, Numa; and

  2. Livy (ca. 27 BC), who (as we shall see) had the rule devised by Tullus’ successor, Ancus Marcius.


Collegium Fetialium in the Regal Period: Conclusions

It seems that the fetials were seen as representatives of the Romans in their dealings with other peoples in matters of war and peace Although there are internal inconsistencies in the detail of these fundamental passages, the outline is clear: by the late Republic, the received wisdom (as evidenced so far by Diodorus, Cicero, Livy and Dionysius) was that the fetial college had existed since at least the time of Numa. 

The sources above suggest that fetial rituals were though to have been used in the regal period for:

  1. solemnising peace treaties (Livy, who traced this role back to the time of  Tullus);

  2. demanding restitution from parties accused of violating treaties or more generally of injuring Roman interests (Diodorus (?); Cicero (?); Livy, who traced this role back to the time of Ancus Marcius; and Dionysius, who traced it back to the time of Numa); and

  3. formally declaring war after just cause had been established and then initiating hostilities through a spear-rite (Diodorus (?); Cincius; and Livy, who traced this role back to the time of Ancus Marcius).

The traditions that surrounded these archaic rituals are discussed in the linked page on fetial rites.

Collegium Fetialium in the Late Republic

In the section above, I have explored how a group of late Republican scholars (Diodorus, Cincius, Cicero, Livy and Dionysius) interpreted earlier annalists’ accounts of the traditions surrounding the fetials before the dawn of Roman history. 


According to Varro (ca. 45 BC):

  1. Fetiales [are so-called] because they were in charge of public fides (faith) between people.  It was through them:

  2. that a war was judged to be just; and

  3. [lacuna] that trust (fides) in the peace was established by foedera (treaty).

  4. Before war was declared, some of them were sent to seek restitution [as an alternative to war]:  even now, it is through them that fit foedus (a treaty is struck) ... : Ennius writes [in the 2nd century BC, that ‘foedus’] was pronounced fidus”, (‘On the Latin Language’, 5: 86, from the translation by Wilson Shearin, referenced below, at p. 83).

Thus, it seems that

  1. Varro derived both ‘fetiales’ and ‘foedus’ from ‘fides’; and

  2. at his time of writing, the fetials‘ primary role was the ritual of solemnisation that was performed when  fit foedus (a treaty is struck)

John Rich (referenced below, 2011, at p. 204) pointed out that the surviving evidence (mostly from Livy):

  1. “... records two quite distinct fetial pre-war rituals:

  2. one to demand restitution (res repetere); and

  3. the other to declare war (bellum indicere) through a spear-rite.

Since Varro did not mention the spear-rite, it may have become obsolete by his time.  However, Octavian famously revived it in 31 BC: according to Cassius Dio, after the Senate had:

  1. “... declared war on Cleopatra, [the senators] put on their military cloaks ...  and went to the temple of Bellona, where they performed all the rites preliminary to war in the customary fashion, through [Octavian] as [a member of the collegium fetialium].  These proceedings, which were nominally directed against Cleopatra, were really directed against Mark Antony”, (‘Roman History’, 50; 4: 4).

Flaccus, who would have been about 25 at this time, might well have actually witnessed this very public event.  He apparently recorded it in his lexicon: Paul the Deacon recorded that:

  1. “Bellona is so-named because she is the goddess of bellum (war).  A short column called the columna bellica stands in front of her temple, and it is customary to throw a spear over this column whenever the Romans declare war”, (‘De verborum significatu’, 30 L, lines 14-6, translated by Peter Aicher, referenced below, at p. 206).

Since it seems that Flaccus did not record that the fetials’ spear was kept with their sceptre and the lapis silex, it may have been kept elsewhere, perhaps in the temple of Bellona.









Fetials and the Doctrine of the Just War

According to Cicero, Tullus had:

  1. “... established the rule by which wars should be declared and, having devised it most justly, gave it fetial religious sanction, so that any war that had not been declared and announced should be considered unjust and impious”, (‘On the Republic’, 2: 17 [31]).

Livy did not record that Tullus had defined a war as unjust unless it had been properly ‘declared and announced’, but he did record how the fetials actually discharged this responsibility when  a party judged to have injured the Romans refused to make restitution following the procedure that Ancus had established: if the demands of the nuntius (above):

  1. “... are not met within 33 days (for such is the conventional number) he declares war thus:

  2. ‘Hear, Jupiter, and thou, Janus Quirinus, and hear all heavenly gods, and ye, gods of earth, and ye of the lower world: I call on you to witness that this people (naming whatever people it is) are unjust, and refuse to make just restitution.  We will take counsel of the elders in our country on these matters, [and] on how we may obtain what is due to us.’

  3. Then he returns to Rome for the consultation.  Immediately, the king would consult the Fathers, in some such words as these:

  4. ‘Having regard to those goods, disputes and causes of which the pater patratus of the Roman People of the Quirites has made demands on the pater patratus of, [for example], the Prisci Latini, and upon the men of the Prisci Latini, which things they have not delivered, nor fulfilled, nor satisfied, being things which ought to have been delivered, fulfilled, and satisfied, say ... what [each of] you think.’

  5. ... if the majority of those present were of the same opinion, war had been agreed upon”, (‘History of Rome’, 1: 32: 9-12).


Again, Dionysius gave a broadly similar account:

  1. “If, after the expiration of the thirty days, the city still persisted in refusing to grant him justice, he called both the celestial and infernal gods to witness and went away, saying no more than this, that the Roman State would deliberate at its leisure concerning these people.  Thereafter,   together with the other fetials, he appeared before the Senate and declared that they had done everything that was ordained by the holy laws, and that, if the senators wished to vote for war, there would be no obstacle on the part of the gods.  But if any of these things was omitted, neither the Senate nor the people had the power to vote for war”, (‘Roman Antiquities’, 2: 72: 8-9).

Ritual Declaration of War

Livy now turned to the ritual for the declaration of a just war:

  1. “The customary practice was for a fetial to carry a bloody spear, tipped with iron or hardened in fire, to [the borders of enemy territory] and, with not fewer than three adults present, to say:

  2. ‘... the peoples of [for example] the Prisci Latini and the men of the Prisci Latini have acted and offended against the Roman People of the Quirites, and isince:

  3. the Roman People of the Quirites has ordered there to be war against the Prisci Latini; and

  4. the Senate of the Roman People of the Quirites have voted, agreed and decreed that war should be made against the Prisci Latini;

  5. I and the Roman people declare and make war against the peoples of the Prisci Latini and the men of the Prisci Latini’. 

  6. When he had said this, he would hurl the spear across their borders. In this way restitution was sought from the Latins and war declared, and later generations have accepted that custom”, (‘History of Rome’, 1: 32: 12-4).




Ritual Declaration of War

As we have seen, Livy recorded that:

  1. “The customary practice [for the declaration of a just war] was for a fetial to carry a bloody spear, tipped with iron or hardened in fire, to [the borders of enemy territory] and, with not fewer than three adults present, to say:

  2. ‘... the peoples of [for example] the Prisci Latini and the men of the Prisci Latini have acted and offended against the Roman People of the Quirites, and since:

  3. the Roman People of the Quirites has ordered there to be war against the Prisci Latini; and

  4. the Senate of the Roman People of the Quirites have voted, agreed and decreed that war should be made against the Prisci Latini;

  5. I and the Roman People declare and make war against the peoples of the Prisci Latini and the men of the Prisci Latini’. 

  6. When he had said this, he would hurl the spear across their borders.  In this way restitution was sought from the Latins and war declared, and later generations have accepted that custom”, (‘History of Rome’, 1: 32: 12-4).

Robert Ogilvie (referenced below, at p/. 129) pointed out that:

  1. “The Prisci Latini who are mentioned [in Livy’s passage] are chosen purely as an example: there is no reference to an actual war.”

As André Heller (referenced below, at pp. 361-2) pointed out:

  1. “... there is not a single testimony for the [actual] performance of this act in Republican times. ...[Furthermore], there are only two [later] examples for this ritual, both from Cassius Dio.” 

These two testimonies related to events  that were separated by some 200 years:

  1. in 31 BC, Octavian (who became the Emperor Augustus 5 years later) used the ritual to declare war on Cleopatra (discussed below); and

  2. in 178 AD, Marcus Aurelius used it to declare war on the Iazyges (‘Roman History’, 72; 33: 3).

Octavian/ Augustus and the Declaration of War against Cleopatra (31 BC)

According to Cassius Dio, in 31 BC, after the assembled senators had:

  1. “... declared war on Cleopatra, [they] put on their military cloaks ...  and went to the temple of Bellona, where they performed all the rites preliminary to war in the customary fashion, through [Octavian] as [a member of the collegium fetialium].  These proceedings, which were nominally directed against Cleopatra, were really directed against Mark Antony”, (‘Roman History’, 50; 4: 4).

Augustus recorded in his autobiography (‘Res Gestae’, 7: 3) that he had belonged to all the Roman priestly colleges, including that of the fetials.  Thus, it seems that, by this time,  the ‘customary’ ritual did not require that a spear should be hurled into the territory of Cleopatra: Festus (in his epitome of the lexicon of the grammarian M. Verrius Flaccus, who would have been about 25 at the time of the declaration of war against Cleopatra) explained that:

  1. “The goddess of battle is called Bellona.  A short column called the columna bellica stands in front of her temple, and it is customary to throw a spear over this column whenever the Romans declare war”, (‘De verborum significatu’, p. 30 L, translated by Peter Aicher, referenced below, at p. 206).




According to Livy (‘History of Rome’, 10: 19: 16), Appius Claudius Caecus:

  1. vowed this temple in 296 BC, in a battle against the Etruscans during the Third Samnite War; and

  2. consecrated it in 293 BC. 

Ovid recorded that:

  1. “On [3rd June, the temple of] Bellona is said to have been consecrated (sic) in the Etruscan war, and [this goddess] always behaves graciously towards Latium.  Her founder was Appius, who, when peace was refused to Pyrrhus, saw clearly in his mind, although he was blind].  A small open space commands from the temple a view of the top of the Circus [Flaminius].  There stands a little pillar of no little importance: from here it is the custom to hurl a spear, war’s harbinger, when it has been resolved to take arms against a king and peoples”, (‘Fasti,’ 6: 199)

Ovid’s reference to Pyrrhus is illuminated by Cicero:

  1. “In old age, Appius Claudius [Caecus] had the additional disadvantage of being blind; yet it was he who, when the Senate was inclining towards a peace with Pyrrhus and was for making a treaty with him, did not hesitate to say what Ennius has preserved in the following verses:

  2. ‘Whither have swerved the souls, so firm of yore?  Is sense grown senseless? Can feet stand no more?’

  3. And so on in a tone of the most passionate vehemence.  You know the poem, and the speech of Appius himself is extant.  He delivered it 17 years after his second consulship [i.e. in 279 BC, before the famous Pyrrhic victory at Asculum in that year], there having been an interval of ten years between the two consulships, and he having been censor before his previous consulship.  This will show you that at the time of the war with Pyrrhus he was a very old man.  Yet this is the story handed down to us”, (‘On Old Age’, 6: 16)

Virgil (who was a client of Octavian’s colleague, Maecenas by 31 BC) ) referred to an incident in which Turnus, the King of the Rutuli and enemy of the Trojans, approached their camp in Aeneas’ absence and encouraged his men to attack it, shouting:

  1. “Men, is there anyone who, with me, will be first against the foe?  See!” he cries and, whirling a javelin, sends it skyward to start the battle ... ”, (‘Aeneid’, 9: 52).

Virgil would have envisaged Turnus’ hurling of the javelin as a precursor of the Roman practice of declaring war.  Servius/ Servius Danielis, in their commentaries on this passage, described the Roman ritual in two parts:

  1. Initially:

  2. “When [the Romans] wanted to declare war, the pater patratus … would set out for the enemy’s borders and, after reciting certain customary words, would say in a clear voice that he was declaring war for certain reasons, either because they had harmed allies or because they had not returned plundered animals or offenders.  This was called clarigatio from clarity of utterance.  After this clarigatio a spear thrown across their borders would indicate the beginning of battle. However, the fetials would throw the spear on the 33rd day after restitution had been sought from the enemy”, (‘ad Aen’, 9: 52, translated by John Rich, referenced below, 2011, p. 202, note 69).

  3. However:

  4. “... in the time of Pyrrhus [ca. 280 BC], when the Romans intended to wage war against an overseas enemy ... , they devised a scheme whereby one of Pyrrhus' soldiers was captured and made to buy a plot of land in the Circus Flaminius, so that they could declare war legitimately, as though in a place belonging to the enemy.  Later a column was dedicated in that place, in front of the Temple of Bellona”, (‘ad Aen’, 9: 52, translated by Thomas Wiedemann, referenced below, at p. 480).

Thomas Wiedemann (referenced below, at pp. 482-4) argued that, in fact, the fetial rite of throwing the spear might well have been:

  1. “... largely, if not entirely, an invention of [31 BC]”, (quotation from p. 484).

Harriet Flower (referenced below, at p. 49, citing Wiedemann) ) suggested that Octavian:

  1. “... was instrumental in some kind of ‘revival’ of rites in his declaration of war on Cleopatra.”

The testimony of Varro [above] cannot be used to support either  hypotheses: he might well have omitted the spear-throwing because he considered it to be of no relevance to the etymology of ‘fetiales’.  Furthermore, Emilia Salerno (referenced below, at p. 153) reasonably argued that:

  1. “... [since] some continuity in the fetial priesthood can be detected in both literary and epigraphic sources, ... it might be misleading to consider Octavian’s celebration of [the fetial rite for declaring war] as an attempt to invent a ritual and to present it as traditional: the ritual, [which] was most likely already suggested in the fetial law, ... had already been performed, although it is hard to say how often [or how recently].”

Having said that, Octavian’s motivation for employing this ritual on this occasion was clearly not the traditional one: as Alison Cooley (referenced below, 2009, at p. 134) pointed out, his status as a fetial allowed him to participate in what was probably the revival of a ritual that had not been performed for some time:

  1. “... precisely in order to present [the war that had just been declared] as a foreign, not a civil, conflict.”

And, perhaps not coincidentally, Octavian was just about to begin the restoration of the temple of Jupiter Feretrius, in which, as we have seen, other cult objects of the fetials were housed.


Thomas Wiedemann (referenced below, at pp. 480-22) argued that this late evidence for the change in the ritual at the time of the Pyrrhic War is unconvincing, and suggested (at p. 482) that:

  1. “Perhaps the spear-throwing rite was not modified; perhaps there never had been any such archaic rite.”







Fetials’ Sceptre 

Festus is our only surviving source for the existence of the fetials’ sceptre.  However, the last book of Virgil’s ‘Aeneid’ (ca. 19 BC) describes a foedus made between Aeneas and his enemy, Turnus, prior to the duel that would decide which of them would succeed King Latinus: Bill Gladhill, referenced below, at p. 146) argued that:

  1. “The ritual activity [used for this foedus] mirrors the [traditionally much later] fetial ritual as a kind of etiological backdrop.”

Importantly for this discussion, Latinus swore that he would honour the terms of the foedus, whichever man emerged victorious:

  1. “May [Jupiter] Genitor, who sanctions treaties with his lightening, hear my words ! ... however things turn out, [nothing] shall break this peace and truce for Italy: nor shall any force change my mind, ... just as this sceptre (which, by chance, he held  in his hand) shall never sprout, ... now that the craftsman’s hand has encased it in fine bronze and given it to the elders of Latium to bear”, (‘Aeneid’, 12: 206).

In his commentary on this passage, Servius explained that:

  1. “The reason why the sceptre is [now] used when a treaty is made is as follows.  The ancients always used simulacrum Iovis (a statue of Jupiter) [on such occasions], but this was difficult, especially when the treaty was made with a distant peoples.  They discovered that they could effectively replace the image of Jupiter by holding the sceptre, which is [Jupiter’s], and his alone.  Thus, when Latinus held the sceptre, it was not as king but [anachronistically] as pater patratus", (‘ad Aen’, 12: 206, my translation).

Servius clearly thought that Virgil had based his account of Latinus’ oath on the ritual that the pater patratus used when swearing  on the part of the Roman people to honour a treaty, and, more specifically, that Virgil presented the sceptre of the Latin kings to his readers as a precursor of the sceptre that the fetials’ kept in the temple of Jupiter Feretrius.


Festus’ epitome does not explicitly indicate when this practice of housing the sceptre and the stone in the temple had begun.  Nevertheless, his account at least suggests that the fetials had chosen the temple as a home for the stone that they used to the solemnisation of peace treaties because Jupiter Feretrius was the bringer of peace (and it is possible that this was more explicitly stated in Flaccus’ original).  We therefore cannot rule out the existence of a Roman tradition that the fetials had housed the sceptre and stone in the temple since the first time that they had used them to solemnise a treaty.


It is possible that Flaccus also derived Feretrius from either ferre or ferire, although now in the context of bringing peace and the striking treaties, and that this putative second etymological strand became less explicit in Festus’ summary. 

However. Flaccus did not say that ‘Feretrius’ was derived from ferire: the sense of this passage (at least as I read it) is more probably that the fetiales kept the cult objects used in the ritual solemnisation of peace treaties in the temple of Jupiter Feretrius because he was the bringer of peace.

Some scholars give particular weight to the putative second strand of Flaccus’ etymology: for example, Harriet Flower (referenced below, at p. 42) asserted that:

  1. “[The] main purpose of the archaic temple of Jupiter Feretrius] is clear.  It was closely associated with the rites of the fetiales, and was used as a repository for their sacred objects. The cult title Feretrius seems to refer directly to the fetiales and to their function of ratifying and regulating treaties.”



  1. “Foedera could be made by others besides the fetials, sometimes by sacrificing a pig (though perhaps not with a flint stone), and other treaty rituals are also attested.”

“In ratifying the treaty which was made once upon a time with Samnites, a youth of noble birth held the sacrificial pig as ordered by his general.  The treaty, however, was disavowed by the Senate and the commander was surrendered to the Samnites, whereupon some one in the Senate said that the youth also, who held the pig, ought to be surrendered. The charge is: “He ought to be surrendered.” The answer is: “He ought not.” The question is: “Ought he to be surrendered?”a The defendant’s reason is: It was not my duty nor was it in my power, since I was so young and a private soldier, and there was a commander with supreme power and authority to see that an honourable treaty was made.” The prosecutor’s reply is: “But since you had a part in a most infamous treaty sanctioned by solemn religious rites, you ought to be surrendered.”





Ritual Demand for Restitution

According to Livy:

  1. “When the legatus (ambassador) has arrived at the frontiers of the people from whom restitution is sought, he covers his head with a woollen bonnet and says:

  2. ‘Hear, Jupiter; hear, ye boundaries of (naming whatever nation to which they belong); let righteousness hear! I am the public nuntius (messenger) of the Roman People.  I come [to you] lawfully and piously commissioned, so let there be trust in my words.’

  3. Then he recites his demands, after which, he takes Jupiter to witness:

  4. ‘If I have demanded unduly and against religion that these men and these things should be surrendered to me, then let me never again enjoy my native land.’

  5. He rehearses these words when he crosses the territorial boundary, again to the first person he encounters, again when proceeding through the gate of the town, and again when he enters the forum, changing only a few words of the invocation and the oath”, (‘History of Rome’, 1: 32: 6-8).

As we saw above, Dionysius believed that Numa had founded the college so that the fetials could perform this ritual in order to secure restitution following raids on Roman territory by the people of Fidenae.  He did not spell out the rituals that the fetials actually followed on this occasion, but he did explain more generally that:

  1. “... if others violate their treaties with the Romans, it is [the fetials’ duty] first to go as ambassadors and make a formal demand for justice ...”, (‘Roman Antiquities’, 2: 72: 4).

He also described the ritual involved:

  1. “As to the functions they performed in the quality of heralds when they went to any city thought to have injured the Romans,  ... one of these fetials, chosen by his colleagues, wearing his sacred robes and insignia to distinguish him from all others, proceeded towards the city whose inhabitants had done the injury; and, stopping at the border, he called upon Jupiter and the rest of the gods to witness that he was come to demand justice on behalf of the Roman State.  Thereupon he took an oath that he was going to a city that had done an injury; and having uttered the most dreadful imprecations against himself and Rome, if what he averred was not true, he then entered their borders. Afterwards, he called to witness the first person he met, whether it was one of the countrymen or one of the townspeople, and having repeated the same imprecations, he advanced towards the city. And, before he entered it, he called to witness in the same manner the gate-keeper or the first person he met at the gates, after which he proceeded to the forum; and, taking his stand there, he discussed with the magistrates the reasons for his coming, adding everywhere the same oaths and imprecations.  If, then, they were disposed to offer satisfaction by delivering up the guilty, he departed as a friend taking leave of friends, carrying the prisoners with him. Or, if they desired time to deliberate, he allowed them ten days, after which he returned and waited till they had made this request three times”, (‘Roman Antiquities’, 2: 72: 6-8). 

This is essentially the same ritual described by Livy, with further details added.

Plutarch, who also followed the tradition in which Numa had established the collegium fetialium, recorded that:

  1. “... the Φιτιαλεῖς (fetiales) ... were, so to speak, εἰρηνοφύλακές (guardians of peace) and, in my opinion, took their name from their [primary function], which was to resolve disputes by negotiation: they would not allow hostile expeditions to be made before every hope of receiving justice [by other means] had failed.  For, the Greeks call it peace when two parties settle their quarrels by negotiation rather than by violence”, (‘Life of Numa’, 12: 3).

Philip A. Stadter (referenced below, at p. 254, note 37) observed that Plutarch’s eirenophulakes (guardians of peace):

  1. “... seems to connect the name with φημί (phemi, speak), with the notion that disputes were resolved by word, not violence.”

Ritual Just War

Plutarch in his ‘Life of Numa’, had designated the fetials as guardians of peace through negotiation.  He subsequently expanded on this, explaining that that the collegium fetialium had been:

  1. “... instituted by Numa Pompilius, the most gentle and just of kings, to be the guardians of peace, as well as judges and determiners of the grounds on which war could justly be made”, (‘Life of Camillus’, 18:1).

Virgil, in the ‘Aeneid’ imagined a speech that Jupiter made at a council of the gods, in which he expressed his exasperation that the ‘unjust’ war that had broken out between Aeneas and the Latin peoples.  He warned that:

  1. “There shall come a  time (do not hasten it) for battle, when fierce Carthage shall one day let loose mighty destruction upon the heights of Rome and open upon her the Alps.  Then, it will be lawful to vie in hate, then to ravage; now let be and cheerfully assent to the covenant I ordain.”, (‘ad Aen’, 10: 14).

Servius/ Servius Danielis cited Livy in their commentary on this passage:

  1. “Ancus Marcius … received from the Aequicoli fetial rules by which war used to be declared in the following way, as Livy recounted about the Albani (sic): whenever people or animals had been seized by some nation from the Roman people, with the fetials … the pater patratus too would set out and, standing before the borders [of enemy territory], would state the reason for the war in a clear voice, and if they were unwilling to return the stolen goods or handover those responsible for injury, would throw the spear, which was the beginning of battle. ... Clarigatio ... was so called from the clear voice which the pater patratus used, or from the Greek kleros, that is ‘lot’: for it was by the lot of war that they invaded the enemy’s land ….”, (‘ad Aen’, 10: 14, translated by John Rich, referenced below, 2011, p. 202, note 69).



Robert Ogilvie (referenced below, at p. 111):

patre patrato: within the family the paterfamilias alone was able to contract. Universalising this principle beyond the domain of the family, the Romans created an artificial 'pater’  who was to act for and in the name of the state as a whole. The pater patratus should mean 'one who is made a father'.  Other explanations, e.g. 'father of the fatherhood' (patratus, gen. like senatus) or 'the father accomplisher’  (patratus, a nom. agentis in -tus, a variant of patrator) do not account for the declension of patratus, -ti. Equally mistaken is L.'s own derivation given in 24. 6: [The pater patratus is appointed to pronounce the oath, that is, to solemnise the foedera.  The title is proof of the high antiquity of the office.”

“cf. Dig. 1. 8. 8. 1 'sunt autem sagmina quaedam herbae quas legati populi Romani ferre solent ne quis eos violaret sicut legati Graecorum ferunt ea quae vocantur cerycia'. The explanation, a dangerous assimilation of Roman to Greek ritual, is false because the grasses had to be torn out of the ground with their earth (Pliny, N.H. 22. 5; cf. Festus 424-6 L.; Servius, ad Aen. 12. 120), and were employed in the ritual act of creating the pater patratus. These acts can only be accounted for on quasi-magical grounds. The earth from the arx of Rome protected the fetial from foreign influences when he

was outside his native land.


 


Marcus Terentius Varro

Two surviving fragment of Varro’s now-lost ‘De vita populi Romana’ that are preserved in a work by Nonius Marcellus, described the fetials acting as both negotiators and judges in matters of war and peace.  According to these fragments (from Nonius’ ‘Doctrina’, at p 850 Lindsay edition, translated in the blog of Roger Pearse):

  1. “... wars were undertaken slowly and with great deliberation, because [the Romans] thought it wrong to wage any war unless it was justified.  Before they declared war, they sent four fetiales as legati to make a claim against the man responsible for the injuries, and they called these men ‘oratores’”, (Book 2); and

  2. “If [any Romans had] outraged foreign legati (ambassadors), those responsible, even if they were nobles, were arrested so that they might be handed over to the [foreign] community.  And 20 fetiales who are learned in these matters judged, decided and legislated [as necessary]”, (Book 3).

As John Rich (referenced below, 2011, at p. 191) observed, in this work, Varro:

  1. “... discussed Roman institutions and customs in successive chronological periods.  He dealt with:

  2. [the fetiales’] activities in respect of treaties and the preliminaries of war in the second book, which dealt with the early Republic; but

  3. mentioned their responsibility for [seeking restitution from] offenders against ambassadors in the third book, which dealt with the Punic War period.














Temple of Jupiter Feretrius

For Verrius Flaccus, the significance of the small temple of Jupiter Feretrius was that it had housed the fetials’ sceptre and lapis silex since the time of its dedication to ‘Jupiter Bringer of Peace and Guarantor of Peace Treaties’. 

The odd thing about this is that, as we shall see, all the other surviving etymologies from this period link ‘Feretrius’ to the ‘fact’ that Romulus had built the temple of Jupiter Feretrius to receive the spolia opima.  We shall also see below that Livy, Propertius and Dionysius of Halicarnassus were all writing in a period in which the tradition of the spolia opima were of particular political importance to Augustus:

  1. If Flaccus’ dictionary had pre-dated the publication of Livy’s books 1-5 in ca. 27 BC, then it is likely that it also pre-dated the declaration of War on Cleopatra in 31 BC, since, thereafter, a reference to the fetials’ red-stained spear would presumably have been de rigueur

  2. Alternatively, it might have been a product of the last two decades of Flaccus’ life, when the spolia opima had probably lost their political importance. 

Fetials and the Striking of Foedera




Fetials and the Temple of Jupiter Feretrius 

So far, I have discussed the narrative sources for the fetials in the regal period.  However, additional (albeit  indirect) evidence can be found in the work of the grammarian M. Verrius Flaccus, the author of ‘De verborum significatu’, a 40 volume lexicon of Latin words.  We do not know the precise date of this work, but we do know that Flaccus acted as tutor to Augustus’ grandchildren in the late 1st century BC and died at an advanced age in ca. 20 AD (so his work was broadly contemporary with that of Livy and Dionysius).  His lexicon is lost but:

  1. Sextus Pompeius Festus wrote an epitome of it (also entitled ‘De verborum significatu’) in the 2nd century AD, the latter part of which survives; and

  2. an abridgement of the Sextus’ epitome that was written in the 8th century AD by the Lombard scholar known as ‘Paul the Deacon‘ survives in its entirety. 

A manuscript of these surviving works edited by Wallace M. Lindsay is referenced below, and entries from it are referred to here by their page numbers. 

Three entries by Festus/ Paullus are relevant to the present discussion:

  1. Fetiales: are so called from ‘faciendo’ (making), because the right of making war and peace lies with them”, (‘De verborum significatu’, p. 81L translation from Wilson Shearin, referenced below, at p. 84).

  2. Feretrius: Jupiter is so-called from ‘ferendo’ (bringing), because he is thought to bring peace.  From his temple, they take:

  3. the sceptre, by which they swear [an oath]; and

  4. the lapis silex [flint stone], by which foedus ferirent (they strike a treaty)”, (‘De verborum significatu’, p. 81L translation from Wilson Shearin, referenced below, at p. 84).

  5. Foedus [is] named, either:

  6. from the fact that, in making peace, the victim is killed foede (shamefully, foully, hideously) ... ; or

  7. because fides (good faith) is pledged in a foedus”, (‘De verborum significatu’, p. 74 L, translation from Bill Gladhill, referenced below, at p. 53).

The first two of these entries, which are adjacent to each other in the manuscript, should be considered together, since the unspecified ‘they’ in the second entry were clearly the fetiales discussed in the first. 

Temple of Jupiter Feretrius

The earliest written (as opposed to numismatic) evidence for the physical existence of the temple of Jupiter Feretrius is in a surviving fragment of Cornelius Nepos’ biography of the antiquarian Titus Pomponius Atticus, which Nepos wrote shortly after Atticus’ death in 32 BC.  In it, Nepos recorded that the triumvir Octavian (who became the Emperor Augustus in 27 BC) had been on excellent terms with Atticus, to the extent that, when Octavian was in Rome:

  1. “... scarcely a  day passed in which he did not write to Atticus, sometimes asking him something relating to antiquity ... Thus it was that, when the temple of Jupiter Feretrius, which Romulus had built on the Capitol, was unroofed and falling down through age and neglect, Octavian, on the suggestion of Atticus, took care that it should be repaired”, (‘Lives of Eminent Commanders: Titus Pomponius Atticus’, 20).

Dionysius, who might well have visited the temple during its restoration, commented that:

  1. “... the ancient traces of [the earlier structure ?] still remain, of which the longest sides are less than fifteen [Roman] feet”, (‘Roman Antiquities’, 2: 34: 1-3);

The epitome of Festus/ Paullus is the only surviving evidence that the fetials were ever associated with the temple, but their testimony it must represent a version of Flaccus’ original entries, and he would have been able to verify the fact that the fetials’ sceptre and flint stone were kept in the temple at the time of its restoration.  Furthermore, it would be natural for Flaccus to link his entries for fetiales and Feretrius together if he believed that the fetials kept their ritual objects there because Jupiter Feretrius was a ‘bringer of peace’. We cannot tell from the testimony of Festus/ Paullus whether Flaccus believed that this association had been long-established at his time of writing, but we cannot rule out the existence of a Roman tradition that the fetials had housed their cult objects in the Romulean temple since their foundation at the time of Numa.  However, the problem here is that, while  both Livy and Dionysius had written about Romulus’ foundation of the temple and alluded to it recent restoration, neither of them ever associated it with the fetials. It is therefore important to investigate the extent to which Flaccus’ etymologies were rooted in an established tradition.

Etymology of ‘Fetiales’

Flaccus would certainly have been familiar with the work of M. Terentius Varro, who recorded in 45-3 BC that ‘fetiales’:

  1. “... were so-called because they were in charge of public fides (faith) between people.  It was through them:

  2. that iustum bellum (just war) was declared; and, when it was over,

  3. that trust (fides) in the peace was established.

  4. Before war was declared, some of them were sent to seek restitution [as an alternative to war]:  even now, it is through them that a foedus (peace treaty) is made ... ”, (‘On the Latin Language’, 5: 86, from the translation by Wilson Shearin, referenced below, at p. 83).

Although Varro suggested the derivation of ‘fetiales’ from ‘fides’ and ‘foedus’, while Flaccus apparently  suggested its derivation from ‘faciendo’, both authors agreed more generally that all three words (‘‘fetiales’, ‘fides’ and ‘foedus’) were etymologically inked in the context of peace-making. 

We should also consider the view of Dionysius, who:

  1. arrived in Rome only shortly after Varro’s death and made a direct reference to Varro’s ‘Antiquities’ (at ‘Roman Antiquities’, 1: 14: 1); and

  2. would also surely have been  familiar with the work of the Roman grammarians who were still active in the city, including that of Flaccus.

His view was that the fetiales:

  1. “... may be called in Greek εἰρηνοδίκαι (arbiters or judges of peace)”, (‘Roman Antiquities’, 2: 72: 1).

This is, if anything,  slightly closer to Flaccus’ etymology:

  1. ‘Fetiales are so called from ‘faciendo’ (making), because the right of making war and peace lies with them’;

than to that of Varro:

  1. ‘Fetiales were so-called because they were in charge of public fides (faith) between people’.

In short, it would certainly be difficult to argue that Flaccus’ etymology of ‘fetiales’ was outside the mainstream of scholarly opinion at this time.

Etymology of ‘Feretrius’

Unfortunately, we do not have any direct evidence for Varro’s view of the significance of the epithet ‘Feretrius’.  However, we do have the etymology proposed by Propertius in a poem in which he elegised the temple of Jupiter Feretrius. This is the penultimate poem (4:10) of his Book 4 of his ;‘Elegies’ and it is followed by a poem that lamented the death in 16 BC of Cornelia, the wife of Aemilius Paullus: since Propertius himself died soon after, Book 4 book was probably published at about this time.  Propertius gave two possible etymologies, both of which revolved around the association between the temple and the spolia opima:

  1. “Now [three sets of spolia opima] are housed in the temple: hence Feretrius:

  2. perhaps because ... dux ferit ense ducem (leader struck leader with a sword): or

  3. perhaps because [three Roman duces] ferebant (brought, bore or carried) the armour of [the enemy duces that] they had vanquished on their shoulders”, (Elegies’, 4: 10: 46-7) .

Thus, Propertius derived Feretrius from:

  1. ferire (to strike), so that the temple was dedicated to Jupiter ‘for whom Roman generals of exceptional virtus struck and killed enemy commanders’; or

  2. ferre (to bring, bear or carry), so that it was dedicated to Jupiter ‘to whom Roman generals of exceptional virtus brought the armour of the enemy commanders that they had killed with their own hands’.


In what follows, I have extracted the key points from 4:10 to tease out the underlying information (which obviously does no justice to its poetic value). I have adapted the translation by Vincent Katz (referenced below, at pp. 407-9), although there is a convenient on-line version in the website Poetry in Translation.



It is possible that Flaccus also derived Feretrius from either ferre or ferire, although now in the context of bringing peace and the striking treaties, and that this putative second etymological strand became less explicit in Festus’ summary. 

However. Flaccus did not say that ‘Feretrius’ was derived from ferire: the sense of this passage (at least as I read it) is more probably that the fetiales kept the cult objects used in the ritual solemnisation of peace treaties in the temple of Jupiter Feretrius because he was the bringer of peace.

However, having said that, it is odd that neither Dionysius nor Livy recorded this information.



Dionysius of Halicarnassus,:

  1. arrived in Rome only shortly after Varro’s death, and he made a direct reference to Varro’s ‘Antiquities’ (at ‘Roman Antiquities’, 1: 14: 1); and

  2. would also surely have been  familiar with the work of the Roman grammarians who were still active there, including that of Flaccus.

It is interesting to note that his etymology of ‘fetiales’ more closely reflected that of Flaccus:

  1. “The 7th division of the sacred institutions of Numa, [the second king of Rome (traditionally 715-672 BC)], was devoted to the collegium fetialium.  These [priests] may be called in Greek εἰρηνοδίκαι (arbiters or judges of peace)”, (‘Roman Antiquities’, 2: 72: 1). 

Dionysius then observed that the fetials:

  1. “...are chosen men, from the best families, and exercise their holy office for life.  King Numa was also the first who instituted this holy magistracy among the Romans, but whether he took his example from:

  2. those called the Aequicol, according to the opinion of some; or

  3. from the city of Ardea, as Gellius writes;

  4. I cannot say.  It is sufficient for me to state that, before Numa's reign, the collegium fetialium did not exist among the Romans.  It was instituted by Numa ...”, (‘Roman Antiquities’, 2: 72: 1-2).

Plutarch, who also knew the tradition in which Numa had established the collegium fetialium, recorded that:

  1. “... the Φιτιαλεῖς (fetiales), ... who were, so to speak, εἰρηνοφύλακές (guardians of peace) and, in my opinion, took their name from their [primary function], which was to resolve disputes by negotiation: and they would not allow hostile expeditions to be made before every hope of receiving justice [by other means] had been cut off.  For, the Greeks call it peace when two parties settle their quarrels by negotiation rather than by violence”, (‘Life of Numa’, 12: 3).







It is possible that Flaccus also followed Varro in suggesting a derivation of ‘fetiales’ from ‘foedus’, and that this originally linked the information in the  adjacent entries in Festus’ epitome for fetials and Feretrius.


According to M. Terentius Varro, in a work that he wrote in 45-3 BC (some two decades before Livy wrote the above passage), ‘fetiales’:

  1. “... were so-called because they were in charge of public fides (faith) between people.  It was through them:

  2. that iustum bellum (just war) was declared; and, when it was over,

  3. that trust (fides) in the peace was established.

  4. Before war was declared, some of them were sent to seek restitution [as an alternative to war]:  even now, it is through them that a foedus (peace treaty) is made, which Ennius writes [in the 2nd century BC] was pronounced fidus”, (‘On the Latin Language’, 5: 86, from the translation by Wilson Shearin, referenced below, at p. 83).

Thus, Varro suggested that the words ‘fetiales’,  ‘fides’ and ‘foedus‘ were etymologically related, and he asserts that, at his time of writing, the fetials‘ primary role was the solemnisation of foedera


In another work of in ca. 36 BC, Varro recorded that:

  1. “The Greek name for the pig ... was [originally] θῦς from the verb θύειν (to sacrifice); for it seems that, at the beginning of making sacrifices, [the Romans] first took the victim from the swine family.  There are traces of this in  ... [the fact] that, at the [Roman] rites that initiate peace, when a treaty is made, a pig is killed”, (‘On Agriculture’, 2: 4: 9, translated by William Hooper and Harrison Boyd, referenced below, at pp. 356-7).


In his commentary on Virgil’s ‘Aeneid’, Servius explained the meaning of ‘foedus’ on two of the occasions on which it appeared in the poem (reproduced and translated by Bill Gladhill, referenced below, at pp. 51-2):

  1. “... foedus is named for the fetiales:

  2. that is, from the priests through whom foedera are struck; or

  3. from a sow slaughtered foede (foully) ... with a stone ...”, (‘ad Aen’, 1: 62).

  4. “... [Romulus and the Sabine king Tatius] iungebant foedera (were [cementing] treaties) with a sow.  Foedera, as we said earlier, are so-called because they derived:

  5. from a sow slaughtered foede (foully) and cruelly, since:

  6. -although previously, [the sacrificial pigs] were transfixes with swords;

  7. -the fetials discovered that [the pigs] should be silice feriretur (struck with a flint stone), because they thought that the lapis silex was a sign of Jove.

  8. [However], Cicero thought that ‘foedera’ derived from ‘fides’”,  (‘ad Aen’, 8: 641).

Although Servius’ commentary dates to the 4th century AD, he clearly used Cicero as one of his sources.  We might therefore reasonably assume  that he had access to other late Republican sources (perhaps including Flaccus, either directly of via Festus).  Wilson Shearin (referenced below, at p. 82) observed that:

  1. “What is so striking about this evidence [from ancient commentators and lexicographers for the etymology of foedus] is that it points, almost without fail, to consideration of fetial ritual.”

There is indeed little doubt that, from an early date, the lapis silex was associated with the sacrifice of a pig as a pledge of good faith during their solemnisation of foedera.

Cicero

Cicero twice claimed that the consuls agreed a foedus with Pontius: Cicero did so twice in his surviving works:

  1. In a satirical account of a hypothetical legal debate, the young Cicero referenced:

  2. "... the foedus that was ... made with the Samnites [in 321 BC], [when] the consul ordered a certain young man of noble birth to hold the pig that was to be sacrificed.  When the foedus was disavowed by the Senate and the consul [who had agreed it] surrendered to the Samnites, one of the senators asserted that the man who had held the pig ought also to be handed over to them”, (‘de Inventiones’, 2: 30 [91]).

  3. Later in his career (in ca. 44 BC), Cicero returned to these events in his defence of a decision that had been taken in 255 BC by Marcus Atilius Regulus: the Carthaginians had captured Regulus during the First Punic War and released him on parole so that he could present a treaty to the Senate, but he successfully argued that the Senate should not accept its terms and then returned to the Carthaginians under the terms of his parole.  Cicero argued that he had been morally right to do so:

  4. “Regulus had no right to confound by perjury the terms and covenants  ... [relating to a war that] was being fought with a legitimate, declared enemy.  We have our whole fetial code to regulate our dealings with such an enemy, as well as many other laws that are binding between nations.  Were this not the case, the Senate would never have delivered up illustrious Romans in chains to the enemy, ... [as it did, for example, in 321 BC, when] Titus Veturius and Spurius Postumius ... lost the battle at the Caudine Forks, and our legions were sent under the yoke.  These consuls were delivered up to the Samnites because they had made peace with them without the approval of the people and Senate. ... This was done in order that the peace with the Samnites might be [legitimately] repudiated”, (‘De Officiis’, 3:108-9).

Thus, according to Cicero, the consuls of 321 BC had agreed a foedus with the Samnites in a ritual that involved the sacrifice of a pig, and this foedus would have been legitimate if it had been formally sanctioned by the Senate.  Unlike Livy, Cicero did not claim that a serving consul was unable to strike to a foedus on behalf of the Roman people without the involvement of the fetials.

In his speech in defence of Aulus Caecina, Cicero (ca. 70 BC) addressed the claim that Caecina had lost his rights as a citizen following measures that Sulla had taken against his native city, Volaterrae, and that he was therefore disqualified from inheriting the property that was the subject of this legal action.  As part of his case that citizenship (like freedom) was inalienable, Cicero pointed out that:

  1. “... when anyone is surrendered [to an enemy] by the pater patratus [of the fetial college] ... , what justification is there for the loss of his citizenship?  A Roman citizen is surrendered to save the honour of the state: if those to whom he is surrendered accept him, he becomes theirs; if they refuse to accept him, as the Numantines did Mancinus, he retains his original status and his rights as a citizen” (‘Pro Caecina’, translated by Humfrey Grose-Hodge, referenced below, at p. 197).

Cicero (in 55 BC):

  1. “... Caius Mancinus, a man of the highest rank and character and a past consul, who under a decree of the Senate had been delivered up to the Numantines by the pater patratus [of the fetial college]  for concluding an unpopular treaty with their nation, and whose surrender they had refused to accept, whereupon he returned home and unhesitatingly came into the Senate-house: Publius Rutilius, son of Marcus and tribune of the plebs, ordered him to be removed, affirming that he was no citizen, in view of the traditional rule that a man  ,,, delivered up by the pater patratus, had no right of restoration”, (‘De Oratore’, 1: 181).

In his speech against Caius Verres, Cicero (70 BC) observed sarcastically:

  1. “Oh! but you did not command the Mamertines to furnish a ship, because they are one of the confederate cities.  Thank God, we have a man trained by the fetials; a man above all others pious and careful in all that belongs to public religion”, (‘Verrine Orations, 2: 5: 49)

As John Rich (referenced below, 2011, at p. 195, note 39) observed, this implies that the fetials were still responsible for for the religious aspect of treaties at this time.

Cicero (44 BC) :

  1. “In old age, Appius Claudius [Caecus] had the additional disadvantage of being blind; yet it was he who, when the Senate was inclining towards a peace with Pyrrhus and was for making a treaty with him, did not hesitate to say what Ennius has preserved in the following verses:

  2. ‘Whither have swerved the souls, so firm of yore?  Is sense grown senseless? Can feet stand no more?’

  3. And so on in a tone of the most passionate vehemence.  You know the poem, and the speech of Appius himself is extant.  He delivered it 17 years after his second consulship [i.e. in 279 BC, before the famous Pyrrhic victory at Asculum in that year], there having been an interval of ten years between the two consulships, and he having been censor before his previous consulship.  This will show you that he was a very old man at the time of the war with Pyrrhus.  Yet this is the story handed down to us”, (‘On Old Age, 6: 16)


In his commentary on Virgil’s ‘Aeneid’, Servius explained the meaning of ‘foedus’ on two of the occasions on which it appeared in the poem (reproduced and translated by Bill Gladhill, referenced below, at pp. 51-2):

  1. “... foedus is named for the fetiales:

  2. that is, from the priests through whom foedera are struck; or

  3. from a sow slaughtered foede (foully) ... with a stone ...”, (‘ad Aen’, 1: 62).

  4. “... [Romulus and the Sabine king Tatius] iungebant foedera (were [cementing] treaties) with a sow.  Foedera, as we said earlier, are so-called because they derived:

  5. from a sow slaughtered foede (foully) and cruelly, since:

  6. -although previously, [the sacrificial pigs] were transfixes with swords;

  7. -the fetials discovered that [the pigs] should be silice feriretur (struck with a flint stone), because they thought that the lapis silex was a sign of Jove.

  8. [However], Cicero thought that ‘foedera’ derived from ‘fides’”,  (‘ad Aen’, 8: 641).

Although Servius’ commentary dates to the 4th century AD, he clearly used Cicero as one of his sources.  We might therefore reasonably assume  that he had access to other late Republican sources (perhaps including Flaccus, either directly of via Festus).  Wilson Shearin (referenced below, at p. 82) observed that:

  1. “What is so striking about this evidence [from ancient commentators and lexicographers for the etymology of foedus] is that it points, almost without fail, to consideration of fetial ritual.”

There is indeed little doubt that, from an early date, the lapis silex was associated with the sacrifice of a pig as a pledge of good faith during their solemnisation of foedera.


Fetial Rituals

Romans’ Foedus with the Samnites in 321 BC

In 321 BC, the consuls T. Veturius Calvinus and Sp. Postumius Albinus famously led their army into a trap in a defile near Caudium known to us as the Caudine Forks.  The Romans were forced to surrender, and Caius Pontius, the Samnite general who had planned the ambush, sent the consuls and their army under the yoke: in other words, they were made to march, naked and unarmed, under an arch of enemy spears as an expression of their utter humiliation.  Livy then recorded a surprisingly generous offer from Pontius: once the Romans had accepted this humiliation:

  1. “... provided that the Romans agreed to evacuate Samnite territory and withdraw their colonies from it, then Romans and Samnites would live thereafter by their own laws on the basis of an equal foedus.  He would immediately strike a foedus on these terms with the consuls but, if they rejected any of these terms, then he would not allow their envoys to return to him”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 4: 3-5).

Livy claimed that the consuls did not, in fact, immediately accept these terms.  Instead, they:

  1. “... declared that no foedus (treaty) could be made without the authorisation of the Roman people, the presence of fetials and the customary ritual.  Consequently, the Caudine Peace was entered into:

  2. not by means of a foedus [agreed by the consuls], as people in general believe and as [Quintus Claudius] Quadrigarius actually states; but

  3. by sponsio (a solemn pledge)”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 5: 1-2).

In his defence of his position, Livy asked rhetorically:

  1. “... what need would there have been for guarantors or for hostages in a foedus, [which would have been solemnised by an oath] that the nation responsible for any departure from the recited terms might be struck by Jupiter, even as the pig is struck by the fetials?  The guarantors [of his putative sponsio] were the consuls, the lieutenants, the quaestors, and the tribunes of the soldiers, and the names of all who gave the guarantee are extant [in an almost certainly bogus source], whereas, if the agreement had been entered into as in making a foedus, no names would be preserved except those of the two fetials.  Because of the inevitable delay in ratifying the treaty, 600 knights were given as hostages, whose lives were to be forfeit if the Romans should fail to keep the terms”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 5: 3-5).

Thus, according to Livy, the consuls were able to return to Rome, having guaranteed as sponsores that a foedus based on Pontius’ terms would be struck in the customary manner shortly thereafter.

The problem with this is that, apart from Appian (2nd century AD), Livy is our only surviving source for this ‘sponsio’.  Furthermore, Quadrigarius (who died in ca. 80 BC) is not the only historian who is known to have claimed that the consuls agreed a foedus with Pontius: Cicero did so twice in his surviving works:

  1. In a satirical account of a hypothetical legal debate, the young Cicero referenced:

  2. "... the foedus that was ... made with the Samnites [in 321 BC], [when] the consul ordered a certain young man of noble birth to hold the pig that was to be sacrificed.  When the foedus was disavowed by the Senate and the consul [who had agreed it] surrendered to the Samnites, one of the senators asserted that the man who had held the pig ought also to be handed over to them”, (‘de Inventiones’, 2: 30 [91]).

  3. Later in his career (in ca. 44 BC), Cicero returned to these events in his defence of a decision that had been taken in 255 BC by Marcus Atilius Regulus: the Carthaginians had captured Regulus during the First Punic War and released him on parole so that he could present a treaty to the Senate, but he successfully argued that the Senate should not accept its terms and then returned to the Carthaginians under the terms of his parole.  Cicero argued that he had been morally right to do so:

  4. “Regulus had no right to confound by perjury the terms and covenants  ... [relating to a war that] was being fought with a legitimate, declared enemy.  We have our whole fetial code to regulate our dealings with such an enemy, as well as many other laws that are binding between nations.  Were this not the case, the Senate would never have delivered up illustrious Romans in chains to the enemy, ... [as it did, for example, in 321 BC, when] Titus Veturius and Spurius Postumius ... lost the battle at the Caudine Forks, and our legions were sent under the yoke.  These consuls were delivered up to the Samnites because they had made peace with them without the approval of the people and Senate. ... This was done in order that the peace with the Samnites might be [legitimately] repudiated”, (‘De Officiis’, 3:108-9).

Thus, according to Cicero, the consuls of 321 BC had agreed a foedus with the Samnites in a ritual that involved the sacrifice of a pig, and this foedus would have been legitimate if it had been formally sanctioned by the Senate.  Unlike Livy, Cicero did not claim that a serving consul was unable to strike to a foedus on behalf of the Roman people without the involvement of the fetials.

The idea of a sponsio in 321 BC almost certainly arose because, according to Livy’s source(s), the consuls of 320 BC, Quintus Publilius Philo and Lucius Papirius Cursor, secured a stunning victory in which the Samnites were utterly humiliated.  If this victory was authentic, then either:

  1. the Romans had violated a foedera and embarked on an ‘unjust’; or

  2. the foedera of 321 BC had been invalid, and the Romans had avoided its terms by returning its guarantors to the Samnites.

Livy claimed that this second course was taken, after the ex-consul Postumius (presumably speaking for his fellow sponsors) agreed to:

  1. “... surrender to the tortures of a resentful foe, so that he might make expiation for the Roman People.  ...  the army [then] marched on Caudium.  Before them went the fetials, who, when they had come to the city gate, ordered that the [Roman] ‘sponsores’ (guarantors) of peace should be stripped and their hands be bound behind their backs. ... then, on arriving at the assembly of the Samnites and the tribune of Caius Pontius, the fetial, Aulus Cornelius Arvina, spoke as follows:

  2. ‘Since these men, unbidden by the Roman People of the Quirites, have guaranteed that a foedus would be struck, and by so doing have committed an injury, and so that the Roman People may be absolved of heinous guilt, I deliver up these men to you.’

  3. As the fetial spoke these words, Postumius thrust his knee into [the fetial’s] thigh ... and proclaimed in a loud voice that he was a Samnite citizen, who had maltreated the legatus in violation of

  4. ius gentium (the law of nations).  Thus, iustius bellum gesturos (we may continue the war more justly)”, (‘History of Rome’, 9: 10: 4-10).

Bruce Frier (referenced below, at p. 11) characterised this as:

  1. “... an exceedingly odd incident ... [that] occurs in no other ancient source and may well be Livy’s own invention.  The artificiality of the contrivance is worth comment in passing; for, while it was a contentious issue in the late Republic whether the fetial surrender of a Roman citizen ... ended that person’s Roman citizenship, no source ever suggests that such a surrender could also unilaterally confer alien citizenship. ...  [this] Roman charade ... is hard to evaluate: are we even meant to take it seriously?”  

Similarly, Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 2005, at p.34) referred to:

  1. “... the absurdity of [Livy’s] account of Rome’s glorious victories [that followed] in 320 BC, much of which verges on fantasy.”

He continued (at p. 36):

  1. “If [this campaign is discounted], then we have no reliable evidence for fighting between Rome and the Samnites in that year.  There is therefore no reason to believe that the Romans either repudiated or broke their treaty with the Samnites, either in 321 or 320 BC.  The campaigns of 320 that adorn the pages of Livy appear to be [no more than] an annalistic fiction ... that gave the Romans great victories to compensate for [an all too real and] crushing defeat.”

In short, Livy or his source(s) probably fabricated an ‘exceedingly odd’ expatiation in order to claim that a fabricated victory that followed it was not undermined by the appearance of having been won in anything other than a just war.

This long digression contains some information that is of importance for an an analysis of the fetials’ role in the striking of foedera:

  1. we learn from Cicero that

  2. pace Livy, foedera could be struck by consuls in the field of battle, subject to the approval of the Senate; and

  3. on such occasions, their solemnisation by the the consul(s) involved the sacrifice of a pig; and

  4. according to Livy (9: 5: 5), when the fetial ritual was used in such situations, it involved only two fetials, perhaps (as suggested by John Rich, 2011, at p. 189) the pater patratus and the verbenarius.

Romans’ Foedus with the Carthagians in 241 BC 

Rome had first engaged with the Carthaginians in 264 BC, in order to end their potentially threatening presence in Sicilia (Sicily).  This First Punic War lasted for 23 years, and Rome emerged from it as the most powerful naval state in the Mediterranean.  The treaty that the Romans imposed on the Carthaginians was punitive: according to Polybius:

  1. “At the close of the war, ... [the Romans and Carthaginians] made [what was probably their 5th] treaty, the clauses of which [included the following]:

  2. ‘The Carthaginians are to:

  3. evacuate the whole of Sicily and all the islands between Italy and Sicily ... ; and

  4. pay 2,200 talents within 10 years, and a sum of 1,ooo talents at once ....’”, (‘Histories’, 3: 27: 1-6).

As noted above, John Rich (referenced below, 2011, at 194 and note 35) argued that a surviving fragment of the work of the poet Naevius (who fought in this war and wrote an epic poem about it thereafter) almost certainly belonged to a passage that had described the fetials’ role in the striking of this treaty.

Romans’ Foedus with the Carthagians in 201 BC 

As we have seen, Livy referred to the fetials’ solemnisation of the treaty that ended the Third Punic War in 201 BC:

  1. “When the fetials received orders to proceed to Africa for the purpose of foedus feriundum (striking the treaty) [with the defeated Carthaginians], they asked the Senate to define the procedure.  The Senate accordingly decided upon this formula:

  2. ‘The fetials shall take with them their own lapides silices (flint stones) and their own verbenae; when a Roman praetor orders them foedus ferirent (to strike the treaty), they shall demand the sagmina from him.’

  3. The herbs given to the fetials are usually taken from the arx", (‘History of Rome’, 30: 43: 9-10).

Thomas Wiedemann (referenced below, at p. 485) observed that:

  1. “While Livy's words might imply that he thought that there were several silices and sagmina (privos = one each), it would seem from [the passage of Festus discussed above] that there was, in fact, only one silex, and that it was normally kept in the Temple of Jupiter Feretrius on the Capitol [see below], traditionally the most ancient of Roman shrines.” 

Roman Foedera with the Greeks (2nd and 1st centuries BC)

In construction)

The Greek terms for fetials are εἰρηνοδίκαι, είρηνοποιοί, and εἰρηνοφύλαξες (see Weidemann 1986: 484).

They are designated as εἰρηνοδίκαι (arbiters of peace), εἰρηνοφύλαξ ( guardians of peace) or εἰρηνοποιός (peace-makers). 

Roman Foedera in the Early Empire

As John Rich (referenced below, 2011, at p. 195) pointed out, there is evidence that interest in the fetials as strikers of peace treaties was revived under the Emperor Claudius (47 - 54 AD), some 30 years after Flaccus’ death:

  1. Alison Cooley (referenced below, 2000, at p. 178) illustrated an inscription (CIL X 0797) from Pompeii from this period, part of which she translated as:

  2. “Spurius Turranius Proculus Gellianus, ... pater patratus of the deputation of the [people of Lavinium] in charge of [renewing] the treaty with the Roman people in accordance with the Sibylline books, which relates to the rites concerned with the origins of:

  3. the Roman people of Quirites; and

  4. the people of the Latin name;

  5. which are observed among the [people of Lavinium]”

  6. Like John Rich, Alison Cooley suggested (at pp. 177-9) that this apparent revival of the tradition of the annual renewal of the mythical treaty between Rome and Lavinium might well have reflected the antiquarian interests of Claudius.

  7. According to Suetonius, Claudius himself:

  8. “... struck his treaties with foreign princes in the Forum, sacrificing a pig and reciting the ancient formula of the fetial priests”, (‘Life of Claudius’, 25: 5)

It is interesting to speculate that Claudius might have been inspired by (inter alia) the work of Flaccus.




Read more:

E. Salerno, “Rituals of War. The Fetiales and Augustus’ Legitimisation of the Civil Conflict’, in

  1. D. van Diemen el. al. (Eds.), “Conflicts in Antiquity: Textual and Material Perspectives”, (2018) Amsterdam , at 143-60

D. Macrae, “The Laws of the Rites and of the Priests: Varro and late Republican Roman Sacral Jurisprudence”, Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies, 60.2 (2017) 34-48

B. Gladhill, “Rethinking Roman Alliance”, (2016) Cambridge

H. Cornwell, “The Role of the Peace-Makers (Caduceatores) in Roman Attitudes to War and Peace”, in

  1. G. Lee et al. (Eds), “Ancient Warfare: Introducing Current Research, Volume I”, (2015), Newcastle upon Tyne, at pp. 331-48

W. Shearin, “The Language of Atoms: Performativity and Politics in Lucretius' ‘De Rerum Natura’”, (2015) Oxford

P. Stadter, “Plutarch and His Roman Readers”, (2014) Oxford

T. J. Cornell (Ed.), “The Fragments of the Roman Historians”, (2013) Oxford.

L. Zollschan ‘The Longevity of the Fetial College”, in 

  1. O. Tellegen-Couperus, “Law and Religion in the Roman Republic”, (2012) Leiden-Boston, at pp. 119-44

J. Rich, “The Fetiales and Roman International Relations”, in:

  1. J. H. Richardson, and F. Santangelo (Eds), “Priests and State in the Roman World”, (2011 ) Stuttgart, at pp. 187-242

A. Cooley, “Res Gestae Divi Augusti: Text, Translation and Commentary”, (2009) Cambridge

C. Ando, “Aliens, Ambassadors, and the Integrity of the Empire”, History Review, 26:3 (2008) 491-519

B. Frier, “Law and Legalism in the Roman Republic’ (2005) , Inaugural Lecture, University of Michigan

S. Oakley, “A Commentary on Livy, Books IX:Volume III: Books IX”, (2005) Oxford

A. Cooley, “Politics and Religion in the Ager Laurens, in:

  1. A. Cooley (Ed.), “The Epigraphic Landscape of Roman Italy”, Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies, Supplement 73 (2000) 173-91

H. Flower, “The Tradition of the Spolia Opima: M. Claudius Marcellus and Augustus”, Classical Antiquity, 19:1 (2000) 34-64

S. Oakley, “A Commentary on Livy, Books VI-X:Volume II: Books VII and VIII”, (1998) Oxford

A. Eckstein, “Senate and General: Individual Decision-making and Roman Foreign Relations (264-194 BC)”, (1987) Berkeley, Los Angeles and London

T. Wiedemann, “The Fetiales: A Reconsideration”, Classical Quarterly, 36: 2 (1986) 478-90

A. Watson (translator), “The Digest of Justinian: Volume I”, (1985) Philadelphia

E. Rawson, “Scipio, Laelius, Furius and the Ancestral Religion”, Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. 63 (1973), pp. 161-74

R. Ogilvie, “A Commentary on Livy: Books 1-5”, (1965) Oxford

E. H. Warmington (translator), “Remains of Old Latin, Volume II: Livius Andronicus. Naevius. Pacuvius. Accius”, (1936) Harvard MA

W. D. Hooper and H. Boyd (translators), “Cato: Varro: On Agriculture”, (1934) Harvard MA

H. Grose Hodge (translator), “Cicero: Pro Lege Manilia; Pro Caecina; Pro Cluentio; Pro Rabirio Perduellionis Reo”, (1927) Harvard MA

W. M. Lindsey, “Sexti Pompei Festi De Verborum Significatu quae Supersunt cum Pauli Epitome” (1913)


Linked pages:  Collegium FetialumSpolia OpimaTemple of Jupiter Feretrius


Return to Developments at Rome


Return to homepage of Roman Conquest of Italy