Roman Conquest of Italy
 


Developments at Rome


Collegium Fetialium: Fetial Rites


Sagmina and Verbenae in the First Punic War

Livy referred to the sagmina and verbenae again in his account of the procedures used for ending 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.’

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

At this point, it is interesting to look again at the testimony of Naevius, as transmitted by Flaccus/ Festus/ Paul:

  1. “... to make the holy tufts, they took twigs and sacred foliage.”

The point here is that Naevius fought in the First Punic War, and this fragment came from his epic poem ‘Song of the Punic War’, which he wrote thereafter.  Scholarly opinion is divided as to its precise historical context.  For example:

  1. Arthur Eckstein (referenced below, at p. 86) argued that its:

  2. “The references is certainly to fetial procedure ... but it may well be fetial procedure [in relation to the declaration of the war in 263 BC]; ... in [its] formal ending  ... in 241 BC; or even in the context of the formal concluding of the Roman treaty with Hiero of Syracuse in 263 BC: we just do not know.”

  3. John Rich (referenced below, 2011, at 194 and note 35) argued that:

  4. “[This] fragment from Naevius’ epic on the First Punic War ... must refer to the peace treaty [that ended it] in 241 BC ..., [according to the authors cited in the note, which I have not been able to consult] there can have been no fetial involvement in the outbreak of the war ...”

It short, it seems reasonably certain that Naevius described the fetials’ involvement in relation to the war in which he himself had fought, and that these fetials had travelled to Sicily under the protection of the sagmina.  

Romans’ Foedus with the Carthaginians in ca. 509 BC

The existence of the foedus with the Albans is obviously a matter of myth rather than history.  However, we can compare Livy’s account of it with surviving evidence relating to Rome’s first treaty with Carthage.  As James Richardson (referenced below, at p. 25) observed, this treaty is :

  1. “One of the few documents from early Rome the authenticity of which no one now seriously doubts ...  Polybius says that this treaty, and two others that were struck subsequently with the Carthaginians, were recorded on bronze tablets and were preserved in the treasury of the aediles.”

Polybius (2nd century BC) dated this first treaty to:

  1. “... the consulship of Lucius Junius Brutus and Marcus Horatius, the first consuls after the expulsion of the kings [i.e., traditionally 509 BC] ...”, (‘Histories’, 3: 22: 1).

Stephen Oakley (referenced below, 1998, at p. 256) observed that, although the historicity of Brutus is doubtful, the terms of the treaty, as Polybius transmitted them, accord well with our understanding of the political situation in the late 6th century BC. 

Polybius explained that:

  1. “I give below as accurate a rendering as I can of [the inscribed text of this treaty], but ancient Latin differs so much from the modern that it can only be partially understood, even after much application by the most intelligent men”, (‘Histories’, 3: 22: 3).

Importantly, for our purposes, he recorded that:

  1. “... the Carthaginians swore by their ancestral gods, [while] the Romans, following an old custom, swore by Jupiter Lapis ... The oath by Jupiter Lapis is as follows: the man who is swearing to the treaty takes a stone in his hand and, when he has sworn in the name of the State, says:

  2. ‘If I abide by this my oath may all good be mine, but if I do otherwise in thought or act, let all other men dwell safe in their own countries under their own laws and in possession of their own substance, temples, and tombs and let me alone be cast forth, even as this stone.’

  3. So saying, he throws the stone from his hand”, (‘Histories’, 3: 25: 6-9).

John Rich (referenced below, 2011, at p. 194) observed that:

  1. “... in respect of the ‘Jupiter stone’ oath, [Polybius] appears to be in error: [an oath sworn by Jupiter Lapis] is well attested elsewhere as an especially solemn oath, but it was always as taken by individual Romans, and it seems inappropriate for a treaty, since it binds only the swearer, not the Roman people.”

It is certainly true that the formula put forward by Livy (above) in the context of the Romans’ treaty with Alba would make much more sense:

  1. “If, by public decision, [the Romans] should... [violate the treaty] 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.”

If so, then the stone that had been recorded in the difficult archaic text on which Polybius relied might well have been the fetials’ lapis silex, and his reference to Jupiter Lapis rather than simply to Jupiter might well have been a mistake on the part of ‘the most intelligent men’ who advised him on its meaning.

Ritual Demand for Restitution


Dionysius and Livy both described the fetial ritual for demanding restitution on pain of war:

  1. Dionysius recorded that:

  2. “ I have received the following account of functions [the fetials] performed as envoys 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 offending city. 

  3. Stopping at the border, he called upon Jupiter and the rest of the gods to witness that he had come to demand justice on behalf of the Roman State.  Thereupon, he swore 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 false, he then crossed their borders.

  4. Afterwards, he called to witness the first person he met, ... and, having repeated the same imprecations, he advanced towards the city. 

  5. Before he entered the city, he called to witness in the same manner the gate-keeper or the first person he met at the gates ...

  6. [He then] proceeded to the forum, where he discussed with the magistrates the reasons for his coming, adding everywhere the same oaths and imprecations. 

  7. If [these magistrates] 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 10 days, after which he returned, and waited until they had made this request three times”, (‘Roman Antiquities’, 2: 72: 6-8).  

  8. Livy described this ritual as having been copied by King Ancus from the Aequicoli at the time of his war with the Prisci Latini (ancient Latins), at which point it became:

  9. “... the rule (ius) that the fetials now have, by which restitution is sought (quo res repetuntur)”, (‘History of Rome’, 1: 32: 5).

  10. However, he then described the ritual itself in general terms, without any further reference to either the Latins or the fetials:

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

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

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

  14. ‘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.’

  15. 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).

Interestingly:

  1. Dionysius defined the ‘justice’ that was demanded in terms of the surrender of ‘the guilty’; while

  2. Livy defined it as the surrender of ‘these [guilty] men and these things [presumably stolen property]’.

Dionysius and Livy gave very similar generalised accounts of the procedure adopted if the Romans’ demand for restitution was denied:

  1. Dionysius:

  2. “But, if the city still persisted in refusing to grant ... justice after the expiration of these 30 days, [the designated fetial] called both the celestial and infernal gods to witness [this fact] and [returned to Rome], after saying ... that the Roman State would deliberate at its leisure concerning these people”, (‘Roman Antiquities’, 2: 72: 8).

  3. Livy:

  4. “If those whom [the legatus] demands are not surrendered, at the end of 33 days (for such is the conventional number) he declares war thus:

  5. ‘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.’

  6. Then he returns to Rome for the consultation”, (‘History of Rome’, 1: 32: 9-10).

Both Dionysius and Livy then described what happened in Rome if the envoys had to report that the demand for restitution had been denied:

  1. According to Dionysius, the fetial who had been sent to the offending city and his colleagues:

  2. “...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: 9). 

  3. Livy ended with a passage that related once more to the Prisci Latini and also introduced a fetial who had been designated as pater patratus (who had obviously acted as the legatus to the Latins:

  4. “Immediately on the return of [the legatus/ pater patratus], the king would consult the fathers, in some such words as these:

  5. ‘Having regard to rerum litium causarum (the stolen property, disputed property and [other?] subjects of dispute) of which the pater patratus of the Roman People of the Quirites has given due notice (condixit) to both the pater patratus of the Prisci Latini and the men of the Prisci Latini, which they have failed to deliver, do or pay (nec dederunt, nec fecerunt, nec solverunt) as they ought, say ... what [each of] you think.’

  6. ... if the majority of those present were of the same opinion, war had been agreed upon”, (‘History of Rome’, 1: 32: 11-12).

Envoys to Fidenae (437 BC)

A fragment of Book II of Varro’s now-lost ‘De vita populi Romana’ that is quoted by Nonius Marcellus recorded that:

  1. “[The Romans] embarked on war slowly and with great deliberation, because they thought it wrong to wage any war unless it was justified.  Before they declared war, they sent four fetials as legati to make a claim against the man responsible for the injuries, and they called these men ‘oratores’”, (from Nonius’ ‘Doctrina’, at p 850 Lindsay edition, translated in the blog of Roger Pearse)

John Rich (referenced below, 2011, at p. 191) observed that Book II of this work by Varro dealt with the early Republic.  He also noted (at p. 223) that:

  1. “This passage is striking, not only for the terminological equivalence between fetials, legati and oratores, but also for the specification that the emissaries should number four.  It is tempting to speculate that Varro had in mind in particular the four envoys, referred to elsewhere as legati, who were killed at Fidenae [in 437 BC] and commemorated in statues on the Rostra.”



Ritual Announcement and Declaration of Hostilities






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.”




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. 480-2) 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.”

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).









“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 ... 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).




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 redress 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. 


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.









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.






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:

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

S. Barney et al., (translators), “The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville”, (2006) Cambridge

J. Richardson,  'The Oath per Iovem Lapidem and the Community in Archaic Rome”, Rheinisches Museum für Philologie, 153 (2010) 25-42.

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

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

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


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