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Lictor with fasces

Lictors ( Latin lictores to ligare bind ') were originally in the Roman Empire those servants who the King should protect as a bodyguard, later usher that the higher state officials with Empire ( consuls , praetors , Imperial Legate and dictators progressed) at public events or they also - like today's bodyguards - surrounded.

The first of the respective lictors had the order not to let the official out of sight under any circumstances. This remained so even after the actual protective function had passed to the Praetorians and the lictors had increased ceremonial significance. This protective function soon turned out to be too weak, especially during campaigns, which is why the extraordinarii were commissioned with the protection. The Praetorians eventually emerged from the merger of the two troops .

As a sign of the power of the official they accompanied and of the Roman Empire as a whole, they carried a bundle of rods, the fasces, over their left shoulder . Outside the city of Rome , an ax was half hidden in the bundle of rods, but it was clearly visible. The Romans probably adopted the custom of publicly demonstrating state power in this way from the Etruscans . In any case, there are already corresponding representations in Etruscan tombs. The appearance of Roman rulers, accompanied by lictors carrying ax and bundles of rods, was especially cultivated in conquered areas in order to make an impression by showing these well-known symbols of power (insignia imperii) . The number of lictors preceding a dignitary signaled his rank: Consuls, for example, were accompanied by twelve, praetors by six (within Rome by two) lictors. A dictator was entitled to 24 lictors. Since the Roman emperors also held empire , they were entitled to twelve lictors , like the early kings from the time of the kings and the consuls from the time of the Roman republic . Emperor Domitian increased their number to twenty-four. Plebeian magistrates had no such claim, but the Flemish Dialis (priest of Iuppiter maximus) and the Vestals were each preceded by a lictor.

Usually free or freed persons were used for the office of lictors , but no slaves .

In the 20th century, the bundle of rods with a hatchet became a symbol of Italian fascism , among other things , but also appears in the French national emblem , in the coat of arms of the Swiss canton of St. Gallen and in the seal of the Senate of the United States .

See also

Weibel , a comparable ceremonial official for dignitaries in today's Switzerland


Web links

Wiktionary: Liktor  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations