The place is little mentioned in ancient literature, though Silius Italicus tells us that it was hence that the Romans took their magisterial insignia (fasces, curule chair, purple toga and brazen trumpets), and it was undoubtedly one of the twelve cities of Etruria.
Its pliant and flexible branches are made into brooms; and in ancient Rome the fasces of the lictors, with which they cleared the way for the magistrates, were made up of birch rods.
FASCES, in Roman antiquities, bundles of elm or birch rods from which the head of an axe projected, fastened together by a red strap. Nothing is known of their origin, the tradition that represents them as borrowed by one of the kings from Etruria resting on insufficient grounds.
The lictors and the fasces were so inseparably connected that they came to be used as synonymous terms. The fasces originally represented the power over life and limb possessed by the kings, and after the abolition of the monarchy, the consuls, like the kings, were preceded by twelve fasces.
Valerius Publicola, the champion of popular rights, further established the custom that the fasces should be lowered before the people, as the real representatives of sovereignty (Livy ii.
9; Plutarch, Publicola, 1 o); lowering the fasces was also the manner in which an inferior saluted a superior magistrate.
A dictator, as taking the place of the two consuls, had 24 fasces (including the axe even within the city); most of the other magistrates had fasces varying in number, with the exception of the censors, who, as possessing no executive authority, had none.
Fasces were given to the Flamen Dialis and (after 42 B.C.) even to the Vestals.
During the times of the republic, a victorious general, who had been saluted by the title of imperator by his soldiers, had his fasces crowned with laurel (Cicero, Pro Ligario, 3).
The massively moulded ormolu stair balustrade of Northumberland House, now at 49 Prince's Gate; the candelabra at Windsor and Buckingham Palace, produced in Birmingham by the firm of Messenger; the cast-iron railings with javelin heads and lictors' fasces, the tripods, Corinthian column standard lamps and candelabra, boat-shaped oil lamps and tent-shaped lustres with classic mountings, are examples of the metal-work of a style which, outside the eccentric Brighton Pavilion and excursions into Gothic and Elizabethan, was universally accepted in the United Kingdom from the days of the Regency until after the accession of Victoria.
They stood by him when he took his seat on the tribunal; mounted guard before his house, against the wall of which they stood the fasces; summoned offenders before him, seized, bound and scourged them, and (in earlier times) carried out the death sentence.
High, the column being in the form of a bundle of Roman fasces, upon the bands of which are inscribed the names of those whom it commemorates; and the whole is surmounted by a female figure, the emblematical genius of the city.