To emphasize the superiority of this imperium over that of the consuls, the dictator might be preceded by twenty-four lictors, not by the usual twelve; and, at least in the earlier period of the office, these lictors bore the axes, the symbols of life and death, within the city walls.
For the purpose of passing the lex curiata, and probably for its other purposes as well, this comitia was in Cicero's day represented by but thirty lictors (Cic. de Lege Agraria, ii.
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.
As the emblem of official authority, they were carried by the lictors, in the left hand and on the left shoulder, before the higher Roman magistrates; at the funeral of a deceased magistrate they were carried behind the bier.
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.
Within the precincts of the city the axe was removed, in recognition of the right of appeal (provocatio) to the people in a matter of life and death; outside Rome, however, each consul retained the axe, and was preceded by his own lictors, not merely by a single accensus (supernumerary), as was originally the case within the city when he was not officiating.
Later, the lictors preceded the officiating consul, and walked behind the other.
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.
2 The insignia of the praetor were those common to the higher Roman magistrates - the purple-edged robe (toga praetexta) and the ivory chair (sella curulis); in Rome he was attended by two lictors, in the provinces by six.
LICTORS (lictores), in Roman antiquities, a class of the attendants (apparitores) upon certain Roman and provincial magistrates.'
The majority of the city lictors were freedmen; they formed a corporation divided into decuries, from which the lictors of the magistrates in office were drawn; provincial officials had the nomination of their own.
The king had twelve lictors; each of the consuls (immediately after their institution) twelve, subsequently limited to the monthly officiating consul, although Caesar appears to have restored the original arrangement; the dictator, as representing both consuls, twenty-four; the emperors twelve, until the time of Domitian, who had twenty-four.
These lictors were probably supplied from the lictores curiatii, thirty in number, whose functions were specially religious, one of them being in attendance on the pontifex maximus.
Lictors were also assigned to private individuals at the celebration of funeral games, and to the aediles at the games provided by them and the theatrical representations under their supervision.
For the fullest account of the lictors, see Mommsen, Romisches Staatsrecht, i.