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Form: Latin.
A body of men whose business it was to maintain the forms of international relationship. The institution was universal in Italy. In Rome its introduction was ascribed to Numa or Ancus Martius. Here the fetiales formed a collegium of twenty members elected for life, and filled up vacancies in their body by co-optation. They were in early times exclusively patricians, but at all times it was necessary that they should belong to the highest classes. Their duties were, in case of conflicts arising with other nations, to give an opinion, based on the merits of the case, upon the question of war or peace; to give, or to demand in person, satisfaction by delivering up the guilty individual, to declare war or conclude peace, and to give the sanction of religion to both acts. On all these occasions they went out wearing their sacerdotal dress, and the insignia of their office. Before them one of the members of the collegium carried the sacred plants which they had gathered on the Capitol after asking permission of the magistrate on whose commission they were acting, king, consul, or praetor. If satisfaction was to be demanded from another nation, a number of fetiales was sent under the leadership of a speaker, the pater patratus, with the forms of a special ceremonial. Supposing satisfaction given, they took the offender with them, and parted in peace; if the other party asked for time to consider the matter, this was granted to ten days and extended to thirty. If, after this, satisfaction were not given, the speaker made a solemn protest, adding that the Roman people would now take the matter into its own hands. Supposing now that war were decided on, the speaker, in presence of at least three witnesses, uttered the solemn declaration, and threw a bloody lance into the enemy's territory. After the war with Pyrrhus this ceremony was performed at the Column of War near the temple of Bellona, and the declaration of war was carried to the general in command according to the form prescribed by the law of the fetiales. If it was in contemplation to bring the war to a close, and the enemy had not made an unconditional surrender, the fetiales, with the authority of a senatus consultum, and in the name of the State, either concluded a truce for a definite number of years, or a formal alliance. The general, if he made peace without the consent of the Roman people, did so on his own responsibility and without binding the State. If the people were dissatisfied with the terms, the fetiales delivered the general up, naked and handbound, to the enemy. In case of the alliance being concluded, the pater patratus took a flint stone, which was preserved in the temple of Jupiter Feretrius, and slew a swine therewith, first reading out the terms of the alliance, and then appealing to Jupiter, in case the Roman people maliciously broke the treaty, to smite them as he would smite the animal. He then signed the document, which bound the collegium of fetiales to see that the treaty was observed. It was also usual for the civil magistrate to make oath by Jupiter, Mars, and Quirinus, on a sceptre which was likewise taken from the temple of Jupiter Feretrius. Since the Second Punic War there is but little mention of the action of the fetiales, but its existence can be traced as late as the middle of the 4th century A.D.
Type: Standard
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