Enemy of the People

Short sighted history always bothers me.  Case in point:


The phrase is common enough in Ciceronian rhetoric when talking about external enemies, but he also makes very very clear the dangers of its domestic application.

O, how I wish this case afforded me the opportunity and the ability to proclaim that Lucius Saturninus, enemy of the Roman people, was killed by Gaius Rabirius.—Your shouting does not disturb me at all. Rather, it reassures me since it shows that there are some foolish citizens but not many. Never would the Roman people who remain silent have made me consul if they thought I would be shaken by your shouting. How much quieter your outcries have become already! Yes, you are checking your voice, informer upon your stupidity, witness to your paltry numbers!

Gladly, as I say, would I acknowledge, if I were in truth able or even if I were at liberty to do so, that Lucius Saturninus was killed by the hand of Gaius Rabirius. I would deem it a most glorious misdeed. But seeing that I cannot do this, what I will confess will be less efficacious for his reputation but not less for the charge against him. I confess that Gaius Rabirius took up weapons for the purpose of killing Saturninus. How is that, Labienus? What fuller confession, what more serious charge against my client were you expecting? Unless, of course, you do reckon that there is a difference between a man who has killed a man and a man who was armed for the purpose of killing a man. If it was wrong for Saturninus to be killed, weapons cannot be taken up against Saturninus without entailing a crime. If, however, you concede that weapons were taken up lawfully, then, by necessity, you must concede that he was killed lawfully.

This is Cic. Rab. 18ff.  In short, being declared an enemy of the people meant it was legitimate for anyone to kill you.   There are of course many many more examples from the Catilinarian conspiracy and Cicero’s attacks on Antony.

Lictors with rods in each hand

So still on Holliday 2002.  Normally lictors are only depicted with the fasces bundled and over their left shoulder.  The fresco representations reminded me of another strange image (RRC 301/1):


I’ve always assumed that on the coin the rod in the right hand was the threat from which the citizen is being protected. But if Holliday’s reading of the Arieti tomb is right it might just be a ceremonial representation of lictors at this time, not with a an implied threat of use.

H0lliday calls the right-hand stick/rod a commetaculum.   We don’t really know that much about this term.  Festus says the following:

commoetacula : virgae quas flamines portant pergentes ad sacrificium ut a se homines


And thus the flamen dialis is identified as holding on on the ara pacis:


Basically its assumed than since usually lictors cleared the way for priests at sacred functions the commetaculum by extension was an attribute of the lictor (see various discussions).


Another Pig


I was reading Holliday 2002:83-91 on the Tomb of Q. Fabius on the Esquiline and wanted to relook at color images  because of how he emphasized the use of the dextrarum iunctio as a symbol concordia, fides, pax and pietas in this context (p. 88).  I started worrying about the child behind the figures.

Is that a pig?  Has anyone suggested that before? [ I admit I’m a little obsessed with Romans and their pigs. ] If so it would strengthen Holliday’s claims that Fabius the labelled figure in the front of boy might be representing a pater patratus, one of the fetiales, or perhaps the verbenarius, an idea he gets from Felletti Maj.

Holliday assumed the plant borne by this individual was in the form of a crown, but that need not be the case based Pliny NH 22.5 (0ur only source for this information):

there shall be assigned even to dull, that is to say, lowly plants all the dignity that is their due, since it is a fact that the founders and enlargers of the Roman Empire derived from this source also an immense advantage, because it was from them that came the tufts used when the State needed cures, and also the verbanae required in holy ceremonies and in embassies. At any rate both names mean the same thing, that is, a turf (gramen) from the citadel pulled up with its own earth; and on every occasion when envoys were sent to the enemy to perform clarigatio, that is to demand in loud tones the restitution of plundered property, one in particular was called verbena-bearer.

So maybe I’m crazy but doesn’t it look like vines wrapped around Fabius’  arm?

“Good Conduct”


This token was an instrument of control used by the slave owner at the Morro Velho mine in Brazil, a British owned company long after Britain had abolished slavery in its own territories.  It appropriates imagery used by abolitionists.  I wish the seller or buyer would entrust this object to a museum willing to display it and put its function into context.  It is only the second such specimen which I know of (do you know of more?!  please let me know!), neither is in a public collection.

Here is an excerpt on this medal from a forthcoming article of mine (I also have an earlier post on this topic).  I’ll obviously have to correct the footnote prior to publication:

 Nearly the same imagery was adopted in a most disturbing manner by a notorious British slave owning company in Brazil, the Morro Velho gold mine, a mine still in operation today.[1]  In a firsthand account, Captain Burton praises the use of these medals and their role in a fortnightly inspection of all the slaves, working on the theme of how much better life is for the slaves than it used to be, and how much better off they are than their un-enslaved kinsmen (1869: 236-7).   The silver medals, commissioned from London, had been introduced into the ceremonies in 1852 and seem to have been awarded to those with five years ‘good conduct’ to mark their approaching freedom (Childs 2002: 51).  Seven years of such continuous ‘good conduct’ are said to have led to emancipation, although the mining company never chose to define what constituted ‘good conduct’, leaving the judgment inherently arbitrary (Childs 2002: 44).  Thus the abolitionist message of freedom is substituted for an illusory promise of possible freedom and the medal, like the social ritual of the muster and the uniforms, becomes part of the means of control.  It also imitates the practice of the abolitionists who had made a fashion out of wearing such medallions to advertise their own political sentiments; notice the marks left by a clip visible at the top of the illustrated medal.  Here the palm tree is used to identify the man as African and thus his status of one not yet liberated, or, if liberated, only having achieved such a state by the agency of a European power.

[1] I only know of one surviving specimen, which was sold by Baldwin’s Auctions Ltd, Auction 65, lot 1131 (4 May 2010); it was not possible to secure permission to illustrate this specimen, but an archived image can be found here: <https://www.acsearch.info/search.html?id=780251&gt;.  The auction catalogue entry reads, in part: “A note with the medal states, “Morro Velho slave medal of Freedom … given by dying slave to a missionary. Given to me by an Old Lady as a parting gift when leaving Chiswick”. The image of the slave derived, perhaps, from C F Carter’s 1834 medal to commemorate the Abolition of Slavery. Viscondessa de Cavalcanti’s Catalogo das Medalhas Brazileiras, lists the medal under “Abolition of slavery” and attributes it to 1848. She also quotes “Sr Hopkin, president of the company in 1888” who said that by 1882 all but 28 had been emancipated. Morro Velho is a complex of gold mines located near the city of Nova Lima in the Minas Gerais state of Brazil; in operation since 1835, it is the world’s oldest continuously worked mine.”