I wonder when the position of lictor was abolished in the Ancient Rome? Who was the last Emperor to have lictors as companions?

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    Where is your source indicating they were abolished at all in Ancient Rome? livius.org/li-ln/lictor/lictor.html indicates they were still in use during the middle of the 5th century...
    – Ben Neill
    Mar 12, 2012 at 2:02
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    They are not used now so they were someday abolished.
    – Anixx
    Mar 12, 2012 at 2:34
  • @BenNeill: I think that livius meant the 5th century BCE, not CE. Dec 16, 2012 at 23:59
  • 2
    This is one of the best questions here, I think. I am working on an answer... Dec 18, 2012 at 15:16
  • What are lictors? Why did you ask the question? A good question would state: "lictors performed such and such functions, and provided such and such benefits to society, so why were they abolished."
    – Tom Au
    Apr 7, 2013 at 1:49

3 Answers 3


I have not been able to find any evidence that Lictors were ever disbanded in Ancient Rome, in fact they seem to have been active well into the 5th century.

Once Augustus came to power their roles were gradually replaced by the praetorian guard, marking their decline as an organisation.

After the fall of Rome, most Roman administrative positions from the republican era, such as the consulship lapsed making the position of Lictor irrelevant.

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    This does not make sense. Emperors existed towards 14th century and traditionally emperors required lictors. Consuls degraded in prestige and were at 26th position in court hierarchy by 12th century. I doubt they used lictors up to then. This is complitely void answer.
    – Anixx
    Mar 14, 2012 at 2:07
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    Possibly you need to modify the question to indicate that you are asking for abolishment in history (i.e. including the Holy Roman Empire) rather than in Ancient Rome.
    – Ben Neill
    Mar 14, 2012 at 3:39
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    I believe there were never lictors in Holy Roman Empire.
    – Anixx
    Mar 14, 2012 at 14:57
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    @Anixx - The old saw about the Holy Roman Empire is that it was neither Roman, nor an Empire (and some would say not particularly holy). It really has nothing whatsoever to do with classical Rome. If you want to look for any kind of continuity from the Roman Empire into the late Middle Ages, you should be looking to Constantinople, not Italy or Germany.
    – T.E.D.
    Apr 13, 2012 at 19:21
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    Please tell me where I said anything about Germany. It was Ben Neil who mentioned the HRE. I was asking when they were abolished in Ancient Rome and the answr that they were abolished with a lapse of consul office is incorrect by many reasnos.
    – Anixx
    Apr 13, 2012 at 20:40

Here is what I came up with so far. The lictors are mentioned in the Theodosian Code (This is from footnote n.46 in this paper). More evidence for them at the end of the 4th century CE can be adduced from Gibbon who says that one Ammonius "expired under the rod of the lictor". I don't know what was Gibbon's reference for that but he can be trusted to get such things right.

So we know that lictors were still in vogue in the 5th century. When did they disappear? My present guess is that Heraclius might have abolished them as part of his reforms that swept a lot of the Roman heritage away. But that's just a guess, I'll keep looking for a real answer.

I also found this tantalizing pointer:

For the fullest account of the lictors, see Mommsen, Romisches Staatsrecht, i. 355, 374 (3 r d ed., 1887).

Perhaps someone can look it up...

  • Mommsen includes history only up to Diocletian.
    – Anixx
    Dec 18, 2012 at 18:31
  • @Anixx: But who can tell what treasures are buried in his footnotes? Dec 18, 2012 at 18:35
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    Greek terms for lictors: ραβδοῦχος, ἀρχι-ραβδοῦχος, ραβδοφόρος. This can be helpful.
    – Anixx
    Dec 18, 2012 at 18:39

The last mentions of Lictors accompanying Roman emperors known to me are from the reign of Andronikos I Komnenos, so they were most likely around at least until the crusader sack of Constantinople of 1204. They are well-attested in the 6th century and we even have several original late antiquity depictions of fasces. So they actually existed long after the existing answers claim.

I disagree with the claim presented in Felix Goldberg's answer:

My present guess is that Heraclius might have abolished them as part of his reforms that swept a lot of the Roman heritage away

This is a dramatic misunderstanding of Heraclius. Heraclius never did anything with the intention of "sweeping a lot of the Roman heritage away". Mr. Goldberg is presumably basing this on a misunderstanding of Heraclius finally making Greek the main administrative language of the Empire, without knowing the context and details behind this. Heraclius firmly considered himself a Roman and would surely be shocked that he is being credited by someone with "sweeping the Roman heritage away".

  • 4
    Welcome to History.SE! Would you be able to provide any sources to back up your claims?
    – F1Krazy
    Feb 11, 2021 at 17:32
  • I can do that.I know exactly in which original sources it is present.But I will rather do post about it on my FB Roman history page(biggest existing there) for which I will also paint original artwork.After done I will provide link or wrote the same what in that post also here.After all this is old question so it dont hurry and I was mainly attracted to sign and answer by Heraclius being mistreated.
    Feb 11, 2021 at 19:38

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