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 '12 at 2:02
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    They are not used now so they were someday abolished. – Anixx Mar 12 '12 at 2:34
  • @BenNeill: I think that livius meant the 5th century BCE, not CE. – Felix Goldberg Dec 16 '12 at 23:59
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    This is one of the best questions here, I think. I am working on an answer... – Felix Goldberg Dec 18 '12 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 '13 at 1:49

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 '12 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 '12 at 3:39
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    I believe there were never lictors in Holy Roman Empire. – Anixx Mar 14 '12 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 '12 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 '12 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...

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  • Mommsen includes history only up to Diocletian. – Anixx Dec 18 '12 at 18:31
  • @Anixx: But who can tell what treasures are buried in his footnotes? – Felix Goldberg Dec 18 '12 at 18:35
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    Greek terms for lictors: ραβδοῦχος, ἀρχι-ραβδοῦχος, ραβδοφόρος. This can be helpful. – Anixx Dec 18 '12 at 18:39

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