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  • 1 Reformed University “Károli Gáspár” Faculty of Legal and Political Sciences, Department of Roman Law H-1042 Budapest Viola u. 2–4 Hungary
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In his well-known description of legis actio sacramento in rem , Gaius remarks that the rod was used in the procedure instead of the spear as the sign of lawful property since what the Romans considered truly their own was the goods taken from the enemy: “ Festuca autem utebantur quasi hastae loco, signo quodam iusti dominii; quod maxime sua esse credebant quae ex hostibus cepissent .” In harmony with Gaius’s view Verrius Festus states that the spear is the symbol, incarnation of supreme power: “ Hasta summa armorum et imperii est .” Setting out from these two testimonia , in the present study we intend to examine the content of the hasta and the festuca as symbols of power to support the interpretation of the ritual of legis actio sacramento in rem as duellum sacrum . First, we shall give a brief account of the occurrences of the spear as the symbol of imperium , of subhastatio related thereto and the function of the supreme commander’s spear; also, we shall touch on the stick of augures and certain Greek prefigurations and parallels of the symbolic nature of the spear and the rod. (I.) After that, we shall make some statements concerning the spear of the god Mars and the Mars cult, and the relation of Quirinus and Quirites to the symbolism of the spear. (II.) The fasces carried by lictores proceeding in front of the magistratus , the flamen Dialis and the virgo Vestalis are also insignia of power and, as we try to highlight this point, incamate the highly sacralised, numinous nature of power. (III.) Finally, from the ceremony of declaring war and from the special character and use of the spear in the ceremony we intend to show certain parallels between ius fetiale and legis actio sacramento in rem . (IV.)