from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- In Roman history, pertaining to the college of fetials, or to the declaration of war by heralds: as, fetial law.
- n. One of the fetiales.
- n. Also fecial.
Sorry, no etymologies found.
But today there was no foreign enemy upon whom to declare war, just a senatorial decree to obey; so no fetial priest hurled a spear, and Enemy Territory was filled with Romans of the First and Second Classes.
When a just and rightful war was declared upon a foreign enemy — and were there any other kinds of wars? — a special fetial priest was called upon to hurl a spear from the steps of the temple over the exact top of the ancient stone pillar into the earth of Enemy Territory.
The fetial, who on that occasion represented the Roman people, at the solemn moment of the oath-taking, struck the sacrificial pig with the _silex_, saying as he did so, 'Do thou, Diespiter, strike the Roman people as I strike this pig here to-day, and strike them the more, as thou art greater and stronger.'
True, Spurius Postumius has just struck the herald fetial with his knee, then wage war!
As the fetial said this Postumius struck him as hard as he could with his knee, and in a loud voice declared that he was a Samnite citizen, that he had violated the law of nations in maltreating the fetial who, as herald, was inviolable, and that after this the Romans would be all the more justified in prosecuting the war.
Why, who is so ignorant of fetial law as not to see that these men are saying this, not because it represents the fact but to prevent their being surrendered?
Romans invoked ancient Neolithic fetial law -- which looks a lot like our hallowed rituals (going back to the Mexican War) and the rehearsed run-up to Iraq.
When they had entered the council chamber and reached the tribunal where Pontius was seated, the fetial addressed him thus: "Forasmuch as these men have, without being ordered thereto by the Roman people, the Quirites, given their promise and oath that a treaty shall be concluded and have thereby been guilty of high crime and misdemeanour, I do herewith make surrender to you of these men, to the end that the Roman people may be absolved from the guilt of a heinous and detestable act."
Wordnik is becoming a not-for-profit! Read our announcement here.