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p260 Celeres

Article by Anthony Rich, Jun. B.A. of Caius College, Cambridge
on p260 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

CE′LERES, are said to have been three hundred horsemen, who formed the body-guard of Romulus both in peace and war (Liv. I.15; Dionys. II.13; Plut. Rom. 26). There can, however, be little doubt that these Celeres were not simply the body-guard of the king, but were the same as the equites, or horsemen, a fact which is expressly stated by some writers (Plin. H. N. XXXIII.2 s9), and implied by others (Dionys. l.c.). [Equites.] The etymology of Celeres is variously given. Some writers derived it from their leader Celer, who was said to have slain Remus, but most writers connected it with the Greek κέλης, in reference to the quickness of their service (Serv. ad Virg. Aen. XI.603). Niebuhr supposes celeres to be identical with patricii, and maintains that the former word was the name of the whole class as distinguished from the rest of the nation (Hist. of Rome, vol. I p331); but although the equites were at first undoubtedly chosen from the patricians, there seems to be no reason for believing that the word celeres was synonymous with patricii.

The Celeres were under the command of a Tribunus Celerum, who stood in the same relation to the king, as the magister equitum did in a subsequent period to the dictator. He occupied the second place in the state, and in the absence of the king had the right of convoking the comitia. Whether he was appointed by the king, or elected by the comitia, has been questioned, but the former is the more probable (Lyd. De Mag. I.14; Pompon. de Orig. Jur. in Dig. 1 tit. 2 s2 §§15, 19; Dionys. IV.71; cf. Becker, Handbuch der Römisch. Alterth. vol. II part I pp239, 338).


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