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p1171 Tumultus

Unsigned article on p1171 of

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

TUMULTUS was the name given to a sudden or dangerous war in Italy or Cisalpine Gaul, and the word was supposed by the ancients to be a contraction of timor multus (Cic. Phil. VIII.1; tumultus dictus, quasi timor multus, Serv. ad Virg. Aen. II.486, VIII.1; Festus, s.v. Tumultuarii). It was however sometimes applied to a sudden or dangerous war elsewhere (Liv. XXXV.1, XLI.6; Cic. Phil. V.12); but this does not appear to have been a correct use of the word. Cicero (Phil. VIII.1) says that there might be a war without a tumultus, but not a tumultus without a war; but it must be recollected that the word was also applied to any sudden alarm respecting a war; whence we find a tumultus often spoken of as of less importance than a war (e.g. Liv. II.26), because the results were of less consequence, though the fear might have been much greater than in a regular war.

In the case of a tumultus there was a cessation from all business (justitium), and all citizens were obliged to enlist without regard being had to the exemptions (vacationes) from military service, which were enjoyed at other times (Cic. ll.cc.; Liv. VII.9, 11, 28, VIII.20, XXXIV.56). As there was not time to enlist the soldiers in the regular manner, the magistrate appointed to command the army displayed two banners (vexilla) from the capitol, one red, to summon the infantry, and the other green, to summon the cavalry, and said, "Qui rempublicam salvam vult, me sequatur." Those that assembled took the military oath together, instead of one by one, as was the usual practice, whence they were called conjurati, and their service conjuratio (Serv. ad Virg. Aen. VIII.1). Soldiers enlisted in this way were called Tumultuarii or Subitarii (Festus, s.v.; Liv. III.30, X.21, XL.26).

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