Latin > English (Lewis & Short)
fētĭāles: (not fecial-. With Gr. letters φητιαλ-; v. Inscr. Orell. 1, p. 392), ium, m. cf.: for, fari; prop., the speakers, i. e. the ambassadors,
I a Roman college of priests, who sanctioned treaties when concluded, and demanded satisfaction from the enemy before a formal declaration of war, Varr. L. L. 5, § 86 Müll.; Cic. Leg. 2, 9, 21; Liv. 1, 32, 5; 4, 30, 14; 7, 6, 7; 7, 9, 2; Inscr. Orell. 2272 sq.; cf. Dict. of Antiq. s. v.
A fetial (plural fetiales) was a type of priest in ancient Rome. They formed a collegium devoted to Jupiter as the patron of good faith.
The duties of the fetials included advising the senate on foreign affairs and international treaties, making formal proclamations of peace and of war, and confirming treaties. They also carried out the functions of traveling heralds or ambassadors (Pater Patratus).
The first mention of the fetials by Livy occurs in the context of the war between Alba Longa and Rome, during which the Roman king Tullus Hostilius appointed Marcus Valerius as a fetial and Spurius Fusius as pater patratus, for the purpose of binding Rome and Alba Longa by a treaty.
According to Livy, the ritual by which the fetials were to declare war, the ritual of rerum repetitio, was introduced to Rome by Ancus Marcius, borrowing on the traditions of the Aequicolae. However, he had already described the ritual actions of the fetials when recording the wars of Tullus Hostilius. Thus some scholars think the mentions of the Aequi may be a misinterpretation due to a folk etymology connecting Aequi to aequus, the Latin adjective for fair. On the other hand ancient sources support the tradition that the priesthood was created under the influence of Aequian king Fertor Resius.