THE VIGILI VRBANI
The Vigiles Urbani are ancient Rome’s equivalent to a police force and fire fighters. They are accommodated in barracks and patrol the streets on the lookout for any unsupervised fires. Every householder in Liberportus is obliged to keep equipment for fighting fires, and the vigiles themselves are equipped with pumps, buckets, hooks (for pulling down burning material), picks, mattocks and axes. They also use ballistae for knocking down burning houses and creating firebreaks. They even have their own medical support (medici), with a doctor attached to each cohort. The Vigiles also act as a city watch, keeping an eye out for burglars and hunting down runaway slaves, and used to maintain order in the streets.
Every cohort is equipped with standard firefighting equipment. The sipho or fire engine is pulled by horses and consisted of a large double action pump that is partially submerged in a reservoir of water. The Vigili designated as an aquarii needed to have an accurate knowledge of where water is located, and they also formed human chains for passing buckets of water to the fire. Attempts would also be made to smother the fire by covering it with patchwork quilts (centones) soaked with water. Chemical firefighting methods are also used by throwing a vinegar based substance called acetum into fire. In many cases the best way for the Vigilies to prevent the spread of flames is to tear down the burning building with hooks and levers. For fires in multiple story buildings, cushions and mattresses are spread out on the ground for people to jump onto from the upper levels. A major duty of the Vigiles is to enforce preventative measures against conflagrations. In Liberportus adequate fire fighting equipment is required in every home. The Digest of Justinian has decreed that Vigiles are “ordered to remind every one to have a supply of water ready in his upper room”. While the Vigiles only had advising authority, their recommendations are often followed to avoid repercussions for negligence. Corporal is the most common punishment for negligence according to the Digest of Justinian, “where persons have paid insufficient attention to their fire, the prefect…orders them to be beaten”.
Each magistrate of Liberportus provides funding for a cohort of Vigiles. Each cohort consists of twelve men, ten vigiles a prefect and a medici. The prefect commands the cohort and reports to his magistrate. The exception are the vigiles of the Sea Lord who number twenty men and are led by the prefectus vigilum. The prefectus vigilum, in turn, has authority over all other prefects of the Vigilies. In the event that a magistrate is unable to support his vigiles, his vigiles are absorbed into the vigiles of the Sea Lord until a new magistate is elected and provides for new vigiles. The headquarters of the vigiles which serves as a prison, execution ground, and barracks for vigiles who cannot afford or choose not to take an apartment in Liberportus. Called the Fortress of Justice, it is a small walled structure in The Old City.
The Vigilies of Liberportus
The current Prefectus Vigilum is Statorius Novanus, the former prefect of the vigiles of Arias Tullo. His position was previously held by Duccius Sittius Thurinus. While Novanus is generally regarded as an adequate upholder of the law, Duccius was widely known to be corrupt and would demand payment before performing any legal duties or fire fighting. The vigilies have only recently been purged of corrupt elements left over from Thurinius’ reign and Novanus means to make a name for himself by once and for all bringing an end to the many gangs of Liberportus.