They played a pivotal role in the Festival of the Salii, during which they sang the Carmen Saliare. Their duty, and the song's function, was to keep Rome safe in battle. During the principate, Augustus' name was inserted into the song. Ovid already thought their rituals were outdated and not understandable. Since Caesar and Augustus, the emperor was sacred, and the Salii celebrated victories in war by celebrating the capabilities of the Holy Emperor (a title given by the Senate).
Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable explains:
A college of twelve priests of Mars instituted by Numa. The tale is that a shield fell from heaven, and the nymph Egeria predicted that wherever that shield was preserved the people would be the dominant people of the earth. To prevent the shield from being surreptitiously taken away, Numa had eleven others made exactly like it, and appointed twelve priests for guardians. Every year these young patricians promenaded the city, singing and dancing, and they finished the day with a most sumptuous banquet, insomuch that saliaris cena became proverbial for a most sumptuous feast. The word "saliens" means dancing.
Ovid relates the story of Numa and the heavenly ancile in his Fasti (3.259-392).
Tullus Hostilius established another collegium of Salii in fulfilment of a vow which he made in a war with the Sabines. These Salii were also twelve in number, chosen from the patricians, and appeared to have been dedicated to the service of Quirinus. They were called the Salii Collini, Agonales, or Agonenses.