What do these ancient symbols mean

The symbols of Roman history

Rome is an emblematic city. Of the Wolf who suckled his twin founders Romulus and Remus to the outstretched Eagle Many Roman symbols survived the centuries to become part of our collective visual culture.

This article takes a look at some of the most iconic symbols in Roman history and shares some key facts about their origins, uses, and meanings.

The Eagle (Eagle)

Few symbols represent Rome as strongly as the eagle. This wild hunting bird sits enthroned with outstretched wings on the legionnaire's standard represented the span of the Roman Empire.

The Romans originally several symbols attached to the top of their standards. In addition to the eagle, they used the wolf, horse, wild boarAnd the Ox with a human head. After the catastrophic defeat of Rome at the Battle of Arausio and the radical overhaul of the Roman army by Gaius Marius in 104 BC. Did she give up these other symbols (signa manipulias they were called) leaving only the eagle behind.


Lose an eagle Standard in combat was regarded as that ultimate humiliationand the Romans made considerable efforts to regain them. One such opportunity came in 53 BC. When Crassus' Roman army from the Parthians on Battle of Carrhae. The Romans were doubly humiliated - several Legion standards were captured and Crassus, a greedy man by nature, had molten gold ran down his neck.

Augustus eventually brought the standards back and advertised his performance on a statue that is now in the Vatican Museums. But while his propaganda portrayed their recovery as a military victory, the reality was that he had to send his best general, Tiberius, to ask the Parthians for their return.


Nor was this Augustus' only attempt to restore lost eagle standards. After Rome's devastating loss to the Germanic tribes at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest In AD 9, Augustus and his followers spent decades hunting and then losing standards. The last was not found until the reign of Claudius in AD 41 and probably in the Temple of the Avenger Mars in the Forum of Augustus.

The eagle was a symbol of the Roman military even after the arrival of Christianity as an official religion in the 4th century AD. The Arch of Constantine - the emperor who adopted Christianity as an imperial religion - shows such examples in his southern attic (the side you see when you face him from the Colosseum or Colosseum Belvedere).

Likewise, the emperor Isaac I took Kommenos as a symbol in the 11th century, when the imperial capital had long since moved from Rome in the west to Constantinople in the east Double-headed eagle: Representation of the Roman Empire Dominance over East and West.

The she-wolf (Magnifying glass)

Docile in times of peace and yet cruel when provoked, the she-wolf is the one Epitome of the symbol of Rome and her empire. It relates to the story of Romulusand Remus, two twins out Alba Longa (Modern times Castel Gandolfo). When her grandfather, King Numitor, was thrown from the throne by his brother Amulius, ordered the usurper for the Infant twins be thrown into the Tiber.

As is customary in ancient mythology, the man entrusted with child murder found that he could not cope with it. So instead of drowning her in the river he left her on the river bankto be saved through the intervention of the river god first Tibernus and then by an unusually maternal one Wolf who just happened.

Grew up in her cave (the Lupercal) were the twins suckled by the she-wolf until a passing shepherd named Faustulus found her and brought her to his wife's home. Then they raised the twins together until they were old enough to return to Alba Longa, restore their grandfather to the throne, and fulfill their fate of founding Rome. At least for Romulus.

The story the she-wolf was long in circulationn before the Romans started to write anything down. We know from the Augustan historian Livy that from 295 BC onwards A statue similar to the one in the Capitoline Museums stood at the foot of the Palatine Hill.

Pliny the Elder, an encyclopedist who died in the eruption of the buried Vesuvius in Pompeii in AD 79, also tells us that a statue of the she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus is in the Roman Forum. The symbol of the city was already widespread in ancient times.

However, a more recent theory suggests that we may have misunderstood it.

The Latin wordMagnifying glass actually wears two meaningsthe "mixed taste". His firstimportance of the word is 'Wolf'and refers to the animal itself. That secondimportance ofMagnifying glassis prostituteand referring to the noises the ladies of the ancient city made of the night to seduce their passing customers.


Visit Pompeii and you will see the connection. TheBrothel of the ancient city was called thatLupanaror "Wolfsgrube". In fact, all the brothels in ancient Rome bore this Latin name.

So is it possible that when we talk about Romulus and Remus being from aMagnifying glassWe have rather misunderstood the story of her upbringing (or, over time, exaggerated the story that her early life grew up in a brothel instead).

Nevertheless, the she-wolf is still the symbol's capital. As the AS Roma emblem, one of the two most important football teams in the city, appears everywhere, especially in Testaccio, where Roman football was born.

The fascia

The Faszen do not come from the Romans, but from the Etruscans and may have become Roms most enduring international symbol. In comparison to the eagle or the she-wolf, the symbol itself is not well known visually. Where it survives, however, is in language, In which it gives us the root for the word "fascism".

From the Roman Republic, the fasces consisted of one Bundles of sticks tied together around a one-headed ax. Worn by Roman magistrates in numbers according to their status, the fasces a pure symbol of power - of Rome's rule over them imperium (Rich). The most powerful position possible, that of dictator, entitles the person to 24 fasces.

When bundled together These bars symbolized strength (as if they were tied together much harder to break). The ax in the middle on the other hand represented the judge Industry of - namely his prerogative to impose the death penalty.

Within the sacred borders of the cityJudges were, however forbidden to wear fasces with protruding blades: the symbolism is that only the courts of the peoples have been able to bring justice.

During the Roman triumph - a victory parade of a general around the city in theRoman Forum Upon completion of a successful campaign, fasces would be wrapped in a laurel wreath. The laurel wreath was a widely used ancient symbol of victory and was best known in ancient Olympia as the award given to the winners.

The fascia has since spread throughout western culture and has become a landmark of justice, Industry ofand Strength, especially in the United States. The Senate seal shows crossed fasciae at the bottom, the fasciae are in the center of the U.S. Tax Court and State Courts Administrative Office.

But it was because ofMussolini, Who drew heavily on the icon to promote his fascistrevival of ancient Rome that the Fasces are so well known - not for the power of its image, but for the connotations of its name.

The globe (globe)

Another Roman symbol that has become part of our daily symbolic life is the globe. Held by the god of gods, Jupiter, as a Symbol of his universal ruleThe globe was depicted on many coins and statues throughout the Roman Empire. Sometimes portrayed under the foot or in the hand of the emperorIt symbolized the Roman rule over the entire area they had conquered.

A coin minted under the emperor Hadrian shows the goddess Salus is written on a globe. The message is pretty straightforward, and Hadrian himself spent most of his reign Travel through the length and breadth of his empire while architects in Italy realized projects such as the Pantheon and Villa Adriana.

Constantine went further and emphasized the extent of the rule of the Roman Empire. A coin minted during his reign in the early 4th century shows the Kaiser holds a globe in his handand personally attributed the dizzying extent to Rome's territorial span (Constantine was never one out of modesty).

The rise of Christianitysaw changes to this icon of Roman history. That was the most noticeable Addition of the crucifix on the globe, which symbolized the rule of the Christian God over all. The cruciger globe is still a major symbol of the 5th century church and is manifest throughout Christian art.

The most famous example is this Salvator Mundi Painting (ascribed in the version Leonardo Da Vinci controversially portrays the globe without a cross). However, the globe appears not only in Christian symbolism, but in all contexts relating to power and domination, not least in portraits of royals from Charlemagne to Elizabeth I to demonstrate the majesty of both her person and her empire.

Written by Alexander Meddings