An Icon representing the Strength and Power of Ancient Rome
The FASCES was a cylindrical bundle of elm or birch rods bound together by red bands, from which an ax head projected; and which was borne by Lictors (attendants and body guards) before a Consul or high Magistrate, as a symbol of their authority.
Stephen Phenow, Editor of the Strategikon, provides the following: "The Fasces was adopted from the Etruscans. It symbolized the power of life or death that a Roman Magistrate had over the Roman citizen; who could be scourged by the birch rods, representing physical punishment for transgressions; or be beheaded by the axe for serious crimes."
The lowering of the Fasces was form of salute to a higher official. It was also an emblem of unity and power; being used as an icon on coins and "coats of arms" long after the times of Ancient Rome. The number of Lictores in the Republic varied by magistrial rank. A Dictator was honored with 24 lictores, each carrying a Fasces; a Consul was awarded 12, while a Praetor was allowed 6. Stepen Phenow also adds: "The Imperator (Emperor) usually was a Consul as well, so he would maintain 12 licores carrying fasces. Emperor Claudius had this number proceed him before entering a captured town in Britannia." After the reign of Emperor Domitian (81-96AD), the Imperator was accorded 24 lictores. Benito Mussolini's Italian "Fascist"Party of the 1930's, derived its name from the Fasces, which it had adopted as an emblem in 1919.
The reconstruction shown here was assembled by the Commander in February 2002. The body is 42 inches (1012mm) long with a 4.5 inch (115mm) stem extending from the bottom. It weighs 14 pounds and is composed of Thirty-One 3/4 inch (20mm) wood dowels and has a diameter of 5 inches (128mm). The axe head is 6 inches (152mm), from point to point, and extends 3 inches (76mm) from the bundle. Some 36 feet (11 meters) of 3/4 inch burgandy leather strapping was used to bind the bundle. In some Fasces, the axe head was placed in the center of the length of the body. There are also some representations of the Fasces showing two axe heads, one per side, extending from the opposite sides of the rod bundle.
TOP BOTTOM Lictors with Fasces from Osprey Military Series # 291
The stub extending from the bottom of the bundle makes it easier to carry the fasces, with it leaning against the shoulder and the stub being grasped by the hand, at arm's length, at the waist as shown above, and also demontrated below by Legionary James Massimillo acting as a Lictor for our Noble Senator Marcus Minucius Audens (James Matthews) during the NovaRoma Market Days in Wells, Maine, September 7, 2002.