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Roman Military standards

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Can anyone point me in the direction of any contemporary references to Roman military standards.

 

In all the pictures I have seen of reproductions, and some of those in Roman reliefs there are discs, and half moon shapes, and the hand seems particularly prominent also. I am not so interested in the aquila as it's significance and comming into general use during the Marian reforms is well attested, but am extremely interested in those other symbols and their origins and meaning. Are the discs akin to medals ? The greater the number the more awarded a century, cohort or legion by a general ? Are there in fact historical references to these ?

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Salve, G

Can anyone point me in the direction of any contemporary references to Roman military standards.

 

In all the pictures I have seen of reproductions, and some of those in Roman reliefs there are discs, and half moon shapes, and the hand seems particularly prominent also. I am not so interested in the aquila as it's significance and comming into general use during the Marian reforms is well attested, but am extremely interested in those other symbols and their origins and meaning. Are the discs akin to medals ? The greater the number the more awarded a century, cohort or legion by a general ? Are there in fact historical references to these ?

In fact there are; eg, regarding the discs and half moon shapes:

 

"...The signa of the legions were in the main essentials similar to one another. The pole was a lace with a point at the lower end for fixing into the ground and a cross-piece of wood a little above this point to prevent the pole sinking too deep into the ground; sometimes, too, the pole had a handle. The pole was plated with silver. Towards the top of the pole was a transverse bar with ribands,... Along this transverse bar there appears to have been placed a plate containing the name of the legion, cohort, and maniple to which the signum belonged. Below the transverse bar came a series of discs, probably of silver (Caius Plinius Secundus Maior. Naturalis Historia Liber XXXIII cp. LVIII), like the phalerae... There were military orders given to the maniple or century;... This accounts for the fact that the number of discs varies, sometimes being as many as seven, sometimes only two... These discs could be taken off the pole; and poles without them were called incompta signa, and appeared as such at military funerals. Ornare signa seems to have been the expression used for putting these discs on the pole, though in this passage it is said of the eagle, not of the signa properly so called. Below these discs, generally acting as a support, was a crescent moon, which was probably a kind of amulet to avoid ill-luck ... Above the transverse box was sometimes a corona aurea, sometimes a small shield--both probably kinds of orders, though one cannot feel at all sure in the case of the latter--sometimes a small vexillum, which was certainly an order ... sometimes an upstretched hand, the token of fidelity. Again beasts, especially the capricorn, are sometimes found below the discs..."

 

Please check out more in the quite extensive article on "SIGNA MILITARIA" from the William Smith's A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities HERE.

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