Fasces (Colon)

The word fasces comes from the the Roman word meaning bundle. The fasces itself is an axe or pointed weapon surrounded by bundled rods of wood- usually elm. It’s original use and true meaning is lost, although it probably originated as a phallic emblem.

The fasces was a symbol of authority in ancient Rome, most often associated with magistrates. Bundles of rods without a weapon were called bacilli, the emblem of the duumviri, magistrates without the power to pass a sentence of death. It is supposed that the bundles rods represented the unified people; the axe, authority and power, especially over death.

The fasces has remained a popular heraldic emblem.  It was frequently used as a symbol of government, unity, and order. It was  adopted as an emblem by Mussolini’s Fascist party during World War two, and is the origin of the word “fascist.”Today it is as likely to be used by neo-fascist groups as normative governments.

On early American coins and other symbols, the fasces symbolizes the unity of the colonies- strength in numbers (A single stick may be broken, but a number of sticks bound together are invincible).


Related symbols:

Labrys, sacred axe




Jill Hamill October 22, 2017 at 10:17 pm

I have an image I would love to get an opinion on. Do you have a contact email that you could send to me?

John Miles October 1, 2015 at 10:05 am

Very helpful. Is this info available in book form?

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