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Military Ensigns



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    MILITARY ENSIGNS.----The image of an eagle (aquila) was the ensign of the whole legion. One of these, either in gold or silver, was placed on the top of a spear, with wings expanded, and frequently holding a thunderbolt (fulmen) in its talons.----In the first period of Rome, the standards of her armies were but a bundle of hay tied to the end of a pole, called in Latin Manipulus foeni, which caused the name of Munipulus to be given to the companies which are ranged under those ensigns. Two such may be seen represented on a first brass of Augustus, given in Seguinís Sel. Num. Ant., p. 110. But these standards of poverty soon assumed a new and more imposing form. The Roman troops placed either a cross piece of wood at the top of a lance, whence hung a velum, or banner, as may be seen on the same coin of Augustus between the two manipuli; or they surmounted the ensign staff with the figure of a hand, as may be observed on two military ensigns which appear on a large brass of Tiberius, given in Seguin (l. c. 109); perhaps as the word manus bore allusion to the word manipulus. Below this hand, covering the whole shaft of the spear, were little round plates of gold or silver (orbiculi), on which are portraits at first of the Gods, and subsequently of the Emperors, and other persons of princely distinction. The names of Emperors were also inscribed on the vexilla, or cavalry standards of the army.----On a denarius of the Valeria family is seen the name of C. VALerius FLAvius IMPERATor, and a legionary eagle, between two military ensigns.----On a silver coin of the Neria family is a legionary eagle, between two vexilla, one of which has on it H(astati), the other P(rincipes). A similar type appears on a denarius of the Cornelia.----It is to be observed, as a reason why these military ensigns appear in an upright position on Roman coins and other monuments, that the lower end of the spears on which the ensigns were placed had sharp points, in order that they might be planted into the ground and be made to stand perpendicularly whether in the camp or in the field of battle.----See Signa Militaria; also Aquila,----Labarum,----Vexillum.
    Military standards, on Roman coins, near a colonist ploughing with oxen, show that the colony had been peopled by veteran soldiers.

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