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Legionary Eagle

Please add updates or make corrections to the NumisWiki text version as appropriate.Legionary Eagle - It is an established fact that the eagle was the principal standard of the legion, and continued to be used as such so long as that body existed. These legionary eagles, not great in size, were affixed to spears, the lower ends of which were sharp-pointed for the purpose of their being more easily planted in the ground. They are exhibited on coins as holding in their talons a thunderbolt. Nor has this peculiarity escaped the observation of ancient writers. Dion states that among the portents which presented themselves to Gnaeus Pompey Junior, when in Spain, was the following: "That his legionary eagles, shaking their wings, and casting from them the golden thunderbolts which some of them grasped in their claws, openly denounced an evil fate against him, and flew off to Caesar."  Silver was preferred for the material of the eagle itself, and the reason, according to Pliny, was that it is a metal which is seen at the greatest distance (Du Choul, Castrametation Romaine, p. 12). Respecting the eagle bearer, see AQUILIFER.

On the legionary coins of Mark Antony we see the eagle, placed between two ensigns, distinguished with three circular appendages, and terminating above in a spear-point. Eagles between simple ensigns, of a similar form and the same number, appear on denarii of Clodius Macer and of Septimius Severus; also on the well known coins which record the recovery of the ensigns from the Parthians, and are inscribed SIGNA P R several of which are published in Morell. Thesaur. Fam. Rom. under the head of Incerta, pl. ii. They are also to be found amongst the colonial mintages, such as in Acci (see p. 3), and in Caesar-Augusta, Patrae, Emerita, etc. (see Vaillant). On coins of Augustus commemorating the restitution of the standards, Mars Ulltor appears, with a legionary eagle in his right hand, and in his left an ensign. Also a votive shield between a legionary eagle and a simple ensign (C L V SIGNIS RESEPTIS, engraved in p. 218). See LEGIO.

The legionary eagle appears fixed to a ship 's prow, and held by two right hands, on a first brass of Nerva, with legend of CONCORDIA
EXERCITVVM (p. 243). It is also seen in the hands of the emperor, on coins of Marcus Aurelius, Commodus, Severus Alexander, Philip II, Probus, etc.

Also see:
Legionum Insignia

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