The aquila

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The aquila

Postby Tiberius Dionysius Draco on Sat Feb 08, 2003 2:18 pm

Salvete Romani,

I was just wondering how the eagle (the aquila) became a symbol for the entire Roman Army. I seem to recall reading somewhere that it had a deep religious significance, but I forgot what it really meant.

Does anybody know more about the origin of the aquila?

Valete bene,

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Postby Quintus Aurelius Orcus on Sat Feb 08, 2003 3:14 pm

Salve
If the sign has a religious significance than it would be because the eagle was the bird of either Jupiter or Mars. I would guess Jupiter. It should represent the power of the Gods.
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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Sat Feb 08, 2003 5:40 pm

Salvete

The eagle, as a symbol of Jupiter, indicated the legion was formed under the auspices. At one time the legions used various animal totems, such as the boar as well as the eagle. We are not certain what they may have indicated in the earlier part of the Republic. When Marius raised his legions, all of his legions were given an eagle as their standard. That may be because the Senate refused to grant him the authority of raising legions, as they had opposed his candidacy for consul. He raised his legions through the Comitia tributa rather than the Comitia Centuriata, which is why he could enlist men who were not in the classi censi. Marius' eagles then indicated that he raised them under his own auspices as consul. The eagle as the standard legion standard came later.

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Aquila

Postby Aldus Marius on Sat Feb 08, 2003 11:41 pm

Salvete comilitones...

(If anyone were to hand-pick a topic designed to draw me out of Deep Hiding, this would surely be the one...!!)
>({|;-)

As for the Eagle's religious significance: I think the idea behind using a symbol of Iuppiter might have been that the Legion was supposed to hit the enemy like a thunderbolt. More importantly (from my perspective), however, the Legion itself was believed to have its own genius of sorts, the numen legionis, and said numen was thought to inhabit the Eagle. This is why it was such a disaster for a Legion's Eagle to fall into the hands of the enemy; and many German tribes did indeed stash aquilae in special places along with other "captured Gods".

I wonder sometimes whether the standard-bearers might have served as "priests of the Legion". Perhaps the animal-pelts they wore had some totemic significance? At any rate, it is sobering to imagine a time when "team spirit" was something you prayed to.

Yours under the Eagles,
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Re: Aquila

Postby Horatius Piscinus on Sun Feb 09, 2003 2:29 am

Salve mi Mari

Marius Peregrine wrote:

I wonder sometimes whether the standard-bearers might have served as "priests of the Legion". Perhaps the animal-pelts they wore had some totemic significance? At any rate, it is sobering to imagine a time when "team spirit" was something you prayed to.

Yours under the Eagles,


Interesting idea. There was indeed a ceremony to the standards, the Rosalia in May. Perhaps the receiving of an eagle was like the birth of the legion. On one's birthday a male would give offerings to his genius, a woman to her juno. The genius was described in one commentary on the Libri pontifici to be the son of Jupiter and of one's parents, and therefore itself semi divine. Then what you are saying is that the eagle was imbued with the genius of the legion.

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Yup.

Postby Aldus Marius on Wed Mar 26, 2003 1:43 am

Exactly, mi Piscine; and this notion of mine is fortified by the terminology for the day of a Legion's founding: It was called the dies natalis.

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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Thu Mar 27, 2003 9:13 pm

Salve Mari

The Rosalia I think may have had to do with commemorating the fallen comrades of a legion. The roses, and the fact it was held in May would seem to indicate that. The legion's dies natalis would be something different. Pliny mentions the anointing of the eagles, at Nat Hist 13.23 where speaking on the introduction of perfume. Does he mean all holidays here, or only certain ones? And if only certain ones, what others besides the dies natalis and the Rosaliae?

"The most astonishing thing, however, is that this extravagant behaviour has found its way even into our military camps. At any rate the eagles and the standards, dusty and bristling with sharp points, are anointed on holidays. I wish I could say who first introduced this practice. The fact is, no doubt, that our eagles were bribed to conquer the world by such a reward! We seek their patronage for our vices so that we may have the right to use hairoil under our helmets!"

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