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σημεῖον). The Roman name for a military standard, usually consisting of a badge (insigne) on a staff, carried by legions, maniples, and cohorts, as distinct from the vexillum (q. v.). The

Roman Standards. (Guhl and Koner.)

latter was a square flag fastened on a cross-bar carried by the cavalry and allied infantry detachments. The earliest Roman standard is said to have been a bundle of hay (manipulus) on a staff (Plut. Rom. 8). In the time of the manipular arrangement (see Legio; Manipulus), each maniple had its peculiar insigne, the eagle (the sign of the first manipulus), the wolf, the Minotaur, the horse, or the boar. After Marius had made the eagle (q.v.) the standard representing the signum of the whole legion, the forms of other animals were no longer employed. Instead of them the maniples had a spear with an outstretched hand upon the point. Afterwards the signa were also furnished with a vexillum and with various ornaments on the pole, especially round plates, often with representations of gods, emperors, and generals. The cohorts, probably as early as the time of Caesar, had particular signa; after Trajan they borrowed from the Parthians the draco. This was the image of a large dragon fixed upon a lance, with gaping jaws of silver, and with the rest of its body formed of coloured silk. When the wind blew down the open jaws, the body was inflated (Veget. De Re Militari, ii. 13; Ammian. Marcell. xvi. 10, 7). This last is to be seen on monuments among the standards of foreign nations, who also had a standard resembling a mediæval banner. On the march and in an attack with close columns, the signa were carried in the first line; in a pitched battle, behind the front rank. See Domazewski, Die Fahnen im römischen Heere (1885).

The Greeks carried no regular standard, but a scarlet flag (φοινικίς) was sometimes raised as a signal for joining battle both on land and sea (Polyaen.iii. 9, 27; Thucyd. i. 49). The Persians carried a golden eagle as a royal standard (Xen. Anab. i. 10, 12), and the Parthians had banners of silk. See Vexillum.

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  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Xenophon, Anabasis, 1.10
    • Plutarch, Romulus, 8
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