Battle Standards, Cult of

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The early Roman army had a standard called the signum for each maniple, carried by the centurion who commanded the unit. When Marius established a professional army in Rome (about 100 b.c.), he reorganized the legion, making the cohorts the major tactical units, and giving it a standard, the eagle or aquila. This standard was regarded as the sacred emblem that personified the legion's existence. A chapel was built for it, and it was honored with a religious cult. The standard was made first of silver, later of gold. It was placed at the top of a

long pole and variously ornamented. Its loss brought disgrace on the members of the legion and frequently led to the disbanding of the legion in question. In the period of the Roman Empire before Constantine, the image of the reigning emperor was carried also as a standard by various military units, and was likewise an object of worship. The cult of these standards created a formidable problem for Christian soldiers, and particularly for Christian officers.

Bibliography: m. marÍn y peÑa, Instituciones militares romanas (Madrid 1956) 375390. w. kubitschek, Paulys Realenzyklopädie der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft, ed. g. wissowa et al., 2.2:233544. h. leclercq, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, ed. f. cabrol, h. leclercq, and h. i. marrou, 15 v. (Paris 190753) 11.1: 111630.

[t. a. brady]