The Fasces from Ancient Rome to Charlottesville

The Fasces from Ancient Rome to Charlottesville

Holy baloney, another Patreon stretch goal
video so soon! As I promised, let’s talk about the fasces, a symbol which defined Italian
Fascism’s anti-democratic regime, the power of the people in Rome, and whatever it represents
as it sits today in the US Congress. Let’s take a look.
Hi, I’m Tristan Johnson, and this is Step Back History. Be sure to click the subscribe
button as well as the bell notification to never miss a new Step Back video or live stream.
You might have seen this symbol before, whether it be behind the speaker of the house in Congress,
or emblazoned on a… shield? Wielded by the Nazis in Charlottesville. Wait really? Shields?
Who the fuck do these people think they’re protecting themselves from? The Seljuks?
Ok, sad attempt at parodying a measured response aside, the fasces is a symbol going all the
way back to… well, as far back as we can measure. To all those red pill high-T alphas,
the Etruscans, an ancient society in modern day Tuscany, used the fasces as a symbol to
represent the feminine gods in prehistoric times.
The word fasces comes from Latin and is a symbol showing a bundle of sticks. Frequently
people placed an axe inside with the blade sticking out. Sometimes with a double-bladed
axe, the Romans called a bipennis. Bi…bipen… The fasces is such a widespread symbol because
of its adoption by the Romans. From the early kingdoms to the late empire, Romans used this
symbol as a metaphor for the strength of Rome. One stick is fragile, while a bundle of sticks
is strong. Strength through unity and whatnot. Another way Romans saw the fasces was a symbol
of the power of the state. The sticks and axe being the state’s control of corporal
and capital punishment. By the time of the Roman republic, the fasces
already had tons of ceremony and tradition. Various girths of fasces belonged to different
ranks of Roman leaders. A consul would have twelve, a proconsul eleven, a praetor six,
a propraetor five, and the curule aediles two.
Sometimes in times of trouble, the Romans would put their… “democracy” on hold
and temporarily empower one person with unlimited power. They called this person the dictator,
and when there was one of these dudes around, he got to wield the biggest phalli- I mean
a symbol of state authority made of a mighty twenty-four sticks.
They had to carry this symbol with them, but when they entered into the sacred inner city
of Rome, called the pomerium, they had to remove DAT AXE. To represent that the power
over life and death was in the hands of the people. By the way, when the Romans or people
try to wax lyrically about the power of the people in Roman society, just remember these
people might have been the biggest hypocrites in human history. Well, at least tied with
the slave owners rebelling for freedom. Anyway… Once the republic turned into the empire,
the Roman Emperor carried around a 12 stick fasces with him. At least until the reign
of Domitian the insecure, who felt his fasces was insufficiently big and demanded he get
a 24 stick one. Sometimes, on special occasions, like after
a big victory, Roman leaders could put a laurel wreath on it to symbolise victory. They’d
use it for events like military parades. As with many symbols like the eagle, the colour
purple, and using Latin to sound smart, leftovers from the Roman times has been appropriated
by various cultures to either place themselves as the successor to that empire or as fanboys
of the values of the Roman Republic. For example, it was probably used for one purpose then
the other as both Louis the sixteenth and Napoleon adopted it. It’s all over Latin
America, and the United States’s government buildings and monuments have tonnes of them.
Most notably, some Italian political groups adopted the Roman symbol. Some syndicalist
groups like the Unione Sindicale Italiana used the fasces as a sort of unifying symbol.
Try to borrow a bit of that Roman republic flavour. For a long time, the Italian word
fascio could reference coops or unions. However, the symbol is more remembered as
the official mascot for Benito Mussolini’s fascist party. I’ve already talked about
Mussolini and Fascism in this video here, but it was a symbol of roman nostalgia, and
to symbolise the power of the state. It’s common in fascist movements to try and restore
the state to a perceived point of greatness from the past. The vaguer the, better.
It seems while the symbol of fascism in Germany has gained quite a stigma, see more on that
here, the symbol for Fascism in Italy was a little too widespread to disappear like
its Nazi swirl cousin. It seems to still remain as a symbol for government and collective
power and features on all sorts of heraldry. Heck, it was on the US dime until 1945.
HOWEVER, and you knew you weren’t gonna get a Rome lecture without one of my low T
beta rants did you?!? The far right have adopted the Fasces along with a lot of symbols from
antiquity for decades now. I know the far right doesn’t care about
historical accuracy. I mean, these are self-described rationals who take the christian side of the
crusades, but that’s a fight for a future video. Not only that, but their constant misuse
and misappropriation of classical symbols has little in the realm of academic rigor.
Examples would be the Charlottesville alt righter who tried to reference Leonidas in
ancient greek on a flag, but instead just wrote gibberish in Greek letters to look smart.
There was the Return of Kings headline referred to Brute as Brutae, so in the feminine plural
form. And of course, there was Paul Joseph Watson’s
meltdown when he tried to make a stink about insisting the Romans were all white. When
tons of historians including my mate Mike Stuchbery showed Rome was a diverse multiracial
empire, Watson simply doubled down by citing drawings from an old 20th-century children’s
textbook. So, the point of this is the standards of
evidence are low, and the fasces, like a lot of classical, and hate groups have appropriated
pre-Christian European symbols. Don’t let them. Context is critical, and Nazis have
a good track record at ruining symbols. Though maybe the fasces isn’t quite worth saving
at this point. But that’s just me. Did you know I do a stream every Sunday night?
It’s true! It’s a show called So that Happened, and in it, I hang out with Emperor
Tigerstar, and Cody from the Alternate History Hub. If a show like that piques your interest,
you can find it at 7 PM eastern time every Sunday on the Alternate History Hub Channel.
I’d like to thank Aven McMaster and the wonderful folks at The Endless Knot for their
help with this subject. Link to their history and classics podcast in the doobly do. I’d
also like to thank 12tone for the theme song. Now, I’d like to celebrate this stretch
goal by thanking each of my patrons, because I think if I wait til the next one, there
might be too many for it to be feasible. So thank you, Don and Kerry Johnson, Kolbeinn
Mani, Garrick Kwan, Todd Weiler, Matt Standish, Shawn MacIntyre, SirionAUT, Wayne Allen, datalal624,
Diane Schuman, Greg Amann, Sebastian Winterflood, Quinlan Vuong, Phrenomythic, Mr. Beat, Kirt,
Tarkan Sarim, W. R. Cawston, Rob MacDougall, Tod Kurt, Riccardo Sacchetto, Carmen Kohli,
Madeleine Brouwer, Stuart Shipley, diiasze, Christopher Cleghorn, Tomas Bazinek, Bo Mertz,
Vee, Carla Hoffman, Jeremiah Basler, Kelly Barnes, FableReader, Soliloquy, Will Fox,
Name Explain, and Michael. Thank you all very much. The next stretch
goal is the Iranian Revolution, and you can make that video happen at
Thank you all and sit tight for more Step Back.

60 thoughts on “The Fasces from Ancient Rome to Charlottesville

  1. Humans love symbols. Many of which have interesting pasts and have come to mean powerful, wonderful, or terrible things. Let's explore those stories:

  2. One thing I like to add: the Iroquois did their own version of the fasces to shown that as one state tribe then stronger then separated and also unity. This is the version that the USA uses( it the one that has arrows gathered to show states/tributes).

  3. There's a monument with a fasces between my house and the spot where the pride parade starts. Whenever I walk that way, I always think of the common slur used against me and its etymological root deriving from "fasces."

  4. Your pronunciation of "fasces" weirds me out… like, the pronunciation I'm used to is "fa-sheez", and I'm pretty sure the classical Latin pronunciation would be "fah-skayz", but I've never heard "fa-seez" before

  5. Sorry if you said something on your live stream my WiFi pooped out on me so I couldn't tell of you did You're a God
    There you go you grammar Nazis

  6. Thanks for the mention! It's actually "data" as in Data, from Star Trek. Data + Lal (his android daughter), and 624 means nothing, It just sounds like something Picard might say as part of a log entry date, or a course setting. :p

  7. In Spain is the simbol of the Guardia Civil (a sort of Gendarmerie boddy of the spanish security forces) as a simbol of authority and "potestas". Funny enough in the public view it lacks any relation with fascism, we have our own fascist simbol, but the Fasces are a police simbol here

  8. Key words – context is everything!

    I love the idea of correctly reclaiming history, taking back what hate groups have incorrectly named as theirs. This is why knowing all sides of history is so important, those who hold the truth, hold the future!

  9. Right even stole the word facist from unions in italy, they steal everything!! Libertarian, anarchist and even socialist (Nazi party)

  10. The Fasces!!!!!!!! Got it!!!!!!!! I like that shit!!!!!!!!!!โœ”๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘Œ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ’ฏ

  11. I don't like the idea of letting symbols die. They should always stick around to inform and invoke thought regardless of whether their current meaning is immoral or uncouth.

  12. Interesting video. Let me add: to write "Brutae" is a misspelling of the real thing "Brute" and I remember that still today the spanish Guardia Civil ( a police enforcement) wear "fasci" on their uniform.

  13. I love that you acknowledge syndicalist, libertarian socialist, and other lesser known histories. Most historians gloss over the big egalitarian movements. I also appreciate that you call out fascist lies, including crypto-fascist lies, like PJ Watson's crybully rants.

  14. The shield's are protection from projectile's from the left, the armor and helmet's are also protection. Trust me, I was at a patriot's march in australia and the militant left have a habbit of throwing rock's, broken up brick's, metal objects and when they land, they can cause serious damage. So the far right brought armor and shields and painted them up.

  15. i know im late but i think you got the wrong message from what paul said. he said britannia was white, not the entirety of rome

  16. Kinda seems a bit important that you left out the lictors. Like, the fasces served an actual practical purpose of beating down threats to the magistrate. That's why it became a symbol of authority. People carried the fasces behind an important political figure as he walked through town.

  17. Fascists have taken and ruined several really cool historical symbols by associating them with race-hatred and political authoritarianism: the swastika, the fasces, the black sun, the Celtic cross, Viking runes, and classical Greco-Roman art and architecture.

  18. Have you ever heard about the Fasce lighthouse in the tip of the Horn of Africa, Somalia? It was build during the period when Somalia was an Italian colony.

  19. The shields are more for masculine dick waving than actual combat. Do those guys look like they're dressed for a fucking rumble? Hell no, it's all theater – they even decorated the fucking sheilds. They want to cosplay as white crusaders and shit. That's all it is. You want to actually be bigdick at a protest? It's all about that horse archery. See if anyone tries to tangle with the dude on a horse and a recurve bow.

  20. Hey just found your channel. Thank you for not being a "well actually" dude. Calling fascists and Nazis by their name <3

  21. Fasces where high-tech magnets toned to certain frequency whould be like a phazer like don't point that at me kinda thing

  22. I think the coin could symbolise an electrical magnetic fasces. Has a tree wrapping round like the toroidal field we live in a Electromagnetic universe.

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