Fasces, Fascism, and How the Alt-Right Continues to Appropriate Ancient Roman Symbols
The fasces were often used in architecture as well. For example, the façade of the Exhibition of the Fascist Revolution or in numerous examples of the Casa Littoria (Fascist party headquarters) in various towns — most of which are still standing.
As Baxa tells us, Mussolini’s monogram (often enshrined in mosaic) combined an “M” with the fasces. He minted coins and commissioned numerous reliefs that used the sticks. In each case, the fasces served as a visual argument for his own authority by referencing both Italian history and the long history of the ancient Roman fasces as a symbol of legitimate and necessary force.
When James Alex Fields and the other white nationalists at the “Unite the Right” rally gathered with shields bearing the Roman fasces with an axe, the message of legitimate force was again visible. Like the use of SPQR or the appropriation of torches, all of these adopted symbols may look like harmless references to the past, but this particular iconography is historically tied to violence. If Italian Fascism has taught us anything, it is that the appropriation of ancient history provides these groups with a false origin story and a sense of authority to use violence that they cannot rightly claim and should never be given.