An ancient [[Etruscans|Etruscan]] symbol, the '''fasces''' was a group of twelve birch rods bundled together with an axe. It symbolizes strength in unity; the rods are weak by themselves but strong when bundled together (the number of the rods - twelve - representing the twelve Etruscan cities). The axe represents the power over life and death that the holder bears. The Romans adopted the same symbol after the [[Etruscans]], and used it as a symbol of the division of political authority. Except when a [[dictator]] ruled in the [[Roman Republic]], no one man carried the ''fasces'' - rather, each [[Consul]] carried one. Generally, the ''fasces'' were paraded by an officer's [[lictor|lictors]].
Although the symbol was adopted by the [[Fascists]], it does not in itself signify fascism. Rather, as a result of the use of the symbol in the [[Roman Republic]], it stands for the equitable division of the power of government, to prevent abuse and encourage responsible leadership.
In the United States House of Representatives, a fasces symbol appears on each side of the American flag, and old U. S. dimes, with a picture of the god Mercury on the front, have a design including a fasces on the back.