Aquilifer

An aquilifer (Latin: [aˈkᶣɪlɪfɛr], "eagle-bearer") was a soldier signifer bearing the eagle standard of a Roman legion. The name derives from the type of standard, aquila meaning "eagle" (which was the universal type used since 106 BC), and ferre, the Latin word for bringing or carrying. Before that time, the wolf, boar, bull and horse were also used. The eagle standard was the most important possession of the legion, and its loss was a terrible disgrace.

The Aquila emblem.

The aquila emblem generally had up-raised wings surrounded by a laurel wreath. It was mounted on a narrow trapezoidal base and mounted on a pole that was held aloft.

The aquilifer's position was accordingly one of enormous prestige, and he was ranked immediately below the centurions and above the optiones, receiving twice the pay of an ordinary legionary (Brunt 1950). Aquilifer carried a small circular shield called a parma that could be strapped on if his hands were already full (Allen 1908).

Aquilifers were very easily recognizable not only because of their standard but because they always wore a type of fur: as wolf fur was worn by the vexillarius and bear fur by the signifer, a lion fur was given to the aquilifers. The furs were worn as capes with the head of the animal strapped to the helmet of the bearer.


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