Fasces (English: /ˈfæsiːz/, Latin: [ˈfa.skeːs]; a plurale tantum, from the Latin word fascis, meaning "bundle"; Italian: fascio littorio) is a bound bundle of wooden rods, sometimes including an axe with its blade emerging. The fasces had its origin in the Etruscan civilization and was passed on to ancient Rome, where it symbolized a magistrate's power and jurisdiction. The axe originally associated with the symbol, the Labrys (Greek: λάβρυς, lábrys) the double-bitted axe, originally from Crete, is one of the oldest symbols of Greek civilization. To the Romans, it was known as a bipennis. Commonly, the symbol was associated with female deities, from prehistoric through historic times. The image has survived in the modern world as a representation of magisterial or collective power, law and governance. The fasces frequently occurs as a charge in heraldry: it is present on the reverse of the U.S. Mercury dime coin and behind the podium in the United States House of Representatives; and it was the origin of the name of the National Fascist Party in Italy (from which the term fascism is derived). During the first half of the 20th century both the fasces and the swastika (each symbol having its own unique ancient religious and mythological associations) became heavily identified with the authoritarian/fascist political movements of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. During this period the swastika became deeply stigmatized, but the fasces did not undergo a similar process. The fact that the fasces remained in use in many societies after World War II may have been due to the fact that prior to Mussolini the fasces had already been adopted and incorporated within the governmental iconography of many governments outside Italy. As such, its use persists as an accepted form of governmental and other iconography in various contexts. (The swastika remains in common usage in parts of Asia for religious purposes which are also unrelated to early 20th century European fascism.) The fasces is sometimes confused with the related term fess, which in French heraldry is called a fasce.
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