Originally a Roman symbol of power and authority, it was adopted by various Western state organisations often symbolising justice or authority while simultaneously suggesting a republican lineage stretching back to pre-imperial Rome.1 Since the 1920s it has been associated with Mussolini's Italian fascists, whose movement derived their name from the symbol.
The fasces is believed to have its origins in the Etruscan civilization of northern Italy and was subsequently adopted by the Romans, where it initially symbolized a magistrate's power to exact legal punishments.2 During the era of nation building in the 18th and 19th centuries, the symbol was incorporated into the state iconography of the United States and France.3
The use of the symbol (and name) by Mussolini’s fascist party has meant it can be interpreted as signifying fascist beliefs and forms part of the visual iconography of the far-right and white nationalism. However, despite these associations it has avoided much of the stigma associated with other far-right symbolism such as the swastika.
The extensive use of the symbol as part of state symbology and adoption by fascist groups, sees a wide range of variations. Versions signifying fascism tend to be less elaborate compared to its use on state emblems where it is sometimes integrated with other classically inspired symbolism.