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I am a Latin teacher, and we are discussing the 20th legion and its emblem on their shields, the boar with what appears to be a trident. Does anyone know anything about the particular symbolism of this shield insignia?
I can't speak for the 20th as re-enactors, but Pliny the Elder does list the boar as one of the original four heraldic symbols used in the Roman Republic: the wolf, the minotaur, the horse and the boar. (HN 10.16). It is unclear what these symbols corresponded to is unclear. The four consular legions? Or perhaps the four lines of infantry? Pliny is not helpful.

That said, most images of shields from the Republic have no decoration on them, including the Altar of Domitius Ahenobarbus, the Pydna Monument and the Guererros de Estepa. There is the relief from Tarraco which shows a Roman-like shield with a wolf-head emblem on the boss, but is it a legionary shield, or a similar model used by native Iberian troops?

By the Early Empire, we do have good evidence for emblems on shields. The Mainz Principia relief shows soldiers with an eagle on their shield and Pisces symbol on their helmets. Trajan's column, which of all the depictions of Roman soldiers is probably the least authentic, gives us the lighting bolt imagery that turns up so often in the movies.


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Most modern reenactment groups base their designs on those from Trajan's Column which is of course the principate. Our Legio XX does. We chose a design with lightening bolts, but no image of a boar. The only boar image I know of that is Legio XX is the antefix in the Chester museum, the running boar with the curious standard behind it. No idea what the round thing is, though lately I am suspecting it is a crystal with a reflection: what is supposed to be Maxentius' standard with a crystal on it was unearthed on the Palatine a few years back, so that is a possibility. Maybe. But no idea what the ball represents either.
Sadly, authenticated shield blazons are few and far between. To the best of my knowledge, from the principate, we only have images of blazons for Leg II Adiutrix - four lightning bolts and possibly a spina (stele of C. Castricius Victor - Budapest, early 2nd century AD); Leg VIII Augusta - a tabula ansata either side of the shield boss (stele of C. Valerius Crispus - Wiesbaden, late 1st century AD); Leg XIIII Gemina Martia Victrix - two lightning bolts between a pair of wings with a tabula ansata either side of the shield boss (stele of Cn. Musius - Mainz, before AD 43; as well as a possible blazon for Leg II Augusta - a slanting 'S' shape in each corner and a capricorn either side of the shield boss (Arch of Orange - Arusio, early 1st century AD). There is also a tentative identification for one or other of the Batavian cohorts - a leaf shaped spina with three leaves (?) projecting on either side and a volute of 'leaves' either side of the shield boss.

That is about all we have I am afraid, that we can actually tie definitely or even tentatively to particular units in the early Empire.

Crispvs
Quote:The only boar image I know of that is Legio XX is the antefix in the Chester museum, the running boar with the curious standard behind it.
Really?! Hadrian's Wall is stuffed with them!

Mike Bishop
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It is possible that the re-constructed scutum from Dura-Europos held at the Yale University Art Gallery will partially answer this query.