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What Happened to the Eagles?
#1
Last fall, I took a world history class. My college's world history professor was very knowledgeable, especially concerning antiquity. One day he explained the importance of the Aquila to the legions. After class, I asked him why no Aquilas have been excavated. He couldn't give me a straight answer. So, I would like to hear everyone's opinions. Why have there never been any Eagles discovered? They were of massive importance to the Romans, and we knew their enemies understood their significance as well...

Opinions? :?
Tyler

Undergrad student majoring in Social Studies Education with a specialty in world history.

"conare levissimus videri, hostes enimfortasse instrumentis indigeant"
(Try to look unimportant-the enemy might be low on ammunition).
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#2
Actually, that's a good question, Gold survives a lot. Like the only thing I can think of that will mess with it is Aqua Regia, so why haven't any Eagles been found?

Also, weren't the banners of the WRE sent to Constantinople in 476? Maybe they were all lost in the sack of 1204, crusaders could have melted them down for their Gold Value.
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#3
No sane sieging ransacker would hold on to that without melting it in coins. Same as musculatas IMHO.
Kis György Márk (by western standards, György Márk Kis)

Legio Leonum Valentiniani

http://www.legioleonum.hu
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#4
But didn't the Israelies capture an Eagle during the Jewish revolt in the 1st century? Also, wouldn't it be concievable that the Eagles stayed in the western empire with the legions?
Tyler

Undergrad student majoring in Social Studies Education with a specialty in world history.

"conare levissimus videri, hostes enimfortasse instrumentis indigeant"
(Try to look unimportant-the enemy might be low on ammunition).
Reply
#5
Aqua Regia doesn't touch the gold, however, a good furnace and a crucible will! 8-)
Visne partem mei capere? Comminus agamus! * Me semper rogo, Quid faceret Iulius Caesar? * Confidence is a good thing! Overconfidence is too much of a good thing.
[b]Legio XIIII GMV. (Q. Magivs)RMRS Remember Atuatuca! Vengence will be ours!
Titus Flavius Germanus
Batavian Coh I
Byron Angel
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#6
Imho the answer is very simple; there are almost no big bronze statues left from antiquity. The bronzes from Riace come from the sea and the statue of M Aurelius has been preserved because people in the Middle Ages thought the statue represented Constantine.

If a bronze sculpture has so little chance to survive the ages, a gold one will have even less chance....

As has been said, in a time of crisis I would melt them down and make coins out of it.
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#7
But I thought Channing Tatum got one! :O
Kis György Márk (by western standards, György Márk Kis)

Legio Leonum Valentiniani

http://www.legioleonum.hu
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#8
Retired Eagles may have been lodged in various pagan temples and later destroyed as were many of temples themselves by Christian Romans. The Eagle ,unlike images of the Emperor, still used by the Legions during the Christian era but whole Legions as complete units fell out of use during the late Roman period. It would have been in keeping with religious practice at the time to view converting the metal in an Eagle into Christian religious objects as an appropriate disposition for a no longer needed military insignia. One can hope that a not quite devout Commander at the time may have chose to decommission an Eagle by burial or water deposit as one could therefore turn up someday. Even at the height of the Civil Wars the number of Legions and therefore Eagles wasn't large. One could also hope that one of the "Lost" Eagles could be found:
Battles where the Aquila were lost, units that lost the Aquila and the Aquila's fates:

53 BC - Battle of Carrhae. Crassus Legio X. (returned)
40 BC - defeat of Decidius Saxa at Cilicia. (returned)
36 BC - defeat of Mark Antony. (returned)
19 BC - Cantabrian Wars at Hispania. Legio I Germanica. (lost? and stripped of its title "Augusta")
9 AD - Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. Legio XVII, Legio XVIII, and Legio XIX. (All recaptured)
66 AD - Great Jewish Revolt. Legio XII Fulminata. {fate?}
87 AD - Domitian's Dacian War. The Praetorian Guard. {fate?}
132 AD - Bar Kochva Revolt. Legio IX Hispana. {fate?}
132 AD - Bar Kochva Revolt. Legio XXII Deiotariana. {fate?}
John Kaler MSG, USA Retired
Member Legio V (Tenn, USA)
Staff Member Ludus Militus https://www.facebook.com/groups/671041919589478/
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#9
My recollection is that Legio I Germanica was disbanded after the Batavian Rebellion of AD 70. It was one of the legions that surrendered to Civilis and swore loyalty to the "Gallic Empire". More than one legion was disbanded at that time and some of the men may have been incorporated into Legio IV Flavia, probably the younger men.
Somehow or other the Eagle lost by Legio XII Fulminata was recovered as the legion continued to exist, serving as part of Vespasian's and later Titus' army in the retaking of Jerusalem. It was still in existence well into the 2nd Century AD.

The points made about the uses of metal of which the Eagles were made are valid whether primarily of bronze with gold and/or silver sheathing or made more of gold and/silver. Bronze and the precious metals were often melted and reused/recycled. Think of Trajan's Column - you will notice that no image of a Roman legionary carries a pilum - And I don't think the auxiliaries carry spears either. Those were made of metal and inserted in the scuptured figures' hands. I'm sure they were taken out and melted down for other uses.
Quinton Johansen
Marcus Quintius Clavus, Optio Secundae Pili Prioris Legionis III Cyrenaicae
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#10
Anyone imagine the significance of some archaeologist digging one up??? What a find that would be!!
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#11
Quote:Anyone imagine the significance of some archaeologist digging one up??? What a find that would be!!

Indeed. We can always hope that one will come up. What archeological evidence do we have for Aquila impersinations now?
Tyler

Undergrad student majoring in Social Studies Education with a specialty in world history.

"conare levissimus videri, hostes enimfortasse instrumentis indigeant"
(Try to look unimportant-the enemy might be low on ammunition).
Reply
#12
Quote:Battles where the Aquila were lost, units that lost the Aquila and the Aquila's fates:

There are also the following:

16BC - defeat of Lollius by Sugambri. V Alaudae loses eagle, but apparently gets it back at some point!

AD70 - Batavian revolt. I Germanica and XV Primigenia disbanded for surrendering. XVI Gallica and IIII Macedonica renamed (but presumably kept their eagles under new designation). V Alaudae may also have disappeared, although their eagle-bearer seems to have gone to Rome with Vitellius.

AD87 - First Tapae. Dacians possibly captured a legion eagle as well as praetorian standards. This may have been the unlucky old V Alaudae, as they're never heard of again.

AD89 - Sarmatian invasion. A legion destroyed, probably XXI Rapax. Legion never reconstituted.


Quote:Somehow or other the Eagle lost by Legio XII Fulminata was recovered as the legion continued to exist, serving as part of Vespasian's and later Titus' army in the retaking of Jerusalem.

Vespasian did indeed recover the eagle lost at Beth Horon - there's a coin dated AD71 showing a figure of Victory presenting the emperor with a wreath, palm branch and a legionary eagle. This is presumably the eagle of the twelfth legion. In fact, there's a rather good recent novel about the incident - The Eagle of the Twelfth.
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#13
If a legion was disbanded, did they melt that Eagle down as part of the final formation??
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#14
This topic might make for an interesting article in Ancient Warfare Magazine: The Eagles - Their Use, Rituals, Representations and Fate.

Certainly, it is an article I would bed interested in reading.

:wink:

Narukami
David Reinke
Burbank CA
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#15
How many Eagles were actually created anyways? No surprise we can't find one really
Quintus Furius Collatinus

-Matt
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