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Eagles were highly regarded in ancient Rome

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

A Roman eagle made of bronze
A Roman eagle made of bronze, which was probably a decoration of a piece of furniture or a vessel. The object is dated to the 4th century BCE. | Author: Carole Raddato

Eagles, to this day, arouse respect and respect not only among animals but also people. The pride and strength of these birds were already in ancient times, and they themselves became the symbol of Roman legions.

Very interesting information about them was left to us by the irreplaceable Pliny the Elder, a Roman writer and military man. Pliny discussing the subject of eagles immediately states that they are the strongest of the birds and that they are the most respected. Pliny gives us the old view that these birds were never hit by lightning, hence they were considered divine animals that lightning bolts in their claws.

Eagles became a symbol of the Roman legion thanks to consul Gaius Marius, who resigned from the previously used symbols: wolf, bull, horse or boar. Pliny also states that when it was decided to establish a winter camp, a place was chosen where a pair of eagles were noticed.

Pliny emphasizes the power of the eagle, which is strong enough to fight even a deer. Its main enemy, however, is the snake that climbs and looks for eagles’ eggs. The enraged eagle grabs the serpent into the skies, grabbing it with its talons, which in turn entwines its wings so that both animals fall to the ground and die.

An interesting story is also told by Pliny about the vicinity of the city of Sestos, on the Hellespont. There it is said that a certain eagle was raised by a young girl; in return for her protection, he brought her prey. Once, however, the girl died, and the bird, overwhelmed by sadness, threw itself into the fire of the funeral pyre and died. In honour of this event, the townspeople erected a monument called Heroon, which was dedicated to Jupiter and the girl.

  • Pliny the Elder, Natural history, X.3-6

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