Silver phalerae found near Lauersfort Castle (West Germany) | Photo: romanlegions.info
For the bravery shown in combat and good performance of all duties, Roman soldiers could receive the so-called a phalera (plural phalerae), a kind of medal or decoration which they then wore tied with leather straps above the chest.
Phalera had the form of a disk and was usually made of bronze, covered with silver or gold. Medals were often decorated with images of emperors, deities or characters from mythology: Jupiter, Mars, Medusa or Sol. This type of decoration could also be awarded to the entire branch; then the phalera was attached to the unit’s banner. A soldier awarded with a phalera was referred to as phaleratus.
Roman soldiers rather wore their decorations in ceremonies and official shows; centurions wore phalerae during the fights to inspire and keep order in the formation.