Chi-Rho ☧ originally a Symbol of the Centurion

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
25,870
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#11
It's known that the Cantabrum was the model of the imperial Labarum and the Labarum of Constantine I actually carried the CHI-RO [obviously, we would add, talking about that Emperor].
 

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
25,870
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#12
Signum or Vexillum?

Among other points we should consider, there is the fact that in origin the "centuria" had a signum, not exactly a vexillum. Not only the centuria had a signum, but also the manipolo. Vexilla had associated to signa, only later the vexilla had assigned to wider units [vexillationes] or units of veterans [evocati].

Polibius and Varrone are not in agreement about if the vexilla were assigned to the centuria [Polibius] or to the manipolo [Varrone]. This suggests that there were different habits, or more probably, there was a certain confusion between signum and vexillum [out of military environments]. See Polyb VI, 24,6.

A possible explanation is just that Polibius didn't understand well his source and that the priores centurion had the possibility to have a vexillum for his manipolo.

It's not totally true that we haven't got examples of signa and vexilla. There are depictions of them on coins ... And they carried letters [H for hastati, P for Principes, for example].
 

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
25,870
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#15
I would say that Trajan's Column is precious about this:

in this detail we can see the difference between a vexillum and a signum.

 

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
25,870
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#16
About what there was on a vexillum, as for I know there is only a surviving sample [Moscow Pushkin Museum, III century CE].

It was decorated, with writings, symbols, not rarely the emblem of the legion ... in this case the subject is Victory.



So ... I can say that there are no evidences at all that on a vexillum [or on a signum] there was the acronym or the abbreviation "XP" [chi-ro] to symbolize the centurion. Nor in the structure [the depictions of vexilla on coins, even in a coin from a period later than Constantine I, and in bas-reliefs don't show a physical chi-ro] neither in the visual content [at least the only surviving sample doesn't show the chi-ro somewhere].
 

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
25,870
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#18
Well ...

Obious humor a part, the abbreviation XP for centurion remains and it indicates that who wrote in Greek [rarely or not ...] used it. Legions had a Latin origin and probably they kept their basic Latin symbols and definitions.

Greek was diffused and common, so that on documents that abbreviation wasn't impossible to find [and it's possible to explain its presence].
 
May 2011
2,897
Rural Australia
#19
A part this detail, in this hypothesis was the usage of this symbol generalized, or limited to the Eastern Legions?

The three instances listed in the catalogue at post #6 are these:

1. ☧ ἑκατόνταρχία ‎(hekatóntarkhos‎, hekatontarchés) centurion .... R.A. 1903 B, 437

2. ☧ ἑκατόνταρχης (hekatóntarkhos‎, hekatontarchés) centurion.... W 2532 (177-80)

3. ☧ ἑκατόνταχους (hekatóntarkhos‎, hekatontarchés) centurion .... SARD 17

I have not yet been able to look these up and determine where they are in the empire, although the 2nd one is dated (177-80).

From the bibliography ...

R.A. = Revue Achaeologique
W = Waddington, W.H. ........ Paris 1870
SARD = Sardis, Vol VII ....... 1932

If you or anyone can find images of these, or further information about these three examples, it would be greatly appreciated.
 
Last edited:
May 2011
2,897
Rural Australia
#20
It's not totally true that we haven't got examples of signa and vexilla. There are depictions of them on coins ... And they carried letters [H for hastati, P for Principes, for example].
Thanks for the examples and images. When I wrote about having only one possible example I was referring to primary evidence. You have provided a picture of it above, Thanks for that. A discussion of this lone survivor is linked to in the OP.