Chi-Rho ☧ originally a Symbol of the Centurion

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,365
Italy, Lago Maggiore
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

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,365
Italy, Lago Maggiore
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

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,365
Italy, Lago Maggiore
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

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,365
Italy, Lago Maggiore
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

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,365
Italy, Lago Maggiore
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].
 

Kookaburra Jack

Ad Honorem
May 2011
2,961
Rural Australia
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.
 
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Kookaburra Jack

Ad Honorem
May 2011
2,961
Rural Australia
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.