While I was touring Versailles, I noticed Fasces all over the place. Fasces are bound rods or axes that represent the State’s Authority. Usually, it’s taken to mean authority over citizens. Versailles has fasces built into much of its architecture because the French king behind its construction, Louis XIV, wanted to intimidate and dominate the French nobles that he brought out to the castle from Paris. Now, what need does a Democracy like the United States have for a Roman symbol of power? Yet, there it is, on the back of the Dime. This dime is from 1944. It’s called the “Mercury Dime” because the image of Lady Liberty on the front reminded people of the god Mercury. The modern dime has Roosevelt on the front, but it still has the fasces on the back.
The Mercury dime has always been one of my favorite coins to collect. It’s a contradiction. On one side is Liberty, a symbol of individual freedom. On the other side is the Fasces, a symbol of the State’s power. Intertwined with the Fasces is an olive branch, symbolizing peace and diplomacy. It’s a uniquely American coin, eh?
Here are some fasces from Versailles and around Paris: