A bundle of birch rods tied around in a crisscross pattern with red leather thongs. In ancient Rome, fasces were assigned to the higher magistrates as symbols of authority, and might represent power over life.
Carried by men called lictors, they preceded the curule magistrate as well as the proconsul and propraetor, as a symbol of his imperium.
Within the pomerium, only the rods went into the bundles, to signify that the curule magistrate had only the power to chastise; outside the pomerium, axes were inserted into the bundles, to signify that the curule magistrate also had the power to execute.
The number of fasces indicated the degree of imperium. A dictator had twenty-four, a consul or proconsul twelve, a praetor or propraetor six, and a curule aedile two.