Take a look at the reverse of the Mercury Dime. What's that thing on the back there?
Well, that is called a fasces. A fasces is an ancient object that was the the symbol of Etruscan kings in Italy that predated the Roman Roman Empire, who adopted it as a symbol of magisterial and priestly authority. In addition to its symbolic nature it also had a functional use as well as we will see.
During the Roman empire, a fasces consisted of a bundle of sticks five foot in length, banded together with a red leather ribbon. It had a longer staff in the center. Part of the bundled sticks was one with an ax head mounted on it.
Fasces were carried over the left shoulders of magisterial assistants known as lictors as a symbol of judicial authority. During a judicial proceeding, lte lictor would enter carrying the fasces to signify the power of the magistrate. In a public procession, if two magistrates met, the lictor of the more junior magistrate would lower their fasces to the more senior magistrate in honor and respect of the more senior official's status.
The functional aspect of the fasces was that in the case of a magistrate rendering a death penalty, the axe was removed from the fasces to indicate to the defendant that the death penalty was the sentence and a signal that it was the appropriate time to mount an appeal of the sentence. It also allowed for the execution to be carried out without further delay if the appeal was rejected.
When a magistrate died, he had the right to have a fasces depicted on his tomb and if a magistrate was removed from office for some reason, the sticks of his fasces were broken in symbolic representation of his disgrace.
Because of the use of the faces by the socialist Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, the fasces became associates with "Fascism" a fancy way of saying Socialism and all the oppression of rights and freedoms incumbent with that governmental model.
After 25 years of Barber designs being the face of our coins, a new design was approved created by Adolf Weinman for the dime. On the front of course is Liberty with a winged Phrygian cap with wings. The cap as we have discussed represented Liberty and the wings represented freedom of thought.
On the reverse we find the adoption of the fasces which depicts the ideas of strength through unity and the willingness to defend our freedoms, It is adorned with an olive branch which symbolizes peace, making it contemporary in design with the concepts of the Peace dollar after World War I.