A Fasces is a bundle of sticks tied together by red ribbon with a bronze axe amongst the sticks
Some believe the Romans adopted it from the Etruscans.
Represented the power (imperium) Roman magistrates had over Roman citizens through unity.
Carried around by lictors before consuls, praetors, dictators, etc.
Each magistrate got a certain number of lictors based on what position they held.
Each part of the fasces is though to have represented different things.
During the Empire it was thought the Emperors fasces had a laurel on it.
If the city was in mourning or the magistrates wanted to ask forgiveness from the people the axe may be removed.
Traditionally, a fasces would not have an axe on it in the Pomerium (sacred inner city) of Rome. However during a dictatorship the axe may stay on.
In the 18th century, the fasces was revived by the newly founded United States of America, who adopted many symbols from the ancient Romans. The fasces can be seen on many buildings, seals, and army insignias today.
The Mercury Dime (1916-1945)
The Fascist Symbol
The original fascist symbol, in Italy under Benito Mussolini, was the fasces. It had been used by various Italian political organization before this, so he just adopted it as his own.
Work Cited: Metz, George. "Legion XXIV". CIVES ROMANI. March 3rd, 2010 <http://www.legionxxiv.org/fasces%20page/>. Lendering, Jona. "Fasces". Livius. March 3rd, 2010 <http://www.livius.org/fa-fn/fasces/fasces.html>. Nelson, Phil. "Fasces on Flags". FOTW: Flags of the World. March 3rd, 2010 <http://www.crwflags.com/fotw/flags/fasces.html>.