Rome, the western half, both Republic and Empire existed between is founding 753 B.C.E until its long decay, decline, and eventual sacking led by East Germanic Military Prime Flavius Odoacer in AD 476.
A bronze then later a golden Eagle, or Aquila was the dominant most prized possession and battle standard of the Roman Legion. Legions were equipped with but one eagle and they were entrusted to care and bearing via one single Legionary, known as an Aquilifer. These sole man bearers were regarded as indomitable, subordinate only to the Emperor, and the Legatus Legionis, or Legion Commander, most often a sitting Senator appointed by the Emperor directly to serve at his pleasure.
The Eagle was the most precious inherent symbolic possession afforded to each individual legion, it was their sacred centerpiece of pride lust. The loss of this standard was considered irrecoverably abhorrent. Such was the loss of the Aquilia in battle occurring only nine times total in the 503 year existence of the Western Rome Empire. In 9 AD during the three day battle of Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, in modern day Germany, ALL THREE Legions, Legio XVII, Legio XVIII, and Legio XIX were summarily slaughtered and completely lost.
21,000 Roman lives, limbs, heads, torsos, were mercilessly cleaved apart, lives gutted barbarically by blunt heavy axe, sharp sword, fast arrow, and long spear, then slammed down as halved lifeless meat within cold dark soil under misty black forest and digested slowly within the deep acidic belly of history’s enduring insatiable appetite to rapturously feed on the fats flesh bones and souls of overconfident aggressors in a manic, orgasmic gluttonous cataclysmic death feast.
Nearly 21,000 Roman’s were killed by an exceptionally led, on familiar terrain, newly united Germanic tribes, all three Aquila’s were summarily lost to the victors. The pristine, priceless Roman treasures were now in the filthy hands of the Germanic Barbarian Horde, the horror, the horror.
The Germanic tribes during the battle were led by Arminius, son of Cheruscan Chief Segimerus. As a boy and teenager Arminius lived as a hostage in Rome and received a military education. He was provided a ROBUST education as a Roman Military Commander. Arminius obtained Roman citizenship and completed his training prior to returning to Germania then promptly lethally objurgating three entire Roman Legions via superior leadership and tactics. He then drove the remainder of all Romans garrisons from his region of Germania, permanently.
Emperor Augustus as referenced via the Roman historian Suetonius in “De vita Caesarum” or “On the Life of the Caesars”, upon hearing the news of the defeat was utterly devastated and repeatedly smashed his head into a marble wall until it bloodied while clutching written dispatches and uncontrollably screaming:
“Quintili Vare, legiones redde!“, ‘Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions!’
Publius Quinctilius Varus, the supreme commander of all three lost legions, or Legatus Augusti pro praetore, however had committed suicide upon realizing during the final minutes of the battle all three legions of his command had been completely destroyed. His body was decapitated post mortem by sword personally by the sneering, vindicated and utterly triumphant young open adrenal, hard and smart as fuck Germanic Commander Arminius, note: whom throughout his formative years… received a formal, exceptionally thorough Roman military education, in Rome, by Romans. This is important, do not train your potential enemies on the inner workings of your entire organization while treating them slightly better than actual slaves, it’s never… a good… idea.
A despondent Emperor Augustus, frantically commanded a pursuit, discovery, and recovery of the lost three Eagles. The first and second Eagles were recovered in 15 and 16 AD, the third and final Aquila repatriated nearly 50 years later in no small part to desperate, bloody, Roman restlessness of extraordinary logistics, ruthlessness, assassinations, and military complexity. No legionary Eagles remain in historical custody, all have dissolved into the abyss of history since the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD.
Since 1834, a feared, stoic, and notoriously elite separate branch and component of the United States Naval Service carries still and proudly continues the fierce tradition of the Aquila, representing 1/3 of their sacred symbol, the Eagle, Globe & Anchor.