The fasces are essentially a bundle of wooden rods with an axe in the center. The term fasces itself means bundle, and this bundle appears on many sculptures and reliefs around Rome. Convoluted for us to imagine today, the fasces were a symbol of power and a well respected one at that.
An Etruscan custom passed down to the Romans, the faces were carried by lictors (royal bodyguards) before consuls, praetors, and dictators to indicate their authority. Although there are many possible interpretations for the fasces, strength through unity being one, the importance of the fasces carried through the many centuries of Roman rule and into others. The United States and France used Roman symbolism in their republican movements. And Mussolini corrupted the word fasces into fascists. Blah! Anyway, the fasces appear in Roman reliefs and paintings, so be on the look out.
Here are a few examples of fasces to get you started.
First: a Roman lictor carrying a fasces. The ancient Roman version of the Secret Service.
Here you can see a lictor on the Cancelleria Relief. Located on Frieze B the fasces is carried on his shoulder