What Does the Eagle Represent?

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In the United States, a stylized image of an eagle is used on the country's national seal to represent power and clarity of vision as the national bird. On the seal, the eagle grips a banner declaring "E pluribus unum" ("out of many, one"), and in its talons, it grips an olive branch symbolizing peace and arrows symbolizing war. Many U.S. agencies, branches of the military and coins also employ the symbol of an eagle. In addition, eagles show up as potent symbols in many other cultures.

The eagle was used as a heraldic image of power in ancient Rome, where it stood as a symbol of the Empire. An eagle later became the symbol of the Holy Roman Empire, and it appeared on many heraldic emblems throughout Europe during the Middle Ages. As the emperor of France, Napoleon also used an imperial eagle as his personal symbol. The eagle also has significance within the Arab world, where it dates back to the days of the sultan Saladin. In modern days, the eagle has come to represent Arab nationalism, and it has sometimes been used as a symbol of revolution. In Christian tradition, the eagle stood for the John the Apostle and his gospel.