Heraldry refers to the tradition of using emblematic symbols to denote identity or rank, usually relating to military units, those in public office, or families with hereditary arms and titles. The use of such symbols to convey group identity or rank in governance or in war, such as with use of decorated shields or flags, has an extremely long history. Greek writers frequently describe the use of symbols by certain heroes to denote individual identity, whilst the Roman military developed ever more specialised heraldic symbols distinguishing different units of the army. The use of heraldry developed rapidly during the Middle Ages through the use of seals which were used to authenticate documents, and their use in this manner may have the implicit function of establishing a historical precedent for authority by illustrating traditions of heritage.

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