Roman Crowns and Wreaths

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History, Facts and Information about Roman Crowns and Wreaths
Roman crowns and wreaths were adopted by the Romans from the Greeks and the Spartans. Wreaths made of laurel or olive leaves were originally used to crown winners of Olympic Games as prizes. They were circular ornaments worn on the head and made from a variety of materials including gold, silver, leaves and flowers.

Purpose of Roman Crowns and Wreaths
The purpose of Roman Crowns and Wreaths and the occasions on which they were worn include the following:

  • Funeral decorations
  • Festival and Triumphal decorations
  • Rewards for military successes
  • Rewards for excellence

Roman Crowns and Wreaths were referred to as a 'corona' meaning crown or a 'sertum' meaning a garland or wreath. Golden crowns, without any particular designation, were frequently presented out of compliment by one individual to another, and by a general to a soldier who had in any way distinguished himself.

Roman Crowns and Wreaths worn by Emperors
The Roman Crowns and Wreaths worn by Emperors were called Corona Radiata. These were also given to the gods and deified heroes. They were worn by some emperors as a token of their own divinity. The likenesses of Roman Emperors wearing Corona Radiata are seen on the coins of Trajan, Caligula and Marcus Aurelius.

Military Roman Crowns and Wreaths
There were several different types of crowns and wreaths that were bestowed as an honorary reward  for military excellence:

  • Corona Obsidionalis corona graminea were the highest honours and were conferred to army generals who broke a siege. It was made of grass, or weeds and wild flowers taken from the site of the siege as a token of victory

  • Corona Civica was presented to a soldier who had saved the life of a Roman soldier in battle displaying unusual acts of valor. It was  made of three different types of oak. Soldiers conferred with this great honor had a place reserved next to the senators at all the public spectacles. Gatherings of people would always stand as a mark of respect to such a soldier. He and the closest male members of his family were freed from all public burdens

    • The Corona Civica, the crown of oak leaves, was also conferred on public figures who had been of great service to Rome

  • Corona Navalis or Rostrata were naval honors conferred to the first Roman to board and enemy ship or a commander who achieved a great naval victory. These crowns or wreaths were made of gold

  • Corona Muralis was conferred to the first man who scaled the wall of a besieged city and was presented by his commander with this mural crown. It was made of gold, and decorated with turrets

  • Corona Castrensis or Vallaris was conferred on the first soldier who forced an entry into the enemy's camp. It was made of gold, and decorated with palisades

Roman Crowns and Wreaths - Triumphs
There were several different types of crowns and wreaths that were bestowed when a great Roman was awarded a Triumph. A Triumph was recognized as the summit of military glory, and was the cherished object of ambition to every Roman general and displayed during his parade.

  • Corona Triumphalis (laurea insignis and insignis corona triumphalis) was made with laurel or bay leaves and the most honourable of triumphal awards. This crown was worn on the head
  • Another type of crown was also conferred to a victorious general which was made of gold and often adorned with jewels. This crown, or wreath, was held over the head of the general during his triumph, by a public officer as it was too large to be worn. The officer spoke the words "Memento mori" translated as "Remember that you are mortal".
  • A gold crown or wreath was also sent as a present from the provinces to the commander, as soon as a triumph had been decreed to him called a provinciales but then re-named aurum coronarium

Roman Crowns and Wreaths - Ovations
There were several different types of Roman crowns and wreaths that were bestowed when a Roman was awarded an ovation.  An ovation was inferior to a triumph, and conferred to those who had achieved what was seen as minor victories and held less esteem. Much to his annoyance Crassus was only awarded an ovation during the Third Servile War against Spartacus whereas Pompey was awarded a Triumph for his part in ending the uprising.

  • Corona Ovalis was another crown conferred solely to commanders. It was given to those who merely deserved an ovation. It was made of myrtle, the shrub sacred to Venus
  • Corona Oleagina was conferred upon both soldiers as well as their commanders. It was made of the olive leaf

Roman Crowns and Wreaths - Emblems
Roman crowns and wreaths that were also used as emblems of office or to celebrate special occasions as opposed as rewards for valor and excellence. The Roman crowns and wreaths which were emblems are as follows:

  • Corona Sacerdotalis was worn by the priests (sacerdotes) at sacrifices. It made of olive leaves and sometimes of gold and regarded as an emblem of peace

  • Corona Funebris and Sepulchralis were Roman crowns and wreaths worn at funerals made of of leaves and flowers and sometimes used as a decoration on the tomb

  • Corona Convivialis were Roman crowns and wreaths worn in private parties celebrating Roman festivals and made of various flowers or shrubs, such as roses, violets, myrtle, ivy and even parsley

  • Corona Nuptialis was the name given to the bridal wreath and was made of flowers picked by the bride and worn under the flammeum. The bridegroom also wore a wreath

  • Corona Natalitia was a wreath which was suspended over the door of the vestibule when a child was born. When the baby was male, the crown was made of olive and when the baby was female it was made of wool

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