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Евсеенков А.С.

Crown (from Latin corona, meaning "wreath, crown") is a headgear that serves as a symbol of power, victory, success, and glory in the ancient world.

There were at least six types of crowns:

The most popular was the civic crown (Latin corona civica) – the laurel wreath. This ancient symbol of glory, victory, or peace was often used as an honorary decoration among distinguished warriors, commanders, or statesmen.

The ancient Greek myth of Daphne and Apollo tells us how the laurel became one of Apollo's sacred symbols. This provides a basis for drawing an analogy between the symbolism of the laurel and the areas of patronage associated with this god – the Sun (possibly why the symbol is depicted simultaneously with the symbol of Sol), art, and predicting the future. In the Olympic Games, the laurel wreath was awarded to the victor, and it was also given to the "favorites of Apollo" – the poets. The association between Apollo and the laurel also explains the attribution of prophetic properties to the laurel – it was believed that a knowledgeable priest, using it, could foretell the future. There was a belief that the laurel protected against lightning strikes. Being an evergreen plant, the laurel was also a symbol of immortality. In the military realm, it represented victory, war itself, and, of course, fame, which is why it was used during triumphs.

The laurel has firmly established itself in modern culture as a symbol. For example, the word "laureate" (Latin laureatus) means "crowned with laurel."

Golden Greek wreath. 3rd-2nd century BC
Golden Greek wreath. 4th century BC

Laurel branches are often used as a symbolic representation on pugios, gladii, helmets, and other equipment of the roman army and gladiators. There are variations with an eagle holding the wreath in its beak. Sometimes multiple wreaths were depicted on a single item. Additionally, relief sculptures sometimes depicted a wreath separately, without the owner.

Military personnel and Roman nobility often adorned themselves with wreaths: centurions, legates, senators, emperors, athletes, aristocrats, and many others. They wore them during parades, triumphs, official receptions, and especially to display a brilliant victory in battle.

Both wreaths made of real laurel branches and those cast in gold were used.

Scabbard from pugio with a wreath depicted. Carnuntum fortress. Archäologisches Museum Carnuntinum - Bad Deutsch-Altenburg-AU). Type II. 1st century AD
Pugio. There is a decoration in the form of a wreath. Found in the Roman burial ground of Haltern am See. 1st century AD
Helmet type Imperial Italic D. On the frontal part there are two eagles holding wreaths. Found at the bottom of the Rhine, Mainz (Germany). City Museum of Worms. 4th quarter of the 1st century AD

Among Roman military personnel, the wreath was common as a detail of the parade attire of centurions. There are several reliefs depicting centurions wearing wreaths. Sometimes, a medallion is placed in the center, and laurel branches are tied with a ribbon at the back.

Centurion wearing a wreath. Tombstone of Quintus Sertorius Festus from XI Claudua Pia Fidelis. Verona. Museo Maffeiano. Inv. no. 28160. 1st century AD
Tombstone to the centurion in a wreath. It is kept in the Rheinisches Landesmuseum in Bonn. 1st century AD

Emperors, as well as other high-ranking political and military officials, were often depicted wearing wreaths. Unlike centurion wreaths, imperial wreaths were significantly more detailed, lavish, and pompous.

Emperor Hadrian wearing the crown of civica. 2nd century AD
Bust of Domitian. Kept in the Louvre Museum, France. 81-96 A.D.
Emperor Claudius as Jupiter. Rome. Vatican City Museum. 1st century AD

It is worth noting the depiction of wreaths on top of helmets. They could be either an integral part of the decoration of the protective gear itself or worn on top of them. The first option appears more likely due to the textured representations in pictorial sources.

Bas-relief with a wreath on the helmet. Turin Museum of Antiquities. 1st century AD
Bas-relief with a wreath on the helmet. National Archaeological Museum of Aquileia.


For reenactment, it is recommended to make a wreath from embossed leaves attached to a metal hoop. Brass can be used as a material to save costs since a golden wreath would be excessively expensive. Gilding is welcomed for added grandeur. An authentic option would be a wreath made of live laurel. The laurel wreath would look most organic on a high military rank.

Primipil in Venka, reconstruction

Related topics

Centurion, Legate, Gladiator, Pugio, Gladius, Roman Army helmets


Bas-relief with crowns of civica and presumably murallis. 1st century BC - 1st century AD
A man wearing a wreath. Brooklyn Museum of Art. Inv. No. 40.386. 100-110 AD
Greek wreath. 3rd 2nd century BC
A golden wreath. Found in Bulgaria. 4th century BC
August in corona radiata. Early 1st century AD