A variety of Roman crowns are listed below, they related to a variety of important honorary achievements. Julius Caesar is often shown wearing the Laurel wreath – Corona Triumphalis – but was also awarded others during his lifetime like the crown of Oak – Corona Civitatis – in his youth. Emperors are often shown wearing the Corona Radiata. Other crowns included the Corona Muralis, Navalis and more…
Ancient Roman crowns were a form of public honor, similar to modern medals. They were awarded to men of great worth such as generals as well as individual soldiers and citizens.
Emperors such as Caligula, Marcus Aurelius and Diocletian would often be portrayed wearing the Corona Radiata the radiate crown of the divine Apollo, although they were often shown wearing other Roman crowns also. For example Emperor Augustus might be seen with the Corona Civica, made of oak sprigs, for his role in saving many civilian lives ending the civil war.
Ancient Roman crowns for all types of occasions
Other than official honours, the Romans used crowns for many different types of occasion: As ornaments, presents, for festivities such as weddings or coming of age.
Slaves captured in war might be sold wearing a garland: “Sub corona vendere“
Roman Weddings: The bride wore a garland made of Verbena and Marjoram, later replaced by Myrtle which was sacred to Venus.
Traditional Roman funerals were extremely solemn affairs bringing the world of the living closer to the afterlife with its demons an gods. This was also the origin of the gladiatorial sacrificial combats.
Religious ceremonies were the mainstay of Roman morality and tradition. Some of the positions within the priesthood were equivalent to high magistrate roles in government.
Roman crowns of the God Apollo
The Roman god Apollo was directly associated with the sun and with the Laurel (Bay) tree. The most famous of oracles was Apollo’s oracle at Delphi. The Pythian priestesses would grant oracular predictions in mystical circumstances which also involved breathing in the smoke of the Laurel. (Recent research suggests that actually it was more likely the smoke of Oleanders).
We can therefore see a sense of link between the “Corona Triumphalis” made of Laurels to signify divine inspiration and the plant of Apollo. It is interesting to note that in the later empire Apollo came to be associated with “Sol Invictus” – the unconquered sun and his radiate crown the “Corona Radiata” worn by Emperors. Sol Invictus/Apollo also came to be conflated with the image of Christ as shown in some Roman catacomb paintings.
Different crowns made in different ways
There was a variety of Ancient Roman crowns mostly for individual achievements. They were made as a wreath of branches of different plant types, or as bands of metal with different shapes. Wool was also often employed as a link to the pastoral tradition of Rome. It might appear in the Corona Convivialis, or a crown to denote the birth of a daughter.
The laurel wreath or “Corona Triumphalis” of Julius Caesar is the best known. It was made of Laurel sprigs (Bay leaf) and would have been worn during a triumphal parade.
The list of ancient Roman crowns below gives an indication of those made out of plant branches and grasses of different sorts.
List of ancient Roman crowns
Crowns for military purposes
Radiata – Gold/Metals
Triumphalis – made of Laurel (Bay) leaves.
An oversized corona triumphalis could also be made of gold, and held above the triumphant general’s head throughout the triumph.
Ovalis – Ovations were lesser than Triumphs. The crown was made of myrtle;
nb made of myrtle like the crown of wedding brides
Oleagina – made of olive branches, awarded to soldiers by their general, for example those in a triumph parade.
nb made of olive branches like the crown worn by the priesthood “sacerdotalis”.
Civica – made of oak sprigs
Also known as ‘Rostrata‘ – because it displayed ships’ prows known as Rostra.
Castrensis – Gold/Metals
Graminea – made of grasses from the site of the broken siege
crowns for non-military purposes
Sacerdotalis – worn by priesthood at religious functions, particularly sacrifices.
Made of crop plants such as wheat or olive branches as a symbol of peace.
Nuptialis – Wedding crowns.
Brides wore one of Marjoram or Verbena, and in later times made of Myrtle which was sacred to Venus, or Orange blossoms also.
Grooms also wore a garland of leaves and flowers, rather like the “Convivialis”
Convivialis – worn at feasts and group celebrations. Flowers and plants of various sorts like roses, myrtle, ivy. Wool might also be included.
Natalitia – displayed when a child was born, made of different materials to show boy or girl, like we might associate blue or pink for boys or girls. Olive for boys and Wool for girls.
Funebris – worn at funerals, possibly left with the deceased.
Slaves might wear a crown when being sold if they were captured at war.