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Civic Crown

Civic Crown

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The Civic Crown was a chaplet of common oak
An oak is a tree or shrub in the genus Quercus , of which about 600 species exist. "Oak" may also appear in the names of species in related genera, notably Lithocarpus...

A leaf is an organ of a vascular plant, as defined in botanical terms, and in particular in plant morphology. Foliage is a mass noun that refers to leaves as a feature of plants....

 woven to form a crown
Crown (headgear)
A crown is the traditional symbolic form of headgear worn by a monarch or by a deity, for whom the crown traditionally represents power, legitimacy, immortality, righteousness, victory, triumph, resurrection, honour and glory of life after death. In art, the crown may be shown being offered to...

. During the Roman Republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

, and the subsequent Principate
The Principate is the first period of the Roman Empire, extending from the beginning of the reign of Caesar Augustus to the Crisis of the Third Century, after which it was replaced with the Dominate. The Principate is characterized by a concerted effort on the part of the Emperors to preserve the...

, it was regarded as the second highest military decoration
Military decoration
A military decoration is a decoration given to military personnel or units for heroism in battle or distinguished service. They are designed to be worn on military uniform....

 to which a citizen could aspire (the Grass Crown
Grass Crown
The Grass Crown or Blockade Crown was the highest and rarest of all military decorations in the Roman Republic and early Roman empire. It was presented only to a general, commander, or officer whose actions saved the legion or the entire army...

 being held in higher regard). It was reserved for Roman citizens who saved the lives of fellow citizens by slaying an enemy on a spot not further held by the enemy that same day. The citizen saved must admit it; no one else could be a witness.

After Sulla
Lucius Cornelius Sulla
Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix , known commonly as Sulla, was a Roman general and statesman. He had the rare distinction of holding the office of consul twice, as well as that of dictator...

's constitutional reforms, any recipient of the Civic Crown was entitled entry into the Roman Senate
Roman Senate
The Senate of the Roman Republic was a political institution in the ancient Roman Republic, however, it was not an elected body, but one whose members were appointed by the consuls, and later by the censors. After a magistrate served his term in office, it usually was followed with automatic...

. Furthermore, the recipient was required by law to wear his crown at every public gathering, and was applauded even by men much senior to himself. It later became a prerogative for Roman Emperor
Roman Emperor
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...

s to be awarded the Civic Crown (originating with Augustus, who was awarded it for saving the lives of citizens by ending the series of civil wars). Famous recipients include Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

 and Caesar Augustus.

Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

 wrote about the Civic Crown at some length in Naturalis Historia:
"Nor is the same honour any greater if the rescued person is a general, because the founders of this institution wished the honour to be supreme in the case of any citizen. The receiver of the wreath may wear it for the rest of his life; when he appears at the games it is the custom for even the senate always to rise at his entrance, and he has the right to sit next to the senators; and he himself and his father and his paternal grandfather are exempt from all public duties. Siccius Dentatus, as we have mentioned at the proper place, won fourteen Civic Wreaths, and Capitolinus six, one in his case being actually for saving the life of his commanding officer Servilius. Scipio Africanus
Scipio Africanus
Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus , also known as Scipio Africanus and Scipio the Elder, was a general in the Second Punic War and statesman of the Roman Republic...

refused to accept a wreath for rescuing his father at the Trebbia. How worthy of eternity is a national character that rewarded exploits so distinguished with honour only, and whereas it enhanced the value of its other wreaths with gold, refused to allow the rescue of a citizen to be a thing of price, thus loudly proclaiming that it is wrong even to save the life of a human being for the sake of gain!"