MILITARY crowns are many and varied. Of these the most highly esteemed I find to be in general the following: the “triumphal, siege, civic, mural, camp and naval crowns.” There is besides the so-called “ovation” crown, and lastly also the “olive” crown, which is regularly worn by those who have not taken part in a battle, but nevertheless are awarded a triumph. [p. 393] “Triumphal” crowns are of gold and are presented to a commander in recognition of the honour of a triumph. This in common parlance is “gold for a crown.” This crown in ancient times was of laurel, but later they began to make them of gold. The “siege” crown is the one which those who have been delivered from a state of siege present to the general who delivered them. That crown is of grass, and custom requires that it be made of grass which grew in the place within which the besieged were confined. This crown of grass the Roman senate and people presented to Quintus Fabius Maximus in the second Punic war, because he had freed the city of Rome from siege by the enemy. The crown is called “civic” which one citizen gives to another who has saved his life in battle, in recognition of the preservation of his life and safety. It is made of the leaves of the esculent oak, because the earliest food and means of supporting life were furnished by that oak; it was formerly made also from the holm oak, because that is the species which is most nearly related to the esculent; this we learn from a comedy of Caecilius, who says: 1
They pass with cloaks and crowns of holm; ye Gods!But Masurius Sabinus, 2 in the eleventh book of his Memoirs, says that it was the custom to award the civic crown only when the man who had saved the life of a fellow citizen had at the same time slain the enemy who threatened him, and had not given ground in that battle; under other conditions he says that the honour of the civic crown was not granted. He adds, however, that Tiberius Caesar [p. 395] was once asked to decide whether a soldier might receive the civic crown who had saved a citizen in battle and killed two of the enemy, yet had not held the position in which he was fighting, but the enemy had occupied it. The emperor ruled that the soldier seemed to be among those who deserved the civic crown, since it was clear that he had rescued a fellow citizen from a place so perilous that it could not be held even by valiant warriors. It was this civic crown that Lucius Gellius, an ex-censor, proposed in the senate that his country should award to Cicero in his consulship, because it was through his efforts that the frightful conspiracy of Catiline had been detected and punished. The “mural” crown is that which is awarded by a commander to the man who is first to mount the wall and force his way into an enemy's town; therefore it is ornamented with representations of the battlements of a wall. A “camp” crown is presented by a general to the soldier who is first to fight his way into a hostile camp; that crown represents a palisade. The “naval” crown is commonly awarded to the armed man who has been the first to board an enemy ship in a sea-fight; it is decorated with representations of the beaks of ships. Now the “mural,” “camp,” and “naval” crowns are regularly made of gold. The “ovation” crown is of myrtle; it was worn by generals who entered the city in an ovation. The occasion for awarding an ovation, and not a triumph, is that wars have not been declared in due form and so have not been waged with a legitimate enemy, or that the adversaries' character is low or unworthy, as in the case of slaves or pirates, or that, [p. 397] because of a quick surrender, a victory was won which was “dustless,” as the saying is, 3 and bloodless. For such an easy victory they believed that the leaves sacred to Venus were appropriate, on the ground that it was a triumph, not of Mars, but as it were of Venus. And Marcus Crassus, when he returned after ending the Servile war and entered the city in an ovation, disdainfully rejected the myrtle crown and used his influence to have a decree passed by the senate, that he should be crowned with laurel, not with myrtle. Marcus Cato charges Marcus Fulvius Nobilior 4 with having awarded crowns to his soldiers for the most trifling reasons possible, for the sake of popularity. On that subject I give you Cato's own words: 5 “Now to begin with, who ever saw anyone presented with a crown, when a town had not been taken or an enemy's camp burned?” But Fulvius, against whom Cato brought that charge, had bestowed crowns on his soldiers for industry in building a rampart or in digging a well. I must not pass over a point relating to ovations, about which I learn that the ancient writers disagreed. For some of them have stated that the man who celebrated an ovation was accustomed to enter the city on horseback: but Masurius Sabinus says 6 that they entered on foot, followed, not by their soldiers, but by the senate in a body.