Crown (Lat. corona), a wreath-shaped or circular covering for the head, made either of leaves and flowers or of metals and precious stones, and worn as a decoration or honorable distinction. The legends of the Greeks attributed its invention to Prometheus or Janus, and the earliest Greek crowns were worn chiefly on festive occasions, and were twined of twigs of the tree or plant sacred to the divinity who presided over the festival. They rarely contained more than a single kind of leaves or flowers, as the ivy, myrtle, roses, violets, or lilies. The ivy was in especial esteem on Bacchanalian occasions, since it was believed to be a preventive of drunkenness. Circular garlands were common ornaments also for priests, altars, temples, graves, and sacrificial offerings. At the national games, a crown was the reward of the victors. It was made of wild olive for the Olympic heroes; of laurel for the Pythian; of olive, and afterward parsley, for the Nemean; and of pine for the Isthmian. - The Romans gave crowns to the conquerors in the circus, and to the best actor at the theatre. They also invented a great variety of crowns, made of different materials, each with a separate name, which were bestowed in honor especially of military achievements.
The corona oosidionalis was presented by besieged cities or armies to the general who delivered them; it conferred the highest honor, was rarely obtained, was made of weeds and wild flowers gathered from the spot where the troops or citizens had been beleaguered, and was therefore also called corona graminea. The corona civica was the reward for a soldier who should save the life of a citizen in battle, by slaying his opponent and maintaining the ground; it was an oak wreath, and was the second of the military crowns in honor. The corona rostrata or navalis was bestowed upon the Roman who in a naval combat had first boarded the enemy's vessels, or the commander whose skill and courage had gained a signal victory; it was of gold, and decorated with representations of the beaks of ships. The corona muralis was given by the general to the soldier who first scaled the wall of a besieged town; it was of . gold, and decorated with turrets. The corona castrensis was ornamented with palisades, and was given to the soldier who first surmounted the intrenchments and forced an entrance into the enemy's camp. The corona triumphalis was a wreath of laurel (afterward of gold), given by the soldiers to the victorious general on the day of his triumph.
The corona ovalis, of myrtle, and of less estimation than the preceding, was given to generals who enjoyed an ovation instead of a triumph. The corona oleagina was a wreath of olive, and was bestowed upon victorious soldiers as well as generals. There was a crown of olive or gold peculiar to the priests, which was also regarded as an emblem of peace; radiate crowns attributed to gods and deified heroes and emperors; and a crown of verbena, worn by brides, by whom it was gathered and braided. The custom of crowning poets with wreaths of flowers existed both among the Greeks and Romans. - The crown under different names, as crown, tiara, mitre, and diadem, has been a badge of civil and ecclesiastical supremacy from remote antiquity. The mitre of the Jewish high priest and the radiate crowns upon coins of ancient Persian kings are examples. The Roman and Byzantine emperors wore crowns of various kinds, the diadem, a sort of fillet, becoming common after the time of Constantine. The imperial crown of Charlemagne, imitated from Byzantine usage, was closed above like a cap, and terminated in a circle of gold.
During the middle ages the emperors of Germany received three crowns: that of Germany, which was of silver, and was assumed at Aix-la-Chapelle; the crown of iron, which had formerly been peculiar to the Lombard kings, and was assumed at Pavia; and the imperial crown, which was received at Rome, and was surmounted by a mitre similar to that of bishops, but somewhat smaller. The crown of iron, though chiefly of gold, derived its name from an iron band which encircled it in the interior, and which was said to have been made from one of the nails which served in the crucifixion of Christ. It is still preserved in the cathedral of Monza, and was one of the crowns of the Austrian emperors while they were masters of the Lombardo-Venetian kingdom. Napoleon wore it when he was crowned king of Italy at Milan. The kings of France of the first race wore a diadem of pearls in the form of a fillet; those of the second wore a double row of pearls; those of the third wore a circular band of gold enriched with precious stones.
Philip of Valois introduced the three fleurs de lis about 1330. Francis I. returned to the crown of Charlemagne, arched over the head, in order not to leave this mark of superiority to Henry VIII. and Charles V.; and from that time this has continued to be the crown of France. - A fillet of pearls appears from coins to have been the most common crown of the Saxon kings of England. Stephen introduced the open crown with fleur de lis, and Richard III. first placed the arched crown with crosses and fleur de lis upon the great seal. The crown which, with slight variations, has been continued by succeeding sovereigns, was introduced by Henry VII. At present it is a circle of gold, adorned with pearls and precious stones, having alternately four crosses pattee and four fleurs de lis; above these rise four arched diadems, which close under a mound and cross. The whole covers a velvet cap trimmed with ermine. About the 10th century, when the feudal lords disputed the royal supremacy, all the ranks of the nobility assumed a sort of crown. (See Coronet.) - The popes have for many centuries worn a triple crown, which is designed to signify their ecclesiastical, civil, and judicial supremacy.
It consists of a long cap or tiara of golden cloth, encircled by three coronets, one rising above the other, surmounted by a mound and cross of gold.
Roman Crowns. - 1. Corona obsidionalis. 2. Civic Crown. 3. Naval Crown. 4. Mural Crown. 5. Corona castrensis. 6. Triumphal Crown. 7. Myrtle Crown (corona ovalis). 8. Olive Crown (corona oleagina).