"An old soldier might be supposed to prize only the bloody laurel on his brow"
Victory, A Knight Being Crowned With A Laurel-Wreath
Public DomainVictory, A Knight Being Crowned With A Laurel-Wreath - Credit: Frank Dicksee
Study of the head of Apollo, showing the god wearing a wreath of bay laurel (1630)
Public DomainStudy of the head of Apollo, showing the god wearing a wreath of bay laurel (1630) - Credit: Diego Velázquez

Wearing a wreath of bay laurel leaves to symbolize victory is a tradition that has its roots in Ancient Greece. According to legend, the god Apollo turned chaste Daphne into a laurel tree after she begged him to spare her from his carnal advances. As a tribute to her, he vowed to wear a crown made from the leaves from that day forth and, when he created the Pythian Games, winners were awarded a similar wreath. A parallel tradition flourished in Ancient Rome, where military leaders wore laurels to signify their triumphs.

 

Bay laurel
Creative Commons AttributionBay laurel - Credit: James Gaither