The Civic Crown (Latin: corona civica) was a chaplet of common oak leaves woven to form a crown. During the Roman Republic and the subsequent Principate, it was regarded as the second highest military decoration to which a citizen could aspire (the Grass Crown 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 held by the enemy that same day. The citizen saved must admit it; no one else could be a witness.
After Sulla's constitutional reforms, any recipient of the Civic Crown was entitled entry into the Roman Senate. 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 Emperors 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).
Pliny 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 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!"
- 1 2 Pliny (1986). "Book 16, Section 5". Natural History. The Loeb Classical Library (in Latin and English). 4. H. Rackham (trans.).
- ↑ It was not actually the Battle of Trebia but the Battle of Ticinus. Roman writers often found the events of Roman history as confusing as moderns do; however, it is not clear what Pliny meant by "Trebia." The honor was offered in camp at Piacenza, which is near the Trebbia river.
- Rich, Anthony (1875). "Corona". In Smith, William. A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. London: John Murray. pp. 359‑363.