The word “laureate”, which denotes the winner of the competition or the winner of the prize, translates as “crowned with laurels”. This custom came from Ancient Greece, where the laurel wreath was a reward, a symbol of victory. Why did laurel receive such an honor?
People have always treated evergreens, one of which is laurel, in a special way. They saw the personification of eternity, constancy - in a word, everything that was traditionally opposed to the transience of human life. The glory of the victor should be eternal - in any case, people wanted to believe it.
It is noteworthy that athletes in Ancient Greece were not crowned with laurels, for them a wreath of olive branches or … celery was a sign of victory. The award in the form of a laurel wreath was intended for the best winners of the Pythian Games, which were held in Delphi. Over time, these games also began to include sports competitions, but their main content has always been the competition of poets and musicians - in a word, those who are still called "servants of Apollo". It was to this patron god of art that the laurel was dedicated. Why exactly to him?
This connection had a real basis: these trees grew on Mount Parnassus, which the Greeks revered as the abode of the muses and Apollo Musaget. But it would be strange if mythology did not give rise to legends explaining the connection between the laurel and the god of art.
Apollo, like many Greek gods, was distinguished by his love. Once the subject of his passion was a nymph named Daphne, but the beauty vowed to remain chaste and was not going to give in to his harassment. The unfortunate woman begged the gods to protect her from the persecution of Apollo, and the gods heeded the prayer: instead of the girl, a laurel tree appeared in the arms of Apollo. God put a wreath of laurel leaves on his head so as not to part with his beloved, turned into a tree.
Further history of the symbol
The laurel wreath as a symbol of glory and victory was taken over from Greece by another ancient civilization - ancient Roman. In contrast to exquisite Hellas, harsh Rome does not recognize any glory and no victories, the coma of the military. The symbolism of the laurel wreath is changing: it is crowned with a triumphant commander, at first it was worn by the Roman emperors as a sign of power.
Christians saw a new meaning in this symbol. For them, the lava wreath became the personification of the eternal glory of the martyrs who died for the faith.
The connection of the laurel wreath with poetic glory is resurrected in the era that inherits antiquity. In 1341, one of the greatest poets of the Italian Renaissance, Francesco Petrarca, received a laurel wreath from the senator's hands in the hall of the Senatorial Palace on the Capitol in Rome as a recognition of his poetic achievements. This gave the poet a reason to play with the name of the woman he praised, whose name also comes from the word "laurel": Laura gave him a laurel.
By the 17th century, the laurel wreath had already firmly established itself as an emblem of glory in general, not only poetic. He is depicted on orders and awards for winning competitions. This is how modern civilization inherited this symbol. It goes back not only to the word "laureate", but also the name of the bachelor's degree.