The myth was some kind of a magical background for the next few centuries, especially in Greece and its vicinity. The ancient Greeks, inspired by the courage of the gods, “continued” the tradition of the Olympics and Pythian games, the aim of which was to be publicly crowned the Winner with a Wreath of Laurel. Back in early times, the term `bacca-laureate` (meaning, `Laurel berries`) signified the completion of a bachelor degree. Newly qualified Doctors received a laurel crown because it was considered a cure-all plant.
Roman Generals fought for years and conquered lands covering thousands of miles just for the honour of returning to Rome and receiving the laurel wreath as a mark of his great victory. The Romans also considered the bay tree as protection from thunderstorms, whilst Nero believed bay trees purified the air and Roman victors would wipe the blood from their swords with the leaves.
Some 1700 years later, in France, Napoleon, inspired by the glory of the unbeaten Roman conquerors, and understanding the importance of appearing victorious in the eyes of others, insisted that his image be sculptured and stamped on the new coins with a wreath of laurel leaves on his head. He also incorporated the wreath into the symbol of his Consulship, and into numerous busts, he had made during his reign.
(Above: Publius Aelius Hadrianus 117 – 138 A.D., on a bronze coin © 2006 Liberty Street, used by permission)