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Wreaths, Plant Writhes Woven in a Circle, Symbolizing Eternity, Cyles of Nature, and Victory

The circle is the first known shape in human history. It is the basis of geometry, astrology and astronomy. Ancient scientists believed it had divine powers since it has no beginning or end. Originally the wreaths of ancient Greece were probably harvest wreaths as these are common in many clutures. For example one of the most important annual Roman religious events was the Saturnalia or harvest festival. It honored Saturn, the Roman god of sowing during the winter solstice. Romans continued giving wreaths as gifts now made with holly berries while the native Druids observed the curious Roman customs.

A Wreath for Dionysus:

Harvest Wreath for Dionysus

The ancient Greeks first used wreaths to worship their gods and bestow honors on its citizens. The different dieties had different wreaths associated with them.

  1. Sacred to Zeus
    1. Oak
    2. Olive — Aeschines, On the Embassy 2.46: “each of us be crowned with a garland of wild olive because of our loyalty to the people” Aeschylus, Agamemnon line 494: “I see approaching from the shore a herald crowned with boughs of olive.” The olive wreath also known as kotinos (Greek: κότινος), was the prize for the winner at the ancient Olympic Games. It was an olive branch, of the wild- olive tree (Olea oleaster) that grew at Olympia, intertwined to form a circle or a horse-shoe. According to Pausanias it was introduced by Heracles as a prize for the running race winner to honour his father Zeus. (Pausanias, Description of Greece, 5.7.7)
  2. Sacred to Apollo
    1. Laurel — εἰρεσιώνη (branch) branch of olive or laurel wound with wool and hung with fruits, dedicated to Apollo and bourne about by singing boys at the at the πυανεψια and θαοͅγὴλια, while offerings were made to Helios and the Hours: it was afterwards hung up at the house-door. The song was likewise called eiresionè, which became the general name for all begging-songs. Homer “1.25 “Let me not find you, old man, by the hollow ships, either tarrying now or coming back later, lest your staff and the wreath of the god not protect you.”
  3. Sacred to Aphrodite
    1. Myrtle — Matrimonial or funereal in its implications and functions, myrtle was closely associated with Aphrodite and her cult while it had special connotations in the context of the Eleusinian mysteries and beliefs (e.g. the bandles of βακχοι).
    2. Roses — Bacchylides, Ode 17 (Dithyramb 3) line 112 “She threw a purple cloak around him and placed on his curly hair a perfect wreath, [115] dark with roses, which once deceptive Aphrodite had given her at her marriage.”
  4. Dionysus — The festivals devoted to Dionysus, the Oschophoria and Anthesteria, included a ritual procession called the eiresîonê. A harvest wreath was carried to Pyanopsia and Thargelia by young boys, who would sing during the journey.
    1. Grape vine
    2. Ivy
    3. Parsley – In ancient times parsley wreaths were used to ward off drunkenness. In ancient Greece the victors at the Isthmian Games would be given a wreath of parsley. At Nemea the crown of parsley bestowed on the victor is reported to have been chosen in honor of the death of Opheltes, the charge of Hypsipyle.
  5. Demeter
    1. wheat

The following images of Greek Wreaths are available: