Trophy - Encyclopedia

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TROPHY (Gr. Tpoiratov, from TpE7rw, put to flight; Lat. tropaeum), in classical antiquities, in the strict sense a memorial of victory set up on the field of battle at the spot where the enemy had been routed. It consisted of captured arms and standards hung upon a tree (preferably an olive or an oak) and booty heaped up at its foot, dedicated to the god to whom the victory was attributed, especially Zeus Tropaeus. If no suitable tree was at hand, a lopped trunk was fixed in the ground on an eminence. The tree or trunk bore an inscription containing the names of the god and the combatants, a list of the booty and of the chief incidents of the battle or the entire war. In the case of a naval victory the trophy, composed of the beaks of ships (sometimes an entire ship), was generally set up on the nearest beach and consecrated to Poseidon. It was regarded as a sacrilege to destroy a trophy, since it was dedicated to a god; but, on the other hand, one that had fallen to pieces through lapse of time was not restored, to prevent feelings of resentment being kept alive. For the same reason trophies of stone or metal were forbidden by law, although this rule was not always observed. To facilitate reconciliation with their conquered foes, neither the Macedonians nor the Romans in early times erected such trophies. The usual custom was to take home the spoils, and to use them for decorating public buildings and private houses. The first example of a trophy set up after the Greek fashion occurs in 121 B.C., when Domitius Ahenobarbus celebrated his victory over the Allobroges in this manner. Although instances are not uncommon in later times, the Romans still showed a preference for setting up the memorials of victory in Rome rather than on the field of battle. These were decorated with the spoils, and were themselves called trophies; such were the trophies of Marius recording his victories over Jugurtha and the Cimbri and Teutones. In later republican and imperial times enormous columns, on which the chief incidents of a battle or war were represented in bas-relief, were frequently erected, the most famous and most perfect example being the column of Trajan (see Rome: Archaeology, " The Imperial Forums").

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