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- For the novel by Colleen McCullough see The Grass Crown (novel).
The Grass Crown or Blockade Crown (Latin: corona graminea or corona obsidionalis) was the highest and rarest of all military decorations in the Roman Republic and early Roman empire. It was presented only to a general, commander, or officer whose actions saved a legion or the entire army. One example of actions leading to awarding of a grass crown would be a general who broke the blockade around a beleaguered Roman army. The crown took the form of a chaplet made from plant materials taken from the battlefield, including grasses, flowers, and various cereals such as wheat; it was presented to the general by the army he had saved.
(…), but as for the crown of grass, it was never conferred except at a crisis of extreme desperation, never voted except by the acclamation of the whole army, and never to any one but to him who had been its preserver. Other crowns were awarded by the generals to the soldiers, this alone by the soldiers, and to the general. This crown is known also as the "obsidional crown" [siege crown], from the circumstance of a beleaguered army being delivered, and so preserved from fearful disaster. If we are to regard as a glorious and a hallowed reward the civic crown, presented for preserving the life of a single citizen, and him, perhaps, of the very humblest rank, what, pray, ought to be thought of a whole army being saved, and indebted for its preservation to the valour of a single individual?
Pliny also lists the persons who by their deeds won the grass crown:
- Lucius Siccius Dentatus
- Publius Decius Mus (received two grass crowns—one from his own army, and another from the troops which he had rescued when surrounded)
- Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus (after Hannibal had been expelled from Italy)
- Marcus Calpurnius Flamma (during the First Punic War)
- Scipio Aemilianus Africanus
- Gnaeus Petreius Atinas (a primus pilus centurion during the Cimbrian War)
- Lucius Cornelius Sulla (during the Social War at Nola)
- Quintus Sertorius (In 97 BC while serving in Hispania as a military tribune under Titus Didius)
- Augustus (the crown was presented by the Roman Senate but was a political homage rather than a military award)
In La Respuesta (The Answer), Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz compares the obsidianal crown to the crown of thorns placed upon Christ's head at his crucifixion as part of an extended metaphor about the suffering and persecution brought against all who display greater intelligence:
But upon seeing so many and diverse crowns, I pondered which sort the crown given to Christ might be; and I think it must be the obsidional crown, which (as you know, my Lady) conferred the greatest honor and was called "obsidional" from obsidio, which means "siege." This crown was made neither of gold nor silver, but of the very grasses growing in the field where the brave deed was carried out. And Christ's feat was to raise the siege of the Prince of Darkness, who had encircled the entire earth, as Satan himself says in the Book of Job: "I have gone round about the earth, and walked through it"; and as St. Peter says of him, "Your adversary [the devil] goeth about seeking whom he may devour."' And our Chieftain came, and made Satan raise the siege: "Now shall the prince of this world be cast out." Thus, the soldiers crowned Him with neither gold nor silver, but with the plant springing up throughout the world, which was their field of battle. For after the curse, "Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee," this world produced nothing but thorns.
- Carlin A. Barton (2001). Roman Honor: The Fire in the Bones. University of California Press. pp. 52–. ISBN 978-0-520-92564-9.
- Pliny the Elder. "The grass crown: how rarely it has been awarded". Naturalis Historia. 22. Translated by John Bostock; H.T. Riley.
- de La Cruz, Sor Juana (2009). Arenal, Electa; Powell, Amanda, eds. The Answer/La respuesta. New York City: Feminist Press. p. 69. ISBN 9781558615984.