Marking the Victory in Ancient Greece: some Remarks on Classical Trophy Monuments
Victory monuments played a vital role in the life of individuals and the civilisation as a whole in ancient Greece. They were an embodied celebration and memorial, both of a specific triumph and of military conflict as such, keeping alive the memory of past actions that would otherwise be forgotten. They carried a message of success both for the present era and for future generations, who thus found a focus in which to admire and honour the courage of their ancestors. The Greeks believed that just as the gods directed and influenced individual human lives, they also decided on the outcomes of conflicts and they therefore considered it their duty to give thanks to them. At first, they gave thanks immediately after a battle by erecting a tropaion on the battlefield, which from the time of the Greek-Persian Wars began to be built from more durable materials. A further gesture was made later by dedicating other weapons captured from the enemy to the gods either at a Pan-Hellenic sanctuary such as Delphi, Olympia or Isthmia, or at a local temple. This was an established custom that was supposed to ensure the support and favour of the gods in subsequent conflicts. Another custom was that a certain period after the end of a war, permanent monuments would be erected by the winning side away from the battlefield and dedicated to a specific god – either within the structure of the victorious polis or at a sanctuary.
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