Trophies might have changed throughout the years, but one thing has remained the same and that is the fact that they are used to mark victories of one sort or another. The word itself comes from the Greek word "tropaion", which means to "rout". This is synonymous with "to defeat", "to crush" or "to overthrow". When put in those terms, it seems as though winning a trophy is about a lot more than walking away with a shiny new reminder of a victory. In fact, it might actually be a symbol of power. The history of the trophy is a long and fascinating one, and it gives a valuable insight into how humans have rewarded themselves, as well as those that have supported them, with victories ranging from battles to victory on the sports field.
Winning on the Battlefield
At one point or another, believe it or not, trophies were actually awarded for much more than winning a race, match or meet – they were awarded to winners on a battlefield. Ancient Greece took its battles very seriously, and when an army was successful on the field, they were awarded with items such as the arms of their opponents, which were then strung up on trees in the image of a great warrior. This macabre celebration was also a way to honour the gods that they felt were supporting them in their conquests. There were even times when the date of the battle would actually be inscribed onto the tree itself, much like trophies that are handed out in this day and age, and this was another way to mark a great success in the eyes of these individuals.
When it came to winning battles out at sea, the trophies were a little different. According to the history books, when a battle was won out at sea, the trophies were made up on the ships of their enemies, and they were usually strewn on the beach. It is important to remember that while these might seem like half-hearted attempts at constructing a trophy, those who constructed them actually took them very seriously, and this means that if anyone were to attempt to destroy them, there would be dire consequences. The reason for this was because these ancients felt that their trophies were meant to honour the gods, not themselves.
Taking a Trophy Home
As most trophy winners will know, there is nothing quite like taking a trophy home and displaying it in a place of pride and glory. The Romans felt the same way, according to the history books, because over time, they began constructing trophies in the comfort of their own cities. Instead of trophies constructed on the battlefield, they would create glorious masterpieces and place them in certain locations around their cities, often in the form of stone memorials. While the bases of these monuments can still be seen throughout Rome, many of the crowning trophies have been lost to us.
The Trophy Cup
When people think of a trophy, they tend to think of the cup shaped chalice that is now so common in the sporting world, and this shape might originate from the Middle Ages. It is from this time when some of the earliest examples of this type of cup can be found. While there might have been many reasons to award someone with a trophy in the past, by this time, they were mostly associated with sporting events, as is the case in this day and age.
The Commercialization of the Trophy
In the past, trophies took a lot of time, effort and resources to construct, whether they were being built from the remains of an enemy fleet, or constructed with precious materials for a large race. These days, trophies can be made relatively quickly, and this means that just about anyone can have one constructed.
There is still something special about a trophy. It might be because it is something that has to be earned, not bought, but it is one of the few, remaining physicals symbols of success left to modern man. A trophy at once symbolizes a victory, as well as commemorates a certain event, and so people of all ages continue to revere it.