Long before this symbol became a popular tattoo option, the actual laurel wreath was used throughout antiquity as a vivid representation of triumph.
This circular band was typically worn around the head (this type of wreath is known as the chaplet) and less frequently around the neck (also known as the garland).
Although we will analyse the laurel wreath as a tattoo symbol in great depth, we should first familiarise ourselves with its origins.
The Myth of Apollo and Daphne
The laurel wreath started its millennia-long journey in Ancient Greece, or more precisely, on the head of the Greek god Apollo.
Apollo (the patron of athletics, archery, poetry and musicality) was usually depicted adorned with a laurel wreath on his head.
The reason why he started sporting this attractive accessory comes from the myth of Apollo and Daphne.
The story begins with Apollo insulting Eros (the Greek god of love, lust and sex), claiming that Eros was unskillful in using the bow and arrow.
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The god of love was aggrieved by this mockery and sought vengeance by shooting Apollo with an arrow of gold, causing him to become madly smitten with Daphne, who was a voluptuous river nymph.
Eros also shot Daphne with a led arrow to make things interesting, which caused the nymph to despise Apollo.
Driven by the magic of the gold arrow, Apollo vigorously pursued Daphne, but his efforts remained futile.
Tortured by the constant pursuit, Daphne begged the heavens to be rid of Apollo’s attempts, and at that point, she was transformed into a laurel tree.
Heartbroken by this event, Apollo was determined to treasure the memory of Daphne for all eternity and used his divine powers to make the laurel tree evergreen.
Apollo then crafted the first laurel wreath out of her branches, and a powerful symbol was born.
Humans initially used the laurel wreath to symbolise triumph in the original ancient Olympic games. It adorned the heads of victors in athletics and the champions of music and poetry contests.
In the times of the Roman Empire, the symbolism of the laurel wreath gradually evolved, as the Romans used it to represent a victory in combat, crowning their military leaders after a successful conquest.
Laurel Wreath In Modern Times
The laurel wreath symbol was also frequently used in the British monarchy, where coins of Charles I, George I, George II and Elizabeth II all featured the wreath.
The wreath also made its way into the English language, with an interesting expression “resting on his/hers laurels”. This phase is used to describe an individual who’s more than content with their former achievements, so much so that they’ve become complacent or lazy.
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The laurel wreath is also given at graduation ceremonies, typically for finishing a master’s degree.
Finally, the wreath symbol is frequently used as a part of the emblem in the automotive industry, and some noteworthy examples include Mercedes Benz, Fiat and Alfa Romeo.
The laurel wreath is also the logo for the UK luxury sports brand Fred Perry.
The Meaning of The Laurel Wreath Tattoo
Now that we’ve covered everything important about the wreath, we can focus on the most important meanings of this symbol concerning tattooing.
The laurel wreath is a symbol completely synonymous with triumph, and because of that, some form of victory will always be its primary meaning.
For this reason, people who decide to get a tattoo of the laurel wreath usually want to say that failure is not an option or inspire themselves to try their hardest in anything they do.
The wreath can also symbolise triumph against yourself, symbolising the desire to defeat your negative qualities.
Since the laurel tree is evergreen, we can also use the wreath to represent endurance and longevity.
The laurel wreath was also used as a prison symbol to signify an innocent person who was wrongfully convicted.
Where to Tattoo The Laurel Wreath
Because the wreath can look fantastic as both a small or a big design, this tattoo can be inked almost anywhere on the body.
The laurel wreath is usually done as a medium-sized tattoo, and because of its circular shape, it looks particularly striking on the elbows.