versioni della medaglia vittoria DA STAMPARE ClassicalMotifsintheWingedFigureofVictoryontheInteralliedVictoryMedal1919paperv.3WITHIMAGES

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1
Giles Penman
Classical Motifs in the Winged Figure of Victory on the Inter-allied Victory Medal 1919
Abstract
An official Inter-allied Victory Medal appears in all the First World War medal groups of
fourteen of the Allied nations. With more than fourteen million issued, collectors expect to
find the medal in a group and view it as ordinary. Consequently, the Victory Medal has
been neglected in the field of Phaleristics. However, a multiplicity of Classical meanings can
be observed in the different representations of the Winged Figure of Victory, who had
special significance in the ancient world, and appears on the obverse of all Victory Medals
with the exception of the Siamese and Japanese Medals. Therefore, this paper will discuss
the relationship between the different representations of the Winged Figure of Victory on
the Inter-allied Victory Medal and the origins and meanings of the Classical Goddess of
Victory, known as Nike to the Ancient Greeks and Victoria to the Romans. This relationship
reveals the multifarious ways in which the Allied Powers wished to be remembered after the
Great War, as Victor, Recipient of Victory Spoils, Triumphator, or Liberator. Classical
literature, art and archaeology will illustrate this relationship.
Victory as the Bringer of Victory
Victory, bearing a sword on the Belgian, French, Cuban, Czechoslovakian, Romanian
Victory Medal and holding a sword and shield and wearing armour on the medal of the
United States of America, delivers victory to the side of right. Victory is seen as the Bringer
of Victory in the writing of the Greek epinician poet Bacchylides and the Roman author
Ovid.
Victory as the Giver of Victory Spoils
Victory, depicted as bearing the palm of victory on the Romanian, British and South African
Victory Medals, a laurel wreath of victory on the medal of Portugal and both a laurel
wreath and the palm of victory on the Greek and Brazilian Victory Medals, appears to
present them to the viewer. Victory is described giving the spoils of military victory to
conquerors in the Orphic Hymn to Nike.
Victory as Triumphator
Victory, portrayed on the Italian Victory Medal as celebrating military victory, riding a
chariot driven by four lions, appears like a triumphant Roman general leading a victory
procession. Victory is portrayed as a Triumphator. Victory is shown in a similar pose on the
mosaic in the House of Vergil in Roman North Africa.
Victory as Liberator
Victory appears on the U.S. Victory Medal wearing a radiate crown and flowing dress in the
manner of the Statue of Liberty. Victory is described as a liberator in the work of the Greek
lyric poet Simondes, since Victory helped to drive out the oppressive Persians.
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Giles Penman
The relationship between the Goddess Victory and the Victory Medal demonstrates that
some nations wanted to be viewed as victors defeating and triumphing over their enemies,
others as liberators freeing countries from occupation, yet others as benefiting from the
military victories. In contrast, some nations wanted to be seen in a combination of these
guises, as both victor and liberator.
Introduction
Before the First World War and following a conflict, European nations used to exchange
campaign medals amongst their allies, with the result that servicemen would be issued with
a campaign medal from their own nation and one from each of the allied nations. For
example, after the Crimean War 1854-6, the Ottoman Empire issued the Turkish Crimea
Medal to allied British, French and Sardinian servicemen, and the British government issued
the Crimea Medal to French, Turkish and Sardinian forces and the Baltic Medal to French
sailors1. However, given the large number of the Allies, who participated in the First World
War, such exchanges of medals would have been “an impossible financial and
administrative burden”2. Instead, it was decided that each ally should award one
standardized medal to their servicemen3.
The medal, which eventually became known as “The Inter-allied Victory Medal”, was first
conceived by a British committee, convened to consider the matter of war medals and was
known initially as the “Allies Medal”. The French and Belgian governments agreed in 1917
that a common medal should be issued after the war by all Allied and Associated powers4.
The French Chamber of Deputies voted for a law establishing a medal observing the Allied
victory in December 1918. Due to the interest of the French public, Marshal Foch, Supreme
Commander of the Allied Armies, brought the idea of a single medal to the Paris Peace
Conference5.
On 24 January 1919, the Supreme Council, consisting of Heads of State, Foreign Ministers
and military leaders of the five chief powers, the United States of America, Great Britain,
France, Italy and Japan, met in the office of the French Foreign Minister. The Supreme
Council agreed to Marshal Foch’s proposal. In March 1919 an Inter-allied Commission
formulated the medal and resolved several recommendations for its form and issue6. The
Committee resolved that the medal for the First World War should be called the Victory
Medal, be bronze and round, 36mm in diameter. The finish, thickness and suspension ring
of the medal should be similar to the French 1870 War Medal and all the medals should have
an identical ribbon of a double rainbow. The Allied governments should choose their own
artists to design their own Victory Medal but it should conform to certain specifications: the
obverse of Victory Medal should have a plain border and feature a full length, full-faced
standing and winged figure of Victory, the reverse should bear the inscription “The Great
1
Hayward, Birch, Bishop [2006: 264, 267, 276]
Duckers [2011: 43-4]
3
Laslo [1992: 1]
4
In this paper, the word “Allies” or “Allied” will mean “Allied and Associated”
5
Laslo [1992: 1]
6
Laslo [1992: 1-4]
2
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Giles Penman
War for Civilization” in the language of the issuing country and bear the names or heraldic
arms of the Allied powers, and the edge should be plain7. Of the Allies represented, the
United States of America, France, Belgium, Great Britain8, Portugal, Greece, Italy, Romania,
Czechoslovakia, the Union of South Africa, Brazil, Cuba, Japan and Siam chose to issue a
Victory Medal and followed the recommendations to varying degrees. All the nations chose
to issue a Victory Medal featuring the winged figure of Victory except Siam and Japan, for
whose people the goddess held no significance9. Consequently, the governments of Japan
and Siam chose obverse designs, which featured corresponding deities from their own
cultures, equally meaningful to their people as the winged figure of Victory was to the
Western Allies10.
Victory was chosen as the obverse design for the Inter-allied Victory Medal of the Western
Allies before or in the early stages of the Inter-allied Commission. The goddess, known as
Nike to the Ancient Greeks and Victoria to the Romans, was the Classical goddess and
messenger of victory. Nike was daughter of the Titan Pallas and Styx and the sister of Zelos
“Rivalry”, Kratos “Strength” and Bia “Force”. She had no mythology of her own, and
instead was assimilated with the cults of other deities, such as Zeus at Olympia and Athena
at Athens. As a result, Nike shared the attributes of these gods and is depicted as having the
control over fate of Zeus and the martial qualities of Athena. Nike, as a messenger-god, was
depicted with either two or four wings, although she was occasionally depicted by the
Athenians and Spartans without wings, in order that she would stay with them and not fly
away to their enemies. In literature, she is first mentioned by the early Greek epic poet
Hesiod in the Theogony, in which she is described as fighting with the Olympian gods
against the Titans11.
Already a goddess of martial victory, in the 6th and 5th Centuries BC, the lyric poets
Bacchylides and Pindar, who wrote epicinian odes, victory odes to victorious athletes,
represented Nike in their odes as a goddess of athletic victory, who brought favour to and
aided the victorious athlete in his endeavour12. As a result of this power over victory, Nike
was propitiated by athletes and soldiers alike. By the Classical period, the 5th and 4th
Centuries, Nike’s iconography was fully developed and is variously depicted carrying a
palm branch, a wreath, a jug, phiale or libation bowl, a thymiaterion or censer for incense. In
particular, Nike’s palm of victory gained universal significance and recognition in the
athletic games of Ancient Greece and Rome as the token of victory, since it was given, along
with the laurel wreath, to victorious competitors at the games. These victors wore the
wreath and carried the palm as a symbol of their victory to onlookers. The palm branch
became one of commonest attributes of the goddess Victory and appears many times in
7
Laslo [1992: 5-6]
Although issued by Great Britain, all servicemen of Dominions, Colonies and Imperial Possessions also
received it, with the exception of servicemen from the Union of South Africa, who received the South African
Victory Medal.
9
Laslo [1992: 6]
10
Laslo [1992: 6]
11
Arafat [2003]
12
Maehler [2012]
8
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Giles Penman
Roman imperial art13. The Greek goddess of victory, Nike, appeared with particular
frequency in statuary and art after the Athenian victory at the Battle of Marathon and is
depicted alone, pouring libations over an altar, in athletic and martial contexts, occasionally
holding weapons or decorating a trophy. In the Hellenistic period, after the reign of
Alexander the Great, Nike is used by his successors, the Diadochi, for political means,
showing that Nike was on their side14. Although Victoria, the Roman goddess of victory,
originated from the earlier Sabine deity Vacuna, she was the equivalent of the Greek Nike.
Consequently, Victoria had the same attributes and fulfilled the same function in the Roman
pantheon as Nike in the Greek pantheon. As such, Victoria was the goddess of victory in
athletics and war. This meant that soldiers prayed to Victoria for success in battle and so
Victoria gained surnames associating her with particular legions15. Thus, the role of the
winged figure of Victory evolved over time to encompass victory in war and athletics. This
heritage of differing and changing usage and meaning of the winged figure of Victory is the
one, which the Western Allies shared when they decided that the goddess would represent
the victory of the Allies at the end of the First World War on the Inter-allied Victory Medal.
For the Allies, the palm of victory was particularly recognizable as a token of victory as was
the laurel wreath16.
However, it was disagreements amongst the delegates at the Inter-allied Commission over
the practicality of an international competition to design the Victory Medal and over whose
nation’s artists should be chosen for the task, which led to the Inter-allied Commission’s
resolution that each nation should issue their own Victory Medal individually17. This
decision inevitably resulted in varying and, in some cases, vastly differing images of the
goddess Victory. These various images appeared on over fourteen million Victory Medals
and have come to be an excepted and commonplace element of First World War medal
groups. Consequently, the Victory Medal has been overlooked in the field of Phaleristics
with few books and academic articles written directly about them, only Alexander Laslo’s
1992 book entitled “The Interallied Victory Medals of World War I” , an article by Richard
Florey in the September 2009 edition of the OMRS Journal entitled “The Type I Victory Medal
1914-19”, and a current series of articles by Martin Fuller in Medal News. However, there is
a plethora of different ancient motifs present in the winged figure of Victory on the Victory
Medal, which were important to the Greeks and Romans. It is the intention of this paper to
discuss the relationship between the representations of the winged figure of Victory on each
Victory Medal and the ancient deity, a relationship mediated by the actions of the issuing
Ally during the Great War and their behaviour and gains at the subsequent Paris Peace
Conference of 1919 and other contemporary conferences. This relationship will reveal the
different ways, in which the victorious Allies wished to be viewed as victors at the end of
the First World War, variously as victor, recipient of war prizes, triumphator and liberator.
The analysis of the connection between the winged figure of Victory and the goddess of
13
Tarbell [1908: 264]
Arafat [2003]
15
Rose, Scheid [2012]
16
Tarbell [1908: 264]
17
Laslo [1992: 4]
14
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Giles Penman
Victory will be conducted under the following headings: Victory as Bringer of Victory,
Victory as Giver of Victory Spoils, Victory as Triumphator and Victory as Liberator.
Victory as Bringer of Victory
Nike was seen by the Ancient Greeks as a goddess, who brought victory to her favoured
athlete. For example, the poet Bacchylides wrote in the Pythian Ode for Alexidamus of
Metapontion after the Boy’s Wrestling Match at the Pythian Games in Delphi
"Victory…Sped by your will Metapontion, love of the gods is even now seized by the revels
of the boys…pealing the song of the Pythian win of Phiascus’ wondrous son", suggesting
that Nike’s support caused her champion to win18. Indeed, Nike is described as standing
beside or hovering over her favoured athlete, bringing about his victory. For instance,
Simonides, a 6th Century lyric poet, wrote "To win glory, stepping into the chariot of
honoured Nike (Victory): for to one man only does the goddess grant to jump into her great
carriage "19, indicating that the victorious charioteer metaphorically rides in Nike’s chariot
and is not responsible for his own victory but is instead guided to it by Nike, the bringer of
victory. Given Nike’s power over victory, she was often propitiated in order that victory
would come to the propitiating athlete. Bacchylides wrote “Lady Nike, may you always look
with favour on the lovely chorus of the Karthaians the sons of Kranaus (Cranaus)”20. Here
Bacchylides beseeches Nike as the bringer of Victory to bring success for the chorus.
Figure 1: Tetradrachm of
Demetrius Poliorcetes © Trustees of the British Museum
In martial contexts, the Ancient Greeks believed that Nike supported the nation, which
represented Justice, Civilization and Order, because of her connection with Themis , a Titan,
whose name meant “Law”, “Right”, and “Order”. For example, the Homeric Hymn to Ares
contains the line “ [Ares, god of war] father of warlike (eupolemos) Nike, ally of Themis”21.
Therefore, Nike as the comrade of Themis brings victory to the side representing Justice,
Order and Civilization. Nike’s role as a warrior goddess, who brings victory in war to the
side of Right, is emphasized by the description of her as “warlike”. In this way, on the silver
tetradrachm of Demetrius Poliorcetes, Figure 1, Nike is shown standing on the prow of a
18
Fagles [1998: 30]
Campbell [1991: 396-7]
20
Atsma [2011]
21
Atsma [2011]
19
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Giles Penman
ship blowing a trumpet. Demetrius, keen to emphasize the naval supremacy of his kingdom,
minted coins, showing Nike announcing that she has brought victory to the side of right22.
Figure 2: Chalcedony gemstone of Victory
arranging a trophy © Trustees of the British Museum
Indeed Nike is the Bringer of victory on the battlefield. For example, Simonides writes "The
Greeks, having driven out the Persians by the might of Nike (Victory) and the work of Ares
(War)”23. The Greek’s defeat of the Persians in battle, “the work of Ares”, was by the power
and force of Nike. Therefore Nike supports the Greeks as the side representing Civilization,
Justice and Order against the uncivilized barbarian Persians. In art, in such martial contexts
Nike was often depicted holding weapons as the Bringer of Victory. For example, a 4th
Century BC Chalcedony gem stone, carved in intaglio and used as for sealing wax, Figure 2,
depicts Nike arranging a victory trophy of weapons captured from the enemy, a helmet, a
spear, cuirass, swords, two shields and a greave24. Although in in reality such trophies were
set up by the victorious soldiers and dedicated to Nike, the goddess’ arrangement of the
trophy suggests her close connection with the victory on the battlefield.
22
Trustees of the British Museum, Silver tetradrachm of Demetrius Poliorcetes [2014]
Atsma [2011]
24
Trustees of the British Museum, Chalcedony gem, showing Nike, goddess of Victory, and a trophy [2014]
23
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Giles Penman
Figure 3: Souscrivez pour la
victoire. Banque Nationale de Crédit poster
The image of Nike as Bringer of Victory to the side of Right and Civilization was prevalent
at the end of the First World War, as illustrated by a dramatic poster, Figure 3, produced in
Paris in December 1916 entitled “Souscrivez pour la victoire. Banque Nationale de Crédit” or
“Subscribe for victory. Banque Nationale de Crédit”, which depicts the winged goddess,
Victory, flying through the air, carrying the French flag and leading the battle charge of the
Allies against German soldiers, who lie dead in the foreground. This shows that French
cause and that of the Allies as a whole was perceived to be the cause of Justice and Right
against the barbarous German army.
The concept that the Allies were fighting for Civilization and Justice against the threat of
tyranny was formed by the atrocities committed by the invading German army against the
people of France and Belgium, in particular the occupation of neutral Belgium, the
destruction of Louvain and the execution of French and Belgian civilians. These and other
atrocities shocked the world and galvanized the Allies into action against the barbarous
German army, becoming the focus of recruitment campaigns often with the slogan
“REMEMBER BELGIUM!”. In April 1918, Woodrow Wilson, the U.S. President, was moved
to say of the German army that “They nowhere set up justice, but everywhere impose their
power and exploit everything for their own use and aggrandisement”, which suggests the
perceived extent of the German atrocities and the horror felt by the Allies at the behaviour of
the German army25. The victory of the Allies prompted a deep resentment of the German
army and a determination, particularly by the governments of France and Belgium, that
Germany should be heavily punished with imposition of reparations and War Guilt. In
symbolism of this victory for Justice and Civilization against uncivilized aggressors, the
Victory Medals of Belgium, France, the United States of America, Romania, Czechoslovakia
and Cuba depict the winged figure of Victory as the Bringer of Victory to the side
representing Civilization and Justice with Victory either holding a sword in her hand or by
her side in a sword belt.
25
Macmillan [2003: 171]
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Giles Penman
Figure 4: Obverse of the Belgium Victory Medal
The German army invaded Belgium on 4th August 1914, breaking the 1839 Treaty of
London, which guaranteed Belgian neutrality, and occupied much of the country until 1918.
Belgian troops were forced to retreat and fought off the Germans at the Yser Line until the
end of the war. King Albert of Belgium regarded his country “as a neutral state forced to
fight for its freedom”, suggesting that Belgium was upholding their just right to autonomy
in their fight for freedom against the unjust Germany army26. As a result, the Belgian
Victory Medal, Figure 4, depicts the winged figure of Victory holding a sword in her right
hand, as the Bringer of Victory to the side representing Justice and Right. This illustrates that
the Belgian government wished their military to be remembered as representing Justice and
Civilization in defending their homeland from the German Army.
Figure 5: Obverse of the French Victory Medal
The French army held the Western Front in 1915 and had troops deployed in the
Dardanelles, the Balkans and West Africa against the Central Powers. The German Army
inflicted defeat upon the French army at Verdun, determined to “bleed France white”27.
Constant military offenses and defeat for three years led to mutiny in the ranks of the French
army. However, Marshal Foch, an aggressive commander, restored discipline, and, despite
losses, continued the offensive at Chemin-de-Dames. In July 1918, the German Army was
26
27
Fuller [February 2014: 28]
Fuller, The Interallied Victory Medals: France: The Triumph of Civil Democracy, [Pending, 2014]
9
Giles Penman
exhausted and retreated before the Allied attack in August. France was the dominant ally
throughout the war in terms of numbers and suffered the greatest number of Allied
casualties28. As a result of this relentless struggle against the uncivilized German Army, the
French Victory Medal, Figure 5, depicts the winged figure of Victory with a sword dangling
from a sword belt on her left side. This pose illustrates that the French government saw their
armies as victors who upheld Civilization and Justice after a long and costly struggle against
the German Army since the beginning of the war.
Figure 6: Obverse of the Victory Medal of the United
States of America
The United States of America remained neutral for most of the Great War but its public were
horrified by German atrocities in Europe and by the German U-Boat attack upon the
passenger-liner Luisitania, in which many U.S. citizens died29. In addition, although the U.S.
government persuaded Germany to end submarine warfare for over eighteen months,
German submarines resumed their offensive, causing many American deaths. The entry of
United States into the Great War in April 1917 became “a crusade….against Germany and
for justice, peace and civilization”30. Indeed, General Pershing, the Commander of the U.S.
Army, wished to fight an aggressive offensive against the Germans until they had retreated
to Berlin and his troops proved willing combatants on the Western Front. As a result of this
aggressive and warlike attitude, the Victory Medal of the United States of America, Figure 6,
shows the winged figure of Victory wearing armour, chain-mail and holding a sword in her
left hand and a shield in right hand. In this way, the U.S. government wished to show that
their armies were the upholders of Civilization against the uncivilized German Army.
Indeed, the reverse of the Victory Medal depicts fasces, a bundle of wooden rods with a
projecting axe, which in the Roman Republic were carried by lictores. These men
accompanied every senior Roman magistrate of curial rank in public to announce his arrival,
clear all except Vestal Virgins and married woman from his path and carry out his rights of
arrest, summons and execution31. The fasces, which the Lictores held, were symbols of a
28
Fuller, The Interallied Victory Medals: France: The Triumph of Civil Democracy, [Pending, 2014]
Fuller, The Interallied Victory Medals: The United States: A World Power Emerging, [Pending, 2014]
30
Macmillan [2003: 14]
31
Drummond [2012]
29
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Giles Penman
magistrate’s legitimacy and his power over citizens and life and death32. The fasces on the
Victory Medal indicate U.S. power and authority over the nature of the Peace and the fate of
world politics at the end of the war, and reinforce the impression of the USA as conquerors
over the Central Powers.
Figure 7: Obverse of the Romanian Victory Medal
Romania remained neutral until she declared war on the Austro-Hungarian Empire on 27th
August 1916 as a result of the success of the Russian Army. However, German intervention
led to a reversal of Russia’s military successes, which caused Russia’s collapse, withdrawal
from the war and, ultimately her revolution. As a result of Russia’s withdrawal, Romanian
troops were surrounded by the armies of Austro-Hungary and Germany from the North
and West, and the Bulgarian army attacked from the South. Romanian troops fought to
defend their homeland from occupation. However, after suffering 29% casualties they were
forced to retreat to East Moldova, where they regrouped and inflicted defeats on the
German and Austro-Hungarian armies. But Russia’s withdrawal forced Romania to come to
terms with the Central Powers. However, the resultant Treaty of Bucharest was neither
agreed by the King Ferdinand of Romania nor ratified by Romania’s government. Romania
declared war again on 10th November 1918, one day before the Armistice. In defence of their
country, Romania suffered 335,000 casualties33. Consequently, the Romanian Victory Medal,
Figure 7, depicts the winged figure of Victory carrying a sword, illustrating the perception
that as victors Romania’s armies had represented Justice and Civilization in their constant
and bloody struggle against the occupying Central Powers.
32
33
Drummond [2012]; Staveley, Lintott [2012]
Fuller [August 2014: 23-4]
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Giles Penman
Figure 8: Obverse of the Czechoslovakian Victory Medal
The Czechs and Slovaks were part of a Slavic people along with Poles, Serbs, Croatians and
Ukrainians under the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. These Slavic peoples sought
independent sovereign nations and fought for this independence in the First World War.
Indeed, Serbian Slavic nationalism and the Austro-Hungarian wish to suppress it caused the
Great War, when a Serbian nationalist, Gavrilo Princip, assassinated the heir to AustroHungarian throne, Franz Ferdinand34. During the First World War, although many were
unwillingly conscripted into the Austro-Hungarian army, Czechs and Slovaks, along with
compatriot émigrés and exiles, fought in Czech legions as part of the armies of other Allied
nations. These were some of the most enthusiastic soldiers as they fought to achieve a free
and independent state. After the war in 1919, this dream became a reality when
Czechoslovakia became a sovereign nation35. Consequently, the Victory Medal of
Czechoslovakia, Figure 8, depicts the winged figure of Victory wearing a helmet and
holding a sword in her left hand pointed downwards. This pose of Victory illustrates that
the Czech government wished to show their armies as victors, who had represented Justice
and Civilization in their defence of the idea of a sovereign nation, separate from the AustroHungarian Empire. The national symbols on the Victory Medal, the Czech coat of arms on
the reverse and linden leaves on the reverse and the obverse, underline the creation of a new
nation and the struggle to establish it36.
34
Fuller [March 2014: 31]
Fuller [March 2014: 31-2]
36
Laslo [1992: 29]
35
12
Giles Penman
Figure 9: Obverse of the Cuban Victory Medal
Cuba played no active role as an Ally in the First World War, with its Navy confined to
coastal waters. However, the Cuban government wished to show solidarity with the Allied
cause, which promoted Justice, Order and Civilization37. As a result, the Cuban Victory
Medal, Figure 9, shows the winged figure of Victory holding a sword in her left hand,
suggesting that Victory was viewed as having lent her support to the Allies as victors
representing Justice and Civilization38. Cuba’s concord with the Allies is reinforced by the
reverse of the Navy War Commemorative Medal, which bears the Spanish inscription
“Campana Por La Humanidad, La Justicia Y El Derecho” or “Campaign for Humanity,
Justice and Right”39. This shows Cuba’s commitment to the principles of the Allies, which
the goddess of victory represented.
Therefore, the iconography of the winged figure of Victory bearing a sword on the Victory
Medal visually represents the Allies as victors, who represented Civilization and Justice in
their struggle against the barbarous Central Powers, since in the Ancient World Nike and
Victoria, depicted holding weapons, were the Bringers of Victory to their chosen athlete and
to the nations, which defeated their tyrannical and uncivilized enemies on the battlefield.
Victory as Giver of Victory Spoils
In the Ancient Greek and Roman games, in addition to palm branches, the victors received
prizes of olive, laurel or myrtle wreaths, which could be dried and kept for a long time in
memory of the victory40. Similarly, after a successful campaign, victorious commanders and
soldiers in the Ancient World received and divided victory spoils of gold, land, property
and slaves amongst themselves. The historian Polybius details the Roman procedure for the
distribution of war spoils “all who are told off for plundering carry all they get, each to his
own legion; and when this booty has been sold, the Tribunes distribute the proceeds among
all equally, including not only those who were thus held in reserve, but even those who
were guarding the tents, or were invalided, or had been sent away anywhere on any
37
Laslo [1992: 21]
Laslo [1992: 22]; The Orders And Medals Research Society [2004]
39
Laslo [1992: 22]
40
Trustees of the British Museum, Sealstone with the goddess Nike crowning an athlete [2014]
38
13
Giles Penman
service”41. This suggests that armies in the Roman Republic shared out spoils from captured
cities equally amongst all the soldiers so that all received the same prizes for victory and
were equally rewarded.
Figure 10: Seal stone of Victory crowning an athlete ©Trustees
of the British Museum
As a result of these practices in sport and war, the goddess of victory was depicted in art
metaphorically bestowing such prizes and spoils on the victors. For example, the 4th Century
BC seal-stone found in the temple of Artemis at Ephesos, Figure 10, shows Nike crowning a
winning athlete, who holds a small palm branch42. Although the owner of the seal-ring is
unknown, the presence of the goddess of victory crowning a victor on a seal-ring shows that
this image of Nike was a prevalent and well-recognized one, since it was used as personal
mark on letters and official documents. In addition, Nike was described bestowing the spoils
of war upon victorious soldiers after successful campaigns. For example, the Orphic Hymn
to Nike, a hymn from the late Hellenistic or early Roman imperial periods used in Dionysian
religious rituals and based on the teachings of the mythical singer Orpheus, states “Tis thine
in battle to confer the crown, the victor's prize, the mark of sweet renown “, which suggests
the Ancient Greeks saw the wreath as a prize of martial victory and a visual representation
of that victory43. Therefore, Nike’s role was to bestow victory spoils as well as bring victory
to the side of Right and Justice.
This image of the goddess of victory as Giver of Victory Spoils was well-understood by the
Allies after the First World War, since the Victory Medals of Belgium, Great Britain, Brazil,
France, Portugal, Greece, Romania and the Union of South Africa depict the winged figure
of Victory bestowing or about to bestow a wreath or palm branch upon an unseen victor.
The Allies chose this pose to reflect the reparations and territorial gains, which the Allies
received as their “victory spoils” from the division of the colonies and territory of German
Empire, Bulgaria, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire in the Treaty of
Versailles, agreed at the Paris Peace Conference, and in other contemporaneous treaties.
41
Polybius 10.16
Trustees of the British Museum, Sealstone with the goddess Nike crowning an athlete [2014]
43
Atsma [2011]; Graf [2012]
42
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Giles Penman
Belgium gained Eupen-Malmedy from Germany in southern Belgium and Moresnet at the
Paris Peace Conference44. Also, in 1924, Belgium received control of Ruanda-Urundi, in
central Africa at the eastern edge of the Belgian Congo, as a League of Nations Mandate45. In
addition, the German government were ordered to pay $500 million to Belgium as
reparation for war damage, although Belgium received a fraction of what it had wanted46.
Further, the German government replaced the books in the library of Louvian, which had
been destroyed by German soldiers in 191447. Consequently, the Belgian Victory Medal,
Figure 4, depicts the winged figure of Victory holding a laurel wreath out with her left hand
as if placing it on the head of a victor and holds a wreath with a sword in her right hand.
This illustrates that the Belgian government wished to indicate that their territorial gains in
Europe and Africa from the German Empire were war spoils for a victorious colonial power,
gaining the rewards for victory.
Figure 11: Obverse of the Victory Medal of Great Britain
As part of the Treaty of Versailles Britain received Tanganyika, parts of Cameroon and Togo
from the German Empire, and Palestine, Trans-Jordan and Iraq from the Ottoman Empire,
as League of Nations Mandates48. The Dominions also received territory as part of the Treaty
of Versailles: Australia received German New Guinea and New Zealand received German
Samoa, as League of Nations Mandates49. The small Pacific island of Nauru was controlled
by Australia as a League of Nations Mandate with New Zealand and Great Britain as cotrustees50. In light of these land gains, the Victory Medal of Great Britain, Figure 11, depicts
the winged figure of Victory holding a palm branch in her right hand and holds her left arm
aloft triumphantly in victory, in order to illustrate that the territorial gains of Britain and her
Dominions in Africa and the Pacific Ocean were war spoils received by victorious nations
after the First World War. This impression is reinforced by a laurel wreath, an ancient prize
of victory, around the edge of the reverse.
44
Macmillan [2003: 286]
Macmillan [2003: 115]
46
Macmillan [2003: 286]
47
Macmillan [2003: 490]
48
Macmillan [2003: 55, 114, 416, 435]
49
Macmillan [2003: 107, 114]
50
Macmillan [2003: 114]
45
15
Giles Penman
Figure 12: Journée des Éprouvés de la Guerre. Grande
tombola organisée par le Syndicat de la Presse Française poster
The obverse of the French Victory Medal, Figure 5, shows the winged figure of Victory
holding a palm branch in her right hand and a wreath aloft in her left hand in a pose of
triumphant victory, as though about to award them to French victors at the end of the First
World War. This image of Victory reflects the restoration of the Alsace-Lorraine region to
France in 1919, after it had been annexed by the German Empire at the end of the FrancoPrussian War in 187151. The pose of Victory also reflects the French territorial gains as
League of Nations Mandates of Syria and Lebanon from the Ottoman Empire and Togoland
and Cameroun in Africa from the German Empire as war spoils from conquered nations for
a vanquishing nation52. This impression is bolstered by the depiction of a wreathed helmet
on the reverse of the Victory Medal, which emphasizes the fact that France was a victorious
power at the end of the First World War. Indeed, the 1915 French poster, Figure 12, entitled
“Journée des Éprouvés de la Guerre. Grande tombola organisée par le Syndicat de la Presse
Française” depicting the winged figure of Victory wreathed in laurel and holding palm, olive
and oak branches and a trumpet, as if about to give the gifts of victory. This shows that the
French public similarly saw their nation as victors, deserving of victory spoils at the end of
the Great War.
51
52
Macmillan [2003: 168]
Macmillan [2003: 114, 416, 457]
16
Giles Penman
Figure 13: The Obverse of the Greek Victory Medal
The winged figure of Victory on the Greek Victory Medal, Figure 13, was based on the statue
of Nike by the Ancient Greek sculptor Paionios53. The figure of Victory on the Victory
Medal holds a chain of laurel wreaths aloft in her left hand in victory as markers of victory,
and like the Painonios statue, holds a palm branch in her right hand and her robes hang
from her right shoulder and fold over her left arm. This pose of Victory as the Giver of
Victory Spoils along with the palm branch emphasize and reflect Greece’s territorial gains
after the First World War as war spoils for a victorious nation. Greece gained Western
Thrace, Bulgaria’s territory on the Aegean Sea, as part of the Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine in
November 1919, and Eastern Thrace and Smyrna, as part of the Treaty of Sèvres in 192054.
Therefore, the Victory Medal design demonstrates that the Greek military were seen as
victors receiving the spoils of war from the Central Powers after the Great War. Indeed, the
struggle of the Greek military against the Central Powers is further emphasized by the
Classical image of the infant Heracles fighting two serpents on the reverse of the Victory
Medal.
Figure 14: Obverse of the Portuguese Victory Medal
At the end of the First World War as part of the division of German colonies at the Paris
Peace Conference, Portugal gained a small area of territory in South West Africa, at the
53
54
Laslo [1992: 50]
Macmillan [2003: 151, 361, 453]
17
Giles Penman
mouth of the Romuva River in Mozambique, taken from Portugal by the German Empire in
189755. To reflect this, the winged figure of Victory as Giver of Victory Spoils on the
Portuguese Victory Medal, Figure 14, is depicted holding a laurel wreath aloft, about to
bestow it upon the Portuguese military as victors receiving the spoils of war. Victory is
illuminated by surrounding sunrays, emphasizing her arrival and bestowal of war spoils,
giving victory to the Portuguese nation at the end of the Great War.
Romania more than doubled in size after the First World War at the Paris Peace Conference
by the effort of Queen Maria, who insisted on the participation at the Conference. Romania
gained Translyvania, was reunited with Dobrujia taken by Bulgaria, and kept Bessarabia
and other regions. These territorial gains reunited most ethnic Romanians in one nation56.
Consequently, on the Romanian Victory Medal, Figure 7, the winged figure of Victory is
crowned with a laurel wreath and holds a palm branch in her left hand, which she as Giver
of Victory is about to bestow upon the victorious Romanian military. This reflects and
celebrates Romania’s territorial gains. The olive wreath on the reverse of the Victory Medal
as a symbol of victory emphasizes Romania’s victory and victory spoils57. The iconography
of victory demonstrates that the Romanian government wished to show their military as
worthy recipients of the spoils of war at the end of the Great War58.
Figure 15: Obverse of the South African Victory Medal
The Victory Medal of the Union of South Africa, Figure 15, depicts the winged figure of
Victory as Giver of Victory Spoils, holding a palm branch, an ancient symbol of victory, in
her right hand. Victory raises her left hand forth, aloft in triumph, indicating the medal
recipient as a victor to be celebrated as the recipient of war spoils and her favourite in war.
The palm branch reflects the territorial gains of South Africa after the First World War as the
victory spoils of a victorious nation, since South Africa gained South West Africa, modernday Namibia, as a League of Nations Mandate59.
55
Fuller, The Interallied Victory Medals: Portugal: An Old Ally Poorly Rewarded [Pending, 2014]; Macmillan
[2003: 115]
56
Fuller [August 2014: 24]
57
See Figure 7
58
The Orders And Medals Research Society of America [2006]
59
Macmillan [2003: 107, 110, 116]
18
Giles Penman
Figure 16: Obverse of the Brazilian Victory Medal
The Brazilian Victory Medal, Figure 16, shows the winged figure of Victory, bearing a palm
branch in her left hand and a wreath in her right hand. The Cuban Victory Medal, Figure 9,
depicts Victory holding a wreath in her left hand60. Both figures of Victory are depicted as
the Giver of Victory Spoils. However, Brazil and Cuba remained neutral for most of the war
and did not send expeditionary forces to Europe, although Brazil sent a naval squadron to
patrol the Atlantic Ocean off West Africa and supported the Allied cause with medical and
military missions in France, while the dispatch of Cuban military and medical assistance
was pre-empted by the Armistice61. Neither nation gained territory or specific reparations as
victory spoils, although Brazil was entitled to reparations for destruction of her shipping by
the German Imperial Navy, under the general provision of Article 244 Annex III (1) of the
Treaty of Versailles62. Also, under Article 263, Brazil received money, which had previously
been deposited with the Bank of Bleichroder at Berlin, from the sale of Brazilian coffee in
German ports63. As a result of this lack of gains or specific reparations, the designs on the
Victory Medals indicate that the governments of Cuba and Brazil wished to show solidarity
with the larger allied nations as victorious Allies, deserving their territorial gains and
reparations at the end of the First World War.
Therefore the iconography of the winged figure of Victory, holding and bestowing palm
branches and wreaths, as the Giver of Victory Spoils, on the obverse of the Victory Medal
represents the armies of the issuing nations as victors receiving the spoils of war after the
territory and property of the vanquished nations was divided and distributed. This is
because such prizes were bestowed upon victors in ancient sports competitions and upon
victorious soldiers after battle, causing the ancient goddess of victory to be frequently
depicted and described by the artists and authors of Greece and Rome bestowing the prizes
of athletic and martial victory, the palm branch and the wreath, upon victors in athletic
competition and in battle.
60
Laslo [1992: 22]
Laslo [1992: 18, 21]
62
Duffy, Primary Documents - Treaty of Versailles: Articles 231-247 and Annexes [2009]
63
Duffy, Primary Documents - Treaty of Versailles: Articles 248-263 [2009]
61
19
Giles Penman
Victory as Triumphator
Victorious Roman generals in the Roman Republic could be granted a triumphal procession
in Rome by the Senate after successful campaigns, which was the height of a Roman
aristocrat’s ambitions. These commanders were known as Triumphators. Crowned with a
laurel wreath, the victorious general would stand on a quadriga, a four-horsed chariot,
leading a procession of chained war captives and victory spoils brought back to Rome, to be
lauded by the crowd, which would line the streets. A slave would stand behind the general
holding a laurel wreath over his head reminding him that he was only human. After the
procession, the general would ascend the steps of the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline
Hill and dedicate his war spoils to the god in return for his support and favour in the
successful campaign. Triumphs became increasingly lavish and opulent in the Republican
period. However, in the imperial period, only the emperor as supreme commander of the
army, or a close relative could be awarded the ultimate honour of a triumph64. In Roman art,
Victoria, the goddess of victory, was frequently depicted on mosaics and pottery standing
on a triumphal chariot. For example, the 3rd Century AD “Train of Dionysus” mosaic in the
House of Vergil in Sousse, Roman North Africa, Figure 17, depicts Victoria standing next to
Dionysus on a triumphal chariot, drawn by four tigers65. Therefore, the Romans visually
connected Victoria with the ceremony of the triumph when celebrating a martial victory.
Figure 17: Train of Dionysus mosaic © Aaron
Atsma
64
65
Roberts [2007]
Atsma [2011]; Atsma A. J. Z12.3 The Train of Dionysos [2011]
20
Giles Penman
Figure 18: Obverse of the Italian Victory Medal
The Italian army suffered 689,000 dead with casualties of two-fifths of all forces engaged,
mostly in the twelve battles in the narrow Isonzo valley in northern Italy, fighting against
the armies of the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires. The final battle on October 1917,
known as the Corporetto disaster, caused 300,000 casualties and galvanized the Italians to
fight. In June 1918, the Allies launched a counter-offensive at the Asiago Plateau and
captured Vittorio Veneto in the decisive offensive on October 24th. Out of proportion with all
these losses, Italy only gained Trieste and South Tyrol during the Great War66. Later, Italy
received land from Trentino to Brenner in the 1919 Treaty of Saint-Germain, and Zara and
Lagosta in Dalmatia under the Rapallo Agreement of 1920. The Italian government chose a
design similar to the depictions of Victoria triumphing for the obverse of the Italian Victory
Medal, Figure 18. Victoria, the Roman goddess of victory, on the Italian Victory Medal
stands on a chariot drawn by four lions as a Triumphator with outspread wings, holding a
torch in her right hand. This design, reflecting a traditionally Roman way of celebrating
victory after a great military campaign, was intended to present an impression of the Italian
Army as triumphant victors at the end of the First World War despite Italy’s substantial
losses and paltry gains. Roman military campaigns, deserving of triumphs, meant the
acquisitions of rich war spoils for the commanders and soldiers. As such, the design of
Victory as Triumphator represents the small territorial gains of Italy after the First World
War. The lions drawing the chariot of Victory, representing the four signatories of the 1915
Treaty of London, emphasize the intended impression of the power, authority and triumph
of Victoria and of the victorious Italian military over the Central Powers67. Thus at the end of
the First World War, the Italian government chose this image of Victoria as Triumphator to
create the impression that the members of the Italian military were victorious and
triumphant warriors, whose victory was great and worthy of immense celebration and
praise.
66
67
Fuller [May 2014: 34]
Laslo [1992: 56]; Fuller [May 2014: 34]
21
Giles Penman
Victory as Liberator
In 31 BC Octavian, later the Roman Emperor Augustus defeated Mark Antony and
Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium, ending the civil war, which had broken out twice in the
first century BC amongst the leading men of the state. Consequently, Octavian became sole
ruler of the Roman World and was voted the title “Augustus” by the Senate in 27 BC.
Through his campaign of conquest, detailed in his Res Gestae, Augustus intended to unite
the known world in the Pax Romana, bringing peace, freedom and stability to the Roman
World after nearly a century of civil war68. In his Res Gestae, Augustus states “I raised an
army with which I set free the state, which was oppressed by the domination of a faction... I
restored peace to the provinces of Gaul and Spain, likewise Germany, which includes the
ocean from Cadiz to the mouth of the river Elbe. I brought peace to the Alps from the region
which is near the Adriatic Sea to the Tuscan, with no unjust war waged against any
nation”69. This suggests that Augustus wished the Roman people and posterity to view his
war of conquest as a war of liberation, which created order and stability in its wake after a
century of partisan violence and unrest. As a result, Augustus created propaganda
showing himself as a liberator closely linked with Victoria, goddess of victory. For example,
a gold coin or aureus, Figure 19, minted in 19 BC, bears the legend “ARMENIA CAPTA”
and depicts the winged goddess Victoria slaying a bull. This suggests that Victoria
supported and actively participated in Augustus’ campaign of liberation70.
Figure 19: Augustan aureus from Armenia
© American Numismatic Society
Similar to Augustus’ war of liberation, the U.S. government saw their involvement in the
First World War as a “crusade” against the Central Powers, who chose to occupy and subject
other nations, denying them the right to autonomous self-government71. Woodrow Wilson,
the U.S. President, in his Fourteen Points Speech, demonstrated that he wished for a peace,
which brought self-rule and self-determination72. As a result of this speech, Woodrow
Wilson inspired several independence movements and he was regarded as a celebrity at the
Peace Conference and was seen as such across the world73. Indeed, posters of him were
ubiquitous in Europe74. As a result of their war of liberation in Europe, the Victory Medal of
68
Howatson [2011]
Bushnell [1998]; Augustus, Res Gestae 26
70
Gasvoda [2014]
71
Macmillan [2003: 14]
72
Macmillan [2003: 19-21]
73
Macmillan [2003: 21]
74
Macmillan [2003: 23]
69
22
Giles Penman
the United States of America, Figure 6, depicts the winged figure of Victory wearing armour
and chain-mail and holding a sword in her right hand and a shield in her left hand in the
pose of a triumphant warrior, as if she has, like the armies of the USA, freed the occupied
nations of Europe from the tyranny of German Imperial rule and the rule of Bulgaria and the
Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires. Therefore the pose of Victory as Liberator
suggests that the U.S. government wished their army to be seen as liberators, who freed the
occupied peoples of Europe from the tyranny of the Central Powers .This impression is
emphasized by the radiate crown of the winged figure of Victory, which emphasizes her
arrival and gives Victory the appearance of the Statue of Liberty, a statue synonymous with
the American ideals of Liberty, Freedom and Justice for all. Victory as Liberator is also an
image of power and control, which suited the U.S. government’s desire to be the “arbiter of
the peace” at the Paris Peace Conference75. The impression of the First World War as a war
of liberation is reinforced by the legend on the reverse of the Victory Medal “The Great War
for Civilization” suggesting that the war was intended to promote civilization against the
occupation of European nations by the Central Powers.
Conclusion
In conclusion, the Inter-allied Victory Medal, established by a specially convened
Commission, was issued by fourteen Allied nations and all except Siam and Japan depicted
the winged figure of Victory, the Ancient Greek and Roman goddess of victory. Whilst
abiding by accepted criteria, the issuing nations designed varying poses of the winged
figure of Victory, whilst incorporating significant Classical motifs. These poses of Victory on
the Victory Medals, Victory as Bringer of Victory holding a sword or wearing armour, Giver
of Victory Spoils holding or wearing wreaths and palm branches, Triumphator riding
triumphantly on a chariot and Liberator as a victorious warrior wearing armour and holding
a shield and sword, were based upon Ancient Greek and Roman depictions of the goddess
of Victory in art, pottery and statuary and upon descriptions of Victory in ancient literature.
The particular designs of the winged figure of Victory were chosen by each nation because
they embodied and represented the actions and gains of the issuing Allied power during
and after the First World War and at the Paris Peace Conference, and revealed the ways in
which the Allies wished to be seen as victors at the end of the Great War. In victory,
Belgium, Romania and France wished to be remembered as both defenders of Civilization,
Order and Justice against the unjust Central Powers and recipients of victory spoils. Also,
the governments of Brazil, Great Britain, Portugal, the Union of South Africa and Greece
wished to be viewed as only recipients of war spoils from their enemies after the Great War.
Furthermore, at the end of the Great War, the Italian government wished to be seen as a
Triumphator, celebrating their victory over the Central Powers, and the government of the
United States of America wished to be seen as an upholder of the principles of Justice and
Civilization and as a Liberator of occupied nations in Europe. Therefore, the Allied powers
manipulated images of the easily recognizable goddess of victory to present these views of
themselves to anyone glancing at the Inter-allied Victory Medals on the chests of recipients
after the Great War.
75
Macmillan [2003: 28]
23
Giles Penman
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Giles Penman
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