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History of the Trophy

11 September 2009

From ancient times trophies have been awarded as a sign of victory. The actual word “trophy” that we use today is derived from the ancient Greek word “tropaion” which comes from the verb “trope” and means “to rout”. In this article we take a closer look at the history of the trophy.

In ancient Greece a trophy was awarded to reflect their army’s victories when at war. These would often be created at the site of the battlefield where the Greek armies defeated their enemies. What they would do is take the captured standards and weapons of their enemies and then hang them from either a tree or large stake.

They were assembled in such a way that they resembled a warrior figure. To further add to this trophy they were inscribed below details of the battle along with a dedication to a particular god or gods for their victory. Should any of the trophies they created be deliberately destroyed this was considered to be sacrilegious as they were used to offer thanks and provide a tribute to their gods.

As for the ancient Romans, they chose to have special trophies made in Rome. These were extremely large and consisted of the trophies being placed on columns and arches so that all could see. In fact if you visit the outskirts of Rome today there are still a few of these huge stone memorials standing albeit without the sculpted stone trophies on top.

When you do some research into the history of trophies today you will find that during their Middle Ages not much has been written about what was awarded at these times. However, there is some evidence of trophies being awarded for sporting events during the late 1600’s. Normally the trophies awarded at these events were chalices or two handled cups and one of these survives from 1699.
If you visit the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan you will find the Kyp Cup. This particular trophy was made by a silversmith called Jesse Kyp and who it is named after and was presented to the winner of a short horse race in 1699. This race took place between two small New England towns in the same year.

Today although many chalices are still presented to the winners of sporting events more and more today now take the form of cups instead. The most famous ones of these being the Davis Cup or Wimbledon (tennis), FIFA World Cup (football) and of course not forgetting the America’s Cup (sailing).

However, when it comes to the history of the trophy although originally the winners were presented with the actual trophy itself, today this is not the case. In many situations the winners of the trophies will also be presented with a replica of the item which his often smaller than the original. The reason for this being that the original is often very delicate and of course very valuable.

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