36. Travel Greece with a Bible in Your Suitcase | Archeological Museum of Thessaloniki, Greece | Revelation 19:11-13

At the Archeological Museum of Thessaloniki, we see the gold decoration of a diadem. The diadem is an athletic symbol (not a religious symbol like the wreath.) The diadem was a woolen ribbon. The gold decoration (the decoration of the diadem) is not the diadem itself.

Look at the golden decoration which has survived.

Golden Decoration of the Diadem at the Archeological Museum of Thessaloniki, Greece

The word diadem comes from a verb (διαδένω) which means “I tied around.” The diadem was a ribbon, which was wrapped around the head. The ribbon was decorated with gold. Made of woolen ribbon, the diadem itself, has not survived through time.

Decorative Uses of Gold Posted at the Archeological Museum of Thessaloniki

The thing  that I would like to point out is the crafting technique, the technique of granulation. The Greeks had a way of making spheres, like the head of a needle, all of the same size, and with the spheres they made the design on the jewel.

Greek Technique of Gold Granulation

The diadem was used in two ways.

In the first use of the diadem, a red or blue woolen ribbon was tied around the head of the winner at the very moment when he was proclaimed to be a winner. It was kept tied around his head until the last day of the games. On the last day of the games the winner proceeded to the front of the temple with his diadems (because possibly he was multi winner.) Thrusting his arms  wide and holding a branch of bough, the winner proceeded, officially, ceremonially, as in a  processional, to the front of the temple where he received his wreath. The wreath was the actual prize.

So, the diadem, was the symbol of the winner from the first moment when he was claimed a winner, until the last day of the games.

Golden Decoration of the Diadem at the Museum of Thessaloniki, Greece

Special personalities, like the kings of Macedonia, also participated in the inter-Greek games. These special people used to decorate their ribbons with gold, ivory, and special symbols to show that they were something different from the others. Their diadem was also tied around the head (not a freestanding jewel on their head. It was not like the wreath, freestanding upon the head. Their diadem was tied around the head. A diadem was an athletic symbol.

In history, we gradually added the meaning of “head jewel” when we say diadem. But the word diadem has never lost its athletic significance.

The second use of the diadem, exceptionally, exceptionally, the diadem, the ribbon, was not only used in athletics. It was also used in the time of monarchy, the time when royalty was still functioning with a queen. Queens among the Greek states never reigned. When the King died, the closest male successor became the next King (usually the king’s oldest son), and the Queen automatically became Queen Mother. But the Queen did not have the right to put the crown on her head. The Crown was only for the King, only Kings reigned. A Queen was the escort of the King.

Whenever the King was presented in an official presentation, either as a High Priest or political figure, the Queen escorted him. They were both well dressed, and she decorated her head with a ribbon, an incredibly special ribbon, the ribbon of the Queen. Her hair was dressed in a special way and tied around her head was the ribbon, the diadem of the Queen.

Now let us learn more about the diadems in the Bible.

Diadem, in the Bible, is mentioned only in one book, the book of Revelation. In the book of Revelation, three figures use the diadem. One is the dragon; another is the beast. The third is the Word of God coming from the heavens. For the dragon and the beast, one has 10 diadems and the other has seven diadems, representing  ten and seven victories. But the third, the Word of God coming from the heavens, has countless diadems, countless symbols of victory.

The book of Revelation speaks of the symbols of victory, and the diadem, many diadems. (If your Bible translation depicts crowns, crowns are not a good translation. It does not make sense to depict Jesus with crowns, like hats piled on the head, one upon the other.) Picture in your mind the diadem of the athletic victories, the ribbons. Jesus, the Word of God coming from the heavens, has countless diadems.

Revelation 19:11-13

”And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems (many symbols of victory;) and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. 13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.”

Diadems are the symbols of victory.

Golden Decoration to the Ribbon Diadem at the Archeological Museum of Thessaloniki, Greece
Walking with Kostes Tsevas near the Archeological Museum of Thessaloniki, Greece

35. Travel Greece with a Bible in Your Suitcase | Archeological Museum of Thessaloniki, Greece | 1 Corinthians 9:24, 25

Wreaths as Religious Symbols

At the Archeological Museum of Thessaloniki, let us look at the wreaths. Wreaths are religious symbols. Greek worshippers identified with their certain patron god in official presentations, not only for religious presentations, but also for social occasions, like weddings. On these occasions the worshippers dressed very well, of course, and they wore a wreath on their head, the wreath of the favorite plant of their god. Greek gods had favorite plants and animals.The wreath showed that they belonged to that worship. Not only the priests, but all of the people identified their worship in this way. This is important because this automatically identifies the wreath as a religious symbol.

Greek Wreath at the Archeological Museum of Thessaloniki, Greece

In the New Testament both diadems and wreaths are mentioned, but unfortunately, in most New Testament translations the incorrect term most often used to translate wreaths and diadems into English is “crown.” This is an incorrect translation because crown as a term is not mentioned at all in the New Testament. A crown is the symbol of the political power of a king. And so, when you find in your English Bibles the term “crown”- ask yourself, what should be the correct translation? Is the correct translation, wreath, or diadem?

A Greek wreath is a religious symbol.

Now we have to say something here about the athletic life of the Greeks. The athletic lives of the Greeks was a part of the religious life. Greeks believed that their body was a gift given to them from the gods, to become the residence of the soul. Greeks recognized this whenever they had festivals, in the temples, and also in races. Any victory of a race was offered up as gratitude for using the body. For that reason, the athletic life was totally prohibited to Hebrew experience. All Jews were not allowed to participate because athletic life was considered a pagan religious covenant. Other people of the community participated spontaneously, though sometimes the races were a little bit more organized. The games were organized by temples and mostly had local character.

There were four temples among the Greek states which organized inter-Greek games for all the Greeks. The games were one of the major cultural ties of the Greeks. The Greeks were divided, never had a united state, and in many cases, fought each other. But the inter-Greek games drew them all together. The games  were related with the peace process This is the main reason of the revival of the Olympic Games, the main athletic event for all the Greeks of antiquity.

Most of the races had local character and the temples offered local prizes. Temples were institutions with their own property and products. Temples had incomes. So, from the temple’s   products they gave prizes to the winners. For example, in Athens, the games were dedicated to the goddess Athena, and the prize was a good amount of olive oil, a product with local Athenian significance.

It was not the same with inter-Greek games. The inter-Greek games were the games of the wreaths. The winners’ prize was a natural wreath from the sacred plant of the sanctuary. So, for example, the prize for the Olympic Games was a wreath of olive. The second most important Greek athletic games were the Isthmian games, organized in Corinth of the Temple of Poseidon. That prize was a wreath of pine. The third most important games were dedicated to Apollo, organized at the Oracle of Delphi. The wreaths was made of Laurel. And the last ones, the fourth, the Nemean games were dedicated to Zeus had a prize of a wreath made of celery.

Funerary Relief of a Young Man with a Wreath on His Head at the Archeological Museum of Thessaloniki, Greece

So, you understand that each “prized” wreath was very, very perishable. The actual prize of these games was glory, nothing material. The wreath was just a blessing. It was definitely a religious symbol. The perishable wreath of the winners lasted a short time, actually a very short time.

But there was a person who wore, on his head, an imperishable wreath – not a common perishable wreath, but an imperishable wreath. This person was the King Priest. Monarchy in the Greek Macedonian state was preserved until extremely late, which kept up the traditions from Homeric times, and earlier. The King Priest of Macedonia had on his head an imperishable wreath.

What is an imperishable wreath? It is a golden imitation of an actual plant wreath which was made out of the favorite plant of the certain god.

After Alexander, the Great, the imperishable wreath also became a symbol of nobility, for priests who came from nobility but were not necessarily King Priests. They definitely were High Priests, and they were related to the royal family. And so, after Alexander more people had the privilege of wearing the golden, imperishable wreath. (In the  Archeological Museum of Thessaloniki, we see this kind of wreath.)

To learn more about the imperishable wreath, open the Bible. There are several verses about the imperishable wreath, but a special one is in 1 Corinthians 9:24, 25 which speaks clearly about the relationship of the wreath to the athletic games and the use of the imperishable wreath.

1 Corinthians 9:24, 25 says, “Do you not know that in a race all runners run but only one gets a prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” Everyone who competed in the games went into strict training. They did it to get something that would not last. The winner got a wreath. If your Bible translation uses the word “crown, this is a translation mistake. The athletes never got a crown. The crown is the symbol of the political power of a king. The wreath is the prize for the running athlete, a wreath which would not last. But we run the race to get a wreath that will last forever. Yes, an imperishable wreath.

We see this imperishable wreath repeated in other places of the Bible. It is equivalent with what Apostle John says in the book of Revelation: “with His blood He washed us and made us royal priesthood,” or King Priests. (Royal priesthood and King Priest is the same thing.) So, we run our race, not for something perishable which lasts for a short time for this life, but we run to become, one day, King Priests, where we obtain the imperishable wreath.

As high priestesses of a female divinity the Queen wore an imperishable wreath on her head. The Queen, although she could not be a political figure, she could be the High Priestess of a goddess – which gave the Queen the right to wear a golden wreath.

Myrtle was the favorite plant of two female goddesses, Aphrodite, and Demeter. Because of this we assume that this wreath belonged to a lady, a queen possibly. Look at the details of this wreath, the colors on the gold where the colors are preserved. It also has lapis lazuli, Egyptian blue.

Greek, Imperishable Wreath at the Archeological Museum of Thessaloniki, Greece

Here is another picture the same wreath. One picture was taken by my brother in law and the other was taken by my husband. Their cameras highlight different features, which are worth looking at closely. This is impressive and this is why we came to the Archeological Museum of Thessaloniki. See these pictures in your mind so that you can imagine them when you read about the imperishable wreath in the Bible.

Golden, Imperishable Wreath A Greek wreath, a religious symbol. look for the blue lapis lazuli, Egyptian blue
(see the blue on the blossoms – at the center left)

Actually, this special wreath was found by smugglers in an illegal digging. The smugglers sold it to the Getty Museum and when it was proved an illegality, the Getty Museum was obliged to send it back.

Golden, imperishable wreath at the Archeological Museum of Thessaloniki, Greece
Archeological Museum of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki Greece
Thessaloniki, Greece
Thesaloniki, Greece