The History of Medals

27th Aug 2014

Given Medal Blocks emphasizes displaying medals and your achievements, we will take a brief look at the history of medals. 

The first mention in history of a medal was recorded by the Jewish historian Josephus (A.D. 37 – 100?) in the 3rd century B.C. He pointed out that the high priest Jonathan led the Hebrews in the battle to aid Alexander the Great. Then Alexander “sent honorary awards to Jonathan as a golden button, which it is the custom to present the king’s kinsmen.”

Medals are now awarded for many different reasons with the most common for participating or winning sporting events. The Olympic Games has a very rich tradition for awarding medals for and for outstanding work in an assortment of fields.

Medals are also part of the Nobel Prize. Medals are similarly given to servicemen for bravery, for outstanding service, for being wounded, and for taking part in a war or campaign. In ancient Greece and Rome, a laurel wreath was given and placed on the victor’s head like a crown as decoration for military, merit or otherwise. The Roman coins even bore the head of the current emperor, crowned by such a wreath. Later, the wreath was placed around the edge of the coin.

To represent the orders of knighthood, enameled and jeweled medals were given as symbols to identify the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem, the Knights Templar, and others. Through the years, medals were given to high officers or nobles for some special military deed. England’s Queen Elizabeth I, for instance, ordered honor medals for captains who defeated the Spanish Armanda in 1588, including Sir Francis Drake. Medals were rarely given to common soldiers.

Regardless of medal and decoration given do not stow it in a box. Instead, proudly display it in a medal block – the chic medal display for valued medals, decorations and achievements. Most medals are given in a box or with a ribbon to put it around your neck. These displays make it where you can proudly display almost any type of medal or medallion.