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A victory title is an honorific title adopted by a successful military commander to commemorate his defeat of an enemy nation. This practice was first used by Ancient Rome and is still most commonly associated with the Romans, but it has also been adopted as a practice by many modern empires, especially Napoleonic, British and Russian.

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Roman victory titles

Victory titles were treated as Latin cognomina and were usually the name of the enemy defeated by the commander. Hence, names like Africanus ("the African"), Numidicus ("the Numidian"), Isauricus ("the Isaurian"), Creticus ("the Cretan"), Gothicus ("the Goth"), Germanicus ("the German") and Parthicus ("the Parthian"), seemingly out of place for ardently patriotic Romans, are in fact expressions of Roman superiority over these peoples. Literally, this would be akin to calling generals Erwin Rommel "Rommel the African", George S. Patton, Jr. "Patton the German" and H. Norman Schwarzkopf "Schwarzkopf the Iraqi"; however, the correct sense were better expressed as "Rommel of African fame", "Patton of German fame", "Schwarzkopf of Iraqi fame" and so forth. Some victory titles were treated as hereditary, while others were not passed on.

The practice of awarding victory titles was well-established within the Roman Republic. The most famous grantee of Republican victory title was Publius Cornelius Scipio, who for his great victories in the Second Punic War was awarded by the Roman Senate the title "Africanus" and is thus known to history as "Scipio Africanus" (his adopted grandson Scipio Aemilianus Africanus was awarded the same title after the Third Punic War and is known as "Scipio Africanus the Younger"). Other notable holders of such victory titles include Quintus Caecilius Metellus Numidicus, who was replaced by Gaius Marius in command-in-chief of the Jugurthine War; Publius Servilius Vatia Isauricus, who commanded Roman anti-pirate operations in the eastern Mediterranean (and was father of Julius Caesar's colleague in his second consulate, Publius Servilius Vatia Isauricus in 48 BC), and Marcus Antonius Creticus, another anti-piratical commander (and father of Caesar's master of the horse, Mark Antony of Egyptian fame).

The practice continued in the Roman Empire, although it was subsequently amended by some Roman Emperors who desired to emphasise the totality of their victories by adding Maximus ("the Greatest") to the victory title (e.g., Parthicus Maximus, "the Greatest Parthian"). This taste grew to be rather vulgar by modern standards, with increasingly grandiose accumulations of partially fictitious victory titles.

See also: List of Imperial Victory Titles

  • In a broader sense, the term victory title is sometimes used to describe the repeatable awarding of the invariable style of Imperator (Greek equivalent Autokrator; see those articles), which is the highest military qualification (as modern states have awarded a non-operational highest rank, sometimes instituted for a particular general), but even when it marks the recipient out for one or more memorable victories (and the other use, as a permanent military command for the ruler, became in fact the more significant one), it does not actually specify one.

Medieval victory titles

After the fall of Rome, the practice continued in modified form. Notable examples:

Modern victory titles

Later, the term would again be applied to titles awarded in commemoration of a major military victory, but now in the guise of a feudal aristocratic title, often hereditary, but only in appearance: an actual fief was not required, indeed they often were granted in chief of a battlefield where the awarding Monarch simply had no constitutional authority to grant anything validly under local law.

This new form also was even more specific than the Roman practice. Instead of naming the enemy -which could well need to be repeated- it linked the name of a battle, which was almost always unique. A further level of protection was available by naming a nearby place, such as 'Austerlitz' which Napoleon declared sounded better than the alternative.

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Russian Empire

Victory titles were popular in the Russian Empire in the period between the reigns of Catherine the Great and Nicholas I of Russia. As early as 1707, after Alexander Menshikov occupied Swedish Ingria (Izhora) during the Great Northern War, Peter I of Russia officially designated him Prince Izhorsky. Other Russian victory titles, sometimes for whole campaigns rather than specific battles, include:

Furthermore, similar titles were awarded for comparable merits to the empire, e.g. in 1858 — Amursky for another Nicholas Muravyov, who had negotiated a new border between Russian and China along the Amur River under the Treaty of Aigun.

Napoleonic

First Empire

As Napoleon I Bonaparte, the founder of the dynasty and only ruler (be it twice, interrupted by his Elba period, still with the protocollary rank of Emperor) of France as premier Empire, owed his success, both his personal rise and the growth of his empire, above all to his military excellence, it is hardly surprising that he bestowed most gratified honours on his generals, mainly the impressive number that got raised to the supreme army rank of maréchal (marshal).

The revival of the original victory title, created for a specific victory, was an ideal form, and all incumbents were victorious marshals (or posthumously, in chief of the widow).

The highest of these titles were four nominal principalities, in most cases awarded as a 'promotion' to holders of ducal victory titles:

Next in rank were ten dukedoms:

Second Empire

Although Napoleon III never came close to his predecessor's military genius, is even rather remembered for defeats, he loved tying in to numerous aspects of the First Empire, so he not only revived many of its institutions and reestablished titles Napoleon I had awarded, but also made some new ones.

Probably for lack of memorable military exploits, this included only two victory titles:

British Empire

Many victory titles have been created in the Peerages of Great Britain and the United Kingdom. Examples include:

Often the victory is commemorated in the territorial designation rather than the peerage itself. Examples include:

Austrian Empire

In the Austrian empire titles of nobility could be amended with territorial designations, the so-called predicates. These were usually named after the estates of the family in question, but sometimes the Habsburg rulers of Austria also granted victory titles. This was particularly common during World War I. Examples include:

Kingdom of Hungary

The system used in the Kingdom of Hungary by the Habsburgs was much like the one employed in Austria. Titles of nobility could be amended with territorial designations, also called predicates. These were usually named after the estates of the family in question, but sometimes also specific victory titles were granted. Examples include:

During the Regency of Hungary after World War I, the Regent Miklós Horthy was not authorized to grant titles of nobility, but conferred the Order of Vitéz which sometimes but necessarily also carried noble predicates. Initially membership was restricted to men who had served with special distinction in the war. Examples commemorating military action include:

  • Captain Rihmer de Granasztó granted the title vitéz Gerlefalvi for his braveness at Gerlefalva, today Girovce, Slovakia.

Kingdom of Italy

Many victory titles have been created in the Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946) under the Savoy House of Piemonte-Sardinia. The practice of bestowing such titles was especially common after the unification of Italy and again after World War I, when a number of nominations was made by the Mussolini government. Examples include:

Other monarchies

See also

Sources and References

François R. Velde. Napoleonic Titles and Heraldry: Victory Titles, www.heraldica.org


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