The Greeks gave a wreath of laurels to the victor in the
Pythian games, but the victor in the Olympic games had a wreath of wild
olives, the victor in the Nemean games a wreath of green parsley, and
the victor in the Isthmian games a wreath of dry parsley or green
pine-leaves. (See Crown.)
The ancients believed that laurel communicated the spirit of
prophecy and poetry. Hence the custom of crowning the pythoness and
poets, and of putting laurel leaves under one's pillow to
acquire inspiration. Another superstition was that the bay laurel was
antagonistic to the stroke of lightning; but Sir Thomas Browne, in his Vulgar Errors, tells us that Vicomereatus proves from personal
knowledge that this is by no means true.
in modern times, is a symbol of victory and peace. St. Gudule, in
Christian art, carries a laurel crown.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894