Victory title

A victory title is an honorific title adopted by a successful military commander to commemorate his defeat of an enemy nation. The practice is first known in Ancient Rome and is still most commonly associated with the Romans, but it was also adopted as a practice by many later empires, especially the French, British and Russian Empires.

Roman victory titles

Victory titles were suffixed to the commander's name and were usually the name of the enemy defeated by the commander. Some victory titles became hereditary cognomina, while others were personal agnomina and not carried on by later family members. Names like Africanus ("the African"), Numidicus ("the Numidian"), Isauricus ("the Isaurian"), Creticus ("the Cretan"), Gothicus ("the Goth"), Germanicus ("the German") and Parthicus ("the Parthian") expressed the triumphal subjugation of these peoples or their territories, or commemorated the locations of general's successful campaigns, equivalent to modern titles like Lawrence of Arabia, and were not indicators of origin.

The practice of awarding victory titles was established in the Roman Republic. The most famous grantee of a Republican victory title was Publius Cornelius Scipio, who for his great victories in the Second Punic War, specifically the Battle of Zama 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 as 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), while Marcus Antonius Creticus, another anti-piracy commander, (and father of Caesar's magister equitum, Mark Antony) actually lost in Crete and was called Creticus mockingly, as it also meant "Man made of Chalk". Marcus Porcius Cato "Uticensis" received his title posthumously from those glorifying his suicide, rather than defeat, at Utica.

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.

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 Western Rome, the practice continued in modified form.

Modern victory titles

The term "victory-title" occurs in English from as early as 1938.[1]

Modern monarchs awarded titles in commemoration of major military victories, but 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 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.

Russian Empire

In the Russian Empire, many victory titles originated in the period between the accession of Catherine the Great (1762) and the death of Nicholas I of Russia (1855). But as early as 1707, after Alexander Menshikov occupied Swedish Ingria (Izhora) during the Great Northern War, Peter I of Russia officially designated him Duke or Prince of Ingria (Russian: герцог Ижорский - gertsog Izhorsky). Other Russian victory titles (sometimes referencing whole campaigns rather than specific battles) include:

Furthermore, similar titles were awarded for comparable non-military services 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.

General Wrangel awarded the last victory-title in Russia (Krymsky "Crimean") unofficially after the abolition of the monarchy: to the White Lieutenant-General Yakov Aleksandrovich Slashchyov in August 1920 for his defence of the Crimea in 19191920.

First Empire

Napoleon I, the founder of the Bonaparte dynasty and only head of the First French Empire, owed his success – both his personal rise and the growth of his empire – above all to his military excellence, and he bestowed elaborate honours on his generals, especially those raised to the supreme army rank of maréchal (marshal).

The bestowing of a victory title (French: titre de victoire), commemorating a specific victory, was an ideal form of honour, and many incumbents were victorious marshals (or posthumously, in chief of the widow).

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

Next in rank came ten dukedoms:


July Monarchy

Second Empire

Although Napoleon III never came close to his predecessor's military genius (history tends to remember his defeats), he loved tying into 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.

These included:

British Empire

Many victory titles have been created in the peerages of England, 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 happened particularly during World War I (1914-1918). Examples include:

Kingdom of Hungary

The system used in the Kingdom of Hungary by the Habsburgs resembled 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 bravery at Gerlefalva, today Girovce, Slovakia.

Kingdom of Italy

The Kingdom of Italy under the House of Savoy of Piemonte-Sardinia granted many victory titles. The practice of bestowing such titles became especially common after the unification of Italy and again after World War I, when the Mussolini government (1922–1943) made a number of nominations. Examples include:

Other monarchies

  • The Spanish crown has awarded similar titles, such as Duke of Ciudad Rodrigo (hereditary) for the English Viscount Wellington (later Duke of Wellington). General O'Donnell was granted the title Duke of Tetuán by Isabella II after his success at the Battle of Tétouan. José Malcampo, 3rd Marquess of San Rafael, Prime Minister of Spain in 1871, during the reign of Amadeo I, was granted the titles of Count of Jolo and Viscount of Mindanao after he victoriously took the city of Jolo from the Sultanate of Sulu during his governorship-general (1874-1877) of the Philippines.
  • So did the Portuguese kingdom, as Duque da Vitória (Duke of Victory), Marquês de Torres Vedras (from the Lines of Torres Vedras of 1809-1810) and Conde de Vimeiro (from the Battle of Vimeiro of 1808) awarded to the Duke of Wellington.
  • The Kingdom of Naples awarded the title of Conte di Maida (Count of Maida) to British general John Stuart, commemorating the Battle of Maida in 1806.
  • The Dutch royal house of Orange, then of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, created the first Duke of Wellington Prince of Waterloo (in Belgium) in 1815.

Sources and references

François R. Velde. Napoleonic Titles and Heraldry: Victory Titles


  1. Nibley, Hugh (1938). The Roman Games as the Survival of an Archaic Year-cult. University of California, Berkeley. p. 164. Retrieved 2016-06-06. The Imperator was necessarily the victorious leader, his title was awarded with his triumph, and, as Prof. Nesselhauf has recently shown, his rule was simply in the last analysis a protracted triumph: it was not the proconsular title which he chose to express his military power, but the victory-title of Imperator.
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