Triumph In Ancient Rome

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Triumphs In Ancient Rome
A Roman Triumph was held to publicly celebrate the achievements of an army commander who had won great military successes, originally and traditionally, who had successfully completed a war. The triumphing general was called vir triumphalis (not triumphator, which is a modern coinage) and retained the right to be described as such for the rest of his life.
A triumph was the greatest and most sought after honour amongst the hereditary nobility that built and governed the Roman Empire, whose ethics were eventually those of an agriculturist and militant ruling class. After his death and for as long as his family endured, he was represented at the funeral of every descendant by a hired actor wearing his death mask (imago) and clad in an all purple, gold embroidered triumphal toga picta which symbolized the supreme achievements of his life.

In Order To Receive A Triumph The Dux Must:
  • Win a significant victory over a foreign enemy, killing at least five thousand enemy troops, and earning the title imperator.
  • Be an elected magistrate with the power of imperium, ie a dictator,consul or praeteor.
  • Bring the army home, signifying that the war was over and the army was no longer needed,. Of course this only applied to the Republican era when the army was a citizen army. By the imperial period, when the army was professional, the proper triumph was reserved for the emperor and his family. If a general was awarded a triumph by the emperor, he would match with a token number of his troops.
The last requirement sometimes led to deserving men being denied their triumphs, or triumphs being granted on dubious grounds. It should be noted that the enemy had to be foreign as internal conflicts, in theory, did not merit triumphs. The army also had to be of equal status. Defeating a slave revolt was not a cause for a triumph.Often an ovation was granted for a successful campaign which did not meet the requirements for a full triumph. After the establishment of the Principate, only members of the Imperial family were rewarded triumphs. Other citizens were rewarded with Ornaments triumphalia (triumphal regalia) so that the imperial family could keep better hold on avenues to power and advancement.

The Normal Order Of The Triumphal Parade Was:
  • The Senate headed by the magistrates without their lictors.
  • Trumpeters.
  • Carts with the spoils of war to demonstrate concrete benefits of the victory.
  • White Bulls for sacrifice.
  • The arms and insignia of the leaders of the conquered enemy.
  • The enemy leaders themselves, with their relatives and other captives.
  • The lictors of the imperator, their faces wreathed with laurel.
  • The imperator himself drawn in a chariot by two (later four) horses.
  • The adult sons and officers of the imperator.
  • The army without weapons or armour, since the procession would take them inside the pomerium, but clad in togas and wearing wreaths. During the later periods only a selected company of soldiers would follow the commanders in the triumph.
The Imperator had his face painted red and wore a corona triumphalis, a tunica palmata and a toga picta. Traditionally it has been believed that he was accompanied by a slave in his chariot, holding a golden wreath above his head and constantly reminding the commander of his mortality by whispering in his ear. The words that the slave is said to have used are not known, but traditional suggestions include "Respica te, homineum te memento ("look behind you, remember that you are only a man") and "Memento mori" (Remember (that you) are mortal"). Often the order of triumphal progression was varied by the triumphator adding exotic animals, musicians and slaves carrying pictures of conquered city's and signs with the names of conquered people. Due to the many stages of a triumph as listed above, Suestionius claims that the emperor Vespasian regretted his own triumph because its vast length and slow movement bored him.

The Ceremony

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