Roman Triumph

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History, Facts and Information about Roman Triumph
From the beginning of the Republic to the fall of the Roman Empire a Triumph was recognized as the summit of military glory, and was the cherished object of ambition to every Roman general. The content of this article provides interesting history, facts and information about the Roman Triumph celebrations.

What was a Roman Triumph?
What was a Roman Triumph? Definition:  A Triumph was a ceremonial procession granted to victorious generals (a dictator, consul or a praetor) in celebration of a great military victory and to offer a public thanksgiving. Men who had received this accolade were called triumphators. The Romans called this ritual a “triumph” because the victorious troops cried “io triumpe” as they marched through the streets.

What was a Roman Ovation?
An ovation was inferior to a triumph, and conferred to those who had achieved what was seen as minor victories. Much to his annoyance Crassus was only awarded an ovation during the Third Servile War against Spartacus whereas Pompey was awarded a Triumph for his part in ending the uprising.

History of the Roman Triumph
Romulus, more than a thousand years before, had ascended the Capitoline Mount on foot, bearing in his arms the spoil of Acron, and his example had been followed by a long line of Roman heroes.

Roman Triumph - Great Publicity!
A triumph was a great honor which afforded the recipient some great publicity and therefore popularity with the people of Rome. To gain popularity with the people of Rome was to gain power and to be the recipient of a Roman Triumph was therefore the goal of many politically ambitious Roman commanders.

How to be granted the Honor of a Roman Triumph?
Following a great decisive victory in battle, or after a province had been subdued by a series of successful operations, an army's troops in the field of battle would proclaim their commander an 'imperator' with absolute power referred to as the 'imperium'. This title gave the commander great status and the title of 'imperator' was necessary before a general could apply to the Senate for a triumph. The general. or Imperator, forwarded the Senate a laurel-wreathed dispatch containing an account of his exploits. If the intelligence proved satisfactory the Senate decreed a public thanksgiving - a Triumph.

Roman Crowns and Wreaths

The Return to Rome - Agreement of the Senate and the common people
After the war was concluded, the general, with his army, returned to Rome, or ordered his army to meet him there on a given day, but did not enter the city. A meeting of the Senate was held outside the walls providing an opportunity to report on the victory in person affording the Senate to satisfy themselves that the Triumph was in order. If the Senate gave their consent, they at the same time voted a sum of money toward bearing the cost the necessary expenses. Then the common people had to give their agreement. One of the Tribunes applied for a plebiscitum (a law enacted by the common people, under the superintendence of a tribune, without the intervention of the senate to permit the Imperator to retain his imperium (power) on the day when he entered the city).

Roman Triumph - the Procession
Once agreement had been obtained the General was given permission to enter Rome in triumph. The Roman Triumph was a solemn procession, in which a victorious general entered the city in a spectacular chariot drawn by four horses. He was preceded by the senate, trumpeters, the humiliated enemy captives who were often in chains, the spoils and treasures taken in war, white bulls for sacrifice and his personal bodyguards (lictors). The triumphator came next in the procession, riding on his chariot. He was followed by his family, officers, troops all of whom were unarmed. The procession followed a fixed route which ran from the Field of Mars down to the river Tiber, doubling back on itself to avoid an ancient bog, then through the Circus and along the Sacred Way (Via Sacra). After passing in state along the Via Sacra the triumph ascended the Capitol to offer sacrifice at the Temple of Jupiter - the white bulls. The triumphator then entered the temple to offer his wreath to the god as a sign that he had no intentions of becoming the king of Rome.

Roman Triumph - the Clothes
The triumphator wore the tunica palmata which was a tunic embroidered with palm leaves. The toga purpurea, of purple-dyed wool, was also worn. The toga picta (crimson, embroidered in gold) might also have been worn in triumphal processions. On his feet he would wear a patrician shoe called the mulleus which was colored red like the mullus (mullet) from which it was named and had an ivory, silver or gold ornament of crescent shape on the outside of the ankle. On his head he would wear a laurel wreath or crown. Around his neck he would wear his bulla, a special amulet, to protect him from the evil jealously of men or gods.

Roman Triumph - Face of the Triumphator was Painted Red
The face of the triumphator was painted with red paint to imitate the red-painted face of the statues of Mars, the god of war or Jupiter, the King of the gods. The material used to paint the face red was vermilion, an opaque orange-red pigment which was derived from the extremely expensive powdered mineral cinnabar. This tradition was well illustrated in the HBO TV series Rome which featured the Triumph of Julius Caesar.

Roman Triumph - the Festivities
The Roman Triumph was an extremely important event for the people of Ancient Rome. Everyone wanted to watch the procession. The streets were cleaned in preparation and arrangements were made for feasting and banquets after the Triumph. There was also plenty of drinking by the Roman soldiers who played a part in the triumph of their general. The festivities also included music and singing and there was a sweet smell in the air. Rose petals, a symbol of love and victory, and other scented flowers, were lavishly strewn across the path of the triumphator. At the end of the Triumph the triumphator would enjoy a private banquet in his honor.

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