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Trajan's column, a depiction in stone of a symbolic triumph celebrating Trajan's victory over the Dacians (Romania). The procession winds up the column in a spiral panel.

Closer view of the column, an invaluable graphic depiction of the arms, equipment and structure of the Roman army in the time of Trajan.

The Roman triumph (triumphus) was a civil ceremony and religious rite of ancient Rome, held to publicly celebrate and sanctify the military achievement of an army commander who had won great military successes, or originally and traditionally, one who had successfully completed a foreign war. In Republican tradition, only the Senate could grant a triumph. The origins and development of this honour were obscure: Roman historians placed the first triumph in the mythical past.

On the day of his triumph, the general wore a crown of laurel and the all-purple, gold-embroidered triumphal toga picta ("painted" toga), regalia that identified him as near-divine or near-kingly. He rode in a four-horse chariot through the streets of Rome in unarmed procession with his army, captives and the spoils of his war. At Jupiter's temple on the Capitoline Hill he offered sacrifice and the tokens of his victory to the god. Thereafter he had the right to be described as vir triumphalis ("man of triumph", later known as triumphator) for the rest of his life. After death, he was represented at his own funeral, and those of his later descendants, by a hired actor who wore his mask (imago) and toga picta.

Republican morality required that despite these extraordinary honours, the general conduct himself with dignified humility, as a mortal citizen who triumphed on behalf of Rome's Senate, people and gods. Inevitably, besides its religious and military dimensions, the triumph offered extraordinary opportunities for self-publicity. While most Roman festivals were calendar fixtures, the tradition and law that reserved a triumph to extraordinary victory ensured that its celebration, procession, attendant feasting and public games promoted the general's status and achievement. He could commemorate his Triumph and further enhance his reputation by issuing triumphal coinage, and funding monumental public works and temples. By the Late Republican era, increasing competition among the military-political adventurers who ran Rome's nascent empire ensured that triumphs became more frequent, drawn out and extravagant, prolonged in some cases by several days of public games and entertainments. From the Principate onwards, the Triumph reflected the Imperial order, and the pre-eminence of the Imperial family.

Most Roman accounts of triumphs were written to provide their readers with a moral lesson, rather than to provide an accurate description of the triumphal process, procession, rites and their meaning. This scarcity allows for only the most tentative and generalised, and possibly misleading reconstruction of triumphal ceremony, based on the combination of various incomplete accounts from different periods of Roman history. Nevertheless, the triumph is considered a characteristically Roman ceremony which represented Roman wealth, power and grandeur, and has been consciously imitated by medieval and later states in the royal entry and other ceremonial events.

Background and ceremonies

The vir triumphalis

Flemish tapestry in the smoking room of the Palace of Marques Dos Aguas (ca)

In Republican Rome, truly exceptional military achievement merited the highest possible honours, which connected the vir triumphalis ("man of triumph", later known as a triumphator) to Rome's mythical and semi-mythical past. In effect, the general was close to being "king for a day", and possibly close to divinity. He wore the regalia traditionally associated both with the ancient Roman monarchy and with the statue of Jupiter Capitolinus: the purple and gold "toga picta", laurel crown, red boots and, again possibly, the red-painted face of Rome's supreme deity. He was drawn in procession through the city, in a four-horse chariot, under the gaze of his peers and an applauding crowd, to the temple of Capitoline Jupiter. The spoils and captives of his victory led the way; his armies followed behind. Once at the Capitoline temple, he sacrificed two white oxen to Jupiter and laid tokens of his victory at his feet, dedicating his victory to the Roman Senate, people and gods.[1]

Triumphs were tied to no particular day, season or religious festival of the Roman calendar. Most seem to have been celebrated at the earliest practicable opportunity, probably on days that were deemed auspicious for the occasion.Tradition required that for the duration of a Triumph, every temple was open; the ceremony was thus, in some sense, shared by the whole community of Roman gods;[2] but overlaps with specific festivals and anniversaries were inevitable. Some may have been coincidental; others were designed. For example March 1, the festival and dies natalis of the war-god, Mars, was the traditional anniversary of the first (by Publicola, 504 BCE), and six other Republican Triumphs, and of the very first Roman Triumph (by Romulus).[3] Pompey postponed his third, most magnificent Triumph for several months, to make it coincide with his own dies natalis (birthday).[4][5]

Religious dimensions aside, the Triumph focused on the general himself, and promoted him – however temporarily– above every mortal Roman. This was an opportunity granted to very few. From the time of Scipio Africanus, the Triumphal general was linked – at least for historians during the Principate – to Alexander and the demi-god Hercules, who had laboured selflessly for the benefit of all mankind.[6][7][8] His sumptuous triumphal chariot was bedecked with charms against the possible envy (invidia) and malice of onlookers.[9][10] In some accounts, a companion or public slave would, from time to time, remind him of his own mortality (a memento mori).[11]

The Procession

Rome's earliest "triumphs" were probably simple victory parades, celebrating the return of a victorious general and his army to the city, along with the fruits of his victory, and ending with some form of dedication to the gods. This is probably so for the earliest legendary and later semi-legendary triumphs of Rome's regal era, when the king functioned as Rome's highest magistrate and war-leader. As Rome's population, power, influence and territory increased, so did the scale, length, variety and extravagance of its triumphal processions.

The procession (pompa) mustered in the open space of the Campus Martius (Field of Mars) probably well before first light. From there, all unforeseen delays and accidents aside, it would have managed a slow walking pace at best, punctuated by various planned stops en route to its final destination, the Capitoline temple; a distance of just under 4 km. Triumphal processions were notoriously long and slow;[12] the longest could last for two or three days, and possibly more, and some may have been of greater length than the route itself.[13]

Some ancient and modern sources suggest a fairly standard processional order. First, the captive leaders, allies and soldiers – and sometimes their families – usually walking in chains; some were destined for execution or further display. Their captured weapons, armour, gold, silver, statuary, and curious or exotic treasures were carted behind them, along with paintings, tableaux and models depicting significant places and episodes of the war. Next in line, all on foot, came Rome's senators and magistrates, followed by the general's lictors in their red war-robes, their fasces wreathed in laurel; then the general in his four-horse chariot. A companion, or a public slave, might share the chariot with him; or in some cases, his youngest children. His officers and elder sons rode horseback nearby. His unarmed soldiers followed, in togas and laurel crowns, chanting "io triumphe!" and singing ribald songs at their general's expense. Somewhere in the procession, two flawless white oxen, garland-decked and with gilded horns, were led for the sacrifice to Jupiter. All this, to the accompaniment of music, clouds of incense and the strewing of flowers.[14]

Almost nothing is known of the procession's infrastructure and management. Its doubtless enormous cost was defrayed in part by the state but mostly by the general's loot, which most ancient sources dwell on in great detail and unlikely superlatives. Once disposed, this portable wealth injected huge sums into the Roman economy; the amount brought in by Octavian's Triumph over Egypt triggered a fall in interest rates, and a sharp rise in land prices.[15] No ancient source addresses the logistics of the procession; where the soldiers and captives in a procession of several days could have slept, ate and drank, or where these several thousands, plus the spectators, could have been stationed for the final ceremony at the Capitoline temple.[16]

The route

The following schematic for the route taken by "some, or many" triumphs is based on standard modern reconstructions;[17] any original or traditional route would have been diverted to some extent by the city's many redevelopments and rebuildings; or sometimes by choice. The starting place (the Campus Martius) lay outside the city's sacred boundary (pomerium), on the western bank of the Tiber. The procession entered the city through a Porta Triumphalis (Triumphal Gate),[18] and crossed the pomerium, where the general surrendered his command to the senate and magistrates. It continued through the site of the Circus Flaminius, skirting the southern base of the Capitoline Hill and the Velabrium, along a Via Triumphalis (Triumphal Way)[19] towards the Circus Maximus, perhaps dropping off any prisoners destined for execution at the Tullianum.[20] It entered the Via Sacra, then the Forum. Finally, it ascended the Capitoline Hill to the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus. Once the sacrifice and dedications were completed, the procession and spectators dispersed to banquets, games and other entertainments sponsored by the Triumphing general.

Banquets, games and entertainments

In most triumphs, the general funded any post-procession banquets from his share of the loot. There were feasts for the people, and separate, much richer feasts for the elite; some went on for most of the night. Dionysus offers a contrast to the lavish Triumphal banquets of his time by giving Romulus's triumph the most primitive possible "banquet" –ordinary Romans setting up food-tables as a "welcome home", and the returning troops taking swigs and bites as they marched by; he recreates the first Republican triumphal banquet along the same lines.[21] Varro claims that his aunt earned 20,000 sesterces by supplying 5,000 thrushes for Caecilius Metellus's triumph of 71 BCE.[22]

Some triumphs included ludi, as fulfillment of the general's vow before battle, or during its heat, to a god or goddess in return for their help in securing victory.[23] In the Republic, they were paid for by the triumphing general. Marcus Fulvius Nobilior vowed ludi in return for victory over the Aetolian League and paid for ten days of games at his Triumph.


Most Romans would never have seen a triumph but its symbolism permeated Roman imagination and material culture. Triumphal generals minted and circulated high value coins to propagate their triumphal fame and generosity empire-wide. Pompey's issues for his three Triumphs are typical. One, an aureus (a gold coin) has a laurel-wreathed border enclosing a head that personifies Africa; beside it, Pompey's title "Magnus" ("The Great"), with wand and jug as symbols of his augury. The reverse identifies him as proconsul, in a triumphal chariot attended by Victory. A triumphal denarius (a silver coin) shows his three trophies of captured arms, with his augur's wand and jug. Another shows a globe surrounded by triumphal wreaths, symbolising his "world conquest"; and an ear of corn, to show that his victory protected Rome's grain supply.[24]

In Republican tradition, a general was expected to wear his triumphal regalia only for the day of his Triumph; thereafter, they were presumably displayed in the atrium of his family home. As one of the nobility, he was entitled to a particular kind of funeral, in which a string of actors walked behind his bier, wearing the masks of his ancestors; another actor represented the general himself, and his highest achievement in life, by wearing his funeral mask, triumphal laurels and toga picta.[25] Anything more was deeply suspect; Pompey, granted the privilege of wearing his triumphal wreath at the Circus, met with a hostile reception.[26] Julius Caesar's penchant for wearing his triumphal regalia "wherever and whenever" was taken as one among many signs of monarchic intentions which for some, justified his murder. In the Imperial era, emperors wore such regalia to signify their elevated rank and office, and identify themselves with the Roman gods and Imperial order – a central feature of Imperial cult.

The building and dedication of monumental public works offered local, permanent opportunities for triumphal commemoration; some examples follow. In 55 BCE, Pompey inaugurated Rome's first stone-built Theatre as a gift to the people of Rome, funded by his spoils. Its gallery and colonnades doubled as an exhibition space, and likely contained statues, paintings and other trophies carried at his various triumphs[27] It contained a new temple to Pompey's patron goddess, Venus Victrix ("Victorious Venus"); the year before, he had issued a coin that showed her crowned with Triumphal laurels.[28] Julius Caesar, who claimed Venus as both patron and divine ancestress, funded a new temple to her, and dedicated it during his quadruple Triumph of 46 BCE; he thus wove his patron goddess and putative ancestress into his triumphal anniversary.

Augustus, Caesar's heir and Rome's first emperor, built a vast triumphal monument on the Greek coast at Actium, overlooking the scene of his decisive sea-battle against Antony and Egypt; the bronze beaks of captured Egyptian warships projected from its seaward wall. Starting with the Augustan reinvention of Rome as a virtual monarchy (the principate) Imperial iconography increasingly identified Emperors with the gods. Sculpted panels on the arch of Titus (built by Domitian) celebrate Titus and Vespasian's joint triumph over the Jews after the siege of Jerusalem, with a triumphal procession of captives, and treasures seized from the temple of Jerusalem – some of which funded the building of the Colloseum. Another panel shows the funeral and apotheosis of the deified Titus. Prior to this, the senate voted Titus a triple-arch at the Circus Maximus to celebrate or commemorate the same victory or Triumph.[29]

Awarding a triumph

In Rome's Republican era, a general who wanted a Triumph would dispatch his request and report to the Senate. Officially, Triumphs were granted for outstanding military merit; if this and certain other conditions were met – and these seem to have varied from time to time, and from case to case – the state paid for the ceremony; or at least, for the official procession. Most Roman historians rest the outcome on an open Senatorial debate and vote, its legality confirmed by one of the people's assemblies; the senate and people thus controlled the state's coffers and rewarded or curbed its generals. Some triumphs seem to have been granted outright, with minimal debate. Some were turned down but went ahead anyway, with the general's direct appeal to the people over the senate and a promise of public games at his own expense. Others were blocked, or granted only after interminable wrangling. Senators and generals alike were politicians, and Roman politics was notorious for its rivalries, shifting alliances, backroom dealings and overt public bribery.[30] The senate's discussions would likely have hinged on Triumphal tradition, precedent and propriety; less overtly but more anxiously, on the extent of the general's political and military powers and popularity, and the possible consequences of supporting or hindering his further career. There is no firm evidence that the Senate applied a prescribed set of "triumphal laws" when making their decisions.[31][32]


A general might be granted a "lesser triumph", known as an Ovation. He entered the city minus his troops, on foot, in his magistrate's toga, wearing a wreath of Venus's myrtle. In 211 BCE, the Senate turned down M. Marcellus's request for a Triumph after his victory over the Carthaginians and their Sicilian-Greek allies, apparently because his army was still in Sicily and unable to join him. They offered him instead a thanksgiving (supplicatio) and ovation. The day before it, he celebrated an unofficial triumph, on the Alban Mount. His ovation was of triumphal proportions. It included a large painting, showing his siege of Syracuse; the siege engines themselves; captured plate, gold, silver and royal ornaments; and the statuary and opulent furniture for which Syracuse was famous. Eight elephants were led in the procession, symbols his victory over the Carthaginians. His Spanish and Syracusan allies led the way, wearing golden wreaths; they were granted Roman citizenship, and lands in Sicily.[33] In 71 BCE Crassus earned an ovation for quashing the Spartacus revolt, and upped his honours by wearing a crown of Jupiter's "triumphal" laurel.[34] Ovations are listed along with Triumphs, on the Fasti Triumphales.


The Fasti Triumphales

Segment XX of the Fasti triumphales, a portion recording triumphs during the First Punic War

The Fasti Triumphales (also called Acta Triumphalia), are stone tablets that were once erected in the Forum Romanum around 12 BCE, during the reign of the first emperor, Augustus. They give the general's formal name, the names of his father and grandfather, the people(s) or command province whence the triumph was awarded, and the date of the triumphal procession. They record over 200 triumphs, starting with three mythical triumphs of Romulus in 753 BCE, and ending with that of Lucius Cornelius Balbus (19 BCE).[35] Fragments of similar date and style from Rome and provincial Italy appear to be modeled on the Augustan Fasti, and have been used to fill some of its gaps.[36]

Origins, and Regal era

Some Roman historians thought the Triumph dated from Rome's foundation; others thought it more ancient than that. Roman etymologists thought the soldiers' chant of triumpe a borrowing, via Etruscan of the Greek thriambus (θρίαμβος), cried out by satyrs and other attendants in Dionysian and Bacchic processions.[37] Plutarch, and some Roman sources, traced the first Roman triumph and the "kingly" garb of the triumphator to Rome's first king, Romulus, whose defeat of King Acron of the Caeninenses was thought coeval with Rome's foundation in 753 BCE.[38] Ovid projected a fabulous and poetic triumphal precedent in the return of the god Bacchus/Dionysus from his conquest of India, drawn in a golden chariot by tigers and surrounded by maenads, satyrs and assorted drunkards.[39][40][41] Arrian attributed similar Dionysian and "Roman" elements to a victory procession of Alexander the Great.[42] Like much in Roman culture, elements of the triumph were based on Etruscan and Greek precursors; in particular, the purple, embroidered toga picta worn by the Triumphal general was thought to derive from the royal toga of Rome's Etruscan kings.

Detail from the Arch of Titus showing his triumph held in 71 for his successful Sack of Jerusalem.

For triumphs of the Roman regal era, the surviving Imperial Fasti Triumphales are incomplete. After three entries for the city's legendary founder, Romulus, eleven lines of the list are missing. Next in sequence are Ancus Marcius, Tarquinius Priscus, Servius Tullius and finally, Tarquin "the proud", the last king. The Fasti, compiled some five centuries after the regal era, probably represent an approved, official version of several different historical traditions. Likewise, the earliest surviving written histories of the regal era, written some centuries after it, attempt to reconcile various traditions, or else debate their merits. Dionysus, for example, gives Romulus three Triumphs, the same number given in the Fasti. Livy gives him none, and credits him instead with the first spolia opima, in which the arms and armour of a defeated foe were stripped, then dedicated to Jupiter. Plutarch gives him one, complete with chariot. Tarquin, with two triumphs in the Fasti, has none in Dionysius.[43] No ancient source gives a triumph to Romulus' successor, the peaceful king Numa.

Triumphs in the Republic

Rome's aristocrats expelled their last king as a tyrant, and legislated the monarchy out of existence. They shared the kingship's former powers and authority among themselves, in the form of magistracies. In the Republic, the highest possible magistracy was an elected consulship, which could be held for no more than a year at a time. In times of crisis or emergency, the Senate might appoint a dictator to serve a longer term; but this could seem perilously close to the lifetime power of kings. The dictator Camillus was awarded four triumphs, but was eventually exiled. Later Roman sources point to his triumph of 396 BC as a cause for offense; the chariot was drawn by four white horses, a combination properly reserved – at least in later lore and poetry – for Jupiter and Apollo.[44] The demeanour of a triumphal Republican general, and the symbols he employed in his triumph, would have been closely scrutinised by his aristocratic peers, alert for any sign that he might aspire to be more than "king for a day".

In the Middle to Late Republic, Rome's expansion through conquest offered her political-military adventurers extraordinary opportunities for self-publicity; the long-drawn series of wars between Rome and Carthage – the Punic Wars – produced twelve Triumphs in ten years. Towards the end of the Republic, Triumphs became still more frequent,[45] lavish and competitive, with each display an attempt – usually successful –- to outdo the last. To have even a long-dead triumphal ancestor counted for a lot in Roman society and politics, and Cicero remarked that in the race for power and influence, some individuals were not above vesting an inconveniently ordinary ancestor with triumphal grandeur and dignity, distorting an already fragmentary and unreliable historical tradition.[46][47][48]

To Roman historians, the growth of triumphal ostentation undermined Rome's ancient "peasant virtues".[49] Dionysius of Halicarnassus' claimed that the triumphs of the day (Ca 60 BCE – after 7 BCE) had "departed in every respect from the ancient tradition of frugality".[50] Moralists complained that while successful foreign wars had increased Rome's power, security and wealth, they created, then fed a degenerate appetite for bombastic display and shallow novelty; Livy traces the start of the rot to the triumph of Gnaeus Manlius Vulso in 186, which introduced ordinary Romans to such Galatian fripperies as specialist chefs, lute girls and other "seductive dinner-party amusements"; Pliny adds "sideboards and one-legged tables" to the list,[51] but lays responsibility for Rome's slide into luxury on the "1400 pounds of chased silver ware and 1500 pounds of golden vessels" brought somewhat earlier by Scipio Asiaticus, for his triumph of 189 BCE.[52]

The three triumphs awarded to Pompey the Great were lavish and controversial. The first, in 80 or 81 BCE, was granted for his victory over King Hiarbas of Numidia in 79 BCE, by a cowed and divided Senate under the dictatorship of Pompey's patron, Sulla. Pompey was aged only 24 and a mere equestrian.[53] Roman conservatives disapproved of such precocity[54] but others saw his youthful success as the mark a prodigious military talent, divine favour and personal brio; and he had an enthusiastic, popular following. His triumph, however, did not go quite to plan. To represent his African conquest – and perhaps to outdo even the legendary triumph of Bacchus – his chariot was drawn by a team of elephants. They proved too bulky to pass through the Triumphal gate, so Pompey had to dismount while a horse team was yoked in their place.[55] This embarrassment would have delighted his critics, and probably some of his soldiers — whose demands for cash had been near-mutinous.[56] Even so, his firm stand on the matter of cash raised his standing among the conservatives, and Pompey seems to have learned a lesson in populist politics. For his second triumph (71 BCE – the last in a series of four held that year) his cash gifts to his army were said to break all records, though the amounts in Plutarch's account are implausibly high; 6000 sesterces (about six times their annual pay) to each soldier and about 5 million to each officer.[57]

Panel from a representation of a triumph of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius; a winged genius hovers above his head.

Pompey was granted a third triumph, in 61 BCE, to celebrate his victory over Mithradates. It was an opportunity to outdo all rivals, and even himself. Triumphs traditionally lasted for one day. Pompey’s went on for two, in an unprecedented diplay of wealth and luxury.[58] Plutarch claimed that this triumph represented Pompey's domination over the entire world – on Rome's behalf – and an achievement to outshine even Alexander's.[59][60] Pliny's narrative of this triumph dwells, with ominous hindsight, upon a gigantic portrait-bust of the Triumphant general, a thing of “eastern splendor” entirely covered with pearls, anticipating his later humiliation and decapitation.[61]

Imperial era

Following Caesar's murder, Octavian assumed permanent title of imperator and from 27 BCE, became permanent head of the Senate (see principate) under the title and name Augustus. Only the year before he had blocked the senatorial award of a triumph to Marcus Licinius Crassus, despite the latter's acclamation in the field as Imperator and his fulfillment of all traditional, Republican qualifying criteria except full consulship. Technically, generals in the Imperial era were legates of the ruling Emperor (Imperator).[62] Augustus claimed the victory as his own but permitted Crassus a second, which is listed on the Fasti for 27 BCE.[63] Crassus was also denied the rare – and in his case, technically permissible – honour of dedicating the spolia opima of this campaign to Jupiter Feretrius.[64]

The last triumph listed on the Fasti Triumphales is for 19 BCE. By then, the triumph had been absorbed into the Augustan Imperial cult system, in which only the emperor – the supreme Imperator, or very occasionally, a close relative who had glorified the Imperial gens – would be accorded such a supreme honour. The Senate, in true Republican style, would have held session to debate and decide the merits of the candidate; but this was little more than good form. While Augustan ideology insisted that Augustus has saved and restored the Republic, it celebrated his triumph as a permanent condition, and his military, political and religious leadership as responsible for an unprecedented era of stability, peace and prosperity. From here on, emperors seem to have claimed – without seeming to claim – the Triumph as an Imperial privilege. Those outside the Imperial family, like Aulus Plautius under Claudius, might be granted "triumphal ornaments"; or an ovation. The senate still debated and voted such matters, though the outcome was probably already decided.[65] In the Imperial era, the number of triumphs fell sharply. None are recorded between the triumph of Claudius, for his conquest of Britain (44 CE) and Trajan's posthumous triumph of 117-8 CE, and none from then until the triumph of Marcus Aurelius over Parthia in 166 CE.[66]

Imperial panegyrics of the later Imperial era combine triumphal elements with Imperial ceremonies such as the consular investiture of Emperors, and the adventus, the formal "triumphal" arrival of an emperor in the various capitals of the Empire in his progress through the provinces. Some emperors were perpetually on the move, and seldom or never went to Rome. In 357, several years after defeating his rival Magnentius, the Christian emperor Constantius II entered Rome for the first time in his life, standing in his triumphal chariot "as if he were a statue".[67] Claudian's panegyric to the Emperor Honorius records the last known official triumph in the city of Rome, and the western Empire.[68][69] The emperor Honorius celebrated it conjointly with his sixth consulship on January 1 404; his general Stilicho had defeated the Visigothic king Alaric at the battles of Pollentia and Verona.[70] In Christian martyrology, Saint Telemachus was martyred by a mob while attempting to stop the customary gladiatorial games at this triumph, and gladiatorial games (munera gladiatoria) were banned in consequence.[71][72][73] In 438 CE, however, the western emperor Valentinian III found cause to repeat the ban.[74]

Influence and reception

Miniature representation of the emperor Basil II's triumphal procession through the Forum of Constantinople, from the (Madrid Skylitzes)

Charles V announcing the capture of Tunis to Pope Paul III, as imagined in an anonymous sixteenth century tapestry

In 534, well into the Byzantine era, Justinian I awarded the general Belisarius a "triumph" that included some "radically new" Christian and Byzantine elements. Belisarius and his co-general Gelimer had successfully campaigned to restore the former Roman provinces of Africa to the control of Byzantium in the 533-534 Vandalic War. The triumph was held in the Eastern Roman capital of Constantinople. The historian Procopius, an eyewitness who had previously been in Belisarius's service, describes the procession's display of the loot seized from the Temple of Jerusalem in 70 AD by the Roman emperor Titus, including the Temple Menorah. After its display in Titus' own triumphal parade, and its depiction on his triumphal arch, the treasure had been stored in Rome's Temple of Peace; then seized by the Vandals, during their sack of Rome in 455; then taken from them in Belisarius' campaign. The objects themselves might well have recalled the ancient triumphs of Vespasian and his son Titus; but Belisarius and Gelimer walked, as in an ovation. The procession did not end at Rome's Capitoline Temple, with a sacrifice to Jupiter, but terminated at Constantinople's Hippodrome, with a recitation of Christian prayer and the triumphant generals prostrate before the emperor.[75]

During the Renaissance, kings and magnates sought ennobling connections with the classical past. When the Ghibelline Castruccio Castracani defeated the forces of the Guelph Florence in the 1325 Battle of Altopascio, the Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV made him Duke of Lucca, and the city gave him a Roman-style triumph. The procession was led by his Florentine captives, made to carry candles in honour of Lucca's patron saint. Castracani followed, standing in a decorative chariot. His booty included the Florentine's portable, wheeled altar, the carroccio.[76]

Flavio Biondo's Roma Triumphans (1459) claimed the ancient Roman Triumph – divested of its pagan rites – as a rightful inheritance of Holy Roman Emperors.[77] The Italian poet Petrarch's "The Triumphs" represented the triumphal themes and biographies of ancient Roman texts as ideals for cultured, virtuous rule; it was influential, and widely read.[78] Andrea Mantegna's series of large paintings on the Triumphs of Caesar (1484–92, now Hampton Court Palace) became immediately famous and was endlessly copied in print form. The Triumphal Procession commissioned by the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (1512–19) from a group of artists including Albrecht Dürer was a series of woodcuts of an imaginary triumph of his own that could be hung as a frieze 54 metres (177 ft) long.

In the 1550s the fragmentary Fasti Triumphales were unearthed and partially restored. Onofrio Panvinio's Fasti continued where the ancient Fasti left off.[79] The last triumph recorded by Panvinio, which he described as a Roman triumph "over the infidel," was the Royal Entry of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V into Rome on April 5, 1536, after his conquest of Tunis in 1535.[80][81] The Emperor followed the traditional ancient route, "past the ruins of the triumphal arches of the soldier-emperors of Rome", where "actors dressed as ancient senators hailed the return of the new Caesar as miles christi," (i.e., a soldier of Christ).[82]

The extravagant triumphal entry into Rouen of Henri II of France in 1550 was not "less pleasing and delectable than the third triumph of Pompey... magnificent in riches and abounding in the spoils of foreign nations".[83] A triumphal arch made for the Royal entry into Paris of Louis XIII of France in 1628 carried a depiction of Pompey.[84]

See also


  1. A summary of disparate viewpoints regarding the Truimph are in Versnel, 56–93: limited preview via
  2. Versnel, p. 386.
  3. Beard, p. 77.
  4. Beard, p. 7.
  5. Denis Feeney, Caesar's Calendar: Ancient Time and the Beginnings of History, University of California Press (2008) p. 148.
  6. Beard, 72-5. See also Diodorus, 4.5 at Thayer:
  7. Beard et al, 85-7: see also Polybius, 10.2.20, who suggests that Scipio's assumption of divine connections (and the personal favour of divine guidance) as unprecedented and suspiciously "Greek" to his more conservative peers.
  8. See also Galinsky, 106, 126-49, for Heraklean/Herculean associations of Alexander, Scipio and later triumphing Roman generals.
  9. Versnel, p. 380.
  10. Various Roman sources describe the different charms employed against envy during Triumphs, not necessarily at the same event; they include an assemblage of miniature bells (tintinnabulum) and a whip on the chariot's dashboard. In Pliny, a sacred phallos loaned by the Vestal Virgins is slung between the chariot wheels; see Beard, pp. 83–85.
  11. The very few accounts of a public slave (or other figure) who stands behind or near the triumphator to remind him that he "is but mortal" or prompts him to "look behind" are from the Imperial era, and are open to a variety of interpretations. Nevertheless, they imply a tradition that whatever his kingly appearance, temporary godlike status or divine associations, the triumphing general was publicly reminded of his mortal nature. see Beard, pp. 272-5.
  12. The emperor Vespasian regretted his triumph because its vast length and slow movement bored him; see Suetonius, Vespasian, 12.
  13. The "2,700 wagonloads of captured weapons alone, never mind the soldiers and captives and captives and booty" on one day of Aemilius Paulus's triumphal "extravaganza" of 167 BCE is wild exaggeration. Some modern scholarship suggests a procession 7 km long as plausible. See Beard, p. 102.
  14. Summary based on Versnel, pp. 95–96.
  15. Beard, pp. 159–161, citing Suetonius, Augustus, 41.1.
  16. Beard, pp. 93–95, 258. For their joint Triumph of 71 CE, Titus and Vespasian treated their soldiers to a very early, and possibly traditional "Triumphal breakfast".
  17. See map, in Beard, p. 334, and discussion on pp. 92–105.
  18. The location and nature of the Porta Triumphalis are among the most uncertain and disputed aspects of the triumphal route; some sources imply a gate exclusively dedication to official processions, others a free-standing arch; or the Porta Carmentalis by another name; or any convenient gate in the vicinity. See discussion in Beard, pp. 97–101.
  19. Sometimes thought to be the same route as the modern Via dei Fori Imperiali
  20. This is where Jugurtha was starved to death, and Vercingetorix was strangled.
  21. Beard, pp. 258–259; cf Livy's "soldiers feasting as they went" at the triumph of Cincinnatus (458 BCE).
  22. Beard, p. 49.
  23. Beard, pp. 263–264.
  24. Beard pp. 19–21,
  25. Flower, Harriet I., Ancestor Masks and Aristocratic Power in Roman Culture, Oxford University Press, 1999, p. 33.
  26. Taylor, Lily Ross, The Divinity of the Roman Emperor, American Philological Association, 1931 (reprinted by Arno Press, 1975), p. 57, citing Cicero, To Atticus, 1.18.6, and Velleius Paterculus, 2.40.4. Faced with this reaction, Pompey never tried it again.
  27. Beard, pp. 23–25.
  28. Beard, pp. 22–23.
  29. Fergus Millar, "Last Year in Jerusalem: Monuments of the Jewish War in Rome", in Flavius Josephus and Flavian Rome, J. C. Edmondson, Steve Mason, J. B. Rives‏ (eds.), pp. 101–124.
  30. Beard, 196−201.
  31. See discussion in Beard, pp. 199–206, 209–210. Livy's "triumphal laws" hark back to earlier, traditional but probably reinvented Triumphs of Republican Rome's expansion to Empire, and its defeat of foreign kings; his notion that triumphal generals must possess the highest level of imperium (Livy, 38.38.4, in the 206 BC case of Scipio Africanus) is contradicted in Polybius 11.33.7, and Pompey's status at his first triumph.
  32. The tradition that triumphal generals in the Republic had been spontaneously proclaimed as imperator by their troops in the field was probably an indication of esteem and popularity, not an absolute requirement; see Beard, p. 275. While the taking of divine auspices before battle might have been formally reserved to the highest magistrate on the field, a victory proved that a commander – whatever the niceties of his authority – must have pleased the gods. Conversely, a lost battle was a sure sign of religious dereliction; see Viet Rosenberger, "The Gallic Disaster", The Classical World, (The Johns Hopkins University Press), 96, 4, 2003, p. 371, note 39.
  33. Livy, Ab Urbe Condita, 26, 21; cf. Plutarch Marcellus 19–22.
  34. Beard, p. 265.
  35. Romulus' three triumphs are in Dionysius of Halicarnassus (Antiquitates Romanae, 2.54.2 & 2.55.5). Dioysius may have seen the Fasti. Livy (1.10.5-7) allows Romulus the spolia opima, not a "triumph". Neither author mentions the two triumphs attributed by the Fasti to the last king of Rome, Tarquin. See Beard, 74 & endnotes 1 &2.
  36. Beard, 61-2, 66-7. The standard modern edition of the Fasti Triumphales is that of Attilio Degrassi, in Inscriptiones Italiae, vol.XIII, fasc.1 (Rome, 1947)
  37. Versnel considers it an invocation for divine help and manifestation, derived via an unknown pre-Greek language through Etruria, and Greece. He cites the chant of "Triumpe", repeated five times, that terminates the Carmen Arvale, a now obscure prayer for the help and protection of Mars and the Lares. Versnel, pp. 39–55 (conclusion and summary on p. 55).
  38. Beard et al, vol. 1, 44-5, 59-60: see also Plutarch, Romulus (trans. Dryden) at The Internet Classics Archive
  39. Bowersock, 1994, 157.
  40. Ovid, The Erotic Poems, 1.2.19-52. Trans P. Green.
  41. Pliny attributes the invention of the triumph to "Father Liber" (identified with Dionysus): see Pliny, Historia Naturalis, 7.57 (ed. Bostock) at Perseus:
  42. Bosworth, 67-79, notes that Arrian's attributions here are non-historic and their details almost certainly apocryphal: see Arrian, 6, 28, 1-2.
  43. Beard, p. 74.
  44. Beard, p. 235.
  45. Beard, p. 42; four, including Pompey's second Triumph, were clustered in one year (71 BCE).
  46. Cicero, Brutus, 63.
  47. See also Livy, 8, 40.
  48. Beard, 79, notes at least one ancient case of what seems blatant fabrication, in which two ancestral triumphs became three.
  49. Beard, 67: citing Valerius Maximus, 4.4.5., and Apuleius, Apol.17
  50. Dionysus of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities, 2.34.3.
  51. Livy, 39.6-7: cf Pliny, Historia Naturalis, 34.14.
  52. Beard, p. 162.
  53. Beard, 16: he was aged 25 or 26 in some accounts.
  54. Dio Cassius, 42.18.3.
  55. Pliny, Historia Naturalis, 8.4: Plutarch, Pompey, 14.4.
  56. Beard, 16, 17.
  57. Beard, 39-40, notes that the introduction of such vast sums into the Roman economy would have left substantial traces, but none are evidenced: citing Brunt, (1971) 459-60; Scheidel, (1996); Duncan-Jones, (1990), 43, & (1994), 253.
  58. Beard, 9, cites Appian's very doubtful "75,100,000" drachmae carried in the procession as 1.5 times his own estimate of Rome's total annual tax revenue: Appian, Mithradates, 116.
  59. Beard, 15-16: citing Plutarch, Pompey, 45, 5.
  60. Beard, 16. For further elaboration on Pompey's 3rd triumph, see also Plutarch, Sertorius, 18, 2, at Thayer Cicero, Man. 61: Pliny, Nat. 7, 95.
  61. Beard, 35: Pliny, Historia Naturalis, 37, 14-16.
  62. Beard, pp. 297–298.
  63. Syme, 272-5: Google Books Search
  64. Southern, 104: Google Books Search
  65. Suetonius, Lives, Claudius, 24.3: given for the conquest of Britain. Claudius was "granted" a triumph by the Senate and gave "triumphal regalia" to his prospective son-in-law, who was still "only a boy." Thayer:
  66. Beard, 61–71.
  67. Beard pp. 322–323.
  68. Claudian (404). Panegyricus de Sexto Consulatu Honorii Augusti.*.html. Retrieved 21 August 2013. 
  69. Beard, 326.
  70. Gibbon, Edward (1776-89). "Chapter XXX". The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. pp. 39–41. Retrieved 21 August 2013. "After the retreat of the barbarians, Honorius was directed to accept the dutiful invitation of the senate, and to celebrate, in the Imperial city, the auspicious aera of the Gothic victory, and of his sixth consulship." 
  71. Wace, Henry (1911). "Entry for "Honorius, Flavius Augustus, emperor"". Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century A.D., with an Account of the Principal Sects and Heresies.,%20Flavius%20Augustus,%20emperor. Retrieved 21 August 2013. "The customary games took place with great magnificence, and on this occasion St. Telemachus sacrificed himself by attempting to separate the gladiators." 
  72. Theodoret (449-50). "Book V, chapter 26". Ecclesiastical History. Retrieved 21 August 2013. "When the admirable emperor was informed of this he numbered Telemachus in the array of victorious martyrs, and put an end to that impious spectacle." 
  73. Foxe, John (1563). "Chapter III, section on "The Last Roman 'Triumph.'"". Actes and Monuments (a.k.a. Foxe's Book of Martyrs). Retrieved 21 August 2013. "[F]rom the day Telemachus fell dead . . . no other fight of gladiators was ever held there." 
  74. Dell'Orto, Luisa Franchi (June 1983). Ancient Rome: Life and Art. Scala Books. p. 52. ISBN 978-0935748468. 
  75. Beard, 318–321. Procopius' account is the source for a "marvelous set piece" of Belisarius' triumph, in Robert Graves' historical novel Count Belisarius.
  76. Zaho and Bernstein, 2004, p. 47.
  77. Beard, p. 54.
  78. Zaho and Bernstein, 2004, pp. 4, 31 ff.
  79. De fasti et triumphi Romanorum a Romulo usque ad Carolum V, Giacomo Strada, Venice, 1557 (Latin text, accessed 22 August 2013)
  80. Beard, p. 53; in preparation, Pope Paul III arranged the clearance of any buildings that obstructed the traditional Via Triumphalis.
  81. Pinson, Yona (2001). "Imperial Ideology in the Triumphal Entry into Lille of Charles V and the Crown Prince (1549)". p. 212. Retrieved 20 August 2013. "Already in his Imperial Triumphal Entry into Rome (1536) the Emperor appeared as a triumphant Roman Imperator: mounted on a white horse and wearing a purple cape, he embodied the figure of the ancient conqueror. At the head of a procession marching along the ancient Via Triumphalis, Charles had re-established himself as the legitimate successor to the Roman Empire." 
  82. Frieder, Braden (15 January 2008). Chivalry & the Perfect Prince: Tournaments, Art, and Armor at the Spanish Habsburg Court. Truman State University Press. p. 80. ISBN 978-1931112697. Retrieved 20 August 2013. 
  83. Beard, 31. See 32, Fig. 7 for a contemporary depiction of Henri's "Romanised" procession.
  84. Beard, 343, footnote 65.


  • Beard, Mary: The Roman Triumph,The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., and London, England, 2007. (hardcover). ISBN 978-0-674-02613-1
  • Beard, M., Price, S., North, J., Religions of Rome: Volume 1, a History, illustrated, Cambridge University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-521-31682-0
  • Bosworth, A. B., From Arrian to Alexander: Studies in Historical Interpretation, illustrated, reprint, Oxford University Press, 1988. ISBN 0-19-814863-1
  • Bowersock, Glen W., "Dionysus as an Epic Hero," Studies in the Dionysiaca of Nonnos, ed. N. Hopkinson, Cambridge Philosophical Society, suppl. Vol. 17, 1994, 156-66.
  • Brennan, T. Corey: "Triumphus in Monte Albano", 315-337 in R. W. Wallace & E. M. Harris (eds.) Transitions to Empire. Essays in Greco-Roman History, 360-146 B.C., in honor of E. Badian (University of Oklahoma Press, 1996) ISBN 0-8061-2863-1
  • Galinsky, G. Karl, The Herakles theme: the adaptations of the hero in literature from Homer to the twentieth century, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford, 1972. ISBN 0-631-14020-4
  • Goell, H. A., De triumphi Romani origine, permissu, apparatu, via (Schleiz, 1854)
  • Künzl, E., Der römische Triumph (Münich, 1988)
  • Lemosse, M., "Les éléments techniques de l'ancien triomphe romain et le probleme de son origine", in H. Temporini (ed.) ANRW I.2 (de Gruyter, 1972). Includes a comprehensive bibliography.
  • MacCormack, Sabine, Change and Continuity in Late Antiquity: the ceremony of "Adventus", Historia, 21, 4, 1972, pp 721–52.
  • Pais, E., Fasti Triumphales Populi Romani (Rome, 1920)
  • Richardson, J. S., "The Triumph, the Praetors and the Senate in the early Second Century B.C.", JRS 65 (1975), 50-63
  • Southern, Pat, Augustus, illustrated, reprint, Routledge, 1998. ISBN 0-415-16631-4
  • Syme, Ronald, The Augustan Aristocracy (Oxford University Press, 1986; Clarendon reprint with corrections, 1989) ISBN 0-19-814731-7
  • Versnel, H S: Triumphus: An Inquiry into the Origin, Development and Meaning of the Roman Triumph (Leiden, 1970)
  • Zaho, Margaret A, and Bernstein, Eckhard, Imago Triumphalis: The Function and Significance of Triumphal Imagery for Italian Renaissance Rulers, Peter Lang Publishing Inc, 2004, ISBN 9780820462356

External links

  • Fasti Triumphales at Partial, annotated English translation. From A. Degrassi's "Fasti Capitolini", 1954.

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