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The Story of the Romans by  H. A. Guerber


 

 

A ROMAN TRIUMPH

AS Brutus had died before the battle was even begun, the command of the Roman army had fallen to his fellow-consul, Valerius, who was an able man. When the fight was over, the people were so well pleased with the efforts of their general that they said he should receive the honors of a triumph.

As you have probably never yet heard of a triumph, and as you will see them often mentioned in this book, you should know just what they were, at least in later times.

When a Roman general had won a victory, or taken possession of a new province, the news was of course sent at once to the senate at Rome. If the people were greatly pleased by it, the senate decided that the victorious commander should be rewarded by a grand festival, or triumph, as soon as he returned to Rome.

The day when such a general arrived was a public holiday, and the houses were hung with garlands. The Romans, who were extremely fond of processions and shows [70] of all kinds, put on their festive attire, and thronged the streets where the returning general was expected to pass. They all bore fragrant flowers, which they strewed over the road.

A noisy blast of trumpets heralded the coming of the victor, who rode in a magnificent gilded chariot drawn by four white horses. He wore a robe of royal purple, richly embroidered with gold, and fastened by jeweled clasps on his shoulder; and in his hand he held an ivory scepter.

On the conqueror's head was a crown of laurel, the emblem of victory, and the reward given to those who had served their country well. The chariot was surrounded by the lictors, in festive array, bearing aloft their bundles of rods and glittering axes.

In front of, or behind, the chariot, walked the most noted prisoners of war, chained together like slaves, and escorted by armed soldiers. Then came a long train of soldiers carrying the spoil won in the campaign. Some bore gold and silver vases filled with money or precious stones; others, pyramids of weapons taken from the bodies of their foes.

These were followed by men carrying great signs, on which could be seen the names of the cities or countries which had been conquered. There were also servants, carrying the pictures, statues, and fine furniture which the victor brought back to Rome. After the conqueror's chariot came the victorious army, whose arms had been polished with extra care for this festive occasion.

The procession thus made its solemn entrance into the city, and wound slowly up the hill to the Capitol, where [71] the general offered up a thanksgiving sacrifice to the gods. The victim on the occasion of a triumph was generally a handsome bull, with gilded horns, and decked with garlands of choice flowers.

Servants were placed along the road, with the golden dishes in which they burned rare perfumes. These filled the air with their fragrance, and served as incense for the victor, as well as for the gods, whom he was thought to equal on that day.


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