- THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE TRIUMPH
H. S. Versnel's detailed monograph Triumphus explains how the Roman triumph evolved from Etruscan and Greek ceremonies calling for an epiphany of Dionysus, the dying and rising god. In the Athenian New Year festival Anthesteria, Dionysus, portrayed in costume by the king, was carried into the city in a formal procession which included a bull to be sacrificed. The king was a fitting representative of the anthropomorphic god because Dionysus was generally portrayed as the god who triumphs, especially over men. The procession culminated in a cry for the epiphany of the god
(epia!l~£, triumpe in Latin), the bull was sacrificed, and the king appeared as the god
. It is noteworthy that several ancient cultures celebrated similar rites and tolerated the simultaneous presence of the bull and the king, who both represented the god. In Greece, Zeus eventually supplanted Dionysus. There are many links between the two gods,5
but the shift may have centered on the position of Zeus as king of the gods. In Rome, Zeus became Jupiter, and the vestiges of homage to Dionysus (Bacchus), whose cult had merged with that of Liber, added some significant details to the sacral elements of the Roman version of the triumph.6 - note the reference to a crown
The Roman adaptation of the triumph allowed victorious generals to replace kings as triumphators. Historians of the period appear to downplay - or perhaps to assume - the sacral elements of the triumph in their attention to its political aspects. As a result, we do not have a single description of the culminating moment of sacrifice at the conclusion of a triumph but must piece together the probable scene in the first century from a variety of extant sources, both literary and monumental.
describes an early Roman triumph after which subsequent processions were patterned. First, the soldiers would proclaim a victorious general as imperator and the senate would decree a triumph. The triumphator appeared 'arrayed in the triumphal dress and wearing armlets, with a laurel crown upon his head, and holding a branch in his right hand .. .' He called together the people, praised the gathered soldiers, distributed gifts, and then mounted a tower-shaped chariot upon which he moved in procession with a slave holding a crown over his head
. He was preceded into the city by captives and graphic representations of his victories. Finally, 'the victorious general arrived at the Roman Forum, and after commanding that some of the captives be led to prison and put to death, he rode up to the Capitol. There he performed certain rites and made offerings and dined in the porticos up there, after which he departed homeward toward evening .. .'
6. Pliny HN 16.4 explains that Liber invented the symbols of royalty, including the crown
7. 6.23 (Zonar. 7.21).