National Geographic : 1946 Nov
Triumphal Procession IN REPUBLICAN times a Roman gen eral who had conquered a foe on the field of battle and acquired new territory for his fatherland could pe tition the senate for a formal triumph. The senate would then assemble out side the city walls in the sanctuary of the war-goddess Bellona and, if favorable to the request, enact the legal fiction of extending the vic torious commander authority within city limits. Without such permission, the con queror would lose all rank the instant he entered Rome. Fear of a military coup d'etat by a victorious leader with his armed followers in the very seat of government was obviously be hind this law, which in imperial times became so strict that only the em peror himself was ever permitted to celebrate a triumph. The triumph having been voted by the senate, a long procession of horse drawn floats, laden with booty and followed by captive princes and gen erals walking in chains, was assembled in the Field of Mars, in the bend of the Tiber opposite St. Peter's. This district, though densely settled in later times, lay beyond the old "Ser vian" Wall of republican Rome and thus technically outside the city. Thence the senators and magistrates escorted the triumphal procession along an established route through the city streets and up the winding ascent to the Temple of Jupiter atop the Capitoline Hill. Sacrifices and thank offerings were made at the temple, then the prisoners were led away, traditionally to their death. A sumptuous feast followed, to which soldiery and populace were all invited. In imperial times the emperor ac corded a triumph rode on a gilded and laurel-wreathed car drawn by four horses, his military costume brilliant with gold breastplate and red-purple mantle. The procession swung past the huge Flavian Amphitheater, known since the Middle Ages as the "Colosseum," and followed the paved Sacred Way under the triumphal Arch of Titus. From there the road led to the Forum and the Capitoline Hill. Domitian built the Arch of Titus in A. D. 81 to commemorate his prede cessor's sack of Jerusalem and hu miliation of the Jews. Later emperors added two more of these curious free standing structures to adorn the pro cessional way-one just southwest of the Colosseum in the name of the Christian Emperor Constantine, the other in honor of Septimius Severus, at a corner of the Forum where the Capitoline ascent began. Such imperial arches were not con fined to Rome. One of the finest stands at Benevento, and another at Ancona. Both were in honor of Trajan. Except for a few that served as city gates, these arches had no utilitarian purpose whatever. One supposition is that they represented the yoke of submission under which captives were forced to march. Representations of triumphal arches on coins and medallions always show them carrying a bronze chariot with four horses, similar to those in tra ditional use for the actual processions. The celebrated four bronze horses of St. Mark's in Venice are almost cer tainly from such a monument. The Colosseum, largest of Roman amphitheaters, was completed by Titus in A. D. 80. Although two-thirds of the mammoth structure have dis appeared, enough remains to remind us that "While stands the Coliseum, Rome shall stand; and with its fall, falls Rome and all the world."