Earning Triumph

What does the word "Roman triumph" inspires? Sandals trampling the vanquished, line after line of Italian conquerors from Sea to Steppe? Or is the pageantry of the Triumph ceremony, the gilded chariot, the grass crowns, the captured prisoners and slaves, the exotic and gaudy loot paraded, the soldiers and their crude jokes?

Perhaps you can even picture the slave in the leading car, whispering at the triumphant's general ear, asking him to remember, remember that they are still mortal. 

If we reduce the Roman triumph to its atomics components, at its core we find a very simple idea: Being a god for a day. 

Romans had a different idea of divinity than we do in most modern religious, with a unique relationship with the gods often lost by shelfing them alongside Greek mythology and their own dysfunctional relationship with religion. Roman view of divinity was build upon two seemingly paradoxical ideas: Divinity was something not entirely differentiated from the mortal world, divinity was something that everyone had the potential to achieve, a divine spark or bond, a part of you that could awaken to achieve heroic or godlike status, At the same time, the divine was untouched by material guises, or as Plutarch puts it, if it seems and acts like Man or Beast, it is Man or Beast and no God. 

Divinity was more of an invisible force, that tied apparently unrelated things and events. It belonged to no god or man, being something generated, groomed and shared by belief, community, myth and bold and heroic actions worth of a god. 

Enter the Triumph ceremony.

Since it is a communal force, only the community can grant it to the victorious general. While the trappings we must associate with the event only got fully described during the Twilight of the Republic, and while the gaudy events of Pompey already drew too much from Eastern monarchies and disregarded Roman tradition, that idea of divine investment probably remained true since the mythic first Triumph celebrated to honour Romulus' military prowess. 

In the world of the Heroes of the Republic, Triumphants have received Triumph not by military actions and political whims, but through sheer virtue and determination. Far from a common instance, it requires a perfect balance between some of the finer points of the human experience. Headstrong and dedicated to their convictions, yet capable of sublimating their own ego and disappearing under the cloak of myth and legend. Willing to use power, and yet understanding they are channeling it for others and it ultimately does not belong to them.   

Triumphants must be Heroes. They might not be nice, they might not be good, but they are always Heroic. 

Dancing with divinity is a dangerous proposition, a hard and fast lifestyle that assures most Triumphants do not live to old age. If one douses it with mundane and base concerns, the flame might extinguish itself the moment you need it the most; fan it too much and it will consume all you were and will ever be, twisting you into a mockery into the Hero you aimed to be. 

So enjoy it, Triumphant. Touch Heaven and the Underworld and bring down its power. Just do not ignore the little voice whispering in your ear.

Memento Mori.