"and behind him a public slave to whisper in his ear that he was only human and all this would pass."

The public slave’s function was to remind the triumphator, who wore purple robes and was treated like a king during his triumph, of his mortality, humility and place in Rome. Rome would not tolerate any man with ambitions to become sole ruler, so did not want to overly encourage any lust for personal power in the mind of the victorious general. The actual words of the slave are not known, but suggestions are: ‘look behind you, remember you are only a man,’ and, ‘remember that you are mortal.’