Page 77. " only one general would be triumphing that year "
The Triumph of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius
GNU Free Documentation LicenseThe Triumph of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius - Credit: MatthiasKabel/Wikimedia Commons

A Triumph was a ceremony in which a victorious Roman general was treated to lavish praise for his achievements. Whether or not the victories of a general were deserving of a triumph was decided by the senate. The Triumph consisted of a parade through the Campus Martius (Field of Mars), into Rome (entering Rome signified the relinquishment of military command), through the streets and the Forum, up to the Capitol and the Temple of Jupiter. Here the triumphator would sacrifice to the gods, then dedicate his wreath to Jupiter.

The triumphator wore the gold-embroidered purple triumphal toga (royal colours), and may have painted his face red to match the red face of Jupiter. In this way, the triumphing general was treated as a king, perhaps even a semi-divine one, for one day. This was his moment of glory, after which he was expected to live as a humble man once again, though he would always have the honour of being remembered as a triumphator.

Page 79. " Even the tombs that line the Appian Way so thickly "

The Appian Way
GNU Free Documentation LicenseThe Appian Way - Credit: Kleuske/Wikimedia Commons
The Appian Way was a long Roman road that stretched from the Forum in Rome all the way down to southeast Italy. Tombs lined the side of the road outside Rome; burial inside the city was forbidden out of concerns of religious pollution.

The Appian Way Shown on Map
Public DomainThe Appian Way Shown on Map - Credit: AlMare/Wikimedia Commons

Page 79. " the statue of Scipio Africanus, perhaps "

Scipio Africanus
Public DomainScipio Africanus - Credit: Wikimedia Commons
 Scipio Africanus was the hero of the Second Punic War, the Roman general who defeated the Carthaginian Hannibal.

Page 81. " he was squeamish about pain and death, even when inflicted on animals, and for that reason tried to avoid attending the games. "
Roman Games, Bear Fighting. Left leaf of an ivory diptych
Public DomainRoman Games, Bear Fighting. Left leaf of an ivory diptych - Credit: Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons
The Games were a form of Roman entertainment, sometimes connected with a religious holiday. They involved fights between gladiators as well as men fighting wild beasts – a very gory spectacle. In a letter to M. Marius in 55 BC, Cicero talked of the pointlessness of the violence of the Games:

“There remain the two wild-beast hunts, lasting five days, magnificent – nobody denies it – and yet, what pleasure can it be to a man of refinement, when either a weak man is torn by an extremely powerful animal, or a splendid animal is transfixed by a hunting spear?”

(Cicero’s Letters. Translation: Evelyn S. Shuckburgh (1908-1909) The Letters of Cicero; the whole extant correspondence in chronological order, in four volumes. London. George Bell and Sons.)

Read more of Cicero’s Letters, Philosophy and Speeches at the Perseus Digital Library.

Find out more about the Games, the gladiators and Roman entertainment here.

A Roman Amphitheatre (where the Games were held) in Verona
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeA Roman Amphitheatre (where the Games were held) in Verona - Credit: Horacio Arevalo/Wikimedia Commons

Page 81. " Standards fluttered over the gate "
Roman SPQR Vexilloid
Creative Commons AttributionRoman SPQR Vexilloid - Credit: Ssolbergj/Wikimedia Commons
The standards were the flags that the armies carried into battle, used as rallying points and signals as well as symbols of the might and superiority of Rome. They were basically a long pole with a piece of rectangular material (the vexillum) attached to a cross bar. The pole was topped by the eagle (Aquila). It was considered bad luck and a great disgrace for the eagle standard to be captured by the enemy. The words SPQR might be found on the flag, standing for ‘Senatus Populusque Romanus’ or ‘the senate and people of Rome.’


Roman Standard shown on a coin of Mark Antony
GNU Free Documentation LicenseRoman Standard shown on a coin of Mark Antony - Credit: Saperaud/Wikimedia Commons

Page 83. " I doubt whether many slaves, once they hear of this, will rise against Rome in the future "

Slaves (or prisoners) in a Chain Gang
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumSlaves (or prisoners) in a Chain Gang - Credit: G.dallorto/Wikimedia Commons
The ancient Romans kept such a vast number of slaves and used slave labour in so many aspects of life that they were extremely vulnerable to slave revolt. This is why any rebellious slaves had to be punished severely and publicly as an example to the rest. One law stated that if a master was killed by one of his slaves, the entire household of slaves would be immediately put to death regardless of their involvement in the crime. This was intended to encourage loyalty; any slave who heard whispers of rebellion amongst the others would not wish to hold this information back from his or her master. This is why the slaves who followed Spartacus were treated so ruthlessly.

Page 85. " been saluted imperator by the legions "

The Continence of Scipio Africanus, by Giovanni Francesco Romanelli
Creative Commons AttributionThe Continence of Scipio Africanus, by Giovanni Francesco Romanelli - Credit: Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons
In the late 3rd century BC, the great Roman general Scipio Africanus was hailed as king by the native Spanish troops serving under him. He created the title imperator for them to use instead, and since then the title had been used by Roman armies to hail a successful leader. Being named imperator by one’s troops was just one of the requirements for a triumph, others including the holding of magisterial imperium (e.g. praetorship or consulship), withdrawing of troops once the conflict was resolved, and a significant enough victory over a powerful foe. As slaves were not considered a worthy enemy, Crassus should technically not be entitled to a triumph.

Page 87. " After that was settled, we joined the throngs of citizens heading west towards the Field of Mars "

Campus Martius marked on a map of Rome
Public DomainCampus Martius marked on a map of Rome - Credit: Wikimedia Commons
The Field of Mars (or Campus Martius) was a large area of land near the river, outside the city walls of Rome. It was used at this time as a meeting ground for the elections, for the city militia, and as a gathering place for troops. It was also here that a victorious general’s triumph would begin.

Page 98. " ‘Divorce,’ he muttered into his pillow, ‘that is the answer, Tiro – divorce "

Divorce was allowed and not uncommon in ancient Rome. Both husband and wife had the right to end the marriage if and when they chose, an unusual freedom for women of the ancient world. However, though the law allowed these freedoms, family pressure and taboos were another matter.