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In Ancient Rome, a Slave Would Whisper 'Remember You're Mortal' in the Ears of Victorious Generals On Their Homecoming Parade

Ancient History | January 23, 2017

In ancient Rome, triumphant generals are paraded in horse-drawn chariots on the streets after every major military victory. This cavalcade terminates in the temple of Jupiter, on the Capitoline Hill, as the military officials offer sacrifice.

The rite usually commences early in the morning and lasts the whole day; sometimes even extends to two days. Prior to entering the city at a specific point, the Porta Triumphalis, the general would first give a speech commending his legions.

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Brandishing throughout the streets of Rome, the victorious general in his chariot-- decorated with gold and ivory, his troops following his trail and preceded by his prisoners and spoils of the war. This feat of the victorious general offered exceptional opportunities for self-publicity and thus, popularity with the people of Rome. For them, the victorious general is in some way, supernatural; representing the god Jupiter.

Among the intriguing parts of this ceremonial procession was that behind the chariot of the triumphant general stood a slave, carrying a golden crown over his head, and whispering to him throughout, ‘Remember you are mortal’, admonishing to him that he is a man even when he is succeeding.

Upon reaching the temple of Jupiter, a bull will be slayed as sacrificial offering and some of the war loots in honor of Jupiter. After the ceremony, a musical escort was provided for the general to accompany him to his home.

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