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Q: Roman Soldiers ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Roman Soldiers
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: summer95-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 23 Aug 2004 22:42 PDT
Expires: 22 Sep 2004 22:42 PDT
Question ID: 391692
I heard a story that when the Roman military leaders returned from
many years of travel and victorious battle, that they would be paraded
through the welcoming crowds in a chariot. Two slaves would accompany
them: one to steer the chariot; the other to whisper into the ear of
the victorious leader ?Heed not the call of the crowds, for all glory
is fleeting.? I probably don?t have the quote correct, but I?m sure
you get the idea of its meaning.

So my question is, are there any references for this story?
Subject: Re: Roman Soldiers
Answered By: pinkfreud-ga on 24 Aug 2004 00:00 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
I've gathered several online accounts of the story for you. In recent
times, this story has been widely popularized by the novel "Quo Vadis"
and by the film "Patton."

"The movie Patton that chronicles the many WWII conquests of General
George Patton ends with the statement:

For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars
enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. The conqueror rode
in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before
him. And a slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and
whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting."

First United Methodist Church, Dallas: A Hero?s Welcome

"In ancient Rome generals and emperors who had won a great victory
over one of Rome?s enemies received on their return a triumphal
procession through the city?s streets. In the procession were slaves
and captives, carts loaded with plunder, ranks of marching soldiers
and jaunty cavalry...

Always in this triumph a slave stood in the chariot behind the
victorious general. Over the general?s head he held a garland of
laurel, signifying victory. Into the general?s ear the slave
repeatedly whispered a caveat: 'All glory is fleeting. All glory is

Smoky Mountain News: Roman Caveat

"Impressive in its splendour and symbolic character, the ceremony of
triumph was a congenital part of Roman culture.

The ceremony continued for at least one day, during which the Roman
people were presented with a vast parade celebrating the glory of the
returning general. The conqueror rode in a triumphal gilded chariot
led by white horses, and the dazed prisoners walked in front of him.
In imperial times the conqueror was crowned with a laurel wreath and
wore a purple tunic embroidered with palms under a purple toga
embroidered with stars. Sometimes his children, robed in white, stood
with him in the chariot, or rode the trace-horses. A slave stood
behind the conqueror, holding a golden crown over his head, and
whispering in his ear a warning that all glory's fleeting."

MV Belous: Roman Triumph

"Trooping through the streets of ancient Rome, conquering legions
under the standard of the eagle wheeled carts piled high with the
booty of war. Plundered were the treasuries of the vanquished. Gold,
silver, jewels, livestock and grain overflowed. Captured enemy
soldiers, their faces lowered in defeat and humiliation, were forced
at spear point to march past the cheering crowds of patriotic

At the rear of the procession rolled Caesar?s chariot, equipped with
an unusual, human safety device. To prevent pride from consuming him,
the man of the hour had positioned a lowly servant at his side. His
sole responsibility was to temper the boundless enthusiasm expressed
by Caesar?s adoring fans with the three word warning, 'Sic Transit

A literal Latin rendering of the phrase is translated 'Thus passes
glory.' A more fluent English version might be, 'All fame is

Web Today: Et Tu, USA?

"What perhaps is needed is not so much the return of the truth-telling
court jester, but rather the return of that other Roman institution,
the public slave. He had but a limited job; it was this: When a
victorious Roman general returned to Rome and was accorded what was
called a triumph, he was allowed to march his armies, his booty, his
captives and his spoils through the sacred walls and roads of the
city. The general rode in a great gilded chariot in all his finery,
but at his feet sat the public slave who held a small bunch of burning
straws which during the procession turned to ashes, and the slave
repeated into the general?s ear ?remember thou art only mortal?, ?sic
transit gloria mundi? thus all the glories of the world pass away."

Keystone Publishing: Court Jesters and Public Slaves

"A Roman Triumph was a ceremony of the ancient Rome to publicly honor
the military commander (Dux) of a notably successful foreign war or
campaigns. Only men of senatorial or consular rank could perform a
triumph and be a triumphator...

The ceremony consisted of a spectacular parade, opened by the chiefs
of conquered peoples (afterwards executed in the Tarquinium), followed
by wagons of gold and other valuable spoils captured during the
campaign (including slaves), musicians, dancers, flags drawn with
scenes of the war, the legions and finally the dux. It was a concrete
exhibit of the spoils brought to the patrimony of Senatus PopulusQue
Romanus (S.P.Q.R.).

The triumphator rode on a biga, a chariot pulled by two white horses.
A slave behind the triumphator held a laurel crown over his head (not
touching it). Notably, this slave had to repeat continuously 'Memento
homo.' (Remember you are mortal)."

Wikipedia: Roman Triumph

"The triumphator, in a golden chariot, wearing a tunica covered in
palm leaves, under an embroidered, purple toga, with his face painted
red. He was accompanied by a slave who stood behind him in the
chariot, holding a golden crown over his head, whispering in his ears,
'remember, you are mortal.' When the procession reached the
Capitoline, after dispatching the requisite number of prisoners of
war, the triumphator offered sacrifice to Jupiter and then dismissed
his troops. The day concluded with feasts throughout the city (usually
at the triumphator's expense) to which virtually every citizen was

Bates College: Roman Triumphs

It should be noted that, popular though the story has become, it may
not be historically accurate:

"I think this story is a bit apocryphal, perhaps an invention of the
Renaissance. The Latin quotation is 'Memento te mortalem esse', but
it's not found in the ancient sources, only an incidental remark in
Tertullianus, Apologeticum 33,4, something like '... it's being
shouted to you from behind, remember you are mortal...'. And I guess
the image of the slave on the chariot is confused with the Victoria,
holding the wreath above the triumphator's head. In fact I think the
sentiment of this story is alien to the Roman spirit, possibly
invented by Late antique or Renaissance moral philosophy."

sci.classics newsgroup: Triumphator's slave?

Google search strategy:

Google Web Search: "roman" + "slave" + "glory is fleeting"

Google Search Strategy: "sic transit gloria" + "slave"

I hope this is helpful. If anything is unclear or incomplete, or if a
link doesn't work for you, please request clarification; I'll be glad
to offer further assistance before you rate my answer.

Best regards,
summer95-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $2.00
Another super answer. Thanks pinkfreud

Subject: Re: Roman Soldiers
From: pinkfreud-ga on 24 Aug 2004 16:20 PDT
Thank you for the five stars and the tip!


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