Roman Triumph The Pyrrhic War (280-275 BC)
RomanTriumph: The Pyrrhic War (280-275 BC)
The Pyrrhic warwas fought by the king of Epirus, Pyrrhus against the Roman Republic.The war was not easy for Rome since for the first time, they were tocome face to face with an army fortified by war elephants. ThoughPyrrhus enjoyed initial success against Rome, it left them weak andvulnerable which led to their ultimate defeat in the hands of theRoman legions. Once they won the war, the Romans celebrated invarious ways including parading the elephants captured after the war,dances to celebrate their win and also parading slaves captured afterthe war. The procession after such triumphs simply involvedcelebrating the safe return of the general and army to the city alongwith the fruits attained after the victory. As a result, thisdiscussion will identify and analyze how the Romans went about thePyrrhic war and how different classes of people reacted to suchtriumphs. To be precise, it will provide a narrative of the accountof the triumphal procession as viewed by the Romans.
The pyrrhic Warwas a battle between Tarentum and Rome. The war was as a result ofRome’s violation of an ‘old treaty’ with Tarentum after theirwarships cruised into Tarentum’s bay. The old treaty that Romeviolated stated that they could not sail beyond the Lucinium (Wacher275-276). Tarentum attacked the ten warships sinking four andcapturing one of them with everyone on board. This was the firstcause of the war and upon trying to mitigate the situation thepeople of Tarentum declined any pact by rejecting the terms provided,which included releasing Roman prisoners (Wacher 275-276). War wasdeclared and Tarentum sent for Pyrrhus to help fight off Romans whohad waged war against them. Before the war ended with a Roman Win, itensued in three main battles. These were the battles of Heraclea,Asculum, and Beneventum. The Battle of Heraclea ended with thePyrrhic victory, the battle of Asculum ended with a Pyrrhic victorywhile the Battle of Beneventum ended with a Roman victory.
Normally, anyvictory in war was followed by a triumph procession that entailed alot of celebration by the different classes of the people. Victoryduring the Pyrrhic war marked a new dawn for Rome as the kingdomestablished itself superior to all other nations. This is especiallyconsidering how the Romans managed to contain a trained army thateven used elephants yet they were not as good as them (Wacher275-276). The war marked Rome’s first confrontation withprofessional armies in the eastern part of the Mediterraneantherefore, the procession was land marking unlike before. Such a winmeant that the Roman power was taking over hence such an occasionwas significant to the lives of all the Romans since it marked Rome’sconquest of the world and their prominence to the different parts ofthe world. The parade therefore, was a spectacle to watch andeveryone would play a role in it and would be made proud of theachievements of their general.
Celebrationswere a norm after any victory during a war however, a standardcelebration was developed after the first Punic War (Wacher 275-276).Therefore, after the triumph over Pyrrhus, on the day of return toRome, the commander in charge of the army received a shouting ovationfrom his legions as he receives the honorary title of an imperator.This would be a sign of respect for what he had managed to achievebeyond the walls of Rome and the safe return of the triumphantsoldiers that accompanied him to the war as well. As the armyreturns, I assume that the entrance into the city was proceeded bythe leader and soldiers captured from the war as well as their allieswho would be in chains. Most of the captives are executed during theceremony for display and to appease the audiences that are in place.The general lector was dressed in red and proceeded ahead of thegeneral who was in a four-horse chariot as they moved towards thecity signifying the victory in the war that has ended, which is alsosignified by the assets captured including weapons, gold, silver, andexotic treasures (Wacher 275-276).
The processionof Rome’s triumph in the Pyrrhic war proceeds in an open spaceeasily accessible to the public. Every person in Rome, plebs,patricians and slaves all enjoyed the win since it affected theirlives as individuals. Such a victory assured all the social classesthat they would be living safely within the walls of the countrysince the country had already established itself as a superpower thatcannot be defeated by other nations. As a result, they all turned upfor the procession event to pay respect to the General and hissoldiers and to enjoy the provisions duly earned after the war. Totheir understanding, the people knew that such a war was necessary toestablish the nation’s place on the map and to expand itsterritories to new regions (Wacher, 276). As a result, for peoplesuch as the plebs and patricians, it meant that the conquest broughtabout new opportunities for them as they could trade in Tarentum asif it was Rome. This was possible because it was established as partof Rome. Such a victory made the nation to access resources from thecountry and to have control of other states allied to Tarentum, forexample, the area around Messapii, hence signifying the growinghegemony asserted in all of South Italy. Though life was lost toattain that victory, I find it necessary since Rome managed toestablish itself as the only powerhouse and the traditional enemiesof the Greeks of Italy, including Carthage, would not dare to attackthem and risk defeat. Most of the people were glad about the win andfound it even possible to conquer other states in the future as theydid with Tarentum, hence there was happiness portrayed during theprocession (Beard 42-44). Other than that, some of the people were ingrief at the same time due to the loss suffered during the war. Thiswas mainly because some of the people did not manage to get back toRome.
In conclusion,I find that the war was a necessary evil for Rome since rather thanweakening them it left them strong and fearsome. In fact, neither ofthe nations could manage to challenge the nation and remain standing.The Triumph procession is a direct indication of the people’semotions. The fact that many people gathered to witness, it impliesthat they were glad of the victory and supported their general tocarry out such actions for the sake of the country.
Beard,Mary. TheRoman Triumph.Havard: Harvard University Press, 2009.
Wacher,John. TheRoman World.London: Routledge, 2013.
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