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In Capitolium: The Triumphator and Jupiter Optimus Maximus

Caroline Mann


The Roman triumph is often read as an honor chiefly for the triumphator himself (e.g. Rüpke, 2012). The affinities between the triumphing general and Jupiter are primarily thought to be a means by which the triumphator is able to accrue prestige. In this paper, I seek to re-emphasize the religious aspects of the triumph, and specifically the ways in which the triumph and the rituals that follow serve to honor Jupiter Optimus Maximus and the Capitoline temple. This paper stands in dialogue with ongoing debates about the status of the triumphator in relation to Jupiter, which have focused on the issue of triumphal dress (Versnel, 1970; 2006; Rüpke, 2012). I wish to move beyond the constraints of this particular line of inquiry in order to emphasize the centrality of Jupiter Optimus Maximus to the whole complex of events surrounding the triumph.

I identify three stages of the relationship between Jupiter and the potential triumphator: The connection between the general and Jupiter is established prior to setting out on campaign in the profectio. When the general next returns to the Capitoline during the triumph, the procession concludes with a sacrifice that pays homage to Jupiter. Even after the triumph, the triumphator often continues to celebrate Jupiter through further gifts and ludi votivi.

Before the potential triumphator sets out on campaign, he appears paludatus on the Capitoline to make vows to Jupiter. With the profectio vows, the general creates a contract between himself and Jupiter Optimus Maximus that is fulfilled when he returns in triumph to complete his sacrifice and dedication of laurels at the same temple. This ring composition was not obligatory (most generals never celebrated a triumph), but could be evoked to good rhetorical effect (e.g. Livy 45.39.10-13: Marcus Servilius’ argument that Aemilius Paullus be allowed to triumph).

During the triumph itself, the parade climaxes with a sacrifice performed for Jupiter, again before the Capitoline temple. While other aspects of the triumph varied, the sacrifice and dedication of laurels were repeated in every triumph and served as the culmination of the procession; the rest of the parade could be seen as ornamental. The sacrifice itself, and its relation to Jupiter Optimus Maximus’ contract with the Roman state, receives little attention from ancient or modern authors. It is easy to downplay the importance of the sacrifice in the triumph because it is discussed so sparingly in literary accounts, but this is likely to be a function of the aims of ancient historiographical writing. I argue that the centrality and invariability of the Capitoline sacrifice in the triumphal parade caused writers to take it for granted; they focused instead upon novelties. Visual evidence, on the other hand, emphasizes the sacrificial aspect of the triumph (e.g. the Boscoreale cups, the Arch of Trajan at Beneventum).

Scholarship on post-triumphal commemoration of the generals’ deeds has tended to focus primarily upon votive temples (e.g. Orlin 1997). However, Jupiter becomes an obvious presence when one turns to other means of commemoration, specifically smaller dedications and votive games. At the time of the battle the general could not know whether he would ultimately be given the opportunity to triumph, and so might bind himself instead to give games for Jupiter. When celebrated, these games formally resembled a triumph, beginning with a sacrifice on the Capitoline. Finally, in some cases, even when a gift or temple was given to another deity, the general would also adorn the Capitoline temple (e.g. Livy 40.52.5-7: Aemilius Regillus’ dedicatory inscription to the Lares Permarini was replicated in the Capitoline).

Emphasizing the ways in which the triumphator renders thanks to Jupiter Optimus Maximus offers a perspective on the relationship between Rome and its gods. In particular, the connection between Jupiter and the Capitoline temple with Roman hegemony comes to the fore (as in Flower, 2008; Perry, 2012). In the triumph, Jupiter is cultivated because Roman victory is consistently tied to his favor.

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The Power of Place

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