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Wednesday, November 21, 2012


The word triumph is very versatile as it is both a noun and verb.  Triumph (v.) is defined in the OED as to be “victorious; to prevail; to gain the mastery; ‘To rejoice for victory’; to be elated at another's defeat, discomfiture, or the like; ‘to insult upon an advantage gained’ (Johnson); hence, to rejoice, exult, be elated or glad; to glory”. The word triumph (v.) stems from the Old French word triumpher, Spanish triunfar, and Italian troinfare until it reaches the Latin word triumphāre< triumphus. After this point in history the word triumph becomes a noun. Triumphus derives from Greek θρίαμβος which is a hymn in honour of Bacchus. Bacchus is the Greek god of wine and vivid social gatherings. This is very fitting as the definition of triumph (n.) in the OED is “The action or fact of triumphing; victory, conquest, or the glory of this; also, a signal success or achievement; a public festivity or joyful celebration; a spectacle or pageant; esp. a tournament”.
Triumph is a word that is deeply rooted in ancient Roman culture. A massive civil celebration called a Roman Triumph (triumphus) was held when a victorious military commander would enter the city of Rome with his troops and the spoils of war. The army would only be aloud through the city gates with the permission of the senate, as was the republican tradition. A Triumph was a spectacle of massive proportion as thousands of legionnaires would haul slaves and foreign treasure into the city. 

On the day of a Triumph the commander for which this ceremony was being held would lead a procession on a chariot that consisted of his unarmed men and their tokens of war. The procession would be led through the streets of Rome until they made it to the temple of Jupiter on Capitoline Hill. The commander would sacrifice these tokens to Jupiter as a show of good faith to the Gods. After this sacrifice the commander gained the permanent tittle of ‘vir triumphalis’ or ‘a man of triumph’. Later in Roman history these men would be known as triumphators. 

The origins of the Roman Triumph have been lost in time but many historians date the first Triumph back to the mythical past. Most accounts of triumphs were not written with the intent of providing an accurate representation of the ceremony but were written to boast of Rome’s power, wealth and grandeur. The Roman Triumph did not die with the Romans  The Roman Triumph was imitated in the medieval ages as well as later eras through Royal entries and other victorious ceremonial events.

Work cited
"triumph, n.". OED Online. September 2012. Oxford University Press. 21 November 2012 <http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/206492?rskey=GV6XiD&result=1>.
"triumph, v.". OED Online. September 2012. Oxford University Press. 21 November 2012 <http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/206493?rskey=GV6XiD&result=2>.

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