Contested Triumphs

MPP book I just finished reading my friend Miriam Pelikan Pittenger’s Contested Triumphs: Politics, Pageantry, and Performance in Livy’s Republican Rome. Concentrating on the late third and early second centuries BCE, she looks at senate debates concerning whether returning commanders deserved triumphs. Part one considers the general standards governing triumphs. Did you have imperium? Had you killed a sufficient number of enemy soldiers? Things like that… Though there were some ‘guidelines,’ “the Romans of the Republic never settled upon a foolproof set of positive criteria for the awarding of triumphs” [26]. Given the rivalries within the Roman upper-class, this ambiguity occasionally led to bitter political struggles. Part two looks at some of these struggles. Particularly interesting are chapters 13 and 14 which discuss, respectively, the case of M. Popilius Laenas, who went a little too far after the Statellates surrendered to him unconditionally, and that of L. Aemilius Paullus whose triumph seemed like a sure thing until he angered his own soldiers (over their share of the spoils, of course). This is a fascinating and well-written book which shows that the early second century can be just as interesting as the Second Punic War or the fall of the Republic.

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