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The ovation (Latin : ovatio from ovare: to rejoice) was a form of the Roman triumph. Ovations were granted when war was not declared between enemies on the level of nations or states; when an enemy was considered basely inferior (e.g., slaves, pirates); or when the general conflict was resolved with little or no danger to the army itself. [1]

Roman triumph

The Roman triumph was a civil ceremony and religious rite of ancient Rome, held to publicly celebrate and sanctify the success of a military commander who had led Roman forces to victory in the service of the state or, originally and traditionally, one who had successfully completed a foreign war.


The general celebrating the ovation did not enter the city on a biga , a chariot pulled by two white horses, as generals celebrating triumphs did, but instead walked in the toga praetexta of a magistrate.

Biga (chariot) chariot pulled by two horses

The biga is the two-horse chariot as used in ancient Rome for sport, transportation, and ceremonies. Other animals may replace horses in art and occasionally for actual ceremonies. The term biga is also used by modern scholars for the similar chariots of other Indo-European cultures, particularly the two-horse chariot of the ancient Greeks and Celts. The driver of a biga is a bigarius.

Toga draped mantle worn in Ancient Greece and Rome

The toga, a distinctive garment of ancient Rome, was a roughly semicircular cloth, between 12 and 20 feet in length, draped over the shoulders and around the body. It was usually woven from white wool, and was worn over a tunic. In Roman historical tradition, it is said to have been the favoured dress of Romulus, Rome's founder; it was also thought to have been worn by both sexes, and by the citizen-military. As Roman women gradually adopted the stola, the toga was recognised as formal wear for Roman citizen men. Women engaged in prostitution might have provided the main exception to this rule.

The honoured general also wore a wreath of myrtle (sacred to Venus) upon his brow, rather than the triumphal wreath of laurel. The Roman Senate did not precede the general, nor did soldiers usually participate in the procession.

<i>Myrtus</i> genus of plants

Myrtus, with the common name myrtle, is a genus of flowering plants in the family Myrtaceae, described by Swedish botanist Linnaeus in 1753.

Venus (mythology) Ancient Roman goddess of love, sex, and fertility

Venus is a Roman goddess, whose functions encompassed love, beauty, desire, sex, fertility, prosperity and victory. In Roman mythology, she was the ancestor of the Roman people through her son, Aeneas, who survived the fall of Troy and fled to Italy. Julius Caesar claimed her as his ancestor. Venus was central to many religious festivals, and was revered in Roman religion under numerous cult titles.

Roman Senate A political institution in ancient Rome

The Roman Senate was a political institution in ancient Rome. It was one of the most enduring institutions in Roman history, being established in the first days of the city of Rome,. It survived the overthrow of the kings in 509 BC, the fall of the Roman Republic in the 1st century BC, the division of the Roman Empire in 395 AD, the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD, and the barbarian rule of Rome in the 5th, 6th, and 7th centuries.

Perhaps the most famous ovation in history is that which Marcus Licinius Crassus celebrated after his victory of the Third Servile War.

Marcus Licinius Crassus Roman consul

Marcus Licinius Crassus was a Roman general and politician who played a key role in the transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire. He is often called "The richest man in Rome".

Third Servile War war

The Third Servile War, also called by Plutarch the Gladiator War and The War of Spartacus, was the last in a series of slave rebellions against the Roman Republic, known collectively as the Servile Wars. The Third was the only one directly to threaten the Roman heartland of Italia. It was particularly alarming to Rome because its military seemed powerless to suppress it.

Ovation holders


There were 23 known ovations during the Republic. [2]

Publius Postumius Tubertus, the son of Quintus, was the first of the patrician gens Postumia to obtain the consulship, which he held in 505 BC, the fifth year of the Roman Republic. Together with his colleague, Marcus Valerius Volusus, he fought against the Sabines, whom they defeated decisively near Tibur, obtaining a triumph.

Gaius Aquillius Tuscus was consul of the Roman Republic from the gens Aquillia in 487 BC together with Titus Sicinius Sabinus. Aquillius led the war against the Hernici. Not many details are known, but Dionysius of Halicarnassus records that he was awarded an ovation, a lesser form of triumph for his victory.

Gnaeus Manlius Vulso was Roman consul in 474 BC with Lucius Furius Medullinus Fusus.



  1. Maxfield, Valerie A. (1981). The Military Decorations of the Roman Army. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 104–105. ISBN   978-0-520-04499-9 . Retrieved 6 October 2011.
  2. G. Rohde. Ovatio, RE XVIII, 1939, p. 1890-1903
  3. Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia 15:38
  4. T. Robert S. Broughton. The magistrates of the Roman Republic pp. 19-20
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Fasti Triumphales
  6. T. Robert S. Broughton. The magistrates of the Roman Republic pp. 69-70
  7. T. Robert S. Broughton. The magistrates of the Roman Republic p. 77
  8. T. Robert S. Broughton. The magistrates of the Roman Republic p. 92
  9. T. Robert S. Broughton. The magistrates of the Roman Republic pp. 183-184
  10. T. Robert S. Broughton. The magistrates of the Roman Republic pp. 273-274
  11. T. Robert S. Broughton. The magistrates of the Roman Republic p. 294
  12. T. Robert S. Broughton. The magistrates of the Roman Republic p. 324
  13. T. Robert S. Broughton. The magistrates of the Roman Republic p. 373
  14. T. Robert S. Broughton. The magistrates of the Roman Republic p. 383
  15. Florus, Epitome of Roman History, book 2:7-8
  16. T. Robert S. Broughton. The magistrates of the Roman Republic, p. 3 Archived 2015-04-21 at the Wayback Machine
  17. Plutarch, The Life of Crassus 11:8
  18. Lendering, Jona, Arch of Drusus
  19. Suetonius, The Life of Tiberius 9
  20. Alan K. Bowman, Edward Champlin, Andrew Lintott. The Cambridge Ancient History: The Augustan Empire, 43 B.C. – A.D. 69, p. 554
  21. Suetonius, The Life of Caligula 49
  22. Tacitus, "Annales" (xiii.32)
  23. Alan K. Bowman, Edward Champlin, Andrew Lintott. The Cambridge Ancient History: The Augustan Empire, 43 B.C. – A.D. 69, p. 224
  24. John Donahue, Titus Flavius Domitianus (A.D. 81-96)

See also

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