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  • John 9:28 am on October 19, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ancient rome, , gemonian stairs, tarpeian rock   

    Tarpeian Rock – Infamous Execution Place for Traitors, Criminals and the Disabled 

    “Don’t Toss Me, Bro!”

    The Tarpeian Rock is a steep 75 foot cliff of the southern summit of the Capitoline Hill, overlooking Rome. Murdererstraitorsperjurors, and larcenous slaves, if convicted, were flung from the cliff to their deaths. Those who had a mental or significant physical disability also suffered the same fate as they were thought to have been cursed by the gods.

    To be hurled off the Tarpeian Rock was, in some sense, a fate worse than death, because it carried with it a stigma of shame. The standard method of execution in ancient Rome was by strangulation in the Tullianum. Rather, the rock was reserved for the most notorious traitors, and as a place of unofficial, extra-legal executions.

    A sketch from 1833, by Agostino Tofanelli.

    A photo at the base of the rock from the early 20th century

    The Tarpeian Rock today

    Bonus Post:  The Gemonian Stairs! (sorry I couldn’t find any images)

    The Gemonian Stairs were a flight of steps located in the ancient city of Rome. Nicknamed the Stairs of Mourning, the stairs are infamous in Roman history as a place of execution.

    The condemned were usually strangled before their bodies were bound and thrown down the stairs. Occasionally the corpses of the executed were transferred here for display from other places of execution in Rome. Corpses were usually left to rot on the staircase for extended periods of time in full view of the Forum, scavenged by dogs or other carrion animals, until eventually being thrown into the Tiber.

    Death on the stairs was considered extremely dishonourable and dreadful, yet several senators and even an emperor met their demise here. Among the most famous who were executed on this spot were the prefect of the Praetorian Guard Lucius Aelius Sejanus and the emperor Vitellius. Sejanus was a former confidant of emperor Tiberius (Caligula’s uncle) who was implicated in a conspiracy in 31AD. According to Cassius Dio, Sejanus was strangled and cast down the Gemonian stairs, where the mob abused his corpse for three days. Soon after, his three children were similarly executed in this place.

    Vitellius was a Roman general who became the third emperor in the so called Year of the Four Emperors in 69AD. He succeeded Otho upon his suicide on April 16, but lived to be emperor for only eight months. When his armies were defeated by those of Vespasian, he agreed to surrender but the Praetorian Guard refused to let him leave the city. On the entrance of Vespasian’s troops into Rome he was dragged out of his hiding-place, driven to the Gemonian stairs and struck down.



    Roman-Empire.net. http://www.roman-empire.net/tours/rome/tarpeian-rock.html


    • Kanata 1:30 am on July 24, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      The Gemonian Stairs do not exist anymore. You may find some maps where they were located, between the Arx and Tabularium in the Roman Forum, right across the Caesaris Forum.

    • Gayle 9:05 pm on August 21, 2016 Permalink | Reply

      Wow! I would love to visit the Tarpeian Rock and Gemonian Stairs, if they were still around.

    • Ron 2:40 am on September 29, 2020 Permalink | Reply

      Where is the rock of Triumph, the high place
      ⁠Where Rome embraced her heroes?—where the steep
      ⁠Tarpeian?—fittest goal of Treason’s race,
      ⁠The Promontory whence the Traitor’s Leap
      ⁠Cured all ambition? Did the conquerors heap
      ⁠Their spoils here? Yes; and in yon field below,
      ⁠A thousand years of silenced factions sleep—
      ⁠The Forum, where the immortal accents glow,
      And still the eloquent air breathes—burns with Cicero!

  • John 9:43 am on August 16, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ancient rome   

    Witness to Victory Parades in Ancient Rome 

    A Triumph in Ancient Rome

    The Roman triumph (triumphus) was a civil ceremony and religious rite of ancient Rome, held to publicly celebrate and sanctify the military achievement of an army commander who had won great military successes, or originally and traditionally, one who had successfully completed a foreign war. In Republican tradition, only theSenate could grant a triumph. The origins and development of this honour were obscure: Roman historians placed the first triumph in the mythical past.

    In the absence of complete or clear records of any triumphal ceremony, attempted reconstruction presumes a traditional, conservative framework in which details omitted from one account can be furnished from another. A reconstruction follows, based on Ramsey, 1875.

    The ceremony began outside the Servian Walls in the Campus Martius, on the western bank of the Tiber. The vir triumphalis entered the city in his chariot through the Porta Triumphalis, which was only opened for these occasions. As he entered the city, as defined by the pomerium, he was met by the senate and magistratesand legally surrendered his command. The parade then proceeded along the Via Triumphalis (the modern Via dei Fori Imperiali) to the Circus Flaminius then the Circus Maximus. A captured enemy ruler or general might be paraded then taken to the Tullianum for execution: Jugurtha was starved to death there, and Vercingetorix was strangled. Some defeated leaders, such as Zenobia of Palmyra, were spared. The procession continued along the Via Sacra to the Forum and ascended the Capitoline Hill to the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, the final destination. The route would be lined with cheering crowds who would shower the triumphator with flowers.

    It must have been an awesome sight to behold

    At the Capitoline Hill the vir triumphalis sacrificed white bulls to Jupiter. He then entered the temple to offer his wreath to the god as a sign that he had no intentions of becoming the king of Rome. Once this part of the ceremony was over, temples were kept open and incense burned at the altars. The soldiers would disperse to the city to celebrate. Often a banquet was served for the citizens in the evening.

    To better celebrate the triumph, a monument was sometimes erected. This is the origin of the Arch of Titus and the Arch of Constantine, not far from the Colosseum, or perhaps near a battle site as is the case for the Tropaeum Traiani. The monumental Meta Sudans was erected by the Flavians to mark the point where the triumph route turned from the Via Triumphalis into the Via Sacra and the Forum.

    It is difficult to determine what is a “real” Roman triumph in the late period. Therefore it is also impossible to say who was the last triumphator. The candidates include Emperor Honorius (403) and Flavius Belisarius (ostensibly “sitting in” for Emperor Justinian I), in recognition for his victory over the Vandals. It was held in Constantinople in 534.

    During the approximately 1900 years of the history from the beginnings of the Roman Republic to the final disappearance of the Eastern Roman Empire about 500 triumphs were celebrated.

    Order of Procession:

    1. The Senate, headed by the magistrates without their lictors.
    2. Trumpeters
    3. Carts with the spoils of war
    4. White bulls for sacrifice
    5. The arms and insignia of the conquered enemy
    6. The enemy leaders themselves, with their relatives and other captives in chains or cages
    7. The lictors of the imperator, their fasces wreathed with laurel
    8. The imperator himself, in a chariot drawn by two (later four) horses
    9. The adult sons and officers of the imperator
    10. The army without weapons or armor (since the procession would take them inside the pomerium), but clad in togas and wearing wreaths. During the later periods, only a selected company of soldiers would follow the commander in the triumph, as a singular honour.

    The three triumphs of Pompeius Magnus

    The three triumphs awarded Pompeius Magnus (“Pompey the Great“) were thoroughly documented, not least because they were controversial to their contemporaries and to later writers. His first, in 80 or 81 BCE, was technically illegal, reluctantly granted by a cowed and divided Senate when Pompey was aged only 24, a mere equestrian. Roman conservatives disapproved. For others, his youthful success was the mark of a prodigious military talent, divine favour and personal brio that merited popular support. However, the triumphal day did not go quite to plan. To represent his African conquest, and perhaps to outdo even Bacchus, Pompey had a team of elephants yoked to his triumphal chariot, but they proved too tight a fit for one of the gates en route to the Capitol. Pompey had to dismount and wait while a horse team was yoked in their place. This embarrassment would have delighted his critics, and probably some of his soldiers — whose demands for cash had been near-mutinous. Even so, his firm stand on the matter of cash raised his standing among the conservatives, and Pompey seems to have learned a lesson in populist politics.

    For his second triumph, his donatives were said to break all records, though the amounts in Plutarch’s account are implausibly high: Pompey’s lowest ranking soldiers each received 6000 sesterces (about six times their annual pay) and his officers around 5 million sesterces each.

    His third triumph, held in 61 BCE to celebrate his victory over Mithradates, was an opportunity to outdo even himself – and certainly his rivals. Triumphs traditionally lasted for one day. Pompey’s went on for two days of unprecedented novelty, wealth and luxury. Plutarch claimed that this triumph represented Pompey’s – and therefore Rome’s – domination over the entire world, an achievement to outshine even Alexander’s. Pliny’s narrative dwells upon a gigantic portrait-bust of Pompey, a thing of “eastern splendor” entirely covered with pearls, and with the benefit of hindsight, has this disembodied head anticipate Pompey’s later defeat at Pharsalus and subsequent decapitation in Egypt. In 55 BCE, Pompey‘s “gift to the Roman People” of a gigantic, architecturally daring theatre was dedicated to Venus Victrix, and thereby connected the once equestrian vir triumphalis to Aeneas, son of Venus and ancestor of Rome itself. For its inauguration, the portico was filled with the spoils of his wars, including statuary, paintings and the personal wealth of foreign kings. Beard interprets this as a commemoration and extension of triumphal fame.



    Google Images

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