Evidently there were large sections of the population who did not feel represented by the ruling class, groups whose interests not even the popular were able to adequately protect their interests, if not in the welfare form of grain distributions at a political price. These classes, forgotten by official politics, were easy prey for adventurers with few scruples (like Catiline himself), but who showed, at least in words, to take their needs to heart, aiming to exploit them to assert themselves politically.
When, again in 62 BC, Pompey, returning from the countryside in the East, landed in Brindisi, it was inevitable for many to go back to their memory twenty years earlier, when Silla had left that same port to conquer Rome. Pompeo, however, considered it more politically useful to respect the rules that Silla himself had enacted and which required the generals to dissolve their armies as soon as they touched Italian soil, so he dismissed their men. His only requests to the Senate were the assignment of land to the soldiers who had taken part in the campaign in the East, according to a practice that had been consolidated since Mario’s time, and the confirmation of the measures he had taken during the expedition. In fact, it was necessary that the new borders drawn by Pompey and the network of kings, allies and vassals created by him received official approval from the senate, since a general, even if a winner, did not have the authority to make such decisions.
On that occasion, the aristocracy once again demonstrated their political myopia. The senate, in fact, delayed for a long time in front of Pompeo’s requests, without deciding to accept or reject them. His act of dissolving the army was indeed mistaken for an act of weakness; in all probability many of the senators considered Pompey’s power too cumbersome, now that he returned full of glory and at the head of an army very loyal to him, and they thought they would take the opportunity to liquidate it without too many compliments. A political calculation that turned out, as we shall see, to be very far from reality.
The city, for the occasion, dressed up for the occasion, streets, temples and other public buildings were decorated and everyone poured out along the route that the procession would have traveled in its passage through the oldest heart of Rome. No less was the trepidation of soldiers and commanders, who had waited a lifetime for a day like that.
About three hundred: there would have been many celebrations of the triumph in the first seven centuries of the history of Rome. It was a long procession that saw the winning army enter the city through a special door, called “triumphal”, cross the most important places in the historic center and finally go up to the Capitol, where Jupiter, who on that hill had his oldest temple, it received a solemn thanksgiving sacrifice.
Not all winning generals had the right to triumph: the senate decreed the prestigious award, reserving it for the most significant successes. In many cases, then, the political moods of the moment also counted, which could have been more or less favorable to the general who demanded the triumph. With the passage of time, moreover, the ceremony became more and more spectacular: public banquets, games and competitions, theatrical performances were added to the parade of the winning army, in a party that sometimes lasted for several days and ended up involving the whole city.
The composition of the procession was also very varied: it included animals destined for sacrifice, the loot stolen from enemies – weapons and precious metals, works of art, goods of all kinds -, the typical species of the conquered lands, especially if exotic as elephants or giraffes, large tables painted with the names of the defeated cities or with the decisive events of the war, and then again the prisoners and kings of the vanquished peoples, often kept alive for years for the sole purpose of being paraded in triumph and killed not just finished the ceremony.