Story of the Romans - Helene Guerber
Of course all the spectators cheered the victorious general when he thus marched through Rome in triumph; and they praised him so highly that there was some danger that his head would be turned by their flattery.
To prevent his becoming too conceited, however, a wretched slave was perched on a high seat just behind him. This slave wore his usual rough clothes, and was expected to bend down, from time to time, and whisper in the conqueror's ear:
"Remember you are nothing but a man."
Then, too, a little bell was hung under the chariot, in such a way that it tinkled all the time. This ringing was to remind the conqueror that he must always be good, or he would again hear it when he was led to prison, or to gallows; for the passage of a criminal in Rome was always heralded by the sound of a bell.
If the victory was not important enough to deserve a triumph, such as has just been described, the returning general sometimes received an ovation. This honor was something like a triumph, but was less magnificent, and the animal chosen as the victim for sacrifice was a sheep instead of a bull.
The Roman who received an ovation came into the city on foot, wearing a crown of myrtle, and escorted by flute players and other musicians. The procession was much smaller than for a triumph, and the cheers of the people were less noisy.
Now you must not imagine that it was only the generals and consuls who were publicly honored for noble deeds. The Romans rewarded even the soldiers for acts of bravery. For instance, the first to scale the walls of a besieged city always received a crown representing a wall with its towers. This was well known as a mural crown, and was greatly prized. But the man who saved the life of a fellow-citizen received a civic crown, or wreath of oak leaves, which was esteemed even more highly.
All those who fought with particular bravery were not only praised by their superiors, but also received valuable presents, such as gold collars or armlets, or fine trappings for their horses. The soldiers always treasured these gifts carefully, and appeared with them on festive occasions. Then all their friends would admire them, and ask to hear again how they had been won.
All Roman soldiers tried very hard to win such gifts. They soon became the best fighters of the world, and are still praised for their great bravery.