But when the enemies of Marcellus opposed his triumph, because something still remained to be done in Sicily and a third triumph would awaken jealousy, he consented of his own accord to conduct the complete and major triumph to the Alban mount, but to enter the city in the minor triumph; this is called
‘eua’ by the Greeks, and
‘ova’ by the Romans.1
In conducting it the general does not mount upon a four-horse chariot, nor wear a wreath of laurel, nor have trumpets sounding about him; but he goes afoot with shoes on, accompanied by the sound of exceeding many flutes, and wearing a wreath of myrtle, so that his appearance is unwarlike and friendly rather than terrifying. And this is the strongest proof to my mind that in ancient times the two triumphs were distinguished, not by the magnitude, but by the manner, of the achievements which they celebrated.
For those who won the mastery by fighting and slaying their enemies celebrated, as it would seem, that martial and terrible triumph, after wreathing their arms and their men with abundant laurel, just as they were wont to do when they purified their armies with lustral rites; while to those generals who had had no need of war, but had brought everything to a good issue by means of conference, persuasion, and argument, the law awarded the privilege of conducting, like a paean of thanksgiving, this unwarlike and festal procession.
For the flute is an instrument of peace, and the myrtle is a plant of Aphrodite, who more than all the other gods abhors violence and wars. And this minor triumph is called
‘ova,’ not from the Greek
‘euasmos,’ as most think (since they conduct the major triumph also with songs and cries of
‘eua!’), but the name has been wrested by the Greeks into conformity with their speech, since they are persuaded that something of the honour has to do with Dionysus also, whom they call Euius and Thriambus. This, however, is not the true explanation; but it was the custom for commanders, in celebrating the major triumph, to sacrifice an ox, whereas in the minor triumph they sacrificed a sheep. Now, the Roman name for sheep is
‘ova,’ and from this circumstance the lesser triumph is called ova.2
And it is worth our while to notice that the Spartan lawgiver appointed his sacrifices in a manner opposite to that of the Romans. For in Sparta a returning general who had accomplished his plans by cunning deception or persuasion, sacrificed an ox; he who had won by fighting, a cock. For although they were most warlike, they thought an exploit accomplished by means of argument and sagacity greater and more becoming to a man than one achieved by violence and valour. How the case really stands, I leave an open question.