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OVA´TIO a lesser triumph; the terms applied by the Greek writers on Roman history are πεζὸς θρίαμβος, εὐαστὴς or εὔας θρίαμβος. It was distinguished from TRIUMPHUS in the following particulars:--The general did not enter the city in a chariot drawn by four horses, but on foot; he was not arrayed in the gorgeous gold embroidered robe, but in the simple toga praetexta of a magistrate; his brows were encircled with a wreath not of laurel but of myrtle; he bore no sceptre in his hand; the procession was not heralded by trumpets, headed by the senate and thronged with victorious troops, but was enlivened by a crowd of fluteplayers, attended chiefly by knights and plebeians, frequently without soldiers; the ceremonies were concluded by the sacrifice not of a bull but of a sheep. (Plut. Marc. 100.22; Dionys. A. R. 5.47; Gel. 5.6; Liv. 3.10, 26.21.) We must, however, reject, alike on the grounds of form and probability, the theory of Plutarch (and of some modern writers) that the word ovatio is derived from this sacrifice of an ovis. It cannot be said that the etymology is certain, but the most probable is that (which Fick holds) from a root av, which appears in αὔω, “to shout,” &c.; hence the views of Festus that it came from saying repeatedly O! in gladness, and of Dionysius that it came from εὔοι, have at least an element of truth. At least we may surmise that the word ovo meant “to rejoice” before it was connected with sacrifice at all. Dionysius is mistaken in assigning a laurel chaplet to the conqueror on these occasions, since all the Roman writers agree with Plutarch in representing that the myrtle crown, hence called ovalis corona, was a characteristic of the ovation. (Festus, s. v. Ovalis Corona; Pliny, Plin. Nat. 15.125; Plut.; Gell. ll. cc.) Compare CORONA

In later times, the victor entered upon horseback (Serv. in Verg. A. 4.543), and the ovations celebrated by Octavianus, Drusus, Tiberius, &c., are usually recorded by Dio Cassius by a reference to this circumstance (D. C. 48.31; 49.15; 54.8, 33; 55.2).

Strictly speaking, neither a triumph nor an ovation was granted except to the victor in a bellum justum: that is to say, it could not be claimed upon the defeat of revolted citizens or slaves in a bellum civile. (V. Max. 2.8, 7, “neque aut ovans, aut curru;” D. C. 42.18, 43; Tac. Hist. 4.4.) This explains Lucan 1.12,Bella geri placuit nullos habitura triumphos.” This rule held with regard to triumphs, but was relaxed for ovations from an early time, so that Gellius does not mention this as precluding an ovation (5.6). Thus, for instance, M‘. Aquillius had an ovation, not a triumph, after the Servile war B.C. 100 (Cic. de Orat. 2.47, 195); see also the instance of Crassus below, and Octavian's two ovations for the civil wars, Suet. Aug. 22. (Cf. Mommsen, Staatsrecht, i.3 133.)

An ovation was granted when the advantage gained, although considerable, was not sufficient to constitute a legitimate claim to the higher distinction of a triumph, or when the victory had been achieved with little bloodshed, as in the case of Postumius Tubertus, who first [p. 2.307]received this honour (Plin. Nat. 15.125); or when hostilities had not been regularly proclaimed (Festus, Gell. ll. cc.); or when the war had not been completely terminated, which was one of the ostensible reasons for refusing a triumph to Marcellus on his return from Sicily (Plut. l.c.; Liv. 26.21); or when the contest had been carried on against base and unworthy foes: and hence when the servile bands of Athenion and Spartacus were destroyed by Perperna and Crassus, these leaders celebrated ovations only (Florus, 3.19; Plin. l.c.; Gell. l.c.), although the latter by a special resolution of the senate was permitted to wear a laurel crown.

[W.R] [G.E.M]

hide References (10 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (10):
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 4.543
    • Tacitus, Historiae, 4.4
    • Cicero, On Oratory, 2.47
    • Suetonius, Divus Augustus, 22
    • Lucan, Civil War, 1.12
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 3, 10
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 26, 21
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 5.6
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 2.7
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 2.8
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