870. Roman Military Triumphs

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2 Corinthians 2:1414Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savor of his knowledge by us in every place. (2 Corinthians 2:14). Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savor of his knowledge by us in every place.
A Roman military triumphal procession was one of the grandest spectacles of ancient times. It was granted to a conqueror only when certain conditions had been fully complied with. Among these it was required that the victory be complete and decisive; that it should be over a foreign foe; that at least five thousand of the enemy should be slain in a single battle; that the conquest should extend the territory of the state, and put an end to the war. When the senate decided that all the required conditions had been met a day was appointed, and every necessary arrangement was made for a splendid pageant. When the day arrived the people crowded the streets, and filled every place from which a good view of the procession could be obtained. The temples were all open and decorated with flowers, while incense smoked from every altar. Fragrant odors from burning spices were profusely scattered through the temples and along the streets, loading the air with their perfume. In the procession were the senate and chief citizens of the state, who thus by their presence honored the conqueror. The richest spoils of war, such as gold, silver, weapons of every description, standards, rare and costly works of art, and everything that was deemed most valuable by either conqueror or vanquished, were carried in open view of the crowded city. The prisoners of war were also compelled to march in the procession. The general, in whose honor the triumph was decreed, rode in a chariot which was of peculiar form and drawn by four horses. His robe was embroidered with gold, and his tunic with flowers. In his right hand was a laurel bough, and in his left a scepter; while on his brow there was a wreath of Delphic laurel. Amid the shouts of the soldiers anti the applause of the populace the conqueror was carried through the streets to the temple of Jupiter, where sacrifices were offered, after which there was a public feast in the temple. (For a more detailed account, see Smith's Dictionary of Antiquities, s. v. Triumphus.)
To the splendors of such a scene the apostle doubtless alludes in this text, and also in Colossians 2:1515And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it. (Colossians 2:15): “And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” Here Christ is referred to as the Great Conqueror, making public exhibition of the spoils of war. In the text at the head of this note it is also Christ who is the conqueror, Paul being merely an instrument used by him for the accomplishment of his work. Thus, wherever he preached Christ triumphed; and as in the Roman triumphs odors were profusely scattered around, so the knowledge of Christ was everywhere proclaimed by the apostles: “Maketh manifest the savor of his knowledge by us in every place.” In the Roman triumph the fragrance which filled the air was inhaled alike by the captives of war doomed to death, and by the people who by means of the victory were saved from a similar fate. Thus the Gospel is preached to all, but with different results: to the believer, salvation; to him who rejects, eternal death. So Paul says in the fifteenth and sixteenth verses: “For we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savor of death unto death; and to the other the savor of life unto life.”