Chapter 842: Triumphant Return in Rome (II)
Of course, he didn't forget to reciprocate his kindness as he began leading the priests to intentionally or unintentionally promote the benefits of joining the Kingdom of Theonia to the Romans who came to pray at the Temple of Diana, eliminating their confusion and anxiety about the future.
Following the group of priests is a band with dozens of musicians holding various instruments, such as brass horns, drums, flutes, lyres, and so on, playing music while marching.
The beautiful melody attracted the crowd, with some people asking curiously in Greek, “What's the name of this piece?”
“It's called the Victory March!” A musician responded loudly.
So the name of Victory March quickly spread to the crowd, and even the most picky Romans had to admit that Theonia is indeed a great place and has specially made such beautiful and suitable music for the Triumphant Return!
Following behind the band was a chariot pulled by two horses, but both horses were of mixed colour (because there weren't many black horses in the city of Rome), and on the chariot stood a fully dressed Theonian general.
But the Romans neither knew him nor applauded.
Such a desolate scene naturally made Amintas not in the mood to smile and wave to the people as usual, and he even began to feel that holding a Triumphant Return in Rome was a mistake, so he kept his face straight.
Behind him were two hundred soldiers drawn from the First Legion, standing in a neat line and marching at a consistent pace. Their formidable military appearance reminded the Roman plebeians of the difficult battle they had suffered a few days ago, so they silently watched the group of soldiers pass by.
Then, they were surprised to see another chariot carrying another Theonian general pass by.
When the soldiers of the Second Legion passed by and another Theonian general in a chariot came, the Romans were puzzled, ‘Isn't the highest honour in the Triumphant Return given to the victorious general? But why were there so many generals in chariots at Theonia's Triumphant Return? Moreover, none of the generals had attendants behind them to hold up the generals' laurels while telling the people that they were just mortal! Could this be the most striking difference between Theonia's Triumphant Return and ours?!’
Maecilius and the others were all lost in their thoughts.
Just as one Theonian general riding in chariots after another and leading teams of Theonian soldiers passed by under the silent gaze of the Romans, a sudden cry of surprise erupted from the crowd.
It turns out that the next general to appear in front of the Romans is someone they are familiar with – Sextus of Lavinium. This young Roman plebeian had actually appeared in the Triumphant Return, moreover, as one of the main characters, so how could this not surprise the Romans?!
Because every Roman citizen had a dream of participating in the Triumphant Return, but it was just an extravagant hope for the plebeians. On the one hand, they find it difficult even to become an army official, and on the other hand, the Senate won't approve of holding Triumphant Return for them. But Sextus has now set a precedent. Despite this being a Triumphant Return held by the Kingdom of Theonia, it has also showed them hope and strengthened their trust in the promises made by Davos on the Roman Forum that day.
Of course, Maecilius and the others have a more complex feeling about this.
“Sextus, this traitor! He became a hero of the Theonians by killing his fellow Romans! Aren't you afraid of Jupiter's punishment?!” cursed a Roman plebeian who had also come from Veii.
However, a nearby plebeian unexpectedly interjected in Sextus' defence just as he uttered those words, saying, “You ought to express gratitude to Sextus instead! With him leading the army in capturing Veii, he ensured the soldiers adhered to discipline, preventing them from plundering and slaughtering within the city. As a result, the casualties remained low, which allowed you to reunite with your loved ones upon your return. Consider this: had Theonians attacked Veii, the outcome might have resembled Ostia's capture, and you would only be crying now!”
Maecilius had to acknowledge this, but he still retorted, “Has Sextus ever served as a consul or military tribune?! Has he ever commanded an army of more than five thousand men to a great victory?! Has he ever received the cheering of the whole army for victory?! So what right does Sextus have to ride in a chariot in a Triumphant Return!”
“Your words are funny! Look carefully, my friend. This is the Triumphant Return of the Kingdom of Theonia, not of Rome, so why should they perform it according to the Roman way?! Sextus is the hero of Lavinium, the hero of us plebeians! He deserves this honour!”
The words of this possible former neighbour of Sextus resonated with many plebeians, and they began speaking out to defend Sextus and the Roman soldiers behind him, even accusing them of jealousy.
With many plebeians in the city of Rome, the people from Veii no longer dared to refute them. Instead, Maecilius instinctively hugged his son but then heard his son point to Sextus on the chariot and loudly say, “Dad, I want to see you also stand on a chariot!”
Maecilius felt agitated for a while, and he admitted that he did feel a bit jealous earlier as Sextus had already become the protagonist of a Triumphant Return at such a young age while he, who was almost thirty years old, still had nothing to show for it, so it was inevitable that his emotions become unstable. ‘I have already joined the Kingdom of Theonia, so things might be different in the future! If Sextus, also a plebeian, can achieve it, then why could I not?!’
Thinking of these, he squeezed his son's legs and confidently said, “Son, you will see that day!”
At this moment, countless Roman plebeians made up their minds like Maecilius.
On this Triumphant Return, a particular sight emerged: While both sides of the road remained silent when the Theonian generals and their troops passed by, constant cheerings surrounded Sextus and the two hundred Roman soldiers as if this Triumphant Return was held primarily for them.
Despite being much calmer than his peers, Sextus couldn't help but feel spirited on such occasions as he frequently waved to his fellow countrymen on the side of the road.
As his chariot passed beneath the Arc de Triomphe, his gaze fixed upon the weathered white arch due to the passage of time. He was lost in his thoughts as he worried that all of it might be just a fleeting dream…
Upon entering the Roman Forum, he was engulfed by the resounding cheers of innumerable Roman citizens, waving their arms in excitement and shouting the names of their cherished ones. Even the interaction on and off the field was lively.
Davos invited not only most of the families of the Romans in the reserve brigade but also personnel from the logistics, engineering and medical camps. He also welcomed members of various chambers of commerce who had accompanied the Theonian army to Rome, all of whom attended as spectators. This gesture was indeed an honour for them, considering that back in Thurii, many would have found it difficult to gain access to the Nike Square during a Triumphal Return. As a result, the cheers here weren't solely for the soldiers of the Roman reserve brigade; the soldiers of the Theonian legions could also bask in the glory of the Triumphant Return, causing smiles to finally grace their faces.
Of course, for them, the greater honour would be the recognition of King Davos.
Under the soldiers' gaze, Davos, standing on the platform of the Roman Senate, smiled and looked at the flag bearer of the Theonian military flag who came forward. He then jokingly said, “Terentus, you have elevated the standards for selecting the flag bearer at the Triumphant Return to a higher level!”
This was Davos' roundabout way of complimenting Terentus. Unexpectedly, he didn't remain humble upon hearing this as he simply said, “Your Majesty, I can do better.”
Davos immediately smiled and said, “Alright! That's what an excellent soldier from the Mountain Reconnaissance Brigade should say!” After that, Davos personally put on the Cerberus gold medal for Terentus, then grabbed Terentus' hand and raised it high while facing the soldiers below.
The Theonian soldiers cheered loudly while the Romans were also shouting. Their enthusiasm wasn't because they were just following the crowd; upon seeing this sight, they realised that Theonia's Triumphant Return wasn't solely reserved for commanding generals because ordinary soldiers like them could also achieve great glory through their efforts, which was different to Rome's Triumphant Return.
Davos then bestow the other flag bearers with a medal. Then, when it was the turn of Valerius, a Roman soldier, Davos kindly explained the origin of the Cerberus medal to him.
After listening to the translation, Valerius couldn't help but caress the silver medal on his chest. This landless Roman plebeian, who was already in his thirties but had not yet married due to poverty, stuttered and asked, “How much land can this…this thing be worth?”
Davos laughed after hearing the translation. Then he said, “You should save this medal since it is your honour! However, becoming a flag bearer during the Triumphant Return could at least allow you to receive more land after this war. So by making more achievements, you will only have more and more land in the future!”
Valerius' eyes brighten up after listening to it.
While facing the legatus of the First Legion, Davos said in a low voice, “You've worked hard!”
Amintas accepted the silver sceptre and said, while having mixed emotions, “Thank you, Your Majesty!”
At the start, he defeated the Roman army outside Ostia, securing the landing of the army, as well as resisting the fierce attack of the Roman army on Ostia and defeating the Roman joint army upstream of the Tiber River…these battles allowed him to become the protagonist of this Triumphant Return. He had heard Davos proposed this during the preparatory meeting for the Triumphant Return, but the group of young staff officers of the Ministry of Military opposed it.
Amintas knew deep down that they were correct. According to the Military Law, a strategos could only ride in a quadriga during a Triumphant Return if they had independently commanded the army and achieved a resounding victory, surpassing other strategoi to earn the highest honours. However, the true leader of this campaign was King Davos, and all the victories he achieved were a result of Davos' meticulous planning. Thus, a sense of reluctance still lingered in Amintas' heart.