The triumphal parades of Roman legions have always played an important role in Rome’s history. One of such marches was seen and was described later by a fourteen-year-old Tacitus. It gives us a great insight into how this triumphal march looked like.
Tacitus described this spectacular show of the power of Rome, which took place during the reign of Vitellius. He defeated in 69 CE emperor Othon and after his suicidal death at Bedriacum he stood at the gates of Rome. Vitellius came in dressed in a senator’s toga, followed by eagles of the four legions. There were: legion XXI Rapax from Vindonissa (present Windisch), legion I Italica from Lugdunum (present Lyon), legion V Alaudae from Vetera and the legion XXII Primigenia from Maguntiacum (present Mainz).
Prefects, tribunes and centurions of a higher rank stood in front of the eagles – all in snow-white cloaks. On both sides of this army there were standards with emblems – but not eagles as those belonged to the Rhine army, which remained in the camps. Subsequently, the emblem of alae was carried, followed by dense columns of legionaries. Officers strode with every century, just like soldiers in full gear. They had shiny ceremonial armor and well-dressed helmets as well as all decorations for courage in the form of medals (phalarae) and decorative chains. The procession was closed by auxiliary cohorts consisting of various borderland peoples, which was variously armed.