The triumph, to a Roman of the later Republic and Empire, seemed sacred and all of a piece. Its venerable antiquity was more important than its origin or development. So on the one hand Roman antiquarians agreed the triumph was as ancient as Romulus himself; and on the other its antiquity was felt to be confirmed rather than impaired by the connection of many details with the Etruscans—though the ancients never claimed, as modern scholars have done, that the institution itself was borrowed from the Etruscans. It was simply neither important nor desirable to pin down precisely the dates or phases of such a hallowed celebration.
Of course it is not true that there were no changes. Yet the Roman attitude may have also affected modern historians, who until rather recently have been satisfied with a kind of ‘unitarian’ view of the triumph as something permanent and immutable, untouched by history; discussions of particular problems, such as the alleged divinization of the triumphator or the location of the porta triumphalis, have taken very little account of changes in the triumph itself. Many Roman rituals did, indeed, continue practically unchanged, and it is a peculiarity of Roman history that our most reliable documents for the early period are religious festivals celebrated year after year, rather than written records or histories. But the triumph was, more than other religious festivals, a part of the political life at Rome.