Unlike too many couples of the same class, Silius and Marcia are blessed with children. We will assume that there are two, a boy, whose full name shall be Publius Silius Bassus, and a girl, who is to be called Silia Bassa. It is perhaps to be regretted that there is not a third, for in that case the father would enjoy to the full certain privileges granted by law to parents who so far do their duty by the state. As it is, he will in the regular course of things receive preference over childless men, when it comes to candidature for a public office or to the allotting of a governorship. The decline in the birthrate had become so startling at the close of the republic that the first emperor, Augustus, had decided that it was necessary on the one side to penalise persons who remained either unmarried or childless, and on the other to grant fixed concessions to all who were the parents of three. A bachelor could not, for instance, receive a legacy from any one but a near relative; a married man without children could only receive half of such a legacy; a man with three children could not only enjoy his legacy in full, but could take the shares forfeited by any bachelor or childless legatee who figured in the same will. It does not appear that the law produced any great effect, and, to make it still more futile, the later emperors began to bestow what was called the "privilege of three children" on persons who actually had either fewer or none at all.
The power of the father over the children is theoretically almost absolute. Even when a son is grown up and married he legally belongs to his father; so does all his supposed property. The same is the case with a daughter, unless she becomes a Vestal Virgin, or unless she marries according to the stricter of the two kinds of matrimony already described. In the older days of Rome the father could, and sometimes did, put his children to death if he chose. Though too free an exercise of so extreme an authority was no longer recognised, it was still quite legal to make away with an infant which was badly deformed. Says Seneca, in the most matter-of-fact way, "We drown our monstrosities." It was quite legal also to expose a child, and leave it either to perish or to be taken up by whosoever chose. In most such instances doubtless the child became the slave of the finder. Not only was this allowable at Rome and in the romanized part of the empire; it was a frequent practice throughout the Greek or Eastern portion. Again, a father might sell his child as a slave, particularly for continual disobedience. All these things the parent might legally do; but it is extremely difficult to discover how far they were actually done, inasmuch as our information in this respect hardly touches the lower classes, while among the upper classes there was naturally far less temptation to be rid of the burden of maintaining such few children as most families produced. On the whole it appears highly improbable that in the truly Roman part of the empire there was any considerable destruction of infant life or exposure of infants. It does not follow that, because the strict law does not prevent you from doing a thing, you will therefore do it, in the face of public disapproval and of all the promptings of natural affection. In their family relations the ancient Romans possessed at least as much natural feeling as is commonly shown in modern times. The fact is that in matters of law the Romans were eminently conservative; they left as much as possible to the silent working of social opinion. In the oldest times the patriarchal system existed in the family, and new Roman legislation interfered with parental power only just so far as experience had loudly demanded such intervention. There can have been no very pronounced abuse of the powers of the father, and, as the discipline of the family was regarded as essential to the discipline of the state, the law was always unwilling to weaken in any way the hold of such family discipline. The strictly legal authority of the father was therefore maintained, while its abusive exercise was limited by the risk, if not the certainty, that it would meet with both public and private censure.
Nevertheless, to return to the point which called for this explanation, it is quite in the power of Silius to expose or sell little Publius or little Silia. But for a man in his position to do anything of the kind would bring the scorn of all Roman society about his ears; and, among other humiliations, almost undoubtedly his name would be expunged from the senatorial list. Moreover Silus, though a pagan, is a human being, and his affection for his children would certainly be no less warm than that of the average Christian man of to-day.
Immediately after birth there is a little ceremony. The babe is brought and laid upon the hearth or floor before the household gods for the father to inspect it. As has been said already, if it is a monstrosity, he may order it to be made away with. Otherwise it is still open to him either to acknowledge the infant or to refuse to have anything to do with it. The act of acknowledgment consists in stooping down and lifting up the child from the ground. For this reason the expression used for acknowledging and undertaking to rear a child was "lifting" or "picking up." In our instance the little son and daughter are, of course, not only picked up, but welcomed as the young hopes of the proud house of Silii Bassi.
On the ninth day in case of the boy, or the eighth in that of the girl, the child is named, after certain ceremonies of purification. The whole proceeding bears much resemblance to a christening, except that there is no calling in of the services of a church. The relations and friends gather in the hall, each bringing his present, and even the slaves make their little inexpensive offerings. The gifts are chiefly little trinkets of gold, silver, and ivory--rings, miniature hands, axes, swords, or crescents--which are to be strung across the baby's breast. The original purpose of all these objects was to act as charms against the blighting of the child by evil powers, or, more definitely, by the "evil eye," that malignant influence which still troubles so many good Italians, both ignorant and learned. With the same intention the father hangs upon the child's neck a certain object which it will carry till it comes of age. If a few years later you met the boy Publius in the Roman streets, you would find him wearing a round case or locket in gold, some two inches in diameter and resembling the modern cased watch. Inside is shut his protecting amulet. When he is sixteen and puts on the man's toga, his amulet will be laid aside. In the case of the little Silia it will be worn until she marries. Poorer folk, for whom gold is too expensive, will enclose the amulet in a case of leather.
The naming over, the child is registered. The Romans were adepts in the art of utilising a religious or superstitious practice for purposes of state, and the development of the registration of births and deaths is but one instance. In older times it had been a custom, on the occasion of a birth, to pay a visit to the shrine of "Juno the Birth-Goddess," and to leave a small coin by way of offering. It is easy for a state to convert an already established general custom into a rule; and at our date this shrine of Juno had become practically a registration office, where a small fee was paid and the name of the child entered upon the rolls.
We need not follow with any closeness the infancy of either boy or girl till the seventh year. The ancient world was very much like the modern. Suffice it to glance at them cutting their teeth on the teeth of wolves or horses, rocked in cradles decorated with gold and purple, or running about and calling their parents by the time-honoured mamma, tata--words, if we can call them words, which came from those small Roman mouths precisely as they have come from time immemorial from so many others. Their slave nurse, who is a Greek and talks Greek to them, tells them the old wives' tales and fables. They play with rattles, balls, and little carts, with pet birds and monkeys, and the girl with dolls of ivory or wax or of painted terra-cotta. They have swings, and ride on sticks and build houses. When bigger, the boy has his tops and hoops, with or without bells, and he plays marbles with nuts. Meanwhile attempts are made, somewhat after the kindergarten pattern, to teach them their alphabet by means of letters shaped in wood or ivory. Whether or not it is modern kindergarten method to tempt children to learn by offers of sugar-plums, that course was often adopted in the world of both Greece and Rome.
On the whole the life of the child, though strictly governed, appears to have been pleasant enough until schooldays began. Though many children were taught at home by a more or less learned slave acting as private tutor, the great majority, at least of the boys, were sent to school. There was at this date no compulsory education; the state dictated nothing and provided nothing in connection with the matter; many children must have received no education at all, and many only the barest elements. Nevertheless the average parent realised the practical utility of at least reading, writing, and simple arithmetic, and schools of the elementary type sprang up according to the demand. What the higher education was like will be set forth in its place.
The ideal education, as understood in the older days of Rome, was a training which should fit a man for his duty to the gods, the state, and the family. It was above all things a moral and practical training. A man has certain domestic, political, and religious functions to perform: let him learn how best to perform these. Under this system there was little room for accomplishments or for purely intellectual pursuits. Little by little, however, such liberal elements, artistic and philosophical, struggled into the sphere of Roman education, but never to the extent or with the intellectual effect which belonged to them in Greece. Even by A.D. 64 the education of a Roman boy was very narrow, and, in the direction in which it sought some liberality, it often went sadly astray. The clearest course will be for us to take young Publius Silius through a course typical of the time. We will assume that he does not receive all his lessons at home, but that, through an old-fashioned preference on the part of his father, he goes to a school, along with boys who are mostly but not necessarily of the same social standing with himself.
We have unfortunately almost no information as to any social grading of schools, or as to their size. All we know is that some schools were taught entirely by one man, while others employed an undermaster or several. In some cases the school is entirely a private enterprise, the master charging a monthly fee--amounting in the elementary schools to a penny or twopence a week--together with small money presents on certain festivals. The more select establishments naturally charged more. Probably most of the schools in Rome and the larger towns were upon this private footing. In other instances a number of parents in a smaller town would club together and subscribe sufficient money to provide the salary of a schoolmaster for their children. In yet others some benefactor, generally a wealthy local magnate, had given or bequeathed an endowment fund, from which a school was either wholly or partially financed. At a rather later date Pliny writes a letter, of which the following is a passage, interesting in this connection. "When I was lately in my native part of the country (that is to say, at Como), a boy--the son of a fellow townsman--came to pay his respects. I said, 'Are you at school?' 'Yes,' he replied. 'Where?' 'At Milan.' 'And why not here?' At this his father said, 'Because we have no teachers here.' 'And why have you none? It is of the greatest importance to any of you who are fathers--and it happened that several fathers were listening--that your children should be taught here rather than anywhere else.... How small a thing it is to put money together and engage teachers and to apply to their salary the amount which you now spend on lodgings, travelling expenses, and the articles that have always to be purchased when one is away from home.'" Whereupon he proceeds himself to offer to contribute one-third of whatever sum the parents collect. He does not believe in giving the whole, because experience has taught him that endowments of this kind are commonly misused. The parents must themselves retain an interest in preventing corruption; and this will be the case so long as they are themselves paying their share. In this instance we are, however, to think rather of a high school or school of rhetoric than of the primary school. Como would not lack a primary school, nor would parents send very young children to lodge in Milan. There is no trace of real boarding-schools.
To whatever school Publius goes he will be accompanied by a sedate slave, generally elderly and also generally a Greek, whom you may call his "guardian," or his "governor," or his "mentor," according to your fancy. The function of this worthy is to look after the morals and behaviour of the boy when in the streets, and also to supervise his manners when at home. Publius will not be free of this incubus until the day when he puts on the adult's toga; and he must be prepared to accept, at least in his younger days, not only scolding, but also corporal punishment from him. In poorer families the mother corrected her children with a slipper. The "guardian" of Publius is nevertheless a slave, and will carry the young master's books and school requisites for him, while the sons of poorer parents are marching along, freer and happier, with their tablets and writing-case slung over their left arm. When, in the New Testament, we are told that the "Law hath been our schoolmaster unto Christ," the word employed does not at all mean schoolmaster. It means this slave who keeps the pupil under salutary discipline until he reaches the schoolmaster, and who superintends his conduct until he is of age.
[Illustration: FIG. 94.--WRITING MATERIALS.]
School age regularly begins at seven for the elementary stage, which commonly includes writing, reading, and arithmetic. The first lessons in writing are done upon wax tablets, which correspond to our slate. For school purposes they are flat pieces of wood, with a rim, their surface being covered with a thin layer of wax. The pupil takes a "style," or metal stiletto, pointed at one end and flat at the other; with the point he scratches, or "ploughs" as the Romans called it, the writing in the wax; with the other end he flattens the wax and so makes the necessary erasures when he desires to correct a word or to "clean his slate."
His first efforts will probably consist either of tracing letters through a stencil, or of forming them from a copy while the master guides his hand. He will next write a series of words--the good old copybook method with the good old copybook maxims. It is only when he has gained some proficiency that he will be allowed to write upon paper or parchment with ink and with a split reed for pen. In such a case the backs of useless documents come in handy, and particularly serviceable are the rolls containing the poems of the numerous authors whom no one wants to read, but whose books thus find one of their ultimate uses, another being to wrap up spices or salt fish. His arithmetic will be merely such as will enable him to make up accounts. The Roman numerals did not lend themselves easily to the method now adopted of calculating on paper, and the Roman pupil therefore reckoned partly with his fingers, partly by means of counters laid or strung upon a board. At this he became remarkably proficient, and at mental arithmetic there is reason to believe that he could beat the modern boy hollow. Along with the reckoning he would also necessarily learn his tables of weights and measures. "Two-and-a-half feet one step; two steps one pace; a thousand paces one mile." So he said or sang, and a mile--mille, "a thousand" paces--remains our own word to this day, even though it has come to signify an eccentric 1760 yards.
That Roman boys bore no love to school or schoolmaster is little wonder. Perhaps Publius may be fortunate; but if his schoolmaster is of the ordinary type he will be an irascible loud-voiced person, who bawls and scolds and thrashes. It will be a common thing to find, as Seneca puts it, a man "in a violent passion teaching you that to be in a passion is wrong." The doctrine went that "he who is not flayed is not educated." The methods of the military centurion may have had something to do with creating this behaviour, but there is perhaps another excuse to be found for the Roman pedagogue. His school, if of the inferior kind, is like any other shop, a place open to the street, whether on the ground floor or in the balcony-like entresol. There is no cloistered privacy about his instruction. To such a place at a very early hour come the boys "creeping unwillingly." When the days are short the school opens before daybreak, and the smoky lamps and lanterns create an evil smell and atmosphere in the raw and chilly morning. That is no time to be amiable towards inattention or stupidity. There were many other circumstances to try the temper, and the Roman temper, except among the highest classes, was, as it is, quick and loud. No real boy who had been a Roman school but knew what it was to have ears pinched and to take his punishment on his hands with the cane or the tawse. Many had been "horsed," in the way depicted in the illustration.
There is also no cause for surprise that boys often shammed illness and did little things to their eyes so that mother or father might keep them from their books for a while. There were of course academies of a better class than these schools open to the street, and probably Publius Silius would be taken to one where his "guardian" waits with others in an antechamber, while he is himself being taught in a room where the walls are pictured with historical or mythological scenes, or with charts or maps, and where there stand busts of eminent writers. The boys are seated on benches or forms, and the master on a high-backed chair. When the pupil is called upon to repeat a lesson, he stands up before the teacher; when the whole class is to deliver a dictated passage it rises and delivers it all together, in orthodox sing-song style.
[Illustration: FIG. 95.--HORSING A BOY. (After Sächs.)]
Somewhere towards eleven o'clock there is an interval, and the boys go home for lunch or buy something from the seller of rissoles or sausages in the street. In the afternoon--when the schoolmaster has taken his own luncheon and probably his short siesta--they return to school, putting in altogether about six hours of lessons in the day.
That boys and girls went to the same elementary schools is not absolutely provable from any explicit statement to that effect; but there are one or two passages in literature which point almost certainly to that conclusion. It is at least undeniable that girls, and even big girls, went to school, and that in those schools they were taught by men. One schoolmaster is addressed by the poet as "detestable to both boys and girls." We have seen that in maturity the Roman woman lived in no sort of seclusion; and it is reasonable to suppose that as a girl she was treated in much the same way as girls in a mixed school of to-day. Nevertheless it is also almost certain that such mixed schools were only those of the common people, or of the lower middle classes: the daughters of the better-circumstanced would be instructed at home by private tutors. There they would learn to read and write both Greek and their native Latin, to play upon the lyre or harp, to dance--Roman dancing being more a matter of gesture with hands and body than of movement with the feet--and to carry themselves with the bearing fit for a Roman lady. To teach the household duties was the function of the mother.
At Rome, as with us, there was, first, a primary education, pure and simple, given in the schools of those who would nowadays be registered as teachers of primary subjects. Next there was what we should call a secondary or high-school education, given by a "grammar master," in which the education was almost wholly literary. The same school might doubtless employ a special arithmetic master, and also a teacher of music, but mainly the business of such an establishment was theoretically to prepare the boy for a proper and effective use of language, whether for social or for public purposes. In the Rome of the republic a man of affairs or ambitions required above all things to be an accomplished speaker, and this tradition had not weakened under the empire. Moreover, for the training of the intellectual faculties as such, the Romans had no better resource than grammatical and literary study. Science was purely empirical, mathematics was mainly arithmetic and mensuration, and there was no room in these subjects for that exercise of discernment and acumen as well as of taste which was provided by well-directed study of the best authors. In the secondary education, therefore, the chief object sought was "the knowledge of right expression," and the acquirement of "correct, clear, and elegant diction." This was to be achieved by the most painstaking study of both the Greek and the Latin poets; and it is worth noting that the Romans had the good sense to begin with the best. Every boy must know his Homer, and steep himself in the easy style and sound sentiments of Menander; he must also know his Virgil and his Terence. He must know how to read a passage with proper intonation and appreciation of the sense, and he must learn large quantities of such poetry by heart. In the early stages the master's part is first to read aloud a certain passage what he thinks to be the right articulation and expression; he then explains the meaning or the allusions, and does whatever else he considers necessary for the understanding and appreciation of the piece. It is then the pupil's turn to stand up and repeat the passage so as to show that he has caught the true sense and can impart the true intonation. No doubt there were bad and indifferent teachers as well as good ones, and doubtless there was much mere parroting on the part of the learner. It was then, as it is now, chiefly a question of the sort of teacher. It is probable that in many schools the action of the mental faculty as well as of the voice became pure sing-song. Julius Caesar once made the comment: "If you are singing, you are singing badly; if you are reading, you are singing."
The more advanced stage of this higher education was that of the "school of oratory." The pupil has already acquired a correct grammatical style, and a reasonable amount of literary information; he now trains himself for the actual practice of the law-courts or the deliberative assembly. He is to learn how to argue a case; how to arrange his matter; by what devices of language to make it most effective; and how to deliver it. At a later date there were to be public professorships of this art, endowed by the emperor, but there are none of these at Rome itself under Nero. The "professor of oratory" receives his fee of some £20 or so per annum from each pupil. At this stage the study of the great prose-writers is substituted for that of the poets; themes are set for essays to be written upon them; and those essays will then be delivered as speeches. Sometimes a familiar statement or maxim from a poet is put forward to be refuted or supported, or for you to argue first against it and then for it. Or some historical situation may be proposed, and the student asked to set forth the wisest or most just course in the circumstances. "Hannibal has beaten the Romans at Cannae: shall he or shall he not proceed directly to attack Rome? Examine the question as if you were Hannibal." Much of this appears theoretically sound enough. Unfortunately the subjects were generally either hopelessly threadbare or possessed no bearing upon real life. "We are learning," says Seneca, "not for life, but for the school." The only novelty which could be given to the treatment of old abstract themes or puerile questions was novelty of phrase, and the one great mark of the literature of this time is therefore the pursuit of the striking expression, of something epigrammatic or glittering. A speech was judged by its purple patches of rhetoric, not by the soundness of its thoughts. Prizes, apparently of books, were offered in these Roman schools, and a prize would go to the youth who could tell you in the most remarkable string of brilliant language what was your duty towards your country, or what were the evils of anger, or for what reasons it is right for a father to disown his son. Meanwhile parents would look in at the school from time to time and listen to the boys declaiming, and it is easy to see with the mind's eye the father listening, like the proud American parent at a "graduation" day, to his gifted offspring "speaking a piece."
Education commonly stopped at this point. If the rhetorical training is taken early, the boy is now about sixteen; but there was nothing to prevent the oratorical course from following instead of preceding the "coming of age." In this case we will suppose that it has preceded. The youth has now received a good literary training and considerable practice in the art of speech-making. He knows enough of elementary arithmetic to keep accounts, or, in special cases--where he is intended for certain professional careers--he may understand some geometry and the principles of mechanics and engineering. He may or may not have learned to sing, and enough of music to play creditably on lyre or harp. Unlike the young Greek, he will not necessarily have been made to recognise that gymnastic training is an essential part of education. He may indulge in such exercises by way of pastime or for health; he may, and generally will, have been taught athletics; but he does not acknowledge that they have any practical bearing upon his aptitude for either warfare or civil life.
It is hard to gauge the intellect of the average Roman youth of sixteen; all we know is that, while the best of literature, science, art, and philosophy was left to be undertaken by Greeks, the Romans seized upon whatever learning had an appreciable practical bearing, and that, as men capable of administering and directing, they left their intellectual and artistic superiors far behind.
Up till this time the boy has worn a toga with a purple edge, and also the gold amulet-case round his neck. The time has, however, come for him to be regarded as a man--not indeed free of his father's authority, but free to walk about without a bear-leader, to marry, if his father so desires, or to decide upon a career. Accordingly, on the 17th of March by preference, he will put away the outward insignia of boyhood, dedicate his amulet to the household gods, and will don the all-white toga of a man. The relatives, friends, and clients will gather at the house, and, after offering their congratulations, will escort the youth to the Capitol, and thence down to the Forum, where his appearance in this manner will be accompanied by introductions and a recognition on all sides that he is now "of age." At the Record Office the name of "Publius Silius Bassus, son of Quintus," is recorded with due fulness of description, and he ranks henceforth as one of the citizens of Rome.
After this little ceremony of coming of age, a number of the young men apparently did nothing. The sons of poorer parents have long ago gone to their work in their various trades. Those of the more well-to-do may--and, if they are afterwards to seek public office, they must--now undertake military service amid the conditions which are to be described in the next chapter. Others, being of a more studious turn, will proceed to complete their education by going abroad to one or other of the great seats of philosophic study which corresponded to our universities. Philosophy meant to the Roman a guide to the direction of life. Roman religion, upon which we shall hereafter dwell in some detail, consisted of a number of forms and ceremonies, or acts of recognition paid to the deities; it embodied certain traditional principles of duty to family and state; but otherwise it exercised very little influence on the conduct of life. So far as such guidance was supplied at all, it was by moral philosophy, the treatment of which, as it was understood at this date, is bound up with that of religion and must wait till we reach that subject. It is true that there were professional teachers of philosophy at Rome itself, but the metropolis was not their chief resort, any more than, until recently, London would have been recognised as a seat of university learning of the front rank. It is also true that many great houses maintained a domestic philosopher, who not only helped in moulding the tone of the master of the house and afforded him intellectual company, but might act as private philosophic tutor to his son. But for the most part this highest instruction was rather to be sought in cities specially noted for their assemblage of professors and lecturers. Chief among these figured Athens, Rhodes, Tarsus, Antioch, Alexandria, and Marseilles. At Naples also might be found a large number of men of learning, but they were chiefly persons who had retired from professional life, and who chose that city because of its pleasant climate and surroundings, and because they could there enjoy each other's society. In some of the cities named--particularly Athens and Alexandria--there were endowed professorships (though not endowed by the Roman emperors) of which the benefit was enjoyed, not only by the local student but also by those from other parts of the Roman world who chose to resort to such established teachers. This does not mean that such students paid no fee, nor that there was any lack of lecturers unendowed. The student was free to take his choice. Where there was endowment, as at Athens, there was control by the local authorities over the behaviour of students and also of their teachers; but it is evident that a professor's audience was by no means always a very well-ruled or docile body. As in the German universities, the visiting students were men, and some of them fairly advanced in years, and, also as in Germany, they followed their own tastes in study and changed from university to university at will. They, as it were, "sampled" the professors and made their own election. The teacher not only lectured to them, but also lectured them; while, on their side, they were entitled to catechise, and in a sense "badger," the lecturer, to propound difficulties, and to make more or less pronounced exhibition of their sentiments.
In the philosophic lecture-room the student, possessing his share of the vivacity and excitability of the south, would stamp, spring from his seat, shout and applaud, calling out in Greek "splendid!" "inimitable!" "capital!" "prettily said!" and so forth. Plutarch writes a little essay on the proper manner of behaving in the lecture-rooms, and he tells us: "You should sit in a proper manner and not lounge; you should keep your eyes on the speaker and show a lively interest; maintain a composed countenance and show no annoyance or irritation, nor look as if you were thinking of other things." Such an attitude was the ideal and orthodox; but he tells us also that there were some who "scowled; their eyes wandered; they sprawled, crossed their legs, nodded and whispered to their neighbour, smiled, yawned sleepily, and let their heads droop." This was not necessarily because the lecturer was dull, but because he might be giving lessons which were unwelcome to some among his audience. The cap fitted them too well, as it sometimes does when offered by a modern preacher. But, says the same Plutarch, if you did not like these direct and rough-tongued monitors, you could find other professors, poseurs, who were all suavity; gentlemen whose philosophical stock-in-trade was grey hair, a pleasant voice and delivery, graceful language, and much self-appreciation. These were the Reverend Charles Honeymans of the period, and their following was like unto the following of that popular pulpiteer.
[Illustration: FIG. 96--Papyri and Tabulae. (From Dyer's Pompeii.)]
Since mention has been made more than once of reading and libraries, it is well to realise the form commonly taken by books. We must not think of the modern bound volume standing on its shelf or open in the hand. At our date any books made up in the form of leaves--or what the Romans called "tablet" form--consisted only of some four or six pages. The regular shape for a book was that of a roll, or, if the work was a large one, it might consist of several such "rolls" or "sections." The material was either paper--in its original sense of papyrus--or the skin known as parchment. Papyrus was naturally the cheaper and the less durable. Prepared sheets of a given length and breadth--the "pages"--were written upon and then pasted to each other side by side until a long stretch was formed. The last sheet was then attached to a thin roller, commonly of wood, answering to that used in a modern wall-map. Round a roll of any pretensions there was wrapped a cover of coloured parchment, red, yellow, or purple. The ends of the roll were rubbed smooth with pumice-stone and dyed, and a tag or label was affixed to bear the name of the author and the work. A number of such rolls, related in subject or authorship, were placed on end in a round box, with the labels upwards ready for inspection. In the library such a box would stand in a pigeon-hole or section of shelf, from which it might be carried where required. Sometimes the rolls themselves lay in a heap horizontally in a pigeon-hole without a box, but this manifestly a less convenient practice. To keep the bookworms cedar-oil was rubbed upon them, giving them a yellowish tinge. The reader, taking the body of the roll in one hand, begins to unwind the long strip with the other. After reading the first column or page thus exposed, he mechanically re-winds that portion, while the width of another page is pulled into view. The writing itself was done by means of a reed, sharpened and split like a quill-pen, and dipped in ink made in various ways, but mostly less "biting" than our own. This made it comparatively easy to sponge out what was written, and to use the same roll over again--as a "palimpsest"--for some work more desired. It is perhaps needless to say that the writing was regularly to be found upon one side only. If the back was used, it was for economy, for unimportant notes, or as an exercise book for schoolboys. We may imagine a fine library copy, or edition de luxe, of Virgil as consisting of a number of rolls, each a long strip of the best parchment rolled round a staff of ivory with gilded ends. Its "cover" is a wrapper of parchment richly dyed and bearing coloured bands of leather to serve as fasteners. From the smoothed and dyed end stands out a scarlet label, marked "Virgil Aeneid Book I." (or as the case may be). When opened, the first page will reveal a painted portrait of the poet, and the writing will be found to be in a beautifully clear and even calligraphy. Beside the shelf on which the work is placed there likely stands a lifelike bust of Virgil in marble in bronze.
Prev | Next | Contentsinclude("https://www.annourbis.com/ssi-responsive/bottom-2020.html"); ?>