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LIFE IN THE ROMAN WORLD OF NERO AND ST. PAUL

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HOLIDAYS AND AMUSEMENTS: THEATRE, CIRCUS, AMPHITHEATRE

These topics bring us naturally to the consideration of the chief amusements and entertainments of Rome and of those parts of the empire which were either fairly romanized or else contained a large number of resident Romans.

Holidays, some of them lasting over several days, were at this date liberally spread throughout the year. Most of them belonged to fixed dates, others were festivals specially proclaimed for victories or other causes of rejoicing. We may estimate their average number at Rome itself at about a hundred. At first sight this might indicate an astonishing waste of time and the prevalence of enormous indolence. But we must remember that the Romans had no such thing as Sunday. Our own Sundays and the weekly half-holidays make together seventy-eight days, and if to these we add the holidays at Christmas, Easter, and other Bank and public "closings," we shall find that our annual breaks in the working year are not very far from the Roman total, however differently they may be distributed. The difference between us and them lies rather in the way in which the holidays were employed. Originally the holidays did not imply any giving of shows and games in the way of chariot-races, gladiatorial combats, and the like. They were simply festivals of deities--of Flora, the goddess of flowers, Ceres, the goddess of crops, Apollo the god of light and healing, and other divinities--honoured by sacrifices, processions, and feasts. The feast of Saturn, for example, was at first held for only one day. Later it was extended over five and then over seven days, exactly as our Christmas celebrations--which are a Christian adaptation of it--tend virtually to spread over longer and longer periods. At this winter festival of the Saturnalia there was an interchange of presents--such as confectionery, game, articles of clothing, writing-tablets--and a general outburst of goodwill and merriment. For one day the slaves were allowed to put on the freeman's cap, the "cap of liberty," and to pretend to be the masters. This is the source of the mediaeval monkish custom of permitting one annual day of "misrule." Meanwhile the citizen threw off the toga and clad himself in colours as he chose. He played at dice publicly and with impunity. The cry of "Hurrah for the Saturnalia!" was heard everywhere. Later it became customary to hold public shows on these days, and the emperors gave gladiatorial games and acrobatic or dramatic entertainments, at which there were scrambled various objects, articles of food, coins or tickets entitling the holder to some gift which might be valuable, valueless, or comical. Similarly there was a holiday on New Year's Day, when presents were again interchanged, regularly including a small piece of money "for good luck." The gifts on this day frequently bore the inscription "a Happy and Prosperous New Year to you." Presents at all times played a prominent part in Roman etiquette and sociality. Not only were they given at holidays but also at all important domestic events. Even at a dinner-party, besides actual articles of food to be carried home, there were frequently gifts of a kind either expressly adapted to the recipient, or else drawn by a humorous lottery. Among numerous other articles of which one might be the recipient in various seasons and circumstances, there are mentioned books, pictures, tablets of ivory, wood, or parchment, cushions, mufflers, hats, hoods, sponges, soap, rings, flasks, baskets, musical instruments, balls, pens, lamps, tooth-picks, dice, money-boxes, satchels, parrots, magpies, and monkeys. On the Ides of March the poorer classes made their way to the Campus Martius beside the river, built themselves arbours or wigwams of boughs, and spent the day and evening in riotous song and jollity.

In general, however, the parts of these festivals to which the people looked forward with liveliest anticipation were those public entertainments, commonly known as "the games" or "sports," which were provided for them free of cost. The expense was theoretically borne by the state--whether from the exchequer of the emperor or from that of the senate and the state did indeed spend as much as six or eight thousand pounds upon a particular celebration. But, both in Rome itself and in the provinces, it was practically obligatory that the public officer who had charge of a given festival for the year should spend liberally of his own upon it. No man either at Rome or in a provincial city could permit himself to be elected to such a public position unless he was prepared to disburse a sum perhaps as large as the subvention given by the state. The more he gave, particularly if he introduced some striking or amusing addition to the ordinary shows, the more popular he became for the time being. In the Roman world you must pay for your ambitions, and this was the most approved way of paying. We might moralise over the enormous frivolity which could waste day after day thousands and thousands of pounds upon such transitory pleasures, instead of conferring lasting benefits in the way of hospitals or schools. But it is not the object of this book to moralise. We may feel confident that the Roman populace, if offered the choice, would have voted for the chariot-races or the gladiators, not for the college or the hospital.

[Illustration: FIG. 78: BOXING-GLOVES.]

The entertainments provided were of several kinds, by no means equally popular. There were plays in the theatres; there were contests of running, wrestling, boxing, throwing of spears and disks, and other "events," corresponding to our athletic sports; there were chariot-races in the Circus, answering to our horse-races at Epsom or Newmarket; and there were spectacles in the amphitheatre, to which, happily, we have no modern parallel. These included huntings and baitings of animals, fights with wild beasts--performances far more dangerous than those of the Spanish bull-ring--and, above all, the combats of the gladiators or professional "swordsmen." So far as there exists a later analogue to the last it is to be found in the more chivalrous tourney in the lists, but the resemblance is not very close. Least valued among the real Romans were the athletic sports. For genuine enjoyment of these we must look to the Greek part of the empire. At Rome they appeared tame, for the mind of the Roman populace was naturally coarse in grain; what it delighted in was something sensationally acrobatic, or provocative of a rather gross laughter, or else involving a thrilling anticipation of danger and bloodshed. In taste the Romans were in fact similar to those modern spectators who love to see a man plunge from a lofty trapeze into a narrow tank, with a reasonable chance of breaking his neck. It is a strange contradiction with other Roman attitudes when we find that they objected to the Greek wrestling or running on grounds of decorum, because it was innocently nude. On the athletic sports, although they were never wanting in the "games" at Rome, we need not therefore dwell. It may be sufficient to show by an illustration what sort of notion the ancient world entertained of interesting pugilism. It is only fair to say that the "boxing-gloves" here given--thongs of leather wrapped tightly round the arm and hand, and loaded or studded with lead or iron--were a notion borrowed from the professional pugilists of Greece.

[Illustration: FIG. 80.--THEATRE AT ASPENDUS.]

Next lowest in esteem stood the plays given on the theatrical stage. Mention has been made in a previous chapter of the three great theatres of Rome, one of them said, though somewhat incredibly, to be capable of holding 40,000 spectators. Their shape and arrangement have already been hinted at. Huge structures of a similar kind existed in all the great romanized towns of Italy and other provinces. One at Orange in France is still well preserved, and two of smaller dimensions--one without a roof for plays, and one roofed for musical performances--are among the most easily remembered of the remains extant at Pompeii. In the Grecian half of the empire the theatres were not essentially different, the chief distinguishing feature being that, while the Roman auditorium formed half a circle, that of the Greek type formed over two-thirds. In the Roman type the level semicircle in front of the stage, from which we derive the name "orchestra," was occupied by the chairs of the senators, and the fourteen tiers of stone seats immediately behind them by the knights; certain sections were also set apart for special classes, one being for soldiers, one for boys not yet of age, and one for women, whose presence was not encouraged, and who, except at the tragedies, would have shown more modesty by staying away. Facing the seats is a stage, higher than among the Greeks, but somewhat lower than it is commonly made in modern times; and at the back of the stage is a wall architecturally adorned to represent a house or "palace" front, and containing one central and two side doors, which served for separate purposes conventionally understood. Over the stage is a roof, which slopes backward to join the wall. The entrances to the ordinary tiers of seats are from openings reached by stairs from the outside arcade surrounding the building; those to the level "orchestra" are from right and left by passages under an archway, which supports a private box for the presiding official. The two boxes are approached from the stage, and when the emperor is present he is seated in the one to the spectators' left. Round the top of the building, inside above the seats, runs a covered walk, which serves as a lounge and a foyer. Over the heads of the spectators a coloured awning--dark-red or dark-blue by preference--may be stretched on masts or poles; when no awning is provided, or when it cannot be used because the wind is too strong, the spectator is permitted to wear a broad-brimmed hat, if he finds one desirable for his comfort. The whole building must be thought of as lined and seated with marble, gilded in parts, and decorated with pillars and statues.

The curtain, instead of being pulled up, as with us, when the play begins is pulled down, falling into a groove in the stage. Where we should say the "curtain is up" the Romans would say exactly the reverse, "the curtain is lowered." For plays in which the palace-front was not appropriate, scenery was employed to cover it, being painted on canvas or on boards which could be pulled aside; other scenes were stretched on frames, which could be made to revolve so as to present various faces.

The actors, however much admired for their art, and however influential in irregular ways, were looked upon as in a degraded position, and no Roman who valued social regard would adopt this line of life. Among the Greeks and such Orientals as were under Greek influence no such stigma rested upon the profession, and therefore many of the chief actors of the imperial city had received their training in this more liberal-minded part of the Roman world. The rest were mostly slaves or ex-slaves. If a Roman of any standing took part, it was either because he was a ruined man, or else because the emperor had capriciously ordered him to undergo this humiliation.

[Illustration: FIG. 81.--TRAGIC ACTOR.]


The plays themselves were certainly of no great merit from a constructive or literary point of view. We hear a good deal nowadays of the "decline of the drama," but perhaps in no civilised country has it declined so far as it had descended in Rome by the year A.D. 64. The regular and classical drama--that is to say, literary tragedy and comedy--was not likely to appeal to any ordinary Roman gathering. The philosopher Seneca indeed wrote tragedies in imitation of the Greek, but they were intended for the reader and the library, and there is little probability that they were ever performed, or even offered to the stage. Tragedies were, it is true, represented, but they were mostly Greek, and the performance was in the Greek style. The heroic actors wore masks, covering not only the face but the whole head, which they raised considerably in height. About the body fell long and trailing robes of splendid material and colour, and on the feet were thick-soled boots which increased the height by several inches. The comedian played in low shoes or slippers; and "boot" and "slipper" were therefore terms in common vogue to distinguish the two kinds of theatrical entertainment. Of Pliny's two favourite country-houses on Lake Como one was called "Tragedy" as standing high, the other "Comedy" because on a lower site beside the water. The whole effect sought in the heroic play was the grandiose, and no attempt was made to reproduce the actualities of life. In the accompanying illustration will be seen the tragic hero as he appeared upon the Roman stage. In considering this somewhat amazing apparition it must be remembered that at Rome, as in Greece, the theatre was huge, effective opera-glasses were not known, and subtle changes of facial expression would have passed unnoticed. The make-up of the actor, like the painting of the scenes, was compelled to depend upon broad effects.

With its love of the false heroic, of rhetorical bombast, of sumptuous dress, magnificent scenes, and gorgeous accessories in the way of "supers" and processions, the Roman tragic drama of this period must have borne a striking resemblance to the corresponding English pieces of the Restoration or age of Dryden. Perhaps the most popular part of the performance was the music and dancing, whether by individual actors or as ballets, accompanied by the flageolet, the lyre, or the cymbals.

In comedy there was apparently no originality. As in the oldest days of their drama the Romans had copied the Greeks, so they copied them still. We may believe that the acting was often excellent; especially in respect of intonation and gesture, but little can be said for the play, whether from the point of view of literature or of morals. Since verbal description must necessarily be of little force, it will serve better to present here a few specimens of comic masks and a scene from comedy:

[Illustration: FIG. 82.--COMIC MASKS.]

[Illustration: FIG. 83.--SCENE FROM COMEDY.]

Much more in demand were theatrical performances of a lower kind. These were farces, interludes, character-pieces, and dumb-shows known as "pantomimes." The farce was a loosely constructed form of fooling comedy, containing much of the ready Italian improvisation or "gag," and regularly introducing the four stock characters which have lasted with little disguise for so many centuries There was an old "grandfather," the forerunner of the modern pantaloon; a cunning sharper; a garrulous glutton with a fat face (known as "Chops"); and an amorous Simple Simon. Sometimes types of foreigners or provincials were introduced, with caricatures of their dress and language, after the manner, and probably with the veracity, of the stage Scotchman, Irishman, or Frenchman. All these parts were played in masks.

The interlude again was a slight piece with very little plot, and composed in a large measure of buffoonery, practical jokes, hitting and slapping, and dancing. Topical allusions and contemporary caricatures were freely introduced, and the whole performance, however coarsely amusing, was both vulgar and indecent. In these pieces no masks were worn and also no shoes, and the women's parts--taken in the other instances by men and boys--were actually played by females, whose posture-dances were no credit to their sex.

The dumb-shows or "pantomimes" were performances in which expressive and elaborate gestures and movements were left to tell the whole tale. For this kind of piece the actors naturally required not only uncommon cleverness but also great suppleness of body. As usual, these qualities, together with the qualities of voice, the magnificent dress, and the carefully cultivated long hair, won for the actor demoralising influence over too large a number of the more impressionable and untrammelled Roman dames.

Meanwhile the huge audience must not be conceived as sitting in quiet and restrained attention, but as roaring with laughter, applauding and stamping, shouting approval and encores, hissing and waving handkerchiefs. And meanwhile the claqueurs will have been duly distributed by those interested in the success of the performance. Every now and then a fine rain of saffron perfume is shed over the audience from pipes and jets distributed round the building. It deserves remark also that in the theatre, as in the other places of amusement, the gathering frequently broke out into demonstrations of its feeling towards persons and politics. There was safety in numbers, and the applause or hissing which greeted a personage or a topical allusion--or a line which could be twisted into such--could hardly be laid to the account of any individual. A certain license was conceded and fully utilised at the festivals: it served as a safety-valve, and wise emperors apparently so regarded it. At Rome the government was indeed "despotism tempered by epigram," but it was no less tempered by these demonstrations at the games and spectacles.

More worthy of imperial Rome were the exhibitions of chariot-races held in the immense Circus Maximus. That building, already described, would at this date probably hold some 200,000 persons, but it could never provide room enough for the excited people, who not only gathered in multitudes from Rome itself, but also from all the country, even all the empire, within reach. For weeks the chances of the parties have been discussed and betted upon; even the schoolboys have talked chariots, chariot-drivers, and horses. The fortune-tellers have been consulted about them; dreamers have dreamed the winners; and many an underhand attempt, sometimes including the hocussing of men or horses, has been made to corrupt the sport. The struggle is in reality not between chariot and chariot, but between what we should call stable and stable. There are four parties--the white, red, green, and blue--whose drivers will wear the respective colours, in which also the chariots were probably painted. By some means the green and blue have at this date contrived to stand out beyond the others, and the chief interest commonly centres upon these.

The day of the great spectacle arrives. Outside the building and in the porticoes surrounding it the sellers of books of the races and of cushions are plying their trade along with venders of confectionery and perfumes. The people are streaming into the numerous entrances which lead by stairways to the particular blocks or tiers of seats in which they are entitled to sit, and for which they bear a ticket. Full citizens are wearing the toga, or, if the emperor has not forbidden the practice, the brightly coloured cloak which has been already described. Seats are reserved for officials, senators, knights, and Vestal Virgins; and on the side under the Palatine is a large balcony-box for the emperor and his suite. At these games women have no special place set apart for them; they sit in their richest land showiest attire among the general body of the spectators, and flirting and love-making are part of the order of the day. A very crude form of field-glass or "spy-glass" was already in use, apparently consisting generally of a mere hollow tube, but occasionally provided with a magnifying lens. Nero himself, in consequence of his short-sight, had a "glass" in some way contrived of emerald.

At one end of the Circus is a building containing a curved line of stalls, equidistant from the starting-point, in which the drivers hold their chariots in readiness. These are all barred, and only at the signal will the doors be thrown open. The horses are commonly three-year-olds or five-year-olds. In some races there are two horses to the chariot, in others four. Less commonly there are three or six, or even a greater number. In the year 64 the number of cars running will be four, one for each club. How many races there are to be, and in what variety, will depend upon the presiding officer, who, as has been said, is paying a considerable portion of the expenses, and who will receive or lose applause according to the entertainment he affords to the spectators. Commonly there will be about twenty races run, although occasionally even that number be increased.

Down the middle of the arena, though not quite in its axis, runs a low broad wall called the "backbone," bearing various sculptures along its summit and in the middle an obelisk, now standing in the Piazza del Popolo, which Augustus had brought from Egypt after his conquest of that country. On the extremities of the "backbone" are placed the figures of seven dolphins and seven large eggs, and just free of each end, on a base of their own, stand three tall cones coated with gilt, round which the chariots are to turn as a yacht turns round the buoy. Seven times will the chariots race down the arena, round the end of the backbone, and back again. At each lap a dolphin and an egg will be removed from the wall, and as the last disappears the winning driver makes straight on for the white line which serves as the winning-post.

[Illustration: FIG. 84.--PLAN OF CIRCUS.]

But they have not yet started. At the fixed hour a procession starts from the Capitol, descends by the temple of Saturn and past the face of the Basilica Julia, turns along the "Tuscan Street," and enters the Circus under a large archway in the middle of the building which contains the stalls. In front go a body of musicians with blare of the straight Roman trumpet and the scream of the flageolets; behind these comes the high official who has charge of the particular festival. He is mounted high on a chariot, and is clothed in a toga embroidered with gold and a tunic figured with golden palm-branches: in his hand he carries an ivory sceptre, and over his head is held a crown of gold-leaf. Behind the chariot is collected a retinue in festal array. The competing chariots follow; after these are the effigies of deities, borne on platforms or on vehicles to which are attached richly caparisoned horses, mules, or elephants; in attendance upon them are the connected priestly bodies. As this procession passes round the Circus the spectators rise from their seats, roar their acclamations, and wave their handkerchiefs. When it has made the circuit, its members retire to their places, and the chariots are shut in their stalls. Soon the president takes his stand in his box, lifts a large handkerchief or napkin, and drops it. Immediately the bolts of the barriers are withdrawn, and the chariots dash forward towards the point marked A. The drivers, clothed in a close sleeveless tunic and wearing a skull-cap, all of their particular colour, lean forward over their steeds, and encourage them with whips and shouting. At their waists you will see the reins gathered to a girdle, at which also hangs a knife, in readiness to cut them away in case of accident. The chariot is a low and shallow vehicle of wood covered with ornament and as light as it can well be made, and it requires no little skill for the charioteer to maintain his footing while controlling his team. Down the straight they rush, each endeavouring to gain an advantage at the turn, where the left rein is pulled, and the left horse--the pick of the team--is brought as closely round the end of the wall as skill and prudence can contrive. It is chiefly, though by no means only, here that the accidents occur, and that the chariots lose their balance and collide with each other, or strike against the end of the wall and are over-thrown. How readily collision might happen may be seen from the following diagram, where the courses of two chariots, A and B, are indicated.

[Illustration: FIG. 85.--THE TURN IN THE CIRCUS.]

Sometimes the teams get out of hand and general disaster may result. Round and round they go, the spectators yelling in their excitement for the blue or the green, the red or the white, and making or revising their bets. "Too far out!" "Well turned!" "The green wins!" "Well done, Hirpinus!" Shouts like these form a roar to which perhaps we have no modern parallel. One by one the eggs and dolphins disappear from the wall; the chariots are reduced in number; the four or five miles are completed; and an enormous shout goes up for the winner, whose name--of man and horse and colour--will be for days in everybody's mouth. For his reward he will not only obtain the honour of the palm-branch; he will receive presents in money, gold and silver wreaths, clothes, and various articles of value. Socially he may be but a slave or a person in base esteem; the occupation, however reputable in the Greek portion of the empire, is not for a free-born Roman; nevertheless, like the jockey who wins the Derby, he is the hero of the moment.

[Illustration: FIG. 86--CHARIOT-RACE.]

Race follows race, with an interval for the midday meal. During that time there will be interludes of acrobatic and other performances. One rider, for example, will stand upright on the back of two or more horses, and will spring continually from one to the other while they are at the gallop. Most of the company will take their refreshments where they are. When a man of some standing was reproached by Augustus for this rather undignified proceeding, he replied: "That is all very well for you, Sire, but your place is sure to be kept." We need not proceed further into details concerning the "events" in the Circus. It may however be worth while to add that the Romans cared nothing for the modern form of race by jockeys on single horses.

The Circus is quite a different thing from the oval amphitheatre, a structure for once of native Roman devising, without which no Roman town could consider itself complete. Though the Colosseum was not yet built, there already existed an amphitheatre in the Campus Martius, and such buildings were to be found in all considerable towns which contained a large Roman element. There is one, though of later date than Nero, still to be seen in fair preservation at Verona; the well-known amphitheatre at Pompeii was in full use in the year 64, and other cities--Capua, Puteoli, Nîmes, Antioch, or Caesarea--were provided with the joys of the gladiatorial shows and the beast-fight. Only in the thoroughly Greek or thoroughly Oriental part of the empire was the amphitheatre absent. Where there was no fixed building of stone or wood, a temporary structure was erected and a company of gladiators would perform in the place at the expense of some local officer or of some wealthy citizen with social ambitions. Whatever may be thought of the Greeks in other respects, they felt no liking, but only an openly expressed repulsion, for the barbarous exhibitions of bloodshed in which the Roman revelled. Outside Jerusalem an amphitheatre was built by the romanizing Herod, but it was done to the horror of all orthodox Jews.

[Illustration: FIG. 87.--AMPHITHEATRE AT POMPEII.]

[Illustration: FIG. 98--BARRACKS OF GLADIATORS (Pompeii.)]

The performances were of two main kinds; fights between men and beasts--occasionally between two kinds of wild beast--and fights between men and men. There was no make-believe about these combats; they meant at least serious wounds, even when they did not mean death. Those who fought with beasts might in some cases be volunteers; in general they were captives or condemned criminals, and it perhaps hardly needs pointing out that, when St. Paul says he had "fought with beasts at Ephesus," he is merely speaking in metaphor adapted to the times. It was not intended that the criminal should escape death, but only that he should be able to make a fight for his life. Meanwhile the gladiators who fought with men and not with beasts were in the position of professionals, who might be slaves, condemned brigands, mutineers, prisoners of war, or volunteers. The picture drawn by Byron, although the so-called "Dying Gladiator" which inspired him is in reality no gladiator but a Gaulish warrior, perhaps fairly represents one class of combatant, but it represents only one. In the case of these "swordsmen" a number of successful fights might in the end secure freedom and something more for slave or prisoner, and a competence for the volunteer. It was not unnatural that men of courage and strength should frequently offer themselves for this service. Their physical training was indeed severe both in the way of exercise and of diet, and their personal treatment was harsh and ignominious; but their fame, such as it might be, was wide, and their rewards often solid. Contemporary writers also complain that, however brutal and ugly they were, there were always women ready to adore them and to consider them as beautiful as Adonis. At Pompeii a scribbling calls one of them "the sigh of the girls." Nevertheless no Roman with much self-respect, unless forced by a malignant emperor, would bear the stigma of having appeared as a gladiator, any more than in modern times one would choose to be known as a professional pugilist. Moreover these same heroes, after their glorious day in the arena, were carefully stripped of their showy armour, imprisoned in barracks, and, if disobedient or troublesome, chastised with the lash and put in irons or the stocks.

The prelude to a beast-fight was frequently rather a "hunt," amounting to a demonstration of skill in dealing with wild animals which could hardly be said to fight, but which were difficult to capture or kill. Success with javelins or arrows required somewhat more skill and daring than the "big game" shooting of modern times. To give a greater air of naturalness to the performance the arena was sometimes temporarily planted with shrubs and trees, and diversified with rock-work. After the beast "hunt" came the beast "fight," which might be against bisons or bulls, wild boars or wolves, lions or tigers, a rhinoceros or an elephant. In such contests the man commonly wore no body-armour. He took his sword or spear, swathed his right arm and his legs, and went out to meet the enemy in his tunic. The beasts were either let loose from the end of the arena, or, as later in the Colosseum, they were brought up in cages from their underground dens by means of lifts worked by pulleys. Indirectly, it may be observed, the mania for this sport produced one distinctly beneficial result, inasmuch as the more dangerous wild beasts became almost exterminated from the Roman world. The number killed was enormous, hundreds of lions or panthers being produced and slain during the shows of a single festival. It may be added that on the top of the wall or platform surrounding the arena there was placed--at least in the Colosseum--a metal grating or screen, of which the top bar revolved, so that if a wild beast managed to spring so high and take a grip, the feat was of no use to him. To keep him at a further distance a trench surrounded the arena and separated it from the platform.

[Illustration: FIG. 89.--STOCKS FOR GLADIATORS. (Remains from Pompeii.)]

[Illustration: FIG. 90.--GLADIATORS FIGHTING.]

But the great entertainment of the amphitheatre was the combats of men with men. After the beast-fights, which were held in the mornings, and amounted in estimation to a matinee, there followed the fights of the gladiators. Outside the building are being sold the books which catalogue the pairings, together with some record of the men, the name of their training-school, and a statement as to the weapons with which they will fight and as to whether they have made previous appearances. At the appointed time the procession enters from one end of the arena, and the combatants parade and salute the emperor, if he is present, or the presiding officer. Their weapons are examined, and there is a preliminary sham-fight, partly for exhibition of skill and to influence bets, partly for practice. The men then return to their places, a trumpet blows, and a pair commences the real fighting. Sometimes a man is in full and heavy armour from head to foot; sometimes he is lightly equipped with a half-shield and a spear; sometimes he carries only a sharp three-pronged spear and a casting-net, in which he endeavours to enmesh an enemy fully armed. Besides combats on foot, there may be fights upon horseback, or even in chariots of the kind then best known in Britain. To encourage the participants, and to lend more spirit to the scene, there is a blowing of horns and trumpets while the fight proceeds. All around the people are shouting their comments and their advice; they applaud and adjure and curse. "Get up to him!" "Kill him!" and the like are heard on every side. A man falls, not dead, but disabled, and the spectators shout "He has it." He holds up his finger in sign of defeat, but he utters no cry. Shall he be killed, or shall he not? The answer depends on the president or "giver" of the exhibition. He looks round, and if he perceives that the great majority are giving an upward flick of the thumb, and hears them call "Give him the steel!" the man is doomed; if, on the contrary, handkerchiefs are waved, his life is spared. A good fight or a good record may save him to fight again another day. The formal presentation of a wooden sword would mean that he was discharged for life from the necessity of further fighting. If his enemy's dagger must be pressed into his throat, or if he has been slain outright, there is a passage under the middle of the side of the amphitheatre through which the body will be dragged by a hook into the mortuary. Another combat follows between another pair--sometimes between two sides--and should the arena become too sodden with blood, it is raked over and fresh sand is scattered.

It is amazing in what a cold-blooded manner all this was carried out. When one reads the notices written up at Pompeii, that on such-and-such a date there will be exhibited so many pairs of gladiators, that "there will be a beast-hunt," and that "awnings will be provided and perfume sprinkled," it is difficult at first to realise that it means all that it does mean. To the credit of the Romans--so far as they deserve any at all--let it be stated that the presence of women was not encouraged at these shows; that if they appeared at all, it must be in the upper tier, as far as possible from the arena; and, strangely enough, that only the six Vestals, in virtue of their religious claims, could be placed in any position of honour. These sat upon the lowest platform, in line with the special seats of the emperor or president and the highest officials of the state, but it is probably a libel for an artist to depict them as so many Maenads lusting for the blood of the vanquished.

The only other form of public entertainment which it seems desirable to mention was that of a naval battle, in which the sea was either represented by flooding the amphitheatre, or by means of a permanent lake, such as that which Augustus created artificially across the Tiber. The proceedings bore all the appearance of reality. Ships were rammed, sunk, overturned, and boarded, and, so far as the men were concerned, the battle might be as grim and bloody as any other kind of gladiatorial contest.




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