صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

of Augustus; the first representation of which was disa turbed by the breaking out of the quarrel between the comedians and the buffoons, where rival factions so often subsequently embroiled the theatrical representations. Livia established in honour of the same emperor the Palatine games, to which the Romans were perhaps more indebted than to any other, since their celebration afforded an opportunity for the destruction of the monster Caligula. The Certamina Neronia were literary competitions established by the tyrant from whom they were named, who affected to be a patron as well as an adept in all the liberal arts. Among other prizes there was one for music, by which we are to understand poetry, since we are expressly told by Suetonius that Nero himself won the crown of poetry and eloquence, none of his antagonists, probably, choosing to surpass so formidable an antagonist. "Games upon various models were also founded in commemoration of Commodus, Adrian, Antoninus, and many other illustrious and infamous individuals; while all the leading and many of the subordinate deities in the mythological army of the Pagans were honoured at stated periods by festivals and sacrifices, so that one almost wonders how the people could snatch sufficient time from the great business of pleasure and the public shows, to attend to the diurnal cares and pursuits of life.

Besides these numerous festivities for, though many of them professed to be religious ceremonies, they were essen. tially merrimakings and revels—there were the secular games, revived by Augustus, and celebrated only once in a hundred years. Every thing appertaining to these games was calculated to impress the superstitious mind with deep and solemn reverence. From the long interval between the celebrations none could have seen them before, none could ever hope to behold them again. Slaves and strangers were excluded from any participation in this great national festival; the mystic sacrifices to Pluto and Proserpine, to the Fates and to the Earth were performed at night on the banks of the Tiber; the Campus Martius, which was illuminated with innumerable lamps and torches, resounded with music and dancing, and the temples with the choral hymns of youths and virgins, imploring the gods to preserve the virtue,

the felicity, and the empire of the Roman people.* While these supplications were tendered, the statues of the deities were placed on cushions, where they were served with the most exquisite dainties. During the three days of the festival three different pieces of music were performed, the scene being changed as well as the form of the entertainment. On the first, the people assembled in the Campus Martius; on the second, in the Capitol; the third, upon Mount Palatine. A full and beautiful description of these games is furnished by the Carmen Sæculare of Horace, who was appointed the laureate to celebrate their revival by Augustus, and whose ode, like those of Pindar upon the Olympic games, is all that now remains to us of the great and gorgeous spectacle that it commemorates.

When the Romans became masters of the world they accorded the right of stated public shows to such cities as required it; the names of which places are preserved in the Arundel marbles and other ancient inscriptions. Games of all sorts—floral, funeral, Compitalian, and many others, as well as the numerous festivals in honour of deities, heroes, and men, were held in most of the provincial towns as well as in Rome itself; but as these closely resembled the religious ceremonies of the Greeks, from whom indeed they were chiefly borrowed, and as none of them equalled in celebrity or magnificence the Olympic games, of which we have already given a description, we shall only now notice the amphitheatrical combats, which were exclusively practised by the Romans.

As superstition and cruelty seem to be inseparable, we find the ignorance of early Paganism, and perhaps of all religions, except the Jewish and Christian, stained with the blood of human sacrifices, more especially in the funeral rites. Allusion has been made to the twelve noble Trojans thus slaughtered by Achilles, as recorded in Homer; in Virgil also, the pious Eneas sends his prisoners to Evander that they may be immolated upon the funeral pile of his son Pallas. The Greeks, however, becoming more humanized as civilization advanced, not only discarded these barbarous practices, but even in their public games gradually suffered

* When the popish jubilees, the copy of the secular games, were invented by Boniface VIII., the crafty pope pretended that he only revived an ancient institution.-See Gibbon's Decline and Fall, vol. i. chap. 7.

all such as were of a cruel and perilous nature to fall into desuetude ; thus exemplifying the dictum of Ovid, that the cultivation of the polite arts “emollit mores, nec sinit esse feros." The Spartans, indeed, who retained the ferocious sport of the cæstus, after it had been interdicted by the other states, seem to have been in all ages the same heroical savages; nor does it appear that time and comparative civilization ever extirpated, or even softened the bloodthirsty disposition and utter disregard of human life that were inherent in the Roman character. At a very early period of their annals we find them, in compliance with a Sibylline prediction, “ that Gauls and Greeks should possess the city,” burying alive within the walls of Rome four persons, a man and a woman of each nation, in order that thus the prophecy might be fulfilled. * Similar or greater atrocities are of frequent occurrence in the history of those sanguinary tormentors and butchers of the world, who appear to have been never happy unless they were shedding human blood in war, or slaughtering whole herds of animals as sacrifices to their gore-loving gods. So invincible was this propensity, that when there was no foreign eneiny on whom to wreak their brutál ferocity, they could even delight in civil war, and in witnessing the destruction of their fellow-citizens, of which a horrible example was afforded towards the commencement of the empire. The soldiers of Vespasian and those of Vitellius fought a murderous battle in the Campus Martius, and the people who beheld the spectacle, alternately applauding the success of each party, gave themselves up to the extravagance of a barbarous joy.t

That such a nation should be fierce and ruthless, even in their sports, was naturally to be expected ; to the Romans accordingly belongs the disgrace, if not of inventing, at least of adopting, enlarging, and continuing, the gladiatorial and animal combats of the amphitheatre. A superstitious conceit that the souls of deceased warriors delighted in human sacrifices, as if they were slain to satisfy their revenge, originated and gave a sort of religious sanction to this cruel custom, which often proved fatal to prisoners of

But as the inhumanity of such massacres became recognised, combats of captives and slaves were substituted


* Plutarch, in vit. Marcello

| Tacitus, Hist. lib. iii, cap. 83.

at the funeral games, a practice which led the way to the subsequent introduction of regular gladiators, exhibited, not to appease the dead, but to amuse the living. Whether or not the Romans derived these cruel games from the ancient Etrurians, as some have maintained, they eagerly seized every opportunity for their exhibition, even upon occasions when such hideous spectacles would have been peculiarly repugnant to the feelings of any other people upon earth. “ The gladiatory shows,” says an old historian, * “ were exhibited by the Romans, not only at their public meetings, and on their theatres, but they used them at their feasts also.”—The first public spectacle of the sort has been assigned to the Varronian year, 490, when the two Bruti caused three couples of gladiators to combat together in the ox-market, in honour of their deceased father; from which period the multitude became so passionately attached to the sport, that the magistrates, and others who were desirous of advancement in the state, began to have them celebrated at their own charge, often promising them beforehand as donatives for their election. In the earliest times these combats generally took place before the sepulchres ; latterly they were celebrated in the squares or open places of the cities, in the surrounding porticoes of which the intercolumniations were purposely made larger, that the view of the spectators might be the less obstructed. In the time of Polybius, towards the sixth age of Rome, the gladiatory employment was reduced to a regular art, admitting great variety of arms and combatants, as well as different modes of engaging.

Combats of wild beasts were first exhibited in the 568th year of Rome, when Marcus Fulvius treated the people with a hunting of lions and panthers : but as luxury and riches increased, and the conquest of Africa and the East facilitated the supply of exotic animals, it soon became a contest with the ediles and others who should evince the greatest magnificence in the Circensian games, and construct the sumptuous amphitheatres for their display. Cæsar, however, surpassed all his predecessors in the funeral shows which he celebrated in memory of his father; for, not con

* Nicholaus Damascenus. Others, however, maintain, that upon the latter occasions the weapons were guarded, and the fights simulated, not real.

tent with supplying the vases and all the apparatus of the theatre with silver, he caused the arena to be paved with silver plates ; “ so that,” says Pliny, “wild beasts were for the first time seen walking and fighting upon this precious metal.” This excessive expense on the part of Cæsar was only commensurate with his ambition. Preceding ediles had simply sought the consulate; Cæsar aspired to empire, and was resolved, therefore, to eclipse all his competitors. Pompey the Great, on dedicating his theatre, produced, besides a rhinoceros and other strange beasts from Ethiopia, 500 lions, 410 tigers, and a number of elephants, who were attacked by African men, the hunting being continued during five days. Cæsar, after the termination of the civil wars, divided his hunting-games into five days also ; in the first of which the camelopard was shown; at last 500 men on foot, and 300 on horseback were made to fight, together with twenty elephants, and an equal number more with turrets on their backs, defended by sixty men. As to the number of gladiators, he surpassed every thing that had been seen before, having produced, when edile, as Plutarch tells us, no less than 320 couples of human combatants.


Gladiatorial Games.

" - This is the bloodiest shame,
The wildest savagery, the vilest stroke
That ever wall-eyed wrath or staring rage
Presented to the tears of soft remorse."


We shall endeavour to give a succinct account of the professional gladiators, free from the elaborate display of erudition with which the subject has been too often encumbered. -At first their exhibition was limited to the funeral pomps of the consuls and chief magistrates of the republic; insensibly this privilege was extended to less distinguished individuals ; private persons and even females stipulated for

« السابقةمتابعة »