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النشر الإلكتروني

No. IX.

Potentiæ paucorum decus atque libertatera suam gra. tificari.


They sacrificed virtue and their liberty at the shrine of rank and power.

I shall entertain the public this day with a short account of the civilities and ceremonies of politeness in use amongst the Romans ; leaving to my readers the satisfaction of running the parallel between the modern customs, and those which were fashionable at so great an interval of time; as likewise the pleasure of observing, how like one wealthy luxurious nation is to another, notwithstanding the distance of ages and climates.

The great men, who, in the infancy of Rome, were no otherwise distinguished from the lesser people, than as they owned them for their protectors, and who were respected by them only from a principle of gratitude, towards the declension of the republic, became lords over a multitude of voluntary slaves, consisting of avaricious citizens and self-interested clients. At which time the servility of the dependents, and the haughtiness of the patrons, conspired to carry ceremony to a great excess.

The man who purposed to make his court effectually, was obliged to go every morning to the levees of those persons of distinction whom he pitched upon for his patrons. The citizen, and often the magistrate himself, went about from door to door to pay his morning compli. ments to a great man; who in his turn went out to tender the same homage to another, greater than himself. In bidding good-morrow, the usual gesture was to lay the hand upon the mouth, in advancing towards the person they saluted: in which manner too they paid their adoration to the gods; but with this difference, that it was not necessary to be uncovered to the deities, whereas the grandees expected you should stand always bare-headed before them,

It was likewise a mark of respect to kiss the hand of him you waited on. The military men performed their salute by bowing their weapons, when they were armed. But it does not appear that the usual salutation was accompanied with any inclination of the body, or bending of the knee; these kinds of submission were not introduced till long after the overthrow of the commonwealth.

Those who were levee-hunters, went always dressed out in their habit of ceremony, which was a white garment. The porch (which answers to our hall) was the place where the clients interchanged civilities one with another, till the patron was in the humour to be seen, or till they received notice that his honour had made his escape from their compliments at a back-door. But if this man of importance thought it proper to give them fair play, and go out at his porch in a public manner, his court of clients pressed about his chair. Some signam lized their zeal in keeping off the crowd; others distinguished themselves by endeavouring to get as near as possible to his person, as well to see him, as to be seen by him. Generally speaking, an inferior failed not to stand up, when a great man came into the places of public assembly; to remain uncovered in his presence, and to place him in the middle; to give him the righthand in walking with him ; to stop short, if he happened to pass by; to leave him a free passage, and the rising part of the pavement, if he chanced to meet him in the street.

In paying a visit, the visitor was obliged to notify himself by a set form ; after which he was admitted into the apartment by an officer, in the nature of an introductor. Neither was any one exempt from this formality, but by the freedom of a great familiarity, or by the privilege of certain public days, such as the first of January, or the birth-day of the patron; for then he gave himself up to receive the compliments of all that came. Their feasts and entertainments had likewise their settled laws and regulations, which are sufficiently known, and would be too tedious to enumerate. When any one had the honour of treating a grandee, the choice of the guests was always left to him; and they were invited by the host, in his name. On the other hand, if you were invited to his table, you came in your habit of ceremony. The rule of civility consisted, not in offering to take the lowest place, but in going to the seat allotted for you by the master of the house. There was a carver always to cut up the dishes, and to help the guests, which was often performed to the sound of instruments.

There was no coming at employments, but by the suffrages of the people; which made the ambitious great men very affable.

affable. They who stood for places, were obliged to caress the meanest citizen. The candidates, when they had first received with smiles all who came to compliment them in the morning, went through the city to canvass votes, dressed in white, and attended by their relations, their friends, and their clients. The principal magistrates who interested themselves for a candidate, went his rounds with him, and recommended him to the people; while he (with a prompter at his elbow) saluted every one by his name, and embraced those he happened to meet in his walks.

In the public places of rendezvous, the citizens practised upon each other the civility of embracing and kissing; and generally meant as little as we do by those cordialities. This method of caressing, which was the ordinary manner of salutation, grew to besuch a nuisance, through the number of unsavoury hearty fellows who disgusted the fine gentlemen with a close hug, that Tiberius was at last obliged, in defence of the beaux, to abolish it by an edict: but in all probability it was not long observed, since Martial complains of this polite grievance.

Notwithstanding what has been said, I must observe, to the honour of the Romans, that they gave the same respect to age as they paid to quality, and never refused a due reverence to grey hairs. Their modesty likewise with regard to their nearest relations was so great, that a father, or father-in-law, was never seen to bathe with a son, or a son-in-law.

From this general view of the civilities and ceremonies practised in a very populous city,

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