UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.
Trajan regaled the city with a festival of a hundred and twenty-three days
duration. And the rage was not yet satisfied.
Beginning in the times of the Republic with the contests of wild beasts brought
home from foreign parts to destroy each other in the arena in the presence of the
multitude, the appetite for blood was whetted until it demanded the blood of men.
Then came the contest between man and beast. If the man slew the beast, there was
a shout; if the beast devoured the man, a shout still louder. Finally, it was the
combat of man with man. It was the reign of the gladiators. Foreign captives
were trained for the arena. Those who distinguished themselves as swordsmen were
welcomed with applause. Then the Roman himself caught the ambition of personal
victory over an antagonist. The young nobles of the city eagerly disciplined
themselves in the use of the sword and sought admission into the arena. They were
received with unbounded favor. The maidens of Rome clapped their hands with
enthusiasm and leaned forward to see the death thrust sent home by some favorite.
The emperors themselves grew jealous of the common fame and became gladiators.
Nero, Commodus, and Caracalla thought themselves more honored by their victories
in the arena than in the field. Commodus boasted that he had slain twelve hundred
men for the delectation of Rome!
Besides these bloody contests of the circus pit the Romans were great patrons of
the race and the play. Chariot-racing was a favorite amusement, and the great
circuses were arranged especially for such contests. The space was broad enough
to accommodate three or four chariots side by side, each with four horses
abreast. Less exciting were the common dramatic representations in the theaters.
These were, however, numerous and well patronized, especially in the times of the
Republic. But the theaters were insignificant in size as compared with the
tremendous amphitheaters which were the pride of the city. Of the latter a single
one was large enough to contain more people than the combined theaters of Rome.
The Coliseum, or Flavian amphitheater, was built to accommodate eighty thousand
spectators; the circus built in Caesar's time one hundred and fifty thousand; the
same as enlarged by Titus, two hundred and fifty thousand; and in the fourth
century it was estimated that the Maximus would seat three hundred and eighty-
five thousand people. This monstrous edifice was constructed in the valley
between the Palatine and Aventine hills. In the early times of the Republic this
natural depression was used for the exhibition of games. The hillsides were
furnished with rude seats of stone, and in the lowest part a wooden scaffold
composed the circus proper. From this insignificant beginning grew, in successive
centuries, the tremendous structure known as the Maximus, with a capacity far
beyond that of any other amphitheater in the world.
In the Roman circus the lowest tiers of seats were the place of honor. Here sat
the Emperor, the senatorial order, the great nobles and ladies of Rome. The