ROME-MANNERS AND CUSTOMS.
ranged just above. Then came the throng, rising higher and higher to the far
upper arcades, where the black swarm of indiscriminate humanity was massed like a
shadow on the horizon. In all the Old World the People were seen on the horizon
When the time came for the beginning of the scene the performers descended into
the arena, and the sport was on. Of the bloodless diversions the most exciting
and popular was chariot racing. These contests were not, like the similar games
of Greece, conducted by citizens of the state, ambitious to show what the
physical culture of the commonwealth could accomplish, but by hired performers,
slaves, freedmen. The sentiments, therefore, of the Romans witnessing their
games, were totally different from the patriotic enthusiasm of the Greeks. To the
Roman the contest was simply a means of amusement-a scene to stir his heavy and
powerful nature with emotions similar to those excited by the pageant of war.
In order that the great chariot races might be successfully conducted rival
companies were organized to train both steeds and drivers. In Imperial Rome,
under Nero and Caligula, there were four of these associations, known by the
different colors of their liveries-white, red, blue, and green. Afterwards the
companies were combined into two, the blue and the green; and between these two
all Rome was divided in partisanship. After the division of the Empire this
rivalry extended to Constantinople, and, as will be hereafter seen, became the
source of a dangerous and bloody insurrection.
On the day when a Roman chariot race was to be given the city was early astir and
eager for the contest. The exercises began with a religious ceremony and a
procession from the Capitol, through the Forum, to the circus. The competing
chariots were duly entered. In a full race there were four abreast, each
harnessed to two or four horses. Seven times the amphitheater must be circled,
and seven times the driver must make the difficult short turn at the post which
marked the further extreme of the great ellipse. At the close, when the result
was known, the victor drove back to the chalk-line and was greeted with such
huzzas as never rent the air of any land but Italy.
The pleasure received by the Roman from these sports was purely objective. He
looked on as upon something foreign to himself, a scene full of excitement, but
otherwise touching not himself or his people. When the circus proper no longer
satisfied, he turned to the arena of blood. Here the struggle of fierce beasts
raised for a while his flagging interest. He saw with delight the red gashes in
the quivering flesh of living creatures. His sanguinary disposition was thus
appeased. Caesar turned four hundred lions and forty elephants into the arena.
Pompey's exhibition embraced eighteen elephants and between five and six hundred
lions. After the subjugation of Dacia, Trajan gave a festival of four months'
duration, in the course of which eleven thousand wild beasts were brought into
the arena. In a single day more animals would be destroyed than could be
contributed by all the menageries and zoological gardens in America. (1)
In the combats of the arena the wild beasts were admitted from their dens, which
opened out from the enclosed sides of the circle. Sometimes the introduction of
the fights was made with startling effects. Perhaps a ship would sail into the
arena, and suddenly falling to pieces pour out a vast number of wild animals in a
heterogeneous mass. Again a forest would arise as if by magic from the ground,
and the beasts would spring forth from among the trees. Perhaps no modern stage
is arranged with as great technical skill as was displayed by the Romans in the
management of their gigantic arenas.
The gladiatorial shows followed the ___________________________ 1 The skill of
the Romans in the management and training of wild beasts was marvelous. The most
ferocious creatures, taken from the wilds of Asia and the interior of Africa,
were handled with astonishing ease. They were not only subdued, but trained and
educated. Mark Antony had a span of lions that drew his chariot through the
streets of Rome. Caesar's elephants, carrying torches, escorted their master home
by night. Tigers and lions were tamed until they were only cats of a larger
growth. Stags were harnessed to vehicles and made to work as patiently as horses.
Elephants were taught to dance, to perform on the tight-rope, and to write Latin!