Page 0736

736

UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.

was manifested that same skill which has been remarked as apparent in the

construction of the circus and arena. The Roman architects were adepts in the art

of producing effects by physical contrivance. The emperors were great patrons of

this kind of skill. In the construction of his Golden House, Nero had the vaulted

ceiling of the dining-hall so planned as to revolve on an axis, thus producing

one sky for day and another for night. Otho's ceiling was so arranged that when

the guests were seated gold tubes shot out of the dome, and showered odorous

spray on the banqueters. Sometimes petals of flowers were scattered from above in

a similar manner.

We are indebted to the chatty Petronius for an account of one of Nero's feasts.

In the course of the banquet the surprises were constant and incredible in their

character. As soon as the guests had reclined, a retinue of Egyptian slaves

entered and washed the reveler's hands and feet in snow-water. A great salver was

then brought in, in the midst of which stood a bronze ass bearing silver panniers

filled with black and white olives. On his back sat old Silenus pouring sauce

from a wine-sack. The sausages were set on a gridiron, under which, in imitation

of live coals, were heaped plums and red pomegranate kernels. On the edge of the

tray were oysters and snails set in a natural way among the vegetables with which

they were to be eaten. In the revelation a hen of carved wood was introduced. She

sat with outspread wings covering a nestful of peacock's eggs, and these were

served to the guests. On being broken, each egg revealed what appeared to be an

unhatched chick, but which proved to be a beccafico done in egg-sauce! The

dishes of each course were removed to the music of a chant, and one of the

attendants was boxed for breaking the rhythm by stopping to pick up a dish. The

wine served in the next course was a hundred years old. At one point in the

banquet the dishes which were brought in were of the most ordinary pattern and

vulgar finish; but these on being lifted proved to be only covers for the real

treasures which were concealed beneath them. A fat hare was converted into a

Pegasus by the addition of wings.

When the carver came he performed his duty to musical accompaniment, keeping