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