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Life in the Roman World of Nero and St. Paul by T. G. Tucker

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Italy--the larger farmers, wine-growers, olive-growers, and the
like--the homestead was of a kind which made for simplicity and
comfort. It was in such homes that one would find the most wholesome
life and the soundest moral fibre of the time.

Normally the homestead would be a large, and often a rambling,
building of one storey, except where a tower served as a store-room
for the mellowing wine or a loft for the mellowing fruit. When we read
in Horace about the liberal stack of wood to be kept in readiness near
the hearth, and about the wine-jar drinking in the smoke in the
store-room we must think of his country homestead on the Sabine Hills,
not of a house in Rome, for at Rome there was no blazing hearth to sit
round and no smoky tower-loft for the ripening of the Caecuban.

You enter an open court or yard, round the sides of which may run the
stalls of the horses and oxen of the farm, the tool-rooms, the lofts
of hay and corn, the quarters of the labourers--herdsmen, ploughmen,
vine-dressers--and the great farm-kitchen. It is in this kitchen that
you will find the bright hearth in winter-time, where all the members
of the homestead gather round the fire. It is here that they then all
eat, and in it the women of the establishment perform their work,
spinning and weaving and mending. Off from the court will be situated
the wine-press, or the olive-press, the-granaries, the fruit mellowing
on mats, and the various rooms or bins where wine is fermented and
stored, or where the olive-oil is treated and stocked. Commonly a more
retired court will contain the private rooms of the owner, and
somewhere in the homestead will be found the fowl-yard, with its hens,
ducks, geese, and guinea-fowl, the sties, and the preserves for
various toothsome animals, including perhaps dormice and snails.


Frequently a Roman of the city affected a country house of this
character, to which he would flee during the tyrannous reign of the
Dogstar or the Lion---in other words, during that hot season of the
year which requires no description for those who have been so
ill-advised as to sojourn in Rome in July, August, and early
September. Many of his town slaves he would take with him, and what
was a holiday for him was also a holiday for them. His rural homestead
would possess great charm for the quieter type of man who had no real
love for the pomps and shows the rattle and tumult, of the city. The
vision of wholesome country-produce--of fresh milk and eggs and
vegetables, and of tender poultry--is one which still attracts our
city-folk. But the vision, then as now, was often subject to
disillusion. Complaints are many that you had to feed the homestead in
place of it feeding you, and when Martial has given a pleasant picture
of a family reaching the gate of Rome with a coachful of the typical
produce of the country, he ends by suddenly letting you know that they
are not coming in from their country house but are going out to it.
The complaint of the English seaside town that there will be no fish
"till the train comes in from London," is thus a sufficiently old one.
Yet the same Martial supplies another picture, painted with such zest
of frank enjoyment that we are at once convinced of its truth. Some
portions of it perhaps admit of translation in the following terms:--

Our friend Fundanus' Baian seat,
My Bassus, is no pleasance neat,
Where myrtles trim in idle lines,
Clipped box, and planes unwed to vines
Rob of right use the acres wide:
'Tis farm-life true and countrified.
In every corner grain is stacked,
Old wines in fragrant jars are packed:
About the farmyard gabbling gander
And spangled peacock freely wander:
With pheasant and flamingo prowl
Partridge and speckled guinea-fowl:
Pigeon and waxen turtle-dove
Rustle their wings in cotes above.
The farm-wife's apron draws a rout
Of greedy porkers round about;
And eagerly the tender lamb
Waits the filled udder of its dam.
With plenteous logs the hearth is bright.
The household Gods glow in the light,
And baby slaves are sprawling round.
No town-bred idlers here are found:
No cellarer grows pale with sloth,
No trainer wastes his oil, but both
Go forth afield and subtly plan
To snare the greedy ortolan.
Meanwhile the garden rings with mirth,
While townfolk dig the yielding earth:
No need for the page-master's voice;
The saucy long-haired boys rejoice
To do the manager's commands.
At morn 'tis not with empty hands
The country pays its call, but some
Bring honey in its native comb,
Or cones of cheese; some think as good
A sleepy dormouse from the wood;
And honest tenants' big girls bring
Baskets with "mother's offering."

The visit to the country in the season of the "mad star" and the
scirocco was as necessary to the ancient Roman as is his
_villeggiatura_ to the modern. But there were other seasons when he
fled from town. If to the heat of summer he sought the hills, in the
colder he might seek the south of Italy, and in spring or autumn the
seaside at various points the mouth of the Tiber to southward of
Salerno, might run away from inconvenient business or ceremonies, or
through a mere desire to get rest or sleep or change. He might wish,
as Cicero and Pliny did, to get away from the "games" and to study and
write in quiet. He might fancy that his health called for baths in the
hot springs on the Bay of Naples, or for sea-bathing somewhere on the
Latian or Campanian coasts. To put it briefly, he was very much like
our worried, bilious, or exhausted selves. His life of ceremony was a
hard one, and often he ate and drank too much. But whereas nowadays we
can make free choice of any agreeable spot, since every such spot
possesses its "Grand Hotel" or "Hotel Superbe," where we can always
find the crowd and discomfort which we pretend to be escaping, the
Roman idea was different. It corresponded more to that of our English
nobles, who, in Elizabethan or Queen Anne days or later, built
themselves country seats, one, two, or more, indulging in
architectural fancies and surrounding all with spacious gardens,
ponds, and rockeries. The Roman man of wealth created no hotels. He
dotted his country seats about in places where the air was warm for
winter and spring, or cool for summer and autumn, by the seashore, on
the lower hills, or high on the mountain side. You would find them on
the Italian lakes or elsewhere toward the north. In greater numbers
would you find them on the hills near Rome, at the modern Tivoli or
Palestrina, on the Alban heights near what are now Frascati, Albano,
or Genzano, along the shore at Antium, Terracina, Baiae, Naples,
Herculaneum, Pompeii, Castellamare, and Sorrento.

Perhaps it is not too much to say that more than a hundred and twenty
miles of this coast were practically a chain of country houses. The
shore of the Bay of Naples has been compared to a collar of pearls
strung round the blue. Wherever there was a wide and varied landscape
or seascape, there arose a Roman country house. We are too prone to
assume that the ancients felt but little love or even appreciation of
scenery, and to fancy that the feeling came as a revelation to a
Rousseau, a Wordsworth, or a nineteenth-century painter. That Roman
literature does not gush about the matter has been absurdly taken for
proof that the Roman writer did not copiously enjoy the glories
presented to his eyes. But, though Roman literature does not gush, it
often exhibits the same feelings towards scenery which at least a
Thomson or a Cowper exhibits. Perhaps it was so accustomed to scenic
beauties that it took for granted much that an English or German
writer cannot. At any rate we are sure that the Roman chose for his
country seat a site commanding the widest and most beautiful outlook,
and that he even built towers upon his house to command the view the
better. In this respect he was like the mediaeval monks, when they
chose the sites of monasteries at San Martino or Amalfi, and his love
of a belvedere was probably quite as great as theirs.

The country seat differed widely from the town house. We must forget
the plan which has been given above, with its hall and court lighted
from within, and made private from the passing crowds in the street.
In the country there is no need of such an arrangement. Moreover there
are no formal receptions to necessitate the hall, and there are ample
gardens to make the peristyle superfluous. Here the walls of the house
may break forth into large and open windows, while all around may run
pillared verandahs. Built in any variety of shape, according to the
situation and the fancy, it may contain an immense variety of
sitting-rooms, dining-rooms, bedrooms, facing in every direction to
catch the sun, the shade, the breeze, or the prospect, as the case may
be. Not that magnificence is any more neglected than in the great
English country seats. The pillars and pavements are as rich as means
allow, and works of painting and statuary are perhaps even finer and
more numerous than in town; there is more time to look at them, and
there are better facilities for showing them off. Many of the best
works of ancient sculpture now extant in the museums have come from
such country seats. There were of course vulgar houses in bad taste,
where the owner's notions of magnificence consisted in ostentatious
extravagance and a desire to outdo his neighbour. As now, everything
depended either on the culture of the man or on the amount of his good
sense in leaving such matters to his artistic adviser.

Outside the house lie the gardens and grounds. For the most part these
are laid out in the formal style adopted so often in more modern Italy
and favoured so greatly in England in the early eighteenth century.
Perhaps the Villa d'Este at Tivoli, though of course not ancient, may
convey some approximate idea of the prevailing principle. Along one
side of the Roman house we should find a smooth terrace ornamented
with statues and vases, to be used as a promenade. There are straight
walks and avenues between hedges and trees and shrubs--cyprus, laurel,
box, and other manageable plants--cut to the shape of beasts and birds
and inanimate objects. There are flower-beds--of the rose, the crocus,
the wallflower, the narcissus, the violet, but not, for example, the
tulip--laid out in geometrical patterns. There are trellis-work
arbours and walks covered with leafy vines or other trailing plants.
There are clumps of bay-trees, plane trees, or myrtles, with marble
seats beneath. There is either an avenue or a covered colonnade, where
the ground is made of soft earth or sand, and where the family may
take exercise by being carried in a litter up and down in the open or
under the shade. There are greenhouses and forcing-houses, where
flowers are grown under glass. There are fish-ponds, fountains, and
water-channels, with artificial cascades and a general suggestion of
babbling streams. Out beyond lie the orchards and the vegetable
gardens, where are grown most of the modern fruits, including peaches,
apricots, and almonds, but not yet including either the orange or the

The country immediately round the mansion of the wealthy man was
commonly his own estate. A portion of this was frequently woodland,
affording opportunities for hunting deer, wild boar, and other game.
For the boar the weapon was a stout spear, and the general practice of
the sportsman was to wait at a certain spot until the beast was driven
towards it by a ring of beaters. Deer were caught in nets or
transfixed with javelins while running. In more open places the
hunter, accompanied by hounds, rode after a hare. But though far too
much of Italy was taken up by preserves of this unproductive kind, the
large estates were mostly turned to agricultural purposes. Different
owners, different practices; but the possessor of a number of country
seats would in some cases work the land for himself by means of
slaves--often in disgrace and labouring in chains--under the direction
of a manager or bailiff, while in others he would parcel out his land
on various terms among free tenants. It is gratifying to discover that
in bad seasons a generous landlord would sometimes remit a portion of
his dues, and that he recognised various obligations of a grand
seigneur to his district. Among them was the keeping up and
beautifying of the local shrines and contributing to buildings and
works for the public comfort.

Such would be the country seat when established landward. By the
seaside, especially in a much-frequented resort like Baiae, the room
was more limited and the equipment modified. The extensive garden
would be absent, and the height of the building increased by a second
or even a third storey. It was no uncommon thing for such a "villa,"
as it was called, to stand out on a promontory, where it could be
greeted by the sea on either side. In many cases it was actually built
out into the sea on piles or on a basis of concrete, and the occupant
made a special delight of fishing from his window, and of letting the
true sea-water flow into his swimming bath.



On the customary furniture of a Roman house we need not spend many
words. For one thing, it was simple and scanty as compared with the
furnishing and upholstering of to-day. For another, its nature
presents little that would be strange to us or that would require

Among the most conspicuous differences between Roman and modern
furnishing must be reckoned the absence of carpets, the comparatively
small use of tables and chairs, the absence of upholstery from such
chairs as were used, and the greater part played by couches. In place
of carpets there were the ornamental floors, whether in geometrical
pattern-work, arrangements of veined marbles, or mosaic pictures
composed of small blocks of coloured stone or glass. The making of
carpets was well understood in the East, and Rome would have found no
difficulty in obtaining as many as it chose, but so far as it employed
tapestries they were for portieres and curtains, for the coverings of
dining-couches and beds, or for throwing across a chair-back. The
Roman kept his floors, walls, pillars, and ceilings carefully cleared
of dust and stains by means of brushes of feathers or light hair,
brooms of palm or other leaves, and sponges. He thus saved himself
both the labour and the unwholesomeness of carpets.

[Illustration: FIG. 46.--ROMAN FOLDING CHAIR. (Schreiber.)]

[Illustration: FIG. 47.--BRONZE SEAT (Overbeck.)]

We need not enter into dry details concerning such articles as were
similar to our own. Of the Roman seats it is enough to say that they
were either square stools without back or arms, or folding-stools, or
they were true chairs either with straight arms and backs (the Origin
of the modern throne) to be used by the owner when receiving clients
or visitors on business, or with a long sloping back and without arms,
as used particularly by women. A movable cushion constituted all the

But the Roman man seldom took his ease in a chair: even his reading
and writing were commonly performed while reclining upon a couch. When
writing, he doubled his tablets on his knee, and it may be presumed
that habit made the practice easy and natural. The couch is, indeed,
perhaps the chief article of Roman furniture. So regular was it to
recline that, where we should speak of a sitting-room, the Romans
spoke of a "reclining-room." At business they sat; but they reclined
in social conversation--unless it was brief--when reading, when taking
the siesta, and when dining. Their beds in the proper sense were
similar to our own, though less heavy than those of our older fashion.
To mount them it was often necessary to use steps or an elongated
footstool. A slave in close attendance upon a master or mistress
sometimes slept upon a low truckle-bed, which, in the daytime, could
be pushed under the other. The couches for day use were lower and of
lighter and narrower build, with a movable rest at the head and with
or without a back.

[Illustration: FIG. 48.--FRAMEWORK OF ROMAN COUCH.]

Upon the frame of such couches a good deal of decoration was lavished
in the way of veneerings of ornamental wood, or thin plates of ivory
or tortoise-shell, or reliefs in bronze or even in gold or silver. The
feet might also, in the richer houses, consist of silver or of ivory.
For the dining-rooms of people of wealth a special feature was made of
such work upon the conspicuous parts of the frames, while the cushions
and coverings were of costly fabrics, richly dyed and embroidered or
damasked. The method of serving and eating a dinner is a subject which
belongs to our later treatment of a social day, and it must here
suffice to picture the ordinary arrangement of a dinner party.


[Illustration: FIG. 50.--SIGMA.]

In the middle is the table, either square or, if round, made if
possible of a single piece of costly wood richly grained by nature in
a wavy or peacock pattern and obtained by sawing through the lower
part of the trunk of a Moorish tree. The price depended on the size.
Of one such circular slab we learn that it cost L4000. It may be
needless to remark that many tables were only "imitation." When not in
use, and sometimes even then, such tables were protected by coloured
linen cloths. By preference this ancient equivalent of "the best
mahogany" was supported on a single leg, consisting of elephants'
tusks or of sculptured marble. On three sides are placed the couches,
covered with mattresses stuffed with flock or feathers, and provided
with soft cushions for the left arm to rest upon. Sometimes, instead
of the three separate couches, there was but one large couch shaped
like a crescent, either extending round half the large circular table,
or having more than one smaller table placed before it. Tables in
other rooms were scarcely to be found, since, as has already been
remarked, they were not required for reading or writing or for holding
the various articles which we moderns place upon them. Besides the
dining tables we should generally find only a sideboard placed in the
dining-room for the display of articles of plate. This was either of
ornamental wood or of marble with a sculptured stand, and was
distinctly meant for show. In place of tables for supporting necessary
objects we find tripods, either of bronze or marble, with a flat top
and sometimes with a rim.

[Illustration: FIG. 51.--TRIPOD FROM HERCULANEUM.]

Other articles of household furniture were chests and presses or
wardrobes. It was almost a rule that in the hall, at the side or end,
should stand a low heavy chest--occasionally more than one--sometimes
made of iron, sometimes of wood bound with bronze and decorated with
metal-work in relief. In this were contained supplies of money and
other articles of value, and for this reason it was strongly locked
and often fastened to the ground by a vertical rod of iron. Such a
chest is still to be seen in its place in the House of the Vettii at
Pompeii. Of portieres, curtains and awnings enough has been said,
except that they were also used for draping the less ornamental walls.
Mirrors were apparently plentiful. No mention is made of such articles
in glass, probably because the ancients had not yet learned to make
that material sufficiently pure and true or to provide it with the
proper foil or background. For the most part they were made of highly
polished copper, bronze, or silver. The smaller ones were held in the
hand, the handle and back parts being richly and often tastefully
ornamented. There is an epigram extant which tells of a vindictive
Roman dame who struck her maid to the ground with her mirror, because
she detected a curl wrongly placed. Other mirrors were made so as to
stand upon a support, and there is mention of some sufficiently large
to show the full length of the body.

[Illustration: FIG. 52.--CHEST (STRONG-BOX).]

[Illustration: FIG. 53.--MIRRORS.]

In the absence of gas or electricity or even kerosene, there was no
better means of lighting a house than by oil-lamps. Even those were
provided with no chimney. Naturally every effort would be made to
obtain such oil as would produce the least smoke or smell, but
doubtless the difficulty was never completely overcome. It is
therefore natural to hear of the oil being mixed with perfume. In the
less well-to-do houses there might be wax candles, in still poorer
houses candles of tallow or even rush-lights, formed by long strips of
rush or other fibrous plant thinly dipped in tallow. Generally
speaking, however, the Roman house was lit by lamps filled with
olive-oil. The commonest were made of terra-cotta, the better sorts of
bronze or silver, often richly ornamented and sometimes very graceful.
As typical specimens we may take those here illustrated.

[Illustration: FIG. 54.--LAMPS.]

The little figure standing on the one lamp is holding a chain, to
which is attached the probe for forcing up the wick or for clearing
away the "mushrooms" that might form upon it. Lamps are made in all
manner of fantastic shapes--ships, shoes, and other objects--and may
burn either one wick or a considerable number, projecting from
different nozzles. For the purpose of lighting a room they may either
be placed upon the top of upright standards, four or five feet high
and sometimes with shafts which could be adjusted in height like the
modern reading-stand; or they may be hung from the ceiling by chains,
after the manner of a chandelier, or held by a statue, or suspended
from a stand shaped like a pillar or a tree, from whose branches they
hang like fruit. For use in the street there were torches and also
lanterns, which had a metal frame and were "glazed" with sheets of
transparent horn, with bladder in the cheaper instances, or with
transparent talc in the more costly.

[Illustration: FIG. 35.--LAMP-HOLDER AS TREE.]

As with the Greeks, a Roman house was lavish in the use and display of
cups and plate in great diversity of shape and material. Glass vessels
were numerous and, except for a perfectly pure white variety, were
produced both at Rome and Alexandria with the most ingenious finish. A
kind of porcelain was also known, but was very rare and highly valued.
For the most part the poor used earthenware cups and plates or wooden
trenchers. The rich sought after a lavish profusion of silver goblets
studded with jewels and sometimes ventured on a cup of gold, although
the use of a full gold service was by imperial ordinance restricted to
the palace. There were drinking vessels, broad and shallow with richly
embossed or _repousse_ work, or deep with double handles and a foot,
or otherwise diversified. There were all manner of plates and dishes
of silver or of silver-gilt. There were graceful jugs and ladles and
mixing-bowls. What we regard as most essential articles, but missing
from a Roman table, are knives and forks. Table-forks, indeed, were
unknown till a very modern date, but even knives were scarcely in use
at Rome except by the professional carver at his stand. There were
also heaters, in which water could be kept hot at table and drawn off
by a small tap.

[Illustration: FIG. 56.--CUP FROM HERCULANEUM.]

[Illustration: FIG. 57.--KITCHEN UTENSILS.]

If now we stepped into the kitchen we should find there practically
every kind of utensil likely to be of use even for the modern cuisine.
There is no need here to catalogue the kettles and pots and pans, the
strainers and shapes and moulds, employed by Roman cooks. Perhaps it
will suffice to present a number of them to the eye. In general,
however, it deserves to be remarked that such a thing as a pail, a
pitcher, a pair of scales, or a steelyard was not regarded in the
Roman household as necessarily to be left a bare and unsightly thing
because it was useful. The triumph of tin and ugliness was not yet.
Such vessels as waterpots are still to be seen made of copper in
graceful shapes, if one will notice the women fetching water on the
Alban Hills. How far the domestic utensils resembled or differed from
those still in use may be judged from the specimens illustrated.

[Illustration: FIG. 58.--PAIL FROM HERCULANEUM.]

There existed no clocks of the modern kind, but the Romans do not
appear to have suffered much practical inconvenience in respect of
telling the time and meeting engagements. Sundials, both public and
private, were numerous, but these were obviously of no use on gloomy
days or at night. The instrument on which the Romans mainly relied was
therefore the "water-clock," which, though by no means capable of our
modern precision of minutes and even seconds could record time down to
small fractions of the hour. The principle was that of the hour-glass,
water taking the place of sand. From an upper vessel water slowly
trickled through an orifice into a lower receptacle, which at this
date was transparent and was marked with sections for the hour and its
convenient fractions. In this way the time would be told by the mark
to which the water had risen in the lower portion. The Romans were not
unaware of the difference between the conditions of summer and winter
flow of water, but it would appear that they had attained to proper
methods of "regulating" their rather awkward time-pieces. It is as
well to add that in the wealthier houses a slave was told off to watch
the clock and to report the passing of the hours, as well as to summon
any member of the family at the time arranged for an appointment.



We have seen in what sort of a home a Roman dwelt in town or country.
Meanwhile it goes without saying that the non-Roman or non-Romanized
populations of the empire were living in houses and amid furniture of
their own special type--Greek, Syrian, Egyptian, or as the case might
be. They were also living their lives after their own fashion in
respect of dress, meals, occupations, and amusements.

We may now look at the manner in which a typical Roman might spend an
ordinary day in the metropolis, and endeavour to form some clear idea
of the outward aspects of such a life. In the first instance our Roman
shall be a man of the senatorial aristocracy, blessed with both high
position and ample means, but one who, for the time being, holds no
public office, whether as a governor, a military commander, a Minister
of Roads or Water Supply, an officer of the Exchequer, or of Justice.
Instead of referring to him awkwardly as "our citizen," we will call
him Silius. The same name may be borne by a large number of other
persons, for it is the name of an early Roman family which in course
of time may have divided into several branches or "houses," answering
to each other very much as the "Worcestershire" So-and-Sos may answer
to the "Hampshire" So-and-Sos, except that the distinction in the
Roman case is not territorial. Our Silius will therefore naturally
bear further names to distinguish him. One will be the special
appellation of his own "house" or branch, derived in all probability
from its first distinguishing member. Let us assume, for instance,
that he is a Silius Bassus. As, again, there are probably a number of
other persons belonging to the same branch and entitled to the same
two designations, he will possess a "front name," answering to our
"Christian" name, and he shall be called for our purposes Quintus
Silius Bassus. It is the middle name of the three which is regarded as
_the_ name, but when there is no danger of mistake our friend may be
addressed or written of as either Silius or Bassus. In private life
among his intimates he prefers to be called Quintus. The individual
name, family name, and branch name were frequently followed by others,
but at least these three are regularly owned by any Roman with claims
to old descent. To us, however, he will be Silius.

He lives, let us say, in one of the larger town-houses on the Caelian
Hill, looking across the narrow valley towards the Palatine, somewhere
near the modern church of SS. Giovanni e Paolo. It is before day-break
that the loud bell has awakened the household slaves and set them to
their work. In the road below and away in the city the carts, which
are forbidden during the full daytime, are still rumbling with their
loads of produce or building-material. All night long the less happily
housed inhabitants have tolerated this noise, together with the
droning and grating of the mills grinding the corn in the bakers'
shops. It is however, now approaching dawn, and imperial Rome, which
goes to sleep late, wakes early. No few Romans, even of the highest
classes, have already been up for an hour or two, reading by
lamplight, writing letters or dictating them to an amanuensis, who
takes them down rapidly in a form of shorthand. Out in the streets the
boys are on their way to school, the poorer ones carrying their own
lanterns--at least if it is the time of year when the days are
short--their writing-tablets and their reading-books, probably Virgil
and Horace, who were standard authors serving in the Roman schools as
Shakespeare and Pope do in our own. Boys of well-to-do parents are
accompanied by an elderly slave of stern demeanour. In the distance
are heard the sounds of the first hammers and the cries of the venders
of early breakfasts.

Silius rises, and with the help of a valet, who is of course a slave,
dresses himself. His household barber--another slave--shaves him,
trims his hair in the approved style and cleans his nails. At this
date clean shaving was the rule. Every emperor from Augustus to
Hadrian, fifty years later than Nero, was clean shaven, and the
fashion set by emperors was followed as closely by the contemporary
Roman as "imperials" and "ram's-horn" moustaches have been imitated in
later times. The hair was kept carefully neither too long nor too
short. Only in time of mourning was it permitted to grow to a
negligent length. By preference it should be somewhat wavy, but there
was no parting. Dandies had their hair curled with the tongs and
perfumed, so at to smell "all over the theatre." If they were bald,
they wore a wig; sometimes they actually had imitation hair painted
across the bare part of the scalp. If nature had given them the wrong
colour, they corrected it with dye. If the exposed parts of the body
were hairy, they plucked out the growth with tweezers or used
depilatories. But these were the dandies, and we need not assume
Silius to have been one of them.

It is to be a day of some formality, and Silius will therefore attire
himself accordingly. In other words, he will put on the typical Roman
garb. Of whatever else this may consist, it will comprise a band round
the middle, a woolen--less often a linen--tunic with or without
sleeves, and over this the voluminous woollen toga; on the feet will
be shoes. Of further underwear a Roman used as much or as little as he
chose. If, like the Emperor Augustus, he felt the cold, he might
indulge in several shirts and also short hose. Such practices,
however, were commonly regarded as coddling. Breeches were worn at
this date only by soldiers serving in northern countries, where they
had picked up the custom from the "barbarians." Mufflers were used by
persons with a tender throat.

[Illustration: FIG. 59.--PATRICIAN SHOES.]

[Illustration: FIG. 60.--ROMAN IN THE TOGA.]

Inasmuch as Silius is of senatorial rank, his tunic, which will show
through the open front of his toga, bears the broad inwoven stripe of
purple running down the middle, and his shoes--which otherwise might
be of various colours, such as yellow with red laces--are black,
fastened by cross straps running somewhat high up the leg and bearing
a crescent of silver or ivory upon the instep. The stripe, the shoes,
and the crescent mark his senatorial standing. That which marks him as
a citizen at all is the toga--an article of dress forbidden to any
inhabitant of the empire who could not call himself in the full sense
"_Civis Romanus_." It was a cumbrous and heavy garment (when spread
out it formed an oval of about 15 feet by 12), with which no man who
wanted to work or travel or simply to be comfortable would hamper
himself. St. Paul was a Roman citizen, but, if he ever wore a toga at
all, it would only be when he desired to bring his citizenship home to
a Roman court, and we should probably be quite mistaken in imagining
that he travelled about with a toga in his baggage, or, as the
Authorised Version calls it, his "carriage." When out of town, in his
country-seat or when amusing himself at home in the city, especially
in the warmer weather, the Roman cast off his toga with a sigh of
relief. In the provincial towns of Italy, though theoretically as much
in demand, this blanket-like covering was little used by any man
except on the most formal public and religious occasions, and, as a
poet says, "when dead," for then the toga was indispensable.
Nevertheless at Rome it was the necessary dress for all men of
position when appearing in any sort of public life. The Roman emperors
insisted upon its use in all places of public amusement--the theatre,
circus, or amphitheatre. In a court of justice the president certainly
could not "see" a pleader unless he wore it. You cannot be present at
a formal social ceremony--a wedding, a betrothal, a coming of age, a
levee--without this outward and visible mark of respect. Nor was it
sufficient that you should wear it. It must be properly draped and
must fall to the right point, which, in front, was aslant over the
lower part of the shin, while behind it fell to the heel. Your
wardrobe slave must see that it has been kept properly folded and
pressed. If you claimed to be a gentleman, and were not in mourning
and not an official, it must be simply and scrupulously white. Poorer
people might wear a toga of a duller or dark-grey wool, which would
better conceal a stain and require to go less frequently to the
fuller. The same dull hue was also worn in time of mourning, or as an
ostentatious token of a gloomy spirit, as for example, when one of
your friends was in peril of condemnation in the law-courts, or when
you fancied that some serious injustice was being done or threatened
to your social order. The only person privileged to wear a toga of
true purple was the emperor. On the whole the Roman dress was very
simple; far more so than in mediaeval times or the days of Elizabeth
or Charles II. Velvet and satin were not yet known, furs hardly so,
and there were very few changes of fashion.

Silius will also wear at least one large signet-ring as well as his
plain ring of gold, but he will leave it to the dandies to load their
fingers with half-a-dozen and to keep separate sets for winter and
summer. When Quintilian, in his _Training of the Orator_, touches upon
the subject of rings, he recommends as requisite for good form that
"the hand should not be covered with rings, and especially should they
not come below the middle joint." A handkerchief will be carried, but
only to wipe away perspiration.

Having finished his dressing, he may choose this time for taking his
morning "snack," corresponding to the coffee and roll or tea and
bread-and-butter of modern times. It is but a light repast of wine or
milk, with bread and honey, or a taste of olives or cheese or possibly
an egg. Schoolboys seem to have often eaten a sort of suet dumpling.
In the strength of this meat our friend will go till mid-day.

As he has no very early call to the imperial court upon the Palatine,
he will now proceed to hold his own reception of morning callers. For
this purpose he will come out to the spacious hall, which has been
already described as the most essential part of a Roman house, and
will there establish himself in the opening of the recess or bay which
has also been described as a kind of reception-room or parlour. Before
he arrives, the hall has been swept and polished by the brooms and
sponges of the slaves, under the direction of a foreman. The number of
Silius' household slaves is very great. Very many Romans of course
owned no slave at all; many had but one or two; but it was considered
that a person of anything like respectable means could hardly do with
less than ten. Silius will probably employ several times that number.
We have mentioned the valet, the barber, the wardrobe-keeper, and the
amanuensis. We must add to these the cooks, the pastry-makers, the
waiters, the room-servants, the doorkeeper, the footmen, messengers,
litter-carriers, the butler and pantrymen. Some of the superior slaves
have drudges of their own. The librarian, accountant, and steward are
all slaves. Even the family physician or architect may be a slave.
Many of these men may be persons of education and talent. Their one
deficiency is that they are not free. Many of them are in colour and
feature indistinguishable from the people outside; most, however, show
their origin in their foreign physique. They are Phrygians,
Cappadocians, Syrians, Jews, Egyptians, Ethiopians, Numidians,
Spaniards, Gauls, Germans, Thracians, and Greeks. Their master either
inherited them from his father or friends, or he bought them in the
slave-market. For whatever reason they became slaves--whether as
prisoners of war, by birth, through debt, through condemnation for
some offence, by kidnapping like that practised by the Corsairs or the
modern Arabs, or through being sold by their own parents--they had
become the Property of slave-dealers, who picked them up in the depots
on the Black Sea or at Delos or Alexandria, and brought them to Rome.
There they were stripped and exposed for sale, the choicer specimens
in a select part of a fashionable shop, the more ordinary types in the
auction mart, where they were placed upon a stand or stone bench, were
labelled with their age, nationality, defects, and accomplishments,
and were sold either under a guarantee or without one. For an ordinary
room-slave Silius, or his agent for him, has paid perhaps L20; for a
servant of more special skill, such as a particularly soft-handed
barber, perhaps L50; the price of a muleteer who was "too deaf to
overhear private conversation in a carriage" might thereby be enhanced
to L150; for a slave with educational or artistic accomplishments--a
good reader, reciter, secretary, musician, or actor--he may have paid
some hundreds. If he is a man of morbid tastes, and affects a
particular kind of dainty favourite, he may go as far as a thousand.
Curly-haired pages and amusing dwarfs are generally dear. It is the
business of the house-steward to see that each slave receives his
daily or monthly rations of corn, a trifling sum of money for other
needs, and perhaps an allowance of thin wine. Many a slave also
received a considerable number of "tips" from guests, as well as
perquisites and presents from his master. With economy he was thus
enabled to purchase his own freedom. The master might also in some
cases provide the slave with the essentials of his dress, to wit, a
coarse tunic, a rough cloak, and a pair of shoes or sabots.

Over all these persons, so long as they are slaves, the owner
possesses absolute power. He can box their ears, or condemn them to
hard labour--making them, for instance, work in chains upon his lands
in the country or in a sort of prison-factory--or he may punish them
with blows of the rod, the lash, or the knout; he can brand them upon
the forehead if they are thieves or runaways, or in the end, if they
prove irreclaimable, he can crucify them. Branded slaves who
afterwards became free and rich sought to conceal the marks by wearing
patches. There were inevitably some instances in which masters proved
so intolerably cruel that their slaves were driven to murder them. To
prevent any conspiracy of the kind the law ordained that, when a
master was so killed, the slaves should one and all be put to death.
It is gratifying to learn that in the reign of Nero the whole populace
sided with a body of slaves in this predicament and prevented the law
from being carried out.

[Illustration: FIG. 61.--SLAVE IN FETTERS.]

But, being a typical Roman, Silius has a strong sense of justice;
moreover he values public opinion as well as his own. Also, being a
typical Roman, he behaves with strictness and for the most part with a
distinct haughtiness of manner, graduated, no doubt, according to the
standing of the individual. When, as was often the case, he did not
even know the name of a slave whom he came across in hall or
peristyle, he frequently addressed him as "Sirrah" or "Sir" or "You,
Sir." To the waiter at table and for ordinary commands, where the
master affects no ceremony, the commonest term is "boy," precisely as
that word is used in the East or _garcon_ in French. If Silius knew
the actual appellation assigned to the slave when bought and was
disposed to be kindly, he accosted him by it, calling him "Syrian," or
"Thracian," or "Croesus," or by his proper Greek or Egyptian name. The
slave, unlike the Roman citizen, owned but one name, and the shorter
the better.

We meet, as is only natural, with many examples of great trust and
confidence between master and slave, and, in the case of the superior
types, no few instances of great kindness and consideration. Pliny
speaks of his "long friendship" for a cultivated slave named Zosimus,
whom he set free, and whom, because he was liable to consumption, he
sent to Egypt and the Riviera for the good of his health. A faithful
or very useful slave could make tolerably sure of being some day
emancipated with all due form and ceremony, either during the master's
lifetime or by his last will and testament. In such a case he became a
Roman citizen of the rank known as "freedman," and after the second
generation there was nothing to prevent his descendants from aspiring
to any position open to any other Roman. Sometimes even his son
attained to public office. On attaining his citizenship the freedman
became entitled to "the three names," and it was the rule that he
should adopt the family name of his master. A freedman of Silius is
himself a Silius. Also by preference he will be a Quintus Silius; but
he will not be a Bassus. The third name will still, for his own
lifetime, be such as to mark him for what he is. Moreover, though
free, he is himself still bound to pay a dutiful respect to his former
master's family, but beyond this he is at his own disposal and in
possession of every right in regard to person and property. Many such
men were extremely skilful in trade and made themselves rich enough to
vie with the Roman aristocracy in outward show. The freedmen of the
Emperor, who occupied positions of influence at court as chamberlains,
stewards, private secretaries and the like, and were the powers behind
the throne, became enormously wealthy. Their houses were adorned with
the finest marble columns, the most richly gilded ceilings, and the
most costly works of art; the choicest fruits ripened under glass in
their forcing-houses, and, when they died, their monuments were among
the most sumptuous by the side of the great highways. "Freedmen's
wealth" became a proverb. They were occasionally even appointed to
those minor governorships held by "agents" of Caesar, and the Felix of
the New Testament was himself a freedman of Nero's predecessor and
brother to one of the richest and most influential of the class. In
the provincial cities of Italy freedmen, though they were not
themselves eligible for the ordinary offices, might in return for acts
of munificence be admitted to what may be called an inferior grade of
knighthood--a sort of C.M.G.--styled the "Order of Augustus." They
thus became notables of their own town in a way of which they were
sufficiently proud, as the Pompeian inscriptions show. It was part of
the shrewdness of Augustus to kill two birds with one stone, by
erecting a provincial order directly attached to the cult of the
Emperor, and by encouraging the local self-made man to spend money
liberally upon the embellishment and comfort of his own municipality.

Well, Silius, meeting with or escorted by various slave attendants,
passes from the inner rooms through the passage into the hall and
finds waiting for him a throng of visitors known as his "clients" or
dependants. The position of these persons is somewhat remarkable. They
are commonly free Roman citizens of the "genteel" middle class, who
openly admit that they depend for the bulk of their living upon the
patronage of the noble or the rich. The custom arose from a very old
condition of things, under which certain classes of citizens, not
being entitled to appear in the law-courts or in public business on
their own behalf, put themselves under the protection of a person so
entitled, who, in return for certain acts of support and deference,
appeared as their advocate and champion. At a later time, even though
their rights had become complete, men might still seek counsel, legal
advice, and advocacy from a person of influence and eloquence. In
return they paid him the honour of escort in the streets, supported
him in his candidature for public office, applauded his speeches, and
exercised on his behalf such influence as they possessed. The standing
of a prominent Roman was apt to be measured by the number and quality
of the persons thus attaching themselves to him. If next it is
remembered that very few money-making occupations were looked upon
with favour by the Romans, and that the higher orders were for the
most part very rich, it will be obvious that there would grow up the
custom of the patron making liberal presents to his dependants--money
gifts, or gifts of small properties and of useful articles--as well as
of inviting them to his table. The clients themselves brought little
presents on the patron's birthday or some other special occasion, but
these were merely the sprats to catch the whale. It gradually resulted
that the patronage extended by the aristocrat or plutocrat was mainly
one of a direct pecuniary nature. As in other cases where a dubious
custom develops gradually, there ceased to be any shame in this
relation. Many members of the middle class, impoverished and earning
practically no other income, lived the life of genteel paupers. They
would attend the morning reception of a grandee, either bringing with
them, or causing a slave to bring, a small basket, or even a portable
cooking-stove, in which they carried off doles of food distributed
through his servants. The scene must have borne no slight resemblance
to that of the charity "soup-kitchen." In process of time, however,
this practice became inconvenient for all parties, and most of the
patrons compounded for such doles by making a fixed payment, still
called the "little basket," amounting perhaps to a shilling in modern
weight of money for each day of polite attention on the part of a
recognised "client." If a client was acknowledged by more than one
patron, so much the better for the amount of his "little baskets." In
some cases the dole was paid to each visitor at the morning call; in
others only after the work of the patron's day was done and when he
had gone to the elaborate bath which preceded his dinner in the later
part of the afternoon. By this means the complimentary escort duty was
secured until that time.

Among the dependants were nearly all the genteel unemployed of Rome,
including the Grub-Street men of letters, who in those days could make
little, if anything, by their books, and who therefore sought the same
kind of assistance as did our own literary rank and file in the early
eighteenth century. When we read the authors of the period we are
inevitably reminded of Samuel Johnson waiting in the ante-chamber of
Lord Chesterfield, and of the flattering dedications of books which
were so liberally or illiberally paid for by the recipients of such
compliments. From his little flat, often a single room and practically
an attic, in the tenement-house, the client would emerge before
daylight, dressed _de rigueur_ in his toga, which was often sadly worn
and thin. He would make his way for a mile or more through the carts,
the cattle, an the schoolboys, sometimes in fine weather, sometimes
through the rain and cold, when the streets were muddy and slippery,
and would climb the hill to his patron's door, joined perhaps on the
way by other citizens bent on the same errand. Gathering in that open
space or vestibule which has already been described, they waited for
the janitor to open the door. If the doorkeeper of Silius was like the
generality of his kind, he would take a flunkey's pleasure in keeping
them waiting, and also, except in the case of those who had been wise
enough to ease his manners with a "tip," or who were known to be in
special favour, a flunkey's pleasure in exhibiting his contempt.
Brought into the hall, they stood or sat about and conversed until
Silius appeared. Then, according to an established order of
precedence--which apparently depended on seniority of acquaintance,
while again it might be affected by a _douceur_--they were presented
one by one to the patron.

One must not expect a Roman noble to deign always to remember the
names of humble persons--sometimes he actually did not--and therefore
a slave, known as the "name-caller," announces each client in turn.
The client says, "Good morning, Sir," and Silius replies, "Good
morning, So-and-So," or "Good morning, Sir," or simply "Good morning."
There is a shaking of hands, or, if the patron is a gracious gentleman
and the client is of old standing, Silius may kiss him on the cheek
and offer some polite inquiry or remark. A very haughty person might
merely offer his hand to be kissed and perhaps not open his mouth at
all, even if he condescended to look at you. But these habits were
hardly so characteristic of our times as of a somewhat later date.

The reception over, the client obtains information as to the movements
of his patron during the day. On the present occasion it appears that
Silius himself is to proceed at once to pay his own morning homage to
a still higher patron, His Highness Nero, who is at home on the
Palatine Hill, and whose levee calls imperatively for the attendance
of certain members of the aristocracy. At the palace there exists a
roll of persons known as the "friends of Caesar"--a roll which depends
solely on the favour of the emperor. Naturally it contains the names
of a number of the highest senators and of the chief officers of the
state, but a place in it is not gained simply by such positions, nor
is it restricted to them. There may be a few knights and others on the
list. To be removed from the roll is to be socially a marked man and a
person to be avoided. Silius is, at least for the time being, one of
the "friends." Nero is not yet in sufficient financial straits to
require that Silius should be squeezed or sacrificed, nor has he
chosen to take offence at something which a spy or informer has
reported of him. Our friend therefore enjoys the _entree_ to the
palace, and to the palace he goes.

It is a clear fine morning, and he has plenty of time. He therefore
perhaps elects to go on foot. Learning this, a number of his clients
form a procession. Some are honoured by walking at his side, a few go
in advance and so clear a way through the crowd--which is already
moving at the top of the Sacred Way--to the point where you turn off
on the left and ascend to the entrance to the Palatine Hill. Some of
the clients will walk behind, where also will be a lackey or two in
waiting. On the way Silius may perhaps meet with Manlius, another
noble, whom he probably greets with "Good morning, brother," and a
kiss upon the cheek. This kissing, it may be remarked, ultimately
became an intolerable nuisance, particularly among the middle classes,
and the epigrammatist, after complaining of the cold noses and wet
osculations of the winter-time, pleads to have the business at least
put off till the month of April.

When it is a bad or sloppy day, Silius will decide to go in his
litter, or Roman form of the palanquin. Being a senator he may use
this conveyance, otherwise at this date he could not. There are also
sedan chairs, but as yet there exists a prejudice against these as
being somewhat effeminate. At this decision four, six, or eight tall
fellows, slaves from Cappadocia or Germany by preference, clad in
crimson liveries, thrust two long poles through the rings or the
coloured leather straps which are to be found on the sides of the
litter, and place these poles upon their shoulders. To all intents and
purposes the litter is a couch with an arched roof above it, of the
shape here indicated, but covered with cushions, which are often
stuffed with down. Its woodwork is decorated with silver and ivory.
The litter may either be carried open on all sides, or with curtains
of coloured stuffs partially drawn, or it may be enclosed by windows
of talc or glass. In the days when litters were in promiscuous use,
persons who did not possess one, or perhaps the slaves to bear it,
might hire such a vehicle from the "rank," after the modern manner of
hiring a cab. In this receptacle Silius is carried amid the same
procession as before.

[Illustration: FIG. 62.--LITTER.]

He will wear nothing on his head. On a journey, or when the sun was
particularly strong in the roofless theatre or circus, he might put on
a broad-brimmed hat, very much like that of the modern Italian priest.
Instead of the hat it was common, when the weather so required, either
to draw a fold of the toga over the head or to wear a hood closely
resembling the monkish cowl. This might be either attached to a cloak
or made separately for the purpose. The hood was also employed when,
particularly in the evening, the wearer had either public or private
reasons for concealing his identity as he moved abroad, commonly
issuing in such cases from his side door. But on an ordinary day, and
when attending a ceremony, the Roman head is bare. So also are the
hands, for gloves are not yet in use.

On arriving at the palace--outside which there is generally standing a
crowd of the curious or the snobs--Silius passes through the guards,
Roman or German, at the doors, is taken in hand by the court slave or
freedman who acts as usher, and himself goes through a process similar
to that which his own clients have undergone. There are times, and
just now they may be frequent, at which he will have to submit to a
search, for fear he may be carrying a concealed weapon. If he is high
in favour or position, he belongs to the batch of "first admittance,"
or first _entree_. If not, he must be contented with "second." He will
find that His Highness Nero, exacting as he may be concerning the
costume of his callers, will not trouble to put on his own toga, as a
more respectable emperor would have done, but will appear in anything
he pleases, frequently a tunic or a wrapper of silk, relieved only by
a handkerchief round the neck. Nor will his High Mightiness always
condescend to lace his shoes. If he is in a good humour, he may bestow
the kiss, remember your name, and call you "my very dear Silius." If
he has been accustomed to do so, but omits the warmer greeting on this
occasion, it may be taken as boding you no good. It is, however, very
probable that in this year 64 he will refuse the kiss to almost every
one of the senators, for he has already come openly to detest them. It
will suffice if he so much as offers his hand to be saluted. Caligula,
being a "god," had sometimes offered his foot, but only that
crack-brained emperor had so far attempted this enormity.

[Illustration: FIG. 63.--READING A PROCLAMATION. (Pompeii.) The
writing is upon a long board in front of equestrian statues.]

The day happens to be one on which the emperor has nothing further to
say and requires no advice. Silius is therefore free to go his ways.
There is also no meeting of the Senate, no festival, chariot-race, or
show of gladiators. He has therefore only the ordinary day before him,
and he proceeds, as practically every other caller does, towards the
Forum and its neighbourhood. If on his way he meets with a great
public official--a consul or a praetor--proceeding on duty, he
politely makes way, and, if his head chances to be covered, he
uncovers it. He loyally recognises the claims of that toga edged with
purple, and of those lictors walking in front with the symbolic
bundles of rods containing the symbolic axe. Whatever he may think of
the men, he pays all respect to their office. The Forum is now full,
the banking and money-changing are all aglow in the Basilica Aemilia,
the loungers are playing their games of "three men in a row," or
perhaps their backgammon, on the pavement of the outer colonnade of
the Basilica of Julius. Groups are reading and discussing the columns
of the "Daily News," which are either posted up or have been purchased
from the professional copiers. This is an official, and therefore a
censored, publication in clear manuscript, containing proclamations,
resolutions of the senate, bulletins of the court, results of trials,
the births and deaths registered in the city, announcements of public
shows and sports, striking events, such as fires, earthquakes, and
portents, and occasional advertisements. Silius may perhaps stop and
read; more probably his slaves regularly purchase a copy for his
private use. Criers are meanwhile bawling to you to come and see the
Asiatic giant, or the mermen, or the two-headed baby. The old sailor
who has been wrecked, or pretends to have been, is walking about with
a harrowing picture of the scene painted on a board and is soliciting
alms. The busybody is gossiping among little knots of people and
telling, manufacturing, or magnifying the latest scandal, or the
latest news from the frontier, from Antioch, from the racing-stables,
the law-courts, or the palace. Perhaps Silius has a little banking
business to do, and he enters the Basilica to give instructions as to
sending a draft to Athens or Alexandria in favour of some friend or
relative there who is in want of money, or whom he has instructed to
make artistic or other purchases. In about seven days his
correspondent will obtain the cash through a banker at Athens, or in
about twelve or fourteen days at Alexandria.

Perhaps, however, one of his clients has asked for his help in a case
at law, which is being tried either over the way in the Basilica of
Julius, or round the corner to the right in the Forum of Augustus. If
a man of study and eloquence, he may have consented to act as
pleader--taking no fee, because he is merely performing a patron's
duty. _Noblesse oblige_. In the year 64 a pleader who has taken up a
cause for some one else than a dependant is allowed by law to charge a
fee not exceeding L100, but the law says nothing, or at least can do
no thing, as to the liberal presents which are offered him under some
other pretext. If he is not to plead, Silius may at any rate have been
requested to lend moral support by seating himself beside the favoured
party and perhaps appearing as a witness to character. If he pleads in
any complicated or technical case, it will generally be after careful
consultation with an attorney or professional lawyer. Round the apse
or recess in which the court sits there will stand a ring of
interested spectators, and among them will be distributed as many as
possible of his own dependants, who will religiously applaud his
finely-turned periods and his witticisms. There was generally little
chance of missing a Roman forensic witticism; its character was for
the most part highly elaborate and its edge broad. In a later
generation it was not rare for chance bystanders to be hired on the
spot as _claqueurs_. The court itself consists of a large body of
jurymen of position empanelled, not for the particular case, but for
particular kinds of cases and for a period of time, and over these
there presides one of the public officials annually elected for the
judicial administration of Rome. The president sees that the
proceedings are in accordance with the law, but the verdict is given
entirely by the jury.

[Illustration: FIG. 64.--SEALED RECEIPT OF JUCUNDUS. Beside each seal
is a signature; the writing in the hollow leaf is a summary of the
receipt, which is itself shut between the two leaves bound with

If there is no need for Silius to attend such a court, he may find
many other demands upon his time. Among Romans of the higher classes
etiquette was extremely exacting. Contemporaries themselves complain
that social "duties" or "obligations" frittered away a large
proportion of their day, and that they were kept perpetually "busy
doing nothing." One man or woman is making a will, and asks you to be
one of the witnesses to the signature and sealing; another is
betrothing a son or daughter, and invites you to be present and attest
the ceremony; another has a son of fifteen or sixteen concerning whom
it is decided that he has now come of age, must put on the white toga
of a man in the place of the purple-edged toga of the boy, and be led
into the Forum in token of his new freedom; you must not omit the
courtesy of attending. Another desires you to go with him before the
magistrate while he emancipates a slave. Worst of all, perhaps, is the
man who has written a poem or declamation, and who proposes to read
it, or to get a professional elocutionist to read it, to his
acquaintances. He has either hired a hall or borrowed a convenient
room from a friend, and you are kindly invited to be present. We learn
that these amateur authors did not permit their victims to forget the
engagement, but sent them more than one reminder. At the reading or
recitation it was your duty to applaud frequently, to throw
complimentary kisses, and to exclaim in Greek, "excellent," "capital,"
"clever," "unapproachable," or "again," very much as we say "encore"
in what we think is French, or "bravo" in Italian. The native Latin
terms most commonly in use may perhaps be translated as "well said,"
"perfect," "good indeed," "divine," "a shrewd hit." On one occasion a
certain Priscus was present at the reading of a poem, and it happened
to open with an invocation to a Priscus. No sooner had the author
begun, "Priscus, thou bidst me tell ..." than the man of that name
called out "Indeed I don't." This "caused laughter" and "cast a chill
over the proceedings." Pliny apologises for the man, as being a little
light in the head, but he is manifestly tickled all the same. It is
scarcely a wonder that the Roman was glad to escape from all these
formalities of "toga'd Rome" to his country seat, or to the freer life
of Baiae.

His business in the Forum accomplished, Silius returns to his house on
the Caelian. As, on the slope of the Sacred Way, he passes the rich
shops of the jewellers, florists, and perfumers, he may be tempted to
make some purchase, which the attendant slaves will carry to the
house. Arrived there, he will take his luncheon, a fairly substantial
though by no means a heavy meal. He may perhaps be a married man. If
nothing has yet been said about his wife, it is because in the higher
Roman households the husband and wife owned their separate property,
lived their own lives, and were almost equally free to spend their
time in their own way, since marriage at this date was rather a
contract than a union. If, however, he is a benedict, it is probable
that at this meal the family will meet, no outside company being
present. Silius himself reclines on a couch, the children are seated,
and the wife may adopt either attitude. After this our friend will
probably take a siesta, precisely as he might take it in Italy to-day.
The practice was indeed not universal; nevertheless it was general. He
will not go to bed, but will sleep awhile upon a couch in some quiet
and darkened room. If he cannot sleep, or when he wakes, he may
perhaps read or be read to. Where he will spend the afternoon till the
bath and dinner is a matter of his own choice.



We will suppose that Silius is specially inclined for action and
society. The afternoon is growing chilly, and, as he has no further
ceremonial to undergo, he will probably throw over his toga a richly
coloured mantle--violet, amethyst, or scarlet--to be fastened on the
shoulder with a buckle or brooch. In very cold weather, especially
when travelling, Romans of all classes would wear a thick cloak,
somewhat like the cape worn by a modern policeman or cab-driver, or
perhaps more closely resembling the _poncho_ of Spanish America. This,
which consisted of some strong and as nearly as possible waterproof
stuff, had no opening at the sides, but was put on by passing the head
through a hole. To-day Silius puts on the coloured mantle, and gets
himself carried across the Forum, through the gap between the
Capitoline and Quirinal Hills, and into the Campus Martius, somewhere
about the modern Piazza Venezia and the entrance to the Corso. Here he
may descend from his litter, and purchase a statuette, or a vessel of
Corinthian bronze or silver, or an attractive table with the true
peacock markings, or a handsome slave. While doing so, he may find
amusement in observing a pretender who "shops" but does not buy,
wearying the dealers by pricing and disparaging the costliest tables
and most artistic vessels, and ending with the purchase of a penny pot
which he carries home himself. He may then stroll along under the
pictured and statued colonnades, perhaps offering the cold shoulder to
various impecunious toadies who are there on the look-out for an
invitation to dinner, perhaps succumbing to their blandishments. His
lackeys are of course in attendance, and clients are still about him.
In passing he is greeted by some person who is hanging officiously
round a litter containing an elderly lady or gentleman, and whom he
recognises as what was called an "angler"--that is to say, one whose
business is to wheedle gifts or a legacy out of childless people of
wealth. This was a regular profession and extremely lucrative when
well managed.

A little further, and he stops to look at the young men curvetting and
wheeling on horseback over the riding-ground. Away in the distance
others are swimming backwards and forwards across the Tiber. Or he
steps into an enclosure, commonly connected with the baths, where not
only young men, but their seniors, even of high rank, are engaged in
various exercises. Some of them are stripped and are playing a game
with a small hard ball, which is struck or thrown, and smartly caught
or struck onward by right or left hand equally, from the three corners
of a triangle. Some are playing with a larger and lighter article,
something like a football stuffed with feathers, which seems to have
been punched about by the fist in a way calling for considerable
judgment and practice. Others are jumping with dumb-bells in each
hand, or they are running races, or hurling a disk of stone, or
wrestling. Yet others are practising all manner of sword strokes with
a heavy wooden weapon against a dummy post, merely to exercise
themselves keep down their flesh.

[Illustration: FIG. 65.--DISCUS-THROWER.]

[Illustration FIG 66.--STABIAN BATHS. (Pompeii.)]

Probably Silius will himself take a hand in the three-cornered game,
unless he possesses a private court at home and is intending to take
his bath there instead of in one of the larger public or semi-public
establishments. Whether he bathes in the baths of Agrippa at the back
of the Pantheon, or in those of Nero, or in his own, the process will
be much the same. The arrangements are practically uniform however
great may be the differences of sumptuousness and spaciousness. We
have not indeed yet reached the times of those huge and amazing
constructions of Caracalla and Diocletian, but there is no reason to
doubt that the existing public baths were already of much
magnificence. Regularly we should first find a dressing-room with
painted walls, a mosaic floor, and glass windows, and provided with
seats, as well as with niches in the walls to hold the clothes.
Adjoining this is a "cold" room, containing a large swimming-bath.
Next comes a "warm" chamber, with water heated to a sufficient and
reasonable degree, and with the general temperature raised either by
braziers or by warm air circulating under the floor or in the walls.
After this a "hot" room, with both a hot swimming-bath and a smaller
marble bath of the common domestic shape--though of much larger
size--provided with a shower, or rather with a cold jet. Lastly there
is a domelike sweating-chamber filled with an intense dry heat. The
public baths built by Nero were particularly notorious for their high
temperature. After the bath the body was rubbed over with perfumed
oil, in order to close the pores against the cold, and then was
scraped down with the hollow sickle-shaped instrument of bronze or
iron depicted in the illustration. The other articles there shown are
a vessel containing the oil, and a flat dish into which to pour it for
use. These, together with linen towels, were brought by your own

[Illustration: FIG. 67.--BATHING IMPLEMENTS.]

Silius is now carried home, and as it is approaching four o'clock, he
dresses, or is dressed, for dinner. His toga and senatorial
walking-shoes are thrown off, and he puts on light slippers or
house-shoes, and dons what is called a "confection" of light and easy
material--such as a kind of half-silk--and of bright and festive
colours. Some ostentatious diners changed this dress several times
during the course of a protracted banquet, giving the company the
benefit of as great a variety of "confections" as is afforded by a
modern star actress in the theatre. If the days are long and it is
suitable weather, he may perhaps dine in the garden at the back of the
peristyle. Otherwise in the dining-room the three couches mentioned in
a previous chapter (FIG. 48) are arranged along three sides of a
rectangle. Their metal and ivory work gleams brightly, and they are
resplendent with their embroidered cushions. In the middle of the
enclosed space shines the polished table, whether square or round. The
sideboard is laden with costly plate; the lamps are, or soon will be,
alight upon their tall shafts or hanging from their chains; the stand
for the carver is awaiting its load. The dining-room steward and his
subordinates are all in readiness.

At the right time the guests arrive, endeavouring to show neither
undue eagerness by being too early nor rudeness by being too late.
Each brings his own footman to take off his shoes and to stand behind
him, in case he may be needed, though not to wait at table, for this
service belongs to the slaves of the house. After they have been
received by the host, the "name-caller" leads them to their places,
according to such order of precedence as Silius chooses to
pre-arrange. The regular number of guests for the three couches will
be nine--the number of the Muses--or three to each couch. To squeeze
in more was regarded as bad form. If the crescent couch and the large
round table are to be used the number may be either six or seven. The
position of Silius himself as host will be regularly that marked H on
the plan, while the position of honour--occupied by a consul if one be
present--will be that marked C.

Each guest throws himself as easily as possible into a reclining
attitude, resting his left elbow on the cushion provided for the
purpose. He has brought his own napkin, marked with a purple stripe if
he is a senator, and this he tucks, in a manner still sufficiently
familiar on the continent of Europe, into upper part of his attire.
Bread is cut and ready, but there are no knives and forks, although
there is a spoon of dessert size and also one with a smaller bowl and
a point at the other end of the handle for the purpose of picking out
the luscious snail or the succulent shell-fish. The dainty use of
fingers well inured to heat was necessarily a point of Roman domestic

There have been many--perhaps too many--descriptions of a Roman
dinner, but the tendency, especially with the novelist, is to
exaggerate grossly the average costliness and gluttony of such
banquets. Undoubtedly there were such things as "freak" dinners almost
as absurd as those of the inferior order of American plutocrat.
Undoubtedly also there was often a detestable ostentation of reckless
expenditure. But we are endeavouring to obtain a fair view of
representative Roman practice, and must put out of our minds all such
vagaries as those of the ceiling opening and letting down surprises,
or of dishes composed of nightingales' tongues and flamingoes' brains.
These were always, as a later writer calls them, "the solecisms of
luxury." Nero himself, or rather the ministers of the vulgar pleasures
which he regarded as those of artistic genius, devised an abundance of
such expensive follies and surprises, but we must not permit the
professional satirist or Stoic moralist to delude us into believing
them typical of Roman life. Praise of the "simple life" and the simple
past is no new thing. It is extremely doubtful whether at an ordinary
Roman dinner-party there was any such lavish luxury as to surpass that
of a modern aldermanic banquet. We can hardly blame the people who
could afford it for obtaining for their tables the best of everything
produced around the Mediterranean Sea, any more than we blame the
modern citizen of London or New York for obtaining the choicest foods
and dainties from a much wider world. Doubtless a Roman dinner too
often meant over-eating and over-drinking, and doubtless neither the
ordinary table manners nor the ordinary table conversation would
recommend themselves to us. The same might be said of our own
Elizabethan age. But any one intimately acquainted with Latin
literature as a whole, and not merely with the more savoury passages
commonly selected, will necessarily incline to the belief that
novelistic historians have too often been taking what was exceptional,
eccentric, and strongly disapproved by contemporaries, for the usual
and the normal. If we read about Romans swallowing emetics after
gorging themselves, so that they might begin eating afresh, we may
feel both disgust and pity, but we must not imagine such a practice to
have been a national habit.

The dinner regularly consisted of three divisions: a preliminary
course of _hors d'oeuvres_, the dinner proper, and a sort of enlarged
dessert. It might or might not be accompanied or followed by various
entertainments, and closed by a protracted course of wine-drinking.
All would depend upon the tastes of the host and the nature of the
company. The meal, it may be mentioned, begins with an invocation
corresponding to our grace. The _hors d'oeuvres_ are taken in the
shape of shell-fish, such as oysters and mussels, snails with piquant
sauce, lettuce, radishes and the like, eggs, and a taste of wine
tempered with honey.

Next comes the dinner proper, commonly divided into three services,
comprising a considerable choice of fish (particularly turbot,
flounder, mullet, and lampreys), poultry and game (from chicken, duck,
pigeon, and peacock, to partridges, pheasants, ortolans, and
fieldfares), hare, joints of the ordinary meats, as well as of wild
boar and venison, a kind of haggis, a variety of the vegetables most
familiar to modern use, mushrooms, and truffles. There is abundant,
and to our taste excessive, use of seasonings, not only of salt,
vinegar, and pepper, but of oil, thyme, mint, ginger, and the like,
The _piece de resistance_--a wild boar, or whatever it may
be--regularly arrives as the middle of the three services. The
substantial meal ends with a small offering to the household deities.
After this follows the dessert, consisting of fresh and dried fruits,
and of cakes and sweet-meats artistically composed.

During the dinner a special feature is made of the artistic
arrangement of the various viands upon the large trays or stands from
which the guest makes his choice, for the several dishes belonging to
one course were not brought separately to table. In full view of the
guests the professional carver exhibits his dexterity with much
demonstration of grace and rapidity, and well-dressed and
neat-fingered slaves render the necessary service. Of plates and
dishes of various shapes and purposes, silver and silver-gilt, there
is great profusion.

The conversation meanwhile depends upon the company. Sometimes it
turns upon the chariot-races and the chances of the "Red" or "Green";
sometimes it is social gossip and scandal. If the guests are of a
graver cast of mind, it may be concerned with questions of art and
literature, or even philosophy. The Roman particularly affected
encyclopaedic information, and frequently posted himself with such
miscellaneous matter derived from a salaried domestic philosopher or
_savant_--commonly, of course, a Greek. But upon politics in any real
sense conversation will either not turn at all, or else very
cautiously, at least until some one has drunk more than is good for
him. It is only too easy to drop some remark which may be construed
into an offence to the emperor, and there are too many ears among the
slaves, and perhaps too many among the guests, to permit of any risk
in that direction. In some rather serious companies a professional
reader or reciter entertained the diners with interesting passages of
poetry or prose; before others there might be a performance of scenes
from a comedy. At times vocal and instrumental music was discoursed by
the domestic minstrels; or persons, generally women, were hired to
play upon the harp, lyre, or double flageolet. Such performances would
also be carried on during the carousal which often followed deep into
the night, and to these may be added posture-dances by girls from
Cadiz, juggling and acrobatic feats, and other forms of "variety"
entertainment. Dicing in public, except at the chartered Saturnalian
festival, was illegal--a fact which did not, of course, prevent it
from being practised---but it was permitted in private gatherings like
this, provided that ostensibly no money was staked. The dice are
rattled in a tower-like box and are thrown upon a special board or
tray. You may play "for love," or, as the Romans called it, "for the
best man," or you may play for forfeits. Naturally the forfeits became
in practice, in spite of the law, sums of money. The best possible
throw is called "Venus," the worst possible "the dog." A sort of
draughts or of backgammon may be preferred at more quiet times of
social intercourse; but a game like "head or tail," called in Latin
"heads or ships," was a game for the vulgar.

[Illustration: FIG. 68.--ACROBATS.]

If it was decided to indulge in a prolonged carousal in form, heads
were wreathed with garlands of roses, violets, myrtle, or ivy; lots
were cast for an "umpire of the drinking," and he decided both how
much wine--Falernian, Setine, or Massic--should be drunk, and in what
degree it should be mixed with water. A large and handsome mixing-bowl
stands in the dining-hall. From this the wine is drawn by a ladle
holding about as much as a sherry-glass, and a certain number of such
"glasses" are poured into each cup according to the bidding of the
umpire. While being poured into the "mixer" the wine is passed through
a strainer and in the hot weather the strainer would be filled with
snow brought down from the nearest mountains and artificially
preserved. Healths were drank in as many "glasses" as the name
contained letters; absent ladies were toasted in a similar way; and at
some hour or other guests asked their footmen for their shoes and
cloaks, and departed to their homes under the escort of attendants,
who carried the torches or lanterns and were ready to deal with
possible footpads and garroters, if any were lurking in the unlighted
streets for pedestrians less wary or less protected. The "Mohawks"
also will let them alone, and perhaps their homeward way may be
entertained by the sounds of serenaders at the door of some beautiful
Chloe or Lydia on the Upper Sacred Way or near the Subura.

It is not, however, to be supposed that every evening meal, even of a
noble, took the form of a dinner-party. It is indeed probable that
there were few occasions upon which, while in town, he was not either
entertaining visitors or being himself entertained. Occasionally there
would be an invitation to dine at Court, where perhaps eighty or a
hundred guests of both sexes, distributed in different sets of nine or
seven over the wide banquet-hall, would eat off gold plate, and be
entertained from three or four o'clock till midnight with all the
unbridled extravagance that a Petronius or some other "arbiter of
taste" might devise for the Caesar. The snob of the period set an
enormous value upon this distinction. The emperor could not always
review his list of invitations, nor could he on every occasion be
personally acquainted with every guest. It was therefore quite
possible for his servants now and then to smuggle in a person
ambitious of having dined at the palace. Under Caligula a rich
provincial once paid nearly L2000 for such an "invitation." When the
emperor found it out, he was, if anything, rather flattered; the next
day he caused some worthless trifle to be sold to the same man for the
same amount, and on the strength of this acquaintance invited him to
dinner, this time pocketing the money for himself.

Yet there must have been no few evenings upon which Silius preferred
the company of an intimate friend or two, making all together the
"number of the graces," and dined with less form and ceremony. At such
times the meal would be of comparatively short duration, and there
would be deeper and more intimate matter of conversation. Now and then
the dinner would be purely domestic; and, after it, Silius would
perhaps pass an hour or two in reading, or in listening to the slave
who was his professional "reader." If he was himself an author, as an
astonishing number of his contemporaries actually were, he might spend
the time in preparing a speech, composing some non-committal epic or
drama, jotting down memoranda for a history, or concocting an epigram
or satire to embody his humorous fancies or to relieve his
exasperation. If, as was often the case, he kept in the house a
salaried Greek philosopher--in a large measure the analogue of the
domestic chaplain of the later seventeenth century--he might enjoy his
conversation and pick his brains; or, if a man of real earnestness of
purpose, discuss with him the tenets of his particular philosophy,
Stoic, Epicurean, or Eclectic. This was the nearest approach which the
ancient Roman made to what we should call theological or religious

On other days a patron would naturally entertain a number of his
clients at dinner, and on no occasion would he be better able to show
how much or how little he was a gentleman in the modern sense of the
term. It is not merely from the satirist that we learn how
discourteous the Roman grandee might be at his own table if he chose.
It was no uncommon thing for a patron to set before these humbler
guests dishes or portions of dishes markedly inferior to those which
were offered to himself and to any aristocrat whom he had placed near
him. In this sense the client was often made to feel very distinctly
that he was "sitting below the salt." While the mellowest Setine or
Falernian wine was poured into the patron's own jewelled goblet of
gold or silver or crystal, his client might be drinking from thick
glass or earthenware the poorer stuff grown on the Sabine Hills. The
fish presented to Silius and his "brother" noble might be a choice
turbot, and the bird might be pheasant, while Proculus the client must
be content with pike from the Tiber and the common barndoor fowl. The
later satirist Juvenal presents us with inimitable pictures of the
hungry dependants at the table of their "king," waiting "bread in
hand" (like the sword drawn for the fray) to see what fortune would
send them. On the other hand there were, of course, patrons who made
no such distinctions. The younger Pliny, who was himself a gentleman
almost in the modern sense--if we overlook a too frequent tendency to
contemplate his own undeniable virtues--writes a letter to a young
friend in the following terms: "I need not go into details as to how I
came to be dining with a person with whom I am by no means intimate.
In his own eyes he combined elegance with economy; in mine he combined
meanness with extravagance. The dishes set before himself and a few
others were of the choicest; those supplied to the rest were poor
scraps. There was the same difference in his wine, which was of three
kinds. The intention was not to offer a choice, but to prevent the
right of refusing. One kind was for himself and us; another for his
less important friends (for his friends are graded); another for his
and our freedmen. My next neighbour noticed this, and asked me if I
approved of it. I said 'No!' 'Well,' said he, 'what is your own
practice?' 'I treat every one alike, for I invite people to a dinner,
not to an insult, and when they share my table I let them share
everything.' 'Your freedmen as well?' 'Yes, at such times I regard
them as guests, not as freedmen.' At this he said, 'It costs you a
good deal?' 'Not at all.' 'How can that be?' 'Because it is not a case
of their drinking the same wine as I do, but of my drinking the same
wine as they do.'" The letter is perhaps nearly half a century later
than our chosen period, but there is no reason to think that manners
had undergone any great change in the interval.



Silius was a noble, with a nobleman's privileges and also his
limitations. The class next in rank below his consisted of the
"knights," of whom something has already been said. It will be
remembered that these men of the "narrow stripe" were the higher
middle class, who conducted most of the greater financial enterprises
of Rome and the provinces. While the senatorial order could govern the
important provinces, command legions, possess large estates, and
derive revenues from them, but could make money in other ways only
through the more or less concealed agency of knights or their own
freedmen, the knights were free to act as bankers, money-lenders,
tax-farmers, and merchants or contractors in a large way, and to take
charge of such third-rate provinces as the Caesar might think fit to
entrust to them. Money-lending at Rome was an extremely profitable
business. Not only was the nobleman often extravagant in his tastes,
but when once elected to a public position he was practically
compelled to spend money lavishly in giving shows and exhibitions of
the kind which will be described immediately, or upon some public
building, or otherwise. In consequence he often incurred heavy debts.
Meanwhile the smaller traders and agriculturists, who were in
competition with slave-labour and other false economic conditions, to
say nothing of bad seasons, were frequently in the hands of the
usurers. Though efforts were repeatedly made to check exorbitant rates
of interest, they were apparently quite as ineffectual as with us. An
almost standard charge was at the rate of one-twelfth of the loan, or
8-1/3 per cent, but another common rate was that of one per cent per
month. Rates both higher and lower are known to us from particular
cases. Naturally the question depended on the security, when it did
not depend upon the greed of the one side and the ignorance of the
other. Much, however, of what the books call money-lending was only
what we should consider legitimate banking. Be this as it may, the
knights made large fortunes from the practice. They were also the
tax-farmers, who operated in the case of those imposts which were
still left indirect. The practice was to make an estimate of the
amount of such a tax derivable from a province, to purchase it from
the government at as large a margin of profit as possible, and so
relieve the state of the trouble and cost of collecting it. For this
purpose "companies" were formed, with what we should call a "legal
manager" at Rome. The managers would bid at auction for the tax, pay
the purchase-money into the treasury, and proceed to get in the tax
through local managers and agents in the provinces concerned. It has
already been explained that the more important taxation of the empire
was at this date direct--a community in Gaul, Spain, Asia Minor, or
Syria knowing what its assessment was, taking its own measures, and
using its own native or local collectors. The knights at Rome might
still advance sums to such communities, but they were not in this case
tax-farmers. It is unfortunate that the word "publicans"--bracketed
with "sinners"--is used in the New Testament translation for the local
collectors like St. Matthew. Not only does the word convey either no
notion or a wholly incongruous one to the ordinary reader, but it is
apt to mislead those who know its origin. Because the financial
companies at Rome, in purchasing the taxes, were taking up a public
contract, they were called _publicani_. But it is not these men who
were themselves acting as petty collectors--in any case they had
nothing to do with the native collectors appointed by the
communities--and it is not these who enjoyed an immediate association
with "sinners." The fact is that the Latin word applied to the great
tax-farming companies, who were acting for Rome, was afterwards
transferred to even the smallest collecting agent with opportunities
for extortion and harshness.

The stratum of Roman society below the knights was extremely
composite. The slaves, of course, are not included. They have no right
to the Roman "toga," nor may they even wear the conical Roman cap,
except at the Saturnalia, when everything is deliberately topsy-turvy.
Omitting these, we may roughly divide the rest, as the Romans
themselves divided them, into "people" and "rabble." The rabble are
either persons without regular occupation, or _lazzaroni_, sheer
idlers, loafers, and beggars. Doubtless many of them would execute an
errand or carry a parcel for a small copper, otherwise they would be
found hanging about the public squares, lounging on the steps or in
the precincts of public buildings, such as temples, basilicas,
porticoes, and baths, and playing at what the Italians call _morra_--a
more clever and tricky species of "How many fingers do I hold up?"--or
at "Heads or Tails." The poor of ancient Rome, like those of modern
Italy, could subsist on very plain and simple food. Water, with a dash
of wine when it could be got--and apparently at this date wine cost
less than a penny a quart--and porridge or bread, however coarse,
would suffice, so long as there were amusements, sunshine, and no need
to work. Every considerable city of the empire round the Mediterranean
would doubtless contain its proportion of such "lewd fellows of the
baser sort," but it was naturally the imperial city that contained by
far the most. Rome was by no means the only city in which doles of
free corn were made and free spectacular exhibitions given. But in
other places the distributions were occasional and depended on the
bounty of local men of wealth or ambition, whereas at Rome the dole
was regular, and the spectacles frequent and splendid. Rome was the
capital, and the abode of the emperor. It claimed the privileges of
the Mistress City, including the enjoyment of the surplus revenues.
Policy also demanded that the rabble should be kept quiet by "bread
and games."

It is for these reasons that the names of some 200,000 citizens stood
upon a list to receive each month an allowance of corn--apparently
between six and seven bushels--at the expense of the imperial
treasury. This quantity they took away and made into bread as best
they could. In many cases doubtless they sold it to the bakers and
others. It must be added that, apart from the free distribution, the
imperial stores contained quantities of grain which could always be
purchased at a low rate. Occasionally a dole of money was added; in
one case Nero gave over L2 per man. Meanwhile there was water in
abundance to be had for nothing, brought by the carefully kept
aqueducts into numerous fountains conveniently placed throughout the
city. While, however, we must recognise that the number of idlers was
very large, we must be careful not to exaggerate. It is absurd to
assume, as some have done, that because 200,000 citizens are receiving
free corn there are 200,000 unemployed. The Roman emperors never
intended to put a premium on laziness, but only to deal with poverty.
In order to receive your dole of corn it was not necessary to show
that you were starving, but only that you were entitled, or in other
words, on the list. It is also a mistake to think that any chance
arrival among the Roman _olla podrida_ could claim his bushel and a
half of corn a week. In any case only Roman citizens could
participate. All the poorest workers, whether actually employed or
not, could take their corn with the rest. Nor must we forget that
among the unemployed there were a considerable number who were, for
one reason or another, only temporarily out of work. Nevertheless, it
requires no study of political economy to know, nor were Roman
statesmen blind to see, that the best way to make men cease to work is
to show them that they can live, however shabbily, without. The really
surprising thing is perhaps that the Roman government, with its
immense funds and resources, stopped short where it did. An unsound
economic system had brought about difficult conditions, with which the
emperors and their advisers dealt as best they could.

It was inevitable that among so numerous a pampered rabble, and so
many impoverished aliens who tried their fortunes in the capital,
there should be beggars in considerable numbers. We cannot tell
precisely how many they were. You might find them on the bridges,
where they marked, as it were, a "stand" for themselves and crouched
on a mat, or at the gates, or wherever carriages must proceed slowly
on the highroads near the city, as for instance up the slope of the
Appian Way as it passed over the south-western spur of the Alban
Hills. Other towns would be infested in the same manner. Nor were
thieves and footpads wanting in the streets or highwaymen upon the
roads, especially in the lonelier parts near the marshes between Rome
and the Bay of Naples. The city was, indeed, liberally policed, but
Roman streets, as we have seen, were for the most part narrow,
crooked, and unlighted at night. As usual, it was the comparatively
poor who suffered from the street robber; the rich, with their torches
and retinue, could always protect themselves.

After the "rabble" we will take the "people" in the sense current at
this date. We must begin by adjusting our notions somewhat. The Romans
made no such clear distinction as we do between trades and
professions. To perform work for others and to receive pay for it is
to be a hireling. Painters, sculptors, physicians, surgeons, and
auctioneers are but more highly paid and more pleasantly engaged
hirelings. Only so far do they differ from sign-painters, masons,
undertakers, or criers. No doubt the theory broke down somewhat in
practice, yet such is the theory. That which in our day constitutes a
"liberal" profession--a previous liberal education and a high code of
professional etiquette--can hardly be said to have existed in the case
of corresponding professions at Rome. If the liberality departs from
our own professional education and the etiquette is relaxed, we shall
presumably revert to the same state of things. A surgeon was commonly
a "sawbones," and a physician a compounder and prescriber of more or
less empirical drugs. Their knowledge and skill were by no means
contemptible, and their instruments and pharmacopoeia were
surprisingly modern. Among the Greeks and Orientals their social
standing was high, but at Rome, where they were chiefly foreigners,
for the most part Greeks, the old aristocratic exclusiveness kept them
in comparatively humble estimation, however large might be their fees
in the more important cases. Something will be said later as to the
state of science and knowledge in the Roman world. For the present it
is sufficient to note that artist, medical man, attorney,
schoolmaster, and clerk belong theoretically to the common "people,"
along with butchers, bakers, carpenters, and potters.

[Illustration: FIG. 69.--SURGICAL INSTRUMENTS. (Pompeii.)]

Setting aside the aristocratic and wealthy classes on the one hand,
and the pauperised class on the other, we have lying between them the
workers, whether native Romans or the emancipated slaves, who are now
citizens known as "freedmen." To these we must add the rather shabby
genteel persons whom we have already described as "clients." Among
workers are found men and women of all the callings most familiar to
ourselves, with one exception. They do not include domestic servants.
Romans who could afford regular servants kept slaves. It 18 true that
occasionally one of the poorer citizens, even a soldier on furlough,
might perform some menial task connected with a household, such as
hewing wood or carrying burdens; but such services were regarded as
"servile." With this exception there is scarcely an occupation in
which Roman citizens did not engage. In such work they often had to
compete with slave-labour. It is probable, doubtless, that the greater
proportion of the slave body were employed as domestic servants. But
many others tilled the lands of the larger proprietors. Others
laboured under the contractors who constructed the public works.
Others were used as assistants in shops and factories. It is obvious
that such competition reduced the field of free labour, when it did
not close it entirely, and the free labour must have been unduly
cheapened. But to suppose that all the Roman work, whether in town or
country, was done by slaves is to be grossly in the wrong. Romans were
to be found acting as ploughmen and herdsmen, workers in vineyards,
carpenters, masons, potters, shoemakers, tanners, bakers, butchers,
fullers, metal-workers, glass-workers, clothiers, greengrocers,
shopkeepers of all kinds. There were Roman porters, carters, and
wharf-labourers, as well as Roman confectioners and sausage-sellers.
To these private occupations must be added many positions in the lower
public or civil service. There was, for example, abundant call for
attendants of the magistrates, criers, messengers, and clerks.
Unfortunately our information concerning all this class is very
inadequate. The Roman writers--historians, philosophers, rhetoricians,
and poets--have extremely little to say about the humble persons who
apparently did nothing to make history or thought. They are mentioned
but incidentally, and generally without interest, if not with some
contempt, except where a poet is choosing to glorify the simple life
and therefore turns his gaze on the frugal peasantry, who doubtless
did, in sober fact, retain most of the sturdy old Roman spirit. About
the soldiers we know much, and not a little about the schoolmasters.
The connection of the one occupation with history and of the other
with authors will account for this fact. Something will be said of the
army and also of the schools in their special places. Keepers of inns
are not rarely in evidence in the literature of satire and epigram,
and no language seems too contemptuous for their alleged dishonesty.
But of inns enough has been said. We learn that the booksellers
made money out of the works of which they caused their slaves to
make copies, and which they sold in "well got up" style for four
shillings, or, in the case of slender volumes, for as little as
fourpence-halfpenny. But to this day we do not know how much profit an
author drew from the bookseller, or how it was determined, or whether
he drew any at all. It is most reasonable to suppose that he sold a
book straight out to the publisher for what he could get. Otherwise it
is hard to see how any check could be kept upon the sales. The only
occupation upon which literature offers us systematic information is
agriculture, including the pasturing of cattle and the culture of the
vine. For the rest we derive more knowledge from the excavations of
Pompeii than from any other source. From actual shops and their
contents, from pictures illustrating contemporary life, and from
inscriptions and advertisements, we are enabled to reconstruct some
picture of commercial and industrial operations. We can see the
fuller, the baker, the goldsmith, the wine-seller, and the
wreath-maker at their work. We can discern something of the retail
trade in the Forum; or we can see the auctioneer making up his

[Illustration: FIG. 70.--BAKER'S MILLS. (Pompeii.)]

[Illustration: FIG. 71.--CUPIDS AS GOLDSMITHS. (Wall Painting.)]

[Illustration: FIG. 72.--GARLAND-MAKERS.]


The baker, for example, was his own miller. There are still standing
the mills, with the upper stone--a hollow cylinder with a pinched
waist--capable of revolving upon the under stone and letting the flour
drop into the rim below. Into the holes in the middle of the upper or
"donkey" stone, and across the top, were fixed wooden bars, which were
either pushed by men or drawn by asses yoked to them. The oven is
still in place, and, charred as they are, we are quite familiar with
the round flat loaves shaped and divided like a large "cross" bun. The
dough was kneaded by a vertical shaft with arms revolving in a
receptacle, from the sides of which other arms projected inwards, so
that there was little room for the dough to be squeezed between them.
We have pictures of the fuller, to whom the woollen garments--the
togas and tunics, and the mantles of the women--were regularly sent to
be washed by treading in vats, to be beaten, stretched, and bleached
with sulphur, and to have their naps raised with a comb or a bunch of
thorns. The goldsmith is depicted at his furnace or his anvil. The
garland-makers are at work fastening the blossoms or petals on a
ribbon or a tough strip of lime-bark. Dealers in other goods are
showing the results of their labour to customers, who carefully
examine them by eye, touch, and smell. The tablets containing the
receipts for sales and rents still exist as they were found in the
house of the shrewd-looking Jucundus the auctioneer. They formally
acknowledge the receipt of such-and-such sums realised at an auction,
"minus commission," although unfortunately they do not happen to tell
us how much the commission was. We see the venders of wine filling the
jars for customers from the large wine-skin in the waggon. In
conclusion to this subject it should be observed that all manner of
descriptive signs were in use; and just as one may still see a
barber's pole or a gilt boot in front of a shop, or a painted sign at
a public-house, so one might see the representation of a goat at the
door of a milk-vender, or of an eagle or elephant at the door of an

[Illustration: FIG. 74.--PLOUGH. (Primitive and later forms.)]

Meanwhile out in the country we can perceive the farm, with its hedges
of quick-set, its stone walls, or its bank and ditch. The rather
primitive plough--though not always so primitive as it was a
generation or so ago in Italy--is being drawn by oxen, while, for the
rest, there are in use nearly all the implements which were employed
before the quite modern invention of machinery. It may be remarked at
this point that the rotation of crops was well understood and
regularly practised. Then there are the pasturelands, on the plains in
the winter, but in summer on the hills, to which the herdsmen drive
their cattle along certain drove-roads till they reach the unfenced
domains belonging to the state. There they form a camp of huts or
wigwams under a "head man," and surround their charges with strong
fierce dogs, whose business it is to protect them, not only from
thieves, but also from the wolves which were then common on the
Apennines--where, indeed, bears also were to be met. There was no want
of occupation in the country in the time of haymaking, of the vintage,
or of olive-picking. Even the city unemployed could gather a bunch of
grapes or pick an olive, just as they can with us, or just as the
London hop-picker can take a holiday and earn a little money in Kent.
In the vineyards, where the vines commonly trailed upon low elms and
other trees, various vegetables grew between the rows, as they still
do about Vesuvius; on the hills were olive-groves, which cost almost
nothing to keep in order, and which supplied the "butter" and the
lamp-oil of the Mediterranean world.

[Illustration: FIG. 75.--TOOLS ON TOMB.]

We need not waste much compassion upon the life of the Roman working
class. It is true that there was then no doctrine of the "dignity of
labour," but that there was reasonable pride taken in a trade
reputably maintained is seen from the frequent appearance of its tools
upon a tombstone. In respect of the mere enjoyment of life, the
labourers, of the Roman world were, so far as we can gather, tolerably
happy. They had abundant holidays, mostly of religious origin; but,
like our own, so frequently added to, and so far diverted from
religious thoughts, that they were more marked by jollity and sport
than by any solemnity of spirit. The workmen of a particular calling
formed their guilds, "city companies," or clubs, in the interests of
their trade and for mutual benefit. There was a guild of bakers, a
guild of goldworkers, and a guild of anything and everything else.
Each guild had its special deity--such as Vesta, the fire-goddess, for
the bakers, and Minerva, the goddess of wool-work, for the
fullers--and it held an annual festival in honour of such patrons,
marching through the streets with regalia and flag. Doubtless the
members of a guild acted in concert for the regulation of prices,
although the Roman government took care that these clubs should be
non-political, and would speedily suppress a strike if it seriously
interfered with the public convenience. The ostensible excuse for a
guild, and apparently the only one theoretically accepted by the
imperial government, was the excuse of a common worship. It is at
least certain that the emperors jealously watched the formation of any
new union, and that they would promptly abolish any which appeared to
have secret understandings and aims, or to act in contravention of the
law. In the towns which possessed local government the municipal
authorities were still elected by the people; and the guilds,
especially of shopkeepers, could and did play their parts in
determining the election of a candidate. The elections might make a
difference to them in those ways in which modern town-councillors and
mayors, may influence the rates, the conditions of the streets, the
rules of traffic, and so forth. There are sixteen hundred election
notices painted, in red and black about the walls of Pompeii, and we
find So-and-So recommended by such-and-such a trade as being a "good
man," or "an honest young man," or a person who will "keep an eye on
the public purse." It is amusing to note that, in satirical parody of
such appeals as "the fruitsellers recommend So-and-So," we find that
"the petty thieves recommend So-and-So," or we get the opinion of "the
sleepers one and all." Special objects connected with these and other
associations were the provision of "widows' funds," and of proper
burial for the members. Of the importance of the latter to the ancient
world we shall speak when we come to a funeral and the religious ideas
connected with it.

The most difficult task in dealing with antiquity is to visualise the
actual life as it was lived. In the life of the humbler citizens the
remains of Pompeii lend more help than anything else to the desired
sense of reality, but they are the remains of Pompeii, not of Rome.
Nevertheless there are many points in which we may fairly argue from
the little town to the larger, and it is customary to adopt this

[Illustration: FIG. 76.--POMPEIAN COOK-SHOP.]

We may, therefore, think of the common people among these ancients as
very much alive in their frank curiosity, their broad humour, their
love of shows, and their keen enthusiasm for the competitions, their
interest in petty local elections, their advertising instincts, their
insatiable fondness for scribbling on walls and pillars, whether in
paint or with a "style," a sort of small stiletto with which they
commonly wrote on tablets. The ancient world becomes very near when we
read, side by side with the election notices, a line from Virgil or
Ovid scrawled in a moment of idleness, or a piece of abuse of a
neighbouring and rival town--such as "bad luck to the Nucerians"--or a
pretty sentiment, such as "no one is a gentleman who has not been in
love," or an advertisement to the effect that there are "To let, from
July 1, shops with their upper floors, a flat for a gentleman, and a
house: apply to Prinus, slave of So-and-So"; or "Found wandering, a
mare with packsaddle, apply, etc."--the latter, by the way, painted on
a tomb.

[Illustration: FIG. 77.--IN A WINE-SHOP.]

For places of social resort there were the baths, the colonnades, the
semicircular public seats, the steps of public buildings, the shops,
and the eating-houses and taverns. The middle classes, in the absence
of the modern clubs, met to gossip at the barber's, the bookseller's,
or the doctor's. Those of a humbler grade would often betake
themselves to the establishments corresponding to the modern Italian
_osterie_, where were to be obtained wine with hot or cold water and
also cooked food. As they sat on their stools in these "greasy and
smoky" haunts they might be compelled, says the satirist, to mix with
"sailors, thieves, runaway slaves, and the executioner," but even men
of higher standing were often not unwilling to seek low pleasures amid
such surroundings, especially when, as was frequently the case, there
was provision for secret dicing beyond the observation of the police.

From literature, meanwhile, we may fill in their vivacious language,
the courteous terms the people apply to each other, such as "you ass,
pig, monkey, cuckoo, chump, blockhead, fungus," or, on the other side,
"my honey, my heart, my dove, my life, my sparrowkin, my dainty
cheese." But to go more fully into matters like these would carry us
too far afield.

We will end this topic with a last look at the ordinary free workman,
who wears no toga, but simply a girt-up tunic, a pair of boots, and a
conical cap, and who goes home to his plain fare of bread, porridge,
lentil soup, goats'-milk cheese, "broad" and "French" beans, beetroot,
leeks, salted or smoked bacon, sausages, and black-pudding, which he
will eat off earthenware or a wooden trencher, and wash down with
cheap but not unwholesome wine mixed with water. He has no pipe to
smoke; he has never heard of tea, coffee, or spirits. He may have been
told that certain remote barbarians drink beer, and he may know of a
thing called butter, but he would not touch it so long as he can get
olive-oil. However humble his home, he will endeavour to own a silver
salt-cellar, and to keep it as an heirloom.



These topics bring us naturally to the consideration of the chief
amusements and entertainments of Rome and of those parts of the empire
which were either fairly romanized or else contained a large number of
resident Romans.

Holidays, some of them lasting over several days, were at this date
liberally spread throughout the year. Most of them belonged to fixed
dates, others were festivals specially proclaimed for victories or
other causes of rejoicing. We may estimate their average number at
Rome itself at about a hundred. At first sight this might indicate an
astonishing waste of time and the prevalence of enormous indolence.
But we must remember that the Romans had no such thing as Sunday. Our
own Sundays and the weekly half-holidays make together seventy-eight
days, and if to these we add the holidays at Christmas, Easter, and
other Bank and public "closings," we shall find that our annual breaks
in the working year are not very far from the Roman total, however
differently they may be distributed. The difference between us and
them lies rather in the way in which the holidays were employed.
Originally the holidays did not imply any giving of shows and games in
the way of chariot-races, gladiatorial combats, and the like. They
were simply festivals of deities--of Flora, the goddess of flowers,
Ceres, the goddess of crops, Apollo the god of light and healing, and
other divinities--honoured by sacrifices, processions, and feasts. The
feast of Saturn, for example, was at first held for only one day.
Later it was extended over five and then over seven days, exactly as
our Christmas celebrations--which are a Christian adaptation of
it--tend virtually to spread over longer and longer periods. At this
winter festival of the Saturnalia there was an interchange of
presents--such as confectionery, game, articles of clothing,
writing-tablets--and a general outburst of goodwill and merriment. For
one day the slaves were allowed to put on the freeman's cap, the "cap
of liberty," and to pretend to be the masters. This is the source of
the mediaeval monkish custom of permitting one annual day of
"misrule." Meanwhile the citizen threw off the toga and clad himself
in colours as he chose. He played at dice publicly and with impunity.
The cry of "Hurrah for the Saturnalia!" was heard everywhere. Later it
became customary to hold public shows on these days, and the emperors
gave gladiatorial games and acrobatic or dramatic entertainments, at
which there were scrambled various objects, articles of food, coins or
tickets entitling the holder to some gift which might be valuable,
valueless, or comical. Similarly there was a holiday on New Year's
Day, when presents were again interchanged, regularly including a
small piece of money "for good luck." The gifts on this day frequently
bore the inscription "a Happy and Prosperous New Year to you."
Presents at all times played a prominent part in Roman etiquette and
sociality. Not only were they given at holidays but also at all
important domestic events. Even at a dinner-party, besides actual
articles of food to be carried home, there were frequently gifts of a
kind either expressly adapted to the recipient, or else drawn by a
humorous lottery. Among numerous other articles of which one might be
the recipient in various seasons and circumstances, there are
mentioned books, pictures, tablets of ivory, wood, or parchment,
cushions, mufflers, hats, hoods, sponges, soap, rings, flasks,
baskets, musical instruments, balls, pens, lamps, tooth-picks, dice,
money-boxes, satchels, parrots, magpies, and monkeys. On the Ides of
March the poorer classes made their way to the Campus Martius beside
the river, built themselves arbours or wigwams of boughs, and spent
the day and evening in riotous song and jollity.

In general, however, the parts of these festivals to which the people
looked forward with liveliest anticipation were those public
entertainments, commonly known as "the games" or "sports," which were
provided for them free of cost. The expense was theoretically borne by
the state--whether from the exchequer of the emperor or from that of
the senate and the state did indeed spend as much as six or eight
thousand pounds upon a particular celebration. But, both in Rome
itself and in the provinces, it was practically obligatory that the
public officer who had charge of a given festival for the year should
spend liberally of his own upon it. No man either at Rome or in a
provincial city could permit himself to be elected to such a public
position unless he was prepared to disburse a sum perhaps as large as
the subvention given by the state. The more he gave, particularly if
he introduced some striking or amusing addition to the ordinary shows,
the more popular he became for the time being. In the Roman world you
must pay for your ambitions, and this was the most approved way of
paying. We might moralise over the enormous frivolity which could
waste day after day thousands and thousands of pounds upon such
transitory pleasures, instead of conferring lasting benefits in the
way of hospitals or schools. But it is not the object of this book to
moralise. We may feel confident that the Roman populace, if offered
the choice, would have voted for the chariot-races or the gladiators,
not for the college or the hospital.

[Illustration: FIG. 78: BOXING-GLOVES.]

The entertainments provided were of several kinds, by no means equally
popular. There were plays in the theatres; there were contests of
running, wrestling, boxing, throwing of spears and disks, and other
"events," corresponding to our athletic sports; there were
chariot-races in the Circus, answering to our horse-races at Epsom or
Newmarket; and there were spectacles in the amphitheatre, to which,
happily, we have no modern parallel. These included huntings and
baitings of animals, fights with wild beasts--performances far more
dangerous than those of the Spanish bull-ring--and, above all, the
combats of the gladiators or professional "swordsmen." So far as there
exists a later analogue to the last it is to be found in the more
chivalrous tourney in the lists, but the resemblance is not very
close. Least valued among the real Romans were the athletic sports.
For genuine enjoyment of these we must look to the Greek part of the
empire. At Rome they appeared tame, for the mind of the Roman populace
was naturally coarse in grain; what it delighted in was something
sensationally acrobatic, or provocative of a rather gross laughter, or
else involving a thrilling anticipation of danger and bloodshed. In
taste the Romans were in fact similar to those modern spectators who
love to see a man plunge from a lofty trapeze into a narrow tank, with
a reasonable chance of breaking his neck. It is a strange
contradiction with other Roman attitudes when we find that they
objected to the Greek wrestling or running on grounds of decorum,
because it was innocently nude. On the athletic sports, although they
were never wanting in the "games" at Rome, we need not therefore
dwell. It may be sufficient to show by an illustration what sort of
notion the ancient world entertained of interesting pugilism. It is
only fair to say that the "boxing-gloves" here given--thongs of
leather wrapped tightly round the arm and hand, and loaded or studded
with lead or iron--were a notion borrowed from the professional
pugilists of Greece.

[Illustration: FIG. 80.--THEATRE AT ASPENDUS.]

Next lowest in esteem stood the plays given on the theatrical stage.
Mention has been made in a previous chapter of the three great
theatres of Rome, one of them said, though somewhat incredibly, to be
capable of holding 40,000 spectators. Their shape and arrangement have
already been hinted at. Huge structures of a similar kind existed in
all the great romanized towns of Italy and other provinces. One at
Orange in France is still well preserved, and two of smaller
dimensions--one without a roof for plays, and one roofed for musical
performances--are among the most easily remembered of the remains
extant at Pompeii. In the Grecian half of the empire the theatres were
not essentially different, the chief distinguishing feature being
that, while the Roman auditorium formed half a circle, that of the
Greek type formed over two-thirds. In the Roman type the level
semicircle in front of the stage, from which we derive the name
"orchestra," was occupied by the chairs of the senators, and the
fourteen tiers of stone seats immediately behind them by the knights;
certain sections were also set apart for special classes, one being
for soldiers, one for boys not yet of age, and one for women, whose
presence was not encouraged, and who, except at the tragedies, would
have shown more modesty by staying away. Facing the seats is a stage,
higher than among the Greeks, but somewhat lower than it is commonly
made in modern times; and at the back of the stage is a wall
architecturally adorned to represent a house or "palace" front, and
containing one central and two side doors, which served for separate
purposes conventionally understood. Over the stage is a roof, which
slopes backward to join the wall. The entrances to the ordinary tiers
of seats are from openings reached by stairs from the outside arcade
surrounding the building; those to the level "orchestra" are from
right and left by passages under an archway, which supports a private
box for the presiding official. The two boxes are approached from the

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