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

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stage, and when the emperor is present he is seated in the one to the
spectators' left. Round the top of the building, inside above the
seats, runs a covered walk, which serves as a lounge and a _foyer_.
Over the heads of the spectators a coloured awning--dark-red or
dark-blue by preference--may be stretched on masts or poles; when no
awning is provided, or when it cannot be used because the wind is too
strong, the spectator is permitted to wear a broad-brimmed hat, if he
finds one desirable for his comfort. The whole building must be
thought of as lined and seated with marble, gilded in parts, and
decorated with pillars and statues.

The curtain, instead of being pulled up, as with us, when the play
begins is pulled down, falling into a groove in the stage. Where we
should say the "curtain is up" the Romans would say exactly the
reverse, "the curtain is lowered." For plays in which the palace-front
was not appropriate, scenery was employed to cover it, being painted
on canvas or on boards which could be pulled aside; other scenes were
stretched on frames, which could be made to revolve so as to present
various faces.

The actors, however much admired for their art, and however
influential in irregular ways, were looked upon as in a degraded
position, and no Roman who valued social regard would adopt this line
of life. Among the Greeks and such Orientals as were under Greek
influence no such stigma rested upon the profession, and therefore
many of the chief actors of the imperial city had received their
training in this more liberal-minded part of the Roman world. The rest
were mostly slaves or ex-slaves. If a Roman of any standing took part,
it was either because he was a ruined man, or else because the emperor
had capriciously ordered him to undergo this humiliation.

[Illustration: FIG. 81.--TRAGIC ACTOR.]

The plays themselves were certainly of no great merit from a
constructive or literary point of view. We hear a good deal nowadays
of the "decline of the drama," but perhaps in no civilised country has
it declined so far as it had descended in Rome by the year A.D. 64.
The regular and classical drama--that is to say, literary tragedy and
comedy--was not likely to appeal to any ordinary Roman gathering. The
philosopher Seneca indeed wrote tragedies in imitation of the Greek,
but they were intended for the reader and the library, and there is
little probability that they were ever performed, or even offered to
the stage. Tragedies were, it is true, represented, but they were
mostly Greek, and the performance was in the Greek style. The heroic
actors wore masks, covering not only the face but the whole head,
which they raised considerably in height. About the body fell long and
trailing robes of splendid material and colour, and on the feet were
thick-soled boots which increased the height by several inches. The
comedian played in low shoes or slippers; and "boot" and "slipper"
were therefore terms in common vogue to distinguish the two kinds of
theatrical entertainment. Of Pliny's two favourite country-houses on
Lake Como one was called "Tragedy" as standing high, the other
"Comedy" because on a lower site beside the water. The whole effect
sought in the heroic play was the grandiose, and no attempt was made
to reproduce the actualities of life. In the accompanying illustration
will be seen the tragic hero as he appeared upon the Roman stage. In
considering this somewhat amazing apparition it must be remembered
that at Rome, as in Greece, the theatre was huge, effective
opera-glasses were not known, and subtle changes of facial expression
would have passed unnoticed. The make-up of the actor, like the
painting of the scenes, was compelled to depend upon broad effects.

With its love of the false heroic, of rhetorical bombast, of sumptuous
dress, magnificent scenes, and gorgeous accessories in the way of
"supers" and processions, the Roman tragic drama of this period must
have borne a striking resemblance to the corresponding English pieces
of the Restoration or age of Dryden. Perhaps the most popular part of
the performance was the music and dancing, whether by individual
actors or as ballets, accompanied by the flageolet, the lyre, or the

In comedy there was apparently no originality. As in the oldest days
of their drama the Romans had copied the Greeks, so they copied them
still. We may believe that the acting was often excellent; especially
in respect of intonation and gesture, but little can be said for the
play, whether from the point of view of literature or of morals. Since
verbal description must necessarily be of little force, it will serve
better to present here a few specimens of comic masks and a scene from

[Illustration: FIG. 82.--COMIC MASKS.]

[Illustration: FIG. 83.--SCENE FROM COMEDY.]

Much more in demand were theatrical performances of a lower kind.
These were farces, interludes, character-pieces, and dumb-shows known
as "pantomimes." The farce was a loosely constructed form of
fooling comedy, containing much of the ready Italian improvisation or
"gag," and regularly introducing the four stock characters which have
lasted with little disguise for so many centuries There was an old
"grandfather," the forerunner of the modern pantaloon; a cunning
sharper; a garrulous glutton with a fat face (known as "Chops"); and
an amorous Simple Simon. Sometimes types of foreigners or provincials
were introduced, with caricatures of their dress and language, after
the manner, and probably with the veracity, of the stage Scotchman,
Irishman, or Frenchman. All these parts were played in masks.

The interlude again was a slight piece with very little plot, and
composed in a large measure of buffoonery, practical jokes, hitting
and slapping, and dancing. Topical allusions and contemporary
caricatures were freely introduced, and the whole performance, however
coarsely amusing, was both vulgar and indecent. In these pieces no
masks were worn and also no shoes, and the women's parts--taken in the
other instances by men and boys--were actually played by females,
whose posture-dances were no credit to their sex.

The dumb-shows or "pantomimes" were performances in which expressive
and elaborate gestures and movements were left to tell the whole tale.
For this kind of piece the actors naturally required not only uncommon
cleverness but also great suppleness of body. As usual, these
qualities, together with the qualities of voice, the magnificent
dress, and the carefully cultivated long hair, won for the actor
demoralising influence over too large a number of the more
impressionable and untrammelled Roman dames.

Meanwhile the huge audience must not be conceived as sitting in quiet
and restrained attention, but as roaring with laughter, applauding and
stamping, shouting approval and encores, hissing and waving
handkerchiefs. And meanwhile the _claqueurs_ will have been duly
distributed by those interested in the success of the performance.
Every now and then a fine rain of saffron perfume is shed over the
audience from pipes and jets distributed round the building. It
deserves remark also that in the theatre, as in the other places of
amusement, the gathering frequently broke out into demonstrations of
its feeling towards persons and politics. There was safety in numbers,
and the applause or hissing which greeted a personage or a topical
allusion--or a line which could be twisted into such--could hardly be
laid to the account of any individual. A certain license was conceded
and fully utilised at the festivals: it served as a safety-valve, and
wise emperors apparently so regarded it. At Rome the government was
indeed "despotism tempered by epigram," but it was no less tempered by
these demonstrations at the games and spectacles.

More worthy of imperial Rome were the exhibitions of chariot-races
held in the immense Circus Maximus. That building, already described,
would at this date probably hold some 200,000 persons, but it could
never provide room enough for the excited people, who not only
gathered in multitudes from Rome itself, but also from all the
country, even all the empire, within reach. For weeks the chances of
the parties have been discussed and betted upon; even the schoolboys
have talked chariots, chariot-drivers, and horses. The fortune-tellers
have been consulted about them; dreamers have dreamed the winners; and
many an underhand attempt, sometimes including the hocussing of men or
horses, has been made to corrupt the sport. The struggle is in reality
not between chariot and chariot, but between what we should call
stable and stable. There are four parties--the white, red, green, and
blue--whose drivers will wear the respective colours, in which also
the chariots were probably painted. By some means the green and blue
have at this date contrived to stand out beyond the others, and the
chief interest commonly centres upon these.

The day of the great spectacle arrives. Outside the building and in
the porticoes surrounding it the sellers of books of the races and of
cushions are plying their trade along with venders of confectionery
and perfumes. The people are streaming into the numerous entrances
which lead by stairways to the particular blocks or tiers of seats in
which they are entitled to sit, and for which they bear a ticket. Full
citizens are wearing the toga, or, if the emperor has not forbidden
the practice, the brightly coloured cloak which has been already
described. Seats are reserved for officials, senators, knights, and
Vestal Virgins; and on the side under the Palatine is a large
balcony-box for the emperor and his suite. At these games women have
no special place set apart for them; they sit in their richest land
showiest attire among the general body of the spectators, and flirting
and love-making are part of the order of the day. A very crude form of
field-glass or "spy-glass" was already in use, apparently consisting
generally of a mere hollow tube, but occasionally provided with a
magnifying lens. Nero himself, in consequence of his short-sight, had
a "glass" in some way contrived of emerald.

At one end of the Circus is a building containing a curved line of
stalls, equidistant from the starting-point, in which the drivers hold
their chariots in readiness. These are all barred, and only at the
signal will the doors be thrown open. The horses are commonly
three-year-olds or five-year-olds. In some races there are two horses
to the chariot, in others four. Less commonly there are three or six,
or even a greater number. In the year 64 the number of cars running
will be four, one for each club. How many races there are to be, and
in what variety, will depend upon the presiding officer, who, as has
been said, is paying a considerable portion of the expenses, and who
will receive or lose applause according to the entertainment he
affords to the spectators. Commonly there will be about twenty races
run, although occasionally even that number be increased.

Down the middle of the arena, though not quite in its axis, runs a low
broad wall called the "backbone," bearing various sculptures along its
summit and in the middle an obelisk, now standing in the Piazza del
Popolo, which Augustus had brought from Egypt after his conquest of
that country. On the extremities of the "backbone" are placed the
figures of seven dolphins and seven large eggs, and just free of each
end, on a base of their own, stand three tall cones coated with gilt,
round which the chariots are to turn as a yacht turns round the buoy.
Seven times will the chariots race down the arena, round the end of
the backbone, and back again. At each lap a dolphin and an egg will be
removed from the wall, and as the last disappears the winning driver
makes straight on for the white line which serves as the winning-post.

[Illustration: FIG. 84.--PLAN OF CIRCUS.]

But they have not yet started. At the fixed hour a procession starts
from the Capitol, descends by the temple of Saturn and past the face
of the Basilica Julia, turns along the "Tuscan Street," and enters the
Circus under a large archway in the middle of the building which
contains the stalls. In front go a body of musicians with blare of the
straight Roman trumpet and the scream of the flageolets; behind these
comes the high official who has charge of the particular festival. He
is mounted high on a chariot, and is clothed in a toga embroidered
with gold and a tunic figured with golden palm-branches: in his hand
he carries an ivory sceptre, and over his head is held a crown of
gold-leaf. Behind the chariot is collected a retinue in festal array.
The competing chariots follow; after these are the effigies of
deities, borne on platforms or on vehicles to which are attached
richly caparisoned horses, mules, or elephants; in attendance upon
them are the connected priestly bodies. As this procession passes
round the Circus the spectators rise from their seats, roar their
acclamations, and wave their handkerchiefs. When it has made the
circuit, its members retire to their places, and the chariots are shut
in their stalls. Soon the president takes his stand in his box, lifts
a large handkerchief or napkin, and drops it. Immediately the bolts of
the barriers are withdrawn, and the chariots dash forward towards the
point marked A. The drivers, clothed in a close sleeveless tunic and
wearing a skull-cap, all of their particular colour, lean forward over
their steeds, and encourage them with whips and shouting. At their
waists you will see the reins gathered to a girdle, at which also
hangs a knife, in readiness to cut them away in case of accident. The
chariot is a low and shallow vehicle of wood covered with ornament and
as light as it can well be made, and it requires no little skill for
the charioteer to maintain his footing while controlling his team.
Down the straight they rush, each endeavouring to gain an advantage at
the turn, where the left rein is pulled, and the left horse--the pick
of the team--is brought as closely round the end of the wall as skill
and prudence can contrive. It is chiefly, though by no means only,
here that the accidents occur, and that the chariots lose their
balance and collide with each other, or strike against the end of the
wall and are over-thrown. How readily collision might happen may be
seen from the following diagram, where the courses of two chariots, A
and B, are indicated.

[Illustration: FIG. 85.--THE TURN IN THE CIRCUS.]

Sometimes the teams get out of hand and general disaster may result.
Round and round they go, the spectators yelling in their excitement
for the blue or the green, the red or the white, and making or
revising their bets. "Too far out!" "Well turned!" "The green wins!"
"Well done, Hirpinus!" Shouts like these form a roar to which perhaps
we have no modern parallel. One by one the eggs and dolphins disappear
from the wall; the chariots are reduced in number; the four or five
miles are completed; and an enormous shout goes up for the winner,
whose name--of man and horse and colour--will be for days in
everybody's mouth. For his reward he will not only obtain the honour
of the palm-branch; he will receive presents in money, gold and silver
wreaths, clothes, and various articles of value. Socially he may be
but a slave or a person in base esteem; the occupation, however
reputable in the Greek portion of the empire, is not for a free-born
Roman; nevertheless, like the jockey who wins the Derby, he is the
hero of the moment.

[Illustration: FIG. 86--CHARIOT-RACE.]

Race follows race, with an interval for the midday meal. During that
time there will be interludes of acrobatic and other performances. One
rider, for example, will stand upright on the back of two or more
horses, and will spring continually from one to the other while they
are at the gallop. Most of the company will take their refreshments
where they are. When a man of some standing was reproached by Augustus
for this rather undignified proceeding, he replied: "That is all very
well for you, Sire, but your place is sure to be kept." We need not
proceed further into details concerning the "events" in the Circus. It
may however be worth while to add that the Romans cared nothing for
the modern form of race by jockeys on single horses.

The Circus is quite a different thing from the oval amphitheatre, a
structure for once of native Roman devising, without which no Roman
town could consider itself complete. Though the Colosseum was not yet
built, there already existed an amphitheatre in the Campus Martius,
and such buildings were to be found in all considerable towns which
contained a large Roman element. There is one, though of later date
than Nero, still to be seen in fair preservation at Verona; the
well-known amphitheatre at Pompeii was in full use in the year 64, and
other cities--Capua, Puteoli, Nimes, Antioch, or Caesarea--were
provided with the joys of the gladiatorial shows and the beast-fight.
Only in the thoroughly Greek or thoroughly Oriental part of the empire
was the amphitheatre absent. Where there was no fixed building of
stone or wood, a temporary structure was erected and a company of
gladiators would perform in the place at the expense of some local
officer or of some wealthy citizen with social ambitions. Whatever may
be thought of the Greeks in other respects, they felt no liking, but
only an openly expressed repulsion, for the barbarous exhibitions of
bloodshed in which the Roman revelled. Outside Jerusalem an
amphitheatre was built by the romanizing Herod, but it was done to the
horror of all orthodox Jews.

[Illustration: FIG. 87.--AMPHITHEATRE AT POMPEII.]

[Illustration: FIG. 98--BARRACKS OF GLADIATORS (Pompeii.)]

The performances were of two main kinds; fights between men and
beasts--occasionally between two kinds of wild beast--and fights
between men and men. There was no make-believe about these combats;
they meant at least serious wounds, even when they did not mean death.
Those who fought with beasts might in some cases be volunteers; in
general they were captives or condemned criminals, and it perhaps
hardly needs pointing out that, when St. Paul says he had "fought with
beasts at Ephesus," he is merely speaking in metaphor adapted to the
times. It was not intended that the criminal should escape death, but
only that he should be able to make a fight for his life. Meanwhile
the gladiators who fought with men and not with beasts were in the
position of professionals, who might be slaves, condemned brigands,
mutineers, prisoners of war, or volunteers. The picture drawn by
Byron, although the so-called "Dying Gladiator" which inspired him is
in reality no gladiator but a Gaulish warrior, perhaps fairly
represents one class of combatant, but it represents only one. In the
case of these "swordsmen" a number of successful fights might in the
end secure freedom and something more for slave or prisoner, and a
competence for the volunteer. It was not unnatural that men of courage
and strength should frequently offer themselves for this service.
Their physical training was indeed severe both in the way of exercise
and of diet, and their personal treatment was harsh and ignominious;
but their fame, such as it might be, was wide, and their rewards often
solid. Contemporary writers also complain that, however brutal and
ugly they were, there were always women ready to adore them and to
consider them as beautiful as Adonis. At Pompeii a scribbling calls
one of them "the sigh of the girls." Nevertheless no Roman with much
self-respect, unless forced by a malignant emperor, would bear the
stigma of having appeared as a gladiator, any more than in modern
times one would choose to be known as a professional pugilist.
Moreover these same heroes, after their glorious day in the arena,
were carefully stripped of their showy armour, imprisoned in barracks,
and, if disobedient or troublesome, chastised with the lash and put in
irons or the stocks.

The prelude to a beast-fight was frequently rather a "hunt," amounting
to a demonstration of skill in dealing with wild animals which could
hardly be said to fight, but which were difficult to capture or kill.
Success with javelins or arrows required somewhat more skill and
daring than the "big game" shooting of modern times. To give a greater
air of naturalness to the performance the arena was sometimes
temporarily planted with shrubs and trees, and diversified with
rock-work. After the beast "hunt" came the beast "fight," which might
be against bisons or bulls, wild boars or wolves, lions or tigers, a
rhinoceros or an elephant. In such contests the man commonly wore no
body-armour. He took his sword or spear, swathed his right arm and his
legs, and went out to meet the enemy in his tunic. The beasts were
either let loose from the end of the arena, or, as later in the
Colosseum, they were brought up in cages from their underground dens
by means of lifts worked by pulleys. Indirectly, it may be observed,
the mania for this sport produced one distinctly beneficial result,
inasmuch as the more dangerous wild beasts became almost exterminated
from the Roman world. The number killed was enormous, hundreds of
lions or panthers being produced and slain during the shows of a
single festival. It may be added that on the top of the wall or
platform surrounding the arena there was placed--at least in the
Colosseum--a metal grating or screen, of which the top bar revolved,
so that if a wild beast managed to spring so high and take a grip, the
feat was of no use to him. To keep him at a further distance a trench
surrounded the arena and separated it from the platform.

[Illustration: FIG. 89.--STOCKS FOR GLADIATORS. (Remains from

[Illustration: FIG. 90.--GLADIATORS FIGHTING.]

But the great entertainment of the amphitheatre was the combats of men
with men. After the beast-fights, which were held in the mornings, and
amounted in estimation to a matinee, there followed the fights of the
gladiators. Outside the building are being sold the books which
catalogue the pairings, together with some record of the men, the name
of their training-school, and a statement as to the weapons with which
they will fight and as to whether they have made previous appearances.
At the appointed time the procession enters from one end of the arena,
and the combatants parade and salute the emperor, if he is present, or
the presiding officer. Their weapons are examined, and there is a
preliminary sham-fight, partly for exhibition of skill and to
influence bets, partly for practice. The men then return to their
places, a trumpet blows, and a pair commences the real fighting.
Sometimes a man is in full and heavy armour from head to foot;
sometimes he is lightly equipped with a half-shield and a spear;
sometimes he carries only a sharp three-pronged spear and a
casting-net, in which he endeavours to enmesh an enemy fully armed.
Besides combats on foot, there may be fights upon horseback, or even
in chariots of the kind then best known in Britain. To encourage the
participants, and to lend more spirit to the scene, there is a blowing
of horns and trumpets while the fight proceeds. All around the people
are shouting their comments and their advice; they applaud and adjure
and curse. "Get up to him!" "Kill him!" and the like are heard on
every side. A man falls, not dead, but disabled, and the spectators
shout "He has it." He holds up his finger in sign of defeat, but he
utters no cry. Shall he be killed, or shall he not? The answer depends
on the president or "giver" of the exhibition. He looks round, and if
he perceives that the great majority are giving an upward flick of the
thumb, and hears them call "Give him the steel!" the man is doomed;
if, on the contrary, handkerchiefs are waved, his life is spared. A
good fight or a good record may save him to fight again another day.
The formal presentation of a wooden sword would mean that he was
discharged for life from the necessity of further fighting. If his
enemy's dagger must be pressed into his throat, or if he has been
slain outright, there is a passage under the middle of the side of the
amphitheatre through which the body will be dragged by a hook into the
mortuary. Another combat follows between another pair--sometimes
between two sides--and should the arena become too sodden with blood,
it is raked over and fresh sand is scattered.

It is amazing in what a cold-blooded manner all this was carried out.
When one reads the notices written up at Pompeii, that on
such-and-such a date there will be exhibited so many pairs of
gladiators, that "there will be a beast-hunt," and that "awnings will
be provided and perfume sprinkled," it is difficult at first to
realise that it means all that it does mean. To the credit of the
Romans--so far as they deserve any at all--let it be stated that the
presence of women was not encouraged at these shows; that if they
appeared at all, it must be in the upper tier, as far as possible from
the arena; and, strangely enough, that only the six Vestals, in virtue
of their religious claims, could be placed in any position of honour.
These sat upon the lowest platform, in line with the special seats of
the emperor or president and the highest officials of the state, but
it is probably a libel for an artist to depict them as so many Maenads
lusting for the blood of the vanquished.

The only other form of public entertainment which it seems desirable
to mention was that of a naval battle, in which the sea was either
represented by flooding the amphitheatre, or by means of a permanent
lake, such as that which Augustus created artificially across the
Tiber. The proceedings bore all the appearance of reality. Ships were
rammed, sunk, overturned, and boarded, and, so far as the men were
concerned, the battle might be as grim and bloody as any other kind of
gladiatorial contest.



We will assume that Silius is a married man, and that his wife is a
typical Roman dame worthy of his station in life. Her name shall be
Marcia, or, if she possesses more than one, Marcia Sabina. Marriage
does not confer upon her the name of her husband, and if she requires
further identification in connection with him, she will be referred to
as "Silius's Marcia." At an earlier date a woman owned but a single
name, but already practical convenience and pride of descent had
combined to make it desirable that she should bear a second, which
might be taken from the family either of her father or of her mother.
Thus if Silius and Marcia themselves have a daughter, she may in her
turn perhaps be called Silia Bassa, perhaps Silia Marcia.

If now we proceed to describe the position of Marcia in her conjugal
and family relations, to speak of her way of life, and to suggest her
probable character, it must be understood that the description would
by no means necessarily fit every Roman matron. Women are said to be
infinitely various, and in this respect the ancient world was
precisely like the modern. And not only has it further to be borne in
mind that there were several strata of Roman society, and that city
life differed widely from country life; there was also an actual
difference in the legal position of a wife, according to the terms
upon which she had chosen to enter the state of wedlock. In other
words, there were two forms of matrimony. According to the
old-fashioned style a wife passed into the power of the husband; her
legal position--though not, of course, her domestic standing--was the
same as that of his daughter. Once on a time he had even possessed the
right of putting her to death, but at our date that privilege no
longer existed. It was enough that she should be subject to his
authority. In that position she managed the home and family, and often
managed him as well. How far this time-honoured style of marriage was
still maintained among the lower classes of Roman society it is
impossible to tell; our information is almost entirely restricted to
the higher, or at least the wealthier, orders. It is, however,
probable that among the artisans and labourers, where the dowry of a
wife cannot have amounted to anything very considerable, this more
stringent state of matrimony was the rule. Paterfamilias was the head
and lord of the house, while materfamilias held in practice much the
same position as she did in Anglo-Saxon households of two or three
generations ago.

Meanwhile among the upper classes, but in no way legally limited to
them, an alternative and easier form of marriage had become
increasingly popular. It was one which gave to both parties the
greatest amount of freedom of which a conjugal union could reasonably
allow. The woman did not pass into the power of the man, and, short of
actual infidelity, she lived her own life in her own way, although
naturally conforming to certain recognised etiquette as a partner in a
respectable Roman _menage_. If neither affection nor moral suasion
could preserve harmony or proper courses, either party might formally
repudiate the contract, and, after a short interval, seek better
fortune in some other quarter. There was, of course, a public
sentiment to be considered; there was family influence; there was the
characteristic Roman pride; there was often a fair measure of mutual
esteem and even affection; and there were obvious joint interests
which made for stability; but beyond these considerations there was
nothing to hamper the inclination of either husband or wife. Yet it is
a grave mistake to imagine, because there was much, and sometimes
appalling, looseness of life under a Nero, that the race of noble and
virtuous Roman matrons--the Cornelias and Valerias and Volumnias--was
extinct; and it is equally a mistake to suppose that Rome no longer
produced its honourable gentlemen filled with a sense of their
responsibilities to family and state. The satirist should not here,
nor elsewhere, be our chief, much less our only, guide. The England of
Charles II is not to be judged in its entirety by the comedies of the
time nor by the _Memoirs_ of Grammont. On this matter, however, it
will be more convenient to touch in a later paragraph. It will be best
to deal first with the system in vogue, and then to consider the sort
of woman whom it produced.

It cannot be denied that at this date, though marriage was regarded as
the normal and proper condition for men and women who desired to do
their duty by the state, and though the wise emperors did everything
in their power to encourage it, a very large proportion of the men of
the upper classes regarded it as a burden and a vexatious interference
with their liberty. It was not necessarily that they had any desire to
be vicious, nor indeed would marriage be much of a hindrance to vice;
it was that they desired to be free. The cause of their disinclination
was the same as it is sometimes alleged to be now--the increasing
demands of women, their increasing unwillingness to bear the natural
responsibilities of matrimony, their extravagant expectations, and the
impossibility of there being two masters in one house claiming equal
authority. But whereas we recognise that love is a possible adjuster
of all the difficulties, it was no tradition of the Romans that
marriage should be based on love. With them it very seldom began with
love, or even with direct personal choice, but was in most instances
entirely a _mariage de convenance_ and arranged for them as such. Even
after marriage we are told by a contemporary writer that the proper
feeling for a man to entertain for his wife is rational respect, not
emotional affection. Experience has shown that the result was too
often unsatisfactory.

It is unfortunate that the only satires or criticisms on married life
which have come down to us were written by men; one would like to hear
what the women might have said, if a woman had ever been a satirist.
There is nearly always some basis of truth in a classic satire, but
the question is "How much?" Juvenal belongs to a later generation than
that of Nero, but what he says is doubtless equally applicable to that
age. It is therefore interesting to note one or two of his objections
to contemporary woman, regarded as a wife. In the first place she is
too interfering and even dictatorial. "What madness is it," he asks of
the man whom he supposes himself to be addressing, "that drives you to
marry? How can you bear with a tyrannous woman, when there are so many
good ropes in the world, when there are high windows to throw yourself
out of, or when there is the bridge quite handy?" "Why should you be
made to wear the muzzle?" "Why take into your house some one who will
perhaps shut the door in the face of an old friend whom you have known
ever since he was a boy?" "When you displease her, she weeps, for she
keeps tears always ready to fall, but when you try to prevent her from
displeasing you, she tells you it was agreed that each should have
liberty, and that she is a human being." He goes on to attack her
faithlessness, her extravagance, her superstition, her loquacity, and
so forth. Let us by all means discount his fierce invectives;
nevertheless we must take them as but a heightened way of putting
circumstances which had a real and all too frequent existence, and
which encouraged the growing fancy for bachelordom. We shall, however,
soon look at a very different picture of domestic relations, and it is
only fair to assume that these also were by no means uncommon.

A Roman girl with a reasonable dowry might expect to be married at any
age from about 13 to 18. The Italian of the south, like the Greek,
ripens early. The legal age was 12; on the other hand to be unmarried
at 19 was to be distinctly an old maid. In the northern provinces of
the empire maturity was less early, whereas south of the Mediterranean
it was even earlier. The legal age for the bridegroom was that at
which his father or guardian allowed him to put on the "toga of the
man" and enter the Forum. Thus theoretically a Roman youth might
become a benedict when about sixteen, and Nero was only at that age
when he married his first wife Octavia. Generally speaking, however,
if Marcia was as old as 16, Silius would hardly be under 26 or 27.

The marriage, as has been said already, would commonly be a matter of
arrangement between families, sometimes effected by their own members,
sometimes by an interested friend or some other go-between. "You ask
me," writes Pliny to Mauricus, "to look out for a husband for your
niece. There is no need to look far, for I know a man who might seem
to have been provided on purpose. His name is Minicius. He is
well-connected, and comes from Brescia, which you know to be a good
old-fashioned place retaining the simple and modest manners of the
country. He is a man of active energy and has held high public office.
In appearance he is a gentleman, well-built, and with a wholesome
ruddy complexion. His father has ample means, and though perhaps your
family is not much concerned on that point, we have to remember that a
man's income is one of the first considerations in the eyes, not only
of our social system, but of the law."

A marriage of the full and regular type could only be contracted
between free citizens. There were varying degrees of the morganatic
about all others, such as marriage with a foreigner or emancipated
slave. A non-Roman wife meant that the children were non-Roman. A man
of the senatorial order could not marry a freedwoman, if he wished to
have the union recognised; also no complete marriage could be
contracted with a person labouring under degradation publicly
inflicted by the authorities or degraded _ipso facto_ by certain
occupations. For this reason the actress on the "variety" stage could
not aspire to become even an acknowledged Roman wife, much less a
member of the order which more or less corresponded to our peerage.
Nor could a Roman marry a relative within certain prohibited degrees.
He might not, in fact, marry any woman whom he already possessed what
was called "the right to kiss."

We are, however, dealing with two persons entirely beyond exception,
namely Quintus Silius Bassus and Marcia Sabina. A match has been made
between these parties, perhaps several years before the actual
marriage can take place, and while the intended bride is a mere child
of ten: even the future groom may be but a boy. When the go-between
has done his or her work to the satisfaction of both families, there
takes place a betrothal ceremony, of which the original purpose was,
of course, to bind each party morally to carry out the contract, but
which, by the year 64, might mean very little.

In theory the Roman law required the consent of both participants; a
father could not absolutely force son or daughter to marry a
particular person, nor, indeed, any person at all. But on the other
hand, according to the Roman law, neither sons nor daughters were free
to act independently of the father's will, nor to possess independent
property, so long as the father lived, or until he chose to
"emancipate." It naturally follows that paternal pressure was the
chief factor in determining a marriage, and only those men or women
whose fathers were dead, or who had been formally freed from tutelage,
were in a position absolutely to please themselves. We need not
suppose either that sons were always very amenable, or that parents
were invariably self-willed and autocratic, but it is obvious that
marriages based on mutual attraction must have been extremely few. We
will suppose that Silius is his own master, while Marcia has a father
or a guardian still alive.

At the betrothal ceremony the friends of both houses are in
attendance, a regular form of words is interchanged between Silius and
the father of Marcia, a ring is given by the man to his _fiancee_, to
be worn on the fourth finger of her left hand, and he adds some other
present, most probably some form of that jewellery of which the Roman
women were and still are so extraordinarily fond. A feast naturally

You would think this performance sufficiently binding, and binding no
doubt it was from a moral point of view, so long as there was
reasonably good behaviour on either side, or so long as neither Silius
nor Marcia's father was prepared wantonly to flout general opinion or
to offend a whole connection by simply changing his mind. On the other
hand, there was no legal compulsion whatever to carry out the
contract. The Roman world knew nothing of actions for breach of
promise. If either party chose to repudiate the engagement, they were
free so to do. In that case they were said to "send back a refusal" or
to "send a counter-notice." A family dispute, a breath of suspicion, a
change of circumstances, and even an improved prospect might be
sufficient excuse, or no excuse need be offered at all.

In the present instance, however, no such ugly missive passes between
the house of Silius on the Caelian Hill and that of Marcius on the
Aventine, the wedding takes place in due course. It will not be in May
nor in early March or June, nor on certain other dates which, for
reasons mostly long forgotten, were regarded as inauspicious. It is a
social ceremony, and neither state nor priest will have anything to do
with sanctioning or blessing it. The pillars at the sides of the
vestibules of both houses are wreathed with leaves and boughs, and the
friends and clients of both families proceed in festal array to the
house of the bride. If Marcia is very young she has taken her
playthings--dolls and the like--and has dedicated them to the
household gods as a sign that she now puts away childish things and
devotes herself to the serious tasks of life. She has then been
carefully dressed for the occasion. Her hair, however she may have
worn it before or may wear it afterwards, is for to-day made up into
six plaits or braids, which are wound into a coil on the top of her
head. As an initial rite it is parted by means of an instrument
resembling a spear, a survival of the time when a bride was a prize of
war, and when her long locks were actually divided by a veritable
spear in token of her subjection. Round this coiffure is placed a
bridal wreath, made of flowers which she must have gathered with her
own hands, and over her head is thrown a veil--more strictly a
cloth--of some orange-yellow or "flame-coloured" material, which does
not, however, like the Grecian or Oriental veil, conceal her face. On
her feet are low yellow shoes. Meanwhile the bridegroom arrives,
escorted by his friends, and he also wears a festal garland. As with
all other important undertakings of Roman life, a professional seer
will be in attendance to take care that the auspices are favourable.
Peculiar portents, very unpropitious behaviour of nature, a very
strange appearance in the entrails of a sacrificial victim, are omens
which no properly constituted Roman can afford to overlook. The
auspices being favourable--and there is reason to believe that no
undue insistence was laid on their unpropitious aspects--the bride is
led into the reception-hall, and the contract of marriage is signed
and sealed. That there should be a dowry, and a considerable one, goes
without saying. In some cases it is actually settled on the husband,
who is to all intents and purposes purchased by it; but in most it is
available for his use only so long as the marriage continues unbroken.
For the rest, the wife's property is and remains her own. Her guardian
is still her father and not her husband: her legal connection is still
with her own family and not with his. She is a Marcia and not a Silia.
If the marriage is dissolved, at least without sufficient demonstrable
provocation on her part, her father will see that her dower is paid
back. To such terms as these the parties affix their names and seals,
and a certain number of friends add their signatures as witnesses.

This done, one of the younger married women present takes the bride
and leads her across to Silius who holds her right hand in his. Both
repeat a prescribed formula of words, and all the company present
exclaims "Good luck to you!" and offers such other congratulations as
seem fit. A wedding-dinner is held, generally, but not necessarily, in
the house of the bride, and a wedding-cake, served upon bay-leaves, is
cut up and divided among the guests. It is now evening, and a
procession is formed to bring Marcia home to the house of Silius. In
front will march the torchbearers and what we should call "the band,"
consisting in these circumstances of a number of persons playing upon
the flageolet. Silius goes through a pretence of carrying off Marcia
by force--another practice reminiscent of the ancient time when men
won their brides by methods similar to those of the Australian
aborigine with his waddy. Both groom and bride are important people,
and along the streets there is many a decoration; many a window and
doorway is filled with spectators; shouts, not always of the most
discreet, are heard from all sides, and loud above all rings the
regular _Io Talasse_--whatever that may have meant, for no man now
knows, and almost certainly no one knew then. In the midst of the
procession Marcia, followed by bearers of her spindle and distaff, is
being led by two pretty boys, while a third carries a torch; Silius
meanwhile is scattering nuts or walnuts, or _confetti_ made like them,
to the crowd. Arrived on the Caelian, the bride is once more seized
and lifted over the threshold; when inside the hall, Silius presents
her with fire and water in token of her common share in the household
and its belongings; and she offers prayers to various old-fashioned
goddesses who are supposed to preside over the introduction to married

If we have given with some particularity the orthodox proceedings of a
fashionable wedding, it must again be remembered that not all weddings
were fashionable, and that one or other of these details might be
omitted as taste or circumstances required. Among the poorer folk
there must often have been practically no ceremony at all beyond the
"bringing home." And if there are certain items which appear to us
trivial and meaningless, it is probably unfamiliarity which breeds our
contempt. Perhaps a far-off generation may wonder how civilised folk
in the twentieth century could perform absurd antics with rice and

Marcia is now what was known as a "matron." Her position is far more
free than it could ever have been in Greece or the Orient, more free
indeed than it would be in any civilised country at the present time.
The Romans had at all times placed the matron in a position of dignity
and responsibility, and to this is now added the greatest liberty of
action. Her husband salutes her in public as "Madam." Since he is a
senator, and it is beginning to be the vogue to call such men "The
Most Illustrious," she also shares that title in polite reference to
herself. She is not confined to any particular portion of the house,
nor, within the limits of decorum, is she excluded from masculine
company. She is the mistress of the establishment, controlling, not
only the female slaves, but also the males, in so far as they are
engaged in the work of the household. She keeps the keys of the
store-rooms. Theoretically at least she has been trained in all the
arts of the housekeeper, and thoroughly understands domestic
management, together with the weaving and spinning which her handmaids
are to perform. The merits of the wife, as summed up in the epitaphs
of the middle classes, are those of "good counsellor good manager, and
good worker in wool." She walks or is carried abroad at her pleasure,
attends the public games in the Circus, and goes with her husband to
dinner-parties, where she reclines at the meal just as he does. When
her tutelage is past she can take actions in the law-courts, or appear
as witness or surety. Her property is at her own disposal, and she
instructs her own agent or attorney. It is only necessary that she
should guard the honour of her husband. So long as he trusts her he
will not interfere. It is only a very tyrannical spouse who will
insist that her litter or sedan-chair shall have the curtains drawn
when in the streets. We will assume that Marcia is a lady of the true
Roman self-respect and dignity, and that Silius and she live a life of
reasonable harmony.

But though there were many such Marcias, there were other women of a
very different character. There is, for instance, Flavia, who has a
perfect frenzy for "manly" sports, and practises all manner of
athletic exercises, wrestling and fencing like any man, and perhaps
becoming infatuated and practically running away with some brawny but
hideous gladiator. She also indulges frankly in mixed bathing. There
is Domitia, who is too fond Of promenading in the colonnades and
temples, where a _cavaliere servente_, ostensibly her business
man--though he does not look like it--may regularly be seen carrying
her parasol. When at home, she neglects her attire and plasters her
face with dough in order to smooth out the wrinkles, so that she may
give to anybody but her own family the benefit of her beauty. There is
the ruinously extravagant Pollia, whose passion for jewels and fine
clothes runs her deeply into debt, for which, fortunately, her husband
is not responsible. There is Canidia, who is shrewdly suspected of
having poisoned more than one husband and who has either divorced or
been divorced by so many that she has had eight of them in five years,
and dates events by them instead of in the regular way by the
consulships: "Let me see. That was in the year in which I was married
to So-and-So." There is Asinia, whose selfishness is so great, and her
affection so frivolous, that she will weep over a sparrow and "let her
husband die to save her lap-dog's life." All these women are most
likely childless, and many a noble Roman house threatens to become

There are others, again, whose foibles are more innocent. Baebia, for
example, is merely a victim to superstition. She is always consulting
the astrologers, the witches, and the dream-readers; she is devoted to
the mystic worship of the Egyptian Isis, with its secret rites of
purification, or she is a proselyte to the pestilent notions of the
Jews. She is too much under the influence of some squalid Oriental who
carries his pedlar's basket, or whose business is to buy broken glass
for sulphur matches Meanwhile Corellia is a blue-stocking, as bad as a
_precieuse_ with a _salon_. As soon as you sit down to table she
begins to quote Homer and Virgil and to compare their respective
merits. She cultivates bright conversation in both Greek and Latin,
and her tongue goes loudly and incessantly like a bell or gong. Her
poor husband is never permitted to indulge in an expression which is
not strictly grammatical. Worse still, she probably even writes little
poems of her own. She may keep a tame tutor in philosophy, but she
makes no scruple about interrupting his lesson on morals while she
writes a little billet-doux. Pomponia is an ambitious woman, whose
mania is to interfere in elections by bringing to bear upon the
senators what has been called in recent times the "duchesses'"
influence. If her husband becomes governor of a province, she will
endeavour to be the power behind the throne, and her meddling will in
any case prove harmful to the strict administration of justice.

The remedy in such cases was divorce. In the lower orders of society a
mild personal castigation was quite legal and probably not uncommon;
but then in these lower orders divorce was by no means so convenient.
Among the upper classes its frequency made it scarcely a matter of
remark. Nothing like it has been seen until modern America. There was
no need of an appeal to the courts or of a decree _nisi_; there was
not even need of a specific plea, although naturally one would be
offered in most cases. The husband or wife (or the wife's father, if
she had one), might send a formal and witnessed notice declaring the
marriage dissolved, or, as it was called, "breaking the marriage
lines." The man had only to take this step and say with due
deliberation "Take your own property"--or, as the satirist puts it,
"pack up your traps"--"give up the keys, and begone." The woman on her
side need only give similar notice and "take her departure." The only
check lay in family considerations, in public opinion, which was
extremely lenient, in financial convenience, or in the possibility of
particularly wanton conduct being so disapproved in high quarters that
a senator or a knight might perhaps find his name missing from the
list of his order at the next revision.

It has appeared necessary to give this darker side of the social
picture, for, though assuredly not so lurid as might be gathered from
the moralists, it was dark enough. For obvious reasons it is desirable
not to elaborate. It is perhaps more profitable, as well as
refreshing, to consider the brighter side. That there were noble women
and good wives, and that the froth and scum and dregs of idle
town-life did not make up the existence of the contemporary Roman
world, may be seen from passages like the following, which are either
quoted or condensed from a letter of Pliny concerning a lady named
Arria. The events belong to the reign of Nero's predecessor Claudius.
Pliny writes: "Her husband, Caecina Paetus, was ill; so also was her
son; and it was expected that both would die. The son, an extremely
handsome and modest youth, succumbed. His mother arranged for his
funeral and carried it out, the husband meanwhile being kept in
ignorance. Not only so, but every time she came into his room she
pretended that the son was alive and better, and very often, when he
asked how the boy was getting on, she answered, 'He has slept well,
and shown a good appetite.' Then, when the tears which she had so long
kept back proved too much for her, she used to leave the room and give
herself up to grief. When at last she had dried her eyes and composed
her countenance she returned to the room. When her husband had taken
part in an intended revolt against Claudius, he was to be carried as a
prisoner across the Adriatic to Rome. He was on the point of
embarking, when Arria begged the soldiers to take her on board with
him. 'I presume,' she said, 'you mean to allow an ex-consul a few
attendants of some kind, to give him his food, and to put on his
clothes and shoes. I will do all that myself.'" Her request being
refused, "she hired a fishing-smack and followed the big vessel in
this tiny one." When Claudius ordered the husband to put himself to
death, Arria took a dagger, stabbed herself in the breast, drew the
weapon out, and handed it to him with the words: "Paetus, it does not
hurt. It is what you are about to do that hurts."

Arria doubtless is a rare type of heroine. But also of the quiet
domesticated wife we have a description from the same writer.
Unfortunately the letter is one of the most priggish of all the rather
self-complacent epistles written by that thoroughly respectable and
estimable man; but that fact takes nothing from the information for
which we are looking. Pliny is writing to his own wife's aunt. "You
will be very glad to learn that Calpurnia is turning out worthy of her
father, of yourself, and of her grandfather. She has admirable sense
and is an excellent housekeeper; she is fond of me, which speaks well
for her character. Through her affection for me she has also developed
a taste for literature. She possesses my books and is always reading
them; she even learns them by heart. When I am to make a speech in
court, she is all anxiety; when I have made it, she is all joy. She
arranges a string of messengers to let her know what effect I produce,
what applause I win, and what result I have obtained. If I give a
reading, she sits in the next room behind a curtain and listens
greedily to the compliments paid to me. She even sets my verses to
music and sings them to the harp, with no professional to teach her,
but only love, who is the best of masters. I have therefore every
reason to hope that our harmony will not only last but grow greater
every day."

And all this time, away in the country homestead and cottage, the good
Marsian or Sabine mother is a veritable pattern of domestic probity
and discipline. If she possesses handmaids, she teaches them their
work in the kitchen or at the loom; if she possesses none, she brings
up her big daughters in the right ways of modesty, frugality, and
obedience to the gods; and her tall sons religiously obey her when she
sends them out to chop the firewood in the rain and cold of the

One subject of perpetual interest where women are concerned is that of
dress and personal appearance. The Roman woman emphatically pursued
the cult of beauty and personal adornment. Perhaps the first prayer
which a mother offered for an expected daughter was that she should be
beautiful. Whether she proved so or not, no pains were spared to
correct or supplement the work of nature. It is true that fashion,
except in the dressing of hair, underwent none of those rapid and
astonishing changes which perplex the unsophisticated male of to-day.
Above all, there were no hats. But all that gold and jewels,
colours--blue, green, yellow, violet--and varied stuffs--woollen,
linen, muslin, and silk--could do for dress was done by every typical
woman of means; and every device for improving the complexion, the
teeth, the hair, the height, and the figure--which, by the way, never
sought the wasplike waist--was fully exploited. We need not go too
closely into details. It will be enough to describe the ordinary
attire and the ordinary methods of beautification.

[Illustration: FIG. 91.--TOILET SCENE. (Wall Painting.)]

The conventional indoor dress consisted of, first, an inner tunic,
short and sleeveless, with a band passing over or under the breast, so
as to produce something resembling what is called the Empire figure;
second, an outer tunic of linen or half-silk, less often of whole
silk, which fell to the feet. The outer tunic was fastened on the
shoulders with brooches; it had sleeves over the upper arm, and, in
the case of adults but not of young girls, a flounce or furbelow at
the bottom. A girdle produced a fold under the breast. The garment was
commonly white, but might be bordered with coloured fringes and
embroidery; for ladies of senatorial rank it bore the broad stripe
worked in purple or gold. On the feet sandals were often worn, but for
out-of-doors these were replaced by soft shoes of white, coloured or
gilded leather, sometimes studded with pearls or other gems.

[Illustration: FIG. 92.--WOMAN IN FULL DRESS.]

When a lady left the house she threw over the indoor dress a large
mantle or shawl, much resembling the toga of the men, except that its
colour was apparently what she pleased. This article was passed over
the left shoulder and under the right arm, which was left free; it
then fell in graceful folds to the feet. Works of art show that a fold
of the shawl was frequently laid over the top and back of the head,
for which no less becoming covering had yet been introduced.

[Illustration: FIG-93.--HAIRPINS.]

The hair alone was subject to innumerable vagaries either of fashion
or of individual taste. It might have a parting or no parting; it
might be plaited over the head and fastened by jewelled tortoise-shell
combs, or by pins of ivory, silver, or bronze with jewelled heads, as
varied and ornamental as the modern hatpin; it might be carried to the
back and rest in a knot on the neck, where it was bound with ribbons;
it might be piled into a huge pyramid or "towers of many stories," so
that a woman often looked tall in front and appeared quite a different
person at the back; it might be encased in a coloured cloth or in a
net of gold thread, for which poorer people substituted a bladder. But
in all cases it was preferred that the hair should be wavy, and this
was a matter which was attended to by a special _coiffeur_ kept among
the slaves. No handmaid had a harder or more ungrateful task than the
tiring-woman, who built up and fastened the reluctant locks while the
mistress contemplated the effect in her bronze or silver mirror. There
was no rule for a woman's treatment of herself in this respect.
"Consult your mirror," is the advice of the poet Ovid, who has
hopelessly lost all count of styles, since they were "more numerous
than the leaves on the oak or the bees on Hybla." To full dress
belonged a coronal or tiara, consisting of a band of gold and precious

But who shall dare to speak of the jewellery that bedecked a Roman
matron _en grande tenue_--of the pearl and pendant earrings, the
necklaces of pearl and diamonds, the gold snake armlets with their
emerald eyes, the bangles and finger-rings, the brooches and buckles
on the shoulders and down the sleeves, the gems scattered among the
hair, the chains and chatelaines strung with all manner of glittering
articles? Says one who lived at the time: "I have seen Lollia Paulina
covered with emeralds and pearls gleaming all over her head, hair,
ears, neck, and fingers to the value of over L300,000." If Rome is the
eternal city, it is eternal in this respect at least as much as in any

Who, still more bold, shall pry into her apparatus for the
beautification of her person, examining her patch-box and the innocent
little pots of rouge, vermilion, and white lead for the complexion,
and of soot to rub under the eyes? Who shall scrutinise too closely
that delicate blue which tinges her temples? Who shall dare to
question whether that yellow hair of the most approved tone, then best
seen in Germany, grew where you find it or came from some head across
the Rhine? Who shall venture to ask whether that smooth skin was
preserved by her wearing last night a mask of meal, which she washed
off this morning with asses' milk? Petronius, indeed, says that the
"lady takes her eyebrows out of a little box," and probably Petronius
knew. For her artificial teeth there is an obvious and sensible
excuse, and it is no reproach to her if, as the poet declared, "she
puts her teeth aside at night, just as she does her silks." Probably
she scents herself far too heavily, but there are many Roman men who
are just as bad.

She is ready now for all emergencies, and we may leave her, sitting in
her long-backed cushioned chair, waving in one hand a fan of peacock's
feathers or of thin wood covered with gold-leaf, and holding in the
other a ball of amber or glass to keep her hands cool and dry.



Unlike too many couples of the same class, Silius and Marcia are
blessed with children. We will assume that there are two, a boy, whose
full name shall be Publius Silius Bassus, and a girl, who is to be
called Silia Bassa. It is perhaps to be regretted that there is not a
third, for in that case the father would enjoy to the full certain
privileges granted by law to parents who so far do their duty by the
state. As it is, he will in the regular course of things receive
preference over childless men, when it comes to candidature for a
public office or to the allotting of a governorship. The decline in
the birthrate had become so startling at the close of the republic
that the first emperor, Augustus, had decided that it was necessary on
the one side to penalise persons who remained either unmarried or
childless, and on the other to grant fixed concessions to all who were
the parents of three. A bachelor could not, for instance, receive a
legacy from any one but a near relative; a married man without
children could only receive half of such a legacy; a man with three
children could not only enjoy his legacy in full, but could take the
shares forfeited by any bachelor or childless legatee who figured in
the same will. It does not appear that the law produced any great
effect, and, to make it still more futile, the later emperors began to
bestow what was called the "privilege of three children" on persons
who actually had either fewer or none at all.

The power of the father over the children is theoretically almost
absolute. Even when a son is grown up and married he legally belongs
to his father; so does all his supposed property. The same is the case
with a daughter, unless she becomes a Vestal Virgin, or unless she
marries according to the stricter of the two kinds of matrimony
already described. In the older days of Rome the father could, and
sometimes did, put his children to death if he chose. Though too free
an exercise of so extreme an authority was no longer recognised, it
was still quite legal to make away with an infant which was badly
deformed. Says Seneca, in the most matter-of-fact way, "We drown our
monstrosities." It was quite legal also to expose a child, and leave
it either to perish or to be taken up by whosoever chose. In most such
instances doubtless the child became the slave of the finder. Not only
was this allowable at Rome and in the romanized part of the empire; it
was a frequent practice throughout the Greek or Eastern portion.
Again, a father might sell his child as a slave, particularly for
continual disobedience. All these things the parent might legally do;
but it is extremely difficult to discover how far they were actually
done, inasmuch as our information in this respect hardly touches the
lower classes, while among the upper classes there was naturally far
less temptation to be rid of the burden of maintaining such few
children as most families produced. On the whole it appears highly
improbable that in the truly Roman part of the empire there was any
considerable destruction of infant life or exposure of infants. It
does not follow that, because the strict law does not prevent you from
doing a thing, you will therefore do it, in the face of public
disapproval and of all the promptings of natural affection. In their
family relations the ancient Romans possessed at least as much natural
feeling as is commonly shown in modern times. The fact is that in
matters of law the Romans were eminently conservative; they left as
much as possible to the silent working of social opinion. In the
oldest times the patriarchal system existed in the family, and new
Roman legislation interfered with parental power only just so far as
experience had loudly demanded such intervention. There can have been
no very pronounced abuse of the powers of the father, and, as the
discipline of the family was regarded as essential to the discipline
of the state, the law was always unwilling to weaken in any way the
hold of such family discipline. The strictly legal authority of the
father was therefore maintained, while its abusive exercise was
limited by the risk, if not the certainty, that it would meet with
both public and private censure.

Nevertheless, to return to the point which called for this
explanation, it is quite in the power of Silius to expose or sell
little Publius or little Silia. But for a man in his position to do
anything of the kind would bring the scorn of all Roman society about
his ears; and, among other humiliations, almost undoubtedly his name
would be expunged from the senatorial list. Moreover Silus, though a
pagan, is a human being, and his affection for his children would
certainly be no less warm than that of the average Christian man of

Immediately after birth there is a little ceremony. The babe is
brought and laid upon the hearth or floor before the household gods
for the father to inspect it. As has been said already, if it is a
monstrosity, he may order it to be made away with. Otherwise it is
still open to him either to acknowledge the infant or to refuse to
have anything to do with it. The act of acknowledgment consists in
stooping down and lifting up the child from the ground. For this
reason the expression used for acknowledging and undertaking to rear a
child was "lifting" or "picking up." In our instance the little son
and daughter are, of course, not only picked up, but welcomed as the
young hopes of the proud house of Silii Bassi.

On the ninth day in case of the boy, or the eighth in that of the
girl, the child is named, after certain ceremonies of purification.
The whole proceeding bears much resemblance to a christening, except
that there is no calling in of the services of a church. The relations
and friends gather in the hall, each bringing his present, and even
the slaves make their little inexpensive offerings. The gifts are
chiefly little trinkets of gold, silver, and ivory--rings, miniature
hands, axes, swords, or crescents--which are to be strung across the
baby's breast. The original purpose of all these objects was to act as
charms against the blighting of the child by evil powers, or, more
definitely, by the "evil eye," that malignant influence which still
troubles so many good Italians, both ignorant and learned. With the
same intention the father hangs upon the child's neck a certain object
which it will carry till it comes of age. If a few years later you met
the boy Publius in the Roman streets, you would find him wearing a
round case or locket in gold, some two inches in diameter and
resembling the modern cased watch. Inside is shut his protecting
amulet. When he is sixteen and puts on the man's toga, his amulet will
be laid aside. In the case of the little Silia it will be worn until
she marries. Poorer folk, for whom gold is too expensive, will enclose
the amulet in a case of leather.

The naming over, the child is registered. The Romans were adepts in
the art of utilising a religious or superstitious practice for
purposes of state, and the development of the registration of births
and deaths is but one instance. In older times it had been a custom,
on the occasion of a birth, to pay a visit to the shrine of "Juno the
Birth-Goddess," and to leave a small coin by way of offering. It is
easy for a state to convert an already established general custom into
a rule; and at our date this shrine of Juno had become practically a
registration office, where a small fee was paid and the name of the
child entered upon the rolls.

We need not follow with any closeness the infancy of either boy or
girl till the seventh year. The ancient world was very much like the
modern. Suffice it to glance at them cutting their teeth on the teeth
of wolves or horses, rocked in cradles decorated with gold and purple,
or running about and calling their parents by the time-honoured
_mamma, tata_--words, if we can call them words, which came from those
small Roman mouths precisely as they have come from time immemorial
from so many others. Their slave nurse, who is a Greek and talks Greek
to them, tells them the old wives' tales and fables. They play with
rattles, balls, and little carts, with pet birds and monkeys, and the
girl with dolls of ivory or wax or of painted terra-cotta. They have
swings, and ride on sticks and build houses. When bigger, the boy has
his tops and hoops, with or without bells, and he plays marbles with
nuts. Meanwhile attempts are made, somewhat after the kindergarten
pattern, to teach them their alphabet by means of letters shaped in
wood or ivory. Whether or not it is modern kindergarten method to
tempt children to learn by offers of sugar-plums, that course was
often adopted in the world of both Greece and Rome.

On the whole the life of the child, though strictly governed, appears
to have been pleasant enough until schooldays began. Though many
children were taught at home by a more or less learned slave acting as
private tutor, the great majority, at least of the boys, were sent to
school. There was at this date no compulsory education; the state
dictated nothing and provided nothing in connection with the matter;
many children must have received no education at all, and many only
the barest elements. Nevertheless the average parent realised the
practical utility of at least reading, writing, and simple arithmetic,
and schools of the elementary type sprang up according to the demand.
What the higher education was like will be set forth in its place.

The ideal education, as understood in the older days of Rome, was a
training which should fit a man for his duty to the gods, the state,
and the family. It was above all things a moral and practical
training. A man has certain domestic, political, and religious
functions to perform: let him learn how best to perform these. Under
this system there was little room for accomplishments or for purely
intellectual pursuits. Little by little, however, such liberal
elements, artistic and philosophical, struggled into the sphere of
Roman education, but never to the extent or with the intellectual
effect which belonged to them in Greece. Even by A.D. 64 the education
of a Roman boy was very narrow, and, in the direction in which it
sought some liberality, it often went sadly astray. The clearest
course will be for us to take young Publius Silius through a course
typical of the time. We will assume that he does not receive all his
lessons at home, but that, through an old-fashioned preference on the
part of his father, he goes to a school, along with boys who are
mostly but not necessarily of the same social standing with himself.

We have unfortunately almost no information as to any social grading
of schools, or as to their size. All we know is that some schools were
taught entirely by one man, while others employed an undermaster or
several. In some cases the school is entirely a private enterprise,
the master charging a monthly fee--amounting in the elementary schools
to a penny or twopence a week--together with small money presents on
certain festivals. The more select establishments naturally charged
more. Probably most of the schools in Rome and the larger towns were
upon this private footing. In other instances a number of parents in a
smaller town would club together and subscribe sufficient money to
provide the salary of a schoolmaster for their children. In yet others
some benefactor, generally a wealthy local magnate, had given or
bequeathed an endowment fund, from which a school was either wholly or
partially financed. At a rather later date Pliny writes a letter, of
which the following is a passage, interesting in this connection.
"When I was lately in my native part of the country (that is to say,
at Como), a boy--the son of a fellow townsman--came to pay his
respects. I said, 'Are you at school?' 'Yes,' he replied. 'Where?' 'At
Milan.' 'And why not here?' At this his father said, 'Because we have
no teachers here.' 'And why have you none? It is of the greatest
importance to any of you who are fathers--and it happened that several
fathers were listening--that your children should be taught here
rather than anywhere else.... How small a thing it is to put money
together and engage teachers and to apply to their salary the amount
which you now spend on lodgings, travelling expenses, and the articles
that have always to be purchased when one is away from home.'"
Whereupon he proceeds himself to offer to contribute one-third of
whatever sum the parents collect. He does not believe in giving the
whole, because experience has taught him that endowments of this kind
are commonly misused. The parents must themselves retain an interest
in preventing corruption; and this will be the case so long as they
are themselves paying their share. In this instance we are, however,
to think rather of a high school or school of rhetoric than of the
primary school. Como would not lack a primary school, nor would
parents send very young children to lodge in Milan. There is no trace
of real boarding-schools.

To whatever school Publius goes he will be accompanied by a sedate
slave, generally elderly and also generally a Greek, whom you may call
his "guardian," or his "governor," or his "mentor," according to your
fancy. The function of this worthy is to look after the morals and
behaviour of the boy when in the streets, and also to supervise his
manners when at home. Publius will not be free of this incubus until
the day when he puts on the adult's toga; and he must be prepared to
accept, at least in his younger days, not only scolding, but also
corporal punishment from him. In poorer families the mother corrected
her children with a slipper. The "guardian" of Publius is nevertheless
a slave, and will carry the young master's books and school requisites
for him, while the sons of poorer parents are marching along, freer
and happier, with their tablets and writing-case slung over their left
arm. When, in the New Testament, we are told that the "Law hath been
our schoolmaster unto Christ," the word employed does not at all mean
schoolmaster. It means this slave who keeps the pupil under salutary
discipline until he reaches the schoolmaster, and who superintends his
conduct until he is of age.

[Illustration: FIG. 94.--WRITING MATERIALS.]

School age regularly begins at seven for the elementary stage, which
commonly includes writing, reading, and arithmetic. The first lessons
in writing are done upon wax tablets, which correspond to our slate.
For school purposes they are flat pieces of wood, with a rim, their
surface being covered with a thin layer of wax. The pupil takes a
"style," or metal stiletto, pointed at one end and flat at the other;
with the point he scratches, or "ploughs" as the Romans called it, the
writing in the wax; with the other end he flattens the wax and so
makes the necessary erasures when he desires to correct a word or to
"clean his slate."

His first efforts will probably consist either of tracing letters
through a stencil, or of forming them from a copy while the master
guides his hand. He will next write a series of words--the good old
copybook method with the good old copybook maxims. It is only when he
has gained some proficiency that he will be allowed to write upon
paper or parchment with ink and with a split reed for pen. In such a
case the backs of useless documents come in handy, and particularly
serviceable are the rolls containing the poems of the numerous authors
whom no one wants to read, but whose books thus find one of their
ultimate uses, another being to wrap up spices or salt fish. His
arithmetic will be merely such as will enable him to make up accounts.
The Roman numerals did not lend themselves easily to the method now
adopted of calculating on paper, and the Roman pupil therefore
reckoned partly with his fingers, partly by means of counters laid or
strung upon a board. At this he became remarkably proficient, and at
mental arithmetic there is reason to believe that he could beat the
modern boy hollow. Along with the reckoning he would also necessarily
learn his tables of weights and measures. "Two-and-a-half feet one
step; two steps one pace; a thousand paces one mile." So he said or
sang, and a mile--_mille_, "a thousand" paces--remains our own word to
this day, even though it has come to signify an eccentric 1760 yards.

That Roman boys bore no love to school or schoolmaster is little
wonder. Perhaps Publius may be fortunate; but if his schoolmaster is
of the ordinary type he will be an irascible loud-voiced person, who
bawls and scolds and thrashes. It will be a common thing to find, as
Seneca puts it, a man "in a violent passion teaching you that to be in
a passion is wrong." The doctrine went that "he who is not flayed is
not educated." The methods of the military centurion may have had
something to do with creating this behaviour, but there is perhaps
another excuse to be found for the Roman pedagogue. His school, if of
the inferior kind, is like any other shop, a place open to the street,
whether on the ground floor or in the balcony-like _entresol_. There
is no cloistered privacy about his instruction. To such a place at a
very early hour come the boys "creeping unwillingly." When the days
are short the school opens before daybreak, and the smoky lamps and
lanterns create an evil smell and atmosphere in the raw and chilly
morning. That is no time to be amiable towards inattention or
stupidity. There were many other circumstances to try the temper, and
the Roman temper, except among the highest classes, was, as it is,
quick and loud. No real boy who had been a Roman school but knew what
it was to have ears pinched and to take his punishment on his hands
with the cane or the tawse. Many had been "horsed," in the way
depicted in the illustration.

There is also no cause for surprise that boys often shammed illness
and did little things to their eyes so that mother or father might
keep them from their books for a while. There were of course academies
of a better class than these schools open to the street, and probably
Publius Silius would be taken to one where his "guardian" waits with
others in an antechamber, while he is himself being taught in a room
where the walls are pictured with historical or mythological scenes,
or with charts or maps, and where there stand busts of eminent
writers. The boys are seated on benches or forms, and the master on a
high-backed chair. When the pupil is called upon to repeat a lesson,
he stands up before the teacher; when the whole class is to deliver a
dictated passage it rises and delivers it all together, in orthodox
sing-song style.

[Illustration: FIG. 95.--HORSING A BOY. (After Saechs.)]

Somewhere towards eleven o'clock there is an interval, and the boys go
home for lunch or buy something from the seller of rissoles or
sausages in the street. In the afternoon--when the schoolmaster has
taken his own luncheon and probably his short siesta--they return to
school, putting in altogether about six hours of lessons in the day.

That boys and girls went to the same elementary schools is not
absolutely provable from any explicit statement to that effect; but
there are one or two passages in literature which point almost
certainly to that conclusion. It is at least undeniable that girls,
and even big girls, went to school, and that in those schools they
were taught by men. One schoolmaster is addressed by the poet as
"detestable to both boys and girls." We have seen that in maturity the
Roman woman lived in no sort of seclusion; and it is reasonable to
suppose that as a girl she was treated in much the same way as girls
in a mixed school of to-day. Nevertheless it is also almost certain
that such mixed schools were only those of the common people, or of
the lower middle classes: the daughters of the better-circumstanced
would be instructed at home by private tutors. There they would learn
to read and write both Greek and their native Latin, to play upon the
lyre or harp, to dance--Roman dancing being more a matter of gesture
with hands and body than of movement with the feet--and to carry
themselves with the bearing fit for a Roman lady. To teach the
household duties was the function of the mother.

At Rome, as with us, there was, first, a primary education, pure and
simple, given in the schools of those who would nowadays be registered
as teachers of primary subjects. Next there was what we should call a
secondary or high-school education, given by a "grammar master," in
which the education was almost wholly literary. The same school might
doubtless employ a special arithmetic master, and also a teacher of
music, but mainly the business of such an establishment was
theoretically to prepare the boy for a proper and effective use of
language, whether for social or for public purposes. In the Rome of
the republic a man of affairs or ambitions required above all things
to be an accomplished speaker, and this tradition had not weakened
under the empire. Moreover, for the training of the intellectual
faculties as such, the Romans had no better resource than grammatical
and literary study. Science was purely empirical, mathematics was
mainly arithmetic and mensuration, and there was no room in these
subjects for that exercise of discernment and acumen as well as of
taste which was provided by well-directed study of the best authors.
In the secondary education, therefore, the chief object sought was
"the knowledge of right expression," and the acquirement of "correct,
clear, and elegant diction." This was to be achieved by the most
painstaking study of both the Greek and the Latin poets; and it is
worth noting that the Romans had the good sense to begin with the
best. Every boy must know his Homer, and steep himself in the easy
style and sound sentiments of Menander; he must also know his Virgil
and his Terence. He must know how to read a passage with proper
intonation and appreciation of the sense, and he must learn large
quantities of such poetry by heart. In the early stages the master's
part is first to read aloud a certain passage what he thinks to be the
right articulation and expression; he then explains the meaning or the
allusions, and does whatever else he considers necessary for the
understanding and appreciation of the piece. It is then the pupil's
turn to stand up and repeat the passage so as to show that he has
caught the true sense and can impart the true intonation. No doubt
there were bad and indifferent teachers as well as good ones, and
doubtless there was much mere parroting on the part of the learner. It
was then, as it is now, chiefly a question of the sort of teacher. It
is probable that in many schools the action of the mental faculty as
well as of the voice became pure sing-song. Julius Caesar once made
the comment: "If you are singing, you are singing badly; if you are
reading, you are singing."

The more advanced stage of this higher education was that of the
"school of oratory." The pupil has already acquired a correct
grammatical style, and a reasonable amount of literary information; he
now trains himself for the actual practice of the law-courts or the
deliberative assembly. He is to learn how to argue a case; how to
arrange his matter; by what devices of language to make it most
effective; and how to deliver it. At a later date there were to be
public professorships of this art, endowed by the emperor, but there
are none of these at Rome itself under Nero. The "professor of
oratory" receives his fee of some L20 or so per annum from each pupil.
At this stage the study of the great prose-writers is substituted for
that of the poets; themes are set for essays to be written upon them;
and those essays will then be delivered as speeches. Sometimes a
familiar statement or maxim from a poet is put forward to be refuted
or supported, or for you to argue first against it and then for it. Or
some historical situation may be proposed, and the student asked to
set forth the wisest or most just course in the circumstances.
"Hannibal has beaten the Romans at Cannae: shall he or shall he not
proceed directly to attack Rome? Examine the question as if you were
Hannibal." Much of this appears theoretically sound enough.
Unfortunately the subjects were generally either hopelessly threadbare
or possessed no bearing upon real life. "We are learning," says
Seneca, "not for life, but for the school." The only novelty which
could be given to the treatment of old abstract themes or puerile
questions was novelty of phrase, and the one great mark of the
literature of this time is therefore the pursuit of the striking
expression, of something epigrammatic or glittering. A speech was
judged by its purple patches of rhetoric, not by the soundness of its
thoughts. Prizes, apparently of books, were offered in these Roman
schools, and a prize would go to the youth who could tell you in the
most remarkable string of brilliant language what was your duty
towards your country, or what were the evils of anger, or for what
reasons it is right for a father to disown his son. Meanwhile parents
would look in at the school from time to time and listen to the boys
declaiming, and it is easy to see with the mind's eye the father
listening, like the proud American parent at a "graduation" day, to
his gifted offspring "speaking a piece."

Education commonly stopped at this point. If the rhetorical training
is taken early, the boy is now about sixteen; but there was nothing to
prevent the oratorical course from following instead of preceding the
"coming of age." In this case we will suppose that it has preceded.
The youth has now received a good literary training and considerable
practice in the art of speech-making. He knows enough of elementary
arithmetic to keep accounts, or, in special cases--where he is
intended for certain professional careers--he may understand some
geometry and the principles of mechanics and engineering. He may or
may not have learned to sing, and enough of music to play creditably
on lyre or harp. Unlike the young Greek, he will not necessarily have
been made to recognise that gymnastic training is an essential part of
education. He may indulge in such exercises by way of pastime or for
health; he may, and generally will, have been taught athletics; but he
does not acknowledge that they have any practical bearing upon his
aptitude for either warfare or civil life.

It is hard to gauge the intellect of the average Roman youth of
sixteen; all we know is that, while the best of literature, science,
art, and philosophy was left to be undertaken by Greeks, the Romans
seized upon whatever learning had an appreciable practical bearing,
and that, as men capable of administering and directing, they left
their intellectual and artistic superiors far behind.

Up till this time the boy has worn a toga with a purple edge, and also
the gold amulet-case round his neck. The time has, however, come for
him to be regarded as a man--not indeed free of his father's
authority, but free to walk about without a bear-leader, to marry, if
his father so desires, or to decide upon a career. Accordingly, on the
17th of March by preference, he will put away the outward insignia of
boyhood, dedicate his amulet to the household gods, and will don the
all-white toga of a man. The relatives, friends, and clients will
gather at the house, and, after offering their congratulations, will
escort the youth to the Capitol, and thence down to the Forum, where
his appearance in this manner will be accompanied by introductions and
a recognition on all sides that he is now "of age." At the Record
Office the name of "Publius Silius Bassus, son of Quintus," is
recorded with due fulness of description, and he ranks henceforth as
one of the citizens of Rome.

After this little ceremony of coming of age, a number of the young men
apparently did nothing. The sons of poorer parents have long ago gone
to their work in their various trades. Those of the more well-to-do
may--and, if they are afterwards to seek public office, they must--now
undertake military service amid the conditions which are to be
described in the next chapter. Others, being of a more studious turn,
will proceed to complete their education by going abroad to one or
other of the great seats of philosophic study which corresponded to
our universities. Philosophy meant to the Roman a guide to the
direction of life. Roman religion, upon which we shall hereafter dwell
in some detail, consisted of a number of forms and ceremonies, or acts
of recognition paid to the deities; it embodied certain traditional
principles of duty to family and state; but otherwise it exercised
very little influence on the conduct of life. So far as such guidance
was supplied at all, it was by moral philosophy, the treatment of
which, as it was understood at this date, is bound up with that of
religion and must wait till we reach that subject. It is true that
there were professional teachers of philosophy at Rome itself, but the
metropolis was not their chief resort, any more than, until recently,
London would have been recognised as a seat of university learning of
the front rank. It is also true that many great houses maintained a
domestic philosopher, who not only helped in moulding the tone of the
master of the house and afforded him intellectual company, but might
act as private philosophic tutor to his son. But for the most part
this highest instruction was rather to be sought in cities specially
noted for their assemblage of professors and lecturers. Chief among
these figured Athens, Rhodes, Tarsus, Antioch, Alexandria, and
Marseilles. At Naples also might be found a large number of men of
learning, but they were chiefly persons who had retired from
professional life, and who chose that city because of its pleasant
climate and surroundings, and because they could there enjoy each
other's society. In some of the cities named--particularly Athens and
Alexandria--there were endowed professorships (though not endowed by
the Roman emperors) of which the benefit was enjoyed, not only by the
local student but also by those from other parts of the Roman world
who chose to resort to such established teachers. This does not mean
that such students paid no fee, nor that there was any lack of
lecturers unendowed. The student was free to take his choice. Where
there was endowment, as at Athens, there was control by the local
authorities over the behaviour of students and also of their teachers;
but it is evident that a professor's audience was by no means always a
very well-ruled or docile body. As in the German universities, the
visiting students were men, and some of them fairly advanced in years,
and, also as in Germany, they followed their own tastes in study and
changed from university to university at will. They, as it were,
"sampled" the professors and made their own election. The teacher not
only lectured to them, but also lectured them; while, on their side,
they were entitled to catechise, and in a sense "badger," the
lecturer, to propound difficulties, and to make more or less
pronounced exhibition of their sentiments.

In the philosophic lecture-room the student, possessing his share of
the vivacity and excitability of the south, would stamp, spring from
his seat, shout and applaud, calling out in Greek "splendid!"
"inimitable!" "capital!" "prettily said!" and so forth. Plutarch
writes a little essay on the proper manner of behaving in the
lecture-rooms, and he tells us: "You should sit in a proper manner and
not lounge; you should keep your eyes on the speaker and show a lively
interest; maintain a composed countenance and show no annoyance or
irritation, nor look as if you were thinking of other things." Such an
attitude was the ideal and orthodox; but he tells us also that there
were some who "scowled; their eyes wandered; they sprawled, crossed
their legs, nodded and whispered to their neighbour, smiled, yawned
sleepily, and let their heads droop." This was not necessarily because
the lecturer was dull, but because he might be giving lessons which
were unwelcome to some among his audience. The cap fitted them too
well, as it sometimes does when offered by a modern preacher. But,
says the same Plutarch, if you did not like these direct and
rough-tongued monitors, you could find other professors, _poseurs_,
who were all suavity; gentlemen whose philosophical stock-in-trade was
grey hair, a pleasant voice and delivery, graceful language, and much
self-appreciation. These were the Reverend Charles Honeymans of the
period, and their following was like unto the following of that
popular pulpiteer.

[Illustration: FIG. 96--Papyri and Tabulae. (From Dyer's Pompeii.)]

Since mention has been made more than once of reading and libraries,
it is well to realise the form commonly taken by books. We must not
think of the modern bound volume standing on its shelf or open in the
hand. At our date any books made up in the form of leaves--or what the
Romans called "tablet" form--consisted only of some four or six pages.
The regular shape for a book was that of a roll, or, if the work was a
large one, it might consist of several such "rolls" or "sections." The
material was either paper--in its original sense of papyrus--or the
skin known as parchment. Papyrus was naturally the cheaper and the
less durable. Prepared sheets of a given length and breadth--the
"pages"--were written upon and then pasted to each other side by side
until a long stretch was formed. The last sheet was then attached to a
thin roller, commonly of wood, answering to that used in a modern
wall-map. Round a roll of any pretensions there was wrapped a cover of
coloured parchment, red, yellow, or purple. The ends of the roll were
rubbed smooth with pumice-stone and dyed, and a tag or label was
affixed to bear the name of the author and the work. A number of such
rolls, related in subject or authorship, were placed on end in a round
box, with the labels upwards ready for inspection. In the library such
a box would stand in a pigeon-hole or section of shelf, from which it
might be carried where required. Sometimes the rolls themselves lay in
a heap horizontally in a pigeon-hole without a box, but this
manifestly a less convenient practice. To keep the bookworms cedar-oil
was rubbed upon them, giving them a yellowish tinge. The reader,
taking the body of the roll in one hand, begins to unwind the long
strip with the other. After reading the first column or page thus
exposed, he mechanically re-winds that portion, while the width of
another page is pulled into view. The writing itself was done by means
of a reed, sharpened and split like a quill-pen, and dipped in ink
made in various ways, but mostly less "biting" than our own. This made
it comparatively easy to sponge out what was written, and to use the
same roll over again--as a "palimpsest"--for some work more desired.
It is perhaps needless to say that the writing was regularly to be
found upon one side only. If the back was used, it was for economy,
for unimportant notes, or as an exercise book for schoolboys.
We may imagine a fine library copy, or edition de luxe, of Virgil as
consisting of a number of rolls, each a long strip of the best
parchment rolled round a staff of ivory with gilded ends. Its "cover"
is a wrapper of parchment richly dyed and bearing coloured bands of
leather to serve as fasteners. From the smoothed and dyed end stands
out a scarlet label, marked "Virgil Aeneid Book I." (or as the case
may be). When opened, the first page will reveal a painted portrait of
the poet, and the writing will be found to be in a beautifully clear
and even calligraphy. Beside the shelf on which the work is placed
there likely stands a lifelike bust of Virgil in marble in bronze.



In the older days of Roman history the fighting forces had been a
"citizen army," called out for so long as it was needed, and levied
from full and true Roman citizens. In the imperial times with which we
are here dealing it had become a standing army. Soldiering was a
profession, for which the men volunteered, and, so far as Roman
citizens were concerned, it was now seldom, if ever, the case that
military service required to be made compulsory on their part. It is
true that a young man of the higher classes who proposed to follow a
public career, leading to higher and higher offices of state, must
have gone through some amount of military training, but no other Roman
was actually obliged to serve. The empire was so vast and the total of
the standing forces comparatively so small that it was always possible
to fill up the legions with those who had some motive or inclination
that way. Theoretically the state possessed a claim upon every
able-bodied man, but the population of the empire was probably a
hundred millions, and to collect a total of some 320,000 soldiers,
made up of Roman or romanized "citizens" and of provincial subjects in
about equal shares, was a sufficiently easy task, and the recruiters
could therefore afford to pick and choose. Above all we must clear our
minds of the notion that the Roman soldiers necessarily came from
Rome, or even from Italy. They were drawn from the empire at large,
and a legion posted in Spain, for example, might be recruited from a
special class of Spaniards.

Roughly speaking, the regular army, extending along the frontiers from
Chester to Jerusalem and from Jerusalem to Algeria, was composed of
two main divisions, called respectively the "legions" and the
"auxiliaries." Other special or detached forces--such as the twelve
regiments of Imperial Guards and the six of the City Guard--came under
neither of these headings, and we may leave them out of the question
for the present.

A legion was a brigade of about 6000 infantry, with 120 horsemen
attached to it. It was recruited from any convenient part of the
empire, but only from men already enjoying the rights of Roman
citizens, or else from those other provincials who were considered
sufficiently homogeneous with the Roman civilisation to stand shoulder
to shoulder with such citizens. In being permitted to serve on these
terms a man regularly becomes _ipso facto_ a citizen. The
qualifications required were that you should be free-born--that is to
say, neither slave nor ex-slave--your physique must be good, and your
height about 5 feet 10 inches: there must be nothing serious against
your record or character as viewed from the Roman standpoint; and, if
you were not already a citizen, you must belong to one of those
organised communes which were the units of administration and of
taxation within the empire. You undertake to serve for twenty years,
after which time you will receive an honourable discharge and either a
sum of money--at this date apparently about L50--or a grant of land.
By ability and character you may rise from private soldier to
centurion, that is to say, commander of a hundred, but in ordinary
circumstances you can climb no further up the military ladder. If at
the end of your term you are still robust and are considered useful,
you may, if you choose, continue to serve in a special detachment of
"veterans," with lighter duties and with exemption from common drill.
The Roman legions would thus be made up for the most part of troops
from about 18 to 38 years of age, although a considerable number might
be somewhat older.

A legion once formed had a perpetual existence; its vacancies were
filled up as they occurred; and it is obvious that it must have
consisted of respectable men of picked physique, mostly in the prime
of life, and perfectly trained in all the qualities of a soldier. When
not on actual campaign they were drilled once a day, and the recruits
twice. They practised the hurling of spears and all the attitudes of
attack with sword and pike, and of defence with the shield. Now and
then there was a review or a sham fight. They learned how to fortify a
camp, how to attack it or to defend it. Every month they put on full
armour, marched out with steady Roman tramp for ten miles and back
again to camp for the sake of practice. Meanwhile they were made
useful in building the military roads, bridges, and walls. Add to this
the strict Roman discipline, and it is difficult to conceive of any
training more capable of turning a body of 6000 men into a stubborn
and effective fighting machine. The half-naked German across the Rhine
was physically as strong and as brave; the woad-dyed Celt of Britain
was probably more dashing in his onset; the mounted Parthian across
the Euphrates was more nimble in his movements; but neither German nor
Celt cultivated the organisation or solidarity of action of the Roman,
nor could the Parthian equal him for steady onward pressure or
determined stand.

To each legion was given a number and also a name of its own, acquired
by some distinguished feat or some conspicuous campaign, or adopted in
vaunt or compliment. Thus it might be the "Victorious" Legion, the
"Indomitable," or the "Spanish" Legion, or it might, for example, wear
a crested lark upon its helmet and be called the Legion of the "Lark."
The commander of the whole legion is a man of senatorial rank; its
standard is a silver eagle on the top of a staff, commonly holding a
thunderbolt in its claw. To each legion there are ten regiments,
called "cohorts," averaging six hundred men, and every such regiment
has its colonel, or, as the translation of the Bible calls Claudius
Lysias, "its chief captain." The regiment in its turn consists of six
companies or "hundreds," with a "centurion" at the head of each, and
every pair of hundreds, if not every company, possesses a standard of
its own, consisting of a pole topped with large medallions, metal
disks, wreaths, an open hand, and other emblems.

[Illustration: FIG. 97.--ROMAN STANDARDS.]

[Illustration: FIG. 98--Armed Soldier.]

Let us imagine a certain Scius to become a private soldier in a
legion. He was born in Gaul, in the district of Lugdunum or Lyons, and
he is either a full Roman or sufficiently romanized to rank with
Romans. He is drafted to the Twentieth Legion, otherwise known as the
"Victorious Valerian," and finds himself stationed in the island of
Britain at that farthest camp of the north-west which has since grown
into the city of Chester. On joining his company he is made to take a
solemn oath that he will loyally obey all orders of his
commander-in-chief, the emperor, as represented by that emperor's
subordinates, his immediate officers. That oath he will repeat on each
1st of January and on the anniversary of the emperor's accession. For
full military dress he will first put on a tunic reaching nearly to
his knees, and, since he is serving in the northern cold, a pair of
fustian breeches covering the upper leg. On his feet will be a pair of
strong sandals, of which the thick soles are studded with hobnails.
Over his breast, and with flaps over the shoulders, he will wear a
corslet Of leather covered with hoop-like layers, or maybe scales, of
iron or bronze. On his head will be a plain pot-like helmet or
skull-cap of iron. For the rest he will possess also a thick cloak or
plaid to be used as occasion needs. In his right hand he will carry
the famous Roman pike. This is a stout weapon, over 6 feet in length,
consisting of a sharp iron head fixed in a wooden shaft, and the
soldier may either charge with it as with a bayonet, or he may hurl it
like a javelin and then fight at close quarters with his sword. On the
left arm is a large shield, which may be of various shapes. One common
form is curved inward at the sides like a portion of a cylinder some 4
feet in length by 21/2 in width: another is six-sided--a diamond
pattern, but with the points of the diamond squared away. Sometimes it
is oval. In construction it is of wicker-work or wood, covered with
leather, and embossed a blazon in metal-work, one particularly well
known being that of a thunderbolt. The shield is not only carried by
means of a handle, but may be supported by a belt over the right
shoulder. In order to be out of the way of the shield, the sword--a
thrusting rather than a slashing weapon, approaching 3 feet in
length--is hung at the right side by a belt passing over the left
shoulder. Though this arrangement may seem awkward to us, it is to be
remembered that the sword is not required until the right hand is free
of the pike, and that then, before drawing, the weapon can easily be
swung round to the left by means of the suspending belt. On the left
side the soldier wears a dagger at his girdle. The writer of the
Epistle to the Ephesians is thinking of all this equipment when he
bids the Christian put on "the whole armour of God," including the
"belt of truth," the "breast-plate of righteousness," the "shield of
faith," the "helmet of salvation" and the "sword of the spirit." The
officer, of course, wears armour, cloak, and helmet of a more
ornamental kind, and must have presented a very martial and imposing

[Illustration: FIG.99--A Roman General.]

Our friend Scius goes through the drill, the exercises, and the hard
work already mentioned. His pay will be somewhere about L8 a year, or
a little over three shillings a week, and his food will consist mainly
of wheaten porridge and bread, with salt, and a drink of thin sour
wine little better than vinegar. His wheat--the price of which is
deducted from his pay--is measured out to him every month, and it is
his own business to grind it or get it ground and converted into
bread. Vegetables he will procure as he likes or can; but meat, except
a limited amount of bacon, he will commonly neither get nor very much
desire. On one occasion indeed we find the soldiers complaining that
they were being fed altogether too much upon meat. It deserves to be
remarked that the results speak well for the wholesomeness of this
simple diet of the legionary. For his quarters he will be one of ten
sharing the same tent under the supervision of a kind of corporal.
There are no married quarters. Not only are women not permitted in the
camp, but the soldier cannot legally marry during his term of service.

[Illustration: FIG. 100.--CENTURION.]

Scius will meet with no gentle treatment while in his pupilage. The
grim centurion, or commander of his company, is a man of iron, who has
risen from the ranks; his methods are sharp and summary, and he
carries a tough switch of vine-wood, with which he promptly belabours
the idle or the stupid. Any neglect of duty or act of disobedience is
inevitably Punished, sometimes by hard labour in digging trenches,
sometimes by a fine, sometimes by stripping the soldier of his armour
and making him stand for hours in civilian attire as a butt for
ridicule in the middle of the camp, sometimes by a lowering of his
rank corresponding to the modern taking away of a "man's stripes." If
a soldier proves a hopeless case he is expelled with ignominy from the
camp and army. If he deserts or plays the traitor he may either be
decapitated or beaten to death with cudgels. If a whole company or
regiment gets into disgrace, it may have to put up with barley
instead of wheat for its rations, and if it is guilty of gross
insubordination, or of some crime which cannot be sheeted home to the
individual, it may be "decimated," or, in other words, every tenth
man, drawn by lot, may be condemned to death. The last, of course, is
an extreme measure, and is only mentioned here as belonging to extreme

[Illustration: FIG. 101.--STANDARD BEARER.]

On the other hand, if Scius is a smart soldier he will gradually gain
recognition as such. He may become the head man in his mess of ten; or
be made an orderly, to carry the watchword round to the messes; or he
may be chosen by the centurion as his subaltern. As he gains maturity
and steadiness, and wins confidence, he may be elected to bear the of
his company, in which case a bear's skin will be thrown over his
shoulders, and the top of his helmet will be concealed beneath the
head of that beast, worn as a hood. Being a saving man, and taking a
pride in himself, he will gradually decorate his sword-belt and
girdle, and perhaps his scabbard, with silver knobs and ornaments.
Also behaving well in the victorious brushes with the Britons, he will
acquire, besides occasional loot and booty-money, a number of metal
medallions or disks, to be strung across his breast somewhat after the
manner of the modern war-medals. Gradually, as he becomes a veteran,
he may rise to be centurion, when he will wear a crest upon his helmet
and greaves upon his shins, have his corslet of scale-armour covered
with medallions, and will himself carry the vine-rod of authority. If
he should ever succeed in becoming, not merely the centurion of his
company, but the first or senior of all the sixty centurions belonging
to the whole legion, he will rank practically as a commissioned
officer, will retire on a competence if he does retire, and will in
all probability be made a knight. In that case he may proceed to
higher commands, as if he had been born in that order to which he has
at last attained.

[Illustration: FIG. 102.--BAGGAGE-TRAIN.]

But all this promotion is yet a long way off. One morning, while Scius
is still a private, he hears, not the "taratantara" of the long
straight trumpet which calls to ordinary work, but the sound of the
military horn, which means that the legion is to march. He helps to
pack up the tent, the hand-mills, and other indispensable needments,
and to place them on the mules, packhorses, or waggons. He then puts
on his full armour, although, if it is hot, and if there is no
immediate danger, he may sling his helmet over his shoulder, while his
shield, marked with his name and company, may perhaps be stacked with
others in a baggage-waggon. His food-supply for sixteen days--the
Roman fortnight--is wrapped in a parcel, and this, together with his
eating and drinking vessels and any other articles such as would
appertain to a modern knapsack, is carried over his shoulder on a
forked stick. It is known that to-night the army will be obliged to
camp on the way, and it is a binding rule of the service that no camp
arrangements shall be left to chance. Surveyors will ride on ahead
with a body of cavalry, and will choose a suitable position easily
defended and with water near. They will then outline the boundaries
according to a certain scale, and will parcel out the interior,
according to an almost invariable system, into blocks or sections to
accommodate certain units. When the legion arrives, it marches in with
a perfect understanding as to where each company of men and each part
of the baggage-train is to quarter itself. Being in an enemy's country
it is not enough simply to post sentries. A trench must be dug and a
palisade erected round the camp, and for that purpose every soldier on
the march has carried a couple of sharpened stakes and a sort of small
pickaxe. It may therefore be readily understood that Scius is heavily
laden. Besides the weight of his body-armour and his shield, pike, and
sword, his orthodox burden is about forty-five English pounds.

[Illustration: FIG. 103.--SOLDIERS WITH PACKS.]

[Illustration: FIG. 104--ROMAN SOLDIERS MARCHING. (Scheiber.)]

Before entering upon this description of service and armour of the
legionary troops, it was stated that the legions made up but one-half
of Roman army, the other half consisting of what were known as
"auxiliaries." If there were in the whole Roman empire 150,000
soldiers of the kind described there were also about 150,000 of a
different type. Just as it is a natural part of the British policy to
raise bodies of Indian or African troops from among the non-British
subjects of the empire, so it was an obvious course for the Romans to
raise native troops in Africa, Syria, Spain, Gaul, Britain, or the
German provinces on the western bank of the Rhine. And just as the
British bring their non-British regiments into connection with the
regular army, and put them under the command of British officers, so
the Romans associated their "auxiliary" soldiery, mostly under Roman
officers, with the regular force of the legions. To every legion of
6000 men there was attached, under the same general of division, a
force of about 6000 men of non-Roman standing. The subject people of a
province was called upon to recruit a certain quota of such troops,
and, when so recruited, the soldiers of this class were required to
serve for twenty-five years. At the expiration of their term they
became Roman citizens, and their descendants ranked as such in the
enjoyment of Roman opportunities. Such forces were not themselves
formed into "legions" under an "eagle"; they served in separate
regiments. Some of them were infantry almost indistinguishable from
the Roman; others were armed in a different manner as to shield,
spear, and sword; others were light skirmishing troops using their
native weapons, such as javelins, slings, and bows. A very large
proportion were cavalry, and whereas a legion possessed only 120 Roman
horsemen, the auxiliary cavalry attached to it would number one or
more regiments of dither 1000 or 500 men each. But it was also part of
the Roman policy to employ such auxiliary troops, not in the region in
which they were raised and among their own people, but elsewhere, and
sometimes even at the opposite extremity of the empire. Thus in
Britain might be found, not only Germans and Batavians, but Spaniards
or Syrians, while in Syria there might be quartered Africans or
Germans, and in Africa troops from the modern Austria. We cannot call
this custom an invariable one, but it was usual, and obviously it was

[Illustration: FIG. 105.--Imperial Guards.]

To these two co-operating forces--legions and auxiliaries--we must add
the Imperial Guards, twelve regiments of 1000 men each, quartered in
Italy, and generally congregated in a special camp just outside the
gate at the top of the Quirinal and Viminal Hills beyond the modern
railway station. Like other Guards, these were a picked body,
containing many volunteers from Italy itself, while others came from
the most romanized parts of Gaul or elsewhere. They enjoyed many
privileges, wore a more gorgeous armour, served only sixteen years and
received double pay. Frequently it came to be the case that this
particular body of troops was the one which made and unmade emperors,
chiefly under the influence of pecuniary promises or largess. Besides
these, 6000 City Guards were in barracks inside the metropolis for the
protection of the town; 7000 _gendarmerie_, already mentioned, served
as night-watch and fire-brigade, but perhaps scarcely rank as
soldiers. Here and there in the empire there also existed separate
volunteer detachments of various dimensions serving on special duty,
and it was to one of these that belonged the Cornelius of the Acts of
the Apostles, who is there described as a centurion of the "Italian

[Illustration: FIG. 106.--BESIEGERS WITH THE "TORTOISE."]

It would carry us too far afield if we entered into detailed
descriptions of Roman warfare--of Roman marches, Roman camps, and
fortifications, Roman sieges, and military engines. Otherwise it would
be highly interesting to watch the attack made upon an enemy's wall or
gate by a band of men pushing in front of them a wicker screen covered
with hide, or holding their shields locked together above their heads,
so as to form a roof to shelter them from the spears, stones,
firebrands, and pots of flame which rained down from the walls.

[Illustration: FIG 107.--ROMAN ARTILLERY.]

Or we might see moving up on wheels a shed, from the open front of
which protrudes the great iron head of a ram affixed to a huge beam.
If you were under the shed, you would see that the beam was perhaps as
much as 60 feet in length, and that it was suspended on chains or
ropes by which it could be swung, so that the head butted with a
deadly insistence upon the masonry of the wall. Meanwhile the enemy
from the ramparts are doing their best to set the shed on fire, to
break off the ram's head with heavy stones, to pull it upwards by a
noose, or to deaden the effect of the shock by lowering stuffed sacks
or other buffer material between it and the wall. At another point, in
place of the shed, there is rolled forward a lofty construction like a
tower built in several stories. When this approaches the wall it will
overtop it, and a drawbridge with grappling irons may be dropped upon
the parapet. Elsewhere there is mining and countermining. From a safer
distance the artillery of the time is hurling its formidable missiles.
There is the "catapult," which shoots a giant arrow, sometimes tipped
with material on fire, from a groove or half-tube to a distance of a
quarter of a mile. The propelling force, in default of gunpowder or
other explosive, is the recoil of strings of gut or hair which have
been tightened by a windlass. There is also the heavier "hurler,"
which works in much the same manner, but which, instead of arrows,
throws stones and beams of from 14 pounds to half a hundredweight,
doing effective damage up to a distance of some 400 yards.

[Illustration: FIG. 108.--AUXILIARY CAVALRYMAN.]

Scius joins his legion as a private infantry soldier. He is in the
"hobnailed" service. But if our young noble, Publius Silius Bassus,
enters upon a military career, he will probably become one of the 120
Roman horsemen attached to the legion, and will be serving as a
"knight" or "gentleman," with servants to relieve him of his rougher
work. The cavalrymen among whom he serves do not ride upon a saddle
with stirrups, but on a mere saddlecloth. On their left arm is a round
shield or buckler; they carry a spear of extreme reach, wear a longer
sword than the infantrymen, and on their back is a quiver containing
three broad-pointed javelins, very similar to assegais, which serve
them as missiles. If by good service they obtain medallions like the
infantry, they will fasten them to the bridles and breast-straps of
their horses, and altogether will make a fine and jingling show.
Through the influence of his family, Publius will most likely be taken
under the personal supervision of the general in command, will
frequently mess with him, and will perhaps act as a kind of honorary
aide-de-camp. After a sufficient initiation into military business, he
will be appointed what may be called colonel of an infantry regiment
of auxiliaries, then colonel of a regiment of the legion, and
subsequently, if he is following the profession, colonel of a regiment
of the auxiliary cavalry. He does not at any time pass through the
rank of centurion, any more than the British officer passes through
that of sergeant-major. The class distinction is at least as great in
the case of the Romans.

When the young noble has completed this series of services--although
the whole of it is not absolutely necessary, and it will be sufficient
if he has been six months titular colonel of a regiment of the
legion--he may perhaps return to Rome, and at the age of twenty-five
may enter upon his first public position, and so become himself a
senator. His duties may be connected with the Treasury at Rome itself,
or more probably he will accompany a proconsul who is on his way to
govern a province for a year--perhaps Andalusia, or Macedonia, or
Bithynia. To his chief he stands for that year in a kind of filial
relation. His main business will be to supervise the financial
affairs, to act as paymaster, and to keep the accounts of the
province, but he will also, when required, administer justice in place
of the governor. In this capacity he learns the methods of provincial
government in readiness for the time when he himself may be made a
governor, whether by the senate or by the emperor. His next step
upward will be to the post of aedile, one of the officials who control
the streets, public buildings, markets, and police of Rome. By the age
of thirty he may arrive at the second highest step on the official
ladder, in a position which qualifies him to preside over a court of
law. Or it may bring with it no greater function than that of
presiding over "games" in the circus or amphitheatre, and of spending
a liberal sum of money of his own upon making them both magnificent
and novel. After this he may receive from the emperor the
command of a brigade--the 12,000 men composed of a legion and its
auxiliaries--perhaps at Cologne or Mainz, perhaps at Caerleon-on-Usk,
perhaps near Antioch. In this position his movements are subject to
the authority of the governor of the province, who is the "lieutenant"
or "deputy" of His Highness in the larger capacity, while he himself
is but a "lieutenant" of Caesar as commanding one of his legions.

He may now himself be appointed governor to a province, but hardly yet
to those which are the "plums" of the empire. There is still one
highest post for him to fill. This is the consulship. Under the
republic the two consuls had been the highest executive officers of
the state, and the year was dated by their names. Nominally they were
still in the same position, and the sane emperors made a point of
treating them with all outward respect. They took precedence of all
but "His Highness the Head of the State." But whereas under the
republic there had been but two consuls holding joint office for the
year, under the emperors the post had become to such a degree
complimentary, and there were so many nobles who desired the honour or
to whom the emperor was minded to grant it, that it became the custom
to hold the position only for two months, so that twelve persons in
each year might boast of being ex-consuls or having "passed the
consul's chair."

Publius Silius, we may suppose, passes up each step of the ladder, or
what was called the "career of honours," and becomes senatorial

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