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When Perses, king of Macedon, was thus led in triumph, his children being in the train, some of whom were so young, as to be insensible of their degradation; the spectacle drew tears even from many of the spectators. (Kennett's Rom. Ant. 226.) Of Perses himself, it is said, that he appeared like one astonished and deprived of reason through the greatness of his misfortunes. On this occasion, as usual, odes were sung, mixed with raillery, which had for its object, the unhappy captives.
It was usual, though not invariable, when the general began to turn his chariot from the Forum to the capitol, to order the captive kings and leaders of the enemy to be led to the prison, and there to be slain. And when he reached the capitol, he used to wait, till he heard that these savage orders were executed.
IV. Perhaps there is nothing, which more clearly evinces the moral depravity of the Romans, than their gladiatorial shows. Rosinus 351.
That human sacrifices were offered both by Greeks and Trojans, was noticed in a former lecture. The ancient heathen fancied, that the ghosts of the deceased were satisfied, and rendered propitious by human blood. At first, says the learned Kennet, they used to buy captives, or untoward slaves, and offer them at the obsequies. Afwards they attempted to veil their impious barbarity with the specious show of pleasure and voluntary combat. And, therefore, training up, in some tolerable knowledge of weapods, such persons as they had procured, they obliged them, upon the day appointed for sacrificing to departed ghosts, to maintain a mortal encounter at the tombs of their friends. The Roman people, it appears, became extravagantly attached to these exhibitions ; so that an ambitious individual, could in no way more readily conciliate their esteem, than by giving them an entertainment of this kind. The emperors obliged the people with shows almost on all occasions. As the occasions increased, so also did the length of the so. lemnities, and the number of combatants. Julias Cæsar, ili his edile-ship, presented three hundred and twenty pair. Trajan, whose natural temper is known to have been mild, continued these games for one hundred and twenty three days; during which time they brought out one thousand pair of gladiators. Lipsius, as quoted by Dr. Paley, affirms,“ that the gladiatorial shows sometimes cost Europe twenty or thirty thousand lives in a month, and that not only the men, but even the women of all ranks, were passionately fond of these shows. (Paley's Ev. 370. 249 Ryan.)
Entertainments of this savage kind were not abolished, until the reign of Constantine, after they existed, says Ken. net, about six hundred years.
It is well known, that these games were more or less extensively fatal to the parties concerned. The amusement was to observe with what dexterity, one human being could wound, foil, and slay his fellow. When a gladiator was vanquished, he might indeed supplicate the people; but he was by no means certain of having his life spared. It appears to have been no uncommon thing for them to refuse the request; in which case, he was obliged to resume his sword, and fight till death, for their amusement.
Nigh to the ampitheatre was a place called Spoliarium, 10 which, those, who were killed or mortally wounded, were dragged by a hook.
Similar to the feats of gladiators, were those of Bestiani, in which human beings were brought forth to combat with wild beasts, and to be devoured by them. Kennet, 272.
During the early existence of these games, females it ap. pears, were not allowed to attend them. This restriction was afterwards removed; and seats in the amphitheatre were prepared for their accommodation.
Though the condition of the gladiators was commonly that of slaves or captives, yet so generally popular were these games, that freemen, in a short time, chose to take a part in them, and hired themselves out for the amphitheatre. Nay, the knights, the noblemen, and even senators themselves, at last, were not ashamed to assume this profession; so that an edict of Augustus was necessary to prevent senators from becoming gladiators. Nor was this all. Roman ladies, and even those of high rank, became, by attending these exhibitions, so lost to all that tenderness and timid. ity, which are supposed to characterize the sex, as to assume the habit and weapons of combatants, and contest with men on the ensanguined arena. This has been animadverted upon by Juvenal, with his appropriate severity. By Cicero, however, these entertainments were thought scarce worthy of reprehension. Crudele gladiatorum spectac ulum et inhumanum nonnullis videri solet : et haud scio an ita sit, ut nunc fit. “ To some, this public show of gladiators, appears cruel and inhuman. Perhaps, as the thing is now managed, it may be so."
That such an author should have spoken in such terms, of an institution, calculated to deaden the best sensibilities of the heart, and to substitute in their place a brutal ferocity, shows at once the imperious influence of custom, and the inadequacy of Gentile philosophy, even in the most elevated minds, to fix the standard of morality.
V. It is well known, that, under the Roman government, extreme severity might be exercised towards insolvent debtors.
From the account, contained in the second book of Livy, it appears, that the creditor had power, not only of taking from the debtor all his possessions, but likewise of maiming and torturing his body.
Restraints were, indeed, at a late period, imposed on the cruelty and rapacity of usurers, whereby it was provided, that no debtors should be kept in irons or bonds; but that, the goods of the debtor, not his person, should be given up to his creditors.
After a certain number of citations, we are told, that the law granted to the debtor thirty days of grace to raise the
sum, for which he was accountable. After the thirty days had expired, if the debtor had not discharged the debt, he was led to the prætor, who delivered him over to the morcy of his creditors. These bound him and kept him in chains for the space of sixty days. Afterwards, for three market days successively, the debtor was brought to the tribunal of the prætor. Then a public crier proclaimed in the forum the debt, for which the prisoner was detained. It often happened, that rich persons redeemed the prisoner by paying his debts. But if no person appeared in his behalf, after the third day the creditor had a right to inflict the punishment appointed by the law, The law may be translated into the following words. “Let him on the third market day, be punished with death, or sold beyond the Tiber, as a slave.”
VI. It will give some further knowledge of the moral state of the ancient heathen, to consider their treatment of slaves. That a large proportion of the population consisted of slaves, is well known. Throughout almost all Greece, says the Abbe Barthelemy, quoting from Athenaus, the number of slaves infinitely exceeds that of citizens. A similar, but more definite account is given by Mitford. (Trav. of Anach. 1. 242. Vide Tacit. p. 425—6.)
In Lacedæmon, slaves were trcated with great severity. Nothing, it appears, could exceed their cruelty to their slaves, who cultivated their grounds for them, and performed all their works and manufactures. These slaves had no justice done them, says Dr. Leland, whatever insults or injuries they suffered. Among the Spartan youth, it was customary, not only to hunt wild beasts, but to lie in ambush for the Helots, or slaves. Thus were these unhappy men, to whom the State was so much indebted, attacked and slain for the purpose of rendering their masters' sons adroit in the use of arms.
There is another passage in the Lacedæmonian history, which cleary shows how much reason the Helots had to complain not only of the cruelty, but also of the perfidy of Their masters.
When, in the midst of the Peloponnesian war, the Spartans had cause to entertain fcars of the Helots, proclamation was made, that such, as thought themselves worthy of meriting by good conduct in arms, the honor of freemen, should present themselves before the magistrate. Two thousand presented themselves, and were all secretly slain ! (Mitsord 1. 292. Thucyd. 1. 360.)
Herodotus informs us, that the Scythians, praised as they have been for their innocence, put out the eyes of their slaves.
Nor does it appear, that slavery at Rome assumed a milder aspect, than that at Sparla. It was not unusual, we are informed, for masters to put their old, sick, and infirm slaves on an island in the Tyber, where they were suffered to perish. (Lel. 11. 67.) Masters had an absolute power over their slaves. (Juv. vi. 269.) They might scourge, or put them to death at pleasure. (See Herod. iii. 53 and Potter's Ant. art. Helots.) When the former of these punishments was inflicted, the slave was suspended with a weight tied to his feet, that he might not move them. When they were punished capitally, it was commonly by crucifixion.
Even this dreadful punishment according to Juvenal, might result from caprice, or a sudden gust of passion in a profligate mistress.
The following account I find quoted by three respectable authors. Vedius Pollio, an intimate friend of Augustus, literally fed his fishes with the flesh of his slaves. “ This cruelty was discovered, when one of his servants broke a glass in the presence of the emperor, who had been invited to a feast. The master ordered the servant to be seized. But he threw himself at the feet of the emperor, begging him to interpose, and not suffer him to be devoured by fishes. Upon this, the causes of his apprehensions were examined; and Augustus, astonished at the barbarity of his favorite, caused the servant to be dismissed, all the fish ponds to be filled up, and the chrystal glasses of Pollio to be broken to pieces.”