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relation. Many members of the middle class, impoverished and earning
practically no other income, lived the life of genteel paupers. They
would attend the morning reception of a grandee, either bringing with
them, or causing a slave to bring, a small basket, or even a portable
cooking-stove, in which they carried off doles of food distributed
through his servants. The scene must have borne no slight resemblance
to that of the charity "soup-kitchen." In process of time, however,
this practice became inconvenient for all parties, and most of the
patrons compounded for such doles by making a fixed payment, still
called the "little basket," amounting perhaps to a shilling in modern
weight of money for each day of polite attention on the part of a
recognised "client." If a client was acknowledged by more than one
patron, so much the better for the amount of his "little baskets." In
some cases the dole was paid to each visitor at the morning call; in
others only after the work of the patron's day was done and when he
had gone to the elaborate bath which preceded his dinner in the later
part of the afternoon. By this means the complimentary escort duty was
secured until that time.

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

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

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

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

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

[Illustration: FIG. 62. - LITTER.]

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

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

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

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

Perhaps, however, one of his clients has asked for his help in a case
at law, which is being tried either over the way in the Basilica of
Julius, or round the corner to the right in the Forum of Augustus. If
a man of study and eloquence, he may have consented to act as
pleader - taking no fee, because he is merely performing a patron's
duty. _Noblesse oblige_. In the year 64 a pleader who has taken up a
cause for some one else than a dependant is allowed by law to charge a
fee not exceeding £100, but the law says nothing, or at least can do
no thing, as to the liberal presents which are offered him under some
other pretext. If he is not to plead, Silius may at any rate have been
requested to lend moral support by seating himself beside the favoured
party and perhaps appearing as a witness to character. If he pleads in
any complicated or technical case, it will generally be after careful
consultation with an attorney or professional lawyer. Round the apse
or recess in which the court sits there will stand a ring of
interested spectators, and among them will be distributed as many as
possible of his own dependants, who will religiously applaud his
finely-turned periods and his witticisms. There was generally little
chance of missing a Roman forensic witticism; its character was for
the most part highly elaborate and its edge broad. In a later
generation it was not rare for chance bystanders to be hired on the
spot as _claqueurs_. The court itself consists of a large body of
jurymen of position empanelled, not for the particular case, but for
particular kinds of cases and for a period of time, and over these
there presides one of the public officials annually elected for the
judicial administration of Rome. The president sees that the
proceedings are in accordance with the law, but the verdict is given
entirely by the jury.

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At the right time the guests arrive, endeavouring to show neither
undue eagerness by being too early nor rudeness by being too late.
Each brings his own footman to take off his shoes and to stand behind

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Online LibraryT.G. TuckerLife in the Roman World of Nero and St. Paul → online text (page 12 of 25)