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Augustus, Chapter 43: On spectacles.
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In the number, variety, and magnificence of his public spectacles, he [Note 1] surpassed all former example. Four-and-twenty times, he says, he treated the people with games upon his own account, and three-and-twenty times for such magistrates as were either absent or not able to afford the expense. The performances took place sometimes in the different streets of the city, and upon several stages, by players in all languages. The same he did not only in the forum and amphitheatre, but in the circus likewise, and in the Saepta and sometimes he exhibited only the hunting of wild beasts. He entertained the people with wrestlers in the Campus Martius, where wooden seats were erected for the purpose; and also with a naval fight for which he excavated the ground near the Tiber, where there is now the grove of the Caesars. During these two entertainments he stationed guards in the city lest, by robbers taking advantage of the small number of people left at home, it might be exposed to depredations. In the circus he exhibited chariot races and foot races, and combats with wild beasts, in which the performers were often youths of the highest rank. His favorite spectacle was the Trojan game acted by a select number of boys, in parties differing in age and station; thinking that it was a practice both excellent in itself, and sanctioned by ancient usage, that the spirit of the young nobles should be displayed in such exercises. Gaius Nonius Asprenas, who was lamed by a fall in this diversion, he presented with a gold collar, and allowed him and his posterity to bear the surname of Torquati. But soon afterwards he gave up the exhibition of this game, in consequence of a severe and bitter speech made in the senate by Asinius Pollio, the orator, in which he complained bitterly of the misfortune of Aeserninus, his grandson, who likewise broke his leg in the same diversion. Sometimes he engaged Roman knights to act upon the stage, or to fight as gladiators; but only before the practice was prohibited by a decree of the senate. Thenceforth, the only exhibition he made of that kind, was that of a young man named Lucius, of a good family, who was not quite two feet in height, and weighed only seventeen pounds, but had a Stentorian voice. In one of his public spectacles, he brought the hostages of the Parthians, the first ever sent to Rome from that nation, through the middle of the amphitheatre, and placed them in the second tier of seats above him. He used likewise, at times when there were no public entertainments, if any thing was brought to Rome which was uncommon, and might gratify curiosity, to expose it to public view, in any place whatever; as he did a rhinoceros in the Saepta, a tiger upon a stage, and a snake fifty cubits long in the Comitium. It happened in the Circensian Games, which he performed in consequence of a vow, that he was taken ill, and obliged to attend the Thensae [procession] reclining on a litter. Another time, in the games celebrated for the opening of the theatre of Marcellus, the joints of his curule chair happening to give way, he fell on his back. And in the games exhibited by his grandsons, when the people were in such consternation, by an alarm raised that the theatre was falling, that all his efforts to reassure them and keep them quiet, failed, he moved from his place, and seated himself in that part of the theatre which was thought to be exposed to most danger. |
Note 1: he = Augustus