Page:The Outline of History Vol 1.djvu/515

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491
THE TWO WESTERN REPUBLICS

for any reason were driven on by whips and hot irons. A wounded man would sometimes call for pity by holding up his forefinger. The spectators would then either wave their handkerchiefs in token of mercy, or condemn him to death by holding out their clenched fists with the thumbs down.[1] The slain and nearly dead were dragged out to a particular place, the spoliarium, where they were stripped of their arms and possessions, and those who had not already expired were killed.

This organization of murder as a sport and show serves to measure the great gap in moral standards between the Roman community and our own. No doubt cruelties and outrages upon human dignity as monstrous as this still go on in the world, but they do not go on in the name of the law and without a single dissentient voice. For it is true that until the time of Seneca (first century A.D.) there is no record of any plain protest against this business. The conscience of mankind was weaker and less intelligent then than now. Presently a new power was to come into the human conscience through the spread of Christianity. The spirit of Jesus in Christianity became the great antagonist in the later Roman state of these cruel shows and of slavery, and, as Christianity spread, these two evil things dwindled and disappeared.[2]

  1. Authorities differ here. Mayor says thumbs up (to the breast) meant death and thumbs down meant "Lower that sword." The popular persuasion is that thumbs down meant death. Seyffert's Dict. Class. Antiq. gives this view. See the Encyclopædia Britannica, article "Gladiators."
  2. "A little more needs to be said on this matter. The Greeks cited gladiatorial shows as a reason for regarding the Romans as Barbaroi, and there were riots when some Roman proconsul tried to introduce them in Corinth. Among Romans, the better people evidently disliked them, but a sort of shyness prevented them from frankly denouncing them as cruel. For instance, Cicero, when he had to attend the Circus, took his tablets and his secretary with him, and didn't look. He expresses particular disgust at the killing of an elephant; and somebody in Tacitus (Drusus, Ann. 1. 76) was unpopular because he was too fond of gladiatorial bloodshed—"quamquam vili sanguine nimis gaudens" ("rejoicing too much in blood, worthless blood though it was"). The games were unhesitatingly condemned by Greek philosophy, and at different times two Cynics and one Christian gave their lives in the arena, protesting against them, before they were abolished.
    "I do not think Christianity had any such relation to slavery as is here stated. St. Paul's action in sending back a slave to his master, and his injunction, 'Slaves, obey your masters,' were regularly quoted on the pro-slavery side, down to the nineteenth century; on the other hand, both the popular philosophies and the