Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 2.djvu/564

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


He, their sire,
Butchered to make a Roman holiday.

Stanza cxli. lines 6 and 7.

Gladiators were of two kinds, compelled and voluntary; and were supplied from several conditions;—from slaves sold for that purpose; from culprits; from barbarian captives either taken in war, and, after being led in triumph, set apart for the games, or those seized and condemned as rebels; also from free citizens, some fighting for hire (auctorati), others from a depraved ambition; at last even knights and senators were exhibited,—a disgrace of which the first tyrant was naturally the first inventor.[1] In the end, dwarfs, and even women, fought; an enormity prohibited by Severus. Of these the most to be pitied undoubtedly were the barbarian captives; and, to this species a Christian writer[2] justly applies the epithet "innocent," to distinguish them from the professional gladiators. Aurelian and Claudius supplied great numbers of these unfortunate victims; the one after his triumph, and the other on the pretext of a rebellion.[3] No war, says Lipsius,[4] was ever so destructive to the human race as these sports. In spite of the laws of Constantine and Constans, gladiatorial shows survived the old established religion more than seventy years; but they owed their final extinction to the courage of a Christian. In the year 404, on the kalends of January, they were exhibiting the shows in the Flavian amphitheatre before the usual immense concourse of people. Almachius, or Telemachus, an Eastern monk, who had travelled to Rome intent on his holy purpose, rushed into the midst of the arena, and endeavoured to separate the combatants. The Prætor Alypius, a person incredibly attached to these games,[5] gave instant

  1. Julius Cæsar, who rose by the fall of the aristocracy, brought Furius Leptinus and A. Calenus upon the arena.
  2. "Ad captiuos pertinere Tertulliani querelam puto: Certe quidem & innocentes gladiatores inludum veniunt, & voluptatis publicæ hostiæ fiant." Justus, Lipsius, 1588, Saturn. Sermon., lib. ii. cap. iii. p. 84.
  3. Vopiscus, in Vit. Aurel., and in Vit. Claud., ibid.
  4. Just. Lips., ibid., lib. i. cap. xii. p. 45.
  5. Augustinus (Confess., lib. vi. cap. viii.): "Alypium suum gladiatorii spectaculi inhiatu incredibiliter abreptum," scribit. ib., lib. i. cap. xii.