Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 2.djvu/565

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CANTO IV.]
521
CHILDE HAROLD’S PILGRIMAGE.

orders to the gladiators to slay him; and Telemachus gained the crown of martyrdom, and the title of saint, which surely has never either before or since been awarded for a more noble exploit. Honorius immediately abolished the shows, which were never afterwards revived. The story is told by Theodoret[1] and Cassiodorus,[2] and seems worthy of credit notwithstanding its place in the Roman martyrology.[3] Besides the torrents of blood which flowed at the funerals, in the amphitheatres, the circus, the forums, and other public places, gladiators were introduced at feasts, and tore each other to pieces amidst the supper tables, to the great delight and applause of the guests. Yet Lipsius permits himself to suppose the loss of courage, and the evident degeneracy of mankind, to be nearly connected with the abolition of these bloody spectacles.


30.

Here, where the Roman million's blame or praise
Was Death or Life—the playthings of a crowd.

Stanza cxlii. lines 5 and 6.

When one gladiator wounded another, he shouted, "He has it," "Hoc habet," or "Habet." The wounded combatant dropped his weapon, and advancing to the edge of the arena, supplicated the spectators. If he had fought well, the people saved him; if otherwise, or as they happened to be inclined, they turned down their thumbs, and he was slain. They were occasionally so savage that they were impatient if a combat lasted longer than ordinary without wounds or death. The emperor's presence generally saved the vanquished; and it is recorded, as an instance of Caracalla's ferocity, that he sent those who supplicated him for life, in a spectacle, at Nicomedia, to ask the people; in other words, handed them over to be slain. A similar ceremony is observed at the Spanish bull-fights. The magistrate presides; and after the horseman and piccadores have

  1. Hist. Eccles., ap. Ant. Hist. Eccl., Basle, 1535, lib. v. cap. xxvi.
  2. Cassiod., Tripartita, ap. Ant. Hist. Eccl., Basle, 1535, lib. x. cap. ii. p. 543.
  3. Baronius, De Ann. et in Notis ad Martyrol. Rom. I. Jan. (See Marangoni, Delle memorie sacre, e profane dell' Anfiteatro Flavio, p. 25, edit. 1746.)