Græco-Roman Games in California.

Journal of Manly Arts
May 2003

by Arthur Inkersley
Originally published in Outing magazine, February, 1895, No. 5, p. 409-416.

After his progress round the arena, the Emperor retired and entered his box, which was in the center of one of the long sides of the circus. There, attended by his wife, Livia, and by the ladies and gentlemen of his court, he assumed his seat, the Senators occupying a box to his right.

Then Vestal Virgins, Camillæ and Flaminicæ in white robes, entered the arena, singing a translation of part of the Carmen Seculare of Horace. After finishing this they took up a position in front of the Imperial box, and sang an ode to the Emperor. The ode was a translation of four stanzas from the XVth Ode of the Fourth Rook of Horace, and ran as follows:

Cæsar guarding now the State,
Civil war, and rage, and hate
Shall no more their swords employ,
And the nation's peace destroy.

They who drink of Danube deep
Cæsar's edicts now shall keep:
Scyths and Persians, Seres brave,
And where Tanais swells its wave.

Round each hearth thro' coming days
Kindly Bacchus will we raise,
With our wives and children dear
Gods invoking in our prayer;

Deeds our sires have done rehearse,
Flutes soft mingling with our verse;
Troy, Anchises, Venus, sing,
Whence the Julian races spring.

After finishing the Ode, the Vestals and their companions took seats in the box to the left of that occupied by the Emperor's party.

The Emperor then addressed the assembly, telling them of his victories in Gaul and of the success of the Roman arms in all parts of the world, and in conclusion bade them enjoy the running, leaping, wrestling and other contests provided for their amusement.

The mounted herald then galloped in and blew a blast as a signal to the performers to enter. The Gladiators were divided into three classes, there being forty-one Meridiani, six Retiarii

and six Mirmillones, all under the leadership of Louis Tronchet and E. Lastreto. The former is the teacher of fencing at the club and one of the best fencers with the rapier. The single combat between these two leaders was superbly realistic and excited the greatest enthusiasm. As Lastreto fell mortally wounded, and blood gushed out upon his shirt, one lady in the audience screamed aloud, and many were seriously alarmed. One night the mortally wounded gladiator had to rise to his feet, like Bottom in "the most lamentable comedy of Pyramus and Thisby," to set the ladies at rest. The Meridiani were a kind of light-armed gladiators who fought in the Roman arena at mid day, after the conclusion of the combats with wild beasts. They wore simple tunics and no body armor, carrying only a round buckler, a helmet with a visor and a short sword. The gladiators were followed by the president of the club, as Magister Arena, with a staff in his hand. Under his direction they grouped themselves in front of the Emperor's box and sang the Ode of the Gladiators, written expressly for the club by Mrs. Douglas Adam. It consisted of four stanzas, entitled, Salutation, Life, Love and Fate. Each stanza ended with the pathetic words, Morituri te salutant-"those about to die salute thee!" Singers stationed at either end of the arena echoed the refrain in a very effective manner. The Ode sung, the gladiators were quickly matched in pairs all along the arena; at a signal from the Magister Arenæ, the fight began. After one of each pair had fallen, black slaves entered and bore out the dead. If both gladiators of a pair fell, a funeral recession, headed by the Magister Arenæ and closed by the Director of the Games, bore them out to the accompaniment of solemn music. The survivors were matched in pairs, and the victors then saluted the Emperor and retired, laden with bouquets by their admirers, from the arena. A touch of comedy was imparted by the struggles of the slaves to get a grip of their unwilling burdens.

On alternate evenings the Olympic Pentathlon, or five-fold contest, was given. It consisted of running, broad-leaping, wrestling, discus-throwing and hurling the javelin. Many of the wrestling bouts were keenly contested, and created great excitement among the spectators. The discus was a circular piece of metal, and throwing it was, like shot-putting, a trial of strength and skill combined. The javelin-hurling was intended to cultivate accuracy. At one performance one of the javelins struck another and glanced off, hitting a spectator in the front row, but doing him no serious harm.

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May 2003