The Story of Horatius, the Roman Boy, Whose Ancestor "Kept the Bridge So Well"
SHALL we sail to Rome in a trireme?
But what is a trireme? you will ask.
Look at the picture at the top of this page, and when you notice the three rows of oars, you will remember that tri means three. Do you see how one rower must sit a little behind as well as above another, so that the oars need not interfere? There are little seats, in three rows, fastened to the ship, inside, in just such positions, for the rowers. And with all these oars, and perhaps a square sail if the wind is fair, we go pretty swiftly over the water. But a trireme was a war vessel, and I don't believe the Romans would be willing to take passengers on a war vessel. Nevertheless, I think we can go, you and I, for it isn't our bodies, but only our minds, that have taken passage for this voyage, and we shall not occupy any room.
The trireme does, however, carry some passengers besides ourselves,—unwilling passengers, I fear,—fair-haired women and young girls and boys, prisoners of war, who are to be sold in the market-place (the Forum) when we reach Rome. Among them are one or two men, wise and grave; one of them, I am sure, is a writer. He has a tablet and stylus, such as we used to see in Athens. Some noble Roman will perhaps buy him for a secretary, and employ him to copy books, for as yet there is no printing, and many men earn their living by writing.
We land and follow the slaves up the streets of the city to the Forum, where they are to be sold. There are vases and pictures and statues also for sale in this Forum. They have been brought from the Greek city of Corinth, and they certainly remind us of the beautiful things we saw when we were in that country with Cleon. Doxius, the slave, also, seems to be a Greek, and is probably a learned man.
Let us stand here at one side and watch the buyers, who come wrapped in their togas of white wool with purple borders.
In Rome you know a man's rank by his dress; the purple stripes mean magistrates and senators. A simple dress of white is only for a common citizen. The common citizens can't afford to buy at this market, so you will not see them here.
Here is one tall man whose toga fairly drags on the ground behind him, while the heavy fold, that usually lies on the left shoulder, is drawn up over his head in place of a hat. You would hardly think he could walk at all in a dress so cumbersome, and I am sure he never runs, like the light-footed Greeks. But while we watch him, here comes another man,—a senator, I know, by his dress,—and beside him a boy wearing a long tunic with sleeves, and leather shoes with little ivory crescents on the instep. Next year he can wear a toga, but not now. Although he is a tall, manly-looking little fellow, it would be unwarrantable presumption for his parents to allow him the purple-striped toga before he is thirteen. This boy is Horatius. Horatius what? do you ask?
Oh, nothing. He hasn't yet earned another last name, and he isn't old enough to receive a first name; that will come when he changes his boy's toga for a man's.
Horatius is his family name, and his sister, who went, when he was a baby, to be a vestal virgin, has only the name Horatia. Don't forget Horatia, for I shall let you see her one day.
While we are talking about their names, the father has looked with keen eyes down the long row of slaves. He doesn't want a cook, nor a dancing girl, nor a lady's maid, but he does want a teacher for his boy, and a Greek teacher he would prefer to any other. So he stands for a few minutes before Doxius; talks with the dealer about his accomplishments, reads the little tablet that hangs from his neck, and finally offers fifty pieces of gold for the man.
There is some bargaining between them on the subject, while the young Horatius looks with a sort of bashful curiosity at the man who is probably to be his chief companion for some years to come. Then Doxius is delivered over to his master, and follows him to his home on the Palatine hill. It is a high house with narrow windows, and as we open the door the light falls into the passage-way and shows a floor of various-colored marbles. Do you think it pretty? Wait until you reach the atrium,—a sort of open room in the middle of the house, like the court of Cleon's home,—and there I will show you the handsomest floor you ever saw. Stones of lovely colors laid together to form a picture,—you would think it painted,—of a white dove resting on a fountain's edge, and see even the shadow of its little head on the water. The dining-room floor is made to appear as if strewed with the remains of the dinner. It is skilfully wrought, no doubt, but I don't like it very well. It is commonly called "the unswept."
The father of Horatius stops in the atrium to give some directions to Doxius, and then summons another slave to show him the men's apartments. In the mean-time our boy stands quietly waiting beside a bronze statue which is at one side of the family altar—a statue of a bold, hardy soldier in armor, halting upon one knee, as if wounded, and yet with uplifted sword and an expression of undaunted courage.
Of course we all know it is the statue of Horatius "who kept the bridge so well," and we can see now that our boy Horatius is not unlike him in face and figure. I hope he is also as brave at heart.
There are also other statues besides that of the brave ancestors,—the household gods, the Lares and the Penates; they stand in the atrium, and see, they are decked with fresh violets and garlands of rosemary.
As Horatius stands waiting, he looks up at the sky, for the middle part of the atrium is uncovered, you know, and he is glad to see that no clouds are floating across the blue. He is thinking of to-morrow. And what of to-morrow? Why, it is the Kalends of March, the first day of the year, and he is to go to see his sister, Horatia, light the fire of Vesta. If the sun does not shine it cannot be done, for that sacred fire must not be lighted from anything less holy than the sun itself. Horatia went when she was seven years old to tend the sacred fire in the temple, and to learn all the holy services of the goddess Vesta. Ten years she spent in learning them before she was ready to take upon herself all the sacred office, ten years more she serves at the altar, and then ten more she will still remain in the temple to teach the young children who will come as she did, in order that they may take her place when her time ends.
You will like to see her, and we will go with Horatius and his father the next morning to the temple of Vesta.
We go down to the great Forum at the foot of the Palatine hill, where stands the round temple with its many columns and its small inner cella or shrine.
It is the first day of the year, and not only must the sacred fire be newly lighted from the sun; but the temple must be decorated anew with purifying laurel, and sprinkled with the water of the holy spring, though this last, indeed, is done every day; but also the offerings of salt in simple earthen vessels will be made, with prayers that Vesta, the goddess of the hearth, will protect the hearths and homes of the people.
And now I must turn aside from my story a minute to tell you of a beautiful thing that it was once given to Horatia to do. It was like a blessing on her whole life. One morning she was on her way to the fountain of Egeria for the water with which to sprinkle the temple. As this fair, pure-hearted young girl walked in the early morning, through the quiet street, in the pure white robe and veil, she met a prisoner in chains, with bowed head, led away by an officer toward the prison at the other side of the Forum. At the sight of her the culprit fell on his knees, and a glad light came into his uplifted eyes. Instantly the officer struck off his chains and told him that he was free to go where he would; for the sight of the Vestal virgin had saved him.
"But," you will say, "perhaps he had done something very wrong, and deserved the punishment." I know it, perhaps he did; but what is punishment for? It is to make us better. Now, if the man is made really better, let us be thankful that it was by the sight of the pure and good, rather than by the stern and dreary imprisonment. There is severity and punishment enough, and more than enough, in Rome, so we will cherish this little glimpse of gentleness and mercy.
Now I am going back to the temple of Vesta and the Kalends of March. The first day of the year, I think I told you, didn't I? If you will count from March, you will learn how September got its name of seventh month, although to us it is the ninth.
March was named in honor of Mars, the war god; April, for a word that means opening, for its opening leaves and buds; May, from Maius (greater) or the month of growth; June, from Juno (help), and then Quintilis, which only meant fifth, Sextilis, sixth, and so on, until Janus, who had his little brazen temple on the Janiculum, took January; and last of all February meant the purifying month in which all things should be washed clean, and made ready for the new year.
And on this New Year's morning Horatius puts on his clean, new tunic, hangs his golden bulla round his neck, and goes down to the Forum, and stands quiet and grave while the white-robed virgins pass, a lictor going before them to clear the way.
It is something to him to see his sister once in a while in this way. He never sees her nearer, and he has never spoken a word to her since his baby voice bade her "Good-by" ten years ago. But he knows it is an honor to the house that she should serve in the temple; and he feels sure that the goddess of the hearth watches over them all for her sake. A Roman maiden can serve the republic best in this way, as a Roman boy by becoming great in the Forum and the field.
Another festival, too, helps to celebrate the new year, and it is one that the boys care more for than they do for the vestal service; at least if they haven't a sister among the virgins.
You will see that processions of one kind or another were the most common things in Rome. To-day it is the leapers, or dancers, who bear the twelve brazen shields. Perhaps you know the story how one of these shields fell from heaven, and was therefore peculiarly sacred, and the other eleven were made exactly like it, so that even the priests themselves can't tell which is the real and which the imitation. This was done that the holy shield might not be stolen, and indeed the twelve are kept with the greatest care. Only once a year, on the Kalends of March, they are carried through the streets in a sort of stately dance; and the boys, who are born soldiers, delight to follow them. But Horatius cannot spend all his time on processions. The Kalendar has other days besides feast-days.
Do you realize that there are no weeks like ours; no Sundays nor Mondays, and so on, but at the new moon the people all go to the capitol to hear the priest announce the Kalendar, or list of days, from this moon until the next Kalends, the first day of the month, then Nones, the fifth or seventh, and after that Ides, originally the time of the full moon, coming on the thirteenth or fifteenth of the month.
But the odd thing about this way of reckoning time was that they always counted it backwards; and when Horatius was a little boy he used to be taught to call the thirty-first of December the day before the Kalends of January, and so on. It would be very confusing to us; but so would our weeks and days be confusing to him, I suppose.
After the shield festival came regular school days until the Ides of March, and Horatius is set to work at once by his schoolmaster Doxius. He writes on a waxed tablet with a stylus, as Cleon did, and he studies arithmetic,—the multiplication table had been by this time invented—and he begins to learn the Greek language and to declaim both in his own Latin language and in Greek. He does not study geography; there are no school-books yet on that subject, and the few writers who have told us anything about geography in those days would give you an idea that the world was a circular plain lying chiefly about the Mediterranean Sea. But if he doesn't study geography he studies something else of more importance to him. A well-taught Roman boy ought to know by heart the twelve tables of the law that hang in the Forum. And it isn't only in order that he may obey them, that he learns them. He will have to try culprits himself, very likely, or at any rate plead at the bar in behalf of himself or his friend; for no Roman ever rises to distinction who is not capable of eloquent pleading; and the honors and offices of the republic follow the silver-tongued orator.
Before Horatius was seven years old, his mother trained him to speak always clearly and well, and now no day passes that he does not declaim the verses of the poets or the speeches of the senators. He goes, too, to the grammar-school, where he is taught to understand the great authors, and to learn their graces and elegances of language; for just as Cleon must become a good citizen, so, too, must Horatius. He may, one day, be chosen consul; then he must be prepared to command an army, or make a stirring speech in the Forum. He knows this, and he wants to be ready for it; and although he loves his play as well as you do, and runs off to his marbles or hoop or top whenever he can, he will gladly leave all other games when Valerius and Julius call him to join them in playing court; for little Marius has consented to be prisoner, accused of the crime of counterfeiting the public coin.
They have borrowed a black tunic, for Marius must wear the dress of the accused, Julius will be judge, and all the boys of the neighborhood must have their names presented, that a jury may be drawn. But when the names are drawn, Marius objects to Scipio, because he has never been his friend, and by the right of a Roman citizen his objection is allowed, and another boy drawn.
And now Horatius is the lawyer who undertakes the accusation in a bold speech, showing first the evils arising to the city from false coins, and then the shameful lack of patriotism in the man who could so injure his country, and lastly relating all the facts of this particular instance, the crime of Caius.
Then Valerius rises for the defence. He cannot deny that the crime is great, and if his client had committed it, he would be worthy of punishment. "But look at Marius. Can you believe such a thing of him?"
Then he calls witnesses to testify to his general good character and honesty, trying in every way to prove that he did not commit the deed.
Each little orator pleads with all his might, and the crowd of boys applauds, while the grave jury listen carefully to every word.
Now the jury must go out, each one having received three little tablets, one guilty, one not guilty, the third asking postponement or a further trial.
The boys have no tablets; but a white pebble, a black one, and a bit of wood will serve instead. And while they deliberate, poor little Marius, who begins to wish that he hadn't agreed to be prisoner, throws himself at their feet to move their compassion. But too much compassion will spoil the play, and into the box the black pebbles go, which declare him guilty. Then comes the sentence—the sentence of banishment, so terrible to every Roman citizen.
The little judge, Julius, standing gravely before them, pronounces the, "I forbid you the use of water or of fire in the city of Rome." And that, as you plainly understand, means that he can no longer live in Rome.
I think you begin to see where we learned how to conduct trials, don't you?
Then his friends lead Marius outside the gates and it seems to have become such terrible earnest that I am glad to say it all ends with a grand race round the Campus Martius, and on the way home they stop to spend a sesterce for marbles.
There have been some school-days, and busy ones too, and now it is about time for another festival,—a sort of Sunday, when the boys and girls go in a procession to the temple of Minerva to pray for wisdom; for she is the wise goddess, and skilful in all arts,—the same whom the Athenians called Pallas Athene; and you remember her statue of gold and ivory on the Acropolis at Athens.
Since this is the day when they seek wisdom, it is also the day when they carry to their teachers pay for instruction, and perhaps a little present besides. There is a five days' spring vacation, and then the school work begins again.
Of course you don't expect to hear about all the festivals and processions that followed. I shall only tell you of those in which Horatius took some part or had some special interest. And so we will leave him at work and at play until the Kalends of May.
We have May-Day games out in the fields ourselves. So did he, though perhaps not on exactly the same day, out in the Campus Martius, beyond the city walls. And just as the Greeks made a religious service of their games, so the Romans celebrated these May-Day games in honor of Jupiter, Juno, Apollo, the Sun-god, Diana, and the Fates.
But not on every May-Day were such extensive games celebrated, only once in a hundred years, for so the Sibylline books directed. Now, if you don't know what the Sibylline books were, I leave you to find out. It is a pretty story, and you will like it, but I haven't time to tell it.
Horatius knew,—indeed he can't remember the time when he did not know, as every Roman boy ought.
Well, the Sibylline books had directed the celebration of these games at the beginning of every age,—and an age was a hundred years,—in order that the city should always flourish, and should conquer all other nations; and you may be sure the warlike Romans would neglect nothing that could help to accomplish this their greatest object.
Since it is not probable that any man would live long enough to take part in these games twice, the heralds proclaim an invitation to all the world to come on that day to a festival which they had never seen before and would never see again; and happy were the boys and girls who happened to be boys and girls at that time, for there was a part in the games for them to perform, as indeed there was for everybody.
A few days before, fifteen officers, sitting in the Capitol and in the Palatine temple, distributed to the people sulphur and other purifying substances,—for all the city must be pure and fresh and clean before approaching the gods.
And since these celebrations were so rare, I will briefly tell you all that was done. First the people all carried wheat and barley and beans to Diana's temple on the Aventine Hill, and then they passed whole nights in prayer, and after this began the three days and three nights of the festival itself.
On the first night were the sacrifices. Three altars were built beside the Tiber, and three lambs are offered to the gods. Horatius saw them led up to the altar all wound about with wreaths of leaves, while the white-robed priest stood ready with his hand upon the altar to offer the prayers.
At the signal for prayer a great silence fell upon the vast multitude in the Campus Martius; but, as soon as the priest's voice was heard beginning the prayers, to Janus first, to Vesta last, and to all the gods of the upper and lower worlds between, the pipers struck up a loud strain and continued it until the prayer was ended.
What an irreverent thing to do!
Oh, no; it was done lest, in the midst of the prayer, any unlucky noise should be heard.
And now the priest sprinkles corn, or salt, or meal on the head of the lamb, plucks a few hairs from its head and throws them on the altar, marks with his knife a line from head to tail, and delivers him to the lower priests to be killed. Then the special parts for the offering are laid upon the fire, and the Augurs, watching them, see with joy that the flames take them quickly; so they know that the gods accept the offering.
Next, in the great theatre lighted with torches and fires, all the people sing a hymn to the gods, and then begin their sports; races, wrestling, throwing the spear, riding, etc. They are not unlike the games that Cleon saw at Olympia, and indeed, I think the Romans learned them from the Greeks.
The second day the mother of Horatius, and also the mothers of his friends Valerius and Julius, and many others, go in procession to the Capitol to sing hymns to Jupiter; and the last day Horatius himself and twenty-six of his playmates, even little Marius who played prisoner, and all the boys who served on the jury, together with twenty-seven little girls, go to the temple of the Palatine Apollo and sing a hymn that has been written on purpose for them, and that they have been practising for weeks.
So you see everybody has some part in the festival, since it is for the interest of all,—men, women, and children—that the city shall prosper. And thus early the boys learn that it is also their duty to advance the grandeur of Rome.
Do you notice how the plays are a part of the religion, and the religion is a part of the plays? That is what struck me more than anything else about it.
The May festival is over. The boys never saw it before. They will never see it again, and by and by they will be telling their sons about it, and saying to them, "When you are old men, you may perhaps see the like yourselves." I am glad we were here just in time, aren't you?
Now the boys can go back to their studies again. Horatius will take his satchel with books and writing-tablet, and go to the grammar-school every day, but his best teaching is at home with Doxius, who is reading with him the Greek poets, and who has grown to love the boy and to be loved by him.
One day his father takes him to the senate for the consuls have decreed that a senator may sometimes bring his son to listen to the debates, and learn to what duties he will probably be himself called.
Perhaps you would not care to have me tell all that he hears and sees there; but, on the next holiday the boys play senate, and we will see how they do it.
It wasn't a Saturday afternoon, but it was on some similar holiday, that Horatius, and Valerius, and Julius, and the others played senate, using the place enclosed by the pillars of a portico for their meeting, and conducting the affairs of the city as wisely as they could.
Horatius was consul, and he assembled his senators and began to ask their opinions on the very subject he had heard discussed when he went to the real senate with his father.
"But stop," said the boy, "before we begin, let's see who shall be tribune,—somebody must speak for the plebs. We ought to vote and choose a tribune." "Well," said Valerius, "run into the potter's street, and round to the corn-dealers' corner, and call in the plebeian boys to a comitia, and we will choose a tribune of the people.
So they vote, and Calpurnius is chosen tribune.
"Now," said Horatius to him, "when Julius makes his long speech, and we are going to vote that the treasures of Attalus shall go into the public treasury, you must stand up and say, 'Veto,' and that will stop us, and then you can propose to have them divided for the poor plebeians."
So the boys played senate and practised the art of governing. Many a time they sent out a consul at the head of a little army, and brought him home in triumph.
The Ides of Quintilis had passed (can you tell what time that is by our reckoning?), and, the knights in purple, with their olive crowns, had ridden in a gay procession to the temple of Castor and Pollux; and now it was just at the harvest time that one of the boys' plays became earnest, for Scipio came home from Spain, bringing treasures and captives, and he was decreed a triumph and a crown.
We will stand with the boys in the crowded streets, or on the platform if we can get a place, and see it.
The great procession is marshalled outside the gates, and starts from the Campus Martius, where we went together on May Day, you remember.
As it enters the city gate, where the magistrates meet it, we shall hear the trumpets sound a charge, and we shall be ready to shout with the people "Io triomphe," as the head of the column appears in the Via Sacra (sacred street). First the lictors to clear the way, then the trumpeters, then the victims for sacrifice—the oxen with gilded horns and oak wreaths. Next look at the wagons full of spoils, treasures of armor, cups of gold and silver, costly cloths and purple robes. Then come the poor captives, fathers, mothers, and even little children, to be made a show for the honor of the conqueror.
And now everybody crowds forward, for here is the General himself, sitting in his chariot and wearing the toga picta, a purple dress embroidered all over with gold, and the tunica palmata wrought with palm branches. See the laurel branch in one hand, and the victorious eagle on the sceptre in the other. His laurel crown of triumph is held above his head, and all the knights and soldiers follow him with laurel boughs.
Look there is a soldier with the civic crown of oak leaves. We will all shout for him, for he has saved the life of a Roman citizen in battle. And here comes Caius Cossus with his mural crown like a little turreted wall. That means that he was the first to scale the walls of the besieged city. And there is many a chain of gold and medal to be seen as we look down the long ranks.
Through the Via Sacra, then across the Forum, and up the Capitoline Hill to the Temple of Jupiter, already gloriously decorated with the spoils of many wars. And there the General lays his crown in the lap of the great statue, the sacrifice is offered, and a long day of splendors is over.
The boys have followed every step of the way, but they aren't at all tired,—oh no!—still their supper of bread and honey does taste good, and they even wish that they might also have a bit of the roasted pig, that is carried into the dining-room where the father entertains his friends in honor of the day.
The next day, while the boys are at play, we may overhear Valerius telling a story he has heard from his father, of a triumph long ago, that ended in the founding of a temple to Castor and Pollux, who had given victory to the Romans. "The boys helped found that temple, and the girls too," said Publius. "I wish they would build one now, then we could go to sprinkle the place with brook water, river water, and spring water. And then we could take hold of the ropes and help pull the first great stone into place."
"My grandfather threw gold and silver in with the first stone of that temple." cried Julius, "And so did mine," said Horatius.
But time goes on, and our Roman year is drawing to a close.
Early in December the father of little Valerius dies, and his funeral is celebrated with orations, and with shows of gladiators and wild beasts in the Forum and the Circus. These gladiators are Gauls and Germans—barbarians the Romans call them—taken in war and trained to fight with each other or with beasts for the amusement of the people. You will hear more of such barbarians by and by, if you read my next chapter.
Do you begin to think that there is nothing but fighting in Rome? If you do you will be more than half right. But we are coming now to a real, merry, happy time.
Perhaps you have guessed what it is, for you know I said it was already December. Don't you believe it is Christmas? It is, at any rate, in December, and would be just about our Christmas time. But it wasn't Christmas after all, and why?
Where do we get the name Christmas? "From the name Christ," you will answer. And do you realize that when Horatius was a boy it was more than a hundred years before the birth of Christ, so you see it couldn't be Christmas, and yet what games they had, what presents to each and all. How the servants were allowed to be equal with their masters and mistresses, and it seemed the right of every one to be merry.
They called it Saturnalia; but I don't care what name it had,—it certainly had a delightful Christmas feeling about it.
The poor people had gifts of corn and oil and honey, which meant bread and butter and sugar, (you know they had never heard of sugar in those days). And the boys had new tunics and new shoes. They wore neither stockings nor trousers.
Baskets of figs and nuts and pomegranates and apples were sent from friend to friend. And here comes a slave to the door, bringing to the father of Horatius a beautiful set of marble chess-men, a present from his friend Valerius, and with it a letter full of kind greetings and good wishes. Not a letter written on paper, but on two waxed tablets tied together and the string sealed with a bit of wax. After he has read it, he can rub it out and write an answer on the same tablet.
In the home of Horatius, and perhaps in many another besides, a good deed was done that made that Christmas Day memorable.
All the year the father of Horatius had noticed how faithfully and well the Greek slave Doxius had watched over and instructed his son, and he has resolved to give him, on the Saturnalia, the very best gift that he can.
Do you guess what?
If you can't, come with us before the magistrate, and see the glad face of Doxius when his master lays a hand upon his head and says
"This man I will to be free."
Then the slave passed out from under the hand of his master, and next from the rod of the prætor, and became a freed man, and put on the cap and the toga.
His master goes home to hang a chain upon the household Lar in honor of this act, and Doxius himself comes back to continue his teaching, though he feels like a different man, master now of himself.
Of course the boys are having a vacation, and perhaps we owe the custom of our Christmas holidays to them. Theirs even reached as far as New Year's Day, though it was not New Year, but only the Kalends of January. Yet it was the day when new magistrates came into office, and a day for giving presents. And since January is named for Janus, it must of course have a festival day for its god.
The boys have been very busy practising for a grand performance on this day. It is called the "Game of Troy." Nobody can join in it but the sons of magistrates. Horatius is going, and Valerius and Julius and thirty-six others; but the sons of the potter and the scythe-maker and the armorer and the weaver are not allowed; their fathers used to be slaves, are now only freed men; some of them are the clients or dependents of the father of Horatius. The boys who have the privilege think it a great honor to take part in this play.
There is a fine old poem which you will perhaps read some day in Latin, that tells us all about this Game of Troy. It is in fact a mimic battle not unlike the tournaments of after-years.
There are to be three captains, each with his band of twelve boys. They will perform in the great circus, and all the city will come to see.
How they have practised and drilled. They had to train their horses as well as themselves, for there is to be a cavalry charge, a pretended flight, then a sudden wheel-about upon the pursuing enemy and a grand discharge of arrows to drive them back, and last of all, a sort of curious, mazy dance on horseback in and out, back and forward—until the spectators see nothing but a mingled mass of thirty-nine boys and thirty-nine horses; and then at a word, as if by magic, the little commander, Julius, brings them into close and orderly ranks before the consuls, and the great circus echoes with applause.
It is a great day for Roman boys. Wouldn't you like to be there to see?
Horatius isn't a captain,—indeed he is the youngest boy there, and of course takes the lowest place; but he did his part well, rode his white horse handsomely, and looked like a gallant little soldier in his purple tunic with his golden bulla hanging on his breast, and his bright quiver of arrows over his shoulder.
Doxius had trained him carefully, that he might sit erect and hold up his head gracefully, even if his horse did prance and curvet when the trumpet sounded for the game to begin.
Besides the boys' Game of Troy, there was, of course, a procession and a sacrifice.
Then followed more school-days, and plays outside the walls, under the arches of the great aqueduct, which were good places for forums or circuses; and then we reach the Ides of February, the feast of Lupercus, or Pan.
This time I will ask you how we shall celebrate it, for now you have lived here long enough to know.
"A sacrifice and a procession," did you say?
Certainly, you are right; but there were some odd things about this festival that I think I must tell you.
Perhaps you know that Pan was the god of the shepherds. If you have seen pictures of him, you must remember that he has goat's feet. So a goat was the sacrifice offered, and with it a dog, because of the sheep-dogs that the shepherds always have.
It was an old, old custom, brought into Rome from some more distant time and place—from Greece, perhaps,—and as Horatius is to take part in it, you will see how curious it is.
He has been chosen, with his friend Valerius, to join in the sacrifice; so the two boys stand beside the priests, and when the poor animals are killed, a priest smears the boys' foreheads with the bloody knife, and immediately another wipes off the blood with a flock of wool dipped in milk. Then the boys must laugh, whether they feel like laughing, or not.
As Horatius comes home to his father's house on the beautiful hill, he passes a band of German gladiators returning from the amphitheatre, carrying with them a comrade badly wounded in the fight. They have angry faces, and I do not wonder, do you? It is not a manly nor kindly thing that they should be made to hurt or kill each other as an amusement for the Romans.
Do you begin now to realize how the Romans, and the Greeks too, and the Persians, are showing us the homes of our great, great, great-grandfathers?
And where shall we go next?
To no rich city, with temples and palaces and grand processions, but to a rough, wild country, with scattered villages, great forests, and hordes of half-savage warriors; and there we shall find Wulf, the Saxon boy.