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bench, “this is too luxurious an apartment for you. For you we have a deeper depth.” And he pointed to an opening in the floor, hitherto unnoticed in the gloom. “Nay, you need not shrink, old man,” he went on, as Demetrius recoiled from the grave-like opening at his feet. “ Your betters have been there before you."
“Father, your blessing e'er you go,” exclaimed Callirhoë, and flinging herself on his breast, she received his kiss and benediction.
By means of a leathern strap beneath their arms, the prisoners were one by one let down into a hideous vault, like men to a living burial. Into this lower dungeon no beam of light struggled, save a precarious ray from the opening in the floor above. The loathsome cell was even then dank with the slime of well-nigh a thousand years, its construction being attributed to Ancus Martius, the fourth king of Rome. Here the African prince, Jugurtha, was starved to death. “What a cold bath is this !” he exclaimed, as he descended into its chilly gloom. Here the Gallic king, Vercingetorix, also died. Here the usurper Sejanus was executed, and here the fellow conspirators of Cataline lingered to death. If we would accept Roman tradition, we would also believe that St. Peter and St. Paul were immured in this dismal vault, and in the case of the latter illustrious martyr it is more than likely that the
story is true. A stairway has now been constructed to this lower depth, and the present writer has stood upon the stone pavement worn by the feet of generations of victims of oppression, and has drunk of a spring at which the Apostle of the Gentiles may have quenched his thirst.
The prisoners enjoyed not long even this sad reprieve from death. They were destined soon to finish their course by a glorious martyrdou. The Emperors determined to gratify at once their own persecuting fury and the cruel thirst for blood of the Roman mob, by offering a holocaust of victims in the amphitheatre. The Acta Diurna, a sort of public gazette of the day, which circulated in the great houses, and baths, and other places of concourse, contained the announcement of a grand exhibition of the ludi circenses, or gladiatorial games, to be celebrated in nonour of the god Neptune-Neptunus Equestris. In the public spaces of the Forum, and in the neighbourhood of the Flavian Amphitheatre and elsewhere, where the crowd around them would not obstruct the highway, were displayed large white bulletin boards, on which were written in coloured chalks a list of the games—like the play bills which placard the streets of great cities to-day—and heralds proclaimed through every street, even in the crowded Ghetto, the splendour of the ap
proaching games. These were on a scale or which no modern manager ever dreanied. Trajan exhibited games which lasted a hundred and twentythree days, in which 10,000 gladiators fought and 11,000 fierce animals were killed. Sonietimes the vast arena was flooded with water, and naumachia or sea-fights were exhibited. The vast floou-yales aud cisterns by whicu this was acconiplished may still be seen.
The chief attraction of the games provided by the Emperors Diocletian and Galerius, however, was not the conflict of what might almost be called armies of trained gladiators, nor the slaughter of hundreds of fierce Libyan leopards and Numidian lions, but the sacrifice of some scores of helpless and unarmed Christians-old men, weak wenien, and tenuer and inuoceut chiluren.
There was much excitement in the schools of the gladiators-vast stone warracks, where they were drilled in their dreadiul trade. They were originally captives taken in war, or condemned malefactors; but in tiie degenerate days of the Empire, knights, senators, and soldiers sought distinction in the arena, and even unsexed women fought half-naked in the ring, or lay dead and trainpled in the sands. To captives of war was often offered, as a reward for special skill or courage, their freedom, and fierce and fell were conflicts to which men were spurred by the double incentives of life and liberty.
Special interest was given to the forthcoming games by the distinguished reputationof one of the volunteer gladiators, a brilliant young military officer, our friend Ligurius Rufus, who, sated and sickened with the most frenzied dissipations that Rome could offer, plunged into this mimic war to appease by its excitement the gnawing ennui of his life.
The bets ran high upon the reckless young noble who was the favourite of the sporting spendthrifts and profligates of the city. The vilest condition of society that ever cursed the earth was filling up the measure of its iniquity, and invoking the wrath of Heaven. The wine shops in the Suburra and the gladiators' quarter were overflowing with a brawling, blaspheming, drunken mob, the vilest dregs of the vilest city the patient earth has ever borne upon its bosom.
THE EVE OP VARTIRDO:I. Ē AR different was the scene presented by an
other spot not far distant—a vaulted chamber beneath the stone seats of the Coliseum, whither the destined Christian martyrs had been removed on the eve before the day of their triumph. As an act of grace, some coarse straw, the refuse of a lion's lair, had been given them, and the relief to their fetter-cramped limbs, stiffened with lying on a rough stone floor, was in itself an indescribable delight. But they had a deeper cause of joy. They were found worthy to witness a good confession for Christ before Cæsar, like the beloved Apostle Paul; and even as their Lord Himself before Pontius Pilate. And now the day of their espousals to their Heavenly Bridegroom was at hand.
The silvery-haired Demetrius, a holy calm beaming in his eyes, uttered words of peace and