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ground. The very next day the edict was torn from the public forum by an indignant Christian, and the Imperial palace was almost entirely destroyed by fire. The origin of this disaster is unknown, but it was ascribed to the Christians, and intensified the virulence of the persecution. Diocletian proceeded to Rome to celebrate a military triumph and to concert with his western colleagues more vigorous methods of persecution. It is at this period that the opening scenes of our story take place.
THE IMPERIAL BANQUET,
T the summons of Callirhoë a Nubian female
slave, Juba by name, an old family nurse, skilled in the use of herbs and potions, made her appearance. Her huge and snowy turban and her bright-coloured dress strikingly contrasted with her jet complexion and homely features. Yet, as the personal attendant of the young empress, it was her duty to accompany her mistress to the banquet-hall, to stand behind her chair, to adjust her robes, hold her fan, and obey her every word or gesture. As she drew aside the curtain of the apartment which shut out the light and heat, two lictors who guarded the door sprang to their feet and preceded the empress through the marble corridor to the triclinium, or banquet chamber. It was a fainily paidy, rather than a state banquet, but neither Greeks nor Romans practised a profuse hospitality nor held large social or festive gatherings like those of modern times. Their feasts were rather for the intense epicurean pleasure of a favoured few than for the rational enjoyment of a larger company.'
Couches inlaid with ivory and decked with cushions surrounded three sides of a hollow square. On these the emperor and his male guests reclined, each resting on his left arm. On ivory chairs facing the open side of the square sat the Empress Prisca (a majestic-looking matron of somewhat grave aspect), Valeria, and a lady of the court, each accompanied by her female slave. The extreme ugliness of the Nubian Juba acted as a foil for the striking beauty of Valeria.
First of all, the guests were crowned with wreaths of fair and fragrant fluwers. Then elegantly dressed slaves brought in, to the sound of music, the different courses: first eggs dressed with vinegar, olives and lettuce, like our salad; then roast pheasants, peacocks' tongues and thrushes, and the livers of capons steeped in milk; next oysters brought alive from the dis
* On a single supper for his friends, Lucullus, who is said i have ted his lampreys with the bodies of his slaves, is recorded to have expended 50,000 denarii — aum $8,500.
tant shores of Great Britain, and, reversing our order, fish in great variety-one
great variety-one of the most beautiful of these was the purple mullet-served with high-seasoned condiments and sauces. Of solid meats the favourite dish was a roast sucking pig, elegantly garnished. Of vegetables they had nothing corresponding to our potatoes, but, instead, a profusion of mallows, lentils, truses, and mushrooms. The banquet wound up with figs, olives, almonds, grapes, tarts and confections, and apples-hence the phrase ab ovo ad mala.
After the first course the emperor poured out a libation of Falernian wine, with the Greek formula, “to the supreme God," watching eagerly if his wife and daughter would do the same. Lacking the courage to make a bold confession of Christianity, and thinking, with a casuistry that we shall not attempt to defend, that the ambiguity of the expression excused the act, they also, apparently to the great relief of the emperor, poured out a libation and sipped a small quantity of the wine. The emperor then drank to the health of his wife and daughter, wishing the litter many returns of the auspicious day they had met to celebrate. Each of the guests also made, according to his ability, a complimentary specch, which the ladies acknowledged by a gracious salutation. After the repast slaves brought perfumed water and embroidered napkins for the guests to wash their fingers, which had been largely employed in the process of dining.
The most of the guests were sycophants and satellites of the emperor, and in the intervals between the courses employed their art in flattering his vanity or fomenting his prejudices. One of them, Semphronius by name, an old fellow with a very bald and shiny head and a very vivacious manner, made great pretensions to the character of a philosopher or professor of universal knowleilge, and was ever ready, with a great flow of often unmeaning words, to give a theory or explanation of every conceivable subject. Others were coarse and sensual-looking bon vivants, who gave their attention chiefly to the enjoyment of the good fare set before then. Another sinister-looking fellow, with a disagreeable cast in one eye and a nervous habit of clenching his hand as if grasping his sword, was Quintus Naso, the prefect of the city. He had been a successful soldier, or rather butcher, in the Pannonian wars, and was promoted to his bad eminence of office on account of his truculent severity. Of very different character, however, was a young man of noble family, Adauctus by name, who was present in his oflicial character as Treasurer of the Imperial Exchequer.* He
* His name and office are recorded even by so skeptical a critic as Gibbon, and his epitaph has been found in the Catacombs. See Withrow's Catacombs, p. 46.