« PredošláPokračovať »
done with it for ever. As the easy-going Horace says, 'The same thing happens to us all. When our name, sooner or later, has issued from the fatal urn, we leave our woods, our villa, our pleasant homes, and enter the bark which is to bear us into eternal exile !” *
Here the Emperor made an impatient gesture, to indicate that he was weary of this philosophic discourse. At the signal the ladies rose and retired. Adauctus also made his official duties an excuse for leaving the table, where Diocletiau and his other guests lingered for hours in a drunken symposium.
Thus we find that the very questions which engage the agnostics and skeptics and pessimists of the present age—the Mallocks, and Cliffords, and Harrisons and their tribe—have agitated the world from the very dawn of philosoplıy. Did space permit, we might cite the thcories of Lucretius as a strange anticipation of the development hypothesis. Indeed the writings of Pyrrho, Purphyry and Celsus show us that the universal tendency of human philosophy, unaided by divine iuspiration, is to utter skepticism.
* See that saddest but most beautiful of the ode of Horace, To Delius, II. 3:
Et nos in æternum
last chapter, to the palace of the Prelect Naso, on the Aventine. It was a large and pompouslooking building, with a many-columned portico and spacious gardens, both crowded with statuary, the spoil of foreign cities, or the product of degenerate Greek art—as offensive in design as skilful in execution. The whole bore evidence of the ostentation of vulgar wealth rather than of judicious taste. A crowd of “clients” and satellites of the great man were hanging round the doors, eager to present some petition, proffer some service, or to swell his idle retinue, like jackals around a lion, hoping to pick up a living as hangers-on of such a powerful and unscrupulous dispenser of patronage. In the degenerate days of the Empire, the civic officials especially had always a swarm of needy dependents seeking to batten on the spoils of office. They were supposed, in some way, to add to the dignity of the consuls and prætors, as in later times were the retainers of a medieval baron. The system of slavery had made all honest labour opprobrious, and these idle, corrupt, and dangerous parasites had to be kept in good humour by lavish doles and constant amusements. “Bread and the Circus," was their imperious demand, and having these, they cared for nothing else.
On the morning in question there was considerable excitement among this turbulent throng, for the rumour was current that there was to be an examination of certain prisoners accused of the vile crime of Christianity; and there were hopes that the criminals would supply fresh victims for the games of the amphitheatre, which for some time had languished for lack of suitable material. The temper of the mob we may learn by the remarks that reach our ears as we elbow our way through.
“Ho, Davus! what's the news to-day ?” asked a cobbler with his leathern apron tucked up about his waist, of a greasy-looking individual. who strutted about with much affectation of dignity; "you have the run of his Excellency's kitchen, and ought to know."
you there, Samos ?” (a nick-name meaning Flat Nose). “Back to your den, you slave, and don't meddle with gentlemen. 'Ne sutor,' you know the rest.”
“Can't you see that the cook drove him out with the basting ladle ?” said Muscus, the stoutarmed blacksmith, himself a slave, and resenting the insult to his class; and so the laugh was turned against the hungry parasite.
"Here, good Max, you are on the guard, you can tell us,” went on the burly smith.
“News enough, as you'll soon find. There's to be more hunting of the Christians for those who like it. For my part, I don't.”
'Why not,” asked Burdo, the butcher, a truculent looking fellow with a great knife in a sheath at his girdle. “I'd like no better fun. I'd as lief kill a Christian as kill a calf.”
" It might suit your business," answered stout Max, with a sneer, “but hunting women and children is not a soldier's trade.”
O ho! that's the game that's a-foot !” chuckled a withered little wretch with a hungry face and cruel eyes, like a weasel. “ Here's a chance for an honest man who worships the old gods to turn an honest penny.”
“Honest man!” gruwled Max. "Diogenes would want a good lantern to find one in Rome to-day. He'd certainly never take thee for one.
Thy very face would convict thee of violating all the laws in the Twelve Tables.”
“Hunting the Christians, that's the game, is it?” said an ill-dressed idler, blear-eyed and besotted; "and pestilent vermin they are. I'd like to see them all drowned in the Tiber like so many rats.”
“You are more likely to see them devoured in the amphitheatre,” said Bruto, a Herculean gladiator. “The Prefect is going to give some grand games on the Feast of Neptune. Our new lions will have a chance to flesh their teeth in the bodies of the Christians. The wretches havn't the courage to fight, like the Dacian prisoners, with us gladiators, nor even with the beasts; but just let themselves be devoured like sheep.”
At this juncture a commotion was observed about the door, and Naso, the Prefect, came forth and looked haughtily around. Several clients pressed forward with petitions, which he carelessly handed unopened to his secretary, who walked behind. He regarded with some interest the elegantly-dressed and graceful youth who glided through the throng and presented a scroll, saying, as he did so
“ It is of much importance, your Excellency. It is about the Christians."
“ Follow me to the Forum,” said the Prefect,