« PreviousContinue »
Sultan, that he might not be interrupted in his progress to the garden.-In this deplorable condition he found his Louisa, lifeless at his feet, her own executioner.-To find her, whom he expected to receive him with raptures, in such a condition, was a shock, the severest he had ever felt, but the sight of the poniard almost drove him to distraction.
ANECDOTE OF M. BOISSI.
M. Boissi, the author of several approved dramatic pièces, had not found hiinself exempt from the usual fate of those who cultivate the inuses. Even that spot, said to be the least barren one of Parnassus, the theatre, had produced to himn little more than a scanty maintenance for himself, his wife, and one child. In short, misfortunes, want of economy perhaps, or whatever else might be the cause, I cannot well say ; but he was reduced to the most deplorable extremities of want.
In this condition, sinking under the indignities of his fate, he had, however, too much of that spirit which characterises genius, to debase himself by mean applications of mendicant letters. He had friends, whose kindness his need of them had not exhausted, and whom, for that very reason, he was the more averse from troubling. But his friends were but the more inexcusable, if they knew his distress, not to save him the pain of an application. However, Boissi, overcome with the irksomeness of his circumstances, embraced a resolution of taking the shortest way out of the world, that of death. And in the light in which he considered it, as a friendly relief from further misery, he not only persuaded his wife to keep him company, but not to leave behind them a boy, a child of five years old, to the mercy of a world in which they had found so little. Probably the example of Richard Smith, in much the same situation, an example to which Voltaire's recording it gave such notoriety, might have its share in the fatal determination.
This resolution now formed of dying together, there remained notking but to fix the manner of it. The most torturous one was chosen, that of hunger, not only as the most natural consequence of their condition, of which it might pass for the involuntary effect, but as it saved a violence which neither Boissi nor his wife could find in their hearts to use to one another. In that solitude then of their apartment, in which the unfortunate need so little to apprehend their being disturbed, they resolved to wait with unshaken constancy the arrival of their deliverer, though under the meagre griin form of famine. They began then, and reso.
lutely proceeded on their plan of starving themselves to death, with their child. If any called, by chance, at their apartment, finding it locked, and no answer given, it was only concluded that no body was at home. Thus they had all the time they could wish to cousummate their intention. "But what can conceive or damp a true friend? They had one, it seems, of a fortune not much superior to their own, and whom, for that reason, and for the dread of being an inconvenience to him, they had never acquainted with the extremities to which they were actually driven.
(To be concluded in our next.)
The following curious circumstance has been transmitted to us from a quarter
on which we can rely :Two eccentric youths, who, through motives of economy, partook of the same bed, at a coffin-maker's in the neighbourhood of Covent Garden, where they lodged, returned home a few nights ago to repose, after sa
crificing with a degree of uncommon devotion at the ruddy shrine of the Jolly God." The most gigantic of the youths took pos
session of the bed, which was but of small dimensions at the best, and fell into a profound sleep. The other, devout even in his cups, offered up his customary prayers, when he found himself so chilled, and the bed so completely occupied by his narcotic companion, that he knew not what to do; but as “ necessity is the mother of invention,” he staggered into an adjoining room, and brought into his own a coffin made for a corpse in an adjacent street ; into this he tumbled, wrapped in a black cloak, and half covered with the lid. Soon he was in a deathlike sleep; but in the morning, when his companion was awake, and saw the coffin and its contents, he trembled with fright, leaped from the bed, and ran down stairs. The Undertaker's men were just come at the moment for the coffin. In his, fright, he told them it was above stairs with the corpse. They went up accordingly, covered it over, and took it away with its sleepy contents. When deposited at the house of the real deceased, whose friends were assembled to take a last parting look, how much were they terrified to see the young man, who was aroused from his slumbers, awake, and sit erect, unconscious of where he was, or how he came there. The women screamed, the men were petrified, the affrighted youth himself was aghast with fear; but on his recol'lection:returning, he took to his heels with his sombre robes, and ran tó his lodgings, where his terrified companion has never since been seen.
AN ACCOUNT OF THIE ROMAN GLAĎIATORS.
(Continued from page 16.)
The Meridiani, who were thus named, because 'they ap: peared only at noon : they fought with a kind of sword against those of the same class. The Bestiarii, gladiators either by condition, or bravadoes, who attacked wild animals, to shew their courage or address, like the Spanish Toreros, Toreadors of the present day. And lastly, the Fiscales, the Cæsareani, and the Postulatitii, who were maintained at the expence of the Emperors. They took the name of Caesareans, because they were destined for those exhibitions, at which the Emperors assisted'; and as they were the bravest and the most skilful of all the gladiators, they were called Postulatitii, because the people often called for them.
The Catervarii, were gladiators taken from the different classes, who fought in troops several against several.
The same industry which formed different classes of gla. diators, rendered the institution lucrative for those who devised them. They were called Lanistæ, and to their care were committed prisoners, criminals, and slaves, who had been guilty of any crime.
To these they added other slaves, skilful and robust, whom they had purchased for the public games, and whom they encouraged to fight with hopes of liberty. They trained them to this inhuman diversion, taught them to handle their arms with address, and exercised them continually for different kinds of combats, in order to recommend them interesting to the spectators; and, in this respect, it must be allova ed, that they had too much success.
Besides, gladiators of this kind, there were sometimes freed men, who hired themselves to fight, either on account of the depravity of the times, or of their own indigence, which induced them to follow this occupation for the sake of money. The masters who hired these voluntary gladiators, made them swear they would rather die than yield.
Those who were desirous of exhibiting gladiators, applied to those masters who furnished a certain number of pairs of the different classes at a price agreed on, but in process of time, the chief men of the Republic maintained gladiators for this, or for other purposes; and among this number we may reckon Julius Cæsar.
The Ædiles at first superintended these cruel sports ; after wards the Prætors, and Commodus at length, assigned this care to the Quæstors.
The Emperors, either for the sake of pleasure, or in order to gain the friendship of the pevple, exhibited such shews on their birth-days, at the dedications of public edifices, at triumphs, before they set out upon any warlike expedition, after a victory, and upon other solemn occasions. Suetonius relates, that Tiberius gave two combats of gladiators, one in honour of his father, and the other in honour of Drusus.
Some time before the day appointed for the combat, those who presided over the gaines, gave notice to the people, by bills posted up in certain places, in which were mentioned the kind of gladiators who were to be exhibited, their names, and the marks by which they might be distinguished ; for each assumed a certain mark, such
as the feathers of the peacock, or of other birds. They specified, also the duration of the spectacle, and how many pairs of gladiators there would be, because they were always coupled. All this was some. times represented in.paintings exposed in public.
On the day appointed for the spectacle, two kinds of arms were brought up to the arena; one of which were knotty cudgels, or wooden files named rudes, but the other were real arms, such as swords, poignards, cutlasses &c. The first kind were called arma lusoria, sporting weapons: and the second, arma decretoria, arms decreed, because they were given
by a decree of the Prætor, or of the person who defrayed the expence of the spectacle. The gladiators began by fencing with the first weapons, which were, as it were, a kind of preludes after which, they took the second, and fought either naked, or in a sort of jackets. The first kind of combat was called præludere, to sport; the second, care at certum, to fight in earnest. As soon as the blood began to flow from the gladiator, the people cried out “he is wounded;" and if at that moment the combatant laid down his arms, it was concluded that be acknowledged himself to be vanquished; his life, however, depended upon the spectators, or the person who presided over the games; but if the Emperor entered at that instant, he saved him, either simply, or on condition that, if he recovered of his wounds, he should not be exempted from fighting again.
In the ordinary course of things, the people decided concerning the life and death of the wounded gladiator : if he displayed great courage and address, they always saved him ; but if he behaved cowardly, and shewed timidity, he was generally devoted to destruction. . When the people intendad to save the life of a gladiator, they held up their hands,
with the thumb bent down under the fingers ; and when they pronounced his sentence of death, it was sufficient to shew their hands with the thumb raised up, and directed towards the unhappy victim. The wounded gladiators knew so well this last signal, that they were accustomed to present their throats as soon as they saw it, to receive the mortal stab, After they have expired, their bodies were dragged away from the arena, that such hideous objects might be concealed from the view of the spectators.
The fondness of the Romans for these brutal amusements, was carried at length to such a height, that Cicero introduced a law, that no person should exhibit a shew of gladiators, within two years before he stood candidate for any public office. Julius Cæsar ordered, that only such a number of men of this profession should be in Rome at a time. Auguse tus decreed, that only two shews of gladiators should be presented in a year, and never above sixty pair of combatants in a shew; and Tiberius provided, by an order of the Senate, that no person should have privilege of gratifying the people with such an entertainment, unless he was worth four hundred thousand sesterces. But the inclination of several emperors for this sanguinary sport, ruined the state, by increasing so barbarous a practice. Nero, according to Suetonius, made several Roman Knights and Senators appear in these tragical seenes, obliging them either to fight with one another, or against wild beasts. Dion assures us that there were peoplo base enough to offer to fight among the gladiators, in order to please the prince: even princes themselves exercised this infamous profession; for we are told that the Emperor Commodus assumed the office of a gladiator, and fought with wild beasts.
We ought not to be surprised so much at the length of time which these sports continued, as at the degree of refinement to which they were carried. The gladiators were not only instructed in their art with the greatest care, and dig in a graceful posture, but different kinds of murdering weapons were invented, with which these wretches destroyed one another; and in these, such a combination was sought, as might render their combats slower and more terrible. But what may appear still more astonishing is, they were even fed with barley cakes, and other kinds of food, proper for rendering them corpulent, in order that the blood might flow more slowly from the wounds they received, which gave the spectators an opportunity of enjoying their agony longer.