By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: A Thorny Path — Volume 09
Author: Ebers, Georg
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Thorny Path — Volume 09" ***


By Georg Ebers

Volume 9.


The lady Euryale's silent prayer was interrupted by the return of
Alexander.  He brought the clothes which Seleukus's wife had given him
for Melissa.  He was already dressed in his best, and crowned like all
those who occupied the first seats in the Circus; but his festal garb
accorded ill with the pained look on his features, from which every trace
had vanished of the overflowing joy in life which had embellished them
only this morning.

He had seen and heard things which made him feel that it would no longer
be a sacrifice to give his life to save his sister.

Sad thoughts had flitted across his cheerful spirit like dark bats, even
while he was talking with Melissa and her protectress, for he knew well
how infinitely hard his father would find it to have to quit Alexandria;
and if he himself fled with Melissa he would be obliged to give up the
winning of fair Agatha.  The girl's Christian father had indeed received
him kindly, but had given him to understand plainly enough that he would
never allow a professed heathen to sue for his daughter's hand.  Besides
this, he had met with other humiliations which placed themselves like a
wall between him and his beloved, the only child of a rich and respected
man.  He had forfeited the right of appearing before Zeus as a suitor;
for indeed he was no longer such as he had been only yesterday.

The news that Caracalla proposed to marry Melissa had been echoed by
insolent tongues, with the addition that he, Alexander, had ingratiated
himself with Caesar by serving him as a spy.  No one had expressly said
this to him; but, while he was hurrying through the city in Caesar's
chariot, on the ladies' message, it had been made very plain to his
apprehension.  Honest men had avoided him--him to whom hitherto every one
for whose regard he cared had held out a friendly hand; and much else
that he had experienced in the course of this drive had been unpleasant
enough to give rise to a change of his whole inner being.

The feeling that every one was pointing at him the finger of scorn,
or of wrath, had never ceased to pursue him.  And he had been under no
illusion; for when he met the old sculptor Lysander, who only yesterday
had so kindly told him and Melissa about Caesar's mother, as he nodded
from the chariot his greeting was not returned; and the honest artist had
waved his hand with a gesture which no Alexandrian could fail to
understand as meaning, "I no longer know you, and do not wish to be
recognized by you."

He had from his childhood loved Diodoros as a brother, and in one of the
side streets, down which the chariot had turned to avoid the tumult in
the Kanopic way, Alexander had seen his old friend.  He had desired the
charioteer to stop, and had leaped out on the road to speak to Diodoros
and give him at once Melissa's message; but the young man had turned his
back with evident displeasure, and to the painter's pathetic appeal,
"But, at any rate, hear me!"  he answered, sharply: "The less I hear of
you and yours the better for me.  Go on--go on, in Caesar's chariot!"

With this he had turned away and knocked at the door of an architect who
was known to them both; and Alexander, tortured with painful feelings,
had gone on, and for the first time the idea had taken possession of him
that he had indeed descended to the part of spy when he had betrayed to
Caesar what Alexandrian wit had to say about him.  He could, of course,
tell himself that he would rather have faced death or imprisonment than
have betrayed to Caracalla the name of one of the gibers; still, he had
to admit to himself that, but for the hope of saving his father and
brother from death and imprisonment, he would hardly have done Caesar
such service.  The mercy shown to them was certainly too like payment,
and his own part in the matter struck him as hateful and base.  His
fellow-townsmen had a right to bear him a grudge, and his friends to keep
out of his way.  A feeling came over him of bitter self-contempt,
hitherto strange to him; and he understood for the first time how Philip
could regard life as a burden and call it a malicious Danaus-gift of the
gods.  When, finally, in the Kanopic way, close in front of Seleukus's
house, a youth unknown to him cried, scornfully, as the chariot was
slowly making its way through the throng, "The brother-in-law of
Tarautas!" he had great difficulty in restraining himself from leaping
down and letting the rascal feel the weight of his fists.  He knew, too,
that Tarautas was the name of a hateful and bloodthirsty gladiator which
had been given as a nickname to Caesar in Rome; and when he heard the
insolent fellow's cry taken up by the mob, who shouted after him,
"Tarautas's brother-in-law!" wherever he went, he felt as though he were
being pelted with mire and stones.

It would have been a real comfort to him if the earth would have opened
to swallow him with the chariot, to hide him from the sight of men.  He
could have burst out crying like a child that has been beaten.  When at
last he was safe inside Seleukus's house, he was easier; for here he was
known; here he would be understood.  Berenike must know what he thought
of Caesar's suit, and seeing her wholesome and honest hatred, he had
sworn to himself that he would snatch his sister from the hands of the
tyrant, if it were to lead him to the most agonizing death.

While she was engaged in selecting a dress for her protegee, he related
to the lady Euryale what had happened to him in the street and in the
house of Seleukus.  He had been conducted past the soldiers in the
vestibule and impluvium to the lady's private rooms, and there he had
been witness to a violent matrimonial dispute.  Seleukus had previously
delivered to his wife Caesar's command that she should appear in the
Amphitheater with the other noble dames of the city.  Her answer was a
bitter laugh, and a declaration that she would mingle with the spectators
in none but mourning robes.  Thereupon her husband, pointing out to her
the danger to which such conduct would expose them, had raised
objections, and she at last had seemed to yield.  When Alexander joined
her he had found her in a splendid dress of shining purple brocade, her
black hair crowned with a wreath of roses, and a splendid diadem; a
garland of roses hung across her bosom, and precious stones sparkled
round her throat and arms.  In short, she was arrayed like a happy mother
for her daughter's wedding-day.

Soon after Alexander's arrival Seleukus had come in, and this
conspicuously handsome dress, so unbecoming to the matron's age, and so
unlike her usual attire-chosen, evidently, to put the monstrosity of
Caesar's demand in the strongest light--had roused her husband's wrath.
He had expressed his dissatisfaction in strong terms, and again pointed
out to her the danger in which such a daring demonstration might involve
them; but this time there was no moving the lady; she would not despoil
herself of a single rose.  After she had solemnly declared that she would
appear in the Circus either as she thought fit or not at all, her husband
had left her in anger.

"What a fool she is!" Euryale exclaimed.

Then she showed him a white robe of beautiful bombyx, woven in the isle
of Kos, which she had decided on for Melissa, and a peplos with a border
of tender sea-green; and Alexander approved of the choice.

Time pressed, and Euryale went at once to Melissa with the new festal
raiment.  Once more she nodded kindly to the girl, and begged her, as she
herself had something to discuss with Alexander, to allow the waiting-
woman to dress her.  She felt as if she were bringing the robe to a
condemned creature, in which she was to be led to execution, and Melissa
felt the same.

Euryale then returned to the painter, and bade him end his narrative.

The lady Berenike had forthwith desired Johanna to pack together all the
dead Korinna's festal dresses.  Alexander had then followed her guidance,
accompanying her to a court in the slaves' quarters, where a number of
men were awaiting her.  These were the captains of Seleukus's ships,
which were now in port, and the superintendents of his granaries and
offices, altogether above a hundred freedmen in the merchant's service.
Each one seemed to know what he was here for.

The matron responded to their hearty greetings with a word of thanks, and
added, bitterly:

"You see before you a mourning mother whom a ruthless tyrant compels to
go to a festival thus--thus--only look at me--bedizened like a peacock!"

At this the bearded assembly gave loud expression to their
dissatisfaction, but Berenike went on "Melapompus has taken care to
secure good places; but he has wisely not taken them all together.  You
are all free men; I have no orders to give you.  But, if you are indeed
indignant at the scorn and heart-ache inflicted on your lord's wife, make
it known in the Circus to him who has brought them on her.  You are all
past your first youth, and will carefully avoid any rashness which may
involve you in ruin.  May the avenging gods aid and protect you!"

With this she had turned her back on the multitude; but Johannes, the
Christian lawyer, the chief freedman of the household, had hurried into
the court-yard, just in time to entreat her to give up this ill-starred
demonstration, and to extinguish the fire she had tried to kindle.
So long as Caesar wore the purple, rebellion against him, to whom the
Divinity had intrusted the sovereignty, was a sin.  The scheme she was
plotting was meant to punish him who had pained her; but she forgot that
it might cost these brave men, husbands and fathers, their life or
liberty.  The vengeance she called on them to take might be balm to the
wounds of her own heart; but if Caesar in his wrath brought destruction
down on these, her innocent instruments, that balm would turn to burning

These words, whispered to her with entire conviction, had not been
without their effect.  For some minutes Berenike had stared gloomily at
the ground; but then she had again approached the assembly, to repeat the
warning given her by the Christian, whom all respected, and by whom some
indeed had been persuaded to be baptized.

"Johannes is right," she ended.  "This ill-used heart did wrong when it
sent up its cry of anguish before you.  Rather will I be trodden under
foot by the enemy, as is the manner of the Christians, than bring such
misfortune on innocent men, who are so faithful to our house.  Be
cautious, then.  Give no overt expression to your feelings.  Let each one
who feels too weak to control his wrath, avoid the Circus; and those who
go, keep still if they feel moved to act in my behalf.  One thing
only you may do.  Tell every one, far and wide, what I had purposed.
What others may do, they themselves must answer for."

The Christian had strongly disapproved of this last clause; but Berenike
had paid no heed, and had left the court-yard, followed by Alexander.

The shouts of the indignant multitude had rung in their ears, and, in
spite of her warning, they had sounded like a terrible threat.  Johannes,
to be sure, had remained, to move them to moderation by further

"What were the mad creatures plotting?" Euryale anxiously broke in; and
he hastily went on "They call Caesar by no name but Tarautas; every mouth
is full of gibes and rage at the new and monstrous taxes, the billeting
of the troops, and the intolerable insolence of the soldiery, which
Caracalla wickedly encourages.  His contemptuous indifference has deeply
offended the heads of the town.  And then his suit to my sister!  Young
and old are wagging their tongues over it."

"It would be more like them to triumph in it," said the matron,
interrupting him.  "An Alexandrian in the purple, on the throne of the

"I too had hoped that," cried Alexander, "and it seemed so likely.  But
who can understand the populace?  Every woman in the place, I should have
thought, would hold her head higher, at the thought that an Alexandrian
girl was empress; but it was from the women that I heard the most
vindictive and shameless abuse.  I heard more than enough; for, as we got
closer to the Serapeum, the more slowly was the chariot obliged to
proceed, to make its way through the crowd.  And the things I heard!  I
clinch my fists now as I only think of them.--And what will it be in the
Circus?  What will not Melissa have to endure!"

"It is envy," the matron murmured to herself; but she was immediately
silent, for the young girl came toward them, out of the bedroom.  Her
toilet was complete; the beautiful white dress became her well.  The
wreath of roses, with diamond dewdrops, lay lightly on her hair, the
snake-shaped bracelet which her imperial suitor had sent her clasped her
white arm, and her small head, somewhat bent, her pale, sweet face, and
large, bashful, inquiring, drooping eyes formed such an engaging, modest,
and unspeakably touching picture, that Euryale dared to hope that even in
the Circus none but hardened hearts could harbor a hostile feeling
against this gentle, pure blossom, slightly drooping with silent sorrow.
She could not resist the impulse to kiss Melissa, and the half-formed
purpose ripened within her to venture the utmost for the child's
protection.  The pity in her heart had turned to love; and when she saw
that to this sweet creature, at the mere sight of whom her heart went
forth, the most splendid jewels, in which any other girl would have been
glad to deck herself, were as a heavy burden to be borne but sadly, she
felt it a sacred duty to comfort her and lighten this trial, and shelter
Melissa, so far as was in her power, from insult and humiliation.

It was many years since she had visited the Amphitheater, where the
horrible butchery was an abomination to her; but to-day her heart bade
her conquer her old aversion, and accompany the girl to the Circus.

Had not Melissa taken the place in her heart of her lost daughter?  Was
not she, Euryale, the only person who, by showing herself with Melissa
and declaring herself her friend, could give the people assurance that
the girl, who was exposed to misapprehension and odium by the favor she
had met with from the ruthless and hated sovereign, was in truth pure and
lovable?  Under her guardianship, by her side, the girl, as she knew,
would be protected from misapprehension and insult; and she, an old woman
and a Christian, should she evade the first opportunity of taking up a
cross in imitation of the Divine Master, among whose followers she
joyfully counted herself--though secretly, for fear of men?  All this
flashed through her mind with the swiftness of lightning, and her call,
"Doris!" addressed to her waiting-woman, was so clear and unexpected that
Melissa's overstrung nerves were startled.  She looked up at the lady in
amazement, as, without a word of explanation, she said to the woman who
had hurried in:

"The blue robe I wore at the festival of Adonis, my mother's diadem,
and a large gem with the head of Serapis for my shoulder.  My hair--oh,
a veil will cover it!  What does it matter for an old woman?--You, child,
why do you look at me in such amazement?  What mother would allow a
pretty young daughter to appear alone in the Circus?  Besides, I may
surely hope that it will confirm your courage to feel that I am at your
side.  Perhaps the populace may be moved a little in your favor if the
wife of the high-priest of their greatest god is your companion."

But she could scarcely end her speech, for Melissa had flown into her
arms, exclaiming, "And you will do this for me?"  while Alexander, deeply
touched by gratitude and joy, kissed her thin arm and the hem of her

While Melissa helped the matron to change her dress--in the next room
Alexander paced to and fro in great unrest.  He knew the Alexandrians,
and there was not the slightest doubt but that the presence of this
universally revered lady would make them look with kindlier eyes on his
sister.  Nothing else could so effectually impress them with the entire
propriety of her appearance in the Circus.  The more seriously he had
feared that Melissa might be deeply insulted and offended by the rough
demonstrations of the mob, the more gratefully did his heart beat; nay,
his facile nature saw in this kind act the first smile of returning good

He only longed to be hopeful once more, to enjoy the present--as so many
philosophers and poets advised--and especially the show in the Circus,
his last pleasure, perhaps; to forget the imminent future.

The old bright look came back to his face; but it soon vanished, for even
while he pictured himself in the amphitheatre, he remembered that there,
too, his former acquaintances might refuse to speak to him; that the
odious names of "Tarautas' brother-in-law" or of "traitor" might be
shouted after him on the road.  A cold chill came over him, and the image
of pretty Ino rose up before him--Ino, who had trusted in his love; and
to whom, of all others, he had given cause to accuse him of false-
heartedness.  An unpleasant sense came over him of dissatisfaction with
himself, such as he, who always regarded self-accusation, repentance,
and atonement as a foolish waste of life, had never before experienced.

The fine, sunny autumn day had turned to a sultry, dull evening, and
Alexander went to the window to let the sea-breeze fan his dewy brow; but
he soon heard voices behind him, for Euryale and Melissa had re-entered
the room, followed by the house-steward, who presented to his mistress a
sealed tablet which a slave had just brought from Philostratus.  The
women had been talking of Melissa's vow; and Euryale had promised her
that, if Fate should decide against Caesar, she would convey the girl to
a place of safety, where she could certainly not be discovered, and might
look forward in peace to the future.  Then she had impressed on her that,
if things should be otherwise ordered, she must endure even the
unendurable with patience, as an obedient wife, as empress, but still
ever conscious of the solemn and beneficent power she might wield in her
new position.

The tablets would now settle the question; and side by side the two women
hastily read the missive which Philostratus had written on the wax, in
his fine, legible hand.  It was as follows:

"The condemned have ceased to live.  Your efforts had no effect but to
hasten their end.  Caesar's desire was to rid you of adversaries even
against your will.  Vindex and his nephew are no more; but I embarked
soon enough to escape the rage of him who might have attained the highest
favors of fortune if he had but known how to be merciful."

"God be praised!--but alas, poor Vindex!" cried Euryale, as she laid down
the tablets.  But Melissa kissed her, and then exclaimed to her brother:

"Now all doubts are at an end.  I may fly.  He himself has settled the

Then she added, more gently, but still urgently "Do you take care of my
father, and Philip, and of yourself.  The lady Euryale will protect me.
Oh, how thankful am I!"

She looked up to heaven with fervent devotion Euryale whispered to them:
"My plan is laid.  As soon as the performance is over, Alexander shall
take you home, child, to your father's house; you must go in one of
Caesar's chariots.  Afterward come back here with your brother; I will
wait for you below.  But now we will go together to the Circus, and can
discuss the details on our way.  You, my young friend, go now and order
away the imperial litter; bid my steward to have the horses put to my
covered harmamaxa.  There is room in it for us all three."

By the time Alexander returned, the daylight was waning, and the clatter
of the chariots began to be audible which conveyed Caesar's court to the


The great Amphitheatre of Dionysus was in the Bruchium, the splendid
palatial quarter of the city, close to the large harbor between the Choma
and the peninsula of Lochias.  Hard by the spacious and lofty rotunda, in
which ten thousand spectators could be seated, stood the most fashionable
gymnasia and riding-schools.  These buildings, which had been founded
long since by the Ptolemiac kings, and had been repeatedly extended and
beautified, formed, with the adjoining schools for gladiators and beast-
fighters, and the stables for wild beasts from every part of the world, a
little town by themselves.

At this moment the amphitheatre looked like a beehive, of which every
cell seems to be full, but in which a whole swarm expects yet to find
room.  The upper places, mere standing-room for the common people, and
the cheaper seats, had been full early in the day.  By the afternoon the
better class of citizens had come in, if their places were not reserved;
and now, at sunset, those who were arriving in litters and chariots, just
before the beginning of the show, were for the most part in Caesar's
train, court officials, senators, or the rich magnates of the city.

The strains of music were by this time mingling with the shouting and
loud talk of the spectators, or of the thousands who were crowding round
the building without hoping to obtain admission.  But even for them there
was plenty to be seen.  How delightful to watch the well-dressed women,
and the men of rank and wealth, crowned with wreaths, as they dismounted;
to see the learned men and artists arrive--more or less eagerly
applauded, according to the esteem in which they were held by the
populace!  The most splendid sight of all was the procession of priests,
with Timotheus, the high-priest of Serapis, at their head, and by his
side the priest of Alexander, both marching with dignity under a canopy.
They were followed by the animals to be slaughtered for sacrifice, and
the images of the gods and the deified Caesars, which were to be placed
in the arena, as the most worshipful of all the spectators.  Timotheus
wore the splendid insignia of his office; the priest of Alexander was in
purple, as being the idiologos and head of all the temples of Egypt, and
representative of Caesar.

The advent of the images of the Caesars gave rise to a sort of judgment
of the dead: for the mob hailed that of Julius Caesar with enthusiasm,
that of Augustus, with murmurs of disapproval; when Caligula appeared, he
was hissed; while the statues of Vespasian, Titus, Hadrian, and Antonine,
met with loud acclamations.  That of Septimius Severus, Caracalla's
father, to whom the town owed many benefits, was very well received.  The
images of the gods, too, had very various fates.  Serapis, and Alexander,
the divine hero of the town, were enthusiastically welcomed, while
scarcely a voice was heard on the approach of Zeus-Jupiter and Ares-Mars.
They were regarded as the gods of the hated Romans.

The companies of the imperial body-guard, who were placed about the
amphitheatre, found no great difference, so long as it was daylight,
between the crowd round the Circus of Alexandria and that by the Tiber.
What chiefly struck them was the larger number of dusky faces, and the
fanciful garb of the Magians.  The almost naked rabble, too, with nothing
on but a loin-cloth, who wriggled in and out of the throng, ready for any
service or errand, formed a feature unknown at Rome.  But, as it grew
darker, the Romans began to perceive that it was not for nothing that
they had come hither.

At Rome, when some great show was promised, of beast-fighting,
gladiators, and the like, there were, no doubt, barbarian princes to be
seen, and envoys from the remotest ends of the earth in strange and
gorgeous array; and there, too, small wares of every kind were for sale.
By the Tiber, again, night shows were given, with grand illuminations,
especially for the feast of Flora; but here, as soon as the sun had set,
and the sports were about to begin, the scene was one never to be
forgotten.  Some of the ladies who descended from the litters, wore
garments of indescribable splendor; the men even displayed strange and
handsome costumes as they were helped out of their gilt and plated
chariots by their servants.  What untold wealth must these men have at
their command, to be able to dress their slaves in gold and silver
brocade; and the runners, who kept up with the swiftest horses, must have
lungs of iron!  The praetorians, who had not for many a day seen anything
to cause them to forget the motto of the greatest philosopher among their
poets--never to be astonished at anything--repeatedly pushed each other
with surprise and admiration; nay, the centurion Julius Martialis, who
had just now had a visit in camp from his wife and children, in defiance
of orders, while Caesar himself was looking on, struck his fist on his
greaves, and, exclaiming loudly, "Look out!" pointed to Seleukus's
chariot, for which four runners, in tunics with long sleeves, made of
sea-green bombyx, richly embroidered with silver, were making a way
through the crowd.

The barefooted lads, with their nimble, gazellelike legs, were all well
looking, and might have been cast all in one mold.  But what struck the
centurion and his comrades as most remarkable in their appearance were
the flash and sparkle from their slender ankles, as the setting sun
suddenly shot a fleeting ray through a rift in the heavy clouds.  Each of
these fellows wore on his legs gold bands set with precious stones, and
the rubies which glittered on the harness of Seleukus's horse were of far
greater value.

He, as master of the festival, had come betimes, and this was the first
of many such displays of wealth which followed each other in quick
succession, as soon as the brief twilight of Egypt had given way to
darkness, and the lighting up of the Circus was begun.

Here came a beautifully dressed woman in a roomy litter, over which waved
a canopy entirely of white ostrich-plumes, which the evening breeze
swayed like a thicket of fern-leaves.  This throne was borne by ten black
and ten white slave-girls, and before it two fair children rode on tame
ostriches.  The tall heir of a noble house, who, like Caesar at Rome,
belonged to the "Blues," drove his own team of four splendid white
horses; and he himself was covered with turquoises, while the harness was
set with cut sapphires.

The centurion shook his head in silent admiration.  His face had been
tanned in many wars, both in the East and West, and he had fought even in
distant Caledonia, but the low forehead, loose under lip, and dull eye
spoke of small gifts of intellect.  Nevertheless, he was not lacking in
strength of will, and was regarded by his comrades as a good beast of
burden who would submit to a great deal before it became too much for
him.  But then he would break out like a mad bull, and he might long ago
have risen to higher rank, had he not once in such a fit of passion
nearly throttled a fellow-soldier.  For this crime he had been severely
punished, and condemned to begin again at the bottom of the ladder.  He
owed it chiefly to the young tribune Aurelius Apollinaris that he had
very soon regained the centurion's staff, in spite of his humble birth;
he had saved that officer's life in the war with the Armenians--to be
here, in Alexandria, cruelly mutilated by the hand of his sovereign.

The centurion had a faithful heart.  He was as much attached to the two
noble brothers as to his wife and children, for indeed he owed them much;
and if the service had allowed it he would long since have made his way
to the house of Seleukus to learn how the wounded tribune was faring.
But he had not time even to see his own family, for his younger and
richer comrades, who wanted to enjoy the pleasures of the city, had put
upon him no small share of their own duties.  Only this morning a young
soldier of high birth, who had begun his career at the same time as
Martialis, had promised him some tickets of admission to the evening's
performance in the Circus if he would take his duty on guard outside the
amphitheatre.  And this offer had been very welcome to the centurion, for
he thus found it possible to give those he loved best, his wife and his
mother, the greatest treat which could be offered to any Alexandrian.
And now, when anything noteworthy was to be seen outside, he only
regretted that he had already some time since conducted them to their
seats in one of the upper rows.  He would have liked that they, too,
should have seen the horses and the chariots and the "Blue" charioteer's
turquoises and sapphires; although a decurion observed, as he saw them,
that a Roman patrician would scorn to dress out his person with such
barbaric splendor, and an Alexandrian of the praetorian guard declared
that his fellow-citizens of Greek extraction thought more of a graceful
fold than of whole strings of precious stones.

"But why, then, was this 'Blue' so vehemently hailed by the mob!" asked a
Pannonian in the guard.

"The mob!" retorted the Alexandrian, scornfully.  "Only the Syrians and
other Asiatics.  Look at the Greeks.  The great merchant Seleukus is the
richest of them all, but splendid as his horses, his chariots, and his
slaves are, he himself wears only the simple Macedonian mantle.  Though
it is of costly material, who would suspect it?  If you see a man
swaggering in such a blaze of gems you may wager your house--if you have
one--that his birthplace lies not very far from Syria."

"Now, that one, in a mother-of-pearl shell on two wheels, is the Jew
Poseidonius," the Pannonian put in.  "I am quartered on his father.  But
he is dressed like a Greek."

At this the centurion, in his delight at knowing something, opened his
mouth with a broad grin: "I am a native here," said he, "and I can tell
you the Jew would make you answer for it if you took him for anything but
a Greek."

"And quite right," added another soldier, from Antioch.  "The Jews here
are many, but they have little in common with those in Palestine.  They
wish to pass for Greeks; they speak Greek, assume Greek names, and even
cease to believe in the great God their father; they study Greek
philosophy, and I know one who worships in the Temple of Serapis."

"Many do the same in Rome," said a man of Ostia.  "I know an epigram
which ridicules them for it."

At this point they were interrupted, for Martialis pointed to a tall man
who was coming toward them, and whom his sharp eye had recognized as
Macrinus, the prefect of the praetorians.  In an instant the soldiers
were erect and rigid, but still many a helmeted head was turned toward
the spot where their chief stood talking in an undertone to the Magian

Macrinus had persuaded Caesar to send for the exorciser, to test his
arts.  Immediately after the performance, however late it might be, the
Magian was to be admitted to his presence.

Serapion thanked the prefect, and then whispered to him, "I have had a
second revelation."

"Not here!" exclaimed Macrinus, uneasily, and, leading away his handsome
little son, he turned toward the entrance.

Dusk, meanwhile, had given way to darkness, and several slaves stood
ready to light the innumerable little lamps which were to illuminate the
outside of the Circus.  They edged the high arches which surrounded the
two lower stories, and supported the upper ranks of the enormous circular
structure.  Separated only by narrow intervals, the rows of lights formed
a glittering series of frames which outlined the noble building and
rendered it visible from afar.

The arches on the ground-floor led to the cells from which the men and
beasts were let out into the arena; but some, too, were fitted with
shops, where flowers and wreaths, refreshments, drinks, handkerchiefs,
fans, and other articles in request, were sold.  On the footway between
the building and the row of pitch torches which surrounded it, men and
women in thousands were walking to and fro.  Smart, inquisitive girls
were pushing their way singly or in groups, and their laughter drowned
the deep, tragical voices of the soothsayers and Magians who announced
their magic powers to the passersby.  Some of these even made their way
into the waiting-rooms of the gladiators and wrestlers, who to-day so
greatly needed their support that, in spite of severe and newly enforced
prohibitions, many a one stole out into the crowd to buy some effectual
charm or protecting amulet.

Where the illuminations were completed, attempts of another kind were
being made to work upon the mood of the people; nimble-tongued fellows--
some in the service of Macrinus and some in that of the anxious senate--
were distributing handkerchiefs to wave on Caesar's approach, or flowers
to strew in his path.  More than one, who was known for a malcontent,
found a gold coin in his hand, with the image of the monarch he was
expected to hail; and on the way by which Caesar was to come many of
those who awaited him wore the caracalla.  These were for the most part
bribed, and their acclamations were to mollify the tyrant's mood.

As soon as the prefect had disappeared within the building, the
praetorian ranks fell out again.  It was lucky that among them were
several Alexandrians, besides the centurion Martialis, who had not long
been absent from their native town; for without them much would have
remained incomprehensible.  The strangest thing to foreign eyes was a
stately though undecorated harmamaxa, out of which stepped first a
handsome wreathed youth, then a matron of middle age, and at last an
elegantly dressed girl, whose rare beauty made even Martialis--who rarely
noticed women--exclaim, "Now, she is to my taste the sweetest-thing of

But there must have been something very remarkable about these three; for
when they appeared the crowd broke out at first in loud shouts and
outcries, which soon turned to acclamations and welcome, though through
it all shrill whistles and hisses were heard.

"Caesar's new mistress, the daughter of a gemcutter!" the Alexandrian
muttered to his comrades.  That handsome boy is her brother, no doubt.
He is said to be a mean sycophant, a spy paid by Caesar."

"He?" said an older centurion, shaking his scarred head.  "Sooner would
I believe that the shouts of the populace were intended for the old woman
and not for the young one."

"Then a sycophant he is and will remain," said the Alexandrian with a
laugh.  "For, as a matter of fact, it is the elder lady they are
greeting, and, by Heracles, she deserves it!  She is the wife of the
high-priest of Serapis.  There are few poor in this city to whom she has
not done a kindness.  She is well able, no doubt, for her husband is the
brother of Seleukus, and her father, too, sat over his ears in gold."

"Yes, she is able," interrupted Martialis, with a tone of pride, as
though it were some credit to himself.  "But how many have even more,
and keep their purse-strings tight!  I have known her since she was a
child, and she is the best of all that is good.  What does not the town
owe to her!  She risked her life to move Caesar's father to mercy toward
the citizens, after they had openly declared against him and in favor of
his rival Pescennius Niger.  And she succeeded, too."

"Why, then, are they whistling?" asked the older centurion.

"Because her companion is a spy," repeated the Alexandrian.  "And the
girl--In Caesar's favor!  But, after all, which of you all would not
gladly see his sister or his niece Caesar's light of love?"

"Not I!" cried Martialis.  "But the man who speaks ill of that girl only
does so because he likes blue eyes best.  The maiden who comes in the
lady Euryale's chariot is spotless, you may swear."

"Nay, nay," said the younger Alexandrian soothingly.  "That black-haired
fellow and his companions would whistle another tune if they knew any
evil of her, and she would not be in the lady Euryale's company--that is
the chief point--.  But, look there!  The shameless dogs are stopping
their way!  'Green' to a man.--But here come the lictors."

"Attention!" shouted Martialis, firmly resolved to uphold the guardians
of the peace, and not to suffer any harm to the matron and her fair
companion; for Euryale's husband was the brother of Seleukus, whom his
father and father-in-law had served years ago, while in the villa at
Kanopus his mother and wife were left in charge to keep it in order.  He
felt that he was bound in duty to the merchant, and that all who were of
that household had a right to count on his protection.  But no active
measures were needed; a number of "Blues" had driven off the "Greens" who
had tried to bar Alexander's way, and the lictors came to their

A young man in festal array, who had pushed into the front rank of the
bystanders, had looked on with panting breath.  He was very pale, and the
thick wreath he wore was scarcely sufficient to hide the bandage under
it.  This was Diodoros, Melissa's lover.  After resting awhile at his
friend's house he had been carried in a litter to the amphitheatre, for
he could yet hardly walk.  His father being one of the senators of the
town, his family had a row of seats in the lowest and best tier; but
this, on this occasion, was entirely given up to Caesar and his court.
Consequently the different members of the senate could have only half
the usual number of seats.  Still, the son of Polybius might in any case
claim two in his father's name; and his friend Timon--who had also
provided him with suitable clothing--had gone to procure the tickets from
the curia.  They were to meet at the entrance leading to their places,
and it would be some little time yet before Timon could return.

Diodoros had thought he would behold his imperial rival; however, instead
of Caracalla he had seen the contemptuous reception which awaited
Alexander and Melissa, from some at least of the populace.  Still, how
fair and desirable had she seemed in his eyes, whom, only that morning,
he had been blessed in calling his!  As he now moved away from the main
entrance, he asked himself why it was such torture to him to witness the
humiliation of a being who had done him such a wrong, and whom he thought
he hated and scorned so utterly.  Hardly an hour since he had declared to
Timon that he had rooted his love for Melissa out of his heart.  He
himself would feel the better for using the whistle he wore, in derision
of her, and for seeing her faithlessness punished by the crowd.  But now?
When the insolent uproar went up from the "Greens," whose color he
himself wore, he had found it difficult to refrain from rushing on the
cowardly crew and knocking some of them down.

He now made his way with feeble steps to the entrance where he was to
meet his friend.  The blood throbbed in his temples, his mouth was
parched, and, as a fruit-seller cried her wares from one of the archways,
he took a few apples from her basket to refresh himself with their juice.
His hand trembled, and the experienced old woman, observing the bandage
under his wreath, supposed him to be one of the excited malcontents who
had perhaps already fallen into the hands of the lictors.  So, with a
significant grin, she pointed under the table on which her fruit-baskets
stood, and said "I have plenty of rotten ones.  Six in a wrapper, quite
easy to hide under your cloak.  For whom you will.  Caesar has given the
golden apple of Paris to a goddess of this town.  I should best like to
see these flung at her brother, the sycophant."

"Do you know them?"  asked  Diodoros, hoarsely.

"No," replied the old woman.  "No need for that.  I have plenty of
customers and good ears.  The slut broke her word with a handsome youth
of the town for the sake of the Roman, and they who do such things are
repaid by the avenging gods."  Diodoros felt his knees failing under him,
and a wrathful answer was on his lips, when the huckster suddenly shouted
like mad: "Caesar, Caesar!  He is coming."

The shouts of the crowd hailing their emperor had already become audible
through the heavy evening air, at first low and distant, and louder by
degrees.  They now suddenly rose to a deafening uproar, and while the
sound rolled on like approaching thunder, broken by shrill whistles
suggesting lightning, the sturdy old apple-seller clambered unaided on to
her table, and shouted with all her might:

"Caesar!  Here he is!--Hail, hail, hail to great Caesar!"

At the imminent risk of tumbling off her platform, she bent low down to
reach under the table for the blue cloth which covered her store of
rotten apples, snatched it off, and waved it with frantic enthusiasm, as
though her elderly heart had suddenly gone forth to the very man for whom
a moment ago she had been ready to sell her disgusting missiles.  And
still she shouted in ringing tones, "Hail, hail, Caesar!" again and
again, with all her might, till there was no breath left in her
overbuxom, panting breast, and her round face was purple with the effort.
Nay, her emotion was so vehement that the bright tears streamed down her
fat cheeks.

And every one near was shrieking like the applewoman, "Hail, Caesar!" and
it was only where the crowd was densest that a sharp whistle now and then
rent the roar of acclamations.

Diodoros, meanwhile, had turned to look at the main entrance, and,
carried away by the universal desire to see, had perched himself on an
unopened case of dried figs.  His tall figure now towered far above the
throng, and he set his teeth as he heard the old woman, almost speechless
with delight, gasp out:

"Lovely!  wonderful!  He would  never have found the like in Rome.  Here,
among us--"

But the cheers of the multitude now drowned every other sound.  Fathers
or mothers who had children with them lifted them up as high as they
could; where a small man stood behind a tall one, way was willingly made,
for it would have been a shame to hinder his view of such a spectacle.
Many had already seen the great monarch in his shining, golden chariot,
drawn by four splendid horses; but such an array of torch-bearers as now
preceded Caracalla was a thing never seen within the memory of the oldest
or most traveled man.  Three elephants marched before him and three came
behind, and all six carried in their trunks blazing torches, which they
held now low and now aloft to light his road.  To think that beasts could
be trained to such a service!  And that here, in Alexandria, such a
display could be made before the haughty and pampered Romans!

The chariot stood still, and the black Ethiopians who guided the huge
four-footed torch-bearers took the three leaders to join their fellows
behind the chariot.  This really was a fine sight; this could not but
fill the heart of every one who loved his native town with pride and
delight.  For what should a man ever shout himself hoarse, if not for
such a splendid and unique show?  Diodoros himself could not take his
eyes off the elephants.  At first he was delighted with them, but
presently the sight annoyed him even more than it had pleased him; for he
reflected that the tyrant, the villain, his deadly enemy, would certainly
take to himself the applause bestowed on the clever beasts.  With this,
he grasped the reed pipe in the breast of his tunic.  He had been on the
point of using it before now, to retaliate on Melissa for some portion of
the pain she had inflicted on him.  At this thought, however, the
paltriness of such revenge struck him with horror, and with a hasty
impulse he snapped the pipe in two, and flung the pieces on the ground in
front of the apple-stall.  The old woman observed it and exclaimed:

"Ay, ay, such a sight makes one forgive a great deal"; but he turned his
back on her in silence, and joined his friend at the appointed spot.

They made their way without difficulty to the seats reserved for the
senators' families, and when they had taken their places, the young man
replied but briefly to the sympathetic inquiries as to his health which
were addressed to him by his acquaintances.  His friend Timon gazed
anxiously into his handsome but pale, sad face, as Diodoros sat crushed
and absorbed in thought.  He would have liked to urge him to quit the
scene at once, for the seats just opposite were those destined to Caesar
and his court-among them, no doubt, Melissa.  In the dim light which
still prevailed in the vast amphitheatre it was impossible to recognize
faces.  But there would soon be a blaze of light, and what misery must
await the hapless victim of her faithlessness, still so far from perfect
health!  After the glare of light outside, which was almost blinding, the
twilight within was for the moment a relief to Diodoros.  His weary limbs
were resting, a pleasant smell came up from the perfumed fountains in the
arena, and his eyes, which could not here rest on anything to gratify
him, were fixed on vacancy.

And yet it was a comfort to him to think that he had broken his pipe.
It would have disgraced him to whistle it; and, moreover, the tone would
have reached the ear of the noble lady who had accompanied Melissa, and
whom he himself had, only yesterday, revered as a second mother.

Loud music now struck up, he heard shouts and cheers, and just above him
--for it could only proceed from the uppermost tiers--there was an
extraordinary tumult.  Still he paid no heed, and as he thought of that
matron the question suddenly arose in his mind, whether she would have
consented to be seen with Melissa if she thought that the girl was indeed
capable of ruthless falsehood or any other unworthy act.  He, who never
missed a show in the arena, had never seen the lady Euryale here.  She
could hardly have come to-day for her own pleasure; she had come, then,
for Melissa's sake; and yet she knew that the girl was betrothed to him.
Unless Caesar had commanded the matron's presence, Melissa must still be
worthy of the esteem and affection of this best of women; and at this
reflection Hope once more raised her head in his tortured soul.

He now suddenly wished that brighter light might dispel the gloom which
just now he had found so restful; for the lady Euryale's demeanor
would show him whether Melissa were still a virtuous maiden.  If the
matron were as friendly with her as ever, her heart was perhaps still
his; it was not the splendor of the purple that had led her astray, but
the coercion of the tyrant.

His silent reflections were here interrupted by the loud sounding of
trumpets, battle-cries, and, immediately after, the fall of some heavy
body, followed by repeated acclamations, noisy outcries, and the applause
of those about him.  Not till then had he been aware that the
performances had begun.  Below him, indeed, on the arena from which he
had not once raised his eyes, nothing was to be seen on the yellow sand
but the scented fountain and a shapeless body, by which a second and a
third were soon lying; but overhead something was astir, and, from the
right-hand side, bright rays flashed across the wide space.  Above the
vast circle of seats, arranged on seven tiers, suns and huge, strangely
shaped stars were seen, which shed a subdued, many-tinted radiance; and
what the youth saw over his head was not the vault of heaven, which to-
night bent over his native city darkened by clouds, but a velarium of
immense size on which the nocturnal firmament was depicted.  This covered
in the whole of the open space.  Every constellation which rose over
Alexandria was plainly recognizable.  Jupiter and Mars, Caesar's
favorites, outdid the other planets in size and brightness; and in the
center of this picture of the sky, which slowly revolved round it, stars
were set to form the letters of Caracalla's names, Bassianus and
Antoninus.  But their light, too, was dim, and veiled as it were with
clouds.  Soft music was heard from these artificial heavens, and in the
stratum of air immediately beneath, the blare of war-trumpets and battle-
cries were heard.  Thus all eyes were directed upward, and Diodoros's
with the rest.

He perceived, with amazement, that the givers of the entertainment, in
their anxiety to set something absolutely new before their imperial
guest, had arranged that the first games should take place in the air.  A
battle was being fought overhead, on a level with the highest places, in
a way that must surely be a surprise even to the pampered Romans.  Black
and gold barks were jostling each other in mid-air, and their crews were
fighting with the energy of despair.  The Egyptian myth of the gods of
the great lights who sail the celestial ocean in golden barks, and of the
sun-god who each morning conquers the demons of darkness, had suggested
the subject of this performance.

The battle between the Spirits of Darkness and of Light was to be fought
out high above the best rows of seats occupied by Caesar and his court;
and the combatants were living men, for the most part such as had been
condemned to death or to the hardest forced labor.  The black vessels
were manned by negroes, the golden by fair-haired criminals, and they had
embarked readily enough; for some of them would escape from the fray with
only a few wounds and some quite unhurt, and each one was resolved to use
his weapons so as to bring the frightful combat to a speedy end.

The woolly-haired blacks did not indeed know that they had been provided
with loosely made swords which would go to pieces at the first shock,
and with shields which could not resist a serious blow; while the fair-
haired representatives of the light were supplied with sharp and strong
weapons of offense and defense.  At any cost the spirits of darkness must
not be allowed to triumph over those of light.  Of what value was a
negro's life, especially when it was already forfeited?

While Euryale and Melissa sat with eyes averted from the horrible scene
going on above them, and the matron, holding her young companion's hand,
whispered to her:

"O child, child!  to think that I should be compelled to bring you here!"
loud applause and uproarious clapping surrounded them on every side.

The gem-cutter Heron, occupying one of the foremost cushioned seats,
radiant with pride and delight in the red-bordered toga of his new
dignity, clapped his big hands with such vehemence that his immediate
neighbors were almost deafened.  He, too, had been badly received, on his
arrival, with shrill whistling, but he had been far from troubling
himself about that.  But when a troop of "Greens" had met him, just in
front of the imperial dais, shouting brutal abuse in his face, he had
paused, chucked the nearest man under the chin with his powerful fist,
and fired a storm of violent epithets at the rest.  Thanks to the
lictors, he had got off without any harm, and as soon as he found himself
among friends and men of rank, on whom he looked in speechless respect,
he had recovered his spirits.  He was looking forward with intense
satisfaction to the moment when he might ask Caesar what he now thought
of Alexandria.

Like his father, Alexander was intent on the bloody struggle--gazing
upward with breathless interest as the combatants tried to fling each
other into the yawning depth below them.  But at the same time he never
for an instant forgot the insults he had endured outside.  How deeply he
felt them was legible in his clouded face.  Only once did a smile pass
over it--when, toward the end of this first fight, the place was made
lighter, he perceived in the row of seats next above him the daughter of
his neighbor Skopas, pretty Ino, whom but a few days since he had vowed
to love.  He was conscious of having treated her badly, and given her
the right to call him faithless.  Toward her, indeed, he had been guilty
of treachery, and it had really weighed on his soul.  Their eyes met, and
she gave him to understand in the plainest way that she had heard him
stigmatized as Caesar's spy, and had believed the calumny.  The mere
sight of him seemed to fill her with anger, and she did her utmost to
show him that she had quickly found a substitute for him; and it was to
Alexander, no doubt, that Ktesias, her young kinsman, who had long paid
her his addresses, owed the kindliness with which Ino now gazed into his
eyes.  This was some comfort to the luckless, banished lover.  On her
account, at any rate, he need reproach himself no longer.  Diodoros was
sitting opposite to him, and his attention, too, was frequently

The flashing swords and torches in the hands of the Spirits of Light, and
the dimly gleaming stars above their heads, had not so far dispelled the
darkness as that the two young people could identify each other.
Diodoros, indeed, even throughout this absorbing fight, had frequently
glanced at the imperial seats, but had failed to distinguish his beloved
from the other women in Caracalla's immediate vicinity.  But it now grew
lighter, for, while the battle was as yet undecided, a fresh bark, full
of Spirits of Light, flourishing their torches, was unexpectedly launched
to support their comrades, and Heaven seemed to have sent them forth to
win the fight, which had already lasted longer than the masters of the
ceremonies had thought possible.

The wild shouts of the combatants and the yells of the wounded had long
since drowned the soft music of the spheres above their heads.  The call
of tubas and bugles rang without ceasing through the great building, to
the frequent accompaniment of the most horrible sound of all in this
hideous spectacle--the heavy fall of a dead man dropping from above into
the gulf.

But this dreadful thud was what gave rise to the loudest applause among
the spectators, falling on their satiated ears as a new sound.  This
frenzied fight in the air, such as had never before been seen, gave rise
to the wildest delight, for it led the eye, which was wont in this place
to gaze downward, in a direction in which it had never yet been
attracted.  And what a glorious spectacle it was when black and white
wrestled together!  How well the contrast of color distinguished the
individual combatants, even when they clung together in close embrace!
And when, toward the end of the struggle, a bark was overturned bodily,
and some of the antagonists would not be parted, even as they fell,
trying to kill each other in their rage and hatred, the very walls of the
great structure shook with the wild clamor and applause of thousands of
every degree.

Only once did the roar of approval reach a higher pitch, and that was
after the battle was ended, at what succeeded.  Hardly had the victorious
Spirits of Light been seen to stand up in their barks, waving their
torches, to receive from fluttering genii wreaths of laurel which they
flung down to where Caesar sat, than a perfumed vapor, emanating from the
place where the painted sky met the wall of the circular building, hid
the whole of the upper part of it from the sight of the spectators.  The
music stopped, and from above there came a strange and ominous growling,
hissing, rustling, and crackling.  A dull light, dimmer even than before,
filled the place, and anxious suspicions took possession of the ten
thousand spectators.

What was happening?  Was the velarium on fire; had the machinery for
lighting up refused to work; and must they remain in this uncomfortable

Here and there a shout of indignation was heard, or a shrill whistle from
the capricious mob.  But the mist had already gradually vanished, and
those who gazed upward could see that the velarium with the sun and stars
had made way for a black surface.  No one knew whether this was the real
cloudy sky, or whether another, colorless awning closed them in.  But
suddenly the woven roof parted; invisible hands drew away the two halves.
Quick, soft music began as if at a signal from a magician, and at the
same time such a flood of light burst down into the theatre that every
one covered his eyes with his hand to avoid being blinded.  The full
glory of sunshine followed on the footsteps of night, like a triumphant
chorus on a dismal mourning chant.

The machinists of Alexandria had done wonders.  The Romans, who, even at
the night performances of the festival of Flora, had never seen the like,
hailed the effect with a storm of applause which showed no signs of
ceasing, for, when they had sufficiently admired the source of the light
which flooded the theatre, reflected from numberless mirrors, and glanced
round the auditorium, they began again to applaud with hands and voices.
At a given signal thousands of lights appeared round the tiers of seats,
and, if the splendor of the entertainment answered at all to that of the
Alexandrian spectators, something fine indeed was to be expected.

It was now possible to see the beauty of the women and the costliness of
their attire; not till now had the precious stones shown their flashing
and changeful radiance.  How many gardens and lotus-pools must have been
plundered, how many laurel-groves stripped to supply the wreaths which
graced every head in the upper rows!  And to look round those ranks and
note the handsome raiment in which men and women alike were arrayed,
suggested a belief that all the inhabitants of Alexandria must be rich.
Wherever the eye turned, something beautiful or magnificent was to be
seen; and the numerous delightful pictures which crowded on the sight
were framed with massive garlands of lotos and mallow, lilies and roses,
olive and laurel, tall papyrus and waving palm, branches of pine and
willow-here hanging m thick festoons, there twining round the columns or
wreathing the pilasters and backs of seats.

Of all the couples in this incomparable amphitheatre one alone neither
saw nor heard all that was going on.  Scarcely had the darkness given way
to light, when Melissa's eyes met those of her lover, and recognition was
immediately followed by a swift inquiry and reply which filled the
unhappy pair with revived hopes.  Melissa's eyes told Diodoros that she
loved him and him alone, and she read in his that he could never give her
up.  Still, his also expressed the doubt and anxiety of his tortured
soul, and sent question after question across to Melissa.

And she understood the mute appeal as well as though looks were words.
Without heeding the curious crowd about her, or considering the danger of
such audacity, she took up her nosegay and waved it toward him as though
to refresh him with its fragrance, and then pressed a hasty kiss on the
finest of the half-opened buds.  His responsive gesture showed that she
had been understood, for her lover's expressive eyes beamed with
unqualified love and gratitude.  Never, she thought, had he gazed more
fervently in her face, and again she bent over the bunch of roses.

But even in the midst of her newly found happiness her cheeks tingled
with maidenly modesty at her own boldness.  Too happy to regret what she
had done, but still anxious lest the friend whose opinion was all in all
to her should disapprove, she forgot time and place, and, laying her head
on Euryale's shoulder, looked up at her in inquiry with her large eyes as
though imploring forgiveness.  The matron understood, for she had
followed the girl's glance and felt what it was that stirred her heart;
and, little thinking of the joy she was giving to a third person, she
clasped her closely and kissed her on the temple, regardless of the
people about them.

At this Diodoros felt as though he had won the prize in a race; and his
friend Timon, whose artistic eye was feasting on the magnificent scene,
started at the vehement and ardent pressure which Diodoros bestowed on
his hand.

What had come over the poor, suffering youth whom he, Timon, had escorted
to the Circus out of sheer compassion?  His eyes sparkled, and he held
his head as high as ever.  What was the meaning of his declaring that
everything would go well with him now?  But it was in vain that he
questioned the youth, for Diodoros could not reveal, even to his best
friend, what it was that made him happy.  It was enough for him to know
that Melissa loved him, and that the woman to whom he looked up with
enthusiastic reverence esteemed her as highly as ever.  And now, for the
first time, he began to feel ashamed of his doubts of Melissa.  How could
he, who had known her from childhood, have believed of her anything so
base and foul?  It must be some strong compulsion which bound her to
Caesar, and she could never have looked at him thus unless she had some
scheme--in which, perhaps, the lady Euryale meant to abet her--for
escaping her imperial suitor before it was too late.  Yes, it must be so;
and the oftener he gazed at her the more convinced he felt.

Now he rejoiced in the blaze of light about him, for it showed him his
beloved.  The words which Euryale had whispered in her ear must have been
an admonition to prudence, for she only rarely bestowed on him a loving
glance, and he acknowledged that the mute but eager exchange of signals
would have been fraught with danger for both of them.

The first sudden illumination had revealed too many things to distract
the attention of the spectators, including Caesar's, for their
proceedings to be observed.  Now curiosity was to some extent satisfied,
and even Diodoros felt that reserve was imperative.

Caracalla had not yet shown himself to the people.  A golden screen, in
which there were holes for him to look through without being seen, hid
him from public gaze; still Diodoros could recognize those who were
admitted to his presence.  First came the givers of the entertainment;
then the Parthian envoys, and some delegates from the municipal
authorities of the town.  Finally, Seleukus presented the wives of the
magnates who had shared with him the cost of this display, and among
these, all magnificently dressed, the lady Berenike shone supreme by the
pride of her demeanor and the startling magnificence of her attire.  As
her large eyes met those of Caesar with a flash of defiance, he frowned,
and remarked satirically:

"It seems to be the custom here to mourn in much splendor!"

But Berenike promptly replied:

"It has nothing to do with mourning.  It is in honor of the sovereign who
commanded the presence of the mourner at the Circus."

Diodoros could not see the flame of rage in, Caesar's threatening eye,
nor hear his reply to the audacious matron:

"This is a misapprehension of how to do me honor, but an opportunity will
occur for teaching the Alexandrians better."

Even across the amphitheatre the youth could see the sudden flush and
pallor of the lady's haughty face; and immediately after, Macrinus, the
praetorian prefect, approached Caracalla with the master of the games,
the superintendent of the school of gladiators.

At the same time Diodoros heard his next neighbor, a member of the city
senate, say:

"How quietly it is going off!  My proposal that Caesar should come in to
a dim light, so as to keep him and his unpopular favorites out of sight
for a while, has worked capitally.  Who could the mob whistle at, so long
as they could not see one from another?  Now they are too much delighted
to be uproarious.  Caesar's bride, of all others, has reason to thank me.
And she reminds me of the Persian warriors who, before going into battle,
bound cats to their bucklers because they knew that the Egyptian foe
would not shoot at them so long as the sacred beasts were exposed to
being hit by his arrows."

"What do you mean by that?" asked another, and received the brisk reply:

"The lady Euryale is the cat who protects the damsel.  Out of respect for
her, and for fear of hurting her, too, her companion has hitherto been
spared even by those fellows up there."

And he pointed to a party of "Greens" who were laying their heads
together in one of the topmost tiers.  But his friend replied:

"Something besides that keeps them within bounds.  The three beardless
fellows just behind them belong to the city watch, who are scattered
through the general mass like raisins in doughcakes."

"That is very judicious," replied the senator.

"We might otherwise have had to quit the Circus a great deal quicker than
we came in.  We shall hardly get home with dry garments as it is.  Look
how the lights up there are flaring; you can hear the lashing of the
storm, and such flashes are not produced by machinery.  Zeus is preparing
his bolts, and if the storm bursts--"

Here his discourse was interrupted by the sound of trumpets, mingling
with the roar of distant thunder following a vivid flash.  The procession
now began, which was the preliminary to every such performance.

The statues of the gods had, before Caesar's arrival, been placed on the
pedestals erected for them to prevent any risk of a demonstration at the
appearance of the deified emperors.  The priests now first marched
solemnly round these statues, and Timotheus poured a libation on the sand
to Serapis, while the priest of Alexandria did the same to the tutelary
hero of the town.  Then the masters of the games, the gladiators, and
beast-fighters came out, who were to make proof of their skill.  As the
priests approached Caesar's dais, Caracalla came forward and greeted the
spectators, thus showing himself for the first time.

While he was still sitting behind the screen, he had sent for Melissa,
who had obeyed the command, under the protection of Euryale, and he had
spoken to her graciously.  He now took no further notice of her, of her
father, or her brother, and by his orders their places had been separated
by some little distance from his.  By the advice of Timotheus he would
not let her be seen at his side till the stars had once more been
consulted, and he would then conduct Melissa to the Circus as his wife-
the day after to-morrow, perhaps.  He thanked the matron for having
escorted Melissa, and added, with a braggart air of virtue, that the
world should see that he, too, could sacrifice the most ardent wish of
his heart to moral propriety.

The elephant torch-bearers had greatly delighted him, and in the
expectation of seeing Melissa again, and of a public recognition that he
had won the fairest maid there, he had come into the Circus in the best
spirits.  He still wore his natural expression; yet now and then his brow
was knit, for he was haunted by the eyes of Seleukus's wife.  The haughty
woman--"that bedizened Niobe" he had contemptuously called her in
speaking to Macrinus--had appeared to him as an avenging goddess;
strangely enough, every time he thought of her, he remembered, too, the
consul Vindex and his nephew, whose execution Melissa's intercession had
only hastened, and he was vexed now that he had not lent an ear to her
entreaties.  The fact that the name Vindex signified an avenger disturbed
him greatly, and he could no more get it out of his mind than the image
of the "Niobe" with her ominous dark eyes.

He would see her no more; and in this he was helped by the gladiators,
for they now approached him, and their frantic enthusiasm kept him for
some time from all other thoughts.  While they flourished their weapons-
some the sword and buckler, and others the not less terrible net and
harpoon--the time-honored cry rose from their husky throats in eager
acclamation: "Hail, Caesar!  those about to die salute thee!"  Then, in
rows of ten men each, they crossed the arena at a rapid pace.

Between the first and second group one man swaggered past alone, as
though he were something apart, and he strutted and rolled as he walked
with pompous self-importance.  It was his prescriptive right, and in his
broad, coarse features, with a snub nose, thick lips, and white, flashing
teeth like those of a beast of prey, it was easy to see that the
adversary would fare but ill who should try to humble him.  And yet he
was not tall; but on his deep chest, his enormous square shoulders, and
short, bandy legs, the muscles stood out like elastic balls, showing the
connoisseur that in strength he was a giant.  A loin-cloth was all he
wore, for he was proud of the many scars which gleamed red and white on
his fair skin.  He had pushed back his little bronze helmet, so that the
terrible aspect of the left side of his face might not be lost on the
populace.  While he was engaged in fighting three panthers and a lion,
the lion had torn out his eye and with it part of his cheek.  His name
was Tarautas, and he was known throughout the empire as the most brutal
of gladiators, for he had also earned the further privilege of never
fighting but for life or death, and never under any circumstances either
granting or asking quarter.  Where he was engaged corpses strewed the

Caesar knew that he himself had been nicknamed Tarautas after this man,
and he was not ill pleased; for, above all things, he aimed at being
thought strong and terrible, and this the gladiator was without a peer in
his own rank of life.  They knew each other: Tarautas had received many a
gift from his imperial patron after hard-won victories in which his blood
had flowed.  And now, as the scarred veteran, who, puffed up with
conceit, walked singly and apart in the long train of gladiators, cast a
roving and haughty glance on the ranks of spectators, he was filled out
of due time with the longing to center all eyes on himself, the one aim
of his so frequently risking his life in these games.  His chest swelled,
he braced up the tension of his supple sinews, and as he passed the
imperial seats he whirled his short sword round his head, describing a
circle in the air, with such skill and such persistent rapidity, that it
appeared like a disk of flashing steel.  At the same time his harsh,
powerful voice bellowed out, "Hail, Caesar!" sounding above the shouts of
his comrades like the roar of a lion; and Caracalla, who had not yet
vouchsafed a friendly word or pleasant look to any Alexandrian, waved his
hand graciously again and again to this audacious monster, whose strength
and skill delighted him.

This was the instant for which the "Greens" in the third tier were
waiting.  No one could prohibit their applauding the man whom Caesar
himself approved, so they forthwith began shouting "Tarautas!" with all
their might.  They knew that this would suggest the comparison between
Caesar and the sanguinary wretch whose name had been applied to him,
and all who were eager to give expression to their vexation or
dissatisfaction took the hint and joined in the outcry.  Thus in a moment
the whole amphitheatre was ringing with the name of "Tarautas!"

At first it rose here and there; but soon, no one knew how, the whole
crowd in the upper ranks joined in one huge chorus, giving free vent to
their long-suppressed irritation with childish and increasing uproar,
shouting the word with steady reiteration and a sort of involuntary
rhythm.  Before long it sounded as though the multitude must have
practiced the mad chant which swelled to a perfect roar.

"Tarau-Tarau-Tarautas!" and, as is always the case when a breach has been
made in the dam, one after another joined in, with here the shrill
whistle of a reed pipe and there the clatter of a rattle.  Mingling with
these were the angry outcries of those whom the lictors or guardians of
the peace had laid hands on, or their indignant companions; and the
thunder outside rolled a solemn accompaniment to the mutinous tumult

Caesar's scowling brow showed that a storm threatened in that quarter
also; and no sooner had he discerned the aim of the crowd than, foaming
with rage, he commanded Macrinus to restore order.

Then, above the chaos of voices, trumpet-calls were sounded.  The masters
of the games perceived that, if only they could succeed in riveting the
attention of the mob by some exciting or interesting scene, that would
surely silence the demonstration which was threatening ruin to the whole
community; so the order was at once given to begin the performance with
the most important and effective scene with which it had been intended
that the whole should conclude.

The spectacle was to represent a camp of the Alemanni, surprised and
seized by Roman warriors.  In this there was a covert compliment to
Caesar, who, after a doubtful victory over that valiant people, had
assumed the name of Alemannicus.  Part of the gladiators, clothed in
skins, represented the barbarians, and wore long flowing wigs of red or
yellow hair; others played the part of Roman troops, who were to conquer
them.  The Alemanni were all condemned criminals, who were allowed no
armor, and only blunt swords wherewith to defend themselves.  But life
and freedom were promised to the women if, after the camp was seized,
they wounded themselves with the sharp knives with which each one was
provided, at least deeply enough to draw blood.  And any who succeeded in
feigning death really deceptively were to earn a special reward.  Among
the Germans there were, too, a few gladiators of exceptional stature,
armed with sharp weapons, so as to defer the decision for a while.

In a few minutes, and under the eyes of the spectators, carts, cattle,
and horses were placed together in a camp, and surrounded by a wall of
tree trunks, stones, and shields.  Meanwhile shouts and whistles were
still heard; nay, when Tarautas came out on the arena in the highly
decorated armor of a Roman legate, at the head of a troop of heavily
armed men, and again greeted the emperor, the commotion began afresh.
But Caracalla's patience was exhausted, and the high-priest saw by his
pale cheeks and twitching eyelids what was passing in his mind; so,
inspired by the fervent hope of averting some incalculable disaster from
his fellow-citizens, he took his place in front of the statue of the god,
and, lifting up his hands, he began:

"In the name of Serapis, O Macedonians!"  His deep, ringing tones sounded
above the voices of the insurgents in the upper rows, and there was

Not a sound was to be heard but the long-drawn howling of the wind, and
now and then the flap of a strip of cloth torn from the velarium by the
gale.  Mingling with these might be heard the uncanny hooting of owls and
daws which the illumination had brought out of their nests in the
cornice, and which the storm was now driving in again.

Timotheus, in a clear and audible address, now appealed to his audience
to remain quiet, not to disturb the splendid entertainment here set
before them, and above all to remember that great Caesar, the divine
ruler of the world, was in their midst, an honor to each and all.  As the
guest of the most hospitable city on earth, their illustrious sovereign
had a right to expect from every Alexandrian the most ardent endeavors to
make his stay here delightful.  It was his part as high-priest to uplift
his warning voice in the name of the greatest of the gods, that the ill-
will of a few malcontents might not give rise to an idea in the mind of
their beloved guest that the natives of Alexandria were blind to the
blessings for which every citizen had to thank his beneficent rule.

A shrill whistle here interrupted his discourse, and a voice shouted:
"What blessings?  We know of none."

But Timotheus was not to be checked, and went on more vehemently

"All of you who, by the grace of Caesar, have been made Roman citizens--"

But again a voice broke in--the speaker was the overseer of the granaries
of Seleukus, sitting in the second tier--"And do you suppose we do not
know what the honor costs us?"

This query was heartily applauded, and then suddenly, as if by magic, a
perfect chorus arose, chanting a distich which one man in the crowd had
first given out and then two or three had repeated, to which a fourth had
given a sort of tune, till it was shouted by every one present at the
very top of his voice, with marked application to him of whom it spoke.
From the topmost row of places, on every side of the amphitheatre, rang
out the following lines, which but a moment before no one had ever heard:

    "Death to the living, to pay for burying those that are dead;
     Since, what the taxes have spared, soldiers have ruthlessly seized."

And the words certainly came from the heart; of the people, for they
seemed never weary of repeating them; and it was not till a tremendous
clap of thunder shook the very walls that several were silent and looked
up with increasing alarm.  The moment's pause was seized on to begin the
fight.  Caesar bit his lip in powerless fury, and his hatred of the
towns-people, who had thus so plainly given him to understand their
sentiments, was rising from one minute to the next.  He felt it a real
misfortune that he was unable to punish on the spot the insult thus
offered him; swelling with rage, he remembered a speech made by Caligula,
and wished the town had but one head, that he might sever it from the
body.  The blood throbbed so fiercely in his temples, and there was such
a singing in his ears, that for some little time he neither saw nor heard
what was going on.  This terrible agitation might cost him yet some hours
of great suffering.  But he need no longer dread them so much; for there
sat the living remedy which he believed he had secured by the strongest
possible ties.

How fair she was!  And, as he looked round once more at Melissa, he
observed that her eye was turned on him with evident anxiety.  At this a
light seemed to dawn in his clouded soul, and he was once more conscious
of the love which had blossomed in his heart.  But it would never do to
make her who had wrought the miracle so soon the confidante of his
hatred.  He had seen her angry, had seen her weep, and had seen her
smile; and within the next few days, which were to make him a happy man
instead of a tortured victim, he longed only to see her great eyes
sparkle and her lips overflow with words of love, joy, and gratitude.
His score with the Alexandrians must be settled later, and it was in his
power to make them atone with their blood and bitterly rue the deeds of
this night.

He passed his hand over his furrowed brow, as though to wake himself from
a bad dream; nay, he even found a smile when next his eyes met hers; and
those spectators to whom his aspect seemed more absorbing than the
horrible slaughter in the arena, looked at each other in amazement, for
the indifference or the dissimulation, whichever it might be, with which
Caesar regarded this unequaled scene of bloodshed, seemed to them quite

Never, since his very first visit to a circus, had Caracalla left
unnoticed for so long a time the progress of such a battle as this.
However, nothing very remarkable had so far occurred, for the actual
seizure of the camp had but just begun with the massacre of the Alemanni
and the suicide of the women.

At this moment the gladiator Tarautas, as nimble as a cat and as
bloodthirsty as a hungry wolf, sprang on to one of the enemy's piled-up
wagons, and a tall swordsman, with a bear-skin over his shoulder, and
long, reddish-gold hair, flew to meet him.

This was no sham German!  Caracalla knew the man.  He had been brought to
Rome among the captive chiefs, and, as he had proved to be a splendid
horseman, he had found employment in Caesar's stables.  His conduct had
always been blameless till, on the day when Caracalla had entered
Alexandria, he had, in a drunken fit, killed first the man set over him,
a hot-headed Gaul, and then the two lictors who had attempted to
apprehend him.  He was condemned to death, and had been placed on the
German side to fight for his life in the arena.

And how he fought!  How he defied the most determined of gladiators, and
parried his strokes with his short sword!  This was a combat really worth
watching; indeed, it so captivated Caracalla that he forgot everything
else.  The name of the German's antagonist had been applied to him--
Caesar.  Just now the many-voiced yell "Tarautas!" had been meant for
him; and, accustomed as he was to read an omen in every incident, he said
to himself, and called Fate to witness, that the gladiator's doom would
foreshadow his own.  If Tarautas fell, then Caesar's days were numbered;
if he triumphed, then a long and happy life would be his.

He could leave the decision to Tarautas with perfect confidence; he was
the strongest gladiator in the empire, and he was fighting with a sharp
sword against the blunt one in his antagonist's hand, who probably had
forgotten in the stable how to wield the sword as he had done of yore.
But the German was the son of a chief, and had followed arms from his
earliest youth.  Here it was defense for dear life, however glorious it
might be to die under the eyes of the man whom he had learned to honor as
the conqueror and tyrant of many nations, among them his own.  So the
strong and practiced athlete did his best.

He, like his opponent, felt that the eyes of ten thousand were on him,
and he also longed to purge himself of the dishonor which, by actual
murder, he had brought on himself and on the race of which he was still
a son.  Every muscle of his powerful frame gained more rigid tension at
the thought, and when he was presently hit by the sword of his hitherto
unconquered foe, and felt the warm blood flow over his breast and left
arm, he collected all his strength.  With the battle-cry of his tribe, he
flung his huge body on the gladiator.  Heedless of the furious sword-
thrust with which Tarautas returned the assault, he threw himself off the
top of the packed wagon on to the stones of the camp inclosure, and the
combatants rolled, locked together like one man, from the wall into the
sand of the arena.

Caracalla started as though he himself had been the injured victim, and
watched, but in vain, to see the supple Tarautas, who had escaped such
perils before now, free himself from the weight of the German's body.

But the struggle continued to rage round the pair, and neither stirred a
finger.  At this Caesar, greatly disturbed, started to his feet, and
desired Theocritus to make inquiry as to whether Tarautas were wounded or
dead; and while the favorite was gone he could not sit still.  Agitated
by distressing fears, he rose to speak first to one and then to another
of his suite, only to drop on his seat again and glance once more at the
butchery below.  He was fully persuaded that his own end must be near,
if indeed Tarautas were dead.  At last he heard Theocritus's voice, and,
as he turned to ask him the news, he met a look from the lady Berenike,
who had risen to quit the theatre.

He shuddered!--the image of Vindex and his nephew rose once more before
his mind's eye; at the same moment, however, Theocritus hailed him with
the exclamation:

"That fellow, Tarautas, is not a man at all!  I should call him an eel if
he were not so broad shouldered.  The rascal is alive, and the physician
says that in three weeks he will be ready again to fight four bears or
two Alemanni!"

A light as of sudden sunshine broke on Caesar's face, and he was
perfectly cheerful again, though a fearful clap of thunder rattled
through the building, and one of those deluges of rain which are known
only in the south came pouring down into the open theatre, extinguishing
the fires and lights, and tearing the velarium from its fastenings till
it hung flapping in the wind and lashing the upper tiers of places, so as
to drive the spectators to a hasty retreat.

Men were flying, women screaming and sobbing, and the heralds loudly
proclaimed that the performance was suspended, and would be resumed on
the next day but one.


He only longed to be hopeful once more, to enjoy the present
Never to be astonished at anything

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Thorny Path — Volume 09" ***

Copyright 2023 LibraryBlog. All rights reserved.