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The treatment, which captives received from their conquerers among the ancient Greeks, deserves our notice. These, (says one of the personages of the Iliad,) are the evils which follow the capture of a town. “ The men are killed; the city is burnt to the ground; the women and children of all ranks, are carried off for slaves."
The parting of Hector and Andromache has always, I believe, been considered, as the most tender and affecting scene in the whole poem. In that interview, nothing occurred by which the heart is more powerfully invaded, than the prospect of those sufferings and indignities, which Andromache was to incur, after her hero should be slain. This prospect was not represented to his mind by the spirit of prophesy, but by his knowledge of the treatment, which captives usually received. Nor did he expect any alleviation in her case, on account of her high connexions or noble descent; but looked forward to the time, when she would be employed in menial offices, the slave of a foreign mistress.
-Thy griefs I dread;
ambassadors from Athens, the latter avowed that they were influenced by a consciousness of power, rather than by any regard to justice. “In all human competitions,” said they, “equal wants alone produce equitable determinations.” It is remarkable, that this event occurred at a time, when those studies, and those arts, which are supposed to soften or subdue the rougher feelings of our nature, were cultivated with enthusiastic ardor, and unparalleled success. To use the words of an author recently quoted, “It was where Pericles had spoken and ruled; where Thucyclides was then writing; where Socrates was then teaching ; where Xenophon and Plato, and Socrates were receiving their education; and where the paintings of Parrhasius and Zuexis; the sculpture of Pheidias and Praxiteles; the architecture of Callurates and Tetinus; and the sublime dramas of Sophocles and Euripides, forined the delight of the people.”
After taking the view of the state of morals among the Greeks, we shall be less surprised at the remark of Kennel, that “the Romans became more corrupt, as they became imbrued in Grecian literature.” But to enslave prisoners of war was a custom not confined to the Greeks. " In former times, it was a custom, almost universally established, says an excellent writer, on the principles of political law, that those, who were made prisoners in a just and solemn war, whether they had surrendered themselves, or were taken by main force, became slaves the moment they were conducted into some place, dependent on the conqueror. And this right was exercised on all persons whatever, even on those, who happened unfortunately to be in the enemy's country, at the time, when the war suddenly broke out. Further, not only the prisoners themselves, but their posterity were reduced to the same condition. The effects of this slavery had no bounds. Every thing was permitted to a master, with respect to his slaves. He had the power over them of life and death."
Such treatment did the vanquished expect, even when Ro
mans were the victors, that, in not a few instances, self immolation was preferred to the horrors of captivity. - The victorious armies of the Romans, in entering a town by assault, or enforcing an encampment, have found the mother in the act of destroying her children, that they might not be taken; and the dagger of the parent red with the blood of his family, ready to be plunged at last into his own breast.” When Trajan was engaged in his second war with the Dacians, in one of their cities, besieged by the Romans, the men despairing of its longer defence, having slain their wives and children, secretly withdrew to a large cavern in the mountains. (See ins. on Traj. pillar.) There, unable to sustain or defend themselves, they procured a large quantity of poison, and dissolved it in a caldron. When a few individuals were appointed to deal out the fatal potion to the crowds, that rushed eagerly round this fountain of death.
III. Of the state of moral feelings, prevailing among the Romans, we may form some judgment, by considering their triumphs.
As these were decreed and regulated by the public authority, they indicate not private feelings merely, but those of the nation. To exult in prosperity, at the expense of an enemy, humbled and subdued, is usually considered, as peculiarly ungenerous, as well as immoral. How emphatically this was done in the Roman triumphs, will appear from the following account of them.
In this procession, after the musicians, who sang or play. ed triumphal songs, went the victims to be sacrificed. To these succeeded the carriages bearing the triumphal spoils, which were taken from the enemy. Next came the captive leaders in chains, with their children and attendants. After the captives, came the lictors, having their fasces wreathed with laurels, followed by a great company of musicians and dancers, dressed like satyrs; in the midst of whom was a pantomime, clothed in a female garb, whose business it was, with his looks and gestures to insult the vanquished. Adams' Roman Antiq. 338.
When Perses, king of Macedon, was thus led in triumph, his children being in the train, some of whom were so young, as to be insensible of their degradation; the spectacle drew tears even from many of the spectators. (Kenpett's Rom. Ant. 226.) Of Perses himself, it is said, that he appeared like one astonished and deprived of reason through the greatness of misfortunes. On this occasion, as usual, odes were sung, mixed with raillery, which had for its object, the unhappy captives.
It was usual, though not invariable, when the general began to turn his chariot from the Forum to the capitol, to order the captive kings and leaders of the enemy to be led to the prison, and there to be slain. And when he reached the capitol, he used to wait, till he heard that these savage orders were executed.
IV. Perhaps there is nothing, which more clearly evinces the moral depravity of the Romans, than their gladiatorial shows. Rosinus 351.
That human sacrifices were offered both by Greeks and Trojans, was noticed in a former lecture. The ancient heathen fancied, that the ghosts of the deceased were satisfied, and rendered propitious by human blood. At first, says the learned Kennet, they used to buy captives, or untoward slaves, and offer them at the obsequies. Af- . terwards they attempted to veil their impious barbarity with the specious show of pleasure and voluntary combat. And, therefore, training up, in some tolerable knowledge of weapons, such persons as they had procured, they obliged them, upon the day appointed for sacrificing to departed ghosts, to maintain a mortal encounter at the tombs of their friends. The Roman people, it appears, became extravagantly attached to these exhibitions ; so that an ambitious individual, could in no way more readily conciliate their esteem, than by giving them an entertainment of this kind. The emperors obliged the people with shows almost on all occasions. As the occasions increased, so also did the length of the so
lemnities, and the number of combatants. Julias Cesar, in his edile-ship, presented three hundred and twenty pair. Trajan, whose natural temper is known to have been mild, continued these games for one hundred and twenty three days ; during which time they brought out one thousand pair of gladiators. Lipsius, as quoted by Dr. Paley, affirms, " that the gladiatorial shows sometimes cost Europe twenty or thirty thousand lives in a month, and that not only the men, but even the women of all ranks, were passionately fond of these shows. (Paley's Ev. 370. 249 Ryan.)
Entertainments of this savage kind were not abolished, until the reign of Constantine, after they existed, says Kennet, about six hundred years.
It is well known, that these games were more or less extensively fatal to the parties concerned. The amusement was to observe with what dexterity, one human being could wound, foil, and slay his fellow. When a gladiator was vanquished, he might indeed supplicate the people ; but he was by no means certain of having his life spared. It appears to have been no uncommon thing for them to refuse the request; in which case, he was obliged to resume his sword, and fight till death, for their amusement.
Nigh to the amphitheatre was a place called Spoliarium, to which, those, who were killed or mortally wounded, were dragged by a hook.
Similar to the feats of gladiators, were those of Bestiani, in which human beings were brought forth to combat with wild beasts, and to be devoured by them. Kennet, 272.
During the early existence of these games, females it appears, were not allowed to attend them. This restriction was afterwards removed ; and seats in the amphitheatre were prepared for their accommodation.
Though the condition of the gladiators was commonly that of slaves or captives, yet so generally popular were these games, that freemen, in a short time, chose to take a part in them, and hired themselves out for the amphithea