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Domitian, Chapter 4: Entertainment
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He [Note 1] constantly gave grand and costly entertainments, both in the amphitheatre [Arkenberg: The Colosseum], and in the Circus, where in addition to the usual races between two-horse chariots and four-horse chariots, he also exhibited two battles, one between forces of infantry and the other by horsemen; and he even gave a naval battle in the amphitheatre. Besides, he gave hunts of wild beasts, gladiatorial shows at night by the light of torches, and not only combats between men but between women as well. He was always present, too, at the games given by the quaestors, which he revived after they had been abandoned for some time, and invariably granted the people the privilege of calling for two pairs of gladiators from his own school, and brought them in last in all the splendor of the court. During the whole of every gladiatorial show there always stood at his feet a small boy clad in scarlet, with an abnormally small head, with whom he used to talk a great deal, and sometimes seriously. At any rate, he was overheard to ask him if he knew why he had decided at the last appointment day to make Mettius Rufus prefect of Egypt. He often gave sea-fights almost with regular fleets, having dug a pool near the Tiber and surrounded it with seats; and he continued to witness the contests amid heavy rains. He also celebrated Secular games, reckoning the time, not according to the year when Claudius had last given them, but by the previous calculation of Augustus. In the course of these, to make it possible to finish a hundred races on the day of the contests in the Circus, he diminished the number of laps from seven to five. He also established a quinquennial contest in honor of Jupiter Capitolinus of a threefold character, comprising music, riding, and gymnastics, and with considerably more prizes than are awarded nowadays. For there were competitions in prose declamations both in Greek and in Latin; and in addition to those of the lyre-players, between choruses of such players and in the lyre alone, without singing; while in the stadium there were races even between maidens. He presided at the competitions in half-boots clad in a purple toga in the Greek fashion, and wearing upon his head a golden crown with figures of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, while by his side sat the priest of Jupiter and the college of the Flaviales [Established for the worship of the deified Flavian emperors, after the manner of the Augustales], similarly dressed, except that their crowns bore his image as well. He celebrated the Quinquatria too every year in honor of Minerva at his Alban villa, and established for her a college of priests, from which men were chosen by lot to act as officers and give splendid shows of wild beasts and stage plays, besides holding contests in oratory and poetry. He made a present to the people of three hundred sesterces each on three occasions, and in the course of one of his shows in celebration of the feast of the Seven Hills gave plentiful banquets, distributing large baskets of victuals to the Senate and equites, and smaller ones to the plebeians, and he himself was the first to begin to eat. On the following day, he scattered gifts of all sorts of things to be scrambled for, and since the greater part of these fell where the people sat, he had five hundred tickets thrown into each section occupied by the senatorial and equestrian orders. |
Note 1: he = Domitian
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Quaestor:There were two sets of officers bearing this title, the commissioners of the treasure, and the "trackers of murder" -- as their title may be literally translated -- whose duty was to search for and bring up for prosecution those who had been guilty of capital crimes.