Roman Times and Events: Those about to Die, Chapter 06, Part 7 of 8

(by Daniel P. Mannix)

Carpophorus stabbed upwards into the tiger's belly. As he did so, he saw the spearman's blade flash past him and plunge deep into the tiger's chest.

The armed venator came in and with one terrible stroke split the tiger's skull open with his sword. The dead animal fell across Carpophorus.

The other venatores pulled him from under the striped carcass. Carpophorus was streaming blood but could still stand.

Around them other fights were raging. A venator had a leopard by the throat and was trying to strangle it although the cat's slashing hind legs had already disemboweled him.

Four wild dogs, huge, yellow Molossians from the mountains of Greece, had gotten another venator down and were stretching him out on the sand, two pulling him by the face and shoulder and two holding him by the legs. A fifth dog rushed in and attacked the helpless man's genitals.

Another venator was trying to get his pike out of a wolf's body while being attacked by other members of the pack. A young venator had grabbed a lioness by the tail and was holding her while two of his companions stabbed the animal with their pikes.

"You'd better leave the arena," said the armed venator to Carpophorus. "The crowd will let you go." The crowd had been watching Carpophorus' feat and were giving him a big hand.

Carpophorus hardly heard him. He was blind with rage and had a sudden savage hatred of the beasts. He stooped and tried to pick up his sword but his side was numb where the tiger had been shaking him. He cursed and the spearman picked up the sword for him. With a great effort, Carpophorus made his fingers close over' the hilt although he could feel nothing.

He started forward toward the melee, blood from his wounded side filling up the footprints made by his right foot as he staggered on. The armed venator and the spearman exchanged looks, shook their heads, and followed him.

The crowd were shouting, "No, Carpophorus, no!" and waving their handkerchiefs but Carpophorus paid no attention to them. He was" going to get himself another tiger or die trying.

Domitian turned and gave an order to a courtier behind him. The man shouted to the trumpeter who gave a single blast on his long horn.

From the Gate of Life marched a detachment of heavily armed soldiers armed with spears. These men formed a line across the far end of the arena and then locked their shields together, each shield fitting into a bracket on the shield next to it until there was a solid shield wall stretching across the arena.

The great rectangular shield covered a man from the bridge of his nose to his knees. In front of the shields, there was a solid line of spears held in such perfect alignment that from the side it seemed as though there were only one weapon.

At an order from the centurian in command, the line moved forward at the regulation legion step, so perfectly timed that it could be used to measure distances. A thousand (milla) such steps measured exactly 5,280 feet, or what has later become known as a mile.

Behind the line of troops came bestiarii with their lead-tipped cat-o'-nine-tails in case any of the beasts broke through the soldiers. Behind them came gladiators called andabatae, men wearing helmets without a visor, so they could not see.

As soon as they reached the arena, these andabatae began to swing wildly around, trying by chance to hit one another. The andabatae were necessary for the hunt was now over and even while the arena was being cleared, there bad to be something going on.

As soon as he heard the trumpet signal the end of the hunt, the Master of the Games, who functioned as ringmaster, gave orders to open the doors of the chutes.

The order was immediately obeyed and slaves hurriedly put out basins of water to help lure the exhausted animals inside.

Before the steadily advancing line of spears, the remaining animals retreated. Most of them eventually found the open doors of the chutes and rushed in, drinking feverishly from the basins.

A few charged the soldiers and died under the spears. Two lions and a leopard managed to force their way through the serried ranks; the lions leaping over the men and the leopard fighting his way through. The animals were promptly driven out through the Gate of Life by the bestiarii with their flails.

Roman Events: Those about to Die, Chapter Six, Part 8 is next.

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