Roman Times and Events: Those about to Die, Chapter 10, Part 1 of 3

(by Daniel P. Mannix)

AFTER CHECKING to make sure that his beasts were cleaned, fed, and watered; Carpophorus went to Chilo's tavern near the Via Appia to discuss the day's events and drink himself into a blind stupor before the trials of the next day.

Each of the different professions attached to the circus had a certain wineshop it frequented, and outsiders were not encouraged to intrude.

Chile's catered to the bestiarii. The shop was several paces from the main highway, up a dark alley and near the "Wolf Den", as the Romans called the red-light district.

When Carpophorus entered, he saw to his surprise and disgust that there was a distinguished company; the Master of the Games was sitting at one table and there were also a number of wealthy patricians; each with a gladiator bodyguard.

The patricians were wrapped in cloaks and were ostensibly incognito; although, of course, everyone knew who they were. Many of the patricians were connoisseurs of the games and the present group specialized in bestiarii.

Although these aristocrats could make or break him, Carpophorus only gave them a surly nod as he sat down.

The walls of the inn were decorated by crude paintings, one of which was a copy of the fresco on the monument at Minturae to the eleven gladiators who had killed (and were killed by) ten bears, while another was a portrait of the famous venator, Aulus, inscribed: "To my good friend Chilo in memory of many a pleasant evening, Aulus."

The inscription, however, had not been written by Aulus himself as he was illiterate. Another painting showed two men being thrown out of the inn, with the caption: "Watch yourself or you'll get the same."

Carpophorus shouted for wine. Chilo, a plump Greek, answered the summons. Chilo had been, by turns, a bandit, a fence for stolen goods, a beggar, and a cageboy at the arena.

In addition to his present profession as innkeeper, he also pimped for the bestiarii and robbed travelers after slipping them a Mickey Finn composed of belladonna and hemlock.

"That was a fine show you put on with that tiger," remarked the fat Greek sociably. "How about some good Rhodian wine to celebrate. Just got a shipment in from Greece."

"I wouldn't use your damned resined wine to clean out a cage," retorted the venator.

"What do you want, a hundred-year-old Falemian?" demanded the Greek, stung by this insult to his native wines.

The innkeeper was made bold by the presence of the patricians and their gladiators. Carpophorus raised his head and stared at the man.

"Give me wine," he said slowly and distinctly. Chilo opened his mouth to retort, thought better of it, and pulled one of the long wine jars out of a hole in the counter top. Holding it by the two handles, he rested it on the pouring block and filled an earthenware cup.

Carpophorus drained it in one draught and the innkeeper filled it again.

One of the patricians spoke up. "My friend—er, the cobbler here," everyone smiled for the friend was a well-known senator, "and I were discussing which was the more dangerous antagonist; a lion or a tiger. What is your opinion?"

Carpophorus was about to tell the man to go jump in the Tiber but restrained himself and answered the question civilly. Several other patricians entered the argument, some of them asking not too unintelligent questions.

Carpophorus, after they had stood him several drinks, began to feel more friendly.

Roman Events: Those about to Die Chapter Ten, Part 2 is next.

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