To learn how to dodge, the young man was sent out against a leopard tied to a bull by a long rope. As the bull could move as well as the leopard, this was a far tougher job than if the cat were simply tied to a stake but much easier than if the leopard simply tied to a stake but much easier than if the leopard were free.
Another bestiarius with a spear stood behind the animals, goading them on. Carpophorus was also exposed to two wild animals at the same time, such as a lion and a leopard, and had to learn to avoid both.
He was sometimes forced to lie on the ground while a wild boar or bull was set on him. Carpophorus had to learn how to leap to his feet at the last instant to escape the rush.
He had to learn how to irritate wild animals by allowing them almost to catch him and then vaulting over a low fence or behind a wooden shield (as in modern bullfights).
The purpose of this maneuver was to make the animals so furious that they would willingly attack the condemned criminals afterwards thrown to them.
Naturally, Carpophorus was soon covered with scars, but like all bestiarii he was as proud of his scars as a soldier is of his medals, considering them a hallmark of his profession. You could point to any scar and Carpophorus could tell you when and how he had received it.
Carpophorus was soon covered with scars, but like all bestiarii he was as proud of his scars as a soldier is of his medals, considering them a hallmark of his profession.
The young bestiarius had two serious vices: he was a heavy drinker and had a berserk temper. Wine was forbidden the students, except during meals, and then mixed with water, but Carpophorus knew his way around and managed to get his own supply.
One of his jobs in the school was to train a leopard to be a man-eater. This was a complicated process as none of the big cats willingly attacks humans.
The first part of the training consisted in overcoming the leopard's instinctive dread of human beings. For this purpose, a leopard born in captivity who had never learned to fear people was far preferable to a wild caught animal.
A particularly mean, half-grown cub was selected and a bestiarius, heavily padded, approached the animal deliberately pretending to be nervous. As soon as the leopard made a swipe at him, the bestiarius fell on the cage floor, rolling in apparent agony.
The sight of a prostrate victim will generally encourage any aggressive animal to attack and also the man had bits of meat tied to his padding. In this way, the leopard was taught to be a killer.
The animal always won in these combats and the trainer was careful never to strike or discipline him in any manner whatever.
One of Carpophorus' jobs in the school was to train a leopard to be a man-eater.
The leopard was always fed human meat—there was plenty of that around the arena—and later encouraged to attack slaves. These men had their arms broken and teeth knocked out so they could not injure the animal.
A desperate man can kill a leopard with his bare hands (Carl Akeley, the African explorer, accomplished this feat) but even if women or children were used the animal had to be convinced that he could always win without trouble.
Finally, when the animal was completely confident of his powers, he was given uncrippled slaves to kill. If the slave put up too much of a struggle, the watching bestiarius helped the leopard out with a quick spear thrust.
Roman Events: Those about to Die, Chapter Five, Part 4 is next.
Roman Events: Those about to Die, Index or Table of Contents