Roman Times and Events: Those about to Die, Chapter 11, Part 2 of 7

(by Daniel P. Mannix)

The head dodger nodded toward the Master of the Games, who had been watching closely from the edge of the inner barrier. The animals were sufficiently excited now for the next step. Also, they were growing sullen.

Except for the bison bull, none of them had succeeded in killing any of their tormentors and they were beginning to take up stands—called a querencia in modern bullfighting.

Either the animals herded together or picked a section of the arena and stood there motionless. The dodgers and the tumblers could now do nothing with them until the animals had been given new confidence by a kill.

The condemned criminals who were to be killed by the animals to give them this confidence (in the bullring, horses are used for this purpose) were now driven into the arena.

Among them was the pitiful young boy who had been Glyco's minion, or male mistress. The boy—he could not have been more than fifteen or sixteen—staggered out into the blinding light of the white sand, for the awning did not cover the central part of the arena and protected only the spectators.

Glyco, sitting in the podium with his mistress, leaned over the marble balustrade and called to the boy. The youngster, hearing the familiar voice and hoping for a reprieve, ran toward the sound. The motion attracted an aurochs which promptly charged.

Just before he struck the boy, the lad was jerked into the air by an invisible wire that had been tied around him before he entered the arena and was operated bv the sailors in the over head scaffolding.

The boy soared into the air with a scream, only to be dropped almost instantly in front of a bison. The bison also charged, the boy was again pulled upwards, and this farce continued while Glyco and his mistress roared with laughter and the crowd howled its mirth.

Eventually, either by accident or design, the boy was impaled by a charging aurochs. The long horn went completely through him and the bull charged madly around the arena, the shrieking boy pinwheeling around the horn with every shake of the bull's head.

When the criminals were dead, the dodgers and tumblers rushed out again. This time they were followed by Thessalian horsemen who galloped alongside the bulls, grabbed them by the horns, and then flung them down—bulldogging as in modem rodeos.

Pliny describes this trick. Mounted men with lances also engaged the bulls while the venatores on foot, armed with swords and capes, also entered the arena. Carpoiphorus was one of these last.

Some of the wild cattle had been in the arena many times before. A pole vaulter made the mistake of trying to show his skill with one of these experienced animals. He ran toward the bull and when the animal charged, tried to vault over his head.

The old bull simply stood back and waited for the man to come down. The expression on the man's face as he clung to the top of his pole put the crowd into convulsions.

Carpophorus was armed with a javelin and seeing the vaulter's plight, stepped forward and drove his weapon into the aurochs' side.

He had meant for the bull to drop dead instantly but his stroke missed and the wounded animal rushed away, tearing the javelin from Carpophorus' hand (a Pompeian fresco shows this scene).

The bull wheeled and came back. Carpophorus, a venator rather than a dodger, could not avoid the rush. He went down between the bull's spreading horns.

The horns saved him. He clung to them while the mortally wounded animal smashed him repeatedly against the sand.

Other venatores had run to his assistance. One of them grabbed the bull's tail (also in the frescos), another threw his cape over the bull's head, another plunged his sword into the animal's side.

Between them they managed to drag Carpophorus to one of the burladeros. Even while they were carrying the wounded venator around the outside of the inner barrier to the Gate of Death, the bull followed them on the inside, watching the men.

When they finally disappeared, the bull returned to the battle so suddenly that he caught the venatores following him. He tossed one man fifteen feet in the air, bounded around like a spring lamb while the man was coming down, and then gored him again.

The venatores finally managed to get the corpse away from him and over the inner barrier. Then they stood back to let the mortally wounded animal die.

Roman Events: Those about to Die, Chapter Eleven, Part 3 is next.

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