Roman Times and Events: Those about to Die, Chapter 11, Part 4 of 7

(by Daniel P. Mannix)

Carpophorus loosed these dogs and then went in with his spear. The dogs attacked any animal that their master indicated.

The stags and antelope they killed by themselves, chasing the animal around the arena until it turned at bay, and then pulling it down.

One deer fell on its knees before the royal dais as though imploring mercy. In response to the shouts of the crowd, Domitian spared the animal.

The dogs surrounded the more dangerous animals, rushing in and snapping to keep their quarry turning so he could not attack any individual member of the pack. Only when Carpophorus moved in for the kill would the dogs take hold, grabbing the animal by the paws, muzzle or testicles to hold him long enough for the spear to go home.

They were also employed to dispatch the last of the wild cattle. Certain of the dogs were trained to grab a bull by the nose and hold his head down for the fatal stroke.

These dogs had undershot jaws, elevated nostrils so they could continue to breathe without loosening their grip, and bowlegs; the ancestors of the modem English bulldog.

Sometimes a bull would toss a dog. When this happened, handlers were ready with long poles to guide the dog into the arms of another handler, who broke the dog's fall. One bull, left for dead, suddenly sprang up and killed a venator.

After this attraction, a number of fast-moving novelty acts were introduced. Women were dragged behind chariots and the hounds set on them.

"Legendary pageants" were staged showing the castration of Alys, Hercules being burned alive on a pyre, and Mucius Scaevola having his hand burned off.

A prostitute and her pimp gave an exhibition of the various positions of sexual intercourse, but in the middle of an embrace, Carpophorus set the Molossian hounds on the couple and they were quickly torn to pieces.

A robber was crucified and bears were encouraged to jump up and tear the dying man from the cross. A man representing Prometheus was chained to a rock and a trained eagle turned loose to pull out his liver.

By the time the eagle was done with him, Martial tells us, "his mangled limbs still lived although all the parts dripped blood and in all his body was nowhere a body's shape."

A man dressed as Daedalus with wings tied to his shoulders was thrown from the top scaffolding. When he crashed on the sand, a wild boar was released to gore the corpse.

A lion, who had turned on his trainer when beaten, was killed by a venator using a sword and cloak. "Although the beast won't take the whip, he learned to take the steel."

A bear, trapped in the mountains with birdlime, was surrounded by a ring of bestiarii and whirled around on the bloody sand with lowered heard until a javelin dispatched him.

A pregnant sow was cut open by a venator's spear and the litter of piglets spilled out of her side onto the sand. One piglet even lived.

Under the direction of the bestiarii, animal fights of all kinds were staged, lion versus tiger, a buffalo versus an elephant.

A rhino tossed a bull as though it were one of the straw dummies. Then he killed a bear, a bison and two aurochs in quick succession.

Finally an elephant was sent against him. According to the story, the elephant picked up a sweeper's broom and blinded the rhino with the coarse bristles. The blinded rhino charged straight through the inner barrier and crashed into the podium wall.

The elephant finished the stunned animal by trampling him, and was then given candy by his proud mahout. At last, the legionnaires were sent to clear the arena with their shield wall and line of spears.

Now came a delightful novelty. Instead of having the crowd find their own lunch, by order of the editor, catapults flung roast partridges and pheasants among the stands. Slaves dragged baskets full of other fancy foods up and down the aisles.

Then the catapults showered the crowd with lottery tickets. The holder of a lucky ticket might win a set of furniture, a suit of clothes, a sack of gold coins or a valuable jewel.

To get in on the act, Domitian ordered that government lottery tickets also be distributed. A winner might get a merchant ship, a house, or even a large estate.

Roman Events: Those about to Die, Chapter Eleven, Part 5 is next.

Roman Events: Those about to Die, Index or Table of Contents