Roman Times and Events: Those about to Die, Chapter 13, Part 4 of 4

(by Daniel P. Mannix)

It's rather interesting that some two thousand years later another animal collector made a great reputation for himself by capturing and importing animals under much the same conditions as did Fulcinius, supposedly for zoos but actually so fights could be staged between the animals in corrals and pits for Hollywood motion picture cameras.

The pictures of these fights were so popular that they are still appearing in re-run theaters and on TV [in 1958]. If you want to know what the Roman arena must have been like, tune in on one of these programs.

I saw one showing a fight between an African lion and an Indian water buffalo supposedly taken "in the heart of the Dark Continent."

Of course, nobody cares whether the pictures are faked or not. Like the Romans, all they want to see is the fight.

I've also seen pictures of "native spearmen fighting man-eating lions" which were staged by order of a local governor in Africa as a tourist attraction.

The lions arrived in crates and the natives got their spears and shields through a European supply house. I've heard that three men died as a result of the fight. A good, average, arena spectacle.

How did a man like Fulcinius die? Probably of blackwater or malaria fever. Or perhaps he was one of the men who died in the mud-walled Roman fort some 250 miles north of Mombasa, the remains of which still stand.

Mombasa was then the main port of East Africa and galleys waited there to be loaded with rice, sesame oil, ivory, and wild animals for Italy.

The fort may well have been put there as a way station for the animal collectors. If so, the local tribes would have long learned to avoid the place; otherwise they might at any time be pressed into service to haul the cages or their fields stripped to feed the wild cargo. So the fort would have been isolated and the sentinels have no warning of an attack.

Perhaps at dawn, a Masai war party suddenly rushed the walls, giving their terrible yodeling cries as they hurled their spears and then drew their simis (long daggers) for the close work.

The fort covers some five acres and the garrison was not strong enough to hold all the walls. Fulcinius would have fought to the end, side by side with his native troops and his big Molossian hounds which he used to drive animals aboard ship and to bring quarry to bay.

Probably his wrappers fought with their hunting spears, while the legionnaires used their swords and shields.

At the end, they were overrun. Now only a few coins, some from the time of Nero, some of the time of Antonius Pius, and one from the time of Trajan remain to show their fate.

The victorious Masai left the coins on the ground but took the valuable weapons and armor from the dead men.

Roman Events: Those about to Die, Chapter Fourteen, Part 1 is next.

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