The Ancient Library

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On this page: Venus – Vergil




Fnlvius NobTlior, 116 b.c. Those who took part in these contests were called bestmrtt. They were either criminals and prisoners of war, who were poorly armed or com­pletely unarmed, pitted against wild beasts which had previously been made furious by hunger, branding, and goading ; or else hired men who, like gladiators, were trained in special schools and fully armed. Even in the last century of the Republic, and still more under the Empire, incredible expenses were incurred in the collection of the rarest animals from the remotest quar­ters of the globe, and in the other arrange­ments for their baiting. Thus Pompey pro­vided a show of BOO lions, 18 elephants, and 410 other African animals ; and Caligula caused 400 bears and the same number of animals from Africa to tear each other to pieces. Occasionally at these combats with wild beasts the man condemned to death •was attired in an appropriate costume, so as to represent a sanguinary scene from my­thology or history, as, for example, Orpheus being torn to pieces by bears. Down to the end of the Republic these shows took place in the Circus, and the greater exhibitions were held there even after that time, until the amphitheatres became the usual places of performance : and indeed, when they were combined with the gladiatorial exhibitions, they took place in the early morning before them. [The repugnance of some of the more cultivated Romans for these exhibitions is shown in a letter of Cicero's, Ad Fain, vii 1 § 3.] They were continued down to the 6th century.

Among the Greeks, especially the Athe­nians, cock-fights and quail-fights were very popular. At Athens cock-fights were held once a year in the theatres at the public expense. The training of fighting cocks was conducted with great care. Certain places, such as Tanagra in Bceotia, Rhodes, and DelSs, had the reputation of producing the largest and strongest. To whet their eagerness for the combat, they were pre­viously fed with garlic. Their legs were armed with brass spurs, and they were set opposite to each other on tables furnished with raised edges. Bets, often to an enor­mous amount, were laid on the fights by the gamesters, as well as by the spectators.

T6nus. Originally a Latin goddess of spring, presiding over flower-gardens and vines, and as such worshipped by gar­deners, husbandmen, florists, and vine­dressers. At Lavinium there was an ancient sanctuary dedicated to her by the

Latins; on the other hand, in Rome, she had in olden times no State worship, at least under this name. Her earliest Roman name appears to have been Murcia, which was i interpreted later on as Myrtea, goddess of myrtles. How she came to be identified j with the Greek love-goddess Aphrodite is j not clear. The oldest historical mention of her worship in this character is in 217 B.C., when, by the order of the Sibylline books, after the disaster at Lake Trasimene, a temple dedicated to the Venus of Mount Eryx in Sicily, an ancient and well known place for the worship of Aphrodite Urania, was built on the Capitol.

Besides the various forms of worship which she enjoyed, corresponding to the Greek cult of Aphrodite, Venus had a special significance as Genetrix, or mother of the Roman people through her son jEneas. She was especially worshipped as mother of the race of the Julii, which claimed descent from her grandson lulus, the son of jEneas. It was on this account that Caesar, in the Forum built by him in 46 b.c., erected a magnificent temple in her honour as Glnetrix, in which games were annually held for eleven days. To her, as mother of the whole Roman race, as well as to Roma, the personification of Rome, Hadrian dedi­cated a splendid double temple, completed 135 a.d., the ruins of which can still be seen in the neighbourhood of the Coliseum. In later times it was called templum urbis. (See architecture, fig. 13.)

The 1st of April was sacred to Venus as the day on which she was worshipped by the Roman matrons, together with Fortuna Vtrilis, the goddess of prosperity in the in­tercourse of men and women, and also with Concordia, as Verticordia, the goddess who turns the hearts of women to chastity and modesty. Other holidays were kept to her in the same month as goddess of prostitution. (See also venus i/ibitina. On the types of Venus in works of art, cp. aphrodite.) Vergil [Lat. Publius Veri/mus MarO ; not Virgilius. The spelling Vergilius is attested, not only by the best manuscripts, but by inscriptions]. The famous Roman poet, born 15th October, 70 b.c. at Andes, a village near Mantua, on the Mincius, where his father possessed a small estate. After receiving his early education at CrSmona and (after assuming in 55 b.c. the toga of manhood) at Milan, he proceeded in 53 to Rome, where he devoted himself to rhetorical, philosophical, and physical studies. Prevented by weakness of health

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