(de spectaculis: 80 A.D.)

2      Here, where, rayed with stars, the Colossus views heaven from close up, and in the middle of the street tall scaffolding rises, once gleamed hatefully the Palace of a savage king [Nero's Golden House], and but a single house now stood in the entire city; here where the far-seen Amphitheater lifts its august mas was Nero's pond; here where we now admire the gift so swiftly erected, the Thermae [of Titus], once a proud park had robbed the lowly of their dwellings. Where the colonnade of the Temple of Claudius extends its outspread shade the Palace once extended to its farthest limit. Some has been given back to herself, and under your direction, Caesar, and what was once the delight of a Master is now the delight of the People.

24    Whoever you are, late spectator, arrived from a distant shore, for whom this day of the Sacred Show is your first, I hope that this naval battle with its ships, and the waters that represent seas, do not mislead you. Let me point out that 'here just now was land'. You do not believe me? Look on while the seas weary the God of War. Wait one moment and you will say, 'Here just now was the sea.'

28    It was Augustus' work here to make fleets do battle, and to rouse the seas with the trumpet of naval war. How small a part of our Caesar's effort: Thetis and Galatea both saw beasts unknown riding on the wave: Triton saw on that sea floor chariots in hot rivalry and thought that his Master Poseidon's steeds had sped; and Nereus, when he was setting in motion fierce battles for the hostile ships, shrunk back from treading upon the liquid waters. Whatever you see in the Circus and Amphitheater, this wealth of water, Caesar has presented it for your benefit.

29    While Priscus was dragging out the right, and Verus was dragging too, and for a long time the battle was equal on both sides, great uproar demanded time and again a discharge from the arena for both men. But Caesar himself obeyed his own rules; the rule was that, when the contest was started, the thing ran 'ad digitum'. Again and again— and this was allowed— he gave platters and gifts. At long last a way to end this perfectly matched contest was hit upon. They fought on equal terms; they surrendered on equal terms; Caesar sent the wooden sword and the palm to each of them; it was manly valor [ virtus ] so ingenious that brought this prize. This has taken place under no Princeps except you, Caesar [Domitian]: when two men fought, both were the winner.

21    Whatever Mount Rhodope saw in the Orphic play, it is said, Caesar, that the Arena has exhibited for you. Cliffs crept, and a marvel of a forest rushed around, a grove like they say the Grove of the Hesperides was. Every kind of wild beast was there, mixed in with the herds, and above the Singer hovered many a bird. But he fell, mangled by an ungrateful bear.

8    Daedalus, now that you are being so mangled by a Lucanian boar, how badly would you like to have your wings?

5    That Pasiphae was mated to the Dictaean bull you must believe. We have seen it. The ancient tale has demonstrated its veracity. Nor should the aeons of history marvel at themselves, Caesar, For the Arena presents to you whatever Fame has sung.


© 06/23/2007


January 22, 2010 9:50 PM

John Paul Adams, CSUN

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