BORROWING HEAVILY from Martial, Seutonius and other Roman writers, let’s picture a day at the Colosseum at the time of the Emperor Domitian during the heyday of the games when Carpophorus was top bestiarius.
For weeks before the show, tickets have been distributed by wardheelers, thrown to the crowds by the editor giving the games, and sold by speculators. People not fortunate enough to get a ticket have started to line up before the various entrances to the great building days in advance hoping to find standing room.
They have brought their food with them and are amused by tumblers, musicians and dancers who hope that the crowd will toss them a few copper coins. The ticket holders are shown to their seats by ushers called locarii: that is, men who show you the right location.
Then the soldiers guarding the entrances step aside and there is a frenzied dash for seats in the aisles and standing room in the top tier. It’s every man for himself. Women are knocked aside, children trampled, and fights break out in the tangle of passageways and ramps leading to the packed tiers.
In one such rush, forty people were killed. At last the gigantic building is filled, people crowding so close around the masts holding the awning that the sailors have hard work to handle the rigging.
The whole amphitheater is diffused by a red glow from the light shining through the awning covering the stadium. With this awning for protection, the signs advertising the games need no longer read: “Weather permitting” or “Will go on rain or shine” as they formerly did.
Perfumed fountains shoot colored water into the air, cooling the vast circus and sweetening the atmosphere.
Marble statues of various gods and goddesses clasp ums, dolphins and so on from which scented water gushes. The statues could also apparently be made to “sweat” perfumes by some mechanism.
The atmosphere takes some sweetening as already it stinks of sweat, leather, garlic and the odor of beasts in the pens below the arena. Later, it will smell a great deal worse.
The moat is filled with water constandy circulating and cooled with snows brought down from the mountains, for by noon the stadium will be like a roasting oven. Summers in Rome are hot and this is one of the summer shows.
Without the awning to protect the crowd from the sun, it would be torture to sit in the stadium. Caligula, to punish the mob for criticizing one of his shows, had the awning removed and kept the people in the stadium under the direct rays of the sun for several hours.
Many people died of sunstroke. Most of the crowd have brought fans and are wearing their lightest togas or simply sleeveless tunics.
Hawkers selling programs, cool drinks, sweetmeats and cushions to cover the hard marble seats, force their way through the packed aisles as best they can. From the cages below the arena come the roars of lions, the howling of wolves and the trumpeting of elephants.
People are busy making bets with each other or with the bookies who crawl from one seat level to another, shouting the current odds on the gladiators. The sound of the crowd is like the noise of “surf in a storm,” wrote a Roman poet.
As the awning flaps in the wind, the colors in the stadium change constantly. The awning is made of wool—canvas proved too heavy for the great span— and although it was dyed red over most of its length, there were apparently other colors too, for the Latin poets describe how the waves of light from the swaying awning would tint the white marble of the statues now red, now yellow and now cerulean.
The amphitheater is so high that it makes your head swim to look down from die upper tiers. The wooden planks of the arena are covered with freshly’laid, pure white sand especially imported from Egypt for the purpose and sparkles in the subdued light, for semi-precious stones have been sprinkled on it.
Nero actually had the arena floor covered with gold dust. This, however, was simply an extravagant gesture. Sand is the best material as it absorbs blood easily—in fact, the word arena means “sand.” Around a marble altar in the middle of the arena, priests are conducting a sacrifice.
The altar is to Jupiter Latista to whom in the old days human sacrifices were offered. The priests are dressed in white robes with red scarves. They lead out a white bull and two rams wearing gold headdresses. A fire is already burning on the altar and other priests are sprinkling wine and incense on it.
After the animals have been sacrificed with much ceremony, the priests examine their entrails to see if the gods wish the games to proceed. With the stadium packed to the bursting point, the gods had better wish it and the pattern of entrails shows that they do.
The priests file out, swinging incense burners and chanting hymns, while slaves remove the altar and the carcasses of the animals.
There is a distinguished audience in the podium and the first thirty-six rows of seats are reserved for the upper classes. The emperor has not yet arrived, but visiting rulers with their courts are already seated. Blond, bearded Gauls sit staring at the wonders around them.
There are Sygambrians with their long tresses tied in knots and Ethiopians with their woolly hair. There are Persians in red, blue and cloth-of-gold gowns, Britons in sleeved coats and loose trousers, Scythians from the Russian steppes, and Greeks in white robes. All these peoples are subject to Rome and the crowd knows it.
They make rude comments about the barbarians and even ruder about the lords and ladies in the lower tiers. Many of the patricians have led scandalous private lives which are well known to the mob.
They shout, “Hey, Italicus, are you still your mother’s bed-companion?” “Ah, there, Antonia, if the gladiators survive this fight, they’ll have a harder time satisfying you.” “Greeting, Gaius, have you managed to make your boy friend in the Praetorian Guard a tribune as yet?”
The patricians pay no attention to the cries although the taunts sting them. It is beneath their dignity to retort.
From outside the stadium comes the sound of music and a cheer goes up. The procession is coming. Led by slaves in golden armor blowing long trumpets, it files through the Gate of Life. The editor giving the games is riding in a chariot drawn by zebras (the Romans call them “tiger horses”) in magnificent harness.
He is a sickly young man with a weak face, the son of an influential old patrician woman who is determined to have the inane youngster elected to public office. He looks exhausted already from the long ride through the streets while standing erect in the chariot.
The weight of the heavy golden wreath studded with precious stones in his head makes him reel, and a slave has to ride in the chariot with him to hold the wreath in place. The young man is wearing a purple toga covered with gold braid and trying to manage the reins of his chariot and hold up his ivory scepter with its golden eagle at the same time.
Luckily for him the reins are simply for show; the zebras are being led by experienced trainers. The crowd gives him an ironic cheer. If the games come up to expectations, they’ll give him a real cheer and elect him to office.
A group of musicians march before the chariot playing for all they’re worth on horns, fifes and flutes. There is also the usual group of clients surrounding the chariot in their white robes as well as slaves holding up placards saying for what office the young noble is running.
After the chariot comes a long series of floats drawn by horses, mules and elephants. On each float is a statue of a god or goddess with priests burning incense on an altar before the image, or a group of young men and girls posing to represent some mythological tableau.
This procession circles the arena to cheers, catcalls, and cries of: “Get down from that chariot and let your mother ride!” and “Oh, I think you’re cute, sugar plum. Meet me under the stands and you’ll get my vote.” These long, formal parades were regarded as a waste of time by the mob and there was even a proverbial expression:
“Tiresome as a circen-sian procession.” But, like TV commercials, they were necessary; the editor giving the show wanted people to remember for whom to vote.
The insipid young man descends from the chariot, staggering with weariness, and is half led by his slaves to his place in the podium where his mother is already seated. He collapses with a sigh.
Slaves remove his gold wreath and he tries to wipe the sweat oS his face with the sleeve of his gown. His mother stops him with an angry gesture.
A trumpet sounds, announcing the entrance of the Emperor Domitian. He enters his box from the rear. The royal box was raised above the podium on a dais. Four columns, each surmounted by a statue of victory, supported a canopy over it.
Domitian was a great enthusiast for the games as long as they were cruel enough. (When there were no games, he used to amuse himself sticking pins in flies.) He is a pot-bellied man with large, watery eyes and completely bald. His private life was such that he was popularly referred to as “the old goat.”
During the games, he always kept a little boy with an extremely small head by his side and discussed the various events with him, apparently thinking that the deformed child possessed some supernatural ability to pick the winning chariot or best gladiator.
Domitian maintained his own school of gladiators and was finally murdered by one of them, hired for that purpose by a group of ambitious politicians.
Domitian doesn’t get much of a hand. He isn’t giving the games and is unpopular anyway, being regarded as something of a tightwad. The Vestal Virgins enter in their white robes and seat themselves in their box next to the emperor’s.
Then to another trumpet blast comes the parade of the combatants; the charioteers in their chariots, the gladiators marching in rank after rank, elephants carrying howdahs full of armed men, Nubians on horseback, cavalry from the royal household troop, trained lions led on chains by bestia-rii, ostriches drawing light chariots, snake charmers with pythons wrapped around them, male and female bullfighters naked except for loincloths, men in elaborate costumes riding giraffes, stags, antelopes and even a tame rhinoceros, cages drawn by horses containing some of the rarer animals recently brought to Rome, and a group of pygmies from the Ituri Forest in Central Africa.
There are also Parthian bowmen, Syrian slingers, red-headed Irishmen carrying shillelahs, Assyrians with flails, Egyptians with boomerang hatchets, African stone-throwers, Esscdarii who use lassos from chariots, Germans with javelins, Sikhs from India with sharp throwing rings, Laplanders with spears and spear-throwers, and inhabitants of the Andaman Islands with harpoons.
Little boys dressed as cupids with toy bows and arrows run about shooting light shafts into the crowd, each with a lottery ticket attached to the head. Groups of pretty young girls, nude except for garlands of flowers around their waists, scatter rose petals under the feet of the procession, and dwarfs dressed in extravagant costumes, many with huge, brightly colored phalli strapped to their loins, run about, tumbling, doing handstands, and performing simple acrobatic tricks.
A detachment of the Praetorian Guard, their gold armor gleaming in the subdued light, brings up the rear of the procession.
After circling the arena to wild applause, the procession formed before the royal podium and saluted Domitian. They then saluted the young editor who was caught off guard and had to be angrily prompted by his mother before he remembered to rise and -make the proper response.
Most of the performers left the arena but the gladiators lingered, swaggering around before the crowd and shouting to pretty girls, “Here’s your chance, sweetheart, embrace me before death does.”! Some of the gladiators who were proud of their figures were completely naked except for garlands of flowers on their heads; their bodies shining with olive oil. Instead of weapons, they carried palm branches.
These men flexed their muscles, hooking the fingers of one hand under the fingers of the other and straining to make their biceps stand out or, raising both arms at, their sides, threw back their shoulders. The crowd! shouted and screamed with delight, most of the women looking down coyly but managing to steal a glance out of the corners of their eyes at the magnificent figures before them.
Shouts of: “My money’s on you, Primus!” “Give ’em the cold steel, Pamphilus!” went up, and there was a desperate last-minute checking of names, odds, and weapons on the programs.
When the arena was cleared, there came a moment’s hush. Then the trumpet sounded and immediately hundreds of wild animals began to pour into the arena. This was the usual opening for the games—a venation or wild beast hunt.
The numbers and variety of animals in one of these hunts were astonishing. Martial says that there were nine thousand animals killed in these six-day games. There were deer, wild boars, bears, bulls, antelopes, ibex, jackals, ostriches, cranes, wild horses, hyenas, leopards and a herd of domestic cattle put in for “padding.”
The whole arena seemed covered with a patchwork quilt of various colored skins. Fights were constantly breaking out but the arena was so crowded and the animals so terrified that by mere weight of numbers the contestants were jostled apart and swept away from each other as the frantic creatures tried to find some way to escape.
The delighted crowd, shouting and counting eagerly on their fingers how many animals there were (for each show had to be bigger than the last), never gave a thought to the enormous labor and astonishing efficiency that made it possible to deliver all these different animals into the arena at the same instant.
When the crowd’s interest in the swarming, fighting animals began to lag, foxes with firebrands tied to their tails were set loose. The foxes darted through the packed mass, causing terror wherever they went, while the mob screamed with delight.
Domitian, his sluggish nature titivated by the sight of the struggling, helpless beasts, shouted for his bow. The fat emperor was an excellent shot and used to practice his marksmanship on captive animals on his Alban estate.
He was handed a powerful sinew-backed bow from Persia, so flexible that when the bow was unstrung, the curve of the bow¦ was the reverse of that taken up when the string was attached.
A slave strung the bow while the pudgy ruler danced with impatience and another slave held out a quiver filled with arrows feathered with peacock trains. Domitian began to shoot into the packed animals while the crowd cheered him on.
Often he was able to send one arrow through an animal and hit another on the other side. To exhibit his skill, he would shoot two arrows into an animal’s head so they resembled horns. After shooting over a hundred of the animals, he ordered a slave to jump into the arena, run to the middle, and hold out his hand with the fingers spread.
Domitian sent arrows between the fingers while the crowd yelled with delighted surprise and the patricians politely applauded. As the arena was still full of frantic animals, the slave had quite a job avoiding their wild rushes, and between watching out for the animals and keeping an eye on Domitian, he had a lively time.
The crowd thought the slave’s antics were excruciatingly funny and laughed until they cried. Suddenly a bull charged the man from behind and tossed him. The slave came down- between two bears who instantly seized him and began pulling their victim apart.
His cries sounded above the lowing of the cattle and the screams of the wild horses who were kicking on the sand with arrows sticking in them.
Domitian waited with an arrow on the string and a broad smile on his face until the slave was dead. Then with two expert shots, he killed both of the bears and sat down wiping his plump face to thunderous applause.
Now was the turn of the professional venatores, among them Carpophorus. These men entered the arena from the same openings that had emitted the animals. Each group of venators could be instantly identified by the crowd from their equipment. Some men carried only a veil and a long dagger for the bears. Others were in full armor, like gladiators, to receive the charge of the bulls.
Others carried spears with a round metal disk halfway up the haft. These would fight the wild boars, the disk being to prevent the boar forcing himself along the spear and killing the man. Other men were on horseback with spears to dispatch the deer. Carpophorus wore only a loose smock that left his powerful arms bare and a few amulets bung around his neck for good luck.
At a signal from the young editor, the trumpet sounded, and while the band played wildly, the vena-tores rushed into the pass. The next instant the arena was full of screams, brays, howls, bellows, curses, and the noise of the conflict.
The crowd loved this spectacle. Being high up and their view of the arena largely obscured by the central ring of masts supporting the awning, they had difficulty watching the individual gladiatorial contests which the nobility in the front row especially enjoyed, but in these venationes there was so much doing that no matter where you sat you could see plenty of action.
Everyone was on his feet, shouting encouragement to the venatores although the tumult in the arena was so great that no one could hear his own voice.
Carpopborus worked fast. Leaping from antelope to antelope, he grabbed the wretched creature by the horns, gave the neck one expert twist, and dropping the dying animal sehed another. He killed five antelopes in rapid succession . . . then fifteen . . . then twenty.
He killed at least one leopard so Martial says. As each animal dropped, there was a bellow of applause from the stands—and not only from the upper tiers, for the patricians were watching Carpophorus also.
The shouts came in a regular rhythm like surf as Carpophorus killed animal after animal. Such a feat of strength had seldom been seen in the arena. Carpophorus, according to Martial, was definitely the star of the show.
By now the crowd of animals was thinning out and it was hard for Carpophorus to catch his victims. He adopted a new technique. Putting his hands behind him, he went after the exhausted foxes and frightened jackals that were crouching against the barricade, too terrified to move.
Using his teeth alone, Carpophorus caught them by the back of the neck, gave one quick shake, and killed them. Sometimes the animals would turn on the man and sink their teeth into the venator’s chin or cheeks. Carpophorus refused to use his hands to pull them 08. He shook the animal loose or dislodged it by rolling on the sand and then returned to the attack.
The crowd was hysterical by now, Domitian sat with his mouth open and his eyes bulging with delight and even the young editor, sweating and miserable in his heavy toga, took an interest in the proceedings.
The first lot of animals was almost gone and slaves with shovels, baskets, and rakes were hurriedly cleaning the arena.
The gratings in front of the chutes began to creak and then slide upwards. Carpophorus shouted a warning to his fellow venatores and took up a position with his back to the inner barrier.
New animals were being driven into the arena and the air was heavy with the odor of burning straw and the stench of singed hair as the slaves used hot irons to force some reluctant beast- to move.
These new arrivals were not deer, foxes or antelope. They were lions, a few tigers, many leopards, wild dogs and wolves. Without daring to take his eyes from the arena,
Carpophorus raised his hands toward the top of the barrier. Instantly his personal slaves handed him a shield and short sword. The slaves of the other venatores also handed their masters new weapons: capes like those used by a modern bullfighter, pikes, javelins, and daggers.
It was not to be expected that these animals would attack the men of their own free will. Freshly captured, bewildered, cramped from long confinement, their only idea was to escape. But there was nowhere for them to go.
When they tried to seek refuge along the barrier, slaves with red-hot irons drove them away. Carpophorus selected a young male lion near him and moved forward, covering himself with his shield.
The lion paid no attention to the advancing man. He had got into a snarling argument with another lion. Carpophorus reached his side and then, shortening his sword, struck for the shoulder. At the last instant the lion leaped back to avoid a blow from the other lion and the sword thrust went through the loose skin on his back.
The wounded animal spun around and struck at Carpophorus with his forepaws—left, right, like a boxer. Carpophorus took the blows on his shield and the lion backed away, snarling and looking around for some way of escape.
Carpophorus came on. The lion had his back to the barricade now and Carpophorus shouted to the slaves to let him stay there. If the lion was burned suddenly he would make a wild dash across the arena and be impossible to stop. The lion was no longer snarling and was watching the venator intently.
Carpophorus shouted and waved his shield, trying to provoke a charge but the lion would not move. Carpophorus moved back and forth before the animal but the lion still refused to charge.
The venator did not dare to engage the animal against the barrier as he would have no room to dodge. At last, exasperated, he shouted to the slaves, “All right, give him the fire!”
He saw a quick motion through the slit in the barrier. Then the lion gave a roar of pain and shot forward. Carpophorus braced himself, swaying slightly backward to give his forward thrust more power but the desperate animal jumped straight over his head and vanished into the mass of animals.
Carpophorus cursed and turned to find another victim. He saw a leopard crouching on the sand and approached him. The leopard watched him with unblinking eyes and then the venator saw the big cat gather himself together for the spring. Carpophorus bated leopards; they were much too quick.
A lion was far easier to handle but this leopard had been the animal nearest to him and he didn’t want the crowd to see him avoid it. He watched carefully from the side of Ins shield waiting for that lightning-like charge.
As always with leopards, no matter how cautious he was, the charge caught him unexpectedly. One moment the cat had been crouching on the sand. The next instant it was on his shield biting at the boss and trying to get a hold on the smooth bronze with its hind legs.
Fortunately an animal could not distinguish between a I man and his shield and would continue attacking the shield for some seconds without trying to reach the man. Carpophorus plunged his sword into the leopard’s body three times before the mortally wounded cat fell back on the sand, kicking in its death throes.
Carpophorus swung around to find his next quarry. Near him, one of the other venatores had succeeded in blinding a lion by throwing a cape over his head and was giving him the death stroke.
Another man had a wolf pinned to the sand with his pike and was leaning on the haft to press the spearhead home, avoiding the snapping jaws of the dying animal.
Two of the armored venatores were slowly approaching a tiger from opposite sides, the tiger whirling around in an effort to watch both men at the same time.
A young venator, wild with excitement, flung his’ javelin and pierced the tiger through the body. Under the circumstances, it was an utterly foolhardy thing to do and Carpophorus, even while the javelin was in the air, knew what would happen.
He sprang forward but before he could reach the combatants, the tiger had given a great bound and landed on one of the two armed venatores. The great cat weighed over five hundred pounds and the man went down as though hit by a poleaxe.
Instantly the tiger grabbed the man’s head in his jaws and crunched the skull, the venator’s bronze helmet cracking like tin as the long fangs went through it.
“Spearmen! spearmen!” shouted Carpophorus at the top of his lungs while trying to distract the tiger’s attention. A venator armed with a spear ran up and tried to drive it through the tiger’s shoulder but the cat sprang back, striking at the spearhead with his paw. Then he spun around in a circle, biting at the javelin in his body.
Carpophorus shouted to the armed venator, “Take him on the other side while I move in from here!” The venator nodded and circled the tiger.
Capophorus snapped to the spearman, “All right, we’ll keep him busy until you get a chance to use your spear but don’t take all day about it.” Settling his shield, he came in toward the tiger.
The tiger had stopped biting at the javelin and was facing Carpophorus. His hindquarters were slightly raised so he could bring his rear legs under him and get the maximum spring for his bound.
Carpophorus moved slightly to the right to give the spearman a better chance. The tiger’s eyes followed him but the cat did not change its position.
Then, without any more intimation than the leopard had shown, the tiger charged. Carpophorus dropped to one knee to receive the shock, covering himself with his big shield.
The tiger hit the shield like a battering ram, knocking it out of the man’s hand. Then he grabbed Carpophorus’ right shoulder with his teeth and started to drag him across the arena.
Carpophorus stabbed upwards into the tiger’s belly. As he did so, he saw the spearman’s blade flash past him and plunge deep into the tiger’s chest. The armed venator came in and with one terrible stroke split the tiger’s skull open with his sword. The dead animal fell across Carpophorus.
The other venatores pulled him from under the striped carcass. Carpophorus was streaming blood but could still stand. Around them other fights were raging. A venator had a leopard by the throat and was trying to strangle it although the cat’s slashing hind legs had already disemboweled him.
Four wild dogs, huge, yellow Molossians from the mountains of Greece, had got another venator down and were stretching him out on the sand, two pulling him by the face and shoulder and two holding him by the legs. A fifth dog rushed in and attacked the helpless man’s genitals.
Another venator was trying to get his pike out of a wolf’s body while being attacked by other members of the pack. A young venator had grabbed a lioness by the tail and was holding her while two of his companions stabbed the animal with their pikes.
“You’d better leave the arena,” said the armed venator to Carpophorus. “The crowd will let you go.” The crowd had been watching Carpophorus’ feat and were giving him a big hand.
Carpophorus hardly heard him. He was blind with rage and had a sudden savage hatred of the beasts. He stooped and tried to pick up his sword but his side was numb where the tiger had been shaking him.
He cursed and the spearman picked up the sword for him. By an effort, Carpophorus made his fingers close over’ the hilt although he could feel nothing.
He started forward toward the melee, blood from his wounded side filling up the footprints made by his right foot as he staggered on. The armed venator and the spearman exchanged looks, shook their heads, and followed him.
The crowd were shouting, “No, Carpophorus, no!” and waving their handkerchiefs but Carpophorus paid no attention to them. He was” going to get himself another tiger or die trying.
Domitian turned and gave an order to a courtier behind him. The man shouted to the trumpeter who gavel a single blast on his long horn. From the Gate of Life marched a detachment of heavily armed soldiers armed with spears.
These men formed a line across the far end of the arena and then locked their shields together, each shield fitting into a bracket on the shield next to it until there was a solid shield wall stretching across the arena. The great rectangular shield covered a man from the bridge of his nose to his knees.
Before the shields was a solid line of spears held in such perfect alignment that from the side it seemed as though there were only one weapon.
At an order from the cen-turian in command, the line moved forward at the regulation legion step, so perfectly timed that it could be used to measure distances. A thousand (milla) such steps measured exactly 5,280 feet, or what has later become known as a mile.
Behind the line of troops came bestiarii with their lead-tipped cat-o’-nine-tails in case any of the beasts broke through the soldiers. Behind them came gladiators called andabatae, men wearing helmets without a visor, so they could not see.
As soon as they reached the arena, these andabatae began to swing wildly around, trying by chance to hit one another. The andabatae were necessary for the hunt was now over and eveni while the arena was being cleared, there bad to be something going on.
As soon as he heard the trumpet signal the end of the hunt the Master of the Games, who functioned as ringmaster, gave orders to open the doors of the chutes. The order was immediately obeyed and slaves hurriedly put out basins of water to help lure the exhausted animals inside.
Before the steadily advancing line of spears, the remaining animals gave back. Most of them eventually found the open doors of the chutes and rushed in, drinking feverishly from the basins. A few charged the soldiers and died under the spears.
Two lions and a leopard managed to force their way through the serried ranks; the lions leaping over the men and the leopard fighting his way through. The animals were promptly driven out through the Gate of Life by the bestiarii with their flails.
Carpophorus, still in a daze, did not at first understand what was happening. He continued to stride toward the remaining beasts looking for another tiger. The spearman pulled at the bloody sleeve of his tunic.
“The hunt’s over, Carpophorus,” he said softly. “The soldiers are clearing the arena for the next act. Come on, let’s get out of here.”
Carpophorus shrugged him off. A wolf trying to escape from the spears ran past him and Carpophorus kicked at the animal irritably. There were no tigers left.
The crowd had forgotten about the hunt by now and were watching the andabatae, roaring with laughter at the men’s clumsy swings. Slaves followed the andabatae, pushing them together with long forked poles.
Carpo phorus saw a lion and plunged toward the animal.1 Martial says that rather than face him, the lion rushed on the spears and was killed.
The line of soldiers was almost up to Carpophorus now. The centurion was yelling, “Get that crazy bastard out of here.”
A venator with a cape stepped up quietly behind Carpophorus and threw the cape over his head. Instantly the armed venator and the spearman grabbed the raging bestiarius.
They dragged him out of the arena while Carpophorus fought like a madman. Under the stands, the arena doctors were waiting.
“All right, boys, bring him in here,” said one of the doctors taking command. Carpophorus was pulled into a small room where several of the venatores were under treatment. The doctor shouted and four giant Negroes hurried over.
Instantly grasping the situation, they seized the raging venator and pulled him to a wooden bed with shackles at the top and bottom. For a gladiator or a venator to go mad with wounds or bloodlust—berserk, the Norsemen used to call it—was a common occurrence.
Carpophorus struggled with superhuman strength but the Negroes were expert man-handlers and he had no chance. They flung him down on the heavy wooden frame and shackled his arms and legs.
“You’ll feel better in a few minutes, my boy,” said the doctor soothingly as he prepared a potion containing opium. “Some fight you put up. Those tigers are hell, aren’t they? Now some people think that lions are worse because they roar and put on a big show, but any good venator can handle a lion.
Drink this.” He grabbed the raving man’s cheek, taking care not to be bitten, pulled it away from the gums, and skillfully poured the draft down Carpophorus’ throat. “I’ll never forget the ludi sollemnes that old Vitellius gave to get the people’s minds off the Pannonian mutiny.
Fifty tigers in the arena at one time. That was a day! Blood all over the place. Does this man have to fight again today?” he shouted to the Master of the Games who was hurrying past.
“No, but he will tomorrow afternoon,” said the Master as he went by.
“You’ll be all right by then,” the doctor assured Carpophorus, who was now sobbing in great, heaving gasps. “I’ll have the slaves squeeze some blood out of those dead cats and you can drink that.
You’ve lost plenty of blood but that will restore it as well as feed your spirit. Now let’s sew up that cut in your shoulder.”