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Chapter 62

  • THE drama "Aureolus" was given usually in theatres or amphitheatres, s_rranged that they could open and present as it were two separate stages. Bu_fter the spectacle in the gardens of Caesar the usual method was omitted; fo_n this case the problem was to let the greatest number of people look at _lave who, in the drama, is devoured by a bear. ln the theatres the role o_he bear is played by an actor sewed up in a skin, but this time th_epresentation was to be real. This was a new idea of Tigeilinus. At firs_aesar refused to come, but changed his mind at persuasion of the favorite.
  • Tigellinus explained that after what had happened in the gardens it was al_he more his duty to appear before the people, and he guaranteed that th_rucified slave would not insult him as had Crispus. The people were somewha_ated and tired of blood-spilling; hence a new distribution of lottery ticket_nd gifts was promised, as well as a feast, for the spectacle was to be in th_vening, in a brilliantly lighted ainphitheatre.
  • About dusk the whole amphitheatre was packed; the Augustians, with Tigellinu_t the head of them, came to a man, — not only for the spectacle itself, bu_o show their devotion to Casar and their opinion of Chilo, of whom all Rom_as then talking.
  • They whispered to one another that Caesar, when returning from the gardens,
  • had fallen into a frenzy and could not sleep, that terrors and wonderfu_isions had attacked him; therefore he had announced on the following mornin_is early journey to Achaaea. But others denied this, declaring that he woul_e all the more pitiless to the Christians. Cowards, however, were no_acking, who foresaw that the accusation which Chilo had thrown into Caesar'_ace might have the worst result possible. In conclusion, there were those wh_hrough humanity begged Tigellinus to stop persecution.
  • "See whither ye are going," said Barcus Soranus. "Ye wished to allay people'_nger and convince them that punishment was falling on the guilty; the resul_s just the opposite."
  • "True!" added Antistius Verus, "all whisper to one another now that th_hristians were innocent. If that be cleverness, Chilo was right when he sai_hat your brains could be held in a nut-shell."
  • Tigellinus turned to them and said: "Barcus Soranus, people whisper also t_ne another that thy daughter Servilia secreted her Christian slaves fro_aesar's justice; they say the same also of thy wife, Antistius."
  • "That is not true!" exclaimed Barcus, with alarm.
  • "Your divorced women wished to ruin my wife, whose virtue they envy," sai_ntistius Verus, with no less alarm.
  • But others spoke of Chilo.
  • "What has happened to him?" asked Eprius Marcellus. "He delivered them himsel_nto the hands of Tigellinus; from a beggar he became rich; it was possibl_or him to live out his days in peace, have a splendid funeral, and a tomb:
  • but, no! All at once he preferred to lose everything and destroy himself; h_ust, in truth, be a maniac."
  • "Not a maniac, but he has become a Christian," said Tigellinus.
  • "Impossible!" said Vitelius.
  • "Have I not said," put in Vestinius, "'Kill Christians if ye like; but believ_e ye cannot war with their divinity. With it there is no jesting'? See wha_s taking place. I have not burned Rome; but if Caesar permitted I would giv_ hecatomb at once to their divinity. And all should do the same, for _epeat: With it there is no jesting! Remember my words to you."
  • "And I said something else," added Petronius. "Tigellinus laughed when I sai_hat they were arming, but I say more, — they are conquering."
  • "How is that? how is that?" inquired a number of voices.
  • "By Pollux, they are! For if such a man as Chilo could not reaist them, wh_an? If ye think that after every spectacle the Christians do not increase,
  • become coppersmiths, or go to shaving beards, for then ye will know bette_hat people think, and what is happening in the city."
  • "He speaks pure truth, by the sacred peplus of Diana," cried Vestinius. Bu_arcus turned to Petronius.
  • "What is thy conclusion?"
  • "I conclude where ye began, — there has been enough of bloodshed."
  • Tigellinus looked at him jeeringly, — "Ei! —a little more!"
  • "If thy head is not sufficient, thou hast another on thy cane," sai_etronius.
  • Further conversation was interrupted by the coming of Caesar, who occupied hi_lace in company with Pythagoras. Immediately after began the representatio_f "Aureolus," to which not much attention was paid, for the minds of th_udience were fixed on Chilo. The spectators, familiar with blood and torture,
  • were bored; they hissed, gave out shouts uncomplimentary to the court, an_emanded the bear scene, which for them was the only thing of interest. Had i_ot been for gifts and the hope of seeing Chilo, the spectacle would not hav_eld the audience.
  • At last the looked-for moment came. Servants of the Circus brought in first _ooden cross, so low that a bear standing on his hind feet might reach th_artyr's breast; then two men brought, or rather dragged in, Chio, for as th_ones in his legs were broken, he was unable to walk alone. They laid him dow_nd nailed him to the wood so quickly that the curious Augustians had not eve_ good look at him, and only after the cross had been fixed in the plac_repared for it did all eyes turn to the victim. But it was a rare person wh_ould recognize in that naked man the former Chilo. After the tortures whic_igellinus had commanded, there was not one drop of blood in his face, an_nly on his white beard was evident a red trace left by blood after they ha_orn his tongue out. Through the transparent skin it was quite possible to se_is bones. He seemed far older also, almost decrepit, Formerly his eyes cas_lances ever filled with disquiet and ill-will, his watchful face reflecte_onstant alarm and uncertainty; now his face had an expression of pain, but i_as as mild and calm as faces of the sleeping or the dead. Perhaps remembranc_f that thief on the cross whom Christ had forgiven lent him confidence;
  • perhaps, also, he said in his soul to the merciful God,—
  • "O Lord, I bit like a venomous worm; but all my life I was unfortunate. I wa_amishing from hunger, people trampled on me, beat me, jeered at me. I wa_oor and very unhappy, and now they put me to torture and nail me to a cross;
  • but Thou, O Merciful, wilt not reject me in this hour!" Peace descende_vidently into his crushed heart. No one laughed, for there was in tha_rucified man something so calm, he seemed so old, so defenceless, so weak,
  • calling so much for pity with his lowliness, that each one asked himsel_nconsciously how it was possible to torture and nail to crosses men who woul_ie soon in any case. The crowd was silent. Among the Augustians Vcstinius,
  • bending to right and left, whispered in a terrified voice, "See how they die!"
  • Others were looking for the bear, wishing the spectacle to end at th_arliest.
  • The bear came into the arena at last, and, swaying from side to side a hea_hich hung low, he looked around from beneath his forehead, as if thinking o_omething or seeking something. At last he saw the cross and the naked body.
  • He approached it, and stood on his hind legs; but after a moment he droppe_gain on his fore-paws, and sitting under the cross began to growl, as if i_is heart of a beast pity for that remnant of a man had made itself heard.
  • Cries were heard from Circus slaves urging on the bear, but the people wer_ilent.
  • Meanwhile Chilo raised his head with slow motion, and for a time moved hi_yes over the audience. At last his glance rested somewhere on the highes_ows of the amphitheatre; his breast moved with more life, and somethin_appened which caused wonder and astonishment. That face became bright with _mile; a ray of light, as it were, encircled that forehead; his eyes wer_plifted before death, and after a while two great tears which had rise_etween the lids flowed slowly down his face.
  • And he died.
  • At that same moment a resonant manly voice high up under the velariu_xclaimed, —
  • "Peace to the martyrs!"
  • Deep silence reigned in the amphitheatre.