Chapter L - Ludi Spes Vespasianum

Please note that this chapter contains sexually explicit and violent images and text.
If you strongly object to any of these images please contact the blog author at and the offending material can be removed.
Equally please do not view this chapter if such material may offend.


A date had then been set for the 'Ludi Spes Vespasianum' as the further embellishments to the arena were gradually completed
The Goddess Spes
The title for the Games is difficult to translate directly from the original Latin.
Spes was a divine personifications of the concept of 'Hope'
'Spes Augusta' was 'Hope' associated with the capacity of the Emperor as Augustus, to ensure blessed conditions. 
Therefore, the 'Ludi Spes Vespasianum' (or more correctly 'Ludi Spes Titus Flāvius Caesar Vespasiānus Augustus') was a semi-religious set of Games held on the festival of the Goddess Spes, intended to ensure blessed conditions for the Empire under the 'august' guidance of the new Emperor Vespasian.
Celebrations were also being held in Rome - not in the Flavian Amphitheatre which was still to be constructed, but rather in the Forum Romanum - also with gladiatorial contests.
This was in accord with the previously explained concept of such contests being a form of sacrificial shedding of blood (see Chapter XVI - the section 'The Games and Sacrifice').
Titus had chosen to attend the 'Ludi Spes Vespasianum' at Baiae, as Marcus' amphitheatre was the most magnificent, if not the largest that was situated close to Rome - and on a personal note it enabled Titus to supervise the construction of his new villa in the area.

'Continuing Preparations' - Petronius was up that morning at first light, riding fast to the amphitheatre.
Once there, he put slaves on lookout for wagons bringing the remainder of the marble veneers, and the workers to install them.
At the same time Terentius was up early and had positioned himself, along with Nerva, at the main entrance to the villa.
Terentius was there to inform any clients that might arrive that the Salutatio for that morning had been cancelled, as the Dominus was busy making preparations for the upcoming Ludi.
At the same time Nerva handed out a substantially increased 'sportula' - increased partly to placate any client who might be disappointed at not being able to greet Marcus that morning, but also intended to spread a general festive feeling in the upper levels of society in the town.
Marcus, of course was up, and working in his study on various documents and letters, with a very sleepy Aurarius.
Adonios had also risen at first light, in order to make preparations for Petronius' equally early departure for the Amphitheatre.
After that, he and Glaux were left dozing in the first full rays of the sun.
As soon as Marcus had finished his correspondence, however, he sent Aurarius to get Adonios.
They they then met at the main rear entrance of the villa, where the 'magistrum equitum', (master of the horse),  was waiting with their mounts (Marcus was trying to avoid his clients).
The 'magistrum equitum' was very puzzled by the sudden appearance of a large white stallion in the stables, and wanted to know where Marcus had bought it.
"It belongs to this young man.", Marcus said, as Faunus rounded the corner of the stable block.
"He's an important guest, so please take good care of the horse.", Marcus added.
"Good morning, Marcus !", Faunus said perkily, in perfect Greek.
"May I come with you....?", he asked, gently patting his huge mount.
"But you don't know where we're going...", Marcus protested.
"Yes I do....the amphitheatre.", Faunus replied.
"Yes... of course....", Marcus replied, with a note of resignation.
The grooms carefully marshalled the horses, and younger slaves took their place, on hands and knees, beside the horses.
As had been explained before - as far as we can tell, Romans did not use stirrups when riding, so to mount a horse, a man (almost never a woman), needed a 'step-up', either provided by a kneeling slave (the 'macho way'), or a small stool or step, (decidedly not 'macho').
 And so together, the four of them rode out to the Amphitheatre, with Glaux, who had managed to wake up, fluttering on ahead of them, and of course he the knew the way, and exactly where to go.
As you have also been told before - it was not a long ride to the amphitheatre at Baiae, and in no time at all the four horsemen (not, however, 'of the Apocalypse'), were clattering into the forecourt of the Ludus.
The Apocalypse of John, is a book written just after the present episodes in our story, in 'Koine Greek', (very much, at this time, the language of slaves), that eventually occupied a central place in 'christian' eschatology. In reality, however, it appears to be much concerned with Roman Imperial politics, and in particular the reign, death and possible re-appearance of Nero (material possibly interpolated, however) - and so was a very dangerous book to own, read or discuss, as it was seen by the Roman authorities to be subversive and treasonous.
Roman 'Hipposandal'
The 'clatter' came from the Roman 'hipposandal' (early form of horse-shoe) that increased ground adherence, thereby giving  better traction, and protected the hoof on rough and hard ground. To further improve traction, the bottom of each 'hipposandal' was grooved.  The sole of the 'hipposandal was made of metal, consisting of an oval-shaped cup of thick metal that enclosed and protected the hoof, complete with a fixation system. The device was fastened to the hoof by metallic clips and leather laces.
Petronius was particularly pleased when a Ludus slave informed him of the arrival of the 'Dominus'.
Slaves ran up to the horses in order to help the riders dismount, and to lead the horses away.
Faunus, however, apparently an inveterate 'show-off', eschewed any assistance, and sprang off his huge mount in an annoyingly athletic fashion - at least annoying to everyone else.
Artisans Installing Marble Panels
And so Marcus, Aurarius, Adonios (with Glaux), and Faunus were escorted to the main arena, where the sounds of hammering and sawing told them that the workers were busy installing the marble panels.
"I see you've brought young Faunus with you.", Petronius remarked somewhat begrudgingly.
"Couldn't really stop him.... ", Marcus replied, "but he's behaving himself very well, so I don't think he'll cause you any problems."
Marcus was surprised to see how much progress had been made, but then the artisans from Neapolis had little choice but to work hard under Petronius' relentless supervision.
It was very unwise to slack when Petronius was around - as such foolish behaviour would inevitably be answered with immediate and sever punishment.
At that moment a Ludus slave arrived with the message that the tailors had arrived regarding the tunics for the boys.
Apparently they were not very happy about arriving at the villa, and then being sent to the Amphitheatre.
Marcus, however, managed to placate them with some lavish refreshments, and Petronius offered his study for the tailors' to use.
So while Aurarius and Adonios were being measured up, Marcus accompanied by Petronius made a thorough inspection of the newly installed marble cladding, and then watched as the skilled carpenters from Neapolis worked on the removable wooden stand that would accommodate the special guests, and in particular the senators.
Then Petronius suggested that he took Marcus to the thermopolium, (just round the corner - and yes, the same one where they planned Ludi when they were both Gnaeus' slaves).
The purpose of the brief lunch was to discuss the tableaux, which even at such a late date had not been finalised.
"So, are we decided on the death of Hector ?",Marcus asked, looking quizzical and unsure.
"I think so....", Petronius replied.
"Well....fine... but what about the chariot ?", Marcus asked.
"That is the only problem, but I have sent for a couple of chariots kept at the villa, and we shall see if there's enough room for them the manoeuvre in the arena.". Petronius replied.
The Triumph of Achilles - Franz von Matsch - adapted Vittorio Carvelli
The scenario of the death of Hector was well known, and here it is paraphrased: Hector chooses to remain outside the gates of Troy to face Achilles. When he sees Achilles, however, Hector is seized by fear and turns to flee. Achilles chases him around the city three times before Hector masters his fear and turns to face Achilles. But Athena, in the disguise of Hector's brother Deiphobus, has deluded Hector. Achilles hurls his spear at Hector, who dodges it, but Athena brings it back to Achilles' hands without Hector noticing. Hector then throws his own spear at Achilles; it hits his shield and does no injury. When Hector turns to face his supposed brother to retrieve another spear, he sees no one there. At that moment he realizes that he is doomed. Hector pulls out his sword, now his only weapon, and charges. But Achilles grabbed his thrown spears delivered to him by the unseen Athena. Achilles then aimed his spear and pierced the collar bone section of Hector. After his death, Achilles strips Hector, and slits Hector's heels and passes the girdle that Ajax had given Hector through the slits. He then fastens the girdle to his chariot and drives his fallen enemy through the dust.
"So we need a noxii who knows little or nothing about the Iliad...", Petronius began.
"And he needs no experience in he just had to stand there and get speared.", Marcus interjected.
"And we can use Paris for Ajax, and we still have the 'fancy' helmet from the last Ludi." Petronius continued.
"But what about after 'Hector's' killed - and he's dragged behind the chariot." Marcus said dubiously.
"Well if it says in the Iliad (not that I've read it), that he's killed and dragged at the back of a chariot, I would suggest that we change that slightly.
Let's have him wounded, and the stripped.
We can then have him dragged on his belly, over some concealed spikes so that he's disembowelled and emasculated at the same time, which will please the audience more that simply dragging him - remember that this is a 'public' ludi', so we need something pretty bloody to please the plebs.", Petronius explained.
"That's all very well, but what about this chariot ?", Marcus asked once again.
"Well, I've sent for a couple of chariots, so we can test things out as soon as they arrive." Petronius said, as the got ready to leave the thermopolium.
Meanwhile, back at the Ludus,  the tailors were finished with Aurarius and Adonios, and were being taken to the villa to measure up  Aniketos and Euphrainus.
The tailors would then stay at the villa, working on the tunics until they were completed.
And coming the other way - from the villa to the Amphitheatre - were a pair of two-horse chariots to be tested in the arena
Meanwhile Aurarius and Adonios (and Glaux) were provided with a tasty lunch from the kitchens that provided food for the special guests who often attended the Ludi.
And back at the thermopolium, where Marcus and Petronius had been having a more plebeian lunch, Petronius insisted on paying, despite the owner's protestations, and then the two made their way back to the amphitheatre, intent on giving the chariots a trial.


'Achilles' Chariot' - On arriving back at the Amphitheatre, they found Theon carefully checking the armour and weapons of the slave who was to take the part of 'Hector' for the upcoming Games.
The slave who had previously played this 'part' was an excellent gladiator, who had been chosen to fight and kill the young 'noxii' Varus (Patroclus), but he was too valuable to be wasted on the tableaux of the 'Death of Hector', where he would be defeated, stripped and then, (hopefully), dragged around the arena until he was dead.
The 'New' Hector
Because of this, a 'noxii' - of which there were plenty, would be used, - and there was a backlog, (as usual), of condemned criminals who had been sent to the arena for execution by the local city magistrates.
Theon had managed to choose the fittest looking of these to replace the previous 'real' gladiator.
He was of equal height, with the same athletic musculature and, as he was wearing a Corinthian style helmet, anyone having attended the previous Games (and there would be many), would presume that it was the same individual.
The performances in Marcus' arena, as can be seen, were renowned for their attention to detail, and this tableaux was no exception.
Petronius checked the young man over carefully, and agreed with Theon that the choice was well made.
From then until the Games, the young 'noxii' would be kept 'incommunicado' so that he would not have any knowledge of the fate that awaited him - which was all the better for his final 'performance', and tended to avoid the possibility of pre-Games suicide.


'Faunus Takes the Reins' - As he was giving his approval for the 'new' Hector, Petronius was informed of the arrival of the chariots from the villa.
One was slightly 'broken down', and possibly a favourite of Gnaeus' misspent youth.
The other was in reasonable condition.
Deciding, not surprisingly, to take the chariot in better condition, Petronius then had the problem of finding someone to give the chariot - and more importantly the horses - a trial run round the arena.
While Theon was trying to find some one with some experience of chariot driving, an arena slave began by taking the horses by their bridles and walking them round the arena.
At this point the horses began to 'play up' - probably 'spooked' by the enclosed nature of the arena and the number of people - workmen and cleaners were still busy in various parts of the arena.
The unfortunate slave was unable to do anything with the horses, which were rearing up quite dangerously.
Petronius, who was an excellent horseman then took over, hoping to be able to calm them.
At that point it seemed that the tableaux was in danger of being abandoned, as Petronius could not risk the horses misbehaving in front of an arena full people, including Titus and high ranking Magistrates and Senators.
At that point Faunus came forward.
"Let me help you...", he said to Petronius, very simply.
"And I suppose you know what the problem is !", Petronius said derisively.
"Yes...", Faunus said quietly.
Petronius shook his head, and looked to Marcus.
"They could trample him.", Petronius said - warning Marcus.
"Let him try.", Marcus replied surprisingly calmly.
"Go on then - but if you get hurt don't blame me.", Petronius said, dismissing the arena slave.
"I won't blame you, Petronius, because I won't get hurt.", Faunus said, as he slowly approached the wildly rearing horses.
Aurarius and Adonios, who had been lounging around, idly watching what was going on, suddenly started paying attention - along with Glaux.
The boys were wondering anxiously what Faunus was going to do, but Glaux knew well what was about to happen.
As Faunus approached the horses he stared at each on of them in turn, and slowly the horses began  to calm.
When he was close enough - he reach out and allowed each one to sniff his outstretched palms.
He then concentrated on the 'lead' horse (in any pair there is always one who 'leads'), fondling its head, and running his hand down the horse's neck, down the the shoulder and along the back.
He then walked to the front of the pair, and did the same to the second horse.
By then both horses were completely calm.
He then began whispering into the 'lead' horse's ear.
Then finally, he went to the rear of the equipage, and very gently mounted the tail-board.
The 'lead' horse's only reaction was to quietly snort.
Faunus then took his place in the centre of the chariot, and gently flicked the reins.
Simultaneously both horses began to slowly walk round the arena.
Petronius looked stunned.
"Who is this boy ?", he asked, to no one in particular.
"No one knows....that's the problem...", Marcus said.
Faunus Drives the Chariot Round the Arena
"Well no matter - it seems that we have got our tableaux." Petronius said admiringly.
Faunus then turned the horses, and brought the chariot back to where Petronius and Marcus were standing.
"Can you make them go any faster ?", Petronius asked.
"No problem - but stand back - because if you stay there I won't be to blame if you get hurt.", Faunus said, deliberately mimicking Petronius previous, condescending, warning.
Marcus and Petronius sensibly took a few steps backward, and Faunus firmly flicked the reins.
The horses, in perfect obedience, increased their pace, and the chariot began circling the arena.
After a few more flicks of the reins the sped increased quite dramatically.
"That's enough, Faunus.
You've made your point.", Petronius shouted.
Faunus obediently began to slow, making one more circuit, and eventually pulled up right beside were Marcus was standing.
"The're good horses.", Faunus said smiling, as he smoothly dismounted.
Petronius turned to Marcus.
"That's the first time that I've seen a chariot driven in the this amphitheatre - quite a sight..."
"So where did you learn how to drive a chariot ?", Marcus then asked, thoroughly intrigued.
"' just one of those things I can do - and it helps if you can understand what the horses are telling you - and also if you can talk to them.", Faunus said in a matter of fact manner.
"And you, of course can - I mean understand the horses, and talk to them.", Marcus said, smiling.
"Yes....why not ?", Faunus replied, apparently unable to understand how odd the conversation was becoming.
"So can you teach some of the arena slaves how to get these horses to respond ? - as Paris, (Achilles), will need a driver for the actual tableaux." Petronius asked
(Ancient Greek warriors were too 'aristocratic' to drive their own chariots, and always had a driver)
"Unfortunately - no...", Faunus replied, bluntly.
"It is a skill that takes many years to master.", Faunus continued.
"So that's ruined that ! - No tableaux !", Marcus said, obviously disappointed.
"Well....", and Faunus smiled, "I could be the driver."
"You would do this ?", Petronius asked, looking very surprised.
"Yes....Why not ?.... as long as I wasn't expected to kill anyone....and no one tried to kill me...which they couldn't, anyway.", Faunus replied.
Adonios found it very hard not to laugh at this conversation because, whenever Faunus was talking to Petronius, Petronius always ended up looking very foolish.
Adonios didn't think that Faunus did this on purpose -  it was just his way of speaking.
"Well of course - just the driver..", Petronius said.
Faunus nodded, smiling enigmatically - the way fauns do....
"So tomorrow you must be here in the morning, and practice - with a 'noxii' tied to the tail-board.", Petronius said, trying to be businesslike.
And again Faunus nodded.
As the afternoon wore on, Aurarius and Adonios asked for permission to return the the villa in order to try on the new tunics that the tailors, by then, should have finished.
As they were not serving any real function at the arena, the boys were allowed to go, and Faunus, taking Glaux, went with them.
As they rode back to the villa,  Adonios couldn't help but ask Faunus how he had managed to calm down the horses, and drive the chariot.
Faunus, however, was not giving away any secrets, other than what he had already explained to Petronius.
On arriving at the villa, Aurarius and Adonios each had a fitting of their new tunics - meanwhile Faunus, seeming in a rather reflective mood, took Glaux out to one of the peristyle gardens - apparently for a 'chat'.
Everything, it seemed was, at that point, in place for the Ludi.
Lucius, Marcus' Latin tutor, had come up with yet another of his Latin 'panegyrics' - to be chanted by a boy's chorus at the opening of the Games - and practising was well under way.
A panegyric is a formal written verse, delivered in high praise of a person or thing, and is a generally highly studied and undiscriminating eulogy, not expected to be critical. Unlike the Greeks, the Romans generally confined the panegyric to the living - and in this case a celebration of the virtues and achievements of the reigning emperor - Vespasian.
At the same time Petronius was rehearsing the opening pompa in the arena.
Rehearsal for the Pompa
The procession in the arena at  Baiae always began with the priests of Apollo, followed by the animals to be sacrificed, garlanded and with gilded horns, and then included slave-boys carrying golden bowls and perfumes, and then the statues of the god or gods, carried on litters (fercula), with their attributes. In most Pompa, following the litters of the gods would traditionally be the magistrate who presided over the Games, and wore the traditional attire of the triumphing general (triumphator), but Marcus, as Gnaeus before him, did not favour this custom, as it appeared to relegate the Dominus to a 'performer' in the Games, and therefore he always remained in high up in the Pulvinar, along with his Tribune, Master of the Arena, and any special guests (such as Titus). At the end of the procession came the 'performers' in the games, which included the combatants, in various types of 'parade armour', and also dancers, singers and mimes.
The following morning all the main elements of the Games, along with Faunus practice drives, were being rehearsed in the arena, while Marcus, sensing that Petronius had everything under control, 'took the morning off', and went with Titus to see whatever progress was being made with Tutus' new villa.
At the same time Terentius was making a thorough inspection of all the building works that had been completed in the arena, and was making arrangements for suitable payments.
Quintus, Marcus' Senior Secretary, was busy as ever, sending out invitations to attend the Ludi to various influential individuals, while at the same time writing to confirm that the Priests of Apollo at Cumae would be on hand to make the appropriate sacrifices at the opening and closing of the Games.
And then it was just a matter of waiting.

'Games for the Hope of Vespasian' - The Day of the Games finally arrived - warm, bright and sunny.

to be continued.......