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for twelve long years, has met upon the arena every shape of man or beast that the broad Empire of Rome could fur, nish, and yet never has lowered his arm. And if there be one among you who can say that, ever, in public fight or 5 private brawl, my actions did belie my tongue, let him step forth and say it. If there be three in all your throng dare face me on the bloody sand, let them come on!
“Yet, I was not always always thus, a hired butcher, a savage chief of savage men. My father was a reverent 10 man, who feared great Jupiter, and brought to the rural
deities his offerings of fruits and flowers. He dwelt among the vine-clad rocks and olive groves at the foot of Helicon. My early life ran quiet as the brook by which I sported. I
was taught to prune the vine, to tend the flock; and then, 15 at noon, I gathered my sheep beneath the shade, and played
upon the shepherd's flute. I had a friend, the son of our neighbor; we led our flocks to the same pasture, and shared together our rustic meal.
“One evening, after the sheep were folded, and we were 20 all seated beneath the myrtle that shaded our cottage, my
grandsire, an old man, was telling of Marathon and Leuctra, and how, in ancient times, a little band of Spartans, in a defile of the mountains, withstood a whole army. I did
not then know what war meant; but my cheeks burned. 25 I knew not why; and I clasped the knees of that venerable
man, till my mother, parting the hair from off my brow, kissed my throbbing temples, and bade me go to rest, and think no more of those old tales and savage wars.
"That very night the Romans landed on our shore, and 30 the clash of steel was heard within our quiet vale. I saw
the breast that had nourished me trampled by the iron hoof of the war-horse; the bleeding body of my father flung amid the blazing rafters of our dwelling. To-day I killed
a man in the arena, and when I broke his helmet clasps, 35 behold! he was my friend! He knew me - smiled faintly -gasped and died; the same sweet smile that I had marked upon his face when, in adventurous boyhood, we scaled some lofty cliff to pluck the first ripe grapes, and bear them home in childish triumph. I told the prætor 5 he was my friend, noble and brave, and I begged his body,
that I might burn it upon the funeral-pile, and mourn over him. Ay, on my knees, amid the dust and blood of the arena, I begged that boon, while all the Roman maids and
matrons, and those holy virgins they call vestal, and the 10 rabble, shouted in mockery, deeming it rare sport, forsooth,
to see Rome's fiercest gladiator turn pale, and tremble like a very child, before that piece of bleeding clay; but the prætor drew back as if I were pollution, and sternly said,
'Let the carrion rot! There are no noble men but Romans!' 15 And he, deprived of funeral rites, must wander, a hapless
ghost, beside the waters of that sluggish river, and look in vain to the bright Elysian Fields where dwell his ancestors and noble kindred. And so must you, and so must I, die like dogs!
“O Rome! Rome! thou hast been a tender nurse to me! Ay, thou hast given to that poor, gentle, timid, shepherdlad, who never knew a harsher sound than a flute-note, muscles of iron and a heart of flint; taught him to drive
the sword through rugged brass and plaited mail, and warm 25 it in the marrow of his foe! to gaze into the glaring eyeballs
of the fierce Numidian lion, even as a smooth-cheeked boy upon a laughing girl. And he shall pay thee back till thy yellow Tiber is red as frothing wine, and in its deepest ooze thy life-blood lies curdled!
“Ye stand here now like giants, as ye are! the strength of brass is in your toughened sinews; but to-morrow some Roman Adonis, breathing sweet odors from his curly locks, shall come, and with his lily fingers pat your brawny shoul
ders, and bet his sesterces upon your blood! Hark! Hear 35 ye yon lion roaring in his den? 'Tis three days since he
tasted meat; but to-morrow he shall break his fast upon your flesh; and ye shall be a dainty meal for him.
“If ye are brutes, then stand here like fat oxen waiting for the butcher's knife; if ye are men, follow me! strike 5 down yon sentinel, and gain the mountain passes, and there do bloody work as did your sires at old Thermopylæ! Is Sparta dead? Is the old Grecian spirit frozen in your veins, that you do crouch and cower like base-born slaves be
neath your master's lash? O comrades! warriors! Thra10 cians! if we must fight, let us fight for ourselves; if we
must slaughter, let us slaughter our oppressors; if we must die, let us die under the open sky, by the bright waters, in noble, honorable battle.”
HELPS FOR STUDY
What is the meaning of “returning with victorious eagles”?
To what did Spartacus refer when he spoke of wandering “beside the waters of that sluggish river”?
Explain “Numidian lion,” “Roman Adonis,” “old Thermopylæ,” and "Thracians.”
Spartacus was a Thracian who was taken prisoner by the Romans, and became a Roman slave and gladiator. He was killed while leading an insurrection of slaves.
233:1 Capua. An ancient city of Campania, Italy. 233:1 Lentulus. A Roman prætor. 234: 17 Marathon. A plain in Attica, Greece. It is celebrated
for the battle between the Greeks and Persians, 490 B. C., resulting in a victory for the Greeks.
234: 17 Leuctra. A village in ancient Greece, celebrated for the victory gained there by the Thebans over the Spartans, 371 B. C.
234:35 Prætor. A Roman governor.
Charles Lamb was born in London, February 10, 1775. He was sent to school at Christ's Hospital, a famous school for boys, where he remained for seven years. While there he met Coleridge, with whom he formed a lifelong friendship. After leaving school, he went to work as a clerk, first in the South Sea House, and then in the East India House. Although employed at the latter place for over thirty years, he devoted much time to writing. In connection with his sister Mary he wrote “Tales from Shakespeare.” He died December 27, 1834.
In comparing modern with ancient manners, we are pleased to compliment ourselves upon the point of gallantry — a certain obsequiousness, or deferential respect, which we are supposed to pay to females as females.
I shall believe that this principle actuates our conduct when I can forget that, in the nineteenth century of the era from which we date our civility, we are but just beginning to leave off the very frequent practice of whipping females
in public, in common with the coarsest male offenders. 10 I shall believe it to be influential, when I can shut my
eyes to the fact, that in England women are still occasionally — hanged.
I shall believe in it, when actresses are no longer subject to be hissed off a stage by gentlemen.
I shall believe in it, when Dorimant hands a fishwife across the kennel, or assists the apple-woman to pick up her wandering fruit, which some unlucky dray has just dissipated.
I shall believe in it, when the Dorimants in humbler