We nowhere find among the latter any stimulus of the fine arts which can be referred to Carthage or Caere, and the Phoenician and Etruscan forms of civilization may be in general perhaps classed with those that are hybrid, and for that reason not further productive.(9) But the influence of Greece did not fail to bear fruit. The Greek seven-stringed lyre, the "strings" (-fides-, from --sphidei--, gut; also -barbitus-, --barbitos--), was not like the pipe indigenous in Latium, and was always regarded there as an instrument of foreign origin; but the early period at which it gained a footing is demonstrated partly by the barbarous mutilation of its Greek name, partly by its being employed even in ritual.(10) That some of the legendary stores of the Greeks during this period found their way into Latium, is shown by the ready reception of Greek works of sculpture with their representations based so thoroughly upon the poetical treasures of the nation; and the old Latin barbarous conversions of Persephone into Prosepna, Bellerophontes into Melerpanta, Kyklops into Cocles, Laomedon into Alumentus, Ganymedes into Catamitus, Neilos into Melus, Semele into Stimula, enable us to perceive at how remote a period such stories had been heard and repeated by the Latins. Lastly and especially, the Roman chief festival or festival of the city (-ludi maximi-, -Romani-) must in all probability have owed, if not its origin, at any rate its later arrangements to Greek influence. It was an extraordinary thanksgiving festival celebrated in honour of the Capitoline Jupiter and the gods dwelling along with him, ordinarily in pursuance of a vow made by the general before battle, and therefore usually observed on the return home of the burgess-force in autumn. A festal procession proceeded toward the Circus staked off between the Palatine and Aventine, and furnished with an arena and places for spectators; in front the whole boys of Rome, arranged according to the divisions of the burgess-force, on horseback and on foot; then the champions and the groups of dancers which we have described above, each with their own music; thereafter the servants of the gods with vessels of frankincense and other sacred utensils; lastly the biers with the images of the gods themselves. The spectacle itself was the counterpart of war as it was waged in primitive times, a contest on chariots, on horseback, and on foot. First there ran the war-chariots, each of which carried in Homeric fashion a charioteer and a combatant; then the combatants who had leaped off; then the horsemen, each of whom appeared after the Roman style of fighting with a horse which he rode and another led by the hand (-desultor-); lastly, the champions on foot, naked to the girdle round their loins, measured their powers in racing, wrestling, and boxing. In each species of contest there was but one competition, and that between not more than two competitors. A chaplet rewarded the victor, and the honour in which the simple branch which formed the wreath was held is shown by the law permitting it to be laid on the bier of the victor when he died. The festival thus lasted only one day, and the competitions probably still left sufficient time on that day for the carnival proper, at which the groups of dancers may have displayed their art and above all exhibited their farces; and doubtless other representations also, such as competitions in juvenile horsemanship, found a place.(11) The honours won in real war also played their part in this festival; the brave warrior exhibited on this day the equipments of the antagonist whom he had slain, and was decorated with a chaplet by the grateful community just as was the victor in the competition.

Such was the nature of the Roman festival of victory or city-festival; and the other public festivities of Rome may be conceived to have been of a similar character, although less ample in point of resources. At the celebration of a public funeral dancers regularly bore a part, and along with them, if there was to be any further exhibition, horse-racers; in that case the burgesses were specially invited beforehand to the funeral by the public crier.

But this city-festival, so intimately bound up with the manners and exercises of the Romans, coincides in all essentials with the Hellenic national festivals: more especially in the fundamental idea of combining a religious solemnity and a competition in warlike sports; in the selection of the several exercises, which at the Olympic festival, according to Pindar's testimony, consisted from the first in running, wrestling, boxing, chariot-racing, and throwing the spear and stone; in the nature of the prize of victory, which in Rome as well as in the Greek national festivals was a chaplet, and in the one case as well as in the other was assigned not to the charioteer, but to the owner of the team; and lastly in introducing the feats and rewards of general patriotism in connection with the general national festival. This agreement cannot have been accidental, but must have been either a remnant of the primitive connection between the peoples, or a result of the earliest international intercourse; and the probabilities preponderate in favour of the latter hypothesis. The city-festival, in the form in which we are acquainted with it, was not one of the oldest institutions of Rome, for the Circus itself was only laid out in the later regal period;(12) and just as the reform of the constitution then took place under Greek influence,(13) the city-festival may have been at the same time so far transformed as to combine Greek races with, and eventually to a certain extent to substitute them for, an older mode of amusement--the "leap" (-triumpus-,(14)), and possibly swinging, which was a primitive Italian custom and long continued in use at the festival on the Alban mount. Moreover, while there is some trace of the use of the war-chariot in actual warfare in Hellas, no such trace exists in Latium. Lastly, the Greek term --stadion-- (Doric --spadion--) was at a very early period transferred to the Latin language, retaining its signification, as -spatium-; and there exists even an express statement that the Romans derived their horse and chariot races from the people of Thurii, although, it is true, another account derives them from Etruria.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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