CHAPTER XIII. SOCIAL DAY OF A ROMAN ARISTOCRAT (continued) - AFTERNOON AND DINNER
We will suppose that Silius is specially inclined for action and society. The afternoon is growing chilly, and, as he has no further ceremonial to undergo, he will probably throw over his toga a richly coloured mantle - violet, amethyst, or scarlet - to be fastened on the shoulder with a buckle or brooch. In very cold weather, especially when travelling, Romans of all classes would wear a thick cloak, somewhat like the cape worn by a modern policeman or cab-driver, or perhaps more closely resembling the poncho of Spanish America. This, which consisted of some strong and as nearly as possible waterproof stuff, had no opening at the sides, but was put on by passing the head through a hole. To-day Silius puts on the coloured mantle, and gets himself carried across the Forum, through the gap between the Capitoline and Quirinal Hills, and into the Campus Martius, somewhere about the modern Piazza Venezia and the entrance to the Corso. Here he may descend from his litter, and purchase a statuette, or a vessel of Corinthian bronze or silver, or an attractive table with the true peacock markings, or a handsome slave. While doing so, he may find amusement in observing a pretender who "shops" but does not buy, wearying the dealers by pricing and disparaging the costliest tables and most artistic vessels, and ending with the purchase of a penny pot which he carries home himself. He may then stroll along under the pictured and statued colonnades, perhaps offering the cold shoulder to various impecunious toadies who are there on the look-out for an invitation to dinner, perhaps succumbing to their blandishments. His lackeys are of course in attendance, and clients are still about him. In passing he is greeted by some person who is hanging officiously round a litter containing an elderly lady or gentleman, and whom he recognises as what was called an "angler" - that is to say, one whose business is to wheedle gifts or a legacy out of childless people of wealth. This was a regular profession and extremely lucrative when well managed.
A little further, and he stops to look at the young men curvetting and wheeling on horseback over the riding-ground. Away in the distance others are swimming backwards and forwards across the Tiber. Or he steps into an enclosure, commonly connected with the baths, where not only young men, but their seniors, even of high rank, are engaged in various exercises. Some of them are stripped and are playing a game with a small hard ball, which is struck or thrown, and smartly caught or struck onward by right or left hand equally, from the three corners of a triangle. Some are playing with a larger and lighter article, something like a football stuffed with feathers, which seems to have been punched about by the fist in a way calling for considerable judgment and practice. Others are jumping with dumb-bells in each hand, or they are running races, or hurling a disk of stone, or wrestling. Yet others are practising all manner of sword strokes with a heavy wooden weapon against a dummy post, merely to exercise themselves keep down their flesh.
Probably Silius will himself take a hand in the three-cornered game, unless he possesses a private court at home and is intending to take his bath there instead of in one of the larger public or semi-public establishments. Whether he bathes in the baths of Agrippa at the back of the Pantheon, or in those of Nero, or in his own, the process will be much the same. The arrangements are practically uniform however great may be the differences of sumptuousness and spaciousness. We have not indeed yet reached the times of those huge and amazing constructions of Caracalla and Diocletian, but there is no reason to doubt that the existing public baths were already of much magnificence. Regularly we should first find a dressing-room with painted walls, a mosaic floor, and glass windows, and provided with seats, as well as with niches in the walls to hold the clothes. Adjoining this is a "cold" room, containing a large swimming-bath. Next comes a "warm" chamber, with water heated to a sufficient and reasonable degree, and with the general temperature raised either by braziers or by warm air circulating under the floor or in the walls. After this a "hot" room, with both a hot swimming-bath and a smaller marble bath of the common domestic shape - though of much larger size - provided with a shower, or rather with a cold jet. Lastly there is a domelike sweating-chamber filled with an intense dry heat. The public baths built by Nero were particularly notorious for their high temperature. After the bath the body was rubbed over with perfumed oil, in order to close the pores against the cold, and then was scraped down with the hollow sickle-shaped instrument of bronze or iron depicted in the illustration. The other articles there shown are a vessel containing the oil, and a flat dish into which to pour it for use. These, together with linen towels, were brought by your own slave.