HOW LIVIA WON THE BROOCH
By Beatrice Harraden
It was the day before the public games
in Rome, in the year 123 B.C., and a tall man of magnificent appearance and
strength was standing outside the Temple of Hercules, talking to a young girl
whose face bore some resemblance to his own. The people passing by looked at
them, and said, half aloud, "There stands the gladiator Naevus. I wonder how he
will bear himself in the Public Games on the morrow?"
And another man, who was talking eagerly with his companion,
stopped when he caught sight of the gladiator (who was a well-known figure in
Rome), and said, in a loud voice, "That is the man I told you about, Fabricius.
A fine fellow, is he not? To-morrow he will fight with the new hero, Lucius And,
of course, he will be victorious, as usual. If he disappoints my hopes, I shall
lose a great deal of money."
"You have plenty to spare!" laughed his friend, as they passed
The gladiator did not take the slightest notice of any remarks
which were made about him; indeed, it was doubtful whether he heard them, being
engaged in earnest conversation with the young girl, his daughter.
"Do not be anxious about me, Marcella," he said, seeing that the
tears were falling from her eyes. "I shall be victorious, as I have always been,
and then, child, I shall buy your freedom, together with my own, and we shall
leave Rome, and return to Sicily."
"Nay, father," she answered, between her sobs, "I never doubted
your strength, but my heart is full of fears for you; and yet I am proud when I
hear every one praising you. Last night my master Claudius gave a great banquet,
and when I came to hand round the ewer of rose-water, I heard the guests say
that Naevus was the strongest and finest gladiator that Rome had ever known. My
master Claudius and two of the guests praised the new man Lucius, but the others
would not hear a word in his favour."
The gladiator smiled.
"You shall be proud of me to-morrow, Marcella," he said, "I have
just been offering up my prayers to the god Hercules; and in the name of
Hercules I promise you, child, that I shall conquer the new man Lucius, and that
to-morrow's combat shall be my last fight. So you may go home in peace. You look
tired, child. Ah! it is a bitter thing to be a slave! But courage, Marcella; a
few days more of slavery, and then we shall be free. For this end I have fought
in the arena; and this hope has given me strength and skill."
She took from her neck a piece of fine cord, to which was
attached a tiny stone. She put it in his great hand.
"Father," she said pleadingly, "the Greek physician gave this to
me. He told me it was an Eastern charm to keep the lives of those who wore it.
Will you wear it on the morrow?"
He laughingly assented, and the two walked together as far as
Forum, where they parted.
But Marcella was not proud any more; she was sad.
She had had many a dream of freedom, but she would have gladly
given up all chances of realizing that dream, if only to feel that her father's
life was not in danger. She would have gladly been a slave ten times over rather
than that he should risk his life in those fearful contests.
Marcella, who was a slave in the house of Claudius Flaccus, a
Roman noble, now hastened home to her duties. Her little mistress
Livia, Claudius' only daughter, wondered to see her looking so pale
"Why, you should be glad like I am, Marcella," she cried, as she
showed the slave-maiden the necklace of pearls that she had just finished
stringing. "See, Marcella! I shall wear these to-morrow when we go to the Circus
Maximus. And what do you think? My father has promised me a brooch of precious
stones if the new gladiator, Lucius, is successful to-morrow. Oh, how I hope he
Marcella tried to restrain her tears, but it was of no avail.
She threw herself on the couch, and buried her face in the soft cushions, and
wept as if her heart would break. Her little mistress Livia bent over her, and
tried to comfort her.
"Marcella," she whispered, "it was unkind of me to say that. I
forgot about your father. Please forgive me, Marcella, for I do love you,
although you are only a slave. And I do not want the brooch; I should not like
to wear it now. Please, Marcella, do not cry any more."
The slave raised her head and smiled through her tears.
"You did not mean to be unkind, dear little mistress," she said,
as she kissed the hand which had been caressing her own golden hair. "I am sure
you did not mean to be unkind; but I am in great trouble, and I have just said
'Good-bye' to my father, and I can think of no one else but him. When those we
love are in danger we cannot help being anxious, can we?"
At that moment the curtains were drawn aside, and Claudius
himself came into the beautiful apartment. Livia ran to greet him; she was a
child of ten years old, bright and winning in her ways, in beauty and bearing
every inch the child of a patrician. She was dressed in soft silk of dark
"I do not want the brooch," she said, as she put up her face to
be kissed. "I want Marcella's father to be victorious to-morrow."
"What has Marcella's father got to do with you, little one?" he
asked roughly. "Neither he nor she is anything to you, a patrician's daughter.
Slaves both of them! Let me hear no more of them. And as for the brooch, it
shall be a handsome one."
But when he had gone Livia turned to the slave and said, "I
shall never wear that brooch, Marcella."
So the day wore into the night, and all
through the night Marcella lay awake, wondering what the morrow would bring
forth. When at last she fell asleep she dreamed that she was in the Circus
Maximus watching her father, who was fighting with a new gladiator. She saw her
father fall. She heard the cries of the populace. She herself, a girl of
fourteen summers, sprang up to help him. And then she awoke.
"Ah, it was only a dream!" she cried, with a sigh of relief.
"Father will win the fight to-morrow, and then he will buy his own freedom and
It was a beautiful day for the Public Games. People had come
from all parts of the country, and the streets of Rome were crowded with all
manner of folk.
The AEdile whose duty it was to arrange the Public Games had
provided a very costly entertainment, and great excitement prevailed everywhere
to know the issue of the contest between the gladiators Naevus and Lucius. It
was a wonderful sight to see the Circus Maximus crowded with the rich and
luxurious patrician nobles and ladies arid their retinues of slaves, and the
poorer classes, all bent on amusing themselves on this great public festival.
No doubt, amongst all those masses there were many anxious
hearts, but none so anxious as that of the slave-girl Marcella. She sat behind
her little mistress, eagerly expectant. At last a peal of trumpets and a clash
of cymbals, accompanied by some wild kind of music, announced that the
performance was about to begin. The folding-doors under the archway were flung
open, and the gladiators marched in slowly, two by two. In all the pride of
their strength and bearing they walked once round the arena, and then they
stepped aside to wait until their turn came. The performance began with some
fights between animals; for at the time of which we are speaking the Romans had
learned to love this cruel bloodshed, and had learned to despise the less
exciting, if more manly, trials of strength in which their ancestors had
delighted. When this part of the cruel amusement was over the trumpets again
sounded, and the gladiators made ready for their contest. Then it was that
Marcella's heart beat wildly with fear. She saw her father advance together with
the other gladiator; she saw their swords flash; she heard the people around her
call out the name now of Naevus, and now of Lucius; she heard one near her say:
"He of the red scarf will prove the stronger mark my words."
Marcella's father wore the red scarf,
"Nay, nay," answered the speaker's companion. "He of the green
scarf will win the day."
It was all that Marcella could do to prevent herself from
saying, "The gladiator with the red scarf will prove the stronger—he must prove
She sat spell-bound, watching for the event of the contest,
which had now begun between the two in real earnest. The people encouraged now
the one and now the other. At this moment it seemed probable that the new man,
Lucius, would be the winner; at that moment the tide had turned in the favour of
Naevus. But suddenly there was a loud cry, for Lucius had felled Naevus to the
ground, and now stood over him with his sword ready for use, waiting to learn
from the populace whether the favourite gladiator was to be spared or killed.
The slave-girl Marcella had risen from her seat.
"That is my father," she cried; "spare him—spare him!"
But no one heard her or noticed her, and the signal for mercy
was not shown; on the contrary, the thumbs of thousands of hands pointed
upwards; and that meant that the vanquished man, who had been the hero of so
many contests, having now failed of his accustomed valour, was to die. So Lucius
gave him a thrust with his sword, and he died while he was being carried away
from the arena.
"You have won your brooch, little daughter," laughed Claudius,
as he bent over and fondled Livia's hair. "And it shall be a costly brooch,
worthy of a patrician's daughter."
But Livia's eyes were full of tears,
"I could never wear it," she sobbed; "I should always be
thinking of Marcella's father."
Poor Marcella! and she thought the little charm which he had
worn for her sake would preserve his life. Ah! it was cruel to think that she
would never see him again, and that all their hopes of freedom and their plans
for the future had ended. Well might she weep.
That was hundreds of years ago, you know, but still the same
story goes on, and all through the centuries sorrow comes to us, just as we
think we are grasping happiness, and we have to be brave and bear that sorrow.
But sometimes we are helped by friends, even as Livia helped Marcella. For she
did help her; she loved her as a sister, and treated her as such. And as time
went on the little patrician lady claimed a gift from her father Claudius, a
gift which was far more costly than any brooch—it was the freedom of the
Sicilian slave Marcella, the gladiator's daughter.