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- The Emperor, Part 2, Volume 6. - 5/9 -
sheltered inland sea; here the sculptor pointed out to Hadrian the canal through which goods were conveyed to the marine fleet which had been brought down the river to Alexandria. And he pointed out to the Roman the handsome country-houses and well-tended vineyards on the shores of the lake.
"The bodies in this city ought to thrive," said Hadrian meditatively. "For here are two stomachs and two mouths by which they absorb nourishment; the sea, I mean, and this lake."
"And the harbors in each," added Pollux.
"Just so; but now it is time we should turn about," replied Hadrian, and the party soon took a road leading eastward; they walked without pause through the quiet streets inhabited by the Christians, and finally through the Jews' quarter. In the heart of this quarter many houses were shut up, and there were no signs to be seen of the gay doings which crowded on the sense and fancy in the heathen part of the town, for the stricter among the Hebrews held sternly aloof, from the holiday festivities in which most of their nation and creed who dwelt among the Greeks, took part.
For a third time Hadrian and his companions crossed the Canopic way which formed the main artery of the city and divided it into the northern and southern halves, for he wished to look down from the hill of the Paneum on the combined effect as a whole of all that he had seen in detail. The carefully-kept gardens which surrounded this elevation swarmed with men, and the spiral path which led to the top was crowded with women and children, who came here to see the most splendid spectacle of the whole day, which closed with performances in all the theatres in the town. Before the Emperor and his escort could reach the Paneum itself the crowd suddenly packed more closely and began exclaiming among themselves, "Here they come!" "They are early to-day!" "Here they are!"
Lictors with their fasces over their shoulders were clearing the broad roadway, which led from the prefect's on the Bruchiom to the Paneum, with their staves and paying no heed to the mocking and witty speeches addressed to them by the mob wherever they appeared. One woman, as she was driven back by a Roman guardian of the peace, cried scornfully, "Give me your rods for my children and do not use them on unoffending citizens."
"There is an axe hidden among the faggots," added an Egyptian letter- writer in a warning voice.
"Bring it here," cried a butcher. "I can use it to slaughter my beasts." The Romans as they heard these bandied words felt the blood mounting to their faces, but the prefect, who knew his Alexandrians well, had counselled them to be deaf; to see everything but to hear nothing. Now there appeared a cohort of the Twelfth Legion, who were quartered in garrison in Egypt, in their richest arms and holiday uniforms. Behind them came two files of particularly tall lictors wearing wreaths, and they were followed by several hundred wild beasts, leopards and panthers, giraffes, gazelles, antelopes, and deer, all led by dark-colored Egyptians. Then came a richly-dressed and much be-wreathed Dionysian chorus with the sound of tambourines and lyres, double flutes and triangles, and finally, drawn by ten elephants and twenty white horses, a large ship, resting on wheels and gilt from stem to stern, representing the vessel in which the Tyrrhenian pirates were said to have carried off the young Dionysus when they had seen the black-haired hero on the shore in his purple garments. But the miscreants--so the myth went on to say-- were not allowed long to rejoice in their violence, for hardly had the ship reached the open sea when the fetters dropped from the god, vines entwined the sails in sudden luxuriance, tendrils encumbered the oars and rudder, heavy grapes clustered round the ropes, and ivy clung to the mast and shrouded the seats and sides of the vessel. Dionysus is equally powerful on sea and on land; in the pirates' ship he assumed the form of a lion, and the pirates, filled with terror, flung themselves into the sea, and in the form of dolphins followed their lost bark.
All this Titianus had caused to be represented just as the Homeric hymns described it, out of slight materials, but richly and elegantly decorated, in order to provide a feast for the eyes of the Alexandrians, with the intention of riding in it himself, with his wife and the most illustrious of the Romans who formed the Empress' suite, to enjoy all the Holiday doings in the chief streets of the city. Young and old, great and small, men and women, Greeks, Romans, Jews, Egyptians, foreigners dark and fair, with smooth hair or crisp wool, crowded with equal eagerness to the edge of the roadway to see the gorgeous boat.
Hadrian, far more anxious to see the show than his younger but less excitable favorite, pushed into the front rank, and as Antinous was trying to follow him, a Greek boy, whom he had shoved aside, snatched his mask from his face, threw himself on the ground, and slipped nimbly off with his booty. When Hadrian looked round for the Bithyman, the ship-in which the prefect was standing between the images of the Emperor and Empress, while Julia, Balbilla, and her companion, and other Roman lords and ladies were sitting in it--had come quite near to them. His sharp eye had recognized them all, and fearing that the lad's uncovered face would betray them he cried out:
"Turn round and get into the crowd again." The favorite immediately obeyed, and only too glad to escape from the crowd, which was a thing he detested, he sat down on a bench close to the Paneum, and looked dreamily at the ground while he thought of Selene and the nosegay he had sent her, neither seeing nor hearing anything of what was going on around him.
When the gaudy ship left the gardens of the Paneum and turned into the Canopic way, the crowd pursued it in a dense mass, hallooing and shouting. Like a torrent suddenly swelled by a storm it rushed on, surging and growing at each moment, and carrying with it even those who tried to resist its force. Thus even Hadrian and Pollux were forced to follow in its wake, and it was not till they found themselves in the broad Canopic way that they were able to come to a stand-still. The broad roadway of this famous street was bordered on each side by a long vista of colonnade, and it extended from one end of the city to the other. There were hundreds of the Corinthian columns which supported the roof that covered the footway, and near to one of these the Emperor and Pollux succeeded at last in effecting a halt and taking breath.
Hadrian's first thought was for his favorite, and being averse to venturing himself once more to mix with the crowd, he begged the sculptor to go and seek him and conduct him safely.
"Will you wait for me here?" asked Pollux.
"I have known a pleasanter halting place," sighed the Emperor.
"So have I," answered the artist. "But that tall door there, wreathed round with boughs of poplar and ivy, leads into a cook-shop where the gods themselves might be content to find themselves."
"Then I will wait there."
"But I warn you to eat as much as you can, for the Olympian table' as kept by Lykortas, the Corinthian, is the dearest eating-house in the whole city. None but the richest are his guests."
"Very good," laughed Hadrian. "Only find my assistant a new mask and bring him back to me. It will not ruin me quite, even if I pay for a supper for all three of us, and on a holiday one expects to spend something."
"I hope you may not live to repent," retorted Pollux. "But a long fellow like me is a good trencherman, and can do his part with the wine-jar."
"Only show me what you can do," cried Hadrian after him as Pollux hurried off. "I owe you a supper at any rate, for that cabbage stew of your mother's."
While Pollux went to seek the Bithyman in the vicinity of the Paneum, the Emperor entered the eating house, which the skill of the cook had made the most frequented and fashionable in Alexandria. The place in which most of the customers of the house dined, consisted of a large open hall, surrounded by arcades which were roofed in on three of its sides and closed by a wall on its fourth; in these arcades stood couches, on which the guests reclined singly, or in couples, or in larger groups, and ordered the dishes and liquors which the serving slaves, pretty boys with curling hair and hand some dresses, placed before them on low tables. Here all was noise and bustle; at one table an epicure devoted himself silently to the enjoyment of some carefully-prepared delicacy, at another a large circle of men seemed to be talking more eagerly than they either eat or drank, and from several of the smaller rooms behind the wall at the back of the hall came sounds of music and song, and the bold laughter of men and women.
The Emperor asked for a private room, but they were all occupied, and he was requested to wait a little while, for that one of the adjoining. rooms would very soon be vacant. He had taken off his mask, and though he was not particularly afraid of being recognized in his disguise he chose a couch that was screened by a broad pillar in one of the arcades at the inner side of the court, and which, now that evening was beginning to fall was already in obscurity. There he ordered, first some wine and then some oysters to begin, with; while he was eating these he called one of the superintendents and discussed with him the details of the supper he wished presently to be served to himself and his two guests. During this conversation the bustling host came to make his bow to his new customer, and seeing that he had to do with a man fully conversant with all the pleasures of the table, he remained to attend on him, and entered with special zeal into Hadrian's various requirements.
There was, too, plenty to be seen in the court, which roused the curiosity of the most inquisitive and enquiring man of his time. In the large space enclosed by the arcades, and under the eyes of the guests, on gridirons and hearths, over spits and in ovens the various dishes were prepared which were served up by the slaves. The cooks prepared their savory messes on large, clean tables, and the scene of their labors, which, though enclosed by cords was open to public gaze was surrounded by a small market, where however only the choicest of wares were displayed.
Here in tempting array was every variety of vegetable reared on Greek or Egyptian soil; here speckless fruits of every size and hue were set out, and there ready baked, shining, golden-brown pasties were displayed. Those containing meat, fish or the mussels of Canopus were prepared in Alexandria itself, but others containing fruit or the leaves of flowers were brought from Arsinoe on the shores of Lake Moeris, for in that neighborhood the cultivation of fruit and horticulture generally were pursued with the greatest success. Meat of all sorts lay or hung in suitable places; there were juicy hams from Cyrene, Italian sausages and uncooked joints of various slaughtered beasts. By them lay or hung game and poultry in select abundance, and a large part of the court was taken up by a tank in which the choicest of the scaly tribes of the Nile, and of the lakes of Northern Egypt, were swimming about as well as the Muraena and other fish of Italian breed. Alexandrian crabs and the mussels, oysters, and cray-fish of Canopus and Klysma were kept alive in buckets or jars. The smoked meats of Mendes and the neighborhood of Lake Moeris hung on metal pegs, and in a covered but well-aired room, sheltered from the sun lay freshly-imported fish from the Mediterranean and Red Sea. Every guest at the 'Olympian table' was allowed here to select the meat, fruit, asparagus, fish, or pasty which he desired to
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