We will assume that Silius is a married man, and that his wife is a typical Roman dame worthy of his station in life. Her name shall be Marcia, or, if she possesses more than one, Marcia Sabina. Marriage does not confer upon her the name of her husband, and if she requires further identification in connection with him, she will be referred to as "Silius's Marcia." At an earlier date a woman owned but a single name, but already practical convenience and pride of descent had combined to make it desirable that she should bear a second, which might be taken from the family either of her father or of her mother. Thus if Silius and Marcia themselves have a daughter, she may in her turn perhaps be called Silia Bassa, perhaps Silia Marcia.
If now we proceed to describe the position of Marcia in her conjugal and family relations, to speak of her way of life, and to suggest her probable character, it must be understood that the description would by no means necessarily fit every Roman matron. Women are said to be infinitely various, and in this respect the ancient world was precisely like the modern. And not only has it further to be borne in mind that there were several strata of Roman society, and that city life differed widely from country life; there was also an actual difference in the legal position of a wife, according to the terms upon which she had chosen to enter the state of wedlock. In other words, there were two forms of matrimony. According to the old-fashioned style a wife passed into the power of the husband; her legal position--though not, of course, her domestic standing--was the same as that of his daughter. Once on a time he had even possessed the right of putting her to death, but at our date that privilege no longer existed. It was enough that she should be subject to his authority. In that position she managed the home and family, and often managed him as well. How far this time-honoured style of marriage was still maintained among the lower classes of Roman society it is impossible to tell; our information is almost entirely restricted to the higher, or at least the wealthier, orders. It is, however, probable that among the artisans and labourers, where the dowry of a wife cannot have amounted to anything very considerable, this more stringent state of matrimony was the rule. Paterfamilias was the head and lord of the house, while materfamilias held in practice much the same position as she did in Anglo-Saxon households of two or three generations ago.
Meanwhile among the upper classes, but in no way legally limited to them, an alternative and easier form of marriage had become increasingly popular. It was one which gave to both parties the greatest amount of freedom of which a conjugal union could reasonably allow. The woman did not pass into the power of the man, and, short of actual infidelity, she lived her own life in her own way, although naturally conforming to certain recognised etiquette as a partner in a respectable Roman ménage. If neither affection nor moral suasion could preserve harmony or proper courses, either party might formally repudiate the contract, and, after a short interval, seek better fortune in some other quarter. There was, of course, a public sentiment to be considered; there was family influence; there was the characteristic Roman pride; there was often a fair measure of mutual esteem and even affection; and there were obvious joint interests which made for stability; but beyond these considerations there was nothing to hamper the inclination of either husband or wife. Yet it is a grave mistake to imagine, because there was much, and sometimes appalling, looseness of life under a Nero, that the race of noble and virtuous Roman matrons--the Cornelias and Valerias and Volumnias--was extinct; and it is equally a mistake to suppose that Rome no longer produced its honourable gentlemen filled with a sense of their responsibilities to family and state. The satirist should not here, nor elsewhere, be our chief, much less our only, guide. The England of Charles II is not to be judged in its entirety by the comedies of the time nor by the Memoirs of Grammont. On this matter, however, it will be more convenient to touch in a later paragraph. It will be best to deal first with the system in vogue, and then to consider the sort of woman whom it produced.
It cannot be denied that at this date, though marriage was regarded as the normal and proper condition for men and women who desired to do their duty by the state, and though the wise emperors did everything in their power to encourage it, a very large proportion of the men of the upper classes regarded it as a burden and a vexatious interference with their liberty. It was not necessarily that they had any desire to be vicious, nor indeed would marriage be much of a hindrance to vice; it was that they desired to be free. The cause of their disinclination was the same as it is sometimes alleged to be now--the increasing demands of women, their increasing unwillingness to bear the natural responsibilities of matrimony, their extravagant expectations, and the impossibility of there being two masters in one house claiming equal authority. But whereas we recognise that love is a possible adjuster of all the difficulties, it was no tradition of the Romans that marriage should be based on love. With them it very seldom began with love, or even with direct personal choice, but was in most instances entirely a mariage de convenance and arranged for them as such. Even after marriage we are told by a contemporary writer that the proper feeling for a man to entertain for his wife is rational respect, not emotional affection. Experience has shown that the result was too often unsatisfactory.
It is unfortunate that the only satires or criticisms on married life which have come down to us were written by men; one would like to hear what the women might have said, if a woman had ever been a satirist. There is nearly always some basis of truth in a classic satire, but the question is "How much?" Juvenal belongs to a later generation than that of Nero, but what he says is doubtless equally applicable to that age. It is therefore interesting to note one or two of his objections to contemporary woman, regarded as a wife. In the first place she is too interfering and even dictatorial. "What madness is it," he asks of the man whom he supposes himself to be addressing, "that drives you to marry? How can you bear with a tyrannous woman, when there are so many good ropes in the world, when there are high windows to throw yourself out of, or when there is the bridge quite handy?" "Why should you be made to wear the muzzle?" "Why take into your house some one who will perhaps shut the door in the face of an old friend whom you have known ever since he was a boy?" "When you displease her, she weeps, for she keeps tears always ready to fall, but when you try to prevent her from displeasing you, she tells you it was agreed that each should have liberty, and that she is a human being." He goes on to attack her faithlessness, her extravagance, her superstition, her loquacity, and so forth. Let us by all means discount his fierce invectives; nevertheless we must take them as but a heightened way of putting circumstances which had a real and all too frequent existence, and which encouraged the growing fancy for bachelordom. We shall, however, soon look at a very different picture of domestic relations, and it is only fair to assume that these also were by no means uncommon.
A Roman girl with a reasonable dowry might expect to be married at any age from about 13 to 18. The Italian of the south, like the Greek, ripens early. The legal age was 12; on the other hand to be unmarried at 19 was to be distinctly an old maid. In the northern provinces of the empire maturity was less early, whereas south of the Mediterranean it was even earlier. The legal age for the bridegroom was that at which his father or guardian allowed him to put on the "toga of the man" and enter the Forum. Thus theoretically a Roman youth might become a benedict when about sixteen, and Nero was only at that age when he married his first wife Octavia. Generally speaking, however, if Marcia was as old as 16, Silius would hardly be under 26 or 27.
The marriage, as has been said already, would commonly be a matter of arrangement between families, sometimes effected by their own members, sometimes by an interested friend or some other go-between. "You ask me," writes Pliny to Mauricus, "to look out for a husband for your niece. There is no need to look far, for I know a man who might seem to have been provided on purpose. His name is Minicius. He is well-connected, and comes from Brescia, which you know to be a good old-fashioned place retaining the simple and modest manners of the country. He is a man of active energy and has held high public office. In appearance he is a gentleman, well-built, and with a wholesome ruddy complexion. His father has ample means, and though perhaps your family is not much concerned on that point, we have to remember that a man's income is one of the first considerations in the eyes, not only of our social system, but of the law."
A marriage of the full and regular type could only be contracted between free citizens. There were varying degrees of the morganatic about all others, such as marriage with a foreigner or emancipated slave. A non-Roman wife meant that the children were non-Roman. A man of the senatorial order could not marry a freedwoman, if he wished to have the union recognised; also no complete marriage could be contracted with a person labouring under degradation publicly inflicted by the authorities or degraded ipso facto by certain occupations. For this reason the actress on the "variety" stage could not aspire to become even an acknowledged Roman wife, much less a member of the order which more or less corresponded to our peerage. Nor could a Roman marry a relative within certain prohibited degrees. He might not, in fact, marry any woman whom he already possessed what was called "the right to kiss."
We are, however, dealing with two persons entirely beyond exception, namely Quintus Silius Bassus and Marcia Sabina. A match has been made between these parties, perhaps several years before the actual marriage can take place, and while the intended bride is a mere child of ten: even the future groom may be but a boy. When the go-between has done his or her work to the satisfaction of both families, there takes place a betrothal ceremony, of which the original purpose was, of course, to bind each party morally to carry out the contract, but which, by the year 64, might mean very little.
In theory the Roman law required the consent of both participants; a father could not absolutely force son or daughter to marry a particular person, nor, indeed, any person at all. But on the other hand, according to the Roman law, neither sons nor daughters were free to act independently of the father's will, nor to possess independent property, so long as the father lived, or until he chose to "emancipate." It naturally follows that paternal pressure was the chief factor in determining a marriage, and only those men or women whose fathers were dead, or who had been formally freed from tutelage, were in a position absolutely to please themselves. We need not suppose either that sons were always very amenable, or that parents were invariably self-willed and autocratic, but it is obvious that marriages based on mutual attraction must have been extremely few. We will suppose that Silius is his own master, while Marcia has a father or a guardian still alive.
At the betrothal ceremony the friends of both houses are in attendance, a regular form of words is interchanged between Silius and the father of Marcia, a ring is given by the man to his fiancée, to be worn on the fourth finger of her left hand, and he adds some other present, most probably some form of that jewellery of which the Roman women were and still are so extraordinarily fond. A feast naturally follows.
You would think this performance sufficiently binding, and binding no doubt it was from a moral point of view, so long as there was reasonably good behaviour on either side, or so long as neither Silius nor Marcia's father was prepared wantonly to flout general opinion or to offend a whole connection by simply changing his mind. On the other hand, there was no legal compulsion whatever to carry out the contract. The Roman world knew nothing of actions for breach of promise. If either party chose to repudiate the engagement, they were free so to do. In that case they were said to "send back a refusal" or to "send a counter-notice." A family dispute, a breath of suspicion, a change of circumstances, and even an improved prospect might be sufficient excuse, or no excuse need be offered at all.
In the present instance, however, no such ugly missive passes between the house of Silius on the Caelian Hill and that of Marcius on the Aventine, the wedding takes place in due course. It will not be in May nor in early March or June, nor on certain other dates which, for reasons mostly long forgotten, were regarded as inauspicious. It is a social ceremony, and neither state nor priest will have anything to do with sanctioning or blessing it. The pillars at the sides of the vestibules of both houses are wreathed with leaves and boughs, and the friends and clients of both families proceed in festal array to the house of the bride. If Marcia is very young she has taken her playthings--dolls and the like--and has dedicated them to the household gods as a sign that she now puts away childish things and devotes herself to the serious tasks of life. She has then been carefully dressed for the occasion. Her hair, however she may have worn it before or may wear it afterwards, is for to-day made up into six plaits or braids, which are wound into a coil on the top of her head. As an initial rite it is parted by means of an instrument resembling a spear, a survival of the time when a bride was a prize of war, and when her long locks were actually divided by a veritable spear in token of her subjection. Round this coiffure is placed a bridal wreath, made of flowers which she must have gathered with her own hands, and over her head is thrown a veil--more strictly a cloth--of some orange-yellow or "flame-coloured" material, which does not, however, like the Grecian or Oriental veil, conceal her face. On her feet are low yellow shoes. Meanwhile the bridegroom arrives, escorted by his friends, and he also wears a festal garland. As with all other important undertakings of Roman life, a professional seer will be in attendance to take care that the auspices are favourable. Peculiar portents, very unpropitious behaviour of nature, a very strange appearance in the entrails of a sacrificial victim, are omens which no properly constituted Roman can afford to overlook. The auspices being favourable--and there is reason to believe that no undue insistence was laid on their unpropitious aspects--the bride is led into the reception-hall, and the contract of marriage is signed and sealed. That there should be a dowry, and a considerable one, goes without saying. In some cases it is actually settled on the husband, who is to all intents and purposes purchased by it; but in most it is available for his use only so long as the marriage continues unbroken. For the rest, the wife's property is and remains her own. Her guardian is still her father and not her husband: her legal connection is still with her own family and not with his. She is a Marcia and not a Silia. If the marriage is dissolved, at least without sufficient demonstrable provocation on her part, her father will see that her dower is paid back. To such terms as these the parties affix their names and seals, and a certain number of friends add their signatures as witnesses.
This done, one of the younger married women present takes the bride and leads her across to Silius who holds her right hand in his. Both repeat a prescribed formula of words, and all the company present exclaims "Good luck to you!" and offers such other congratulations as seem fit. A wedding-dinner is held, generally, but not necessarily, in the house of the bride, and a wedding-cake, served upon bay-leaves, is cut up and divided among the guests. It is now evening, and a procession is formed to bring Marcia home to the house of Silius. In front will march the torchbearers and what we should call "the band," consisting in these circumstances of a number of persons playing upon the flageolet. Silius goes through a pretence of carrying off Marcia by force--another practice reminiscent of the ancient time when men won their brides by methods similar to those of the Australian aborigine with his waddy. Both groom and bride are important people, and along the streets there is many a decoration; many a window and doorway is filled with spectators; shouts, not always of the most discreet, are heard from all sides, and loud above all rings the regular Io Talasse--whatever that may have meant, for no man now knows, and almost certainly no one knew then. In the midst of the procession Marcia, followed by bearers of her spindle and distaff, is being led by two pretty boys, while a third carries a torch; Silius meanwhile is scattering nuts or walnuts, or confetti made like them, to the crowd. Arrived on the Caelian, the bride is once more seized and lifted over the threshold; when inside the hall, Silius presents her with fire and water in token of her common share in the household and its belongings; and she offers prayers to various old-fashioned goddesses who are supposed to preside over the introduction to married life.
If we have given with some particularity the orthodox proceedings of a fashionable wedding, it must again be remembered that not all weddings were fashionable, and that one or other of these details might be omitted as taste or circumstances required. Among the poorer folk there must often have been practically no ceremony at all beyond the "bringing home." And if there are certain items which appear to us trivial and meaningless, it is probably unfamiliarity which breeds our contempt. Perhaps a far-off generation may wonder how civilised folk in the twentieth century could perform absurd antics with rice and slippers.
Marcia is now what was known as a "matron." Her position is far more free than it could ever have been in Greece or the Orient, more free indeed than it would be in any civilised country at the present time. The Romans had at all times placed the matron in a position of dignity and responsibility, and to this is now added the greatest liberty of action. Her husband salutes her in public as "Madam." Since he is a senator, and it is beginning to be the vogue to call such men "The Most Illustrious," she also shares that title in polite reference to herself. She is not confined to any particular portion of the house, nor, within the limits of decorum, is she excluded from masculine company. She is the mistress of the establishment, controlling, not only the female slaves, but also the males, in so far as they are engaged in the work of the household. She keeps the keys of the store-rooms. Theoretically at least she has been trained in all the arts of the housekeeper, and thoroughly understands domestic management, together with the weaving and spinning which her handmaids are to perform. The merits of the wife, as summed up in the epitaphs of the middle classes, are those of "good counsellor good manager, and good worker in wool." She walks or is carried abroad at her pleasure, attends the public games in the Circus, and goes with her husband to dinner-parties, where she reclines at the meal just as he does. When her tutelage is past she can take actions in the law-courts, or appear as witness or surety. Her property is at her own disposal, and she instructs her own agent or attorney. It is only necessary that she should guard the honour of her husband. So long as he trusts her he will not interfere. It is only a very tyrannical spouse who will insist that her litter or sedan-chair shall have the curtains drawn when in the streets. We will assume that Marcia is a lady of the true Roman self-respect and dignity, and that Silius and she live a life of reasonable harmony.
But though there were many such Marcias, there were other women of a very different character. There is, for instance, Flavia, who has a perfect frenzy for "manly" sports, and practises all manner of athletic exercises, wrestling and fencing like any man, and perhaps becoming infatuated and practically running away with some brawny but hideous gladiator. She also indulges frankly in mixed bathing. There is Domitia, who is too fond Of promenading in the colonnades and temples, where a cavaliere servente, ostensibly her business man--though he does not look like it--may regularly be seen carrying her parasol. When at home, she neglects her attire and plasters her face with dough in order to smooth out the wrinkles, so that she may give to anybody but her own family the benefit of her beauty. There is the ruinously extravagant Pollia, whose passion for jewels and fine clothes runs her deeply into debt, for which, fortunately, her husband is not responsible. There is Canidia, who is shrewdly suspected of having poisoned more than one husband and who has either divorced or been divorced by so many that she has had eight of them in five years, and dates events by them instead of in the regular way by the consulships: "Let me see. That was in the year in which I was married to So-and-So." There is Asinia, whose selfishness is so great, and her affection so frivolous, that she will weep over a sparrow and "let her husband die to save her lap-dog's life." All these women are most likely childless, and many a noble Roman house threatens to become extinct.
There are others, again, whose foibles are more innocent. Baebia, for example, is merely a victim to superstition. She is always consulting the astrologers, the witches, and the dream-readers; she is devoted to the mystic worship of the Egyptian Isis, with its secret rites of purification, or she is a proselyte to the pestilent notions of the Jews. She is too much under the influence of some squalid Oriental who carries his pedlar's basket, or whose business is to buy broken glass for sulphur matches Meanwhile Corellia is a blue-stocking, as bad as a précieuse with a salon. As soon as you sit down to table she begins to quote Homer and Virgil and to compare their respective merits. She cultivates bright conversation in both Greek and Latin, and her tongue goes loudly and incessantly like a bell or gong. Her poor husband is never permitted to indulge in an expression which is not strictly grammatical. Worse still, she probably even writes little poems of her own. She may keep a tame tutor in philosophy, but she makes no scruple about interrupting his lesson on morals while she writes a little billet-doux. Pomponia is an ambitious woman, whose mania is to interfere in elections by bringing to bear upon the senators what has been called in recent times the "duchesses'" influence. If her husband becomes governor of a province, she will endeavour to be the power behind the throne, and her meddling will in any case prove harmful to the strict administration of justice.
The remedy in such cases was divorce. In the lower orders of society a mild personal castigation was quite legal and probably not uncommon; but then in these lower orders divorce was by no means so convenient. Among the upper classes its frequency made it scarcely a matter of remark. Nothing like it has been seen until modern America. There was no need of an appeal to the courts or of a decree nisi; there was not even need of a specific plea, although naturally one would be offered in most cases. The husband or wife (or the wife's father, if she had one), might send a formal and witnessed notice declaring the marriage dissolved, or, as it was called, "breaking the marriage lines." The man had only to take this step and say with due deliberation "Take your own property"--or, as the satirist puts it, "pack up your traps"--"give up the keys, and begone." The woman on her side need only give similar notice and "take her departure." The only check lay in family considerations, in public opinion, which was extremely lenient, in financial convenience, or in the possibility of particularly wanton conduct being so disapproved in high quarters that a senator or a knight might perhaps find his name missing from the list of his order at the next revision.
It has appeared necessary to give this darker side of the social picture, for, though assuredly not so lurid as might be gathered from the moralists, it was dark enough. For obvious reasons it is desirable not to elaborate. It is perhaps more profitable, as well as refreshing, to consider the brighter side. That there were noble women and good wives, and that the froth and scum and dregs of idle town-life did not make up the existence of the contemporary Roman world, may be seen from passages like the following, which are either quoted or condensed from a letter of Pliny concerning a lady named Arria. The events belong to the reign of Nero's predecessor Claudius. Pliny writes: "Her husband, Caecina Paetus, was ill; so also was her son; and it was expected that both would die. The son, an extremely handsome and modest youth, succumbed. His mother arranged for his funeral and carried it out, the husband meanwhile being kept in ignorance. Not only so, but every time she came into his room she pretended that the son was alive and better, and very often, when he asked how the boy was getting on, she answered, 'He has slept well, and shown a good appetite.' Then, when the tears which she had so long kept back proved too much for her, she used to leave the room and give herself up to grief. When at last she had dried her eyes and composed her countenance she returned to the room. When her husband had taken part in an intended revolt against Claudius, he was to be carried as a prisoner across the Adriatic to Rome. He was on the point of embarking, when Arria begged the soldiers to take her on board with him. 'I presume,' she said, 'you mean to allow an ex-consul a few attendants of some kind, to give him his food, and to put on his clothes and shoes. I will do all that myself.'" Her request being refused, "she hired a fishing-smack and followed the big vessel in this tiny one." When Claudius ordered the husband to put himself to death, Arria took a dagger, stabbed herself in the breast, drew the weapon out, and handed it to him with the words: "Paetus, it does not hurt. It is what you are about to do that hurts."
Arria doubtless is a rare type of heroine. But also of the quiet domesticated wife we have a description from the same writer. Unfortunately the letter is one of the most priggish of all the rather self-complacent epistles written by that thoroughly respectable and estimable man; but that fact takes nothing from the information for which we are looking. Pliny is writing to his own wife's aunt. "You will be very glad to learn that Calpurnia is turning out worthy of her father, of yourself, and of her grandfather. She has admirable sense and is an excellent housekeeper; she is fond of me, which speaks well for her character. Through her affection for me she has also developed a taste for literature. She possesses my books and is always reading them; she even learns them by heart. When I am to make a speech in court, she is all anxiety; when I have made it, she is all joy. She arranges a string of messengers to let her know what effect I produce, what applause I win, and what result I have obtained. If I give a reading, she sits in the next room behind a curtain and listens greedily to the compliments paid to me. She even sets my verses to music and sings them to the harp, with no professional to teach her, but only love, who is the best of masters. I have therefore every reason to hope that our harmony will not only last but grow greater every day."
And all this time, away in the country homestead and cottage, the good Marsian or Sabine mother is a veritable pattern of domestic probity and discipline. If she possesses handmaids, she teaches them their work in the kitchen or at the loom; if she possesses none, she brings up her big daughters in the right ways of modesty, frugality, and obedience to the gods; and her tall sons religiously obey her when she sends them out to chop the firewood in the rain and cold of the mountain-side.
One subject of perpetual interest where women are concerned is that of dress and personal appearance. The Roman woman emphatically pursued the cult of beauty and personal adornment. Perhaps the first prayer which a mother offered for an expected daughter was that she should be beautiful. Whether she proved so or not, no pains were spared to correct or supplement the work of nature. It is true that fashion, except in the dressing of hair, underwent none of those rapid and astonishing changes which perplex the unsophisticated male of to-day. Above all, there were no hats. But all that gold and jewels, colours--blue, green, yellow, violet--and varied stuffs--woollen, linen, muslin, and silk--could do for dress was done by every typical woman of means; and every device for improving the complexion, the teeth, the hair, the height, and the figure--which, by the way, never sought the wasplike waist--was fully exploited. We need not go too closely into details. It will be enough to describe the ordinary attire and the ordinary methods of beautification.
[Illustration: FIG. 91.--TOILET SCENE. (Wall Painting.)]
The conventional indoor dress consisted of, first, an inner tunic, short and sleeveless, with a band passing over or under the breast, so as to produce something resembling what is called the Empire figure; second, an outer tunic of linen or half-silk, less often of whole silk, which fell to the feet. The outer tunic was fastened on the shoulders with brooches; it had sleeves over the upper arm, and, in the case of adults but not of young girls, a flounce or furbelow at the bottom. A girdle produced a fold under the breast. The garment was commonly white, but might be bordered with coloured fringes and embroidery; for ladies of senatorial rank it bore the broad stripe worked in purple or gold. On the feet sandals were often worn, but for out-of-doors these were replaced by soft shoes of white, coloured or gilded leather, sometimes studded with pearls or other gems.
[Illustration: FIG. 92.--WOMAN IN FULL DRESS.]
When a lady left the house she threw over the indoor dress a large mantle or shawl, much resembling the toga of the men, except that its colour was apparently what she pleased. This article was passed over the left shoulder and under the right arm, which was left free; it then fell in graceful folds to the feet. Works of art show that a fold of the shawl was frequently laid over the top and back of the head, for which no less becoming covering had yet been introduced.
The hair alone was subject to innumerable vagaries either of fashion or of individual taste. It might have a parting or no parting; it might be plaited over the head and fastened by jewelled tortoise-shell combs, or by pins of ivory, silver, or bronze with jewelled heads, as varied and ornamental as the modern hatpin; it might be carried to the back and rest in a knot on the neck, where it was bound with ribbons; it might be piled into a huge pyramid or "towers of many stories," so that a woman often looked tall in front and appeared quite a different person at the back; it might be encased in a coloured cloth or in a net of gold thread, for which poorer people substituted a bladder. But in all cases it was preferred that the hair should be wavy, and this was a matter which was attended to by a special coiffeur kept among the slaves. No handmaid had a harder or more ungrateful task than the tiring-woman, who built up and fastened the reluctant locks while the mistress contemplated the effect in her bronze or silver mirror. There was no rule for a woman's treatment of herself in this respect. "Consult your mirror," is the advice of the poet Ovid, who has hopelessly lost all count of styles, since they were "more numerous than the leaves on the oak or the bees on Hybla." To full dress belonged a coronal or tiara, consisting of a band of gold and precious stones.
But who shall dare to speak of the jewellery that bedecked a Roman matron en grande tenue--of the pearl and pendant earrings, the necklaces of pearl and diamonds, the gold snake armlets with their emerald eyes, the bangles and finger-rings, the brooches and buckles on the shoulders and down the sleeves, the gems scattered among the hair, the chains and châtelaines strung with all manner of glittering articles? Says one who lived at the time: "I have seen Lollia Paulina covered with emeralds and pearls gleaming all over her head, hair, ears, neck, and fingers to the value of over £300,000." If Rome is the eternal city, it is eternal in this respect at least as much as in any other.
Who, still more bold, shall pry into her apparatus for the beautification of her person, examining her patch-box and the innocent little pots of rouge, vermilion, and white lead for the complexion, and of soot to rub under the eyes? Who shall scrutinise too closely that delicate blue which tinges her temples? Who shall dare to question whether that yellow hair of the most approved tone, then best seen in Germany, grew where you find it or came from some head across the Rhine? Who shall venture to ask whether that smooth skin was preserved by her wearing last night a mask of meal, which she washed off this morning with asses' milk? Petronius, indeed, says that the "lady takes her eyebrows out of a little box," and probably Petronius knew. For her artificial teeth there is an obvious and sensible excuse, and it is no reproach to her if, as the poet declared, "she puts her teeth aside at night, just as she does her silks." Probably she scents herself far too heavily, but there are many Roman men who are just as bad.
She is ready now for all emergencies, and we may leave her, sitting in her long-backed cushioned chair, waving in one hand a fan of peacock's feathers or of thin wood covered with gold-leaf, and holding in the other a ball of amber or glass to keep her hands cool and dry.
Failure and Grandeur of Roman Civilization