). The representation of a dramatic subject by
dancing and rhythmic gesticulation alone, as practised by the Romans. It originated in the
custom of the ancient Roman drama, of allowing one actor on the stage to make only the
necessary movements of dancing and gesticulation, while another actor sang the recitative to
the accompaniment of the flute. This recitative was called canticum
was a monologue composed in rhythmical form. The illustrative dance was raised to a
separate, independent branch of art by Pylades and Bathyllus under Augustus, B.C. 22. There
were comic and tragic pantomimes, but the latter variety prevailed on the stage of the Empire.
The subjects were chiefly taken from tragedies founded on mythological love stories (e. g.
those of Iupiter and Leda, of Mars and Venus, of Cinyras and Myrrha, etc.), and treated so
that the chief situations were included in a series of cantica.
these were represented by a single pantomimus, the dancer as well as the performer being
designated by that name. He thus had to represent several characters, male and female, in
succession, while a chorus, accompanied by flutes and other instruments, sang the
corresponding song. The pauses necessary for the change of mask and costume for each
successive part were apparently filled up with the recital of music by the chorus, which
served to connect the chief scenes with each other. Because of the prominence given to dancing
in them the pantomimes were known as fabulae salticae.
In imperial times
the best poets wrote them—e. g., Lucan and Statius (Juv.vii.
It was only in the latest times of the Empire that women were employed in pantomime.
Pantomime, aiming at sensual charm alone, went beyond all bounds of decorum in the
representation of delicate subjects. As an understanding of the subtleties of the art required
a cultivated taste, pantomime was specially favoured by the higher classes, while the mimus
, with his buffoonery, was more pleasing to the multitude. On the true
dramatic ballet of imperial times, see Pyrrhica;
and on the whole subject, Friedländer, Sittengeschichte
, ii. 427-442.