[more frequently known as Troja,
in the phrase Trojam
in Greek τὴν Τροίαν ἱππεῦσαι,
D. C. 49.43
; in Suet.
, Trojae decursio;
in Tac. Ann. 11.11
], an equestrian sham-fight, performed in the Circus
Maximus by boys of high rank (sons of senators, according to Dio Cass. l.c.
). It was supposed to represent an exercise
introduced by Aeneas and the Trojans after their landing in Italy, and
celebrated afterwards by Ascanius at Alba (Verg. A.
). The earliest mention in historical times is the
celebration by Sulla in his dictatorship B.C. 81 (Plut. Cat.
3, where it is called παιδικὴ καὶ ἱερὰ ἱππασία
ἣν καλοῦσι Τροίαν
): the two boyish leaders on this
occasion were Aemilius Scaurus, stepson of Sulla, and Cato the younger.
Similarly Julius Caesar, when he returned in triumph to Rome and dedicated
the temple of Venus, celebrated τὴν ἱππασίαν τὴν
Τροίαν καλουμένην παίδων τῶν εὐπατρίδων κατὰ τὸ
(D. C. 43.23
): from the
last word it may be inferred that it was a custom older than Sulla, in fact
of unknown antiquity, as we should imagine from the traditions connected
with it. Augustus celebrated it certainly twice: first in B.C. 27 (D. C. 49.43
on which occasion Tiberius at the age of 15 was “ductor turmae
puerorum majorum” (Suet. Tib. 6
secondly at the dedication of the temple of Marcellus, B.C. 12, when his
grandson Gaius took a chief part. He then discontinued the celebration
because Asinius Pollio complained in the senate that it was a dangerous
sport, in which his grandson Aeserninus had broken his leg (Suet. Aug. 43
). Caligula celebrated it in the
first year of his reign when he dedicated the temple of Augustus, and again
at the funeral games of Drusilla: and of Nero's boyhood we are told that he
often “Trojam lusit” up to the age of 11 (Suet. Nero 7
The method of celebration may be gathered from Verg.
. In this account the
Trojan boys are first marshalled in three squadrons of twelve each, under
Ascanius, Priamus (son of Polites), and Atys. They come forward
ceremoniously, much as the gladiators did, or as the performers in a modern
bull-fight do now, to salute the spectators before the combat begins: then
they break up their triple formation, and, forming into two equal bands,
retire to opposite stations. Such we take to be the meaning of
“discurrere pares” and “diductis solvere
choris” : the agmen
is the processional
line in the opening ceremony; the chori
opposing squadrons. After this, they charged and retired with evolutions so
complicated that they seemed to Virgil (supposing him to be an eye-witness
of what he describes) comparable to nothing but the Cretan Labyrinth or
troops of dolphins at play. It is hard to explain why Virgil introduces the
difficulty of three leaders and three companies. In all historical accounts
there were two: in the earliest (in the time of Sulla) it is expressly said
that there could be only two leaders; and when three candidates appeared,
Scaurus, Cato, and Sextus Pompeius, it was necessary that one should retire
3): similarly in Tac.
we find two leaders named, Britannicus and Domitius.
We can hardly doubt that Virgil, under cover of the story of Aeneas, is
describing what he actually saw, and this must have been the celebration in
B.C. 27. In that contest we know from Suet. Tib.
that Tiberius was one leader, and from the same chapter it may be
inferred that Marcellus was another. We may surmise that Virgil introduced
this elaborate account for the same reason which led him to bring in the
touching allusion to Marcellus in Aen.
vi. There may have
been a third leader in the preliminary display on that occasion, to give
distinction to Sextus Appuleius, the son of Augustus's colleague in the
consulship, who, as appears from Tac. Ann.
, afterwards [p. 2.900]
married Marcella, daughter
of Octavia. Assuming then that in the real celebration of B.C. 27 there were
three leaders for the procession, and that for the combat two lines were
formed according to custom under Tiberius and Marcellus, we may suppose that
Virgil makes three corresponding leaders in his Troja,
viz. Julus and Atys out of compliment to Augustus, and a
Priamus as appropriate to the Trojan game.