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Troiae Ludus

Τροία) (frequently called in Latin Troia, in the phrase Troiam ludere; in Suet. Cal. 18, Troiae decursio; in Tac. Ann. xi. 11, ludicrum Troiae). An equestrian sham-fight, performed in the Circus Maximus by boys of high rank. 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. Aen. v. 597). The earliest mention in historical times is the celebration by Sulla in his dictatorship B.C. 81 ( Cat. 3), and by Caesar when he dedicated the Temple of Venus (Dio Cass. xliii. 23). Augustus celebrated it certainly twice: first in B.C. 27 (Dio Cass. xlix. 43); on which occasion Tiberius at the age of fifteen was ductor turmae puerorum maiorum (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, and again at the funeral games of Drusilla; and of Nero's boyhood we are told that he often Troiam lusit up to the age of eleven (Suet. Ner. 7).

The method of celebration may be gathered from Vergil ( Aen. v. 553-603). 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. After this, they charged and retired with evolutions so complicated that they seemed to Vergil comparable to nothing but the Cretan Labyrinth or troops of dolphins at play. It is hard to explain why Vergil introduces the difficulty of three leaders and three companies. In all historical accounts there were two. We can hardly doubt that Vergil, 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 Suetonius ( Tib. 12) that Tiberius was one leader, and from the same chapter it may be inferred that Marcellus was another. We may surmise that Vergil 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 Apuleius, the son of Augustus's colleague in the consulship, who, as appears from Tac. (Tac. Ann. ii. 50), afterwards 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 Vergil makes three corresponding leaders in his Troia—viz., Iulus and Atys out of compliment to Augustus, and a Priamus as appropriate to the Trojan game.

hide References (11 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (11):
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 5.553
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 5.597
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 6
    • Suetonius, Divus Augustus, 43
    • Tacitus, Annales, 11.11
    • Tacitus, Annales, 2.50
    • Suetonius, Caligula, 18
    • Suetonius, Nero, 7
    • Suetonius, Tiberius, 12
    • Suetonius, Tiberius, 6
    • Sallust, Catilinae Coniuratio, 3
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