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He devised a new style of building in the city, ordering piazzas to be erected before all houses both in the streets and detached, to give facilities from their terraces, in case of fire, for preventing it from spreading; and these he built at his own expense. He likewise designed to extend the city walls as far as Ostia, and bring the sea from thence by a canal into the old city. Many severe regulations and new orders were made in his time. A sumptuary law was enacted. Public suppers were limited to the Sportulae;1 and victualling-houses restrained from selling any dressed victuals, except pulse and herbs, whereas before they sold all kinds of meat. He likewise inflicted punishments on the Christians, a sort of people who held a new and impious2 superstition. He forbad the revels of the charioteers, who had long assumed a licence to stroll about, and established for themselves a kind of prescriptive right to cheat and thieve, making a jest of it. The partisans of the rival theatrical performers were banished, as well as the actors themselves.
1 The Sportulae were small wicker baskets, in which victuals or money were carried. The word was in consequence applied to the public entertainments at which food was distributed, or money given in lieu of it.
2 “"Superstitionis novae et maleficae,"” are the words of Suetonius; the latter conveying the idea of witchcraft or enchantment. Suidas relates that a certain martyr cried out from his dungeon "Ye have loaded me with fetters as a sorcerer and profane person." Tacitus calls the Christian religion "a foreign and deadly [exitiabiis] superstition," Annal. xiii. 32; Pliny, in his celebrated letter to Trajan, "a depraved, wicked (orprava), and outrageous superstition." EPist. x. 97.Tacitus also describes the excruciating torments inflicted on the Roman Christians by Nero. He says that they were subjected to the derision of the people; dressed in the skins of wild beasts, and exposed to be torn to pieces by dogs in the public games, that they were crucified, or condemned to be burnt; and at night-fall served in place of lamps to lighten the darkness, Nero's own gardens being used for the spectacle. Annal. xv. 44. Traditions of the church place the martyrdoms of SS Peter and Paul at Rome, under the reign of Nero. The legends are given by Ordericus Vitalis. See vol. i. of the edition in the Antiq. Lib. pp. 206, etc., with the notes and reference to the apocryphal works on which they are founded.
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