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96

(1887) [MARC] Author: Viktor Rydberg Translator: Alfred Corning Clark With: Hans Anton Westesson Lindehn
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Full resolution (JPEG) - On this page / på denna sida - The Roman Emperors in Marble - 5. Nero

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96 ROMAN DA YS.
a constructive element. Art, in Rome, was not the
manifestation of a people’s natural impulse, but a pleasure,
sometimes also a study, for " the cultivated.’’ It was
and remained an exotic, to which persons of rank gave
the same care as to the African plants in their parks.
Apelles, although author of the proverb :
" Shoemaker,
keep to your last!" thought that the common people’s
judgment upon the productions of art was sounder than
that of the artists. In Rome, however, the people was
profamim vulgus, above which rose a class of judges, who
called themselves sapientes viri, in an earlier sense of the
word sapiens. The same phenomenon, this, that one
finds everywhere where art is introduced and is unable
to make itself quite at home.
Nero cherished, with the bold confidence of youth,
the belief that through the aesthetic education of the
people, he could make of Rome an Athens. The theatre,
the arena, the lecture halls and the newly-instituted
gymnasiums were to work the miracle. Public games
should be elevated by the appearance in them of those
of the highest rank ; even the emperor, by striving with
the others for the victor’s crown in the realm of the beau-
tiful, would break the spine of the old Roman arrogance
towards the followers of art. His aged advisers warned
him not to precipitate this enterprise, and succeeded in
stemming for a time his zeal ; but it was so much the
more violent when the dam broke, and it drowned him
and his throne in its whirlpool.
The bodily exercises of the Romans aimed exclusively
at qualification for war. But Nero wished to combine
with these, that kind of Grecian gymnastic which devel-
oped the beauty of the limbs and gave a charm to the
bearing and movements. The wrath of the old Romans

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