The Iron Collar or Faustina and Syomara

The Iron Collar or Faustina and Syomaraby Eugène Sue

Female gladiators… Wild beasts in the Roman circus… Poison… Horrible punishments… Witchcraft… Indescribable orgies… Beautiful women… Slavery… Fight for freedom… All this and much more in this roman by the once-famous French author, in our times known best for a few of his romances, made successful films, like: “The Captain Fracas” or “The Mysteries of Paris”.

Let me show you a tiny fragment (but we don’t want any spoiler, do we?):

“Ah, my son! We have just this minute received for to-morrow’s spectacle a superb couple of African lions. I thought of you, because, my good friend, the keeper of the animals says he never saw such a couple of ferocious beasts. Only four leagues from here, while the train halted and immediately after having had their fill of meat, those lions tore to pieces the Arab keeper, to whom they were long accustomed and who therefore did not in the least suspect them— all out of pure viciousness. What will it be to-morrow evening, after they will have been deprived of food for a whole day! My son, I wish for your sake that you fall into the paws of one of these two fellows. He will not make you languish—above all I urge you earnestly, your youth makes me feel an interest in you, above all remember this: Do not follow the example of the weaklings, who, the moment the wild beasts are let loose into the amphitheater commit the clumsiness of throwing themselves flat down upon their faces, and expose their backs, instead of their breasts. The clumsy fools! Their agony lasts a hundred times longer. I shall explain to you why. As no vital part of the body is attacked from the start, death is much slower—while, on the contrary, one is done quick if, now remember this, my son, if he drops on his knees, face to face with the lion or tiger, his chest and throat freely exposed to their teeth. The chances are then fair that you will be despatched in short order by the animals seizing you by the throat or disembowelling you on the spot.”

And another maybe juicy bit:

“From the moment the retinue of female slaves stepped into the temple they busied themselves with arranging and smoothing the cushions in order that their mistress, whom the Ethiopian carried in his arms, be laid down as softly as possible. Those among the female slaves who played the flute or the lyre on the way to the temple still held their musical instruments in their hands. Among the slaves were also two beautiful manumitted Greeks of about sixteen or eighteen years of age. Like all the men of their race who adopt this servile occupation, the two Greek musicians were distinguishable by their lascivious gait and their brazen faces, by their short and frizzled hair, and also by their costume, which was both rich and effeminate. They carried wide peacock fans intended to cool the air in the immediate neighborhood of their mistress.”

From the moment the retinue of female slaves stepped into the temple they busied themselves with arranging and smoothing the cushions in order that their mistress, whom the Ethiopian carried in his arms, be laid down as softly as possible. Those among the female slaves who played the flute or the lyre on the way to the temple, still held their musical instruments in their hands. Among the slaves were also two beautiful manumitted Greeks of about sixteen or eighteen years of age. Like all the men of their race who adopt this servile occupation, the two Greek musicians were distinguishable by their lascivious gait and their brazen faces, by their short and frizzled hair, and also by their costume, which was both rich and effeminate. They carried wide peacock fans intended to cool the air in the immediate neighborhood of their mistress. After the cushions were carefully arranged, the Ethiopian laid the noble Faustina upon them with as much precaution as if he feared to break her. The two young Greeks then deposited their fans upon the floor, knelt down near their mistress, and gently removed the veil that enveloped her.