Our Little Roman Cousin of Long Ago - Julia D. Cowles

Marcus, the Torch-Bearer

"I have a bit of news for you, Marcus," said Gaia one day as Marcus came in from school. "Our cousin, Lucilla, has chosen you to be torch-bearer at her wedding."

"Oh," cried Marcus, "do you mean that I am to carry the white thorn torch?"

"Yes," replied Gaia. "That is what Lucilla wishes."

"There will be a great wedding, I suppose," said Marcus. "That will be fine."

As soon as he could find Tullius the next morning, Marcus told him the news.

"Oh, how good," said Tullius. "What fun we will have together, for I have been chosen to bear the basket of offerings for the altar."

"Good, indeed!" exclaimed Marcus. "The wedding is to be a grand one, and we will have a great feast, too."

The home of Lucilla's father was a beautiful one, and on the day of the wedding it was decorated with flowers, with branches of trees, and with woven hangings of rich colors.

Before sunrise the guests began to arrive.

Marcus and Lucius were standing beside one of the pillars of the atrium when the bride and groom entered.

After them came Tullius with his basket of offerings. These were laid upon the family altar. The bride and groom sat before it, and prayers were made to the Roman gods.

The ceremony was a very simple one, but the feast which followed it lasted for many hours. It was not until evening that the guests arose from their couches about the table.

Tullius turned to Marcus. "Now," he said, "it is your turn to take part in the ceremonies." A procession was formed by the guests to take the bride from her father's house to the house of the groom. First there were torch-bearers, and following these were flute players. Then, directly in front of the bride, came Marcus, bearing the wedding torch of flaming white thorn.

Lucius was sure that no one of all the guests was so honored as Marcus. He felt quite certain that he would rather be Marcus than the groom himself!

The procession was a merry one, and there was music and the sound of happy laughter. Crowds of citizens stood along the way, for the Romans loved a procession of any sort, and a wedding procession was the merriest of all.

When they reached the home of the groom, Lucilla wound bands of woollen cloth about the pillars of the doorway, and then the invited guests entered the new home.

A fire had been laid on the hearth, and Marcus handed the white thorn torch to Lucilla, who lighted the hearth fire with it. Then turning, she tossed it, still burning, among the guests.

There was a merry scramble to catch it, as there is to-day to catch a flower from the bride's bouquet.

"Ah," cried Tullius. "See! Terentia has caught the torch. 'Tis a sign that she will be the next bride."

There was a bright flush upon Tullius' cheeks as he spoke. To be sure Terentia was but thirteen years old, but most Roman girls were married at the age of fourteen.