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MUSIC OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE. 107
present used in some of the Parisian theatres; there was one chief, or leader, and several deputy commanders; the force was divided into small parties, and mingled among the bona fide audience, and at a signal from their chief, there would be applause of the required kind.
Nero lavished large sums on this corps, and was ever susceptible of flattery to his musical talents: on some Alexandrians singing some verses in his praise, he was so elated that he sent to Alexandria for more singers and conferred many benefits upon them.
Once while singing in the Eoman thertre, in the character of Orestes, the murderer of his mother (which he certainly ought to have acted well, for Nero killed his own mother) he came on the stage loaded with chains, on which a young soldier rushed on the stage to deliver him; this compliment to the reality of his acting was specially grateful to Nero.
The passion for acting and singing were with him almost monomania; during the immense conflagration of Rome, which he himself had kindled, (and which burned for six days and seven r:ghts) he stood upon the tower of Mecaenas, and was so impressed with the spectacle, that he hastened to his theatre, put on the appropriate costume, and sang " The Destruction of Troy. " hence the proverb " Nero fiddled while Rome was burning," which might run more appropriately " Nero sang because Eome was burning," for it Was not callousness, as has been implied, but