They lived surrounded by multitudes of semi-servile coloni, or farmers, bound to the soil, of actual slaves, and of buccelarei, who were free swordsmen to whom they gave rations (buccelatwm, soldiers bread, or buccella, a portion).
The generally recognized principal Avatars do not, however, by any means constitute the only occasions of a direct intercession of the deity in worldly affairs, but - in the same way as to this day the eclipses of the sun and moon are ascribed by the ordinary Hindu to these luminaries being temporarily swallowed by the dragon Rahu (or Graha, " the seizer") - so any uncommon occurrence would be apt to be set down as a special manifestation of divine power; and any man credited with exceptional merit or achievement, or even remarkable for some strange incident connected with his life or death, might ultimately come to be looked upon as a veritable incarnation of the deity, capable of influencing the destinies of man, and might become an object of local adoration or superstitious awe and propitiatory rites to multitudes of people.
Fastening attention on Himself by speaking with authority and attaching a few followers to His person, exhibiting wonderful powers of healing as a sign that He has come to fulfil all needs, manifesting at the same time an unparalleled sympathy, and setting quietly aside every religious convention which limited the outflow of this sympathy; and as the result of all this arousing the enthusiasm of astonished multitudes and evoking the opposition and even the murderous resentment of the religious guides of the nation.
These enigmatic speeches were all that the multitudes got, but the disciples in private were taught their lesson of hope.
The ample revenues which his predecessors had consumed in pomp and luxury he diligently applied to the establishment of hospitals; and the multitudes who were supported by his charity preferred the eloquent discourses of their benefactor to the amusements of the theatre or of the circus.