Page images
PDF
EPUB

We can but pass on, noting the principal objects of interest as we go. To our left is the Arch of Septimius Severus, built in the year A.D. 201, its bas-reliefs illustrating the victories of that Emperor in the East. Every inch of ground around here is full of associations; there is the site of the Rostrum where the head of Octavius was placed, and the head and hands of the murdered Cicero. ("The assassins cut off his head and hands,” says Plutarch, "and carrying them to Rome, presented them to Anthony, who had them fixed up in the Rostra in the Forum.” Cicero was killed on the 7th December, 43 B.c.) Here, in the area of the comitium, grew the fig-tree under which Romulus and Remus were suckled by the wolf. There is the Vulcanal, where Brutus sat unmoved and saw his two sons beaten and beheaded. There are the ruins of the Temple of Concord, in which Cicero convoked the Senate, 63 B.C., and uttered his second oration against Catiline. Those three exquisite columns are all that is left of the magnificent Temple of Vespasian, erected by Titus to his deified father. That massive wall was part of the Tabularium, the “Great Record Office of Ancient Rome.” Those eight Ionic columns form part of the Temple of Saturn, where from the most ancient times the State Treasury was established. Between this temple and that of Vespasian, is the Colonnade of the Twelve Gods, a low range of columns representing the school of Xanthus, and used by the public scribes and notaries. Now, looking towards the Via Sacra, as it runs in the direction of the Arch of Titus, we have directly in front of us the Column of Phocas, erected in honour of that tyrant in A.D. 608, and called by Byron “the nameless column with a buried base.To the right is the Basilica Julia, commenced by Julius Caesar and finished by Augustus, who dedicated it in honour of his daughter. Beyond it are three magnificent Corinthian columns of Parian marble, the remains of the Temple of Castor and Pollux, erected after the decisive victory gained at Lake Regillus. “Here costly sacrifices were always offered on the ides of July, at the anniversary of the battle of Regillus, after which the Roman knights, richly clothed, crowned with olive, and bearing their trophies, rode past it in military procession, starting from the Temple of Mars, outside the Porta Capena.” *

Passing by many square brick pedestals marking ancient foundations, and many interesting fragments which have been invaluable to archæologists in determining ancient sites and closing for ever modern controversies, we make our way to the Church of S. Lorenzo in Miranda, built into the Temple of Faustina, of which the portico, formed by ten monolith columns of Carystian marble, and a part of the marble cornice, as well as the walls of the cella, are still entire. The temple was dedicated to the Empress Faustina by Antoninus, A.D. 138, and is known to have been a collegiate church in the time of Martin V., who in 1430 gave it to the Confraternity of Apothecaries. All that remains of the once famous Temple of Vesta is an almost shapeless mass of concrete. It was founded by Numa Pompilius, and was "the abode of the vestal virgins during life and after death ; the shrine in which they preserved the Palladium, veiled from sacrilegious eyes; and where, typical of the social hearth of the Roman people, they kept the sacred fire for ever burning.”+ Adjoining this was in all probability the Regia, or Royal Palace, where Julius Cæsar lived; from whence he went out to meet his death ; where his wife Calpurnia, in her frenzy of grief, rushed forward to receive his dead body; and where, in front of the Palace, his remains were burned. The Church of SS. Cosma and Damiano, two Arabian Hare, “ Walks in Rome.”

+ Wood, “New Curiosum Urbis."

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

physicians who suffered under Diocletian, is made up of parts of ancient temples, and contains many relics, as well as some extremely interesting sixth-century mosaics. Beyond it, three colossal arches and other mammoth parts reveal enough to allow a guess as to what the Basilica of Constantine, standing on the site of the Temple of Peace, must have been. An ascent may be made to the summit of the ruin, from whence the best panorama of ancient Rome may be seen. Every object of interest from the Capitol to the Colosseum, the Palatine, with the ruins of the Imperial Palaces, and all the seven

hills of Rome, are seen. And, standing here at the end of the Forum, it is interesting beyond expression to look upon the bewildering maze of ruins, overwhelming in their grandeur and extent - of temples, basilicas, arches and columns — and, in imagination, to re-people it as it was wlien it formed the focus of political and civil life, the scene of popular assemblies, judicial proceedings, commercial negotiations and public amusements, and witnessed “the legal and political development of every possible phase of public life.”

Almost immediately opposite the Basilica of Constantine is the Arch of Titus. After the destruction of Jerusalem under Titus, A.D. 70, thousands of Jews -prisoners of war, or rather

slaves-were sent to Rome ; and a goodly number of them were forced to precede the triumphal entrance of Titus into Rome, after his return from Palestine. They had to bear on their hands and heads the trophies snatched from their sanctuary-among them the gold and silver vessels of the Temple, the seven-branched candlestick, the table of shew-bread, and the long silver trumpets. The bas-relief on this arch depicts this scene. There are few more valuable relics in the world than this; here sacred and profane history meet, and every one who gazes on this stone witnesses with his own eyes to the truth of the Bible.

The Palatine is the nucleus of all Rome; its history is the history of Rome. It is the centre from which she extended her circumference till she took in the whole world. We can but glance at the Palatine and pass on. Until 1861 but little of this hill was known, but in that year the Emperor Napoleon III. caused extensive excavations to be made, which have since been vigorously carried on by the Italian Government under M. Rossa, and to-day the archæologist can pass from spot to spot and declare, with almost absolute certainty, where the successive scenes in the great drama of Roman history were played.

[graphic]

THE ARCH OF TITIS.

The Palatine is the site of the most ancient city of Rome, the Roma Quadrata, the fortress of the Pelasgi. Here, according to tradition, was the dwelling-place of the ShepherdKing Evander, of Faustulus and of Romulus. Here was the Palace of the Cæsars,

[graphic][ocr errors][merged small]

commenced by Augustus (who was born on the Palatine), enlarged by Tiberius, and extended by Caligula. Here, as the Palace was destroyed time after time by fire and other causes, it arose more magnificent and more extensive, till the entire area was covered, and for a long period it retained its grandeur; but when the seat of empire was removed to Constantinople its decay began, Goths and Vandals pillaged it, and now it is a mass of stupendous ruins.

Without attempting to describe it in detail, it may interest the reader to know what he can see if he walks about the Palatine Hill, "on whose summit Romulus, a simple shepherd boy, stood and watched his flight of birds of good augury, while Remus, from the adjacent

Aventine, surveyed his own unsuccessful flight.” In several places there may be distinctly traced portions of the original wall of fortification built by Romulus. The remains of the famous Temple of Jupiter Stator-built by Romulus, who vowed to build a temple to Jupiter under that name if he would arrest the flight of his Roman followers in their conflict with the superior forces of the Sabines-are now a mass of concrete. Cicero pronounced his first oration against Catiline in this temple. Close by are the remains of the magnificent state rooms built by Domitian, one of them being the Basilica, or Judgment Hall, where, according to tradition, St. Paul was brought before Nero. Here is the great Peristylium—where Pertinax was murdered—and from it a subterranean passage, with some of the mosaic pavement still perfect, connects the buildings of Tiberius and Caligula with those of Domitian. Now we enter the Triclinium-the scene of so many orgies-opening into a Nymphæum, with traces of the fountain still remaining. Here was the Library ; there the Academy; this is an ancient temple of Jupiter Victor, erected to redeem a vow made by Fabius Maximus at the Battle of Sentinum (295 B.c.). Every age has left its memorial here, from the grotto supposed to be the Lupercal in which the she-wolf is said to have sought refuge when driven from the ruins by the shepherds, to the last of the costly structures erected by the Cæsars. In case it may be supposed—as it often is supposed—that the ruins on the Palatine are nothing but masses of rubbish, indistinguishable to all but archæologists, a brief account of one part of the more recent excavations will be read with interest. “The range of vaulted chambers of small size immediately before us is a portion of the substructions of the House of Tiberius, above which the aecumulation has not been touched. On the right we look down into a series of chambers with richly coloured fresco paintings on the walls in a wonderful state of preservation. Thisone of the most important and interesting discoveries made in the course of the excavations -belongs to the period immediately preceding the foundation of the Imperial Palace.

It iş believed to be the house of Tiberius Claudius Nero, the father of the Emperor Tiberius. The Vestibulum is almost perfect, its vault is entire, and the painting on the walls and the mosaic pavement are scarcely damaged. Considerable remains of the mosaic pavement of the Atrium, which belongs to the class described by Vitruvius as Atria Testudinata, still exist, and sufficient of the decoration of its walls to convey an exact conception of what its appearance must have been. Three large rooms open off from the Atrium. The walls of that in the centre—the Tabulinum-are painted with subjects from classical mythology : on the right the fane of Io guarded by Argus, and on the end wall the story of Acis and Galatea. In the corner is a view of part of a Roman house, divided into terraces; and above are two smaller pictures. The rooms on each side of the Tabulinum, called the right and left wings, are decorated with richly coloured panels, figures of genii, and wreaths of fruit and flowers, painted in a most masterly manner.”* In the Farnese Gardens, on the Palatine, there is an extremely interesting museum, in which are collected the relics discovered in the course of the excavations. They include statues and statuettes, frescoes and other wall decorations, glass, lamps, articles of dress and persoral ornament, and bronze implements. Leaving the Palatine, and continuing our survey of ancient Rome, we pass along the

• Wood, “ New Curiosum Urbis."

year 80.

ancient Via Triumphalis, and have on our left the magnificent remains of the Temple of Venus and Rome, designed by the Emperor Hadrian, and founded by him, A.D. 121; on our right the Arch of Constantine, erected after the victory over Maxentius at Saxa Rubra, near the Pons Milvius, in 311, when Constantine declared himself in favour of Christianity. The arch has three passages, is adorned with admirable sculptures of an earlier period, and is the best preserved of any of the triumphal arches in Rome.

In front of us is the Colosseum, the building with which art has made everyone familiar; the most imposing ruin in Rome-and, historically, the most interesting in the world. For centuries it was treated as mere quarry, from whence materials were taken to build palaces and churches ; but, notwithstanding this, it still stands as one of the wonders of the world, surpassing in reality all that art has shown us of it.

It was begun by Vespasian in A.D. 72, and completed by Titus in the

Tradition says that 30,000 Jews, prisoners of war, were employed in its construction, and that it was designed by Gaudentius, who afterwards became a Christian and suffered martyrdom in the arena. On its completion, it was inaugurated by gladiatorial combats, continued for one hundred days, during which time five thousand wild beasts were killed. Within the walls of the amphitheatre 87,000 spectators could be accommodated, and the scene when it was full must have been unparalleled. The building covered nearly six acres of ground; the extreme length from the external walls is six hundred and thirty feet, the extreme width five hundred and thirty feet, and the height two hundred and two feet. “Some idea of the splendour of the interior may be gathered from a description quoted by Mr. Hemans from the Seventh Eclogue of Calpurnius. The podium was encrusted with costly marbles ; network of gilt bronze, supported by stakes and wheels of ivory, guarded the spectators from the wild beasts; the spaces between the seats glittered with gold and gems; a portico, carried round the entire building, was resplendent with gilded columns; marble statues througed the arcades; the awnings were of silk; marble tripods for burning perfumes were placed throughout the edifice; and fountains of fragrant waters sprinkled the spectators, diffusing delicious odours through the air.”*

In the days of primitive Christianity the Colosseum witnessed, without doubt, the martyrdom of many Christians. It was here that St. Ignatius was brought from Antioch in the reign of Trajan to be devoured by wild beasts, and the traditions of the Church are filled with the names of martyrs who perished in its arena. But it must always be remembered that art and fiction have done much to exaggerate the barbarities that were committed. In 405 gladiatorial combats were abolished by Honorius, as inconsistent with the spirit of Christianity, but fights of wild beasts continued down to the time of Theodoric the Great. In the Middle Ages the Colosseum was used as a stronghold, and then it fell into ruin, and was despoiled in a ruthless fashion until Benedict XIV., in the year 1750, came to the protection of the venerable pile by dedicating it to the Passion of Christ and the Memory of the Christian Martyrs. Round the podium (a species of balcony) there were erected "stations,” and also an open-air pulpit, where, until recently (when the excavations below the modern level were commenced), pious people used to perform their acts of devotion-an indulgence of two hundred days being granted for each such act—and sermons were preached every Friday.

* “ Italian Pictures Drawn with Pen and Pencil."

« PreviousContinue »