« ForrigeFortsæt »
stand corrected, though I might, had I loved disputations, have held my ground, having made antiquity my constant study since arriving in Rome.
These temples, then, which must have stood inconveniently close together, are a vexation and a confusion. To the left, on the height where once stood the citadel and the Temple of Juno Moneta, on the Tarpeian rock, houses and courts, dirty, black, and filthy, a conglomerated mass of brick-work, crowd upon each other; fowls and poultry generally appear to abound, out of respect, I suppose, to the classic geese which saved the city from the Gauls. The republican government of ancient Rome, after the stern sentence passed on Manlius, razed his house, and forbade that henceforth any private dwelling should be erected on the Capitol or near the citadel. But the long course of ages appears to have weakened this decree; for the fashionable antiquarian, Dr. Braun, has arranged a little roost on the forbidden ground, under the shadow of the Prussian eagle, whose embassy is perched precisely on the site of the ancient citadel on the Tarpeian rock. No rock is to be seen, and the elevation is very slight, save on one side (overlooking the Piazza del Torre di Specchio), "the Traitor's Leap," where a man might still break his ankle-bone perhaps if he tried, and certainly would die of the suffocating atmosphere and bad smells of the neighbourhood. I dare say a great many modern Tarpeias might be found in this quarter as ready as their celebrated ancestress to sell their country for gold, did modern uniform include such tempting gold armlets as adorned the Sabine troops of yore. A steep road descends on this into the Forum; a valley, oblong in shape, extending about 750 feet; and on the further side of the Campidoglio a flight of steps also leads downwards.
Beyond the Campidoglio a further rise, corresponding to the opposite elevation of the citadel, indicates the site of the once famous Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, now replaced by the formless and really hideous exterior of the church of the Ara Coeli, a mass of browned stones, like an architectural chaos, "without form and void," but the accumulated earth still faithfully evidences where once stood the magnificent temple. Descending the flight of steps towards the Forum, which can only impose by their historic associations, not from any intrinsic merit,-the arch of Septimus Severus is passed, a perfect and striking monument, covered with basso-relievos, and an inscription, where the name of Geta is plainly wanting, having been erased by the fratricide Caracalla after he became emperor; but standing as it does in the excavation, on a level with the temples, the arch is so low and deeply sunk it appears utterly shorn of its just proportions and dignity. Beneath, and passing through it, the large blocks of stone forming the Clivus Capitolinus are still visible, proceeding by a winding course through the temples upwards towards the Capitol. The position of the Forum is indicated by a large square excavation, more remarkable for its filth than for the minute remains of broken columns visible-remains conveying neither dignity nor interest to the uninformed eye. Another and a smaller excavation, strewed with fragments of capitals, blocks of marble, and the remains of a few more pillars, include all pertaining to the Forum and Comitium now visible; and it is books alone, and deep research, and antiquarian knowledge, joined to the power of imagination, that can build up these arcades, reconstruct these temples, and lend form, symmetry, and splen
dour to a scene positively repulsive in its actual appearance. Nothing can be more modern than the general aspect of the buildings-mostly churches-erected on the traditionary sites of Pagan temples bordering the sides of the Forum. The Romans seem to have proposed to themselves in their erection to wage the most determined war against any stray recollection which might be evoked by the least vestige of ancient remains; walls, pillars, and porticos are ruthlessly built into the present structures, themselves as commonplace and uninteresting in outward appearance as can possibly be conceived.
Proceeding along what was once the Sacred Way, extending from the Arch of Septimus Severus, now a very dusty modern road, first in order appears the church of San Giuseppe of the Carpenters, its façade gaily painted with frescoes, built over the Mamestine Prisons; but as I have already spoken of these curious vaults I shall now only mention them.
Next stands the church of Santa Martina, which I have also mentioned as connected with the Accademia di San Luca. It is said to be built on the spot where once stood a temple to Mars, or, as some say, the "Secretarium Senatus." Martina, a noble Roman virgin, who heroically sacrificed her life to the Christian faith, now triumphs in death within a richly-decorated tomb, in her subterranean church at the foot of that Capitol, whose steps her ancestors so often mounted as conquerors, senators, and priests.
The adjoining church of San Adriano is supposed to mark the site of the Basilica Æmilia, built in the time of Augustus: a portion of the front, formed of bricks, is all that remains.
Immediately following is the church of S.S. Cosimo e Damiano, twin brothers, born in Arabia, who finally suffered martyrdom under Dioclesian, after twice miraculously escaping from the sea and the stake, and canonised, as it would seem, by the Catholic Church, to recal the popular worship of Romulus and Remus (on whose ruined temple the church was erected), under a Christian aspect. The magnificent mosaic of the apsis -one of the most perfect in the world-divides attention with the remnants of the original temple, now consecrated as a second and subterraneous church.
The church of San Lorenzo in Miranda is faced by an ancient portico composed of ten imposing though much injured Corinthian columns, deprived of half their original height, and unmercifully squeezed by the façade of the insignificant church, bearing on a frieze an inscription showing the ancient temple to have been dedicated to the "divine Antoninus and Faustina." This portico was excavated during the visit of the Emperor Charles V. to Rome.
Standing somewhat back from the line we have hitherto followed are the three huge arches of the immense ruin known until lately as the Temple of Peace. Many descriptions are come down to us of this stately monument. The roof was encrusted with bronze gilt and supported by stupendous columns, and the interior adorned and enriched with the finest statues and pictures of the Grecian schools. Here were deposited the spoils brought from Jerusalem by Titus, forming a vast public treasury.
Beside the three arches of this majestic ruin, now bare and stripped to the brick walls, all that remains as evidence of its former splendour is the
beautiful Corinthian column, cruelly removed from the spot and placed in front of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, being one of the eight exquisite marble pillars which decorated the lofty interior temple. In these latter days the ruin is known as the Basilica, begun by Maxentius, and finished by Constantine, after the battle of Ponte Molle had ended that tyrant's life and reign. The venerable associations of many ages are therefore shorn from these mighty vaults, that rise aloft in a state of perfect preservation grateful to the eye, tormented by the confusion of the Forum. According to the present version we must consider this lofty structure only as belonging to "modern Rome," for in the interminable scale of centuries that unlink before one in examining the historic antiquities of Rome, the third or fourth century is but as yesterday. I for myself prefer the Catholic account, as being the most poetic. According to that, this edifice was built by Augustus in memory of the peace given to the world by the battle of Actium. Wishing to know how long the solid walls would stand, he consulted the oracle, which replied, "Quoadusque virgo pariat" (until a virgin bears a son). Romans considered this a promise of immortality, and anticipated an eternal existence for the new Temple of Peace; but the same night that saw the Saviour's birth in Bethlehem, the walls of the Pagan temple shook and fell, and fire suddenly and mysteriously issuing from the ground consumed the sumptuous pile.
The modern church of Santa Francesca Romana is built on part of the remains of the temple of Venus and of Rome, forming one angle of the long-shaped square marking the valley of the Forum. It is a curious coincidence, that on the site of the former temple of "Venus the Happy," Catholic Rome should have dedicated a church to the memory of a Roman matron renowned for her rigid virtue. True, Santa Francesca was married, but her chaste conduct as a wife, by enlarging her sphere of action, increased the admiration and respect of her contemporaries. At the death of her husband she became a nun, and commenced a life of severe penance and renunciation, devoting herself to the sick and dying in the hospitals, with a true Christian fortitude. "Elegi abjectus esse in domo Dei." A large sisterhood was formed bearing her name, where are religiously preserved some relics, the room in which she prayed, and the utensils she used while tending the sick and wounded.
Eusebius, the father of ecclesiastical history, furnishes us with a curious fact in connexion with this church. He assures us that the apostles St. Peter and Paul visited Rome (an historic fact my own rampant Protestantism, on first arriving at Rome, made me culpably overlook in speaking of the former's tomb at St. Peter's). He recounts that the magician, Simon Magus, had preceded them there, and, in order to neutralise their preaching, gave himself out as a god. The Emperor Nero admired him, and statues were already raised to his honour. In order to give a convincing and visible proof of his divinity, the impostor announced that he would publicly raise himself in the air without assistance, and selected as the spot where the proposed prodigy was to take place the theatre of Nero's golden house. All Rome assembled in expectant wonder, and the emperor himself was present in the vestibule of his palace; but St. Peter, who had arrived in Rome unknown to Simon Magus, was also present; and as the magician mounted boldly into mid-air, the apostle prayed
earnestly that his blasphemy might be punished. As the arrow flies from the bow, so was the prayer of the righteous man heard and answered: Simon, suddenly and unaccountably, fell to the earth and was killed, and the stone on which St. Peter knelt retained the impression of his knee, and is visible now in the interior of the church, on the very spot where it is said
his prayers were offered "Una cosa, as the Italians say, "di gran
Situated on slightly rising ground, next stands the beautiful Arch of Titus, on a level with the actual earth, and therefore seen to much better advantage than its opposite neighbour the sunk-down Arch of Septimus Severus, massed up with the much-disputed temples. The basso-relievos are remarkably clear and distinct, and the sculptures on the arch indicate a period before the decline of art. Under the arch Titus appears in basso-relievo, seated on a triumphal car, conducted by the Genius of Rome, and attended by Victory erowning him with laurel; opposite, are the spoils of the temple-the table of show-bread, the seven candlesticks, the Jubilee trumpets, and the incense vessels.
The Jews from the dirty Ghetto never cease to contemplate this monument with profound sorrow mingled with violent indignation. They hate the Romans, past, present, and to come, as the agents of their country's destruction, the devastators of that shrine, more glorious, in their imagination, than the burnished pillars of the golden sunshine supporting the opening vaults of morning! A Jew would rather die than pass under that arch, which accounts for the little footpaths formed on either side. But it is in vain to dispute the Almighty will; the monument of their servitude is not to be ignored, or the prophecy forgotten which was wrung from our Lord by the hard impiety of the Jewish nation—"Verily, verily, I say unto you, there shall not be left one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down."
Continuing my tour round the modern Forum, the steep sides of the Palatine Hill now break the view, rising abruptly aloft, dark, ominous, and gloomy-a hill-side on which grow no flowers, where the sun never shines, desolate and uninhabited, crumbling with shapeless ruins of the past, broken into deep chasms, and sepulchral caves yawning in the precipitate sides, formed of massive foundations, and broken terraces and shattered arches heaped on each other in indescribable confusion. Grass and reeds, and low shrubs and twining vines, overmantle the sombre ruins, and on the summit of the hill rises a sacred wood, circular in form, of evergreen trees, fit diadem for its inky brow. There is a repulsive grandeur about the stern, frowning decay of the Palatine, impressive and majestic in character, though crumbling into dust, far more exciting to my imagination than the cheerful, sunny, modernly-built and thicklypopulated quarter of the Capitoline Mount, where the past wrestles in vain with the present, and loses all dignity in the encounter.
Under the Palatine a large space of muddy, uneven ground marks the place where the cattle-market is held, for (oh, horrible sacrilege!) not only its dignity but its very name is passed away, and the ancient Forum is now only known to the degenerate modern Romans by its designation of "Campo Vaccino !"
At all times are to be seen here herds of the slate-coloured oxenmeek, quiet-looking beasts with enormous horns, that perform the labours
of husbandry in Italy, ruminating beside the frame-carts they drawand the ferocious buffaloes, bending their heads indeed under the yoke, but always rolling round those vicious, untamed eyes.
Velletri wine-carts, drawn by single horses, with their odd one-sided hoods or screens, to shield the driver from the sun or rain, contain often a cross and little image of the Madonna, hung up beside knives, forks, bottles, and pistols. The drivers are now resting beside their original conveyances, or talking to each other, with their turn-up pointed hats and handsome sunburnt faces, side by side with the contadini belonging to the oxen, dull, stolid-looking barbarians, wearing their jackets thrown over one shoulder, that seem to live only to sleep. There they all rest in picturesque groups (for somehow or other the pose of the most common and clownish Italian is always picturesque) under the dark shadow of the Palatine.
Further on, where now stand the churches of Santa Maria Liberatrice and San Teodoro (San Toto), the Curia Julia, first called Curia Hostilia, was situated, built by Julius Cæsar, and embellished by Augustus, being the place where he convoked the senate. In the centre stood a statue and Temple of Victory, on the site of the house built for Valerius Publicola by a grateful people; while near it was held the slave-market of ancient Rome-that numerous and accursed race, which so often threatened, murdered, and oppressed their haughty masters, intriguing on the very steps of the throne where they were raised by the profligate manners of the age, and sacrificing even the lives of the deified Cæsars to their lust of power, foul passions, and extravagant caprices. The Temple of Vesta stood in this part of the Forum, and the Spoliarium of Sylla, a human slaughter-house, daily filled during his dictatorship by the heads of illustrious senators and patricians, victims of the extraordinary ambition and incredible cruelty of this terrible rival of Marius. Aloft stretched the bridge constructed by the insane Caligula, extending from the opposite hills, in order to enable the deified monster to pass from the Imperial Palace on the Palatine to offer sacrifices in the temple of the Capitol without crossing the Forum. Of all these structures no vestige remains.
The church of San Toto (behind the Roman Forum, on the way to the Forum Boarium) stands on the supposed site of the Lupercal, where, says Mark Anthony, in his famous oration over the body of Cæsar: "I thrice presented him a kingly crown, which he did thrice refuse." At hand stood, in early times, the Temple of Romulus, on the spot where he and Remus were discovered by the shepherd.
To the formation of the Cloaca Massima, and other improvements in draining, the marshy ground between the Palatine, Aventine, and Capitoline Hills, once a swampy lake, must be attributed the altered current of the Tiber, now certainly full a quarter of a mile distant from the traditionary spot where the cradle containing the Alban twins, children of Sylvia and Mars (as they loved to be called), touched the shore. The river being much swollen, the cradle dashed against a stone at a place called Arnanum, and was overturned, the cries of the infants frightening away the shepherds but attracting the she-wolf by whom they were tended, together with the friendly woodpecker, as they reposed under the shadow of the Palatine woods, then an Arcadian wilderness,