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Title: Roman Mosaics - Or, Studies in Rome and Its Neighbourhood
Author: Macmillan, Hugh
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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D.D., LL.D., F.R.S.E., F.S.A. Scot.








The title of this book may seem fanciful. It may even be regarded as
misleading, creating the idea that it is a treatise like that of Mr.
Digby Wyatt on those peculiar works of art which decorate the old
palaces and churches of Rome. But notwithstanding these objections, no
title can more adequately describe the nature of the book. It is
applicable on account of the miscellaneous character of the chapters,
which have already appeared in some of our leading magazines and
reviews, and are now, with considerable changes and additions,
gathered together into a volume. There is a further suitableness in
the title, owing to the fact that most of the contents have no claim
to originality. As a Roman Mosaic is made up of small coloured cubes
joined together in such a manner as to form a picture, so my book may
be said to be made up of old facts gathered from many sources and
harmonised into a significant unity. So many thousands of volumes
have been written about Rome that it is impossible to say anything new
regarding it. Every feature of its topography and every incident of
its history have been described. Every sentiment appropriate to the
subject has been expressed. But Rome can be regarded from countless
points of view, and studied for endless objects. Each visitor's mind
is a different prism with angles of thought that break up the subject
into its own colours. And as is the case in a mosaic, old materials
can be brought into new combinations, and a new picture constructed
out of them. It is on this ground that I venture to add another book
to the bewildering pile of literature on Rome.

But I have another reason to offer. While the great mass of the
materials of the book is old and familiar, not a few things are
introduced that are comparatively novel. The late Dean Alford made the
remark how difficult it is to obtain in Rome those details of interest
which can be so easily got in other cities. Guide-books contain a vast
amount of information, but there are many points interesting to the
antiquarian and the historian which they overlook altogether. There is
no English book, for instance, like Ruffini's _Dizionario
Etimologico-Storico delle Strade, Piazze, Borghi e Vicoli della Città
di Roma_, to tell one of the origin of the strange and bizarre names
of the streets of Rome, many of which involve most interesting
historical facts and most romantic associations of the past. There is
no English book on the ancient marbles of Rome like Corsi's _Pietre
Antiche_, which describes the mineralogy and source of the building
materials of the imperial city, and traces their history from the law
courts and temples of which they first formed part to the churches and
palaces in which they may now be seen. Every nook in London, with its
memories and points of interest, has been chronicled in a form that is
accessible to every one. But there is an immense amount of most
interesting antiquarian lore regarding out-of-the-way things in Rome
which is buried in the transactions of learned societies or in special
Italian monographs, and is therefore altogether beyond the reach of
the ordinary visitor. Science has lately shed its vivid light upon the
physical history of the Roman plain; and the researches of the
archæologist have brought into the daylight of modern knowledge, and
by a wider comparison and induction have invested with a new
significance, the prehistoric objects, customs, and traditions which
make primeval Rome and the surrounding sites so fascinating to the
imagination. But these results are not to be found in the books which
the English visitor usually consults. In the following chapters I have
endeavoured to supply some of that curious knowledge; and it is to be
hoped that what is given--for it is no more than a slight sample out
of an almost boundless store--will create an interest in such
subjects, and induce the reader to go in search of fuller information.

Many of the points touched upon have provoked endless disputations
which are not likely soon to be settled. Indeed there is hardly any
line of study one can take up in connection with Rome which does not
bristle with controversies; and a feeling of perplexity and
uncertainty continually haunts one in regard to most of the subjects.
It is not only in the vague field of the early traditions of the city,
and of the medieval traditions of the Church, that this feeling
oppresses one; it exists everywhere, even in the more solid and
assured world of Roman art, literature, and history. Where it is so
difficult to arrive at settled convictions, I may be pardoned if I
have expressed views that are open to reconsideration.

I am aware of the disadvantages connected with thus collecting
together a number of separate papers, instead of writing a uniform
treatise upon one continuous subject. The picture formed by their
union must necessarily have much of the artificiality and clumsiness
of the mosaic as compared with the oil or water-colour painting. But
only in this form could I have brought together such a great variety
of important things. And though I cannot hope that the inherent defect
of the mosaic will be compensated by its permanence--for books of this
kind do not last--yet it will surely serve some good purpose to have
such a collocation of facts regarding a place whose interest is ever
varying and never dying.

The personal element is almost entirely confined to the first chapter,
which deals on that account with more familiar incidents than the
others. Twelve years have elapsed since my memorable sojourn in Rome;
and many changes have occurred in the Eternal City since then. I have
had no opportunity to repeat my visit and to add to or correct my
first impressions, desirable as it might be to have had such a
revision for the sake of this book. I duly drank of the water of Trevi
the night before I left; but the spell has been in abeyance all these
years. I live, however, in the hope that it has not altogether lost
its mystic power; and that some day, not too far off, I may be
privileged to go over the old scenes with other and larger eyes than
those with which I first reverently gazed upon them. It needs two
visits at least to form any true conception of Rome: a first visit to
acquire the personal interest in the city which will lead at home to
the eager search for knowledge regarding it from every source; and
then the second visit to bring the mind thus quickened and richly
stored with information to bear with new comprehension and increased
interest upon the study of its antiquities on the spot.





A Walk to Church in Country--In the Town--Residence in Capo le
Case--Church of San Guiseppe--Propaganda--Pillar of Immaculate
Conception--Piazza di Spagna--Staircase--Models--Beggars--Church of
Trinita dei Monti--Flowers--Via Babuino--Piazza del Popolo--Flaminian
Obelisk--Pincian Hill--Porta del Popolo--Church of Santa Maria del
Popolo--Monastery of St. Augustine--Presbyterian Church--Villa
Borghese--Ponte Molle



Formation of Appian Way--Tombs on Roman Roads--Loneliness of Country
outside Rome--Porta Capena--Restoration of Appian Way--Grove and
Fountain of Egeria--Baths of Caracalla--Church of Sts. Nereus and
Achilles--Tomb of Scipios--Columbaria--Arch of Drusus--Gate of St.
Sebastian--Almo--Tomb of Geta--Plants in Valley of Almo--Catacombs
of St. Calixtus--Catacomb of Pretextatus--Catacomb of Sts. Nereus
and Achilles--Church of St. Sebastian--Circus of Romulus--Tomb of
Cæcilia Metella--Sadness of Appian Way--Imagines Clipeatæ--Profusion
of Plant and Animal Life--Solitude--Villa of Seneca--Mounds of
Horatii and Curiatii--Villa of Quintilii--Tomb of Atticus--Casale
Rotondo--Frattocchie--Bovillæ--Albano--St. Paul's Entrance into
Rome by Appian Way



Promontory of Carmel--Westmost Point of Italy--Mode of reaching
Cumæ--Few Relics of Ancient City--Uncertainty about Sibyl's
Cave--Loneliness of Site--Roman Legend of Sibylline Books--Mode
of Keeping Them--Sortes Sibyllinæ--Different Sibyls--Apocalyptic
Literature--Existing Remains of Sibylline Books--Reverence paid
to Sibyl by Christian Writers--Church of Ara Coeli--Roof of Sistine
Chapel--Prospective Attitude of Sibyl--Retrospective Characteristic
of Greek and Roman Religion--Connection between Hebrew and Pagan
Prophecy--Pagan Oracles superseded by Living Oracles of the Gospel



Footprints of our Lord in Church of Domine quo Vadis--Slabs
with Footprints in Kircherian Museum--St. Christina's Footprints
at Bolsena--Significance of Footmarks--Votive Offerings--Footprint
of Mahomet at Jerusalem--Footprint of Christ on Mount of
Olives--Footprints of Abraham at Mecca--Drusic Footprints--Phrabat,
or Sacred Foot of Buddha--Famous Footprint on Summit of Adam's Peak
in Ceylon--Footprints at Gayá--Footprints of Vishnu--Jain
Temples--Prehistoric Footprints--Tanist Stones--Dun Add in
Argyleshire--Mary's Step in Wales--Footmarks in Ireland, Norway,
Denmark, and Brittany--Classical Examples--Footprints in America
and Africa--Connection with Primitive Worship



Geological History--Volcanic Origin--Early Legends--Cloaca
Maxima--Work of Excavation--Ærarium--Capitol--Temple of Concord--Temple
of Jupiter--Arch of Septimius Severus--Milliarium Aureum--Mamertine
Prison--Pillar of Phocas--Suovetaurilia--Curia Hostilia--Comitium--Curia
of Diocletian--Basilica Julia--Vicus Tuscus--Temple of Castor and
Pollux--Atrium Vestæ--Temple of Vesta--Temple of Antoninus Pius
and Faustina--Church of SS. Cosma e Damiano--Colosseum--Conflagration
in Forum



Number of Obelisks in Rome--Sun Worship--Symbolism of Obelisk--Obelisk
of Nebuchadnezzar--Original position of Obelisks--Egyptian
Propylons--Changes connected with Obelisks in Egypt--Transportation
of Obelisks to Rome and other places--Obelisk of Heliopolis--Obelisk
of Luxor--Karnac--Lateran Obelisk--Obelisk in Square of St.
Peter's--Obelisk of Piazza del Popolo--Association of Fountains with
Obelisks--Obelisk of Monte Citorio--Esquiline and Quirinal
Obelisks--Obelisk of Trinita dei Monti--Pamphilian Obelisk--Obelisks
near Pantheon--Superiority of Oldest Obelisks--Obelisk of
Paris--Cleopatra's Needles in London and New York--Religious Devotion
of Ancient Egyptians



Excursions in neighbourhood of Rome--History of Veii--Uncertainty
of its Site--Journey to Isola Farnese--Village of Isola--Romantic
Scenery--Desolate Downs--Roman Municipium--Old Gateway--Ponte
Sodo--Necropolis of Veii--Painted Tomb--Archaic Frescoes--Objects in
Inner Chamber--Etruscan Tombs imitative of Homes of the Living--Worship
of the Dead--Cellæ Memoriæ--Antiquity of Tomb at Veii--Mysterious
character of Etruscan Language and History



Bocca della Verita--Primitive Worship of Clefts in Rocks and
Holes in Stones--Cromlechs--Passing through beneath Cromlechs and
Gates--Tigillum Sororium--Pillars in Aksa Mosque at Jerusalem--"Threading
the Needle" in Ripon Cathedral--Standing Stones of Stennis and Oath
of Odin--Cremave--Jewish Covenant--Martyr Stones--Originally Roman
Measures of Weight--Made of Jade or Nephrite--Remarkable History of
Jade--Prehistoric Glimpses--Relics of Stone Age in Rome--Conservation
of things connected with Religion



Church of St. Onofrio--Monastery--Garden--Tasso's Oak--Grand View of
Rome and Neighbourhood--Tasso's Birthplace at Sorrento--Remarkable
Epoch--Bernardo Tasso--Prince of Salerno--Youth of Tasso--Visit
to Rome--Sojourn at Venice--Student of Law at Padua--First Poem
_Rinaldo_--University of Bologna--House of Este--Leonora--Composition
of _Gerusalemme Liberata_--Death of Tasso's Father--Visit to
France--_Aminta_ and Pastoral Drama--Publication of _Gerusalemme
Liberata_--Della Cruscan Academy--Ariosto--Cold Treatment of Tasso
by Alfonso--Confinement in Hospital of St. Anne--Story of Hapless
Love--Alleged Madness--Hospital of St. Anne--_Torrismondo_--Release
of Tasso--Pilgrimage to Loretto--Residence at Naples--Connection with
Milton--_Gerusalemme Conquistata_--Universal Recognition of Poet--Better
Days--Closing Scenes of Life at St. Onofrio--Proposed Coronation at
Capitol--Too Late--Death--Estimate of Life and Work



Pleasures of Marble Hunting in Rome and Neighbourhood--Artistic
and Educational Uses of Marble Fragments--Geological Formation of
Rome--Building Materials of Ancient Rome--Marbles of Conquered
Countries introduced into Rome--Christian Churches made up of Remains
of Pagan Temples--Parian Marble--Porine and Pentelic Marbles--Hymettian
Marble--Thasian, Lesbian and Tyrian Marbles--Marble of Carrara--Apollo
Belvedere--Colouring of Ancient Statues and Buildings--Gibson's
Colour-creed--Time's Hues on Dying Gladiator--Cipollino--Giallo
Antico--Africano--Porta Santa--Fior di Persico--Pavonazzetto--Rosso
Antico--Sedia Forata--Faun--Black Marbles--Lumachella Marbles--Column of
Trajan--Breccias--Alabasters--Verde Antique--Subterranean Church of San
Clemente--Ophite and Opus Alexandrinum--Jaspers--Murrhine Cups--Lapis
Lazuli--Church of Jesuits--Abundance of Marbles in Ancient Rome



Vatican Library--Origin and History--Monastery of Bobbio--Splendour
and Charm of Library--Contents of two Principal Cabinets--Letters
of Henry VIII. and Anne Boleyn--Vatican Codex--Freshness of
Appearance--Continuity of Writing--Vacant Space at end of St. Mark's
Gospel--A Palimpsest--Origin of Vatican Codex--Sinaitic and Alexandrine
Codices--History of Vatican Codex--Edition of Cardinal Mai--Edition
of Tischendorf--Disappearance of all Previous Manuscripts--Faults and
Deficiencies of Vatican Codex--Vatican Codex used in Revised Version
of New Testament--Formation of Sacred Canon



Landing of St. Paul in Ship _Castor and Pollux_ at Puteoli--Loveliness of
Bay of Naples--Crowded Population and Splendour of Villas--Dissoluteness
of Inhabitants--Worship of Roman Emperors--St. Paul's Grief and
Anxiety--Encouragement from Brethren--Christians in Tyrian Quarter at
Puteoli and at Pompeii--Southern Italy Greek in Blood and Language--Quay
at Puteoli--Temples of Neptune and Serapis--Changes of Level in Sea and
Land--Monte Nuovo--Destruction of Village of Tripergola--Filling up of
Leucrine Lake--Lake of Avernus--Sibyl's Cave--Lough Dearg and Purgatory
of St. Patrick--Death Quarter among Prehistoric People in the
West--Phlegræan Fields--Scene of Wars of Gods and Giants--Elysian
Fields--Pagan Heaven and Hell--Via Cumana and St. Paul--Amphitheatre
of Nero--Solfatara--Relics of Volcanic Fires and Ancient Civilisation
mixed together--Volcanic Fires and Landscape Beauty--Completion of Gospel
in St. Paul's Journey from Jerusalem to Rome



I know nothing more delightful than a walk to a country church on a
fine day at the end of summer. All the lovely promises of spring have
been fulfilled; the woods are clothed with their darkest foliage, and
not another leaflet is to come anywhere. The lingering plumes of the
meadow-sweet in the fields, and the golden trumpets of the wild
honeysuckle in the hedges, make the warm air a luxury to breathe; and
the presence of a few tufts of bluebells by the wayside gives the
landscape the last finishing touch of perfection, which is suggestive
of decay, and has such an indescribable pathos about it. Nature pauses
to admire her own handiwork; she ceases from her labours, and enjoys
an interval of rest. It is the sabbath of the year. At such a time
every object is associated with its spiritual idea, as it is with its
natural shadow. The beauty of nature suggests thoughts of the beauty
of holiness; and the calm rest of creation speaks to us of the deeper
rest of the soul in God. On the shadowed path that leads up to the
house of prayer, with mind and senses quickened to perceive the
loveliness and significance of the smallest object, the fern on the
bank and the lichen on the wall, we feel indeed that heaven is not so
much a yonder, towards which we are to move, as a here and a now,
which we are to realise.

A walk to church in town is a different thing. Man's works are all
around us, and God's excluded; all but the strip of blue sky that
looks down between the tall houses, and suggests thoughts of heaven to
those who work and weep; all but the stunted trees and the green grass
that struggle to grow in the hard streets and squares, and whisper of
the far-off scenes of the country, where life is natural and simple.
But even in town a walk to church is pleasant, especially when the
streets are quiet, before the crowd of worshippers have begun to
assemble, and there is nothing to distract the thoughts. If we can say
of the country walk, "This is holy ground," seeing that every bush and
tree are aflame with God, we can say of the walk through the city,
"Surely the Lord hath been here, this is a dreadful place." And as the
rude rough stones lying on the mountain top shaped themselves in the
patriarch's dream into a staircase leading up to God, so the streets
and houses around become to the musing spirit suggestive of the
Father's many mansions, and the glories of the City whose streets are
of pure gold, in which man's hopes and aspirations after a city of
rest, which are baffled here, will be realised. I have many pleasing
associations connected with walks to church in town. Many precious
thoughts have come to me then, which would not have occurred at other
times; glimpses of the wonder of life, and revelations of inscrutable
mysteries covered by the dream-woven tissue of this visible world. The
subjects with which my mind was filled found new illustrations in the
most unexpected quarters; and every familiar sight and sound furnished
the most appropriate examples. During that half-hour of meditation,
with my blood quickened by the exercise, and my mind inspired by the
thoughts of the service in which I was about to engage, I have lived
an intenser life and enjoyed a keener happiness than during all the
rest of the week. It was the hour of insight that struck the keynote
of all the others.

But far above even these precious memories, I must rank my walks to
church in Rome. What one feels elsewhere is deepened there; and the
wonderful associations of the place give a more vivid interest to all
one's experiences. I lived in the Capo le Case, a steep street on the
slope between the Pincian and Quirinal hills, situated about
three-quarters of a mile from the church outside the Porta del Popolo.
This distance I had to traverse every Sunday morning; and I love
frequently to shut my eyes and picture the streets through which I
passed, and the old well-known look of the houses and monuments. There
is not a more delightful walk in the world than that; and I know not
where within such a narrow compass could be found so many objects of
the most thrilling interest. For three months, from the beginning of
February to the end of April, twice, and sometimes four times, every
Sunday, I passed that way, going to or returning from church, until I
became perfectly familiar with every object; and associations of my
own moods of mind and heart mingled with the grander associations
which every stone recalled, and are now inextricably bound up with
them. With one solitary exception, when the weather in its chill winds
and gloomy clouds reminded me of my native climate, all the Sundays
were beautiful, the sun shining down with genial warmth, and the sky
overhead exhibiting the deep violet hue which belongs especially to
Italy. The house in which I lived had on either side of the entrance a
picture-shop; and this was always closed, as well as most of the other
places of business along the route. The streets were remarkably quiet;
and all the circumstances were most favourable for a meditative walk
amid such magnificent memories. The inhabitants of Rome pay respect to
the Sunday so far as abstaining from labour is concerned; but they
make up for this by throwing open their museums and places of interest
on that day, which indeed is the only day in which they are free to
the public; and they take a large amount of recreation for doing a
small amount of penance in the interests of religion. Still there is
very little bustle or traffic in the streets, especially in the
morning; and one meets with no more disagreeable and incongruous
interruptions on the way to church in the Eternal City than he does at
home. At the head of the Capo le Case is a small church, beside an old
ruinous-looking wall of tufa, covered with shaggy pellitory and other
plants, which might well have been one of the ramparts of ancient
Rome. It is called San Guiseppe, and has a faded fresco painting on
the gable, representing the Flight of the Holy Family into Egypt,
supposed to be by Frederico Zuccari, whose own house--similarly
decorated on the outside with frescoes--was in the immediate vicinity.
From the windows of my rooms, I could see at the foot of the street
the fantastic cupola and bell-turret of the church of St. Andrea delle
Fratte, which belonged to the Scottish Catholics before the
Reformation, and is now frequented by our Catholic countrymen during
Lent, when sermons are preached to them in English. It is the parish
church of the Piazza di Spagna, and the so-called English quarter. The
present edifice was only built at the end of the sixteenth century,
and, strange to say, with the proceeds of the sale of Cardinal
Gonsalvi's valuable collection of snuff-boxes; but its name, derived
from the Italian word _Fratta_, "thorn-bush," would seem to imply that
the church is of much greater antiquity, going back to a far-off time
when the ground on which it stands was an uncultivated waste. A
miracle is said to have happened in one of the side chapels in 1842,
which received the sanction of the Pope. A young French Jew of the
name of Alfonse Ratisbonne was discovered in an ecstasy before the
altar; which he accounted for by saying, when he revived, that the
Virgin Mary had actually appeared to him, and saluted him in this
place, while he was wandering aimlessly, and with a smile of
incredulity, through the church. This supernatural vision led to his
conversion, and he was publicly baptized and presented to the Pope by
his godfather, the general of the Jesuits; receiving on the occasion,
in commemoration of the miracle, a crucifix, to which special
indulgences were attached.

At the foot of the Capo le Case is the College of the Propaganda,
whose vast size and plain massive architecture, as well as its
historical associations, powerfully impress the imagination. It was
begun by Gregory XV., in 1622, and completed by his successor, Urban
VIII., and his brother, Cardinal Antonio Barberini, from the plans
partly of Bernini and Borromini. On the most prominent parts of the
edifice are sculptured bees, which are the well-known armorial
bearings of the Barberini family. The Propaganda used to divide with
the Vatican the administration of the whole Roman Catholic world. It
was compared by the Abbé Raynal to a sword, of which the handle
remains in Rome, and the point reaches everywhere. The Vatican takes
cognisance of what may be called the domestic affairs of the Church
throughout Europe; the College of the Propaganda superintends the
foreign policy of the Church, and makes its influence felt in the
remotest regions of the earth. It is essentially, as its name implies,
a missionary institution, founded for the promotion and guidance of
missions throughout the world. Nearly two hundred youths from various
countries are constantly educated here, in order that they may go back
as ordained priests to their native land, and diffuse the Roman
Catholic faith among their countrymen. The average number ordained
every year is about fifty. No one is admitted who is over twenty years
of age; and they all wear a uniform dress, consisting of a long black
cassock, edged with red, and bound with a red girdle, with two bands,
representing leading-strings, hanging from the shoulders behind. The
cost of their education and support while in Rome, and the expenses of
their journey from their native land and back again, are defrayed by
the institution. Every visitor to Rome must be familiar with the
appearance of the students, as they walk through the streets in groups
of three or four, eagerly conversing with each other, with many
expressive gesticulations. For the most part they are a fine set of
young men, of whom any Church might well be proud, full of zeal and
energy, and well fitted to encounter, by their physical as well as
their mental training, the hard-ships of an isolated life, frequently
among savage races.

An annual exhibition is held in a large hall attached to the college
in honour of the holy Magi, about the beginning of January, when
students deliver speeches in different languages, and take part in
musical performances, the score of which is usually composed by the
professor of music in the college. The places of honour nearest the
stage are occupied by several cardinals, whose scarlet dresses and
silver locks contrast strikingly with the black garments of the
majority of the assemblage. The strange costumes and countenances of
the speakers, coloured with every hue known to the human family, the
novel sounds of the different languages, and the personal
peculiarities of each speaker in manner and intonation, make the
exhibition in the highest degree interesting. Its great popularity is
evinced by the crowds that usually attend, filling the hall to
overflowing; and though a religious affair, it is pervaded by a lively
spirit of fun, in which even the great dignitaries of the Church join

The jurisdiction of the Propaganda is independent. The "congregation"
of the college is composed of twenty-five cardinals, sixteen of whom
are resident in Rome. One of their number is appointed prefect, and
has a prelate for his secretary. They meet statedly, once a month, for
the transaction of business, in a magnificent hall in the college.
Previous to 1851, the affairs of the Roman Catholic Church in England
were administered by the Propaganda; our country being included among
heretical or heathen lands to which missionaries were sent. But after
that memorable year they were transferred to the ordinary
jurisdiction of the See of Rome. This movement was the first distinct
act of papal aggression, and provoked fierce hostility among all
classes of the Protestant community. However some of us may regret
that such powerful and well-organised machinery is employed to
propagate to the ends of the earth a faith to which we cannot
subscribe, yet no one can read the proud inscription upon the front of
the edifice, "Collegio di Propagandâ Fide," and reflect upon the grand
way in which the purpose therein defined has been carried out, without
a sentiment of admiration. At a time when Protestant Churches were
selfishly devoted to their own narrow interests, and utterly unmindful
of the Saviour's commission to preach the gospel to every creature,
this college was sending forth to different countries, only partially
explored, bands of young priests who carried their lives in their
hands, and endured untold sufferings so that they might impart to the
heathen the blessings of Christian civilisation. There is not a region
from China and Japan to Mexico and the South Sea Islands, and from
Africa to Siberia, which has not been taken possession of by members
of this college, and cultivated for the Church. Names that are as
worthy of being canonised as those of any saint in the Roman calendar,
on account of their heroic achievements, their holy lives, or their
martyr deaths, belong to the rôle of the Propaganda. And while
sedulously spreading their faith, they were at the same time adding to
the sum of human knowledge; many of the most valuable and important
contributions to ethnology, geography, philology, and natural science
having been made by the students of this college. Pope Pius IX. in his
early days, after he had renounced his military career and become a
priest, was sent out by the Propaganda, as secretary to a
politico-religious mission which Pius VII. organised and despatched to
Chili; and in that country his missionary career of two years
exhibited all the devotion of a saint.

I had the pleasure of going through the various rooms of this famous
institution in the appropriate company of one of the most
distinguished Free Church missionaries in India; and was shown by the
rector of the college, with the utmost courtesy and kindness, all that
was most remarkable about the place. The library is extensive, and
contains some rare works on theology and canon law; and in the Borgian
Museum annexed to it there is a rich collection of Oriental MSS.,
heathen idols, and natural curiosities sent by missionaries from
various parts of the world. We were especially struck with the
magnificent "Codex Mexicanus," a loosely-bound, bulky MS. on white
leather, found among the treasures of the royal palace at the conquest
of Mexico by Cortes. It is full of coloured hieroglyphics and
pictures, and is known in this country through the splendid
reproduction of Lord Kingsborough.

But the most interesting of all the sights to the visitor is the
printing establishment, which at one time was the first in the world,
and had the means of publishing books in upwards of thirty different
languages. At the present day it is furnished with all the recent
appliances; and from this press has issued works distinguished as much
for their typographical beauty as for the area they cover in the
mission field. Its font of Oriental types is specially rich. We were
shown specimens of the Paternoster in all the known languages; and my
friend had an opportunity of inspecting some theological works in the
obscure dialects of India. The productions of the Propaganda press are
very widely diffused. There is a bookseller's shop connected with the
establishment, where all the publications of the institution,
including the papal bulls, and the principal documents of the State,
may be procured. Altogether the college has taken a prominent part in
the education of the world. Its influence is specially felt in
America, from which a large number of its students come; the young
priest who conducted us through the library and the Borgian Museum
being an American, very intelligent and affable. The Roman Catholic
religion flourishes in that country because it keeps clear of all
political questions, and manifests itself, not as a government, in
which character it is peculiarly uncompromising and despotic, but as a
religion, in which aspect it has a wonderful power of adaptation to
the habits and tastes of the people. The Propaganda rules Roman
Catholic America very much in the spirit of its own institutions; and
one of the most remarkable social phenomena of that country is the
absolute subserviency which the political spirit of unbridled
democracy yields to its decrees. The bees of the Barberini carved upon
its architectural ornaments are no inapt symbol of the spirit and
method of working of this busy theological hive, which sends its
annual swarms all over the world to gather ecclesiastical honey from
every flower of opportunity.

Passing beyond the Propaganda, we come to a lofty pillar of the
Corinthian order, situated at the commencement of the Piazza di
Spagna. It is composed of a kind of gray Carystian marble called
_cipollino_, distinguished by veins of pale green rippling through it,
like the layers of a vegetable bulb, on account of which it is
popularly known as the onion stone. It is one of the largest known
monoliths, being forty-two feet in height and nearly five feet in
diameter. It looks as fresh as though it were only yesterday carved
out of the quarry; but it must be nearly two thousand years old,
having been found about a hundred years ago when digging among the
ruins of the amphitheatre of Statilius Taurus, constructed in the
reign of Cæsar Augustus on the site now called, from a corruption of
the old name, Monte Citorio, and occupied by the Houses of Parliament.
When discovered the pillar was unfinished, a circumstance which would
indicate that it had never been erected. It was left to Pope Pius IX.,
after all these centuries of neglect and obscurity, to find a use for
it. Crowning its capital by a bronze statue of the Virgin Mary, and
disfiguring its shaft by a fantastic bronze network extending up
two-fifths of its height, he erected it where it now stands in 1854,
to commemorate the establishment by papal bull of the dogma of the
Immaculate Conception. It was during his exile at Gaeta, at a time
when Italy was torn with civil dissensions, and his own dominions were
afflicted with the most grievous calamities, which he could have
easily averted or remedied if he wished, that this dogma engrossed the
mind of the holy father and his ecclesiastical court. The
constitutionalists at Rome were anxiously expecting some conciliatory
manifesto which should precede the Pope's return and restore peace and
prosperity; and they were mortified beyond measure by receiving only
the letter in which this theological fiction was announced by his
Holiness. The people cried for the bread of constitutional liberty,
and the holy father gave them the stone of a religious dogma to which
they were wholly indifferent; thus demonstrating the incompatibility
of the functions of a temporal and spiritual sovereign.

The pillar of the Immaculate Conception is embellished by statues of
Moses, David, Isaiah, and Ezekiel, with texts from Scripture, and very
inferior bronze bas-reliefs of the incidents connected with the
publication of the dogma. As a work of art, it is heavy and graceless,
with hard mechanical lines; and the figure of the Virgin at the top is
utterly destitute of merit. The whole monument is a characteristic
specimen of the modern Roman school of sculpture. For ages Rome has
been considered the foster mother of art, and residence in it
essential to the education of the art-faculty. But this is a delusion.
Its atmosphere has never been really favourable to the development of
genius. There is a moral malaria of the place as fatal to the
versatile life of the imagination as the physical miasma is to health.
Roman Catholicism has petrified the heart and the fancy; and a petty
round of ceremonies, feasts, and social parties dissipates energy and
distracts the powers of those who are not under the influence of the
Church. The decadence of art has kept pace with the growing corruption
of religion. Descending from the purer spiritual conceptions of former
times to grosser and more superstitious ideas, it has given outward
expression to these in baser forms. Even St. Peter's, though
extravagantly praised by so many visitors, is but the visible
embodiment of the vulgar splendour of later Catholicism. The pillar of
the Immaculate Conception is not only a monument of religious
superstition, but also of what must strike every thoughtful observer
in Rome--the decadence of art in modern times as compared with the
glorious earlier days of a purer Church. And the art of the sculptor
is only in keeping with that of the painter in connection with this
dogma. For the large frescoes of Podesti, which occupy a conspicuous
place in the great hall of the Vatican, preceding the stanze of
Raphael, and depict the persons and incidents connected with the
proclamation of the Immaculate Conception, are worthless as works of
art, and present a melancholy contrast to the works of the immortal
genius in the adjoining halls, who wrought under the inspiration of a
nobler faith. No Titian or Raphael, no Michael Angelo or Bramante, was
found in the degenerate days of Pio Nono to immortalise what he called
the greatest event of his reign.

The square in which the pillar of the Immaculate Conception is
situated, along with the surrounding streets, is called the "Ghetto
Inglese," for here the English and Americans most do congregate. At
almost every step one encounters the fresh open countenances, blue
eyes, and fair hair, which one is accustomed to associate with darker
skies and ruder buildings. The Piazza di Spagna, so called from the
palace of the Spanish ambassador situated in a corner of it, is one of
the finest squares of Rome, being paved throughout, and surrounded on
every side by lofty and picturesque buildings. In the centre is a
quaint old boat-shaped fountain, called Fontana della Barcaccia, its
brown slippery sides being tinted with mosses, confervæ, and other
growths of wet surfaces. It was designed by Bernini to commemorate the
stranding of a boat on the spot after the retiring of the great flood
of 1598, which overwhelmed most of Rome. On the site of the Piazza di
Spagna, there was, in the days of Domitian, an artificial lake, on
which naval battles took place, witnessed by immense audiences seated
in a kind of amphitheatre on the borders of the lake. As an object of
taste the boat-shaped fountain is condemned by many; but Bernini
adopted the form not only because of the associations of the spot, but
also because the head of water was not sufficient for a jet of any
considerable height. Quaint, or even ugly, as some might call it, it
was to me an object of peculiar interest. Its water is of the purest
and sweetest; and in the stillness of the hot noon its bright sparkle
and dreamy murmur were delightfully refreshing. No city in the world
is so abundantly supplied with water as Rome. You hear the lulling
sound and see the bright gleam of water in almost every square. A
river falls in a series of sparkling cascades from the Fountain of
Trevi and the Fontana Paolina into deep, immense basins; and even into
the marble sarcophagi of ancient kings, with their gracefully
sculptured sides, telling some story of Arcadian times, whose nymphs
and naiads are in beautiful harmony with the rustic murmur of the
stream, is falling a gush of living water in many a palace courtyard.
This sound of many waters is, indeed, a luxury in such a climate; and
some of the pleasantest moments are those in which the visitor lingers
beside one of the fountains, when the blaze and bustle of the day are
over, and the balmy softness of the evening produce a dreamy mood, to
which the music of the waters is irresistibly fascinating.

The most distinguishing feature of the Piazza di Spagna is the wide
staircase which leads up from one side of it to the church of the
Trinita dei Monti, with its twin towers, through whose belfry arches
the blue sky appears. This lofty staircase comprises one hundred and
thirty steps, and the ascent is so gradual, and the landing-places so
broad and commodious, that it is quite a pleasure, even for the most
infirm persons, to mount it. The travertine of which it is composed is
polished into the smoothness of marble by constant use. It is the
favourite haunt of all the painters' models; and there one meets at
certain hours of the day with beautiful peasant girls from the
neighbouring mountains, in the picturesque costumes of the contadini,
and old men with grizzled beards and locks, dressed in ragged cloaks,
the originals of many a saint and Madonna in some sacred pictures,
talking and laughing, or basking with half-shut eyes in the full glare
of the sun. These models come usually from Cervaro and Saracinesco;
the latter an extraordinary Moorish town situated at a great height
among the Sabine hills, whose inhabitants have preserved intact since
the middle ages their Arabic names and Oriental features and customs.

On this staircase used to congregate the largest number of the beggars
of Rome, whose hideous deformities were made the excuse for extorting
money from the soft-hearted forestieri. Happily this plague has now
greatly abated, and one may ascend or descend the magnificent stair
without being revolted by the sight of human degradation, or
persecuted by the importunate outcries of those who are lost to shame.
The Government has done a good thing in diminishing this frightful
mendicancy. But it is to be feared that whilst there are many who beg
without any necessity, sturdy knaves who are up to all kinds of petty
larceny, there are not a few who have no other means of livelihood,
and without the alms of the charitable would die of starvation. The
visitor sees only the gay side of such a place as Rome; but there are
many tragedies behind the scenes. Centuries of misrule under the papal
government had pauperised the people; and the sudden transition to the
new state of things has deprived many of the old employments, without
furnishing any substitutes, while there is no longer the dole at the
convent door to provide for their wants. The whole social organisation
of Italy, with its frequent saints' days, during which no work is
done, and its numerous holy fraternities living on alms, and its
sanctification of mendicancy in the name of religion, has tended to
pauperise the nation, and give it those unthrifty improvident habits
which have destroyed independence and self-respect. Although,
therefore, the Government has publicly forbidden begging throughout
the country, it has in some measure tacitly connived at it, as a
compromise between an inefficient poor-law and the widespread misery
arising from the improvidence of so many of its subjects; the amount
of the harvest reaped by the beggars from the visitors to Rome being
so much saved to the public purse. And though one does not meet so
many unscrupulous beggars as formerly in the main thoroughfares of
Rome, one is often annoyed by them on the steps of the churches, where
they seem to have the right of sanctuary, and to levy toll upon all
for whom they needlessly lift the heavy leathern curtain that hangs at
the door. We must remember that mendicancy is a very ancient
institution in Italy, and that it will die hard, if it ever dies at

The church of the Trinita dei Monti, built in 1494 by Charles VIII. of
France, occupies a most commanding position on the terrace above the
Spanish Square, and is seen as a most conspicuous feature in all the
views of Rome from the neighbourhood. An Egyptian obelisk with
hieroglyphics, of the age of the Ptolemies, which once adorned the
so-called circus in the gardens of Sallust on the Quirinal, now
elevated on a lofty pedestal, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, and
surmounted by a cross, stands in front of the church, and gives an air
of antiquity to it which its own four hundred years could hardly
impart, as well as forms an appropriate termination to the splendid
flight of steps which leads up to it. The church is celebrated for the
possession of the "Descent from the Cross," a fresco by Ricciarelli,
commonly known by the name of Daniel of Volterra, said to be one of
the three finest pictures in the world. But the chapel which it adorns
is badly lighted, and the painting has been greatly injured by the
French, who attempted to remove it in 1817. It does not produce a very
pleasing impression, being dark and oily-looking; and the cross-lights
in the place interfere with the expression of the figures. We can
recognise much of the force and graphic power of Michael Angelo, whom
the painter sedulously imitated, in various parts of the composition;
but it seems to me greatly inferior as a whole to the better-known
picture of Rubens. In another chapel of this church was interred the
celebrated painter Claude Lorraine, who lived for many years in a
house not far off; but the French transferred the remains of their
countryman to the monument raised to him in their native church in the
Via della Scrofa.

Adjoining the church is the convent of the Sacred Heart, which
formerly belonged to French monks, minims of the order of St. Francis.
It suffered severely from the wantonness of the French soldiers who
were quartered in it during the French occupation of Rome in the first
Revolution. Since 1827 the Convent has been in possession of French
nuns, who are all ladies of rank. They each endow the Convent at their
initiation with a dowry of £1000; the rest of their property going to
their nearest relatives as if they were dead. They spend their time in
devotional exercises, in superintending the education of a number of
young girls in the higher branches, and in giving advice to those who
are allowed to visit them for this purpose every afternoon. The
Trinita dei Monti is the only church in Rome where female voices are
to be heard chanting the religious services; and on account of this
peculiarity, and the fresh sweet voices of the nuns and their pupils,
many people flock to hear them singing the Ave Maria at sunset, on
Sundays and on great festivals, the singers themselves being
invisible behind a curtain in the organ gallery. Mendelssohn found
their vespers charming, though his critical ear detected many
blemishes in the playing and singing. I visited the church one day. As
it is shut after matins, I was admitted at a side door by one of the
nuns, who previously inspected me through the wicket, and was left
alone, the door being locked behind me. The interior is severely
simple and grand, preserving the original pointed architecture
inclining to Gothic, and is exquisitely clean and white, as women
alone could keep it; in this respect forming a remarkable contrast to
the grand but dirty church of the Capuchin monks. I had ample leisure
to study the very interesting pictures in the chapels. The solitude
was only disturbed by a kneeling figure in black, motionless as a
statue behind the iron railing in front of the high altar, or by the
occasional presence of a nun, who moved across the transept with slow
and measured steps, her face hid by a long white veil which gave her a
spirit-like appearance. In the heart of one of the busiest parts of
the city, no mountain cloister could be more quiet and lonely. One
felt the soothing stillness, lifted above the world, while yet
retaining the closest connection with it. It is sweet to leave the
busy crowd of various nationalities below, intent only upon pleasure,
and, climbing up the lofty staircase, enter this secluded shrine, and
be alone with God.

In the Piazza di Spagna some shops are always open on Sundays,
especially those which minister to the wants and luxuries of
strangers. Rows of cabs are ranged in the centre, waiting to be hired,
and groups of flower-sellers stand near the shops, who thrust their
beautiful bouquets almost into the face of every passer-by. If Rome is
celebrated for its fountains, it is equally celebrated for its
flowers. Whether it is owing to the soil, or the climate, or the mode
of cultivation, or all combined, certain it is that nowhere else does
one see flowers of such brilliant colours, perfect forms, and
delicious fragrance; and the quantities as well as varieties of them
are perfectly wonderful. Delicate pink and straw-coloured tea-roses,
camellias, and jonquils mingled their high-born beauties with the more
homely charms of wild-flowers that grew under the shadow of the great
solemn stone-pines on the heights around, or twined their fresh
garlands over the sad ruins of the Campagna. In the hand of every
little boy and girl were bunches for sale of wild cyclamens, blue
anemones, and sweet-scented violets, surrounded by their own leaves,
and neatly tied up with thread. They had been gathered in the princely
grounds of the Doria Pamphili and Borghese villas in the neighbourhood
of Rome, which are freely opened to all, and where for many days in
February and March groups of men, women, and children may be seen
gathering vast quantities of those first-born children of the sun. The
violets, especially in these grounds, are abundant and luxuriant,
making every space of sward shadowed by the trees purple with their
loveliness, like a reflection of the violet sky that had broken in
through the lattice-work of boughs, and scenting all the air with
their delicious perfume. They brought into the hot hard streets the
witchery of the woodlands; and no one could inhale for a moment, in
passing by, the sweet wafture of their fragrance without being
transported in imagination to far-off scenes endeared to memory, and
without a thrill of nameless tenderness at the heart. Some of the
bunches of violets I was asked to buy were of a much paler purple than
the others, and I was at no loss to explain this peculiarity. The
plants with the deep violet petals and dark crimson eye had single
blossoms, whereas those whose petals were lilac, and whose eye was of
a paler red colour, were double. Cultivation had increased the number
of petals, but it had diminished the richness of the colouring. This
is an interesting example of the impartial balancing of nature. No
object possesses every endowment. Defect in one direction is made up
by excess in another. The rose pays for its mass of beautiful petals
by its sterility; and the single violet has a lovelier hue, and is
perfectly fertile, whereas the double one is pale and cannot
perpetuate itself. And the moral lesson of this parable of nature is
not difficult to read. Leanness of soul often accompanies the
fulfilment of our earthly desires; and outward abundance often
produces selfishness and covetousness. The peculiar evil of prosperity
is discontent, dissatisfaction with present gain and a longing for
more, and a spirit of repining at the little ills and disappointments
of life. Humble, fragrant, useful contentment belongs to the soul that
has the single eye, and "the one thing needful;" and the more we seek
to double our possessions and enjoyments in the spirit of selfishness,
the less beautiful and fragrant are we in the sight of God and man,
and the less good we do in the world.

From the Piazza di Spagna I passed onward through a long street called
the Via Babuino, from an antique statue of a satyr mutilated into the
likeness of a baboon, that used to adorn a fountain about the middle
of it, now removed. More business is done on Sunday in this street
than in any other quarter, with the exception of the Corso. Here a
shop full of bright and beautiful flowers, roses, magnolias,
hyacinths, and lilies of the valley, perfumed all the air; there a
jeweller's shop displayed its tempting imitations of Etruscan
ornaments, and beads of Roman pearls, coral, lapis lazuli, and
malachite; while yonder a marble-cutter wrought diligently at his
laths, converting some fragment of rare marble--picked up by a tourist
among the ruins of ancient Rome--into a cup or letter-weight to be
carried home as a souvenir.

The Via Babuino opens upon the Piazza del Popolo, the finest and
largest square in Rome. In the centre is a magnificent Egyptian
obelisk of red Syene granite, about eighty feet in height, carved with
hieroglyphics, with four marble Egyptian lions at each corner of the
platform upon which it stands, pouring from their mouths copious
streams of water into large basins, with a refreshing sound. Perhaps
the eyes of Abraham rested upon this obelisk when he went down into
Egypt, the first recorded traveller who visited the valley of the
Nile; and the familiarity of the sight to the Israelites during their
bondage in the neighbourhood may have suggested the wonderful vision
of the pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night which regulated
their wanderings in the wilderness. God does not paint His revelations
on the empty air, but weaves them into the web of history, or pours
them into the mould of common earthly objects and ordinary human
experiences. Many of the rites and institutions of the Mosaic economy
were borrowed from those of the Egyptian priesthood; the tabernacle
and its furniture were composed of the gold and jewels of which the
Israelites had spoiled the Egyptians; and its form, a tent moved from
place to place, accommodated itself to the wandering camp-life of the
Israelites. It is not unreasonable, therefore, to suppose that He who
appeared to Moses at Horeb, not in some unknown supernatural blaze of
glory altogether detached from earth, but in the common fire of a
shepherd in the common dry vegetation of the desert, and who made use
of the common shepherd's rod which Moses carried in his hand to
perform the wonderful miracles before Pharaoh, would also make use of
the obelisk of Heliopolis, one of the most familiar objects which met
their eye during their captivity, as the pattern of the Shechinah
cloud which guided His people in their journey to the land of Canaan.
The symbol of the sun that shone upon their weary toil as slaves in
the clay-pits beside the Nile, now protected and illumined them in
their march as freemen through the desert. What they had probably
joined their oppressors in worshipping as an idol, they now beheld
with awe and reverence as the token of the overshadowing and
overshining presence of the living and true God. That flame-shaped
obelisk was the link between Egypt and the Holy Land. The divine
effigy of it in the sky of the desert--like the manna as the link
between the corn of Egypt and the corn of Canaan--marked the
transition from the false to the true, from the old world of dark
pagan thought, to the new world of religious light. I need not say
with what profound interest such a thought invested the obelisk in the
Piazza del Popolo. I was never weary of looking up at its fair
proportions, and trying to decipher its strange hieroglyphics--figures
of birds and beasts in intaglio, cut clear and deep into the hard
granite, and all as bright in colour and carving as though it had been
only yesterday cut out of the quarry instead of four thousand years
ago. It was my first glimpse into the mysterious East. It made the
wonderful story of Joseph and Moses not a mere narrative in a book,
but a living reality standing out from the far past like a view in a
stereoscope. Every time I passed it--and I did so at all hours--I
paused to enter into this reverie of the olden time. The daylight
changed it into a pillar of cloud, casting the shadow of the great
thoughts connected with it over my mind; the moonlight shining upon
its rosy hue changed it into a pillar of fire, illumining all the
inner chambers of my soul. Every Sunday it was the cynosure guiding me
on my way to church, and suggesting thoughts and memories in unison
with the character of the day and the nature of my work. No other
object in Rome remains so indelibly pictured in my mind.

From the Piazza del Popolo, three long narrow streets run, like three
fingers from the palm of the hand; the Via Babuino, which leads to the
English quarter; the famous Corso, which leads to the Capitol and the
Forum; and the Ripetta, which leads to St. Peter's and the Vatican.
These approaches are guarded by two churches, S. Maria di Monte Santo
and S. Maria dei Miracoli, similar in appearance, with oval domes and
tetrastyle porticoes that look like ecclesiastical porters' lodges.
The name of the Piazza del Popolo is derived, not from the people, as
is generally supposed, but from the extensive grove of poplar-trees
that surrounded the Mausoleum of Augustus, and long formed the most
conspicuous feature in the neighbourhood. The crescent-shaped sides of
the square are bounded on the left by a wall, with a bright fountain
and appropriate statuary in the middle of it, and a fringe of tall
cypress-trees, and on the right by a similar wall, adorned with marble
trophies and two columns rough with the projecting prows of ships
taken from the ancient temple of Venice and Rome, and rising in a
series of terraced walks to the upper platform of the Pincio. At the
foot of this _Collis Hortulorum_, "Hill of Gardens," which was a
favourite resort of the ancient Romans, Nero was buried; and in
earlier republican times it was the site of the famous Villa of
Lucullus, who had accumulated an enormous fortune when general of the
Roman army in Asia, and spent it on his retirement from active life in
the most sumptuous entertainments and the most prodigal luxuries. Here
he gave his celebrated feast to Cicero and Pompey. From Lucullus, the
magnificent grounds passed into the possession of Valerius Asiaticus;
and while his property they became the scene of a tragedy which
reminds one of the story of Ahab and Jezebel and the vineyard of
Naboth. The infamous Messalina, the wife of the Emperor Claudius,
coveted the grounds of Asiaticus. With the unscrupulous spirit of
Jezebel, she procured the condemnation to death of the owner for
crimes that he had never committed; a fate which he avoided by
committing suicide. As soon as this obstacle was removed out of her
way, she appropriated the villa; and in the beautiful grounds
abandoned herself to the most shameless orgies in the absence of her
husband at Ostia. But her pleasure and triumph were short-lived. The
emperor was informed of her enormities, and hastened home to take
vengeance. Having vainly tried all means of conciliation, and
attempted without effect to kill herself, she was slain in a paroxysm
of terror and anguish, by a blow of the executioner's falchion; and
the death of Asiaticus was avenged on the very spot where it

The gardens of the Pincio are small, but a fairer spot it would be
hard to find anywhere. The grounds are most beautifully laid out, and
so skilfully arranged that they seem of far larger extent than they
really are. Splendid palm-trees, aloes, and cactuses give a tropical
charm to the walks; rare exotics and bloom-laden trees of genial
climes, flashing fountains, and all manner of cultivated beauty,
enliven the scene; while the air blows fresh and invigorating from the
distant hills. From the lofty parapet of the city-wall which bounds it
on one side, you gaze into the green meadows and rich wooded solitudes
of the Borghese grounds, that look like some rural retreat a score of
miles from the city; and from the stone balustrade on the other side
you see all Rome at your feet with its sea of brown houses, and beyond
the picturesque roofs and the hidden river rising up the great mass of
the Vatican buildings and the mighty dome of St. Peter's, which
catches like a mountain peak the last level gold of the sunset, and
flashes it back like an illumination, while all the intermediate view
is in shadow. No wonder that the Pincian Hill is the favourite
promenade of Rome, and that on week-days and Sunday afternoons you see
multitudes of people showing every phase of Roman life, and hundreds
of carriages containing the flower of the Roman aristocracy, with
beautiful horses, and footmen in rich liveries, crowding the piazza
below, ascending the winding road, and driving or walking round
between the palms and the pines, over the garden-paths, to the sound
of band music. And thus they continue to amuse themselves till the sun
has set, and the first sound of the bells of Ave Maria is heard from
the churches; and then they wind their way homewards.

We pass out from the Piazza through the Porta del Popolo, the only way
by which strangers used to approach Rome from the north. It was indeed
a more suitable entrance into the Eternal City than the present one;
for no human being, with a spark of imagination, would care to obtain
his first view of the city of his dreams from the outside of a great
bustling railway station. But the Porta del Popolo had annoyances of
its own that seemed hardly less incongruous. One had to run the
gauntlet of the custom-house here, and to practise unheard-of
briberies upon the venal douaniers of the Pope before being allowed to
pass on to his hotel. And the first glimpse of the city from this
point did not come up to one's expectations, being very much like that
of any commonplace modern capital, without a ruin visible, or any sign
or suggestion of the mistress of the world. The Porta del Popolo
almost marks the position of the old Flaminian gate, through which
passed the great northern road of Italy, constructed by the Roman
censor, C. Flaminius, two hundred and twenty years before Christ,
extending as far as Rimini, a distance of two hundred and ten miles.
Through that old gate, and along that old road, the Roman cohorts
passed to conquer Britain, then a small isle inhabited by savage
tribes. Hardly any path save that to Jerusalem has been trodden by so
many human feet as this old Flaminian road. The present gate is said
to have been designed by Michael Angelo; but it shows no signs of his
genius. On the inner side, above the keystone of the arch, is a lofty
brick wall in the shape of a horse-shoe, built exclusively for the
purpose of displaying in colossal size, emblazoned in stucco, the city
arms, the sun rising above three or four pyramidal mountains arranged
above each other. The external façade consists of two pairs of Doric
columns of granite and marble flanking the arch, whose colour and
beauty have entirely disappeared through exposure to the weather. In
the spaces between the columns are two statues, one of St. Peter, and
the other of St. Paul, of inferior merit, and very much stained and
weather-worn. The inscription above the arch, "To a happy and
prosperous entrance," seemed a mockery in the old douanier days, when
delays and extortions vexed the soul of the visitor, and produced a
mood anything but favourable to the enjoyment of the Eternal City. But
now the grievances are over. The occupation of the place is gone. The
barracks on the left for the papal guards are converted to other
purposes; no custom-house officer now meets one at the gate, and all
are free to come and go without passport, or bribe, or hindrance.
Since I was in Rome this old gateway being found too narrow has been
considerably widened by the addition of a wing on each side of the
large central arch, containing each a smaller arch in which the same
style of architecture is carried out.

On the right as you go out is the remarkable church of Santa Maria del
Popolo. It is built in the usual Romanesque style; but its external
appearance is very unpretending, and owing to its situation in a
corner overshadowed by the wall it is apt to be overlooked. It is an
old fabric, eight hundred years having passed away since Pope Paschal
II. founded it on the spot where Nero was said to have been buried.
From the tomb of the infamous tyrant grew a gigantic walnut-tree, the
roosting-place of innumerable crows, supposed to be demons that
haunted the evil place. The erection of the church completely
exorcised these foul spirits, consecrated the locality, and dispelled
the superstitious fears of the people. Reconstructed in the reign of
Sixtus IV., about the year 1480, this church has not the picturesque
antiquity in this dry climate and clear atmosphere which our Gothic
churches in moist England present. Not more widely did the external
aspect of the tabernacle in the wilderness, with its dark goat-skin
coverings, differ from the interior of the Holy of holies, with its
golden furniture, than does the commonplace look of the outside of the
church of Santa Maria del Popolo differ from its magnificent interior.
It is a perfect museum of sculpture and painting. Splendid tombs of
eminent cardinals of the best period of the Renaissance, rare marbles
and precious stones in lavish profusion adorn the altars and walls of
the chapels; while they are further enriched by beautiful frescoes of
sacred subjects from the pencils of Penturicchio and Annibale Caracci.
Above the high altar is an ancient picture of the Madonna, with an
exceedingly swarthy eastern complexion, which is one among several
others in Rome attributed to the pencil of St. Luke the Evangelist,
and which is supposed to possess the power of working miracles. One
especially magnificent chapel arrests the attention, and leaves a
lasting impression--that of the Chigi family, built by Fabio Chigi,
better known as Pope Alexander VII. The architecture was planned by
Raphael. The design of the strange fresco on the ceiling of the dome,
representing the creation of the heavenly bodies, was sketched by him;
and he modelled the beautiful statue of Jonah, sitting upon a
whale--said to have been carved from a block that fell from one of the
temples in the Forum--and sculptured the figure of Elijah, which are
among the most conspicuous ornaments of the chapel. This is the only
place in which Raphael appears in the character of an architect and
sculptor. Like Michael Angelo, the genius of this wonderfully-gifted
artist was capable of varied expression; and it seemed a mere accident
whether his ideals were represented in stone, or colour, or words. On
his single head God seemed to have poured all His gifts; beauty of
person, and beauty of soul, and the power to perceive and embody the
beauty and the wonder of the world; the eye of light and the heart of
fire; "the angel nature in the angel name." And yet amid his fadeless
art he faded away; and at the deathless shrines which he left behind
the admirer of his genius is left to lament his early death.

Such thoughts receive a still more mournful hue from a touching
tomb--touching even though its taste be execrable--which records a
husband's sorrow on account of the death of his young wife--a princess
of both the distinguished houses of Chigi and Odescalchi--who passed
away at the age of twenty, in the saddest of all ways--in childbirth.
It goes to one's heart to think of the desolate home and the bereaved
husband left, as he says, "in solitude and grief." And though the
weeper has gone with the wept, and the sore wound which death
inflicted has been healed by his own hand nearly a hundred years ago,
we feel a wondrous sympathy with that old domestic tragedy. It is a
touch of nature that affects one more than all the blazonry and
sculpture around. In this weird church of Santa Maria del Popolo,
which seems more a mausoleum of the dead than a place of worship for
the living, the level rays of the afternoon sun come through the
richly-painted windows of the choir; and the warm glory rests first
upon a strange monument of the sixteenth century at the entrance,
where a ghastly human skeleton sculptured in yellow marble looks
through a grating, and then upon a medallion on a tomb, representing a
butterfly emerging from the chrysalis, illumining the inscription, "Ut
Phoenix multicabo dies." And this old expressive symbol speaks to us
of death as the Christian's true birth, in which the spirit bursts its
earthly shell, and soars on immortal wings to God. And the church
straightway to the inner eye becomes full of a transfiguration glory
which no darkness of the tomb can quench, and which makes all earthly
love immortal.

A venerable monastery, tenanted by monks of the order of St.
Augustine, is attached to this church, upon whose brown-tiled roofs,
covered with gray and yellow lichens, and walls and windows of extreme
simplicity, the eye of the visitor gazes with deepest interest. For
this was the residence of Luther during his famous visit to Rome. He
came to this place in the fervour of youthful enthusiasm; his heart
was filled with pious emotions. He knelt down on the pavement when he
passed through the Porta del Popolo, and cried, "I salute thee, O holy
Rome; Rome venerable through the blood and the tombs of the martyrs!"
Immediately on his arrival he went to the convent of his own order,
and celebrated mass with feelings of great excitement. But, alas! he
was soon to be disenchanted. He had not been many days in Rome when he
saw that the city of the saints and martyrs was wholly given up to
idolatry and social corruption, and was as different as possible from
the city of his dreams. He cared not for the fine arts which covered
this pollution with a deceitful iridescence of refinement; and the
ruins of pagan Rome had no power to move his heart, preoccupied as it
was with horror at the monstrous wickedness which made desolate the
very sanctuary of God. When he ascended on his knees the famous Scala
Santa, the holy staircase near the Lateran Palace--supposed to have
belonged to Pilate's house in Jerusalem, down whose marble steps our
Saviour walked, wearing the crown of thorns and the emblems of mock
royalty which the soldiers had put upon him--he seemed to hear a voice
whispering to him the words, "The just shall live by faith." Instantly
the scales fell from his eyes, and he saw the miserable folly of the
whole proceeding; and like a man suddenly freed from fetters, he rose
from his knees, and walked firm and erect to the foot of the stairs.
He could not remain another day in the city. Returning to his
monastery, he there celebrated mass for the last time, and departed on
the morrow with the bitter words, "Adieu, O city, where everything is
permitted but to be a good man!" Ten years later he burnt the Bull of
the Pope in the public square of Wittemberg, and all Europe rang with
the tocsin of the Reformation. I never passed that venerable monastery
without thinking of the austere German monk and his glorious work; and
the old well-known motto of the Reformation which had been his
battle-cry in many a good fight of faith received new power and
meaning from the associations of the place. To the enlightenment
received there, paving the way for religious and political liberty
throughout Christendom, I owed the privilege of preaching in Rome.

The Presbyterian church--I speak of the past, for since my visit the
church has been removed to a more suitable site within the walls--is
a little distance farther on, on the opposite side of the street. You
enter by a gateway, and find yourself in an open space surrounded with
luxuriant hedges in full bloom, and large flowering shrubs, and
commanding a fine view of Monte Mario and the open country in that
direction, including the meadows where the noble Arnold of Brescia was
burnt to death, and his ashes cast into the Tiber. The church is a
square, flat-roofed eastern-looking building, in the inside tastefully
painted in imitation of panels of Cipollino marble; and on the neat
pulpit is carved the symbol of the Scotch Church, the burning bush and
its motto, nowhere surely more appropriate than in the place where the
Christian faith has been subjected to the flames of pagan and papal
persecution for eighteen hundred years, and has emerged purer and
stronger. In that simple church I had the privilege of preaching to a
large but fluctuating congregation, each day differently composed of
persons belonging to various nationalities and denominations, but
united by one common bond of faith and love. At stated intervals we
celebrated together the touching feast that commemorates our Saviour's
dying love, and the oneness of Christians in Him. The wonderful
associations of the place lent to such occasions a special interest
and solemnity. Surrounded by the ruins of man's glory, we felt deeply
how unchanging was the word of God. In a city of gorgeous ceremonials
that had changed Christianity into a kind of baptized paganism, we
felt it indescribably refreshing to partake, in the beautiful
simplicity of our own worship, of the symbols of the broken body and
shed blood of our Lord. We seemed to be compassed about with a great
cloud of witnesses, apostles, martyrs, and saints, who in the early
ages of the Church in this city overcame the world by the blood of the
Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and loved not their lives
unto the death. More vividly than anywhere else, we seemed in this
place to come to the general assembly and church of the first-born,
which are written in heaven, and to the spirits of just men made
perfect, and to realise that we were built upon the foundation of the
apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief

On the opposite side of the road is the classic portico that leads to
the Borghese Villa. The gate is almost always open; and every person
is free to wander at will through the magnificent grounds, upwards of
three miles in circuit, and hold picnics in the sunny glades, and pull
the wild flowers that star the grass in myriads. On Sunday afternoons
multitudes come and go, and a long line of carriages, filled with the
Roman nobility and with foreign visitors, in almost endless
succession, make the circuit of the drives. The Porta del Popolo
becomes too strait for the seething mass of carriages and human beings
that pass through it; and it is with difficulty, and some danger to
life and limb, that one can force a passage through the gay
pleasure-loving crowd. At the Carnival time the ordinary dangers and
difficulties are increased tenfold; and the scene presents anything
but a Sabbath-like appearance. Nor are the danger and difficulty over
when the gate is passed; for the Piazza del Popolo and the streets
that lead from it are crowded with carriages and pedestrians going to
or returning from the favourite promenade on the Pincian Hill. One
runs the gauntlet all the way; meditation is impossible; and the
return from church in the afternoon is as different as possible from
the morning walk to it. What pleasure can these people derive from the
beautiful walks and drives in the Borghese grounds, except perhaps
that of seeing and being seen in a crowd? There is no seclusion of
nature, no opportunity of quiet thought.

On week-days, at certain hours, one may enjoy the place thoroughly
without any distraction, and feel amid the lonely vistas of the woods
as if buried in the loneliest solitude of the Apennines. And truly on
such occasions I know no place so fascinating, so like an earthly
Eden! The whole scene thrills one like lovely music. All the charms
of nature and art are there focussed in brightest perfection. The
grounds are gay with starry anemones, and billowy acacias crested with
odorous wreaths of yellow foam, dark and mysterious with tall ilexes,
cypresses, and stone-pines, enlivened by graceful palms and tender
deciduous trees, musical with falling and glancing waters, and haunted
by the statues of Greek divinities that filled men's minds with
immortal thoughts in the youth of the world--dimly visible amid the
recesses of the foliage. The path leads to a casino in which sculpture
and painting have done their utmost to enrich and adorn the
apartments. But the result of all this prodigal display of wealth and
refinement is exceedingly melancholy. It would be death to inhabit
these sumptuous marble rooms when their coolness would be most
agreeable; and the witchery of the shadowy wood paths and bowers in
their summer perfection can be enjoyed only at the risk of catching
fever. Man has made a paradise for himself, but the malaria drives him
out of it, and all its costly beauty is almost thrown away. Only
during the desolation of winter, or the fair promise and
half-developments of spring, can one wander safely through the place.
The sting of the serpent is in this Eden. Cursed is the ground for
man's sake in the fairest scene that his industry, and genius, and
virtue can make for himself; but cursed with a double curse is the
ground that he makes a wilderness by his selfishness and wickedness.
And this double curse, this fatal Circean spell, has come upon these
beautiful grounds in common with all the neighbourhood of Rome because
of ages of human waste and wrong-doing. How striking a picture do they
present of all earth's beauties and possessions, which promise what
they cannot fully accomplish, which give no rest for the head or home
for the heart, and in which, when disposed to place our trust, we hear
ever and anon the warning cry, "Arise and depart, for this is not your
rest, for it is polluted, for it will destroy you with a sore
destruction." And not without significance is the circumstance that
such a lesson on the vanity of all earthly things should be suggested
by what one sees over against the house of prayer. It illustrates and
emphasises the precept which bids the worshipper set his affections on
things above, so that the house of God may become to him the very gate
of heaven.

From the entrance of the church, through a long suburb, you trace the
old Flaminian road till it crosses the Tiber at the Ponte Molle, the
famous Milvian Bridge. It is strange to think of this hoary road of
many memories being now laid down with modern tramway rails, along
which cars like those in any of our great manufacturing towns
continually run. This is one of the many striking instances in which
the past and the present are incongruously united in Rome. You see on
the right side of the road a picturesque ridge of cliffs clothed with
shaggy ilexes and underwood, overhanging at intervals the walls and
buildings. It was formed by lava ejected from some ancient volcano in
the neighbourhood; and over it was deposited, by the action of
acidulated waters rising through the volcanic rock, a stratum of
travertine or fresh-water limestone. Not far off is a mineral spring
called Acqua Acetosa, much frequented by the inhabitants on summer
mornings, which may be considered one of the expiring efforts of
volcanic action in the neighbourhood. The Milvian Bridge is associated
with most interesting and important historical events. The Roman
citizens, two hundred years before Christ, met here the messengers who
announced the defeat of Asdrubal on the Metaurus at the end of the
second Punic war. Here the ambassadors of the Allobroges implicated in
Catiline's conspiracy were arrested by order of Cicero. And from the
parapets of the bridge the body of Maxentius, the rival pagan emperor,
was hurled into the Tiber, after his defeat by Constantine in the
great battle of Saxa Rubra, which took place a little distance off.
Visitors to the Vatican will remember the spirited representation of
this battle on the walls of Raphael's Stanze, designed by the
immortal master, and executed by Giulio Romano, the largest historical
subject ever painted. By the tragic details of this battle, men and
horses being entangled in the eddies of the river, the Christians were
reminded of the destruction of Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea,
and the consequent deliverance of Israel. The victory on the side of
Constantine led to the total overthrow of paganism, and put an end to
the age of religious persecution. On this memorable day the
seven-branched golden candlestick which Titus had taken from the
temple of Jerusalem, according to tradition, was thrown into the
Tiber, where it lies under a vast accumulation of mud in the bed of
the river. It would thus seem as if the Jewish religion, too, of which
the golden candlestick was the most expressive symbol, had come
finally to an end in this triumph of Christianity. Of the monuments by
which the great battle was commemorated one still survives near the
Colosseum, the well-known triumphal arch of Constantine, which is at
once a satire upon the decay of art at the time, and the halting of
the new emperor between the two religions, containing, as it does,
pagan figures and inscriptions mixed up incongruously with Christian

We gaze with deep interest upon the serene violet sky which broods
over the Milvian Bridge, and which still seems to the fancy to glow
with the consciousness of the ancient legend, when we remember that it
was in that sky, while on his march to the battle, Constantine saw,
surmounting and outshining the noonday sun, the wondrous vision of the
flaming cross, with the words "In this conquer," which assured him not
only of victory in the approaching engagement, but of the subsequent
universal ascendancy of Christianity throughout the world. This
vision, which in all probability was only a parhelion, exaggerated by
a superstitious and excited imagination, produced a crisis in the life
of Constantine. He adopted the Christian faith immediately
afterwards, and introduced the cross as the standard of his army; and
in the faith of the visionary cross he marched from victory to
victory, until at last he reigned alone as head of the Church and
Emperor of the world, and brought about relations between Church and
State which seemed to the historian Eusebius to be no less than the
fulfilment of the apocalyptic vision of the New Jerusalem. Beyond this
scene stretches to the faint far-off horizon the desert Campagna; a
dim, misty, homeless land, where the moan of the wind sounds ever like
the voice of the past, and the pathos of a vanished people breathes
over all the scene; with here and there a gray nameless ruin, a
desolate bluff, or a grassy mound, marking the site of some mysterious
Etruscan or Sabine city that had perished ages before Romulus had laid
the foundations of Rome. From the contemplation of these wide
cheerless wastes beyond the confines of history, peopled with shadowy
forms, with whose long-buried hopes and sorrows no mortal heart can
now sympathise, I turn back to the fresh, warm, human interests that
await me in the Rome of to-day; feeling to the full that from home to
church I have passed through scenes and associations sufficient to
make a Sabbath in Rome a day standing out from all other days, never
to be forgotten!



It was the proud boast of the ancient Romans that all roads led to
their city. Rome was the centre and mistress of the world; and as the
loneliest rill that rises in the bosom of the far-off mountain leads,
if followed, to the ocean, so every path in the remotest corner of the
vast empire conducted to the great gilded column in the Roman Forum,
upon which all distances without the walls were marked. To the Romans
the world is indebted for opening up communications with different
countries. They were the great engineers and road-makers of antiquity.
This seems to have been the work assigned to them in the household of
nations. Rome broke down the barriers that separated one nation from
another, and fused all distinctions of race and language and religion
into one great commonwealth. And for the cohesion of all the elements
of this huge political fabric nothing could have been more effectual
than the magnificent roads, by which constant communication was kept
up between all parts of the empire, and armies could be transported to
quell a rising rebellion in some outlying province with the smallest
expenditure of time and strength. In this way the genius of this
wonderful people was providentially made subservient to the interests
of Christianity. At the very time that our Lord commissioned, with His
parting breath, the apostles to preach the gospel to every creature,
the way was prepared for the fulfilment of that commission. The
crooked places had been made straight, and the rough places smooth.
Along the roads which the Romans made throughout the world for the
march of their armies and the consolidation of their government, the
apostles, the soldiers of the Prince of Peace, marched to grander and
more enduring victories.

Of all the roads of ancient Rome the Via Appia was the oldest and most
renowned. It was called by the Romans themselves the _regina viarum_,
the "queen of roads." It was constructed by Appius Claudius the Blind,
during the Samnite War, when he was Censor, three hundred and thirteen
years before Christ, and led from Rome to Capua, being carried over
the Pontine Marshes on an embankment. It was afterwards extended to
Brindisi, the ancient seaport of Rome on the Adriatic, and became the
great highway for travellers from Rome to Greece and all the eastern
provinces of the Roman Empire. A curious link of connection may be
traced between the modern Italian expression, when drinking to a
person's health on leaving home, "far Brindisi," and the distant
termination of the Appian Way, suggestive, as of old, of farewell
wishes for a prosperous journey and a speedy return to the parting
guest. The way was paved throughout with broad hexagonal slabs of hard
lava, exactly fitted to each other; and here and there along its
course may still be seen important remains of it, which prove its
excellent workmanship. This method of constructing roads was borrowed
by the Romans from the Carthaginians, and was tried for the first time
on the Appian Way, all previous roads having been formed of sand and
gravel. The greatest breadth of the road was about twenty-six feet
between the curbstones; and on both sides were placed, at intervals of
forty feet, low columns, as seats for the travel-worn, and as helps in
mounting on horseback. Distances of five thousand feet were marked by
milestones, which were in the form of columnar shafts, elevated on
pedestals with appropriate inscriptions. The physical wants of the
traveller were provided for at inns judiciously disposed along the
route; while his religious wants were gratified by frequent statues of
Mercury, Apollo, Diana, Ceres, Hercules, and other deities, who
presided over highways and journeys, casting their sacred shadow over
his path. Some of the stones of the pavement still show the ruts of
the old chariot-wheels, and others are a good deal cracked and worn;
but they are sound enough, probably, to outlast the modern little
cubes which have replaced them in some parts. A road formed in this
most substantial manner for about two hundred miles, involving
cuttings through rocks, filling up of hollows, bridging of ravines,
and embanking of swamps, must have been an arduous and costly feat of
engineering. Appius Claudius is said to have exhausted the Roman
treasury in defraying the expenses of its construction. It was
frequently repaired, owing to the heavy traffic upon it, by Julius, by
Augustus, Vespasian, Domitian, Nerva, and very thoroughly by the
Emperor Trajan. In some parts, where the soft ground had subsided, a
second pavement was laid over the first; and in the Pontine Marshes we
observe traces of no less than three pavements superimposed above each
other to preserve the proper level.

For a considerable distance outside the Porta Capena, where it
commenced, the Appian Way was lined on both sides with tombs belonging
to patrician families. This was the case, indeed, with all the other
roads of Rome that were converted into avenues of death owing to the
strenuous law which prohibited all interments within the walls; but
the Appian Way was specially distinguished for the number and
magnificence of its tombs. The most illustrious names of ancient Rome
were interred beside it. At first the sepulchres of the heroes of the
early ages were the only ones; but under the Cæsars these were
eclipsed by the funereal pomp of the freedmen, the parasites and
sycophants of the emperors. At first the tombs were built of volcanic
stone, the only building material found in the neighbourhood; but as
Rome became mistress of the world, and gathered the marbles and
precious stones of the conquered countries into its own bosom, and as
wealth and luxury increased, the tombs were constructed altogether of
or cased on the outside with these valuable materials. And this
circumstance gives us a clue to the age of the different monuments.

The custom of bordering the main approaches of the city with
sepulchral monuments was, in all likelihood, derived from the
Etruscans, to whom the Romans owed many of their institutions. These
monuments were usually structures of great beauty and elegance. Some
of them were fashioned as conical mounds, on the slopes of which trees
and parterres of flowers were planted; others were built after the
model of graceful Grecian temples; others were huge circular masses of
masonry; and others were simple sarcophagi with lids, resting on
square elevated pedestals. Most of them were adorned with busts and
statues of the departed, with altars, columns, and carvings. What
these tombs were in their prime, it is difficult for us to picture;
but even their remains at the present day produce the conviction that
no grander mode of approach to a great city could have been devised.

It would seem to us altogether incongruous to line our public roads
with tombs, and to transact the business and pursue the pleasures of
the living among the dead. All our ideas of propriety would be shocked
by seeing a circus for athletic games beside a cemetery. But the
ancient Romans had no such feeling. They buried their dead, not in
lonely spots and obscure churchyards as we do, but where the life of
the city was gayest. One of the grandest of their sepulchral monuments
was placed beside one of the most frequented of their circuses. The
last objects which a Roman beheld when he left the city, and the first
that greeted him on his coming back, were the tombs of his ancestors
and friends; and their silent admonition did not deepen the sadness
of farewell, or cast a shadow upon the joy of return. Many of the
marble sarcophagi were ornamented with beautiful bas-reliefs of
mythical incidents, utterly inconsistent, we should suppose, with the
purpose for which they were designed. Nuptials, bacchanalian fêtes,
games, and dances, are crowded upon their sculptured sides, in seeming
mockery of the pitiable relics of humanity within. They treated death
lightly and playfully, these ancient Romans, and tried to hide his
terror with a mask of smiles, and to cover his dart with a wreath of

Why is it that we Christians look upon death with feelings so widely
different? Why, when life and immortality have been brought to light
in the gospel, are the mementoes of mortality more painful and
saddening to us than they were to these pagans who had no hopes of a
resurrection? It seems a paradox, but the Christianity which has
brought the greatest hope into the world has also brought the greatest
fear. By increasing the value of life, our religion has increased the
fear of death. By quickening the conscience, it has quickened the
imagination; and that death which to the man conscious only of a
physical existence is the mere natural termination of life, to the
nature convinced of sin is a violent breach of the beautiful order of
the world, and the gate to final retribution. The ancient Roman was
but a child in spiritual apprehension, and therefore as a child he
surrendered his happy pagan life as thoughtlessly as the weary child
falls asleep at the end of its play. No terrors of futurity darkened
his last hours; he had his own turn at the feast of life, and as a
satisfied guest he was content to depart and make room for others. As
cheerfully as he had formerly begun his ordinary journeys from Rome
through a street of tombs, so now he took the last journey, he knew
not whither, through the valley of the shadow of death, and feared no
evil; not because a greater Power was with him to defend him, but
because for him no evil except the common pangs of dissolution
existed. All that he cared for in death was that he should not be
altogether separated from the presence and the enjoyments of human
life, from the haunts where he had been so happy. He wished to have
his tomb on the public thoroughfare, that he might "feel, as it were,
the tide of life as it flowed past his monument, and that his mute
existence might be prolonged in the remembrance of his friends." I may
observe that the Roman custom of bordering the public roads with tombs
gives a significance to the inscriptions which some of them
bore,--such as, _Siste, viator_--_Aspice, viator_, "Stop,
traveller"--"Look, traveller"; a significance which is altogether lost
when the same inscriptions are carved, as we have often seen them, on
tombstones in secluded country churchyards where no traveller ever
passes by, and hardly even friends come to weep.

Modern Rome is unlike all other European cities in this respect, that
a short distance beyond its gates you plunge at once into a desert.
There is no gradual subsidence of the busy life of the gay metropolis,
through suburban houses, villages, and farms, into the quiet seclusion
of the country. You pass abruptly from the seat of the most refined
arts into the most primitive solitude, where the pulse of life hardly
beats. The desolation of the Campagna, that green motionless sea of
silence, comes up to and almost washes the walls of the city. You know
that you are in the immediate neighbourhood of a teeming population;
but you might as well be a hundred miles away in the heart of the
Apennines, for any signs of human culture or habitation that you
perceive within the horizon. There is no traffic on the road; and only
at rare intervals do you meet with a solitary peasant, looking like a
satyr in shaggy goat-skin breeches, and glaring wildly at you from his
great black eyes as he crosses the waste. Far as the eye can see there
is nothing but a melancholy plain, studded here and there with a ruin,
and populous only with the visionary forms of the past; and its
tragic beauty prepares your mind for passing into the solemn shadow of
the great Niobe of cities. But it was not thus in the brilliant days
of the Empire. For fifteen miles beyond the walls the Appian Way
stretched to the beautiful blue Alban hills, through a continuous
suburb of the city, adorned with all the charms of nature and art,
palatial villas and pleasure-gardens, groves and vineyards, temples
and far-extending aqueducts. These homes and fashionable haunts of the
living were interspersed in strange association with the tombs of the
dead. Through the gate a constant stream of human life passed in and
out; and crowds of chariots and horsemen and wayfarers thronged the
road from morning to night.

It is only seventeen years since the true point of commencement of the
Appian Way was discovered. For a long time the Porta Capena by which
it left Rome was supposed to be situated outside of the present walls,
in the valley of the Almo. But Dr. Parker, at the period indicated,
making some excavations in the narrowest part of the valley between
the Coelian and Aventine hills, came upon some massive remains of the
original wall of Servius Tullius, and in these he found the true site
of the Porta Capena. This discovery, confirming the supposition of
Ampère and others, cleared up much that was inexplicable in the
topography of this part of Rome, and enabled antiquarians to fix the
relative position of all the historical spots. The Via Appia is thus
shown to have extended upwards of three-quarters of a mile within the
present area of the city, over the space between the wall of Servius
Tullius and the wall of Aurelian. And this is still further confirmed
by the discovery, three hundred years ago, of the first milestone of
the Appian Way in a vineyard, a short distance beyond the modern gate
of St. Sebastian, marking exactly a Roman mile from that point to the
site of Dr. Parker's discovery. This milestone now forms one of the
ornaments on the balustrade at the head of the stairs of the Capitol.

The Appian Way shared in the vicissitudes of the city. After the fall
of the Western Empire, about the beginning of the sixth century, when
it was finally repaired by Theodoric, it fell into desuetude. The
people, owing to the unsettled state of the country, were afraid to
move from home. A grievous apathy took possession of all classes;
agriculture was neglected, and the drains being stopped up, the line
of route was inundated, and the road, especially on the low levels,
became quite impassable. For centuries it continued in this state,
until it was overgrown with a marshy vegetation in the wet places, and
covered with turf in the dry. About a hundred years ago Pope Pius VI.
drained the Pontine Marshes, and restored other parts of the road, and
made it available as the ordinary land-route from Rome to Naples. But
it was left to Pio Nono to uncover the road between Rome and Albano,
which had previously been confounded with the Campagna, and was only
indicated by the double line of ruined tombs. After three years of
hard work, and an expenditure of £3000, the part most interesting to
the archæologist--namely, from the third to the eleventh
milestone--was laid bare, its monuments identified as far as possible,
and a wall of loose stones built on both sides, to protect it from the
encroachments of the neighbouring landowners. And now the modern
traveller can walk or ride or drive comfortably over the very pavement
which Horace and Virgil, Augustus and Paul traversed, and gaze upon
the ruins of the very objects that met their eyes.

Taking our departure from the site of the Porta Capena, we are
reminded that it was at the Porta Capena that the survivor of the
Horatii met his sister, who had been betrothed to one of the Curiatii,
and who, when she saw her brother carrying the cloak of her dead
lover, which she had wrought with her own hand, upbraided him in a
passion of tears for his cruelty. Enraged at the sight of her grief,
Horatius drew his sword and stabbed her to the heart, crying, "So
perish the Roman maiden that shall weep for her country's enemy!" The
tomb of the hapless maiden long stood on the spot. It was at the Porta
Capena also that the senate and people of Rome gave to Cicero a
splendid ovation on his return from banishment. Numerous historical
buildings clustered round this gate--a temple of Mars, of Hercules, of
Honour and Virtue, and a fountain dedicated to Mercury, described by
Ovid; but not a trace of these now remains.

On the left, at the back of the Coelian Hill, is a valley covered with
verdure, wonderfully quiet and rural-looking, though within the walls
of a city. In this valley once stood the famous grove where Numa
Pompilius had his mysterious interviews with the nymph Egeria. A
spring still bubbles forth beside a cluster of farm-buildings, which
is said to be the veritable Fountain of Egeria. The temple of the
Muses, who were Egeria's counsellors, was close by; and the name of
the gate of the city, _Porta Capena_, was in all likelihood a
corruption of Camena, the Latin name for Muse, and was not derived, as
some suppose, from the city of Capua. The spot outside the present
walls, formerly visited as the haunt of the fabled nymph, before the
discovery of the site of the Capena gate fixed its true
position--beautiful and romantic as it is--was only the nymphæum of
some Roman villa, used as a place of retirement and coolness in the
oppressive heat of summer. Of all the legends of Rome's earliest days,
none is more poetical than that which speaks of the visits of Numa to
this mysterious being, whose counsels in these sacred shades were of
such value to him in the management of his kingdom, and who dictated
to him the whole religious institutions and civil legislation of Rome.
Whatever historical basis it may have, the legend has at least a core
of moral truth. It illustrates the necessity of solitude and communion
with Higher Powers as a preparation for the solemn duties of life. All
who have influenced men permanently for good have drawn their
inspiration from lonely haunts sacred to meditation--ever since Moses
saw the burning bush in the desert, and Elijah bowed his strong soul
to the majesty of the still small voice at Horeb.

The romance of the grove of Egeria was, however, dispelled when the
valley was turned into a place of imprisonment for the Jews. Domitian
drove them out of the Ghetto, and shut them up here, with only a
basket and a wisp of hay for each person, to undergo unheard-of
privations and miseries. The Horticultural Gardens, where the shrubs
and plants are grown that ornament the public squares and terraces of
the city, now occupy the site of the celebrated grove. The shrill
scream of the railway whistle outside the gate, and the smell of the
gas-works near at hand--these veritable things of the present
century--are fatal to all enchantments, and effectually dissipate the
spell of the muses and the mystic fragrance of the Egerian solitude.
But wonderful is the persistence of a spring in a spot. Continually
changing, it is the most changeless of all things. For ever passing
away, it is yet the most steadfast and enduring. Derived from the
fleeting vapour--the emblem of inconstancy--it outlasts the most solid
structure of man, and continues to well up its waters even when the
rock beside it has weathered into dust. The Fountain of Egeria flows
to-day in the hollow of the Coelian Hill as it flowed nigh three
thousand years ago, although the muses have fled, and the deities
Picus and Faunus, which Numa entrapped in the wood of the Aventine,
have gone back to their native skies with Jupiter; and Mammon and
Philosophy have exorcised that unseen world which once presented so
many beauties and wonders to the imagination of man.

A little farther on to the right, a side path, called the Via
Antonina, leads up to the stupendous ruins of the Baths of Caracalla,
a mile in circumference, and covering a space of 2,625,000 square
yards. The walls, arches, and domes of massive brickwork hanging up in
the sky,--the fragments of sculpture and splendid mosaic pavements
belonging to these baths,--produced a deeper impression upon my mind
than even the ruins of the Colosseum. With the form and majesty of the
Colosseum, owing to its compactness and unity, pictures and other
representations have made us familiar from infancy, so that it excites
no surprise when we actually visit it; but the Baths of Caracalla
cannot be pictorially represented as a whole, on account of their vast
variety and extent, and therefore we come to the spectacle wholly
unprepared, and are at once startled into awe and astonishment.
Notwithstanding the wholesale pillage of centuries, enough in the way
of chambers and baths, marble statues, pillars, and works of art,
still remains in this mountainous mass of masonry to witness to the
unparalleled luxury by which the strength of the Roman youth was
enervated, and the foundations of the empire sapped. Shelley wrote on
the summit of one of the arches his "Prometheus Unbound;" and
certainly a fitter place in which to seek inspiration for such a theme
could not be found.

Beyond the Baths, on the same side of the road, is the most
interesting little church of the two saints Nereus and Achilles,
Christian slaves who suffered martyrdom in the reign of Diocletian. It
is supposed that the Nereus whose body reposes in this ancient church
is the person referred to by St. Paul in his greetings to the Roman
saints at the close of his Epistle--"Salute Nereus, and his sister,
and Olympas, and all the saints which are with them." Bolland, in his
_Acts of the Saints_, mentions that he was a servant in the household
of Flavia Domitilla, niece of the celebrated Christian lady of the
same name, whose mother was the sister of the Emperor Domitian, and
whose two sons were intended to succeed to the imperial throne. This
younger Domitilla, although so nearly related to the imperial family,
was banished to the island of Pontia, because of her refusal to
sacrifice to idols. Her two Christian servants, Nereus and Achilles,
accompanied her in her exile, and were afterwards burned alive, along
with their mistress, at Terracina, and their ashes deposited in the
same resting-place. It is a remarkable circumstance that this church
and the catacomb where they were buried at first, should have borne
the names of the lowly slaves instead of the name of their illustrious
mistress, who was as distinguished by her Christian faith as by her
rank. Time brought to these noble martyrs a worthy revenge for their
ignoble fate; for when their ashes were taken from the catacomb to
this church in the year 524, they were first carried in triumph to the
Capitol, and made to pass under the imperial arches, on which was
affixed the inscriptions "The Senate and the Roman people to Santa
Flavia Domitilla, for having brought more honour to Rome by her death
than her illustrious relations by their works." "To Santa Flavia
Domitilla, and to the saints Nereus and Achilles, the excellent
citizens who gained peace for the Christian republic at the price of
their blood." Jeremy Taylor, in his splendid sermon on the
"Marriage-ring," has a touching reference to the legendary history of
Nereus. The church dedicated to the honour of these Christian slaves
has many interesting associations. It stands upon the site of a
primitive Christian oratory, called Fasciola, because St. Peter was
said to have dropped there one of the bandages of his wounds on the
way to execution. And its last reconstruction, retaining all the
features of the old architecture with the utmost care, was the pious
work of its titular cardinal, Cæsar Baronius, the celebrated librarian
of the Vatican, whose Ecclesiastical Annals may be called the earliest
systematic work on Church History. The church has an enclosed choir,
with two ambones or reading-desks in it, surrounding the altar, as was
the custom in the older Christian churches. The mosaics on the tribune
representing the "Transfiguration" and "Annunciation" are more than a
thousand years old, and are interesting besides as the first
embodiments in art of these sacred subjects. Behind the high altar is
the pontifical chair, supported by lions, with a Gothic gable, on
which Gregory the Great was seated when he delivered his twenty-eighth
Homily, a few sentences of which are engraved on the marble.

Beyond the church of Sts. Nereus and Achilles, on the opposite side,
where the ground rises thirty or forty feet above the level of the
road, there is a rude inscription above the door of a vineyard,
intimating that the Tomb of the Scipios is here. This is by far the
most interesting of all the monuments on the Appian Way. It was the
mausoleum of a long line of the most illustrious names in Roman
history--patriots and heroes, whose virtues and honours were
hereditary. Originally the sepulchre stood above ground, and the
entrance to it was by a solid arch of peperino, facing a cross-road
leading from the Appian to the Latin Way; but the soil in the course
of ages accumulated over it, and buried it out of sight. It was
accidentally discovered in 1780, in consequence of a peasant digging
in the vineyard to make a cellar, and breaking through a part of the
vaulted roof of the tomb. Then was brought suddenly to light the
celebrated sarcophagus of plain peperino stone, which contained the
remains of the Roman consul, Lucius Scipio Barbatus, after having been
undisturbed for nearly twenty-two centuries. Several other sarcophagi
belonging to members of the family were found at the same time, along
with two busts, one of which is supposed to be that of the poet
Ennius, the friend and companion of Scipio Africanus, whose last
request on his deathbed was that he might be buried by his side. Pliny
remarks that the Scipios had the singular custom of burying instead of
burning their dead; and this is confirmed by the discovery of these
sarcophagi. I found the mausoleum to consist of a series of chambers
and approaches to them, excavated in the solid tufa rock, not unlike
the labyrinthine recesses of the catacombs. The darkness was feebly
dispelled by the light of wax tapers carried by the guide and myself;
and the aspect of the narrow, low-browed passages and chambers was
gloomy in the extreme. Here and there were Latin inscriptions
attached to the different recesses where the dead had lain; but they
were only copies, the originals having been removed to the Vatican,
where the sarcophagus of Lucius Scipio Barbatus and the bust of the
poet Ennius may now be seen. The very bones of the illustrious dead
have been carried off, and after a series of adventures they are now
deposited in a beautiful little monument in the grounds of a nobleman
near Padua. The gold signet-ring of Scipio Africanus, with a victory
in intaglio on a cornelian stone, found in the tomb of his son, who
was buried here, is now in the possession of Lord Beverley. It must be
remembered, however, that Scipio Africanus, the most illustrious of
his family, and the noblest of all the Roman names, was not interred
in this mausoleum. A strange mystery hung over the manner of his death
and the place of his burial even in Livy's time. Some said that he
died at Rome, and others at Liternum. A fragment of an inscription was
found near the little lake at the latter place, beside which he
resided during the dignified exile of his later years, which contained
only the words--"... ta Patria ... ne ..." Antiquarians have filled
out this sentence into the touching epigraph recorded by Livy, which
Scipio himself wished to be put upon his tomb: "Ingrata Patria, ne
ossa quidem, mea habes," "My ungrateful country, thou hast not even my
bones." Empty as the tomb of the Scipios looks, no one can behold it
without feelings of profound veneration. The history of the most
heroic period of ancient Rome is linked with this tomb; and all the
romance of the Punic Wars, of Hannibal and Hasdrubal, pass before the
mind's eye, as one gazes upon the desecrated chambers where the son
and relatives of the great conqueror had reposed in death.

Within a short distance of the tomb of the Scipios are the most
celebrated of all the Columbaria of Rome. Previous to the fifth
century of Rome, the bodies of the dead were buried entire, and
deposited in sarcophagi; but after that period cremation became the
universal custom. The ashes and calcined bones were preserved in
_ollæ_, or little jars like common garden flower-pots, made of the
same kind of coarse red earthenware, with a lid attached. These jars
were deposited in rows of little niches sunk in the brickwork all
round the walls of the tomb, resembling the nests in a pigeon-house;
hence the origin of the name. One tomb was thus capable of containing
the remains of a large number of persons; no less than six thousand of
the freedmen of Augustus being deposited in the Columbarium which
bears their name. The entrance to these sepulchral chambers was from
the top, descending by an internal stair; and the passages and walls
were usually decorated with frescoes and arabesques, illustrating some
mythical or historical subject. The names of the dead were carved on
marble tablets fixed above the pigeon-holes containing the ashes.
Columbaria being only used for dependents and slaves, were generally
erected near the tombs of their masters; and hence all along the
Appian Way we see numerous traces of them side by side with the
gigantic monuments of the patrician families. The Columbaria near the
tomb of the Scipios are three in number, and contain the cinerary urns
of persons attached to the household of the emperors from the reign of
Augustus up to the period of the Antonines, when the system of burying
the bodies entire was again introduced. The last discovered
Columbarium is the most interesting of the group. Being only
thirty-three years exposed, the paintings on the walls and the vases
are remarkably well preserved. This tomb contains the ashes of the
dependents of Tiberius, the contemporary of our Lord. One pigeon-hole
is filled with the calcined bones of the court buffoon, a poor deaf
and dumb slave who had wonderful powers of mimicry, and used to amuse
his morose master by imitating the gesticulations of the advocates
pleading in the Forum. Another pigeon-hole contains the remains of the
keeper of the library of Apollo in the imperial palace on the
Palatine. A most pathetic lamentation in verse is made by one Julia
Prima over the ashes of her husband; and an inscription, along with a
portrait of the animal, records that beneath are the remains of a
favourite dog that was the pet of the whole household--a little touch
of nature that links the ages and the zones, and makes the whole world
kin. The whole of this region, called Monte d'Oro, for what reason I
know not, seems to have been a vast necropolis, in which not only
Columbaria for their slaves and freedmen were built by the great
patrician families, but also family vaults for the wealthier middle
classes were constructed and sold by speculators, just as in our
modern town cemeteries.

Very near the modern gate of the city the road passes under the
so-called Arch of Drusus. It consists of a single arch, whose keystone
projects on each side about two feet and a half beyond the plane of
the frontage; and is built of huge solid blocks of travertine, with
cornices of white marble, and two composite columns of African marble
on each side, much soiled and defaced, which are so inferior in style
to the rest of the architecture that they are manifestly later
additions. The whole monument is much worn and injured; but it is made
exceedingly picturesque by a crown of verdure upon the thick mass of
soil accumulated there by small increments blown up from the highway
in the course of so many centuries. It was long supposed that
Caracalla had barbarously taken advantage of the arch to carry across
the highway at this point the aqueduct which supplied his baths with
water. But the more recent authorities maintain that the arch itself,
so far from being the monument of Drusus, was only one of the arches
built by Caracalla in a more ornamental way than the rest, as was
commonly done when an aqueduct crossed a public road. This theory does
away at one fell stroke with the idea so long fondly cherished that
St. Paul must have passed under this very arch on his way to Rome, and
that his eye must have rested on these very stones upon which we gaze
now. It is hard to give up the belief that the stern old arch, severe
in its sturdiness and simplicity as the character of the apostle
himself, did actually cast its haunted shadow over him on the
memorable day when, a prisoner in chains in charge of a Roman soldier,
he passed over this part of the Appian Way, and it signalised a far
grander triumph than that for which it was originally erected. We
should greatly prefer to retain the old idea that under that arch
Christianity, as represented by St. Paul, passed to its conquest of
the whole Roman world; and passed too in character, the religion of
the cross, joy in sorrow, liberty in bonds, strength in weakness,
proclaiming itself best from the midst of the sufferings which it

Immediately beyond the Arch of Drusus is the Gate of St. Sebastian,
the Porta Appia of the Aurelian wall, protected on either side by two
semicircular towers, which from their great height and massiveness
have a most imposing appearance. They are composed of the beautiful
glowing brick of the ancient Roman structures, and rest upon a
foundation of white marble blocks, evidently taken from the Temple of
Mars, which once stood close by, and at which the armies entering Rome
in triumph used to halt. The gateway was greatly injured in the sixth
century during the Gothic War, but was repaired by Belisarius; or, as
some say, by Narses. The most remarkable incident connected with it
since that period was the triumphal entry into the city of Marco
Antonio Colonna, after the victory of Lepanto over the Turks and
African corsairs in 1571. This famous battle, one of the few great
decisive battles of the world, belongs equally to civil and
ecclesiastical history, having checked the spread of Mohammedanism in
Eastern Europe, and thus altered the fortunes of the Church and the
world. The famous Spanish poet Cervantes lost an arm in this battle.
The ovation given to Colonna by the Romans in connection with it may
be said to be the last of the long series of triumphal processions
which entered the Eternal City; and in point of splendour and ceremony
it vied with the grandest of them,--prisoners and their families,
along with the spoil taken from the enemy, figuring in it as of old. A
short distance outside the gate, the viaduct of the railway from
Civita Vecchia spans the Appian Way, and brings the ancient "queen of
roads" and the modern iron-way into strange contrast,--or rather, I
should say, into fitting contact; for there is a resemblance between
the great works of ancient and modern engineering skill in their
mighty enterprise and boundless command of physical resources, which
we do not find in the works of the intermediate ages.

Beyond the viaduct the road descends into a valley, at the bottom of
which runs the classic Almo. It is little better than a ditch, with
artificial banks overgrown with weeds, great glossy-leaved arums, and
milky-veined thistles, and with a little dirty water in it from the
drainings of the surrounding vineyards. And yet this disenchanted
brook figures largely in ancient mythical story. Ovid sang of it, and
Cicero's letters mention it honourably. It was renowned for its
medicinal properties, and diseased cattle were brought to its banks to
be healed. The famous _simulacrum_, called the image of Cybele,--a
black meteoric stone which fell from the sky at Phrygia, and was
brought to Rome during the Second Punic War, according to the
Sybilline instructions,--was washed every spring in the waters of the
Almo by the priests of the goddess. So persistent was this pagan
custom, even amid the altered circumstances of Christianity, that,
until the commencement of the nineteenth century, an image of our
Saviour was annually brought from the Church of Santa Martina in the
Forum and washed in this stream. In the valley of the Almo the poet
Terence possessed a little farm of twenty acres, given to him by his
friend Scipio Æmilianus.

After crossing the Almo, two huge shapeless masses of ruins may be
seen above the vineyard walls: that on the left is said to be the
tomb of Geta, the son of the Emperor Severus, who was put to death in
his mother's arms by order of his unnatural brother. Geta's children
and friends, to the number, it is said, of twenty thousand persons,
were also put to death on the false accusation of conspiracy; among
whom was the celebrated jurist Papinian, who, when required to compose
a defence of the murder--as Seneca was asked by Nero to apologise for
his crime--nobly replied that "it was easier to commit than to justify
fratricide." But so capricious was Caracalla that he soon afterwards
executed the accomplices of his unnatural deed, and caused his
murdered brother to be placed among the gods, and divine honours to be
paid to him. It was in this more humane mood that the tomb whose ruins
we see on the Appian Way was ordered to be built. The tomb on the
right-hand side of the road is a most incongruous structure as it
appears at present, having a circular medieval tower on the top of it,
and a common osteria or wine-shop in front; but the old niches in
which statues or busts used to stand still remain. It was long
supposed to be the mausoleum of the Scipios; but it is now ascertained
to be the sepulchre of Priscilla, the wife of Abascantius, the
favourite freedman of Domitian, celebrated for his conjugal affection
by the poet Statius. Covered with ivy and mural plants, the monument
has a very picturesque appearance.

The road beyond this rises from the valley of the Almo, and passes
over a kind of plateau. It is hemmed in on either side by high ugly
walls, shaggy with a profusion of plants which affect such situations.
The wild mignonette hangs out its pale yellow spikes of blossoms, but
without the fragrance for which its garden sister is so remarkable;
and the common pellitory, a near ally of the nettle, which haunts all
old ruins, clings in great masses to the crevices, its leaves and
ignoble blossoms white with the dust of the road. Here and there a
tall straggling plant of purple lithospermum has found a footing, and
flourishes aloft its dark violet tiara of blossoms; while bright tufts
of wall-flower send up their tongues of flame from an old tomb peering
above the wall, as if from a funeral pyre. The St. Mary thistle grows
at the foot of the walls in knots of large, spreading, crinkled
leaves, beautifully scalloped at the edges; the glazed surface
reticulated with lacteal veins, retaining the milk that, according to
the legend, flowed from the Virgin's breast, and, forming the Milky
Way in mid-heaven, fell down to earth upon this wayside thistle. Huge
columns of cactuses and monster aloes may be seen rising above the top
of the walls, like relics of a geologic flora contemporaneous with the
age of the extinct volcanoes around. But the most curious of all the
plants that adorn the walls is a kind of ivy which, instead of the
usual dark-greenish or black berries, bears yellow ones. This species
is rare, but here it occurs in profusion, and is as beautiful in
foliage as it is singular in fruit. The walls themselves, apart from
their floral adorning, are very remarkable, and deserving of the most
careful and leisurely study. They are built up evidently of the
remains of tombs; and numerous fragments of marble sarcophagi,
pillars, inscriptions, and rich sculpture are imbedded in them,
suggestive of a whole volume of antiquarian lore, so that he who runs
may read.

On the right of the road, in a vineyard, are several Columbaria
belonging to the family of Cæcilius, an obscure Latin poet, who was a
predecessor of Terence, and died one hundred and sixty-eight years
before Christ; and on the left are the Columbaria of the freedmen of
Augustus and Livia, divided into three chambers. These last when
discovered excited the utmost interest among antiquarians; but they
are now stripped of all their contents and characteristic decorations,
and the inscriptions, about three hundred in number, are preserved in
the museums of the Capitol and Vatican. On the same side of the road,
in a vineyard, a Columbarium was discovered in 1825 belonging to the
Volusian family, who flourished in the reign of Nero; one of whose
members, Lucius Volusius, who lived to the age of ninety-three, was
extolled on account of his exemplary life by Tacitus.

On the same plateau is the entrance to the celebrated Catacombs of St.
Calixtus. It is on the right-hand side of the road, about a mile and a
quarter from the present gate, and near where stood the second
milestone on the ancient Appian Way. A marble tablet over the door of
a vineyard shaded with cypresses points it out to the visitor. The
rock out of which this and all the Roman Catacombs were hewn seems as
if created specially for the purpose. Recent geological observations
have traced in the Campagna volcanic matter produced at different
periods, when the entire area of Rome and its vicinity was the seat of
active plutonic agency. This material is of varying degrees of
hardness. The lowest and oldest is so firm and compact that it still
furnishes, as it used to do, materials for building; the foundations
of the city, the wall of Romulus, and the massive blocks on which the
Capitol rests, being formed of this substance. Over this a later
stratum was deposited called _tufa granolare_, consisting of a similar
mechanical conglomerate of scoriæ, ashes, and other volcanic products,
but more porous and friable in texture. It is in this last formation,
which is so soft that it can be easily hollowed out, and yet so solid
that it does not crumble, that the Catacombs are invariably found.
There is something that appeals strongly to the imagination in the
fact that the early Christians should have formed the homes of their
dead and the haunts of their faith in the deposit of the terrible
volcano and the stormy sea! The outbursts of the Alban volcanoes were
correlated in God's scheme of providence with the outbursts of human
fury long ages afterwards; and the one was prepared as a means of
defence from the other, by Him who maketh His ministers a flaming

The Catacombs were specially excavated for Christian burial,--tombs
beneath the tombs of the Appian Way. Unlike the pagans, who burned the
bodies of their dead, and deposited, as we have seen, the ashes in
cinerary urns which took up but little space, the Christians buried
the bodies of their departed friends in rock-hewn sepulchres. They
must have derived this custom from the Jewish mode of interment; and
they would wish to follow in this the example of their Lord, who was
laid in an excavated tomb. Besides, it was abhorrent to their feelings
to burn their dead. Their religion had taught them to value the body,
which is an integral part of human nature, and has its own share in
the redemption of man. Their mode of sepulture therefore required
larger space; and as the Christians grew and multiplied, and more
burials took place, they extended the subterranean passages and
galleries in every direction. It is computed that upwards of six
millions of the bodies of the early Christians were deposited in the
Catacombs. The name which these rock-hewn sepulchres first received
was _cemeteries_, places of sleep; for the Christians looked upon
their dead as only asleep, to be awakened by the trump of the
archangel at the resurrection. And being used as burial-places, the
Catacombs became the inalienable property of the Christians; for,
according to Roman law, land which had once been used for interment
became _religiosus_, and could not be transferred for any other
purpose. It was long supposed that the Catacombs were subsequently
made use of as places of abode, when persecution drove the Christians
to seek the loneliest spots; but this idea has been dispelled by a
more careful examination of them. There can be no doubt, however, that
they were employed as places of religious meeting. Numerous
inscriptions found in them touchingly record that no Christian worship
could be performed in the imperial city without the risk of discovery
and death; and therefore the members of the Christian flock were
obliged to meet for worship in these dreary vaults. The passages in
some places were expanded into large chambers, and there divine
service was performed; not only for the benefit of those who came to
bury their dead, but also for those who resided in the city, and were
Christians in secret.

Passing from the roughly-paved road into the vineyard where the
Catacombs of St. Calixtus are situated, the first objects that caught
my eye were the dark, gaunt ruins of a tomb and a chapel of the third
century, now wreathed and garlanded with luxuriant ivy. Beside these
ruins I descended into the Catacombs by an ancient staircase, at the
foot of which my guide provided me with a long twisted wax taper,
calculated to last out my visit. A short distance from the entrance, I
came to a vestibule surrounded with loculi or rock-hewn graves. The
walls were plastered, and covered with rude inscriptions, scratched
with a pointed iron instrument. These were done by pilgrims and
devotees in later ages, who had come here--many of them from distant
lands--to pay their respects at the graves of the saints and martyrs.
Two of these pilgrims, from the diocese of Salzburg, visited these
Catacombs in the eighth century, and left behind an account of their
visit, which has afforded a valuable clue to Cavaliere de Rossi in his
identification of the chambers and graves. Passing from this open
space, I soon reached a sepulchral chapel, lined with the graves of
the earliest popes--many of them martyrs--who were buried here for
about a century, from the year 200 to the year 296 of our era. The
gravestones of four of them have been found, with inscriptions in
Greek. A beautiful marble tablet by Pope Damasus, who died in 384,
stands where the altar of the chapel originally stood, and records the
praises of the martyrs whose remains lay in the neighbouring chambers;
ending with a wish that he himself might be buried beside them, only
he feared that he was unworthy of the honour. This good Pope, like an
older "Old Mortality," made it a labour of love, to which he
consecrated his life, to rediscover and adorn the tombs which had
been hidden under an accumulation of earth and rubbish during the
fearful persecution of Diocletian.

From this chapel of the Popes I came through a narrow passage to a
wider crypt, where the body of St. Cæcilia was laid after her
martyrdom in her own house in Rome, in the year 224. There is a rude
painting of this saint on the wall, clothed with rich raiment, and
adorned with the jewels befitting a Roman lady of high station. And at
the back of a niche, where a lamp used to burn before the shrine of
the saint, is painted a large head of our Saviour, with rays of glory
around it shaped like a Greek cross. This is said to be the oldest
representation of our Lord in existence, and from it all our
conventional portraits have been taken. Doubts have, however, been
thrown upon this by others, who assert that all the paintings in this
chamber are not older than the seventh century. After this, I wandered
on after my guide through innumerable narrow galleries hewn out of the
soft reddish-brown rock, and opening in all directions; all lined with
horizontal cavities for corpses, tier above tier, in which once were
crowded together old and young,--soldiers, martyrs, rich and poor
mingling their dust together, as in life they had shared all things in
common. Here social distinctions were abolished; side by side with the
obscure and unknown slave were some of the most illustrious names of
ancient Rome. These shelves are now empty, for nearly all the bones
and relics of the dead have been removed to different churches
throughout Europe. Even the inscriptions that were placed above each
grave--on marble tablets--have been taken away, and now line the walls
of the museums of St. John Lateran and the Vatican. A few, however,
remain in their place; and I know nothing more affecting than the
study of these. For the most part, they are very short, containing
only the name and date; sometimes only an initial letter or a
rudely-drawn cross, indicating that it was a time of sore trial, when
such hurried obsequies were all that the imminent danger allowed.
Sometimes I came upon a larger record--such as, "Thou sleepest sweetly
in God;" "In the sleep of peace."

But the most touching of all the inscriptions were those which were
scratched rudely in a few places on the walls by visitors to the tombs
of their fellow-Christians. The survivors came often to weep over the
relics of the dead. Here a husband records the virtues of a beloved
wife; there, a son invokes the precious memory of a pious father or
mother; and all of them express their calm resignation and unshaken
hope. One inscription especially struck me. It was very rude, and
almost obliterated, for seventeen hundred years had passed over it. It
was a husband's lamentation over a dead wife: "O Sophronia! dear
Sophronia! thou _mayest_ live?--Thou _shalt_ live!" How eloquently did
that rough, faded scrawl, over a long-forgotten grave, speak of the
human fear that perhaps his wife was lost to him for ever--"Thou
mayest live?" and of the noble faith that triumphed over it--"Thou
_shalt_ live!" Nothing affects and astonishes one more in these
inscriptions than this calm, assured confidence that death was but a
profound sleep,--a rest unspeakably grateful after such a weary life
of awful suffering,--and that they should see their beloved ones
again. It was a literal realisation of the words of the Epistle to the
Hebrews: "And others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that
they might obtain a better resurrection." They surrendered all that
life holds dear, and life itself, from loyalty to the God of truth,
knowing whom they had believed, and persuaded that He would keep that
which they had committed to Him against the great day. They made their
family ties so loyal and sacred, that their human love, in the higher
love of Christ Jesus, endured for evermore. In many of the crypts, the
emblems of martyrdom are roughly denoted by a sword, an axe, or by
faggots and fire. What sorrowful scenes must have taken place in
these dreary passages, as the mangled forms of parent, child, brother,
or friend were stealthily brought in from the bloody games in the
Flavian amphitheatre, or from the cruel tortures of the prison-house,
to their last dark, narrow home along the very path I was now

A number of rude paintings ornament the walls of the chapels, which
repeat over and over again the simple symbols of the Christian faith,
and the touching stories of the Bible. The ark of Noah; Daniel in the
lions' den; the miracle of Cana; the raising of Lazarus--are among the
most common of these frescoes. And they are deeply interesting, as
showing that down in these dim and dreary vaults, which presented such
a remarkable contrast to the lovely violet sky and the grand
architectural magnificence above ground, among men who cared little
for the things of time and sense, because life itself had not a
moment's security, were nevertheless nourished thoughts of ideal
beauty and unearthly grandeur, which afterwards yielded such glorious
fruit in the Christian art of Italy. The frescoes of the Catacombs are
the feeble beginnings of an artistic inspiration which culminated in
the "Last Supper" of Leonardo da Vinci, and the "Transfiguration" of

The anchor of hope, the olive-branch of peace, and the palm-branch as
the sign of victory and martyrdom, were seen everywhere. The fish,
whose Greek name is formed by the initial letters of the titles of our
Lord, was carved on the marble tablets and sarcophagi as the anagram
of the Saviour; and an Orante, or female figure praying, was
represented as the symbol of the Church. The most common of all the
figures, however, was that of the Good Shepherd carrying the lost
sheep on His shoulders, or leaning on His staff while the sheep were
feeding around Him. And a most touching figure it is, when we think of
the circumstances of those who carved or painted it in these gloomy
aisles. It was into no green pastures, and beside no still waters,
that the Good Shepherd led His flock in those awful days, but into
waste and howling wildernesses, where their feet were bruised by the
hard stones, and their flesh torn by the sharp thorns, and all the
storms of the world beat fiercely upon them. But still He was their
Good Shepherd, and in the wilderness He spread a table for them, and
in the valley of the shadow of death they feared no evil, for He was
with them, and His rod and staff comforted them.

I wish I could express adequately the emotions which filled my breast
while wandering through these Catacombs. Save for the feeble glimmer
of my own and the guide's lamp, I was in total darkness,--a darkness
that might be felt. Not a sound broke the awful silence except the
echo of our footsteps in the hollow passages. Not a trace or a
recollection of life recalled me from the thought of absolute
impenetrable death around. Each passage seemed so like the other, and
the ramifications were so endless and bewildering, that but for the
presence of my guide I should inevitably have lost myself. Horrible
stories of persons who had gone astray in the inextricable maze, and
wandering about in the empty gloom till they perished of exhaustion
and starvation, recurred to my mind; and my imagination, intensified
by the silence and darkness, vividly realised their sufferings. There
is indeed no chill or damp in these labyrinths, and the atmosphere is
mild and pleasant, but still the gloom was most oppressive. And yet a
deep gratitude fills the soul; for the light there shone in darkness,
and it was this very darkness that preserved our religion, when it ran
the risk of being extinguished. These fearful subterranean passages
were the furrows in which were planted the first germs of the
Christian religion,--in which they were long guarded in persecution as
the seed-corn under the frost-bound earth in winter, to spring up
afterwards when summer smiled upon the world, and yield a glorious
harvest to all nations.

On the opposite side of the Appian Way, in a vineyard, is the Catacomb
of Pretextatus, which is almost as extensive as that of St. Calixtus,
and hardly less interesting. It is especially remarkable for a large
square crypt, inlaid with brick and plaster, and covered with very
fine frescoes and arabesques of birds and foliage. The bodies of St.
Januarius, Agapetus, and Felicissimus, who suffered martyrdom in the
year 162, were interred in this Catacomb; and two churches, at a
subsequent period, were erected over it in honour of the three saints
who suffered martyrdom with St. Cæcilia. Recent explorations have
brought to light, in a separate part of this Catacomb, curious
paintings and inscriptions which have been referred to the mysteries
of Mithras--an Oriental worship of the Sun--introduced into Rome about
a century before Christ, and which was celebrated in caves. When
Christianity became popular, and was threatening the overthrow of
polytheism, an attempt was made to counteract its influence in the
reign of Alexander Severus, who himself came from the East, by
organising this worship. The two systems of religion became,
therefore, mixed up together for a while; and hence it is not uncommon
to find in pagan sepulchres symbols and arrangements of a Christian
character, and in Christian Catacombs Mithraic features. The funeral
monuments of those who were converted to Christianity in the earliest
ages of the Church indicated the transition between the two religions.
We find upon their tombs pagan symbols, which ceased to be identified
with pagan worship, and became mere conventional ornaments. We have
other evidences along the Appian Way of the eclectic revival of
paganism at this time. When alluding to the classic stream of the
Almo, I spoke of the associations of the worship of Cybele. This
naturalistic cult was introduced from Phrygia, and its orgiastic rites
and nameless infamies had a horrible fascination for an age of
decaying faith. And not far from the mounds of the Horatii and
Curiatii there is a monument, probably of the age of Trajan, with a
bas-relief portrait, dedicated to the memory of one _Usia Prima_, a
priestess of Isis; this worship, with its painful initiations and
splendid ritual, being imported from Egypt in the second century. But
although this Neo-paganism appealed more to the passions of men than
the sunny humanistic worship of older times, and for a time inspired
the most frenzied enthusiasm, it failed utterly to resuscitate the
decaying corpse of the old religion. Great Pan was hopelessly dead!

At a short distance on the same side of the road is the Catacomb of
Sts. Nereus and Achilles, which contained the remains of these saints,
and are interesting to us as the most ancient Christian cemetery in
the world. The masonry of the vestibule is in the best style of Roman
brickwork; and the frescoes on its walls, representing Christ and His
apostles, the Good Shepherd, Orpheus, Elijah, etc., indicate a period
of high artistic taste. This Catacomb contains the oldest
representation extant of the Virgin and Child receiving the homage of
the Wise men from the East, supposed to date from the end of the
second century, and was often made use of in support of Roman
Mariolatry. Several days might be profitably spent by the antiquarian
in investigating the contents of the different tiers of galleries;
while the geologist would find matter for interesting speculation in
the partial intrusion of the older lithoid tufa here and there into
the softer and more recent volcanic deposits in which the passages are
excavated, and in which numerous decomposing crystals of leucite may
be observed. On the same side of the way, farther on, is the Jewish
Catacomb, the tombs of which bear Jewish symbols, especially the
seven-branched golden candlestick, and are inscribed, not with the
secular names and occupations of the occupants, but with their sacred
names, as office-bearers of the synagogue, rulers, scribes, etc. The
inscriptions are not in Hebrew, but in Greek letters. It is supposed
that in this Catacomb were interred the bodies of the Jews who were
banished to the valley of Egeria by Domitian.

About a quarter of a mile beyond the Catacombs you come to a descent,
where there is a wide open space with a pillar in the centre, and
behind it the natural rock of a peculiarly glowing red colour,
overgrown with masses of ivy, wall-flower, and hawthorn just coming
into blossom. Below the road, on the right, is a kind of piazza,
shaded by a grove of funereal cypresses; and here is the church of St.
Sebastian, one of the seven great basilicas which pilgrims visited to
obtain the remission of their sins. It was founded by Constantine, on
the site of the house and garden of the pious widow Lucina, who buried
there the body of St. Sebastian after his martyrdom. This saint was a
Gaulish soldier in the Roman army, who, professing Christianity, was
put to death by order of Diocletian. The body of the saint is said to
repose under one of the altars, marked by a marble statue of him lying
dead, pierced with silver arrows, designed by Bernini. The present
edifice was entirely rebuilt by Cardinal Scipio Borghese; and nothing
remains of the ancient basilica save the six granite columns of the
portico, which were in all likelihood taken from some old pagan
temple. It was from the nave of this church that the only Catacomb
which used to be visited by pilgrims was entered; all the other
Catacombs which have since been opened being at that time blocked up
and unknown. Indeed it was to the subterranean galleries under this
church that the name of Catacomb was originally applied.

In the valley beneath St. Sebastian, on the left, is a large
enclosure, covered with the greenest turf, and reminding one more, by
its softness and compactness, of an English park than anything I had
seen about Rome. Here are the magnificent ruins of what was long known
as the Circus of Caracalla; but later investigations have proved that
the circus was erected in honour of Romulus, the son of the Emperor
Maxentius, in the year 311. It is the best preserved of all the
ancient Roman circuses, and affords an excellent clue to the
arrangements of such places for chariot races and the accommodation of
the spectators. The external walls run on unbroken for about a
quarter of a mile. In many places the vaults supporting the seats
still remain. The spina in the centre marking the course of the races,
on either end of which stood the two Egyptian obelisks which now adorn
the Piazza Navona and the Piazza del Popolo, though grass-grown, can
be easily defined; and the towers flanking the extremities, where the
judges sat, and the triumphal gate through which the victors passed,
are almost entire. It would not be difficult, with such aids to the
imagination, to conjure up the splendid games that used to take place
within that vast enclosure; the chariots of green, blue, white, and
red driving furiously seven times round the course, the emperor and
all his nobles sitting in the places of honour, looking on with
enthusiasm, and the victor coming in at the goal, and the shouts and
exclamations of the excited multitude. On the elevated ground behind
the circus is a fringe of olive-trees, with a line of feathery elms
beyond; and rising over all, the purple background of the Sabine and
Alban hills. It is a lonely enough spot now; and the gentle hand of
spring clothes the naked walls with a perfect garden of wild flowers,
and softens with the greenest and tenderest turf the spots trodden by
the feet of so many thousands. In the immediate vicinity of the circus
are extensive ruins, visible and prominent objects from the road,
consisting of large fragments of walls and apses, dispersed among the
vineyards and enclosures.

By far the best-known monument on the Appian Way is the Tomb of
Cæcilia Metella. It is a conspicuous landmark in the wide waste, and
catches the eye at a long distance from many points of view. It is as
familiar a feature in paintings of the Campagna almost as the Claudian
Aqueduct. This celebrity it owes to its immense size, its wonderful
state of preservation, and above all to the genius of Lord Byron, who
has made it the theme of some of the most elegant and touching stanzas
in _Childe Harold_. Nothing can be finer than the appearance of this
circular tower in the afternoon, when the red level light of sunset,
striking full upon it, brings out the rich warm glow of its yellow
travertine stones in striking relief against the monotonous green of
the Campagna. It is built on a portion of rising ground caused by a
current of lava which descended from the Alban volcano during some
prehistoric eruption, and stopped short here, forming the quarries on
the left side of the road which supply most of the paving-stone of
modern Rome. The Appian Way was here lowered several feet below the
original level, in order to diminish the acclivity; and the mausoleum
was consequently raised upon a substructure of unequal height
corresponding with the inclination of the plane of ascent. It was
originally cased with marble slabs, but these were stripped off during
the middle ages for making lime; and Pope Clement XII. completed the
devastation by removing large blocks which formed the basement, in
order to construct the picturesque fountain of Trevi. A large portion
of the Doric marble frieze, however, still remains, on which are
sculptured bas-reliefs of rams' heads, festooned with garlands of
flowers. Usually the bas-reliefs are supposed to represent bulls'
heads; and the name of Capo de Bove (the "head of the ox"), by which
the monument has long been known to the common people, is said to be
derived from these ornaments. But a careful examination will convince
any one that they are in reality rams' heads; and the vulgar name of
the tomb was obviously borrowed from the armorial bearings of the
Gaetani family, consisting of an ox's head, affixed prominently upon
it when it served them as a fortress in the thirteenth century. Pope
Boniface VIII., a member of this family, added the curious battlements
at the top, which seem so slight and airy in comparison with the
severe solidity of the rest of the structure, and are but a poor
substitute for the massive conical roof which originally covered the
tomb. Nature has done her utmost for nigh two thousand years to bring
back this monument to her own bosom, but she has been foiled in all
her attempts,--the travertine blocks of its exterior, though fitted to
each other without cement, being as smooth and even in their courses
of masonry as when first constructed, and almost as free from
weather-stains as if they had newly been taken from the quarry. Only
on the broad summit, where medieval Vandals broke down the noble pile
and desecrated it by their own inferior workmanship, has nature been
able to effect a lodgment; and in the breaches of this fortress, which
is but a thing of yesterday as compared with the monument, and yet is
far more ruinous, she has planted bushes, trees, and thick festoons of
ivy, as if laying her quiet finger upon the angry passions of man, and
obliterating the memory of his evil deeds by her own fair and smiling

The sepulchral vault in the interior was not opened till the time of
Paul III., about 1540, when a beautiful marble sarcophagus, adorned
with bas-reliefs of the chase, was found in it, which is supposed to
be that which stands at the present day in the court of the Palazzo
Farnese. This is likely to be true, for it is well known that this
Pope, who was a member of the Farnese family, unscrupulously despoiled
ancient Rome of many of its finest works of art in order to build and
adorn his new palace. A golden urn containing ashes is said to have
been discovered at the same time; but if so, it has long since
disappeared. On a marble panel below the frieze an inscription in bold
letters informs us that this is the tomb of Cæcilia Metella, daughter
of Quintus Metellus,--who obtained the sobriquet of _Creticus_ for his
conquest of Crete,--and wife of Crassus. She belonged to one of the
most haughty aristocratic families of ancient Rome, whose members at
successive intervals occupied the highest positions in the state, and
several of whom were decreed triumphs by the senate on account of
their success in war. Her husband was surnamed _Dives_ on account of
his enormous wealth. He is said to have possessed a fortune equal to a
million and a half pounds sterling; and to have given an
entertainment to the whole Roman people in a time of scarcity, besides
distributing to each family a quantity of corn sufficient to last
three months. Along with Julius Cæsar and Pompey, he formed the famous
first Triumvirate. While the richest, he seems, notwithstanding the
above-mentioned act of munificence, to have been one of the meanest of
the Romans. He had no steady political principle; he was actuated by
bitter jealousy towards his colleagues and rivals; and that
unsuccessful expedition which he undertook against the Parthians, in
flagrant violation of a treaty made with them by Sulla and renewed by
Pompey, and which has stamped his memory with incapacity and shame,
was prompted by an insatiable greed for the riches of the East. On the
field he occupied himself entirely in amassing fresh treasures, while
his troops were neglected. The manner of his death, after the defeat
and loss of the greater part of his army, was characteristic of his
ruling passion. Tempted to seek an interview with the Parthian general
by the offer of the present of a horse with splendid trappings, he was
cut down when in the act of mounting into the saddle. His body was
contemptuously buried in some obscure spot by the enemy, and his hands
and head were sent to the king, who received the ghastly trophies
while seated at the nuptial feast of his daughter, and ordered in
savage irony molten gold to be poured down the severed throat,
exclaiming, "Sate thyself now with the metal of which in life thou
wert so fond."

There is one incident connected with this most disastrous campaign
upon which the imagination loves to dwell. Publius, the younger son of
Crassus, born of the woman who lay in this tomb before us, after
earning great distinction in Gaul as Cæsar's legate, accompanied his
father to the East, and was much beloved on account of his noble
qualities and his feats of bravery against the enemy. While
endeavouring to repulse the last fierce charge of the Parthians, he
was wounded severely by an arrow, and finding himself unable to
extricate his troops, rather than desert them he ordered his
sword-bearer to slay him. When the news of his son's fall reached the
aged father, the old Roman spirit blazed up for a moment in him, and
he exhorted his soldiers "not to be disheartened by a loss that
concerned himself only." In this last triumph of a nobler nature he
disappears from our view; and he who built this magnificent monument
to the mother of his gallant son had himself no monument. More
fortunate than her husband, whose evil manners live in brass,--less
fortunate than her son, whose virtues have been handed down for the
admiration of posterity,--Cæcilia Metella has left no record of her
existence beyond her name. All else has been swallowed up by the
oblivion of ages. Whether her husband raised this colossal trophy of
the dust to commemorate his own pride of wealth, or his devoted love
for her, we know not. He achieved his object; but he has given to his
wife only the mockery of immortality. The substance has gone beyond
recall, and but the shadow, the mere empty name, remains.

Built up against this monument are the remains of the castle in which
the Gaetani family long maintained their feudal warfare, with
fragments of marble sculpture taken from the tomb incorporated into
the plain brick walls. And on the other side of the road, in a
beautiful meadow, covered with soft green grass, are the ruins of a
roofless Gothic chapel, showing little more than a few bare walls and
gables built of dark lava stones, with traces of pointed windows in
them, and the spring of the groined arches of the roof. Like the
fortress, the chapel has few or no architectural features of interest.
It is very unlike any other church in Italy, and reminds one of the
country churches of England. What led the Gaetanis to adopt this
foreign style of ecclesiastical architecture is a circumstance
unexplained. Altogether it is a most incongruous group of objects that
are here clustered together--a tomb, a fortress, and a church--and
affords a curious illustration of the bizarre condition of society at
the time. An extraordinary echo repeats here every sound entrusted to
it with the utmost distinctness. It doubtless multiplied the wailings
of the mourners who brought to this spot two thousand years ago the
ashes of the dead; it sent back the rude sounds of warfare which
disturbed the peace of the tomb in the middle ages; and now it haunts
the spot like the voice of the past, "informing the solitude," and
giving a response to each new-comer according to his mood.

Beyond the tomb of Cæcilia Metella the Appian Way becomes more
interesting and beautiful. The high walls which previously shut in the
road on either side now disappear, and nothing separates it from the
Campagna but a low dyke of loose stones. The traveller obtains an
uninterrupted view of the immense melancholy plain, which stretches
away to the horizon with hardly a single tree to relieve the
desolation. Here and there on the waste surface are fragments of ruins
which speak to the heart, by their very muteness, more suggestively
than if their historical associations were fully known. The mystic
light from a sky which over this place seems ever to brood with a sad
smile more touching than tears, falls upon the endless arches of the
Claudian Aqueduct that remind one, as Ruskin has finely said, of a
funeral procession departing from a nation's grave. The afternoon sun
paints them with ruby splendours, and gleams vividly upon the
picturesque vegetation which a thousand springs have sown upon their
crumbling sides. They lead the eye on to the Alban Hills, which form
on the horizon a fitting frame to the great picture, tender-toned,
with delicate pearly and purple shadows clothing every cliff and
hollow, like "harmonies of music turned to shape."

I shall never forget my first walk over this enchanted ground. The day
was warm and bright, though a little breeze, like the murmur of a
child's sleep, occasionally stirred the languid calm. April had just
come in; but in this Southern clime spring, having no storms or
frosts to fear, lingers in a strange way and unfolds, with slow,
patient tenderness, her beauties; not like our Northern spring, which
rushes to verdure and bloom as soon as the winter snows have
disappeared. And hence, though the few trees along the road had only
put forth their first leaves, tender and flaccid as butterfly's wings,
the grass was ready to be cut down and was thickly starred with wild
flowers. Horace of old said that one could not travel rapidly along
the Appian Way, on account of the number and variety of its objects of
interest; and the same remark holds good at the present day. It would
take months to go over in detail all its wonderful relics of the past.
At every step you are arrested by something that opens up a
fascinating vista into the old family life of the imperial city. At
every step you "set your foot upon some reverend history." From
morning to sunset I lingered on this haunted path, and tried to enter
into sympathy with old-world sorrows that have left behind no
chronicles save these silent stones. It is indeed a path sacred to
meditation! One has there an overpowering sense of waste--a depressing
feeling of vanity. On every side are innumerable tokens of a vast
expenditure of human toil, and love, and sorrow; and it seems as if it
had been all thrown away. For two miles and a half from the tomb of
Cæcilia Metella I counted fifty-three tombs on the right and
forty-eight on the left. The margin of the road on either side is
strewn with fragments of hewn marble, travertine, and peperino. Broken
tablets, retaining a few letters of the epitaphs of the dead;
mutilated statues and alto-relievos; drums and capitals of pillars; a
hand or a foot, or a fold of marble drapery,--every form and variety
of sculpture, the mere crumbs that had fallen from a profuse feast of
artistic beauty, which nobody considers it worth while to pick up, lie
mouldering among the grass. At frequent intervals, facing the road,
you see with mournful interest the exposed interiors of tombs, showing
that beautiful and curious _opus reticulatum_, or reticulated
arrangement of bricks or tufa blocks, which is so characteristic of
the imperial period, and rows upon rows of neat pigeon-holes in the
brickwork, which contained the cinerary urns, all robbed of their
treasures, their tear-bottles, and even their bones. Ruthless popes
and princes have done their best during all the intervening ages to
destroy the monuments by taking away for their own uses the marble and
hewn stone which encased them, leaving behind only the inner core of
brick and small stones imbedded in mortar which was never meant to be
seen. Pitying hands have lately endeavoured to atone for this
desecration by lifting here and there out of the rubbish heap on which
they were thrown some affecting group of family portraits, some choice
specimens of delicate architecture, some mutilated panel on which the
stern hard features of a Roman senator look out upon you, and placing
them in a prominent position to attract attention. But though they
have endeavoured to build up the fragments of the tombs into some
semblance of their former appearance, the resuscitation is even more
melancholy than was the former ruin. Their efforts at restoration are
only the very graves of graves. In some places a side path leading off
the main road to a tomb has been uncovered, paved with the original
lava-blocks as fresh as when the last mourner retired from it, casting
"a lingering look behind;" but it leads now only to a shapeless heap
of brick, or to the empty site of a monument that has been razed to
the very foundations.

One piece of marble sculpture especially arrests the eye, and awakens
a chord of feeling in the most callous heart. It represents one of
those _Imagines Clipeatæ_ which the ancient Romans were so fond of
sculpturing in their temples or upon their tombs; a clam shell or
shield with the bust of a man and a woman carved in relief within it,
the hand of the one fondly embracing the neck of the other. Below is a
long Latin inscription, telling that this is the tomb of a brother
and sister who were devotedly attached to each other. Who this soror
and frater were, there is no record to tell. All subsidiary details of
their lives have been allowed to pass away with the other decorations
of the tomb, leaving behind this beautiful expression of household
affection in full and lasting relief. I felt drawn more closely to the
distant ages by this little carving than by anything else. The huge
monuments around weighed down my spirit to the earth. The very effort
to secure immortality by the massiveness of these tombs defeated its
own object. They spoke only of dust to dust and ashes to ashes; but
that little glimpse into the simple love of simple hearts in the
far-off past lifted me above all the decays of the sepulchre. It
assured me that our deepest heart-affections are the helpers of our
highest hopes, and the instinctive guarantees of a life to come. Love
creates its own immortality; for "love is love for evermore."

Along this avenue of death nothing can be more striking than the
profusion of life. It seems as if all the vitality of the many buried
generations had there passed into the fuller life of nature. You can
trace the street of tombs into the far distance, not only by the ruins
that line it on both sides, but also by its borders of grass of a
darker green and greater luxuriance than the pale, short, sickly
verdure of the Campagna; just as you can trace the course of a
moorland stream along the heather by the brighter vegetation which its
own waters have created. Myriads of flowers gleam in their own
atmosphere of living light, like jewels among the rich herbage, so
that the feet can hardly be set down without crushing scores of them:
the _Orchis rubra_ with its splendid spike of crimson blossoms, the
bee and spider orchises in great variety, whose flowers mimic the
insects after whom they are named, sweet-scented alyssum, golden
buttercups and hawkweeds, Roman daisies, larger and taller than the
English ones, with the bold wide-eyed gaze you see in the Roman
peasant-girls, scarlet poppies glowing in a sunshine of their own,
like flames in the heart of a furnace, vetches bright azure and pale
yellow, dark blue hyacinths, pink geraniums, and "moonlit spires of
asphodel," suggestive of the flowery fields of the immortals. My
footsteps along the dusty road continually disturbed serpents that
wriggled away in long ripples of motion among the tall spears of the
grass; while green and golden lizards, sunning themselves on the hot
stones, disappeared into their holes with a quick rustling sound at my
approach. The air was musical with a perfect chorus of larks, whose
jubilant song soared above all sorrow and death to heaven's own gate;
and now and then a tawny hawk sailed swiftly across the horizon. Huge
plants of gray mullein towered here and there above the sward, whose
flannel-like leaves afforded a snug shelter to great quantities of
wasps just recovering from their winter torpor. On the very tombs
themselves there was a lavish adornment of vegetable life: snow-white
drifts of hawthorn and honeysuckle wreaths waved on the summits of
those on which a sufficient depth of soil had lodged; the wild
dog-rose spread its thorny bushes and passionate-coloured crimson
blooms as a fence around others; and even on the barest of them
nothing could exceed the wealth of orange lichens that redeemed their
poverty and gilded their nakedness with frescoes of fadeless beauty.
On some of the rugged masses of masonry grew large hoary tufts of the
strange roccella or orchil-weed, which yields the famous purple
dye--with which, in all likelihood, the robes of the Cæsars were
coloured--and which gave wealth, rank, and name to one princely
Italian family, the Rucellai. Over the desolate tombs of those who
wore the imperial purple, this humble lichen, that yielded the
splendid hue, spread its gray hoar-frost of vegetation.

I have already spoken of the solitude of the Campagna; but this part
of the Appian Way, leading through it, is exceptionally lonely. It
might as well have led over an American prairie or Asiatic steppe on
which the foot of man had never intruded. You see along the white
reaches of the road at a little distance what looks like a cluster of
houses overshadowed by some tall umbrella pine, with all the signs of
human life apparently about them; but, as you come near, the sight
resolves itself into a mere mass of ruins. The mirage of life turns
out to be a tomb--nay, the ruin of a tomb! A carriage full of visitors
may, perhaps, be seen at long intervals, their spirits sobered by the
melancholy that broods over the scene; or a lumbering cart, laden with
wine-casks from Ariccia or Albano, drawn by the soft-eyed
mouse-coloured oxen of the Campagna, startles the echoes, and betrays
its course by the clouds of dust which it raises. There are no sights
or sounds of rural toil in the fields on either side of the way. Only
a solitary shepherd, with his picturesque cloak, accompanied by two or
three vicious-looking dogs, meets you; or, perhaps, you come
unexpectedly upon an artist seated on a tomb and busy sketching the
landscape. For hours you may have the scene all to yourself. Even
Rome, from this distance, looks like a city of dreams! Its walls and
domes have disappeared behind the misty green veil of the horizon; and
only the colossal statues of the apostles on the top of the church of
S. John Lateran stand out in a halo of golden light, and seem to
stretch forth their hands to welcome the approaching pilgrim.

It is well known to historians that the villa of Seneca, in which he
put himself to death by command of Nero, stood near the fourth
milestone on the Appian Way. The circumstances of his death are
exceedingly sad. Wishing to get rid of his former tutor, who had
become obnoxious to him, the bloodthirsty emperor first attempted to
poison him; and when this failed, he accused him, along with his
nephew the poet Lucan and several others, of being concerned in a
conspiracy against his life. This accusation was false; but it served
the purpose of bringing Seneca within reach of his vengeance, under a
colour of justice. A tribune with a cohort of soldiers was sent to
intimate his fate to the philosopher; allowing him to execute the
sentence of death upon himself by whatever means he preferred. Seneca
was at supper with his wife Paulina and two friends when the fatal
message came. Without any sign of alarm he rose and opened the veins
of his arms and legs, having bade farewell to his friends and embraced
his wife; and while the blood, impoverished by old age, ebbed slowly
from him, he continued to comfort his friends and exhort them to a
life of integrity. The last words of one so justly renowned were taken
down, and in the time of Tacitus the record was still extant. We
should value much these interesting memorials; but they are now
irrecoverably lost. His wife, refusing to live without him, also
endeavoured to bleed herself to death; but she was recovered by order
of Nero almost at the last moment. She remained pale and emaciated
ever after from having followed her husband more than half-way on the
road to death.

No trace of the villa where this pathetic tragedy took place can now
be seen; but near the spot where it must have stood, close beside the
road, is a marble bas-relief of the death of Atys, the son of Croesus,
killed in the chase by Adrastus, placed upon a modern pedestal; and
this is supposed to have formed part of the tomb of Seneca. There is
no inscription; probably none would be allowed during the lifetime of
Nero; and we know that his body was burned privately without any of
the usual ceremonies. But if this fragment of sculpture be genuine,
the well-known classic story which it tells was an appropriate
memorial of one who perished in the midst of the greatest prosperity.
No one who is familiar with the history of this "seeker after God,"
this philosopher who was a pagan John the Baptist in the severity and
purity of his mode of life, and in the position which he occupied on
the border-line between paganism and Christianity, and who left behind
him some of the noblest utterances of antiquity, can gaze upon this
interesting bas-relief without being deeply moved. It speaks
eloquently of the little dependence to be placed upon the favour of
princes; and it points a powerful moral that has been repeatedly
enforced in sacred as well as profane history, that he who becomes the
accomplice of another in crime, strikes, by that complicity, the
death-blow of friendship, and makes himself more hated than even the
victim of the crime had been. When Seneca sanctioned, and then
defended on political grounds, the matricide of Nero, from that moment
his own doom was sealed. Over the former "guide, philosopher, and
friend," the shadow of this guilty secret rested, and it deepened and
darkened until the pupil embrued his hands in the blood of his
teacher. This touching fragment of sculpture is all that now remains
of the earthly pomp of one who at one time stood on the very highest
summit of human wisdom. There is no likelihood that he ever met the
Apostle Paul during his residence in the imperial city, or learned
from him any of those precepts that are so wonderfully Christian in
their spirit and even words; although an early Christian forger
thought it worth while to fabricate a supposititious correspondence
between them. The only link of connection between them was the
problematical one that St. Paul, with his wide sympathies, may have
gazed with interest upon Seneca's villa, as it was pointed out to him
on his journey to Rome; and that he was on one occasion dragged as a
prisoner into the presence of Seneca's elder brother, that Gallio who
dismissed the charge and the accusers with contempt.

Passing two massive fragments of a wall, which are supposed to have
formed part of a small temple of Jupiter, beside which numerous
Christians suffered martyrdom, we come, at the fifth milestone, to a
spot associated with one of those poetical legends which occur in the
early annals of all nations, and whose hold upon the minds of men is
itself an historic truth. Here was the boundary between the territory
of Rome and that of Alba. Here was situated the entrenchment called
the Cluilian Dyke, where Hannibal encamped, and where previously the
Roman and Alban armies were drawn up in battle array, when it was
agreed that the quarrel between them should be settled by three
champions chosen from each side. Every one knows the story of the
Horatii and the Curiatii: how these hapless brothers and cousins
fought in sight of both armies with a bravery worthy of the stake; and
how, at length, when two of the Roman heroes were slain, and all the
Albans were wounded, the third Roman, who was unhurt, feigned to fly,
and thus separating his enemies, who followed him as well as their
failing strength would permit, easily despatched them one after the
other, and thus gained the victory for the Roman cause. This terrible
tragedy, which terminated the independent existence of the Alban
power, took place in the fields around here; and on the right-hand
side of the road are three huge circular mounds, overgrown with long
rich grass, planted with tall cypress and ilex trees, and surrounded
at the foot with a wall of huge peperino blocks, which antiquarians
have determined to be the tombs of the five slaughtered
combatants--the farther mound being that of the two Horatii, the
second that of one of the Curiatii, and the third that of the other
two Curiatii. These tombs are situated exactly where we should have
expected to find them from the description of Livy; and they are
evidently of far older date than any of the neighbouring tombs of the
imperial period. Their form and construction carry us back in
imagination to the earliest days of Rome, when Etruscan architecture
was universally adopted as a model. For more than twenty-five
centuries the huge tent-like mounds have stood, so strikingly
different in character from all the other sepulchral monuments of the
Appian Way; preserved by the reverential care of successive
generations. The modern Romans have not been behind the ancient in the
pride with which they have regarded these monuments. They have
planted them with the splendid cypress-trees which now add so much to
their picturesqueness, and annually repair the ravages of time. I
climbed up the steep sides through the long slippery grass to the
summits of two of the mounds, and had a grand view of the whole scene
of the tragic story, bathed in the dim misty light which always broods
over the melancholy Campagna like the spectral presence of the past.
The sunshine strove in vain to gild the dark shadows which the
cypresses threw over the mound at my feet, and the lonely wind wailed
wildly through their closely-huddled shivering branches around me.

On the opposite side of the road, beyond the earthen mounds of the
Horatii and Curiatii, a large mass of picturesque ruins covers the
Campagna for a considerable distance. The peasants persist in calling
this spot _Roma Vecchia_, under the idea that ancient Rome stood
there, and that these ruins are the remains of the city. Antiquarians,
however, are agreed that the ruins belong to the large suburban villa
of the Quintilii, one of the noblest and most virtuous families of
ancient Rome. One member, the celebrated rhetorician Quintilian, was
the first who enjoyed the regular salary allotted by Vespasian to
those who provided a solid education for the upper classes. In the
time of the Emperor Commodus the villa was owned by two brothers of
the Quintilian family, Maximus and Condianus, whose fraternal love is
as well known almost as the friendship of Damon and Pythias. They were
inseparable in all their pursuits and pleasures; they shared this
villa and the surrounding property together; they composed a treatise
in common, some fragments of which still survive. They were raised
together to the consular dignity by Marcus Aurelius, who greatly
valued their virtue and their mutual attachment, and were entrusted
together with the civil government of Greece. They were both falsely
accused of taking part in a plot against the emperor's life; and
Commodus, who coveted their property, had them both put to death
together. The tyrant then took possession of their villa, which became
as notorious for the evil deeds done in it as it was famous before for
the virtuous life of its owners. Here Commodus, the base son of a
heroic father, practised those lusts and brutalities which have
branded his name as that of one of the most unmitigated monsters that
ever stained the pages of history. It was here that the
people--exasperated by their sufferings through fire and famine, by
the open sale of justice and all public offices, and by the blood shed
in the streets by the prætorian cavalry--surrounded the villa, and
demanded the head of Cleander, a Phrygian slave whom Commodus had
placed at the helm of state because he pandered to his master's vices,
and gratified him with rich presents obtained by the vilest means. At
the entreaties of his sister and his favourite concubine, the emperor
sacrificed his minister, who was with him at the time, sharing in his
guilty pleasures; and threw out, from one of the windows of the villa,
the bloody head among the crowd, who gratified their vengeance by
tossing it about like a football. Here, too, the wretched emperor
himself was first poisoned by a cup of wine given to him by his
favourite mistress Marcia, on his return weary and thirsty from the
Colosseum; and then, as the poison operated too slowly, was strangled
in his heavy drugged sleep by his favourite gladiator Narcissus. One
could not look upon the bare masses of ruins around without thinking
of the terrible orgies that took place there, and of the shout of
enthusiastic joy when the news reached Rome that the detested tyrant
was no more, and the empire was free to breathe again. The fate of
Ahab, who coveted the vineyard of Naboth, overtook him; and but for
the interference of his successor, the maddened populace would have
dragged his corpse through the streets and flung it into the Tiber.

A very extraordinary tomb arrests the attention near the ruins of this
villa. It looks like an inverted pyramid, or a huge architectural
mushroom. This appearance has been given to the monument by the
removal of the large blocks of stone which formed the basement,
leaving the massive superincumbent weight to be supported on a very
narrow stalk of conglomerate masonry. It is a striking proof of the
extraordinary solidity and tenacity of Roman architecture, defying the
laws of gravitation. It is called the sepulchre of the Metelli, the
family of Cæcilia Metella; but this is a mere guess, as there is no
record or inscription to identify it. Next to this singular monument
are the remains of a tomb which must be exceedingly interesting to
every classical scholar. The inscription indicates that it is the tomb
of Quintus Cæcilius, whose nephew and adopted son, Titus Pomponius
Atticus, as Cornelius Nepos tells us, was buried in it. This
celebrated Roman knight was descended in a direct line from Numa
Pompilius. Withdrawing from the civil discords of Rome, he took up his
abode in Athens, where he devoted himself to literary and philosophic
pursuits and acquired a knowledge of the Greek language so perfect
that he could not be distinguished from a native. At the Greek
capital, the then university of the world, he secured the devoted
friendship of his fellow-student Cicero, whose brother was afterwards
married to his sister; and to this intimacy we owe the largest portion
of Cicero's unrivalled letters, in which he describes his inmost
feelings, as well as the events going on around him. The uncle of
Atticus, the brother of his mother, whose family tomb we are now
examining, left him at his death an enormous fortune, which he had
amassed by usury. Atticus added greatly to it by acting as a kind of
publisher to the authors of the day--that is, by employing his
numerous slaves in copying and multiplying their manuscripts. He kept
himself free from all the political factions of the times, and thus
managed to preserve the mutual regard of parties who were hostile to
each other,--such as Cæsar and Pompey, Brutus and Antony. He reached
the age of seventy-seven years without having had a day's illness;
and when at last stricken with an incurable disease, in the spirit of
the Epicurean philosophy, since he could enjoy life no longer he
starved himself to death, and was interred in his uncle's tomb on the
Appian Way. Almost side by side with this ruin is the sepulchre of the
family of Cicero's wife, the Terentii, who were related to Pomponius
Atticus by the mother's side. In all likelihood Terentia herself,
Cicero's brave and devoted but ill-used wife, was interred here with
her own friends, for her husband had divorced her in order to marry a
beautiful and rich young heiress, whose guardian he had been.

Passing on the same side of the road two or three tombs of obscure
persons whose names alone are known, we come at the sixth milestone to
one of the most extraordinary sepulchral monuments of the Appian Way,
called the _Casale Rotondo_. This monument marks the limit to which
most visitors extend their explorations. It is circular, like the tomb
of Cæcilia Metella; but it is of far larger dimensions, being nearly
three hundred and fifty feet in diameter. In the fifteenth century
this colossal ruin was converted into a fortress by the Orsini family;
and of the remains of this fortification a farmhouse and other
buildings were constructed, and these now stand on the summit,
surrounded by a tolerably-sized oliveyard and garden, with a sloping
grass-grown stair leading up to them on the outside. Notwithstanding
their dislike of death and their horror of dead bodies, the modern
Romans have no more repugnance to the proximity of tombs than their
ancestors had. Shepherds fold their sheep and goats in the interior of
the old tombs, whose walls are blackened with the smoke of the fires,
and retain an odour of human and animal occupancy more disagreeable
than any which the original tenants could have exhaled; and it is by
no means unfrequent to find a wine-shop, with a noisy company of
wayfarers regaling themselves, in a sepulchre that happens to be
conveniently situated by the wayside. So far as can be ascertained,
the original appearance of the _Casale Rotondo_ seems to have been
that of an enormous circular tower, cased with large blocks of
travertine, covered with a pyramidal roof of the same material carved
into the semblance of tiles, and surmounted with appropriate
sculpture. It was surrounded with a wall of peperino, supporting at
intervals vases and statues; and on the outside were semicircular
stone seats for the benefit of weary wayfarers. This wall is now grown
over with turf, but it can be distinctly traced all round; and the
hollow space between it and the tomb is covered with thick grass, and
is sometimes filled with water like a fosse. Numerous altars,
pedestals, and fine specimens of sculpture in marble and peperino,
have been disinterred in this spot, and they are now arranged to
advantage at the foot of the huge pile fronting the road. Some of
these bear inscriptions which would indicate that the tomb was erected
to Messalla Corvinus, the friend of Horace and Augustus, and himself a
distinguished historian and poet as well as one of the most
influential senators of Rome, by his son Marcus Aurelius Corvinus
Cotta, who was consul some years after his father's death. Corvinus
died in the eleventh year of our era, so that the tomb has stood for
upwards of eighteen centuries and a half; and it is as likely to stand
as many more, for what remains of it is as firm and enduring as a
rock. In the farmhouse built on its massive platform several
generations have lived and died. They have eaten and drunk, they have
married and been given in marriage, they have cultivated their vines
and olives and consumed their products. And all the time their home
and their field of labour have been on a tomb! I did not see the
tenants of this curious dwelling during my visit; but if the skeleton
at the Egyptian feast was a useful reminder of human mortality to the
revellers, one would suppose that the thought of the peculiar
character of their home would be sufficient to impart a soberer hue
to their lives. What is our earth itself but, on a vaster scale, a
_Casale Rotondo_--a garden in a sepulchre--where the dust we tread on
was once alive; and we reap our daily bread from human mould--

    "Earth builds on the earth castles and towers,
    Earth says to the earth--All shall be ours."

At a distance of about seven minutes' walk is an enormous circular
tomb, with a medieval tower of lava stones erected upon it, called the
_Torre di Selce_; but there is nothing to indicate who was interred in
it, though it must have been a person of some celebrity at the time.
An inscription upon a tomb beside it naively tells the passer-by to
respect the last resting-place of one who had a shop on the _Via
Sacra_, where he sold jewellery and millinery, and was held in much
estimation by his customers. Beyond this point there is nothing of any
special interest to arrest our attention, till we come to a
considerable mass of ruins, consisting of broken Doric columns of
peperino, part of a rough mosaic floor and brick pavement, and
fragments of walls lined with tufa squares in the _opus reticulatum_
pattern. These remains are supposed to mark the spot on which stood
the Temple of Hercules, erected by Domitian, and alluded to in one of
the epigrams of the poet Martial. Near this spot are the tomb of the
consul Quintus Veranius, who died in Britain in the year 55 of our
era; a lofty circular tomb, to some one unknown, with a rude
shepherd's hut on the top of it, to which the peasants have given the
name of Torraccio; and the tomb of a marble contractor. It may be
remarked, in connection with this last mentioned tomb, that a Roman
statuary had his workshops for the manufacture of sepulchral monuments
and sarcophagi on the Appian Way, which were of great extent, judging
from the quantity of sculpture, finished and unfinished, found on the
spot. All the sculpture was manifestly copied from Greek originals,
for it is hardly conceivable that such groupings and expressions as
we see in these bad copies could have been first executed by such
inferior artists. In this neighbourhood were the villa and farm of the
poet Persius, and portions of the wall are still standing. At the
ninth milestone are the tomb and the remains of the villa of the
Emperor Gallienus, slain by a conspiracy among his officers at the
siege of Milan in the year 268. This emperor has left nothing behind
but the memory of his luxury and his vices. When the site of the villa
was excavated by an English artist, Gavin Hamilton, at the end of last
century, the famous statue of the Discobolus and several other
specimens of ancient sculpture were discovered, which are now in the
Vatican Gallery. The ground hereabouts produces a whitish
efflorescence, and emits a most offensive sulphurous smell. It
exhibits the same evidences of recent volcanic activity as the
neighbourhood of Lakes Tartarus and Solfatara on the way to Tivoli.

The road after this descends into a valley, through which the stream
of the Ponticello flows, passing a most massive circular tomb,
reminding one of the mounds of the Horatii and Curiatii; and as it
ascends gradually on the opposite side, two huge sepulchres of the
Imperial period--one on the right hand and the other on the
left--attract notice, and are the last on this part of the route. The
railway to Naples passes across the road at the eleventh milestone,
and disturbs the solemn silence three or four times a day by its
incongruous noise. Beyond this is the osteria and village of
Frattocchie, where the old Appian Way merges into the new, and ascends
continuously to Albano. This neighbourhood is full of historical
associations. It was at Frattocchie that the body of Clodius was left
lying on the road after his fatal encounter with Milo. This fray
furnished the occasion for one of Cicero's most eloquent
speeches,--that in defence of Milo,--which was written, but owing to
the disturbances in the Forum at the time was not delivered. On the
left of the village, near a railway bridge and several quarries of
very old hard lava, is the site of Appiolæ, one of the cities of the
Latin League, destroyed by Tarquinius Priscus. All the male population
were killed, and the women and children transferred to Rome; and with
the spoils the Capitolium was completed. The remains of the old city
are very slight, consisting of a wall, a few vestiges of a temple, and
some foundations on a cliff surrounded by a stream, which could be
dammed up and flooded so as to form a fosse. On the right of
Frattocchie are the ruins of _Bovillæ_, taken and plundered by
Coriolanus, and deserted in the time of Cicero. Some arches of the
corridor of an amphitheatre, a reservoir for water, tolerably perfect,
and a circus, are still visible. There are also the ruins of a forum.
The view, looking back from this elevated position upon the long
course of the Appian Way, is exceedingly striking. One feels, when
gazing on the long perspective of rugged and mouldering sepulchres,
the full force of the name _Strada del Diavolo_ which the peasants
give to this street of tombs; and can sympathise with the sentiment
that made Charles Dickens say, when standing here at sunset, after
having walked all the way from Rome, "I almost felt as if the sun
would never rise again, but look its last that night upon a ruined

We can picture St. Paul's memorable journey from Puteoli to Rome by
this route. The thought that the eye of the great apostle must have
rested upon the same features of the landscape, and many of the same
objects, though now in ruins, that we still behold, invests them with
an indescribable charm. From beyond the gates of Albano, near which
stood the lofty tomb of Pompey, whose ashes had only recently been
brought from the scene of his murder in Egypt, by his devoted wife
Cornelia, he would obtain his first glimpse of Rome. And if now it is
the most thrilling moment in a man's life to see Rome in its ruin,
what must it have been to see it then in its glory! We can imagine
that, with the profound emotion of his Master when gazing upon the
splendour of Jerusalem from the slope of Olivet, St. Paul would look
down from that spot on the capital of the world, and see before him
the signs of a magnificence never before or since equalled; but alas!
as he knew well, a magnificence that was only the iridescence of
social and spiritual corruption, as the pomp of the sepulchres of the
Appian Way was but the shroud of death. Doubtless with a sad and
pitying heart, he would be led by the cohort of soldiers along the
street of tombs, then the most crowded approach to a city of nearly
two millions of souls; tombs whose massiveness and solidity were but a
vain craving for immortality, and whose epitaphs were the most deeply
touching of all epitaphs, on account of the profound despair with
which they bade their eternal farewell. Entering into Rome through the
Porta Capena; and winding through the valley between the Coelian and
Aventine hills, crowded with temples and palaces, he would be brought
to the Forum, then a scene of indescribable grandeur; and from thence
he would be finally transferred to the charge of Burrus, the prefect
of the imperial guards, at the prætorium of Nero's palace, on the
Palatine. And here he disappears from our view. We only know of a
certainty that for two whole years "he dwelt in his own hired house,
and received all that came in unto him, preaching the kingdom of God,
and teaching those things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, with all
confidence, no man forbidding him."

Of all the splendid associations of the Appian Way, along which
history may be said to have marched exclusively for nigh six hundred
years, the most splendid by far is its connection with this
ever-memorable journey of the great Apostle of the Gentiles. We can
trace the influence of the scenes and objects along the route in all
his subsequent writings. He had a deeper yearning for the Gentiles,
because he thus beheld with his own eyes the places associated with
the darkest aspects of paganism; the scenes that gave rise to the
pagan ideas of heaven and hell; the splendid temples in which the
human soul had debased itself to objects beneath the dignity of its
own nature, and thus prepared itself for all moral corruption; and the
massive sepulchral monuments in which the hopeless despair of
heathenism had, as it were, become petrified by the Gorgon gaze of
death. That Appian Way should be to us the most interesting of all the
roads of the world; for by it came to us our civilisation and
Christianity--the divine principles and hopes that redeem the soul,
retrieve the vanity of existence, open up the path of life through the
dark valley of death, and disclose the glorious vista of immortality
beyond the tomb. And as we gaze upon the remains of that road, and
feel how much we owe to it as the material channel of God's grace to
us who were far off, we can say with deepest gratitude of those
apostles and martyrs who once walked on this lava pavement, but are
now standing on the sea of glass before the throne, "How beautiful are
the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad
tidings of good things!"



A part of the monotonous coast-line of Palestine extends into the
Mediterranean considerably beyond the rest at Carmel. In this bluff
promontory the Holy Land reaches out, as it were, towards the Western
World; and like a tie-stone that projects from the gable of the first
of a row of houses, indicating that other buildings are to be added,
it shows that the inheritance of Israel was not meant to be always
exclusive, but was destined to comprehend all the countries which its
faith should annex. The remarkable geographical position of this long
projecting ridge by the sea--itself a symbol and prophecy--and its
peculiar physical features, differing from those of the rest of
Palestine, and approximating to a European type of scenery, early
marked it out as a religious spot. It was held sacred from time
immemorial; an altar existed there long before Elijah's discomfiture
of the priests of Baal; the people were accustomed to resort to the
sanctuary of its "high place" during new moons and Sabbaths; and to
its haunted strand came pilgrims from distant regions, to which the
fame of its sanctity had spread. One of the great schools of the
prophets of Israel, superintended by Elisha, was planted on one of its
mountain prominences. The solitary Elijah found a refuge in its bosom,
and came and went from it to the haunts of men like one of its own
sudden storms; and in its rocky dells and dense thickets of oaks and
evergreens were uttered prophecies of a larger history and a grander
salvation, which transcended the narrow circle of Jewish ideas as much
as the excellency of Carmel transcended the other landscapes of

To this instance of striking correspondence between the peculiar
nature of a spot and its peculiar religious history in Asia, a
parallel may be found in Europe. A part of the long uniform western
coast-line of Italy stretches out into the Mediterranean at Cumæ, near
the city of Naples. Early colonists from Greece, in search of a new
home, found in its bays, islands, and promontories a touching
resemblance to the intricate coast scenery of their own country. On a
solitary rock overlooking the sea they built their citadel and
established their worship. In this rock was the traditional cave of
the Cumæan Sibyl, where she gave utterance to the inspirations of
pagan prophecy a thousand years before St. John received the visions
of the Apocalypse on the lone heights of the Ægean isle. The
promontory of Cumæ, like that of Carmel, typified the onward course of
history and religion--a great advance in men's ideas upon those of the
past. The western sea-board is the historic side of Italy. All its
great cities and renowned sites are on the western side of the
Apennines; the other side, looking eastward, with the exception of
Venice and Ravenna, containing hardly any place that stands out
prominently in the history of the world. And at Cumæ this western
tendency of Italy was most pronounced. On this westmost promontory of
the beautiful land--the farthest point reached by the oldest
civilisation of Egypt and Greece--the Sibyl stood on her watch-tower,
and gazed with prophetic eye upon the distant horizon, seeing beyond
the light of the setting sun and "the baths of all the western stars"
the dawn of a more wonderful future, and dreamt of a--

    "Vast brotherhood of hearts and hands,
    Choir of a world in perfect tune."

Cumæ is only five miles distant from Puteoli, and about thirteen west
of Naples. But it lies so much out of the way that it is difficult to
combine it with the other famous localities in this classic
neighbourhood in one day's excursion, and hence it is very often
omitted. It amply, however, repays a special visit, not so much by
what it reveals as by what it suggests. There are two ways by which it
can be approached, either by the _Via Cumana_, which gradually ascends
from Puteoli along the ridge of the low volcanic hills on the western
side of Lake Avernus, and passes under the Arco Felice, a huge brick
arch, evidently a fragment of an ancient Roman aqueduct, spanning a
ravine at a great height; or directly from the western shore of Lake
Avernus, by an ancient road paved with blocks of lava, and leading
through an enormous tunnel, called the _Grotta de Pietro Pace_, about
three-quarters of a mile long, lighted at intervals by shafts from
above, said to have been excavated by Agrippa. Both ways are deeply
interesting; but the latter is perhaps preferable because of the
saving of time and trouble which it effects.

The first glimpse of Cumæ, though very impressive to the imagination,
is not equally so to the eye. Crossing some cultivated fields, a bold
eminence of trachytic tufa, covered with scanty grass and tufts of
brushwood, rises between you and the sea, forming part of a range of
low hills, which evidently mark the ancient coast-line. On this
elevated plateau, commanding a most splendid view of the blue, sunlit
Mediterranean as far as Gaeta and the Ponza Islands, stood the almost
mythical city; and crowning its highest point, where a rocky
escarpment, broken down on every side except on the south, by which it
can be ascended, the massive foundations of the walls of the Acropolis
may still be traced throughout their whole extent. Very few relics of
the original Greek colony survive; and these have to be sought chiefly
underneath the remains of Roman-Gothic and medieval dynasties, which
successively occupied the place, and partially obliterated each other,
like the different layers of writing in a palimpsest. Time and the
passions of man have dealt more ruthlessly with this than with almost
any other of the renowned spots of Italy. Some fragments of the
ancient fortifications, a confused and scattered heap of ruins within
the line of the city walls, and a portion of a fluted column, and a
single Doric capital of the grand old style, supposed to belong to the
temple of Apollo, on the summit of the Acropolis, are all that meet
the eye to remind us of this home of ancient faith and prophecy. In
the plain at the foot of the rock is the Necropolis of Cumæ, the most
ancient burial-place in Italy, from whose rifled Greek graves a most
valuable collection of archaic vases and personal ornaments were
obtained and transferred to the museums of Naples, Paris, and St.
Petersburg; but the tombs themselves have now been destroyed, and only
a few marble fragments of Roman sepulchral decoration scattered around
indicate the spot. And not far off, partially concealed by earth and
underwood, may be seen the ruins of the amphitheatre, with its
twenty-one tiers of seats leading down to the arena.

You look in vain for any trace of the sanctuary of the most celebrated
of the Sibyls. Her tomb is pointed out as a vague ruin a short
distance from the Necropolis, among the tombs which line the Via
Domitiana; and Justin Martyr and Pausanias both describe a round
cinerary urn found in this spot which was said to have contained her
ashes. The tufa rock of the Acropolis is pierced with numerous dark
caverns and labyrinthine passages, the work of prehistoric
inhabitants, which have only been partially explored on account of the
difficulty and danger, and any one of which might have been the abode
of the prophetess. A larger excavation in the side of the hill facing
the sea, with a flight of steps leading up from it into another
smaller recess, and numerous lateral openings and subterranean
passages, supposed to penetrate into the very heart of the mountain,
and even to communicate with Lake Fusaro, is pointed out by the local
guides as the Sibyl's Cave, which, as Virgil tells us, had a hundred
entrances and issues, from whence as many resounding voices echoed
forth the oracles of the inspired priestess. But we are confused in
our efforts at identification; for another cavern bore this name in
former ages, which was destroyed by the explosion of the combustible
materials with which Narses filled it in undermining the citadel.
This, we have reason to believe, was the cave which Justin Martyr
visited more than seventeen hundred years ago, and of which he has
left behind a most interesting account. "We saw," he says, "when we
were in Cumæ, a place where a sanctuary is hollowed in the rock--a
thing really wonderful and worthy of all admiration. Here the Sibyl
delivered her oracles, we were told by those who had received them
from their ancestors, and who kept them even as their patrimony. Also,
in the middle of the sanctuary, they showed us three receptacles cut
in the same rock, and in which, they being filled with water, she
bathed, as they said, and when she resumed her garments, she retired
into the inner part of the sanctuary, likewise cut in the same rock,
and there being seated on a high place in the centre, she prophesied."
But after all you do not care to fasten your attention upon any
particular spot, for you feel that the whole place is overshadowed by
the presence of this mysterious being; and rock, and hill, and bush
are invested with an air of solemn majesty, and with the memory of an
ancient sanctity.

Nature has taken back the ruins of Cumæ so completely to her own
bosom, that it is difficult to believe that on this desolate spot once
stood one of the most powerful cities of antiquity, which colonised a
large part of Southern Italy. A sad, lonely, fateful place it is,
haunted for ever by the gods of old, the dreams of men. A silence,
almost painful in its intensity, broods over its deserted fields;
hardly a living thing disturbs the solitude; and the traces of man's
occupancy are few and faint. The air seems heavy with the breath of
the malaria; and no one would care to run the risk of fever by
lingering on the spot to watch the sunset gilding the gloom of the
Acropolis with a halo of kindred radiance. Every breeze that stirs the
tall grasses and the leaves of the brushwood of the dismantled citadel
has a wail in it; the long-drawn murmur of the peaceful sea at the
foot of the hill comes up with a melancholy cadence to the ear; and
even on the beautiful cyclamens and veronicas that strive to enliven
the ruins of the temples of Apollo and Serapis, emblems of the
immortal youth and signs of the renewing power of Nature as they are,
has fallen the gray shadow of the past. Each pathetic bit of ruin has
about it the consciousness of an almost fabulous antiquity, and by its
very vagueness appeals more powerfully to the imagination than any
historical associations. "Time here seems to have folded its wings."
In the immemorial calm that is in the air a thousand years seem as one
day. Through all the dim ages no feature of its rugged face has
changed; and all the potent spell of summer noons can only win from it
a languid smile of faintest verdure. The sight of the scanty walls and
scattered bits of Greek sculpture here take you back to the speechless
ages that have left no other memorials of their activity. What is fact
and what is fable it were difficult to tell in this far-away
borderland where they seem to blend. And I do not envy the man who is
not deeply moved at the thought of the simple, old-world piety that
placed a holy presence in this solitary spot, and of the tender awe
with which the mysterious divinity of Cumæ was worshipped by
generations of like passions and sorrows with ourselves--whose very
graves under the shadow of this romantic hill had vanished long ages
before our history had begun.

Every schoolboy is familiar with the picturesque Roman legend of the
Sibyl. It is variously told in connection with the elder and the later
Tarquin, the two Etruscan kings of Rome; and the scene of it is laid
by some in Cumæ--where Tarquinius Superbus spent the last years of
his life in exile--and by others in Rome. But the majority of writers
associate it with the building of the great temple of Jupiter on the
Capitoline Hill. Several prodigies, significant of the future fate of
Rome and of the reigning dynasty, occurred when the foundations of
this temple were dug and the walls of it built. A fresh human head,
dripping gore, was found deep down beneath the earth, which implied
that this spot was destined to become the head of the whole world; and
hence the old name of the "Saturnine Hill" was changed to the
"Capitoline." All the gods who had been worshipped from time
immemorial on this hill, when consulted by auguries, gave permission
for the removal of their shrines and altars in order that room might
be provided for the gigantic temple of the great Ruler of the gods,
save Terminus and Youth, who refused to abandon the sacred spot, and
whose obstinacy was therefore regarded as a sign that the boundaries
of the city should never be removed, and that her youth would be
perpetually renewed. But a still more wonderful sign of the future of
Rome was given on this occasion. A mysterious woman, endowed with
preternatural longevity--believed to be no other than Deiphobe, the
Cumæan Sibyl herself, the daughter of Circe and Gnostus, who had been
the guide of Æneas into the world of the dead--appeared before Tarquin
and offered him for a certain price nine books, which contained her
prophecies in mystic rhyme. Tarquin, ignorant of the value of the
books, refused to buy them. The Sibyl departed, and burned three of
them. Coming back immediately, she offered the remaining six at the
same price that she had asked for the nine. Tarquin again refused;
whereupon the Sibyl burned three more volumes, and returning the third
time, made the same demand for the reduced remnant. Struck with the
singularity of the proceeding, the king consulted the augurs; and
learning from them the inestimable preciousness of the books, he
bought them, and the Sibyl forthwith vanished as mysteriously as she
had appeared. This legend reads like a moral apothegm on the
increasing value of life as it passes away.

Whatever credence we may attach to this account of their origin--or
rather, whatever sediment of historical truth may have been
precipitated in the fable--there can be no doubt that the so-called
Sibylline books of Rome did actually exist, and that for a very long
period they were held in the highest veneration. They were concealed
in a stone chest, buried under the ground, in the temple of Jupiter,
on the Capitol. Two officers of the highest rank were appointed to
guard them, whose punishment, if found unfaithful to their trust, was
to be sewed up alive in a sack and thrown into the sea. The number of
guardians was afterwards increased, at first to ten and then to
fifteen, whose priesthood was for life, and who in consequence were
exempted from the obligation of serving in the army and from other
public offices in the city. Being regarded as the priests of Apollo,
they had each in front of his house a brazen tripod, similar to that
on which the priestess of Delphi sat.

The contents of the Sibylline books, being supposed to contain the
fate of the Roman Empire, were kept a profound secret, and only on
occasions of public danger or calamity, and by special order of the
senate, were they allowed to be consulted. When the Capitol was burned
in the Marsic war, eighty-two years before Christ, they perished in
the flames: but so seriously was the loss regarded that ambassadors
were sent to Greece, Asia Minor, and Cumæ, wherever Sibylline
inspiration was supposed to exist, to collect the prophetic oracles,
and thus make up as far as possible for what had been lost. In Cumæ
nothing was discovered; but at Erythræa and Samos a large number of
mystic verses, said to have been composed by the Sibyl, were found.
Some of them were collected into a volume, after having been purged
from all spurious or suspected elements; and the volume was brought to
Rome, and deposited in two gilt cases at the base of the statue of
Apollo, in the temple of that god on the Palatine.

More than two thousand prophetic books, pretending to be Sibylline
oracles, were found by Augustus in the possession of private persons;
and these were condemned to be burned, and in future no private person
was allowed to keep any writings of the kind. But in spite of every
attempt to authenticate the books that were publicly accepted, the new
collection was never regarded with the same veneration as the original
volumes of Tarquin which it replaced. A certain suspicion of
spuriousness continued to cling to it, and greatly diminished its
authority. It was seldom consulted. The Roman emperors after
Tiberius--who still further sifted it--utterly neglected the
received collection; and not till shortly before the fatal battle of
the Milvian Bridge, which overthrew paganism, was it again brought
out, by Maxentius, for the purpose of indicating the fate of the
enterprise. Julian the Apostate, in his attempt to galvanise the dead
pagan religion into the semblance of life, sought to revive an
interest in the Sibylline oracles, which were so closely identified
with the political and religious fortunes of Rome. But his effort was
vain: they fell into greater oblivion than before; and at last they
were publicly burned by Stilicho, the father-in-law of the Emperor
Honorius--called the Defender of Italy--whose own execution as a
traitor at Ravenna shortly afterwards was considered by the pagan
zealots as the just vengeance of the gods on his dreadful sacrilege.

Unlike the Jewish and Indian faiths, the Greek and Roman religions had
no authoritative writings, and were not embodied in a system of
elaborate dogmas. The Sibylline oracles may therefore be said to have
formed their sacred scriptures, and to have served the purpose of a
common religious creed in securing national unity. The original books
of the Cumæan Sibyl were written in Greek, which was the language of
the whole of the south of Italy at that time. The oracles were
inscribed upon palm leaves; to which circumstance Virgil alludes in
his description of the sayings of the Cumæan Sibyl being written upon
the leaves of the forest. They were in the form of acrostic verses;
the letters of the first verse of each oracle containing in regular
sequence the initial letters of all the subsequent verses. They were
full of enigmas and mysterious analogies, founded upon the numerical
value of the initial letters of certain names. It is supposed that
they contained not so much predictions of future events, as directions
regarding the means by which the wrath of the gods, as revealed by
prodigies and calamities, might be appeased. They seemed to have been
consulted in the same way as Eastern nations consult the Koran and
Hafiz. There was no attempt made to find a passage suitable to the
occasion, but one of the palm leaves after being shuffled was selected
at random. To this custom of drawing fateful leaves from the Sibylline
books--called in consequence _sortes sibyllinæ_--there is frequent
allusion by classic authors. We know that the writings of Homer and
Virgil were thus treated. The elevation of Septimius Severus to the
throne of the Roman Empire was supposed to have been foretold by the
circumstance that he opened by chance the writings of Lampridius at
the verse, "Remember, Roman, with imperial sway to rule the people."
The Bible itself was used by the early Christians for such purposes of
divination. St. Augustine, though he condemned the practice as an
abuse of the Divine Word, yet preferred that men should have recourse
to the Gospels rather than to heathen works. Heraclius is reported by
Cedrenus to have asked counsel of the New Testament, and to have been
thereby persuaded to winter in Albania. Nicephorus Gregoras frequently
opened his Psalter at random in order that there he might find support
in the trial under which he laboured. And even in these enlightened
days, it is by no means rare to find superstitious men and women using
the sacred Scriptures as the old Greeks and Romans used the Sibylline
oracles--dipping into them by chance for indications of the Divine

The Cumæan Sibyl was not the only prophetess of the kind. There were
no less than ten females, endowed with the gift of prevision, and held
in high repute, to whom the name of Sibyl was given. We read of the
Persian Sibyl, the Libyan, the Delphic, the Erythræan, the
Hellespontine, the Phrygian, and the Tiburtine. With the name of the
last-mentioned Sibyl tourists make acquaintance at Tivoli. Two ancient
temples in tolerable preservation are still standing on the very edge
of the deep rocky ravine through which the Anio pours its foaming
flood. The one is a small circular building, with ten pillars
surrounding the broken-down cella, whose familiar appearance is often
represented in plaster models and bronze and marble ornamental
articles, taken home as souvenirs by travellers; and the other stands
close by, and has been transformed into the present church of St.
Giorgio. This latter temple is supposed, from a bas-relief found in
it, representing the Sibyl sitting in the act of delivering an oracle,
to be the ancient shrine of the Sibyl Albunea mentioned by Horace,
Tibullus, and Lactantius. The earliest bronze statues at Rome were
those of the three Sibyls, placed near the Rostra, in the middle of
the Forum. No specimens of the literature of Rome precede the
Sibylline books, except the rude hymn known as the Litany of the Arval
Brothers, dating from the time of Romulus himself, which is simply an
address to Mars, the Lares, and the Semones, praying for fair weather
and for protection to the flocks. And it is thus most interesting to
notice that the two compositions which lay at the foundation of all
the splendid Latin literature of later ages were of an eminently
religious character.

One of the most remarkable things connected with the pagan Sibyls were
the apocryphal Jewish and Christian prophecies to which they gave
rise. When the sacred oak of Dodona perished down to the ground, out
of its roots sprang up a fresh growth of fictitious prophetic
literature. This literature emanated from different nationalities and
different schools of thought. It combined classical story and
Scripture tradition. Most of it was the product of pre-Christian
Judaism, and seemed to have been composed in times of great national
excitement. The misery of the present, the prospect still more gloomy
beyond, impelled its authors to anxious inquiries into the future. The
books were written, like the genuine Sibylline books, in the metrical
form, which the old Greek tradition had consecrated to religious use;
and their style so closely resembled that of the Apocalypse and the
Old Testament prophecies, that some pagan writers who accepted them as
genuine did not hesitate to say that the writers of the Bible had
plagiarised parts of their prophecies from the oracles of the Sibyls.

Few fragments of the genuine Sibylline books remain to us, and these
are to be found chiefly in the writings of Ovid and Virgil, whose
"Golden Age" and well-known "Fourth Eclogue" were greatly indebted for
their materials to them. But we possess a large collection of the
Judæo-Christian oracles, which were probably gathered together by some
unknown editor in the seventh century. Originally there were fourteen
books of unequal antiquity and value, but some of them have been lost.
Cardinal Angelo Mai discovered in the Ambrosian Library at Milan a
manuscript which contained the eleventh book entire, besides a portion
of the sixth and eighth books; and a few years later, among the secret
stores of the Vatican Library, he found two other manuscripts which
contained entire the last four books of the collection. These were
published in Rome in 1828. The best edition of all the extant books is
that which M. Alexandre issued in Paris, under the name of _Oracula
Sibyllina_. This editor exaggerates the extent of the Christian
element in the Sibylline prophecies; but his dissertation on the
origin and value of the several portions of the books is exceedingly
interesting. The oldest book is undoubtedly the third, part of which
is preserved in the writings of Theophilus of Antioch, and originally
consisted of one thousand verses, most of which we possess. It was
probably composed at the beginning of the Maccabean period, about 146
B.C., when Ptolemy VII. (Physcon) had become king of Egypt, and the
bitter enemy of the Jews in Alexandria, and when the Jewish nation in
Palestine had been rejoicing in their independence, through the
overthrow of the empire of the Seleucidæ by the usurper Tryphon. The
fourth book was written soon after the eruption of Vesuvius in the
year of our era 79, and is a most interesting record of Jewish
Essenism. It contains the first anticipation of the return of Nero,
but in a Jewish form, without Nero's death and resuscitation. The last
of the Sibylline books seems to have been written about the beginning
of the seventh century, and was directed against the new creed of
Islam, which had suddenly sprung up, and in its fierce fanaticism was
carrying everything before it. In this apocalyptic literature--the
last growth of Judaism--the voice of paganism itself was employed to
witness for the supremacy of the Jewish religion. It embraces all
history in one great theocratic view, and completes the picture of the
Jewish triumph by the prophecy of a great Deliverer, who shall
establish the Jewish law as the rule of the whole earth, and shall
destroy with a fiery flood all that is corrupt and perishable. In
these respects the Jewish Sibylline oracles have an interesting
connection with other apocryphal Jewish writings, such as the Fourth
Book of Esdras, the Apocalypse of Henoch, and the Book of Jubilees;
and they may all be regarded as attempts to carry down the spirit of
prophecy beyond the canonical Scriptures, and to furnish a supplement
to them.

So highly prized was this group of apocryphal Jewish oracles by the
primitive Christians, that several new ones were added to them by
Christian hands which have not come down to us in their original
state. They were regarded as genuine productions, possessing an
independent authority which, if not divine, was certainly
supernatural; and some did not hesitate even to place them by the side
of the Old Testament prophecies. In the very earliest controversies
between Christians and the advocates of paganism, they were appealed
to frequently as authorities which both recognised. Christian
apologists of the second century, such as Tatian, Athenagoras, and
very specially Justin Martyr, implicitly relied upon them as
indisputable. Even the oracles of the pagan Sibyl were regarded by
Christian writers with an awe and reverence little short of that which
they inspired in the minds of the heathen themselves. Clement of
Alexandria does not scruple to call the Cumæan Sibyl a true
prophetess, and her oracles saving canticles. And St. Augustine
includes her among the number of those who belong to the "City of
God." And this idea of the Sibyl's sacredness continued to a late age
in the Christian Church. She had a place in the prophetic order beside
the patriarchs and prophets of old, and joined in the great procession
of the witnesses for the faith from Seth and Enoch down to the last
Christian saint and martyr. In one of the grandest hymns of the Roman
Catholic Church, composed by Tommaso di Celano at the beginning of the
fourteenth century, there is an allusion to her, taken from the
well-known acrostic in the last judgment scene in the eighth book of
the _Oracula Sibyllina_--

    "Dies iræ, dies illa,
    Solvet sæclum in favilla,
    Teste David cum _Sibylla_."

The strange Italian mystic of the fifteenth century, Pico della
Mirandola, who sought to reconcile the Christian sentiment with the
imagery and legends of pagan religion, rehabilitated the Sibyl, and
consecrated her as the servant of the Lord Jesus. And he was but a
specimen of the many _humanists_ of that age who believed that no
oracle that had once spoken to living men and women could ever wholly
lose its vitality. Like the Delphic Pythia, old, but clothed as a
maiden, the ancient Sibyl appeared to them in the garments of
immortal youth, with the charm of her early prime.

The dim old church of Ara Coeli in Rome, which occupies the site of
the celebrated temple of Jupiter on the Capitol, and in which Gibbon
conceived the idea of his great work on the _Decline and Fall of the
Roman Empire_, is said to have derived its name from an altar bearing
the inscription, "Ara Primogeniti Dei," erected in this place by
Augustus, to commemorate the Sibylline prophecy of the coming of our
Saviour. She was a favourite subject of Christian art in the middle
ages, and was introduced by almost every celebrated painter, along
with the prophets and apostles, into the cyclical decorations of the
Church. Every visitor to Rome knows the fine picture of the Sibyls by
Pinturicchio, on the tribune behind the high altar of the Church of
St. Onofrio, where Tasso was buried; and also the still grander head
of the Cumæan Sibyl, with its flowing turban by Domenichino, in the
great picture gallery of the Borghese Palace. But the highest honour
ever conferred upon the Sibyls was that which Michael Angelo bestowed
when he painted them on the spandrils of the wonderful roof of the
Sistine Chapel. These mysterious beings formed most congenial subjects
for the mystic pencil of the great Florentine, and therefore they are
more characteristic of his genius than almost any other of his works.
He has painted them along with the greater prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah,
Ezekiel, Daniel, Jonah, in throne-like niches surrounding the
different incidents of the creation. They look like presiding deities,
remote from all human weaknesses, and wearing on their faces an air of
profound mystery. They are invested, not with the calm, superficial,
unconscious beauty of pagan art, but with the solemn earnestness and
travail of soul characteristic of the Christian creed, wrinkled and
saddened with thought and worn out with vigils; and are striking
examples of the truth, that while each human being can bear his own
burden, the burden of the world's mystery and pain crushes us to the
earth. The Persian Sibyl, the oldest of the weird sisterhood, to whom
the sunset of life had given mystical lore, holds a book close to her
eyes, as if from dimness of vision; the Libyan Sibyl lifts a massive
volume above her head on to her knees; the Cumæan Sibyl intently reads
her book at a distance from her dilated eyes; the Erythræan Sibyl,
bareheaded, is about to turn over the page of her book; while the
Delphic Sibyl, like Cassandra the youngest and most human-looking of
them all, holds a scroll in her hand, and gazes with a dreamy
mournfulness into the far futurity. These splendid creations would
abundantly reward the minute study of many days. They show how
thoroughly the great painter had entered into the history and spirit
of these mysterious prophetesses, who, while they bore the sins and
sorrows of a corrupt world, had power to look for consolation into the
secrets of the future.

Very beautiful was this reverence paid to the Sibyl amid all the
idolatries of paganism and the corruptions of later Judaism. We may
regard it as a relic of the early piety of the world. One who could
pass over the interests and distractions of her own time, and fix her
gaze upon the distant future, must have seemed far removed from the
common order of mankind, who live exclusively in the present, and can
imagine no other or higher state of things than they see around them.
Standing as the heirs of all the ages on this elevated vantage-ground
and looking back upon the long course of the centuries--upon the
eventful future of the Sibyl, which is the past to us--it seems a
matter of course that the world should have spun down the ringing
grooves of change as it has done; and we fancy that this must have
been obvious to the world's gray fathers. But though the age of the
Sibyl seemed the very threshold of time, there was nothing to indicate
this to her, nothing to show that she lived in the youth of the world,
and that it was destined to ripen and expand with the process of the
suns. The same horizon that bounds us in these last days, bound her
view in these early days; and things seemed as fully developed and
stereotyped then as now, and to-morrow promised to be only a
repetition of to-day. To realise, therefore, that the world had a
future, and to take the trouble of thinking what would happen a
thousand years off, indicated no common habit of mind.

And we are the more impressed by it when we consider the spots
bewitched by the spell of Circe where it was exercised. That persons
dwelling in lonely, northern isles, where the long wash of the waves
upon the shore, and the wild wail of the wind in mountain corries
stimulated the imagination, and seemed like voices from another world,
should see visions and dream dreams, does not surprise us. The power
of second sight may seem natural to spots where nature is mysterious
and solemn, and full of change and sudden transitions from storm to
calm and from sunshine to gloom. But at Cumæ there is a perpetual
peace, an unchanging monotony. The same cloudless sky overarches the
earth day after day, and dyes to celestial blue the same placid sea
that sleeps beside its shore. The fields are drowsy at noon with the
same stagnant sunshine; and the same purple glory lies at sunset on
the entranced hills; and the olive and the myrtle bloom through the
even months with no fading or brightening tint on leaf or stem; and
each day is the twin of that which has gone before. Nature in such a
region is transparent. No mist, or cloud, or shadow hides her secrets.
There is no subtle joy of despair and hope, of decay and growth,
connected with the passing of the seasons. In this Arcadian clime we
should expect Nature to lull the soul into the sleep of contentment on
her lap; and in its perpetual summer happy shepherds might sing
eclogues for ever, and, satisfied with the present, have no hope or
wish for the future. How wonderful, then, that in such a charmed
lotus-land we should meet with the mysterious unrest of soul, and the
fixed onward look of the Sibyl to times widely different from her

And not only is this forward-looking gaze of the Sibyl contrary to
what we should have expected in such a changeless land of beauty and
ease; it is also contrary to what we should have expected from the
paganism of the people. It is characteristic of the Greek religion, as
indeed of all heathen religions, that its golden age should be in the
past. It instinctively clings to the memory of a former happier time,
and shrinks from the unknown future. Its piety ever looks backward,
and aspires to present safety or enjoyment by a faithful imitation of
an imaginary past. It is always "returning on the old well-worn path
to the paradise of its childhood," and contrasting the gloom that
overhangs the present with the radiance that shone on the morning
lands. In every crisis of terror or disaster it turns with unutterable
yearnings to the tradition of the happy age. Or, if it does look
forward to the future, it always pictures "the restoration of the old
Saturnian reign"; it has no standard of future excellence or future
blessedness to attain to, and no yearnings for consummation and
perfection hereafter. The very name given to the south of Italy was
Hesperia, the "Land of the Evening Star," as if in token of its
exhausted history; and it was regarded as the scene of the fabled
golden age from which Saturn and the ancient deities had been expelled
by Jupiter. But contrary to this pagan instinct, the Cumæan Sibyl
stretched forward to a distant heaven of her aspirations and hopes--to
a nobler future of the world, not sentimental and idyllic, but epic
and heroic. She pictured the blessing or restoration of this earth
itself as distinct from an invisible world of happiness. And in this
respect she is more in sympathy with the Jewish and Christian
religions than with her own. The golden age of the Hebrews was in the
future, and was connected with the coming of the Messiah, who should
restore the kingdom again unto Israel. And the characteristic of the
Christian religion is hope, the expectation of the times of the
restitution of all things, and the realisation of the "one far-off
divine event to which the whole creation moves." It is this hopeful
element pervading them that gives to the lively oracles of Holy
Scripture the triumphant tone which distinguishes them so markedly
from the desponding spirit of all false religions, ancient and modern.

The subject of the Sibyl brings us to the vexed question of the
connection between pagan and Hebrew prophecy. How are we to regard the
vaticinations of the heathen oracle? That the great mass of the
Sibylline books is spurious is glaringly obvious. But there is a
primitive residuum which seems to remind us that the spirit of early
prophecy still retained its hold over human nature amid all the
corruptions of heathendom, and secured for the Sibyl a sacred rank and
authority. We have seen with what reverence the greatest fathers of
the Christian Church regarded her. While there was undoubtedly much
delusion and deception, conscious or unconscious, mixed up with it, we
are constrained at the same time to acknowledge that there was some
reality in this prophetic element of paganism, which cannot be
explained away as the result of mere political or intellectual
foresight or accidental coincidence. It was not all imposture. As a
ray of light is contained in all that shines, so a ray of God's truth
was reflected in what was best in this pagan prophecy. The fulfilment
of many of the ancient oracles cannot be denied without a perversion
of all history. There was no doubt an immense difference between the
Hebrew prophets and the pagan Sibyl. The predictions of the Sibyl were
accompanied by strange fantastic circumstances, and wore the
appearance of a blind caprice or arbitrary fate; whereas the
announcements of the Hebrew prophets, founded upon the denunciation of
moral evil and the reign of sacred and peremptory principles of
righteousness in the world, were calm, dignified, and self-consistent.
But we cannot, notwithstanding, deny to pagan prophecy some share in
the higher influence which inspired and moulded Hebrew prophecy. The
apostle of the Gentiles took this view when he called Epimenides the
Cretan a prophet. The Bible recognises the existence of true prophets
outside the pale of the Jewish Church. Balaam, the son of Beor, was a
heathen living in the mountains beyond the Euphrates; and yet the form
as well as the substance of his prophecy was cast into the same mould
as that of the Hebrew prophets. He is called in the Book of Numbers
"the man whose eyes are open;" and God used this power as His organ of
intercourse with and influence upon the world. The grand record of his
vision is the first example of prophetic utterance respecting the
destinies of the world at large; and we see how the base and
grovelling nature of the man was overpowered by the irresistible force
of the prophetic impulse within him, so that he was constrained to
bless the enemies he was hired to curse. And in this respect he
represents the purest of the ancient heathen oracles; and his answer
to Balak breathes the very essence of prophetic inspiration, and is
far in advance of the spirit and thought of the time, reminding us of
the noble rebuke of the Cumæan Sibyl to Aristodicus, and of the oracle
of Delphi to Glaucus.

God did not leave the Gentile nations without some glimpses of the
truth which He had revealed so fully and brightly to His own chosen
people. While He was the _glory_ of His people Israel, we must not
forget that He was a light to lighten the Gentiles. He gave to them
oracles and sibyls, who had the "open eye," and saw the vision of the
years, and witnessed to a light shining in the darkness, and brought
God nearer to a faithless world. Beneath the gross external polytheism
of the multitude there were deep, primitive springs of godliness, pure
and undefiled, working out their manifestation in noble lives; and
those who have ears to hear can listen to the sound of these ancient
streams as they flow into the river of life that makes glad the city
of our God. We gain immensely by considering the prophetical spirit of
Israel as a typical endowment, and the training of the Jews in the
household of God, and under His own immediate eye, as the key to the
right apprehension of the training of Greece and Rome. The unconscious
prophecies of heathendom pointed in their own way, as well as the
articulate divine prophecies of Israel, to the coming of Him who is
the Desire of all nations, and the true Light that lighteth every man
that cometh into the world. The wise men of Greece saw the sign of the
Son of Man in some such way as the Magi saw the star in the East. They
were, according to Hegel's beautiful comparison, "Memnons waiting for
the day." And not without deep significance did the female soothsayer
from the oracle of Dionysius, the prophet-god of the Macedonians, whom
Paul and Silas met when they first landed on European soil, greet them
with the words, "These men are the servants of the most high God,
which show unto us the way of salvation." In that wonderful confession
we recognise the last utterance of the oracle of Delphi and the Sibyl
of Cumæ, as they were cast out by a higher and truer faith. Their
mission was accomplished and their shrine deserted when God's way was
known upon the earth, and His saving health among all nations.

    "And now another Canaan yields
    To thine all-conquering ark;
    Fly from the 'old poetic fields,'
    Ye Paynim shadows dark!
    Immortal Greece, dear land of glorious lays,
    Lo! here the unknown God of thine unconscious praise.

    "The olive wreath, the ivied wand,
    'The sword in myrtles drest,'
    Each legend of the shadowy strand
    Now wakes a vision blest;
    As little children lisp, and tell of heaven,
    So thoughts beyond their thoughts to those high bards were given."



In the fork where a cross-road called the Via Ardeatina branches off
from the Appian Way, is a little homely church with the strange name
of "Domine quo Vadis." It is associated with one of the most beautiful
legends of the early Christian Church touchingly told by St. Ambrose.
The Apostle Peter, fleeing from the persecution under Nero that arose
after the burning of Rome, came to this spot; and there he saw a
vision of the Saviour bearing His cross with His face steadfastly set
to go to the city. Filled with wonder and awe, the Apostle exclaimed,
"Domine quo Vadis," Lord, whither goest thou? To which the Saviour
replied, turning upon Peter the old look of mournful pity when he
denied Him in the High Priest's palace at Jerusalem, "Venio Roman
iterum crucifigi," I go to Rome to be crucified a second time--and
then disappeared. Peter regarding this vision as an indication of his
Lord's mind, that he ought not to separate himself from the fortunes
of his fellow-Christians, immediately turned back to the city, and met
with unflinching courage the martyr's death on the yellow sands of
Montorio; being crucified with his head downwards, for he said he was
not worthy to die in the same way as his Master. This legend has been
made the subject of artistic treatment by Michael Angelo, whose famous
statue of our Lord as He appeared in the incident to St. Peter is in
the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, and was for many years a
favourite object of worship, until superseded by the predominant
worship of Mary. A cast of this statue stands on the floor in front of
the altar in the church of Domine quo Vadis. It represents our Lord in
the character of a pilgrim, with a long cross in His hand, and an
eager onward look in His face and attitude. It is very simple and
impressive, and tells the story very effectually. Besides this plaster
statue of the Saviour, a circular stone is placed about the centre of
the building, surrounded by a low wooden railing, containing the
prints of two feet side by side, impressed upon its surface, as if a
person had stopped short on a journey. These are said to be the
miraculous prints of the Saviour's feet on the pavement of the road
when He appeared to Peter; but like the copy of Michael Angelo's
statue, this slab is a facsimile, the original stone being preserved
among the relics of the neighbouring basilica of St. Sebastian.
Unwilling as one is to disturb a legend so beautiful, and with so
touching a moral, there can be no doubt that it was an after-thought
to account for the footprints; for the material on which they are
impressed being white marble, proves conclusively that the slab could
never have formed part of the pavement of the Appian Way, which it is
well known was composed of an unusually hard lava, found in a quarry
near the tomb of Cæcilia Metella; and the distinct marks of the chisel
which the impressions bear--for I examined the original footprints
very carefully some years ago--indicate a very earthly origin indeed.
The traditional relic in all probability belonged to the early
subterranean cemetery--leading by a door out of the left aisle of the
church of St. Sebastian, to which the name of Catacomb was originally

Slabs with footprints carved upon them are by no means rare in Rome.
In the Kircherian Museum, in the room devoted to early Christian
antiquities, there is a square slab of white marble with two pairs of
footprints elegantly incised upon it, pointed in opposite directions,
as if produced by a person going and returning, or by two persons
crossing each other. There is no record from what catacomb this
sepulchral slab was taken. We have descriptions of other relics of the
same kind from the Roman Catacombs,--such as a marble slab bearing
upon it the mark of the sole of a foot, with the words "In Deo"
incised upon it at the one end, and at the other an inscription in
Greek meaning "Januaria in God"; and a slab with a pair of footprints
carved on it covered with sandals, well executed, which was placed by
a devoted husband over the loculus or tomb of his wife. Impressions of
feet shod with shoes or sandals are much rarer than those of bare
feet; and a pair of feet is a more customary representation than a
single foot, which, when carved, is usually in profile. In a dark,
half-subterranean chapel, green with damp, belonging to the church of
St. Christina in the town of Bolsena, on the great Volscian Mere of
Macaulay, there is a stone let into the front of the altar, and
protected by an iron grating, on which is rudely impressed a pair of
misshapen feet very like those in the church of St. Sebastian at Rome.
In the lower church at Assisi there is a duplicate of these
footprints. The legend connected with them says that they were
produced by the feet of a Christian lady named Christina, living in
the neighbourhood in pagan times, who was thrown into the adjoining
lake by her persecutors, with a large flat stone attached to her body.
Instead of sinking her, the stone formed a raft which floated her in a
standing attitude safely to the opposite shore, where she
landed--leaving the prints of her feet upon the stone as an
incontestable proof of the reality of the miracle. The altar with
which the slab is engrafted--with a stone _baldacchino_ over it--I may
mention, was the scene of the famous miracle of Bolsena, when a
Bohemian priest, officiating here in 1263, was cured of his sceptical
doubts regarding the reality of transubstantiation by the sudden
appearance of drops of blood on the Host which he had just
consecrated--an incident which formed the subject of Raphael's
well-known picture in the Vatican, and in connection with which Pope
Urban IV. instituted the festival of Corpus Christi. On the Lucanian
coast, near the little fishing town of Agrapoli, not far from Pæstum,
there is shown on the limestone rock the print of a foot which is said
by the inhabitants to have been made by the Apostle Paul, who lingered
here on his way to Rome. In the famous church of Radegonde at
Poitiers, dedicated to the queen of Clothaire I.--who afterwards took
the veil, and was distinguished for her piety--there is shown on a
white marble slab a well-defined footmark, which is called "Le pas de
Dieu," and is said to indicate the spot where the Saviour appeared to
the tutelary saint of the place. Near the altar of the church of St.
Genaro de Poveri in Naples, Mary's foot is shown suspended in a glazed
frame. In the middle of the footprint there is an oval figure with the
old initials of mother, water, matter. The footprint of Mary is very
common in churches in Italy and Spain, where it is highly venerated.

The significance of these footmarks has been the subject of much
controversy. Some have regarded them as symbols of possession--the
word "possession" being supposed to be etymologically derived from the
Latin words _pedis positio_, and meaning literally the position of the
foot. The adage of the ancient jurists was, "Quicquid pes tuus
calcaverit tuum erit." The symbol of a foot was carved on the marble
slab that closed the _loculus_ or tomb, to indicate that it was the
purchased property of the person who reposed in it. This view,
however, has not been generally received with favour by the most
competent authorities. A more plausible theory is that which regards
the sepulchral footmarks in the Catacombs as votive offerings of
gratitude, ordered by Christians to be made in commemoration of the
completion of their earthly pilgrimage. It was a common pagan custom
for persons who had recovered from disease or injury, to hang up as
thankofferings in the shrines of the gods who were supposed to have
healed them, images or representations, moulded in metal, clay, or
wood, of the part that had been affected. In Italy, votive tablets
were dedicated to Iris and Hygiea on which footmarks were engraved;
and Hygiea received on one occasion tributes of this kind which
recorded the gratitude of some Roman soldiers who escaped the
amputation which was inflicted upon their comrades by Hannibal. This
custom survived in the early Christian Church, and is still kept up,
as any one who visits a modern shrine of pilgrimage in Roman Catholic
countries can testify. Among such votive offerings, models and carved
and painted representations of feet in stone, or wood, or metal, are
frequently suspended before the image of the Madonna, in gratitude for
recovery from some disease of the feet. We may suppose that as the
ancient Romans, when they returned safely from some long and dangerous
or difficult journey undertaken for business or health, dedicated in
gratitude a representation of their feet to their favourite god--so
the early Christians, who in their original condition were pagans, and
still cherished many of their old customs, ordered these peculiar
footmarks to be made upon their graves, in token of thankfulness that
for them the pilgrimage of life was over, and the endless rest begun.
There can be little doubt that the slab with the so-called footprints
of St. Christina on it at Bolsena, already alluded to, was a pagan
ex-votive offering; for the altar on which it is engrafted occupies
the site of one anciently dedicated to Apollo, and the legend of St.
Christina gradually crystallised around it. And the footprint in the
church of Radegonde at Poitiers was more likely pagan than Christian,
for Poitiers had a Roman origin, and numerous Roman remains have been
found in the town and neighbourhood.

A long and curious list might be made of the miraculous impressions
said to have been left by our Saviour's feet on the places where He
stood. In the centre of the platform at Jerusalem on which the Temple
of Solomon stood, covered by the dome of the Sakrah Mosque, a portion
of the rough natural limestone rock rises several feet above the
marble pavement, and is the principal object of veneration in the
place. It has an excavated chamber in one corner, with an aperture
through the rocky roof, which has given to the rock the name of "lapis
pertusus," or perforated stone. On this rock there are natural or
artificial marks, which the successors of the Caliph Omar believed to
be the prints of the angel Gabriel's fingers, and the mark of
Mohammed's foot, and that of his camel, which performed the whole
journey from Mecca to Jerusalem in four bounds. The stone, it is said,
originally fell from heaven, and was used as a seat by the venerable
prophets of Jerusalem. So long as they enjoyed the gift of prophecy,
the stone remained steady under them; but when the gift was withdrawn,
and the persecuted seers were compelled to flee for safety to other
lands, the stone rose to accompany them: whereupon the angel Gabriel
interposed, and prevented the departure of the prophetical chair,
leaving on it indelibly the marks of his fingers. It was then
supernaturally nailed to its rocky bed by seven brass nails. When any
great crisis in the world's fortunes happens, the head of one of these
nails disappears; and when they are all gone, the day of judgment will
come. There are now only three left, and therefore the Mohammedans
believe that the end of all things is not far off. When the Crusaders
took possession of the sacred city, they altered the Mohammedan
legend, and attributed the mysterious footprint to our Lord when He
went out of the Temple to escape the fury of the Jews. There can be no
doubt that the marks on the rock are prehistoric, and belong to the
primitive worship of Mount Moriah, long before the august associations
of Biblical history gathered around it. To this spot the Jews used to
come in the fourth century and wail over the rock, and _anoint it
with oil_, as if carrying out some dim tradition of former primitive

In the Octagon Chapel of the Church of the Ascension on the top of the
Mount of Olives, so well known for the magnificent view which it
commands of Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, is shown the native rock which
forms the summit of the hill from which our Lord ascended into heaven.
On this rock, it is said by tradition, He left the mark of His
footsteps. Arculf, who visited Palestine about the year 700, says: "On
the ground in the midst of the church are to be seen the last prints
in the dust of our Lord's feet, and the roof appears above where He
ascended; and although the earth is daily carried away by believers,
yet still it remains as before, and retains the same impression of the
feet." Jerome mentions that in his time the same custom was observed,
followed by the same singular result. Later writers, however, asserted
that the impressions were made, not in the ground, or in the dust, but
on the solid rock; and that originally there were two, one of them
having been stolen long ago by the Mohammedans, who broke off the
fragment of stone on which it was stamped. Sir John Mandeville
describes the appearance of the surviving footmark as it looked in his
day, 1322: "From that mount our Lord Jesus Christ ascended to heaven
on Ascension Day, and yet there appears the impress of His left foot
in the stone." What is now seen in the place is a simple rude cavity
in the natural rock, which bears but the slightest resemblance to the
human foot. It may have been artificially sculptured, or it may be
only one of those curious hollows into which limestone rocks are
frequently weathered. In either case it naturally lent itself to the
sacred legend that has gathered around it.

In the Kaaba, the most ancient and remarkable building of the great
Mosque at Mecca, is preserved a miraculous stone with the print of
Abraham's feet impressed upon it. It is said, by Mohammedan
tradition, to be the identical stone which served the patriarch as a
scaffold when he helped Ishmael to rebuild the Kaaba, which had been
originally constructed by Seth, and was afterwards destroyed by the
Deluge. While Abraham stood upon this stone, it rose and sank with him
as he built the walls of the sacred edifice. The relic is said to be a
fragment of the same gray Mecca stone of which the whole building is
constructed,--in this respect differing from the famous black stone
brought to Abraham and Ishmael by the angel Gabriel, and built into
the north-east corner of the exterior wall of the Kaaba, which is said
by scientific men to be either a meteorite or fragment of volcanic
basalt. It is popularly supposed to have been originally a jacinth of
dazzling whiteness, but to have been made black as ink by the touch of
sinful man, and that it can only recover its original purity and
brilliancy at the day of judgment. The millions of kisses and touches
impressed by the faithful have worn the surface considerably; but in
addition to this, traces of cup-shaped hollows have been observed on
it. There can be no doubt that both these relics associated with
Abraham are of high antiquity, and may have belonged to the
prehistoric worship which marked Mecca as a sacred site, long before
the followers of the Prophet had set up their shrine there. In the
sacred Mosque of Hebron, built over the cave of Machpelah, is pointed
out a footprint of the ordinary size on a slab of stone, variously
called that of Adam or of Mohammed. It is said to have been brought
from Mecca some six hundred years ago, and is enclosed in a recess at
the back of the shrine of Abraham, where it is placed on a sort of
shelf about three feet above the floor. On the margin of the tank, in
the court of the ruined mosque at Baalbec, there are shown four giant
footmarks, which are supposed to have been impressed by some patriarch
or prophet, but are more likely to have been connected with the
ancient religion of Canaan, which lingered here to the latest days of
Roman paganism. In the great Druse shrine of Neby Schaib near Hattin
there is a square block of limestone in the centre of which is a piece
of alabaster containing the imprint of a human foot of natural size,
with the toes very clearly defined. The Druses reverently kiss this
impression, asserting that the rock exudes moisture, and that it is
never dry. There is a split in the rock across the centre of the
footprint, which they account for by saying that when the prophet
stepped here he split the rock with his tread. In Damascus there was
at one time a sacred building called the Mosque of the Holy Foot, in
which there was a stone having upon it the print of the feet of Moses.
Ibn Batuta saw this curious relic early in the fourteenth century; but
both the mosque and the stone have since disappeared. On the eastern
side of the Jordan a Bedouin tribe, called the Adwân, worship the
print left on a stone by the roadside by a prophetess while mounting
her camel, in order to proceed on a pilgrimage to Mecca. The Kadriyeh
dervishes of Egypt adore a gigantic shoe, as an emblem of the sacred
foot of the founder of their sect; and near Madura, a large leather
shoe is offered in worship to a deity that, like Diana, presides over
the chase.

To the student of comparative religion the Phrabat, or Sacred Foot of
Buddha, opens up a most interesting field of investigation. In the
East, impressions of the feet of this wonderful person are as common
as those of Christ and the Virgin Mary in the West. Buddhists are
continually increasing the number by copies of the originals; and
native painters of Siam who are ambitious of distinction often present
these sacred objects to the king, adorned with the highest skill of
their art, as the most acceptable gift they can offer. The sacred
footprint enters into the very essence of the Buddhist religion; it
claims from the Indo-Chinese nations a degree of veneration scarcely
yielding to that which they pay to Buddha himself. It is very ancient,
and was framed to embody in one grand symbol a complete system of
theology and theogony, which has been gradually forgotten or perverted
by succeeding ages to the purposes of a ridiculous superstition. It is
elaborately carved and painted with numerous symbols, each of which
has a profound significance. The liturgy of the Siamese connected with
it consists of fifty measured lines of eight syllables each, and
contains the names of a hundred and eight distinct symbolical
objects,--such as the lion, the elephant, the sun and moon in their
cars drawn by oxen, the horse, the serpents, the spiral building, the
tree, the six spheres, the five lakes, and the altar--all of which are
represented on the foot. This list of symbolical allusions is recited
by the priests, and forms an essential part of the ritual of worship.
The Siamese priests say that any mortal about to arrive at the
threshold of Nivána has his feet emblazoned spontaneously with all the
symbols to be seen on the Phrabat.

The Siamese acknowledge only five genuine Phrabats made by the actual
feet of Buddha. They are called the Five Impressions of the Divine
Foot. The first is on a rock on the coast of the peninsula of Malacca,
where, beside the mark of Buddha's foot, there is also one of a dog's
foot, which is much venerated by the natives. The second Phrabat is on
the Golden Mountain, the hill with the holy footstep of Buddha, in
Siam, which Buddha visited on one occasion. The impression is that of
the right foot, and is covered with a maradop, a pyramidal canopy
supported by gilded pilasters. The hollow of the footstep is generally
filled with water, which the devotee sprinkles over his body to wash
away the stain of his sin. The third Phrabat is on a hill on the banks
of the Jumna, in the midst of an extensive and deep forest, which
spreads over broken ranges of hills. The Phrabat is on a raised
terrace, like that on which most of the Buddhist temples are built.
The pyramidal structure which shelters it is of hewn stone ninety feet
high, and is like the _baldacchino_ of a Roman Catholic church. There
are four impressions on different terraces, each rising above the
other, corresponding to the four descents of the deity. The fourth
Phrabat is also on the banks of the Jumna. But the fifth and most
celebrated of all is the print of the sacred foot on the top of the
Amala Sri Pada, or Adam's Peak, in Ceylon. On the highest point of
this hill there is a pagoda-like building, supported on slender
pillars, and open on every side to the winds. Underneath this canopy,
in the centre of a huge mass of gneiss and hornblende, forming the
living rock, there is the rude outline of a gigantic foot about five
feet long, and of proportionate breadth.

Sir Emerson Tennent, who has given a full and interesting account of
this last Phrabat in his work on Ceylon, supposes that it was
originally a natural hollow in the rock, afterwards artificially
enlarged and shaped into its present appearance; but whatever may have
been its origin at first, its present shape is undoubtedly of great,
perhaps prehistoric, antiquity. In the sacred books of the Buddhists
it is referred to, upwards of three hundred years before Christ, as
the impression left of Buddha's foot when he visited the earth after
the Deluge, with gifts and blessings for his worshippers; and in the
first century of the Christian era it is recorded that a king of
Cashmere went on a pilgrimage to Ceylon for the express purpose of
adoring this _Sri-pada_, or Sacred Footprint. The Gnostics of the
first Christian centuries attributed it to Ieu, the first man; and in
one of the oldest manuscripts in existence, now in the British
Museum--the Coptic version of the "Faithful Wisdom," said to have been
written by the great Gnostic philosopher Valentinus in the fourth
century--there is mention made of this venerable relic, the Saviour
being said to inform the Virgin Mary that He has appointed the Spirit
Kalapataraoth as guardian over it. From the Gnostics the Mohammedans
received the tradition; for they believe that when Adam was expelled
from Paradise he lived many years on this mountain alone, before he
was reunited to Eve on Mount Arafath, which overhangs Mecca. The early
Portuguese settlers in the island attributed the sacred footprint to
St. Thomas, who is said by tradition to have preached the Gospel,
after the ascension of Christ, in Persia and India, and to have
suffered martyrdom at Malabar, where he founded the Christian Church,
which still goes by the name of the Christians of St. Thomas; and they
believed that all the trees on the mountain, and for half a league
round about its base, bent their crowns in the direction of this
sacred object--a mark of respect which they affirmed could only be
offered to the footstep of an apostle. The Brahmins have appropriated
the sacred mark as the footprint of their goddess Siva. At the present
day the Buddhists are the guardians of the shrine; but the worshippers
of other creeds are not prevented from paying their homage at it, and
they meet in peace and goodwill around the object of their common
adoration. By this circumstance the Christian visitor is reminded of
the sacred footprint, already alluded to, on the rock of the Church of
the Ascension on the Mount of Olives, which is part of a mosque, and
has five altars for the Greek, Latin, Armenian, Syrian, and Coptic
Churches, all of whom climb the hill on Ascension Day to celebrate the
festival; the Mohammedans, too, coming in and offering their prayers
at the same shrine. The worship paid on the mountain of the sacred
foot in Ceylon consists of offerings of the crimson flowers of the
rhododendron, which grow freely among the crags around, accompanied by
various genuflections and shoutings, and concluding with the striking
of an ancient bell, and a draught from the sacred well which springs
up a little below the summit. These ceremonies point to a very
primitive mode of worship; and it is probable that, as Adam's Peak was
venerated from a remote antiquity by the aborigines of Ceylon, being
connected by them with the worship of the sun, the sacred footprint
may belong to this prehistoric cult. Models of the footprint are shown
in various temples in Ceylon.

Besides these five great Phrabats, there are others of inferior
celebrity in the East. In the P'hra Pathom of the Siamese, Buddha is
said to have left impressions of his feet at Lauca and Chakravan. At
Ava there is a Phrabat near Prome which is supposed to be a type of
the creation. Another is seen in the same country on a large rock
lying amidst the hills a day's journey west of Meinbu. Dr. Leyden says
that it is in the country of the Lan that all the celebrated founders
of the religion of Buddha are reported to have left their most
remarkable vestiges. The traces of the sacred foot are sparingly
scattered over Pegu, Ava, and Arracan. But among the Lan they are
concentrated; and thither devotees repair to worship at the sacred
steps of Pra Kukuson, Pra Konnakan, Pra Puttakatsop, and Pra

The footsteps of Vishnu are also frequent in India. Sir William Jones
tells us that in the Puranas mention is made of a white mountain on
which King Sravana sat meditating on the divine foot of Vishnu at the
station Trevirana. When the Hindoos entered into possession of
Gayá--one of the four most sacred places of Buddhism--they found the
popular feeling in favour of the sacred footprint there so strong that
they were obliged to incorporate the relic into their own religious
system, and to attribute it to Vishnu. Thousands of Hindoo pilgrims
from all parts of India now visit the shrine every year. Indeed to the
worshippers of Vishnu the Temple of Vishnupad at Gayá is one of the
most holy in all India; and as we are informed in the great work of
Dr. Mitra, the later religious books earnestly enjoin that no one
should fail, at least once in his lifetime, to visit the spot. They
commend the wish for numerous offspring on the ground that, out of the
many, one son might visit Gayá, and by performing the rites prescribed
in connection with the holy footstep, rescue his father from eternal
destruction. The stone is a large hemispherical block of granite, with
an uneven top, bearing the carvings of two human feet. The frequent
washings which it daily undergoes have worn out the peculiar
sectorial marks which the feet contain, and even the outlines of the
feet themselves are but dimly perceptible. English architects are now
engaged in preserving the ruins of the splendid temple associated with
this footprint, where the ministry of India's great teacher--the
"Light of Asia"--began. In the Indian Museum at Calcutta there is a
large slab of white marble bearing the figure of a human foot
surrounded by two dragons. It was brought from a temple in Burmah,
where it used to be worshipped as a representation of Buddha's foot.
It is seven inches long and three inches broad, and is divided into a
hundred and eight compartments, each of which contains a different
mystical mark.

At Gangautri, on the banks of the Ganges, is a wooden temple
containing a footprint of Ganga on a black stone. In a strange
subterranean temple, inside the great fort at Allahabad, there are two
footprints of Vishnu, along with footprints of Rama, and of his wife
Sita. In India the "kaddam rassul," or supposed impression of
Mohammed's foot in clay, which is kept moist, and enclosed in a sort
of cage, is not unfrequently placed at the head of the gravestones of
the followers of Islam. On the summit of a mountain one hundred and
thirty-six miles south of Bhagalpur is one of the principal places of
Jain worship in India. On the table-land are twenty small Jain temples
on different craggy heights, which resemble an extinguisher in shape.
In each of them is to be found the Vasu Padukas--a sacred foot similar
to that which is seen in the Jain temple at Champanagar. The sect of
the Jain in South Bihar has two places of pilgrimage. One is a tank
choked with weeds and lotus-flowers, which has a small island in the
centre containing a temple, with two stones in the interior, on one of
which is an inscription and the impression of the two feet of
Gautama--the most common object of worship of the Jains in this
district. The other is the place in the same part of the country where
the body of Mahavira, one of the twenty-four lawgivers, was burnt
about six centuries before Christ. It resembles the other temple, and
is situated in an island in a tank. The island is terraced round, and
in the cavity of the beehive-like top there is the representation of
Mahavira's feet, to which crowds of pilgrims are continually flocking.
In the centre of the Jain temple at Puri, where this remarkable man
died, there are also three representations of his feet, and one
impression of the feet of each of his eleven disciples.

But the subject of footprints carries us farther back than the ages of
the great historic founders of religion. In almost every part of the
earth footprints have been found, cut in the solid rock or impressed
upon boulders and other stones. These artificial tracks, like the
strange human footprint which Robinson Crusoe discovered on the beach
of his lonely island, excite the imagination by their mystery, and
open up a vista into a hitherto unexplored world of infinite
suggestion. They seem the natural successors of those tracks of birds
and reptiles on sandstone and other slabs which form one of the most
interesting features in every geological museum; the material on which
they are impressed having allowed the substantial forms of the
creatures themselves to disappear, while it has carefully preserved
the more shadowy and incidental memorials of their life. The
naturalist can tell us from the ephemeral impressions on the soft
primeval mud, not only what was the true nature of the obscure
creatures that produced them untold ages ago, but also the direction
in which they were moving along the shore, and the state of the tide
and the weather, and the appearance of the country at the time. But
regarding those literal human "footprints on the sands of time," which
have been left behind by our prehistoric ancestors, we can make no
such accurate scientific inductions. They have given rise to much
speculation, being considered by many persons to be real impressions
of human feet, dating from a time when the material on which they were
stamped was still in a state of softness. Superstition has invested
them with a sacred veneration, and legends of a wild and mystical
character have gathered around them. The slightest acquaintance with
the results of geological research has sufficed to dispel this
delusion, and to show that these mysterious marks could not have been
produced by human beings while the rocks were in a state of fusion;
and consequently no intelligent observer now holds this theory of
their origin. But superstition dies hard; and there are persons who,
though confronted with the clearest evidences of science, still refuse
to abandon their old obscurantist ideas. They prefer a supernatural
theory that allows free scope to their fancy and religious instinct,
to one that offers a more prosaic explanation. There is a charm in the
mystery connected with these dim imaginings which they would not wish
dispelled by the clear daylight of scientific knowledge. In our own
country, footmarks on rocks and stones are by no means of unfrequent
occurrence. Some of them, indeed, although associated with myths and
fairy tales, have doubtless been produced by natural causes, being the
mere chance effects of weathering, without any meaning except to a
geologist. But there are others that have been unmistakably produced
by artificial means, and have a human history and significance.

In Scotland Tanist stones--so called from the Gaelic word _tanaiste_,
a chief, or the next heir to an estate--have been frequently found.
These stones were used in connection with the coronation of a king or
the inauguration of a chief. The custom dates from the remotest
antiquity. We see traces of it in the Bible,--as when it is mentioned
that "Abimelech was made king by the oak of the pillar that was in
Shechem"; and "Adonijah slew sheep and oxen and fat cattle by the
stone of Zoheleth, which is by En-rogel, and called all his brethren
the king's sons, and all the men of Judah the king's servants"; and
that when Joash was anointed king by Jehoiada, "the king stood by a
pillar, as the manner was"; and again, King Josiah "stood by a
pillar" to make a covenant, "and all the people stood to the
covenant." The stone connected with the ceremony was regarded as the
most sacred attestation of the engagement entered into between the
newly-elected king or chief and his people. It was placed in some
conspicuous position, upon the top of a "moot-hill," or the open-air
place of assembly. Upon it was usually carved an impression of a human
foot; and into this impression, during the ceremony of inauguration,
the king or chief placed his own right foot, in token that he was
installed by right into the possessions of his predecessors, and that
he would walk in their footsteps. It may be said literally, that in
this way the king or chief came to an understanding with his people;
and perhaps the common saying of "stepping into a dead man's shoes"
may have originated from this primitive custom.

The most famous of the Tanist stones is the Coronation-stone in
Westminster Abbey--the Lia Fail, or Stone of Destiny--on which the
ancient kings of Scotland sat or stood when crowned, and which forms a
singular link of connection between the primitive rites that entered
into the election of a king by the people, and the gorgeous ceremonies
by which the hereditary sovereigns of England are installed into their
high office. There is no footmark, however, on this stone. It may be
mentioned that before the arrival of the Scottish stone there had been
for ages a similar stone at Westminster Hall, which gave the name to
and was the original place of sitting for the Court of King's Bench.
It was no doubt a relic of the primitive Folkmoot of Westminster,
which has developed into the Parliament of England. In the
neighbourhood of Upsala is the Mora stone, celebrated in Swedish
history as the spot where the kings were publicly elected and received
the homage of their subjects.

A more characteristic specimen of a Tanist stone may be seen on the
top of Dun Add, a rocky isolated hill about two hundred feet high, in
Argyleshire, not far from Ardrishaig. On a smooth flat piece of rock
which protrudes above the surface there is carved the mark of a right
foot, covered with the old _cuaran_ or thick stocking, eleven inches
long and four inches and a half broad at the widest part, the heel
being an inch less. It is sunk about half an inch in the rock, and is
very little weather-worn--the reason being, perhaps, that it has been
protected for ages by the turf that has grown over it, and has only
recently been exposed. Quite close to it is a smooth polished basin,
eleven inches in diameter and eight deep, also scooped out of the
rock. With these two curious sculptures is associated a local myth.
Ossian, who lived for a time in the neighbourhood, was one day hunting
on the mountain above Loch Fyne. A stag which his dogs had brought to
bay charged him, and he fled precipitately. Coming to the hill above
Kilmichael, he strode in one step across the valley to the top of
Rudal Hill, from whence he took a gigantic leap to the summit of Dun
Add. But when he alighted he was somewhat exhausted by his great
effort, and fell on his knee, and stretched out his hands to prevent
him from falling backwards. He thereupon left on the rocky top of Dun
Add the enduring impression of his feet and knee which we see at the
present day. This myth is of comparatively recent date, and is
interesting as showing that all recollection of the original use of
the footmark and basin had died away for many ages in the district.
There can be no doubt that the footmark indicates the spot to have
been at one time the scene of the inauguration of the kings or chiefs
of the region; and the basin was in all probability one of those
primitive mortars which were in use for grinding corn long before the
invention of the quern. Dun Add is one of the oldest sites in
Scotland. It has the hoary ruins of a nameless fort, and a well which
is traditionally said to ebb and flow with the tide. It was here that
the Dalriadic Scots first settled; and Captain Thomas, who is an
authority on this subject, supposes that the remarkable relic on Dun
Add was made for the inauguration of Fergus More Mac Erca, the first
king of Dalriada, who died in Scotland at the beginning of the sixth
century, and to have been the exact measure of his foot.

King in his _Munimenta Antiqua_ mentions that in the island of Islay
there was on a mound or hill where the high court of judicature sat, a
large stone fixed, about seven feet square, in which there was a
cavity or deep impression made to receive the feet of Macdonald, who
was crowned King of the Isles standing on this stone, and swore that
he would continue his vassals in the possession of their lands, and do
impartial justice to all his subjects. His father's sword was then put
into his hand, and the Bishop of Argyle and seven priests anointed him
king in presence of all the heads of the tribes in the Isles and
mainland, and at the same time an orator rehearsed a catalogue of his
ancestors. In the year 1831, when a mound locally known as the "Fairy
Knowe," in the parish of Carmylie, Forfarshire, was levelled in the
course of some agricultural improvements in the place, there was
found, besides stone cists and a bronze ring, a rude boulder almost
two tons in weight, on the under side of which was sculptured the mark
of a human foot. The mound or tumulus was in all likelihood a
moot-hill, where justice was dispensed and the chieftains of the
district were elected. In the same county, in the wild recesses of
Glenesk, near Lord Dalhousie's shooting-lodge of Milldam, there is a
rough granite boulder, on the upper surface of which a small human
foot is scooped out with considerable accuracy, showing traces even of
the toes. It is known in the glen as the "Fairy's Footmark." There can
be no doubt that this stone was once used in connection with the
ceremonial of inaugurating a chief.

A similar stone, carved with a representation of two feet, on which
the primitive chiefs stood when publicly invested with the insignia of
office, is still, or was lately, in existence in Ladykirk, at Burwick,
South Ronaldshay, Orkney. A local tradition, that originated long
after the Pictish chiefs passed away, and a new Norse race, ignorant
of the customs of their predecessors, came in, says that the stone in
question was used by St. Magnus as a boat to ferry him over the
Pentland Firth; while an earlier tradition looked upon it as a
miraculous whale which opportunely appeared at the prayer of the saint
when about to be overwhelmed by a storm, and carried him on its back
safely to the shore, where it was converted into a stone, as a
perpetual memorial of the marvellous occurrence. In North Yell,
Shetland, there is a rude stone lying on the hillside, on which is
sculptured with considerable skill the mark of a human foot. It is
known in the district as the "Giant's Step"; another of the same kind,
it is said, being over in Unst. It is undoubtedly the stone on which,
in Celtic times, the native kings of this part were crowned. About a
mile from Keill, near Campbeltown, a very old site, closely connected
with the early ecclesiastical history of Scotland, may be seen on a
rock what is locally called the "Footprint of St. Columba," which he
made when he landed on this shore on one occasion from Iona. It is
very rude and much effaced; but it carries the imagination much
farther back than the days of St. Columba,--when a pagan chief or king
was inaugurated here to rule over the district.

In England and Wales there are several interesting examples of
footprints on boulders and rocks. A remarkable Tanist stone--which,
however, has no carving upon it, I believe--stands, among a number of
other and smaller boulders, on the top of a hill near the village of
Long Compton, in Cumberland. It is called "The King"; and the popular
rhyme of the country people--

    "If Long Compton thou canst see,
    Then king of England thou shalt be"--

points to the fact that the stone must have been once used as a
coronation-stone. Not far from the top of a hill near Barmouth in
Wales, in the middle of a rough path, may be seen a flat stone, in
which there is a footmark about the natural size, locally known as
"Llan Maria," or Mary's step, because the Virgin Mary once, it is
supposed, put her foot on this rock, and then walked down the hill to
a lower height covered with roots of oak-trees. This impression on the
stone is associated with several stone circles and cromlechs--one of
which bears upon it the reputed marks of Arthur's fingers, and is
called Arthur's Quoit--and with a spring of water and a grove, as the
path leading to the hill is still known by a Welsh name which means
Grove Lane; and these associations undoubtedly indicate that the spot
was once a moot-hill or prehistoric sanctuary, where religious and
inauguration rites were performed. At Smithhill's Hall, near
Bolton-le-Moors, there is still to be seen an object of curiosity to a
large number of visitors--the print of a man's foot in the flagstone.
It is said to have been produced by George Marsh, who suffered
martyrdom during the persecutions of Queen Mary in 1555. When on one
occasion the truth of his words was called in question by his enemies,
he stamped his foot upon the stone on which he stood, which ever after
bore the ineffaceable impression as a miraculous testimony to his
veracity. This story must have been an after-thought, to account for
what we may suppose to have been a prehistoric Tanist stone.

In Ireland footmarks are very numerous, and are attributed by the
peasantry to different saints. Mr. and Mrs. S.C. Hall, in their
account of Ireland, refer to several curious examples which are
regarded by the people with superstitious reverence, and are the
occasions of religious pilgrimage. Near the chapel of Glenfinlough, in
King's County, there is a ridge with a boulder on it called the
Fairy's Stone or the Horseman's Stone, which presents on its flat
surface, besides cup-like hollows, crosses, and other markings,
rudely-carved representations of the human foot. On a stone near
Parsonstown, called Fin's Seat, there are similar impressions--also
associated with crosses and cup-shaped hollows which are traditionally
said to be the marks of Fin Mac Coul's thumb and fingers. On an
exposed and smooth surface of rock on the northern slope of the Clare
Hills, in the townland of Dromandoora, there is the engraved
impression of a foot clothed with a sandal; and near it is sculptured
on the rock a figure resembling the caduceus of Mercury, while there
are two cromlechs in the immediate vicinity. The inauguration-stone of
the Macmahons still exists on the hill of Lech--formerly called
Mullach Leaght, or "hill of the stone"--three miles south of Meaghan;
but the impression of the foot was unfortunately effaced by the owner
of the farm about the year 1809. In the garden of Belmont on the
Greencastle road, about a mile from Londonderry, there is the
famous stone of St. Columba, held in great veneration as the
inauguration-stone of the ancient kings of Aileach, and which St.
Patrick is said to have consecrated with his blessing. On this
remarkable stone, which is about seven feet square, composed of a hard
gneiss, and quite undressed by the chisel, are sculptured two feet,
right and left, about ten inches long each. Boullaye le Gouze mentions
that in 1644 the print of St. Fin Bar's foot might be seen on a stone
in the cemetery of the Cathedral of Cork; it has long since

In the Killarney region is the promontory of Coleman's Eye--so called
after a legendary person who leapt across the stream, and left his
footprints impressed in the solid rock on the other side. These
impressions are considered Druidic, and are pointed out as such to the
curious stranger by the guides. Near an old church situated on the
southern slope of Knockpatrick, in the parish of Graney in Leinster,
there is a large flat granite rock with the impression of two feet
clearly defined on its surface. Local tradition assigns these
footprints to St. Patrick, who addressed the people on this spot, and
left behind these enduring signs of his presence. Allusion is made to
them in St. Fiaca's Hymn to St. Patrick--"He pressed his foot on the
stone; its traces remain, it wears not." Footprints in connection with
St. Patrick are to be found in many localities in Ireland, as, for
instance, on the seashore south of Skerries, County Dublin, where the
apostle landed; and at Skerries, County Antrim, there are marks which
are believed to be the footprints of the angel who appeared to St.
Patrick. In Ossory two localities are noted as possessing St.
Patrick's footprints.

So common are the curious sculptures under consideration in Norway and
Sweden, that they are known by the distinct name of _Fotsulor_, or
Footsoles. They are marks of either naked feet, or of feet shod with
primitive sandals. On a rock at Brygdæa in Westerbotten, in Norway,
there are no less than thirty footmarks carved on a rock at an equal
distance from each other. In other parts of Norway these footprints
are mixed up with rude outlines of ships, wheels, and other
_hällristningar_, or rock-sculptures. Holmberg has figured many of
them in his interesting work entitled _Scandinaviens Hällristningar_.
At Lökeberg Bohnslau, Sweden, there is a group of ten pairs of
footmarks, associated with cup-shaped hollows and ship-carvings; and
at Backa, in the same district, several pairs of feet, or rather
shoe-marks, are engraved upon a rock. In Denmark not a few examples of
artificial foot-tracks have been observed and described by Dr.
Petersen. One was found on a slab belonging to the covering of a
gallery in the inside of a tomb in the island of Seeland, and another
on one of the blocks of stone surrounding a tumulus in the island of
Laaland. In both cases the soles of the feet are represented as being
covered; and in all probability they belong to the late stone or
earlier bronze age. With these sepulchral marks are associated curious
Danish legends, which refer them to real impressions of human feet.
The islands of Denmark were supposed to have been made by enchanters,
who wished for greater facilities for going to and fro, and dropped
them in the sea as stations or stepping-stones on their way; and
hence, in a region where the popular imagination poetises the
commonest material objects, and is saturated with stories of elves and
giants, with magic swords, and treasures guarded by dragons, it was
not difficult to conclude that these mysterious foot-sculptures were
made by the tread of supernatural beings. Near the station of Sens, in
France, there is a curious dolmen, on one of whose upright stones or
props are carved two human feet. And farther north, in Brittany, upon
a block of stone in the barrow or tumulus of Petit Mont at Arzon, may
be seen carved an outline of the soles of two human feet, right and
left, with the impressions of the toes very distinctly cut, like the
marks left by a person walking on the soft sandy shore of the sea.
They are surrounded by a number of waving circular and serpentine
lines exceedingly curious. On Calais pier may be seen a footprint
where Louis XVIII. landed in 1814; and on the rocks of Magdesprung, a
village in the Hartz Mountains, a couple of hundred feet apart, are
two immense footprints, which tradition ascribes to a leap made by a
huge giantess from the clouds for the purpose of rescuing one of her
maidens from the violence of an ancient baron.

In not a few places in our own country and on the Continent, rough
misshapen marks on rocks and stones, bearing a fanciful resemblance to
the outline of the human foot, have been supposed by popular
superstition to have been made by Satan. Every classical student is
familiar with the account which Herodotus gives of the print of
Hercules shown by the Scythians in his day upon a rock near the river
Tyras, the modern Dnieper. It was said to resemble the footstep of a
man, only that it was two cubits long. He will also recall the
description given by the same gossipy writer of the Temple of Perseus
in the Thebaic district of Egypt, in which a sandal worn by the god,
two cubits in length, occasionally made its appearance as a token of
the visit of Perseus to the earth, and a sign of prosperity to the
land. Pythagoras measured similar footprints at Olympia, and
calculated "ex pede Herculem"! Still more famous was the mark on the
volcanic rock on the shore of Lake Regillus--the scene of the
memorable battle in which the Romans, under the dictator Posthumius,
defeated the powerful confederation of the Latin tribes under the
Tarquins. According to tradition, the Roman forces were assisted by
Castor and Pollux, who helped them to achieve their signal victory.
The mark was supposed to have been left by the horse of one of the
great twins "who fought so well for Rome," as Macaulay says in his
spirited ballad. On the way to the famous convent of Monte Casino,
very near the door, there is a cross in the middle of the road. In
front of it a grating covers the mark of a knee, which is said to have
been left in the rock by St. Benedict, when he knelt there to ask a
blessing from heaven before laying the foundation-stone of his
convent. As the site of the monastery was previously occupied by a
temple of Apollo, and a grove sacred to Venus, where the inhabitants
of the surrounding locality worshipped as late as the sixth
century,--to which circumstance Dante alludes,--it is probable that
the sacred mark on the rock may have belonged to the old pagan
idolatry, and have been a cup-marked stone connected with sacrificial

On many rocks of the United States of America may be seen human
footprints, either isolated or connected with other designs belonging
to the pictorial system of the Aborigines, and commemorating incidents
which they thought worthy of being preserved. In the collection of the
Smithsonian Museum are three large stone slabs having impressions of
the human foot. On two slabs of sandstone, carefully cut from rocks on
the banks of the Missouri, may be seen respectively two impressions of
feet, carved apparently with moccasins, such as are worn at the
present day by the Sioux and other Indians. The other specimen is a
flat boulder of white quartz, obtained in Gasconade County, Missouri,
which bears on one of its sides the mark of a naked foot, each toe
being distinctly scooped out and indicated. The footmark is surrounded
by a number of cup-shaped depressions. In many parts of Dacotah, where
the route is difficult to find, rocks occur with human footprints
carved upon them which were probably meant to serve as geographical
landmarks--as they invariably indicate the best route to some Indian
encampment or to the shallow parts of some deep river. Among other
places these footprints have been met with on the Blue Mountains
between Georgia and North Carolina, and also on the Kenawha River.
Some stir was made two years ago by the reported discovery of the
prints of human feet in a stone quarry on the coast of Lake Managua in
Nicaragua. The footprints are remarkably sharp and distinct; one seems
that of a little child. The stone in which they are impressed is a
spongy volcanic tuff, and the layer superimposed upon them in the
quarry was of similar material. These prehistoric footprints were
doubtless accidentally impressed upon the volcanic stone, and would
seem to throw back the age of man on the earth to a most remote
antiquity. In Equatorial Africa footprints have also been found, and
are associated with the folklore of the country. Stanley, in his _Dark
Continent_, tells us that in the legendary history of Uganda, Kimera,
the third in descent from Ham, was so large and heavy that he made
marks in the rocks wherever he trod. The impression of one of his feet
is shown at Uganda on a rock near the capital, Ulagolla. It was made
by one of his feet slipping while he was in the act of hurling his
spear at an elephant. In the South Sea Islands department of the
British Museum is an impression of a gigantic footstep five feet in

The connection of prehistoric footprints with sacred sites and places
of sepulture would indicate that they had a religious significance--an
idea still further strengthened by the fact of their being frequently
associated with holy wells and groves, and with cup-shaped marks on
cromlechs or sacrificial altars, which are supposed to have been used
for the purpose of receiving libations; while their universal
distribution points to a hoary antiquity, when a primitive natural
cultus spread over the whole earth, traces of which are found in every
land, behind the more elaborate and systematic faith which afterwards
took its place. They are probably among the oldest stone-carvings that
have been left to us, and were executed by rude races with rude
implements either in the later stone or early bronze age. Their
subsequent dedication to holy persons in Christian times was in all
likelihood only a survival of their original sacred use long ages
after the memory of the particular rites and ceremonies connected with
them passed away. A considerable proportion of the sacred marks are
said to be impressions of the female foot, attributed to the Virgin
Mary; and in this circumstance we may perhaps trace a connection with
the worship of the receptive element in nature, which was also a
distinctive feature of primitive religion.

It is strange how traces of this primitive worship of footprints
survive, not merely in the mythical stories and superstitious
practices connected with the objects themselves, but also in curious
rites and customs that at first sight might seem to have had no
connection with them. The throwing of the shoe after a newly-married
couple is said to refer to the primitive mode of marriage by capture;
but there is equal plausibility in referring it to the prehistoric
worship of the footprint as a symbol of the powers of nature. To the
same original source we may perhaps attribute the custom connected
with the Levirate law in the Bible, when the woman took off the shoe
of the kinsman who refused to marry her, whose name should be
afterwards called in Israel "the house of him that hath his shoe

In regard to the general subject, it may be said that we can discern
in the primitive adoration of footprints a somewhat advanced stage in
the religious thoughts of man. He has got beyond total unconsciousness
of God, and beyond totemism or the mere worship of natural
objects--trees, streams, stones, animals, etc. He has reached the
conception of a deity who is of a different nature from the objects
around him, and whose place of abode is elsewhere. He worships the
impression of the foot for the sake of the being who left it; and the
impression helps him to realise the presence and to form a picture of
his deity. That deity is not a part of nature, because he can make
nature plastic to his tread, and leave his footmark on the hard rock
as if it were soft mud. He thinks of him as the author and controller
of nature, and for the first time rises to the conception of a
supernatural being.



No spot on earth has a grander name or a more imposing history than
the Roman Forum. Its origin takes us far back to geological ages--to a
period modern indeed in the inarticulate annals of the earth, but
compared with which even those great periods which mark the rise and
fall of empires are but as the running of the sands in an hour-glass.
It opens up a wonderful chapter in the earth's stony book. Everywhere
on the site and in the neighbourhood of Rome striking indications of
ancient volcanoes abound. The whole region is as certainly of igneous
origin, and was the centre of as violent fiery action, as the vicinity
of Naples. The volcanic energy of Italy seems to have begun first in
this district, and when exhausted there, to have passed gradually to
the south, where Vesuvius, Etna, and Stromboli witness to the great
furnace that is still burning fiercely under the beautiful land. No
spectacle could have been more sublime than that which the Roman
Campagna presented at this period, when no less than ten volcanoes
were in full or intermittent action, and poured their clouds of smoke
and flame into the lurid sky all around the horizon. Up to the foot of
the mountains the sea covered the vast plain; and the action of these
waves of fire and steaming floods forms a natural epic of the grandest
order. Prodigious quantities of ashes and cinders were discharged from
the craters; and these, deposited and hardened by long pressure under
water, formed the reddish-brown earthy rock called tufa, of which the
seven hills of Rome are composed.

When the sea retired, or rather when the land rose suddenly or
gradually, and the volcanoes became extinct, the streams which
descended from the mountains and watered the recovered land spread
themselves out in numerous fresh-water lakes, which stood an hundred
and fifty feet higher than the present bed of the Tiber. In these
lakes were formed two kinds of fresh-water strata--the first composed
of sand and marl; and the second, where mineral springs gushed forth
through the volcanic rock, of travertine--a peculiar reddish-brown or
yellow calcareous rock, of which St. Peter's and many of the buildings
of modern Rome are composed. We find lacustrine marls on the sides of
the Esquiline Hill where it slopes down into the Forum, and
fresh-water bivalve and univalve shells in the ground under the
equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius on the Capitol; while on the face
of the Aventine Hill, overhanging the Tiber at a height of ninety
feet, is a cliff of travertine, which is half a mile long. The lakes
which formed these deposits must have covered their sites for many
ages. At last, by some new change of level, the lakes retired, and the
Tiber scooped out for itself its present channel to the sea.

When man came upon the scene we have no definite information; but
numerous flints and stone-weapons have been found among the black
pumice breccias of the Campagna mixed with remains of the primitive
bison, the elephant, and the rhinoceros. Human eyes must therefore
have gazed upon the volcanoes of the Roman plain. Human beings,
occupying the outposts of the Sabine Hills, must have seen that plain
broken up by the sea into a complicated archipelago, and beheld in the
very act of formation that wonderful region destined long ages
afterwards to be the scene of some of the greatest events in human
history. The Alban Hills, whose present quiet beauty, adorned with
white gem-like towns, and softened with the purple hues of heaven,
strikes every visitor with admiration, were active volcanoes pouring
streams of lava down into the plain even after the foundation of the
Eternal City. Livy mentions that under the third king of Rome, a
shower of stones, accompanied by a loud noise, was thrown up from the
Alban Mount--a prodigy which gave rise to a nine days' festival
annually celebrated long after by the people of Latium. The remarkable
funereal urns found buried under a bed of volcanic matter between
Marino and Castel Gandolfo on the Alban Hills are an incontrovertible
proof that showers of volcanic ashes must have been ejected from the
neighbouring volcano when the country was inhabited by human beings;
nay, when the inhabitants were far advanced in civilisation, for among
the objects contained in the funereal urns were implements of writing.
At the close of the skirmish between the Romans and Etruscans, near
Albano, in which Aruns, the son of Lars Porsenna, was slain, whose
tomb may still be seen on the spot, a noise like that which Livy
mentions was heard among the surrounding hills.

But the most extraordinary of all the volcanic phenomena within the
historical period was the sudden rising on two memorable occasions of
the waters of the Alban Lake, which now lie deep down within the basin
of an extinct crater. The first swallowed up the royal palace of Alba,
and was so sudden and violent that neither the king nor any of his
household had time to escape. The other occurred during the romantic
siege of the Etruscan city of Veii, near Rome, by Camillus, four
hundred years before Christ. The waters on that occasion rose two
hundred and forty feet in the crater almost to the very edge, and
threatened to overflow and inundate the surrounding country, when they
were withdrawn by a subterranean canal cut in the rock, and poured
into the Tiber by a connecting stream. This emissary, which may still
be seen, was constructed owing to a hint given by an Etruscan
soothsayer, that the city of Veii would not be captured till the
Alban Lake was emptied into the sea. The deep winding cavern on the
face of the Aventine Hill, said to have been inhabited by the
monstrous giant Cacus, the son of Vulcan, who vomited fire, and was
the terror of the surrounding inhabitants, was evidently of volcanic
origin; and the local tradition from which Virgil concocted his fable
was undoubtedly derived from a vivid recollection of the active
operations of a volcano. When Evander, as described in the eighth
_Æneid_, conducted his distinguished guest to the top of the Tarpeian
Rock, in after ages so famous as the place of public execution, and
composed of very hard lava, he assured him that an awful terror
possessed the place, and that some unknown god had his abode there.
The shepherds said it was Jupiter, and that they had often seen him
kindling his lightnings and hurling his thunderbolts from thence.
Evander then pointed to the ruined cities of Saturnia and Janiculum,
on either side of the Tiber, whose destruction had been caused by the
wrath of the god. There can be no doubt that this fable clothed with
supernatural colouring some volcanic phenomena which had taken place
on this spot during the human period. Even as late as three hundred
and ninety years after the foundation of Rome, a chasm opened in the
Forum, and emitted flames and pestilential vapours. An oracle declared
that this chasm would not close until what constituted the glory of
Rome should be cast into it. Marcus Curtius asked if anything in Rome
was more precious than arms and valour; and arraying himself in his
armour, and mounting on a horse splendidly equipped, he leapt in the
presence of the Roman people into the abyss, when it instantly closed
for ever. We thus see that the geology of the Roman plain throws no
inconsiderable light upon the early history and traditions of the
Eternal City, and brings within the cycle of natural phenomena what
were long supposed to be purely fabulous incidents, the inventions of
a poetic imagination. I have dwelt upon these geological incidents so
fully, because nowhere does one realise the striking contrast between
the shortness of man's existence on earth, as in places like the Roman
plain, where the traces of cosmical energy have been greatest and most

The volcanic origin of the Roman Forum suggests the curious idea of
the intimate connection of some of the greatest events of history with
volcanic centres. Where the strife of nature has been fiercest, there
by a strange coincidence the storm of human passion has been greatest.
The geological history of a region is most frequently typical of its
human history. We can predicate of a scene where the cosmical
disturbance has been great,--where fire and flood have contended for
the mastery, leaving the effects of their strife in deepening valleys
and ascending hills,--that there man has had a strangely varied and
eventful career. The strongholds and citadels of the earth, where the
great battles of freedom and civilisation have been fought, were all
untold ages previously the centres of violent plutonic disturbances.
Edinburgh Castle, enthroned on its trap-rock, once the centre of a
volcano, is associated with the most stirring and important events in
the history of Scotland; Stirling Castle rises on its trap-rock
erupted by volcanic action above a vast plain, across which a hundred
battles have swept; Dumbarton Castle, crowning its trappean
promontory, has represented in its civil history the protracted
periods of earthquake and eruption concerned in the formation of its
site; while standing in solitude amid the stormy waters of the Firth
of Forth, the Bass Rock, once a scene of fiery confusion, of roaring
waves and heaving earthquakes, has formed alternately the prison where
religious liberty has been strangled, and the fortress where
patriotism has taken its last stand against the forces of the invader.
Palestine, Greece, Italy, Switzerland, and Scotland, the countries
that have had the most remarkable history, and have done most to
advance the human race, are distinguished above other countries for
their geological convulsions and revolutions. The Roman Forum is thus
but one specimen among numerous others of a law of Providence which
has associated the strife of nature with the strife of man, and caused
the ravages of the most terrible elements to prepare the way for the
highest development of the human race.

Between the Roman Forum and the valley beneath Edinburgh Castle we can
trace a striking resemblance, not only in their volcanic origin and
the connection between their geological history and their analogous
civil history, but also in the fact that they were both filled with
small lakes. Between the ridges of the old and new town of Edinburgh,
where the railway runs through Princes Street Gardens, there was in
the memory of many now living a considerable collection of water
called the North Loch. In like manner, in the hollow of the Roman
Forum there was originally a small lake, a relic of the numerous lakes
of the Campagna, which remained after the last elevation of the land,
and which existed pretty far on into the human period. It was fed by
three streams flowing from the Palatine, the Capitoline, and the
Esquiline Hills, which now run underground and meet at this point.

Let us picture to ourselves the appearance of this lake embosomed in
the hollow of its hills in the far-off pastoral times, when the
mountains and the high table-lands of Italy were the chosen territory
of those tribes whose property consisted chiefly in their flocks. The
hills of Rome, whose elevation was far more conspicuous in ancient
times than it is now, presented a precipitous front of dark volcanic
rock to the lake. Their slopes were covered with grass and with
natural copse-wood, intermixed with tall ilex trees, or umbrella
pines; while on their summits were little villages surrounded with
Cyclopean walls perched there not only for security, but also for the
healthier air, just as we see at the present day all over Italy. On
the summit of the Capitoline and Esquiline Hills were Sabine
settlements, whose origin is lost in the mists of antiquity. To the
green wooded slopes of the Palatine, according to a beautiful
tradition, sixty years before the destruction of Troy, came Evander
and his Arcadians from Greece, and settled there with their flocks and
herds, and led a quiet idyllic life. According to another tradition,
Æneas, after the destruction of Troy, came to this spot, and marrying
the daughter of a neighbouring king, became the ancestor of the twins
Romulus and Remus, the popular founders of Rome, whose romantic
exposure and nourishment by a she-wolf are known to every schoolboy.
Romulus, after slaying his brother, built a stronghold on the
Palatine, which he opened as an asylum for outlaws and runaway slaves,
who supported themselves chiefly by plunder. The community of this
robber-city consisting almost entirely of males, they provided
themselves with wives by the famous stratagem known as the "Rape of
the Sabine women." Seizing the daughters of their neighbours, the
Sabines of the Capitoline and Esquiline Hills, on a festive occasion,
they carried them away with them to their fortress. A number of
sanguinary fights took place in consequence of this rape around the
swampy margin of the lake. In the last of these engagements the
combatants were separated by the Sabine women suddenly rushing in with
their children between their fathers and brothers and the men who had
become their husbands. A mutual reconciliation then ensued, and the
two communities contracted a firm and close alliance. The Palatine,
Capitoline, and Esquiline villages became henceforth one city, to
which from time to time by conquest new accessions were made, until at
last all the different settlements on the seven hills of Rome were
brought under one rule, and surrounded by a common wall of defence.
Mommsen, Niebuhr, Sir George Cornewall Lewis, and other critics, have
made sad havoc with these romantic stories of the origin of Rome. But
although much of the fabulous undoubtedly mingles with them--for the
early history of Rome was not written till it had become a powerful
state, and then the historian had no records of days long past save
what were embodied in popular tradition and poetry--there has recently
been a reaction in favour of them, and they must ever be interesting
on account of their own intrinsic charm, the element of truth which
they contain, and the indelible associations of schoolboy life.

When a joint city was thus compacted and called Rome--possibly its old
Pelasgic appellation--the first effort of the confederated settlements
was to drain the geological lake in the centre of the city into the
Tiber, a quarter of a mile distant. This they did by means of the
celebrated Cloaca Maxima, a part of which may be seen open at the
present day under the pavement of the Roman Forum, near the Temple of
Castor and Pollux. This common sewer of Rome is one of its oldest and
greatest relics. It was built by the first Tarquin, the fifth king of
Rome, a century and a half after the foundation of the city; and
although two thousand five hundred years have passed away since the
architect formed without cement its massive archway of huge volcanic
stones found on the spot, and during all the time it has been
subjected to the shock of numerous earthquakes, inundations of the
Tiber, and the crash of falling ruins, it still serves its original
purpose as effectually as ever, and promises to stand for as many ages
in the future as it has stood in the past. It is commonly said that we
owe the invention of the arch to the Romans; and this work of
undoubted Etruscan architecture is usually considered as among the
very first applications of the principle. But the arched drains and
doorways discovered by Layard at Nineveh prove that the Assyrians
employed the arch centuries before Rome was founded. It had however
only a subordinate place and a very limited application in the ancient
architecture of the East; and it was left to the Romans to give it due
prominence in crossing wide spaces, to make it "the bow of promise,"
the bridge over which they passed to the dominion of the world. The
Cloaca Maxima is a tunnel roofed with two concentric rings of enormous
stones, the innermost having an interior diameter of nearly fourteen
feet, the height being about twelve feet. So capacious was it that
Strabo mentions that a waggon loaded with hay might find room in it;
and it is recorded that the Consul Agrippa passed through it in a
boat. The mouth of the Cloaca opens into the Tiber, near the little
round temple of Hercules in the Forum Boarium; but it is often
invisible owing to the flooding of the river; and even when the Tiber
is low, so much has its bed been silted up that only about three feet
below the keystone of the sewer can be seen. Subsequently all the
sewers of Rome were connected with it; and at the present day the nose
gives infallible proof that it carries off a very large portion of the
pollution of the modern city.

By the Cloaca Maxima, the valley between the Capitoline and Palatine
Hills was for the first time made dry land; all indeed, except a small
swamp which remained in one corner of it to a later age, and which the
great sewer was not deep enough to drain entirely. Reeds grew around
its margin, and boats were employed to cross it, as Ovid tells us. The
name Velabrum--from an Etruscan root, signifying water, occurring in
some other Italian names such as Velletri, Velino--still given to this
locality, where a church stood in the middle ages called S. Silvestro
in Lacu, commemorates the existence of the primeval lake; while the
legend of the casting ashore of Romulus and Remus on the slope of the
Palatine points to the gradual desiccation of the spot. On the level
ground, recovered in this way from the waters, was formed the Roman
Forum; the word Forum meaning simply an open space, surrounded by
buildings and porticoes, which served the purpose of a market-place, a
court of justice, or an exchange; for the Romans transacted more of
their public and private business out of doors than the severe
climate of our northern latitudes will permit us to do. On this common
ground representatives of the separate communities located on the
different hills of Rome, and comprehended and confederated within the
walls of Servius Tullius, met together for the settlement of affairs
that concerned them all. As Rome grew in importance, so did this
central representative part of it grow with it, until at last, in the
time of the Cæsars, it became the heart of the mighty empire, where
its pulse beat loudest. There the fate of the world was discussed.
There Cicero spoke, and Cæsar ruled, and Horace meditated. If the
Temple of Jerusalem was the shrine of religion, the Forum of Rome was
the shrine of law; and from thence has emanated that unrivalled system
of jurisprudence which has formed the model of every nation since.
Being thus the centre of the political power of the empire, the Roman
Forum became also the focus of its architectural and civic splendour.
It was crowded with marble temples, state buildings, and courts of law
to such an extent that we wonder how there was room for them all
within such a narrow area. Monuments of great men, statues of Greek
sculpture, colonnades, and porticoes, rich with the spoils of subject
kingdoms, adorned its sides. The whole region was resplendent with all
the pomp and luxury of paganism in its proudest hour; the word
"ambition," which came ultimately to signify all strivings for
eminence, resolving itself into the elementary meaning of a walk round
the Roman Forum, canvassing for votes at municipal elections.

Thus the Forum continued until the decay of the empire, when hordes of
invaders buried its magnificence in ruins. At the beginning of the
seventh century it must have been open and comparatively free from
_débris_, as is proved by the fact that the column of Phocas, erected,
at that time, stood on the original pavement. Virgil says, in his
account of the romantic interview of Evander with Æneas on the spot
which was to be afterwards Rome--then a quiet pastoral scene, green
with grass, and covered with bushes--that they saw herds of cattle
wandering over the Forum, and browsing on the rich pasture around the
shores of its blue lake. Strange, the law of circularity, after the
lapse of two thousand years, brought round the same state of things in
that storied spot. During the middle ages the Roman Forum was known
only as the Campo Vaccino, the field of cattle. It was a forlorn
waste, with a few ruins scattered over it, and two formal rows of
poplar-trees running down the middle of it, and wild-eyed buffaloes
and mouse-coloured oxen from the Campagna wandering over the solitude,
and cropping the grass and green weeds that grew in the very heart of
old Rome. When Gibbon conceived the idea of the _Decline and Fall of
the Roman Empire_, listening to the vespers of the Franciscan friars
in the dim church of Ara Coeli in the neighbourhood, the Forum was an
unsightly piece of ground, covered with rubbish-heaps, with only a
pillar or two emerging from the general filth. When Byron stood beside
the "nameless column with the buried base," commemorated in _Childe
Harold_, he little dreamt what a rich collection of the relics of
imperial times lay under his feet, as completely buried by the wrecks
of ages as Pompeii and Herculaneum under the ashes and lava of
Vesuvius. From fifteen to twenty feet of soil had accumulated over

The work of excavation was begun seventy-five years ago by the Duchess
of Devonshire, who spent the last years of her life in Rome, and
formed the centre of its brilliant society. Napoleon III., the late
Emperor of the French, carried on the task thus auspiciously
commenced, for the purpose of shedding light upon the parts of Roman
history connected with Julius Cæsar, the hero of his book. In spite of
much opposition from the Papal Government, the work of exhumation was
continued in fits and starts after the French emperor had given it up;
and ever since the Italian Government have taken the matter in hand,
gangs of labourers under the directorship of the accomplished Signor
Rosa have been more or less continually employed, with the result that
almost the whole area has been laid bare from the Capitol to the Arch
of Titus. The British Archæological Society of Rome has given valuable
aid according to the funds in its possession, and the contributions
sent from this country for the purpose. When first commenced, the
changes caused by these excavations were regarded with no favourable
eye by either the artists or the people of Rome. The trees were cut
down, the mantle of verdure that for centuries had covered the
spot--Nature's appropriate pall for the decay of art--was ruthlessly
torn up, and great unsightly holes and heaps of _débris_ utterly
destroyed the picturesque beauty of the scene. But the loss to romance
was a gain to knowledge; and now that the greatest part of the Forum
has been cleared down to the ancient pavement, we are able to form a
much more vivid and accurate conception of what the place must have
been in the days of the empire, and are in a position to identify
buildings which previously had been a theme for endless and violent
disputes. It is a very interesting and suggestive coincidence that the
Forum of Rome should have been thus disentombed at the very time that
Italy rose from its grave of ages, and under a free and enlightened
government, having its centre once more in the Eternal City, proved
that it had inherited no small share of the spirit of the heroic past.

Let us go over in brief detail the various objects of interest that
may now be seen in the centre of Roman greatness. Numerous sources of
information exist which enable us to identify these monuments, and to
form some idea of what they were in their prime. Among these may be
mentioned coins and medals of the emperors, with representations upon
them of buildings and sculptures in the Forum; a marble stone found at
Ancyra, now Angouri in Phrygia, on which is a long inscription
regarding the acts and achievements of Augustus, which is of the
greatest value in determining the topography of the city; the
bas-reliefs on the Arch of Constantine, and on the marble screens of
Trajan, recently excavated in the Forum itself, giving a view of its
north-western and south-eastern ends; and the remains of the antique
marble plan of Rome, now preserved in the Capitoline Museum,
originally affixed to the wall of the superb Temple of Rome, and
discovered in fragments in 1867 in the garden of the monastery of SS.
Cosma e Damiano. We also get most valuable help in the work of
identification from the Itineraries of the middle ages--especially
from that of the celebrated pilgrim from Einsiedlen, Zwingli's town in
Switzerland--who visited Rome in the eighth century, and left his
manuscript to his own abbey, where it may still be seen. A vast
apparatus of learning has been accumulated from the works of ancient
classic authors by the great scholars who have written on the
historical localities and buildings of the Forum, from Donati to
Becker. Nibby, Canina, Ampère, Bunsen, Plattner, and Uhrlich, in their
magnificent works have supplied a mine of wealth from which most
subsequent writers on the Forum have enriched their descriptions.

The direction of the Forum is nearly from north to south, trending a
little from north-east to south-west. It is surprisingly small to have
contained such a large number of buildings, and to have bulked so
prominently in the eye of the world; its greatest length being only
six hundred and seventy-one feet, and its greatest breadth about two
hundred and two feet. Beginning at the north end, we see before us the
vast mass of the ancient Capitol, the proudest symbol of the majesty
of Rome, crowned with the great staring medieval structures of the
Roman municipality, rising up into the campanile of Michael Angelo.
Until of late years, this renowned building was completely buried
beneath a huge mound of rubbish. Now that it has been removed, the
venerable fabric stands out distinctly to view, and we behold the
massive walls of the Treasury, the Record Office, and the Senate
House. The lowest part, constructed of huge blocks of volcanic stones,
was the Ærarium or Public Treasury, and is supposed to have been
formed out of the original wall of the city of the Sabines, which
surrounded the hill of Saturn, as the Capitoline Mount was originally
called, long before Romulus laid the foundation of Rome. As the Roman
army was paid in coppers, spacious cellars were required for storing
the coin, and these were provided in the underground vaults of the
Treasury, partially cut out of the volcanic rock of the Capitol, on
which the building rests. Above the Treasury, on the second floor, we
see the remains of the Doric portico of the Tabularium or Public
Record Office, where the records of Rome, engraved upon bronze
tablets, were kept. The place is now converted into an architectural
museum, where all the most interesting sculptured fragments found in
the Forum are preserved, and are exhibited by gaslight owing to the
darkness. These buildings, it must be remembered, form the back of the
Capitol fronting the Forum. Strictly speaking, they do not belong to
the Forum, which should be traced only from their verge.

The view on the other side of the Capitol, where a gently-inclined
staircase leads up from the streets to the piazza at the top,
surrounded by the modern municipal buildings, raised upon the ancient
substructures above described, is quite different. But the present
aspect of the Capitol is quite disappointing to one who comes to it
seeking for evidences of its former grandeur. There is no trace of the
Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, to which the triumphal processions of
the Roman armies led up, gorgeous with all the attractions of marble
architecture, and the richest spoils of the world, the most splendid
monument of human pride which the world then contained. Probably its
remains were used up in the construction of the gloomy old church of
the _Ara Coeli_, which is supposed by most archæologists to stand upon
its site. The Capitol, it may be remarked, was precisely similar to
the moot-hill, or open-air court, which existed in our own country in
primitive times, and where justice was administered at regular
intervals. The tradition of this original use of it still clings to
the place as a shadow from the past. The hill has always been
appropriated for political purposes. It has continued from the
earliest days to be a centre of secular as opposed to ecclesiastical
authority. The Popes ceded it to the magistracy, whose municipal
buildings now cover it, and placed the church of Ara Coeli--the only
one ever built on the Capitoline Hill--under their protection. The
place of execution was chosen conveniently near to this moot-hill, or
seat of justice; and the criminal, when condemned, was speedily
executed, by being hurled over the rock, just outside of the eastern
rampart, which surrounded the settlement. We can thus easily
understand the association of the Tarpeian Rock with the Capitoline
Hill. They were as closely correlated as the moot-hill and the Gallow
hill in our own country. The primitive method of execution derived a
sanctity from its antiquity, and was continued far on into the most
civilised times of the empire.

So densely crowded were the historical buildings and remarkable sites
in that part of the Forum which lay immediately behind the Capitol,
that it is almost impossible now to identify their position or
remains. This spot forms the great battle-ground of the antiquaries,
whose conclusions in many instances are mere guess-work. Below the
medieval tower of the Capitol is a wide space paved with fragments of
coloured marbles, and with indications of the ground-plan of a
building. This is supposed to mark the site of the Temple of Concord,
erected by the great general Camillus, after the expulsion of the
Gauls, to perpetuate the concord between the plebeians and patricians
on the vexed question of the election of consuls. It was placed beside
the old meeting-place of the privileged families. From the charred
state of some of its sculptures discovered on the spot, it is
supposed to have been destroyed by fire. It was restored and enlarged
a hundred and twenty years before Christ by the Consul Opimius
immediately after the murder of Caius Gracchus. To the classical
student it is specially interesting as the place where Cicero convoked
the senate after the discovery of the Catiline conspiracy, for the
purpose of fixing the punishment due to one of the greatest of crimes.
Among the senators present on that memorable occasion were men of the
highest political and philosophical renown, including Cæsar, Cato, and
Cicero. They came to the conclusion that there was no such thing as
retribution beyond the grave, no future state of consciousness, no
immortality of the soul; consequently death was considered too mild a
punishment for the impious treason of the conspirators; and a penalty,
which should keep alive instead of extinguishing suffering, was
advocated. We learn from this extraordinary argument, as Merivale well
says, how utter was the religious scepticism among the brightest
intellects of Rome only thirty-seven years before the coming of
Christ. The very name of the temple itself, dedicated not to a divine
being as in a more pious age, but to a mere political abstraction, a
mere symbol of a compact effected between two discordant parties in
the state, indicated how greatly the Romans had declined from their
primitive faith.

But the most conspicuous of the ancient remains in this quarter, and
the first to attract the notice of every visitor, is the Ionic portico
of eight columns, called at first the Temple of Jupiter, and then of
Vespasian, but now definitely determined to be the Temple of Saturn,
for it is closely connected with the Ærarium, and the Ærarium is said
by several ancient authors to have led into the podium of the temple
by a doorway in its wall still visible. This temple is supposed to be
of very early origin, and to have marked the site of an ancient Sabine
altar to the oldest of the gods of Italy long before the arrival of
the Romans. It was nearly entire so late as the fifteenth century;
but its cella was ruthlessly destroyed shortly afterwards, and its
marble ornaments used for making lime. The present group of pillars
was so clumsily restored by the French at the beginning of this
century that they are seen to differ from each other in diameter, and
the frieze is composed of fragments that do not harmonise.

But the most remarkable monument of antiquity in this part is the
marble triumphal Arch of Septimius Severus, which stands in front of
the ruins of the Temple of Concord. It invaded the site of the
republican Græcostasis, where foreign ambassadors waited for an
audience of the senate, and occupied part of the area of the Comitium,
whose original character was thereby destroyed; for it was erected at
a time when men ceased to care for the venerable associations
connected with the early history of their city. One gazes upon this
monument of Roman power and pride with deep respect, for it has stood
nearly seventeen centuries; and though rusty and sorely battered, and
its sculptures much mutilated, it is still one of the most solid and
perfect relics of imperial times. It was raised to commemorate the
wars of Septimius Severus in Parthia and Arabia; and represents among
its carvings the goddess Rome receiving the homage of the Eastern
nations. It exhibits on its panels many scenes connected with his
campaigns, the memory of which no humane man would have liked to
perpetuate. On the upper part of the Arch is a large inscription in
honour of the emperor and his two sons, Caracalla and Geta. The name
of Geta, however, was afterwards erased by his brother when he had
murdered him, and other words substituted. Marks of the erasure may
still be seen perfectly distinct after all these centuries, and
vividly recall the terrible associations of the incident. The dislike
which Caracalla and Geta had for each other was so virulent that their
father took them both with him to Britain, in order that they might
forget their mutual animosity while engaged in active warfare.
Septimius Severus died during this campaign at York, and his sons
returned to Rome to work out soon after the domestic tragedy of which
this Arch reminds us. On the top of the Arch there was originally a
bronze group of a chariot and four horses, with the emperor and his
sons driving it. But this was removed at an early date; and in the
middle ages the summit of the Arch supported the campanile of the
church of St. Sergius and Bacchus that was built up against its sides.
A little to the left, the road passing under the Arch joins the Clivus
Capitolinus which wound through the Forum, and led up to the great
Temple of Jupiter on the Capitol. The pavement of this ancient road,
which still exists, is formed of broad hexagonal slabs of lava, and is
as smooth and as finely jointed at this day as when the triumphal
processions of the victorious Roman generals used to pass over it.

At the western corner of the Arch of Severus are the scanty remains of
a tall conical pyramid, about fifteen feet in diameter, which is
identified as the Umbilicus Romæ, placed in the exact centre of old
Rome. Not far from it stood the Milliarium Aureum, or Golden
Milestone, on which were inscribed all the distances of roads without
the walls. The Roman roads throughout the empire terminated at this
point. With this central milestone was connected that admirable system
of roads which the Romans constructed in our distant island; and it is
a remarkable circumstance that the principal railway lines in England
are identical with the general direction of the old Roman roads. The
Antonine Way is now the Great Western Railway, and the Roman Watling
Street, which ran diagonally across the country from Chester in the
north-west to Dover in the south-east, is now replaced by the Dover,
London, Birmingham, Grand Junction, Chester, and Crewe Railways. The
reason of this union of ancient and modern lines of communication is
obvious. The Romans formed their roads for the purpose of transporting
their armies from place to place, and at certain distances along the
roads a series of military stations were established. In course of
time these stations became villages, towns, and cities such as
Chester, Leicester, Lancaster, Manchester. Thus, strange as it may
appear, the Milliarium Aureum of the Roman Forum has had much to do
with the origin of our most ancient and important towns, and with the
formation of the great lines of railway that now carry on the enormous
traffic between them.

The exposed vaults immediately behind the Arch of Severus, bounding
the Forum in this direction, are richly draped with the long, delicate
fronds of the maidenhair fern. Shaded from the sun, it grows here in
the crevices of the old walls in greater luxuriance and profusion than
elsewhere in the city. There is something almost pathetic in this
association of the frailest of Nature's productions with the ruins of
the most enduring of man's works. Strength that is crumbling to dust
and ashes, and tender beauty that ever clings to the skirts of time,
as she steps over the sepulchres of power, have here in their
combination a deep significance. The growth of the soft fern on the
mouldering old stones seems like the sad, sweet smile of Nature over a
decay with which she sympathises, but which she cannot share. The same
feeling took possession of me when, wandering over the ruins of the
Palaces of the Cæsars on a sunny February afternoon, I saw above the
hoary masses of stone the rose-tinted bloom of almond-trees. Out of
the gray relics of man's highest hour of pride, the leafless
almond-rod blossomed as of old in the holy place of the Hebrew
Tabernacle; and its miracle of colour and tenderness was like the
crimson glow that lingers at sunset upon Alpine heights, telling of a
glory that had long vanished from the spot.

Beneath these fern-draped vaults is the oldest prison in the world.
The celebrated Mamertine Prison takes us back to the very foundation
of the city. It was regarded in the time of the Cæsars as one of the
most ancient relics of Rome, and was invested with peculiar interest
because of its venerable associations. It consists of a series of
vaults excavated out of the solid tufa rock, where it slopes down from
the Capitoline Hill into the Forum, each lined with massive blocks of
red volcanic stone. For a long time these vaults have been used as
cellars under a row of tall squalid-looking houses built over them
between the Via di Marforio and the Vicolo del Ghettarello; and the
sense of smell gives convincing proof that where prisoners of state
used to be confined, provisions of wine, cheese, and oil have been
stored. The prison has recently passed into the possession of the
British and American Archæological Society of Rome, which pays a
certain rent to the Italian Government for its use. By this society it
is illuminated and shown every Monday afternoon during the season. One
of the members conducts the party through the upper and lower prisons,
and explains everything of interest connected with them. Dr. Parker,
whose labours have done so much to elucidate this part of ancient
Rome, was the guide on the occasion of my visit; and as the party was
unusually small, we had a better opportunity of seeing what was to be
seen, and hearing the guide's observations.

The uppermost vault is still below the level of the surrounding soil,
and the entrance to it is by the church of San Giuseppe di Falegnami,
the patron of the Roman joiners, built over it. Beneath is a
subterranean chapel, forming a sort of crypt to the upper church,
called San Pietro in Carcere, containing a curious ancient crucifix,
an object of great veneration, and hung round with blazing lamps and
rusty daggers, pistols, and other deadly instruments, the votive
offerings of bandits and assassins who sought at this shrine of the
chief of the apostles to make their peace with heaven. Descending from
the chapel by a flight of steps we come through a modern door, opened
through the wall for the convenience of the pilgrims who annually
visit the sacred spot in crowds, to the ancient vestibule, or grand
chamber of the prison, commonly called the Prison of St. Peter from
the church tradition which asserts that the great apostle was
confined here by order of Nero before his martyrdom. The pillar to
which he was bound is still pointed out in the cell; and Dr. Parker,
lifting up its cover, showed us a well in the pavement of the floor,
which is said to have sprung up miraculously to furnish water for the
baptism of the jailors Processus and Martinianus whom he had
converted, though, unfortunately for this tradition, the fountain is
described by Plutarch as existing in the time of Jugurtha's
imprisonment. Indeed there is every reason to believe that this
chamber was originally a well-house or a subterranean cistern for
collecting water at the foot of the Capitol, from which circumstance
it derived its name of Tullianum, from _tullius_, the old Etruscan
word for _spring_, and not from Servius Tullius, who was erroneously
supposed to have built it. The whole chamber in primitive times was
filled with water, and the hole in the roof was used for drawing it
out. Dr. Parker gave us a little of the water in a goblet, but,
notwithstanding its sacred reputation, it tasted very much like
ordinary water, being very cool and fresh, with a slight medicinal
taste. He also pointed our attention to a rugged hollow in the wall of
the staircase, and told us that this was the print of St. Peter's head
in the hard stone, said to have been produced as he stumbled and fell
against it, coming down the stair a chained prisoner. It requires no
small amount of devotional credulity to recognise the likeness or to
believe the story.

But there is no need for having recourse to such ecclesiastical
legends in order to produce a solemn impression in this chamber. Its
classical associations are sufficient of themselves to powerfully
affect the imagination. There is no reason to doubt the common belief
that this is the identical cell in which the famous Jugurtha was
starved to death. The romantic history of this African king is
familiar to all readers of Sallust, who gives a masterly account of
the Jugurthine war. When finally defeated, after having long defied
the Roman army, his person was taken possession of by treachery and
carried in chains to Rome, where he adorned the triumphal procession
of his conqueror Marius, and was finally cast into this cell,
perishing there of cold and hunger. What a terrible ending to the
career of a fierce, free soldier, who had spent his life on horseback
in the boundless sultry deserts of Western Africa! The temperature of
the place is exceedingly damp and chill. Jugurtha himself, when
stripped of his clothes by the executioners, and let down into it from
the hole in the roof, exclaimed with grim humour, "By Hercules, how
cold your bath is!" A more hideous and heart-breaking dungeon it is
impossible to imagine. Not a ray of light can penetrate the profound
darkness of this living tomb. Sallust spoke of the appearance of it in
his day, from the filth, the gloom, and the smell, as simply terrific.
The height of the vault is about sixteen feet, its length thirty feet,
and its breadth twenty-two feet. It is cased with huge masses of
volcanic stone, arranged in courses, converging towards the roof, not
on the principle of the arch, but extending horizontally to a centre,
as we see in some of the Etruscan tombs. This peculiar style of
construction proves the very high antiquity of the chamber.

This cell played the same part in Roman history which the Tower of
London has done in our own. Here, by the orders of Cicero, were
strangled Lentulus, Cethegus, and one or two more of the accomplices
of Catiline, in his famous conspiracy. Here was murdered, under
circumstances of great baseness, Vercingetorix, the young and gallant
chief of the Gauls, whose bravery called forth the highest qualities
of Julius Cæsar's military genius, and who, when success abandoned his
arms, boldly gave himself up as an offering to appease the anger of
the Romans. Here perished Sejanus, the minister and son-in-law of
Tiberius, who was detected in a conspiracy against the emperor, and
richly deserved his fate on account of his cruelty and treachery.
Here also was put to death Simon Bar-Gioras, the governor of the
revolted Jews during the last dreadful siege of Jerusalem, who was
taken prisoner, and after gracing the triumph of the emperor Titus at
Rome, shared the fate which usually happened to captives after such an

From the Tullianum or Prison of St. Peter, we were led through a
tortuous subterranean passage of Etruscan character, a hundred yards
long, cut out of the rock. It was so low that we had to stoop all the
way, and in some places almost to creep, and so narrow that a very
stout person would have some difficulty in forcing himself through.
The floor was here and there wet with the overflowing of neighbouring
drains, which exhaled a noisome smell; and we had to pick our steps
carefully through thick greasy mud, which on the slopes was very
slippery and disagreeable. We followed each other in Indian file,
stooping low, each with a wax taper burning dimly in the damp
atmosphere, and presenting a most picturesque appearance. This passage
was discovered only a few years ago. Numerous passages of a similar
nature are said to penetrate the volcanic rock on which the Capitol
stands, in every direction, like the galleries of an ant's nest. Some
of these have been exposed, and others walled up. They connect the
Prison with the _Cloaca_, and doubtless furnished means by which the
bodies of criminals who had been executed might be secretly disposed
of. The passage in question brought us to four other chambers, each
darker and more dismal than the other, and partially filled with heaps
of rubbish and masses of stone that had fallen from their roofs and
sides. At the top of each vault there was a man-hole for letting a
prisoner down with cords into it. A visit to these six vaults of the
Mamertine Prison gives one an idea that can never be forgotten of the
cruelty and tyranny which underlay all the gorgeous despotism of Rome,
alike in the kingly, republican, and imperial periods. Some of the
remains may still be seen of the _Scalæ Gemoniæ_, the "steps of
sighs," down which the bodies of those who were executed were thrown,
to be exposed to the insults of the populace. The only circumstance
that relieves the intolerable gloom of the associations of the Prison
is, that Nævius is said to have written two of his plays while he was
confined in it for his attacks on the aristocracy; a circumstance
which links it to the Tower of London, which has also its literary
reminiscences. After having been immured so long in such disagreeable
physical darkness--appropriate emblem of the deeds of horror committed
in it--we were truly glad to catch at last a faint glimmer of daylight
shimmering into the uppermost passage, and to emerge into the open
sunshine, from beneath a house at the farther end of the Vicolo del

A modern carriage-road used to pass along this way, leading up to the
Piazza del Campidoglio in front of the Capitol, and cutting the Forum
into two parts, concealing a considerable portion of it. This
obstruction has now been swept away, and the Forum is fully exposed
from end to end. Below this old road we observe the "nameless column"
of _Childe Harold_, which long stood with its base buried, and was
taken for the ruins of a temple. When excavated in 1813 it was found
to stand on an isolated pedestal, with an inscription recording that
it was erected by the exarch Smaragdus to the emperor Phocas; and the
mode in which the offering was made was worthy of the infamous subject
and the venal dedicator. Nothing can be clearer from the style of the
monument than that it was stolen from the Temple of Vespasian
adjoining; for it is an exact fellow of the three graceful Corinthian
pillars still standing in front of the Ærarium. It was near this
pillar, a few years after it was raised, that Gregory the Great,
before he became Pope, saw the young Saxon captives exposed to be sold
as slaves, and was so struck with their innocent looks and hopeless
fate that he asked about their nationality and religion. Being told
that they were Angli, he said, "_Non Angli, sed Angeli_." The
impression made upon him led to a mission for converting the natives
of Britain, which set out from Rome under St. Augustine in 596. Thus
does the column of the infamous usurper Phocas link itself on the
historic page with the conversion of Britain to Christianity.

Beside the Pillar of Phocas are two large marble screens or parapets,
with magnificent bas-reliefs sculptured on both sides. They were
discovered about sixteen years ago _in situ_, and are among the most
interesting and important objects that have been brought to light by
the recent excavations in the Forum. Their peculiar form has given
rise to much controversy; some antiquarians regarding them as an
avenue along which voters went up to the poll at the popular elections
of consuls, designed either to preserve the voters from the pressure
of the mob, or to prevent any but properly qualified persons from
getting admission; while others believe that the passage between the
double screen led to an altar. This latter opinion seems the more
plausible one, for the sculptures on one side represent the
_suovetaurilia_--a bull, a ram, and a boar, adorned with ribbons and
vittæ, walking in file, which were usually sacrificed for the
purification of Rome at the Lustrum, as the census taken every five
years was called. The other sculptures on the marble screens consist
of a number of human figures in greater or less relief; one of them
being supposed to commemorate the provision made by Trajan for the
children of poor or deceased citizens in the orphanage which he was
the first to found in Rome; and the other, the burning of the deeds
which contained the evidence of the public debt of the Roman citizens,
which the emperor generously cancelled. But the chief significance of
the sculptures lies in their background of architectural and other
objects indicating the locality of the scenes represented. They place
before us a view of the Forum as it appeared in the time of Trajan,
and enable us to identify the various objects which then crowded it,
and to fix their relative position. The topographical importance of
these reliefs has been well discussed by Signor Brizio and Professor
Henzen in the _Proceedings of the Roman Archæological Institute_; and
also in a paper read by Mr. Nichols before the Society of Antiquaries
in London in 1875. By translating into perspective their somewhat
conventional representations of temples, basilicas, and arches, Mr.
Nichols has given us in his monograph on the subject two very
effective pictorial restorations of the Forum as it was in the days of
Trajan. Both the screens exhibit, very distinctly sculptured, a
fig-tree and a statue on a pedestal, which are interesting from their
classical associations. The tree is not the famous Ruminal fig-tree
originally of the Palatine and then of the Comitium, but, as Pliny
tells us, a self-sown tree which grew in the mid Forum on the site of
the Lake of Curtius, which in Ovid's time, as we learn from himself,
was a dry space of natural ground marked off by a low fence, and
including an altar. This fig-tree, along with a vine and an olive,
which grew associated with it, was much prized on account of the shade
which it afforded. The figure under the fig-tree, carrying a vine stem
on its left shoulder, and uplifting its right arm, has been recognised
as that of Marsyas, whose statue was often put in market-places as an
emblem of plenty and indulgence. Martial, Horace, Seneca, and Pliny
all alluded to this statue in the Forum, which stood near the edge of
the Lake of Curtius, and was crowned with garlands by Julia, the
daughter of Augustus, during her disgraceful assignations beside it
with her lovers at night.

On the east side of the Forum the excavations have been stopped in the
meantime, as the modern level of the ground is occupied by valuable
houses, and two very interesting old churches, Santa Martina and Sta.
Adriano. Under the part not yet exhumed lie the remains of the
earliest of all the Basilicas, the Basilica of Porcia, built by the
elder Cato in the immediate vicinity of the Curia, and also those of
the famous Basilica Æmilia, which probably extended along the greater
part of the east side of the Forum. Some of the most important
monuments of ancient Rome, known to us only by the writings of classic
authors, doubtless lie buried in this locality. Under the church of
Sta. Adriano, the famous Curia Hostilia or Senate House, attributed to
Tullus Hostilius, stood. The original building was destroyed by fire
at the funeral of Clodius, through the carelessness of the populace,
who insisted upon burning his body within it; but it was replaced by
the Curia Julia, which was rebuilt by Augustus, who added to it an
important structure, called in the Ancyran inscription Chalcidicum,
for the convenience of the senators. Around it stood the statues of
men who had rendered important services to the state; and not far off
was an altar and statue of Victory, which formed the last
rallying-ground of expiring paganism against the dominating
Christianity of the empire. In the year 382 the Christian party had
removed this altar and statue; and when their restoration was demanded
by Symmachus, the request was refused by Ambrose, as opposed to the
conscience of the Christian senators; and this decision being ratified
by the votes of the assembly, the doom of paganism, as the national
religion, was in consequence sealed. The Curia Julia ceased to serve
its original purpose at the death of Caligula, when the consuls
convoked the senate in the Capitol instead, to mark their aversion to
the rule of the Cæsars; and the building was probably burnt down and
finally rebuilt in the time of Diocletian. One of the most curious
uses to which it was put, was to mark the _Suprema tempestas_, which
closed the hours of legal business, by means of its shadow projected
on the pavement; a primitive mode of reckoning time which existed
before the first Punic war, and was afterwards superseded by a
sun-dial and a clepsydra or water-clock erected in the Forum.

Near the Curia under the present roadway must lie the site of the
Comitium, or meeting-place of the Roman burgesses. This was far the
most important spot in the Forum in the days of the Republic. It was
not a covered building, but a templum or a consecrated space open to
the air. In its area grew a fig-tree, in commemoration of the sacred
tree which sheltered Romulus and Remus in their infancy; and we read
of drops of blood and milk falling upon it as omens from the sky. One
of the stones on its pavement, from its extraordinary blackness, was
called the tombstone of Romulus, and a number of statues adorned its
sides, including the three Sibyls, which gave the name of "In Tria
Fata" down to medieval times to this part of the Forum. From its
rostra, or stone platform, addresses were delivered by political
agitators to open-air assemblies of the people. The Comitium reminds
us very strikingly of the municipal origin of the Roman empire. In
primitive times that mode of government was admirably adapted to the
necessities of the city; but when Rome became mistress of the world it
was found unfitted to discharge imperial functions. The establishment
of the monarchical form of Government overthrew the Comitium, and with
it the very life of the Roman city.

In front of the church of S. Adriano--said to be no other than the
actual Curia of Diocletian, though greatly altered and partly rebuilt
by Pope Honorius I. in the year 630--are some fragments of the
Basilica Æmilia. This court was erected on the site of the Basilica
Fulvia, and superseded by a more splendid building called the Basilica
Pauli, which was the Bourse or Exchange of ancient Rome. The building
of this last Basilica was interrupted for a long time by the disorders
consequent on the assassination of Cæsar. When finished, it was
considered to be one of the most magnificent buildings in the world;
and was especially admired on account of its beautiful columns of
Phrygian marble. These were afterwards removed to decorate the church
of St. Paul outside the gate, where some of them that survived the
burning of the old edifice may be seen behind the high altar of the
new. Between the Curia and the Basilica Æmilia is supposed to have
stood the celebrated Temple of Janus, built according to Livy by Numa
Pompilius, the closing or opening of which was the signal of peace or
war. It was probably at first one of the ancient gates in a line of
fortifications uniting the Capitol with the Palatine; and afterwards
comprised, besides a passage-way through which a great part of the
traffic of Rome passed, a diminutive bronze temple containing a bronze
statue of the venerable deity of the Sabines, whose one face looked to
the east, and the other to the west. The bronze gates of the temple
were closed by Augustus for the third time after the battle of Actium,
and finally shut when Christianity became the religion of the empire.
Procopius saw the temple still standing in the sixth century; and he
tells us that, during the siege of the city by the Goths, when it was
defended by Belisarius, some of the adherents of the old pagan
superstition made a secret attempt to open the shrine and set the god
at liberty.

One gazes at the wall of earth and rubbish, fifteen feet deep, marking
the present limit of the excavations in this direction, with a
profound longing that the obstruction could be removed at once, and
the rich antiquarian treasures lying hid underneath brought to light.
Few things in Rome appealed more powerfully to my curiosity than this
huge bank of _débris_, behind and beneath which imagination was free
to picture all kinds of possibilities. On the part that has been
uncovered, we see a row of brick bases on which had stood monuments of
gilt bronze to some of the distinguished men of Rome; the remains of a
line of shops of the third century demolished during the excavations;
the pedestal of what is said by some to have been Domitian's and by
others Constantine's gigantic equestrian statue; and farther down,
rude heaps of masonry, belonging to the substructures of the Rostra
and Temple of Julius Cæsar. Part of the curved wall of the Rostra may
still be seen built of large blocks of travertine; and in front is a
fixed platform, where a large number of people could stand and listen
to the speaker. This Rostra is specially interesting because it was
constructed in the year of Cæsar's death, and was intended to mark the
design of the great triumvir to destroy the memory of the old
oligarchy by separating the rostra or "hustings" from their former
connection with the senate and comitia, and make them entirely popular
institutions. The front of it was afterwards adorned by Augustus with
the beaks of ships taken at Actium. The small Heroön or Temple of
Cæsar behind the Rostra was erected on the spot where the body of
Cæsar was burned before the house which he had so long inhabited, and
in a part of the Forum especially associated with his greatest
political triumphs. It superseded an altar and lofty column of
Numidian marble, at which the people had previously offered sacrifices
to the memory of their idol, the first mortal in Rome raised to the
rank of the gods; an honour justified, they imagined, not only by his
great deeds, but also by his alleged descent from Venus Anadyomene.

Running down the middle of the Forum is a rough, ancient causeway,
with its blocks of lava still in their original position, but so
disjointed that it is no easy task walking over them. On the other
side is the raised platform of the Basilica Julia of Augustus,
extending from north to south, the whole length of the Forum, with
steps leading up to it from the paved street. This stupendous law
court, the grandest in Rome where Trajan sat to administer justice,
and from whose roof Caligula day after day lavishly threw down money
to the people, has, by its own identity being established beyond
dispute, more than any other discovery helped to determine the
topography of the Roman Forum. It was begun by Julius Cæsar on the
site of the older Basilica Sempronia, which had previously partially
replaced the _Veteres Tabernæ_ or shops of early times required for
the trades carried on in a market-place, and also the schools for
children where Appius Claudius had first seen Virginia reading. Having
been partially destroyed by fire, Augustus afterwards completed and
greatly enlarged the building. It was used as the place of meeting of
the _Centumviri_, a court which we learn from the younger Pliny, who
himself practised before it, had a hundred and eight judges sitting in
four separate tribunals, within sight and hearing of one another, like
the old courts in Westminster Hall. The Basilica is not yet entirely
excavated, a large part of its breadth being still under modern
buildings. It consisted of a series of plain, massive arches built of
travertine. The pavement is wonderfully perfect, being composed of a
mosaic pattern of valuable marbles, doubtless saved from destruction
or removal to build some church or palace by the fortunate
circumstance that the ruins of the Basilica covered and concealed them
at an early period. On this pavement and on the steps leading up to it
are incised numerous squares and circles which are supposed to have
been tabulæ lusoriæ, or gaming-tables. A few have inscriptions near
them alluding to their use. Cicero mentions the dice-players of the
Forum with reprobation; and the fact that such sports should have
intruded into the courts of justice shows that the Romans had lost at
this time their early veneration for the law. The rows of brick arches
seen on the platform are mere modern restorations, placed there by
Cavaliere Rosa to indicate the supposed original plan of the building.
At the south end of it an opening in the pavement shows a part of the
Cloaca Maxima, with the sewerage passing through it underneath.

The ancient street between the Basilica Julia and the Temple of Castor
and Pollux, is undoubtedly the famous _Vicus Tuscus_, so called after
the Etruscan soldiers who belonged to the army of Porsenna, and, being
defeated at Ariccia, took refuge in this part of Rome. This street, so
often mentioned by classic writers, led to the Circus Maximus, and is
now identified with the Via dei Fienili; the point of departure from
the Forum being marked by a statue of Vertumnus, the Etruscan god, the
ruined pedestal of which, in all likelihood, is that which has lately
been unveiled on the steps at the north-east corner of the Basilica
Julia. It was considered almost as sacred as the Via Sacra itself,
being the route taken by the great procession of the Circensian games,
in which the statues of the gods were carried in cars from the Capitol
through the Forum to the circus. In front of the Basilica Julia, and
on the opposite side of the way, so numerous were the statues which
Julius Cæsar contrived to crowd together, that the Emperor
Constantine, during his famous visit to Rome, is said to have been
almost stupefied with amazement. Some such feeling is produced in our
own minds when we reflect that the bewildering array of sculptures in
the Roman galleries, admired by a concourse of pilgrims from every
country, are but chance discoveries, unnoticed by history, and of no
account in their own time. What must have been the feast of splendour
of which these are but the crumbs!

Perhaps the most beautiful of the ruins of the Forum are the three
marble columns of the Temple of Castor and Pollux near the Basilica
Julia. They are the only prominent objects on the south-west side of
the Forum, and at once arrest the eye by their matchless symmetry and
grace. Time has dealt very hardly with them, battering their shapely
columns and rich Corinthian capitals, and discolouring their pure
white Pentelic marble. But it has not succeeded in destroying their
wonderful beauty; and the russet hues with which they have been
stained by the long lapse of the ages have rather added to them the
charm of antique picturesqueness. They rest upon a huge mound of
broken masonry, in the interstices of which Nature has sown her seeds
of minute life, which spread over it a tender pall of bright
vegetation. The three columns are bound together by iron rods, and
still further kept in position by the fragments of architrave and
cornice supported by them. They are forty-eight feet in height and
nearly five feet in diameter, while their flutings are nine inches
across. Around the basement a large quantity of broken columns,
capitals, and pedestals has been disinterred, some of which have
acquired an historic renown on account of the purposes which they have
served in the fine arts. Michael Angelo converted one huge fragment
into the pedestal of the celebrated bronze equestrian statue of Marcus
Aurelius, which he transferred from its original site in front of the
Arch of Septimius Severus, where it had stood for thirteen or fourteen
centuries, to the front of the Capitol; while out of another fragment
Raphael carved the well-known statue of Jonah sitting on a whale, to
be seen in the Chigi Chapel of Sta. Maria del Popolo, the only piece
of sculpture executed by the immortal painter. The Italian Government
has entirely excavated the ruins, and thus set at rest the numerous
controversies among antiquaries regarding its true name.

The temple of Castor and Pollux probably dates as far back as the year
487 before Christ, when the dictator Postumius vowed to build a
monument in commemoration of his victory at the great battle of Lake
Regillus, with which the mythical history of Rome closes. It recalls
the well-known romantic legend of the mysterious interference of the
Dioscuri in that memorable struggle which Macaulay has woven into one
of the most spirited of his Lays. The temple is supposed to have been
erected on the spot where the divine Twins announced the victory to
the people in the Forum at the close of the day. About twenty feet
from the eastern corner of the temple are slight remains of a shallow
oval basin, which has been identified as the lake or fountain of
Juturna, the wife of Janus, the Sabine war-god, where the Dioscuri
washed their armour and horses from the blood and dust of the fray. It
was probably at first a natural spring gushing out of the tufa rock of
the Palatine Hill, but being dried up, it became in later times a
_lacus_ or basin artificially supplied with water. For long ages
afterwards the anniversary of the great battle was celebrated every
year on the fifteenth of July by a splendid pageant worthy of the
greatness of the empire. The Roman knights, clothed in purple robes,
and crowned with olive wreaths, and bearing their trophies, first
offered sacrifice in the shrine of Castor and Pollux, and then formed
a procession, in which five thousand persons sometimes took part,
which filed in front of the temple and marched through the city.

The original building having stood for nearly five hundred years, it
began to exhibit signs of decay, and accordingly it was rebuilt upon
the old foundations by Augustus, and dedicated by Tiberius. The podium
or mass of rubble masonry therefore which we see beneath the three
columns at the present day belongs to the time of the kings, while the
columns themselves belong to the imperial period. Caligula used the
temple as a vestibule to his palace on the Palatine Hill immediately
behind. On the brow of that hill, separated only by the pavement of
the modern street, projects a labyrinth of vaults, arches, and broken
walls, a mighty maze of desolation without a plan, so interspersed
with verdure and foliage that "it looks as much a landscape as a
ruin." This is supposed to be the palace of Caligula; and its remains
abundantly attest the extraordinary magnificence of this imperial
domain, which contained all that was rich and rare from the golden
East, from beyond the snowy Alps, and from Greece, the home of art.
The substructions of this mighty ruin are truly astonishing; they are
so vast, so massive, so enduring, that they seem as if built by
giants. Concealed by modern houses built up against the foot of the
palace, some of the remains of the famous bridge which Caligula threw
obliquely over the Forum can be made out; two of the tall brick piers
are visible above the houses, and in the gable of the outer house the
spring of one of the arches can be distinctly seen. The bridge was
constructed by Caligula for the purpose of connecting his palace with
the Capitol, on the summit of which stood the magnificent Temple of
Jupiter, so that, as he said himself, he might be able to converse
conveniently with his colleague, the greatest of the gods! It is
probable that it served more than one purpose; that it was used both
as an aqueduct and a road for horses and chariots from the Palatine to
the Capitol. Be this as it may, it must have been a stupendous
structure, nearly a quarter of a mile long, and about a hundred feet
high, striding over the whole diagonal of the Forum, with a double or
triple tier of arches, like the remains of the Claudian aqueduct that
spans the Campagna.

The immediate vicinity of the Temple of Castor and Pollux is full of
interest to the classical student. To the right of it are the remains
of the Regia or Royal Palace, the official residence of the early
kings of Rome, and afterwards, during the whole period of the
Republic, of the Pontifex Maximus, as the real head of the State as
well as the Church. Numa Pompilius resided here in the hope that, by
occupying neutral ground, he might conciliate the Latins of the
Palatine and the Sabines of the Capitoline Hills. It was also the home
of Julius Cæsar during the greater part of his life, where Calpurnia,
his wife, dreamed that the pediment of the house had fallen down, and
the sacred weapons in the Sacrarium were stirred by a supernatural
power; an omen that was but too truly fulfilled when Cæsar went forth
to the Forum on the fatal Ides of March, and was carried back a bloody
corpse from the Curia of Pompey. It ceased to become the residence of
the Pontifex when Augustus bought the house of Hortensius on the
Palatine, and elected to dwell there instead; and was therefore given
over to the Vestal Virgins to increase their scanty accommodation. The
_Atrium Vestæ_, or convent of the Vestal Virgins, adjoined the Regia,
and behind it, along the lower slope of the Palatine, stretched the
sacred grove of Vesta, which seems to have been used as a place of
privileged interment for the sisterhood, as a number of gravestones
with the names of vestal virgins upon them were found in digging the
foundations of the church of Sta. Maria Liberatrice in the
seventeenth century. The residence of the Pontifex Maximus and of the
Vestal Virgins, who were regarded as the highest and holiest
personages in the State, gave an air of great respectability to this
neighbourhood, and it became in consequence the fashionable quarter of
Rome. Close beside the house of the Vestal Virgins was the far-famed
Temple of Vesta, in which they ministered, whose podium or basement,
which is a mere circular mound of rough masonry, may be seen on the

The worship of Vesta, the goddess of the household fire, was one of
the most primitive forms of religion. It doubtless arose from the
great difficulty in prehistoric times of producing fire by rubbing two
sticks against one another. Such a flame once procured would be
carefully guarded against extinction in some central spot by the
unmarried women of the household, who had nothing else to do. And from
this central fire all the household fires of the settlement would be
obtained. A relic of this prehistoric custom existed in the rule that
if the sacred vestal fire was ever allowed to go out it could only be
kindled anew by the primitive process of friction. The worship of
Vesta survived an old world of exhausted craters and extinct
volcanoes, with which was buried a world of lost nations. The
Pelasgians brought to Italy the stone of the domestic hearth, the
foundation of the family, and the tombstone, the boundary of the
fields divided after the death of the head of the family, the
foundation of property; and upon this double base arose the great
distinctive edifice of the Roman Law, the special gift of Rome to the
civilisation of the world. Rhea Sylvia, mother of Romulus, was a
Vestal Virgin of Alba, which shows that the worship of Vesta existed
in this region long before the foundation of Rome. The origin of the
first temple and of the institutions of Vestal Virgins for its service
was attributed to Numa Pompilius. The first building, as Ovid tells
us, was constructed with wattled walls and a thatched roof like the
primitive huts of the inhabitants. It was little more than a covered
fireplace. It was the public hearth of the new city, round which were
gathered all the private ones. On it burned continually the sacred
fire, the symbol of the life of the state, which was believed to have
been brought from Troy, and the continuance of which was connected by
superstition with the fortunes of Rome. In the secret penetralia of
the temple, where no man was allowed to enter, was kept with
scrupulous care, for its preservation was equally bound up with the
safety of the empire, the Palladium, or image of Pallas, saved from
the destruction of Troy, and which was supposed to have originally
fallen from heaven. The circular form and the domed roof of the temple
were survivals of the prehistoric huts of the Aborigines, which were
invariably round, as the traces of their foundations show. With the
exception of the Palladium, which remained invisible during all the
ages to ordinary mortal eyes until the destructive fire in the Forum,
in the reign of Commodus, compelled the Vestal Virgins to expose it in
removing it for safety to the imperial court, there was in primitive
times no statue or material representation of the goddess except the
sacred fire in the mysterious shrine of the temple. Indeed the Romans,
as Plutarch tells us, raised no statue to the gods until the year of
Rome 170. In this respect the religion of the Romans, whose divinities
had no participation in the life and passions of men, and had nothing
to do with the human form, differed widely from the religion of the
Greeks, which, inspired by the sentiment of the beautiful in man and
nature, gave birth to art.

The Temple of Vesta, as might have been expected, shared in all the
wonderful changes of Roman history. It was abandoned when the Gauls
entered Rome, and the Vestal Virgins took the sacred fire and the
Palladium to Cære in Etruria for safety. It was destroyed two hundred
and forty-one years before Christ, when L. Metellus, the Pontifex
Maximus at the time, saved the Palladium with the loss of his
eyesight, and consequently of his priesthood, for which a statue was
erected to him in the Capitol. It was consumed in the great fire of
Nero, and rebuilt by Vespasian, on some of whose coins it is
represented. It was finally burnt down in the fire of Commodus, which
destroyed at the same time many important buildings in the Forum. The
worship of Vesta was prohibited by Gratianus in the year 382 of our
era, and the public maintenance of the Vestal Virgins abandoned, in
spite of the protestations of Symmachus and the forlorn hope of the
pagan party. Great as was the reverence paid to the shrine of Vesta,
not being a temple in the proper sense of the term, as it was not
consecrated by augury, it had not the right of sanctuary. Mucius
Scævola, the unfortunate Pontifex Maximus, was murdered beside the
altar by order of Marius, and his blood sprinkled the image of the
goddess; and Piso Licinianus, the adopted son of Galba, after the
assassination of that emperor beside the Curtian Lake in the Forum,
was dragged out from the innermost shrine of the temple, to which he
had fled for refuge, and barbarously massacred at the door. But it is
impossible to dwell upon all the remarkable events with which this
haunted shrine of Rome's earliest and most beautiful worship is
associated. Certainly no greater object of interest has been exhumed
among all the antiquities of the Eternal City than the little round
mass of shapeless masonry which has been identified beyond all
reasonable doubt as the basement of the world-renowned temple, the
household hearth of old Rome.

Opposite the Temple of Vesta, at the north-east corner of the Forum,
where it ends, is the magnificent façade of the Temple of Antoninus
Pius and Faustina, the most perfect of all the Roman temples. There
are six splendid Corinthian columns in front and two at the sides,
each composed of a single block of green ripple-marked Cipollino
marble, about forty-six feet in height and five feet in diameter, with
bases and capitals of marble, originally white, but now rusty and
discoloured by age; all beautifully proportioned and carved in the
finest style of ancient art. These columns were buried to half their
height in medieval times; and houses were built up against and between
them, the marks of whose roofs are still visible in indentations near
their summits. These houses were removed, and the ground excavated
down to the bases of the columns in the sixteenth century by Palladio,
revealing a grand flight of marble steps, twenty-one in number,
leading up to the temple from the street. The excavations at that time
were made for the purpose of finding marbles and building materials
for the Church of St. Peter's. Two sides of the cella of the temple
still remain, formed by large massive blocks of peperino, probably
taken from the second wall of Rome, which must have passed very near
to the east end of this temple; for the ancient Roman architects were
as unscrupulous in appropriating the relics of former ages as their
successors. The roughness of these walls was hidden by an outer casing
of marble, ornamented with pilasters, of which only the small capitals
now remain. Both the cella and the portico still retain a large
portion of their magnificent marble entablature; and the frieze and
cornice are richly covered with carvings of vases and candelabra,
guarded by griffins, exquisite in design and execution. The marble
slabs that covered the whole outside of the temple had been burnt for
lime in a kiln that stood in front of the portico in the sixteenth
century, and in this lime-kiln were found fragments of statues,
bas-reliefs, and inscriptions, which were about to be destroyed in
that barbarous fashion.

The temple was originally begun by Antoninus Pius to the memory of his
unworthy wife Faustina in the year 142 of our era, but being
unfinished at his death, it was dedicated by the senate to both their
names. We see it represented in all its magnificence on some of the
coins of this emperor. In the year 1430 Pope Martin V. built over its
remains a church called S. Lorenzo in Miranda, whose singular ugliness
was in striking contrast to the grandeur of the venerable ruin which
embraced it. The floor of this church was ten feet above the original
level of the temple, and its roof was carried twenty feet above its
cornice. It contained several tombs of the Roman apothecaries, to
whose Corporation it belonged. No one will regret that it has been
removed; the excavations in front of it having reduced the level of
the ground far below its doorway, and thus cut off the approach. It is
strange to think of the two different kinds of worship carried on at
such widely separated intervals within this remarkable building, first
a pagan temple and then a Christian church--worship so different in
name and yet so like in reality; for the divine honours paid to a
mortal emperor and his wife were transferred in after ages to frail
mortals such as Saint Laurence and the Virgin Mary. We are reminded by
the inscription above the portico of the temple, "Divo Antonino et
Divæ Faustina," that the government of the Cæsars had become an
earthly omnipotence in the estimation of the Romans and the subject
nations. They looked alone to Cæsar for all their good, and from him
they feared their chiefest evil. He had become to them their
providence or their fate. The adoration offered to him was not a mere
act of homage or sign of fealty, but was most truly and in the highest
sense a worship as to a divine being.

The view in this part of the Forum, looking down from the Antonine
Temple, is most striking and suggestive. It reveals some of the
grandest objects of ancient Rome. Immediately beyond is the hoary old
church of SS. Cosma e Damiano, with mosaics of the sixth century on
its tribune, built out of three ancient temples, as Dr. Parker has
clearly proved--the round Temple of Romulus Maxentius, the Temple of
Venus, and the Temple of Rome. The south wall of this last-mentioned
temple, built of huge square blocks of tufa, to which the marble plan
of Rome was fastened by metal hooks, may still be seen in the church;
and it is interesting as being the last pagan temple which remained in
use in Rome. Here was the last struggle of paganism with the unbelief
which itself inspired. The gods of the Pantheon had lost all
significance. The worship of abstract qualities, such as Concord and
Victory, or of the personification of a local providence in the city
of Rome itself, could not satisfy the longing of the human soul. As
religion decayed the worship of the gods was superseded by the worship
of the emperor. Their statues were decapitated and the head of the
emperor was placed upon them. On the statue of Olympic Jove appeared
the bust of the contemptible Caligula; and this incongruous adaptation
represented the change of the popular faith from its former heavenly
idealisations to the most grovelling fetish worship of the time. This
deification of the emperors avenged its terrible blasphemy by the
sublime wickedness of those who were so raised above humanity. Here,
in this last pagan temple of Rome, converted into one of the earliest
Christian churches, we see the darkness and despair of the heathen
world preparing for that joyful morning light of Christianity which
has transferred the faith of mankind to foundations which can never
more be shaken. Immediately beyond in the background are the huge
gloomy arches of the Basilica of Constantine, fretted with coffers,
suspended in mid-air for upwards of sixteen centuries, in defiance of
the laws of gravity and the ravages of time and of human destroyers,
taken as a model for churches by Roman architects, though built
originally for a law court. In front is the Arch of Titus, with its
well-known sculptures of the spoils from the Temple of Jerusalem,
spanning the highest point of the Via Sacra. And closing up the view
is the grandest ruin in the world, the stupendous broken circle of the
Colosseum, rising tier above tier into the blue sky, burnt deep brown
by the suns of ages, holding the spectator breathless with wonder, and
thrilling the mind with the awful associations connected with it.

The Forum lies like an open sepulchre in the heart of old Rome. All is
death there; the death of nature and the death of a race whose long
history has done more to shape the destiny of the world than any
other. The soil beneath our feet is formed by the ashes of an extinct
fire, and by the dust of a vanished empire. Everywhere the ruins of
time and of man are mingled with the relics of an older creation; and
the sculptured marbles of the temples and law courts, where Cæsar
worshipped and Cicero pled, lie scattered amid the tufa-blocks, the
cinders of the long quiescent volcanoes of the Campagna. Nature and
man have both accomplished their work in this spot; and the relics
they have left behind are only the exuviæ of the chrysalis out of
which the butterfly has emerged, or the empty wave-worn shells left
high and dry upon an ancient coast-line. It is a remarkable
circumstance that the way in which the Forum originated was the very
way in which it was destroyed. The cradle of Roman greatness became
its tomb. The Forum originated in the volcanic fires of earth; it
passed away in the incendiary fires of man. In the month of May 1084
the Norman leader, Robert Guiscard, came with his troops to rescue
Gregory VII. from the German army which besieged Rome. Then broke
out--whether by accident or design is not known--the terrible
conflagration which extended from the Capitol to the Coelian Hill, but
raged with the greatest intensity in the Forum. In that catastrophe
classical Rome passed away, and from the ashes of the fire arose the
Phoenix of modern Rome. The greatest of physical empires was wrecked
on this spot, and out of the wreck was constructed the greatest
spiritual empire the world has ever known. For the Roman Pontificate,
to use the famous saying of Hobbes, was but the ghost of the deceased
Roman Empire sitting crowned upon the grave thereof.



Among the first objects that arrest the attention and powerfully
excite the curiosity of the visitor in Rome are the Egyptian obelisks.
They remind him impressively that the oldest things in this city of
ages are but as of yesterday in comparison with these imperishable
relics of the earliest civilisation. At one time it is said that there
were no less than forty-eight obelisks erected in Rome,--six of the
largest size and forty-two of the smaller,--all conveyed at enormous
cost and with almost incredible labour from the banks of the Nile to
the banks of the Tiber. Upwards of thirty of them have perished
without leaving any trace behind. They are doubtless buried deep under
the ruins of ancient Rome, but the chance of their disinterment is
very problematical. One obelisk, indeed, was exposed a hundred and
forty years ago in the square of the principal church of the Jesuits,
near the Pantheon; but being found to be broken, and also to underlie
a corner of the church and the greater part of an adjoining palace, so
that it could not be extracted without seriously injuring these
buildings, it was covered up again, and was thus lost to the world. As
it is, we find in Rome the largest collection of obelisks that exists
at the present day in the world, and the best field for studying them.

Obelisks were dedicated to the sun, which was the central object of
worship, and occupied the most conspicuous position in the religious
system of the oldest nations. Sun-worship, that which waited upon some
hill-top to catch the first beams of the morning that created a new
day, is the oldest and the most natural of all kinds of worship. He
was adored as the source of all the life and motion and force in the
world by the most primitive people; and we find numerous traces of
this ancient sun-worship in the rude stone monuments, with their
cup-shaped symbols, that have survived on our moors, in many of the
old customs which still linger in our Christianity, and in the name by
which the most sacred day of the week is commonly known among us. All
the benefits conferred upon our world by the sun must have been
strikingly apparent to the ancient Egyptians, dwelling in a land
exposed to the sun's vertical rays, and clothed with almost tropical
beauty and luxuriance. When they watched the ebbing of the overflowing
waters of the Nile, and saw the moist earth on which the sun's rays
fell, quickened at once into a marvellous profusion of plant and
animal life, they naturally regarded the sun as the Creator, and so
deified him in that capacity. The origin of all life, vegetable and
animal, to those who stood, as it were, by its cradle, when the world
was young and haunted by heaven, seemed a greater mystery and wonder
than it is to us in these later faithless ages. Long familiarity with
it in its full-grown proportions has made it commonplace to us.

Both the obelisk and the pyramid were solar symbols, the obelisk being
the symbol of the rising sun, and the pyramid of the setting. The
fundamental idea of the obelisk was that of creation by light; that of
the pyramid, death through the extinction of light. And this
symbolical difference between the two objects was practically
expressed by the different situations in which they were placed; the
obelisks being all located on the eastern side of the Nile, that being
the region of the rising sun, and of the dawn of life; while the
pyramids are all found on the western bank of the river, the region
of the sunset, with its awfully sterile hills and silent untravelled
desert of sand from which no tidings had ever come to living man,
where the dead were buried under the shades of night, in their
rock-cut cemeteries. It might thus seem, that by placing obelisks in
our churchyards in association with the dead, we were violating their
original significance, and guilty of adding another to the many
incongruities which have arisen from adopting pagan symbols in
Christian burying-places. But in reality we find a deeper reason for
the association. In some of the oldest sculptures in Egypt, an obelisk
is represented as standing on the top of a pyramid; and by this
combination it was meant to signify the power of life triumphing over
death. And hence the obelisk is the most suitable of all forms to
indicate in our cemeteries the glorious truth of the resurrection,
life rising victorious out of the transitory condition of death.

And how admirably did the obelisk lend itself to its symbolical
purposes! There was a most wonderful harmony between the idea and the
object which expressed it. Being composed of the most durable of all
materials, the hard indestructible granite, the eternal sun was thus
fittingly represented by an object that lifts its stern finger in
unchangeable defiance of the vicissitudes of the seasons and the ages.
Its highly polished surface and rich rosy red colour, its sharply
defined lines and narrow proportions, combined with its immense
height, suggested the brilliancy and hue and form of a pencil of
light. Its tall red column flashing in the strong morning radiance,
like a tongue of flame mounting up to its source in the solar fire, or
like a ray of the halo that rises up on the low horizon of the Libyan
desert, when the dawn has crimsoned all the eastern heavens, might
thus well be selected as the most suitable object to bring the
invisible sun-god within the ken of human vision and the range of
human worship. The poetical imagination may detect a significance even
in the difference between the material used in the construction of
the obelisk, and that used in the construction of the pyramid, though
this may not have been designed by the makers. The obelisks are all
formed of granite, the foundation-stone of the globe, belonging to the
oldest azoic formation, which laid down the first basis for the
appearing of life. The pyramids were nearly all made of nummulitic
limestone composed of the remains of organic life; a material which
belonged to the latest geologic ages, when whole generations and
different platforms of life had come and gone. Thus significantly does
the obelisk of granite suggest by its material as by its form the
origin of life, as the pyramid suggests by its material and form the
extinction of life.

But not only was the obelisk raised in connection with the worship of
the sun,--it was also intended to honour the reigning monarch who
erected it, and whose name and titles were engraved upon it along with
the name of the sun. For it was a fundamental idea of the Egyptian
religion that the king was not only the son of the solar god, but also
the visible human representative of his glory. This was a favourite
conception of the ancients. The Incas of Peru regarded themselves as
direct descendants of the sun; and the monarchs of the burning Asiatic
lands, where the sun rules and dominates everything, assume the name
and title of his sons, and clothe themselves with his splendour. The
obelisks were thus the symbols of the two great correlative
conceptions of the sun in the heavens, and his satellite and
representative on the earth--god and the king. This Egyptian faith, as
attested by the obelisks, the oldest of all the creeds, antecedent to
the theologies of India, Greece, and Rome, ceased not to be venerated
till the advent of Christianity swept all material worship away. It
awed, as Mr. Cooper has well observed, the mixed multitude in
Alexandria under the Cæsars, as it had done the primitive Egyptians
under the oldest Pharaohs. It extended over a space of more than three
thousand years. During all that long period the obelisk was "the
emblem at once of the vivifying power of the sun and of the divine
nature of the king, a witness for the divine claim of the sun to be
worshipped, and of the right divine of the king to rule." Where is
there in all the world, in its most ancient cities, in its loneliest
deserts, any class of objects which has been held continuously sacred
for so long a time? The description of the sun itself by Ossian
applies almost equally well to his worship as thus represented.

Obelisks as symbols of the sun and of the creative power of nature,
were not confined to Egypt. They belonged to the mythology of all
ancient nations. There are modifications of them in India, in
prehistoric America, and among the archæological remains of our own
country. They were common objects in connection with the Assyrian,
Persian and Phoenician religions. And it has been conjectured with
much plausibility that the image of gold, whose height was threescore
cubits, and the breadth six, the usual proportions of an obelisk,
which Nebuchadnezzar set up in the plain of Dura, in the province of
Babylon, and commanded Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego to adore, was
in reality an obelisk after the Egyptian pattern. Such an obelisk was
often gilded, and was associated with the worship of the king as its
material purpose, and with the creation and origin of life as its
symbolic meaning. And if this was the case, there was an unusual
aggravation in this idolatry; for the Egyptian obelisks themselves
were never worshipped, but were always regarded as the signs of the
higher powers whose glory they expressed.

The question is naturally asked, Where were the obelisks originally
placed? At the present day we find those of them that remain in Egypt,
solitary objects without anything near them, and those that have been
carried to other lands have been set up in great open squares, or on
river embankments in the heart of the largest cities. Fortunately,
there is no doubt at all on this point. They stood in pairs at the
doors of the great temples, one on each side, where they served the
same purpose which the campanile of the Italian church or the spire of
a cathedral serves at the present day. Indeed, architects are of
opinion that church towers and steeples are mere survivals of the old
Egyptian obelisks, which furnished the original conception. The tower
corresponded to the shaft of the obelisk, and the steeple to the sharp
pyramidal part in which the summit of the obelisk terminated. And
though there is usually only one spire or tower now in connection with
our churches, there used to be two, as many old examples still extant
testify, one standing on each side of the principal entrance after the
manner of the Egyptian obelisks. The slender round towers of Brechin
and Abernethy, and of Devenish and other places in Ireland, capped by
a conical stone roof terminating in a single stone, which were for a
long time a puzzle to the antiquary, are now ascertained to be simply
steeples connected with Christian churches of the tenth and eleventh
centuries. And just as these towers are now left isolated and solitary
without a trace of the buildings with which they were associated, so
the Egyptian temples have passed away, and the obelisks are left alone
in the desert. But we can reconstruct in imagination the massive and
lofty buildings in front of which they stood, and where they showed to
the greatest advantage. Instead of being dwarfed by the enormous
masses of the propylons, their height gained by the near comparison.
The obelisks in our squares and vast open spaces have their effect
destroyed by the buildings being at a distance from them. There is no
scale near at hand to assist the eye in estimating the height;
consequently they seem much smaller than they really are. But when
seen in the narrow precincts of a temple court, from whose floor they
shot up into the blue sky overhead, surrounded by great columns and
lofty gates, breaking the monotony of the heavy masses of masonry of
which the Egyptian temples were composed, and acting the part which
campanili and spires perform in modern churches, a standard of
comparison was thus furnished which greatly enhanced their magnitude.

Nothing could be grander than the objects associated with the obelisks
where they stood. The temple was approached by an avenue of huge
sphinxes, in some cases a mile and a half long. Drawing nearer, the
worshipper saw two lofty obelisks towering up a hundred feet in
height, on the right and left. Behind these he would observe with awe
four or six gigantic statues seated with their hands on their knees.
And at the back of the statues he would gaze with astonishment upon
two massive towers or pylons, broader at the base than at the summit,
two hundred feet wide and a hundred and twenty feet high, crowned by a
gigantic cornice, with their whole surface covered with coloured
sculptures, representing one of the great dramas in the reign of a
victorious monarch. Above them would rise the tall masts of coloured
cedar-wood, inserted in sinkings chased into the wall, surmounted by
the expanded banners of the king, or the heraldic bearings of the
temple floating in the breeze. Between the huge propylons opened up
the great gateway of the temple, sixty feet high, which led into a
vast court, surrounded by columns and open to the sky. Beyond were
walls whose roofs were supported by a forest of enormous pillars,
which seemed to have been raised by giants. Each hall diminished in
size, but increased in sacredness, until the inmost sanctuary was
reached; small, dark, and awful in its obscurity. Here was the holy
shrine in the shape of a boat or ark, having in it a kind of chest
partially veiled, in which was hid the mystic symbol of the god. Like
the tabernacle of Israel, the common people were not allowed to go
farther than the outer court beyond the obelisks; only kings and
priests being permitted to penetrate into the interior recesses, there
to observe the ritual ceremonies of the mysterious Egyptian worship.
On the plan of the Egyptian temple were modelled the sacred buildings
of the Jews; and the famous pillars of burnished brass, wonderful for
their workmanship and their costly material, which Solomon erected in
the court of his temple, called Jachin and Boaz, had their prototypes
in the obelisks of the Nile.

The obelisk belongs essentially to a level country; and there is no
habitable region in the world so uniformly flat and unbroken by any
elevations or depressions of surface as the valley of the Nile. There
it produces its greatest effect; its size is not dwarfed by
surrounding heights, and comes out by contrast with the small objects
that diversify the plain. It forms a conspicuous landmark, a salient
point on which the eye may rest with relief as it takes in the wide
featureless horizon. In an artificial landscape, where there is no
wild unmixed nature, where every inch of ground is cultivated, it is
the appropriate culmination of that triumph of human art which is
visible everywhere. It was a sense of this harmony of relation that
induced the builders of the great cathedrals and temples of the world
to place them, not amid varied and rugged scenery, where they might be
brought into comparison with nature's work, but uniformly on level
expanses of land. There they form the crowning symbol of man's loving
care and painstaking endeavour, and give to the artificial landscape,
which man has entirely subdued for his own uses, the finishing touch
of power.

Obelisks are the most enduring monuments of antiquity, and yet no
class of objects has undergone such extraordinary vicissitudes. The
history of the changes to which they have been subjected reads like a
romance. At a remote age, not long after they were erected, most of
them were cast down during some political catastrophe, which shook the
whole country to its foundations. Under a subsequent dynasty the
obelisks seem to have been lifted up to their former places, and
regarded with the old veneration. After the lapse of nearly a thousand
years, the land was again convulsed by a terrible revolution, the
nature of which is still wrapped up in almost impenetrable mystery. A
warlike migratory race came from the north-east, and subdued the
whole country. This is known as the Hyksos invasion, or the invasion
of the Shepherd Kings, and produced the same effects in Egypt as the
Norman invasion produced in England. Previous to this period the horse
seemed to have been altogether unknown; but after this date it
uniformly appears in Egyptian paintings and sculptures. The Hyksos
must therefore have been a pastoral race, in all likelihood belonging
to the plains of Tartary; and, mounted on horses, they would find
little difficulty in overcoming the foot soldiery of Egypt. When they
had obtained possession of the country, they burnt down the cities,
demolished the temples, and overthrew the obelisks. This disaster, the
most dreadful which Egypt had ever known, followed suddenly upon a
period of extraordinary prosperity, when new cities were built, and
old cities enlarged; works of great public utility were constructed, a
mercantile intercourse established with the surrounding nations, and
the arts of painting, sculpture, and architecture, favoured by the
long peace and the abundant resources of the country, reached their
highest excellence. The reversal of all these signs of prosperity was
so overwhelming, that the Egyptians of subsequent ages looked back
upon this period of subjection under a foreign yoke which lay upon
them for five hundred years, with bitter resentment. When the hated
dynasty was at an end, the Egyptians obliterated, as far as they
could, every sign of its supremacy, chiselled out the names of its
kings on their monuments, and destroyed their records, so that few
traces of this revolution remain to dispel the strange mystery in
which it is involved. They could never bear to hear the detested names
of the Shepherd Kings; and this circumstance throws light upon the
passage in Genesis which says that the occupation of a shepherd was an
abomination to the Egyptians. Under the patronage of the new dynasty
the arts which had been destroyed were again restored, the monuments
of the suppressed religion were freed from their indignities, and
once more reinstated with the old honours, and the whole country was
reconstructed. But, while the temples were re-erected, and the old
worship established with even greater splendour, there can be no doubt
that many of the earlier obelisks, owing to their smaller size, as
compared with the other gigantic monuments of Egypt, had been
destroyed past all reconstruction; and some of them remain in the land
at the present day on the sites where, and in the exact manner in
which, they were overturned by the Shepherd Kings.

But greater changes still happened to the Egyptian obelisks after
this. Previously they had been devastated and overturned on their own
soil. But now they excited the cupidity of the foreign invaders of
Egypt, and were carried away to distant lands as trophies of their
victories. The first obelisks that were removed in this way were two
of the principal ones that adorned one of the temples of Thebes. After
the capture of Thebes by Assurbanipal, the Assyrian king, the famous
Sardanapalus of the Greeks, they were transported to the conqueror's
palace at Nineveh, and were afterwards lost for ever in the
destruction of that city, about sixty years later, or about six
hundred years before Christ. The transportation of these enormous
masses of stone across the country to the seashore, down the Red Sea,
over the Indian Ocean, up the Persian Gulf, and the river Tigris, to
their destination in the palace of Nineveh, nearly two thousand miles,
must have been a feat of engineering skill at that early period of the
world's history, far more wonderful in regard to the difficulties
overcome, without any precedent to guide, and considering the rudeness
of the means of transport, than anything that has ever been attempted
since in the same line. The example of the Assyrian tyrant was
followed, after a long interval, by the Romans, who sought to magnify
and commemorate their conquests in Egypt by spoiling the land of its
characteristic monuments. The Cæsars, one after another, for more than
a hundred years, took advantage of their victories and the ruin of
the unhappy land of Egypt to convey its beautiful obelisks to their
own capital to permanently adorn one or other of the various places of
public resort. They seem to have set almost the same high value upon
these singular monuments which their inventors did. Pliny and
Suetonius describe the almost incredible magnitude of the vessels in
which these gigantic masses of stone were conveyed to Ostia, the
harbour town, and from thence up the Tiber to Rome. The huge triremes
were propelled by the force of hundreds of rowers across the waters of
the Mediterranean. From the quay at Rome they were dragged and pushed,
by the brute force of thousands in the old Egyptian manner, on low
carts supported on rollers instead of wheels, to their destination,
where they were set upright by a complicated machinery of ropes and
huge upright beams.

How many obelisks of Egyptian origin existed at one time in the world
we do not know. They were undoubtedly very numerous; but many of them
were broken up for building materials. The famous column called
Pompey's Pillar stands upon a fragment of an ancient obelisk; and
tradition asserts that there are many similar fragments of greater or
less antiquity under the ruins of the older houses of Alexandria. At
present forty-two obelisks are known to be in existence in different
parts of the world. Of these, seventeen remain in Egypt on their
original sites, of which no less than eleven are prostrate on the
ground, having been overturned by some political or religious
revolution, by the force of an earthquake, or by the slow undermining
of the infiltrated waters of the Nile. No less than twelve of the
oldest and grandest are still to be seen standing erect in Rome, where
they constitute by far the most striking and memorable monuments. The
others are distributed in various places wide apart. One is in Paris,
two are in Constantinople, a fourth, the famous Cleopatra's Needle, is
on the Thames Embankment, in the heart of London; a fifth, its old
companion in Alexandria, is now in one of the public squares of New
York. And there are several diminutive ones, from eight feet in height
downwards, in the British Museum, in the Florentine Museum in
Florence, in Benevento in Italy, and in the town of Alnwick in

The oldest of all the obelisks is the beautiful one of rosy granite
which stands alone among the green fields on the banks of the Nile not
far from Cairo. It is the gravestone of a great ancient city which has
vanished and left only this relic behind. That city was the
Bethshemesh of Scripture, the famous On, which is memorable to all
Bible readers as the residence of the priest Potipherah whose daughter
Asenath Joseph married. The Greeks called it Heliopolis, the city of
the sun, because there the worship of the sun had its chief centre and
its most sacred shrines. It was the seat of the most ancient
university in the world, to which youthful students came from all
parts of the world, to learn the occult wisdom which the priests of On
alone could teach. Thales, Solon, Eudoxus, Pythagoras, and Plato, all
studied there, perhaps Moses too. It was also the birthplace of the
sacred literature of Egypt, where were written on papyrus leaves the
original chapters of the oldest book in the world, generally known as
the "Book of the Dead," giving a most striking account of the
conflicts and triumphs of the life after death; a whole copy or
fragment of which every Egyptian, rich or poor, wished to have buried
with him in his coffin, and portions of which are found inscribed on
every mummy case and on the walls of every tomb. In front of one of
the principal temples of the sun, in this magnificent city, stood
along with a companion, long since destroyed, the solitary obelisk
which we now behold on the spot. It alone, as I have said, has
survived the wreck of all the glory of the place, as if to assure us
that what is given to God, however ignorantly and superstitiously,
endures, while all the other works of man perish. It was constructed
by Usirtesen I., who is supposed to have reigned two thousand eight
hundred years before Christ, and has outlasted all the dynastic
changes of the land, and still stands where it originally stood nearly
forty-seven centuries ago. What appears of its shaft above ground is
sixty-eight feet in height, but its base is buried in the mud of the
Nile; and year after year the inundation of the river deposits its
film of soil around its foot, and buries it still deeper in its sacred
grave. Down the centre of each of its four faces runs a line of
deeply-cut hieroglyphics, in whose cavities the wild mason-bees
construct their mud-cells and store their honey. Nothing can exceed
the beauty and distinctness of these carvings. The pictures of birds
and beasts, chiselled in the hard polished granite, have a purity of
form and line, a directness of expression and intention, which is most
impressive. Its top is somewhat damaged, having been originally
protected, as was the case with many of the obelisks which were not
finely finished to a point, with a capping of gilded bronze that
remained intact till the thirteen century. The inscription on its
sides contains nothing of historic value. It is simply a dedication to
Usirtesen, who constructed it, under the title of Horus, or the rising
sun, which was borne, as I have said, by the kings of Egypt on account
of their supposed origin as an incarnation of the sun.

At Luxor, a single obelisk, the property of the English, still
maintains its ancient position. It is very beautiful, formed of red
granite, and covered with elegantly carved inscriptions, running up
each of the four faces. The hieroglyphics are cut to an unusual depth,
and are remarkably clear and well-formed, indicating that the monument
was raised in honour of Rameses the Great, the most illustrious of all
the Egyptian monarchs, and the most magnificent and prolific architect
the world has ever seen. The top of the obelisk was originally left in
a rough unfinished state, the roughness having been concealed by a
capping of bronze; but this having been removed long ago, the surface
has become very much eroded by exposure, which somewhat detracts from
the elegance of the shaft. It has also the peculiarity that its two
inner faces are sensibly curved--a peculiarity which it is supposed
was designed to make the sunlight fall with softer effect, so as to
make the shadows less crude, and the angles less sharp. The shaft,
which is eighty-two feet high by eight feet in diameter at the base,
is elevated upon a pedestal, which is adorned by statues in high
relief of dog-headed monkeys standing in an attitude of adoration at
the corners worshipping the sun, and also by standing figures of the
god of the Nile presenting offerings, incised in the stone like the
hieroglyphics of the shaft. The surroundings of this obelisk are far
grander than those of any other obelisk in the world. At present the
extent and dimensions of the ruins of Thebes produce an overwhelming
effect upon the visitor. But it is almost impossible for us to imagine
its magnificence when its temples and obelisks were in their full
perfection, and the great Rameses was carried on the shoulders of his
officers through the ranks of adoring slaves to behold the completion
of the works which had been designed to perpetuate his glory. The
ancient city, divided in the middle by the Nile, as London is by the
Thames or Glasgow by the Clyde, covered the vast plain, with great
houses in the outskirts standing in richly cultivated gardens, each
temple surrounded by its own little sacred lake, over which the bodies
of the dead were carried by the priests before burial, and the
beautiful Mokattam Hills bounding the view, wearing the soft lilac hue
of distance. Only two or three places on earth can rival the
overwhelming interest which the city possesses. But the colossal
associated temples of Karnac and Luxor are absolutely unique. There is
nothing on earth to equal them. They are man's greatest achievements
in religious architecture. Long rows of stupendous pillars, covered
from base to top with coloured pictures and hieroglyphics, containing
a whole library of actually written and pictured history and
religion, look "like a Brobdingnagian forest turned into stone," in
the midst of which the visitor feels himself an insignificant insect.
A sense of superhuman awfulness, of personal nothingness and
irresistible power, is what these stupendous structures inspire in
even the most callous spectator. A confused mass of broken columns and
heaps of huge sculptured stones present an appearance as if the old
giants had been at war on the spot, hurling rocks at each other.
Between Luxor and Karnac extended an avenue of sphinxes, two miles
long, numbering more than four thousand pieces of sculpture, now
represented by mutilated formless blocks of stone. We see in these
vast temples, which were raised by a people inspired with the
sentiment that they were the greatest of all nations, to be the chief
shrines of the religion of the country, the fruits of the plunder and
the tribute of Asia and Africa. The funds necessary to build them had
been procured by robbing other nations; and most of the work was done
by captives taken in war. Many a fair province had been desolated of
its inhabitants, many a splendid city spoiled of its riches, in order
to construct these awful halls. Unfortunately, the annual overflow of
the inundation of the Nile covers the ground to the depth of a foot or
two, staining and eating away the bases of the columns, and
overthrowing their enormous drums and architraves. The destruction
cannot be prevented, for the water infiltrates through the soil; and
some day, ere long, the remaining columns will be hurled down, and the
pride of Karnac will lie prone in the dust.

Passing westward to Rome, the largest obelisk not only in the Eternal
City but in the whole world is that which now adorns the square of St.
John Lateran. It is, as usual, of red granite much darkened and
corroded by time, and stands with its pedestal and cross one hundred
and forty-one feet high; the shaft alone being one hundred and eight
feet seven inches in height, with faces about nine feet and a half
wide at the base; the whole mass weighing upwards of four hundred and
sixty tons. It was found among the ruins of the Circus Maximus broken
into three pieces, and was dug up by order of Pope Sixtus V., conveyed
to its present site, and re-erected by the celebrated architect
Fontana in 1588. The lower end had been so much injured by its fall,
that in order to enable it to stand, it was found necessary to cut off
about two feet and a half to obtain a level base. On the top of it
Fontana added by way of ornament four bronze lions, surmounted by
three mountain peaks, out of which sprung the cross, as the armorial
bearings of the Popes. Thus crowned with the cross, and consecrated to
the honour of Christianity, this noble relic of antiquity acquires an
additional interest from its nearness to the great Basilica of the
Lateran, which is the representative cathedral of the Papacy and the
mother church of Christendom, and to the Lateran Palace, for a
thousand years the residence of the Popes of Rome.

The history of the Lateran obelisk is unusually varied. It was
originally constructed by Thothmes III., and set up by him before the
great temple of Amen at Heliopolis. But being an old man at the time,
he left his successor to complete it by adding most of the
hieroglyphics. It took thirty-six years to carve these sculptures; the
four sides from top to bottom being covered with inscriptions in the
purest style of Egyptian art. From one of these inscriptions we learn
that the obelisk was thrown down in Egypt probably during the invasion
of the Shepherd Kings, and was re-erected by the great Rameses, who
did not, contrary to the usual custom, arrogate to himself the honours
of his predecessor. These sculptures tell us of monarchs who had
reigned, and conquered, and died long before the mythic times, when
the "pious Æneas," as Virgil tells us, landed on the Italian shore,
and Romulus ploughed his significant furrow round the Palatine Hill. A
thousand years before the foundation of Rome, and two thousand years
before the Christian era, it had been excavated from the quarries of
Syene and worshipped at Heliopolis. It was as old to the Cæsars as the
days of the Cæsars are to us. Pliny tells us that the work of
quarrying, conveying, and setting it up employed twenty thousand men;
and there is a dim tradition that so anxious was the king for its
safety, when it was erected, that in order to ensure this he bound his
own son to the top of it. A close examination of the hieroglyphics
reveals the curious fact that the name of the god Amen wherever it
occurs, is more deeply carved than the other figures, in order to
obliterate the name of some other deity which had previously occupied
its place. It is supposed that this circumstance indicates a
theological revolution which happened in the history of Egypt when
Amenhotep III., the Memnon of the Greek historian, married an Arabian
wife of the name of Taia, who introduced her own religion into her
adopted country, as Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, introduced the worship
of Baal into Israel. When this dynasty was overthrown, in the course
of about fifty years, the old faith was restored, and the names of the
old gods substituted for those which had usurped their place on the
religious monuments. It is supposed that the Lateran obelisk was the
one before which Cambyses, the great Persian conqueror, stood lost in
admiration, arrested in his semi-religious course of destroying the
popular monuments of Egypt. Augustus intended to have removed it to
Rome, but was deterred by the difficulty of the undertaking, and also
by superstitious scruples, because it had been specially dedicated to
the sun, and fixed immovably in his temple. Constantine the Great had
no such scruples, believing, as he said, that "he did no injury to
religion if he removed a wonder from one temple, and again consecrated
it in Rome, the temple of the whole world." He died, however, before
he had completed his design, having succeeded only in transporting the
obelisk to Alexandria, from whence his son and successor Constantius
transferred it to Rome, and placed it on the Spina of the Great
Circus. So clumsily, however, was it erected in this place, that
several deep holes had to be drilled in the upper part of it, in order
that ropes for hauling it up might be put through them; a defect in
engineering skill which has disfigured the obelisk, and contrasts
strikingly with the resources of the ancient Egyptians, who were able
to raise the stone to its position without such a device. The obelisk
is thus an enduring monument of three great rulers--Thothmes, who
first constructed it in Heliopolis; Constantine, who removed it to
Rome; and Pope Sixtus V., who conveyed it from the Circus Maximus, and
re-erected it where it now stands.

Next in point of height to the Lateran obelisk is the one that stands
in the great square of St. Peter's, between two beautiful fountains
that are continually showering high in the air their radiant sunlit
spray. It is meant to serve as the gnomon of a gigantic dial, traced
in lines of white marble in the pavement of the square. Its rosy
surface glistening in the rays of the sun, and its long shadow cast
before it on the ground, make it a very impressive object. Its origin
is involved in mystery, for there is no inscription on it to tell who
erected it, or where it came from. This absence of hieroglyphics
points to its having been an unfinished work--something having
prevented its constructor from recording on it the purpose of its
erection, as was usually the case. But as the vacant shadow of the
dial and the blank empty lines of the spectrum are more suggestive
than any sunlit spaces, so the blank unwritten sides of this obelisk
give rise to more speculations than if they had been carved from head
to foot with hieroglyphics. On account of this peculiarity, some
authors have not hesitated to consider it a mere imitation obelisk,
constructed by the Romans at a comparatively late period. This idea,
however, is refuted by the evidence of Pliny, who regarded it as a
genuine Egyptian relic, and tells us that it was cut from the quarry
of Syene, and dedicated to the sun by the son of Sesores, in
obedience to an oracle, after his recovery from blindness. It is
generally believed that it first stood before one of the temples of
Heliopolis, was then removed to Alexandria, and finally transported to
Rome by Caligula. This emperor constructed a special vessel for the
purpose, of greater dimensions than had ever been seen before; and
after it had brought the obelisk to the banks of the Tiber, he
commanded it to be filled with stones, and sunk as a caisson in the
harbour of Ostia, which he was constructing at the time. On arriving
at Rome the obelisk was set up on the Spina of the Circus of Nero,
which is now occupied by the sacristy of St. Peter's Church. For
fifteen centuries the obelisk remained undisturbed on its site, the
only one in the city that escaped being overthrown. At last its
foundation giving way, so that it leaned dangerously towards the old
Basilica of St. Peter's, Sixtus V. formed the design of removing it to
where it now stands, a very short distance from the original spot. The
record of its re-erection, the first in papal Rome, by Fontana--a work
of extreme difficulty and imposing ceremonial magnificence, which was
richly rewarded by the grateful Pope--is exceedingly interesting. A
curious legend is usually related in connection with it. A papal edict
was proclaimed threatening death to any one who should utter a loud
word while the operation of lifting and settling the obelisk was going
on. As the "huge crystallisation of Egyptian sweat" rose on its basis
there was a sudden stoppage, the hempen cables refused to do their
work, and the hanging mass of stone threatened to fall and destroy
itself. Suddenly from out the breathless crowd rose a loud, clear
voice, "Wet the ropes." There was inspiration in the suggestion; the
architect acted upon it, and the obelisk at once took its stand on its
base, where it has firmly remained ever since. Not only was the sailor
Bresca pardoned for transgressing the papal command, but he was
rewarded, and the district of Bordighera, from which he came, received
the privilege of supplying the palm leaves for the use of Rome on
Palm Sunday--a privilege which it still possesses, and which forms the
principal trade of the place.

To me the most familiar and interesting of all the Roman obelisks is
that which stands in the centre of the Piazza del Popolo, the finest
and largest square in Rome. It is about eighty feet high, carved with
hieroglyphics, with four marble Egyptian lions, one at each corner of
the platform on which it stands, pouring from their mouths copious
streams of water into large basins, with a refreshing sound. Lions in
Egypt were regarded as symbols of the sun when passing through the
zodiacal sign of Leo, the time when the annual inundation of the Nile
occurred. They had thus a deep significance in connection with water.
The obelisk was originally erected in front of the Temple of the Sun
at Heliopolis, by the great Rameses, the Sesostris of the Greeks,
whose personal character and wide conquests fill a larger space in the
history of ancient Egypt than those of any other monarch. From
Heliopolis it was removed to Rome, after the battle of Actium, by
Augustus, and placed on the Spina of the Circus Maximus, the sports of
which were under the special protection of Apollo, the sun-god, by
whose favour it was supposed that the Egyptian victory had been
achieved. For four hundred years it acted as a gnomon, regulating by
the length and direction of its shadow the hours of the public games
of the circus; and then it was overturned during those troublous days
in which the empire was rent asunder. Twelve centuries of decay and
wreck had buried it from the eyes of men, until it was dug up and
placed where it now stands, in 1587, by Pope Sixtus V., to whom modern
Rome is indebted for the restoration of many of her ancient monuments,
and the construction of many of her public buildings and streets. With
the cross planted on its summit, this noble monument was long the
first object which met the traveller's eye as he entered Rome from the
north by the old Flaminian way. Brought to commemorate the overthrow
of the land from whence it came, it has witnessed the overthrow of the
conquerors in turn; and now re-erected in the modern capital, it will
endure when its glory too has passed away. And out of the ruins of the
city of the Popes, as out of the ruins of the city of the Cæsars, some
future architect will dig it up to grace the triumph of a brighter and
freer resuscitation of the Eternal City than the world has yet seen.

The association of fountains at its base with this obelisk seems at
first sight as incongruous as the crowning of its apex with a metal
cross, for the Christian emblem can never alter the nature of the
pagan monument. There is no natural harmony in the association, for
there are no fountains or streams of running water in the desert. The
obelisk belongs essentially to the dry and parched east; the fountain
is the birth of the happier west, bright with the sparkle and musical
with the sound of many waters. The obelisk relieves the monotony of
immeasurable plains over which a sky of serene unstained blue arches
itself in infinite altitude, the image of eternal purity, and the sun
rises day after day with the same unsullied brilliance, and sets with
the same unmitigable glory. The fountain, on the other hand, is the
child of lands whose mountains kiss the clouds and gleam with the
purity of everlasting snows, and where each day brings out new
beauties, and each season reveals a fresh and ever-varying charm. But
although there is no geographical reason why these two objects should
be associated, there is a poetical fitness. The obelisk is the symbol
of the perpetual past, holding in its changeless unity, as on its
carved sides, the memories of former ages; the fountain is the symbol
of the perpetual present, ever changing, ever new. The one speaks to
us of a petrified old age; the other of an immortal youth. And thus it
is in life, each passing moment flowing on with all its changes beside
the stern, hard, enduring monument of the irrevocable past on which
what is written is changelessly written. How different too are the
bright sparkling fountains that leap with ever-varying beauty at the
foot of the Flaminian obelisk now, from the dull, sleepy monotonous
river that, like a Lethe flood, flowed past it in the old days at
Heliopolis! Are they not both symbolical of the new and the old world,
of the Christian faith, with its progressive thought and varied
expanding life, and the stagnant pagan creed, which impressed the soul
with the sense of human helplessness in the face of an unchangeable
iron order alike of nature and of society?

Another of the great obelisks of Rome is that which stands on Monte
Citorio, in front of the present Parliament House. It was brought to
Rome by Augustus, who dedicated it anew to the sun, and placed it as
the gnomon of a meridian in the midst of the Campus Martius.
Originally it had been erected at Heliopolis in honour of Psammeticus
I., who reigned about seven hundred years before Christ. This monarch
lived during a time when the national religion had become corrupted,
and the whole land had come under the influence of Greek thought and
Greek customs. But the obelisk which he erected is worthy of the best
period of Egyptian art. It is universally admired for the remarkable
beauty of its hieroglyphics. The anonymous pilgrim of Einsiedlen
mentions that this obelisk was still erect when he visited Rome about
the beginning of the ninth century. It seems, however, to have fallen
and to have been broken in pieces, nearly three hundred years later,
during the terrible conflagration caused by the Norman troops of
Robert Guiscard. Several fragments of it were dug up, one after
another, during the sixteenth century. The principal part of the shaft
was discovered in 1748, among the ruins beneath the choir of the
Church of San Lorenzo in Lucina. These portions were damaged in such a
way as to show clearly the action of fire, proving that the obelisk
had been destroyed in the great fire of 1084. Pope Pius VI. gathered
together the fragments, and with the aid of granite pieces taken from
the ruined column of Antoninus Pius, which stood in the neighbourhood,
he formed of these a whole shaft, which represents, as nearly as
possible, the original obelisk. It is seventy-two feet high, and is
surmounted by a globe and a small pyramid of bronze, which, along with
its pedestal, increases its height to one hundred and thirty-four
feet. A portion of the lines of the celebrated sun-dial, whose gnomon
it formed, was brought to light under the sacristy of San Lorenzo in
Lucina in 1463.

All the other obelisks in Rome belong to comparatively recent periods,
to the decadence of Egypt. None of them are of any great significance
to the student of archæology. Several of them were executed in Egypt
by order of the Roman emperors, and are therefore not genuine but
imitation obelisks. Of this kind may be mentioned the Esquiline and
Quirinal obelisks, which were brought to Rome by the emperor Claudius,
and placed in the old Egyptian manner, one on each side of the
entrance to the great mausoleum of Augustus in the Campus Martius.
They are both destitute of hieroglyphics and are broken into several
pieces. One now stands on Monte Cavallo, in front of the great
Quirinal Palace, betwixt the two well-known gigantic groups of men and
horses, statues of Greek origin, supposed to be those of Castor and
Pollux, executed by Pheidias and Praxiteles; and the other in the
large open space in front of the great Basilica of Santa Maria
Maggiore. Another of these bastard obelisks occupies a commanding
position at the top of the Spanish Stairs, in front of the Church of
Trinita dei Monti. It stood originally on the spina of the circus of
Sallust, in his gardens, and is covered with hieroglyphics of the
rudest workmanship, which sufficiently proclaim their origin, as a
Roman forgery probably of the period of the Antonine emperors. In the
midst of the public gardens, on the Pincian Hill, there is another
Roman obelisk about thirty feet high, excavated from the quarries of
Syene, and set up by Hadrian originally at Antinopolis in Egypt in
front of a temple dedicated to the deified Antinous, the lamented
favourite of the emperor. It was afterwards transferred to the
imperial villa at Tivoli, near Rome, and subsequently to the grounds
of the Church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, from whence it was
finally taken to its present site. This obelisk has a special interest
because it commemorates one of the most beautiful and touching
examples of self-sacrifice which the annals of paganism afford. We are
apt to judge of Antinous from the languid beauty of the statue of him
in the Roman galleries, as simply the pampered sycophant of a court.
But behind his sensual beauty and softness there was an unselfish
devotion which the caresses of royalty and the favours of fortune
could not spoil. When the oracle declared that the happiness of
Hadrian, who was afflicted with a profound melancholy, could only be
secured by the sacrifice of what was most dear to him, Antinous went
at once and drowned himself in the Nile, and thus gave his life for
his imperial friend, who, instead of being made better by the
sacrifice, was left altogether inconsolable. The magnificent city
founded to perpetuate his memory is now a heap of ruined mounds, and
the obelisk that bore his name in Egypt now stands far away in Rome;
but time cannot quench the glow of sympathy that kindles in the heart
of every one who remembers his story of noble self-sacrificing love.

There are three or four obelisks that mark the introduction of the
Egyptian worship of Isis into the imperial city of the later emperors.
At one time everything Egyptian was fashionable in Rome, and the
goddess of Egypt was domesticated in the Roman Pantheon, and temples
in her honour were erected in several parts of the city and throughout
the empire. Obelisks, fashioned in Egypt by command of the Romans,
were often placed in front of the temples. But these spurious obelisks
have little dignity or significance, and suffer wofully when brought
into comparison with specimens of the genuine work of old Egypt. The
largest and most imposing of these monuments of the new faith of the
city is the one that now stands in the Piazza Navona, formerly called
the Pamphilian Obelisk, in honour of the family name of Pope Innocent
X., who placed it there. It is forty feet high, of red granite, broken
into five pieces, and covered with hieroglyphics, the whole style and
execution of which are so inferior that Winkelman long ago, although
he knew nothing of their import, detected the fact of the obelisk
being a mere imitation. It was cut and engraved at Syene by order of
the emperor Domitian, who designed it to adorn his villa on the Lake
of Albano. From thence it was removed by the usurper Maxentius to the
circus on the Appian Way, founded by him, and named after his son
Romulus. It is now on the site of the old Circus Agonalis, whose form
and boundaries are marked out by the houses of the Piazza Navona.
Surmounted by the Pope's device of a dove with an olive branch, a vain
substitute of heraldry for sacred symbolism, and standing on an
artificial rock-work about forty feet high, composed of figures of
Tritons and nymphs, disporting themselves amid plashing fountains and
marble foliage, the whole subject is incongruous and utterly opposed
to the simplicity and majesty of the ancient monuments.

Near the Pantheon there is a pair of obelisks which were brought from
the East, and stood together before the temple of Isis and Serapis,
which is supposed to have been situated on the site of the Dominican
Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. They were found when digging the
foundations of the church in 1667, along with an altar of Isis, now in
the Capitoline Museum. One of these obelisks was erected by Clement
XI. in 1711, in front of the Pantheon, in the midst of the fountain of
the Piazza. Its height is only about seventeen feet, and the
hieroglyphics on it indicate that it was constructed by Psammeticus
II., the supposed Hophra of Hebrew history. This same monarch also
constructed its twin-fellow which now stands in the Piazza Minerva in
the near neighbourhood. The celebrated sculptor Bernini, when
re-erecting it at the command of Pope Alexander VII. in 1660, had the
exceedingly bad taste to balance it on the back of a marble elephant,
the work of his pupil Ferrata; on account of which absurd incongruity
Bernini received from the satirical Roman populace the nickname of
"The Elephant." Only one obelisk in Rome was not restored or
re-erected by any Pope, viz. that which stands in the beautiful
grounds of the Villa Mattei in the Coelian Hill. It was found near the
Capitol on the site of an ancient temple of Isis, and was presented by
the magistrates to the owner of the villa, a great collector of
antiquities. It is said that when it was raised in 1563, on its red
granite pedestal, the mason who superintended the work incautiously
rested his hand on the block, when the shaft suddenly slid down and
crushed it, the bones of the imprisoned member being still held
between the two stones.

The foregoing were the last obelisks erected in Rome by the emperors.
After them no more were constructed either in the imperial city or in
their native land of Egypt. The language inscribed upon them had come
to be superseded by the universal use of the Greek tongue; there was
no use therefore in making monuments for the reception of hieroglyphic
records which nobody could understand or interpret. The sudden craze
for the Egyptian idolatry passed away as suddenly as it sprang up, and
Christianity established itself as the religion of the civilised
world. The temples in Egypt and Rome were closed, the altars
overthrown, and the objects connected with the material symbolism of
paganism were destroyed, and objects connected with the spiritual
symbolism of Christianity set up in their place. And thus the obelisk,
the oldest of all religious symbols, which was constructed at the very
dawn of human existence, to mark the worship of the material luminary,
fell into disuse and oblivion, when "the Sun of Righteousness" rose
above the horizon of the world, with healing in His wings, dispelling
all the mists and delusions of error. The art of constructing obelisks
followed the usual stages in the history of all human art. Its best
period was that which indicated the greatest faith; its worst that
which marked the decay of faith. The oldest specimens are invariably
the most perfect and beautiful; the most recent exhibit too marked
signs of the decrepitude of skill that had come over their makers.
Between the oldest specimens and their surroundings there was a
harmony and an appropriateness which solemnised the scene and excited
feelings of adoration and awe. Between the latest specimens and their
surroundings there was an incongruity which proved them to be aliens
and strangers on the scene, and was fatal to all reverence; an
incongruity which the modern Romans have only intensified by raising
them on pedestals of most uncongenial forms, and crowning them with
hideous masses of metal, representing the insignia of popes or other
objects equally unsuitable. We see in the oldest obelisks a wonderful
ease and an exquisite finish of execution, a maturity of thought and
skill which none of the later obelisks reached, and which indicate the
high-water mark of man's achievement in that line. There is also "a
bloom of youth and of the earth's morning" about them which is quite
indescribable, and which doubtless came to them because of the power
and reality of faith. They were the fresh natural originals in which a
deep primitive spontaneous adoration that dominated the whole nature
of man expressed itself; while the specimens that were executed
afterwards were slavish imitations, expressing a worship and a creed
which had become fixed and formal.

One of the most valuable results of the expedition of the great
Napoleon to Egypt, ostensibly for scientific and antiquarian purposes,
but really for military glory, was the acquisition of the Rosetta
stone now in the British Museum--which afforded the key to the
decipherment of the Egyptian hieroglyphics--and of the obelisk of
Luxor which now adorns the noble Place de la Concord in Paris. The
history of the engineering difficulties overcome in bringing this
obelisk to France is extremely interesting. Indeed, the story of the
transportation of the obelisks from their native home, from time to
time, to other lands, is no less romantic and worthy of study than the
artistic, religious, or antiquarian phases of the subject. It forms a
special literature of its own to which Commander Gorringe of the
United States Navy, in his elaborate and magnificent work on Egyptian
obelisks, has done the amplest justice. It cost upwards of £100,000 to
bring the Luxor Obelisk to Paris, owing to the inexperience of the
engineers and the imperfection of their method. But it was worthy of
this vast expenditure of toil and money; for standing in an open
circus unimpeded by narrow streets, and unspoiled by the tawdry
ornaments which disfigure the Roman obelisks, it adds to the
magnificent modern city the charm of antique majesty. It stands
seventy-six feet and a half in height, with its apex left rough and
unfinished, destitute of the gilded cap which formerly completed and
protected it. Each of its four sides contains three vertical lines of
well-executed hieroglyphics, which show that it was raised in honour
of Rameses II., to adorn the stupendous temple of Luxor at Thebes
which he constructed. When it lay on its original site, previous to
its being transported, it was found to have been cracked at the time
of its first erection, and repaired by means of two dove-tailed wedges
of wood which had perished long ago. But this defect is not now
noticeable. The companion of this obelisk is still standing at Luxor,
and has already been described. Both of them show a peculiarity in
their lines, which could only be noticed effectually when the pair
stood together. This peculiarity is a convexity, or _entasis_, as it
is called, on the inner faces. Even to the untrained eye its sides
seem not of equal dimensions; and actual measurement shows the
irregularity more clearly. This is said, however, to be exceptional to
the general rule, and to be foreign to the design of an obelisk in the
best period of the Pharaonic art. Still, several magnificent
specimens, such as the Luxor and Flaminian obelisks, exhibit it. And
they are an illustration of what was a marked characteristic of all
classic architecture, which shows a slight curvature or entasis in its
long lines.

It was early found out that mathematical exactness and beauty were not
the same. By making its two sides geometrically equal, the living
expression of the most beautiful marble statue is destroyed, and it
becomes simply a piece of architecture. It is well known that the two
sides of the human face are not precisely the same; the irregularity
of the one modifies the irregularity of the other, and thus a higher
symmetry and harmony is the result. The two sides of the leaf of the
begonia are unequal, and if folded together will not correspond. The
same is true of the leaf of the elm and the lime. But when the mass of
the foliage is seen together, this irregularity gives an added charm
to the whole. Every object in nature has some imperfection, which
indicates that it has a relation to some other object, and is but a
part of a greater whole. The intentional irregularity of the windows
in the Doge's Palace at Venice enhances the effect of the marvellous
façade. By comparing the Parthenon at Athens, with its curves and
inclinations, with the Madeleine at Paris, we see how far short the
copy comes of the original in beauty and expressiveness, because of
the exact formality of its right angles. The ancient Egyptians
understood this well; and in their architecture they sought to rise to
a higher symmetry through irregularity; and we can see in their
frequent departure from upright and parallel lines in the construction
of their temples, an effort to escape from formal exactness, and a
longing for the nobler unity which is realised to the full in the rich
variety of the Gothic. We may be sure that "every attempt in art that
seeks a theoretical completeness, in so doing sinks from the natural
into the artificial, from the living and the divine into the
mechanical and commonplace." The Egyptian obelisk is thus but a type
of a great law of nature. In this simplest and most primitive specimen
of architecture we have an illustration of the principle which gives
its expressiveness to the human face, beauty to the flowers of the
field, and grandeur to the highest triumphs of human art.

The obelisks that remain to be described are the two which to us are
the most interesting; the pair of "Cleopatra's Needles" which so long
stood side by side at Alexandria, and are now separated by the
Atlantic Ocean; one standing on the Thames Embankment in London, and
the other in Central Park, New York. They were both set up in front of
the great temple of the Sun at Heliopolis, about fifteen centuries
before Christ, by Thothmes III., and engraved by Rameses II., the two
mightiest of the kings of Egypt. After standing on their original site
for fourteen centuries, witnessing the rise and fall of many native
dynasties, and the establishment of the Greek dominion under the
Ptolemies, they were, when Egypt became a province of Imperial Rome,
transferred by Cæsar Augustus to Alexandria. There they adorned the
Cæsareum or palace of the Cæsars, which stood by the side of the
harbour, was surrounded with a sacred grove, and was the greatest
building in the city. What Thebes and Heliopolis were in the time of
the Pharaohs, Alexandria became in the time of the Ptolemies. And
though, being a parasitical growth, it could not originate works of
genius, like its ancient prototypes, it could appropriate those which
Heliopolis and Thebes had created. The tragic death of Cleopatra, the
last of the dynasty of the Ptolemies, had taken place seven years
before the setting up of these obelisks at Alexandria; so that she had
in reality nothing to do with them personally. For about fifteen
centuries the two obelisks stood in their new position before the
Cæsareum. They saw the gradual overthrow, by time's resistless hand,
of the magnificent palace which they adorned; and they themselves felt
the slow undermining of the sea as it encroached upon the land, until
at last one of them fell to the ground about three hundred years ago,
and got partially covered over with sand, leaving the other to stand
alone. Then came the French invasion of Egypt, and the victories of
Nelson and Abercromby, when Mahomet Ali, the ruler of the land,
offered the prostrate obelisk to the British nation as a token of
gratitude. The offer, however, was not taken advantage of, for various
reasons. At last the patriotism and enterprise of a private
individual, the late Sir Erasmus Wilson, came to the rescue, when the
stone was about to be broken up into building material by the
proprietor of the ground on which it lay. An iron water-tight cylinder
was constructed for its transport, in which, with much toil, the
obelisk was encased and floated. It was taken in tow by a steam-tug,
which encountered a fearful storm in the Bay of Biscay. This led to
the abandonment of the pontoon cylinder, which floated about for three
days, and was at last picked up by a passing steamer, and towed to the
coast of Spain; from whence it was brought to England, and set up
where it now stands on the Thames Embankment. Its transport cost
altogether about £13,000, and was a work of great anxiety and
difficulty. Standing seventy feet high on its present site, it forms
one of the noblest and most appropriate monuments of the greatest city
in the world; awakening the curiosity of every passer-by regarding the
mysteries revealed in its enigmatical sculptures.

The companion obelisk which had been left standing at Alexandria,
after having suffered much from neglect, in the midst of its mean and
filthy surroundings, was presented to the American Government by the
Khedive of Egypt. But that Government acted in the same supine spirit
in which our own had acted; and it was left to the ability of Captain
Corringe as engineer, and to the liberality of the millionaire
Vanderbilt, who paid the expenses incurred, amounting to £20,000, to
bring the obelisk in the hold of a chartered steamer across the
Atlantic, and set it up in the midst of New York city. And if the one
obelisk is a remarkable sight in London, the other is a still more
remarkable sight in New York. There, amid the latest inventions of the
West, surrounded by the most recent civilisation of the world, rises
up serenely, unchanged to heaven, the earliest monument of the East,
surrounded by the most ancient civilisation of the world. "Westward
the course of empire takes its way;" and as the old obelisk of
Heliopolis witnessed the ending of the four first dramas of human
history, so shall it close the fifth and last. The sun in the East
rose over its birth; the sun in the West shall set over its death.

It is possible that when all the stores of coal and other fuel which
form the source of the mechanical power and commercial greatness of
northern and western nations shall have been exhausted, a method of
directly utilising solar radiation may be discovered. And if so, then
the seat of empire will be transferred to parts of the earth that are
now burnt up by the intense heat of the sun, but which then will be
the most valuable of all possessions. The vast solar radiance now
wasted on the furnace-like shores of the Red Sea will be stored up as
a source of mechanical power. The commerce of the West will once more
return to the East where it began; and the whole region will be
repeopled with the life that swarmed there in the best days of old
Egypt. But under that new civilisation there will be no return of the
old religion of the obelisks; for men will no longer worship the sun
as a god, but will use him for the common purposes of life, as a

After having thus passed in review so many noble obelisks, a mere
tithe of what once existed, the conviction is deepened in our minds
that no nation had ever devoted so much time, treasure, and skill to
the service of religion as the Egyptian. While the Jews had only one
tabernacle and one temple, every city in Egypt--and no country had so
many great cities--had its magnificent temple and its hosts of
obelisks. The spoils of the whole world were devoted to their
construction; a third of the produce of the whole land of Egypt was
spent in their maintenance. The daily life of the people was moulded
entirely upon the religion of these temples and obelisks; their art
and their literature were inspired by it. It organised their society;
it built up their empire; and it was the salt which for more than
three thousand years conserved a civilisation which has been the
marvel and the mystery of every succeeding age. Surely the Light which
lighteth every man that cometh into the world, shone on those who were
thus fervently stretching the tendrils of their souls to its dawning
in the East, who raised these obelisks as symbols of the glorious and
beneficent sunlight of the world.



Rome after a season becomes oppressive. Your capacity of enjoyment is
exhausted. The atmosphere of excitement in which you live, owing to
the number, variety, and transcendent interest of the sights that have
to be seen, wears out the nervous system, and you have an ardent
desire for a little respite and change of scene. I remember that after
the first month I had a deep longing to get away into the heart of an
old wood, or into a lonely glen among the mountains, where I should
see no trace of man's handiwork, and recover the tone of my spirit
amid the wildness of nature. For this inevitable reaction of
sight-seeing in the city, a remedy may be found by retiring for a day
or two to some one or other of the numerous beautiful scenes in the
neighbourhood. There is no city in the world more favourably situated
for this purpose than Rome. Some of the most charming excursions may
be made from it as a centre, starting in the morning and returning at
night. Every tourist who stays but a fortnight in the city makes a
point of seeing the idyllic waterfalls of Tivoli, the extensive ruins
of Hadrian's Villa, the picturesque olive-clad slopes of Frascati and
Tusculum, and the lovely environs of Albano on the edge of its
richly-wooded lake. But there are spots that are less known at no
greater distance, which yet do not yield in beauty or interest to
these familiar resorts. Chief among these is Veii, whose very name
has in it a far-off old-world sound. When the Campagna has quickened
under the breath of the Italian spring into a tender greenness, and is
starred with orchids and sweet-scented narcissuses, I know nothing
more pleasant than a visit to this renowned spot.

Veii was the greatest city of the Etruscan confederacy. When Rome was
in its infancy it was in the height of its grandeur. After a ten
years' siege it was captured by Camillus; and so stately were its
buildings, so beautiful was the scenery around it, and so strong its
natural defences, that it was seriously proposed to abandon Rome and
transfer the population to it, and thus save the rebuilding of the
houses and temples that had been destroyed during the invasion of the
Gauls. It was only by a small majority that this project was set
aside. Veii never recovered from its overthrow. In vain the Romans
attempted to make it one of their own cities by colonising it. Many
families established themselves there, but they were afterwards
recalled by a decree of the senate, which made it an offence
punishable with death for any Roman to remain at Veii beyond a
prescribed period. By degrees it dwindled away, until in the days of
Propertius its site was converted into pastures; and the shepherd
roamed over it with his flocks, unconscious that one of the most
famous cities of Italy once stood on the spot. So long ago as the
reign of the emperor Hadrian its very locality was forgotten, and its
former existence regarded by many with incredulity as a myth of early
times. It was left to the enlightened antiquarian skill of our own
times, so fruitful in similar discoveries and resuscitations, to find
out among the fastnesses of the wilderness around Rome its true
position. And although all the difficult problems connected with its
citadel and the circuit of its walls have not yet been solved, there
can be no doubt that the city stood in the very place which modern
archæologists have determined. This place is a little village called
Isola Farnese, about eleven miles north-west of Rome. The way that
leads to it branches off by a side path for about three miles from the
old diligence road between Florence and Rome at La Storta--the last
post station where horses were changed about eight miles from the
city. It is situated amid ground so broken into heights and hollows
that you see no indications of it until you come abruptly upon it, hid
in a fold of the undulating Campagna. And the loneliness of the
district and of all the paths leading to it is hardly relieved by the
appearance of the village itself.

I shall not soon forget my visit to this romantic spot, and the
delightful day I spent there with a congenial friend. We left Rome in
an open one-horse carriage early one morning about the end of April.
Passing out at the Porta del Popolo, we quickly traversed the squalid
suburb and crossed the Ponte Molle--the famous old Milvian Bridge. We
proceeded as far as the Via Cassia on the old Flaminian Way. At the
junction of these roads the villa and gardens of Ovid were situated;
but their site is now occupied by a humble osteria or wayside tavern.
The road passes over an undulating country entirely uncultivated,
diversified here and there with copses and thickets of wild figs
intermixed with hawthorn, rose-bushes, and broom. A few ilexes and
stone-pines arched their evergreen foliage over the road; and the
succulent milky stems of the wild fig-trees were covered with the
small green fruit, while the downy leaves were just beginning to peep
from their sheaths. It was one of those quiet gray days that give a
mystic tone to a landscape. The cloudy sky was in harmony with the dim
Campagna, that looked under the sunless smoky light unutterably sad
and forlorn. Wreaths of mist lingered in the hollows like the shadowy
forms of the past; the lark was silent in the sky; and on the desolate
bluffs and headlands, where once stood populous cities, were a few
hoary tombs whose very names had perished ages ago. But inexpressibly
sad as the landscape looked it was relieved by the grand background of
the Sabine range capped with snow. The village of La Storta, that
flourished in the old posting days, had fallen into decay when the
railway diverted the traffic from it; and its inn, with a rude model
of St. Peter's carved in wood projecting above its door, was silent
and deserted. Passing down a narrow glen, fringed with wood for three
miles from this point, we came in sight of the village of Isola. Its
situation is romantic, perched on the summit of a steep cliff, with
deep richly-wooded ravines around it, and long swelling downs rising
beyond. It is surrounded by two streams which unite and fall along
with the Formello into the river called La Valca, which has been
identified with the fatal Cremera that was dyed red with the blood of
the three hundred Fabii.

The rock of Isola is most interesting to the geologist, consisting of
large fragments of black pumice cemented together by volcanic ashes
deposited under water. It is literally a huge heap of cinders thrown
out by the rapidly intermittent action of some neighbouring volcano,
probably the crater of Baccano, or that which is now filled with the
blue waters of Lake Bracciano. The whole mass is very friable, and in
every direction the soft rock is hollowed out into sepulchral caves.
By many this isolated rock is considered the arx or citadel of Veii;
but the existence of so many sepulchral caves in it is, as Mr. Dennis
says, conclusive of the fact that it was the Necropolis of the ancient
city, which must therefore, according to Etruscan and Roman usage
regarding the interment of the dead, have been outside the walls. The
tombs have all been rifled and destroyed, and many of the sepulchral
caves have been turned to the basest uses for stalling goats and
cattle. An air of profound melancholy breathes around the whole spot.
It seems to be more connected with the dead than with the living
world. And the hamlet which now occupies the commanding site is of the
most wretched description. All its houses, which date from the
fifteenth century, are ruinous, and are among the worst in Italy; and
the baronial castle which crowns the highest point,--built nearly a
thousand years ago, the scene of many a conflict between the Colonnas
and the Orsinis, and captured on one occasion after a twelve days'
siege by Cæsar Borgia,--has been converted into a barn. The
inhabitants of the village do not exceed a hundred in number, and
present a haggard and sallow appearance--the effect of the dreadful
malaria which haunts the spot. It is strange to contrast this blighted
and fever-stricken aspect of the place with the description of
Dionysius, who praised its air as in his time exceedingly pure and
healthy, and its territory as smiling and fruitful. In the little
square of the village are several fragments of marble and other relics
of Roman domination; and the church, about four or five hundred years
old, dedicated to St. Pancrazio, is in a state of great decay. The
walls are damp and mouldy, and all the pictures and ornaments are of
the rudest description, with the exception of a faded fresco of the
coronation of the Virgin, which is a fair specimen of the art of the
fifteenth century. The service of the church is supplied by some
distant priest or friar in orders.

We left our conveyance in the piazza, and took our lunch in one of the
houses. We brought our provisions with us from Rome, but we got a
coarse but palatable wine from the people, and a rude but clean room
in which to enjoy our repast. This inn--if it may be called, so--had
at one time a very evil reputation. But nothing could be more
simple-hearted than the landlord and his wife, with their group of
timid children who clung to their mother's skirts in dread of the
strangers. They told us that the poverty of the place was deplorable.
Nearly all the people were laid down during the heats of summer with
fever; and they were so poor that they could not afford to keep a
doctor. Many deaths occurred, and the survivors, emaciated by the
disease, were left to drag on a weary existence embittered by numerous
privations. At a distance the village on its lofty rock, surrounded by
its richly-wooded ravines, looked like a picture of Arcadia; but near
at hand the sad reality dispelled the idyllic dream.

Taking with us from Isola a guide, originally a big burly man, but now
a sad victim to malaria, we set out to visit the site of the ancient
city and the few relics which survive. It takes about four hours to
complete the circuit of the walls; but there are four objects of
special interest, the Arx, the Columbarium, the Ponte Sodo, and the
Painted Tomb, which may be visited in less than three. The extent of
the city is surprising to those who have been in the habit of thinking
that all the ancient towns in the neighbourhood of Rome were mere
villages. Dionysius says that it was equal in size to Athens. Veii was
indeed fully larger, and was about the dimensions of the city of Rome,
included within the walls of Servius Tullius. It occupied the whole
extent of the platform on which it was situated; and as the area was
bounded on every side by deep ravines, its size was thus absolutely
circumscribed. Built for security and not for the comfort and progress
of its inhabitants, its confined and inaccessible situation would have
unfitted it to become the capital of a great nation, as was at one
time proposed. Passing down a richly-wooded glen by a path overhanging
a stream, we came to a molino or polenta mill, most romantically
situated. Here a fine cascade, about eighty feet high, plunges over
the volcanic rock into a deep gulley overshadowed by bushy ilexes. The
scenery is very picturesque, and differs widely from that of the rest
of the Campagna. In its profusion of broom and hawthorn bushes, whose
golden and snowy blossoms contrasted beautifully with the dark hues of
the evergreen oaks, and in the snowy gleam of its falling waters, and
the hoary gray of its lichen-clad cliffs, it presented features of
resemblance to Scottish scenery. It had indeed a peculiar home look
about it which produced a very pleasing impression upon our minds.
Crossing the stream above the cascade by stepping-stones, between
which the water rushed with a strong current, we entered the wide
down upon which Veii stood. No one would have supposed that this was
the site of one of the most important ancient cities, which held at
bay for ten long years the Roman army, and yielded at last to
stratagem and not to force. Not a vestige of a ruin could be seen. In
the heart of the city the grass was growing in all the soft green
transparency of spring, and a few fields of corn were marked out and
showed the tender braird above the soil. The relics of the walls that
crowned the cliffs have almost entirely disappeared. No Etruscan site
has so few remains; and yet its interest is intensified by the extreme
desolation. It is more suggestive to the imagination because of the
paucity of its objects to appeal to the eye. Legend and history haunt
the spot with nothing to distract the mind or dispel its musing
melancholy. All trace of human passion has disappeared, and only the
eternal calm of nature broods over the spot; the calm that was before
man came upon the scene, and that shall be after all his labour is

On a part of these downs overgrown with briars was situated the Roman
Municipium, a colony founded after the subjugation of Veii. It did not
cover more than a third of the area of the ancient city. Several
excavations were made here, which resulted in the discovery, among
other interesting relics of the imperial period, of the colossal heads
of Augustus and Tiberius and the mutilated statue of Germanicus now in
the Vatican Gallery. On this spot were also found the twelve Ionic
columns of white marble which now form the portico of the post-office
in the Piazza Colonna at Rome, and also a few of the pillars which
adorn the magnificent Basilica of St. Paul's on the Ostian Road. No
one looking at these grand columns, so stainless in hue and so perfect
in form, would have supposed that they had formed part of the Roman
Forum of Veii more than two thousand years ago. Those in front of the
post-office look newer than the rest of the building, which is not
more than sixty years old. They owed their perfect preservation
doubtless to the fact that they were buried deep under the dry
volcanic soil for most of the intervening period. It seems strange to
think of these ancient columns, that looked down upon the legal
transactions of Roman Veii, now standing in one of the busiest squares
of modern Rome, associated with one of the most characteristic and
important of our modern institutions, of which ancient Rome had not
even the germ.

Passing through a beautiful copse wood, where cyclamens grew in lavish
profusion, forming little rosy clusters about the oak-stools and
diffusing a faint spicy smell through the warm air, we came out at one
of the gates of the city into open ground. This gate is simply a gap
in a shapeless mound, with traces of an ancient roadway passing
through it and fragments of walls on either side. Where the stones can
be seen projecting through the turf embankment they are smaller than
usual in Etruscan cities. Sir William Gell found hereabouts a portion
of the wall composed of enormous blocks of tufa--three or four yards
long and more than five feet in height--based upon three courses of
thin bricks three feet in length, that rested upon the naked rock.
Such a mode of wall construction has no resemblance to anything
remaining in Rome or in any Etruscan city. It indicates a still higher
antiquity; while the brick foundations remind us of the fame which the
Etruscans and particularly the people of Veii had acquired on account
of their skill in works of terra cotta. The famous Quadriga or brick
chariot which adorned the pediment of the great temple of Jupiter on
the Capitol at Rome was made at Veii, and was a remarkable proof of
the superiority of its people in this species of art. Indeed the name
of Veii is supposed to have been derived from its skill in the
manufacture of terra cotta chariots. The old gateway through which we
passed out of the wood was probably the principal entrance into the
city, and the one over which Tolumnius King of Veii appeared, standing
on the wall, during the famous siege when he was challenged to mortal
combat by Cornelius Cossus, as graphically described by Livy.

Beneath this gate there is a remarkable tunnel called the Ponte Sodo,
bored in the volcanic rock for the passage of the river. It is not,
however, visible from this point. You require to descend the steep
banks of the river to see it; and a very extraordinary excavation it
is, two hundred and forty feet long, sixteen feet wide, and twenty
feet high. It was doubtless made to prevent the evil effects of winter
floods by the inhabitants of Veii, who had considerable skill in such
engineering works. The river sometimes fills the tunnel to the very
roof, leaving behind trunks and branches of trees firmly wedged in the
clefts of the rock in the inside. It was extremely interesting to
stand on this spot and see before me this wonderful Etruscan work, and
to lave my hands in the waters of the Formello, which, under the
classical name of the Cremera, was prominently associated with early
Roman history. It would be difficult to find a lovelier dimple in the
fair face of mother earth than the valley through which the Formello
flows. Precipitous cliffs rose from the bed of the river opposite to
me, enriched with all the hues that volcanic rock assumes under the
influences of the weather and the garniture of moss and lichen. A
perfect tangle of vegetation crowned their tops and fringed their
sides; the dark unchanging verdure of the evergreen oak and ivy
contrasting beautifully with the tender autumn-like tints in which the
varied spring foliage of the brushwood appeared. Bright flowers and
gay blossoms grew in every crevice and nook. The shallow river flowed
at my feet through ruts of dark volcanic sand, and amid masses of rock
fallen from the cliffs, and stones whose artificial appearance showed
that they had formed part of the ramparts that once ran round the
whole circuit of the heights. The sunshine sparkled on the gray-green
waters, and followed them in bright coruscations for a short distance
into the mouth of the tunnel, the other end of which, diminished by
the distance, opened into the daylight like the eye-piece of an
inverted telescope. I found in the bed of the river fragments of
marble and porphyry, cut and polished, that had doubtless come from
the pavement of some palace or temple, and attested the truth of the
report that has come down to us, that the buildings of Veii were
stately and magnificent. To me there is something peculiarly
impressive in the presence of a stream in a scene of vanished human
greatness. Its eternal sameness contrasts with the momentous changes
that have taken place; its motion with the death around; its sunny
sparkle with the gloom; while its murmur seems the very requiem of the
past. In this giant sepulchre, into which, like the Gulf of Curtius in
the Forum, all the greatness of Etruscan and Roman Veii had gone down,
the abundance of life was most remarkable. The vegetation sprang up
with a rank luxuriance unknown in northern latitudes; lizards darted
through the long grass; one snake of considerable length and girth
uncoiled itself before me and crawled leisurely away; and the air, as
bright and warm as it is in July with us, was murmurous with the hum
of insects that danced in the April sunshine.

Beyond the Ponte Sodo the precipices disappear and the ground slopes
down gently to the edge of the river. Here the valley of the Formello
opens up--a quiet green pastoral spot rising on the right hand into
bare swelling downs, without a tree, or a bush, or a rock to diversify
their surface. On the sloping banks of the river the rock has been cut
into a number of basins filled with water, where Sir William Gell
supposes that the nymphs of Veii, like those of Troy, "washed their
white garments in the days of peace;" but they were in all likelihood
only holes caused by the quarrying of the blocks of stone used in the
construction of the walls and buildings of the city. The slopes of
this valley seem to have formed the principal Necropolis of Veii.
Numerous tombs were discovered in it; but after having been rifled of
their contents they were filled up again, and all traces of them have
disappeared. Only one sepulchre now remains open in the Necropolis,
half way up the slope of a mound called the _Poggio Reale_. It is
commonly known as "The Painted Tomb," or _La Grotta Campana_--after
its discoverer, the Marchese Campana of Rome--who got permission
forty-five years ago from the Queen of Sardinia, to whom the property
then belonged, to dig in this locality for jewels and other relics of
antiquity. Instead of closing the tomb, as was done in the other
cases, this accomplished antiquarian, with the good taste for which he
was distinguished, left it in the exact condition in which he had
found it, so that it might be an object of interest to future
visitors. Ascending the slope, we entered a long narrow passage about
six feet wide and about fourteen feet deep cut through the tufa rock.
This was the original entrance to the tomb; and the discoverer had
cleared it out by removing the earth that had accumulated in the
course of ages. A solitary crouching lion, carved in a species of
volcanic stone, guarded the entrance of the passage. Its companion had
been removed some distance, and lay neglected on the slope of the
hill. The sculpture is exceedingly uncouth and primitive. At the inner
end of the passage a couple of similar lions crouch, one on each side
of the door of the tomb. They were placed there in all likelihood as
symbols of avenging wrath to inspire fear, and thus prevent the
desecration of the dead. Originally the tomb was closed by a great
slab of volcanic stone: but this having been broken to pieces and
carried away to build the first sheepfold or the nearest peasant's
hut, it has been replaced by an iron gate. The walls around were damp
and covered with moss and weeds, and the bars of the gate were rusty.
Our guide applied the key he had brought with him, and the gate opened
with a creaking sound. Lighting a candle, he preceded us into the
tomb. I cannot describe the strange mixture of feelings which took
possession of me,--wonder, curiosity, and awe. This was my first visit
to an Etruscan tomb. In Rome I had been familiar with the monuments
of a remote past; I had gazed with interest upon objects over which
twenty centuries had passed. But here I was to behold one of the
mysterious relics of the world's childhood. I had previously read with
deep interest the graphic account of this tomb, which Mr. Dennis gives
in his _Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria_, and was therefore prepared
in large measure for what I was about to see.

I found myself when I entered in a gloomy chamber hewn out of a brown
arenaceous clay. The floor was a loose mud, somewhat slippery; and on
it I noticed a number of vases, large and small, and of various forms.
They were not like the exquisite painted vases which we are accustomed
to associate with the name of Etruscan, but of the simplest and most
archaic shapes, formed out of the coarsest clay. Some of them had a
curious squat appearance, with rude figures painted on them; while
others of them were about three feet high, of dark-brown earthenware,
and were ornamented with some simple device in neutral tints or in
very low relief. They were empty now; but when found they contained
ashes and fragments of calcined bones. Just within the door there were
two stone benches, on each of which, when the tomb was opened, was
stretched a skeleton, which rapidly crumbled under the pressure of the
air into a cloud of dust. That on the left was supposed to have been a
female; and her companion on the right had doubtless been a warrior,
judging from the bronze helmet and breastplate, both much corroded,
that were left lying on the bench. He had evidently come by a violent
death, for at the back of the helmet was an ugly hole, whose ragged
side was outwards, showing that the fierce thrust of the spear had
crashed through the face, and protruded beyond the casque. The
combination of cinerary urns containing ashes, and of stone couches on
which dead bodies were extended in the same tomb, is curious, showing
that both modes of sepulture were practised at this period. The
skeletons found entire were evidently those of the master and
mistress of the household, persons of consideration; and the ashes in
the jars were probably the remains of the servants and dependants. On
the benches beside the skeletons were a bronze laver and mirror, a
simple candlestick, and a brazier used for burning perfumes. The vases
were exceedingly interesting, as the first rude attempts of the
Etruscans in an art in which afterwards they attained to such
marvellous perfection, and the only relics now remaining of the
fictile statuary for which Veil was so celebrated.

But my interest in these objects was speedily transferred to a far
more wonderful sight, which the candle of the guide disclosed to me.
On the inner wall, which divided the tomb into two chambers, and on
the right and left of the door leading from the one to the other, was
a most extraordinary fresco. Seen in the dim light of the candle
passing over the different parts, it had a singularly weird and
grotesque appearance. The colours were as fresh as if they had been
laid on yesterday; and the thought at first flashed across my mind
that I was gazing not upon a painting which had been sealed up for
nearly thirty centuries, but upon the rude attempts at art of some
modern shepherd or rustic belonging to the village of Isola, who
sought thus to amuse his leisure moments. But such a thought was
dismissed at once as absurd. No one after a few moments' inspection
could doubt the genuineness of the painting. It is difficult to
describe it, for it is altogether unlike anything to be seen elsewhere
in Egyptian or Assyrian, in Greek or Roman tombs. On the right side of
the door the upper half of the wall was panelled off by a band of
colour, and represented one scene or picture. In the centre was a
large horse, that reminded me of a child's wooden toy-horse, such as
one sees at a country fair. Its legs were unnaturally long and thin;
and the slenderness of its barrel was utterly disproportioned to the
breadth of its chest. It was coloured in the most curious fashion:
the head, hind-quarters, and near-leg being black; the tail and mane
and off-legs yellow; and the rest of the body red, with round yellow
spots. It was led by a tall groom; a diminutive youth was mounted upon
its back; and a proud, dignified-looking personage, having a
double-headed axe or hammer on his shoulder, strode in front. These
human figures were all naked, and painted of a deep-red colour. In the
same picture I noticed two strange-looking nondescript animals, very
rudely drawn, and party-coloured like the horse. One probably
represented a cat without a tail, like the Manx breed, half-lying upon
the back of the horse, and laying its paw on the shoulder of the youth
mounted before it; and the other looked like a dog, with open mouth,
apparently barking with all his might, running among the feet of the
horse. Interspersed with these figures were most uncouth drawings of
flowers, growing up from the ground, and forming fantastic wreaths
round the picture, all party-coloured in the same way as the animals.

This extraordinary fresco seemed like the scene which presented itself
to the apostle, when one of the seals of the Apocalyptic book was
opened. I wished that I had beside me some authoritative interpreter
who could read for me "this mystic handwriting on the wall." It has
been suggested that the silent scene before me represented the passage
of a soul to the world of the dead. The lean and starved-looking horse
symbolised death; and its red and yellow spots indicated corruption.
It may have been the ghost of the horse that was burned with the body
of his dead master; for we know that the tribes, from which the
Etruscans were supposed to be descended, if not the Etruscans
themselves, not only burned their dead, but offered along with them
the wives, slaves, horses, and other property of the dead upon their
funeral pyre. The horse in this remarkable fresco may therefore have
been the death-horse, which is well-known in Eastern and European
folklore. The diminutive figure which it carried on its back was the
soul of the dead person buried in this tomb; and its small size and
the fact of its being on horseback might have been suggested by the
thought of the long way it had to go, and its last appearance to the
mortal eyes that had anxiously watched it from the extreme verge of
this world as it vanished in the dim distance of the world beyond. The
groom that led the horse and his rider was the Thanatis or Fate that
had inflicted the death-blow; and the figure with the hammer was
probably intended for the Mantus--the Etruscan Dispater--who led the
way to another state of existence. The deep-red colour of the human
figures indicated not only that they belonged to the male sex, but
also that they were in a state of glorification. This is further
confirmed by the flowers, which looked like those of the lotus,
universally regarded amongst the ancients as symbols of immortality.
It is difficult to say what part the domestic animals were meant to
play in this scene of apotheosis. Painted with the same hues as those
of the steed, they were doubtless sacrificed at the death of their
master, in order that they might share his fortunes and accompany him
into the unseen world; their affection for him, and the reluctance
with which they parted from him, being indicated by the cat putting
its paw upon his shoulder as if to pull him back, and the dog barking
furiously at the heels of the horse. But all this is merely
conjectural. And yet I caught such a glimpse of the general
significance of the picture, of the spirit that prompted it, as deeply
impressed me. It seemed as if my own searching dimly with a candle in
the inside of a dark sepulchral cave into the meaning of this fresco
of death was emblematical of the groping of the ancient Etruscans, by
such feeble light of nature as they possessed, in the midst of the
profound, terrible darkness of death, for the great truths of
immortality. They had not heard of One who alone with returning
footsteps had broken the eternal silence of the tomb, and brought the
hope of immortal life to the sleeping dead around. These Etruscan
sleepers had been laid to rest in their narrow cell ages before the
Son of Man had rolled away the stone from the door of the sepulchre,
and carried captivity captive; but He whom they ignorantly worshipped
had partially lifted the veil and given them faint glimpses of the
things unseen and eternal. And these were doubtless sufficient to
redeem their life from its vanity and their death from its fear.

Below the fresco which I have thus minutely described is another about
the same size, representing a sphinx, with a nondescript animal, which
may be either an ass or a young deer standing below it, and a panther
or leopard sitting behind in a rampant attitude, with one paw on the
haunch of the sphinx, and the other on the tail, and its face turned
towards the spectator. The face of the sphinx is painted red. The
figure bears some resemblance to the Egyptian type of that chimera in
its straight black hair depending behind, and its oblique eyes; but in
other respects it diverges widely. On Egyptian monuments the sphinx
never appears standing as in this fresco, but crouching in the
attitude of reposeful observation. Its form also was always fuller and
more rounded than the long-legged, attenuated spectre before us, and
it was invariably wingless; whereas the Etruscan sphinx had short
wings with curling points, spotted and barred with stripes of black,
red, and yellow. This strange mixture of the human and the brutal
might be regarded as a symbol of the religious state of the people. We
see in it higher conceptions of religion struggling out of lower. In
the recumbent wingless sphinx of Egypt we see anthropomorphic ideas of
religion emerging out of the gross animal-worship of more primitive
times. In the standing and winged Etruscan Sphinx we see these ideas
assuming a more predominant form; while in the Greek mythology the
emancipation of the human from the brutal was complete, and the gods
appeared wholly in the likeness of men.

On the wall on the opposite side of the door were two other frescoes,
somewhat similar in general appearance to those already described. On
the upper panel was a horse with a boy on his back, and a panther
sitting on the ground behind him; while on the lower panel there was a
huge standing panther or leopard, with his long tongue hanging out of
his mouth, and a couple of dogs beneath him, one lifting up its paw,
and the other trying to catch the protruded tongue of the panther. All
the figures in the four frescoes were painted in the same bizarre
style of red, yellow, and black characteristic of the first fresco
described; and they had all the same Oriental border of lotus flowers.
They had evidently all the same symbolic import; for the sphinx
guarded the gate of the unseen world, and leopards or panthers were
frequently introduced into the paintings of Etruscan tombs as
guardians of the dead.

Passing through the doorway I entered an inner and smaller chamber,
whose only decoration was six small round discs on the opposite wall,
each about fifteen inches in diameter, painted in little segments of
various colours,--black, blue, red, yellow, and gray. What they were
meant to represent no one has satisfactorily explained. Above them I
observed a number of rusty nails fixed in the wall, and traces of
others that had fallen out around the doorway. On these nails were
originally suspended various articles of household economy or of
personal ornament; for the Etruscan sepulchres were always furnished
with such things as the tenants took delight in when living. For a
proof of this nothing could be more satisfactory than a thorough study
of Inghirami's voluminous work. Indeed, all ancient nations buried
their dead not only with their weapons and armour, but also with their
most precious possessions; and in proportion to the rank and wealth of
the deceased were the number and value of the offerings deposited with
him in his tomb. We are amazed at the variety and preciousness of the
golden ornaments found by Dr. Schliemann in the tombs at Mycenæ; and
every Etruscan cemetery that has been opened has yielded an immense
number of most precious articles, which the devotion of the survivors
sacrificed to the manes of their departed friends. It is to this
propensity that we owe all our knowledge of this mysterious race. But
the fact, as Mr. Dennis says, that the nails in the interior of this
tomb were empty, and that no fragments of the objects suspended were
found at the foot of the wall, indicated either that the articles had
decayed, being of a perishable nature, or that they had been carried
off on account of their superior value. This last is the more probable
supposition. The Marchese Campana, who opened the tomb, was late in
the field, and had in all likelihood been anticipated by some previous
explorer. The work of plundering Etruscan tombs was begun, we have
reason to believe, in the time of the early Romans, who were
attracted, not merely by the precious metals which they contained, but
also by the reputation of their vases, which in the days of the Empire
were held in as high esteem as now. Many tombs have doubtless been
repeatedly searched. The very architects employed in their
construction, as Signor Avolta conjectures, may have preserved the
secret of the concealed entrance, and used it for the purpose of
spoliation afterwards. Indeed, an unviolated tomb is a very rare
exception. No modern excavations were made till about sixty years ago;
and yet during that short interval many tombs that were opened and
filled up again have been forgotten; and now they are being dug afresh
by persons ignorant of this, who spend their labour only to be
disappointed. There is little reason, therefore, to believe that the
Painted Tomb of Veii was so fortunate as to escape all notice until
the Marchese Campana had discovered it. Former visitors had robbed it
in all likelihood of any objects of intrinsic value it may have
contained, and left only the bronze utensils and armour and the rude
archaic vases.

On the roughly-hewn roof of this inner chamber of the tomb were
carved in high relief two beams in imitation of the rafters of a
house; and round the walls at the foot ran a low ledge formed out of
the rock, like a family couch, on which stood three very curious boxes
of earthenware, about a foot and a half long and a foot high, covered
with a projecting lid on which was moulded a human head. These were
sepulchral urns of a most primitive form, intermediate between the
so-called hut-urns found under the lava in the Necropolis of Alba
Longa, and supposed to represent the tents in which the Etruscans
lived at the time of their arrival in Italy, and the round vases of a
later period. On the same ledge were several vases painted in bands of
red and yellow, with a row of uncouth animals executed in relief upon
the rim. The form and contents of this chamber afforded striking proof
of the fact that the Etruscan tombs were imitations of the homes of
the living. These tombs were constructed upon two types: one rising in
the form of a tumulus or conical mound above the ground when the
situation was a level table-land, and the other consisting of one or
two chambers excavated out of the rock when the tomb was situated on
the precipitous face of a hill. Dr. Isaac Taylor, in his admirable
_Etruscan Researches_, says that the former type recalled the tent,
and the latter the cave, which were the original habitations of men.
The ancestors of the Etruscans are supposed by him to have been a
nomadic race, wandering over the steppes of Asia, and to have dwelt
either in caves or tents. At the present day the yourts or permanent
houses in Siberia and Tartary are modelled on the plan of both kinds
of habitation--the upper part being above the ground, representing the
tent; and the lower part being subterranean, representing the cave.
And so the descendants of this Asiatic horde, having migrated at a
remote period to Italy, preserved the burial traditions of their
remote ancestors, and formed their tombs after the model of the tent
or cave, according as they were constructed on the level plateau or
in the rocky brow of a hill. In further illustration of this theory
he says that in olden times when a member of the Tartar tribe died,
the tent in which he breathed his last, with all its contents intact,
was converted into a tomb by simply covering it with a conical mound
of earth or stones, in order to preserve it from the ravages of wolves
and other beasts of prey. Even the row of stones that surrounded the
outside of the tent and kept down the skins that covered it from being
blown away by the storms of the steppe, was introduced into the
structure of the tomb, and continued to surround the base of the
funeral mound. He finds traces of this circle of stones in the podium
or low wall of masonry which encircled every Etruscan tumulus or
outside tomb, and a remarkable example in the mounds of the Horatii
and Curiatii on the Appian Way at Rome.

This theory, however, it is only fair to state, is disputed by other
writers, who assert that there was no intentional imitation of tents
in Etruscan tombs; for if this had been the design there would have
been a correspondence between the conical outside and the conical
interior, and no Etruscan tomb has been found with a bell-shaped
chamber. The tent-like tumulus, say they, was but the mere rude mound
of earth heaped over the dead in an uncultured age; and the mound
would be made higher and larger according to the dignity of the
deceased; and the podium or row of stones around its foot was simply
the retaining wall necessary to give it stability and shape. The tomb
at Veii had a narrow entrance-passage; and we find this a marked
feature in all Etruscan tombs, which are approached by a vaulted
passage of masonry, varying from twelve to a hundred feet in length.
This also, according to Dr. Taylor, was but a survival of the low
entrance-passage through which the ancient Siberians crept into their
subterranean habitations, and which the modern Laplanders and
Esquimaux still construct before their snow-huts and underground
dwellings, to serve the purpose of a door in keeping out the wind and
maintaining the temperature of the interior.

The other, or cave type of Etruscan tomb, is that which we see at
Veii, and of which there are hundreds of examples all over Central
Italy, wherever there are deep valleys bounded by low cliffs. This,
too, was modelled after the pattern of the house. There were usually
two chambers, an outer and an inner one. The outer was the place of
meeting between the living and the dead; the surviving friends feasted
there during their annual visit to the tomb, while the dead were laid
in the inner chamber in the midst of familiar objects. Here everything
was designed to keep up the delusion that the dead were still living
in their own homes. The roof of the chamber was carved in imitation of
the roof-tree, the rafters, and even the tiles of the house; the rock
around was hewn into couches, with cushions and footstools like those
on which they reposed when living; on the floor were the wine-jars,
the vases, and utensils, consecrated by long use; on the various
projections were suspended the mirrors, arms, and golden ornaments
that were most prized; while the walls were painted with gay frescoes,
representing scenes of festivity in which eating and drinking, music
and dancing, played a prominent part. And as the ordinary habitation
contained the family, the grandparents, the parents, and the children,
all living under the same roof, so the Etruscan tombs were all family
abodes--the dead of a whole generation being deposited in the same
inner chamber.

To the outer chamber, as I have said, came the surviving members of
the family at least once a year to hold a funeral feast, and pay their
devotions to their departed friends. The tombs of this people were
thus at the same time also their temples--the sacred places where they
came to perform the rites of their religion, which consisted in
worshipping the lares and penates of their beloved dead, and making
offerings to them. And by this striking link of the cultus of the dead
the ancient Etruscans were connected with the present inhabitants of
Northern Asia, the Finns, Laplanders, Tartars, Mongols, and Chinese,
who have no temples or places of special honour for their idols, but
assemble once a year or oftener at the graves of their ancestors to
worship the dead. But after all there is no great difference in this
respect between the races, ancient and modern; for the churchyard and
the church, the burial vaults and monuments within the cathedral and
chapel, show how universal is the instinct that associates the dead
with the shrine of religion, and makes the tomb the most appropriate
place for giving expression to those blessed hopes of immortality upon
which all religion is founded. The sanctuary of the Holy Land derived
its sacredness, as well as the charter of its inheritance, from the
cave of Machpelah. Around that patriarchal tomb clustered all the
grand religious hopes of the covenant people. The early Christians
adopted and purified the Etruscan custom which they found in Rome, and
erected over the tombs of the martyrs and other illustrious persons
_Cellæ Memoriæ_, or memorial chapels, in which on anniversary
occasions the friends and brethren assembled to partake of a funeral
feast in honour of the dead. The primitive Agapæ, or love-feasts, were
often nothing more than such banquets in the memorial cells at the
tombs of the faithful. And in our own country, many of our most
important churches, towns, and villages took their origin and name
from the grave of some saint, who in far-off times hallowed the spot
and made it a shrine of worship.

There are numerous indications that this Painted Tomb at Veii is of
very great antiquity, and may be considered as probably the oldest
tomb in Europe. No inscription of any kind has been found on its walls
or any of its contents; and this circumstance, which is almost
singular so far as all Etruscan tombs yet discovered are concerned, of
itself indicates a very remote date, when the art of letters if known
at all was only known to a privileged few, and confined to public and
sacred monuments. No clue remains to inform us who the Veientine
warrior was who met his death in so tragic a manner, and who lay down
with his wife and dependants in this tomb, and took the last long
sleep without a thought of posterity or the conclusions they might
form regarding him. And the argument of hoary antiquity derived from
this speechless silence of the tomb is still further strengthened by
architectural evidence. The outer wall as seen from the inside is
built of rough uncemented blocks of the earliest polygonal
construction, such as we see in a few of the oldest Cyclopean cities
of Central Italy; and the doorway is formed by the gradual convergence
of stones laid in horizontal courses, instead of being arched by
regular wedges of stone held together. Now, as the perfect arch was
known and constructed in Etruria at a very early period, this
pseudo-vault, which indicates complete ignorance of the principle,
must belong to a very remote age indeed--to the period of the
Cyclopean gateways of Italy and Greece, whose origin is lost in the
mist of a far-off antiquity. There are two limits within which the
date of the tomb may probably be placed. While its style and
decorations are genuinely national and characteristic of the primitive
Etruscan tomb, there can be no doubt that several Egyptian features in
it, such as the sphinx and the lotus, and in some respects the
colouring and physiognomy of the human figures, indicate some
acquaintance with the land of the Nile. Now an inscription has been
found at Karnac which records that Egypt was invaded by a
confederation of Libyans, Etruscans, and other races, and was only
saved after a desperate struggle by the valour of Menephtah I. of the
Nineteenth Dynasty. The allied forces occupied the country for a time,
and took away with them when they departed large spoils, consisting
among other things of bronze knives and armour. This happened in the
fourteenth or fifteenth century before Christ. There can be no doubt,
therefore, that the civilisation of Egypt must at this period have
been spread by commerce or war among the Western nations, and produced
a powerful influence upon the Etruscans. The imitation of Egyptian
models is not so decided in this tomb as it is in the painted tombs of
Tarquinii and other Etruscan cities of later date; and this
circumstance would indicate that it was constructed at the very
commencement of the intercourse of Etruria with Egypt. If we take this
historic fact as the limit in one direction, the tomb cannot be older
than three thousand three hundred years. On the other hand, we know
that Veii was destroyed about four hundred years before Christ, and
remained uninhabited and desolate till the commencement of the Empire;
we have, therefore, the surest ground for fixing the date of the tomb
prior to that event. Somewhere between the invasion of Egypt by the
Etruscan confederacy and the fall of Veii--that is, somewhere between
the fourteenth and the fourth century before Christ--this sepulchre
was hewn in the rock and its tenants interred in it.

Carlo Avolta of Corneto on one occasion, opening an Etruscan tomb at
Tarquinii, saw a most wonderful sight. From an aperture which he had
made above the door of the sepulchre he looked in, and for fully five
minutes "gazed upon an Etruscan monarch lying on his stone bier,
crowned with gold, clothed in armour, with a shield, spear, and arrows
by his side." But as he gazed the figure collapsed, and finally
disappeared; and by the time an entrance was made all that remained
was the golden crown, some fragments of armour, and a handful of gray
dust. Like that Etruscan tomb has been the fate of the Etruscan
confederacy. This mighty people left traces of their civilisation
"inferior in grandeur perhaps to the monuments of Egypt, in beauty to
those of Greece, but with these exceptions surpassing in both the
relics of any other nation of remote antiquity." At the period of
their highest power they lived in close neighbourhood and connection
with a people who got its laws, its rulers, its arts, its religion
from them--and might therefore if only in gratitude have preserved
their history. But their fate was that of the similar civilisation of
Mexico and Peru, which its selfish Spanish conquerors instead of
preserving sought studiously to obliterate. The comprehensive history
of Etruria written in twenty volumes by the emperor Claudius--who,
though very feeble in other things, was yet a scholar, and could have
given us much interesting information--perished. Their language, which
survived their absorption by Rome, almost as late as the time of the
Cæsars, finally disappeared; and though thousands of inscriptions in
tombs and on works of art remain--which we are able to read from the
close resemblance of the alphabet to the Greek--the key to the
interpretation of the language is gone beyond recall. In an age that
has unravelled the Egyptian hieroglyphics, and the cuneiform
characters of Assyria, and the runic inscriptions of Northern Europe,
the Etruscan language presents almost the only philological problem
that refuses to be solved. Thus when the air and the light of modern
investigation penetrated into the mystery which surrounded this
strange people, all that was most important had vanished; and only the
few ornaments of the tomb remained to tell us of a lost world of art,
literature, and human life which had perished not by internal
exhaustion, but had fallen before the arms of Rome in the full
maturity of its civilisation.



In the porch of the interesting old church of Sta. Maria in Cosmedin
near the Tiber is preserved a huge circular stone like a millstone. It
is composed of white marble, upwards of five feet in diameter, and is
finished after the model of the dramatic mask used in the ancient
theatres. In the centre is a round hole perforating the mass right
through, forming the mouth of the mask. It is called the Bocca della
Verita, and has given its name to the irregular piazza in which the
church is situated. It is so called from the use to which it has been
put from time immemorial, as an ordeal for testing the guilt or
innocence of an accused person. If the suspected individual on making
an affirmation thrust his hand through the hole and was able to draw
it back again, he was pronounced innocent; but if, on the contrary,
the hand remained fixed in the marble jaws, the person was declared to
have sworn falsely and was pronounced guilty. The marble mouth was
supposed by the superstitious to contract or expand itself according
to the moral character of the arraigned person. No reason has been
given why this singular marble mask should have been placed in this
church, nor is anything known of its previous history. Some have
conjectured that it served as an impluvium or mouth of a drain in the
centre of a court to let the water run off; and others regard it as
having been an ornament for a fountain, like the colossal mask of
marble out of the mouth of which a jet of water falls into a fountain
in the Via de Mascherone, called after it, near the Farnese Palace,
and the marble mask which belongs to a small fountain on the opposite
side of the river near the Palazzo Salviati. But the question arises,
Why should the Bocca della Verita, if such was its origin, have been
used for the superstitious purpose connected with it? Our answer to
this question must lead us back to the Temple of Ceres and Proserpine
which originally stood on the site of the church of Sta. Maria in
Cosmedin, and of the materials of which the Christian edifice was
largely built.

In primitive times the worship of clefts in rocks, holes in the earth,
or stones having a natural or artificial perforation, appears to have
been almost universal. We find traces of it in almost every country,
and amongst almost every people. These sacred chasms or holes were
regarded as emblems of the celestial mother, and persons went into
them and came out again, so as to be born anew, or squeezed themselves
through the holes in order to obtain the remission of their sins. In
ancient Palestine this form of idolatry was known as the worship of
Baal-perazim, or Baal of the clefts or breaches. David obtained a
signal victory over the Philistines at one of the shrines of this god,
and burnt there the images peculiar to this mode of worship which the
enemy had left behind in its flight. About two miles from Bombay there
is a rock on the promontory of the Malabar Hill, which has a natural
crevice, communicating with a cavity below, and opening upon the sea.
This crevice is too narrow for corpulent persons to squeeze through,
but it is constantly resorted to for purposes of moral purification.
Through natural or artificial caverns in India pilgrims enter at the
south side, and make their exit at the northern, as was anciently the
custom in the Mithraic mysteries. Those who pass through such caves
are considered to receive by this action a new birth of the soul.
According to the same idea the rulers of Travancore, who are Nairs by
caste, are made into Brahmins when they ascend the throne by passing
through a hole in a large golden image of a cow or lotus flower, which
then becomes the property of the Brahmin priests. It is possible that
there may be an allusion to this primitive custom in the rule of the
Jewish Temple, mentioned by Ezekiel,--"He that entereth in by the way
of the north gate to worship shall go out by the way of the south
gate; and he that entereth by the way of the south gate shall go forth
by the way of the north gate: he shall not return by the way of the
gate whereby he came in, but shall go forth over against it." This
arrangement may have been made not as a mere matter of convenience,
but as a survival of the old practice of "passing through" a sacred
cave or crevice for the forgiveness of sins;--a survival purified and
ennobled in the service of God.

The oldest of all religious monuments of which we have any existing
trace are cromlechs, found mostly in waste, uncultivated places. These
are of various forms, but they are mostly tripods, consisting of a
copestone poised upon three other stones, two at the head and one at
the foot. The supports are rough boulders, the largest masses of stone
that could be found or moved; and the copestone is an enormous flat
square block, often with cup-shaped hollows carved upon its surface.
Under this copestone there was a vacant space, varying in size from a
foot or two to the height of a man on horseback. Through this vacant
space persons used to pass; and the narrower the space, the more
difficult the feat of crawling through, the more meritorious was the
act. In our own country there are numerous relics of this primitive
custom. In Cornwall there are two holed stones, one called Tolven,
situated near St. Buryan, and the other called Men-an-tol, near
Madron, which have been used within living memory for curing infirm
children by passing them through the aperture. In the parish of
Minchin Hampton, Gloucestershire, is a stone called Long Stone, seven
or eight feet in height, having near the bottom of it a large
perforation, through which, not many years since, children brought
from a considerable distance were passed for the cure of measles and
whooping-cough. On the west side of the Island of Tyree in Scotland is
a rock with a crevice in it through which children were put when
suffering from various infantile diseases. In connection with the
ancient ruined church of St. Molaisse on the Island of Devenish in
Loch Erne in Ireland, there is an artificially perforated stone,
through which persons still pass, when the opening will admit, in
order to be regenerated. If the hole be too small, they put the hand
or the foot through it, and the effect is thus limited. Examples of
such holed stones are to be found in some of the old churches of
Ireland, such as Castledermot, County Kildare; Kilmalkedar, County
Kerry; Kilbarry, near Tarmon Barry, on the Shannon. In Madras,
diseased children are passed under the lintels of doorways; and in
rural parts of England they used to be passed through a cleft ash
tree. At Maryhill, in the neighbourhood of Glasgow, about a year ago,
when an epidemic of measles and whooping-cough was prevalent, two
mothers took advantage, for the carrying out of this superstition, of
the presence in the village of an ass which drew the cart of a
travelling rag-gatherer. They stood one on each side of the animal.
One woman then took one of the children and passed it face downward
through below the ass's belly to the other woman, who in turn handed
it back with its face this time turned towards the sky. The process
having been repeated three times, the child was taken away to the
house, and then the second child was similarly treated. The mothers
were thoroughly satisfied that their children were the better of the
magic process.

A mysterious virtue was supposed to be connected with passing under
the ancient gate of Mycenæ by the primitive race who constructed it.
Jacob's words at Bethel, "This is the gate of heaven," may have an
allusion to the prehistoric custom of the place; for we have reason
to believe that a dolmen existed there, consecrated to solar worship,
the original name of Bethel being Beth-on, the house of the sun. The
hollow space beneath the dolmen was considered the altar-gate leading
to paradise, so that whosoever passed through it was certain to obtain
new life or immortality. It was an old superstition that the dead
required to be brought out of the house not by the ordinary door of
the living, but by a breach made specially in the wall, in order that
they might thus pass through a species of purgatory. We find an
exceedingly interesting example of this primitive superstition in the
punishment that was imposed upon the survivor in the famous combat
between the Horatii and Curiatii, when he murdered his sister, on
account of her unpatriotic devotion to her slain lover. The father of
Horatius, after making a piacular sacrifice, erected a beam across the
street leading from the Vicus Cyprius to the Carinæ, with an altar on
each side--the one dedicated to Juno Sororia and the other to Janus
Curiatius--and under this yoke he made his son pass with his head
veiled. This beam long survived under the name of Tigillum Sororium or
Sister's Beam, and was constantly repaired at the public expense.

In modern times there are two most remarkable survivals of the same
kind. One of them is in the corridor of the mosque of Aksa at
Jerusalem. In this place are two pillars, standing close together, and
like those in the mosque of Omar at Cairo, they are used as a test of
character. It is said that whosoever can squeeze himself between them
is certain of paradise, and must be a good Moslem. The pillars have
been worn thin by the friction of countless devotees. An iron bar has
now, however, been placed between the pillars by the present
enlightened Pasha of Jerusalem to prevent the practice in future. The
other instance is what is popularly known as "threading the needle" in
the Cathedral of Ripon. Beneath the central tower of this minster
there is a small crypt or vaulted cell entered from the nave by a
narrow passage. At the north side of this crypt there is an opening
thirteen inches by eighteen, called St. Wilfred's needle. This passage
was formerly used as a test of character; for only an honest man, one
new-born, could pass through it. "They pricked their credits who could
not thread the needle," was the quaint remark of old Fuller in
reference to the original use of the opening. It may be remarked that
the well-known boys' game of "Through the needle's e'e, boys," had its
origin in all likelihood in the old superstition. Thus we can trace
the use made of the Bocca della Verita in Rome to the primitive
idolatry associated perhaps with the Temple of Ceres that formerly
stood on the spot.

Some other superstitious practices of a closely allied nature may be
traced to the same source. In the Orkney Islands, not far from the
famous Standing Stones of Stennis, there is a single monolith with a
large hole through it, which has become celebrated, owing to the
allusion to it of Sir Walter Scott in his novel of the _Pirate_. It is
called Odin's Stone; and till a very recent period it was the local
custom to take an oath by joining hands through the hole in it; and
this oath was considered even by the regular courts of Orkney as
peculiarly solemn and binding; the person who violated it being
accounted infamous and excluded from society. In the old churchyard of
the ruined monastery of Saints Island in the Shannon, there is an
ancient black marble flagstone called the "Cremave" or "swearing
stone." The saints are said to have made it a revealer of truth. Any
one suspected of falsehood is brought here, and if the accused swears
falsely the stone has the power to set a mark upon him and his family
for several generations. But if no mark appears he is known to be
innocent. Many other equally interesting instances might be quoted all
akin to the superstition in Rome. It is not too fanciful to suppose
that even the Jewish mode of making a covenant had something to do
with this primitive custom. The animal offered in sacrifice was
divided into two pieces, and so arranged that a space was left
between them. Through this space, between the parts, the contracting
persons passed in order to ratify the covenant. We have a striking
account of this ceremony in the case of Abraham; and it is in allusion
to it that the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews says that we have
boldness to enter into the holiest "by a new and living way, which he
hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh."

The superstitious practices connected with clefts and holed stones
were denounced by councils of the Christian Church, which subjected
transgressors to various penalties. Consequently this mode of worship
came into evil repute; and what was formerly considered a meritorious
action, securing the cure of disease or future happiness, became a
deed of evil, to be followed by some calamity. For this reason the
primitive symbolism was reversed in many cases, such as "passing under
a ladder," which is now considered unlucky; or in Eastern lands going
between a wall and a pole, between two women or two dogs, which the
Talmud forbids as an omen of evil.

Passing from the subject of holed stones I proceed to consider another
class of interesting prehistoric objects that survive in the more
primitive churches of Rome. In the same church of Sta. Maria in
Cosmedin--where the Bocca della Verita which I have described
occurs--there is a curious crypt called the chapel of St. Cyril, who
undertook a mission about the year eight hundred and sixty to convert
the Slavs in Bulgaria to Christianity, and suffered martyrdom in the
attempt. Beside an ancient altar of primitive construction on one side
is preserved a large slab of granite on which St. Cyril is said to
have knelt when he was put to death; and half-sunk in the wall
opposite are two large, smooth, dark-coloured stones, in shape not
unlike curling stones--or an orange from which a portion has been
sliced off horizontally. They cannot fail to be seen when attention is
directed to them.

Such stones, often made level at the top and bottom, and with a ring
inserted in the upper surface, are not uncommon in the older churches
of Rome, although they are very seldom noticed, as their significance
is only known to a few experts. One is placed in the centre of the
middle nave of Santa Sabina, on the Aventine, on the top of a short
spirally-fluted column of white marble, which marks the spot where St.
Dominic, the founder of the order of the Dominicans, used to kneel
down and pray. It has received the name of Pietra di Paragone, or the
Touchstone. Another may be seen at the entrance of the church of Santa
Pudenziana, on the Esquiline, supposed to have been built on the site
of the house of the Roman senator Pudens, whose daughter, Pudentiana,
St. Peter is said to have converted to Christianity. A third exists
among the extensive collection of relics belonging to the ten thousand
three hundred martyrs whose remains, according to tradition, were
deposited in the church of S. Prassede, at the beginning of the ninth
century, by Paschal I. Two stones may be observed upon the gable wall
immediately above the basins of holy water in the interior of the
church of S. Nicolo in Carcere, near the Ghetto. Two others are
inserted in the wall of the Baptistery of St. John Lateran, between
the vestibule and the octagonal area containing the so-called gigantic
font in which Constantine was baptized. A very interesting stone hangs
suspended from the gilded iron grating which protects the crypt or
confessional of St. Laurence, immediately underneath the high altar of
the great Basilica of San Lorenzo beyond the Gate. A stone still more
remarkable, guarded by a strong iron grating, projects half its bulk
from the wall on the right-hand side of the arch which divides the
transept from the middle nave in the venerable church of Santa Maria
in Trastevere. Two other stones may be seen in the quaint old church
of SS. Cosma e Damiano at the south-eastern angle of the Roman Forum,
composed of portions of three pagan temples. They are inserted in the
plain whitewashed walls on both sides of the circular arch through
which you pass from the round vestibule into the interior of the
church. I have noticed similar stones in no less than twenty places
besides those I have mentioned; and I am assured that they may be seen
in many more churches.

It is very difficult to obtain any accurate or satisfactory
information regarding these curious stones. They go by the name of
_Lapides Martyrum_, or Martyr-stones. During the persecutions of the
early Christians in Rome they are said to have been hung round the
necks of those who were condemned to be drowned in the Tiber. In the
reign of the emperor Diocletian many martyrs perished in this way, and
the stones by which they were sunk beneath the fatal waters, according
to the popular idea, were afterwards found, and carefully preserved as
holy relics in the churches in which they are now to be seen. Beyond
doubt they are genuine remains of antiquity, and some of them at least
may have been used for the purpose alleged; although we cannot be
sure, in any case, that the story connected with particular stones is
authentic. St. Sabine desired that the stone which was to be tied to
him when thrown in the river should be buried with his body, and this
might have been done in the case of other martyrs. The stones in the
church of SS. Cosma e Damiano are supposed to have been the very ones
that were fastened to the necks of these devoted Christians when they
were thrown into the Tiber in the reign of Maximian. But as the place
and manner of their martyrdom are involved in hopeless obscurity, the
various accounts given of both being contradictory, the ecclesiastical
legend has no weight. Cosma and Damian were Arabian doctors who were
converted to Christianity, and belonged to the class called
"silverless martyrs"--that is, physicians who took no fee from those
whom they cured, but only stipulated that they should believe in
Christ the Great Physician. They occupied in Christian hagiology the
same place as the ancient myth of Esculapius occupied in pagan

Around the stone in the church of Santa Sabina a curious legend has
gathered. The sacristan, a Dominican friar of the neighbouring
convent, is in the habit of telling the visitors that the devil one
day, while St. Dominic was kneeling on the pavement as usual, hurled
the huge stone in question, with his utmost force, against the head of
the saint; but, strange to say, it either missed him altogether or
failed to do him any injury, the saint going calmly on with his
devotions as if nothing had happened. On the stone in the church of
Santa Maria in Trastevere there is an inscription in Latin, informing
us that it was fastened round the neck of St. Calixtus, the Bishop of
Rome, who, after having been scourged during an outbreak of pagan
hostility, was thrown out of a window in his house in the Trastevere,
and flung into a well. The stone in the Basilica of S. Lorenzo is
connected with the sufferings and death either of St. Justinian or of
St. Stephen, the proto-martyr, who was stoned to death in Palestine,
and whose remains, miraculously recovered, are supposed to rest in the
crypt below, along with those of St. Laurence. All these relics are
devoutly worshipped, and they are believed to cure diseases, and to
protect against evil those who touch them.

Examining the martyr-stones more closely, we find abundant evidence to
confirm the account which is usually given of their origin, viz. that
they were first used as Roman measures of weight. Several of them have
inscribed upon their upper surface the names of the quæstors or
prefects who issued them, as well as the number of pounds and ounces
which they represented; the pounds being distinguished by figures, and
the ounces expressed by dots or small circles. Numbers of such ancient
Roman weights of stone, similarly inscribed, may be seen in the
Kircherian Museum in the Collegio Romano. One specimen bears an
inscription which signifies that, by the authority of Augustus, the
weight was preserved in the temple of the goddess Ops, the wife of
Saturn, and one of the most ancient deities of Italy, where the public
money was deposited. Montfaucon, in the third volume of his learned
and elaborate work on Antiquity, has a plate illustrating a number of
characteristic specimens of these weights from the cabinet of St.
Germain's. This previous use would lead us to suspect that all the
stones in the Roman churches did not figure in scenes of martyrdom.
Some of them, indeed, were found in the _loculi_ or graves of the
Catacombs; but this circumstance of itself does not prove that the
body interred therein had been that of a martyr, and that the stone
had been employed in his execution. We know that the early Christians
were in the habit of depositing in the graves of their friends the
articles that were most valued by them during life. And hence, in the
Catacombs, a singular variety of objects have been found. Stone
weights, therefore, may have been put into the graves of Christians,
not as instruments of suffering but as objects typical of the
occupation of the departed in this life, in accordance with the habit
of their pagan forefathers, which the Roman Christians had adopted.
Some, however, of the stones, as I have said, may have been used
according to the popular legend for the drowning of martyrs; and these
weights were conveniently at hand in places of public resort, and lent
themselves readily, by the rings inserted in many of them, to the
persecutor's purpose.

The material of which they are composed is in nearly all cases the
same. It is a stone of extreme hardness and of various shades of
colour, from a light green to a dark olive, with a degree of
transparency equal to that of wax and susceptible of a fine polish. By
some writers it is called a black stone; but this colour may have been
given to it by frequent handling when in use, and by the grime of age
since. It was called by the Romans, from the use made of it in
fabricating measures of weight, _lapis æquipondus_, and from its
supposed efficacy in the cure of diseases of the kidneys _lapis
nephriticus_. Fabreti says that it got the name of _lapis Lydius_ from
the locality from which it was believed to have come. It is a kind of
nephrite or jade, a mineral which usually occurs in talcose or
magnesian rocks. At one time it was supposed to exist only on the
river Kara-Kash, in the Kuen Luen mountains north of Cashmere, and for
thousands of years the mines of that locality were the only known
worked ones of pure jade. It has since, however, been found in New
Zealand and in India; while the discoverers of South America obtained
specimens of it in its natural state from the natives of Peru, who
used it for making axes and arrow-heads, and gave it the name of
_piedra de yjada_, from which comes our common word _jade_, on account
of its use as a supposed cure for the iliac passion. It may be
mentioned that there is a mineral closely allied to jade called
"Saussurite," discovered by the great geologist whose name it bears
near Monte Rosa, and since found on the borders of the Lake of Geneva,
near Genoa, and in Corsica. It is possible that the martyr-stones may
be made of this mineral, for they have not been analysed. But if they
are, as it is supposed, made of true jade, the fact opens up many
important questions.

No stone has a more remarkable history. It is an object of interest
alike to the geologist and the antiquarian; and in spite of the most
patient inquiry its antecedents are surrounded with a mystery which
cannot be satisfactorily solved. Its antiquity is beyond doubt. In the
most ancient books of China it is noticed as one of the articles of
tribute paid to the emperor. Dr. Schliemann found it among the ruins
of Troy. But its history stretches into the misty past far anterior in
time to all ordinary records, to Cyclopean constructions, or to
pictured and sculptured stones. One of the most curious things brought
to light in connection with the prehistoric annals of our race is the
wide diffusion of this mineral in regions as far apart as China and
Britain. Owing to its extreme hardness and susceptibility to polish,
it was highly prized by the neolithic races for the manufacture of
stone axes and hammers. In nearly every European country implements of
jade belonging to the primitive inhabitants have been discovered. Some
of the most beautiful belonged to one of the latest settlements of the
stone age at Gerlafingen, in the Lake of Bienne, and were mixed with
bronze celts of primitive type, indicating that the people of these
lake-dwellings lived during the transition period between stone and

The presence of such celts made of jade obviously points to a
connection at a very early period with the East, from whence the stone
must have been brought, for it has never been found in a natural state
west of the Caspian. An interesting controversy upon this subject was
created about eight years ago by the finding in the bed of the Rhone
of a jade strigil, an instrument curved and hollowed like a spoon used
to scrape the skin while bathing. Various conjectures were formed as
to how this isolated object could have found its way from its distant
quarry in the East to this obscure spot among the Alps. Professor Max
Müller, and those who along with him advocate the Oriental origin of
the first settlers in Europe, are of opinion that this strigil and the
various jade implements found in the Swiss lake-dwellings, are relics
of this Western migration from the primitive cradle of the Aryan race
on the plateaus of Central Asia. The implements could only have come
from the East, for the other sources of jade supply in New Zealand and
America--since discovered--were altogether unknown in those primitive
times. And this conclusion is supported by an imposing array of
concurrent philological evidence, based upon the resemblances between
the Aryan languages of Europe, so strangely akin to each other, and
the ancient dialects of India and Persia. But plausible as this
argument looks, the more probable explanation is that the inhabitants
of Europe obtained the material which they laboriously fashioned into
tools from the East, according to a system of barter similar to that
which still exists amongst tribes more rude and savage than the Swiss
lake-dwellers. Numerous facts of a like tendency are on record, such
as the finding in the mounds of the Mississippi valley, side by side,
obsidian from Mexico and mica from the Alleghanies, and in the mounds
around the great northern lakes large tropical shells two thousand
miles from their native habitat. The ancient inhabitants of China and
India found at a very early period that they possessed in their jade
rocks a very valuable material, in exchange for which they could get
what they wanted from the Western races; while these Western races had
at least one article which they could barter for the much-prized jade
implements, viz. linen cloth, the weaving of which was practised in
the oldest settlements, hanks of unspun flax and thread, nets and
cloth of the same material having been found not unfrequently in the
lake dwellings.

What an interesting glimpse into the far-off past does this link of
connection between the East and the West give us! It indicates a
degree of civilisation which we are not accustomed to associate with
these primeval times. Archæologists are of opinion that the race who
inhabited Central Europe during the earlier part of the stone age were
akin to the modern Laplanders. The people of the lake dwellings,
however, and especially those who used jade implements, who replaced
them, were a superior and more civilised race. The evidence of the
articles which they used, with the exception of jade itself, points
not to an Asiatic origin, but rather to a connection with the shores
on both sides of the Mediterranean. When they migrated northwards they
brought with them the flax and the cereals of Egypt, and introduced
with them the southern weeds which grew among these cultivated plants.
The seeds of the catch-fly of Crete, which does not grow in
Switzerland or Germany, have been found among the relics of the
earliest of the lake dwellings; while the familiar corn blue-bottle
of our autumn fields was first brought from its native Sicily by this
lacustrine people in whose cultivated fields it grew as a weed, and by
them spread over all Western and Northern Europe. Such are the
interesting associations and profound problems connected with the
material of the martyr weights. And it is unique in this respect, that
it meets us as far back as the first traces of neolithic man in
Central Europe--nay, farther back still, in the palæolithic flints
found in the caves near Mentone; and that it is still used in the
countries where it is found for a great variety of useful and
ornamental purposes, idols being carved out of it, and altars adorned
with its semi-transparent olive-green slabs. The inhabitants of the
South Sea Islands until recently used it for their stone implements in
the same way that the ancient lake dwellers did; and the Mogul
emperors of Delhi set such a high value upon it on account of its
superstitious virtues that they had it cut, jewelled, and enamelled
into the most exquisite forms.

In Rome the martyr weights, as relics of the stone age, afford a
curious example of a very primitive epoch projecting far into a
highly-civilised one. Stone weights continued in use long after bronze
and iron implements were constructed, on account of the sacred
associations connected with them. Weights and measures were regarded
by the Romans as invested with a peculiar religious significance; the
stone of which the weights were composed was called from that
circumstance, or because of the occult qualities attributed to it,
_lapis divinus_; and therefore there was a deep-seated prejudice,
which reached down to the days of the highest splendour of the Empire,
against the introduction of a new substance. This was the case with
all articles used in religious ceremonies. As late as the period of
St. Paul's residence in Rome, and at the time of the first persecution
of the Christians, ancient pagan rites were celebrated in the Forum,
in which the use of metal was forbidden; and only stone hatchets
could be employed in slaughtering animals, and only earthen vessels
used in carrying the significant parts of the sacrifices into the
temples. Treaties were also ratified by striking the victim offered on
the occasion with a flint hatchet. The ancient Egyptians, although
using iron and bronze for other objects, invariably used stone knives
in preparing bodies for the process of embalming. The sacrifices which
the Mexicans offered to their idols at the time of the Spanish
conquest were cut up by means of knives of obsidian, which they
obtained from the lavas of their volcanoes. In the Bible we have
several traces of the same universal custom. The Jews seem to have
performed the rite of circumcision with flint implements, for we read
in Exodus that Zipporah, the wife of Moses, took a sharp stone for
that purpose; and the phrase translated "sharp knives" in Joshua v.
2--"At that time the Lord said unto Joshua, Make thee sharp knives,
and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time"--should
be translated, as in the marginal reference, _knives of flint_. To the
same ancient widespread habit may doubtless be referred the
prohibition, mentioned in Exodus and Deuteronomy, against making an
altar in any special place where God recorded His name, of hewn stone,
or polluting it by lifting up any iron tool upon it. So strong is the
conservative instinct in religion that to this very day the
enlightened Brahmin of India will not use ordinary fire for sacred
purposes, will not procure a fresh spark even from flint and steel,
but reverts to, or rather continues the primitive way of obtaining it
by friction with a wooden drill. Everywhere innovations in religious
worship are resisted with more or less reason or prejudice. The
instinct is universal, and has its good and its evil side.



One of the most romantic shrines of pilgrimage in Rome is the church
of St. Onofrio. It is situated in the Trastevere, that portion of the
city beyond the Tiber whose inhabitants boast of their pure descent
from the ancient Romans. A steep ascent on the slope of the Janiculum,
through a somewhat squalid but picturesque street, and terminating in
a series of broad steps, leads up to it from the Porta di San Spirito,
not far from the Vatican. The ground here is open and stretches away,
free from buildings, to the walls of the city. The church has a simple
old-fashioned appearance; its roof, walls, and small campanile are
painted with the rusty gold of lichens that have sprung from the
kisses of four centuries of rain and sun. It was erected in the reign
of Pope Eugenius IV. by Nicolo da Forca Palena, an ancestor of that
Conte di Palena who was a great friend of Torquato Tasso at Naples. It
was dedicated to the Egyptian hermit Honuphrius, who for sixty years
lived in a cave in the desert of Thebes, without seeing a human being
or speaking a word, consorting with birds and beasts, and living upon
roots and wild herbs. A subtle harmony is felt between the history of
the hermit and the character of this building raised in his honour. A
spot more drowsy and secluded, more steeped in the dreams of the older
ages, is not to be found in the whole city. In front of the church
there is a long, narrow portico, supported by eight antique columns
of the simplest construction, in all likelihood borrowed from some old
pagan temple. Under this portico is a beautiful fresco of the Madonna
and Child by Domenichino. To the right are three lunettes, which
contain paintings by the same great master, representing the Baptism,
Temptation, and Flagellation of St. Jerome. On the left of the arcade
are portraits of the most prominent saints of the Hieronomyte order.
Exposed to the weather at first, these invaluable frescoes had faded
into mere spectres of pictures; but they are now protected from
further injury by glass.

Usually the church is closed, except in the early morning, and
visitors are admitted by the custode on ringing a door bell under the
portico. The interior is dark and solemn, with much less gilding and
meretricious ornament than is usual in Roman churches. It contains, in
the side chapels, many objects of interest; frescoes and altar-pieces
by Annibale Caracci, Pinturicchio, and Peruzzi; and splendid
sepulchral monuments. Of the last the most conspicuous are the marble
tomb of Alessandro Guidi, the Italian lyric poet, who died in 1712;
and the simple cenotaph in the last chapel on the left of one of the
titular cardinals of the church, who died in 1849, the celebrated
linguist Mezzofante. But the tomb upon which the visitor will gaze
with deepest interest is that of Torquato Tasso, who died in the
adjacent monastery in 1595. The chapel of St. Jerome, in which it is
situated, the first on the left as you enter, was restored by public
subscription in 1857, in a manner which does not reflect much credit
upon the artistic taste of modern Rome. Previous to this the remains
of the poet reposed for two hundred years in an obscure part of the
church close to the door, indicated by a tablet. Above this spot there
is a portrait of the time, which from an artistic point of view is
very poor, but is said to be a good likeness. Removed on the
anniversary of his death, about thirty years ago, to the chapel of St.
Jerome, the poet's remains are now covered by a huge marble monument
in the cinque-cento style, adorned by a bas-relief of his funeral and
a statue of him by Fabris. Whatever may be said regarding the artistic
merits of this monument, no one who has read the poet's immortal epic,
and is conversant with the sad incidents of his life, can stand on the
spot without being deeply moved.

Connected with the church is a monastery dedicated to St. Jerome. In
one of the upper corridors is a beautiful arched fresco of the Madonna
and Child, by Leonardo da Vinci, with the donor of the picture in
profile kneeling before her. The picture is surrounded by a frame of
fruit and flowers on an enamelled ground. The soft, tender features of
the infant Jesus, and the quiet dignity and grace of the smiling
Madonna, are so characteristic of the style of Leonardo da Vinci that
the picture would be at once referred to him by one who did not know
its origin. The chamber where Tasso spent the last days of his life is
on the upper floor, and is the most conveniently situated in the whole
building. It is left very much in the same state as when he lived in
it. The walls and ceiling are bare and whitewashed, without any
decoration. Here and there are several pale marks, indicating the
places of objects that had been removed. In one part is painted on the
plaster a false door partially open, behind which is seen the figure
of Tasso about to enter; but every person of good taste must condemn
the melodramatic exhibition, and wish that he could obliterate it with
a daub of whitewash. The custode directed my attention to it with an
air of great admiration, and could not understand the scowl with which
I turned away my face. There are several most interesting relics of
Tasso preserved in this chamber--his table, with an inkstand of wood;
his great chair covered with Cordova leather, very aged and
worn-looking; the belt which he wore; a small German cabinet; a large
China bowl, evidently an heirloom; a metal crucifix of singular
workmanship, given to him by Pope Clement VIII., which soothed his
dying moments; several of his letters, and an autograph copy of
verses. In one corner is the leaden coffin, much corroded, in which
his remains were originally deposited. On the table is a mask in
reddish wax moulded from the dead face of the poet, and placed upon a
plaster bust--a most fantastic combination. From this mask, which is
an undoubted original, numerous copies have been taken, which are
scattered throughout Europe. It is in consequence somewhat effaced,
but it still shows the characteristic features of the poet--the purity
of the profile, the fineness of the mouth, and the spiritual beauty
and fascinating expression of the whole face. But the incoherence of
the adaptation makes it painful to think that this is the best
representation of the poet we possess.

The extensive garden behind the convent combines a considerable
variety of natural features. The monks grow large quantities of
lettuce and fennochio; and interspersed among the beds of vegetables
are orange and other fruit trees, and little trellises of cane,
wreathed with vines. A large tank is supplied with water from a spring
whose murmur gives a feeling of animation to the spot. The garden
rises at the end into broken elevated ground showing the native rock
through its grassy sides. A row of tall old cypresses crowns the
ridge--their fluted trunks gray with lichen-stains, and their deep
green spires of foliage forming harp-strings on which the evening
winds discourse solemn music, as if the spirit of the poet haunted
them still. On one side are the picturesque ruins of a shrine
overarching a fountain, now dry and choked up with weeds, and fringed
with ferns. Cyclamens--called by the Italians _viola pazze_, "mad
violets"--grow on its margin in glowing masses; sweet-scented violets
in profusion perfume all the air; and a few Judas-trees, loaded with
crimson blossoms, without a single leaf to relieve the gorgeous
colour, serve as an admirable background, almost blending with the
clouds on the low horizon. On the other side the hill slopes down in a
series of terraces to the crowded streets of the Trastevere, forming
a spacious out-door amphitheatre, in which the Arcadian Academy of
Rome used to hold its meetings during the summer months, and where St.
Filippo Neri was wont to give those half-dramatic musical
entertainments which, originating in the oratory of the religious
community established by him, are now known throughout the world as
oratorios. Between these two objects still stands the large torso of a
tree which bears the name of "Tasso's oak," because the poet's
favourite seat was under its shadow. It suffered much from the
violence of a thunderstorm in 1842, but numerous branches have since
sprouted from the old trunk, and it now affords a capacious shade from
the noonday heat. It is a variety of the Valonia oak, with delicate,
downy, pale-green leaves, much serrated, and contrasts beautifully
with the dark green spires of the cypresses behind. The leaves at the
time of my visit had but recently unfolded, and exhibited all the
delicacy of tint and perfection of outline so characteristic of young
foliage. The garden was in the first fresh flush of spring--that
idyllic season which, in Italy more than in any other land, realises
the glowing descriptions of the poets. Plucking a leafy twig from the
branches and a gray lichen from the trunk as mementoes of the place, I
sat down on the mossy hole, and tried to bring back in imagination the
haunted past. Nature was renewing her old life; the same flowers still
covered the earth with their divine frescoes; but where was he whose
spirit informed all the beauty and translated its mystic language into
human words? The permanency of nature and the vanity of human life
seemed here to acquire new significance.

The spot on which I sat commands one of the finest views of Rome and
the surrounding country. Down below to the left is the enormous group
of buildings connected with St Peter's and the Vatican, whose yellow
travertine glows in the afternoon sun like dead gold. Beyond rise the
steep green slopes of Monte Mario, with vineyards and olive-groves
nestling in its warm folds, crowned with the Villa Mellini beside the
"Turner pine," a familiar object in many of the great artist's
pictures. Stretching away in the direction of the old diligence road
from Florence is a succession of gentle ridges and bluffs of volcanic
rock covered with brushwood, among which you can trace the bold
headland of the citadel of Fidenæ, and the green lonely site of
Antemnæ, and the plateau on which are the scanty remains of the almost
mythical Etruscan city of Veii, the Troy of Italy. The view in this
direction is bounded by the advanced guard of the Sabine range, the
blue peak of Soracte looking, as Lord Byron graphically says, like the
crest of a billow about to break. In front, at your feet, is the city,
broken up into the most picturesque masses by the irregularity of the
ground; here and there a brighter light glistening on some stately
campanile or cupola, and flashing back from the graceful columns of
Trajan and Antonine. The Tiber flows between you and that wilderness
of reddish-brown roofs cleaving the city in twain. For a brief space
you see it on both sides of the Bridge of Hadrian, overlooked by the
gloomy mass of the Castle of St. Angelo, and then it hides itself
under the shadow of the Aventine Hill, and at last emerges beyond the
walls, to pursue its desolate way to the sea through one of the
saddest tracts of country in all the world. Away to the right, where
the mass of modern buildings ceases, the great shattered circle of the
Colosseum stands up against the sky, indicating by its presence where
lie, unseen from this point of view, the ruins of the palaces of the
Cæsars and the Forum. Beyond the city stretches away the undulating
bosom of the Campagna, bathed in a misty azure light; bridged over by
the weird, endless arches of the Claudian aqueduct, throwing long
shadows before them in the westering sun. Worthy framework for such a
picture, the noble semicircle of the Sabine Hills rises on the horizon
to the left, terminating in the grand rugged peak of Monte Gennaro,
whose every cliff and scar are distinctly visible, and concealing in
its bosom the romantic waterfalls of Tivoli and the lone ancestral
farm of Horace. On the right the crested Alban heights form the
boundary, crowned on the summit with the white convent of Monte
Cavo--the ancient temple of Jupiter Latialis, up to which the Roman
consuls came to triumph when the Latin States were merged in the Roman
Commonwealth--and bearing on their shoulders the sparkling, gem-like
towns of Frascati and Albano, with their thrilling memories of Cicero
and Pompey; the whole range melting away into the blue vault of heaven
in delicate gradations of pale pink and purple. In the wide gap
between these ranges of hills--beyond the stone pines and ilex groves
of Præneste--the far perspective is closed by a glorious vision of the
snow-crowned mountains of the Abruzzi, giving an air of alpine
grandeur to the view. And all this vast and varied landscape,
comprehending all glories of nature and art, all zones and climates,
from the tropical aloes and palms of the Pincian Hill to the arctic
snows of the Apennines, is seen through air that acts upon the spirits
like wine, and gives the ideal beauty of a picture to the meanest

Italian poets share in the wonderful charm that belongs to everything
connected with their lovely land. They are seen, like the early Tuscan
paintings, against a golden background of romance. Petrarch, Dante,
Ariosto, invested with this magic light, are themselves more
attractive even than their poetic creations. But Torquato Tasso,
perhaps, more than them all, appeals to our deepest feelings. No
sadder or more romantic life than his can be found in the annals of
literature. He was one of those "infanti perduti" to whom life was one
long avenue of darkened days. In his temperament, in the character of
his genius, and in the story of his life, we can discern striking
features of resemblance between him and the wayward, sorrowful
Rousseau. Hercules, according to the old fable, "was afflicted with
madness as a punishment for his being so near the gods;" and the
imaginativeness of a brain which had in it a fibre of insanity, near
which genius often perilously lies, may be supposed to account for
much that is strange and sad in his career. The place of his birth was
a fit cradle for a poet. On the edge of a bold cliff, overlooking the
sea at Sorrento, is the Hotel Tasso, known to every traveller in that
region. Here, according to the voice of tradition, the immortal poet
was born on the 11th of March 1544, eleven years after the death of
Ariosto. It is said that the identical chamber in which the event took
place has since disappeared, owing to the portion of rock on which it
stood having been undermined by the sea; and, as if to give
countenance to this, some of the existing apartments are perilously
propped up on the very edge of the cliff by buttresses, which, giving
way, would hurl the superstructure into the abyss. The original
building stood on the site of an ancient temple; and it is probable
that, with the exception of one of the bedrooms, which is said to have
been Tasso's cabinet, the edifice retains none of the features which
it possessed in the days of the poet.

But whatever changes may have taken place in the human habitation, the
scenes of Nature around, from which he drew the inspirations of his
youthful genius, remain unchanged. Every feature of landscape
loveliness is focussed in that matchless panorama. Behind is a range
of wild mountains, whose many-shaped peaks and crags, clad with pine
and olive, assume, as the day wears on, the golden and purple hues of
the sky--sloping down into the midst of vineyards and groves of
orange, myrtle, and all the luxuriant verdure which the warm sun of
the South calls forth, out of which gleam at frequent intervals
picturesque villages and farms, which seem more the creation of Nature
than of Art. In front is a glorious view of the Bay of Naples, with
the enchanted isles of Capri and Ischia sleeping on its bosom, and the
reflected images of domes and palaces all along its curving shores
"charming its blue waters;" while dominating the whole horizon are
the snowy mountains of Campania, broken by the dark purple mass of
Vesuvius, rising up with gradual slope to its rounded cone, over which
rests continually a column of flame or smoke, "stimulating the
imagination by its mystery and terror." Apart from its associations,
that landscape would have been one to gaze on entranced, and to dream
of for years afterwards. But with its countless memories of all that
is greatest and saddest in human history clinging to almost every
object, it is indeed one of the most impressive in the world. The land
is the land of Magna Græcia. The sea is the sea of Homer and Pindar.
Near at hand are the Isles of the Sirens, who allured Ulysses with
their magic song; away in the dim distance are the wonderful Doric
temples of Pæstum, which go back to the mythical times of Jason and
the Argonauts. On the opposite shore is the tomb of Virgil, on the
threshold of the scenes which he loved to describe,--the Holy Land of
Paganism, the Phlegræan Fields, with the terrible Avernus and the Cave
of the Sibyl, and all the spots associated with the Pagan heaven and
hell; and in the near neighbourhood Baiæ, with its awful memories of
Roman luxury and cruelty, and Puteoli, with its inspiring associations
of the Apostle Paul's visit, and the introduction of Christianity into
Italy. Meet nurse for any poetic child, the place of his birth was
peculiarly so for such a child as Tasso; and we can detect in the
subjects of his Muse in after years, the very themes which such a
region would naturally have suggested and inspired.

The age in which he was born was also eminently favourable for the
development of the poetic faculty. By the wonderful discoveries of the
starry Galileo, man's intellectual vision was infinitely extended, and
the great fundamental idea of modern astronomy--infinite space peopled
with worlds like our own--was for the first time realised. It was an
era of maritime enterprise; the world was circumnavigated, and new
ideas streamed in from each newly-visited region. It was
pre-eminently the period of art. Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael had
just passed away, but Michael Angelo, Titian, Tintoretto, and Paul
Veronese were still living, freeing men's spirits by the productions
of their pencil from formal fancies and conventional fetters, and
sending them back to the fresh teaching of Nature. The art of printing
was giving a new birth to letters, and the reformation of religion a
new growth to human thought. A new power had descended into the
stagnant waters of European life, and imparted to them a wonderful
energy. Along with the revival of classical learning and the general
quickening of men's minds, there was blended in the South of Europe a
lingering love of romance and chivalry, and a strong religious
feeling, which had arisen out of the vigorous reaction of Roman
Catholicism. Italy was at this time the acknowledged parent both of
the poetry and the general literature of Europe; and the immortal
works of Dante, Petrarch, and Ariosto had formed an almost perfect
vernacular language in which the creations of genius could find
fittest expression.

But Tasso was not only born in a poetic region and in a poetic age: he
was also the son of a poet. He inherited the divine faculty; he was
cradled in poetry. His father, Bernardo, though he has been put into
the shade by his more gifted son, has claims of his own to be
remembered by posterity. He occupies a high place in the well-defined
group of the chivalric poets of Italy. His principal poem, the
_Amadigi_, which was composed about the time of his son's birth,
though not published for sixteen years afterwards, treats in a hundred
cantos the romantic history of Amadis of Gaul, and deals in giants,
enchanted swords, prodigious wounds, and miraculous cures. Various
estimates of this long poem have been formed by critics from the
favourable analysis of Ginguéné to the severe censure of Sismondi. But
in spite of its lack of dramatic power, and the monotony of its
imagery, the heat of his genius crystallising only a part of the
substance of his work, there can be no question that the poem is
distinguished by a certain gravity and elevation of sentiment, which
places it high above the romances of the older school, and brings it
near to the dignity of epic poetry. In this respect the _Amadigi_ may
be said to form an interesting transition from the irregular romance
of Ariosto to the symmetrical epic of his own son. The son's poetic
path was thus prepared, and the mould in which his immortal work was
cast was formed by his father. The fortunes of the two poets read
remarkably alike. They are marked by the same extraordinary
vicissitudes, and the same general sadness and gloom.

The family of Tasso belonged to Bergamo, in the north of Italy, a
region which has given birth to several eminent men, among others to
Tiraboschi, the historian of Italian literature. It was originally
noble, and had large territorial possessions. One ancestor, Omodeo,
who lived in the year 1290, is worthy of special mention as the
inventor of the system of postal communication, to which the world
owes so much; and hence the family arms of a courier's horn and a
badger's skin--tasso being the Italian for badger--which the
post-horses, down to within fifty years ago, wore upon their harness.
In the time of Bernardo, however, the fortunes of the family had
decayed, and the early days of the poet were passed in poverty.
Adopted after the death of his parents by his father's brother, the
Bishop of Recanati, he was placed at school, where he soon acquired a
wonderful familiarity with the Greek and Latin authors, then newly
restored to Europe. Highly cultivated, refined, and possessed of great
personal beauty, while manifesting at the same time a peculiar talent
for diplomacy, Bernardo speedily won his way to distinction. His first
work, which was a collection principally of love-poems, celebrating
his passion for the beautiful Genevra Malatesta, who belonged to the
same family as the ill-fated Parasina of Byron, attracted the
attention of the reigning Prince of Salerno, Ferrante Sanseverino,
one of the chief patrons of literature in Italy, who thereupon engaged
him as his private secretary. At the court of this prince he met
Porzia de' Rossi, a lady of noble birth, who was beautiful and
accomplished, and possessed what was considered in those days a large
fortune. After his marriage with this lady Bernardo and his bride
retired to a villa which he had purchased at Sorrento, where he
enjoyed for several years an exceptional share of domestic felicity,
his wife having proved a most devoted helpmeet to him.

In these propitious circumstances the infant that was destined
afterwards to confer the greatest lustre upon the family name was
born. His father was absent at the time with the Prince of Salerno,
who had joined the Spanish army in the new war that had arisen between
Charles V. and Francis I.; a war whose chivalrous and inspiring acts
the Marquis d'Azeglio made use of in 1866 in his romance of history,
_Fieramosca_, to rouse again a spirit of independence in his
countrymen. A friend of his father, therefore, held the child at the
baptismal font, in the cathedral of Sorrento, where he received the
name of Torquato--a name which his elder brother, who lived only a few
days, had previously borne. The treaty of Crepi, which concluded the
war between Charles V. and Francis I., in which the former was
victorious, allowed Bernardo Tasso to return home with his patron ten
months after the birth of his son. By this treaty the French king, who
had previously assumed the title of King of Naples, resigned all
claims upon that State, and the inhabitants were henceforth subjected
entirely to the dominion of the Spanish sovereigns of the house of
Austria. The emperor, Charles V., appointed the Marquis de
Villafranca, better known as Don Pedro de Toledo, to be Viceroy of
Naples, who, like his despotic master, carried out his so-called
reforms with a high hand, and interfered with the personal and
domestic affairs of the inhabitants, so that he speedily roused their
resentment. Against the establishment of the Inquisition, which he set
about under the mask of zeal for religion, but in reality for the
intimidation of the nobles, the whole city rose up in violent
opposition. After having exhausted itself in a vain struggle with the
viceroy, it resolved to petition the emperor, and commissioned the
Prince of Salerno to plead its cause at the Court of Nuremberg. But in
consequence of being forestalled by the cunning Don Pedro, the prince,
when he arrived, found the case prejudged, and all his arguments and
pleadings were of no avail. Disgusted with the failure of his errand,
with the coldness of his reception, and with other indignities which
he received at the hands of the emperor and his viceroy, he determined
to abandon altogether the cause of Austria. Repairing to Venice, he
publicly gave effect to his decision; whereupon Don Pedro, too glad to
have an opportunity of oppressing his personal enemy, declared the
prince a rebel, confiscated his estates, and seized all his personal
property. In the misfortunes of his patron Bernardo Tasso shared. He
too was proscribed as a rebel; his property at Salerno was seized, and
his wife and children were transferred by the viceroy's orders to
Naples, where her family resided, and where, under their cruel
treatment, instigated by the viceroy, she was deprived of her fortune,
and virtually held a prisoner to the day of her death.

Such were the dark clouds that, after a brief gleam of the brightest
prosperity, hung over the early years of Torquato Tasso. Deprived of
the care of a father who followed from court to court the varied
fortunes of his benefactor, and in the company of a mother worse than
widowed, dependent upon the cold and niggardly charity of friends who
were either too timid or superstitious to oppose the patron of the
Inquisition, the child grew up in melancholy solitude, like an
etiolated plant that has been deprived of the sunshine. The original
sadness and sensitiveness of his disposition was much increased by the
family misfortunes. In his seventh year he was sent to a school in
the neighbourhood, opened by the Jesuits, who were at this time
beginning to exert a powerful influence upon society, principally on
account of their zeal in the cause of education. At this school he
remained for three years, acquiring a wonderful knowledge of Latin and
Greek, and manifesting such enthusiasm in his studies that he rose
long before day-break, and was so impatient to get to school that his
mother was often obliged to send him away in the dark with a lantern.
Here he showed the first symptoms of his genius for poetry and
rhetoric, and gave public testimony to the deep religious feeling
which he inherited from his parents, and which had been so carefully
cultivated by his ecclesiastical masters, by joining the communion of
the Church. In his tenth year his father left the court of Henry III.
of France, and settled in Rome, where he had apartments assigned him
in the immense palace of Cardinal Hippolito of the house of Ferrara.
These apartments were furnished as handsomely as his impoverished
resources allowed, in the hope that he might have his wife and
children to live with him. But in spite of all his efforts and
entreaties his wife was not allowed by her brothers to rejoin him;
while his own position as an outlaw made it impossible for him to
enter the kingdom of Naples to rescue her. The only concession he
could get from the authorities was permission for her to enter with
her daughter Cornelia as pensioners among the nuns in the convent of
San Festo; and no sooner was this step taken than her friends openly
seized her dowry, on the plea that it would otherwise belong to the
convent, as her husband's outlawry cancelled his claims to it. Her
boy, of course, could not enter the convent with her; he was therefore
sent to his father in Rome. The separation between mother and son, we
are told, was most affecting. To her it was the climax of her trials;
and, bowed down beneath the weight of her accumulated sufferings, she
fell an easy victim to an attack of fever, which, in the short space
of twenty-four hours, ended her wretched life. Upon Tasso the parting
from a mother whom he was never to see again, and whose personal
qualities and grievous trials had greatly endeared her to him,
produced an impression which even the great troubles of his after life
could never efface.

With a mind richly stored, notwithstanding his youthful age, with
classic lore, and quickened and made sensitive by a varied and
sorrowful career, Torquato Tasso came to Rome. The first occasion of
seeing the imperial city must have been exciting and awakening in a
high degree to such a boy. He was leaving behind the passive
simplicity of the child, and had already a keen interest in the things
ennobled by history and cared for by grown-up men. This dawn of a
higher consciousness found a congenial sphere in the city of the soul.
With what absorbing eagerness his young mind would be drawn to the
study of the immortal deeds, which were the inheritance of his race,
on the very spot where they were done. He would behold with his eyes
the glorious things of which he had heard. There would be much that
would shock and disappoint him when he came to be familiar with it.
Many of the ancient monuments had been destroyed; and many of the
ancient sites, especially the Forum and the Palatine, were deserted
wastes which had not yet yielded up their buried treasures of art to
the pick and spade of the antiquarian. The ravages inflicted by the
ferocious hordes of the Constable Bourbon in 1527 had not yet been
obliterated by the restorations and repairs undertaken by Pope Paul
III. The city had lost much of its ancient glory, and had not yet
exchanged its gloomy medieval aspect for that of modern civilisation.
But, in spite of every drawback, he could not sufficiently admire the
buildings and the sites which bore witness of all that was grandest in
human history. Along with a young relative, Christopher Tasso, he
pursued his classical studies in the midst of all these stimulating
associations under the tutorship of Maurizio Cattaneo, the most
learned master in Italy. The companionship of a youth of his own age
did him a great deal of good. It satisfied his affections, it saved
him from the loneliness to which his father's ill-health at the time
would otherwise have consigned him, and it spurred him on to a
healthful exercise of his mental powers. For a short time he led a
comparatively happy life in Rome. His father's prospects had somewhat
improved. Cardinal Caraffa, who was a personal friend of his, ascended
the pontifical throne under the name of Paul IV.; and as they were on
the same political side, he hoped that his fortunes would now be
retrieved. But this gleam of prosperity speedily vanished. The
imperial enmity, which had been the cause of all his previous
misfortunes, continued to pursue him like a relentless fate. Philip
II. of Spain and the Pope having quarrelled, the formidable Duke of
Alba, the new Viceroy of Naples, invaded the Papal States, took Ostia
and Tivoli, and threatened Rome itself. With extreme difficulty
Bernardo Tasso managed to make his escape to Ravenna, with nothing
left him but the manuscript of his _Amadigi_. In the meantime his son
was taken to his relatives at Bergamo. In this city, under the shadow
of the Alps, Torquato remained for a year in the home of his Roman
schoolfellow. The inhabitants have ever since cherished with pride the
connection of the Tassos with their town, and have erected a splendid
monument to Torquato in the market-place. The exquisite scenery in the
neighbourhood had a wonderful effect upon the mind of the youthful
poet. It put the finishing touch to his varied education. The snows of
the North and the fires of the South, the wild grandeur of the
mountains and the soft beauty of the sea, the solitudes of Nature
where only the effects of storm and sunshine are chronicled, and the
crowded scenes of the most inspiring events in human history, had
their share in moulding his temperament and colouring his poetry.

From Bergamo Torquato was summoned to Pesaro, since known as the
birthplace of Rossini, hence called the "Swan of Pesaro." His father
had found a home with the Duke of Urbino, who treated him with the
utmost kindness. In the Villa Barachetto, on the shores of the
Adriatic, surrounded by the most beautiful scenery and by the finest
treasures of art, which have long since been transferred to Paris and
Rome, Bernardo Tasso at last completed his _Amadigi_; while,
captivated by his grace and intelligence, the duke made Torquato the
companion of his son, Francesco Maria, in all his studies and
amusements. For two years father and son enjoyed in this place a
grateful repose from the buffetings of fortune. But, fired by
ambition, Bernardo left Pesaro for Venice, in order to see his poem
through the press of Aldus Manutius; and being not only welcomed with
open arms by his literary friends in that city, but also appointed
secretary of the great Venetian Academy "Della Fama," with a handsome
salary, he sent for his son, took a house in a good situation, and
resolved to settle down in the place. There was much to captivate the
imagination of the youthful Torquato in this wonderful city of the
sea, then in the zenith of its fame, surpassing all the capitals of
transalpine Europe in the extent of its commerce, in refinement of
manners, and in the cultivation of learning and the arts. Its romantic
situation, its weird history, its splendid palaces, its silent
water-ways, its stirring commerce, its inspiring arts, must have
kindled all the enthusiasm of his nature. But he did not yield himself
up to the siren attractions of the place, and muse in idleness upon
its varied charms. On the contrary, the time that he spent in Venice
was the busiest of his life. He was absorbed in the study of Dante and
Petrarch; and the results of his devotion may still be seen in the
numerous annotations in his handwriting in the copies of these poets
which belonged to him, now preserved in the Vatican Library in Rome
and the Laurentian Library in Florence. He was also employed by his
father in transcribing for the press considerable portions of his
poetical works; and these studies and exercises were of much use to
him in enabling him to form a graphic and elegant literary style. His
own compositions, both in prose and verse, were by this time pretty
numerous, though nothing of his had found its way into print as yet.

His father saw with much concern the development of his son's genius.
Anxious to save him from the trials which he himself had experienced
in his literary career, he sent him to the University of Padua to
study law, which he thought would be a surer provision for his future
life than a devotion to the Muses. One great branch of law, that which
relates to ecclesiastical jurisprudence, has always been much esteemed
in Italy, and the study of it, in many instances, has paved the way to
high honours. Almost all the eminent poets of Italy, Petrarch,
Ariosto, Marino, Metastasio, spent their earlier years in this
pursuit; but, like Ovid and our own Milton, their nature rebelled
against the bondage. They took greater pleasure in the study of the
laws for rhyme than in the study of the Pandects of Justinian or the
Decretals of Isidore. It was so with Tasso. He attended faithfully the
lectures of Guido Panciroli, although these were not compulsory, and
waited patiently at the University during the three years of residence
which is required for a law degree. But all the time his mind was
occupied with other thoughts than those connected with his law
studies. Still, uncongenial as they must have been to him, he could
not have attended for three years to such studies without
unconsciously deriving much benefit from them. They must have
impressed upon him those ideas of order and logical arrangement which
he afterwards carried out in his writings, and which separate them so
markedly from the confused, inconsistent license of the older
literature of Italy; and he could not have resided in the birthplace
of Livy, in constant association with the highest minds of the time,
as a member of a University then the most famous in Europe, numbering
no less than ten thousand students from all parts of the world,
without his intellectual life being greatly quickened.

During ten months of enthusiastic work he produced his first great
poem, which, considering his age--for he was then only in his
eighteenth year--and the short time occupied in its composition, is
one of the most remarkable efforts of genius. He called his poem
_Rinaldo_, after the name of the knight whose romantic adventures it
celebrates--not the Rinaldo of the _Gerusalemme Liberata_, but the
Paladin of whom so much is said in the poems of Boiardo and
Ariosto,--and dedicated it to Cardinal Lewis of Este, then one of the
most distinguished patrons of literature in Italy. It contains a
beautiful allusion to his father's genius as the source of his own
inspiration. It abounds in the supernatural incidents and personified
abstractions characteristic of the romantic school of poetry; and
though Galileo said of it that it reminded him of a picture formed of
inlaid work, rather than of a painting in oil, it has nevertheless a
unity of plot, a sustained interest, and a uniform elevation of style,
which distinguishes it from all the poetry of the period. Our own
Spenser has imbibed the spirit of some of its most beautiful passages;
and several striking coincidences between his _Faerie Queen_ and the
_Rinaldo_ can be traced, particularly in the account of the lion tamed
by Clarillo, and the well-known incident of Una and the lion in
Spenser. The poem of _Rinaldo_ will always be read with interest, as
it strikes the keynote of Tasso's great epic, the _Gerusalemme
Liberata_, many of the finest fictions of which were adopted with very
little modification from the earlier work. His letter asking his
father's permission to publish it came at a very inopportune moment.
Bernardo was smarting just then under the disappointments connected
with the reception of his own poem, the _Amadigi_. It produced little
impression upon the general public; the copies which he distributed
among the Italian nobles procured him nothing but conventional thanks
and polite praise; while the magnificent edition which he prepared
specially for presentation to Philip II. of Spain, in the hope that he
might thereby be induced to interest himself in the restoration of his
wife's property at Naples, was not even acknowledged. Wounded thus in
his deepest sensibilities, and bewailing the misfortunes of his
literary career, we need not wonder that he should have sent a reply
peremptorily commanding his son to give up poetry and stick to the
law. The young poet in his distress sought the intervention of some of
his father's literary friends, and through their mediation the destiny
of Torquato Tasso and of Italian poetry was accomplished, and the poem
of _Rinaldo_ was given to the world through the renowned press of the
Franceschi of Venice. No sooner was it published than it achieved an
extraordinary success, for Cervantes had not yet made this class of
fiction for ever ridiculous.

Notwithstanding that the public were surfeited with romantic poetry,
the merits of this new work, constructed upon different principles and
carried out in an original style, were such that the literary schools
were carried by storm, and the young Tasso, or Tassino, as he was now
called to distinguish him from his father, at once leapt into fame. So
great was his reputation, that the newly-restored University of
Bologna invited him to reside there, so that it might share in the
distinction conferred by his name. In this magnificent seat of
learning he remained, enjoying the advantage of literary intercourse
with the great scholars who then occupied the chairs of the
University, until the publication of some anonymous pasquinades,
reflecting severely upon the leading inhabitants, of which he was
falsely supposed to be the author. In his absence the Government
officials visited his rooms and seized his papers. The sensitive poet
regarded this suspicion as a stain upon his honour, and the outrage he
never forgave. Shaking the dust from his shoes, he departed from
Bologna, and for some time led an unsettled life, enjoying the
generous hospitality of the nobles whose names he had celebrated in
his _Rinaldo_. Returning at length to Padua, where he engaged in the
study of Aristotle and Plato, and delivered three discourses on Heroic
Poetry in the Academia degli Eterei, or the Ethereals--in which he
developed the whole theory of his poetical design--which were
afterwards published, the office of Laureate at the court of Ferrara
was offered to him by Cardinal Lewis of Este, to whom, as I have said,
he had dedicated his _Rinaldo_.

Torquato Tasso was now in the full bloom of opening manhood. He was
distinguished, like his father, for his personal beauty and grace,
with a high, noble forehead, deep gray melancholy eyes, regular
well-cut features, and hair of a light brown. He had the advantage of
all the culture of his time. His manners were refined by familiar
intercourse with the highest nobles of the land, and his mind richly
furnished, not only with the stores of classic literature, but also
with the literary treasures of his own country; while a residence,
more or less prolonged, in the most famous towns, and among the most
romantic scenes of Italy, had widened his mental horizon and expanded
his sympathies. He had already mounted almost to the highest step of
the literary ladder. Nothing could exceed the tokens of respect with
which he was everywhere received. But, in spite of all these
advantages, Tasso was now beginning to realise the shadows that
accompany even the most splendid literary career. His own experience
was now confirming to him the truth of what his father had often
sought to impress upon his mind,--that the favour of princes was
capricious, and that a life of dependence at a court was of all others
the most unsatisfactory. Constitutionally disposed to melancholy,
irritable and sensitive to the last degree, he brooded over the
fancied wrongs and slights which he had received; and at first he was
disposed to accept the advice of his father's friend, the well-known
Sperone, who strongly dissuaded him from going to the court of
Ferrara, painting the nature of the life he would lead there in the
most forbidding colours. It would have been well had he listened to
this wise counsel, strengthened as it was by his own better judgment;
for in that case he might have been spared the mortifications which
made the whole of his after life one continued martyrdom. But
recovering from a protracted illness, into which the agitation of his
spirits threw him, when on a visit to his father at the court of the
Duke of Mantua, he passed from the depths of despondency to the
opposite extreme of eagerness, and, fired by ambition, he resolved to
enter upon the path to distinction which now opened before him. And
here we come to the crisis of his life.

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries a state of things existed in
Italy somewhat similar to that which existed in the Highlands of
Scotland in earlier times. Each Highland chief maintained an
independent court, and among his personal retainers a bard who should
celebrate his deeds was considered indispensable. So was it with the
princes of Italy. In their train was always found a man of letters
whose poetic Muse was dedicated to laureate duties, and was valued in
proportion as it recorded the triumphs of the protecting court. For
this patronage of art and letters no court was more distinguished than
that of Ferrara.

    "Whoe'er in Italy is known to fame,
    This lordly home as frequent guest can claim."

The family of Este was the most ancient and illustrious in Italy. The
house of Brunswick, from which our own royal family is descended, was
a shoot from this parent stock. It intermarried with the principal
reigning families of Europe. Leibnitz, Muratori, and our own great
historian, Gibbon, have traced the lineage and chronicled the family
incidents of this ducal house. Lucrezia Borgia and the Parasina of
Byron were members of it. For several generations the men and women
were remarkable for the curious contrasts of a violent character and
the pursuits of the arts of peace which they displayed. Poisonings,
assassinations, adulteries, imprisonments for life, conspiracies, were
by no means uncommon incidents in their tragical history. And yet
under their government Ferrara became the first really modern city in
Europe, with well-built streets, a large population, and flourishing
trade, attracting wealthy settlers from all parts of Italy. Nearly all
the members of the reigning house were distinguished for their
personal attractions and their mental capacities. They were also
notorious for their love of display. We have books, such as the
_Antiquities of the House of Este_ by Muratori, the _Chivalries of
Ferrara_, the _Borseid_, and the _Hecatommiti_ of Giraldi, which were
written almost to order for the purpose of gratifying this vanity.
Borso, the first duke, caused his portrait to be painted in a series
of historical representations in one of his principal palaces;
Hercules I. kept the anniversary of his accession to the throne by a
splendid procession, which was compared to the festival of Corpus
Christi; an Order, which had nothing in common with medieval chivalry,
called the Order of the Golden Spur, was instituted by his court, and
conferred upon those who reflected lustre by their deeds or their
literary gifts upon the house of Este; while, to crown all, we read at
this day on the tower of the cathedral of Ferrara the dedicatory
inscription beginning with "To the god Hercules II.," which the
complaisant inhabitants had put there,--an apotheosis which reminds us
of the worst slavery of imperial Rome under Caligula and Domitian.
Some of the greatest names of Italy, such as Petrarch, Boiardo,
Ariosto, the wonderful prodigy Olympia Morata, and the celebrated
poetess Vittoria Colonna--the friend of Michael Angelo--were connected
with this brilliant court. The well-known French poet Clement Marot
fled to it to escape persecution in his native country. Calvin found a
refuge there for some months under the assumed name of Charles
d'Heppeville, during which he converted the duchess to the reformed
faith. The father of Tasso visited it when it was at the height of its
splendour and renown. Hercules II., the then reigning prince, son of
Lucrezia Borgia, had earned a great reputation for his literary works
and patronage of the fine arts; and his wife, the friend of Calvin,
the youngest daughter of Louis XII. of France, was even more
remarkable for her talents, being equally skilled in the Latin and
Greek languages. This renowned couple drew around them a circle of the
most accomplished men and women in Europe, in whose congenial society
Bernardo Tasso spent a few months of great enjoyment, delighting all
by his wit and social qualities.

But notwithstanding all this magnificence and love of learning, the
house of Este, among its other contradictory qualities, was
distinguished for capriciousness and meanness. Even Muratori, their
ardent panegyrist, does not attempt to conceal this blemish. We must
deduct a good deal from the high-sounding praise which the courtly
writers of Italy bestowed upon this house for its splendid patronage
of literature, when we remember that Ariosto, who passed his life in
its service, was treated with niggardliness and contempt. He had a
place assigned him among the musicians and jugglers, and was regarded
as one of the common domestics of the establishment. Guarini, the
well-known author of the _Pastor Fido_, contemporary with Tasso, met
with much indignity in the service of Alphonso II.; while Panigarola
and several other distinguished men were compelled to leave the
service of the ducal family by persecution. Benvenuto Cellini, who
resided at the court of Ferrara twenty-five years before Tasso, gives
a very unfavourable account of the avarice and rapacity which
characterised it; and Serassi, the biographer of Tasso, remarks that
the court seems to have been extremely dangerous, especially to
literary men. It was not therefore, we may suppose, without other
reasons than his being merely a Guelph, that Dante in his _Inferno_
placed one of the scions of the house in hell, and uniformly regarded
the family with dislike. Tasso himself was destined to experience both
the favour and the hostility, the generosity and the neglect, of this
capricious house.

Ferrara is now a dull sleepy city of less than thirty thousand
inhabitants. It is a place that continues to exist not because of its
vitality, but by the mere force of habit. Its broad deserted streets
and decaying palaces lie silent and sad in the drowsy noon sunshine,
like the aisles of a September forest. But in the days of Tasso it was
one of the gayest cities of Italy, which looked upon itself as the
centre of the world, and all beyond as mere margin. It was always
_festa_, always carnival, in Ferrara; and when the poet came to it in
his twentieth year, on the last day of October 1565, he found it one
brilliant theatre. The reigning duke, Alphonso II., had just been
married to the daughter of Ferdinand I., Emperor of Austria; and this
splendid alliance was celebrated by tournaments, balls, feasts, and
other pageantry, which transcended everything of the kind that had
previously been seen in Italy, with the exception, perhaps, of the
fêtes connected with the marriage of Lucrezia Borgia to his
grandfather. The ardent mind of the poet, it need hardly be said, was
completely fascinated. He saw himself surrounded daily with all the
splendours of chivalry, and lived in the midst of scenes such as haunt
the dreams of poets and inspire the pages of romance. Goethe, in his
_Torquato Tasso_, an exquisite poem, it may be said, but wanting in
dramatic action, gives a vivid picture of the poet's life at the court
of Ferrara, which bore some resemblance to his own at the court of

Two sisters of the reigning prince lived in the palace, and by their
beauty and accomplishments imparted to the court an air of great
refinement. The younger, the famous Leonora of Este, was about thirty
years of age at this time, and therefore considerably older than
Tasso. A severe and protracted illness had shut her out from the
festivities connected with her brother's marriage, and communicated to
her mind a touch of sadness, and to her features a spiritual delicacy
which greatly increased her attractiveness. The numerous writers by
whom she is mentioned talk with rapture, not only of her beauty and
genius, but also of her saintly goodness, which was so great that a
single prayer of hers on one occasion was said to have rescued Ferrara
from the wrath of Heaven evinced in the inundation of the Po. In the
society of these ladies Tasso spent a great deal of his time; and
perhaps his intercourse with them, unconstrained by court
conventionalities, was not altogether free from those tender feelings
which the charms of a lovely and accomplished woman, whatever her
rank, might readily excite in a poetic temperament. The author of the
_Sorrows of Werther_ did not, therefore, perhaps draw exclusively upon
his imagination in picturing the rise and struggle of an unhappy
passion for Leonora d'Este in the bosom of the young poet. Whatever
may be said regarding this passion, however, there can be no doubt
that his heart was at this time enslaved by younger and humbler
beauties. He had much of the temperament of his father, who, although
exemplary in his single and married life, was distinguished for his
Platonic gallantry, and cherished a poetic attachment, according to
the fashion of the day, for various ladies throughout his career, such
as Genevra Malatesta, the beautiful Tullia of Arragon, and Marguerite
de Valois, sister of Henry III. These follies were but the froth of
his genius, however; and in this respect his son followed his example.
Lucrezia Bendidio, a young lady at court gifted with singular beauty
and musical talent, reigned for a while supreme over his affections.
But she had other suitors, including the author of the _Pastor Fido_,
and the poet Pigna, who was the secretary and favourite of the
reigning duke. The Princess Leonora tried to cure Tasso of this
passion by persuading him to illustrate the verses of his rival Pigna.
Nothing came of this first love, therefore, and the object of it soon
after married into the house of Machiavelli.

In the congenial atmosphere of the court of Ferrara, surrounded by the
flower of beauty and chivalry, stimulated by the associations of his
master Ariosto, which every object around recalled, and encouraged by
the praises of the sweetest lips in the palace, Tasso set himself
diligently to the composition of the great work of his life, the
_Gerusalemme Liberata_, the plan of which he had formed before he left
the University of Padua. Among the treasures of the Vatican Library I
have seen a sketch in the poet's own handwriting of the first three
cantos. This sketch he now modified and enlarged, and in the space of
a few months completed five entire cantos. He read the poem as it
proceeded to the fair sisters of his patron, and received the benefit
of their criticisms. This work, which is "the great epic poem in the
strict sense of modern times," occupied altogether eighteen years of
the author's life. It was begun in extreme youth, and finished in
middle age, and is a most remarkable example of a young man's devotion
to one absorbing object. The opening chapters were written amid the
bright dreams of youth, and in the happiest circumstances; the closing
ones were composed amid the dark clouds of a morbid melancholy, and
during an imprisonment tyrannical in all its features. Placed side by
side with Homer and Virgil, it may be said with Voltaire that Tasso
was more fortunate than either of these immortals in the choice of his
subject. It was based, not upon tradition, but upon true history. It
appealed not merely to the passions of love and ambition, but to the
deepest feelings of the soul, to faith in the unseen and eternal. To
humanity at large the wars of the Cross must be more interesting than
the wrath of Achilles, and the recovery of the Holy Sepulchre than the
siege of Troy. No theme could be more susceptible of poetic treatment
than the Crusades. They were full of stirring incident, of continually
changing objects and images. The strife took place amid scenes from
which the most familiar stories of our childhood have come, and around
which have gathered the most sacred associations of the heart. And
Tasso's mind was one that was peculiarly adapted to reflect all the
special characteristics of the theme. It was deeply religious in its
tone, and therefore could enter into the struggle with all the
sympathy of real conviction. His luxuriant imagination was chastened
by his classical culture; while the pervading melancholy of his
temperament gave to the scenes which he described an effect such as a
thin veil of mist that comes and goes gives to a mountain landscape.
The gorgeous Oriental world of the palm tree and the camel, seen
through this sad poetic haze, has all the shadows of the deep northern
forests and the tender gloom of the western hills. The rigid outlines
of history fade in it to the indefiniteness of fable, and fact becomes
as flexible as fancy.

The circumstances of the times were also peculiarly favourable for the
composition of such a poem. He was at the proper focal distance to
appreciate the full interest of the Crusades, not too near to be
absorbed in observation and engrossed in the immediate results; not
too far off to lose the sympathy for the religious chivalry which
inspired the Holy War. Earlier, in the intensely prosaic period that
immediately succeeded, the romance of the Crusades was gone; later,
Europe was girding itself for the sterner task of reformation. Before
the time of Tasso, Peter the Hermit would have been deemed a foolish
enthusiast; later, he would have been sent to a lunatic asylum. But
just at the time when Tasso wrote there was much, especially in Italy,
of that spirit which roused and quickened Europe in the eleventh
century, much that appealed to the natural poetry in the human heart.
The recent victory of the Christian forces at the famous battle of
Lepanto checked the spread of Mohammedanism in Eastern Europe, and
turned men's thoughts back into the old channel of the Crusades; so
that Gregory XIII., who ascended the pontifical throne about the time
that Tasso had resumed the writing of his _Gerusalemme_, had actually
planned an expedition to the Holy Land, like that which his
predecessor, Urban II., had sent out. And one of the principal events
which the poet witnessed after his arrival at Ferrara, when the
marriage rejoicings were over, was the departure of the reigning duke
with a company of three hundred gentlemen of his court, arrayed in all
the pomp and splendour of the famous Paladins of the first Crusade, to
assist the Emperor of Austria in repelling an invasion of the Turks
into Hungary. Many of the noble houses of Europe at this time were
extremely anxious to trace their origin to the Crusades; and the
vanity of the house of Este required that Tasso should make the great
hero of his epic--the brave and chivalrous Rinaldo--an ancestor of
their family. The scenes and associations, too, in the midst of which
his daily life was spent, helped him to realise vividly the pageantry
connected with the heroes of his epic.

Thus happy in the choice of a subject, and favoured by the spirit of
the time and the circumstances in which he was placed, Tasso gave
himself up to the composition of his poem with a most absorbing
devotion. Like Virgil, he first sketched out his work in prose, and on
this groundwork elaborated the charms of colouring and harmony which
distinguish the poem. So carefully did he study the military art of
his day that all his battles and contests are scientifically
described, and are in entire accordance with the most rigorous rules
of war; and so thoroughly did he make himself acquainted with the
topography of the Holy Land by the aid of books, that Chateaubriand,
who read the _Gerusalemme_ under the walls of Jerusalem, was struck
with the fidelity of the local descriptions. Tasso occasionally sought
relief from his great task by the composition of sonnets and lyrics,
which were published in the Rime of the Paduan Academy, and
contributed to make him still more popular all over Italy. He also
took part in those literary disputations in public which were
characteristic of the age; and for three days in the Academy of
Ferrara, in the presence of the court, defended against both sexes
fifty "Amorous Conclusions" which he had drawn up--a form of
controversy which seems to have been a relic of the courts or
parliaments of love, very popular in the twelfth and thirteenth
centuries. One of the ladies of the court impugned with success his
twenty-first conclusion "that man loves more intensely and with more
stability than woman;" but whether this success was the result of the
goodness of her cause, and not rather of her own ability or of Tasso's
gallantry, may be left an open question. He afterwards published the
whole series of the "Amorous Conclusions," and dedicated them to
Genevra Malatesta, who now, as an old married woman, was greatly
touched by receiving such a compliment from the son of her former

Tasso's father was now dying at Ostiglia, a small place on the Po, of
which the Duke of Mantua had made him governor. With talents
unimpaired, at the age of seventy-six, and while preparing a new poem
upon the episode of Floridante in the _Amadigi_, he was seized with
his last illness. His son, full of filial anxiety, hastened to see
him, and found the house in wretched disorder; the servants having
taken advantage of the helplessness of their master to neglect their
duties and steal any valuable property they could lay their hands
upon, so that Tasso had not only to take charge of the household
affairs, but also to defray out of his own scanty resources the
domestic expenditure. After a month's severe struggle his father died
in his arms, to the regret of all Italy, and his remains were interred
with great pomp by the Duke of Mantua in a marble cenotaph in the
principal church of his capital, and were afterwards transferred by
Tasso to the church of St. Paul in Ferrara, where they now lie. Thus
passed away one of the most conspicuous and unfortunate persons of his
age, of whom it has been said that he was "a politician, unlucky in
the choice of his party; a client, unlucky in the choice of his
patrons; and a poet, unlucky in the choice of his theme."

The fatigue and sorrow connected with this bereavement brought on a
severe illness, from which Torquato recovered with a sense of
loneliness and depression which only deepened as the years went on.
From this melancholy he enjoyed, however, a temporary respite by a
visit to Paris. The house of Este by frequent intermarriages was
connected with the French court, in consequence of which they had a
right to use the golden lilies of France in their armorial bearings;
and many of the ecclesiastics of the family held rich benefices in
that country as well as in their own. Cardinal Lewis, the brother of
the reigning duke, resolved to inspect the abbeys that belonged to him
in France, and to strengthen the Roman Catholic cause, which had
received a severe blow from the Reformation; and among the gentlemen
of his train he took with him Tasso, in order to introduce him to his
cousin Charles IX., who himself dabbled in poetry and had a fine
literary taste. From the French monarch the poet obtained a gracious
reception; and by the whole court he was warmly welcomed as one who
had worthily commemorated the gallant deeds of the Paladins of France
at the siege of Jerusalem. For nearly a year he resided in different
parts of France, and notwithstanding the numerous distractions of such
a novel mode of life, he added many admirable stanzas to his great
epic, inspired by the very scenes among which his hero, Godfrey, and
his knights had lived. He left just in time to escape the dreadful
massacre of St. Bartholomew; but he may be said to have suffered
indirectly on account of it. Though treated with distinction by the
French court, his personal wants were left unsupplied, and his patron,
Cardinal Lewis, did not make up for this meanness. Voltaire,
therefore, had reason to indulge in a cynical sneer at the glowing
accounts of his visit given by Italian writers; and Balzac's statement
that Tasso left France in the same suit of clothes that he brought
with him, after having worn it for a year, is not without foundation.
This shabby treatment, however, was part of a wider State policy. The
year of Tasso's residence in France was one of preparation for the
massacre of St. Bartholomew; but in order to avert the suspicions of
the intended victims, the Huguenots were treated with such
extraordinary favour by the authorities that the Pope himself was
incensed, and remonstrated with the King. Tasso, ignorant of the
dreadful secret, spoke candidly and vehemently against the reformed
doctrines and those who professed them. His patron therefore simulated
deep indignation on account of this imprudence; and as the step fell
in both with his personal avarice and his State policy, he broke off
the cordial relations that formerly existed between them.

On the return of Tasso to Ferrara he occupied himself for about two
months with the composition of a pastoral drama called the _Aminta_.
This species of poem, which originated with Theocritus, who
represented the shepherds of Sicily nearly as they were, and was
imitated by Virgil, who idealised the shepherd life, was revived at
the court of Ferrara; and some years before a local poet wrote a
pastoral describing a romantic Arcadia, which was acted at the palace,
and seems to have inspired Tasso with the idea of writing one too. But
all previous pastorals--the _Sacrifizio_ of Beccari, the _Aretusa_ of
Lollio, the _Sfortunato_ of Argenti--were rough and incongruous
medleys compared with the finished production of Tasso, which may be
said to mark an era in the history of dramatic poetry. Although Tasso
himself did not think much of it, and did not take any steps to
publish it, the judgment of his contemporaries and of posterity has
placed it next in point of merit to the _Gerusalemme_; and by Italians
it is especially admired for its graceful elegance of diction. Leigh
Hunt executed a very good translation of it, which he dedicated to
Keats. Its choruses, which are so many "lyrical voices floating in
the air," are very beautiful. It was designed for the theatre, and was
acted with great splendour at the court of Ferrara, and a few years
later at Mantua, when the well-known artist and architect Buontalenti
painted the scenery. This fact, however, shows how primitive was the
state of the theatre at this time; and how the spectators, little
accustomed to histrionic representations, were content to witness
dramas that had no plot or action, and to follow the progress of a
beautiful poem rather than a dramatic development. The _Aminta_ long
retained its popularity as an acted poem in Italy. It was often
represented in open-air theatres, like the ancient Greek plays, in
gardens or in woods, where Nature supplied the scenery, and the
_scalinata_ or stage was only some rising piece of ground. Traces of
one of these sylvan theatres may still be seen in the grounds of the
Villa Madama, on the eastern slopes of Monte Mario near Rome; and one
cannot help thinking that a poem so redolent of the open air, so full
of Nature and still natural life, which Tasso himself called Favola
Boschereccia, or a Sylvan Fable, was better adapted for such a stage
than for the heated air and artificial surroundings of the Italian
theatres. Such a pastoral was in entire keeping with the manners of
the Italian peasants; and the scenes of Arcadia which it represented
might be seen almost everywhere in the beautiful valleys and
chestnut-covered hills of their native land. The exquisite loveliness
of the climate, and the simplicity and indolence of the people, lent
themselves naturally to such ideal dreams. And Tasso in his _Aminta_
only gave expression to the same happy thoughts which the same scenery
and the same people had ages before inspired in the mind of Virgil
when he wrote his Eclogues.

After a few months' quiet sojourn with Lucrezia d'Este, now Duchess of
Urbino, at that court, he was appointed secretary to the Duke of
Ferrara, in room of his rival Pigna, who for this reason became his
mortal enemy, and stirred up against him the persecution which
embittered his whole subsequent life. But standing high, as he did, in
the favour of the duke, he enjoyed for a while a season of calm
repose, during which he finished the great epic poem, which was
eagerly looked for throughout Italy. Anxious to make this cherished
work of his genius as perfect as possible, he unfortunately was
imprudent enough to submit portions of his work to all his learned
friends for their opinion. Besides in this way getting the most
contradictory advices, sacrificing his own independent judgment, and
imposing an unworthy yoke upon his genius, the result was that the
fragments of the poem passed from hand to hand, and so got into the
possession of the printers, who, eager to profit by the public
curiosity, pieced them together, and clandestinely printed them. Even
in this fragmentary form, the cantos that appeared in various cities
of Italy were received with unbounded applause. The author, as may be
imagined, was intensely annoyed at this wrong that had been done to
him, and wrote to the Pope, to the Republic of Genoa, and to all the
Italian princes who had any authority in the case, to put a stop to
the publication of a work which had been circulated without his
sanction, but in vain. Even the first complete edition, which was
issued in 1581, seems to have been without his consent; for the author
complains that he was compelled, by the surreptitious publication of
parts of his poem, to finish the work in haste, and he wished for more
time to elaborate the plot and polish the style. In the later
editions, no less than seven of which appeared the same year, Tasso
seems to have been to some extent consulted; but it may be said that
the great epic was given to the world in the form in which we now have
it, without the author's imprimatur, and without the benefit of his
finishing touches. But in spite of this disadvantage it took the whole
country at once by storm. Two thousand copies were sold in two days.
Throughout literary circles nothing else was spoken of. The exquisite
stanzas, full of the true chivalric spirit, touched a responsive chord
in every Italian bosom. Not only in the academies of the learned was
the poem discussed, not only was it recited before princes amid the
splendours of courts, but priests mused over it in the solitude of the
cloister, and peasants chanted its sonorous strains as they worked in
the fields. Quotations from it, we are told, might be heard from the
gondolier on the Grand Canal of Venice, as he greeted his neighbour in
passing by, and from the brigand on the far heights of the Abruzzi, as
he lay in wait for the unsuspecting traveller; and "a portion of the
Crusader's Litany was a favourite chant of the galley-slaves of
Leghorn, as, chained together, they dragged their weary steps along
the shore."

There is no book which it is easier to find fault with than the
_Gerusalemme_ when estimated by the satiated critical spirit of modern
times, which insists upon brevity, and demands in each line a certain
poetic excellence; especially if the poem is known only through the
medium of a translation, which, however faithful, is but the turning
of the wrong side of a piece of tapestry. We may object to the want of
originality in the leading characters, to the occasional inflated
style, and the conceits and plays upon words now and then introduced,
to the apparently disproportionate influence of love upon the action
of the poem, as Hallam has remarked, giving it an effeminate tone,
and, above all, to the introduction of so much supernatural machinery
in the form of magic and demons; for such supernaturalism is out of
keeping altogether with our vaster knowledge of the universe, and our
more solemn ideas of Him who pervades it. But it is not by an analysis
of particular parts, or a criticism of special peculiarities, that the
_Gerusalemme_ should be judged. It is by its effect as a whole, as a
highly finished work of art. A single campaign of the first
crusade--that of 1099--embraces the whole action of the poem; but the
numerous episodes form each a perfect picture, that, like a flower
floating on a stream, and illumined by a special gleam of sunlight,
does not interrupt the continuous flow of the narrative. In a state of
society characterised by much corruption, the sentiments are uniformly
pure; and in an artificial age, when Nature was regarded as only the
background of human action, the descriptions of the objects of Nature
are wonderfully accurate; and the mind of the poet towards the flowers
and trees, the woods and hills and streams, was in a childlike state,
and had all the freshness and joyousness of childhood. The student is
not to be envied who can read without emotion the enthusiastic
description of the Crusader's first sight of Jerusalem, the touching
pathos of Clorinda's death, and the sublime account of the ruins of
Carthage. It would indeed refresh many a mind, surfeited by the vast
mass of our modern literature, to go back to the green pastures and
still waters of this grand old poem.

Every visitor to Florence knows the venerable monastery of San Marco,
with its hallowed relics of Savonarola, and its beautiful frescoes of
Fra Angelico. In a large apartment of this monastery, which was
formerly the library of the monks, are now held the meetings of the
famous Della Cruscan Academy, instituted in 1582 for the purpose of
purifying the national language. At that time every town of the least
importance in Italy had its academy with some strange fantastic name,
which was an important element in the intellectual life of the people,
and exercised a critical control over the literature of the day. Up to
the year 1814 the Della Cruscans assembled in the Palazzo Riccardi,
the ancient palace of the Medici; but that stately building being
required for Government purposes, the members have since been
accommodated in San Marco, where they have sunk into obscurity, many
of the inhabitants of Florence being altogether ignorant of the
existence of such an institution in their city. I had considerable
difficulty in finding out the locality. The furniture of the
apartment is exceedingly curious, and is meant to indicate the object
of the Academy, which--as its name literally translated, _of the_ bran
or _chaff_, signifies--is to sift the fine flour of the language from
the corrupt bran that has gathered around it. The chairs are made in
imitation of a baker's basket, turned bottom upwards and painted red.
On the wall behind each chair is suspended a shovel, with the name of
its owner painted upon it, along with a group of flowers in allusion
to the famous motto of the Academy, "Il più bel fior ne coglie," "It
plucks the fairest flower." On the table, during my visit, there was a
model of a flour-dressing machine and some meal sacks; while several
printed sheets of a new edition of the Italian Dictionary, which the
members were engaged in publishing at the time, with manuscript
corrections, were scattered about. At present the Academy, besides
doing this important work, occasionally holds public sessions; but it
is an effete institution, that has little more than an archæological
interest. It was very different, however, in the sixteenth century.
Then, in point of numbers and reputation, it was the outstanding
literary academy of Italy, and occupied the commanding position from
which the all-powerful humanists of the previous age had been driven
by the counter reformation. It is chiefly, however, by its attacks
upon Tasso that it is now known to fame.

No sooner was the _Gerusalemme_ published than comparisons began to be
instituted between it and the _Orlando Furioso_ of Ariosto. This
latter poem was then in the zenith of its reputation; it was regarded
as the supreme standard of literary excellence, and it was slavishly
imitated by all the inferior poets of Italy. It was inevitable,
therefore, that the two works should be compared together. But as well
might the _Æneid_ of Virgil be compared with the _Metamorphoses_ of
Ovid. The _Orlando Furioso_ is a romantic poem in the manner of Ovid,
whereas the _Gerusalemme Liberata_ is an epic poem in the manner of
Homer and Virgil. No Italian poet previous to Tasso had written an
epic; and Tasso himself distinctly avowed that he had chosen that form
of poetry deliberately; not only as being more congenial to his own
mind, but also that he might avoid following in the steps of Ariosto,
whose work he regarded as, in its own department, incapable of being
excelled, or even equalled. In reply to the generous letter of
Ariosto's nephew, who wrote him a letter of congratulation, he said,
"The crown you would honour me with already adorns the head of the
poet to whom you are related, from whence it would be as easy to
snatch it as to wrest the club from the hand of Hercules. I would no
more receive it from your hand than I would snatch it myself."

But in spite of the altogether different nature of the two poems, and
in spite of the distinct disavowals of Tasso, the critics persisted in
accusing him of the presumption of entering the lists with Ariosto.
And in this idea they were strengthened by the injudicious praises of
Camillo Pellegrini, who in a dialogue entitled _Caraffa_ or _Epic
Poetry_, likened the _Orlando Furioso_ to a palace, the plan of which
is defective, but which contains superb rooms splendidly adorned, and
is therefore very captivating to the simple and ignorant; while the
_Gerusalemme Liberata_ resembles a smaller palace, whose architecture
is perfect, and whose rooms are suitable and elegant without being
gaudy, delighting the true masters of art. This squib was published in
Florence, and at once aroused the hostility of the Della Cruscans.
They were already prejudiced against Tasso on account of his
connection with the court of Ferrara, between which and the court of
Florence there was a bitter rivalry; and that offence was intensified
by the unguarded way in which he spoke of the Florentines as being
under the yoke of the Medici, whom he denounced as tyrants. The
Academy, which at the time enjoyed the patronage of the Grand Duke of
Tuscany, was therefore too glad to seize upon Pellegrini's squib as a
pretext for a vehement attack upon Tasso's epic. Ariosto was dead, had
passed among the immortals, and was therefore beyond all envy; but
here was a _living_ poet, who belonged to a court which had cruelly
treated the daughter of their ruler, Lucrezia de Medici, the first
wife of Alfonso of Ferrara, and was a mere youth, who was guilty of
the sacrilege of seeking to dethrone their favourite. Ariosto had
greatly admired Florence, and celebrated its beauties in one of his
finest poems; and was it to be borne that this young upstart, who had
presumed to speak disparagingly of their city, should be preferred to
him? It would be a useless waste of time to go over in detail the
absurd criticisms by which they attempted to throw ridicule upon the
_Gerusalemme Liberata_. They would have passed into utter oblivion had
not Tasso himself, by condescending to reply to them, given to them an
immortality of shame. Not contented with abusing his poem and himself,
they also attacked his father, asserting that his _Amadigi_ was a most
miserable work, and was pillaged wholesale from the writings of
others, and thus wounded the poet in the most tender part.

By this combination of critical cavils against him, Tasso was thrown
back from the land of poetical vision into a dreary mental wilderness.
The effect upon one of his most sensitive nature, predisposed by
temperament and the vicissitudes of his life to profound melancholy,
was most disastrous. We can trace to this cause the commencement of
those mental disorders which, if they never reached actual insanity,
bordered upon it, and darkened the rest of his life. His overwrought
mind gave way to all kinds of morbid fancies. His body became
enfeebled by the agitation of his mind; and the powerful medicines
which he was prevailed upon to take to cure his troubles only
increased them. Like Rousseau during his sad visit to England, he
became suspicious of every one, and lost faith even in himself.
Religious doubts commenced to agitate his mind. Distracted by this
worst of all evils, he put himself into the hands of the Holy
Fraternity at Bologna; and though the inquisitors had sense enough to
see that what he considered atheistical doubts were only the illusions
of hypochondria, and tried to reassure him as to their belief in the
soundness of his faith, he was not satisfied with the absolution which
they had given to him.

The court of Ferrara was full of unscrupulous intriguers. Tasso's
wonderful success could not be forgiven by some of the petty aspirants
after literary fame who haunted the ducal precincts. Pigna, whose
place as secretary he had usurped, stirred up the jealousy of the
other courtiers into open persecution. Leonardo Salvinati, the leader
of the Della Cruscan Academy, wishing to ingratiate himself with the
court, joined in the hostility. Tasso's papers were stolen, and his
letters intercepted and read, and a false construction was put upon
everything he did. At first the duke refused to hear the various
accusations that were brought against him, and continued to show him
every mark of esteem. He had the privilege, in that ceremonious age a
very high one, of dining daily with the prince at his own private
table. He accompanied the princesses to their country retreats at
Urbino, Belriguarda, or Consandoli, where in healthy country pursuits
he forgot for a time his troubles. At Urbino he wrote the unfinished
canzone to the river Metauro, one of the most touching of his
compositions, in which he laments the wounds which fortune had
inflicted upon him through the whole of his hapless life.

But the tenure of princely favour at Italian courts, amid so many
ambitious patrons and anxious suitors, was very precarious. It was
uncommonly so at Ferrara. After a while a sudden change passed over
the mind of the duke towards Tasso. Whether tired of the poet's
incessant complaints, irritated at his incautious conduct--going the
length on two occasions of drawing his sword, when provoked, upon
members of the ducal household,--or whether his suspicions were
aroused regarding the relations between him and his sister Leonora, is
not known, but from this time he began to treat Tasso as if he were a
madman. He was placed under the charge of the ducal physicians and
servants, who reported to their employer every careless word. Removed
from Belriguarda, he was ordered to be confined in the Ferrarese
convent of San Francisco; and two friars were appointed to watch over
him continually. Such a life was unendurable to the proud poet, who
disliked the nauseous medicines of the convent as much as its
restraint; and taking advantage of a _festa_, when his keepers were
unusually negligent, he made his escape by a window. In the disguise
of a shepherd he travelled on foot over the mountains of the Abruzzi,
getting a morsel of bread and a lodging from the peasants by the way,
to his sister's house at Sorrento, now the Vigna Sersale. There he
remained during the whole summer, soothed by his sister's affectionate
kindness. The monotony of the life, however, began to pall upon him,
and he longed to get back to his old scenes of excitement. Undeterred
by an evasive reply which the duke sent to an urgent letter of his, he
set out for Ferrara; and on his arrival, meeting with a cold
reception, he was obliged again to leave the place where he had once
been so happy. For a year and a half he wandered over almost the whole
of Northern Italy, visiting in turn Venice, Urbino, Mantua, Padua,
Rome, and Turin. At the last place he arrived without a passport, and
in such a miserable condition that the guards at the gates of the city
would not have admitted him had he not been recognised by a Venetian
printer who happened to be present. His startled looks, his nervous
manner, and his perpetual restlessness, confirmed wherever he went the
rumour of his madness; and, even if he were not mad, the object of
Alfonso of Este's anger might be a dangerous associate. During all
this time he was in the greatest poverty, being obliged to sell for
bread the splendid ruby and collar of gold which the Duchess of Urbino
had presented to him when he recited to her at her own court his
pastoral poem of _Aminta_.

From the Duke of Urbino and Prince Charles Emanuel of Savoy, however,
he received generous treatment; but a fatal spell carried him back a
third time to Ferrara. His arrival by an unfortunate coincidence
happened to be on the very day that Margaret Gonzaga, daughter of the
Duke of Mantua, was to come home as the third bride of Alfonso. The
duke, preoccupied with the stately ceremonies connected with his
nuptials, took no notice of him; and many of the courtiers from whom
he expected an affectionate welcome, taking their cue from their
master, turned their backs upon him. What a contrast to his first
reception at that court fourteen years before, when he stood among the
noble spectators of Alfonso's marriage with his first wife, the
Archduchess of Austria, as one of the most honoured of the guests! He
now gazed upon the splendours of this third marriage ceremony, by far
the greatest poet of his age, but a homeless vagrant, a reputed
maniac, treated with neglect or contumely on every side! No wonder
that his cup of misery, which had previously been filled to the brim,
overflowed with this last and crowning insult; and, scarce knowing
what he did, he broke forth into the most vehement denunciations of
the duke and his whole court, declaring that they were all "a gang of
poltroons, ingrates, and scoundrels." These fiery reproaches, which
his misery had wrung from the poor poet, were carried by his enemies
to the ear of the Duke, and Tasso was immediately seized and
imprisoned as a lunatic in the hospital of Santa Anna in Ferrara--in
the same year and the same month, it may be mentioned, in which
another of the great epic poets of the world, Camoens, the author of
the _Lusiad_, finished as a pauper in an hospital his miserable

While madness was alleged as the ostensible reason, the real motives
of this step are involved in as deep a mystery as the cause of Ovid's
banishment to Tomi, on the Euxine. Muratori, the author of the
_Antiquities of the House of Este_, says that he was confined
principally in order that he might be cured; while the Abbate Serassi,
who wrote a life of the poet, attributes his imprisonment to his
insolence to the duke and his court, and to his desire, repeatedly
expressed and acted upon, to leave his patron's service. But both
these writers considered the interests of the house of Este more
sacred than those of truth. The cause generally accepted is Tasso's
supposed attachment to Leonora, the sister of the duke. For a long
time he is said to have cherished this passion in secret, concealing
it even from the object of it, although evidences of it may be found
in some marked form or playful allusion in nearly all his poetical
writings; the episode of Olinda and Sophronia in the _Gerusalemme_,
which he was urged in vain by his friends to withdraw on the ground of
its irrelevancy, being intended to represent his own ill-fated love.
On one occasion, however, in a confiding mood, he told the secret to
one of the courtiers of Ferrara, whom he believed to be his devoted
friend. But what was thus whispered in the closet was proclaimed upon
the house-top; and a duel was the result, in which Tasso, as expert in
the use of the sword as of the pen, put to flight the cowardly traitor
and his two brothers, whom he had brought with him to attack the poet.
This adventure, and the cause of it, reached the ears of the duke,
whose resentment was kindled by the audacity of a poor poet and
dependant of his court in falling in love with a lady of royal birth.
On the strength of this suspicion his papers were seized, and all the
sonnets, madrigals, and canzones that were supposed to give
countenance to it, confiscated. The manuscript of the _Gerusalemme_
itself was retained, and a deaf ear was turned to the poet's
entreaties for its restoration. Gibbon, in his _Antiquities of the
House of Brunswick_, relates that one day at court, when the duke and
his sister Leonora were present, Tasso was so struck with the beauty
of the princess, that, in a transport of passion, he approached and
kissed her before all the assembly; whereupon the duke, gravely
turning to his courtiers, expressed his regret that so great a man
should have been thus suddenly bereft of reason, and made the
circumstance the pretext for shutting him up in the madhouse of St.
Anne. An abortive attempt was made to prove the attachment, about
fifty years ago, by a certain Count Alberti, who published a
manuscript correspondence purporting to be between Tasso and Leonora,
which he discovered in the library of the Falconieri Palace at Rome.
The alleged discovery excited an immense amount of interest in this
country and on the Continent; but ere the edition was completed the
author was accused of having forged the manuscripts in question, and
was condemned to the galleys.

The story of this hapless love is so romantic in itself, and has been
made the theme of so much pathetic poetry, that it would be almost a
pity to destroy by proof any foundation upon which it may rest. And
yet it is difficult to agree with Professor Rosini, who has ably
treated the whole question in a work entitled _Amore de Tasso_, and
has come to the conclusion, after carefully weighing all the evidence,
that this was the rock upon which Tasso's life made shipwreck. On this
theory several circumstances are altogether inexplicable. We may
dismiss at once the famous kiss as certainly a myth. Besides the
disparity of age, the ill-health, severe piety, and exalted rank of
Leonora were formidable barriers in the way of Tasso's contracting a
passion for her; and it is well known that the poet, who could not
have forgotten so soon a devoted love, did not offer a single tribute
of regret to her memory when she died a few years afterwards. It is
also but too certain that Leonora left her supposed lover to languish
in a dungeon without any reply to his pathetic complaints. The force
of gravitation is a mutual thing; and just as the great sun himself
cannot but bend a little in turn to the smallest orb that wheels
around him, so the august Princess of Este could not but have regarded
with womanly interest a devoted admirer, however humble. The poetical
gallantry of the day will account for all Tasso's lyrical effusions in
praise of Leonora. They were in most instances simply the tributes
that were expected from the laureate of a court, especially a laureate
who was accused, with some show of reason, by the courtiers of
Ferrara, of an enthusiastic devotion to women, and of wasting his life
with the day-dreams of love and chivalry.

Regarding the question of his madness, which was, as I have said, the
ostensible cause of his imprisonment, we are left in almost equal
uncertainty. His morbid sensibility, irritated by the treatment which
he received alike from his friends and foes, his repeated complaints
and occasional violences and extravagances of conduct, may have seemed
to a selfish prince to border closely upon mental derangement. But his
whole conduct during his imprisonment, the nature of the numerous
writings which he produced during that dark period, forbid us to
suppose that his intellect ever crossed the line which separates
reason from insanity. From out the gloom that surrounds the whole case
two points stand out clear and indisputable, that no indiscretion of
conduct or aberration of mind on the part of Tasso can possibly have
merited the sufferings to which he was subjected, and that whatever
may have been Alfonso's suspicions, his fiendish vengeance is one of
history's darkest crimes, and covers the tyrant with everlasting

Three objects attract the steps of the modern pilgrim in desolate
grass-grown Ferrara; the house, distinguished by a tablet, in which
Ariosto was born; the ancient castle in the centre of the town, in
whose courtyard Ugo and Parasina, whom Byron has immortalised, were
beheaded; and next door to the chief hotel--the Europa--and beside the
post-office, the huge hospital of St. Anne, in which Tasso was
confined. This last object is by far the most interesting. The sight
of it is not needed to sadden one more than the deserted streets
themselves do. The dungeon, indicated by a long inscription over the
door, is below the ground-floor of the hospital; it is twelve feet
long, nine feet wide, and seven feet high, and the light penetrates
through its grated windows from a small yard. By several authors,
including Goethe, considerable doubts have been expressed regarding
the authenticity of this cell; and certainly the present features of
the place are not confirmatory of the tradition. This doubt, however,
has not prevented relic-hunters--among whom Shelley may be
included--from carrying off in small fragments the whole of the
bedstead that once stood there, as well as cutting off large pieces
from the door which still survives. Lamartine wrote in pencil some
poetical lines upon the wall; and Byron, with his intense realism,
caused himself to be locked for an hour in it, that he might be able
to form some idea of the sufferings which he recorded in his _Lament
of Tasso_.

Less than sixty years ago the insane were treated with the utmost
inhumanity as accursed of God; and the asylums in which they were shut
up were dismal prisons, where the unfortunate inmates were left in a
state of the utmost filth, or were chained and lashed at the caprice
of savage keepers. The madhouse which Hogarth drew will aid us in
forming a conception of an Italian asylum in the sixteenth century,
which was much worse than anything known in our country. The other
inmates of the hospital of St. Anne suffered much doubtless; but they
were really mad, and were therefore unconscious of their misery. But
that alleviation was wanting in the case of Tasso. He was sane and
conscious, and his sanity intensified the horror of his situation,
"enabling him to gauge with fearful accuracy the depths of the abyss
into which he had fallen." One glimpse of him is given to us by
Montaigne, who visited the cell, where it seems the unfortunate inmate
was made a show of to all whom curiosity or pity attracted to the
hospital. "I had even more indignation than compassion when I saw him
at Ferrara in so piteous a state--a living shadow of himself." His
jailer was Agostino Mosti, who, although he was himself a man of
letters, and therefore should have sympathised with Tasso, on the
contrary carried out to the utmost the cruel commands of his prince,
and by his harsh language and unceasing vigilance immensely aggravated
the sufferings of his victim. This inhuman persecution was caused by
Mosti's jealously of Tasso as the rival of his beloved master Ariosto,
to whom at his own cost he had erected a monument in the church of the
Benedictines at Ferrara.

For a whole year Tasso endured all the horrors of the sordid cell in
which he was immured. After a while he was removed to a larger
apartment, in which he could walk about; and permission was granted to
him sometimes to leave the hospital for part of a day. But whatever
alleviations he might thus have occasionally enjoyed, he was for seven
long years a prisoner in the asylum, tantalised by continual
expectations held out to him of approaching release. One person
only--the nephew of his churlish jailer--acted the part of the Good
Samaritan towards him, cheered his solitude, wrote for him, and
transmitted the letters of complaint or entreaty which he addressed to
his friends, and which would otherwise have been suppressed or
forwarded to his relentless enemy. His sufferings increased as the
slow weary months passed on, so that we need not wonder that the last
years of his captivity should sometimes have been overclouded by
visions of a tormenting demon, of flames and frightful noises, with an
apparition of the Virgin and Child sent to comfort him. That he should
have been able to preserve the general balance of his mind at all in
circumstances sufficient to unseat the reason of most men, is a
convincing proof of the stability of his intellect, and his unshaken
trust in the God of the sorrowful. While we think of this protracted
cruelty of the author of his imprisonment, it is some consolation to
know that he met with what we may well call a merited retribution.
Alfonso, as Sir John Hobhouse tells us, in spite of his haughty
splendour, led an unhappy life, and was deserted in the hour of death
by his courtiers, who suffered his body to be interred without even
the ceremonies that were paid to the meanest of his subjects. His last
wishes were neglected; his will was cancelled. He was succeeded by the
descendant of a natural son of Alfonso I., the husband of Lucrezia
Borgia; and he, falling under the displeasure of the Vatican, was
excommunicated; and Ferrara, having been claimed by Pope Clement VIII.
as a vacant fief, passed away for ever from the house of Este.

                              "The link
    Thou formest in his fortunes bids us think
    Of thy poor malice, naming thee with scorn,
    Alfonso! How thy ducal pageants shrink
    From thee! if in another station born,
    Scarce fit to be the slave of him thou mad'st to mourn."

At no period of his life was the mind of Tasso more active than during
his imprisonment. In the absence of all nourishment from the bright
world of Nature which he loved so passionately, his fancy could grow
and keep itself leafy, like the cress-seed, which germinates and
produces its anti-scorbutic foliage on a bit of flannel moistened with
water, without any contact with soil or sunlight, in the long Arctic
night of the ice-bound ship. With the ravings of madmen ringing in his
ears, he composed some of the most beautiful of his writings, both in
prose and verse. Among the manuscripts of the British Museum are
preserved some of these writings, whose withered vellum pages we turn
over with profound pity, as we think of the sad circumstances in which
they were composed. The most valuable of these is the manuscript of
the _Torrismondo_, in Tasso's own handwriting, and in the original
parchment binding. This work was begun before his imprisonment, and it
was not finished until the year after his liberation; but the greater
part of it was composed in the wretchedness of his cell at Ferrara.
The story upon which it is founded is a very harrowing one, a king of
the Ostrogoths marrying his own sister, mistaking her for a foreign
princess; but it is treated with very inadequate tragic power, and,
like the _Aminta_, displays no real action. Its beauty chiefly
consists in its choral odes on the vanity of all earthly things, which
are exquisitely sad and touching. We hear in them the wild wail of the
poet over his own misfortunes, and the vanishing of the dreams of
glory which haloed his life. The chorus with which the tragedy winds
up--"Ahi! lagrime; Ahi! dolore"--the words appropriately carved upon
his tombstone at St. Onofrio--is unspeakably pathetic. It is his own
dirge, the cry of a heart whose strings are about to break. It is as
untranslatable as the sigh of the wind in a pine forest. If the words
are changed, the spell is lost, and the way to the heart is missed.

At last the solicitations of the most powerful princes of Italy on
Tasso's behalf overcame the tenacity of Alfonso's will, and the victim
was released; but not till he had become so weak and ill that, if the
imprisonment had continued a little longer, death would inevitably
have opened the door for him. When the order for his liberation had
been obtained, his friends made known to him by slow degrees the glad
tidings, lest a too sudden shock should prove fatal. He was now free
to go wherever he pleased, and to behold the beauties of Nature, which
had been the mirage of his prison dreams; but the elasticity of his
spirits was gone for ever; the bow had been too long bent to recover
its original spring, and the memory of his sufferings haunted him
continually, and cast a dark shadow over everything. He could not
altogether shake off the fear that he was still in Alfonso's power,
and wherever he went he fancied that an officer was in pursuit of him
to drag him back to the foul prison in St. Anne's. A modern Italian
poet, Aleardo Aleardi, has graphically described the feelings of the
gentle poet-knight, roaming, pale and dishevelled, as a mendicant from
door to door. But the sufferings that had thus maimed him bodily and
mentally had spiritually ennobled him; and there is not a more
touching incident in all history than his entreaty to be allowed to
kiss the hand of the cruel tyrant, as a last favour before leaving
Ferrara for ever, in token of his gratitude for the benefits conferred
upon him in happier days,--a favour which Alfonso, to his eternal
disgrace, refused to grant.

At first Tasso took up his abode at the court of the Duke of Mantua,
whose son, Vincenzo Gonzaga, had been the principal instrument in his
release, on the occasion of his marriage with the sister of Alfonso of
Ferrara. This Vincenzo Gonzaga is shown by the light of history in two
opposite characters: as the generous friend and patron of Tasso, and
as the pupil of the Admirable Crichton, who in a midnight brawl slew
his tutor in circumstances of the utmost baseness and treachery. For a
while Tasso was treated with great kindness at Mantua, but, the father
dying, the son no sooner ascended the ducal throne than, with the
capriciousness peculiar to Italian princes, he turned his back upon
the poet whom he had formerly befriended. The incident I have
mentioned would have prepared us for this dastardly conduct; the evil
side of his nature, which was kept in abeyance during his political
pupilage, assuming the predominance on his accession to power. Tasso's
proud spirit could not endure the neglect of his once ardent friend,
and he set out again into the cold inhospitable world, imploring in
his great poverty from a former patron the loan of ten scudi, to pay
the expenses of his journey to Rome. On the way he turned aside to
make a pilgrimage to Loretto, in order to satisfy that earnest
religious feeling which had been the inspiration of his genius, but
the bane of his life. The searching scrutinies and the solemn
acquittals of the inquisitors of Bologna, Ferrara, and the great
tribunal of Rome itself, had not satisfied his morbid mind. And he
thought that he might get that peace of conscience which nothing else
could give by a visit to the Casa Santa--the house of the Virgin Mary
at Loretto. Worn out by the long journey, which he made in the old
fashion on foot, he knelt in prayer before the magnificent shrine; and
thus, admitted as it were within the domestic enclosure of the holy
household, he felt that the Blessed Virgin had given him that calmness
and repose of heart which he had not known since he had prayed as a
boy beside his mother's knee. Strengthened by the successful
accomplishment of his vow, he went on to Rome; but the stern Sixtus
V., who was now upon the Papal throne, was too much occupied with the
architectural reconstruction of Rome, and with the suppression of
brigandage in the Papal States, to bestow any attention upon
literature; and Tasso had lost whatever energy he once possessed to
assert his claims to recognition among the multitude of sycophants at
the Vatican.

Sick at heart, he left the imperial city, and directed his steps to
Naples, in the hope that on the spot he might succeed in recovering
his father's possession and his mother's dowry. But here, too, the
same ill-fortune that had hitherto dogged his steps attended him. The
lawsuit which he instituted, though it promised well at first, proved
a will-o'-the-wisp, which lured him into the bog of absolute penury.
His sister was dead; his mother's relatives, formerly hostile, were
now, because of the lawsuit, doubly embittered against him. In his
distress he sought refuge in the Benedictine monastery of Monte
Oliveto, which is now occupied by the offices of the Municipality of
Naples, and the monastery garden converted into a market-place. Here,
in one of the finest situations in Naples, commanding one of the
loveliest views in the world, and in the congenial society of the
monks, his shattered health was recruited, and his mind tranquillised
by the beauties of Nature and the exercises of religion. He repaid the
kindness of his hosts by writing a poem on the origin of their Order,
and by addressing to them one of his best sonnets. Among the visitors
who sought him out in this retreat was John Battista Manso, Marquis of
Villa, who afterwards became his biographer. This accomplished
nobleman, "whose name the friendship and Latin hexameters of Milton
have rendered at once familiar and musical to English ears," was by
far the kindest and most consistent patron that Tasso ever met with.
He loaded him with presents, and showed him the most delicate and
thoughtful attentions during Tasso's visit at his beautiful villa on
the seashore near Naples. He took him with him to his tower of
Bisaccio, where he remained all October and November, spending his
days, with great advantage to his health, in hunting, and his nights
in music and dancing, taking special delight in the marvellous
performances of the improvisatori. Milton's acquaintance with Manso
may be regarded as one of the most fortunate incidents of his foreign
travels, inasmuch as his conversations about Tasso are supposed to
have suggested to him the design of writing an epic work like the
_Gerusalemme_; and indeed Milton is supposed to have borrowed some of
his ideas for _Paradise Lost_ from the _Sette Giornate, or Seven Days
of Creation_, a fragmentary poem in blank verse, which Tasso began
under the roof of his friend at Naples. This work is now very little
known, but it is worthy of being read, if only for the lofty dignity
of its style, and the beauty of some of its descriptive parts,
particularly the creation of light on the first day, and of the
firmament on the second, and the episode of the Phoenix on the fifth.
Its association with Milton's far grander work, as literary twins laid
for a while in the same cradle, will always invest it with deep
interest to the student.

Tasso occupied himself at the same time with an altered version of his
great poem, which he called the _Gerusalemme Conquistata_. He was
induced to undertake this work in order to triumph over his truculent
critics, the Della Cruscans, who had condemned the former version. In
the Imperial Library at Vienna is preserved the manuscript of this
version, with its numerous alterations and erasures, showing how
laborious the task of remodelling must have been. He suppressed the
touching incident of Olinda and Sophronia. He changed the name of
Rinaldo to Riccardo; and ruthlessly swept his pen through all the
flatteries, direct and indirect, which he had originally bestowed upon
the house of Este. There is hardly a single stanza that is not
changed. But in the process of revision he deprived his poem of all
life. Religious mysticism has been substituted for the refined
chivalry of the Crusades, and poetry and romance have been sacrificed
for classical regularity and religious orthodoxy. To any one familiar
with the original, the _Conquistata_ must be regarded as the most
melancholy book in any language; a sad monument of a noble genius
robbed of its power and depressed by calamity. And it is all the more
melancholy that the author himself was utterly unconscious of its
defects, and got so enamoured of what he considered his improvements,
that he wrote and published a discourse called the _Giudizio_--a cold
pedantic work, in which he explained the principles upon which he made
his alterations. In vain, however, did the author thus commit literary
suicide. His immortal poem had passed beyond the reach of revision,
and stamped itself too deeply upon the minds and hearts of his
countrymen to be effaced by any after version. And now the
_Conquistata_ has sunk into well-merited oblivion, while the
_Liberata_--"his youthful poetical sin," as he himself called it--is
everywhere admired as one of the great classics of the world.

For nine years Tasso lived after his imprisonment. But his free life
was only a little less burdensome than his prison one. With impaired
health and extinguished hope, and only the wreck of his great
intellect, he wandered a homeless pilgrim from court to court, drawn
like a moth to the brilliant flame that had wrought his ruin. Well
would it have been for him had he settled down to some quiet
independent pursuit that would have taken him away from the atmosphere
of court life altogether, such as the Professorship of Poetry and
Ethics which had been offered to him by the Genoese Academy. But the
habits of a whole lifetime could not now be given up. His education
and training had fitted him for no other mode of life. Without the
patronage of the great, literature in those days had not a chance of
success; and a thousand incidents in the life of Tasso serve to show
that "genius was considered the property, not of the individual, but
of his patron"; and with petty meanness was the reward allotted for
this appropriation dealt out. His experience of the favour of princes
at this period was only a repetition of his own earlier one, and that
of his father. His patrons, one after another, got tired of him; and
yet he persisted in soliciting their favour. From the door of his
former friend, Cardinal Gonzaga, at Rome, he was turned away; and as a
fever-stricken mendicant he sought refuge in the Bergamese Hospital of
that city, founded by a relative of his own, who little thought that
it would one day afford an asylum to the most illustrious of his name.

But fate had now discharged its last evil arrow, and began to relent
during the two remaining years of his life. The sun that was all day
obscured, as it struggled with dark clouds, emerged at last, and made
the western sky ablaze with splendour. All over the country nothing
was to be heard but the echoes of Tasso's praises. From the fountains
of the Adige to the Straits of Messina, in the valleys of Savoy, and
in the capitals of Spain and France, his immortal epic was read or
recited by the highest and the lowest. Fortunes were made by its sale.
The famous bandit Sciarra, who with his troop of robbers had terrified
the whole of Southern Italy, hearing that Tasso was at Gaeta, on his
journey from Naples to Rome, sent to compliment him, and offer him,
not only a free passage, but protection by the way. At Florence,
whither he went at the invitation of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, the
whole literary society of the place, even including many of the Della
Cruscans, showered honours upon him. While at Rome Pope Clement VIII.
gave him the most flattering reception, assigned to him an apartment
in the Vatican, and an annual income of two hundred scudi. From the
representatives of his mother's friends at Naples he was also offered
an annuity of two hundred ducats, and a considerable sum in hand, on
condition of stopping the lawsuit. Thus furnished with what he had
vainly looked for all his life, the means of a comfortable
subsistence, his closing days promised a happiness to which he had
hitherto been a stranger. But the gifts of fortune were brought to him
with sad auguries, like the soft sunny smiles of September skies,
which gild the fading leaves with a mockery of May. Tasso came to Rome
in November. But the state of his health was so deplorable that he
could not remain with safety in the room assigned to him in the
Vatican. It was thought, therefore, that the elevated position and
salubrious air, as well as the quiet life of the monastery of St.
Onofrio, not far off on the same side of the Tiber, would be more
suitable for his restoration. Accordingly, Cardinal Cynthio
Aldobrandini, nephew of Clement VIII., who had befriended him on many
occasions, brought him to St. Onofrio in his own carriage. And as his
weary steps crossed the threshold, he said to the monks, who received
him with pitying looks, "I come to die among you."

Whenever he was able to go out, he spent the last days of his life in
the garden of the monastery. There he sat under the shadow of the aged
oak that has since become historical; and as he watched the sunset of
his life, he would gaze upon the mighty ruins and the glorious view
stretching before him with that inspired vision which creates half the
beauty it beholds, and with that enhanced appreciation caused by the
prospect of the coming darkness which would hide it for ever from his
sight. We love to think of the poet in this quiet resting-place, where
the noises of the great world reached him only in subdued murmurs.
Heaven was above him, and the world beneath. The memory of his wrongs
and his ambitions alike vanished in the shadow cast before by his
approaching death. Alfonso and Ferrara faded away upon the horizon of
eternity; even the fame of his _Gerusalemme_, the great object for
which he had lived, had become utterly indifferent to him. In the
monastery of St. Onofrio, a bent, sorrow-stricken man, old before his
time, joining with the monks in the duties of religion, Tasso appeals
more powerfully to our feelings than when in the full flush of youth
and happiness he shone the brightest star in the royal court of

Awakening to the sense of the great loss that Italy was about to
sustain in his death, his friends and admirers proposed that the Pope
should confer upon him at the Capitol the laurel wreath that had
crowned the brow of Petrarch. But the weather during the winter proved
singularly unpropitious for such a ceremony. Rain fell almost every
day, and constant sirocco winds depressed the spirits of the people
and prevented all outdoor enjoyments. And thus the season wore on till
April dawned with the promise of brighter skies, and the day was
fixed, and all the _élite_ of Rome and of the chief cities of Italy
were invited to attend the coronation. Extensive preparations were
made; the whole city was in a flutter of excitement, and the people
looked forward to a holiday such as Rome had not seen since the days
of the Cæsars. But by this time the poet was dying, fever-wasted, in
his lonely cell. He could see from his window, as he lay propped up
with pillows on his narrow couch, across the river and its broad
valley crowded with houses, the slender campanile of Michael Angelo
ascending from the Capitoline Hill, marking the spot where at the
moment the people were busy preparing for the magnificent ceremony of
the morrow. But not for him was the triumph; it came too late.
"Tomorrow," he said, "I shall be beyond the reach of all earthly
honour." He received the last rites of the Church from the hands of
the diocesan, and passed quietly away with the unfinished sentence
upon his lips, "Into thy hands, O Lord," while the concluding strains
of the vesper hymn were chanted by the monks. And they who came on the
morrow, to summon him to his coronation, found him in the sleep of
death. The laurel wreath that was meant for his brow was laid upon his
coffin, as it was carried on the very day of his intended coronation,
with great pomp, cardinals and princes bearing up the pall, and
deposited in the neighbouring church of the monastery. Ever since, the
anniversary of his death has been religiously kept by the monks of St.
Onofrio. They throw open on that day, the 25th of April, the monastery
and garden to the general public; ladies are freely admitted, and a
festival is observed, during which portions of the poet's writings are
read, his relics exhibited, and his tomb wreathed with flowers.

Tasso died, like Virgil his model, in his fifty-first year. Short and
chequered and full of trouble as was his life, it is amazing what an
immense amount of literary work he accomplished. Since the publication
of his _Rinaldo_, in his seventeenth year, he never ceased writing,
even in the most unfavourable circumstances. Of his prose and poetical
works no less than twenty-five volumes remain to us. These works are
all rich in biographical materials. They show an ideal tenderness of
feeling, an intense love for everything beautiful, and a deep piety,
not only of sentiment but of duty. They are specially interesting to
us as links connecting the ancient world with the modern. We can trace
the influence of Tasso's genius in very varied quarters. He not only
gave a new impulse to the literature of his own country, but even
inspired the artistic productions of the day. The most beautiful
passages of Spenser's _Faerie Queen_ were suggested by his pastoral
poetry; while his chivalrous epic was to Milton at once the incentive
and the model of his own immortal work. It is probable that the _New
Heloïse_ of Rousseau, and the tragedy of _Zaire_ by Voltaire, would
not have been written had not Tasso invested the subject of romantic
love and of the Crusades with such a deep interest to the authors. We
of this age may miss in Tasso's poetical works the dramatic force to
which we are accustomed in such productions; but we acknowledge the
spell which the lyrical element that pervades them all, and towards
which Tasso's genius was most strongly bent, casts over us. His own
personal history strikingly illustrates the vanity of a life spent in
dependence upon princes. But fortunately the lesson is no longer
needed; for a wide and intelligent constituency of readers all over
the world now afford the patronage to literature which was formerly
the special privilege of single individuals favoured by rank or
fortune. Both to authors and readers this emancipation has been
productive of the happiest results.



Marble-hunting is one of the regular pursuits of the visitor in Rome.
The ground in almost every part of the ancient city is strewn with
fragments of historical monuments. The largest and most valuable
pieces have long since been removed by builders and sculptors, to
fashion some Papal palace, or to adorn some pretentious church; and at
the present day, in almost every stone-mason's shed, blocks of marble
belonging to ancient edifices may be seen in process of conversion
into articles of modern furniture. Many bits of the rarest kinds,
however, still remain, which not unfrequently bear traces of the
richest carving. For ages such spots have been quarries to visitors
from all parts of the world, who wished to bring home some memorial of
their sojourn in the Eternal City, and the supply is still far from
being exhausted. That so much material should have survived the
wholesale conversion, during the middle ages, of columns and statues
into lime, in kilns erected where the temples and palaces were most
crowded, and the vast exportation of objects of antiquity to other
countries, is a striking proof of the prodigious quantity of marble
that must have existed in ancient Rome. Now, however, such relics are
more carefully preserved; and as the places where they are found in
greatest quantity have been taken under the charge of the Government,
and soldiers are constantly on the watch, it is not so easy as it
used to be to abstract a fragment that has taken one's fancy.

Marble fragments are so eagerly sought after because they make most
suitable and convenient souvenirs. Their own beauty and rarity, apart
from all historical associations, are a great attraction. Many of them
will form, when cut and polished by the lapidary, pretty tazzas and
paper-weights, and even the smallest bits can be put together in a
mosaic pattern, so as to make extremely beautiful table-tops. Whole
rows of lapidary shops in the English quarter of the city, especially
in the Via Babuino and the Via Sistina, are maintained by this curious
traffic. In the Forum and Colosseum great quantities of marble and
alabaster used to be found; but these localities have been so much
ransacked that they now afford very scanty gleanings. The Baths of
Caracalla and Titus, the recent excavations on the Esquiline, the
ruins of the palaces of the Cæsars on the Palatine, and the open space
marked out for new squares and streets between Sta. Maria Maggiore and
St. John Lateran, are the best situations within the walls of the
city. Outside the supply is almost as large as ever. All over the vast
Campagna the foot of the wayfarer strikes against some precious or
beautiful relic; and along the Appian and Latin Ways broken pieces of
different kinds may be found in such profusion that such spots look
like the rubbish-heap around a marble quarry. In the vast grounds over
which the imposing ruins of Hadrian's Villa spread, heaps of fragments
of marble flooring or casing may be seen in almost every neglected
corner, from which it is easy to obtain some lovely bit of giallo
antico or pavonazzetto or green porphyry. Beside the ancient quay of
Rome, leading to the ruins of the Emporium or Custom-house--at a spot
called in modern phrase "La Marmorata," because marble vessels still
discharge their cargoes there--immense quantities of marble,
alabaster, and porphyry are piled up, that were unshipped untold ages
ago for Roman use; and a vineyard a short way off, on the slope of
the Aventine, is much frequented by collectors on account of the
richness of its finds.

But it is not as a mere amusement, or as a means of collecting pretty
souvenirs of travel, that such marble-hunting expeditions are to be
recommended. They may have a much higher value. The different kinds of
marble collected are peculiarly interesting owing to their association
with the different epochs of the history of the city and empire; and
as the specimens which the geologist obtains throw light upon the
formation of the rocky strata of the earth, so the small marble
fragments which the student finds in Rome afford a clue to the various
stages of its existence. Indeed, a competent knowledge of the marbles
of Rome is indispensable to a clear understanding of the age of its
ancient monuments. An immense amount of controversy has raged round
some remarkable building or statue, which would have been prevented
had the nature and origin of the marble of which it was composed been
first investigated. The famous statue of the Apollo Belvedere in the
Vatican, for instance, was long regarded as an original production
either of Pheidias himself or of his school. But the discovery that
the marble of which it is wrought is Lunar or Carrara marble--which
was unknown until the time of Julius Cæsar, who first introduced it
into Rome--is of itself a proof that it is not a genuine work of Greek
art of the best period, but a monument of the decadence, or a copy of
an original, wrought in imperial times for the adornment of a summer
palace in Italy. In numberless other cases, ancient monuments have
been identified by the mineral character and history of their marble
materials. The first thing, therefore, which the student during his
visit to the city ought to do, is to make himself acquainted with the
different varieties of marble that have been found within the walls or
in the neighbourhood. For this purpose the Museum in the Collegio
della Sapienza or University of Rome will afford invaluable aid. In
this institution, conveniently arranged in glass cases, are no less
than 607 specimens of various marbles and alabasters used by the
ancient Romans in the building or decoration of their houses and
public monuments. The collection was made by the late Signor
Sanginetti, Professor of Mineralogy in the University, and is quite
unique. A great deal of instruction may also be obtained from the
mineralogical study of the thousands of marble columns still standing
in the older churches and palaces of Rome, most of which have been
derived from the ruins of ancient temples and basilicas. Several
excellent books may also be consulted with advantage--especially
Faustino Corsi's Treatise on the Stones of Antiquity, _Trattato delle
Pietre Antiche_, which is the most approved Italian work on the
subject, and from which much of the information contained in the
following pages has been obtained.

No marble quarries exist in the vicinity of Rome. The Sabine Hills are
indeed of limestone formation, and large masses of travertine, a
fresh-water limestone of igneous origin, occur here and there, but no
mineral approaching marble in texture and appearance is found within a
very considerable radius of the city. The nearest source of supply is
at Cesi, near the celebrated "Falls of Terni," about forty-five miles
from Rome, where "Cotanella," the red marble of the Roman States, is
found, of which the great columns supporting the arches of the side
aisles of St. Peter's are formed. The hills and rocks of Rome are all
volcanic, and only the different varieties of eruptive rock were first
employed for building purposes. The oldest monuments of the kingly
period, such as the Cloaca Maxima, the Mamertine Prison, the Walls of
Servius Tullius, and some of the earliest substructures on the
Palatine Hill, were all built of the brown volcanic tufa found on or
near their sites. This is the material of which the famous Tarpeian
Rock and the lower part of most of the Seven Hills is composed. It is
the oldest of the igneous deposits of Rome, and seems to have been
formed by a conglomerate of ashes and fragments of pumice ejected from
submarine volcanoes whose craters have been completely obliterated. It
reposes upon marine tertiary deposits, and over it, near the Church of
Sta. Agnese, where it is still quarried for building stone, rests a
quaternary deposit, in which numerous remains of primeval elephants
have been found. Though the Consular or Republican period was a very
stormy one, and the reconstruction of the city, after its partial
demolition by the Gauls, seems to have been too hurried to allow much
attention to be paid to the materials and designs of architecture, yet
there are numerous indications in the existing remains of that period
that there was a decided advance in these respects upon the ruder art
of a former age. Finer and more ornamental varieties of volcanic stone
were introduced from a distance, such as the _peperino_ or
grayish-green tufa of the Alban Hills, the _Lapis Albanus_ of the
ancients, with its glittering particles of mica interspersed
throughout its mass; the hard basaltine lava from a quarry near the
tomb of Cæcilia Metella, on the Appian Way, and from the bed of the
Lago della Colonna, once the celebrated Lake Regillus, to which the
name of _Lapis Tusculanus_ or _Selce_ was given; and the _Lapis
Gabinus_ or _Sperone_, a compact volcanic concrete found in the
neighbourhood of the ancient Gabii on the road to Tivoli, extensively
used in the construction of the earliest monuments, particularly the
Tabularium and the huge Arco de Pantani. Brick was also largely
employed in the construction of the foundations and inner walls of
public buildings, being arranged at a later date into ornamental
patterns, to which the names of _opus incertum_ and _opus reticulatum_
were given; and in the manufacture of this substance, which they were
probably at first taught by the Etruscan artificers of Veii in the
neighbourhood, the Romans reached a high degree of perfection. The
earliest tombs along the Appian Way were constructed of these
different varieties of building materials. The sarcophagi of the
Scipios were hollowed out of simple blocks of peperino stone; and the
sculptor's art and the material in which he wrought were worthy of the
severe simplicity of the heroic age.

But towards the close of the Republican period, Rome began to be
distinguished for the magnificence of its public monuments. As its
area of conquest spread, so did its luxury increase. New divinities
were introduced from foreign countries, and domesticated in the
Capitol; and these required more sumptuous fanes than those with which
the native deities had been contented. The brown tufa of the Tarpeian
Rock sufficed for the rude sanctuary of Vesta, the primitive
hearth-stone of ancient Rome; but in the reconstruction of the
sumptuous temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, which marked the grandest
period of Roman history, the most precious stones of Asia and Africa
were employed. Statues were imported wholesale from Greece to adorn
temples and theatres, constructed after the models of Greek
architecture, with pillars, friezes, and floors of precious Pentelic
and Sicilian marble. During the last century of the Republic marble
became a common building-stone. The tomb of Cæcilia Metella, and the
temples of Ceres, Juno Sospita, and Castor and Pollux, indicate the
introduction of this precious and beautiful material. But it was
reserved for the period of the Empire to complete the architectural
glories of the city. Travertine, usually called _Lapis Tiburtinus_, a
straw-coloured volcanic limestone excavated in the plain below Tivoli,
which has the useful property of hardening on exposure, was now used
as the principal building-stone instead of the former lavas and tufas;
and the Colosseum, entirely constructed of travertine, which was
treated in the middle ages as a quarry, out of which were built many
of the palaces and churches of Rome, attests to this day the beauty
and durability of this material. Quarries of crystalline marbles,
admirably adapted for the purposes of the sculptor and architect, were
opened in the range of the Apennines overlooking the beautiful Bay of
Spezia, in the vicinity of Carrara, Massa, and Seravezza, and largely
worked in the time of Augustus. This emperor could boast that he had
found Rome of brick, and left it of marble. The marbles of each new
territory annexed to the Empire were brought at enormous expense into
the Imperial City. A quay, to which reference has already been made,
was constructed at the broadest part of the Tiber, where the vessels
that transported marbles from Africa, and from the most distant parts
of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, landed their cargoes. Here
numerous blocks of marble were lately found, one of which was
identified as that sent to Nero from a quarry in Carinthia; and
another, a column of even more colossal dimensions, weighing about
thirty-four tons of valuable African marble, was meant to serve as a
memorial pillar of the Council of 1870 on the Janiculum, but the
intention was never carried out. So abundant was marble during the
first two centuries of the Empire, that it was nothing accounted of.
Every temple, palace, and public edifice was built of it either in
whole or in part. The tombs that lined the Appian Way on either side
for fifteen miles had their brick cores covered with marble slabs; and
their magnificence must have impressed every visitor who entered the
Imperial City through this avenue of architectural glory shrouding the
decays of death. It is obvious, then, that by studying the history of
the conquests of Rome, the student can ascertain at what period a
particular kind of marble was introduced from its native country, and
the proximate date of the building in which this marble had been used.

It was a fortunate circumstance for the preservation of the precious
marbles of Rome that Christianity laid its cuckoo egg in the nest of
the Pagan city. When the capture of Rome by Alaric gave the final blow
to heathen worship, by the overthrow of the ruling classes, who alone
cherished the proud memories of the ancient faith, the greater number
of the temples were still standing without any one to look after the
edifices or maintain the religious services. The Christians were
therefore free to take possession of the deserted shrines; and they
speedily transferred to their own churches the columns and marble
decorations that adorned the temples of the gods. Many of the precious
stones that once beautified the palaces of emperors and senators were
employed to form the altars and the mosaic flooring of the memorial
chapels. Almost all the early churches were constructed on or near the
sites of the temples, so that the materials of the one might be
transported to the other with the least difficulty and expense, just
as the settler in the back-woods of America erects his log-house in
the immediate vicinity of the trees that are most suitable for his
purpose. And the striking contrast between the plain, mean exteriors
of the oldest Roman churches--rough, time-stained, and unfinished
since their erection--and their gorgeous interiors, with their forests
of columns separating the aisles, and the series of richly-sculptured
and brilliantly-frescoed chapels, all blazing with gold and marble,--a
contrast that reminds us of the surprising difference between the
outside of a common clumsy geode lying in the mud, and the sparkling
crystals in the drusic cavity at the heart of it,--would lead us to
infer that the outer walls were raised in haste to secure the valuable
materials on the spot, before they could be otherwise appropriated.
Marangoni, a learned Roman archæologist, mentions thirty-five churches
in Rome as all raised upon the sites and out of the remains of ancient
temples; and no less than six hundred and eighty-eight large columns
of marble, granite, porphyry, and other valuable stones, as among the
relics of heathen fanes transferred to sacred ground within the city,
when the bronze Jupiter was metamorphosed into the Jew Peter,

    "And Pan to Moses lent his pagan horn."

Many of these relics can be traced and identified, for it may be
generally presumed, for the reason already given, that none are very
far removed from their original situation.

I know no more interesting pursuit in Rome than such an investigation;
the objects, when their history is ascertained, acquiring a charm from
association, over and above their own intrinsic beauty and interest.
Most of the materials with which the three hundred and sixty-five
churches of modern Rome have been constructed have been derived from
the ruins of the ancient city. With the exception of a few
comparatively insignificant portions brought from the modern quarries
of Carrara, Siena, and Sicily, to complete subordinate details and to
give a finish to the work, no marbles, it is said, have been used in
ecclesiastical and palatial architecture for the last fifteen hundred
years, save those found conveniently on the spot; and hardly a brick
has been made or a stone of travertine or tufa hewn out for domestic
buildings within the same period. The construction of St. Peter's
itself involved more destruction of classical monuments than all the
appropriations of previous and subsequent Vandals put together. Much
has been lost on account of this extraordinary transmutation and
reconsecration, whose loss we can never cease to deplore; but we must
not forget at the same time that much has been conserved which would
otherwise have wasted away under the slow ravages of time, been
consigned to the lime-kiln, or disappeared in obscure and ignoble use.
Enough remains to overwhelm us with astonishment, and furnish
materials for the study of years.

The white marbles of Greece were the first introduced into Rome. Paros
supplied the earliest specimens, and long held a monopoly of the
trade. _Marmor Parium_, or Marmo Greco duro, as it is called by the
modern Italians, is the very flower and consummation of the rocks.
This material seems to have been created specially for the use of the
sculptor--as that in which he can express most clearly and beautifully
his ideal conceptions; and the surpassing excellence of ancient Greek
sculpture was largely due to the suitability for high art of the
marble of the country, which was so stainlessly pure, delicate, and
uniform--as Ruskin remarks, so soft as to allow the sculptor to work
it without force, and trace on it his finest lines, and yet so hard as
never to betray the touch or moulder away beneath the chisel. Parian
marble is by far the most beautiful of the Greek marbles. It is a
nearly pure carbonate of lime of creamy whiteness, with a finely
crystalline granular structure, and is nearly translucent. It may be
readily distinguished from all other white marbles by the peculiarly
sparkling light that shines from its crystalline facets on being
freshly broken; and this peculiarity enables the expert at once to
determine the origin of any fragment of Greek or Roman statuary. The
ancient quarries in the island of Paros are still wrought, though very
little marble from this source is exported to other countries. In the
entablature around the tomb of Cæcilia Metella, which is composed of
Parian marble, we see the first example in Rome of the use of
ornaments in marble upon the outside of a building; an example that
was afterwards extensively followed, for all the tombs of a later age
on the Appian Way had their exteriors sheathed with a veneer of
marble. The beautiful sarcophagus which contained the remains of the
noble lady for whom this gigantic pile was erected, and which is now
in the Farnese Palace, was also formed of this material. Most
beautiful examples of Parian marble may be seen in the three elegant
columns of the Temple of Castor and Pollux in the Roman Forum,
belonging to the best period of Græco-Roman architecture; and in the
nineteen fluted Corinthian pillars which form the little circular
temple of Hercules on the banks of the Tiber, long supposed to be the
Temple of Vesta. By far the largest mass of this marble in Rome is the
colossal fragment in front of the Colosseum that belonged to the
Temple of Venus and Rome; and it helps to give one an idea of the
extraordinary grandeur and magnificence of this building in its prime,
whose fluted columns, six feet in diameter, and the sheathing of whose
outside walls of great thickness, were all made of Parian marble.

More extensively employed in Greek and Roman statuary and architecture
was the _Marmor Pentelicum_, or Marmo Greco fino of the modern
Italians. The quarries which yielded inexhaustible materials for the
public buildings and statues of Greece, and for the great monuments of
Rome, were situated on the slopes of Mount Pentelicus, near Athens;
and after having been closed for ages, have recently been reopened for
the restoration of some of the buildings in the Greek capital. The
marble is dazzlingly white and fine-grained, but it sometimes contains
little pieces of quartz or flint, which give some trouble to the
workmen. The Parthenon, crowning like a perfect capital of human art
the summit of Nature's rough workmanship in the Acropolis, was built
of this marble; and the immortal sculpture of Pheidias on the metopes,
the frieze of the cella, and the tympana of the pediments of the
temple, known as the Elgin Marbles, were carved out of a material
worthy of their incomparable beauty. Innumerable specimens at one time
existed in Rome. The arch of Septimius Severus and the Arch of Titus
are built of it, although the rusty and weather-beaten hue of these
venerable monuments hides the nature of the material. Domitian, who
restored the celebrated Temple of Jupiter on the Capitol, procured
columns of Pentelic marble for the purpose from Athens; two of these
are now in the nave of the church of Ara Coeli, built upon the site of
the temple; and portions of the others, and of the marble decorations,
were presented by the magistrates to the Franciscan friars of the
neighbouring convent, and by them were wrought in 1348 into the
conspicuous staircase leading to the façade of the church, which pious
Catholics used to mount on their knees in the manner of the ancient
worshippers of Jupiter. Among the statues wrought of this marble may
be mentioned the famous group of the Laocoon found in the Baths of
Titus; the beautiful Venus de Medici, discovered in the Villa of
Hadrian, near Tivoli, and now in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence; and
the well-known "Farnese Bull," sculptured out of a single block of
huge dimensions, unearthed out of the ruins of the Baths of Caracalla,
and now in the Museum of Naples. Massimo d'Azeglio, in his
_Recollections_, gives an interesting instance of the value set upon
this marble by modern Roman sculptors. Pacetti having purchased an
ancient Greek statue of the best period in Pentelic marble, greatly
mutilated, and wishing to repair it, could find nothing among the best
products of the Carrara quarries to match the marble in purity and
fineness of texture, and was therefore obliged to destroy another
Greek statue of inferior merit in order to get materials for the
restoration. From this combination he succeeded in producing the
sleeping figure known as the Barberini Faun, whose forcible abduction
by the Pontifical Government on the eve of its being sold to a German
prince, so preyed upon the mind of the cruelly-wronged sculptor, that
he took to his bed and died.

Very like Pentelic marble, but easily distinguishable, is the Marmor
Porinum, the Marmo Grechetto duro of the Italians. It is intermediate
in the quality of its grain between Parian and Pentelic marble, being
finer than the former and not so fine as the latter. The column in
front of the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, removed by Paul V. in
1614 from the Basilica of Constantine, is composed of this species; as
well as the celebrated Torso Belvedere of the Vatican, found near the
site of the Theatre of Pompey, to which Michael Angelo traced much of
his inspiration, and which, as we learn from a Greek Inscription at
the base, was the work of the Rhodian sculptor Apollonios, who carved
the group of the "Farnese Bull."

Not unlike this Porine marble was the _Marmor Hymettium_ of the
ancients; but it was never a great favourite in Rome on account of its
large grain and dingy white colour, slightly tinged with green and
marked by long parallel dark gray veins of unequal breadth. The
metamorphic action was not sufficiently energetic to destroy the last
traces of organic matter and the original stratification of the rock;
and the crystallising force was not sufficiently exercised to allow of
the entire rearrangement of the whole of the particles so as to expel
the included impurities. This marble was not therefore fitted for
sculpture; but it could be used for certain architectural purposes and
for ornamentation. It used to be quarried extensively on Hymettus, the
well-known mountain of Attica, celebrated for the quantity and
excellence of its honey. The rock on which the aromatic flowers grew
in such profusion for the bees, did not, however, partake of the same
delightful quality. In working it a peculiar fetid odour of
sulphuretted hydrogen, somewhat like that of a stale onion, was
emitted, which gave rise to its modern Italian name--Marmo Cipolla.
This repulsive quality, however, disappeared quickly on exposure. The
finest specimens of this marble in Rome are the forty-six columns in
the Church of St. Paul's, outside the gate, which belonged originally
to the Basilica Æmilia in the Forum, founded about forty-five years
before Christ, and were transferred to the new building when the
venerable old church, in which they had stood for fifteen hundred
years, was destroyed by fire. Nothing too can be finer than the two
rows of Ionic columns of Hymettian marble which divide the immense
nave of Santa Maria Maggiore from the side aisles. There are eighteen
on either side, each upwards of eight feet in circumference, and are
supposed to have been taken from the Temple of Juno Lucina, whose site
is assigned by antiquaries to the immediate vicinity. Similar rows of
fluted Doric columns of the same marble, ten on each side, adorn the
Church of St. Pietro in Vincoli. They are ancient, and belonged to
some temple or basilica of the Forum. There are also five ancient
pillars of Hymettian marble in the upper Church of San Clemente, taken
from the same prolific source. The wall which surrounds the unique
choir or presbytery of this most interesting old church is also
composed of great slabs of Hymettian marble, taken from the original
subterranean church and hastily put together. Some of the ancient
pillars of Hymettian marble belonging to the peristyle of the temple
of Ceres and Proserpine, still as widely spaced as they used to be,
adorn the Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, built on the foundation
of that shrine; while twenty-four remarkably fine fluted Corinthian
columns of the same material divide the triple nave of Santa Sabina on
the Aventine, and are supposed to have belonged to the ancient Temple
of Juno Regina, erected by Camillus after the destruction of the
Etruscan city of Veii. Hymettian marble was one of the first--if not
actually the first--species introduced into Rome. In the year of Rome
662, Lucius Crassus the orator brought to the city six columns of it,
each twelve feet in height, with which he adorned his house on the
Palatine Hill, receiving, on account of this circumstance, from Marcus
Brutus the nickname of the Palatine Venus. At the present day the
marble is used for corner-stones in the ordinary houses of Athens.

Another livid white marble, somewhat resembling the Hymettian, is that
which is known to the Italians as Marmo Greco livido. It was called by
the ancients _Marmor Thasium_, from Thasos, now Thapso, an island in
the north of the Ægean Sea, off the coast of Thrace. The marble dug
from the rocky sides of Mount Ipsario--a romantic hill thickly covered
with fir trees, and rising three thousand four hundred and
twenty-eight feet above the sea--enjoyed considerable reputation among
the ancients. In Rome it must have been very common, if the name of
Thasian is to be given to all the fragments of nondescript dusky white
marble which are found among the ruins. Seneca says that the
fish-ponds in his day were formed of that Thasian marble, with which
at one time it was rare to adorn even temples. It was considered the
least valuable of the white Greek marbles, and was used for the more
ordinary purposes; Statius mentioning, in order to show the
surpassing splendour of a particular building, that Thasian marble was
not admitted into it. But there are not many well-defined monuments of
it remaining in Rome. The chief are the bust of Euripides in the
Vatican, and the outside casing of the pyramid of Caius Cestius, near
the Protestant cemetery, now so weather-beaten and stained with dusky
lichens that it is difficult to identify the material of which it is

From this marble, by a slight tinge of yellow and a little darker
shade, the livid white marble of Lesbos, the _Marmor Lesbium_, or
Marmo Greco Giallognolo, may be distinguished. It is not a beautiful
material; and yet, strange to say, the statues of some of the most
beautiful women of antiquity, such as those of Julia Pia in the
Vatican, and of the Capitoline Venus in the Museum of the Capitol,
were made of this marble, obtained from the birthplace of Sappho. More
beautiful is the kind known as the _Marmor Tyrium_, or the
Greco-Turchinicchio, which has a light bluish tinge. It was shipped by
the ancients at the port of Tyre from some unknown quarry in Mount
Lebanon, which supplied the marble used without stint in the building
and decoration of Solomon's Temple and Palace. In this quarry every
block was shaped and polished before it was sent to be inserted in its
place in the Temple wall, which therefore, as Heber beautifully says,
sprang up like some tall palm in majestic silence. In Rome this marble
was very rare. The doors in the great piers which support the dome of
St. Peter's are each flanked by a pair of spirally-fluted columns of
Tyrian marble, supposed to have been brought to Rome by Titus from the
Temple of Jerusalem. They originally decorated the confessional of the
old Basilica. The twenty-eight steps of the Scala Santa at the
Lateran, said by ecclesiastical tradition to have belonged to Pilate's
house in Jerusalem, and to have been the identical ones which our
Saviour descended when He left the judgment-hall, are made of this
marble; so that, whatever we may think of the tradition itself, there
is a feature of verisimilitude in the material.

The chief supply of pure white marble in Rome was derived from the
quarries in the mountains at Luna, an old Etruscan town near the Bay
of Spezia, which fell to decay under the later Roman emperors. This
ancient _Marmor Lunense_ is called by the Italians Marmo di Carrara,
because it is identical with the famous modern Carrara marble, and
belongs to the same range of strata; the ruins of the ancient Luna
being only a few miles from the flourishing town of Carrara, the
metropolis of the marble trade. From Parian and Pentelic marble, Lunar
marble, as already mentioned, can be easily distinguished by the less
brilliant sparkle of its crystal facets, as shown by a fresh surface,
and also by its more soapy-white colour. It is simply an ordinary
Jurassic limestone altered by subsequent metamorphic action. The
mountains which contain the quarries are highly picturesque, rising
with serried outline to a height of upwards of five thousand feet,
their flanks scarred by deep gorges and torrent-beds, and their lower
slopes clothed with olive groves, vineyards, and forest trees. Lunar
marble was first brought to Rome in the time of Julius Cæsar; and
Mamurra, so bitterly reviled by Catullus, the commander of the
artificers in Cæsar's army in Gaul, lined with great slabs of this
marble the outside and inside of his house on the Coelian Hill--the
first recorded instance of veneering or incrusting walls with marble.
The discovery of this method of cutting marble into thin slices, and
decorating structures of ordinary materials with them, was stigmatised
by Pliny as an unreasonable mode of extending luxury. The use of Lunar
marble, on account of its easy accessibility, speedily extended to
every kind of building, public and private. So vast were the
quantities sent to Rome, that Ovid expressed his fear lest the
mountains themselves should disappear through the digging out of this
marble; and Pliny anticipated that dreadful consequences would be
produced by the removal in this way of the great barriers erected by

Many fine specimens still survive the ravages of ages, among which may
be mentioned the eleven massive Corinthian columns, upwards of
forty-two feet high, and four and a half feet in diameter, which form
the peristyle of the Temple of Neptune in the Piazza di Pietra, well
known as the old Custom-house. These pillars suffered severely from
the action of fire, and are much worn and defaced, but there is a
grandeur about them still which deeply impresses the spectator; and
the blocks of marble which form the inner part of the architrave and
entablature, as seen from the inner side of the court, are so
stupendous that the ruins "overhang like a beetling rock of marble on
a mountain peak." Grander still is the majestic column of Lunar marble
dedicated to Marcus Aurelius, in the Piazza Colonna, which rears aloft
its shaft one hundred and twenty-two feet in the air, wreathed around
with spiral bands of historic reliefs, illustrating the Roman
conquests over the German tribes north of the Danube. Very splendid
specimens of the same marble may be seen in the three fluted
Corinthian columns and a pilaster belonging to the Temple of Mars
Ultor erected by Augustus in his Forum after the battle of Actium,
which are the largest columns of any kind of marble in Rome, being
eighteen feet in circumference, and upwards of fifty-four feet high.
The two well-known pillars of the portico of the Temple of Minerva,
called Le Colonnacce, belonging to the adjoining Forum of Nerva, are
also composed of the same material; as also the three deeply-fluted
Corinthian columns that remain of the Temple of Vespasian in the Roman
Forum, which still retain some traces of the purple colour with which
they appear to have been painted. By far the largest single masses of
Lunar marble are the two portions of a gigantic frieze and
entablature, highly ornamented with sculpture, one measuring one
thousand four hundred and ninety cubic feet, and weighing upwards of
one hundred tons, lying in the Colonna gardens on the slope of the
Quirinal. These relics are supposed to have belonged to the splendid
Temple of the Sun, which Aurelian erected after the conquest of
Palmyra, and in which he deposited the rich spoils of that city. They
are associated therefore with romantic memories of the famous Queen
Zenobia, who spent her last days near Tivoli, after having been led
captive in fetters of gold to grace the triumphal procession of her

For statuary purposes Lunar marble was extensively used in ancient
Rome. It formed the material out of which the sculptor produced some
of the noblest creations of his genius. Of these the Apollo Belvedere
in the Vatican collection is one of the most remarkable. The evidence
of its own material, as already mentioned, has dispelled the old idea
that it is one of the masterpieces of the Greek school; and Canova's
conjecture, based upon some peculiarities of its drapery, is in all
likelihood true, viz. that it was a copy of a bronze original, made,
probably at the order of Nero, for one of the baths of the imperial
villa at Antium, in whose ruins it was found in the fifteenth century.
From the time of the Romans, the white marble of the Montes Lunenses
has been used for decorative purposes in many of the churches and
public buildings of Italy. It formed the material out of which Michael
Angelo, Canova, and Thorwaldsen chiselled their immortal works. Its
quality and composition, however, vary very considerably, and small
crystals of perfectly limpid quartz, called _Carrara diamonds_, and
iron pyrites, occasionally occur, to the annoyance of the sculptor. It
becomes soon discoloured when exposed even to the pure air of Italy,
but it is capable of resisting decay for very long periods. The
opinion current in Paris, that the marbles of Carrara are unable to
withstand the effects of the climate of that city, is due to the
frequent use of inferior qualities, which are known to artists as
_Saloni_ and _Ravaccioni_, and whose particles have but a feeble
cohesion, and consequently slight durability.

All the white marbles which I have thus described were used in Rome
principally for external architecture; and beautiful as a city largely
built of them may have looked, it must have had, nevertheless, a
garishness and artificiality which would offend the artistic eye. When
newly constructed, the Roman temples in the time of the emperors must
have been oppressive, reflecting the hot sunshine from their snowy
cellæ and pillared porticoes with an insufferable glare.
Marble--unlike sandstones, clay-slates, and basalts, which are kindred
to the earth and the elements, and find themselves at home in any
situation, all things making friends with them, mosses, lichens,
ivies--is a dead, cold material, and does not harmonise with
surrounding circumstances. Like the snow, which hides the familiar
brown soil from us, with its unearthly and uncongenial whiteness, its
perpetual snow chills and repels human sympathies. Nature, for a
similar reason, introduces white flowers very sparingly into the
landscape; and their dazzling whiteness is toned down by the greenery
around them, and the balancing of coloured objects near at hand, so
that they do not in reality attract more notice than other flowers.
The ancient Greeks themselves, keenly sensitive as they were to all
external influences, had a fine instinct for this want of harmony
between white marble and the tones of nature and the feelings of man;
and therefore, in many instances, they coloured not only the marble
buildings exposed to view outside, but even the marble statues
carefully secluded in the niches within. The Parthenon was thus tinted
with vermilion, blue, and gold, which seems to us, who now see only
the golden hue with which the suns of ages have dyed its pure Pentelic
marble, a barbarous superfluity, but which, to the people of the time,
was necessary on account of the dazzling brightness of its material,
concealing the exquisite beauty of the workmanship, and the finished
grace of its proportions. Colour was used with perfect taste to
relieve the sculptured details of the exterior, to articulate and
ornament mouldings, and to harmonise the pure white temple with the
dark blue sky of Greece and the rich warm tones of her landscape. The
magnificent sarcophagi of white marble recently discovered at Sidon,
belonging to the best type of Greek art, are most effectively adorned
with different tints and gradations of red and purple, gold being
sparingly applied. We see many traces of bright colouring on the
columns and other parts of the buildings in the Roman Forum. The
bas-reliefs on the Lumachella marble of Trajan's Column were
originally picked out with profuse gilding and vivid colours; the egg
and arrow moulding of the capital being tinted green, red and yellow,
the abacus blue and red, the spirals yellow, the prominent figures
gilt against backgrounds of different hues, and the water of the
various rivers blue. Statues of the deities in Rome were nearly all
coloured; and they received a fresh coat of vermilion--which, although
it was the hue of divinity, was extremely fugacious--on anniversary
occasions or in times of great national rejoicing.

All this pleads powerfully in behalf of Gibson's colour-creed, which
has had so much prejudice to overcome. The beauty and expression of
ancient sculpture, whether for outside or inside decoration, were
greatly heightened by this tinting. In cases where it was not
employed, Nature herself became the artist, and has burnt into the
marble statue or the marble pillar the warm hue of life; and the
rusty, withered look of the ruins, over which ages of change have
passed, touches us more than the pure white marble structure could
have done in the pride of its splendour, and appeals to the tenderest
sympathies of beings who see in themselves, and in all around them,
the tokens of death and decay. The graceful Corinthian pillars of the
Temple of Castor and Pollux in the Forum, the three surviving
witnesses of its former grandeur, are all the more suggestive to us by
reason of the russet hues with which time has stained the snowy purity
of their Parian marble; and it is difficult to say, as some one has
shrewdly remarked, how much of the touching effect which the drooping
figure of the Dying Gladiator of the Capitol produces upon us may be
attributed to its discoloration, and to the absence of the dainty
spotlessness of the original Greek marble. That grime of ages "lends a
sort of warmth, and suggests flesh and blood," so that the suffering
is not a cold and frosty incrustation, with which we have nothing to
do, but a real tragedy going on before our eyes, by which our
sympathies are most deeply moved. In a dry, hot climate, like that of
Rome, there are no tender tones of vegetable colouring, no moss or
lichen touches of gold or gray or green to relieve the bare cold
surface, and the rigid formal outlines of the marble; but out of the
sky itself the marble gathers the soft shadows and the rich brown hues
that reconcile its strange, unnatural whiteness with the homely ways
of the familiar earth. That wonderful violet sky of Rome would glorify
the meanest object. The common red brick glows in its translucent
atmosphere like a ruby; and the russet defaced column, as it comes out
against its vivid light, becomes luminous like a pillar of gold. Brick
and marble are of equal æsthetic value in this magic city, in which
the uncomely parts and materials have a more abundant comeliness by
reason of the medium through which they are seen. Over all things
lingers permanently the transfiguring glow that comes to northern
lands only in the afternoon. In that land it is always afternoon; the
ruins bathe as it were in a perpetual sunset. The air is constantly
flooded with a radiance which seems to transfuse itself through every
part of the city, making all its ruinous and hoary age bright and
living, forming pictures and harmonies indescribable of the humblest

The white marbles hitherto described were principally for exterior
use. But as Roman wealth and luxury increased coloured marbles were
employed for internal decoration; and the effects which the Greeks
obtained by the application of pigments, the Romans obtained by the
rich hues of precious marbles incrusting their buildings, and durable
as these buildings themselves. At first these rare materials were used
with a degree of moderation, chiefly in the form of mosaics of small
discs or cubes for the pavements of halls and courts. But at length
massive pillars were constructed of them, and the vast inside brick
surfaces of imperial baths and palaces were crusted over and concealed
by slabs of rare and splendid marbles, the lines of which had no
necessary connection with the mass behind or beneath. Carthage from
the spoils of its temples supplied Rome with many of its rarest
columns; and it is probable that not a few of these survive in the
Christian basilicas that occupy the sites and were built out of the
materials of the old Pagan structures. With the decay of the Roman
Empire the use of coloured marbles in art increased, so that even
busts and statues had their faces and necks cut in white and the
drapery in coloured marble. It attained its fullest development in the
Byzantine style, of which, as it appeals to the senses more by colour
than by form, it is a predominant characteristic, necessary to its
vitality and expression. The early Christian builders contemplated
this mode of decoration for their interiors only. Very rarely had they
the means to apply it to the outside surface, as in St. Mark's in
Venice, which is the great type of the Byzantine church, coloured
within and without with the rich hues of marbles and mosaics. Our
great Gothic cathedrals, as an eminent architect has said, were the
creation of one thought, and hence they were complete when the workmen
of the architects left them, and their whole effect is dominated by
one idea or one set of ideas; but the early Roman churches were the
results of a general co-operation of associated art, and the large and
plain surfaces of the interiors were regarded by the sculptor as a
framework for the exhibition of his decorative art. Colour was
lavished in veneers of rare marbles, and costly mosaics and frescoes
covering the walls. There was thus "less unity of purely architectural
design, but a greater amount of general artistic wealth."

Intermediate between the white marbles used for external architecture
and the coloured marbles used for internal decoration, and forming the
link between them, is the variety called by the Italians cipollino, or
onion-stone. Its classical name is _Marmor Carystium_, from Carystos,
a town of Euboea, mentioned by Homer, situated on the south coast of
the island at the foot of Mount Oche. This town was chiefly celebrated
for its marble, which was in great request at Rome, and also for its
large quantities of valuable asbestos, which received the name of
Carystian stone, and was manufactured by the Romans into incombustible
cloth for the preservation of the ashes of the dead in the process of
cremation. The asbestos occurs in the same quarries with this marble,
just as this mineral is usually associated with talc schist, in which
chlorite and mica are often present. Strabo places the quarries of
cipollino at Marmorium, a place upon the coast near Carystos; but Mr.
Hawkins mentions in Walpole's _Travels_ that he found the ancient
works upon Mount Oche at a distance of three miles from the sea, the
place being indicated by some old half-worked columns, lying
apparently on the spot where they had been quarried. This marble is
very peculiar, and is at once recognised by its gray-green ground
colour and the streaks of darker green running through the calcareous
substance like the coats of an onion, hence its name. These streaks
belong to a different mineral formation. They are micaceous strata;
and thus the true cipollino is a mixture of talcose schist with white
saccharoidal marble, and may be said to form a transition link between
marble and common stone. It belongs to the Dolomitic group of rocks,
which forms so large a part of the romantic scenery of South-Eastern
Europe, and yields all over the world some of the best and most
ornamental building-stones. In this group calc-spar or dolomite
wholly replaces the quartz and films of argillaceous matter, of which,
especially in Scotland, micaceous schist is usually composed. There
are many varieties of cipollino, the most common being the typical
marble, a gray-green stone, sometimes more or less white, with veins
of a darker green, forming waves rippling over it like those of the
sea. It occurs so often among the ruins that it must have been perhaps
more frequently used in Rome than any other marble. It was also one of
the first introduced, for Mamurra lined the walls of his house on the
Coelian with it, as well as with Lunar marble, in the time of Julius
Cæsar; but Statius mentions that it was not very highly esteemed,
especially in later times, when more valuable marbles came into use.

One remarkably fine variety called _Cipollino marino_ is distinguished
by its minute curling veins of light green on a ground of clear white.
Four very large columns in the Braccio Nuova of the Vatican, which may
have belonged originally, like the two large columns of _giallo
antico_ in the same apartment, to some sumptuous tomb on the Appian
Way, are formed of this variety, and are unique among all the other
pillars of cipollino marble to be seen in Rome for the brightness of
their colour and the exquisite beauty of their venation. Nothing can
be more striking and beautiful than the rich wavelike ripples of green
on the cipollino marbles that encase the Baptistery of St. Mark's in
Venice, as if the breakers on the Lido shore had been frost-bound
before they fell, and the sea-nymphs had sculptured them into the
walls of this "ecclesiastical sea-cave." Indeed all the outside and
inside walls of the glorious old church are cased with this marble--in
the interior up to the height of the capitals of the columns; while
above that, every part of the vaults and domes is incrusted with a
truly Byzantine profusion of gold mosaics--fit image, as Ruskin
beautifully says, of the sea on which, like a halcyon's nest, Venice
rests, and of the glowing golden sky that shines above it. Line after
line of pleasant undulation ripples on the smooth polished marble as
the sea ebbs and flows through the narrow streets of the city. In the
churches and palaces of Rome specimens of all the varieties of
cipollino may be found, taken from the old ruins, for the marble is
not now worked in the ancient quarries. The largest masses of the
common kind in Rome are the eight grand old Corinthian columns which
form the portico of the Temple of Antoninus Pius and Faustina in the
Forum. The height of each shaft, which is composed of a single block,
is forty-six feet, and the circumference fifteen feet. The pillars
look very rusty and weather-worn, and are much battered with the
ill-usage which they have received.

One of the most beautiful and highly-prized marbles of ancient Rome
was the species which is familiar to every visitor under the name of
_Giallo antico_. It must have existed in immense quantities in the
time of the emperors, for fragments of it are found almost everywhere,
and it is the variety that is most frequently picked up and converted
into ornamental articles. It is easily recognised by its deep
brownish-yellow colour, resembling somewhat the yellow marbles of
Siena and Verona, though invariably richer and brighter. All the
varieties are traversed more or less by veins and blotches of a darker
yellow or brownish hue, which give them a charming variety. The
texture is remarkably fine and close-grained. In this respect _giallo
antico_ can be distinguished from every other marble by the touch.
When polished it is exquisitely smooth and soft, looking like ivory
that has become yellow with age. No fitter material could be employed
for the internal pavements or pillars of old temples, presenting a
venerable appearance, as if the suns of many centuries had stained it
with their own golden hue. From the fact that it was called by the
Romans _Marmor Numidicum_, we are led to infer that this marble was
quarried in Numidia, and was brought into Rome when the region was
made a Roman province by Julius Cæsar. It was probably known to the
Romans in the time of Jugurtha; but the age of luxury had not then
begun, and Marius and Sulla were more intent upon the glories of war
than upon the arts of peace. The quarries on the slopes of the Atlas,
worked for three hundred years to supply the enormous demand made by
the luxury of the masters of the world, were at last supposed to be
exhausted; and the idea has long prevailed that the marble could only
be found among the ruins of the Imperial City. But four or five years
ago, the sources from which the Romans obtained some of their most
precious varieties of this material have been rediscovered in the
range of mountains called Djebel Orousse, north-east of Oran in
Algeria. All over an extensive rocky plateau in this place numerous
shallow depressions plainly indicate the existence of very ancient
quarries. A large company has been formed to work and export the
marble, which may now be had in illimitable quantity. The largest
specimens of _giallo antico_ existing in Rome are the eight fluted
Corinthian pillars, thirty feet high and eleven feet in circumference,
with capitals and bases of white marble, which stand in pairs within
the niches of the Pantheon. In consequence of the fires of former
generations, the marble has here and there a tinge of red on the
surface. In the Church of St. John Lateran there is a splendid pair of
fluted columns of _giallo antico_, which support the entablature over
a portal at the northern extremity of the transept. They are thirty
feet in height and nine feet in circumference, and were found in
Trajan's Forum. In the Arch of Constantine are several magnificent
_giallo antico_ columns and pilasters, which are supposed to have
belonged to the triumphal arch of Trajan. They are so damaged in
appearance, and so discoloured by the weather, that it is not easy,
without close inspection, to tell the material of which they are
composed. For pavements and the sheathing of interior walls _giallo
antico_ was used more frequently than almost any other kind of
marble; hence it is mostly found in fragments of thin slabs, with the
old polish still glistening upon them.

It is difficult to describe, so as to identify it, the species of
marble known as _Africano_. It has a great variety of tints, ranging
from the clearest white to the deepest black, through yellow and
purple. Its texture is very compact and hard, frequently containing
veins of quartz, which render it difficult to work. Its ancient name
is _Marmor Chium_, for it was brought to Rome from a quarry on Mount
Elias, the highest summit in the island of Chios--the modern
Scio--which contested the honour of being the birthplace of Homer. It
received its modern name of Africano, not from any connection with
Africa, but from its dark colour. It enters pretty frequently into the
decoration of the Roman churches, though it is rare to see it in large
masses. It seems to have been much in fashion for pavements, of which
many fragments may be seen among the ruins of Trajan's Forum. The side
wall of the second chapel in the Church of Santa Maria della Pace in
the Piazza Navona is sheathed with large slabs of remarkably fine
Africano, "with edges bevelled like a rusticated basement." In the
Belvedere Cortile in the Vatican is a portion of an ancient column of
this marble, which is the most beautiful specimen in Rome; and the
principal portal of the portico of St. Peter's is flanked by a pair of
fluted Roman Ionic columns of Africano, which are the largest in the

Closely allied to this marble is an ancient species which puzzles most
visitors by its Protean appearance. Its tints are always neutral, but
they vary in depth from the lightest to the darkest shade, and are
never mixed but in juxtaposition. Dirty yellows, cloudy reds, dim
blues and purples, occur in the ground or in the round or waved
blotches or crooked veins. It has a fine grain and a dull fracture.
This variety of Africano is known by the familiar name of _Porta
Santa_, from the circumstance that the jambs and lintel of the first
Porta Santa--a Holy Door annexed by Boniface VIII. to St. Peter's in
the year 1300--were constructed of this marble. The Porta Santa, it
may be mentioned, was instituted in connection with a centenary
jubilee, but afterwards the period of formally opening it was reduced
to fifty years, and now it is shortened to twenty-five. On the
occasion of the jubilee, on Christmas Eve, the Pope knocks three times
with a silver hammer against the masonry with which it is filled up,
which is then demolished, and the Holy Door remains open for a whole
twelvemonth, and on the Christmas Eve of the succeeding year is closed
up in the same manner as before. A similar solemnity is performed by
proxy at the Lateran, the Liberian, and the Pauline Basilicas. In all
these great churches, as in St. Peter's, the jambs and Lintel of the
Holy Door are of Porta Santa marble. This beautiful material was
brought from the mountains in the neighbourhood of Jassus--a
celebrated fishing town of Caria, situated on a small island close to
the north coast of the Jassian Bay. From this circumstance it was
called by the ancient Romans _Marmor Jassense_. Near the quarries was
a sanctuary of Hestia, with a statue of the goddess, which, though
unprotected in the open air, was believed never to be touched by rain.
The marble, the most highly-prized variety of which was of a blood-red
and livid white colour, was used in Greece chiefly for internal
decoration. It was introduced in large quantity into Rome, and there
are few churches in which the relics of it that existed in older
buildings have not been adapted for ornamental purposes. Among the
larger and finer masses of Porta Santa may be enumerated two columns
and pilasters which belong to the monument of Clement IX., in the
Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, and which are remarkable for their
exceedingly fine texture and the unusual predominance of white among
the other hues; four splendid Corinthian pillars, considered the
finest in Rome, in the nave of Sta. Agnese; the pair of half columns
which support the pediment of the altar in the Capella della
Presentazione in St. Peter's; and the basin of the handsome fountain
in front of the Pillar of Marcus Aurelius in the Piazza Colonna,
constructed by the architect Giacoma della Porta out of an enormous
mass of Porta Santa found lying on the ancient wharf.

Frequent specimens of a beautiful marble known as _Fior di Persico_,
from the resemblance of the colour of its bright purple veins on a
white ground to that of the blossom of the peach, may be found in the
Roman churches. It was much used for mouldings, sheathings, and
pedestals, and also for floors. In the Villa of Hadrian large
fragments of slabs of this marble may be found, which lined the walls
and floors of what are called the Greek and Latin Libraries. The
Portuguese Church in Rome has several columns of Fior di Persico
supporting the pediments of altars in the different chapels;
especially four pairs of fluted ones which adorn the two altars at the
extremity of the nave, which are among the largest and finest in Rome.
But the most splendid specimens of all are a pair of columns in the
Palazzo Rospigliosi. The dado, eight feet in height, in the gorgeous
Corsini chapel in the Church of St. John Lateran, is formed of large
tablets of highly-polished Fior di Persico, and the frieze that
surrounds the whole chapel is composed of the same beautiful material,
whose predominance over every other marble is the peculiarity of this
sanctuary. The ancient name of this marble was _Marmor Molossium_,
from a region in Epirus--now Albania--which was a Roman province in
the time of Pompey. It is associated with the celebrated campaigns in
Italy of Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, in which Greece was for the first
time brought into contact with Rome. The region in which the quarries
existed was the most ancient seat of Pelasgic religion.

The infinite hues and markings of the coloured marbles have all been
painted by Nature with one material only, variously proportioned and
applied--the oxide of iron. The varieties of marble are mainly caused
by the different degrees in which this substance has pervaded them.
They are variable mixtures of the metamorphous carbonates of protoxide
of iron and lime. And it is an interesting fact that there is a
distinct relation between deposits of magnetic iron ore and the
metamorphoses of limestones into marbles; so that this substance not
only gives to the marbles their colouring, but also their texture.
Even the whitest saccharoidal or statuary marble, which it has not
coloured, it has created by the crystallisation of the limestone
associated with it. And the marbles of the entire province of the
Apuan Alps owe their existence to the large quantities of iron ore
disseminated throughout them, which have exercised a great influence
on the molecular modification they have undergone. The same changes
have been produced on the limestones of Greece and Asia Minor by veins
containing iron ore running through them.

And of the marbles thus produced, one of the most beautiful is that
which is known in Rome by the name of Pavonazzetto, from its
peacock-like markings. The ground is a clear white, with numerous
veins of a dark red or violet colour, while the grain is fine, with
large shining scales. It resembles alabaster in the form and character
of its veins, and in its transparent quality. It is a Phrygian marble,
and was known to the ancients under the name of _Marmor Docimenum_.
The poet Statius notices the legend that it was stained with the blood
of Atys. It was a favourite marble of the emperor Hadrian, who
employed it to decorate his tomb. It was brought to Rome when Phrygia
became a Roman province, after the establishment of Christianity in
Asia Minor. At first the quarry yielded only small pieces of the
marble, but when it came into the possession of the Romans they
developed its resources to the utmost; numerous large monolithic
columns being wrought on the spot, and conveyed at great expense and
labour to the coast. Colonel Leake supposes that the extensive
quarries on the road from Khoorukun and Bulwudun are those of the
ancient Docimenum. Hamilton, in his _Researches_, says that he saw
numerous blocks of marble and columns in a rough state, and others
beautifully worked, lying in this locality. In an open space beside a
mosque lay neglected a beautifully-finished marble bath, once
intended, perhaps, for a Roman villa; and in the wall of the mosque,
and of the cemetery beside it, were numerous friezes and cornices,
whose elaborately-finished sculptures of the Ionic and Corinthian
orders proved that they were never designed for any building on the
spot, but were in all probability worked near the quarries for the
purpose of easier transportation, as is done in the quarries of
Carrara at the present day. Pavonazzetto is thus associated in an
interesting manner with the Phrygian cities of Laodicea and Colosse.
When St. Paul was preaching the Gospel through this part of Asia
Minor, the architects of Rome were conveying this splendid marble from
the quarries of the Cadmus, to adorn the palatial buildings of the
Imperial City. No marble was so highly esteemed as this, and no other
species is so frequently referred to by the Latin poets.

The high altar of the subterranean church, under which the relics of
St. Ignatius and St. Clement are supposed to lie, is covered by a
canopy supported by elegant columns of pavonazzetto marble; while the
high altar of the upper church is similarly surmounted by a double
entablature of Hymettian marble, supported by four columns of
pavonazzetto. The extra-mural church of St. Paul's had several
splendid pillars of Phrygian marble, taken by the emperor Theodosius
from the grandest of the law courts of the Republic; but these were
unfortunately destroyed during the burning of the old basilica about
sixty years ago. We see in the flat pilasters of this purple-veined
marble, now erect against the transepts of the restored church, the
vestiges of the magnificent Æmilian Basilica in the Forum, of whose
celebrated columns Pliny spoke in the highest terms. Specimens of
pavonazzetto are to be seen in almost every church in Rome. In the
interesting old Church of Sta. Agnese there are two columns of this
marble, the flutings of which are remarkable for their cabled
divisions. The gallery above is supported on small columns, most of
which are of pavonazzetto spirally fluted. In the Church of Santa
Maria degli Angeli there is also a remarkably fine specimen; while
there is a grand pair of columns in the vestibule of St. Peter's
between the transept and the sacristy. Fourteen fluted columns of
Phrygian marble have been dug up from the site of the Augustan Palace
on the Palatine; while the one hundred and twenty employed by the
emperor Hadrian, in the Temple of Juno and Jupiter erected by him,
have been distributed among several of the Roman churches. The side
walls of the splendid staircase of the Bracchi Palace are sheathed
with a very rare and beautiful variety, remarkable for the delicacy of
its veins and its brilliant polish. The veneer was produced by slicing
down two ancient columns discovered near the Temple of Romulus
Maxentius in the Forum, converted into the Church of SS. Cosma e
Damiano. But the finest of all the pavonazzetto columns of Rome are
the ten large ones in the Church of San Lorenzo outside the walls. In
the volute of the capital of one of them a frog has been carved, which
identifies it as having formerly belonged to the Temple of Jupiter or
Juno, within the area of the Portico of Octavia. Pliny tells us that
both temples were built at their own expense by two wealthy
Lacedæmonian artists, named Sauros and Batrakos; and, having been
refused the only recompense they asked--the right to place an
inscription upon the buildings,--they introduced into the capitals of
the pillars, surreptitiously, the symbols of their respective names, a
lizard and a frog.

The most precious of the old marbles of Rome is the _Rosso antico_.
Its classical name has been lost, unless it be identical, as Corsi
conjectures, with the Marmor Alabandicum, described by Pliny as black
inclining much to purple. For a long time it was uncertain where it
was found, but recently quarries of it have been discovered near the
sea at Skantari, a village in the district of Teftion, which show
traces of having been worked by the ancients. From these quarries the
marble can only be extracted in slabs and in small fragments. This is
the case, too, with all the red marbles of Italy, which, in spite of
their compact character, scale off very readily, and are friable,
vitreous, and full of cleavage planes, in addition to which they are
usually only found in thin beds, which prevents their being used for
other purposes than table-tops and flooring-slabs. The predominance of
magnetic iron ore, to which they owe their vivid colour, has thus
seriously affected the molecular arrangement of the rocks. It is
probable that _rosso antico_, like the Italian red marbles, belongs to
one or other of the Liassic formations, which, in Italy as well as in
Greece and Asia Minor, constitutes a well-marked geological horizon by
its regular stratification and its characteristic ammonite fossils.
The quantity found among the Roman ruins of this marble is very large;
many of the shops in Rome carving their models of classical buildings
in this material. But the fragments are comparatively small. When used
in architecture they have been employed to ornament subordinate
features in some of the grander churches. The largest specimens to be
seen in Rome are the double-branched flight of seven very broad steps,
leading from the nave to the high altar of Santa Prassede. Napoleon
Bonaparte, a few months before his fall, had ordered these slabs of
_rosso antico_ to be sent to Paris to ornament his throne; but
fortunately the order came too late to be executed. The cornice of the
present choir is also formed of this very rare marble; while large
fragments of the old cornice of the same material, which ran round the
whole church, are preserved in the Belvedere Cortile of the Vatican.
Tradition asserts that the pieces which have been converted to these
sacred uses in the church once belonged to the house of Pudens, the
father of its titular saint, in which St. Peter is supposed to have
dwelt when in Rome. The entrance to the chamber of the Rospigliosi
Palace, which contains the far-famed "Aurora" of Guido Reni on the
ceiling, is flanked by a pair of Roman Ionic columns of _rosso
antico_, fourteen feet high, which are the largest in Rome, although
the quality of the marble is much injured by its lighter colour, and
by a white streak which runs up each shaft nearly from top to bottom.
In the sixth room of the Casino of the Villa Borghese the jambs of the
mantelpiece are composed of _rosso antico_ in the form of caryatides
supporting a broad frieze of the same material wrought in bas-relief.

This marble seems to have been the favourite material in which to
execute statues of the Faun; for every one who has visited the Vatican
Sculpture Gallery and the Museum of the Capitol will remember well the
beautiful statues of this mythic being in _rosso antico_, which are
among their chief treasures, and once adorned the luxurious Villa of
Hadrian at Tivoli. This marble is admirably adapted for such
sculpture, for it gives to the ideal of the artist the warm vividness
of life. And it seems a fit colour, as Nathaniel Hawthorne has said,
in which to express the rich, sensuous, earthy side of nature, the
happy characteristics of all wild natural things which meet and mingle
in the human form and in the human soul; the Adam, the red man formed
out of the red clay, in which the life of the animals and the life of
the gods coalesce. In the Gabinetto of the Vatican, along with a large
square tazza of _rosso antico_, is kept a most curious arm-chair of
this marble, called _sedia forata_, found near the Church of St. John
Lateran, upon which, in the middle ages, the Popes were obliged to sit
at their installation in the presence of the Cardinals. This custom,
which was practised as late as the coronation of Julius II. in 1503,
arose from a desire to secure the throne of St. Peter from being
intruded upon by a second Pope Joan--whether there ever really was
such a personage, or whatever gave rise to the curious myth. The chair
is like an ordinary library chair, with solid back and sides,
sculptured out of a single block, and perforated in the seat with a
circular aperture. _Rosso antico_ is not what might strictly be called
a beautiful marble. Its colour is dusky and opaque, resembling that of
a bullock's liver, marked with numerous black reticulations, so minute
and faint as to be hardly visible. But the grain is extremely fine,
admitting of the highest polish.

Of black marbles--in the formation of which both the animal and
vegetable kingdoms have taken part, their substance being composed of
the finely-ground remains of foraminifera, corals, and shells, and
their colour produced by the carbonaceous deposits of ancient
forests--few kinds seem to have been used by the ancient Romans. The
_nero antico_ was the species most esteemed, on account of its compact
texture, fine grain, and deep black colour, marked occasionally with
minute white short straight lines, always broken and interrupted. It
is the _Marmor Tænarium_ of the ancients, quarried in the Tænarian
peninsula, which forms the most southerly point in Europe, now called
Cape Matapan. The celebrated quarries which Pliny eloquently
describes, but for which Colonel Leake inquired in vain, were under
the protection of Poseidon, whose temple was at the extremity of the
peninsula. They attracted, on account of the sanctuary which the
temple afforded, large numbers of criminals who fled from the pursuit
of justice, and who readily found work in them. Very fine specimens of
this marble may be seen in a pair of columns in the obscure Church of
Santa Maria Regini Coeli, near the Convent of St. Onofrio, on the
other side of the Tiber; in a pair in the church of Ara Coeli; and
also in a pair in the third room of the Villa Pamphili Doria, which
are extremely fine, and are probably as large as any to be met with.
In consequence of the quantity used in the inscriptional tablets of
monuments, for which this seems to be the favourite material, _nero
antico_ is extremely scarce in modern Rome. The _bigio antico_ is a
grayish marble, composed of white and black, sometimes in distinct
stripes or waves, and sometimes mingled confusedly together. It was
the _Marmor Batthium_ of the ancients, and two of the large columns in
the principal portal of the Church of Santa Croce in Jerusalemme are
remarkably fine specimens of it, probably taken from the Villa of
Heliogabalus, in whose gardens, called the Horti Variani, the church
was built.

Another species is the _bianco e nero antico_, the _Marmor
Proconnesium_ of antiquity, obtained from the celebrated quarries of
Proconnesos, an island in the western part of the Propontis. Many of
the towns of Greece were decorated with this marble. The internal part
of the famous sepulchre erected by Artemisia, the widow of Mausolus,
king of Caria, to her husband, and after whom all grand tombs ever
since have received the name of mausoleum, was built of this marble.
So celebrated were the quarries of Proconnesos that the ancient name
of the island was changed to Marmora, and the whole of the Propontis
is now called the Sea of Marmora. Although so highly esteemed in
Greece, this marble does not seem to have been extensively used in
Rome; the finest relics being the four columns supporting the marble
canopy, in the form of a Gothic temple, which surmounts the high altar
of St. Cæcilia, which is among the most ancient of all the churches of
Rome. They were probably derived from some old Roman palace, and are
remarkable for the clearness and brilliancy of the white blotches on a
black ground. There are different varieties of this marble: one kind
in which the blotches or veins are pure black on a pure white ground,
and another in which the blotches or veins are pure white on a black
ground. In these varieties, however, the black and the white are more
confused together, but remain notwithstanding distinct and separate,
so that if the veins are white the ground is sure to be black, and
_vice versâ_. The ancient _Marmor Rhodium_, or the _giallo e nero_,
had golden-coloured veins on a black ground, and, owing to its compact
texture, was capable of receiving a high polish. It is very like the
celebrated marble of Portovenere, a modern Italian species obtained
from the western hills of the Gulf of Spezia, where the formation
passes into that of the ammonitiferous limestones of the Lias and of
the palæozoic rocks. A beautiful highly-polished specimen of Rhodian
marble exists in the mask in front of the tomb of Paul III. in the
tribune of St. Peter's, sculptured by Della Porta in 1547, long
previous to the discovery of the quarries of Portovenere. It may be
remarked that the grain of the latter species is such that it will not
keep its polish without extreme care; a circumstance which
distinguishes it from the Rhodian marble, whose tenacity in this
respect renders it eminently adapted for the more costly class of
decorative works.

The marbles we have been hitherto considering belong to the older
calcareous formations of Italy, Greece, Asia Minor, and Egypt, and go
down to the upper triassic and muschel-kalk limestones, and perhaps
even to those of an older period. But there is a class of ancient
marbles in Rome of much more recent geological origin--belonging
indeed to the Miocene epoch--which are called Lumachella, from the
Italian word signifying snail, on account of the presence in all the
species of fossil shells. They vary in colour from the palest straw to
the deepest purple. Some of them are exceedingly beautiful and
valuable, and they are nearly all more or less rare, being found
chiefly in small fragments of ancient pavements. Their substance is
formed of the shells of the common oyster in bluish gray and black
particles on a white ground, as in the Lumachella d' Egitto; of the
cardium or cockle, assuming a lighter or deeper shade of yellow, as in
the Lumachella d' Astracane; of the ammonite, as in the L. Corno d'
Ammone; of the Anomia ampulla in the L. occhio di Pavone, so called
from the circular form of the fossils whichever way the section is
made; of encrinites, belemnites, and starfish, showing white or red on
a violet ground, as in the L. pavonazza; and "of broken shells, hardly
discernible, together with very shining and saccharoid particles of
carbonate of lime," as in the _Marmor Schiston_ of the ancients--the
_brocatello antico_ of the Italians, so named from its various shades
of yellow and purple, resembling silk brocade. The most important
specimens of Lumachella marbles are the pair of very fine large
columns of L. rosea on the ground-floor of the Schiarra Palace, the
balustrade of the high altar of St. Andrea della Valle, two columns in
the garden of the Corsini Palace of L. d' Astracane, and a pair of
large pillars which support one of the arches of the Vatican Library,
formed of L. occhio di pavone. Specimens of brocatello may be found in
several churches and palaces, forming mouldings, sheathings, and

The most interesting of the Lumachella marbles is the _bianca antica_,
the Marmor Megarense of the ancients, composed of shells so small as
to be scarcely discernible, and so closely compacted that the
substance takes a good polish. The well-known Column of Trajan--the
first monument (_columna cochlæa_) of this description ever raised in
Rome, and far superior to the Antonine Column--is composed of
Lumachella marble from Megara. It presents, in twenty-three spiral
bands of bas-reliefs, winding round thirty-four blocks of stone, the
history of the victories of Trajan over the Dacians, and, without
reckoning horses, implements of war, and walls of cities, is said to
consist of no less than two thousand five hundred figures, each about
two feet two inches high. It is a strikingly suggestive thought, that
this majestic pillar--which produced so deep an impression upon the
minds of posterity that, according to the beautiful legend, Pope
Gregory the Great was moved to supplicate, by means of masses in
several of the Roman churches, for the liberation of him whom it
commemorated from purgatory--should be composed of the relics of

    "Memorial pillar! 'mid the wreck of Time,
    Preserve thy charge with confidence sublime,"

said Wordsworth; but this sublime charge is committed to frail
keeping. It is itself a sepulchre of the dead; and the tragedies of
the Dacian war are inscribed upon tragedies that took place long ages
before there was any human eye to witness them. The historic
sculptures that so deeply move our pity for a conquered people, are
based upon the immemorial sculptures of creatures whose sacrifice in
whole hecatombs touches us not, because it is part of the order of the
world by which life forms the foundation of and minister to life. It
is strange how many of the grandest monuments are wrought out of the
creations of primeval molluscs. The enduring pyramids themselves are
formed of the nummulitic limestone studded with its "Pharaoh's beans,"
the exuviæ of shell-fish that perished ages before the Nile had
created Egypt.

Of the breccias there is a great variety among the relics of ancient
Rome. A breccia is a rock made up of angular pebbles or fragments of
other rocks. When the pebbles are rounded the conglomerate is a
pudding-stone. Marble breccias are formed of angular pieces of highly
crystalline limestone, united together by a siliceo-calcareous cement,
containing usually an admixture of a hornblendic substance, and which
is due to a particular action of adjacent masses or veins of iron ore.
The hornblendic cement, with its iron or manganese base, produces the
variegated appearance which may be seen in specimens from different
localities. As may be imagined from their composition, these rocks are
as a rule extremely unalterable by ordinary atmospheric agencies, and
are susceptible of a high degree of polish, which they retain with the
utmost tenacity. They were favourite materials with the ancient Roman
decorators; but they do not occur in large masses in the city. A
beautiful pair of Roman Ionic columns under the pediment of the altar
of the third chapel in the Church of Ara Coeli are made of a valuable
breccia called Breccia dorata, distinguished by its small light-golden
fragments on a ground of various shades of purple. The high altar of
Santa Prisca on the Aventine is supported by one column of Breccia
corallina of remarkably fine quality, in which the fragments are white
on a ground of light coral-red. In the second chapel of St. Andrea
della Valle there are two Corinthian columns of Breccia gialla e nera,
which is an aggregate mass of yellow and black fragments: the yellow
in its brilliant golden hue surpassing that of all other marbles, and
forming a striking contrast to the long irregular black fragments
interspersed throughout it. In the first chapel of the same church
there are four fluted Corinthian columns of breccia gialla, containing
small and regular blotches, of which the prevailing tint is orange,
each fragment edged with a rim of deeper yellow that surrounds it like
a shadow. A most beautiful variety of Breccia gialla e nera forms the
basin of holy water at the entrance of the Church of St. Carlo di
Catinari, in which "the colours resemble a golden network spread upon
a ground of black"; and an exceedingly lovely urn is seen underneath
the altar in one of the chapels of the Portuguese Church, in which
white fragments are imbedded in a purple ground which shines through
their soft transparency.

Not the least attractive objects in the chamber of the Dying Gladiator
in the Museum of the Capitol area portion of a large column of very
beautiful and extremely valuable Breccia tracagnina, in which
golden-yellow, white, red, and blue fragments occur in very nearly
equal proportions, and two large pedestals of Breccia di
Sete-Bassi--so called from the discovery of the first specimens near
the ruins of the Villa of Septimus Bassus on the Appian
Way--containing very small purple fragments of an oblong shape, which
is the characteristic peculiarity of all the varieties of this species
of marble. Probably the most beautiful of all the ancient breccias is
that called Breccia della Villa Adriana, from its occasional
occurrence in the ruins of Hadrian's Villa, and also Breccia
Quintilina, from its having been found in the grounds of the
magnificent Villa of Quintilius Varus, commemorated by Horace, at
Tivoli, now occupied by the Church of the Madonna di Quintigliolo. The
prevailing colour of the fragments is that of a dark brown intermixed
with others of smaller size, of red, green, blue, white, purple,
bright yellow, and sometimes black, all harmonising together most
beautifully. The comparatively small pieces found at Tivoli now adorn
the Churches of St. Andrea della Valle, famous for its rich varieties
of breccias, St. Domenico e Sisto and Santa Pudenziana, where they
appear among the marble sheathing of the walls. In the chapel of the
Gaetani in the last-mentioned church, the wall is incrusted with the
richest marbles, especially Lumachella and Brocatello, and large
tablets of Hadrian's breccia setting off the splendid sarcophagus of
Breccia nera e gialla dedicated to Cardinal Gaetani.

Along with the breccias which I have thus incidentally noticed, but to
which a whole essay might be devoted on account of their beauty, rich
variety, and great value and rarity, should be classified a kind of
"breccia dure," called Breccia d' Egitto. It is not, however, a true
breccia, but a pudding-stone, composed, not of calcareous but of
siliceous fragments; and these fragments are not angular, as in the
true breccias, but rounded, indicating that they had been carried by
water and consequently rounded by attrition. The connected pebbles
must have been broken from rocks of great hardness to have withstood
the effects of constant abrasion. In the Egyptian breccia are found
very fine pebbles of red granite, porphyry of a darker or lighter
green, and yellow quartz, held together by a cement of compact
felspar. It has a special geological interest, inasmuch as it
represents an ancient sea-beach flanking the crystalline rocks of
Upper Egypt, where the cretaceous and nummulitic limestones end. The
pebbles were derived from the central nucleus of granite from beyond
Assouan to the upper end of the Red Sea, round which are folded
successive zones of gneiss and schist pierced by intrusive masses of
porphyry and serpentine. The pair of beautiful Grecian Ionic columns,
and the large green tazza--eighteen feet in circumference--the finest
specimen of Egyptian breccia to be seen in Rome, both in the Villa
Albani, and the vase of the same material in the chamber of Candelabra
in the Vatican, in which the prevailing green colour is crossed by
several stripes of pure white quartz, may thus have been sculptured
out of a portion of littoral deposit formed from the ruins of the
crystalline rocks of the mountain group of Sinai. There is something
extremely interesting and suggestive to the imagination in the twofold
origin of these conglomerate ornaments of the palaces of Rome. Around
them gather the wonderful associations of ancient human history, and
the still more awe-inspiring associations of geological history. They
speak to us of the conquests of Rome in the desolate tracts of Nubia
and Arabia, from which the spoils that enriched its palaces and
temples were derived; and of the existence of coast-lines, when Egypt
was a gulf stretching from the Mediterranean to the Mountains of the
Moon, which became silted up by slow accumulations. Their language, in
both relations, is that of ruin. They are survivors both of the ruins
of Nature and of Man, and are made up of the wrecks of both. Older far
than the marbles which keep them company in the sculptor's halls and
churches of Rome, and whose human history is equally eventful, their
materials were deposited along the shore of a vanished sea, when the
mountains that yielded these marbles lay as calcareous mud in its

Alabasters, of which there are numerous varieties, from pure
diaphanous white to the deepest black, were favourite decorative
materials with the ancient Romans. The different kinds were used for
the walls of baths, vases, busts, pillars, and sepulchral lamps, in
which the light shining through the transparent sides had an
agreeable softness. Cornelius Nepos, as quoted by Pliny, speaks of
having seen columns of alabaster thirty-two feet in length; and Pliny
says that he himself had seen thirty huge pillars in the dining-hall
of Callistus, the freedman of Claudius. One such column still exists
in the Villa Albani, which is twenty-two and a half feet in height.
The ancients obtained large blocks of alabaster from quarries in
Thebes in Egypt, in the neighbourhood of Damascus, and on Mount
Taurus. They imported some kinds also from Cyprus, Spain, and Northern
Africa. They obtained varieties nearer home, in different parts of
Italy, such as the beautiful Alabastro di Tivoli, employed by Hadrian
in his villa, and which appears to have been brought from Terni, where
it still exists in abundance. From the quarry near Volterra the
Etruscans obtained the alabaster for their cinerary urns. The European
alabasters are accumulated masses of stalactite and stalagmite, formed
by the slow dropping of water charged with sulphate of lime, to which
circumstance they owe the parallel stripes or concentric circles with
which they are marked, while the rich and delicate varieties of
colouring are produced by the oxides of iron which the water carries
with it in its infiltration through the intervening strata. They are
very soft and perishable, and consequently are very rarely found among
the ruins of ancient Rome. The Oriental alabasters, on the other hand,
which are distinguished from the European by their superior hardness
and durability, are in reality not sulphates, but carbonates of lime.
Their hardness is quite equal to that of the best statuary marbles.
The ancient quarries on the hill--the modern Mount St. Anthony--near
the town of Alabastron, in Middle Egypt, from which the material got
its name, have only recently been re-opened, but blocks of large size
and perfect beauty have been obtained. Owing to the facility with
which alabaster can be reduced by fire to lime, very few large
examples of it in Rome have escaped the ruthless kilns of the middle
ages. The most interesting specimens of ancient alabaster are the very
beautiful vase of Alabastro cotognino, prolate in form, and in colour
white, streaked with very light pink, which contained the ashes of
Augustus, found in the ruins of his mausoleum, and now in the Vatican;
the bust of Julius Cæsar, made of the variety _tartaruga_, from the
resemblance of its brownish-yellow markings to tortoise-shell, in the
Museum of the Capitol; and the two large blocks of _alabastro a
pecorella_, brought from the Villa of Hadrian, in the fourth portico
of the Vatican, the largest and most beautiful specimens of this very
rare alabaster in Rome, distinguished by white circular blotches, like
a flock of sheep huddled together, on a deep blood-red ground. In the
churches there are numerous specimens of all the varieties, forming
the columns and sheathings of altars, memorial chapels, and monuments;
the incrustations of alabaster on the walls of the Borghese chapel, in
Santa Maria Maggiore, being conspicuous for their splendid effect. The
baldacchino above the high altar of St. Paul's is supported by four
splendid columns of Oriental alabaster presented to Gregory XVI. by
Mehemet Ali, the viceroy of Egypt. An interesting collection of
beautiful and valuable varieties of alabasters may be made in
connection with the building operations still carried on in the
unfinished façade of the basilica fronting the Tiber.

The well-known _Verde antico_ is not a marble, but a mixture of the
green precious serpentine of mineralogists and white granular
limestone. It may also be called a breccia, for it is composed of
black fragments, larger or smaller, derived from other rocks, whose
angular shape indicates that they have not travelled far from the
spots where they occur. The ancient Romans called it _Lapis Atracius_,
from Atrax, a town in Thessaly, in the vicinity of which it was found.
It can hardly be distinguished, except by experts, from the modern
green marbles of Vasallo in Sardinia, and Luca in Piedmont. It occurs
somewhat abundantly in Rome, having been a favourite material with
the old Romans for sheathing walls and tables. Magnificent columns of
it were introduced into the temples and triumphal arches. We find
relics of these in the older churches. Four splendid fluted Corinthian
columns of Verde antico, with gilded capitals, support the pediment of
the high altar in Sta. Agnese, in the Piazza Navone, which formerly
belonged to the Arch of Marcus Aurelius in the Corso. A pair of very
fine columns of this precious stone flank each of the niches,
containing statues of the twelve apostles, in the piers which divide
the middle nave from the side ones in the Church of St. John Lateran.
These twenty-four columns are remarkable for the clearness of the
white, green, and black colours that occur in them. They are supposed
to have been taken from the Baths of Diocletian. Two of the splendid
composite columns which support the pediment of the altar in the
Corsini chapel of this church are of this marble, and were also taken
from the Arch of Marcus Aurelius in the Corso. One most magnificent
column of Verde antico has been found, along with seven others of
different marbles, in the wall of the narthex of the subterranean
Church of San Clemente. A small portion of it is polished to show the
beauty of the material, while the rest is dimmed and incrusted with
the grime of age.

Very different from this is the ancient serpentine or ophite of Sparta
called the _Lapis Lacedæmonius_, found in different hills near Krokee,
or in Mount Taygetus in Lacedæmon, where the old quarry has recently
been opened. It has a base of dark green with angular crystals of
felspar of a lighter green imbedded in it. It is a truly eruptive
rock, occurring in intrusive bosses, or in beds interstratified with
gneiss and mica-schist, and owes its various shades of green to the
presence of copper. Owing to its extraordinary hardness, this stone
was seldom used for architectural purposes; and the lapidary will
charge three times as much for working a fragment of this material
into a letter-weight as for making it of any other stone. A pair of
fluted Roman Ionic columns, supporting the pediment of the altar of
the chapel of St. John the Baptist, in the Baptistery of St. John
Lateran, are the only examples of ophite pillars in Rome. Next to
these the largest masses are a circular tablet, forming part of the
splendid sheathing of one of the ambones in the Church of San Lorenzo;
and two elliptical tablets, still larger, engrafted upon the pilasters
in front of the high altar of St. Paul's.

The principal use to which this stone was devoted in Rome was the
construction of mosaic pavements. The emperor Alexander Severus
introduced into his palaces and public buildings a kind of flooring
composed of small squares of green serpentine and red porphyry,
wrought into elegant patterns, which became very fashionable, and was
called after himself _Opus Alexandrinum_. The infamous Heliogabalus
had previously paved some of the courts of the Palatine with such
intarsio work, but his cousin Alexander Severus, following his
example, adorned with it all the terraces and walks around, and the
pavements within, the isolated villas called Diætæ, dedicated to his
mother Mammæa, which he added to the Palatine buildings. We have
examples of this beautiful kind of tesselated pavement in some of the
chambers of the Baths of Caracalla; and it is highly probable that the
_Opus Alexandrinum_ in the transept and middle nave of the Church of
Santa Maria in Trastevere is in part at least contemporaneous with
Alexander Severus, who conceded the ground on which the original
oratory stood to Pope Calixtus I. in 222, for the special use of the
Christians. If this be so, we have in this first place of Christian
worship established in Rome the first instance of the application of
_Opus Alexandrinum_ to the decoration of a church. In the middle ages
the fashion was beautifully imitated by artists of the Cosmati family
and their school; and the mosaic pavements of this kind in the
medieval churches of Rome are no older than this period. But we have
reason to believe that the _Opus Alexandrinum_ in two of the chapels
of Santa Maria degli Angeli was taken from the Baths of Diocletian;
while the splendid pavement of the whole church, naves, transept, and
choir of Santa Croce in Jerusalemme, formed originally part of the
decorations of the Sessorian Palace of Sextus Varius, the father of
Heliogabalus, after whom the church is sometimes called the Sessorian
Basilica. The flooring of the whole upper church of San Clemente was
transferred from the older subterranean church, which derived its
pavement from some of the ruins of the Palatine or the Forum; and the
serpentine fragments, which enter very largely into the composition of
the curious old mosaic floor of Ara Coeli must have had a similar
origin as far back as the time of its founder, Gregory the Great. The
_Lapis Lacedæmonius_ must have been very abundant in Rome during the
time of Alexander Severus--judging from the quantities that are made
up into mosaics in the churches, and the heaps of broken fragments
that are found on the Palatine and at the Marmorata. The circular
space around the obelisk in the Piazza of St. Peter's to a
considerable extent is paved with it; and specimens of it frequently
occur among the ordinary road-metal in the city and neighbourhood.

Sicilian jaspers, so called, though really marbles, and purely
calcareous, because of their resemblance in colour and form of the
blotches to jasper, were wrought in great variety in the quarries in
the neighbourhood of the celebrated Taormina, and were transported in
the form of columns to Rome. Siliceous jaspers, obtained from the
crystalline rocks of Asia Minor, Egypt, and Northern Italy, were also
used for columns; and their brilliant red, green, and yellow hues,
highly polished, contrasted beautifully with the white marbles of the
interiors of the palaces. An even more sumptuous material called
_Murrha_ was employed, which has been identified with fluor-spar, a
translucent crystalline stone marked with blue, red, and purple,
similar to the beautiful substance found near Matlock in Derbyshire.
Of this fluor-spar were formed the celebrated murrhine cups which
were in use in Rome in the days of Pliny among the richest people, and
for which fabulous prices were paid. Several blocks of this material
were found some years ago at the Marmorata which had been originally
imported from Parthia in the reign of Hadrian. One of them was
employed by the Jesuits, when cut up into thin slices, in ornamenting
the principal altar in the church of Il Gesu. One of the chambers in
the Baths of Titus was paved with slabs of the finest lapis
lazula--the _Lapis Cyanus_ of the ancients--derived from the spoils of
the Golden House of Nero, and originally procured by order of the
luxurious tyrant from Persia and the neighbourhood of Lake Baikal. We
can trace fragments of this exquisite pavement in the decoration of
the chapel of St. Ignatius in the Church of the Jesuits. The globe,
three feet in diameter, over the altar, beneath which repose the
remains of Ignatius Loyola, is sheathed with this most precious stone,
whose brilliant blue, contrasting with the white marble of the group
of the Trinity--one of whose members holds it in His hands--has a
splendid effect. The rare and costly marbles with which the Church of
Il Gesu is profusely adorned were mostly taken from the ruins of the
Baths of Titus by Cardinal Farnese in 1568. From the same source came
also the magnificent sarcophagus, sheathed with lapis lazula, under
the altar of St. Ignazio, which holds the body of St. Luigi Gonzaga.

But it is impossible, within the limits of this chapter, to describe
fully the relics of other precious and beautiful stones which may be
found among the ruins of ancient Rome, or among the churches to which
they have been transferred. Profuse as were the ancient Romans in
their general expenditure, upon no objects did they lavish their
wealth so extravagantly as upon their favourite marbles and precious
stones for the decoration of their public buildings and their private
houses. No effort was spared that Rome might be adorned with the
richest treasures of the mineral kingdom from all parts of the world.
Slaves and criminals were made to minister to this luxury in the
various quarries of the Roman dominions, which were the penal
settlements of antiquity. The antiquary Ficoroni counted the columns
in Rome in the year 1700, and he found no less than eight thousand
existing entire; and yet these were but a very small proportion of the
number that must once have been there. The palaces and modern churches
of Rome owe, as I have said, all their ornaments to this passion of
the ancients. There is not a doorstep nor a guardstone at the corner
of the meanest court in Rome which is not of marble, granite, or
porphyry from some ancient building. Almost all the houses, as Raphael
said, have been built with lime made of the costly old marbles. The
very streets in the newly-formed parts of the city are macadamised
with the fragments of costly baths and pillars. I took up one day, out
of curiosity, some of the road-metal near the Church of Santa Maria
Maggiore, and I identified in the handful no less than a dozen
varieties of the most beautiful marbles and porphyries from Greece,
Africa, and Asia. And when we remember that all these foreign stones
were brought into Rome during the interval between the end of the
Republic and the time of Constantine--a period of between three
hundred and four hundred years--we can form some idea of the
extraordinary wealth and luxury of the Imperial City when it was in
its prime.



Among the numberless objects of interest to be seen in Rome, a very
high place must be assigned to the Codex Vaticanus, probably the
oldest vellum manuscript in existence, and the richest treasure of the
great Vatican Library. This famous manuscript, which Biblical scholars
designate by the letter B, contains the oldest copy of the Septuagint,
and the first Greek version of the New Testament. In addition to the
profound interest which its own intrinsic value has inspired, it has
been invested with a halo of romance seldom associated with dry
palæographical studies--on account of the unreasonable jealousy and
capricious conduct of its guardians. For a long time it was altogether
inaccessible for study to Biblical scholars, and few were allowed even
to see it. These restrictions, however, have now happily to a
considerable extent been removed; and provided with an order, easily
obtained from the Vatican librarian, or from the Prefect of the sacred
palaces, in reply to a polite note, any respectable person is
permitted to inspect it.

The first feeling which one has in the Vatican Library is that of
surprise. You might walk through the Great Hall and adjoining
galleries without suspecting the place to be a library at all; for the
bookcases that line the lower portion of the walls are closed with
panelled doors, painted in arabesque on a ground of white and slate
colour, and surrounded by gilded mouldings, and not a single book is
visible. The vaulted ceiling of the rooms is glowing with gold and
ultramarine; the walls are adorned with beautiful frescoes
representing the different Councils of the Church; and magnificent
tables of polished Oriental granite, and of various precious marbles,
vases of porphyry, malachite, and alabaster, and priceless candelabra
of Sevres china--the gifts of kings and emperors--occupy the spaces
between the pillars and pilasters, and cast their rich shadows on the
gleaming marble pavement. A vast variety of objects of rare beauty,
artistic value, and antique interest arrest the attention, and would
amply reward the study of weeks.

The nucleus of the present magnificent collection of books and
manuscripts was formed in the Lateran Palace in the year 465 by Bishop
Hilary; and, augmented by succeeding pontiffs, the accumulated stores
were transferred in 1450 by Pope Nicholas V., the founder of Glasgow
University, to the Vatican. What Nicholas began was completed by
Sixtus IV. The library was classified according to subjects and
writers, and Demetrius Lucensis, under the direction of Platina, made
a catalogue of it which is still in existence. During this period
Vatican MSS. were lent out to students, as attested by authentic
registers containing the autographs of those who enjoyed the
privilege. A little later the celebrated Vatican printing press was
annexed to the library; and the office of correctors or readers for
the accurate printing of ancient books which were wanting in the
library was instituted. Pope Sixtus V. erected the present splendid
edifice, and used every effort to increase the great collection.
Several valuable accessions were made to it after this date, including
the library of the Elector Palatine of Germany, the library of the
Dukes of Urbino, the libraries of Christina, Queen of Sweden, of the
Ottoboni, commenced by Pope Alexander VIII., and of the Marquis
Capponi, and the MSS. taken from the convent of S. Basilio at Grotta
Ferrata. Under Innocent XIII. in 1721 an attempt was made to prepare
for the press a full catalogue of all the MSS. in every language. It
was edited by Joseph Simon Assemani and Stephen Evodius, and three
volumes were published. But the task was found too great for any one's
strength, and was given up finally on account of the political
disturbances of the time.

The library is a vast unexplored mine of wealth. Unknown literary
treasures are contained in the closed cabinets. Among the thirty
thousand manuscripts may be hid some of the ancient classical and
early Christian treatises, which have been lost for ages, and whose
recovery would excite the profoundest interest throughout the
civilised world. A large number of these manuscripts had once belonged
to the library of the famous Monastery of Bobbio, in the north of
Italy, founded in the year 614 by the Irish St. Columbanus. The Irish
and Scotch monks who inhabited this monastery were in the dark ages
the most zealous collectors of manuscripts in Europe. At the close of
the fifteenth century the convent was impoverished and deserted by its
lawful occupants; and the Benedictine monks who succeeded them gave
away their literary treasures partly to the Ambrosian Library at Milan
and partly to the Vatican Library. Cardinal Angelo Mai, who discovered
more lost works and transcribed more ancient manuscripts than any one
else, found among these treasures in Milan and Rome several most
interesting treatises that had long passed into utter oblivion.

But though permission is freely granted to duly accredited visitors
who may be desirous of consulting manuscripts, the labour of searching
among the huge bewildering piles would be overwhelming, and the
thought of it would at once paralyse effort. There is no proper
catalogue of the printed books; and the list of manuscripts is so
deficient as to be altogether worthless. During six months, from
November till June, the library is open for study every day, except
Thursday and the numerous saints' days, whose recurrence can be
easily ascertained beforehand so as to prevent disappointment. I
cannot imagine a greater privilege to a student. It is the highest
luxury of learning to explore the literary wealth of these princely
apartments, that seem to have a climate of their own, like the great
Basilica close at hand--the climate of eternal spring--and whose
atmosphere breathes the associations of much that is grandest and most
memorable in human history. To the charms of some of the noblest
productions of human genius working by pen, or pencil, or
chisel--adorning roof, and wall, and floor--and vanishing down the
long vista in a bright perspective of beauty--Nature adds her crown of
perfection. For nothing can exceed the loveliness of the views from
the windows of the Papal gardens outside, with their gay flowery
parterres, sparkling fountains, depths of shadowy glades and
half-hidden sculptured forms of rarest beauty; and, beyond, a purple
mountain range, summits old in story, closing up the enchanted vista
through the ruddy stems and deep green foliage of tall stone-pines;
the whole glowing in the brilliant sunshine and the exquisite violet
transparency of the Roman sky. How delightful to spend whole days
there and forget the commonplace present in converse with the master
minds of the ages, and in dreams of the heroic past; the half-closed
shutters and drawn curtains producing a cool and drowsy atmosphere, in
delicious contrast with the broiling sun without! Learning, however,
would be too apt to fall asleep, and be shorn of its strength on the
Delilah lap of such splendid luxury.

A few of the most interesting books and manuscripts are now contained
in two handsome cabinets placed in the centre of the Great Hall of the
library. These cabinets have two cases, an outer and an inner one, and
are carefully double-locked. The librarian opened them for me, and
displayed their contents, which are usually seen only through a thick
plate of protecting glass. In the one cabinet were a manuscript of the
Latin poet Terence, of the fourth and fifth century; the celebrated
palimpsest of Cicero de Republica, concealed under a version of St.
Augustine's Commentary on the Psalms, the oldest Latin manuscript in
existence; the famous Virgil of the fifth century, with the well-known
portrait of Virgil; the Homilies of St. Gregory of Nazianzum; the
folio Hebrew Bible, which was the only thing that Duke Frederico of
Urbino reserved for himself of the spoil at the capture of Volterra in
1472, and for which the Jews in Venice offered its weight in gold; a
sketch of the first three cantos of the Gerusalemme Liberata in the
handwriting of Tasso; a copy of Dante in the handwriting of Boccaccio;
and several of Petrarch's autograph sonnets. In the other cabinet is
the great gem and glory of the Library--the Codex Vaticanus, in
strange association with a number of the love-letters of Henry
VIII. and Anne Boleyn, in French and English. This curious
correspondence--which, after all that subsequently happened between
the English monarch and the Papal Court, we are very much surprised to
see in such a place--is in wonderful preservation. But though
perfectly legible, the archaic form of the characters and the numerous
abbreviations make it extremely difficult to decipher them. The tragic
ending of this most inauspicious love-making invests with a deep
pathos these faded yellow records of it that seem like the cold, gray
ashes of a once glowing fire. In the same cabinet is seen another and
altogether different production of this royal author--namely, the
dedication copy of the "Assertio Septem Sacramentorum adversus
Martinum Luther," written in Latin by Henry VIII. in defence of the
seven Roman Catholic Sacraments against Luther, and sent to Leo X.,
with the original presentation address and royal autograph. The book
is a good thick octavo volume, printed in London, in clear type, on
vellum, with a broad margin. Only two copies are in existence, one in
the Bodleian Library at Oxford, and the other in the Vatican. For this
theological dissertation Henry VIII. received from the Pope the title
of "Defender of the Faith," which has descended to the Protestant
monarchs of England ever since, and is now inscribed on our coinage.
Luther, several of whose manuscripts are in the Library, published a
vigorous reply, in which he treated his royal opponent with scant
ceremony. The author himself had no scruple in setting it aside when
his personal passions were aroused. And Rome has put this inconsistent
book beside the letters to Anne Boleyn, as it were in the pillory here
for the condemnation of the world.

But deeply interesting as were these literary curiosities, I soon
turned from them and became engrossed with the priceless manuscript of
the Greek Scriptures. I had very little time to inspect it, for I was
afraid to exhaust the patience of the librarian. In appearance the
manuscript is a quarto volume bound in red morocco; each of the pages
being about eleven inches long, and the same in breadth. This is the
usual size of the greater number of ancient manuscripts, very few
being in folio or octavo, and in this particular resembling printed
books. Each page has three columns, containing seventeen or eighteen
letters in a line. It is supposed that this arrangement of the writing
was borrowed directly from the most primitive scrolls, whose leaves
were joined together lengthwise, so that their contents always
appeared in parallel columns, as we see in the papyrus rolls that have
recently been discovered. This peculiarity in the two or three
manuscripts which possess it, is regarded as a proof of their very
high antiquity. The writing on almost every page is so clear and
distinct that it can be read with the greatest ease.

What astonishes one most is the admirable preservation of this Codex,
notwithstanding that it must be nearly sixteen hundred years old. It
has quite a fresh and recent look; indeed many manuscripts not fifty
years old look much more ancient. No one, looking at the faded
handwriting of Tasso, Petrarch, and Henry VIII., beside it, would
imagine that they were newer by upwards of twelve hundred years. This
peculiarity it shares in common with the architectural remains of
imperial Rome, which time has dealt so tenderly with that they appear
far more recent than the picturesque ruins of our medieval castles and
abbeys. This singular look of freshness in the Vatican manuscript is
owing to three causes. In the first place, the vellum upon which it is
written is exceedingly fine and close-grained in texture, and
therefore has resisted the dust and discoloration of centuries, just
as the thin and close-grained Roman brick has withstood the ravages of
time. Every one is struck with the wonderful beauty of this vellum,
composed of the delicate skins of very young calves. And this feature
is a further proof of the high antiquity of the Codex, for the oldest
manuscripts are invariably written on the thinnest and whitest vellum,
while those of later ages are written on thick and rough parchment
which speedily became discoloured. In the second place, we have reason
to believe that the manuscript was for many ages almost hermetically
sealed in some forgotten recess of the Lateran and Vatican Libraries,
and thus unconsciously guarded from the attacks of time. In the third
place, a careful scrutiny of the individual lines reveals the curious
fact that the whole manuscript, six or seven centuries after it had
been written, was gone over by a writer, who, finding the letters
faint and yellow, had touched them up with a blacker and more
permanent ink.

It is a strange circumstance that none of the facsimile
representations of the pages of the manuscript that have been
published give a correct idea of the original, with the exception of
that of Dean Burgon in 1871. Not only do the number of lines in a
given space in all the so-called facsimiles differ from that of the
manuscript, but the general character of the letters is widely
different. The importance of seeing the original, therefore, for
purposes of study, is apparent. The uncial letters are very small and
neat, upright and regular, and their breadth is nearly equal to their
height. They are very like those in the manuscript rolls of
Herculaneum. Originally the manuscript had no ornamental initial
letters, marks of punctuation, or accents; a small interval of the
breadth of a letter at the end of particular sections serving as a
simple mode of punctuation. The number of such divisions into sections
is very considerable,--one hundred and seventy occurring in St.
Matthew; sixty-one in St. Mark; one hundred and fifty-two in St. Luke;
and eighty in St. John,--and in this respect the Vatican Codex is
unique. Where these divisions do not occur, the writing is continuous
for several consecutive pages. Thus, while each of the beatitudes,
each of the parables, and each of the series of generations in the
genealogies of our Lord, are marked off into separate paragraphs by
the small empty spaces referred to, there is no break in the text from
the twenty-fourth verse of the seventeenth chapter of the Gospel of
St. Matthew to the seventeenth verse of the twentieth chapter. So much
has space been economised, that when the writer finished one book he
began another at the top of the very next column; and throughout the
manuscript there are very few breaks, and only one entire column left
blank. This empty space is very significant; it occurs at the end of
the eighth verse of the sixteenth chapter of St. Mark's Gospel,--thus
omitting altogether the last twelve verses with which we are familiar.
That this was done purposely is evident, for it involved a departure
from the writer's usual method of continuous writing. The blank column
testifies that he knew of the existence of this gap at the end of the
Gospel, but did not know of any thoroughly trustworthy material with
which to fill it up. And acting upon this authority our Revisers have
printed the passage that has been supplied as an appendix, and not as
a portion of the original Gospel of St. Mark. The only attempt at
ornamentation in the Vatican manuscript is found at the end of
Lamentations, Ezekiel, St. John's Gospel, and the Acts of the
Apostles, where "an arabesque column of crossed lines, with dots in
the intersections at the edge," and surmounted by the well-known
monogram of Christ, so frequent in the inscriptions of the Catacombs,
composed of the letter P in a cruciform shape, has been delicately and
skilfully executed by the pen of the scribe. Most of the books have
also brief titles and subscriptions.

Such was the original state of the Codex, but the critic of the ninth
or tenth century already referred to introduced a great many changes.
Not only did he deepen the colour of the ink; he, as Dean Burgon tells
us, also accentuated the words carefully throughout, marking all the
initial vowels with their proper breathings. He also placed instead of
the small initial letter of each book an illuminated capital six times
the size of the original uncial, painted in bright red and blue
colours which have still retained nearly all their old brilliancy. At
the top of the column, whenever a new book commenced, he also placed a
broad bar painted in green, with three little red crosses above it.
Nor was this all; he exercised his critical judgment in revising the
text, and marking his approval or disapproval by certain significant
indications. "What he approved of he touched up anew with ink, and
added the proper accents; what he condemned he left in the faded brown
caligraphy of the original and without accentuation." In this way the
Codex may be called a kind of palimpsest, in which we have some
portions of the original manuscript, and the rest overlaid with the
later revision. We must discriminate carefully between these two
elements; for it is obvious that it is the oldest portion that is most
interesting and suggestive.

The Codex consists of upwards of one thousand five hundred pages, of
which two hundred and eighty-four are assigned to the New Testament.
Originally it contained the whole Bible, and also the Apocrypha and
the Epistle of St. Clement to the Corinthians; which last was so much
esteemed by the early Christians that it was regularly read in the
churches, and bound up with the Scriptures--to which circumstance,
indeed, we are indebted for its preservation to our own time. At
present the greater part of Genesis and a part of the Psalms are
missing from the old Testament; while, in the New Testament, the
Epistle to Philemon, the three Pastoral Epistles, the latter part of
the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the Apocalypse, in the original
handwriting, are lost; their place having been supplied, it is said,
in the fifteenth century, from a manuscript belonging to Cardinal
Bessarion. From the evidence of its materials--arrangement and style
of writing--the very high antiquity of this Codex may be inferred. It
is generally supposed to have been written in the beginning of the
fourth century. Vercellone, who edited Cardinal Mai's version of it,
argues, from the remarkable correspondence of its text with that used
by Cyril of Alexandria in his Commentary on St. John, that it must
have been written at Alexandria, where there was a band of remarkably
skilful caligraphists. He believes that it was one of the fifty
manuscript copies of the Holy Scriptures which Eusebius, by order of
the emperor Constantine the Great, got prepared in the year 332 for
the use of the Christian Church in the newly-formed capital of
Constantinople. And a circumstance that seems to corroborate this
opinion is, that the Vatican Codex does not contain, as has already
been mentioned, the last twelve verses of St. Mark's Gospel, a
peculiarity which Eusebius says belongs to the best manuscripts of the
Gospels. On this supposition, the Vatican Codex would be the very
first edition of the Bible that had the seal of a sovereign authority.

But it may be of even older date than the time of Constantine, for its
marginal references do not correspond with the Eusebian canons; and
this fact would seem to imply that it belonged to the third century.
Its only rival in point of antiquity is the famous Sinaitic Codex,
known by the Hebrew letter [Hebrew: alef], discovered in a most
romantic way by Tischendorf in the Convent of St. Catherine on Mount
Sinai. Tischendorf has pronounced a decided opinion, not only that
this manuscript is of the same age as the Vatican one, but that the
Vatican manuscript was written by one of the four writers who, he
infers from internal evidence, must have been employed upon the
Sinaitic Codex. This opinion, however, has been disputed by other
scholars; and it seems improbable, for the Sinaitic Codex has four
columns to the page, whereas the Vatican Codex has only three. Its
uncial letters are also much larger and plainer than those of the
Vatican manuscript; and it has the Ammonian sections and Eusebian
canons written in all probability by the original hand.

There can be little doubt that the Vatican manuscript goes, if not
farther, at least as far back in date as the Council of Nice, and is
the oldest and most valuable of extant monuments of sacred antiquity.
It may have been transcribed directly from some Egyptian papyrus, or
through the medium of only one intervening prototype. Perhaps it was a
single copy saved from the fate of many surrendered to be burned by
the class of Christian renegades called _traditores_, who averted the
martyr's death in the great Diocletian persecution by giving up the
sacred books of their religion to their enemies. For this pagan
emperor endeavoured not only to deprive the Christian Church of its
teachers, like his predecessors, but also to destroy the sacred
writings upon which the faith of the Church was founded, and whose
character and claims were beginning at this time to be generally
recognised. The Alexandrine Codex--which is placed first on the list
of uncial manuscripts, and therefore distinguished by the letter
A--belongs undoubtedly to a more recent time. It is said by tradition
to have been written by a noble Egyptian martyr named Thecla about the
beginning of the fifth century, and was sent as a present to Charles
I. by Cyrillus Lucaris, patriarch of Constantinople, who brought it
from Alexandria. It is now one of the greatest treasures of the
British Museum. The voice of tradition is confirmed by internal
evidence, for it has only two columns in a page, while capital letters
of different sizes abound, and vermilion is frequently introduced--all
marks of the period indicated.

How or when the Codex Vaticanus was brought to the Vatican Library is
a matter that is altogether involved in obscurity. It probably formed
part of the library in the Lateran Palace, which goes nearly as far
back as the time of Constantine, and was transferred along with the
other contents of that library to the Vatican in 1450 by Pope Nicholas
V. We first hear of it distinctly in a letter written to Erasmus in
1533 by Sepulveda; although there is a somewhat obscure reference to
it a few years earlier in the correspondence of the Papal librarian
Bombasius with Erasmus. A Roman edition of the Septuagint portion
based upon the Vatican MS. appeared in 1587. After that period to 1780
it was several times collated; among others, by Bartolocci, the
Vatican librarian; by Bentley, who employed for the purpose the Abbate
Mico and Rulotta; and by Birch of Copenhagen, who travelled under the
auspices of the King of Denmark. Along with many of the best
sculptures and most valuable art-treasures of the Vatican, the
precious Codex was taken to Paris in 1810 by order of Napoleon
Buonaparte, that unscrupulous robber of foreign palaces and churches
for the aggrandisement of his own capital; and while there it was
carefully examined by the celebrated critic, J.L. Hug, who was the
first to determine, from the nature of its materials and its internal
evidence, its very great antiquity. When it was restored, along with
the other spoils of the great Roman Palace, it was sealed up by its
jealous possessors, and could no longer be consulted for critical
purposes. In 1843 Tischendorf could only see it for two days of
three hours each. Tregelles, who went to Rome in 1845 for the
special purpose of consulting the Codex, provided with a
strongly-recommendatory letter of introduction from Cardinal Wiseman,
was only permitted to see it, but not to transcribe any of its
readings. His pockets, as he himself tells us, were searched, and his
pen, ink, and paper taken away, before he was allowed to open it; and
if he looked at a passage too long the manuscript was snatched rudely
from his hands by the two prelates in watchful attendance. When Dean
Alford, in 1861, made use of the manuscript for four days, his labours
of collation were carried on in the face of much opposition from the
librarian, who insisted that the order of Antonelli permitted him only
to see the manuscript, but not to verify passages in it.

The reason alleged to the scholars of Europe for this childish
jealousy was that the authorities of the Vatican were themselves
preparing to publish a thorough collation, and they did not wish the
glory of the achievement to pass away from Rome. Cardinal Mai began,
indeed, to prepare an edition for publication in 1828; but it did not
appear till 1857, three years after the cardinal's death, under the
learned editorship of Vercellone. There was a rumour copied into the
_Edinburgh Review_ from Sir Charles Lyell's work on the United States,
that the cardinal was prevented from publishing his work by Pope
Gregory XVI., on account of its variations from the Vulgate, which had
been solemnly sanctioned by the decrees of the Council of Trent and
the Church's claims to infallibility. It was further asserted that he
finally obtained permission to publish his edition on condition that
he inserted within brackets the celebrated text 1 John v. 7, which was
wanting in the manuscript. Whether this was true or not, it is certain
that what the learned cardinal gave to the world was more an edition,
a critical recension of the text, than a faithful transcript of the
Vatican Codex. Although he had the MS. with him at his residence in
the Palazzo Altieri--a circumstance which gave rise to the belief at
the time that it had disappeared during the French occupation of
Rome--he could only bestow upon the arduous task the scanty leisure
available from more engrossing duties. The work was therefore so
imperfectly done that the cardinal himself was reluctant to publish
it; and the learned and honest Barnabite under whose editorial
auspices it appeared was obliged to append a formidable list of
errata, and to make a gentle apology in his preface for his friend's
inaccuracies. But, with all its defects, the five quarto volumes of
the cardinal's reprint has added largely to our critical knowledge of
the Codex; and it derives a special interest from the circumstance
that it was the first time the Greek Scriptures had ever been
published in Rome.

Since then Tischendorf, during his second visit to the Eternal City,
had an audience of Pope Pius IX., and offered to bring out at his own
expense an edition of the Vatican Codex similar to that which he had
prepared, under the auspices of the Russian emperor, of the Sinaitic
Codex. This request the Pope refused, under the old pretext that he
wished to publish such an edition himself. Tischendorf, however, was
allowed to use the manuscript more freely than on the former occasion;
though several times it was taken away from him, and his labours
interrupted, because of alleged breaches of faith on his part. The
result of this unusual privilege was that the great Textuary has
issued by far the most accurate and satisfactory edition which we
possess at present. Pius IX. carried out his intention of publishing a
Roman edition in five volumes, printed by the famous press of the
Propaganda. The New Testament instalment appeared under the editorship
of Vercellone and Cozza in 1868; but Vercellone dying soon after, the
subsequent volumes were prepared under less able supervision. The
famous manuscript therefore labours under the disadvantage of
uncertainty, there being no guarantee that any reading is really that
of the original. And while the Alexandrine Codex has been reproduced
by photography, and the Sinaitic Codex has been faithfully published,
the exact palæography, or the genuine text as it stands, of the
Vatican Codex is still a desideratum among scholars.

The total disappearance of all manuscripts previous to the Vatican
Codex is a matter of surprise, for it has been calculated on
sufficient evidence that many thousands of copies of the Gospels were
circulated among Christians at the end of the second century. The loss
may be attributed to the fact that the older manuscripts were written
on less enduring materials. Previous to the second century the
principal writing material was paper made of papyrus, a plant found at
one time not only in Egypt, but also in the north of Palestine and
various parts of southern Italy and Sicily, although now almost
extirpated; and we have reason to believe, from one or two incidental
notices in St. John's writings, that it was the material employed by
the apostles themselves. This papyrus paper was of a very perishable
nature, and manuscripts written on it, apart from the wear and tear of
continual use, would succumb to the process of decay in a
comparatively short period. We are indebted for the preservation of
all the papyrus manuscripts that have come down to us from a remote
antiquity to the fact of their having been kept in exceptionally
favourable circumstances, as in the hermetically-sealed interiors of
Egyptian tombs. Those exposed to the air have all disappeared ages
ago. In the second century parchment was brought into common use as a
writing material, and papyrus paper gradually fell into disuse. And
with the change of material the shape of manuscripts was changed; the
ancient form of the papyrus-roll giving place, in manuscripts written
on parchment, to the form of books with leaves. How we should value
the original rolls which contained the handwriting of the evangelists
and apostles! With what profound interest should we gaze upon the
signature and salutation of St. Paul affixed to the Epistles which he
dictated to an amanuensis on account of his defective eyesight! How we
should prize the apostolic autograph of the Epistle to the Galatians,
of which the writer says, "Ye see how large a letter I have written
unto you with mine own hand." What a thrill would pass through us at
the sight of those two pastoral Epistles, at the close of which St.
John says,--"I had many things to write, but I will not with pen and
ink write unto thee"! Our legitimate veneration, however, would be apt
to pass over into idolatrous superstition. We should worship such
precious documents as the early Christians worshipped the relics of
the saints. It was, therefore, a wise providential arrangement that
such a temptation should have been taken out of the way. All the
original manuscripts of the sacred writings disappeared, on account of
the fragile character of their materials, probably in a few years
after the death of the writers, no special care having been taken to
preserve them; and, as Dr. Westcott has remarked, not a single
authentic appeal is made to them in the religious disputes regarding
the exact words of certain passages in the Gospels and Epistles in the
writings of the second century.

But though the Vatican Codex is the oldest manuscript of the New
Testament in existence, it does not follow from that circumstance that
it is the most reliable. Widely different views of its critical value
are entertained by scholars. By some it has been accepted as the most
authoritative of all versions, while others have regarded it as one of
the most corrupt and imperfect. Indeed the conjecture has been
hazarded that the very circumstance of its continued preservation
during so many centuries is a proof that it was an unreliable copy
long laid aside, and therefore exempt from the wear and tear under
which genuine copies of the same date have long ago perished. These
extreme views, however, are unjust. While it is not free from many
gross inaccuracies and faults, it presents upon the whole a very fair
idea of the Greek Vulgate of the early Church, and is worthy of as
much respect at least as any single document in existence. The chief
peculiarity of the Codex is the large number of important omissions in
it; so that, as Dr. Dobbin says, it presents an abbreviated text of
the New Testament. A few of these omissions were wilfully made, while
the large majority were no doubt caused by the carelessness of the
writer in transcribing from the copy before him; for there are several
instances of his having written the same words and clauses twice over.
On the supposition of the MS. being one of the fifty prepared at
Constantine's order, the extreme haste with which such a task would be
executed would account for the multitude of clerical errors. Besides
the last verses of the Gospel of St. Mark already alluded to, and no
less than three hundred and sixty-four other omissions in the same
Gospel of greater or less moment, the doxology at the end of the
Lord's Prayer, in Matthew vi. 13, is wanting; as also the description
of the agony of the Saviour and the help of the angel in Luke xxii.
43, 44; the important clause, "For he was before me," in John i. 27;
the miraculous troubling of the water in the Pool of Bethesda in John
v. 3, 4; the narrative of the adulterous woman in John vii. 53 to
viii. 11; the question of Philip and the answer of the Ethiopian
eunuch in Acts viii. 37; the significant and affecting incidents in
Paul's conversion mentioned in Acts ix. 5, 6; and the well-known
disputed text of the _Three witnesses in Heaven_, in 1 John v. 7.
These omitted passages, which, from internal evidence, apart from the
external testimony of the largest number of critical documents, we
must acknowledge to be genuine, are the most serious of the lacunæ,
amounting altogether to the extraordinary number of two thousand four
hundred and fifty-six. They give the document a very distinctive
character; while even the less striking disappearances from the text,
which can only be apprehended on a close collation, more or less
affect the sense. German critics have stamped several of these
omissions with their approbation, especially those referring to the
supernatural, owing to their well-known repugnance to the miraculous
element in Scripture.

There are other peculiarities of the Codex which greatly interested me;
but the discussion of them would require me to go too much into critical
details. I must mention, however, the occasional use in the manuscript
of a Latinised orthography. The name of Silvanus, for instance,
mentioned in 1 Peter v. 12, is rendered into the Latinised Greek
_Silbanou_, instead of Silouanou, the common Greek form; and in 2 Peter
iii. 10, instead of the last word of the verse, _katakaêsetai_, "shall
be burned up," occurs the singular word _eurethesetai_,--which means,
"shall be found." The Syriac and one Egyptian version have the reading
"shall not be found"; and either the "not" was accidentally omitted when
the Vatican Codex was copied from an earlier exemplar that had that
reading, or the writer had some confused idea of the Latin word
_urerentur_, "shall be burnt up," in his mind, and adopted the word
_eurethesetai_ from its resemblance to it--as a Latin root with a Greek
inflection. Some curious examples of Latin forms and constructions might
be given; and this circumstance has led to the hypothesis that the
origin of the Vatican manuscript might, after all, have been Italian,
and not Alexandrian as is commonly supposed. The Codex has also been
accused of theological bias; for in John i. 18, "only begotten God" is
substituted for "only begotten Son." This is considered by some to be a
reference to the polemics of the fourth century regarding the Arian
doctrines; although this supposition would make it of later date. The
order of the books of the New Testament in the Codex is different from
that with which we are familiar. The Catholic Epistles from James to
Jude follow the Acts, according to the order of the ancient Greek
Church; then come the Pauline Epistles; and the Epistle to the Hebrews
comes in between the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians and First
Timothy. Its sections, however, are numbered as if it had originally
been placed between the Epistles to the Galatians and Ephesians; thus
showing that this was the arrangement in the older document from which
the Codex was copied. One of the Moscow manuscripts, it may be
mentioned in connection with this novelty in location, places the
Epistle to the Hebrews in a position as abnormal as in the Vatican
manuscript--namely, before the Epistle to the Romans.

In the formation of the Received Text of our New Testament, the
Vatican manuscript was not employed. The basis of the early printed
editions--the Elzevir and those of Robert Stephens the celebrated
Parisian printer--was the Greek New Testament of Erasmus, published in
1516, compiled with the aid of such manuscripts as he found at Basle,
and the Complutensian Polyglot--so called after Complutum, the modern
Alcala, in Spain, where it was printed in 1522, under the patronage of
Cardinal Ximenes, whose text was said to have been formed from
manuscripts sent from the Papal Library at Rome--the Vatican Codex
certainly not being among the number, as abundantly appears from
internal evidence. But though the Vatican manuscript was not employed
in the construction of our Authorised Version, it has recently been
used as the chief authority by the New Testament Revisers. Drs.
Westcott and Hort have built up their Greek text with special
deferential regard to it; and this exclusive devotion has been
severely condemned by several critics, such as Dean Burgon, who regard
it as an endeavour to balance a pyramid upon its apex. But apart from
the contradictory views of such textuaries, there can be no doubt that
the Vatican Codex has been of the greatest service in these later days
in correcting the Authorised Version, and helping to restore the
sacred text as nearly as possible to the purity of the original
autographs. And it has added its most valuable testimony to that of
the many other ancient manuscripts of the Sacred Writings in
existence, that, notwithstanding unimportant variations of readings
naturally caused by the great multiplication of copies, the sacred
text from the time when it first appeared to the present has been
preserved substantially uncorrupt; so that we have the same divine
truth presented to us that was presented to the Christians of the
ages immediately succeeding the time of the apostles.

With all these remarkable associations and points of interest
connected with the Vatican manuscript, it is not to be wondered at
that I should gaze upon it with a species of veneration. It
transported me in imagination to a period when the canon of the New
Testament was as yet in a state of flux. The evidence of the
Muratorian fragment in the Ambrosian Library at Milan shows to us that
the separate books of the New Testament had indeed been collected into
one; and a belief in their Divine inspiration equally with the Old
Testament Scriptures had begun to be entertained. But there was as yet
no prevailing unanimity of opinion as to what books should be admitted
into the Canon and what books should be excluded. No formal attempt
had as yet been made to reconcile conflicting testimonies; or, if
made, the recensions undertaken did not meet with general acceptance.
Even a good many years afterwards, as late as at the Council of
Laodicea in 361, doubts were still expressed as to the claims of the
Apocalypse to canonicity. This book was not originally included in the
Vatican Codex; for the manuscript copy of it bound up in the volume is
of much later date, and in a different handwriting. And this
hesitation regarding the full recognition of certain books, proves the
great care that was exercised, and the deep sense of responsibility
that was felt, in the collection of the other books. The formation of
the sacred Canon was done gradually and imperceptibly; but the result
to every thoughtful mind is more suggestive of the inspiration of that
Spirit whose operation is like the wind that bloweth where it listeth,
and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it
cometh and whither it goeth--than if the process had been more formal
and conspicuous.



The Gospel first came to Europe in circumstances similar to those in
which it came into human history. Through poverty, shame, and
suffering--through the manger, the cross, and the sepulchre--did our
Saviour accomplish the salvation of the world; through stripes and
imprisonment, through the gloom of the inner dungeon and the pain and
shame of the stocks, did Paul and Silas declare at Philippi the glad
tidings of salvation. Out of the midnight darkness which enveloped the
apostles of the Cross, as they sang in the prison, came the marvellous
light that was destined to illumine all Europe. Out of the stocks
which held fast the feet that came to the shores of the West shod with
the preparation of the gospel of peace, to proclaim deliverance to the
captives, sprang that glorious liberty which has broken every fetter
that bound the bodies and souls of men throughout Christendom. After
the earthquake that shook the prison walls and released the prisoners
came the still, small voice of power, which overthrew the tyrannies
and superstitions of ages, and remade society from its very

Very similar were the circumstances in which the apostle landed at the
quay of Puteoli. A weary, worn-out prisoner, accused by his own
countrymen, on his way to be judged at the tribunal of the Roman
emperor, associated with a troop of malefactors, St. Paul
disembarked, on the 3d of May of the year 59, from the ship _Castor
and Pollux_, after having gone through storm and shipwreck, and first
touched the shore of the wonderful land destined afterwards to be the
scene of the mightiest triumphs of the Gospel, and the most
enlightened centre for its diffusion throughout the world. Like the
birth of Rome itself, whose obscure foundation, according to the
beautiful myth, was laid by the outcast son of a Vestal Virgin, the
kingdom of the despised virgin-born Jesus of Nazareth that cometh not
with observation, stole unawares, amid the meanest circumstances, into
the very heart of the Roman world. Momentous events were taking place
at the time throughout the Roman Empire, attracting all eyes, and
engaging the attention of all minds; but the unnoticed landing at
Puteoli of the humble Jewish prisoner, judging by its marvellous
results, was by far the most important. It marked a new era in the
history of the world. And there was something significant in the
coincidence that St. Paul should have come to the Italian shore in the
ship _Castor and Pollux_, the names not merely of the patrons of
sailors, but also of the saviours of Rome. The mighty empire which
human tyranny had established has crumbled to pieces, and we walk
to-day amid its ruins; but the kingdom of peace and righteousness
which Paul came to inaugurate has spread from that coign of vantage
over all the earth, and in a world of death and change has impressed
upon the minds of men with a new force the idea of the eternal and the

Earth holds no fairer scene than that which met the apostle's gaze as
he entered the bay of Puteoli. "See Naples, and die," is the cuckoo
cry of the modern tourist who visits this enchanted region; and such a
vision is indeed worthy to be the last imprinted upon a human retina.
It is called by the Italians themselves "Un pezzo di cielo caduto in
terra," a piece of heaven fallen upon earth. Shores that curve in
every line of beauty, holding out arm-like promontories, into whose
embrace the tideless sea runs up; mountain-ranges whose tops in
winter are covered with snow, and whose sides are draped with the
luxuriant vegetation of the South; a large city rising in a series of
semicircular terraces from the deep azure of the sea to the deep azure
of the mountains, whose eastern architecture flushes to a vivid rosy
hue in the afternoon light like some fabled city of the poets; and
dominating the glorious horizon the double peak of Vesuvius forming
the centre in which all the features of landscape loveliness are
focussed--crowned by its pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night.
Such is the picture upon which travellers crowd from the ends of the
earth to gaze.

Nor was the view different in its most important elements in the days
of the apostle. The same great forms of the landscape met the eye; and
the same magic play of light and colour, the same jewel-points
flashing in the waters, the same gleams of purple and crimson
wandering over town, and vineyard, and wood, transfigured the scene
then, which gives it more than half its loveliness now. But its human
elements were different. Swarming with life as are these shores at the
present day, they were even more populous then. Where we now wander
through picturesque ruins and silent solitudes, prosperous towns and
villages stood; and temples, palaces, and summer houses of patrician
magnificence crowded upon each other to such an extent that the sea
itself was invaded, and an older Venice rose from the waters along the
curves of its bays. The shores of Baiæ were the very centre of Roman
splendour. The emperor and his court spent a large part of the year
there; and noble families, that elsewhere had domains miles in extent,
were there satisfied with the smallest space upon which they could
build a house and plant a garden. Pompeii and Herculaneum, in all
their reckless gaiety, lay, unconscious of danger, at the foot of
Vesuvius, then a grassy mountain wooded to the summit with oak and
chestnut, and known from time immemorial as a field of pasture for
flocks and herds. The Bay of Misenum, now so solitary that the scream
of the sea-fowl is almost the only sound that breaks the stillness,
was crowded with the vessels of the Roman fleet, commanded by Pliny;
and its waters were alive with the pleasure-boats of the patrician
youths, filling the air with the music of their laughter and song.
Puteoli, or, as it is now called, Pozzuoli, a dull and stagnant
fourth-rate town, was then the Liverpool of Italy, carrying on an
immense trade in corn between Egypt and the western provinces of the
Roman Empire. It rivalled Delos in magnificence, and was called the
Little Rome. It had a splendid forum and harbour, and was guarded by
fortifications which resisted the repeated attacks of Hannibal. In
this region almost every famous Roman of the later days of the
Republic and the earlier days of the Empire had his sea-side villa to
which he retired from the noise and bustle of the Imperial City. It
was the Brighton or more properly the Bath of Rome; for though it was
frequented during the burning heats of summer for the sake of its
comparative coolness, it was principally chosen as a winter retreat to
escape from the frosts and snows of the north. Lucullus carried here
the gorgeous luxury and extravagance of his city life; here Augustus
and Hadrian had their palaces erected on vast piers thrown out into
the sea, whose waters still murmur over their remains; while Cicero
built here his _Puteolanum_, delightfully situated on the coast, and
surrounded by a shady grove, which he called his Academy, in imitation
of Plato, and where he composed his "Academia" and "De Fato." Hardly
an inch of the soil but is full of fragments of mosaic pavements. The
common stones of the road are often rich marbles, that formed part of
imperial structures; and the very dust on which you tread, if
analysed, would be found to be a powder of gems and precious stones.

But alas! in some of the fairest spots of earth man has been vilest;
and like the ancient Cities of the Plain, which stood in a region of
Edenic loveliness, the shores of the Bay of Naples were inhabited by
a race corrupted with the worst vices of Roman civilisation. Some of
the most dreadful crimes that have disgraced humanity were committed
on that radiant shore. Yonder sleeps in the azure distance the
enchanted isle of Capri, haunted for ever by dreadful memories of the
unnameable atrocities with which the Emperor Tiberius had stained its
peaceful bowers. On the neighbouring heights of Posilipo are traces of
the villa of Vedius, and of the celebrated fish-ponds where he fed his
_murenæ_ with the flesh of his disobedient slaves. On the shore of
Puteoli the apostle might have seen the remains of one of the maddest
freaks of imperial folly--the floating-bridge of Caligula, stretching
across the bay for nearly three miles, and decorated with the finest
mosaic pavements and sculpture. Over this useless bridge the insane
emperor drove in the chariot and armour of Alexander the Great, to
celebrate his triumph over the Parthians; and from it, on his return,
he ordered the crowd of inoffensive spectators to be hurled into the
sea. By withdrawing for the construction of this bridge the ships
employed in the harbour, the importation of corn was put a stop to,
and a grievous famine, felt even in Rome, was the result. And near at
hand was Bauli, where Nero--the very Cæsar to whom it is startling to
remember that St. Paul appealed, and before whom he was going to be
judged,--only two years before attempted the murder of his own mother,
Agrippina, which failed because of her discovery of the plot, but
which was most ruthlessly accomplished very soon afterwards. Here too
Marcellus was poisoned by Livia, that Tiberius might ascend the throne
of Augustus; and Domitian by Nero, that he might enjoy the wealth of
his aunt. Here Hadrian, a few days before his own miserable end,
compelled his beautiful and accomplished wife, Sabina, to put herself
to death, that she might not survive him in such a wretched world. And
in the cities at the foot of Vesuvius have been revealed to us, after
nature had kindly hidden them for eighteen centuries, tokens of a
depravity so utter, that we cannot help looking upon the fiery deluge
from the mountain, that soon after St. Paul's visit swept them out of
existence, as a Divine judgment like that of Sodom and Gomorrha. And
darker even than these monstrosities of wickedness was the divine
worship paid on these shores to the Roman emperors. It was a pitiable
spectacle when the sailors of an Alexandrian ship, coming into the
harbour of Puteoli, gave thanks for their prosperous voyage to the
dying Augustus, whom they met cruising on the waters vainly in search
of health, and offered him divine honours, which the gratified emperor
accepted, and rewarded with gifts. But what shall we think of the
worship of the god Caligula and the god Nero? Surely a people who
could raise altars and offer sacrifices to such unmitigated monsters
must have lost the very conception of religion. Not only virtue, but
the very belief in any source of virtue, must have been utterly
extirpated in them. When Herod spoke, the people said it was the voice
of God; and he was smitten with worms because he gave not God the
glory. And surely the superhuman wickedness of the Cæsars may be
regarded as a punishment, equally significant, of the fearful
blasphemy of the worshipped and the worshippers.

No wonder that the shores of Baiæ now present a picture of the saddest
desolation. Where man sins, there man suffers. The relation between
human crime and the barren wilderness is still as inflexibly
maintained as at the first. Until all recollection of the iniquities
of the place has passed away it is fitting that these silent shores
should remain the desert that they are. We should not wish the old
voluptuous magnificence revived; and these myrtle bowers can never
more regain the charm of virgin solitudes untainted by man. Italy,
like Palestine, has thus an accursed spot in its fairest region--a
visible monument to all ages, of the great truth that the tidal wave
of retribution will inevitably overwhelm every nation that forgets the
eternal distinctions of right and wrong.

St. Paul was a man of keen sensibilities and strong imagination. He
must therefore at Puteoli have been deeply impressed at once with the
loveliness of nature and the wickedness of man. The contrast would
present itself to him in a very painful manner. As at Athens--where
his spirit was moved within him when he saw the city wholly given up
to idolatry--so here he must have had that noble indignation against
the iniquities of the place--the outrages committed on the laws of
God, and the dishonour done to the nature of man made in the Divine
image--to which David and Jeremiah, and all the loftiest spirits of
mankind, have given such stern and yet patriotic utterance. What
others were callous to, filled him with keen shame and sorrow. He who
could have wished that himself were accursed from Christ for his
brethren, his kinsmen according to the flesh, must have had a profound
pity for these wretched victims of profligacy, who were looking in
their ignorance for salvation to a brutal mortal worse than
themselves,--"the son of perdition, sitting in the temple of God,
showing that he was God." And to this feeling of indignation and
sorrow, because of the wickedness of the place, must have been added a
feeling of personal despondency. From the significant circumstance
that the apostle thanked God, and took courage, when he met the
Christian brethren at Apii Forum, we may infer that he had previously
great heaviness of spirit. He would be more or less than human, if on
setting his foot for the first time on the native soil of the
conquerors of his country, and the lords of the whole world, and
seeing on every side, even at this distance from the imperial city,
overwhelming evidences of the luxury and power of the empire, he did
not feel oppressed with a sense of personal insignificance. Evil had
throned itself there on the high places of the earth, and could mock
at the puny efforts of the followers of Jesus to cast it down.
Idolatry had so deeply rooted itself in the interests and passions of
men which were bound up in its continuance, that it seemed a foolish
dream to expect that it would be supplanted by the preaching of the
Cross, which to St. Paul's own people was a stumbling-block and to all
other nations foolishness. And who was he that he should undertake
such a mission--a weak and obscure member of a despised race, a
prisoner chained to a soldier, appealing to Cæsar against the
condemnation of his own countrymen. We can well believe, that
notwithstanding the sustaining grace that was given to him, the heart
of the apostle must have been very heavy when he stood in the midst of
the jostling crowd on the quay of Puteoli, and took the first step
there on Italian soil of his journey to Rome. He felt most keenly all
that a man can feel of the shame and offence of the Cross; but
nevertheless he was not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. And his
presence there on that Roman quay--a despised prisoner in bonds for
the sake of the Gospel--is a picture, that appeals to every heart, of
the triumph of Divine strength in the midst of human weakness; and a
most striking proof, moreover, that not by might, but by the Spirit of
love, does God bring down the strongholds of sin.

But God furnished a providential cure for whatever despondency the
apostle may have felt. No sooner did he land than he found himself
surrounded by Christian brethren, who cordially welcomed him, and
persuaded him to remain with them seven days. Such brotherly kindness
must have greatly cheered him; and the week spent among these loyal
followers of the Lord Jesus must have been a time of bodily and
spiritual refreshment opportunely fitting him for the trying
experiences before him. Doubtless these brethren were Jewish converts
to the Christian faith; for that there were Jewish residents at
Puteoli, residing in the Tyrian quarter of the city, we are assured by
Josephus; and this we should have expected from the mercantile
importance of the place and its intimate commercial relations with the
East. How they came under the influence of the Gospel we know not;
they may have been among "the strangers of Rome" who came to Jerusalem
at Pentecost to keep the national feasts in obedience to the Mosaic
Law, and who were then brought to the knowledge of the truth by the
preaching of St. Peter; or perhaps they were converts of St Paul's own
making, in some of the numerous places which he visited on his
missionary tours, and who afterwards came to reside for business
purposes at this port. We see in the presence of the Jewish brethren
at Puteoli one of the most striking illustrations of the providential
pre-arrangements made for the diffusion of the Gospel throughout all
nations. The Jews had a more than ordinary attachment to their native
land. Patriotism in their case was not only a passion, but a part of
their religion; and their love of country was entwined with the
holiest feelings of their nature. In Jerusalem alone could God be
acceptably worshipped. And yet it was divinely ordered that those who
had been for ages the hermits of the human race should become all at
once the most cosmopolitan, when the time for imparting to the world
the benefits of their isolated religious training had come. And the
Jews thus scattered abroad preserved amid their alien circumstances
their national worship and customs, and thus became the natural links
of connection between the missionaries of the Cross and the Gentiles
whom they wished to reach. Through such Jewish channels the Gospel
speedily penetrated into remote localities, which otherwise it would
have taken a long time to reach. We are struck with distinct traces of
the Christian faith in the time of St. Paul in the most unexpected
places. For instance, in the National Museum at Naples I have seen
rings with Christian emblems engraved upon them, which were found at
Pompeii; proving beyond doubt that there had been followers of Jesus
even in that dissolute place, who, unlike Lot and his household, were
overwhelmed in the same destruction with those whose evil deeds must
have daily vexed their righteous souls. The same symbols which we find
in the Roman Catacombs,--the palm branch, the sacred fish the monogram
of Jesus, the dove, are unmistakably represented on these rings. Some
of them are double, indicating that they were used by married persons:
one has the palm branch twice repeated; another exhibits the palm and
anchor; a third has a dove with a twig in its bill; and one ring has
the Greek word _elpis_--hope--inscribed upon it.

St. Paul at Puteoli may be said to have dwelt among his own people.
Not only was he with his own countrymen and fellow-disciples, but he
was in the midst of associations that forcibly recalled his home. The
apostle was a citizen of a Greek city, and the language in which he
spoke was Greek; and here, in the Bay of Naples, he was in the midst
of a Greek colony, where Roman influence had not been able to efface
the deep impression which Greece had made upon the place. The original
name of the splendid expanse of water before him was the Bay of Cumæ;
and Cumæ was absolutely the first Greek settlement in the western
seas. Neapolis or Parthenope was the beautiful Greek name of the city
of Naples, testifying to its Hellenic origin; and Dicæarchia was the
older Greek name of Puteoli, a name used to a late period in
preference to its Latin name, derived from the numerous mineral
springs in the neighbourhood. The whole lower part of Italy was wholly
Greek; its arts, its customs, its literature, were all Hellenic; and
its people belonged to the pure Ionic race whose keen imaginations and
vivid sensuousness seemed to have been created out of the fervid hues
and the pellucid air of their native land. Everywhere the subtle Greek
tongue might be heard; and all, so far as Greek influence was
concerned, was as unchanged in the days of the apostle as when
Pythagoras visited the region, and adopted the inhabitants as the
fittest agents in his great scheme of universal regeneration. St. Paul
therefore, at Puteoli, might have imagined himself standing on the
very soil of classic Hellas, and felt as much at home as in his own
native city of Tarsus. This wide diffusion of the Greek language
throughout the West as well as the East at this time is another of
the remarkable providential pre-arrangements which prepared the way
for the preaching of the Gospel throughout the world. A Gentile
speech, by a series of wonderful events, was thus made ready over all
the world to receive and to communicate the glorious Gospel that was
to be preached to all nations.

The remains of the ancient pier upon which St. Paul landed may still
be seen. Indeed, no Roman harbour has left behind such solid
memorials. No less than thirteen of the buttresses that supported its
arches are left, three lying under water; all constructed of brick
held together by that Roman cement called pozzolana, after the town of
Pozzuoli, whose extraordinary tenacity rivals that of the living rock.
You can plant your feet upon the very stones upon which the apostle
must have stood. And if you happen to be there on the 3d of May you
will see a solemn procession of the inhabitants of the decayed town,
headed by their priests, celebrating the anniversary of this memorable
incident. The first conspicuous object upon which the eye of the
apostle would rest on landing would be the Temple of Neptune, of which
a few pillars are still standing in the midst of the water. Here
Caligula, in his mad passage over his bridge of boats, paused to offer
propitiatory sacrifices. Here, too, Cæsar, before he sailed to Greece
to encounter the forces of Antony at Actium, sacrificed to Neptune;
and here the crew of every ship presented offerings, in order to
secure favouring winds and waves when outward bound, or in gratitude
when returning home from a successful voyage. Beyond this he would see
in all its splendour the famous bathing establishment built over a
thermal spring near the sea, which has since been known as the Temple
of Serapis, an Egyptian deity, whose worship had spread widely in
Italy. Three tall columns of cipollino marble, belonging to the
portico of this building, are still standing, with their bases under
water; and they have acquired a world-wide interest, especially to
geologists, as records of the successive elevations and depressions
of the coast-line during the historical period; these changes being
indicated on their shafts by the different watermarks and the
perforations of marine bivalves or boring-shells well known to be
living in the Mediterranean Sea. In the upper part of the town, on a
commanding height, he would behold the Temple of Augustus, built for
the worship of the deified founder of the Roman Empire. A Christian
cathedral dedicated to St. Proculus, who suffered martyrdom in the
same year with St. Januarius, containing the tomb of Pergolesi, the
celebrated musical composer, now occupies the site of the pagan
shrine, and has six of its Corinthian pillars, that looked down upon
the apostle as he landed, built into its walls. A temple of Diana and
a temple of the Nymphs also adorned the town, from which numerous
columns and sculptures have been recently recovered. On every side the
apostle would see mournful tokens that the city was wholly given up to
idolatry,--to the worship of mortal men and an ignoble crowd of gods
and goddesses borrowed from all nations; and yet he had equally sad
proofs that the idolatry was altogether a hollow and heartless
pretence,--that the superstitious creed publicly maintained by the
city had long ceased to command the respect of its recognised

I walked up from the town along the remains of the Via Campana, a
cross-road that led from Puteoli to Capua and there joined the famous
Appian Way. Along this road the apostle passed on his way to Rome; and
it is still paved with the original lava-blocks upon which his feet
had pressed. One of the principal objects on the way is the
amphitheatre of Nero, with its tiers of seats, its arena, and its
subterranean passages, in a wonderful state of preservation, richly
plumed with the delicate fronds of the maiden-hair fern, which drapes
with its living loveliness so many of the ruins of Greece and Italy.
It was here that Nero himself rehearsed the parts in which he wished
to act on the more public stage of Rome. The sands of the arena were
dyed with the blood of St. Januarius, who was thrown to the wild
beasts by order of Diocletian, and whose blood is annually liquefied
by a supposititious miracle in Naples at the present day. Behind the
amphitheatre the apostle would get a glimpse of the famous Phlegræan
Fields so often referred to in the classic poets as the scene of the
wars of the gods and the giants.

This is the Holy Land of Paganism. All the scenery of the eleventh
book of the _Odyssey_ and of the sixth book of the _Æneid_ spreads
beneath the eye. At every step you come upon some spot associated with
the romantic literature of antiquity. From thence the imaginative
shapes of Greek mythology passed into the poetry of Rome. There
everything takes us back far beyond the birth of Roman civilisation,
and reminds us of the legends of the older Hellenic days, which will
exercise an undying spell on the higher minds of the human race down
to the latest ages. It is the land of Virgil, whose own tomb is not
far off; and under the guidance of his genius we visit the ghostly
Cimmerian shores, now bathed in glowing sunshine, and stand on spots
that thrilled the hearts of Hercules and Ulysses with awe. There the
terrible Avernus, to which the descent was so easy, sleeps in its deep
basin, long ago divested by the axe of Agrippa of the impenetrable
gloom and mysterious dread which its dark forests had created; its
steep banks partly covered with natural copsewood bright with a living
mosaic of cyclamens and lilies, and partly formed of cultivated
fields. During my visit the delicious odour of the bean blossom
pervaded the fields, reminding me vividly of familiar rural scenes far
away. Yonder is the subterranean passage called by the common people
the Sibyl's Cave, where Æneas came and plucked the golden bough, and,
led by the melancholy priestess of Apollo, went down to the dreary
world of the dead. It was the general tradition of Pagan nations that
the point of departure from this world, as well as the entrance to the
next, was always in the west. We find the largest number of the
prehistoric relics of the dead on the western shores of our own
country. The cave of Loch Dearg--at first connected with primitive
pagan rites and subsequently the traditional entrance to the Purgatory
of St. Patrick--is situated in the west of Ireland, and corresponds to
the cave of the Sibyl and the Lake of Avernus in Italy. Indeed the
word Avernus itself bears such a close resemblance to the Gaelic word
Ifrinn--the name of the infernal regions, and to the name of Loch
Hourn, the Lake of Hell, on the north-west coast of Scotland--that it
has given rise to the supposition that it was the legacy of a
prehistoric Celtic people who at one time inhabited the Phlegræan
Fields. On the other side of Lake Avernus is the Mare Morto, the Lake
or Sea of the Dead, with its memories of Charon and his ghostly crew,
which now shines in the setting sun like a field of gold sparkling
with jewels; and beyond it are the Elysian Fields, the abodes of the
blessed, the rich life of whose soil breaks out at every pore into a
luxuriant maze of vines and orange trees, and all manner of lovely and
fruitful vegetation. Still farther behind is the Acherusian Marsh of
the poets, now called the Lake of Fusaro, because hemp and flax are
put to steep in it; and the river Styx itself, by which the gods dare
not swear in vain, reduced to an insignificant rill flowing into the
sea. It is most interesting to think of the apostle Paul being
associated with this enchanted region. His presence on the scene is
necessary to complete its charm, and to remind us that the vain dreams
of those blind old seekers after God were all fulfilled in Him who
opened a door for us in heaven, and brought life and immortality to
light in the Gospel.

St. Paul must have noticed--though Scripture, intent only upon the
unfolding of the religious drama, makes no reference to it--the crater
of Solfatara, one of the most wonderful phenomena of this wonderful
region, for it lay directly in his path, and was only about a mile
distant from Puteoli. This was the famous Forum of Vulcan, where the
god fashioned his terrible tools, and shook the earth with the fierce
fires of his forge. On account of its gaseous fumaroles, and the
flames thrown out with a loud roaring noise from one gloomy cavern in
its side, this volcano may still be considered active. Its white
calcined crater is clothed in some places with green shrubs,
particularly with luxuriant sage, myrtle, and white heather; but an
eruption took place in it so late as 1198, during which a lava
current, a rare phenomenon in this district, flowed from its southern
edge to the sea, destroying the ancient cemetery on the Via Puteolana,
and forming the present promontory of Olibano. The ground sounds
hollow beneath a heavy tread, reminding one unpleasantly that but a
thin crust covers the fiery abyss which might break through at any
moment. With the exception of Vesuvius, this is the only surviving
remnant of the fierce elemental forces which have devastated this
coast in every direction. The whole region is one mass of craters of
various sizes and ages, some far older than Vesuvius, and others of
comparatively recent origin. They are all craters of eruption and not
of elevation; and in their formation they have interfered with and in
some cases almost obliterated pre-existing ones. Some of them are
filled with lakes, and others clothed with luxuriant vineyards, and
wild woods fit for the chase, or encircling cultivated fields. To one
looking upon it from a commanding position such as the heights of
Posilipo, the landscape presents a universally blistered appearance.
Hot mineral springs everywhere abound, often associated with the ruins
of old Roman baths; and the soil is a white felspathic ash, disposed
in layers of such fineness and regularity that they look as if they
had been stratified under water, the sea and the shore having
alternately given place to each other. Of the white earth abounding on
every side, which has given to the place the old name of Campi
Leucogæi, and is the result of the metamorphosis of the trachytic tufa
by the chemical action of the gases that rise up through the
fumaroles, a very fine variety of porcelain--known to collectors as
Capo di Monti--used to be made on the hill behind Naples, and it has
been supposed that the china clays of Cornwall and other places have
been produced from the felspars of the granites in a similar way. The
whole of the Solfatara crater has been enclosed for the purpose of
manufacturing alum from its soil. On the hillside to the north there
are several caverns, called _stufe_, from whence gas and hot steam
arise, and these are used by the inhabitants as admirable vapour
baths. So late as the year 1538 a terrible volcanic explosion,
accompanied with violent earthquakes, happened not far from Puteoli,
which threw up from the flat plain on which the village of Tripergola
stood, a mountain called Monte Nuovo, four hundred and forty feet high
and a mile and a half in circumference, consisting entirely of ashes
and cinders, obliterating a large part of the celebrated Leucrine
Lake, elevating the site of the temple of Serapis sixteen feet, and
then depressing it, and generally changing the old features of this
locality. This eruption gave relief to the throes of Lake Avernus,
which henceforth ceased to send forth its exhalations, and became the
cheerful garden scene which we now behold.

Here on a small scale, in the very neighbourhood of man's busiest
haunts, occur the cosmical cataclysms which are usually seen only in
remote solitudes, and which during the unknown ages of geology have
left their indelible records on large portions of the earth's surface.
Here we are admitted into the very workshop of Nature, and are
privileged to witness her processes of creation. In the neighbourhood
of Rome the volcanoes are long extinct. Nature is dead, and there is
nothing left but her cold gray ashes. But here we see her in all her
vigour, changing and renewing and mingling the ruins of her works in
strange association with those of man--the ashes of her volcanoes with
the fragments of temples and baths and the houses of Roman senators
and poets. The whole region lies over a burning mystery, and one has
a constant feeling of insecurity lest the ground should open suddenly
and precipitate one into the very heart of it. Naples itself, strange
to say, a city of more than five hundred thousand inhabitants, is
built in great part within an old broken-down volcanic crater, and the
proximity of its awful neighbour shows that it stands perilously on
the brink of destruction, and may share at any time the fate of
Pompeii and Herculaneum. Were it not for the safety-valves of Vesuvius
and Solfatara, the whole intermediate region, with its towns and
villages and swarming population, would be blown into the air by the
vehement forces that are struggling beneath. It was this elemental
war--fiercer, we have reason to believe, in classic times than
now--that gave rise to the religious fables of the poets. The gloomy
shades of Avernus, the tremendous battles of the gods, the dark
pictures of Tartarus and the Stygian river, were the supernatural
suggestions of a fiery soil. To the fierce throes of volcanic action
we owe the weird mythology of the ancients, which has imparted such a
profound charm to the region, and also, strange as it may seem, the
surpassing loveliness of Nature herself. The fairest regions of the
earth are ever those where the awful power of fire has been at work,
giving to the landscape that passionate expression which lights up a
human face with its most impressive beauty.

The visit of the apostle to Puteoli served many important purposes. He
who had sent his people Israel into Egypt and Babylon that they might
be benefited by coming into contact with other civilisations, sent St.
Paul to this famous region where Greece and Rome--which,
geographically and historically, were turned back to back, the face of
Greece looking eastward, the face of Italy looking westward--seemed to
meet and to blend into each other, in order that his sympathies might
be expanded by coming into contact with all that man could realise of
earthly glory or conceive of religion. We can trace the overruling
Hand that was shaping the destinies of the Church in the course which
he was led to take from Jerusalem to Damascus, and thence to Asia
Minor, Corinth, Athens, Philippi, Puteoli, and Rome; gathering as he
went along the fruits of all the wide diversity of experience and
culture characterising these places, to equip him more thoroughly for
his work for the Gentiles. And we see also how the doctrines of the
Gospel were becoming more clearly and fully unfolded by this method of
progression; how questions were settled and principles carried out
which have shown to us the exceeding riches of Divine grace in a way
that we could not otherwise have known. Like the lines and marks of
the chrysalis which appear on the body of the butterfly when it first
spreads out its wings to fly--like the folds of the bud which may be
seen in the newly-expanded leaf or flower--so Christianity at first
emerged from its Jewish sheath with the distinctive marks of Judaism
upon it. But as it passed westward from the Holy City, it slowly
extricated itself out of the spirit and the trammels of Judaism into
the self-restraining freedom which Christ gives to His people. The
teaching of the Gospel was fully developed, guarded from all possible
misinterpretation, and practically applied to all representative
circumstances of men, through its coming into contact with the events,
persons, and scenes associated with the wonderful missionary
journeyings of the apostle Paul, which began at Jerusalem and
terminated at Rome. When the Gospel reached the Imperial City, its
relations to Jews and Gentiles, bond and free, were fixed for ever,
its own form was perfected, and the conditions for its diffusion
matured; and its history henceforth, like that of Rome itself, was
synonymous with the history of the world.

_Printed by_ R. & R. CLARK, _Edinburgh_.


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