Page images

into effect, and the Roman law was adopted by consenting nations as the general code of the civilized world.

Rome, therefore, may still be said to rule nations; not, indeed, with the rod of power, but with the sceptre of justice; and may still be supposed to exercise the high commission of presiding over the world, and of regulating the destinies of mankind.


The Capitol was anciently both a fortress and a sanctuary. A fortress surrounded with precipices, bidding defiance to all the means of attack employed in ancient times; a sanctuary, crowded with altars and temples, the repository of the fatal oracles, the seat of the tutelar deities of the empire. Romulus began the grand work, by erecting the temple of Jupiter Feretrius-Tarquinius Priscus, Servius Tullius, and Tarquinius Superbus continued, and the consul, Horatius Pulvillus, a few years after the expulsion of the kings, completed it, with a solidity and magnificence, says Tacitus, which the riches of succeeding ages might adorn, but could not increase, It was burnt during the civil wars between Marius and Sylla, and rebuilt shortly after; but again destroyed by fire in the dreadful contest that took place in the very forum itself, and on the sides of the Capitoline Mount, between the partisans of Vitellius and Vespasian. This event, Tacitus laments, with The spirit and indignation of a Roman, as the greatest disaster that had ever befallen the city. And, indeed, if we consider the public archives, and of course the most valuable records of its history were deposited there, we must allow, that the catastrophe was peculiarly unfortunate, not to Rome only, but to

the world at large. However, the capitol rose once more from its ashes, with redoubled splendour, and received from the munificence of Vespasian, and of Domitian, his son, its last and most glorious embellishments. The edifices were probably in site and destination nearly the same as before the conflagration; but more attention was paid to symmetry, to costliness, and, above all, to grandeur and magnificence. The northern entrance led under a triumphal arch to the centre of the hill, and to the sacred grove, the asylum opened by Romulus, and almost the cradle of Roman power. On the right, on the eastern summit, stood the temple of Jupiter Feretrius. On the left, on the western summit, was that of Jupiter Custus; near each of these temples were the fanes of inferior divinities, that of Fortune and that of Fides alluded to by Cicero. In the midst, to crown the pyramid formed by such an assemblage of majestic edifices, rose the residence of the guardian of the empire, the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus on a hundred steps, supported by a hundred pillars, adorned with all the refinements of art, and blazing with the plunder of the world. In the centre of the temple, with Juno on his left, and Minerva on his right side, the thunderer sat on a throne of gold, grasping the lightning in one hand; and in the other wielding the sceptre of the universe. Hither the consuls were conducted by the senate, to assume the military dress, and to implore the favour of the Gods before they marched to battle. Hither the victorious generals used to repair in triumph, in order to suspend the spoils of conquered nations, to present captive monarchs, and to offer up hecatombs to Tarpeian Jove. Here, in cases of danger and distress, the senate was assembled, and the magistrates convened to deliberate in the presence, and under the immediate influence, of the tutelar gods of Rome. Here the laws were exhibited to public inspection, as if under the sanction

were deposited, Hither Cicero

of the divinity; and here, also, they as if intrusted to his guardian care. turned his hands and eyes, when he closed his first oration against Cataline, with that noble address to Jupiter, presiding in the capitol over the destinies of the empire, and dooming its enemies to destruction. In the midst of these magnificent structures, of this wonderful display of art and opulence, stood for ages the humble straw roofed palace of Romulus, a monument of primitive simplicity, dear and venerable in the eyes of the Romans. This cottage, it nay easily be supposed, vanished in the first conflagration. But not the cottage only, the temples, the towers, the palaces, also, that once surrounded it, have disappeared. Of all the ancient glory of the capitol, nothing now remains but the solid foundation, and vast substructions raised on the rock, Capitoli immobile saxum. Not only is the capitol fallen, but its very name, expressive of dominion, and once fondly considered as an omen of empire, is now almost lost in the semi-barbarous appellation of Campidoglio.



The Roman Forum now lay extended before us, a scene in the ages of Roman greatness of unparralleled splendor and magnificence. It was bordered on both sides with temples, and lined with statues. It terminated in triumphal arches, and was bounded here by the Palatine hill, with the imperial residence glittering on its summit, and there by the Capitol, with its ascending ranges of porticos and of temples. Thus it presented one of the richest exhibitions that eyes could behold, or human ingenuity invent. In the midst of these superb monuments, the memorials of their greatness, and the trophies of their

fathers, the Roman people assembled to exercise their sovereign power, and to decide the fates of heroes, of kings, and of nations.

Nor did the contemplation of such glorious objects fail to produce a corresponding effect. Manlius, as long as he could extend his arm, and fix the attention of the people on the Capitol which he had saved, suspended his fatal sentence. Caius Grac

chus melted the hearts of his audience, when in the moment of distress he pointed to the Capitol, and asked with all the emphasis of despair, whether he could expect to find an asylum in that sanctuary whose pavement still streamed with the blood of his brother. Scipio Africanus, when accused by an envious faction, and obliged to appear before the people as a criminal, instead of answering the charge, turned to the Capitol, and invited the assembly to accompany him to the temple of Jupiter, and give thanks to the gods for the defeat of Annibal and the Carthagenians. Such, in fact, was the influence of locality, and such the awe, interest, and even emotion, inspired by the surrounding edifices. Hence the frequent references that we find in the Roman historians, and orators of the Capitol, the Forum, the temples of the gods; and hence those noble addresses to the deities themselves, as present in their respective sanctuaries, and watching over the interests of their favoured city, "Ita præsentes his temporibus opem et auxilium nobis tulerunt, ut eos pene oculis videre possimus."

But the glories of the Forum are now fled for ever; its temples are fallen; its sanctuaries have crumbled into dust; its colonnades encumber its pavements now buried under their remains. The walls of the Rostra stripped of their ornaments, and doomed to eternal silence, a few shattered porticos, and here and there an insulated column standing in the midst of broken shafts, vast fragments of marble capitals and cornices heaped together in masses,

remind the traveller, that the field which he now traverses, was once the Roman Forum.

A fountain fills a marble basin in the middle, the same possibly to which Propertius alludes, when speaking of the Forum in the time of Tatius, he says,

Murus erant montes, ubi nunc est Curiæ septa,
Bellicus ex illo fonte bibebat equus.

A little farther on commences a double range of trees that leads along the Via Sacra by the temples of Antoninus, and of Peace, to the arch of Titus. i herdsman seated on a pedestal while his oxen were drinking at the fountain, and a few passengers moving at a distance in different directions, were the only living beings that disturbed the silence and solitude which reigned around. Thus the place seemed restored to its original wildness described by Virgil, and abandoned once more to flocks and herds of cattle. So far have the modern Romans forgotten the theatre of the glory and of the imperial dower of their ancestor, as to degrade it into a common market for cattle, and sink its name, trated by every page of Roman history, into the contemptible appellation of Campo Vaccino.


Proceeding along the Via Sacra, and passing under the arch of Titus, on turning a little to the left, we beheld the amphitheatre of Vespasian Never and Titus, now called the Coliseum. did human art present to the eye a fabric so well calculated, by its size and form, to surprise and delight. Let the spectator first place himself to the north, and contemplate that side which deprelation, barbarism, and ages have spared, he will behold with admiration its wonderful extent, well proportioned stories and flying lines, that retire and vanish without break or interruption. Next let him turn to the south, and examine those stupendous arches, which, stripped as they are of their external decorations, still astonish us by their solidity and

« PreviousContinue »