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slaves, women, children, and strangers. Though this estimate is regarded
as too large by Merivale and others, yet how enormous must have been the
number of the people when there were nine thousand and twenty-five
baths, and when those of Diocletian could accommodate three thousand two
hundred people at a time. The wooden theatre of Scaurus contained eighty
thousand seats; that of Marcellus would seat twenty thousand; the
Colosseum would seat eighty-seven thousand, and give standing space for
twenty-two thousand more. The Circus Maximus would hold three hundred
and eighty-five thousand spectators. If only one person out of four of
the free population witnessed the games and spectacles at a time, we
thus must have four millions of people altogether in the city. The
Aurelian walls are now only thirteen miles in circumference, but Lipsius
estimates the circumference at forty-five miles, and Vopiscus nearly
fifty. The diameter of the city must have been eleven miles, since
Strabo tells us that the actual limit of Rome was at a place between the
fifth and sixth milestone from the column of Trajan in the Forum - the
central and most conspicuous object in the city except the
capitol. [Footnote: Strabo, lib. v. ch. 3.] Even in the sixth century,
after Rome had been sacked and plundered by Goths and Vandals, Zacharia,
a traveler, asserts that there were three hundred and eighty-four
spacious streets, eighty golden statues of the gods; sixty-six large
ivory statues of the gods; forty-six thousand six hundred and three
houses; seventeen thousand and ninety-seven palaces; thirteen thousand
and fifty-two fountains; three thousand seven hundred and eighty-five
bronze statues of emperors and generals; twenty-two great horses in
bronze; two colossi; two spiral columns; thirty-one theatres; eleven
amphitheatres; nine thousand and twenty-six baths; two thousand three
hundred shops of perfumers; two thousand and ninety-one
prisons. [Footnote: St. Ampere, _Hist. Romaine a Rome_.] This seems
to be incredible. "But," says Story, "Augustus divided the city into
eighteen regions: each region contained twenty-two vici; each vicus
contained about two hundred and thirty dwelling-houses, so that there
must have been seventy-five thousand houses; of these houses, seventeen
thousand were palaces, or domus. If each contained two hundred persons,
(and four hundred slaves were maintained in a single palace,) reckoning
family, freedmen, and slaves, we have three millions four hundred
thousand people, and supposing the remaining fifty-eight thousand houses
to have contained twenty-five persons each, we have in them one million
four hundred and fifty thousand, which would give an entire population
of four millions eight hundred and fifty thousand." If Mr. Merivale's
estimate of seven hundred thousand is correct, then the Colosseum would
hold nearly one in six of the whole population, which is incredible.
Indeed, it is probable that even four millions was under than above the
true estimate, which would make Rome the most populous city ever seen
upon our globe. Nor is it extravagant to suppose this. The city
numbered, according to the census, eighty thousand people in the year
197; and in 683 it had risen to four hundred and fifty thousand. Is it
strange it should have numbered four millions in the time of Augustus,
or even six millions in the time of Arelian, when we bear in mind that
it was the political and social centre of a vast empire, and that empire
the world? If London contains three millions at the present day, and
Paris two millions, why should not a capital which had no rival, and
which controlled at least one hundred and twenty millions of people? So
that Pliny was not probably wrong when he said, "_Si quis altitudinem
tectorum addat, dignam profecto oestimationem concipiat, fateatur qui
nullius urbis magnitudinem potuisse ei comparare._" "If any one
considers the height of the roofs, so as to form a just estimate, he
will confess that no city could be compared with it for magnitude."

[Sidenote: The monuments which survive.]

[Sidenote: Games of Titus.]

Modern writers, taking London and Paris for their measure of material
civilization, seem unwilling to admit that Rome could have reached such
a pitch of glory and wealth and power. To him who stands within the
narrow limits of the Forum, as it now appears, it seems incredible that
it could have been the centre of a much larger city than Europe can now
boast of. Grave historians are loth to compromise their dignity and
character for truth, by admitting statements which seem, to men of
limited views, to be fabulous, and which transcend modern experience.
But we should remember that most of the monuments of ancient Rome have
entirely disappeared. Nothing remains of the Palace of the Caesars, which
nearly covered the Palatine Hill; little of the fora which, connected
together, covered a space twice as large as that inclosed by the palaces
of the Louvre and Tuileries with all their galleries and courts; almost
nothing of the glories of the Capitoline Hill; and little comparatively
of those Thermae which were a mile in circuit. But what does remain
attests an unparalleled grandeur - the broken pillars of the Forum; the
lofty columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius; the Pantheon, lifting its
spacious dome two hundred feet into the air; the mere vestibule of the
Baths of Agrippa; the triumphal arches of Titus and Trajan and
Constantine; the bridges which span the Tiber; the aqueducts which cross
the Campagna; the Cloaca Maxima, which drained the marshes and lakes of
the infant city; but above all, the Colosseum. What glory and shame are
associated with that single edifice! That alone, if nothing else
remained of Pagan antiquity, would indicate a grandeur and a folly such
as cannot now be seen on earth. It reveals a wonderful skill in masonry,
and great architectural strength; it shows the wealth and resources of
rulers who must have had the treasures of the world at their command; it
indicates an enormous population, since it would seat all the male
adults of the city of New York; it shows the restless passions of the
people for excitement, and the necessity on the part of government of
yielding to this taste. What leisure and indolence marked a city which
could afford to give up so much time to the demoralizing sports! What
facilities for transportation were afforded, when so many wild beasts
could be brought to the capital from the central parts of Africa without
calling out unusual comment! How imperious a populace that compels the
government to provide such expensive pleasures! The games of Titus, on
its dedication, last one hundred days, and five thousand wild beasts are
slaughtered in the arena. The number of the gladiators who fought
surpasses belief. At the triumph of Trajan over the Dacians, ten
thousand gladiators were exhibited, and the emperor himself presides
under a gilded canopy, surrounded by thousands of his lords. Underneath
the arena, strewed with yellow sand and sawdust, is a solid pavement so
closely cemented that it can be turned into an artificial lake on which
naval battles are fought. But it is the conflict of gladiators which
most deeply stimulates the passions of the people. The benches are
crowded with eager spectators, and the voices of one hundred thousand
are raised in triumph or rage as the miserable victims sink exhausted in
the bloody sport.

[Sidenote: Roman triumphs.]

But it is not the gladiatorial sports of the amphitheatre which most
strikingly attest the greatness and splendor of the city; nor the
palaces, in which as many as four hundred slaves are sometimes
maintained as domestic servants, twelve hundred in number according to
the lowest estimate, but probably five times as numerous, since every
senator, every knight, and every rich man was proud to possess a
residence which would attract attention; nor the temples, which numbered
four hundred and twenty-four, most of which were of marble, filled with
statues, the contributions of ages, and surrounded with groves; nor the
fora and basilicae, with their porticoes, statues, and pictures, covering
more space than any cluster of public buildings in Europe, a mile and a
half in circuit; nor the baths, nearly as large, still more completely
filled with works of art; nor the Circus Maximus, where more people
witnessed the chariot races at a time than are nightly assembled in all
the places of public amusement in Paris, London, and New York combined -
more than could be seated in all the cathedrals of England and France;
it is not these which most impressively make us feel that Rome was the
mistress of the world and the centre of all civilization. The triumphal
processions of the conquering generals were still more exciting to
behold, for these appeal more directly to the imagination, and excite
those passions which urged the Romans to a career of conquest from
generation to generation. No military review of modern times equaled
those gorgeous triumphs, even as no scenic performance compares with the
gladiatorial shows. The. sun has never shone upon any human assemblage
so magnificent and so grand, so imposing and yet so guilty. And we
recall the picture of it with solemn awe as it moves along the Via Sacra
and ascends the Capitoline Hill, or passes through the theatres of
Pompey and Marcellus, that all the people might witness the brilliant
spectacle. Not only were displayed the spoils of conquered kingdoms, and
the triumphal cars of generals, but the whole military strength of the
capital. An army of one hundred thousand men, flushed with victory,
follows the gorgeous procession of nobles and princes. The triumph of
Aurelian, on his return from the East, gives us some idea of the
grandeur of that ovation to conquerors. "The pomp was opened by twenty
elephants, four royal tigers, and two hundred of the most curious
animals from every climate, north, south, east, and west. These were
followed by one thousand six hundred gladiators, devoted to the cruel
amusement of the amphitheatre. Then were displayed the arms and ensigns
of conquered nations, the plate and wardrobe of the Syrian queen. Then
ambassadors from all parts of the earth - all remarkable in their rich
dresses, with their crowns and offerings. Then the captives taken in the
various wars, Goths, Vandals, Samaritans, Alemanni, Franks, Gauls,
Syrians, and Egyptians, each marked by their national costume. Then the
Queen of the East, the beautiful Zenobia, confined by fetters of gold,
and fainting under the weight of jewels, preceding the beautiful chariot
in which she had hoped to enter the gates of Rome. Then the chariot of
the Persian king. Then the triumphal car of Aurelian himself, drawn by
elephants. Finally the most illustrious of the Senate, the people, and
the army closed the solemn procession, amid the acclamations of the
people, and the sound of musical instruments. It took from dawn of day
until the ninth hour for the procession to pass to the capital, and the
festival was protracted by theatrical representations, the games of the
circus, the hunting of wild beasts, combats of gladiators, and naval
engagements. Liberal donations were presented to the army, and a portion
of the spoils dedicated to the gods. All the temples glittered with the
offerings of ostentatious piety, and the Temple of the Sun received
fifteen thousand pounds of gold. The soldiers and the citizens were then
surfeited with meat and wine. The disbanded soldiery thronged the
amphitheatre, and yelled their fiendish applause at the infernal games, -
the gorged robbers of the world, drunk in a festival of hell,"
[Footnote: Henry Giles.] - a representation of war as terrible as war
itself, compensating to the Roman people the massacres which they could
not see.

If any thing more were wanted to give us an idea of Roman magnificence,
we would turn our eyes from public monuments, demoralizing games, and
grand processions; we would forget the statues in brass and marble,
which outnumbered the living inhabitants, so numerous that one hundred
thousand have been recovered and still embellish Italy, and would
descend into the lower sphere of material life - to those things which
attest luxury and taste - to ornaments, dresses, sumptuous living, and
rich furniture. The art of working metals and cutting precious stones
surpassed any thing known at the present day. In the decoration of
houses, in social entertainments, in cookery, the Romans were
remarkable. The mosaics, signet rings, cameos, bracelets, bronzes,
chains, vases, couches, banqueting tables, lamps, chariots, colored
glass, gildings, mirrors, mattresses, cosmetics, perfumes, hair dyes,
silk robes, potteries, all attest great elegance and beauty. The tables
of thuga root and Delian bronze were as expensive as the sideboards of
Spanish walnut, so much admired in the great exhibition at London. Wood
and ivory were carved as exquisitely as in Japan and China. Mirrors were
made of polished silver. Glass-cutters could imitate the colors of
precious stones so well, that the Portland vase, from the tomb of
Alexander Severus, was long considered as a genuine sardonix. Brass
could be hardened so as to cut stone. The palace of Nero glittered with
gold and jewels. Perfumes and flowers were showered from ivory ceilings.
The halls of Heliogabulus were hung with cloth of gold, enriched with
jewels. His beds were silver, and his tables of gold. Tiberius gave a
million of sesterces for a picture for his bed-room. A banquet dish of
Drusillus weighed five hundred pounds of silver. The cups of Drusus were
of gold. Tunics were embroidered with the figures of various animals.
Sandals were garnished with precious stones. Paulina wore jewels, when
she paid visits, valued at $800,000. Drinking-cups were engraved with
scenes from the poets. Libraries were adorned with busts, and presses of
rare woods. Sofas were inlaid with tortoise-shell, and covered with
gorgeous purple. The Roman grandees rode in gilded chariots, bathed in
marble baths, dined from golden plate, drank from crystal cups, slept on
beds of down, reclined on luxurious couches, wore embroidered robes, and
were adorned with precious stones. They ransacked the earth and the seas
for rare dishes for their banquets, and ornamented their houses with
carpets from Babylon, onyx cups from Bythinia, marbles from Numidia,
bronzes from Corinth, statues from Athens - whatever, in short, was
precious or rare or curious in the most distant countries. The luxuries
of the bath almost exceed belief, and on the walls were magnificent
frescoes and paintings, exhibiting an inexhaustible productiveness in
landscape and mythological scenes, executed in lively colors. From the
praises of Cicero, Seneca, and Pliny, and other great critics, we have a
right to infer that painting was as much prized as statuary, and equaled
it in artistic excellence, although so little remains of antiquity from
which we can form an enlightened judgment. We certainly infer from
designs on vases great skill in drawing, and from the excavations of
Pompeii, the most beautiful colors. The walls of the great hall of the
baths of Titus represent flowers, birds, and animals, drawn with
wonderful accuracy. In the long corridor of these baths the ceiling is
painted with colors which are still fresh, and Raphael is said to have
studied the frescoes with admiration, even as Michael Angelo found in
the Pantheon a model for the dome of St. Peter's, and in the statues
which were dug up from the ruins of the baths, studies for his own
immortal masterpieces.

Thus every thing which gilds the material wonders of our day with glory
and splendor, also marked the old capitol of the world. That which is
most prized by us, distinguished to an eminent degree the Roman
grandees. In an architectural point of view no modern city approaches
Rome. It contained more statues than all the Museums of Europe. It had
every thing which we have except machinery. It surpassed every modern
capitol in population. It was richer than any modern city, since the
people were not obliged to toil for their daily bread. The poor were fed
by the government, and had time and leisure for the luxuries of the bath
and the excitements of the amphitheatre. The citizen nobles owned whole
provinces. Even Paula could call a whole city her own. Rich senators, in
some cases, were the proprietors of twenty thousand slaves. Their
incomes were known to be 1000 pounds sterling a day, when gold and
silver were worth four times as much as at the present day. Rome was
made up of these citizen kings and their dependants, for most of the
senators had been, at some time, governors of provinces, which they
rifled and robbed. In Rome were accumulated the choicest treasures of
the world. Her hills were covered with the palaces of the proudest
nobles that ever walked the earth, Rome was the centre, and the glory,
and the pride of all the nations of antiquity. It seemed impossible that
such a city could ever be taken by enemies, or fall into decay.
"_Quando cadet Roma cadet et mundus_," said the admiring Saxons
three hundred years after the injuries inflicted by Goths and Vandals.
Nor has Rome died. Never has she entirely passed into the hands of her
enemies. A hundred times on the verge of annihilation, she was never
annihilated. She never accepted the stranger's yoke - she never was
permanently subjected to the barbarian. She continued to be Roman after
the imperial presence had departed. She was Roman when fires, and
inundations, and pestilence, and famine, and barbaric soldiers desolated
the city. She was Roman when the Pope held Christendom in a base
subserviency. She was Roman when Rienzi attempted to revive the virtues
of the heroic ages, and when Michael Angelo restored the wonders of
Apollodorus. And Roman that city will remain, whether as the home of
princes, or the future capitol of the kings of Italy, or the resort of
travelers, or the school of artists, or the seat of a spiritual
despotism which gains strength as political and temporal power passes
away before the ideas of the new races and the new civilization.

* * * * *

The most valuable book of reference for this chapter is the late work of
Dr. Dyer, author of the article "Roma" in Smith's Dictionary. In fact
this chapter is a mere compilation of that elaborate work, ("History of
the City of Rome,") which may be said to be exhaustive. Mabillon and
Montfaucon - two French Benedictines - rendered great service in the
seventeenth century to Roman topography. Edward Burton and Richard
Burgess wrote descriptions of Roman antiquities, now superseded by the
writings of those great German scholars, who made a new epoch of Roman
topography - Niebuhr, Bunsen, Platner, Gerhard, and Rostell, who,
however, have succeeded in throwing doubt on many things supposed to be
established. One of the most learned treatises on ancient Rome is the
celebrated _Handbuch_ of Becker. Stephano Piale and Luigi Canina
are the most approved of the modern Italian antiquarians.

[Relocated Footnote:

[Sidenote: Mausoleum of Augustus.]

[Sidenote: Those who were buried in it.]

"This enduring structure, which survived the conflagrations, the wars,
and the anarchies of fifteen hundred years, consisted of a large tumulus
of earth, raised on a lofty basement of white marble, and covered on the
summit with evergreens in the manner of a hanging garden. On the summit
was a bronze statue of Augustus himself, and beneath the tumulus was a
large central hall, round which ran a range of fourteen sepulchral
chambers, opening into this common vestibule. At the entrance were two
Egyptian obelisks, fifty feet in height, and all around was an extensive
grove divided into walks and terraces. The young Marcellus, whose fate
was bewailed by Virgil, was its first occupant. Here was placed Octavia,
the neglected wife of Antony, and Agrippa, the builder of the Parthenon,
and Livia, the beloved wife of Augustus, and beside them the first
imperator himself. Here were the poisoned ashes of the noble Germanicus,
borne from Syria; here the young Drusus, the pride of the Ciaudian
family, and at his side the second Drusus, the son of Tiberius. Here
reposed the dust of Agrippina, after years of exile, by the side of her
husband, Germanicus; here Nero and his mother, Agrippina, and his
victim, Britannicus; here Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and all the
other Caesars to Nerva. Then the marble door was closed, for the
sepulchral cells were full." - Story's _Roba di Roma_.]




CHAPTER IV.

ART IN THE ROMAN EMPIRE.


In my enumeration of the external glories of the Roman world, I only
attempted to glance at those wonders which were calculated to strike a
traveler with admiration. Among these were the great developments of
Art, displayed in architecture, in statuary, and in painting. But I only
enumerated the more remarkable objects of attraction; I did not attempt
to show the genius displayed in them. But ancient art, as a proud
creation of the genius of man, demands additional notice. We wish to
know to what heights the Romans soared in that great realm of beauty and
grace and majesty.

[Sidenote: Origins and principles of art.]

[Sidenote: Fascinations of art.]

[Sidenote: Development of art.]

[Sidenote: Glory of art.]

The aesthetic glories of art are among the grandest triumphs of
civilization, and attest as well as demand no ordinary force of genius.
Art claims to be creative, and to be based on eternal principles of
beauty, and artists in all ages have claimed a proud niche in the temple
of fame. They rank with poets and musicians, and even philosophers and
historians, in the world's regard. They are favored sons of inspiration,
urged to their work by ideal conceptions of the beautiful and the true.
Their productions are material, but the spirit which led to their
creation is of the soul and mind. Imagination is tasked to the uttermost
to portray sentiments and passions. The bust is "animated," and the
temple, though built of marble, and by man, is called "religious." Art
appeals to every cultivated mind, and excites poetic feelings. It is
impressive even to every order, class, and condition of men, not,
perhaps, in its severest forms, since the taste must be cultivated to
appreciate its higher beauties, but to a certain extent. The pyramids
and the granite image temples of Egypt must have filled even the rude
people with a certain awe and wonder, even as the majestic cathedrals of
mediaeval Europe, with their imposing pomps, stimulated the poetic
conceptions of the Gothic nations. Art is popular. The rude savage
admires a gaudy picture even as the cultivated Leo X. or Cardinal
Mazarini bent in admiration before the great creations of Raphael or
Domenichino. Art appeals to the senses as well as to the intellect and
the heart, and is capable of inspiring the passions as well as the
loftiest emotions and sentiments. The Grecian mind was trained to the
contemplation of aesthetic beauty in temples, in statues, and in
pictures; and the great artist was rewarded with honors and material
gains. The love of art is easier kindled than the love of literary
excellence, and is more generally diffused. It is coeval with songs and
epic poetry. Before Socrates or Plato speculated on the great certitudes
of philosophy, temples and statues were the pride and boast of their
countrymen. And as the taste for art precedes the taste for letters, so
it survives, when the literature has lost its life and freshness. The
luxurious citizens of Rome ornamented their baths and palaces with
exquisite pictures and statues long after genius ceased to soar to the
heights of philosophy and poetry. The proudest triumphs of genius are in
a realm which art can never approach, yet the wonders of art are still
among the great triumphs of civilization. Zeuxis or Praxiteles may not
have equaled Homer or Plato in profundity of genius, but it was only a
great age which could have produced a Zeuxis or Praxiteles. I cannot
place Raphael on so exalted a pinnacle as Luther, or Bacon, or Newton,
and yet his fame will last as long as civilization shall exist. The
creations of the chisel will ever be held in reverence by mankind, and
probably in proportion as wealth, elegance, and material prosperity
shall flourish. In an important sense, Corinth was as wonderful as
Athens, although to Athens will be assigned the highest place in the
ancient world. It was art rather than literature or philosophy which was
the glory of Rome in the period of her decline. As great capitals become



Online LibraryJohn LordThe Old Roman World, : the Grandeur and Failure of Its Civilization → online text (page 11 of 50)