John Owen.

Travels into different parts of Europe, in the years 1791 and 1792. With familiar remarks on places--men--and manners (Volume 2) online

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In the Years' 1791 and 1792.





IN THE YEARS 1791 AND 1792.






Mores t et Studia, et Populos VIRG. Georg. Lib. 4.






Rome, Dec. 17, 1791.

I KNOW not a fituation more deledably
embarraffing, than that in which I now
find myfelf. Such is the vaft extent of this
city, whofe walls defcribe a circumference of
near feventeen miles; and fo numerous are
the relics which yet cover, in various and
divided heaps, this ground facred to tradi-
tion, that it is at once a work of time and
addrefs to beftow a {hare of attention on
thofe which moft merit feleclion. Though
I have explored the city with patient afTi-
duity for more than twelve days paft, I ap-
pear fcarcely to have made a beginning.

VOL. n. B The



The Capitol, as firft in hiftorical import-
ance, was firft in the lift of my enquiries.
The afcent to the Campidoglio, the name it
now bears, does not difgrace the memory of
its original magnificence. To the left, ftands
the church of Araceli, elevated above a flight
of marble fteps, once attached to the Temple
of Quirinus ; to the right, the abrupt and
disfigured ruins of the Tarpeian Rock. The
palace of the Senator in front, the public
buildings on the right and left wing, and
the equeftrian monument of Marcus Aure-
Jius in the centre, compofe a groupe, which
would not be thought wanting in dignity,
could it be abftracled from the recollection
of the glories that are paft. It was no or-
dinary pleafure which poflefTed me, while I
trod over this area upon which once refted
the Capitol. " Heavens ! faid I, and am I
" now treading the foil which once fupported
" the throne of univerfal empire? Where are
" the Temples, and the Forums, the edifices
" facred to religion, to polity, and to arms,

14 which


" which covered this hallowed ground ?
" Where are thofe altars, before which vows
" of peace and hoftility were made ? Where
*' are thofe monuments erected by the fpoils
u of war, and adorned with the trophies of
" victorious leaders? Alas ! they are crumbled
" into fhapelefs ruins !"

It would require a volume to enumerate
the treafures preferved in the Mufeum and
different repofitories of the modern CapitoL
They confift of ftatues, baffo relievos, fepul-
chral monuments, deities Roman and Egyp-
tian ; works equally valuable for their ex-
quifite execution, as the age they bear, The
celebrated ftatue of the dying Gladiator, is a
production worthy of all its fame; and pof-
fefles, in point of attitude and countenance,
all that pathos which becomes the fallen and
languifhing combatant. A very mafterly
groupe, reprefenting a Lion feizing upon a
Horfe, and four baiTo relievos, relating to
the hiftory of Marcus Aurelius, are admi-
rable productions. It appears extraordinary
B 2 that


that fo many Temples could ever have exifl-
ed upon a fpot fo confined as the Capitoline
hill. Certain, however, it is, that very con-
fiderable changes have taken place in the
form of this Hill, as the reduced altitude of
the Tarpeian Rock fufficiently demonftrates.
The old materials have fo filled up the val-
lies, as to render it difficult to afcertain, ex-
cept upon maps, the precife limits of the
antient divifiens.

It is by a very mean and ruinous track
that the defcent is made from the Capitol to
the antient Forum, now known by the name
of Campo Vaccino. It is humiliating to fee
what reverfes have here befallen the proudeft
atchievements of art. The Roman Forum
exifts no more. Its Arches are funk, and its
Temples demoliflied : yet noble veftiges in
each ftill commemorate their paft exiftence.
Columns furviving the general wreck yet
totter on their bafes, and point to the travel-
ler's eye where flood the facred edifices
erected to Concord and to Jove. It is im-
I poffible


poflible not to feel indignant, in paffing
among thefe fublime remains, at the barba-
rous neglect of the modern Romans ; who
fuffer piles of rubbifh to embarrafs and de-
form the moft precious relics of antient
architecture. Deformed, however, and em-
barrafled as they are, by the wafte of time
and the indolence of their pofTeffbrs, they
{hew traces of art and magnificence, at
which the mind, intent upon modern com-
parifons, is filled with aftonifhment.

The ignoble ufes to which this Forum is
now converted, and the little refped which
its monuments or its hiftory feem to pre-
ferve, at ftrongly upon thole feelings which
arife out of claffical enthufiafm. I confefs,
when I faw the drover and the vagabond
occupy that ground which was formerly
pofTefTed by gods and heroea, when I
faw the Temples, once confecrated to reli-
gion and to eloquence, become haunts for
beggars and flails for cattle; I could not
fupprefs the figh of indignation. Who,
B 3 that


that has read the ftory of antient Rome,

would refufe a tear to her infulted



E moft celebrated monuments, which
now exift as objeds of the traveller's
curiofity, are, next to thofe glanced at in my
laft, the Temple of Peace, the Palace of
the Casfars, and the Arch of Titus. The
firft of thefe exifts in a fublime range of
ruined arches, from the roofs of which fhoot
up fome yet undeftroyed mafles the only
remains of the iecond ftory. This Temple,
built by Vefpafian, upon the termination of
the Jewiili war, was, agreeably to every tef-
timony, an edifice of the moft fuperlative
beauty and grandeur. A column which
now (lands in one of the modern fquares,
affords a fpecim'en of its tafte and magnifi-


cence. Its ruins are noble. The majefty
of Rome hovers over its broken arches, and
time has given them, by a loofe and gro-
tefque vegetation, a finifh, which fcarcely
allows one to regret that they ever funk
into decay.

Oppofite to thefe but little difcoverable
in this fituation ftand the remains of the
Imperial Palace, covering the Palatine
Mount ; and exhibiting, when viewed from
the fcite of the antient Circus Maximus, a very
majeftic andimpreflivepidure. Ihavevifited
the vaults and fubterraneous paflages ftill
exifting ; but, vapour and damp out of the
queftion, one glimpfe of the ruins them-
felves outweighs all that I faw within. It
is not difficult, from a furvey of what yet re-
mains, to fee how great and extenfive this
refidence of imperial luxury muft in its
zenith have been.

The Arch of Titus is one of thofe monu-
ments in which the valour of the Romans
is more confpicuous than their humanity.
B 4 It


It Hands at the foot of the Palatine Mount,
at the point of egrefs from the Campo Vac-
cino, and covers the road once known as
the Sacred Way. It is, in its prefent ftate, a
ruin full of beauty ; and was doubtlefs, in the
sera of Roman profperity, a monument of
great tafte. This Arch, we are told, was
raifed by a decree of the Senate : The dif-
ferent circumftarices fuppofed to have oc-
curred in the facking of the Jewifh metro-
polis, are exquifitely exprefled in tablets of
relief. It is, upon the whole, an edifice of
confummate beauty, though already confi-
derably injured, and falling fail into decay.
Fortunately for the hero whom it defigns to
commemorate, he has a memorial in the
bofoms of thofe with whom military monu-
ments would find little refpect. The Jews
have formed a path round one of its fides,
and thus evade the neceffity which they
would elfe be under, of paffing through the
Arch. But delicacy, not authority as has
been reported has effected this ; and the



only edict they obey in this cafe, is that of
their own feelings efcaping, by this expe-
dient, the cruel chagrin of beholding this in-
fulting memorial of the pillage of their city,
and the deftrudion of their Temple.

Bernardino Baldi, an Italian poet, has a
fonnet fo clofely connected with this fubject,
that I cannot refufe myfelf the pleafure of
tranfcribing it. I have given it an Englifh
drefs ; but Italian beauty is not eafily trans-
fufed into Englifh metre :
Soletta fiede lachrimofa e mefta,
Gran madre gia di facerdote e regi
La Giudea vinta, e de' paflati pregi
Memoria alto dolor nel fen le defta.
Di gemme ed oro a 1'infelice tefta
Fan cerchio in vece orribili difpregi ;
Ed in luogo ha di real manto e fregi
Servil catena e lacerata vefta.
Da barbarica man, d'empio tiranno

Di Dio gia te fottrafle il braccio invitto,
Ingrata e tu del fuo figluiol fai fcempio ?
Del ciel Tito, flagello al mondo fcritto,

Moftra in quell' arco il tuo perpetuo danno,
d'onor, di Hberta, de tempio.



Lone, tearful, fad, amidft the dreary plain,

Great parent erft of priefts and kings renown'd,
Judea vanquifh'd fits the joys which crown'd,

Her happier days now wake regretful pain.

Grief circles round that brow, and rude difdain,
Which once the gem-befpangled chaplet bound ;
Nor royal robe now floating fweeps the ground,

But tatter'd veft obfcene, and fervile chain.

From barbarous thrall, and grafp of tyrant fell,
Thee erft Jehovah's arm relentlefs freed ;
And dofl thou, impious ! flay his righteous fon ?

Titus ingrate ! thy fcourge, by Heaven decreed,
Shall in this arch thy fhame eternal tell,
Spoil'd by his arms of freedom, temple throne !


\ MONO the ruins of the modern Forum

is .the magnificent portico of a Temple

confecrated to Antoninus and Fauftina, one

third of which is funk into the ground ; but

the vaft marble columns, and the exquifite



workmanfhip of the remaining frieze and
cornice difcover its original grandeur. A
temple of Romulus, and fome infulated co-
lumns, are alfo among thofe which are held
in repute. Upon a fpot contiguous to ti*
Arch of Titus, St. Peter is reported to have
performed a notable miracle. Here it was,
that Simon Magus, by the force of his for-
ceries, raifed himfelf into the air ; but Peter
fell on his knees, and prayed that the magi-
cian might be inftantly ftruck down to the
earth, which happened accordingly. Upon
this fpot, afcertained with the greatefl accu-
racy, the church of Santa Francefca Ro-
mana was built many ages after; and the
very ftone upon which 'the Apoftle knelt, is
ftill preferved. It is incrufted in the wall,
and inclofed by an iron grate : an infcrip-
tion records the hiftory.

I muft now take you under the Arch of
Titus, in order that we may contemplate
the moft noble remnant of antient times, in
the amphitheatre of Veipafian. Though



Goths and priefts have raifed in turns, arid
for different purpofes, the deftructive axe
againft tliis edifice, it ftill continues a fub-
lime monument of antient architecture, and
would in itfelf fuffice to preferve the me-
mory of the Roman name. It was upon
his return from the Jewifh war, that Vefpa-
fian built this amphitheatre. Twelve hun-
dred captive Jews are faid to have been em-
ployed in this prodigious fervice. The par-
ticulars of this remarkable building excite
the greater! aftonimment. Enormous but
uncernented mafies of ftone are in its form-
ation adj ufted with fo great fymmetry and
compadtnefs, as at once to contribute an ap-
parent lightnefs and a real folidity to the
whole. The elevation of the foil has buried
much of its bafe. Four orders of architec-
ture in its perfect ftate rofe .above each other ;
and the magnificent appearance of what it
'once was, can be but feebly conjectured from
what it now is. Its form is elliptical its cir-
cumfeience- two thoufand four hundred and



iixteen feet, and it is efteemed capable of
containing a hundred thoufand fpeclators.
The interior is now an heap of ruins.

A friar, upon whom I ftumbled in my
walks about this Colifaeum, affifted me in
exploring fome of the more extraordinary
pafTages. My aftonimment was indeed
great, on vifiting the upper ftories, to fee the
ftupendous mafles of wall and roof which
have yet furvived. But my conductor, in-
tent upon religious tradition, began to re-
count to me the furprizing miracles per-
formed here the edifice being now entirely
appropriated to religious exercifes, and con-
taining no lefs than thirteen chapels. A
certain chriftian Emperor, as the friar in-
formed me, though he knew not his name,
made a vifit to Rome; and was, by the Pope
then reigning, conducted to the Colifamm.
On quitting the place, the Imperial gueft
requefted a relic. The Pope defired him
to take up a handful of duft, faying, that



this was the moft precious relic he could
beftow. " How, faid the Emperor in amaze-
" ment; this is but dud!" The pontiff then
taking the duft into his hand, it liquefied
with the preflure into a red ftream : " This,"
faid he, " is the blood of the martyrs." My
conductor affured me further, that the archi-
tect of the place was himfelf among the
firft who fuffered martyrdom in it ; and in
confirmation of this fact, took me into a
chapel, where a tablet affixed to the wall did
actually record, that the architect, being con-
verted to the chriftian faith, was himfelf
expofed to the wild beafts, among the firft
whofe blood was flied within the walls of
this theatre. This is, upon the whole, one
of the grandeft monuments which the ima-
gination can paint. Though the arm of the
Goth has ftript the ornaments of bronze,
time has drefied out its rugged walls with a
precious foliage : and although the Porto di
Ripetta, the Palace of St. Mark, Farnefe, and
5 others,


others, have been clothed with its fpoils, it
ftill remains, in its ftate of decay, an inde-
ftructible monument of Roman grandeur.

It is in the neighbourhood of the Coli-
fxum, and upon the Via Triumphalis, that
the Arch of Conftantine ftands. This is the
moft perfet building of that kind which
Rome preferves. But here, as elfewhere,
the elevation of the foil has cut off the juft
proportions of the ftruchire ; and caufed it
to wear an appearance, difadvantageous to
its juft charader. The Portal of San Gre*
gorio a church crowning the Celian hill
affords an admirable terrace for the profpet
of Rome's beft remains. Here the eye takes
in a groupe of objects at once numerous and
fublime ; the magnificent Colifseum ftretch-
ing upon its greateft diameter : oppofed to
this, the lighter cupolas of the Temples con-
fecrated to the Sun and Moon. From thefe,
extending over the Palatine Hill, the roofs of
the Imperial Palaces the mafTy Arch of Con-
ftantine, and the pi&urefque ruins of Aque-



duds, compofe a wonderful fcene a fcen
which it is impo/Iible to view without ftrong
and lively emotion.

Confider only the wars of the Romans,
and you curfe them : confider their go-
vernment, and you defpife them : their
religion, and you pity them : but look at
their architectural monuments, difplaying
all the majefty of genius, and you muft, in
fpite of yourfelf, admire them. For my
own part, I can fet no bounds to my ecftafy,
when I ftand amongft their ruins : I forget
their vices, their idolatry, their cruelty, and

" Surely, furely, thefe were famous men !'*

t '7 J


Rome, Dec, 30, 1791.

IE feflival of the Nativity is a very
bufy time with both clergy and laity
in this place. On the Eve of Chriftmas, all
the ftreets of Rome were in extreme confu-
fion, and the images planted in different
parts of the city were faluted with loud and
frequent invocations. It is my misfortune
to lodge in a convent, not forty yards dif-
tant from one of thefe Madonnas. For
many nights previous to the Nativity, I was
difturbed, at a moft unfeafonable hour, by
very noify chauntings, intermingled with
foft refponfes, from a number of children,
who fupported, as I learnt, in this religious
burletta, the character of Angels.

VOL. II, G High


High mafs was, on the day of the Nati-
vity, performed by the Pope at St. Peter's,
where, on this occafion s there is no admit-
tance but in full drefs for his Holinefs,
though filling himfelf the <c Servant of Ser-
vants," will not play off his holiday farces
to any thing but bags and fwords. In the
different ftages of this ceremonial, the atti-
tudes of the Sovereign Pontiff were as ridi-
culous and varied as thofe of a pofture-
mafter. They placed him in a low chair >
ftripped him to his flannel waiftcoat, and
feemed difpofed to fhew him every indig-
nity. This, as I imagined, for it was pan-
tomime throughout, was to picture to us
the humility of the Saviour. They did not,
however, uiffer him to continue long in this
ftate of degradation. He was foon reftored
to his former fplendor ; and paraded before
us, as we knelt, difplaying his handfome
leg and flipper, with much apparent fatisfac-
tion. I happened to be pofted in an avenus
which led to the grand altar, and therefore



had an opportunity of obferving clofely
every thing which was conveyed backwards
and forwards by the numerous priefts who
attended. It' was truly ludicrous to fee five
or fix men in furplices, carrying with great
folemnity as many difhes of drefled up nap-
kins, and meeting an equal number, who
were, with the fame religious grimace, carry-
ing off thofe that had been ufed,

I will not difTemble the wearinefs I felt
at the length of thefe ceremonies. His Ho-
linefs was, it muft be acknowledged, an ad-
mirable actor ; but the Cardinals did not fup-
port their parts with fo good a grace ; and a
degree of coldnefs and indifferency pervaded
the generality of the fpeftators evidently
portending fome great approaching change.
Devotion is certainly much on the decline.
Subjects are handled in general converfation,
which have little alliance with credulity and
fubmiflion. In fhort, the pillars of papal
tyranny feem loofening apace; and its ulti-
mate fubverfion is an event which cannot
C 2 long


long be delayed. In the prefent fituation of
things, the energy operating from within
will be affifted by a powerful impetus from
without; the maj.efty of Papal Rome is un-
queftionably and irrevocably doomed to fall,,
and great will be the fali of it.


Rome, Jan. 4, 1792.

VERY day increases my aftoniihment at
the numerous remains which are flill
extant of antient Rome. I had expe&ed to
find in every pile of ruins " a rudis indi-
** geftaque moles/' fbme rude and fhape-
lefs heap, in whkh few or no veftiges of
their original beauty could be traced. But
the treafures of this city are not of that cha^-
rader, and they are incakukble in number*
I am every day travelling to fome new fcene.
Baths, Circufes, Temples, Theatres,. Aque-
duds, Tombs, Obelifks, &c. call my atten-


tkm on every fide, and fcarcely allow me
to beftow a moment's regard upon the mo-
<lern ornaments of this aug-uft city.

Of the antient Baths, the principal re-
mains are thofe of Garacalla, Dioclefian, and
Titus. Very interefting parts of each are
yet inexiftenee, particularly of th two laft.
Thofe of Dioclefian covered in their original
ftate an immenfe extent of ground, diftin&ly
afcertainable at the prefent time by the roofs
and . fragments of ks walls. One of its
chambers is, by an happy exercife of art, to
which the modern Romans have not been
universally attentive, converted into a church
of great tafte and beauty. The fubterra-
neous chambers of Titus' s Baths, are yet, by
the affiftance of torches, exhibited. They
are preceded by feven long Corridores, and
the number of them is faid to amount to
thirty-fix. Some ingenious Arabefques are
ftill difcernible upon the walls. The fpot
where thefe Baths are fituated, was not a
little celebrated in ancient times. In its
c 3 vicinity,


vicinity, befides the famous Gardens of
Maecenas, were the Houfes of Horace,
Virgil, and Propertius.

The Circufes of greateft fame are the Cir-
cus Maximus, and that of Caracalla. But
the naked areas of them are all that now
remain. Of Temples I have fpoken in part,
when treading over the ground of the
Campo Vaccino. The Pantheon, defervedly
placed in the iirft rank, is a building of the
moft exquifite beauty, but enclofed in a
fituation fo extremely confined, that all the
effed of its fublime fa9ade is deftroyed. The
magnitude of its columns and the fymmetry
of its proportions, give it a character beyond
all praife. The interior has been fo often
defcanted upon, and fo critically defcribed,
that I fhall content myfelf with acquiefcing
in what others have faid as two opinions
cannot exift in relation to that, which com-
bines in one perfect example, all that is moft
excellent and admirable in the fcience of



The Theatre of Marcellus, a confiderable
part of which enters into one of the modern
ftreets, and fome rude remains of the Mili-
tary Theatre, are, next to the Colifaeum, the
moft remarkable in this department : and
the various arches and walls which once ex-
ifted as Aqueducts, are fome of the moft
ftupendous ruins in the catalogue of Roman
remains. Indeed the Aquedutts and Baths
are among the moft furprifmg teftimonies of
that grandeur which Rome in her glory
muft have poflefled. All that this people
undertook was deemed worthy of per-
fection ; and trifles the leaft fignificant ac-
quired a dignity in their hands. Of the
Baths of Dioclefian in particular, fo vaft is
the extent, fo fumptuous the ornaments, fo
commodious the apartments appropriated
for ftudy, for exereife, for indolence ; fo nu-
merous the Cabinets, Libraries and Repofi-
tories of the fine arts, as well as the Sanctu-
aries for eafe and luxury ; that the feelings
are rouzed into rapturous admiration at the
difplay of fuch amazing magnificence.

[ 34 I


E Romans were very drift on the fuh-
jet of burials, and guarded very care-
fully againft the interment of human bodies
within the walls of the city. On ibme ex-
traordinary occafions, an honor of this kind
was granted, but it was efteemed a mark of
fmgular diflinclion. There exifts at this
day, in one of the ftreets conducting to the
Capitol, a fepulchral monument incorporated
in the walls of the houfes now inhabited.
From that portion of the infcription which
yet remains, it appears that Caius Bibulus,
^Edile, was the man to whom this honor
was decreed; and that the fignal fervices he
rendered the ftate, had procured him this
rare and unufuaUeftimony of public regard.
It is upon the highways, and the differ-
ent roads which iflue from the gates of the



city, that the antient Tombs are found; and.
there are yet extant fome very valuable re-
mains of this defcription. Eaclofed in a
vineyard is a fubterraneous vault, which, by
the affifiance of torch es,prefents to the view
a range ofinfcriptions to the memory of the
celebrated family of the Scipios. It imprefled
me with fentiments of high veneration, to
defcend among the manes of Rome's antient
Heroes :

" Quis te,magneCato, taciturn; autte,Cofle,relinquat?
" Quis Gracchi genus? aut geminos, duo fulmina bclli>
" Scipiadas, cladem Libya ?"

Some loofe fragments of what once were
columns, fcatter the ground under which
this vault pafles ; and fhrubs loaded with
lufcious oranges, over- hang the avenue
which opens upon that fpot, " thus facred
" by their relics made."

The Capo di Bove, as it is now called,
and anciently the Tomb of Metella, is a



Monument of unparalleled beauty in its
kind, and ftands at a little remove from the
Appian Way. It is a circular building,
raifed upon a quadrangular bafe. By a finnV
larity of ftructure to the Colifseum, the ma*
terials of which it is compofed unite without
cement; and referable, by their accuracy
and compa&nefs, a folid block of ftone,
chifeled into its prefent form. The Pyramid
of Caius Ceftius is another fepulchral mo-
nument of great eftimation. It is a build-
ing of confiderable height and magnitude,
in a pyramidical form, compofed of marble
in its exterior, and overlaid with ftucco in

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Online LibraryJohn OwenTravels into different parts of Europe, in the years 1791 and 1792. With familiar remarks on places--men--and manners (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 23)