Copyright
A. L. (Antoine Laurent) Castellan.

Letters on Italy : illustrated by engravings online

. (page 5 of 12)
Online LibraryA. L. (Antoine Laurent) CastellanLetters on Italy : illustrated by engravings → online text (page 5 of 12)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


tullus. In digging in this enclosure very beautiful pavements
of different coloured marbles have been found, and a column
on which was sculptured in has relief figures of women repre-
senting the muses, or the graces: Horace was the neighbour
of Catullus. I arrived at the dwelling of the poet by a very
picturesque path, shaded by olive and chesnut-trees, laurels,
and vines. This is, no doubt, the famous Tihnrni hiculum,
where, in the time of Pliny, three immense chesnut-trees were
seen, older even than Tiburnus who founded the city. Here
also rose his tomb and his temple ; for the people of Latium
were accustomed to reckon their founders amongst the gods,
and to raise altars to them. The house of Horace was not far
off. I perceived through the trees a little convent, built of the
remains of other structiu'es, in a most picturesque situation.
I had no further to go — I stood on the lands of the friend of
Mecaenas ! (See Plate IV.)

But all at once I beheld a spectacle which surprised and en-
chanted me, and even made me forget Horace, his house, and
his verses. It yv2iS, the Cascatelles ! I had already beheld with
a feeling amounting to solemnity this river precipitate itself
into its deep and rocky bed; 1 now beheld it dancing in its
course and burning in the rays of the sun, sometimes conceal-
ing itself, then re-appearing and boimding to the bottom of the
valley, through verdure and through flowers. {See Plate VI.)

It is in the morning that these scenes should be visited ;

then is the moment of inspiration and musing ! The fresh
sensations of the mind are not then harassed by the fatigue of
the long and laborious day 3 they have found tranquillity in the
arms of sleep, and we hasten to enjoy, in voluptuous delirium^



38 Castellan's Travels in Italyi'^

all the faculties of the imagination. With what delight did I
cast myself under the shade of the ancient olive-trees, which I
was willing to think Avere planted by the hands of Horace, or
which adorned the immense possessions of Quintilius Varus !

A tradition, common amongst the inhabitants of Tivoli,
points out the foundations of the little convent of San-Antonio
as the scite of the poet's habitation. Situated on the right bank
of the Anio, this villa, like that of Catullus, might be called
either Sahina, or Tiburtina, accoi'ding to what Suetonius says,
who places it in the neighbourhood of the sacred forest of
Tibur. Though Horace boasted of his poverty, it was only re-
lative; he possessed a house in Rome, and rents, and stewards,
and slaves : he did not consider himself rich, but enjoyed that
aurea mediocritas — that happy competence equally removed
from riches and from poverty, and he did not therefore excite the
envy of his opulent neighbours. The steep scite which the
house occupies proves that it was not spacious ; a garden, sus-
tained by terraces, stretched nearly to the borders of the river^
and a wood of chesnut-trees, which still exist, formed a shelter
against the burning heat of noon, and formed a Avalk which
might be compared, said the poet, to the delicious groves of
Tarentum. In short, this enrhanting retreat where all the
pleasures of the country and the charms of study might be en-
joyed in peace, might well satisfy the wishes of a heart attached
to solitude and literature.

From the modest retreat of Horace, 1 turned to the haughty
habitation of Quiniilius Varus, situated in front of that of Me-
csenas, which it seemed desirous of rivaling in magnificence ;
this villa crowns the hill, at the foot of which runs the Teve-
rone : on the other side, fronting the south, extend the ruins of
the palace of Mecsenas. The waters, which add to the beauty
of the scene, lose themselves amongst the ruins, and again
seek the light through the crevices of the walls which they
undermine.

Ancient fortifications, with embattled towers, which rival
in height the spires of Christian churches, and the edifices of
Tivoli, are disposed with a sort of picturesque symmetry on the
table summit of a vast acclivity, whose sides, though steep, are
covered with verdure. On every little shelf where the industiy
of man could convey a few baskets full of earth, are seen fniit-
trees and vines ; even the peaks of the rocks are cloathed with
moss and tufts of herbs, the verdure of which is nourished by
the humid mists which perpetually surround them. The
streams flow from all sides with more or less abundance, and
they are converted to useful purposes in turning mills for the
manufacture of copper, iron, and other articles, After per-



CascatelleS'-'Englis'h Caricatures. 39

forming these useful services they escape from the midst of
the houses and trees, and embellish the country with the eftect
of their innumerable falls — producing those delicious cascatelles
which form the delight of the traveller, and the despair of the
landscape-painter. Now they glide from rock to rock, like
silver threads ; now they separate themselves, and shine like
plates of metal — sometimes confined in a narrow bed they are
covered with foam of snow-like whiteness : but how can even
the first of the cascatelles, so abundant and so beautiful, be
described at once ? Imagine a river springing from many
fountains uniting itself in one bed, and dashing headlong in
columns of unequal size, which unite as they descend, and, ere
they reach the bottom, form a cloud of sparkling spray ; the
waters then break upon pyramidal rocks resembling in their
colours that beautiful mineral malachite : there the vapours,
undergoing a metamorphosis, are converted into a liqviid state,
and, swelling through the rocks, burst forth, and surmounting
eveiy obstacle which opposed their course towards a less
rugged channel, they gain their level, and, with it, their former
transparency and beauty.

It was late when I returned to Tivoli — my dinner was spoiled
and my wine was flat ; but every thing appeared excellent to
me — I had visited the cascatelles and the house of Horace !

The bad weather has detained me in the house ; but fortu-
nately the situation is extremely picturesque, and furnishes me,
without going out of doors, with numerous prospects. I also
enjoy another source of amusement ; the walls of the rooms
are covered with verses and sketches, the latter frequently
the productions of good artists, who have wasted an hour or
two in thus bestowing entertainment on succeeding travellers.
The English artists seem to have carried the art of caricaturing
to the highest state of perfection : one of them has lately or-
namented the whole length of our hosts gallery with a sketch
of the post-asses of Tivoli ; that is to say, he has represented
all the incidents of an excursion from hence to the Villa
Adriana. I lost much of the merit of this pleasant caricature,
from not being acquainted with the persons (of both sexes)
that were represented in great variety, and extremely well
expressed; but, independent of this, the sketch of the long-eared
coursers was most excellent, and their ridiculous positions, and
the other laughable incidents which often take place in large
parties, afforded me much entertainment.

The following day the heavens grew clear, and at the break
of day I set off with one of the sons of my host for my guide:
on leaving the city by the Porto delle Colle there is a fine river,
which I recommend to artists. We left on our right the



40 Castellan's Travels in Italy.

temple of Tosse, which ivy and climbing plants covered with
their foliage, concealing its form, and giving it the appear-
ance of a verdant arbour; an isolated and colossal column
marked the station of the house of MecEenas ; further on rose
some towers ; as far as the eye extended there was a beautifiil
mingling of gardens and houses, and ruins, shadowed with
cypress and pine trees ; at the bottom the elevated summits of
Monticelli, Montalbano, and San-Angelo in Capoccia, which
form the limit of the Sabine territory, and of the Campagna of
Rome, seem to crown the plain, through which the Anio
winds, peaceably reposing, as it were, from the fatigues which
it has experienced in the rocky passes of Tivoli.

The temple of Tosse is sicuated in the garden belonging to
the canons of the cathedral ; its form is circular, and it is in
a good state of preservation ; in fact, it is not known to what
divinity it was consecrated, although popular tradition has
dedicated it to the goddess who presided over coughs. It is
certainly true that the ancients sometimes erected altars to
malevolent deities, to propitiate them, and to protect them-
selves from their influence ; Cicero mentions a temple con-
secrated to Fever ; Pliny speaks of the temples of Misfortune
and Idleness ; perhaps, however, the etymology of this
denomination may have arisen in another manner. The desig-
nation of families was frequently added lo the names of divini-
ties as Juno-Claiidia, Fortuna- J'/auia ; may not this temple
have been dedicated to some Venus- Tossia, or Ceres- Tossia ?
Fabretti mentions two monuments of a family of that name.

As we proceeded on our route, we traversed woods wiiich
shaded a soft green turf; we forded little brooks, or climbed
small hills covered with myrtles, sage, and rosemary. The
sun which falls direct on these unsheltered and uncultivated
spots, almost burns them, rendering the odours of the plants
still more strong, and drinking up their balsamic emanations,
which rise like the incense of gratitude to the great Creator.
I gave way to the beauty of the scene, and, plunged into con-
templative thought, I made no answers but in monosyllables
to my young guide; and he, on his side, withdrawing himself,
instigated no doubt by the chaunting of the birds, began gaily
to sing those beautiful airs which the people of this land so
much delight in, and the melodious simplicity of which is
truly charming. What is that natural taste which is found
only in Italy, where eveiy simple villager, every child that
sings is accompanied immediately by the bye-standers with
such taste and judgment ? In joining their voices the same
air is continued, not in the same tones, but Avith the melody
of different parts. Whence does that tact arise, that nice and




3ITE OI - HOIiiCD'S HOrSiE.



Villa Adriana, 41

delicate perception, which enables them to catch the most
harmonious notes, and to reject every false tone ? They know
not the rules of music ; they are ignorant of the lowest prin-
ciples of composition, yet they form combinations which indi-
cate the finest skill, and seem the effect of a sort of instinct.

Without experiencing the least fatigue from the length of
the way, we arrived at the entrance of the ancient mansion of
a powerful emperor. No triumphal arch, no succession of
porticos were left — a simple and unornamented door-way,
formed of two pilasters covered with plaster, was all that re-
mained. As I entered the vast inclosure of the Villa Adriana,
I found myself surrounded by heaps of ruins which astonished
me by their immensity.

The proud retreat of Adrian, situated about three miles from
Tibur, towards the south-west, occupied, in a line of nearly
three miles, a chain of hills in the midst of a winding valley,
bounded by rocks : it was protected towards the east by high
mountains crowned with thick forests ; and on the opposite
side lay the numerous monuments strewed along the plain of
Rome. In the distance the seven hills of the eternal city,
covered with obelisks and temples, rose above the horizon,
burning with the setting splendours of the sun. A nearer
view of the villa discovered the edifices built on the summits
of the hills, on their sides or at their base; some built on level
ground, some raised on terraces, and some constructed under
ground ; there were porticos, gymnasiums, theatres, circuses,
stadiums, temples, and houses mingled with gardens, bowers,
and pieces of water. This vast territory contained such a quan-
tity of monuments, that it bade defiance to the outrages of
time and man.

Sallust, Horace, and Seneca, complain with reason of the
ruinous magnificence of the villas of their time ; Adrian sur-
passed all his predecessors, and put the world under contri-
bution for embellishments for his Tiburtine Villa. This em-
peror is said to have had a desire of constructing in this place,
imitations of all the most celebrated edifices which he had
admired in his travels, as the Lyceum, the Academy, and the
Prytaneum of Athens. Nay, it was even said that a represen-
tation of the infernal kingdom and the Elysian fields was to be
seen here. One cannot doubt the truth of history, when one
beholds these monuments. Though explored a hundred times,
and presenting no interest but to painters and architects, yet
the immense space which is covered, the thickness and solidity
of the walls, the precious objects, the remains of which crowd
every step, the very considerable number of statues, bas-
reliefs, and inscriptions, which have been discovered in this

Voyages and Travels, No. 5, Vol, III. G



42 Castellan's TVareZs in Italy.

place, and carried to Rome, to enrich the museums — all
add to the idea which we have formed of the powerful mag-
nificence and never-failing resources of the monarch-people.

The principal entrance into the villa looked towards the
bridge of Lucano, and the Tiburtine road -, a way, the re-
mains of which are still seen, led to it : two piles of masoniy,
distant from each other 75 feet, mark the entrance — they rise
on the border of the road, at the entrance of the modern en-
closure. On entering, the most remarkable object which
presents itself is a very high wall, which overlooks the Paecile,
a double portico of 700 feet in height, once ornamented in all
probability with paintings, like that at Athens, and supported
on each side by the wall we have mentioned. This building
is so high, that it casts a shade at almost every period of the
day. This wall was situated between two squares equally
surrounded with porticoes ; that on the south still preserves
the form of a parallelogram, terminated at its extremities by
flattened arches. In the centre of this vast court there rose
some low walls, which formerly supported a fountain, if we
may credit those who levelled the place, in order to plant it
with vines.

It was in the Psecile, and in a hall which yet exists, that
Adrian used to assemble his literary friends, and where he
used to amuse himself in listening to, or disputing with them,
according to the Athenian custom. The Bibliotheca, or
Library, was not far from the Paecile — nothing remains of it
but the wall, in which there are 25 niches.

On a neighbouriag hill rises a magnificent theatre ; frag-
ments of 48 statues have been discovered here ; the rising
seats are still distinguishable, and the proscenium and some
other parts are in good preservation : it is the same with the
other ancient theatre, with the exception of those of Pompeii
and Herculaneum, which are more complete.

Turning to the south, we see the remains of the porticoes
which led to the baths ; then we arrive at the Academy and
the Temple of Apollo and the Muses, which was ornamented
with columns of Parian marble ; not far from this, in the
place in which the wild-beasts were confined, there were dis-
covered in the pontificate of Alexander VI. the statues of the
nine muses, which now adorn the Royal Museum of Paris.
The neighbouring ground is covered with the ruins of the
buildings which formed the Academy, habitations mingled
with gardens and fountains formed by conducting thither the
waters of the IVIarcia and the Anio : from this point extends a
portico, which led to that part of the villa called the Lyceum —



Villa Adnana, 43

a building dedicated to philosophical studies, where a group
of Pan and Syrinx was discovered.

After having traversed the foundation of an exedrum and of
the baths, the traveller arrives at the Canopiis, one of the
most beautiful ornaments of the place ; here part of the valley
had been shaped so as to contain a vast sheet of water, where
imitations of naval combats were represented : at one of the
extremities lie the ruins of a temple in the form of a shell,
which was dedicated to Neptune, who was called Canopus by
the Egyptians. Here also the statue of a sea-horse, one of the
attributes of that deity was discovered ; and also a consider-
able quantity of figures of Egyptian divinities, which were
conveyed to the Museum of the Vatican, and deposited in the
hall called on that account Canopus. In proceeding towards
the east the traveller enters another valley, which is supj^osed
by antiquarians to have been fashioned into a model of the
delicious bowers of Tempe and the Elysian fields, and in which
was the entrance to the infernal regions.

It appears to me that the excavations ornamented with
sculptures and paintings, and in which mysteries, so terrifying
to the uninitiated, were celebrated, were formed from the
quarries, Avhence the immense piles of materials used in the
construction of this villa were drawn; the entrances are
through three apertures, which, in the opinion of Pirro Li-
gorio, mark the avenues of the three-quarters of the worlds —
Asia towards the East, Africa towards the west, and Europe
towards the north : long corridors, forming a labyrinth, led
to an immense cavern filled with water, where the thrones
and tribunals of the infernal deities were seen. The Crypto
Porticus was a grotto formed in the rock. {See Plate IX.)

Towards the south, and at the extremity of the villa, ex-
tends the rest of the Prytaneum ; it was composed of vast
piles of building, where the emperor lodged the sick soldiers,
his ancient companions in arms. Here were the granaries,
the cellars, and innumerable other magazines for all sorts of
provisions. Both in the environs, and in the centre of the
beautiful gardens, rose the monuments of the illustrious persons
who died in the villa. Many cinerary urns have been disco-
vered. With the exceptions above mentioned, the villa only
presents amass of ruins. In the time, indeed, of Pirro Ligorio,
many other buildings were standing; this was about the
year 1550.

I quitted these interesting scenes, and hastened towards
Rome. On my return from the villa, I passed a crowd from
which loud laughs proceeded, and cries of bravo. I enquired
the reason, and found that they were engaged in the game



44 Castellan's Travels in Italy.

al porco, or of pigs. Popular amusements generally resemble
one another, although they vary iiccording to the country, and
the manners and character of the inhabitants. There are some
games which, though cruel and sanguinary, are tolerated only
on account of the address and courage which they require. It
is in the nature of man to prefer games in which some personal
danger is mingled. But it is shameful for man to amuse him-
self with the sufferings of harmless animals, frequently of a
timid and peaceable nature, in cold blood; and without danger
to himself exciting them to fight and mutilate one another,
and then enjoying their agony.

The game which I have just mentioned is of the latter spe-
cies, though scarcely more ridiculous than cruel ; and it is not
without risk to those who engage in it. A pig is the subject
ahd the victim of the entertainment. This animal is adorned
with ribbands and painted with various colours, and a bell is
hung round its neck. The object of the game is to pursue and
catch him ; and this is very difficult for the performers, since
they can neither see nor walk. Each of them in fact, is tied
up in a sack of thick sail cloth, which is tied together at the
top, so as to protect the person inside from the effect of blows.
Two apertures are left for the arms, which are left completely
at liberty. Muffled up in this strange manner, the hunters are
placed in a ring, at some distance from one another, and are
armed with sticTvs, ready, when the pig is let loose, to com-
mence the attack. As soon as the ringing of the bell betrays
the situation of their prey, and warns them of its approach,
they all begin to leap forwards, for, as they cannot walk, they
are obliged to use this motion. The slightest obstacle, and
the least shock, trip them up ; much of the sport consists in
their endeavours to overthrow one another. The terrified
animal, scared by the cries of the crowd, runs awkwardly
about, endeavouring to escape from its enemies. It flies from
one and meets with another, running against him and knocking
him down; — then it makes a new attempt to pierce the crowd
of spectators, which drives it back into the circle, beneath the
sticks of its pursuers : at the sound of the bell, the weapons
again descend, frequently on the shoulders of the other com-
batants. The animal becomes the property of him who seizes
or disables it. The conqueror generally invites his companions
to feast on the fruits of his triumph.

In re-entering this city, two objects of great interest, and
which form good proofs of the taste both of the ancients and
moderns, the villas of Mecsenas and Este, (See plate VIII.) claim
from the traveller a more than ordinary attention. It is neces-
saiy to call up every power of the judgment and Imagination,



Villas of Meceends and Este. * 45

to form an accurate idea of the former. The latter, better
preserved, is yet nothing more than the shadow, as it were,
of what it was in the time when this family, now extinct,
flourished — a family which has gained an immortal name in
the verses of Ariosto. The long terraces, the elegant porticoes,
the refreshing grottoes, are solitary and silent. The stillness
of the gardens is only broken by the rustUng of the leaves ;
and the light murmurs of the waters, which, formerly subjected
to the tortures of art, rose in jets, or fell in cascades, upon beds
of madrepore, of mother-of-pearl, and of shells. Now, aban-
doned to the beautiful wildness of nature, they wind through
the unequal plain, or amidst the trees, to the beds which they
have formed for themselves in the hollows of the valley. The
luxury of Nature has replaced the haughty vanity of the former
proprietors. Whilst the marbles are sinking in decay, the
enormous cypresses which adorn the garden continue to in-
crease, till their lofty heads seem searching in the clouds the
bolt which has often blasted their form and their beauty.
Time, the great vanquisher, has already begun to leave in these
places the traces of his power, which are so cruelly visible in
the villa of Mecsenas.

Mecsenas knew how to make a noble and generous use of
life and riches. The Society which he enjoyed, composed of
Augustus, of Horace, and of Virgil, and indeed of all the most
celebrated men of his time, rendered his life truly pleasing to
him. The beauty of the situation of this villa, the variety of
vast and splendid edifices, the refined distribution of the
interior apartments, and the objects of curiosity which were
collected in this place, attracted hither all the luxurious in-
habitants of Rome. The grandeur of style observable in these
ruins, and their vastness, recal the memory of their former
greatness, and excite sentiments of a(kniration for them, even
in their present state of decay.

They were described by Pirro Ligorio, at a time when they
existed in a more perfect state. But the many vicissitudes
which this edifice, dedicated to delight, has suffered in the
lapse of ages, have despoiled it of the most of its beauties.
Scarcely a trace remains of the paintings, and the sculptured
ornaments have all disappeared. How different now is this
habitation from what it was when the minister and favourite
of Augustus fled to this retreat, in search of that repose and
slumber which so obstinately refused to shed its influence on
his eye-lids. Yet the murmurs of the waters, which as they
flowed, refreshed the delightful sojourn, and fell from various
cascades ; musicians placed at a certain distance from the bed-
chamber, so that the harmonious sounds of instruments and



46 Casiellan*s Travels in Italy.

voices, bore only to the ear murmurs which invited to sleep ;
all the resources which riches can lavish on their master, could
not calm the trouble of his soul and the inquietude of his spirit.
The very appearance of these ruins tells their ancient mag-
nificence. They rose pile above pile in retreating grandeur,
and the loftier buildings were reached by means of flights of
stejjs ornamented with grottos, from whence flowed fountains
of waters. The peculiar residence of Mecsenas, surrounded
with innumerable porticoes and gardens, like a high tower,


1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11 12

Online LibraryA. L. (Antoine Laurent) CastellanLetters on Italy : illustrated by engravings → online text (page 5 of 12)