John Chetwode Eustace.

A classical tour through Italy, an. MDCCCII (Volume 1) online

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where sixteen hundred marble seats were placed
for the convenience of the bathers ; at each end
of this hall were libraries. This building termi-
nated on both sides in a court surrounded with
porticos, with an odeum for music, and in the
middle a capacious basin for swimming. Round
this edifice were walks shaded by rows of trees,
particularly the plane ; and in its front extended a
gymnasium for running, wrestling, &c. in fine
weather. The whole was bounded by a vast
portico opening into exedrae or spacious halls,
where poets declaimed and philosophers gave

This immense fabric was adorned within and
without with pillars, stucco-work, paintings, and
statues. The stucco and painting, though faintly
indeed, are yet in many places perceptible. Pillars


have been dug up, and some still remain amidst
the ruins ; while the Farnesian bull, and the
famous Hercules found in one of these halls,
announce the multiplicity and beauty .of the
statues which once adorned the Thermae (Baths)
of Caracalla. The flues and reservoirs for water
still remain. The height of the pile was propor-
tioned to its extent, and still appears very con-
siderable, even though the ground be raised at
least twelve feet above its ancient level. It is
now changed into gardens and vineyards: its
high massive walls form separations, and its limy
ruins spread over the surface, burn the soil, and
check its natural fertility.

From these Thermae we crossed the Vallis
CcElimontana and ascended the Coelian Mount.
Many shapeless ruins that bewilder antiquaries in
a maze of conjectures, are strewed over the surface
of this hill. One object only merits particular
attention, and that is the church of S. Stephana in
rotondo, so called from its circular form, admitted
by all to be an ancient temple, though there is
much doubt as to the name of its tutelar god.
Some suppose it to have been dedicated to the
Emperor Claudius, a leaden divinity not likely
either to awe or to delight his votaries ; while
others conceive it to have been the sanctuary of
the most sportive of the rural powers, of Faunus,


" Nympharum fugientum amator^T On this con-
jecture the imagination reposes with complacency.
Its circular walls are supported by a double range
of Ionic pillars of granite, to the number of sixty,
and it derives from such an assemblage of columns,
a certain air of grandeur, though in other respects
it is much disfigured, and at present much neg-
lected. This latter circumstance seems extraordi-
nary, as it is one of the most ancient churches in
Rome, having been consecrated as such by Pope
Simplicius in the year 468 ; and as it gives title to
a Cardinal deacon, a privilege which generally se-
cures to a church endowed with it, the attention
and munificent partiality of the titular prelate.

Descending the Coelian hill, we crossed the
Suburra once the abode of the great and opulent
Romans, now two long streets lined with dead
walls, and covered with a few straggling houses
and solitary convents. Proceeding over the Esqui-
line Mount we stopped at the baths of Titus, an
edifice once of unusual extent and magnificence,
though on a smaller scale than the Thermae of
Caracalla. Part of the theatre of one of the tem-

' Who with eager flame

Pursues the nymphs, his flying game.



pies and of one of the great halls still remains
above, and many vaults, long galleries, and spa-
cious ruins under ground. Some of these subter-
raneous apartments were curiously painted, and
such is the firmness and consistency of the colors
that notwithstanding the dampness of the place,
the lapse of so many ages, and the earth which
has filled the vaults for so long a time, they still
retain much of their original freshness. Many of
the figures are scratched on the plaster, and sup-
posed to have been so originally to imitate basso
relievo; but upon a close examination the little
nails which fastened the gold, silver, or bronze,
that covered these figures are perceptible, and
seem to prove that they were all originally coated
over in a similar manner. Many of the paintings
are arabesques ; a fanciful style of ornament ob-
served and reprobated as unnatural and ill-propor-
tioned by Vitruvius *, but revived and imitated by

Titus's baths are, as I have observed before,
inferior in extent to those of Caracalla and of Dio-
cletian ; but erected at a period when the arts still
preserved their primeval perfection, they must
have surpassed all later edifices of the kind in
symmetry, decoration, and furniture. Every per-

Lib. vii. cap. 5.


son of taste must therefore lament that they are
not cleared and opened ; the famous groupe of
Laocoon was found in an excavation made there
not many years ago, and several pillars of granite,
alabaster, and porphyry have since been discovered
in various partial researches. What precious rem-
nants of ancient art and magnificence might we
find, if all the streets of this subterraneous city (for
so these thermcB may be called) were opened, and
its recesses explored ! At present the curious visi-
tor walks over heaps of rubbish so high as almost
to touch the vault, so uneven as to require all his |

attention at every step ; and whilst he examines
the painted walls by the faint glare of a taper, he
is soon obliged by the closeness of the air to retire
contented with a iew cursory observations. To
these baths belong the Sette Sale, seven halls, or
vast vaulted rooms of one hundred feet in length
by fifteen in breadth and twenty in depth, intended
originally as reservoirs to supply the baths, and
occasionally the Coliseum with water when naval
engagements were represented.

Besides the baths of Titus several other vaulted
subterraneous apartments, halls, and galleries, or-
namented in the same style and with the same
magnificence, have been discovered at different
times on the same hill. They are supposed to
have been parts of the same Thermae, or perhaps


belonging to some of the many palaces that were
once crowded together in this neighborhood.

Towards the extremity of the Esquiline and
not far from the Porta Maggiore, in a vineyard,
stands a ruined edifice called the Temple of
Minerva Medica (the healing Minerva), though
it is supposed by some to have been a bath. Its
form circular without, is a polygon within ; its
arched roof swells into a bold dome ; in its sides
are nine niches for so many statues ; the entrance
occupies the place of the tenth. Many beautiful
statues were found in the grounds that border it,
among others that of Minerva with a serpent an
emblem of iEsculapius, twined round her legs, a
circumstance which occasioned the conjecture that
this structure was a temple of that goddess. It
seems to have been surrounded with a portico,
cased with marble, and highly decorated. No-
thing now remains but the walls, the vaulted roof
in some places shattered, and on the whole a mass
that daily threatens ruin.

In the same vineyard are various subterranean
vaulted apartments, some more some less orna-
mented, the receptacles of the dead of various
families, whose ashes consigned to little earthen-
ware urns remain in their places, inscribed with a
name and an exclamation of sorrow. Anciently in-
deed, a considerable part of the Esquiline was de-



voted to the plebeian dead whose bodies were
sometimes burnt here, and sometimes I believe
thrown into ditches or graves uncovered : a cir-
cumstance to which Horace seems to allude when
he represents it as the resort of beasts and birds
of prey.

Insepulta membra diiFerant lupi
Et Esquilinae allies *.

Hor. Epod. Od. v. 101.

To remove such funereal objects, and to purify
the air, Augustus made a present of the ground
so employed to Maecenas, who covered it with
gardens and groves and erected on its summit
a palace. The elevation of this edifice and its
extensive views are alluded to by the same poet,
when pressing his friend to descend from his
pompous residence and visit his humble roof, he

■ ' Eripe te morae ;

Ne semper udum Tibur et iEsulse
Declive contempleris arvum, et
Telegoni juga parricidae.
Fastidiosam desere copiam, et
Molem propinquam nubibus arduis :

Then beasts of prey, and birds of air
Shall your unburied members tear.



Omitte mirari beatae

Fumum et opes strepitumque Romae *.

Carm. iii. ^9.

From the top of this palace, or from a tower m a
garden, Nero contemplated and enjoyed the dread-
ful spectacle of Rome in flames -f-. The precise
site of this palace and its towers, and of the gar-
dens surrounding, has never been ascertained in a
satisfactory manner ; statues and paintings have
been discovered in profusion in various parts of
this hill ; but numberless were the temples and
palaces that rose on all sides, and to which such
ornaments belonged, it would be difficult to de-
termine. Near the palace of his patron Maecenas,
Virgil is said to have had a house ; but the retired

* From the delights, oh ! break away,

Which Tibur's marshy prospect yields,
Nor with unceasing joy survey

Fair iEsula's declining fields ;
No more the verdant hills admire
Of Telegon, who kill'd his aged sire.

Instant forsake the joyless feast,
Where appetite in surfeit dies.
And from the tower'd structure haste.
That proudly threatens to the skies ;
From Rome and its tumultuous joys.
Its crowds, and smoke, and opulence, and noise.


t Suetonius, Nero, 38.


temper of this poet, and his fondness for a country
life, seem to render extremely improbable a re-
port, which I believe rests solely on the authority
of Donatas.

From the Esquiline hill we passed to that ele-
vated site which as it advances westward branches
into the Viminal and Quirinal hills. On it stands
one of the grandest remains of ancient splendor, a
considerable portion of the baths of Diocletian,
now converted into a convent of Carthusians.
The principal hall is the church, and though four
of the side recesses are filled up, and the two mid-
dle ones somewhat altered ; though its pavement
has been raised about six feet to remove the damp-
ness, and of course its proportions have been
changed, yet it retains its length, its pillars, its
cross-ribbed vault, and much of its original gran-
deur. It was paved and incrusted with the finest
marble by Benedict XIV. who carried into execu-
tion the plan drawn up originally by Michael An-
gelo, when it was first changed into a church. It
is supported by eight pillars forty feet in height
and five in diameter, each of one vast piece of
granite. The raising of the pavement, by taking
six feet from the height of these pillars, has de-
stroyed their proportion, and given them a very
massive appearance. The length of the hall is
three hundred and fifty feet, its breadth eighty,


and its height ninety-six. Notwithstanding its
magnificence, the mixture of Corinthian and com-
posite capitals shews how much the genuine taste
of architecture was on the decline in the time of
Diocletian. The vestibulum or entrance into this
church, is a beautiful rotunda, consecrated by the
monuments of Carlo Maratti and Salvator Rosa.
The cloister deserves attention : it forms a large
square supported by a hundred pillars. In the
centre, four towering cypresses shade a fountain
that pours a perpetual supply of the purest waters
into an immense marble basin, and forms a scene
of delicious freshness and antique rural luxury.

The Viminal hill has no remnant of ancient
magnificence to arrest the traveller in his progress
to the Quirinal once adorned with the temple of
Quirinus, whence it derived its name. Titus
Livius and Ovid both relate the Apotheosis of
Romulus ; the historian in his sublime manner —
the poet in his usual easy graceful style. " Romui
lus," says Proculus in the former, " parens urbis
hujus, prima hodierna luce coelo repente delapsus,
se mihi obvium dedit. Quum perfusus horrore
venerabundusque astitissem petens precibus ut con-
tra intueri fas esset. Abi, inquit, nuncia Romanis,
coelestes ita velle ut mea Roma caput orbis terra-
rum sit ; proinde rem militareni colant, sciantque,
et ita posteris tradant, nullas opes humanas armi&


Romanis resistere posse. Haec, inquit, locutus,
sublimis abiit*."

Pulcher et humano major, trabeaque decorus
Romulus in medi^ visus adesse vi-^

Thura ferant, placentqxie novum pia turba Quiriuum
Et patrias artes, militiamque colant

Templa Deo fiunt. CoUis quoque dictus ab illo :
Et referunt certi sacra paterna dies f.

Ovid. Fqst. lib. ii. 503-.

We may easily suppose that a temple dedicated
to the founder and tutelar divinity of Rome, must

* Romulus, the founder of this city, this morning at dawn
of day suddenly descended from heaven, and stood before
me. " Go," said he, " tell the Romans that it is the will of
the gods that my Rome should be the capital of the world :
Let them therefore cultivate the art of war, and let them
know, and transmit the knowledge to their posterity, that no
human power shall be able to resist the Roman arms."
Having thus spoken, he mounted into the skies, and disap-
peared. — Liv. i. 16.

t Surpassing human beauty, human size,
Cloth'd in his kingly garb, before my eyes
Rome's awful founder stood .....
" Haste, bid my sons their duteous incense bring,
" And own their heav'nly patron, once their king.
" Be war their native art."

To great Quirinus then a temple fam'd
Rear'd its high head ; from him a hill was nam'd.
And festal days, prescrib'd for rites sublime.
Transmit his mem'ry to succeeding time.


have been a structure of unusual magnificence, and
we find accordingly that a noble flight of marble
steps conducted to its portal, and that it was sup-
ported by seventy-six lofty columns. It stood on
the brow of the hill that looks towards the Vimi-
nal, and in such a site, and with such a colonnade,
it must have made a most majestic and splendid
appearance. On the opposite side and command-
ing the Campus Martins, rose the temple of the
Sun erected by Aurelian, and almost equal in gran-
deur and decorations to the palace of this deity
described by Ovid, " sublimibus alt a columnis *."
In fact the pillars that supported its portal must
have been, if we may judge by a fragment remain-
ing in the Colonna garden, near seventy feet in
height ; and as they were with the whole of their
entablature of the whitest marble and of the richest
order (the Corinthian) they must have exhibited a
most dazzling spectacle worthy of the glory of
" the far beaming god of day." But not a trace
of either of these edifices remains ; their massive
pillars have long since fallen, and the only remnant
of the latter is a block of white marble, and a part
of the entablature ; and of the former, the flight of
marble steps that now leads to the church of Ara
Cceli in the Capitol.

Sublime with lofty columns.


From the Quirinal we passed to the Monte
Pincio anciently without the city, and called,
'' CoUis hortulorum * ;" because covered then as
now, with villas and suburban gardens. Pompey,
Sallust, and at a later period the Emperors, de-
lijjhted in the rural airy retreat of this hill, high
and commanding extensive views on all sides.

* The hill of gardens.



Campus Martins, its Edifices — Mausoleum of Au-
gustus — Pantheon — Columna Trqjatia — Bridges
— Circus — Causes of the Destruction of ancient

From the hills we descended to the Campus Mar-
tius, in the early ages of the Republic an open
field devoted to military exercises, and well calcu-
lated for that purpose by its level grassy surface,
and the neighborhood of the river winding along
its border. In process of time some edifices of
public utility were erected upon it ; but their
number was small during the Republic ; while
under the Emperors they were increased to such a
degree, that the Campus Martius became another
city, composed of theatres, porticos, baths, and tem-
ples. These edifices were not only magnificent in
themselves, but surrounded with groves and walks,
and arranged with a due regard to perspective
beauty. Such is the idea which we must naturally
form of buildings erected by Consuls and Em-
perors, each endeavoring to rival or surpass his
predecessor in magnificence ; and such is the de-


scription which Strabo gives of the Campus in his
time, that is, nearly in the time of its greatest
glory. This superb theatre of glorious edifices,
when beheld from the Janiculum, bordered in
front by the Tiber, and closed behind by the
Capitol, the Viminal, the Quirinal, and the Pin-
cian hills, with temples, palaces, and gardens
lining their sides, and swelling from their sum-
mits, must have formed a picture of astonishing
beauty, splendor, and variety, and have justified
the proud appellation so often bestowed on Rome
" of the temple and abode of the gods." But of
all the pompous fabrics that formed this assem-
blage of wonders how few remain I and of the
remaining few how small the number of those
which retain any features of their ancient majesty!
Among these latter can hardly be reckoned Augus-
tus's tomb, the vast vaults and substructions of
which indeed exist, but its pyramidal form and
pillars are no more; or Marcellus's theatre half
buried under the superstructure raised upon its
vaulted galleries ; or the portico of Octavia lost
with its surviving arch and a few shattered pillars
in the Pescheria. Of such surviving edifices the
principal indeed is the Pantheon itself.

The Pantheon, it is true, retains its majestic
portico, and presents its graceful dome uninjured:
the pavement laid by Agrippa, and trodden by
Augustus, still forms its floor ; the compartments


and fluted pillars of the richest marble that origi-
nally lined its walls, still adorn its inward circum-
ference ; the deep tints that age has thrown over
it only contribute to raise its dignity, and augment
our veneration ; and the traveller enters its portal,
through which twice twenty generations have
flowed in succession, with a mixture of awe and
religious veneration. Yet the Pantheon itself has
been " shorn of its beams," and looks eclipsed
through the " disastrous twilight " of eighteen
centurfes. Where is now its proud elevation, and
the flight of steps that conducted to its threshold?
Where the marbles that clothed, or the handmaid
edifices that concealed its brick exterior ? Where
the statues that graced its cornice? The bronze
that blazed on its dome, that vaulted its portico,
and formed its sculptured doors ; and where the
silver that lined the compartments of its roof
within, and dazzled the spectator with its bright-
ness ? The rapacity of Genseric began, the avarice
of succeeding barbarians continued, to strip it of
these splendid decorations; and time, by levelling
many a noble structure in its neighborhood, has
raised the pavement, and deprived it of all the
advantages of situation.

The two celebrated pillars of Antoninus and
Trajan stand each in its square ; but they also
have lost several feet of their original elevation ;
and the colonnade or portico that enclosed the


latter, supposed to be the noblest structure of the
kind ever erected, has long since sunk in the dust,
and its ruins probably lie buried under the foun-
dations of the neighboring houses.

Seven bridges formerly conducted over the
Tiber to the Janiculum and the Vatican Mount:
of these the most remarkable were the first, the
Pons Elius ; and the last, the Pons Sublicius :
the former erected by Adrian, opened a grand
communication from the Campus Martius to his
mausoleum. It remains under the appellation of

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Online LibraryJohn Chetwode EustaceA classical tour through Italy, an. MDCCCII (Volume 1) → online text (page 25 of 27)