John Chetwode Eustace.

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

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as agents unusually active in the work of destruc-
tion ; while Papal piety is represented as the pre-
siding demon who directed their operations, and
quickened their natural activity. The fact, how-
ever, is otherwise ; we do not find that any one
temple in Rome was destroyed by the Christians,
either tumultuously, or legally, that is, by imperial
orders ; on the contrary, such was the respect
which the Christian Emperors paid even to the
prejudices of the Romans, that idols proscribed in


the provinces, were still tolerated in the capital,
and allowed to occupy their rich shrines, and sit
enthroned in their deserted temples. In the pil-
lage of Rome by the Goths and Vandals, these
statues, when of precious materials, such as gold,
silver, or brass, were not spared ; but the shrine
only, or perhaps the furniture and decorations of
the temple of similar materials, and of course
equally calculated to attract the hand of rapacity,
were violated ; while the edifices themselves, with-
out, I believe, one exception, were respected. The
influence of papal piety was employed to preserve
these buildings, and if possible, to consecrate them
to the pure mysteries of Christian adoration ; and
to it we owe the few temples that have survived
the general ruin, such as the temple of Vesta, that
of Faunus, that of Fortuna Virilis, and last, though
first in estimation and grandeur, the Pantheon

Having thus rejected as fabulous or inefficient
the causes produced by the poet, and admitted by
ignorance and prejudice with little or no examina-
tion ; it is necessary, and not difficult to substitute
in their place, the real agents that effected the de-
gradation, and finally, the destruction of the no-
blest city that the world had ever beheld.

Under the auspicious government of Trajan,
the empire of Rome had reached the utmost ex-
tent of its destined limits ; and Rome herself had


attained the full perfection of her beauty, and the
highest degree of her magnificence. During the
virtuous administration of the Antonines, that is,
during the space of nearly a century, this state of
prosperity and glory continued unaltered till the
tyranny of Commodus revived the memory and
the disasters of the reigns of Caligula, Nero, and
Domitian, and ended, like them, in assassination,
civil war, and revolution. From the portentous
sera of the death of Pertinax, Rome ceased to be
the fixed and habitual residence of her Emperors,
who were generally employed in the field, either
in repressing rebellious usurpers, or in repelling
foreign enemies. Still they occasionally returned
to celebrate festive games, to receive the homage
of the Senate and Roman people, or perhaps to
ascend in triumph to the Capitol, and to worship
the tutelar deities of the empire. From the acces-
sion of Diocletian, these visits became less fre-
quent, and while the Mistress of the world was
neglected by her half-barbarian Emperors, the
handmaid cities of the provinces, Thessalonica,
Nicomedia, Antioch, Milan, and Ravenna, enjoyed
the honor and the advantages of their residence.

Though Rome was still the acknowledged
capital of the world, and though her population
and her riches were unbounded, yet the arts, no
longer encouraged or employed by the sovereign,
languished. Taste was on the decline, and the great



masterpieces (ediBces, statues, paintings) that
adorned the city, monuments of the genius and
magnificence of happier periods, were passed by
unnoticed, and gradually neglected. We cannot
suppose that a people who had lost their taste and
spirit, or that Emperors occupied in remote pro-
vinces with the intrigues of competition, or with
the dangers of war, were disposed to furnish the
sums requisite to repair and to maintain buildings,
which they scarcely knew, or probably beheld
with indifference. We may therefore fairly con-
clude, that, at the beginning of the reign of Con-
stantine, some, perhaps several, public edifices
must have suffered from neglect; and when we
behold the triumphal arch of Trajan destroyed by
order of the senate, to furnish materials for the
erection of a similar trophy in honor of the former
Emperor, we may fairly infer that such edifices
were considered as scarcely worth preservation,
and that they were indebted for their duration to
their own solidity.

Among the causes of ruin we may therefore
safely rank the indifference and the neglect of
government ; nay, we have even some reason to
suspect that the Emperors not only neglected the
reparation, but sometimes hastened the fall of pub-
lic structures. Each sovereign was ambitious of
distinguishing his reign by some magnificent fa-
bric, by erecting baths or a circus, a portico or a


fonini ; but it is to be feared that they were not
always deHcate as to the places whence the mate-
rials were taken, and sometimes stripj)ed the mo-
numents of their predecessors of their ornaments,
in order to employ them in the decoration of their
new edifices. Certain it is that some Emperors,
while they were adding to the splendor of the city
on one side, made no difficulty of plundering it on
the other. Moreover, as the number of Christians
increased, the temples became deserted ; and
Christian princes, though not obliged by their re-
ligion to destroy, did not, perhaps, consider them-
selves as authorized in conscience to repair the
sanctuaries of idolatrous worship *►

When Rome ceased to be free, and lost even
the forms of republican liberty, the forum (the

* We may conjecture from an ancient inscription, how
much Rome was encumbered with ruins even in the age of
Honorius. S. P. Q. R. IMPP. CAESS. DD. ISN. IN-
Apud. Grut.

" The Senate and People of Rome to the Emperors Ar-
cadius and Honorius, {here follow their titles) for renewing
the walls, gates, and towers of the Eternal City, from which
immense heaps of rubbish were removed," &c. &c.


seat of popular deliberations) became useless, and
the five or six superb squares that bore that
appellation, were turned into so many lonely
walks. The various curi

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Online LibraryJohn Chetwode EustaceA classical tour through Italy, an. MDCCCII (Volume 1) → online text (page 26 of 27)