John Henry Newman.

Callista; a sketch of the third century online

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^ Glutei cf tl]« Cljir^ C^iititrji




Love thy God, and love Him only,

And thy breast will ne'er be lonely.

In that One Great Spirit meet

All things miffhty, grave, and sweet.

Vainly strives the soul to mingle

With a being of our kind ;

Vainly hearts with hearts are twined ;

For the deepest still is single.

An impalpable resistance

Holds like natures still at distance.

Mortal ! love that Holy One,

Or dwell for aye alone. De Vere


boston :— 128 federal street.
Montreal: — coe. notek damk & franois xavier 8T8.



It is hardly necessary to say that the following Sketch
is a simple fiction from beginning to end. It has very
little in it of historical truth, even indirectly introduced,
though it has not admitted any actual interference
with known facts without notice of it. Nor has it
any pretensions to an antiquarian character. Yet it
has required more reading than may appear at first

It is an attempt to imagine and express the feelings
and mutual relations of Christians and heathens at
the period to which it belongs ; and it has been under-
taken as the nearest approach which the Author could
make to a more important work suggested to him
from a high ecclesiastical quarter,

September 13, 1855.

P.S. Since the Volume has been in print, the Author
finds that his name has got abroad. This leads him to
add, that he wrote great part of Chapters I., IV., and
v., and sketched the character and fortunes of Juba,
in the early spring of 1848. Having got as far as this,


he stopped from sheer inability to devise personages
or incidents. He suddenly resumed the thread of his
story shortly after St. Mary Magdalen's day last year,
and has been successful so far as this, that he has
brought it to an end.

"Without being able to lay his finger upon instances
in point, he has some misgivings, lest there should be
any want of exactness in his minor statements,
■whether of opinion or fact, \Yhich carry with them
authority when they bear the name of a writer.

Edgbaston, February 8, 1856.


Page 43, lines 2 and 3, for Fabius read Fabian, and throughout
the volume.




In no province of the vast Eoman empire, as it existed
in the middle of the third century, did nature wear a
richer or a more joyous ^garb than she displayed in
Proconsular Africa, a territory of which Carthage was
the metropolis, and Sicca might be considered the cen-
tre. The latter city, which was the seat of a Eoman
colony, lay upon a precipitous or steep bank, which
led up along a chain of hills to a mountainous tract in
the direction of the north and east. In striking con-
trast with this wild and barren region was the view pre-
sented by the west and south, where for many miles
stretched a smiling champaign, exuberantly wooded,
and varied with a thousand hues, till it was terminated
at length by the successive tiers of the Atlas, and the
dim and fantastic forms of the Numidian mountains.
The immediate neighbourhood of the city was occu-
pied by gardens, vineyards, cornfields, and meadows,
crossed or encircled here by noble avenues of trees
or the remains of primeval forests, there by the clus-
tering groves which wealth and luxury had created.
This spacious plain, though level when compared with
the northern heights by which the city was backed,
and the peaks and crags which skirted the southern



and western horizon, was discovered, as light and
shadow travelled with the sun, to be diversified with
hill and dale, upland and hollow ; while orange gar-
dens, orchards, olive and palm plantations held their ap-
propriate sites on the slopes or the bottoms. Through
the mass of green, which extended still more thickly
from the west round to the north, might be seen at
intervals two solid causeways tracking their persever-
ing course to the Mediterranean coast, the one to the
ancient rival of Eome, the other to Hippo Eegius in
Numidia, Tourists might have complained of the
absence of water from the scene ; but the native pea-
sant would have explained to them that the eye alone
had reason to be discontented, and that the thick
foliage and the uneven surface did but conceal what
mother earth with no niggard bounty supplied. The
Bagradas, issuing from the spurs of the Atlas, made
up in depth what it wanted in breadth of bed, and
ploughed the rich and yielding mould with its rapid
stream, till, after passing Sicca in its way, it fell into
the sea near Carthage. It was but the largest of a
multitude of others, most of them tributaries to it,
deepening as much as they increased it. While chan-
nels had been cut from the larger rills for the irriga-
tion of the open land, brooks, which sprang up in the
gravel which lay against the hills, had been artificially
banked with cut stones or paved with pebbles ; and,
where neither springs nor rivulets were to be found,
wells had been dug, sometimes to the vast depth of as
much as 200 fathoms, with such effect that the spurt-
ing column of water had in some instances drowned
the zealous workmen who had been the first to reach
it. And, while such were the resources of less favoured
localities or seasons, profuse rains descended over the
whole region for one half of the year, and the thick
summer dews compensated by night for the daily
tribute extorted by an African sun.

At various distances over the undulating surfiice,
and through the woods, were seen the villas and the


Bamlets of that happy land. It was an age when the
pride of architecture had been indulged to the full ;
edifices, public and private, mansions and temples, ran
off far away from each market-town or borough, as from
a centre, some of stone or marble, but most of them of
that composite of fine earth, rammed tight by means of
frames, for which the Saracens were afterwards famous,
and of which specimens remain to this day, as hard
in surface, as sharp at the angles, as when they first
were finished. Every here and there, on hill or crag,
crowned with basilicas and temples, radiant in the sun,
might be seen the cities of the province or of its neigh-
bourhood, Thibursicumbur, Thugga, Laribus, Siguessa,
Sufetula, and many others ; while in the far distance,
on an elevated table-land under the Atlas, might be
discerned the Colonia Scillitana, famous about fifty
years before the date of which we write for the mar-
tyrdom of Speratus and his companions, who were
beheaded at the order of the proconsul for refusing to
swear by the genius of Eome and the emperor.

If the spectator now takes his stand, not in Sicca
itself, but about a quarter of a mile to the south-east,
on the hill or knoll on which was placed the cottage of
Agellius, the city itself will enter into the picture. Its
name. Sicca Yeneria, if it be derived from the Succoth-
benoth, or " tents of the daughters," mentioned by the
inspired writer as an object of pagan worship in
Samaria, shows that it owed its foundation to the
Phcenician colonists of the country. At any rate the
Punic deities retained their hold upon the place ; the
temples of the Tyrian Hercules and of Saturn, the
scene of annual human sacrifices, were conspicuous in
its outline, though these and all other religious build-
ings in it looked small beside the mysterious antique
shrine devoted to the sensual rites of the Syrian
A-starte. Public baths and a theatre, a capitol, imita-
tive of Home, a gymnasium, tlie long outline of a por-
tico, an equestrian statue in brass of the Emperor
Severus, were grouped together above the streets of
B 2


a city, wliicli, narrow and winding, ran up and down
across the hill. In its centre an extraordinary spring
threw up incessantly several tons of water every
minute, and was inclosed by the superstitious grati-
tude of the inhabitants with the peristylium of a sacred
place. At the extreme back, towards the north, which
could not be seen from the point of view where we
last stationed ourselves, there was a sheer descent of
rock, bestowing on the city, when it was seen at a
distance on the Mediterranean side, the same bold and
striking appearance which attaches to Castro Gio-
vanni, the ancient Enna, in the heart of Sicily.

And now, withdrawing our eyes from the pano-
rama, whether in its distant or nearer objects, if we
would at length contemplate the spot itself from which
we have been last surveying it, we shall find almost as
much to repay attention, and to elicit admiration.
"We stand in the midst of a farm of some wealthy pro-
prietor, consisting of a number of fields and gardens,
separated from each other by hedges of cactus or the
aloe. At the foot of the hill, which sloped down on
the side furthest from Sicca to one of the tributaries of
the rich and turbid river of which we have spoken, a
large yard or garden, intersected with a hundred arti-
ficial rills, was devoted to the cultivation of the beau-
tiful and odoriferous Mennah. A thick grove of palms
seemed to triumph in the refreshment of the water's
side, and lifted up their thankful boughs towards hea-
ven. The barley harvest in the fields which lay higher
up the hill was over, or at least was finishing ; and all
that remained of the crop was the incessant and im-
portunate chirping of the cicadce, and the rude booths
of reeds and bulrushes, now left to wither, in which
the peasant boys found shelter from the sun, while in
an earlier month they frightened from the grain the
myriads of linnets, goldfinches, and other small birds
who, as in other countries, contested with the human
proprietor the possession of it. On the south-western
slope lies a neat and carefully dressed vineyard, the


vine-stakes of which, dwarfish as they are, already east
long shadows on the eastern side. Slaves are scattered
over it, testifying to the scorching power of the sun
by their broad petasus, and to its oppressive heat by
the scanty suhligarium which reached from the belt or
girdle to the knees. They are engaged in cutting off'
useless twigs to which the last showers of spring have
given birth, and are twisting those which promise fruit
into positions where they will be safe both from the
breeze and from the sun. Every thing gives token of
that gracious and happy season which the great Latin
poets have hymned in their beautiful but heathen
strains ; when, after the heavy rains, and raw mists,
and piercing winds, and fitful sun-gleams of a long six
months, the mighty mother manifests herself anew,
and pours out the resources of her innermost being
for the life and enjoyment of every portion of the vast
whole ; — or, to apply the lines of a modern bard,

" When the bare earth, till now
Desert and bare, unsightly, unadorned,
Brings forth the tender grass, whose verdure clads
Her universal face with pleasant green ;
Then herbs of every leaf, that sudden flower,
Opening their various colours, and make gay
Her bosom, swelling sweet ; and, these scarce blown,
Forth flourishes the clustering vine, forth creeps
The swelling gourd, up stands the corny reed
Embattled in her fields, and the humble shrub,
And bush with frizzled hair implicit ; last
Rise, as in dance, the stately trees, and spread
Their branches hung with copious fruit, or gem
Their blossoms ; with high woods the hills are crowned ;
With tufts the valleys, and each fountain side ;
With borders long the rivers ; that earth now
Seems like to heaven, a seat where gods might dwell,
Or wander with delight, and love to haunt
Her sacred shades."

A snatch from some old Greek chant, with some-
thing of plaintiveness in the tone, issues from the
thicket just across the mule-path, cut deep in the
earth, which reaches from the city gate to the stream-
let ; and a youth, who had the appearance of the


assistant bailiff or procurator of tlie farm leaped from
it, and went over to the labourers, ^Yho were busy
■with the vines. His eyes and hair and the cast of his
features spoke of Europe ; his manner had something
of shyness and reserve, rather than of rusticity ; and
he wore a simple red tunic with half sleeves, descend-
ing to the knee, and tightened round him by a belt.
His legs and feet were protected by boots w-hich came
half up his calf. He addressed one of the slaves, and
his voice was gentle and cheerful.

" Ah, Sansar !" he cried, " I don't like your way of
managing these branches so well as my own ; but it is
a difficult thing to move an old fellow like you. You
never fasten together the shoots which you don't cut off;
they are flying about quite wild, and the first ox that
passes through the field next month for the ploughing
will break them off."

He spoke in Latin ; the man understood it, and
answered him in the same language, though with de-
viations from purity of accent and syntax, not without
parallel in the talkee-talkee of the AYest Indian negro.

" Ay, ay, master," he said, " ay, ay ; but it's all
a mistake to use the plough at all. The fork does the
work much better, and no fear for the grape. I hide
the tendril under the leaf against the sun, which is
the only enemy we have to consider."

"Ah! but the fork does not raise so much dust as
the plough and the heavy cattle which draw it," re-
turned Agellius ; " and the said dust does more for
the protection of the tendril than the shade of the

" But those huge beasts," relorted the slave, "turn
up great ridges, and destroy the yard."

" It's no good arguing with an old vinedresser, who
had formed his theory before I was born," said Agel-
lius good-humouredly ; and he passed on into a garden

Here were other indications of the happy month
through which the year was now travelling. The


garden, so to call it, was a space of several acres in
extent ; it was one large bed of roses, and preparation
was making for extracting their essence, for which
various parts of that coantry are to this day cele-
brated. Here was another set of labourers, and a
man of middle age was surveying them at his leisure.
His business-like, severe, and off-hand manner be-
spoke the villicus or bailiff himself.

" Always here," said he, "as if you were a slave,
not a Eoman, my good fellow ; yet slaves have their
Saturnalia; always serving, not worshipping the all-
bounteous and ail-blessed. Why are yoa not taking
holiday in the town ?"

" Why should I, sir ?" asked Agellius ; " don't you
recollect old Hienipsal's saying about ' one foot in the
slipper, and one in the shoe,' Nothing would be
done well if I were a town-goer. You engaged me, I
suppose, to be here, not there."

"Ah!" answered he, "but at this season the
empire, the genius of Eome, the customs of the coun-
try, demand it, and above all the great goddess Astarte,
and her genial, jocund month. ' Parturit almus ager ;'
you know the verse; do not be out of tune with
nature, nor clash and jar with the great system of the

A cloud of confusion, or of distress, passed over
Agelhus's face. He seemed as if he wished to speak ;
at length he merely said, " It's a fault on the right
side in a servant, I suppose."

" I know the way of your people," Yitricus replied,
" Corybantians, Phrygians, Jews, what do you call
yourselves? There are so many fantastic religious
now-a-days. Hang yourself outright at your house-
door, if you are tired of living, — and you are a sensible
fellow. How^ can any man, whose head sits right upon
his shoulders, say that life is worth having, and not
worth enjoying?"

" I am a quiet being," answered Agellius, "I like


the-countrj, which you think so tame, and care little
for tlie flaimtiDg town. Tastes differ."

" Town ! you need not go to Sicca," answered the
bailiff, " all Sicca is out of town. It has poured into
the fields, and groves, and river side. Lift up your
eyes, man alive, open your ears, and let pleasure flow
in. Be passive under the sweet breath of the goddess,
and she will fill you with ecstasy."

It was as Vitricus had said ; the solemn feast-days of
Astarte were in course of celebration ; of Astarte, the
well-known divinity of Carthage and its dependent
cities, whom Helio

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Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanCallista; a sketch of the third century → online text (page 1 of 23)