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bases ; and similar vicissitudes have softened the aspect of
those nigged mounts, amidst whose thickets of osiers
and forests of oak and beech the dwellings of infant
Rome were raised. To recall the primeval aspect of the
spot, we must also figui-e a little lake in the deep valley
between the Capitoline and Palatine Hills, and another
between the latter and the Aventine. In time these
tarns were converted into marshes, and the most ancient
ruin which remains to us was designed for carrying off
their waters. The two valleys were drained, — the woods
that overhung them disappeared, unless where sacred
groves remained encii'cling the shrines of divinities, — the
clusters of buildings grew larger and more numerous, and
the steep acclivities, fortified in several places by earthen
mounds or walls of stone, became the ramparts of the

The Latin settlement on the Palatine, whose founda-
tion is ascribed to Romulus, speedily united with the
Sabine colony of Tatius, covering the Capitoline and the
Quirinal ;* and after this event the joint town spread
over the neighbouring eminences by a progress which we

* See vol. i. book ii. of the Beschreibung der Stadt Rom,— a
work already described, which, good in every section, is in its
ancient topography of the city altogether unrivalled.


need not specifically trace, till we find all tlie Seven
Hills embraced within a fortification which the legendary
history ascribes to Servius TuUius. In the strongest
quarters a simple wall seems to have been erected,
which naturally disappeared without leaving any visible
remains ; but along the noiih- eastern side of the Quirinal,
where the hill rose from the plain with a very gradual
slope, the defence was formed for nearly a mile by the
celebrated mound called the Agger of Servius, which
is described as ha\'ing been fifty feet iu breadth, and
fenced by a ditch at least an hundred feet wide by
thirty in depth. Of tliis remarkable work some striking
vestiges may still be seen in the grounds of the Villa
Negroni, and in those of the Villa Barberini, in which
latter, also, is the site of the Campus Sceleratus, where
the unchaste Vestal Virgms, like Christian nuns in the
middle ages, were buried alive. The ch'cumference of
the Servian town was about six miles.

With the increasing power of the republic the limits
of Rome kept pace. The suburb of the Campus Mar-
tius, in particular, was gradually covered with public
buUdings, and became in the tune of Augustus the most
magnificent quarter of the most splendid city on earth.
In the reigns of succeeding emperors, if the population
did not increase, the edifices at least stretched out in
more than one direction many furlongs into the plain.
The ancient walls were lost among the new streets, but
no repair or extension of them was ever contemplated.
Rome had no enemy to dread, for all the nations of the
world were her slaves. At length, nearly a thousand 3-ears
after the supposed date of the first fortifications, the
Emperor Aurelian (a. d. 271) commenced the erection
of a new city-wall, which was completed by Probus five
years afterwards. Repeated restorations have taken
place from the days of Honorius and Belisarius down
to those of Leo XII., and few portions of the lofty
rampart which, twelve English miles in compass,* now

* Hobhouse's Illustrations of Childe Harold, p. 182.


encircles Rome, can be presumed to belong to the time of
its original founders ; though the circuit which the walls
at present surround is substantially the same they en-
closed under Aurelian, no material alteration having
been made on the left bank of the Tiber. ^ On the
other bank, these walls defended, like a little separate
town, a part of the Janiculan Mount, comprehended
within the modem quarter called the Trastevere ; but
the Vatican Hill with its plain continued to be excluded.
Servius Tullius is said to have divided his town into
four regions, and no new division has been traced till the
time of Augustus. This prince, as we have seen in
another place, established a system of police, according
to w^hich the city contained fourteen Regions, embracing
the whole extent then built upon, both w^ithout and
within the Servian wall. It is impossible to determine
exactly the boundaries of the district thus partitioned ;
but the measurement under Vespasian, as reported by
Pliny, gives a circuit of thirteen Roman miles, which
differs little from the modern lines Avithin the ramparts.
On the left bank of the Tiber, the Campus Martins and
Pincian Mount were within the boimdaries ; and on the

* The dream of Vopiscus, adopted in the present day by the
Italian Professor Nibby, that Aurelian's wall embraced a circum-
ference of fifty miles, is fellow to the vision of Justus Lipsius,

who pave the Augustan city a populanon of eight millions Rome

has now sixteen gates, of which four are shut up : the existing
walls are crested by numerous towers, and their height outside is
about fifty feet, but inside little more than half. They are
strengthened internally almost throughout by buttresses, support-
ing a continuous arcade. For details as to the walls, gates, and
ancient divisions, consult the Beschreibung, vol. i. book ii. (with
its comparative table), and book iv. ; Nibby's Treatise on the
"Walls, or his edition of Nardini ; Burton's Description of the
Antiquities of Rome, 2 vols, 182S ; or IJurgess' Topography and
Antiquities of Rome, 2 vols, 1831. — The annexed ]Map, besides
indicating the principal ancient monuments, gives Aurelian's Walls
with their Gates, and, within these, marks the circuit of the Ram-
part of Servius. In regard to this oldest fortification, however,
the line at many places is very doubtful ; and our IMap, chiefly
foUowmg Bunsen, will therefore be found to differ in several points
from the opinions prevalent among the English topographers.


other bank were included not only the -walled Janiciilan
quarter, but that of the Vatican Mount and its plain.

In tracing- the vestiges of Roman magnificence, we
must here be content to abandon all attempts at any
thing like a complete enumeration of monuments. Our
purpose will be served by a selection of tliose which best
illustrate the history of the people ; and in describing
these we shall gain several advantages by following,
with few exceptions, a chronological order.

The western and northern declivities of the Palatine
present the chief scene of those poetical legends which
glorify the birth of the city ; but the grove and foun-
tain of the Lupercal, the Ruminal fig-tree, the altar of
Hercules, and the lakes of Curtius and Juturna, had
vanished even before the times of the empire ; and we
smile without displeasure at the tradition still current,*
which calls a hollow in the Aveutuie cliffs the cave of
the robber Cacus.

In the period of the Roman kings were executed
several stupendous undertakings, of which only two
now offer remains indubitably genuine. T]ie vestiges
of one of these, the Servian rampart, have been already
noticed : the ruins of the other, — the Cloaca iMaxi-
ma, or subterranean tunnel designed for draining the
valleys at the foot of the Palatine, — rank among the
most remarkable monuments of antiquity, from their
impressive massiveness of construction, and their singu-
larly perfect preservation after the lapse of twenty-four
centuries. The part which can yet be traced runs from
the old Velabrum to the river's bank, and presents a
vault fourteen feet in width and as many in height,
formed by a triple course of arches, composed of massy
blocks chiefly of peperine, strengthened with masses of
travertine, and exliibiting in some places substructions
of tufo. A stream still flows through it, whose waters
probably issue from the ancient fountain of Juturna.
As the republican and imperial city increased, the sub-

VOL. I. o


ordinate sewers from several quarters of it were made
to discharge themselves into this passage, which in its
original state, commencing near the Forum, appears to
have extended not less than a thousand feet. The Mamer-
tine Prison of the first kings, to which a lower dungeon
was added hy Servius Tullius, may still he visited
heneath the floor of the little church of San Giuseppe,
on the declivity of the Capitoline Hill, hehind the arch of
Severus. From the upper chamber, hewn out of the
tufo rock, and faced with uncemented blocks of peperine,
a circular aperture communicates with the lower cell,
and was the avenue by which persons condemned to
death were thrust into this dreariest place of punish-
ment. It is not quite certain, however, that the existing
remains even of the under vault belong to the earliest
period of these prisons ;* and the portion now accessible
can have constituted only a small part of those state-
dungeons which witnessed the execution of Jugurtha,
of Catiline's accomplices, and of Sejanus, and where, if
we could allow om-selves to believe the doubtful tradi-
tion still commemorated on the spot, St Peter and St
Paul were also imprisoned.

In the sack of the city by the Gauls the edifices of its
earlier republican era perished, and Rome had to be
built anew.

The national works of the commonwealth after this
epoch were numerous and extensive. Several aqueducts
introduced streams of water for general use ; the pon-
derous Appian Way served as a model for the cause-
wayed Roman roads ; and streets of tombs on this and
other highways in the neighbourhood received genera-
tion after generation of the citizens. Before the sup-
pression of the republic we can enumerate with certainty
upwards of fifty tem.ples. Many honorary monuments
arose ; numerous porticos in diff'erent places served either
for business or recreation ; several public markets had

* Bcschreibung der Stadt Rom, vol. i. p. 151.


been formed ; seven of the buildings called Basilica had
been constructed, each of which was used at once as a
court of justice and a mercantile exchange ; three Curiaf?
had been built for the meetings of public bodies ; and
for the general amusement there were four permanent
theatres, besides the temporary theatres and amphi-
theatre of Curio and Julius Caesar ; while the ancient
Circus Maximus had been renovated, and three other
structures of the same kind erected.

It is melancholy to see how insignificant a portion of
these works has survived the alterations executed by the
emperors and the popes, and the devastations caused
by wars and the lapse of ages.

At the foot of the Capitoline Hill, among modern houses
of tlie lowest order, the Tomb of Bibulus, placed within
the city in violation of the common rule, can be identi-
fied as a republican ruin ; but the chief remains of this
sort lie in the quarter where, from the modern gate of St
Sebastian, the Appian Way passes out into the solitary
plain. For a distance of about five miles the road is
edged on both sides by ancient tombs. The entrance to
the Servian town, however, lay considerably within the
modem walls ; and before we reach the Porta San Se-
bastiano, in our progress outwards, we find this street of
graves to begin vrith the venerable Sepulchre of the Sci-
pios. In one of the most sequestered spots we enter a
vineyard, where, on the summit of a mound overgrown
with shrubs and weeds, stands a mean dwelling-house ;
and at the foot of the eminence, a recent opening admits
us to a subterranean vault of peperine, which, from in-
scriptions found within it in 1G16 and 1780, is identified
beyond a doubt as the burying-place of the heroic Corne-
lian family. Six sarcophagi were discovered in the
chambers, with indications of a second story above that
which has been opened, and remains also of a brick
building of several apartments, which appears to have
been constructed as an additional cemetery in the times of
the emperors. Copies of the epitaphs have been placed on
the walls ; and in the IVIuseum of the Vatican are seen the


original sarcophagi and inscriptions, commemorating two
Scipios from the fifth century of the city,* one from the
sixth, and four from the seventh. But the greatest of
the race, Scipio Africanus the elder, did not lay his bones
beside those of his fathers ; nor is there any sufficient
ground for the opinion which considers a small laurelled
bust discovered in the tomb, as representing the poet
Ennius, the friend of the younger Afi'icanus.

Without the gate several tombs belong to the republi*
can period, the most remarkable being the celebrated
edifice which was the grave of Cecilia Metella, the wife
of Crassus. This relic of the last days of the common-
wealth contrasts strikingly with the unobtrusive simpli-
city of the older sepulchre of the Scipios. It consists of
a round tower, about sixty-four feet in diameter, re-
gularly constructed, and faced with the yellow traver-
tine stone. It is oniamented with a festooned frieze and
cornice, and rests on a ponderous square basement. Its
strong position on an eminence recommended it in the
middle ages to the honour of serving, like so many others
of the ancient monuments, as a fortress of the Roman
barons ; and the walls of tlie Gaetani still join the clas-
sical parts of the structure. Another tomb in the last
stage of ruin, two miles beyond the tower of Metella,
has been ascertained by an inscription which Canova
discovered in 1808, to be the sepulchre of the Servilian
family, one of those austere republican buildmgs to
which, with the tomb of the Scipios, Cicero proudly
points, as a theme of reflection fitted to protect the livmg
from their natural fear of annihilation by death.f

Of the republican Temples the antiquaries can point
out only the following, and that with a hesitation which
is but too justifiable : — thesmall temple of FortunaVirilis,

* Lucius Scipio Barbatus (Consul a. u. 456), '* A brave man
and wise," and his son Lucius (Consul 494), whose epitaph pro-
claims him " The best of Rome's most worthy citizens." none.


viRO.: that is, in the later Roman spelling, " Hunc unum plu-
rimi consentiunt Romani bonorum optimum fuisse virum."
+ Cic. Quaestion, Tusculan. lib. i. cap, 7.


now transformed into the church of Santa I\Iaria Egizi-
aca, — the temples of Juno ]\Iatuta, Hope, and Piety,
hidden in the walls of San Nicola in Carcere,^' — and,
perhaps, in the cloisters of the Somaschi, four broken
pillars of the temple of Hercules Gustos, the guardian of
the Circus Flaminius.t

Of the Circus IMaxunus we can still trace the shape,
in the hollow between the Palatine and Aventine, but
the structure has entirely disappeared ; and the Flaminian
Circus is now completely covered by the buildings of the
modern city, around the church of Santa Caterina de'
Funari, while the Piazza Barberini is supposed to oc-
cupy the site of the Circus of Flora. Of the Theatre of
Pompey, the foundation arches may be seen in the cellars
and stables of the Palazzo Pio ; and it is only necessary
to name some remnants of the breastwork of the ancient
Quay, and of similar erections on the Island in the river.

The substructions on the Capitolinc Mount are almost
the only other architectural vestiges of the republic.
These ruins consist, first, of about eighty feet of peperine
wall, under the Palazzo Caffarelli, on the southern sum-
mit of the hill, Avhere the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus
is generally believed to have stood ; and, secondly, of
the vaults under the Senator's Palace on the Inter-
montium, or flat between the Uxo summits, the exter-
nal wall of these vaults being visible from the Forum,
and being ascertained by an inscription to have belonged
to the Tabularium or Record-office. On the northern
summit stands the Franciscan Church of Ara Cell,
where once stood the temple of Jupiter Feretrius ; but,
unless some ancient columns in the nave were really
found on the spot, there exist no remains of the original
shrine. While these fracrments recall to us the citadel

* For the Temple of Piety, — which, if identified, ascertains the
site of the Decemviral Prisons, — we owe gratitude to antiquarian
zeal, which here as elsewhere has Hghted the flame on the altar of
poetry : —

• • There is a dungeon in whose dim drear light
What do I gaze on ? Nothing ' — Look a^raia I"

•j- Burgess' Rome, vol. ii. p. 116.


of Rome and of the world, we have all but lost the
fatal Tarpeian Rock, amidst the accumulated rubbish
which has gathered about the foot of the hill, and the
clusters of old and wretched hovels wliich encumber its
southern top. However, on the side nearest to the mo-
dern city, one portion of the rock is visible ; and on
the opposite side, descending through the houses of the
Monte Caprino, we can overlook, from among the roses
of a little garden, a cliff overhanghig the Forum, full
seventy feet in height, which may fairly represent the
" traitor's leap." One is glad to escape from the peril-
ous task of determining to which of the two summits
belonged one or both of the titles of Citadel and Capitol, —
Arx et Capitolium. But the Asylum of Romulus un-
questionably occupied the intermediate hollow, now
covered by Michel Angelo's splendid square of palaces,
the approaches to which have, on the side of the Campus
Martins, destroyed the original steepness of the ascent.

But must we abandon the topography of the Republic
without having discovered any vestige of the Roman
Forum 1 Our real knowledge of this celebrated spot
may be nearly summed up in a single sentence. Of
its republican buildings there probably is not one stone
standing upon another ; and even of its site we know
only this : that a space may be pointed out, beneath the
Capitoline and Palatine Mounts, withm which it un-
deniably lay ; but we can neither tell with precision
what portion of the ground it occupied, nor can we
fix with certainty more than one or two of its bound-
aries. The spot is now called the Campo Vaccino or Cattle
Field. It is a small irreg-ular plain, raised by accumula-
tions of rubbish above the ancient pavement, to a height
which is nowhere less than fifteen feet, and in some places
approaches thirty. An avenue of trees runs obliquely
along the area, a large part of which is unenclosed
ground, clothed with green sward, from which a few
columns and other imperial ruins rise here and there ;
around some of these are excavations, still in progress.


,.. peace,




forming deep unsightly pits, but laying bare large por-
tions of the old foundations ; and the rest of the space
is covered by other relics of the empire, interspersed
among modern churches and one or two paltry streets.

In passing, however, to the topography of Imperial
Rome, this classical hollow may properly invite a de-
viation from strict chronological order.*

Upon that declivity of the Capitoline Rock which
faces the Forum are several interesting monuments.
The Clivus Asyli, one of the two paths which led up
from the plain, passed the Mamertine Prison at 1 on
the accompanying map. The other path, the Clivus
Capitolinus, which was a part of the Sacred Way,
passed through the Arch of Septimius Severus at 2, and
may be conceived as slanting up the hill in the direction
3, 3. Of the three celebrated ruins on the slope, one
only, standing at 4, can be identified with certainty. It
presents but a basement, partly covered by the modern
ascent, and belongs to an imperial Temple of Concord,
which rose in the place of the republican shrine so cele-
brated under the same name. The three fine Corinthian
columns at .5, supporting a rich entablature, are usually
assigned to a Temple of Jupiter Tonans ; though there
are better grounds for Niebuhr's opinion, which declares
them to be parts of the Temple of Saturn. There is more
reason for doubt as to the tasteless portico, farther down
the hill, at 6, which has been oftenest called a Temple
of Fortune, but more recently a Temple of Vespasian.

We now descend into the plain, the tourney-place of
the opposing antiquaries, in whose books the Roman
Forum has several times shifted its situation. The earliest

• The current opinions of those antiquaries who have not en-
joyed the benefit of the recent discoveries are best represented in
Nibby's Foro Romano, and in the Seventh Dissertation of Burgess'
Rome. The results of the partial excavations which, within the
last few years, have been so wonderfully successful, are stated
minutely in the third volume of the Beschreibung, especially in its
second part, published in 1838. The accompanying plan of this
quarter of Rome, in its modern state, will, it is hoped, make the
description in the text more easily intelligible.


topographers, after the revival of the science, consi-
dered its length to extend from the Arch of Septimius
Severus to the Arch of Fabius, now destroyed, which
stood in front of the space afterwards occupied by the
Temple of Antoninus, at 7. But in the middle of the
seventeenth century there was propounded an opinion,
the popular one at the present day, which takes that
line for the breadth of the forum, and finds its other
angles at the church of San Teodoro (covering the site of
the Temple of Romulus), and near the church of the
Madonna della Consolazione. The space enclosed by the
lines thus terminated is a rectangle about 700 feet by
nearly 600. Niebuhr, however, peremptorily returned
to the older hypothesis ; and Bunsen has most skilfully
turned recent discoveries to account, in developing a
theory founded on this suggestion of his master.

The leading peculiarity of Niebuhr's view is this ; —
that he insists on our considering the Comitium of the
Republic to have been, not a building, as is usually
supposed, but merely an uncovered space, forming a
part of the Forum, but separated from the remainder
by dwarf-walls or other barricades. In applying this
theory to the ground, Bunsen founds mainly on the
assumption, — which is fully warranted by the proof, —
that a flight of steps, excavated in the end of 1834 in the
open space of the plain, at 8 on the map, belonged to
the Basilica Julia, so named from its founder the Dictator.
That discovery, indeed, and the previous uncovering of
the Milliarium Aureum or Golden Milestone of Augustus,
at 9, are invaluable facts for those who study the anti-
quities of the spot.

We must, then, according to our guide, consider the
Roman Forum as an oblong area, considerably wider at
the end nearest the Capitol than at the other, narrowing
indeed from 180 feet to about 110, while its length is
about 600. The boundaries are laid off with dotted lines
upon the plan. Nearly a third of the narrowest part,
farthest from the rock, was, as we are told, the Comi-
tium ; the remainder, separated from it by an offshoot


of the Sacred Way, was the Forum in its most confined
sense, the ordinary jjlace of meeting for the plebeians.

In its earliest history, under the kings, this classical
spot presented an open space, interrupted by nothing
except the Ruminal Fig-tree and those other monu-
ments which stood in the Comitium ; and round it
-were the porticoes and shops, which Livy describes the
elder Tarquinius as allowing to be there erected. Those
on the southern side, on the line marked 10, 10, were,
according to Bunsen, the old shops (veteres tabernae),
among which we must seek the scene of Virginia's
murder ; the "nova? tabernae" extended along the north
side, on the line 11, 12. These buildings were in time
renewed and ornamented, and at length made room for
the Basilicie, the first of which, the Basilica Porcia, was
founded in the middle of the sixth century of the city.
The Fulvia came next ; the^milia followed ; and these
two, having been subjected to extensive alterations, came
to bear jointly the name of the latter. The ^Emilia and
Porcia stood on the north side of the Forum : on the
south side, at 8, rose another building of the same sort,
the Basilica Sempronia. But between the Porcia and
the Comitium, nearly at the spot marked 12, Bunsen
supposes the Curia Hostilia to have been ; while he
places the Temple of Vesta on the opposite side, at 13,
in front of the church of Santa Maria Liberatrice. In

Online LibraryWilliam SpaldingItaly and the Italian islands, from the earliest ages to the present time (Volume 1) → online text (page 20 of 35)