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D. APPLETON & CO.. 413 & 445 BROADWAY.



Entered, according to Act of Congress, In the year 1364,


In th Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for th
Southern District of New York.




THE GHETTO IN ROME ! ; - 1 v .' '' ', . ' .-






APPENDIX . . . 183



HE Roman Campagna is a vast undulating plain stretch-
ing along the coast from Civita Vecchia to Terracina,
a distance of about 100 miles, and extending in diameter
from the sea across to the mountains which girdle it on
the east about 40 miles. Along this plain, pursuing an
irregular course from north to south, and marking the ancient
boundaries between Latium and Etruria, hurry the yellow and
turbulent waves of the Tiber ; and nearly equidistant from Civita
Vecchia, Terracina, and the mountains, perched on its seven hills, is
the city of Rome. Looking from the lofty tower of the Capitol, you
see on the east the long low shore of the Mediterranean stretching
for miles, with here and there the little towns of Pratica, Ostia, and
Ardea, darkly silhouetted above its line against the faint band of the
flashing sea. Towards the south, swelling from the flat level in long
and beautiful sweeps, rises the varied outline of Monte Albano,
culminating in the cone of Monte Cavi, and then again sweeping
gracefully into the plain. Along its lower slopes gleam the towns
of Albano, Marino, Castel Gandolfo, and Frascati, with villas,
gardens, and olive orchards stretching up the hill. Still higher,
and resting on a little jutting ledge, like a rock-slide which has
been caught and stopped in its descent, is the little grey town of
Eocca di Papa. Green forests and groves girdle its waist and soften
the volcanic hollows around the Alban lake ; and high up on its
summit, where once towered the temple of Jupiter Latialis, built by
Tarquin, rising above the trees may be seen the shining walls of the
Passionist convent of Monte Cavi, built by Cardinal York on the
ruins of the ancient temple. Here on the spot whence Virgil tells
us that Juno surveyed the ranks of the contending armies, " Lau
rentum Troumque" and gazed upon the city of the Latins, you may
stand and overlook the Roman world from Civita Vecchia to Naples



and not disdain" a stout coat to protect you in the evenings of
summer. Where the Alban Hill again drops into the plain on the
western side is a wide gap of distance, through which you look far
away down towards Naples, and see the faint misty height of
Ischia just visible on the horizon and then rising abruptly with
sheer limestone cliffs and crevasses, where transparent purple shadows
sleep all day long, towers the grand range of the Sabine mountains,
whose lofty peaks surround the Campagna to the east and north like
a curved amphitheatre. Down through the gap, and skirting the
Pontine marshes on the east, are the Volscian mountains, closing up
the Campagna at Terracina, where they overhang the road and
affront the sea with their great barrier. Following along the Sabine
hills, you will see at intervals the towns of Palestrina and Tivoli,
where the Anio tumbles in foam, and other little mountain towns
nestled here and there among the soft airy hollows, or perched on
the cliffs. At their feet, on three little hills that stand like ad-
vanced posts before the lofty mountains, are the half-ruined villages
of Colonna, Zagarola, and Gallicano, which give their names to
princely Koman families of to-day. Further along towers the dark
and lofty peak of Monte Gennaro, that wears its ermine of snow
almost into the summer, and the longer line of the Leonessa, where
rose-coloured snow lies softly glowing against the sky as late as
April. Beyond these, alone and isolated, in the north, rises out of
the turbulent waves of the Campagna the striking and picturesque
height of Soracte, swelling from the plain in form " like a long swept
wave about to break, that on the crest hangs pausing." Sweeping
now round by Eieti, Civita Castellana, and the mountains of Viterbo,
we come back to the sea at Civita Yecchia.

Within this magnificent amphitheatre lies the Campagna of Eome,
and nothing can be more rich and varied, with every kind of beauty
sometimes, as around Ostia, flat as an American prairie, with
miles of canne and reeds rustling in the wind, fields of exquisite
feathery grasses waving to and fro, and forests of tall golden-trunked
stone-pines poising their spreading umbrellas of rich green high in
the air, and weaving a murmurous roof against the sun ; sometimes
drear, mysterious, and melancholy, as in the desolate stretches
between Civita Vecchia and Eome, with lonely hollows and hills
without a habitation, where sheep and oxen feed, and the wind
roams over treeless and deserted slopes, and silence makes its home ;
sometimes rolling like an inland sea whose waves have suddenly
been checked and stiffened, green with grass, golden with grain, and
gracious with myriads of wild flowers, where scarlet poppies blaze
over acres and acres, and pink-frilled daisies cover the vast meadow*,


and pendent vines shroud the picturesque ruins of antique villas,
aqueducts and tombs, or droop from rnediajval towers and for-

Such is the aspect of the Agro Romano, or southern portion of
the Campagna extending between Rome and Albano. It is picture
wherever you go. The land, which is of deep rich loam that repays
a hundred-fold the least toil of the farmer, does not wait for the help
of man, but bursts into spontaneous vegetation and everywhere
laughs into flowers. Here is pasturage for millions of cattle, and
grain fields for a continent, that now in wild untutored beauty bask
in the Italian sun, crying shame on their neglectful owners. Over
these long unfenced slopes one may gallop on horseback for miles
without let or hindrance, through meadows of green smoothness :>n
fire with scarlet poppies over hills crowned with ruins that insist
on being painted, so exquisite are they in form and colour, with
their background of purple mountains down valleys of pastoral
quiet, where great tufa caves open into subterranean galleries
leading beyond human ken ; or one may linger in lovely secluded
groves of ilexes and pines, or track the course of swift streams over-
hung by dipping willows, and swerving here and there through
broken arches of antique bridges smothered in green ; or wander
through hedges heaped and toppling over with rich, luxuriant foliage,
twined together by wild vetches, honeysuckles, morning glories,
and every species of flowering vine ; or sit beneath the sun-looped
shadows of ivy-covered aqueducts, listening to the song of hundreds
of larks far up in the air, and gazing through the lofty arches into
wondrous deeps of violet-hued distances, or lazily watching flocks of
white sheep as they crop the smooth slopes guarded by the faithful
watch-dog. Everywhere are deep-brown banks of pozzolano earth
whisk makes the strong Roman cement, and quarries of tufa
and Travertine with unexplored galleries and catacombs honey-
combing for miles the whole Carnpagna. Dead generations lie
under your feet wherever you tread". The place is haunted by
ghosts that outnumber by myriads the living, and the air is filled
with a tender sentiment of sadness which makes the beauty of the
world about you more touching. You pick up among the ruins on
every slope fragments of rich marbles that once encased the walls of
luxurious villas. The contadino or shepherd offers you an old worn
coin, on which you read the name of Cassar ; or a scarabceiis which
once adorned the finger of an Etruscan king, in whose dust he now
grows his beans ; or the broken head of an ancient jar in marble or
terra-cotta, or a lacrymatory of a martyred Christian, or a vase with
the Etrurian red that now is lost, or an intaglio that perhaps has


sealed a love-letter a thousand years ago. Such little touches urge
the imagination :

" Here are acres sown, indeed,
With the richest royal'st seed
That the earth did e'er suck in
Since the first man died for sin.
Here the bones of birth have cried ;
Though gods they were, as men they died.
Here are sands ignoble things
Dropped from the ruined sides of kings.
Here's a world of pomp and state
Buried in dust, once dead by fate."

" "What is that with which you are striking fire on your steel to
light your pipe ?" said a gentleman to a contadino, whom he had
stopped to ask a question. " Una pietra a stone I found here
some months ago," he replied. " Would your Excellency like to see
it?" and he extended to him a stone, the edge of which he had worn
away on his steel. It was a magnificent intaglio in pietra dura, one
of the rarest and largest of the antique stones that exists, and un-
doubtedly was the shoulder brooch of an imperial mantle worn by
one of the Cassars. For a few patds the ignorant contadino sold an
antique gem which was worth a fortune, and which had for its pos-
sessor no other value or use than a common flint.

Subterranean Rome is vaster than the Rome above ground.
Almost every rising hillock has its pozzolano cave which stimulates
your curiosity to explore. You enter and creep a short distance into
the damp shadow of the earth, and then a shudder comes over you
and you return or else, finding your way blocked up by fallen
earth and fragments of ruin, you are glad to turn back, and, after
stumbling darkly over stones, to issue again into the warm sunshine.
Some of these are entrances into the arenarice or sand quarries ol the
ancients, which are burrowed far into the bowels of the earth. In
these, hunted Christians in fear of martyrdom, robbers and assassins
in ancient and mediaeval days, emperors fleeing for their life from
the insurrections of the Golden House, were wont to hide themselves.
Into one of them, near the Esquiline gate, Asinius was decoyed and
murdered, as we learn from Cicero. In another, Nero was recom-
mended to take refuge when, with naked feet, disguised, and
trembling with apprehension, he passed out the Komentan gate with
death at his heels, and shuddering, refused to bury himself alive in
the sand-pit. And all along the Appian way they afforded hiding-
places of thieves, who rushed out from them upon unwary travellers.

But besides the arenarice and latomice, there are the dark laby-


rinthine galleries of the catacombs, intersecting everywhere the Cam-
pagna under ground with their burrowing net-work. Here in the
black tunneled streets of this subterranean city is a mighty popula-
tion of the dead. Tier above tier, story above story, in their narrow
walled-up houses for miles and miles along these sad and silent
avenues, lie the skeletons of martyred and persecuted Christians,
each with his lacrymatory, now dry, and his little lamp, which went
out in the darkness more than fifteen centuries ago. A few of these
catacombs have been explored to a certain distance ; but it is sup-
posed that they extend as far as Ostia. Mr. Northcote, in his
interesting work on the catacombs, says that the united length of all
the streets in the cemetery of St. Agnes alone would be fifteen or
sixteen miles, and reckons the length of all the streets in all the
catacombs at no less than nine hundred miles. These vast subter-
ranean labyrinths, where the sun never shines and the grass never
grows, are densely populated by the dead, " each in his narrow cell
for ever laid." On either side the tombs or cells are carven in the
stone, and for every seven feet of the dark streets Padre Marchi
allows an average of ten sepulchral chambers, each with its dead
occupant. According to this calculation, the .Roman catacombs
contain almost seven millions of graves.

Long before ^Eneas landed on the Latin shore cities hjld been
founded there and flourished and perished ; generations had come
and gone ; masterpieces of art had been executed, and all at last had
been buried in almost indiscriminate decay. Rome itself was built
upon the ruins of a far more ancient city, the very name of which
has perished. Yet the wonderful doacce which drained that name-
less city still remain, as perfect and solid as when they were laid, to
drain the modern city of St. Peter and the Popes. These works are
often attributed to the elder Tarquin, but there can be little doubt
that they existed not only long before his time, but were of so old a
date that even then it was not known by whom they were built.
It is most improbable that Tarquin, whose whole territory extended
in no direction beyond fifteen miles, and whose central city was of a
very limited population, made up chiefly of herdsmen and banditti,
should have constructed works of mere convenience and cleanliness
exceeding those to be found in any other city ; and the fact stated by
Lactantius,* that a statue was found in these cloacae by Tatius,
representing an unknown person, to which such mystery was at-

* " Cloacinse simulacrum id cloaca maxima repertum Tatius consecravit, et
quia cujus effigies esset ignorabat ex loco illi nomen imposuit." Lact., lib. i.
ch. 20.


tached by him and his colleague that it was consecrated forthwith,
and received the name of Venus Cloacina, would also seem to indi-
cate that these works, so far from having been built by Tarquin,
were ancient in his day.

Under the swelling mounds which rise everywhere around you in
the Campagna are the galleries and foundations of ancient villas and
the chambers of ancient tombs. It is but two years ago that Signer
Fortunati undertook some excavations on the ancient Via Latiua in
hopes of discovering the remains of an early Christian church.
Scarcely had he struck pick and spade into the earth, when he burst
through the roof of two ancient tombs, which for ten centuries had
lain there hidden from human eye. There stood the ancient sarco-
phagi, with the bones of their occupants. On the ceiling of one,
perfect as ever, were figures and arabesques in bassi rilievi sketched
with a master's hand in the wet plaster ; and on the ceiling of the
other were the fresh unfaded colours of Eoman paintings of the early
imperial days. In these tombs there was an air of peace and serenity
which was very striking. Landscapes, fruits, musical instruments,
birds, flowers, graceful figures, and masks were painted on the walls,
and in the centre of the ceiling Jove wielded his thunderbolt. The
aspect of everything was cheerful. On the sarcophagi were alti
rilievi Representing mythologic stories ; and Death, instead of being
impersonated by a grinning skeleton, hideous and frightful, stood in
the shape of a youthful and winged genius with inverted torch.
One could not but be struck by the contrast between the Christian
catacombs, so sad, severe, solemn, and mournfully oppressive, and
these pleasant and almost cheerful Pagan tombs. In the latter it
seemed as if the family must have often gathered together in tender
regret to remember the happy days of the past, and to be near the
beloved ones who had once been with them in the body, with no
misgivings about an infernal and hideous hereafter of perpetual
agony. Built against one of these sepulchral chambers, and form-
ing as it were a vestibule to it, was a tomb of a later date with
several sarcophagi. On one of these was the following tender in-
scription :

" C. Servienus Demetrius
Mar. F. Viviae Severae,

Uxori santissimae et

Mihi Q. vixit mecum an-

nis XXII. Mens. VIIII. Dies V.

In quibus semper mihi

Bene fuit cum ilia

Pancrati hie."


But even here the desecrating hand of some Goth had been, and
through a hole broken in one corner had probably stolen the orna-
ments placed there by the pious hand of her husband.

When these tombs were discovered the whole world of Rome
flocked to see them, and some modern barbarian,' not contented with
stealing the skulls and carrying off the fragments of marble and
vases which lay profusely scattered over the ground, knocked off one
of the most perfect of the stucco figures at the corner of the painted
tomb and carried it off.*

Here also were unearthed the foundations of the early Christian
basilica dedicated to St. Stephen, and built by St. Demetria, the
first nun, at the instance of the Pope St. Leo the Great, who was
the head of the church from A.D. 440 to 461. Bosio, the great ex-
plorer of Christian remains, had failed to discover it ; but there it lay
hidden under the grassy mould at the third mile-stone on the Via
Latina, just as it was described by Aringhi two hundred years ago.
It was in complete ruin, being razed to its foundations. Twenty-
two columns of rare and beautiful marble, one of which is of verde
antico, and several of breccia and cipollino marino, were found top-
pled down among its debris, as well as forty bases and more than
thirty capitals, and numberless architectural ornaments attesting the
richness of the old basilica.

Here too was exposed to view the old pavement of the Via Latina,
worn into ruts by the narrow plaustra and bigce of the ancient Ro-
mans, clearly showing that a drive was no joke in those days. At
the side of the road are also raised walks for foot passengers, similar
to those in Pompeii.

All these had lain under the smoothed mounds of grass for
centuries, hidden from mortal- eye ; and here a month before the
sheep had been peaceably feeding, and the shepherd dreaming on his
staff unconscious of the world beneath his feet. Now we had broken
through into the old life and death, and touched as it were past
generations which were only dust and spirit, and read records of love
and sorrow that had so long survived the hands that wrote and the
lips that uttered them. Who was Vivia Severa, that made her
husband happy for nearly twenty-three years ? Was she as beau-
tiful as she was amiable ? and did Servienus Demetrius mourn her
for a week and then many again ?

It was only the other day that a cry was heard in Rome, which
would have sounded strangely enough anywhere else. " A new
Venus has been found in a vigna on the Campagna about a mile

* Since this was written, all the stucco figures in this tomb have shared the
same fate.


beyond the Porta Portese." The world of strangers, thrilled by
curiosity, eagerly thronged out to see it, and the road for days was
covered with carriages. Leaving the horses at a little osteria, you
struck across an open vineyard a short quarter of a mile, when you
came to the excavations, and there in the corner of a subterranean
room belonging to an ancient villa stood the new Venus. Just risen,
not from the sea but from the earth, somewhat grimed by the dirt
in which she had made her bed for centuries, and with her arms and
head lying on the ground at her side, stood the figure of the Paphian
goddess with which we are all so familiar. But it is in all respects
inferior in execution and finish to the celebrated Venus de' Medici,
and not likely to disturb the old favourite in her " pride of place."
The attitude of the two statues is the same with slight variations,
and they seem to be copies of an original vastly superior to both.
The legs and extremities of the new Venus are badly wrought, and
the workmanship throughout is not of the first class ; but the torso
is elegant in its contour, and the proportions slenderer and more re-
fined than those of the Medicasan Venus. The head too, though
battered, is larger and in better proportion to the figure than the
small, characterless head of her rival.

The proprietor of the little osteria close by, under whose auspices
and on whose vigna the excavations had been made, stood near, and
smiled pleasantly on us and on his Venus ; and when we congratu-
lated him on his discovery, his rubicund face, bearing evidence of
frequent libations to Bacchus, and adorned with a blazing nose that
would have done no discredit to Bardolph, beamed with satisfaction.
Willingly he answered all our questions. Oh, yes ! they had
always known there was an antique villa here ; but they had never
thought it worth while to excavate it. Si vede, die costa denaro.
But his business had prospered, grazie a Dio, and he required a
cellar or grotto in which to store his wine ; so he thought he would
build it on this ground ; it would be as cheap to make it here as else-
where, and perhaps, chi sa ? he might find something to repay him.
But, in an evil hour, an acquaintance had proposed to pay a certain
proportion of the cost of the cellar provided he should have as his
own everything of value that might be found in the excavations. A
bird in the hand, thought Bardolph, is worth two in the bush, so he
gladly accepted the proposal. But repentance followed close on the
heels of his bargain ; for scarcely had the first blow been struck with
the pick, when the foundations of an ancient villa were disclosed ;
and upon pushing forward the excavations the workmen came at
once upon a little room, the walls of which were still standing breast
high ; and there in the centre lay the Venus we were looking at,


fallen and covered with rubbish and loose dirt. At first the head
and arras were wanting, but these also were found the next day in
the same room. This success induced them to continue the excava-
tions ; and when I saw these, they had already opened a bathing-
room of considerable size, where the ancient pipes and conduits still
conducted the running water, and were strongly in hopes of find-
ing other statues and remains of value. Friend Bardolph, though
the proprietor of a " canova di vino" seemed to have a very unde-
veloped knowledge or taste in sculpture, and apparently was not
aware of the great value of the statue, but stood in a state of won-
derment at the crowds of people who now nocked to see it. Though
it was evident to him that he had lost by his bargain, he had made
up his mind to his disappointment with an easy good-nature : at all
events, for a week his osteria had been thronged with visitors, and
he had made his profits out of the wine he had sold. The devotee
to Bacchus did not transfer his homage to Venus. He was slow to
accept new gods or goddesses. The value of wine he understood,
per Bacco ; but the value of statues he knew nothing about. As
for old ruined foundations and bathing-rooms, they might be welt
enough in their way, but good, sound, well-built grottoes, capacious
for butts of wine, were more tangible and solid in their advantages.
So we bade him good-bye, and rejoiced as we passed to see that,
around the stone tables and benches under the pergola of the osteria,
a group of long-haired Germans were seated, with full flasks of his
red wine before them, and drinking, smoking, and enjoying them-
selves, almost as much as if they were in Vaterland, and finding
everything " ausserordentlich gut"

A far better statue was lately unearthed in the grounds of the an-
cient Villa Livia, at Prima Porta, about nine miles beyond the Porta
del Popolo. This villa, which was built by Livia Augusta, the wife
of Octavius Caesar, was formerly called Ad Gallinas, on account of a
singular incident which happened to the empress on this spot, and in
commemoration of which the villa was erected. Before she was mar-
ried to Augustus, as she was sitting here one day, an eagle overhead
dropped into her lap a white hen, with a branch of laurel covered
with berries in its beak. An augury so striking as this could not fail
to make a deep impression. The hen and its offspring were ordered
to be religiously kept and tended, and the branch and berries of the
laurel to be planted and carefully set apart. The branch of laurel
took root and throve, and from it grew a grove, from which, ever
after, the wreaths worn by the Cassars at their triumphs were woven.
But more than eighteen hundred years have passed since then ; the
imperial figures that walked there have fallen to dust and been

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Online LibraryWilliam Wetmore StoryRoba di Roma (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 22)