Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

served upon the same silver'.” But from the time that Scipio Africanus brought the spoils of Carthage and Numantia to the city, and after Lucius Scipio brought to Rome the treasures of Antiochus the Great, more gold and silver was to be seen on the table and in the dining-room of a patrician than formerly could have been collected throughout the whole republic.

The Romans then strove to surpass one another in the beauty and elegance of the several pieces which composed a service of plate: the manufactures of superior taste or articles of virtu came into request, and at length the works of Acagras and Mys, both celebrated artisans in silver, were purchased at an enormous price, their names being sufficient to denote the superiority of the workmanship’. Licinius Crassus, the celebrated orator, is recorded to have had in his possession silver vessels which cost him no less than a hundred and sixty-six crowns the pound, and a pair of beakers, for which he had paid above four thousand crowns, wrought by Mentor, an artificer who excelled in engraving flowers. At a later period two vases with figures in relievo, the workmanship of Zopirus, were sold for about five thousand crowns. In the amplitude of the vessels their taste was also shown ; Drusillanus Rotundus, one of the retainers of the Emperor Claudius, ordered an immense dish to be cast for his use, which weighed five hundred pounds, and eight smaller ones of fifty pounds each: for the express manufacture of these expensive articles a workshop was erected.

1 Pliny's Natural History, lib. xiii. cap. 2.

2 Mys had been employed to represent the battle of the Centaurs and Lapithæ on a shield belonging to the statue of Minerva sculptured by Phidias.

Cups and other vessels, when made of Corinthian brass and executed by old masters of repute in their trade, were estimated at a higher rate than even gold. The collectors of these precious works of art became so refined in their taste as to affect to be able to distinguish readily

the age and genuineness of rare pieces, as well as the particular hand of the artisan whose workmanship they were professed to be'.

The passion of the Romans for cut stones, cups of onyx with figures in relief, &c., was carried to the same height of extravagance as the other branches of their prodigious luxury. “We must have golden couches and furniture of precious stones,” says the stoic philosopher Seneca”, “to distinguish ourselves from the common herd.” Amongst the most valuable description of drinking cups were those composed of a kind of murrhina, which are said? to have been porcelain from China or Japan“. That these cups were brought by the Romans from the remote parts of the East, Pliny himself relates, and that the murrhinæ excelled gold in value, is also beyond a doubt.

Pliny's Natural History, lib. xxxiv. cap. 2. 2 Epist. 110. Seneca's houses are acknowledged to have been the most magnificent in Rome.

8 Pliniani Exercitationes in Caii Julii Solini Polyhist. &c., p. 114. See also Mariette, Recueil des Pierres grav. du Cab. du Roi, p. 218 et seq.

4 The term porcelain is modern, and derived from the Portuguese porcelana, a cup. The manufactory at Etruria in Staffordshire, established by the late Josiah Wedgwood, has made many of the forms of the ancient vases familiar in modern times. It produced a fac-simile of the Barberini Vase, and beautiful imitations of the vase found in the ruins of Hadrian's villa at Tivoli. The original of the former is in the British Museum, and that of the latter at Warwick Castle.

The state of Rome under the Emperors presented a powerful contrast to the primitive times when even men of rank ate off dishes of Campanian pottery; in times when the consul Ælius Catus rejected a present of a service of silver plate from the ambassadors of Ætolia, who found him at his dinner with dishes of iron on the table'.

Every Roman, even in later times, was not possessed of that refined taste which Cicero considered requisite to the character of a nobleman. In his celebrated invective against Piso, who was of illustrious ancestry, he vehe

i See Arbuthnot’s Tables, chap. xiii., a part of the book entirely devoted to an estimation of the plate and jewellery of the Romans.

mently denounces his domestic establishment as not becoming a man of spirit and a gentle

Cicero continues his reproaches by a circumstantial detail of his ordinary manner of living. “There is nothing splendid about him, nothing elegant, nothing fine; there is not a piece of chased plate in his house: his dishes are of the largest size, and that he may not seem to slight his countrymen, they are Placentine ware; his table is covered not with delicate dishes, but with plenty of salt meat : the servants who wait upon him are all shabby, and some of them old; one person is employed both as cook and porter : there is not a baker in his house, nor a cellar in it: his bread and his wine are bought at the shop and the tavern: his guests are crowded together, five, and sometimes more, on one of his little couches, while he has one wholly to himself; they drink as long as he serves them from the upper couch, and when he hears the cock crow, he immediately orders the table to be removed'.”

man.

1 Duncan's Cicero, vol. ii. p. 125. This oration was made in the second consulship of Pompey and Crassus.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »