« FöregåendeFortsätt »
buried under their remains. The walls of the Rostra stripped of their ornaments, and doomed to eternal silence, a few shattered porticos and here and there an insulated column standing in the midst of broken shafts, vast fragments of marble capitals and cornices heaped together in masses, remind the traveller, that the field which he now traverses, was once the Roman Forum. A fountain fills a marble basin in the middle, the same possibly to which Propertius alludes when, speaking of the Forum in the time of Tatius, he says,
Murus erant montes, ubi nunc est Curiae septum,
A little farther, on commences a double range of trees that lead along the Via Sacra by the temples of Antoninus, and of Peace, to the arch of Titus. A herdsman seated on a pedestal while his oxen were drinking at the fountain, and a few passengers moving at a distance in different directions, were the only living beings that disturbed the silence and solitude which reigned around. Thus the place seemed restored to its original wildness described by Virgil, and abandoned once more to flocks and herds of cattle. So far have the modern Romans forgotten the theatre of the glory and of the imperial power of their ancestor, as to degrade it into a common market for cattle, and sink its name, illustrated by every page of Roman history, into the contemptible appellation of Campo Vaccino.
Proceeding along the Via Sacra, and passing under the arch of Titus, on turning a little to the left, we beheld the amphitheatre of Vespasian and Titus, now called the Coliseum. Never did human art present to the eye a fabric so well calculated, by its size and form, to surprise and delight. Let the spectator first place himself to the north, and contemplate that side which depredation, barbarism, and ages have spared, he will behold with admiration its wonderful extent, well proportioned stories and flying lines, that retire and vanish without break or interruption. Next let him turn to the south, and examine those stupendous arches, which, stripped as they are of their external decorations, still astonish us by their solidity and duration. Then let him enter, range through the lofty arcades, and ascending the vaulted seats, consider the vast mass of ruin that surrounds him ; insulated walls, immense stones suspended in the air, arches covered with weeds and shrubs, vaults opening upon other ruins; in short, above, below, and around, one vast collection of magnificence and devastation, of grandeur and of decay. Need I inform the reader that this stupendous fa
“Which on its public shows unpeopled Rome,
“And held uncrowded nations in its womb.”
was erected by the above mentioned emperors, out of part only of the materials, and on a portion of the site of Nero's golden house, which had been demolished by order of Wespasian, as too sumptuous even for a Roman Emperor. The Coliseum, owing to the solidity of its materials, survived the era of barbarism, and was so perfect in the thirteenth century, that games were exhibited in it, not for the amusement of the Romans only, but of all the nobility of Italy. The destruction of this wonderful fabric is to be ascribed to causes more active in general in the erection than in the demolition of magnificent buildings, to taste and vanity. When Rome began to revive, and architecture arose from its ruins, every rich and powerful citizen wished to have, not a commodious dwelling merely, but a palace. The Coliseum was an immense quarry at hand; the common people stole, the grandees obtained permission to carry off its materials, till the interior was dismantled, and the exterior half stripped of its ornaments. It is difficult to say where this system of depredation, so sacrilegious in the opinion of the antiquary, would have stopped, had not Benedict XIV., a pontiff of great judgment, erected a cross in the centre of the arena, and declared the place sacred, out of respect to the blood of the many murtyrs who were butchered there during the persecutions. This declaration, if issued two or three centuries ago, would have preserved the Coliseum entire; it can now only protect its remains, and transmit them in their present state to posterity. We then ascended the Palatine Mount, after having walked round its base in order to examine its bearings. This hill, the nursery of infant Rome, and finally the residence of imperial grandeur, presents now two solitary villas and a convent, with their deserted gardens and vineyards. Its numerous temples, its palaces, its porticos, and its libraries, once the glory of Rome, and the admiration of the universe, are now mere heaps of ruins, so shapeless and scattered, that the antiquary and architect are at a loss to discover their site, their plans and their elevation. Of that wing of the imperial palace, which looks to the west, and on the Circus Maximus, some apartments remain vaulted and of fine proportions, but so deeply buried in ruins, as to be now subterranean. A hall of immense size was discovered about the beginning of the last century, concealed under the ruins of its own massive roof. The pillars of Verdeantico that supported its vaults, the statues that ornamented its niches, and the rich marbles that formed its pavement, were found buried in rubbish; and were immediately carried away by the Farnesian family, the proprietors of the soil, to adorn their palaces, and furnish their galleries. This hall is now cleared of its encumbrances, and presents to the eye a vast length of naked wall, and an area covered with weeds. As we stood contemplating its extent and proportions, a fox started from an aperture, once a window, at one end, and crossing the open space, scrambled up the ruins at the other, and disappeared in the rubbish. This scene of desolation reminded me of Ossian's beautiful description, “the thistle shook there its lonely head; the moss whistled to the gale; the fox looked out from the windows; the rank grass waved round his head,” and almost seemed the accomplishment of that awful prediction, “There the wild beasts of the desert shall lodge, and howling monsters shall fill the houses; and wolves shall howl to one another in their palaces, and dragons in their voluptuous pavilions.” ) THE THERMAE, OR THE BATHS OF CARACALLA. e
The length of the Therma of Caracalla was one thousand eight hundred and forty feet, its breadth, one thousand four hundred and seventy-six. At each end were two temples, one to Apollo, and another to AEsculapius, as the “Genii Tutelares” of a place sacred to the improvement of the mind, and to the care of the body. The two other temples were dedicated to the two protecting divinities of the Antonine family, Hercules and Bacchus. In the principal building were, in the first place, a grand circular vestibule with four halls on each side, for cold, tepid, warm, and steam baths; in the centre was an immense square, for exercise, when the weather was unfavourable to it in the open air; beyond it a great hall, where sixteen hundred marble seats were placed for the convenience of the bathers; at each end of this hall were libraries. . This building terminated on both sides in a court surrounded with porticos, with an odeum for music, and in the middle a capacious basin for swimming. Round this edifice were walks shaded by rows of trees, particularly the plane; and in its front extended a gymnasium for running, wrestling, &c. in fine weather. The whole was bounded by a vast portico opening into exedrae or spacious halls, where poets declaimed, and philosophers gave lectures. This immense fabric was adorned within and without with pillars, stucco work, paintings, and statues. The stucco and painting, though faintly indeed, are yet in many places perceptible. Pillars have been dug up, and some still remain amidst the ruins; while the Farnesian bull, and the famous Hercules found in one of these halls, announce the opio, and beauty, of 1
the statues which once adorned the Thermae of Caracalla. The flues and reservoirs for water still remain. The height of the pile was proportioned to its extent, and still appears very considerable, even though the ground be raised at least twelve feet above its ancient level. It is now changed into gardens and vineyards; its high massive walls form separations, and its limy ruins spread over the surface, burn the soil, and check its natural fertility.
The pantheon, it is true, retains its majestic portico, and presents its graceful dome uninjured: the pavement laid by Agrippa, and trodden by Augustus, still forms its floor; the compartments and fluted pillars of the richest marble, that originally lined its walls, still adorn its inward circumference; the deep tints that age has thrown over it only contribute to raise its dignity, and augment our veneration; and the traveller enters its portal, through which twice twenty generations have flowed in succession, with a mixture of awe and religious veneration. Yet the Pantheon itself has been “shorn of its beams,” and looks eclipsed through the “disastrous twilight” of eighteen centuries. Where is now its proud elevation, and the flight of steps that conducted to its threshold Where the marbles that clothed, or the handmaid edifices that concealed its brick exterior ? Where the statues that graced its cormice 3 The bronze that blazed on its dome, that vaulted its portico, and formed its sculptured doors? And where the silver that lined the compartments of its roof within, and dazzled the spectator with its brightness 3. The rapacity of Genseric began, the avarice of succeeding barbarians continued to strip it of these splendid decorations; and time, by levelling many a noble structure in its neighborhood, has raised the pavement, and deprived it of all the advantages of situation. The two celebrated pillars of Antoninus, and Trajan,