« AnteriorContinuar »
CHRISTIAN PARLOR MAGAZINE.
RO ME AS IT IS.
BY REV. J. T. HEADLEY.
Rome is one of the pilgrim spots of the human mind. Around it cluster the most heroic associations, and over its fallen greatness the heart utters its saddest tones and learns its saddest lessons. We believe that in Roman history the race had reached its highest point of military greatness. In it the problem whether a military government could stand, was solved for all after generations. The education of its youth in the profession of arms—the love of glory and scorn of death it kept alive in the hearts of the soldiers, and over all the iron and despotic sway of its rulers, strengthened and secured, as much as human skill and power can secure, that government on the firmest foundations. All the moral motives adapted to stimulate a military people, and all the physical power necessary to execute their wishes, were used with consummate skill. The freedom requisite to maintain independence of thought and feeling, and hence give character to the soldiery, was granted, while the strongest checks were furnished against the action of this wild power on the government itself. Indeed, we look upon the military government of Rome as a model one-the most perfect that human power and skill could carry out, and its failure the settlement of the principle for ever. The conquests it made, the territory it held under tribute, and the unrivalled magnificence and splendor it
reached at home, prove the energy and wisdom with which its affairs were managed. What is true of the nation, is also true of the individuals that composed it. More heroic men never lived than Rome furnished. The power of human endurance and the strength of the buman will, were never more fully exhibited. They grew up stern, proud, indomitable beings, filled with a great, but lofty enthusiasm, and marked in all their actions by the highest self-respect. As the nation grew luxurious and corrupt, these features gradually wore away—but we were speaking of Rome in the prime of its manhood. I suppose we have no conception of the splendor and glory of the imperial city. Its ruins outshine modern excellence, and its corpse is more awful than any living nation. The imagination never recalls this fallen empire without coloring it with its ancient magnificence; and, indeed, so linked has its name become with all that is grand and awe-inspiring, that the traveller on the spot finds it difficult to be. lieve the evidence of his senses. It is plain that he has been dreaming all bis life-time, or is dreaming now. The impressions which the imagination from earliest childhood has graven on the soul, and the aspect presented to the actual eye, are so widely different, that one seems struggling between waking and sleeping-he cannot wholly shake off the early dream—and he cannot believe that what rises before him is all that about which he has been dreaming so long.
First around Rome spreads the desolate Campagna. The plain once dotted with temples or cultivated fields, is now almost a desert. It is cut up into large farms, owned by the nobility or wealthy men in the city, and let out on shares to farmers or graziers. Very little of this, however, is fit for agricultural purposes, not even for grazing. But this very
desolation around the old city, is, after all, a great relief to one's feelings. It harmonizes more with their mood and speaks their language. Bright fields, and thrifty farm-houses, and all the life and animation of a richly cultivated country would present too strong a contrast to the fallen “glory of the world.” But the sterile earth, the ruins that lie strewed over the plain, and the lonely aspect all things wear, seem to side with the pilgrim as he muses over the crumbled empire. Besides, his faith is not so grievously taxed, and his convictions so incessantly shocked. He is not compelled to dig through modern improvements to read the lines that move him so deeply. There they are, the very characters the centuries have writ. He sees the foot-prints of the mighty ages, and lays his hands on their mouldering garments. Perhaps nothing fills one with thoughts of old Rome more than the ruins of the ancient aqueducts stretching for miles over this desolate Campagna, like long rows of broken colonnades, supporting here and there fragments of their architraves. Here and there a hut or Casale in ruins leaning against the sky, are the only objects that mark the plain where the Sabines, the Volsci and the Pelasgi, had in their turn striven to crush the infant empire.
The city proper now contains about one hun. dred and fifty thousand inhabitants, while the whole empire, or that over which her own king has temporal sway, is but 18,117 Roman square miles, containing a population of only 2,732,736, or less than the single State of New York. The whole revenue of this fragment of by-gone power is only $10,000,000, while the expense of collecting is $230,000, and $300,000 more go to pay the interest on the public debt, which has grown so large that the credit of his Holiness would be called in Wall street decidedly low.
Those mighty legions that were wont to thunder along the Appian way, and streamed in countless numbers out of the city gates on their march to conquer a world, are now repre
sented by a miserable army of fourteen thousand men, and the kingly guard of Cæsar, by a richly dressed company of fifty effeminate noblemen ; nay, he who sits on the throne of the Cæsars, is a mere dependent on the nod of Austria for his place. The city occupies perhaps a third of the ground covered by old Rome. Some idea may be obtained of the comparative dimensions of the ancient and modern city, by stating that it look eighteen aqueducts to supply the one, while three are found sufficient for the present demand. The “geven hills,” re. nowned through all time, can still be designated. Most of them are covered with modern buildings. Two parallel palaces, built by Michael Angelo, stand on the Capitoline, while the Aventine is almost entirely naked and covered with rubbish, which it will take another century to blend with the common mass of earth. The old Palatine, along whose base runs the Forum, and one side of which looked down on the Circus MAXIMUS, and the other on the Forum and Coliseum, stands desolate and lonely on the outskirts of the city. A few dwarfish trees wave along its summit, and here and there is a small patch of ground which the gardener tries to cultivate, after raking off the fragments of marble that load it like pebble stones. NERO's Golden House has crumbled away, and all its rich ornaments been the prey of the spoiler or trampled to pieces by the foot of time. Here and there a cavernous arch opens to the vaulted rooms below, once flashing with gold and silver, and rich with costly Mosaics. Tangled weeds choke the entrance, and one mighty tomb seems to have engulphed all.
But let us start from the Fincian hill on the northern side of Rome, and walk around its ruined sides and view the corpse of this once mistress of the world. The features are here, though “ decay's effacing fingers” have left few of the lines of beauty. Descending the magnificent flight of steps and turning to the righi, we are in a few moments at the “ Piazza del Popolo,” or place of the people. Here the gate opens that leads towards Florence. Turning back by a parallel street we come down the Corso, the Broadway of Rome, and once the old Appian way. Having traversed a third of its length we turn to the right, and after half a mile's walk reach the Tiber, where the famous bridge of Michael Angelo crosses it to the Castle of St. Angelo, once Adrian's Tomb. Passing on, the noble form of St. Peter's bursts on the view with its glorious front, and still more magnificent double rows of colonnades sweep
wards the solitary Arch of Titus at the farther end. The PalaTINE, bereft of all the magnificence the Cæsars piled on its top, rises on the right, weighing down the heart with its great associations; while farther on, the grey old Coliseum draws its circular summit on the sky. Here, for the first time, the traveller comprehends what it all means.
The Past gives up its dead, and the dead rear again their palaces around hin Fancy calls back the Cæsars—the golden house of Nero on that desolate hill, and philosophers slowly promenade before him along ihe shaded walks of the Forum. The steep Tarpeian is near by, and although its top is now a garden, yet, like Byron, the wanderer asks and answers the question the same moment.
“ Is this the rock of triumph—the high place Where Rome embraced her heroes? This the
steep Tarpeian-titest goal of Treason's race? The promontory where the traitor's leap Cured all ambition? Yes! and in yon field be
low A thousand silenced factions sleepThe Forum, where the immortal accents glow, And still the eloquent air breathes, burns with
ing down in a bold semicircle from either extremity. From the top of this church you have Rome and the whole Campagna in one coup dæil. On the north and west stretch away the Volscian, Sabine, and Albanian hills; on the south flows the Tiber through the low flat land to the Mediterranean, which sleeps placidly in the distance. Around the city on every height stand magnificent villas, while, nearer down, Rome is spread out like a map. The splendor of a noon-day sun is on it all, and the fountains before the church are sending their showers of diamonds towards the sky; while the old Egyptian obelisk that once stood in this very spot, then Nero's Circus, is dwindled to a miniature shaft from this height. Keeping along the outskirts of the city moving on towards the east, we ascend another hill to the convent of San ONOFRIO. Here is another beau . tiful view of Rome. Beside an oak tree that has lately been shivered by the tempest, Tasso was wont to sit of an evening and look down on the queen city. He had been summoned there to be crowned with the laurel wreath, but driven by sickness to this airy and salubrious spot, he would here sit for hours and gaze on Rome. But the hour of his triumph never came, and he sank away and died on this hill, while the wreath woven for his brow was hung on his tomb. Sleep quietly, thou bold-hearted poet, for the city whose praise thou didst covet is a ruin, and the hall where thou didst expect to hear the acclamations of the great, has disappeared from the knowledge of man! Keeping on our circuit, we pass the temple of Vesta, and the pyramidical tomb of Caius Cestus. Turning partly back on our route and keeping still on the outskirts of the city, we come to the “Capitol.” Having ascended its flight of steps, at the foot of which stands an old Roman mile. stone marking the first mile of the Appian way, the noble area is before us with the equestrian statue of Aurelius—the finest in the world-in the centre. Here Rienzi, “ the last of the Tribunes,” sell in his struggle for liberty. At the farther end is the PALACE OF THE SENATORS OF Rome. What a mockery! Rome has no senators but in name.
The ancient Republic is gone, substance and shadow; then why keep alive the name? Descending on the farther side, lo! the Forum is before us! Can this be Rome, and this her ancient Forum ? The Arch of Septimus Severus, covered with its disfigured but still beautiful bas-reliefs, is sunk at our feet as we lean against one of the remaining columns of “ Jupiter the Thunderer” and look away to
Yes, it is immortal ground. Here Horace used to walk and muse, as he himself says.
“ Ibam forte via sacra, sicut meus est mos, Nescio quid meditans nugarum; totus in illis.”
“ Via sacra,” where is it? buried many a foot beneath the ground. Yet, right there where stands the modern Capitol, once stood THE CAPITOL to which the Roman orators so often pointed to give effect to their appeals ; there Caius Gracchus directed the eyes of his hearers, and in the language of despair asked if he could find refuge there, while the blood of his brother still smoked on its pavement. Thither Cicero turned, when raining his accusations on Catiline, he burst forth into thanks to the Gods that presided on that hill, and exclaimed Ita presentes his temporibus opem et auxilium nobis tulerunt, ut eos pæne oculis videri possimus. “So palpably have they been with us in these times, bringing aid and succor, that we can almost see them with our eyes.” So musing, the hill assumes its olden splendor, when the airy marble glittered along its summit, and statues of gods seemed guarding its Capitol, and silver, and gold, and precious stones made it the admiration of the world. But the structure
which the imagination reared melts away—the Cæsars are shadows—the lizard crawls over their ancient palaces, and the night bird sits and whistles in the old Forum. It is true that here Catiline trod, urged on by his fiery ambi. tion-here Cicero thundered and grave Senators listened. But how changed has everything become! There still bends the arch of Titus, reared to grace his return from the conquest of Jerusalem. Then the haughty victor marched to the sound of music along the way, with the spoils of the Holy City carried before him, and the weeping train of Judah's captives following his triumphal chariot. Then the palace of the Cæsars rose in its glory over the Forum, and the Capitol looked down upon them laden with the trophies of a hundred battles. Now, solitary and lonely, it stands amid the surrounding ruins. Stretched away from its triumphal curve are rope walks, with the unconscious spinners leisurely weaving their lines in the setting sun. Titus and the Jewish captives rest together. The triumph of the one and the sufferings of the other are alike forgotten. The rope-spinner owns the Via Sacra, and the Fo. rum is a Cow-market. What a satire on human pride and human ambition! The seats of grave Senators of Rome usurped by cows from the Campagna, and the eloquence of Cicero superseded by the wrangling of a cattle market; while, instead of schemes that involved the fate of a world in their completion, the simpleminded peasant weaves his line of flax for some Greek fishing-smack. Thus the centuries go silent by, carrying with them man and his achievements.
A short distance beyond the Forum stands the Coliseum, the grandest of all earthly ruins. The moon is sailing along the quiet heavens, casting its pale light over all, while the arches open like caverns in every direction, and the clambering ivy glistens and rustles in the passing night wind. Arch above arch, seat above seat, corridor within corridor, the mighty structure towers away, bringing back the centuries over the weak and staggering memory, till the spirit bows in silent reverence of the awful past. The moonbeams glimmer on the pebbly arena that had so often swam before the eye of the dying combatant, as voices smote his ear, “ hic habet.” But what a slight impression the earth takes from the scenes enacted upon it! The red bricks look the same as ever, and yon old column stands in the same place it stood nearly two thousand years ago. hał raged, and fear fallen, and faith scared up.
ward, and tyranny and persecution mocked, but they had not left even their mark on the sand. “ And thou, bright rolling moon, did'st shine upon All this, and cast a wide and tender light, Making that beautiful which still was so."
A little farther on, as you return to the city, are the ruins of the Basilica of Constantine, through which the fragments of immense col. umns are strewn just as they fell, as time slow. ly pushed them one after another from their places. Stand here and hear the night bird whistle amid the shrubbery that waves along the Palatine. Darkness and night make these ruins awful, and that solitary cry, swelling upon the warm south wind, sounds like the ghost of Rome shrieking out amid the desolation.
Passing into the city, Trajan's lonely column and Forum, filled with standing fragments of beautiful columns, bid a sort of farewell to the wanderer as he again enters the streets of mod. ern Rome.
Hatlers' shops, tobacco stores, French finery, and Parisian dressed belles, fill Rome of the nineteenth century. A weak and imbecile pope tells his beads “and patters prayer” where the Cæsars trod, and the triumphal processions of the Empire are changed into long trains of superstitious monks, as they go to say prayers for dead men's souls.
Starting from the Piazza Spagna, at the Pincian Hill, from which we first set out, let us go in an opposite direction towards the gate that opens the road to Naples. Passing by the magnificent church of Marie Maggiore, we come to St. John in Laterano, standing near the city walls. This is the mother Church of Rome. It is older than St. Peter's, and hence, according to the customs of the Roman Catholic Church, should be the residence of the Pope. But the Vatican and its splendor pleases his holiness better. Still the Cardinals of St. John in Laterano assert their right of precedence immediately on the death of the Pope, and exercise the chief authority not only as spiritual, but temporal rulers. They issue new laws, and do all his Holiness might do were he alive. It is a glorious structure, wrought of the richest material, and finished with elaborate skill. A beautiful Baptiotery stands on one side, in which all the converts from the ranks of heretics are publicly baptized. On the other side is an edifice built over the marble staircase declared to have been brought from Pilate's house in Jerusalem, and up which our Saviour trod when he went to be tried. Men and women are constantly ascending this on their knees, muttering
ROME AS IT IS.
prayers as they go, because it grants them in. a sultry evening and drive through these extendulgence for some hundreds of years, and gives sive grounds, seems like entering on a fairy to the prayer they repeat, power to save them land. It is the only spot where the Romans in the direst extremity. Such crowds of devo- seem 10 escape from the sombre influence of their tees climb this staircase that it has been found ruined city, and relax into mirth and laughter. necessary to cover the hard marble with boards There is no doubt but that the air of antiquity to preserve it from being worn out by the knees and fallen greatness which is around Rome, of those who ascend. But let us turn aside a affects the character of its inhabitants, making moment, as we return, to the semicircular The. them more grave and taciturn than they otheratridium of the Baths of Diocletian. These wise would be, for it is in this respect unlike magnificent baths were built in 302 by Diocle. all other Italian cities. The natural vivacity of tian and Maximian. Forty thousand Christians the Italian is exceedingly subdued here. were once employed upon them--the slaves of But there is one thing respecting which pera haughty and Pagan despot. The followers of sons at a distance form very wrong conceptions Christ were a broken and scattered band, and -I mean the religious character of the Romans. the tyrant then little thought that over the ruins They are looked upon as superstitious beings of all that was once so glorious in Rome, the who can be made to believe whatever the pope cross would be erected in triumph, and what says, and receive as truth whatever monstrous was once the symbol of shame and reproach, story the priest may invent; but this is not so. would be the standard of the Empire. This They are not possessed with such stupidity as Theatridium still stands, but it is now a cotton the Christian world imagines. With the ex. mill. Yes, proud Diocletian, thy forty thou- ception of the very ignorant, they see through sand Christians, whom thy haughty spirit hum- the mighty farce the church plays off for its bleil to the task of erecting a structure to satisfy own amusement, with perfect distinctness. The thy soaring pride, have built after all but a cot. pope being king, and hence all his secretaries, ton mill, and a Christian stands beside thy ministers, &c., cardinals or bishops, those of mighty failure and learns a lesson on human the nobility who seek for political distinction, greatness he will never forget. That Christi- must enter the priesthood and perform its funcanity thou thoughtest to strangle in its infancy, tions. But it is entirely a political matter, and now covers the strongest thrones of earth, and so understood among themselves. A man beshall still grow stronger, while the very ruins of comes a priest just as one joins a political party thy structure are slowly perishing froin the here, simply because it is a stepping-stone to sight of man. 0, how Christianity did struggle influence in the state. The others acquiesce, for life in this old Empire! What persecutions and are silent, and apparently credulous, because and bloody massacres have stained the very to act otherwise, would be a double rebellionpavements of the city! But outliving all-tri- first against the king, and second against the umphing over all, it finally sat down on the head of the church. We have never obtained throne of the Cesars. Yet Christianity has also the confidence even of the most common peooutlived its own purity, and lain down at last ple, without hearing them speak in the bitterest in a drunken debauch on its greatest battle-field. terms against the pope and his cardinals. They Wo to thee, harlot church, for bringing such tax ruinously the poor, and that they feel. disgrace on the name by which thou didst tri- The licentious lives of the priesthood are well umph! The heart is overwhelmed with emo- known, and fear, not superstition, shuts the tions in traversing Rome, where once the pulse mouths of the subjects of his Holiness. The of the world beat. All is ruin here-great- Catholic religion is losing ground every day, ness, pride, learning, ambition, power, and last and whatever the catechism may say, intelliof all Christianity.
gent Catholics do not believe in the infallibility The interior of the city is like many other of the pope, any more than the Americans beold cities of Europe, except that a magnificent lieve in the infallibility of their president. The palace, that has outlived centuries, will meet trickery which'in earlier ages blinded the peoyou at almost every turn. The most magnifi. ple is now laughed at; and if the clergy were cent villa or the outskirts of Rome, is the Bor- as much scorned and despised in this country, ghesian villa, covering acres of ground-cut up as the multitude of friars and monks are in into almost endless promenades and carriage
Rome and Italy, we should think the profession ways, and filled with trees, fountains, and sta- was soon to be extinct. The men pay less and tuary. To leave the dirty streets of Rome of less attention to the ceremonies of the Church,