Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

mans ". To check this abuse, and to prevent the
nocturnal crimes that might be perpetrated in the
vast and gloomy recess, Eugenius the Fourth sur-
rounded it with a wall; and, by a charter long
extant, granted both the ground and edifice to
the monks of an adjacent convent f. After his
death, the wall was overthrown in a tumult of
the people; and had they themselves respected
the noblest monument of their fathers, they might
have justified the resolve that it should never be
degraded to private property. The inside was
damaged; but, in the middle of the sixteenth cen-
tury, an aera of taste and learning, the exterior
circumference of one thousand six hundred and
twelve feet was still entire and inviolate; a triple
elevation of fourscore arches, which rose to the
height of one hundred and eight feet. Of the
present ruin the nephews of Paul the Third are
the guilty agents; and every traveller who views
the Farnese palace, may curse the sacrilege and
luxury of these upstart princes ;. A similar re-
proach
- * Coliseum . . . . ob stultitiam Romanorum majori ex parte
ad calcem deletum, says the indignant Poggius, (p. 17) : but

his expression, too strong for the present age, must be very tenderly applied to the xvth century.

+ Of the Olivetan monks, Montfaucon (p. 142.) affirms this fact from the memorials of Flaminius Vacca, (No. 72.) They still hoped, on some future occasion, to revive and vindicate their grant.

f After measuring the priscus amphitheatri gyrus, Montfaucon (p. 142.) only adds, that it was entire under Paul III.; tacendo clamat. Muratori (Annali d'Italia, tom. xiv. p. 371.) more freely reports the guilt of the Farnese pope, and the indignation of the Roman people. Against the nephews of Ur. ban VIII. I have no other evidence than the vulgar, saying, “Quod non fecerunt Barbari, fecere Barbarini,” which was perhaps suggested by the resemblance of the words. .

proach is applied to the Barbarini; and the repetition of injury might be dreaded from every reign, till the Coliseum was placed under the safeguard of religion, by the most liberal of the pontiffs, Benedict the Fourteenth, who consecrated a spot which persecution and fable had stained with the blood of so many Christian martyrs". When Petrarch first gratified ilis eyes with view of those monuments, whose scattered fragments so far surpass the most eloquent descriptions, he was astonished at the supine indifference f of the Romans themselves f; he was humbled rather than elated by the discovery, that, except his friend Rienzi, and one of the Colonna, a stranger of the Rhône was more conversant with these antiquities than the nobles and natives of the metropolis ||. The ignorance and credulity of the Romans are elaborately displayed in the old. survey of the city, which was composed about the beginning * As an antiquarian and a priest, Montfaucon thus deprecates the ruin of the Coliseum ; Quod si non suopte merito atgue pulchritudine dignum suisset quod improbas arcetet ma

nus, indigna res utique in locum tot martyrum cruore sacrum
tantopere saevitum esse.
+ Yet the Statutes of Rome (l. iii. c. 81. p. 182) impose
a fine of 500 aurei on whosoever shall demolish any ancient
edifice, ne ruinis civitas deformetur, et ut antiqua tedificia de-
corem urbis perpetuo representent.

f In his first visit to Rome, (A. D. 1337. See Memoires

sur Petrarque, tom. i. p. 322. &c.), Petrarch is struck mute.

miraculo rerum tantarum, et stuporis mole “orutus . . . . Praesentia vero, mirum dictu, nihil imminuit: vere major fuit Roma majoresque sunt reliquiae quam rebar. Jam non orbem ab hâc urbe domitum, sed tam sero domitum, miror, (Opp. p. 605. Familiares, ii. 14. Joanni Columnae).

| He excepts and praises the rare knowledge of John Colonna. , Qui enim hodie magis ignari rerum Romanarum, quam Romani cives 2 Invitus dico nusquam minus Roma cognoscitur quam Romae.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small]

beginning of the thirteenth century; and, without dwelling on the manifold errors of name and place, the iegend of the Capitol" may provoke a smile of contempt and indignation. “The Capi‘tol,” says the anonymous writer, “is so named as being the head of the world; where the “ consuls and senators formerly resided for the “government of the city and the globe. The “strong and lofty walls were covered with glass “ and gold, and crowned with a roof of the “ richest and most curious carving. Below the citadel stood a palace of gold, for the greatest “ part decorated with precious stones, and whose “value might be estimated at one third of the world itself. The statues of all the provinces were arranged in order, each with a small bell suspended from its neck; and such was the contrivance of art-magict, that if the province rebelled against Rome, the statue turned round

&c. to

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

*

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

* After the description of the Capitol, he adds, statuae erant quot sunt mundi provincia: ; et habebat quaelibit tintinnabulum ad collum. Lt erant ita per magicam artem dispositae, ut quando aliqua regio Romano Imperio. rebellis erat, statim imago illius provinciae vertebat se contra illam ; unde tintinnabulum resonabat quod pendebat ad collum ; tuncolue vates Capitolii qui erant custodes senatui, &c. He mentions an example of the Saxons and Suevi, who, after they had been subdued by Agrippa, again rebelled; tintinnabulum sonuit; sacerdos quierat in speculo in hebdomadā senatoribus nuntiavit; Agrippa marched back and reduced the Persians (Anonym. in Montfaucon, p. 297, 298.).

+ The same writer affirms, that Virgil captus a Romanis

invisibiliter exiit, ivitQue Neapolim. A Roman magician, in

the xith century, is introduced by William of Malmsbury (de Gestis Regum Anglorum, l. ii. p. 86.); and in the time of Flaminius Vacca (No 81. 103.) it was the vulgar belief, that the strangers (the Goths) invoked the daimons for the discovery of hidden treasures.

“to that quarter of the heavens, the bell rang, c is A p.

“the prophet of the Capitol reported the prodigy, “ and the senate was admonished of the impend“ing danger.” A second example of less inportance, though of equal absurdity, may be drawn from the two marble horses, led by two naked youths, which have since been transported from the baths of Constantine to the Quirinal hill. The groundless application of the names of Phidias and Praxiteles may perhaps be excused; but these Grecian sculptors should not have been removed above four hundred years from the age of Pericles to that of Tiberius; they should not have been transformed into two philosophers or magicians, whose nakedness was the symbol of truth and knowledge, who revealed to the emperor his

most secret actions; and, after refusing all pecu

niary recompence, solicited the honour of leaving this eternal monument of themselves *. Thus awake to the power of magic, the Romans were insensible to the beauties of art; no more than five statues were visible to the eyes of Poggius; and of the multitudes which chance or design had buried under the ruins, the resurrection was fortunately delayed till a safer and more enlightened age f. The Nile, which now adorns

the

* Anonym. p. 289. Montfäucon (p. 191.) justly observes, that if Alexander be represented, these statues cannot be the work of Phidias (Olympiad lxxxiii.), or Praxiteles (Olympiad civ.), who lived before that conqueror (Plin. Hist. Natur. xxxiv. 19.).

+ William of Malmsbury (l. ii. p. 86, 87.) relates a mar.

[ocr errors]

vellous discovery (A.D. 1 oz.6) of Pallas, the son of Evander,

who had been slain by Turnus: the perpetual light in his sepulchre, a Latin epitaph, the corpse, yet entire, of a young giant,

c H A P. the Vatican, had been explored by some labourers,

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

f the

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

in digging a vineyard near the temple, or convent, of the Minerva; but the impatient proprietor,

who was tormented by some visits of curiosity, re

stored the unprofitable marble to its former
grave *. The discovery of a statue of Pompey,
ten feet in length, was the occasion of a law-suit.
It had been found under a partition-wall; the
equitable judge had pronounced, that the head
should be separated from the body, to satisfy the
claims of the contiguous owners; and the sentence
would have been executed, if the intercession of a
cardinal, and the liberality of a pope, had not res-
cued the Roman hero from the hands of his bar-
barous countrymen f.
But the clouds of barbarism were gradually dis-
pelled; and the peaceful authority of Martin the
Fifth, and his successors, restored the ornaments of

the city, as well as the order of the ecclesiastical

state. The improvements of Rome, since the fifteenth century, have not been the spontaneous produce of freedom and industry. The first and most natural root of a great city, is the labour and populousness of the adjacent country, which

- supplies giant, the enormous wound in his breast (pectus perforat ingens), &c. If this fable rests on the slightest foundation, we

may pity the bodies, as well as the statues, that were exposed to the air in a barbarous age.

* Prope porticum Minervae, statua est recubantis, cujus caput integrâ effigie tantae magnitudines, ut signa omnia excedat. Quidam ad plantandos arbores scrobes faciens detexit. Ad hoc visendum cum plures in dies magis concurrerent, strepitum adeuntium fastidiumque pertaesus, horti patronus congestà humo texit, (Poggius de Varietate Fortunæ, p. 12.).

-# See the Memorials of Flaminia Vacca, No. 57. p. 1 1, 12. at the end of the Roma Antica of Nardini (1784, in 4to.)

« PreviousContinue »